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*******

"I hope she's worth it, Jim."

The words echoed in Jim Ellison's head as he nodded to his captain with surety he didn't feel, ignoring the real meaning.

Worth risking the case over. Worth risking his life.

Worth cheating on Blair.

There was no way he could explain that to Simon. No way he was going to try. The captain, and the other captain, Joel, they both thought he and Blair were involved, a couple.

{How do I tell him that, not only am I not in love with Blair, but that I hate what we have to do together?}

There just wasn't a way to explain that. So Jim didn't.

Just as he didn't try to resist that woman. She was frightened and alone and vulnerable and he dammed himself as ten kinds of evil for taking advantage of that -- but did it anyhow.

Time was running out. They -- he and Blair -- were pushing the limits again. Two weeks had become sixteen days, would soon become dangerous.

Maybe, just maybe, he'd thought. Maybe if I fuck this woman now, while I'm so hungry for him, maybe it will be enough.

But it wasn't. Of course, it wasn't. He'd known that when he did it.

And the realization in Blair's eyes.

They had been avoiding each other since the last time. Blair spent only a few hours at the station, and even fewer at the loft, opting to sleep on his office several times as the days passed. Jim wondered, and worried.

Were they going to have to fight again? Was Blair going to push it until Jim was out-of-control? Did he need to be hurt to justify this to himself?

Waiting alone in the loft nearly a week later, feeling the urge of twenty days' longing, Jim decided that he was going to get the answers to those questions, and some others.

 

"Blair Sandburg." the voice on the phone was tired and irritated.

"Why aren't you home yet, Sandburg?" Jim tried not to snap, he really tried.

Leaning back in his office chair and rubbing his wrist absently with his free hand, the younger man let Jim hang a few minutes before answering.

"I have stuff to do, Jim."

Jim's anger and hunger came through the phone line clearly.

"What is it with you?! You know we have to do this. You KNOW. So why do you make it so hard?!"

"It's not that easy for me, alright?!" Blair shouted into he receiver. "Maybe you can just accept this and go on, but I can't! And watching you chase pretty blonds doesn't help!"

"What?" another silence as the last words hung in the line between them.

"Are you telling me you're jealous, Sandburg?"

Rocking his body forward, Blair curled in his chair. Jim heard the movement, could accurately imagine the scene; still in his coat because he got colder as the time got closer. His hair pulled back tightly from his face. Big dark blue eyes flat and tired-looking.

Curled up in his chair, even his feet drawn up into it.

Seeking comfort in himself.

"Should I be, Ellison? I mean, it's no big deal -- I'm just the guy you fuck when you have to. I've got nothing to be jealous about, do I?"

"What, you want a commitment now?!" Jim shouted, astonished.

"Yeah! But not from you! How come you can run off and screw some bimbo and I can't even get it up for a girl anymore?!" it was a howl of anguish. Jim hoped that no one was listening in the halls at Hargrove Hall, 'cause they'd be getting an earful about now.

He took a deep breath. He could hear Blair's breathing, raspy, on the other end, and wondered suddenly what that meant? Was his friend crying? Close to it?

He remembered what tears looked like on Blair's face. The incredible blueness of those eyes when filled and spilling over. The deep pain of his sobs, as he'd looked that first night, when Jim had joined him in the shower after he'd raped him.

The vision was enough to calm Jim down.

"Blair--hey. Come on home. Let's get this over with and things can go back to normal for a while."

"I thought this was normal, Jim." such sadness in that voice. So much unhappiness hidden behind the energy.

"Just come home, Blair. We'll deal with it. Just don't let it get too bad. I don't want to hurt you."

More silence. Silence that echoed with the fog of memories.

Then, a word. Two. A sentence.

"Yeah." pause. "I know." another pause, and a deep breath. The sound of a body uncurling from a protective posture. "I'll be home soon."

"I'll be waiting."

 

The knock at the door startled Jim. He'd been setting up on the balcony. There'd been no chance to run around town or go to the deli, but he hadn't ordered the food yet, wanting to check with Blair and see what he felt like first--so who was at the door this late?

Extending his senses, he groaned, and went to open it, standing in the doorway.

"Simon."

The big man pushed past him and into the room. He stood, checking it out.

"I'm glad I didn't interrupt anything." it was delicately sarcastic.

Closing the door behind him, Jim leaned back on it, arms crossed over his chest.

"Blair's on his way home now."

The candles on the balcony were already lit. Catching sight of them, the captain walked over and stepped out. Sighing, Jim followed.

The table was there. The rugs, the cushions. Incense burned in a slender holder, perfuming the air lighltly. Thick fat candles sat complacently around the concrete floor. The bottle of wine breathed it's own scent into the thick damp air.

"What is this? A seduction, Ellison? I wouldn't have pegged you for that type."

"Did you have some reason for stopping by, sir?"

Turning away from the little scenario laid out before him, Simon wasn't smiling.

"Just wanted to tell you that the woman and her son have both been taken by the FBI. They'll be put into the witness protection program. And the kid will get some therapy to deal with everything that happened.

"That's good." Jim said non-commitally.

"She wants to see you before you go."

Jim shook his head. Then he cocked it, listening to the low roar of the Volvo's engine as Blair pulled up and parked.

"You owe her, Ellison."

"No, sir, I don't. The only promise I made was to get her and her son out of there safely, and I did that."

"Dammit, Jim!" The front door opened and Jim heard Blair come in, go to his room and shut the door.

"Blair?" he called over his shoulder, ignoring Simon for the moment.

"I'll be out on a minute." the answer was calm, routine. Jim relaxed fractionally. Simon was staring at him.

"I've known you for a long time, Ellison. I like to think I know you pretty well."

Thrown off-balance by the change of subject, Jim just nodded.

"I remember what you were like when you first started dating Carolyn. It was nice, to see you happy."

Again Jim nodded, listening to Blair undress and gather some things, to take to the shower, Jim hoped.

"And I've seen you get interested in several other women, before and after your marriage."

Hearing Blair pull on a pair of sweats, Jim sighed. {He must have seen Simon's car.}

"And you aren't acting the way you did then." Simon clasped his hands together, punctuating the statement, looking at Jim expectantly.

"So?"

"You aren't acting like you're in love, Ellison. As a matter of fact, you don't even seem to want to be around Sandburg. I don't think you're telling me everything there is to know here."

"Since when do I have to clarify my personal life to you?"

it came out angrier than Jim intended, but the captain didn't back down.

"Since it began to involve the man you call your partner. You know what kind of shit I'll get if the higher-ups ever find out I knew about this and didn't separate the two of you?"

"You know why you can't do that, man." the new voice came from directly behind Jim. He didn't turn to look, he'd been listening to Blair as he approached. He knew the younger man was upset and embarrassed to find them talking about it like this.

"Jim needs me with him."

"I understand the Sentinel thing. I accept that, hard as it is to believe. And having Sandburg work with you has made you a better cop. But it hasn't done much for you as a person, Ellison, if this past week is any evidence."

"Hey, Simon, lay off, man." stepping forward, Blair lay a hand on Jim's upper arm, and reached the other to Simon's shoulder. "I know you're trying to look out for me, but I can take care of myself. Jim and I, we aren't exclusive. I know what he did--" Jim saw the thought in those eyes {And I know why he did it.} "And it's cool."

"Sandburg, you may be one of the most annoying people on the face of the earth, but you're one of my men, and I don't let my people treat each other this way."

"I said chill, man." Blair moved closer to Simon. "I'm not going to explain this to you. Just give us some space. Back off. The last thing Jim and I needs is to have you or Taggert or anyone else looking over our shoulder!" his voice rose on the last sentence and he realized it. Flushing, he clamped his mouth shut and stepped back, to Jim's'side.

Instinctively, Jim's arm went around him, offering protection, support. Blair leaned slightly against him, accepting it.

Simon's face was a study in indecision. He couldn't seem to decide if he should get angry, who to be angry with, or even if anger was what he should feel now.

"I don't want to see any more bruises on him." he said it flatly. "I don't care if it's a mutual thing, I don't care if it's consensual. I just don't want to have to explain them to the Chief if something ever does happen."

The two men faced him, both looking sullen. "And if you ever sleep with a witness again, Ellison, I'll turn you over to IA so fast your gun won' have time to hit the ground when you drop it."

Brushing past them, he let himself out of the loft. Jim closed his eyes and listened to him stomp down the stairs.

Then Blair spoke.

"I'm sorry about that, Jim."

"Not your fault." Releasing his hold on Blair's waist, Ellison stepped away from him and gestured at the balcony. "I haven't ordered dinner yet. What do you want?"

"I'm not really hungry." With a sigh the younger man settled to the cushions. He reached for the bottle on wine and poured himself a glass, not looking at Jim.

"Will drinking make this easier on you?" Jim sat on the other side of the table, knees drawn up, arms hanging off them while he watched Blair sip the heavy red.

A shrug.

"That's really flattering, Sandburg."

Gulping down the rest of the glass, Blair grinned ruefully, meeting Jim's eyes as he poured a second.

"Don't get me wrong, man. If I were into guys, you'd be like, y'know, a wet dream. But I'm not, Jim, and we both know it. I'm gonna have a couple of glasses of this - " he touched his again nearly-empty glass to the bottle, "- and then I'm going to let you fuck me. Don't take it personally."

"So--" Jim drew the word out, pouring his own glass, pausing to sip before speaking further. "Is this the way it's going to be now? You get plastered and just lie there while I fuck you?"

"Jim." a hint of real smile in Blair's eyes. "I never 'just lie there'."

A quiet chuckle was startled from the big man's mouth. He raised his glass in salute to his friend, and then drank it down.

They finished the bottle an hour later. By the last glass they were both getting a little silly. Blair stretched his legs under the table and began to play footsie with his partner, who snickered and shook his head.

"We'd better get upstairs before you pass out." he stood and held out a hand.

"I wonder if that would work?" Blair mumbled conversationally as Jim helped him stumble into the living room, steering him toward the stairs. "Then I wouldn't even have to know what you were doing...."

"Don't even think about it, Sandburg." Jim shuddered. "That would be way too close to rape in my book."

"Just an idea, man." At the top of the stairs he turned and leaned on Jim heavily. He was warm and soft and smelled so good...Jim wrapped his arms around Blair's hips and hoisted the smaller man up his body, moving to lean against the wall while he urged Blair to wrap his legs around Jim's hips.

"Mmm, I like this." nuzzling at Jim's neck, Blair nibbled affectionately. His hips were already rocking into Jim's, pressing their hardness together.

Jim put his hands to Blair's face, cradling it between his big palms, pulling it away so he could look a him.

"I didn't do it to hurt you." he said it softly. "Are you really not attracted to women anymore?"

A shrug, and then Blair was still. He was clinging to Jim like a large monkey, their weight pressed against his legs behind Jim's back.

"Not since the last time. There was this girl, she's working on her doctorate in psych. Man, I must've flirted with her for six months. I was jerking off over this girl. And then I ran into her at lunch yesterday...and I realized I hadn't even thought about her since then."

Jim thought about it. It was really, really strange. Blair had always been a horny little dude. Jim remembered all those nights he used to come home smelling of women and sex, and the many times he'd lay in bed, trying to get to sleep, trying not to listen to his roommate's moans, smothered into a pillow or a shirt as he pleasured himself with typical Sandburg enthusiasm.

"So there's nothing there now." he reaffirmed.

"Nope." Blair shook his head sadly. "Not even a twitch. It's dead, Jim."

A snort of drunken laughter followed the quip and Blair lowered his head, returning to nuzzle on Jim's neck.

"Except for you." the mumble was below normal hearing. "Now I want you. I don't want to and I don't like to, but I want you..."

A touch of warm dampness on his skin made Jim move to the bed, laying down, with Blair on his chest. He rolled so they were side-to-side.

Blair's eyes were closes, hot tears seeping from beneath the long lashes. His hands clutched at Jim's shirt.

"My life, Jim...what will my life be now?" he sobbed quietly. "Why can you still do that and I can't?"

Feeling helpless, acutely aware that his judgement was dangerously off from the wine, Jim gathered him close and held him, rocking slightly. The sobs faded, but tears still oozed, the eyes closed more tightly than ever as Blair hugged himself beneath Jim's embrace.

"Who will love me now?" an anguished breath of sound, barely audible even to Sentinel ears.

"I love you. You're my Guide, my best friend...." taking a deep breath Jim grew dizzy with arousal. "You'll always have me, Blair."

The teary eyes opened, and a crooked grin crossed the sad

face. "Until the next one, Jim. Until the one that takes the heart I can't have."

"Do you really want it, Blair?"

A shake of the head. Jim's hands moved to loosen the leather strap that tied the curls back.

"No, not really. I just want...I want to feel that again, Jim. It was so much a part of me...I'd look at a woman and bam! there it was...the urge, the desire, the thrill. And now, nothing."

"Maybe it will come back. This has all been pretty weird."

Jim suggested, combing his fingers through the soft hair, low free and curling around them as he stroked.

"Mmm." Blair sighed and shifted. "Maybe. I dunno. Let's just do this so I can get some sleep, 'kay?"

Mildly distressed by his partner's new attitude, Jim leaned to kiss him. Blair accepted it, opened himself, mouth and body, to Jim, but it was clear that his head and heart weren't even involved.

Not passive, he stroked and petted and tasted Jim eagerly, but there was an ease, a carelessness to his responses that bothered the older man. Barely able to think by this point, he was in no condition to analyze it.

Blair rolled to his stomach quickly, spreading his legs and lifting his ass a little.

"Do it, Big Guy." he said quietly, with no real passion.

Sitting back on his knees, Jim studied Blair's physical status. He was hard...that was obvious. He was breathing fast, too, and his blood pressure was up.

Perhaps it was the wine dulling his responses and he wanted Jim just as much as always.

It didn't really matter.

Jim grabbed the lube from the nightstand and covered his cock thickly. He probed Blair's ass with one finger tentatively.

When the younger man sighed and began pushing back onto the digit he added another, and a third when Blair moaned and began pumping faster.

Blair slid a hand down and took his own cock in hand, stroking it gently.

"C'mon, man. Get in there. I'm ready." the words were steady, but his body was quivering, little tremors running up the length of it. The sight of them turned Jim on tremendously.

"Oh, yeah." he groaned. Grabbing Blair's ass with rough hands, he spread the cheeks wide and forced his cock in quickly.

A hissed breath and grunt from Blair told him that he'd probably done it too quickly, but it felt so good he didn't care. He did pause, though, to give his friend a chance to adjust.

After a minute Blair's breathing even out again and he began pumping his cock harder.

"Okay?" Jim asked harshly..

"Do it." Blair hissed. "I'm almost there."

Jim pulled back and began thrusting, almost methodically. But soon the sensations took over and he was moving faster, his mind receding as his body flamed, the soul-deep pleasure rushing through him. Beneath him Blair grunted with every thrust, taking the pounding without complaint. His slender hand worked his cock roughly, pulling and pumping with Jim's deep strokes.

Looking down at him, the smooth back arched beneath him, the curls on the square shoulders, his own hands holding the round ass cheeks wide, Jim let himself watch his cock sliding in and out of his friend. It was incredible, that such a large organ could fit into that tiny hole, and that it could feel so good.

"You feel so good, Blair." he panted, wanting to share this with the man that moved under him. "So hot, so tight, you're so good to look at...."

Blair grunted again, an animal sound. Jim could feel the blood swelling his groin and balls. He thrust deeper, spreading the ass wider for greater penetration.

"Just do it man!" there was a hunger in the younger man's voice, something dark that Jim hadn't heard there before. "Fuck me." insistent, needy.

Pulling almost all the way out, this time Jim allowed himself to slam back in. Blair's grunt wasn't the reaction he expected, but it was all he got as the younger man began thrusting back to meet him, his legs spreading wider, forcing Jim to tighten his grip on Blair's ass to keep him in position. Two or three deep hard strokes and then Blair shuddered, his entire body shaking, and he moaned once, low and long.

Collapsing onto the bed, he seemed unaware as Jim continued to thrust, needing several more strokes to reach that peak himself, coming hard for long seconds.

When his body relaxed a last Jim pulled out, checking for blood briefly, and lay on the bed beside Blair, who didn't move or even acknowledge him.

{I might as well have been a machine for all the attention he paid me.} Jim thought with mild disgust at both of them. {He practically used me to masturbate.}

The feeling was reinforced when Blair finally rolled over, with a sigh, and climbed out of the bed.

"I'm gonna catch a shower and then do some work." he stood at he side of the bed and looked down at Jim, his expressive face closed, unreadable. "You go ahead and sleep, I'll be fine in my bed."

Catching the slender arm as he turned away, Jim tried to read those eyes. Still slightly red from crying, they were as blank as the face.

"You okay?"

A shrug.

"Why wouldn't I be? Great sex, my best friend, I'm not hurt...everything's cool, Jim."

"You seem....distant."

"It's not like we're in love or something, Ellison. I've been well and truly fucked and now I want to get some work done."

He tugged gently at his arm and Jim let go reluctantly.

"I wouldn't mind....." he began, then changed it to a direct request. "Would you stay for a while? Until I fall asleep?"

With a breathy sound that wasn't quite a sigh, Blair settled beside him, sitting up against the headboard, reaching for the covers.

"Sure, Jim. If you need me to."

Without considering the ramifications of that statement, Jim slid up beside Blair and curled around him, laying his head on the slender chest, the soft hair comforting beneath his cheek.

Blair's fingers stroked through his hair and Jim was glad again that he'd decided to let it grow out a little. He closed his eyes and sighed. Let the scents wrap around him, cradle him.

Soon he was asleep.

When Blair eased away from him and went downstairs later, Jim opened his eyes and watched his retreat briefly...and then rolled over and went back to sleep.

(until next time...)