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Art of Fear

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Art of Fear

by Mia Athlas

Disclaimer: The characters used here, sadly, do not belong to me. They are the property of Pet Fly and UPN. I have received no monetary reward, I do it simply for fun.

Contains m/m sex. If you are under 18, do not read this.

The Art of Fear
By Mia Athlas

Blair stared at his car in dismay. "Two flat tires? How could I have two flat tires?" Settling his back pack on the ground, he fumbled for his cell phone and quickly dialled Jim's number. His partner answered on the second ring.


"Jim, you're not going to believe this," Blair began. He had just taken a deep breath to continue when the older man cut him off.

"What's wrong, Chief? Where are you?" Blair could hear the worry in his voice.

"I'm fine, Jim. It's my car that's not."

Jim paused for a moment. "Don't tell me... flats?"

"Yeah, two tires," the young man explained dejectedly. "I don't suppose you could give me a lift to the U. I have to give an exam today and you know how taxis are... if I wait for one I'm going to be so late. I'm already going to be late as..."

"Chief... Sandburg!" Jim tried to stop the flow of words. Blair trailed off, realising that his partner was trying to say something.

"I'll be there in ten minutes. I can drop you on the way to question a suspect. Stay put. On second thought, wait for me in the loft. Double flat tires once is bad luck. Double flat tires twice is a vendetta. You piss anyone off lately, Chief?"

"No way, man. Everyone loves me, you know that. See you in a few." Not giving his partner a chance to respond Blair closed the phone and smiled as he turned to head back to the loft.

Jim arrived in the promised ten minutes and Blair met him outside. The sentinel quickly examined the car and the surrounding area, then turned to the young man.

"I hate to tell you this, Chief, but I don't think everyone loves you."

Blair's eyes widened. "What do you mean, Jim?" Following his friend back to the truck, he climbed in the passenger's side then repeated his question. His partner pulled out into the traffic, heading toward the University before answering.

"Your tires were slashed, Blair. From the look of the punctures, with some sort of knife. I could see where he kneeled down to do it."

"Really? Why would anyone want to slash my tires?" Blair was honestly perplexed. He looked at Jim in confusion.

"I wouldn't worry too much about it, Chief. Probably just some neighbourhood hoodlum getting his kicks. All the same, I want you to be careful and if anything else happens, call me. Okay?" They fell silent and soon Jim pulled the truck up beside the Anthro building.

Blair climbed out, deep in thought. He turned back to Jim before shutting the door. "No one else had their tires slashed in the lot."

"Yeah," Jim responded seriously, "which is why I want you to be careful. Just in case..." The older man didn't have to finish the thought. Jim paused momentarily. "I don't know if you've noticed but our track record with nutcases isn't the best."

Blair couldn't help but smile at the understatement. "Really? I hadn't noticed," he answered sarcastically. "I'll be done at noon, I'll see you then." Blair glanced down at his watch. "Oh my god, I am so late." Turning, he hurried toward the building and disappeared inside.

Jim chuckled at the young man's swift departure and pulled away from the curb. "It's probably nothing," he said to himself, wondering who he was trying to convince.

Blair ran up the stairs to the classroom and was surprised to find his exam already in progress. The students looked up briefly as he entered then went back to their work. Gesturing to the young man sitting in his spot, he stepped back out into the hallway. The other grad student followed him out. "Tony, what's going on?" Blair regarded the student uneasily. Tony Cummings was his age and also doing his doctorate in Anthropology. They had been acquaintances for many years, never quite crossing the barrier into friendship. The young man tossed his long auburn hair over his shoulder and handed a note to Blair.

"Sorry, man, when you were late Professor Durn asked me to take your class. He gave me the exams from your office." Tony looked embarrassed. "He said if you deigned to make an appearance to give you that note."

"Hey, no problem, Tony. I'm glad you were around to get my class started. Thanks." Blair wanted to make sure the uncomfortable young man didn't think he blamed him for anything. He opened the note as Tony stared at the floor.

"Mr. Sandburg. My office. Now."

It was signed Professor Durn. Blair sighed. "Great." He looked back up at Tony who was shifting form foot to foot, looking about ten years old. "I've got to go to his office. Could you oversee the rest of the exam for me?"

Tony nodded. "Sure, Blair. No problem."

Blair patted him on the shoulder. "Thanks, man. I owe you one. You can just throw the exams on my desk. Okay?"

"Sure, Blair. Say... how about we grab a beer tonight? I can fill you in on Professor Durn's talk yesterday."

Blair stared blankly at the student. "What talk?"

"You know. His talk on University protocols. I was surprised you missed it. I mean after everyone had to RSVP and all."

"But that's not until next week." Blair knew how important Professor Durn thought that it was that all the grad students be aware of proper procedures. He would never have missed the meeting... not if he expected the professor to take him seriously. Yesterday? No way, he clearly remembered marking it in his daytimer for next week.

Tony looked at him curiously. "Umm, sorry to have to tell you this but it was last night, Blair. I guess you must have got the dates mixed up or something."

Blair closed his eyes for a moment. 'Shit'. He was really in for it now with the professor. Opening his eyes he forced a smile for Tony.

"What's done is done. I guess it's time for me to face the music. A beer sounds great, Tony... I think I might need it. How about 9 o'clock at Gotham?" Tony nodded and went back into the classroom. Frowning, Blair made his way to Professor Durn's office.

As expected, his meeting with the professor did not go well. His ears were still ringing as he made his way down to his own office. Professor Durn had never been one of his biggest supporters which is why he had always gone out of his way to be accommodating to the professor. He could not afford to have any detractors when it came time to submit and defend his dissertation. Blair had tried to explain the reasons behind his tardiness today and last week but the professor obviously did not believe him. Blair had decided the most prudent course of action was to let it go with a promise that it would never happen again.

Missing Professor Durn's lecture was another matter. The professor would not accept Blair's claim that he got the days mixed up and had fully intended to be there. The man had pulled out his list of RSVP's and pointed out Blair's name, beside which was an affirmative RSVP by phone. Blair shook his head. He had not RSVP'd and had tried to explain that to the professor but as far as the older man was concerned Blair was just trying to weasel out of the fact that he just hadn't wanted to attend.

Blair settled himself in his office, noting the large stack of exams sitting on his desk with a smile. At least he could count on Tony. He would find some way to make things right between himself and Professor Durn. Deciding to get an early start on marking, the young man grabbed the first of the exams.

Jim paused at the door to Blair's office, taking a moment to watch the young man who was hard at work, red pen in hand. He smiled as his partner absentmindedly pushed his glasses back up as they slipped down his nose. Finally, the young man turned and saw him standing in the doorway.

"Jim! Hey man, where'd you come from? Is it lunch time already? Oh man, you will not believe the morning I've had." Blair jumped up and ushered his partner into the office and began gathering his things together as he talked. Jim turned Blair to face him.

"Anything wrong, Chief?" Jim did not like the nervous energy coming off his partner. Blair was of course always energized, so much so that it sometimes made Jim tired, but right now he seemed nervous, edgy... a definite sign that something was wrong.

Blair sighed and stepped back from his partner looking up into his face. "You know me too well sometimes, Jim." Blair sat down at his desk and gestured for Jim to sit opposite him. "I had words with one of my advisors this morning. He is 'unhappy with the lax attitude that I seem to have toward my studies and university responsibilities.' That is a direct quote by the way. I've been ordered to shape up or face the consequences."

Jim stared at his partner in amazement. "You're kidding, right?" Blair shook his head miserably.

"No man, I wish I were. I never thought I'd see the day where one of my professors more or less called me lazy and unreliable."

"That's... that's nuts, Chief. You work twice as hard as any other student here. Between the classes you teach and your time at the station, you're lucky if you have any time to yourself at all." Jim felt anger surge at his partner's unfair treatment.

"Hey Jim, no need to convince me." Blair couldn't help but smile as his partner looked down, a faint red tingeing his ears. He put a hand on the bigger man's shoulder. "But thanks, man, I really needed that right now." Blair finished gathering his things, reflecting on how nice it was to have someone who believed in him.

They were almost to the car when they were stopped by a young man running toward them, calling to Blair. They turned and waited as Tony came to a breathless stop beside the truck.

"Blair," the young man began after giving Jim an odd look, "I'm glad I caught you. One of your exams got mixed up with some of my papers." He passed the exam over to Blair, who accepted it with a grin.

"Thanks, Tony. I'd have one pretty unhappy student if you hadn't of noticed this." He felt Jim nudge his arm and look at him inquisitively. The older man rolled his eyes and ignoring his young partner's mimed 'what', held out his hand to Tony.

"Jim Ellison. I'm a friend of Sandburg's. Nice to meet you."

Blair finally clued in and stammered, "Oh yeah, sorry. Tony, this is Jim, my roommate." He ignored the raised eyebrows at that comment and continued, "Jim, this is Tony Cummings, he's a grad student here as well. He looked after my class for me this morning."

Tony grabbed Jim's hand enthusiastically. "Very nice to meet you, Jim." He squeezed the older man's hand, still holding on. The young man gave Jim a complete scan from head to toe then smiled at him. "Very nice."

Blair looked at him curiously. Why did Tony just emphasise "very"?

Embarrassed, Jim tried to subtly remove his hand from the other man's grasp.

"Yeah, same here. Come on, Sandburg, we've got to get back to the station."

"Oh, that's right. You're a detective aren't you, Jim?" Tony didn't seem too eager to let them go. "That must be exciting."

Blair's eyes almost popped out as Tony put his hand possessively on the older man's forearm. 'He's nuts flirting with Jim like that.' The detective smoothly stepped back from the persistent young man.

"It has its moments, I guess." Jim stepped closer to his partner and put his hand lightly on his back. Tony's eyes narrowed slightly then his face brightened.

"Hey, Blair and I are getting together for a drink later. Why don't you join us?"

Looking down at his partner, then over at the other student, Jim found himself agreeing. He wasn't sure if he trusted this guy with Blair. Something about him made his skin crawl. "Sure, why not? We'll see you tonight." He ignored his partner's look of surprise and gave him a little push toward the truck. "Let's get going, Chief. See you later, Tony."

With a quick goodbye Tony ambled away, looking as if he had just won a prize.

Blair whistled as they drove away. "Man, I don't believe you just did that."

"Did what, Chief?"

"You agreed to come tonight after the way he flirted with you?"

Jim smirked. "I can't help it if the man had good taste, Sandburg. It just seemed like the easiest way to get away from him."

Blair regarded Jim carefully. Surely he wasn't really interested in the grad student. The young man felt his stomach knot at the thought. No way. No way Jim would be interested in Tony.

Jim looked suddenly uneasy. "Chief, I'm sorry. If you'd rather I didn't come..."

"What!? No way man, you can't leave me alone with him." Blair shuddered violently for effect. "Hey, it might just be fun. We haven't gone out for a drink in a long time."

Jim smiled, relieved that his partner wanted him along.

The afternoon passed quickly, full of paperwork and legwork. By the time they arrived back at the loft they had to hurry through showers and a quick meal in order to make it to the club on time.

Jim pulled up in front of the nightclub with a grimace at the crowd mulling about outside the trendy building. Everyone was dressed in black from head to toe. This was obviously why Blair had insisted he wear his black jeans which felt about two sizes too small and a plain black, tight t-shirt. He glanced over at the smiling face of his guide, keeping his expression stony.

The young man was clad in black leather pants which seemed moulded to his body and a black leather jacket over a simple shirt... black of course. He wore his hair down, falling in soft curls around his face. All in all, Jim decided, his partner looked like a male model and he himself felt downright plain sitting beside him.

"C'mon, Jim. You've got to try new things, big guy." Leaving his partner to follow, Blair hopped out of the truck.

Jim sighed and climbed out, following his friend. The young man turned to walk to the end of the impossibly long line but was stopped when a bouncer stepped away from the club's door and blocked his path. Jim stepped quickly to his partner's side, giving the man his 'touch Sandburg and you die' stare.

The large muscular bouncer regarded Jim nervously for a second then enveloped the smaller man in a huge hug. Uncertain what was going on, the sentinel put a hand on the man's shoulder and pulled him back sharply.

"Hey Blair, could you call off the gorilla and let me say hello properly?" the bouncer chuckled.

Blair laughed and turned to his partner. "It's okay, man. Jerry is a friend of mine. He even took one of my classes last semester."

The bouncer smiled at Jim's scowling face. "Yeah, take it easy, butch, don't go getting all possessive, the little professor here hates that." The man smiled wider at Blair's groan.

"Come on, Jerry. I told you not to call me that. Give me a break here, man."

Jim was still struggling with the 'don't get all possessive' part of the speech. Was that what he was feeling -- possessiveness? Why would he be possessive of Blair? Jim shook his head and held out his hand to the man.

"Sorry about that. The kid tends to attract trouble you know. Sorry for the overreaction."

"Hey, no problem. If I had a lover like the professor, I probably would react the same way. Unfortunately, I never get that lucky."

Glancing at the uncomfortable look on his partner's face, Blair laughed nervously. "Ah, Jerry. Jim and I we're just friends. We're not 'together'."

The bouncer looked surprised. "Really? Oh I'm sorry... I just assumed... I mean... your reaction... the way you guys stand..." Embarrassed by his blunder, he trailed off.

Startled, Jim looked down. 'The way we stand?' He took inventory of their position. He felt Blair's thigh as it rested against his. The warmth of his partner's skin -- felt only by the use of his sentinel senses through the leather -- warmed his hand as it rested on his friend's lower back. Oh... Jim began to understand. It would seem odd to outsiders that he and Blair stood so closely and touched so often. They didn't understand their relationship. They couldn't understand Jim's need as a sentinel to have that connection to his guide. To others it probably appeared sexual... sensual. He became suddenly more aware of the warmth of his partner, the alluring smell of his shampoo and aftershave, the firm thigh resting against his. Jim felt his cock twitch and stepped away from his partner abruptly.

Blair looked at Jim in surprise as the older man left his side. The surprise quickly turned to hurt. Jim looked away and concentrated instead on the club.

"Well, I guess we had better get inside before your friend thinks we're not showing." Jim looked in dismay at the long line. "Maybe we just should forget it... it doesn't look like we'll get inside anytime this century."

"No way!" The bouncer grabbed Blair's arm and drew him towards the door. "You guys are first in line." Jim put his head down, not wanting to see the angry faces of the waiting crowd and followed the men into the club.

Not bothering to turn and face his partner Blair whispered, "If you can hear this big guy, you need to turn your hearing down before we go through the main doors." The young man paused for a moment before entering the loud club.

"Thanks Chief," Jim responded quietly. Smiling, Blair continued through the doors, feeling his partner's hand on his back.

The club was dark, crowded and loud. Jim grimaced slightly at the sudden barrage of noise but found it bearable with his dial turned down --thanks to his partner. He scanned the room and found Tony sitting at a small table near the centre of the nightclub. He tapped Blair on the shoulder and pointed out the other grad student.

"Great," Blair grumbled, "could he have chosen a worse table?" Jim found himself agreeing with the comment. The table was surrounded by dark forms on all sides: standing, sitting, some were even dancing though the dance floor was on a platform about twenty feet away. Jim leaned down so that his lips touched his partner's ear before speaking, ignoring the young man's little jump of surprise.

"I think I'd like to wait in the truck Chief."

Blair's head whipped around and Jim leaned back quickly, disconcerted by the lips almost touching his own and by his own desire to lean forward and complete the move. Blair seemed to forget what he meant to say for a moment, then recovered.

"No way man! I suffer, you suffer. That's what partners do...right?" The young man looked around nervously and found more than one set of eyes meeting his, gazing at him hungrily. "Man this is such a meat market. There is no way you are leaving me alone in here."

Jim examined the people in the club and realised the truth of his partner's words. Bodies were pressed together, many groping the person next to them or engaged in deep kisses. Writhing together on the platform dance floor. It seemed that anything went at this particular club. The couples didn't seem to have any rhyme or reason. Two women were kissing on the dance floor. Two men seemed to be trying to devour each other in the corner and a man and woman just in front of them were becoming increasingly intimate. Blair was also right that there was no way Jim would desert him in a place like this.

A tough looking man dressed in black leather stopped in front of the grad student, ignoring Jim, who was standing behind him.

"Hey baby, want to 'dance'?" He leered at Blair, making his offer sound like something dirty.

"Uh, no, no thank you," the young man stammered.

"What's the matter beautiful, not good enough for you?"

Jim pulled Blair back to his side, throwing an arm over his shoulders. "Back off buddy, he's with me." The detective glared menacingly at the unshaven creature in front of him and he felt Blair's arm circle around his waist as the young man pressed against him, staying silent.

The leather clad man looked from Blair to Jim, then back to Blair. "You don't know what you're missing baby." He made an obscene gesture then retreated back into the crowd.

Blair shivered. "My God, what was that?" he asked, watching as the man disappeared.

The big man leaned close to his partner. "Forget that asshole. Let's go say hi to your buddy then get the hell out of here." Removing his arm from Blair's shoulders, he started off, pushing his way through the crowd.

"I'm with you there man. This place is scary." Blair put his hand on Jim's back and followed him through the crowd.

After fending off several attempts to approach one or both of them by men and women, they finally made their way to the table. Tony looked up at them, having watched their journey across the club.

"Wow, I'm impressed. You guys certainly seem to be popular."

Jim grimaced and felt a hand on the back of his neck. Turning, he found himself staring at the most beautiful redhead that he had ever seen.

"Would you like to dance?" she breathed huskily.

The words that came out of his mouth amazed him. "No thank you miss. I need to talk to my friends."

"Too bad." She pouted and turned away with one last smouldering glance over her shoulder.

Jim turned back and found both young men grinning at him. "What?"

" I can't believe you just turned her down!" Blair said in amazement.

Jim decided the best defence was a good offence. "I could say the same thing Chief. I can't believe you turned the brunette down."

Blair's eyes searched for and found the dark-haired woman who had propositioned him. She was pretty, just not beautiful like Jim's redhead. The sentinel grabbed his chin and turned his head in the other direction.

"Not her Valentino -- him." Jim nodded toward the Mel Gibson look-alike at the bar, who still had his eyes trained on the young man even though he had already turned him down.

Blair blushed and said nothing. First of all he still couldn't quite believe he had turned the man down. He wasn't quite sure why he had. Secondly, he definitely couldn't believe that his closed off, repressed partner was pointing it out. He assumed that Jim was uncomfortable learning about his bisexuality. Blair was a bit confused by this turn of events and decided that his best option was to stay silent.

"You turned him down? Are you nuts?" Tony piped up after taking in the view.

Blair turned back to look at the man one more time and started in surprise. Jim quickly scanned the room searching for the source of the young man's discomfort. "What is it Blair?"

"Professor Durn?" Blair whispered.

Wondering why he suddenly seemed so tense, the other grad student turned his head following Blair's gaze, quickly finding the man that had just sidled up to the bar. "My God it's Professor Durn. What's he doing here?"

Jim looked at the man across the room with barely contained hostility. He was dressed in a dark suit, approximately 45, thin and serious looking. So this was the man that was causing Blair so much grief. Jim stood up. Blair grabbed his arm in alarm.

"Jim, where are you going?" he whispered urgently.

"I'm going to the bar to get a drink. I'll get you a beer, okay Chief? Can I get you anything Tony?"

"Beer please," Tony said, obviously excited by the possibility of a confrontation.

Shrugging off his partner's hand, the bigger man turned and made his way to the bar. Blair watched nervously from his seat as Jim squeezed himself between the professor and the Mel Gibson look-alike to order.

Tony looked at Blair curiously as the young man muttered under his breath, "Damn it. Damn it Jim. You had better not say anything or you're dead meat."

Blair wasn't sure whether his partner had his hearing turned up high enough to have heard him, but he wouldn't have been surprised. The older man tended to keep pretty close tabs on him. Blair smiled at the thought forgetting his worry for a moment, warmed by the obvious protective instinct that Jim had towards him. He was brought out of his introspection by the feel of intense eyes on him. Turning to Tony, he was startled by the hard look in the young man's eyes. It was there only for an instant, replaced by a warm gaze, and Blair found himself doubting whether it had ever been there at all. They both looked over to where Jim was obviously talking with the professor.

"He really cares about you doesn't he?" Tony asked with a hint of sadness in his voice.

Blair smiled. "Yeah man, I guess he does. He's my best friend, we look after each other."

"It must be great to have someone who loves you like that. Especially such a strong man. He could protect you from anything I'll bet. So strong, honest, caring, successful, handsome...." Tony trailed off blushing.

Blair stared at him for a moment, wondering where the words came from and uncertain how to reply to such hero worship. This man didn't even know Jim. He had only met him earlier today. Blair began to get an uncomfortable feeling. He felt that he was missing something here. Something important. He stared hard at Tony, trying to reach some sort of conclusion about the student. He had the same strange "something's not quite right here" feeling about the young man that he had had on other occasions. It was one of the things that kept him from trying to become friends with the other man. Tony broke the spell by gesturing toward the bar.

"Uh oh, what's he doing?"

Blair turned back to the bar in time to see Jim, with one hand resting on the professor's shoulder lean over and whisper something in his ear. Blair felt a surge of jealousy at the intimate look of the scene. If he didn't know better he would think that Jim was coming on to the professor. Suddenly Jim leaned back and smirked at the man, then turned and headed back towards the table. The professor watched him go angrily, his eyes widening as he saw the sentinel's destination. Tony tried to blend in with table and Blair swallowed convulsively but would not look aware from the man's gaze. He slumped in relief as the professor turned back to the bar. Jim settled back into his chair after handing the drinks to the two young men as if he hadn't a care in the world.

Blair stared at him but his partner just gazed around the room and refused to meet his eyes. Frustrated the young man punched him in the shoulder.


Jim blushed and finally looked at his partner. Blair groaned and put his head on the table at the regret he clearly saw in the older man's eyes.

"Sorry Chief. It kind of got out of hand. I really didn't mean to make things worse for you but I'm afraid...."

"Jim?..." Blair began as a warning and a question.

"It wasn't my fault Sandburg. I was just going to take a closer look. You know...file his face away for later."

As curious as he was to know why Jim would want to 'file his face away', Blair stayed quiet and waited for his friend to continue.

"He started up a conversation...trying to pick me up or something. He spouted off about how he needed to come here sometimes to unwind after dealing with immature, lazy, no-good-for-nothing students all day. Well anyway... it annoyed me. I mean, what kind of teacher is he? Where does he get off insulting you?..." Jim looked over at Tony. "I mean... both of you, students in general. Doesn't he know how hard you guys work? How many sleepless nights, headaches, and sacrifices you make..." Jim trailed off blushing slightly.

Blair smiled at the older man. "I've got to tell you Jim. So far I'm not hearing anything that would make me angry with you. What did you do?"

Feeling someone walk up to the table, Blair looked up. His heart skipped a beat. How had Professor Durn managed to get this close to the table without him knowing it?

The Professor looked angrier than Blair had ever seen him. Leaning across the table, Durn ignored everyone but him.

"Did you have fun sending your whore over to tease me and threaten me? You're going to regret it Sandburg. I won't have you laughing at me. I won't have it!" He slammed his hand down on the table causing their drinks to take a little jump.

Blair unconsciously shifted back from the angry man. He was relieved when Jim put his hand on the Professor's shoulder, forcing the man to look at him.

"Back off Durn. Now!" The sentinel pulled the Professor back from the table and stood facing him. "Listen up Durn. I don't think I introduced myself properly." Jim pulled his badge from his pocket, showing it to the man. "My name is Ellison--Detective Ellison, Major Crimes, Cascade PD. I have never and will never be anyone's whore. I'll say this once, slowly so that you can understand. Sandburg had nothing to do with that little scene at the bar. I apologise for that but the trash coming out of your mouth made me angry. Now if anything--punitive-- were to happen to Sandburg here, I would know who was responsible." Jim leaned close to the man staring fiercely into his eyes. "You would regret it. I would make sure you would regret it. Clear?"

Unprepared for the ferociousness of Jim's declaration, the stunned Professor nodded and stumbled back quickly disappearing into the crowd.

Jim was jostled from behind and turned ready for a fight. The leather clad man held up his hands and turned, running straight into their table in his haste to get away from the sentinel. He leaned over the table briefly as he caught his balance and Blair recognised him as the tough looking man who had approached him when they had entered the building. The man winked at Blair then pushed back from the table and with a quick 'sorry' to Jim, walked away.

Jim let him go then sat back down at the table. Tony was watching the show, open mouthed.

Glaring at the older man, who steadfastly refused to look at him, Blair desperately tried to regain control of his anger. He knew that his partner was only trying to protect him but really...Jim had to know that what he did was way out of line. He felt his anger flare.

"What the hell did you think you were doing? Do you really think you're helping me Jim?" The sentinel raised his head sharply and Blair caught the shame and anger mirrored in his eyes, then it was gone replaced by defensiveness.

"What did you want me to do Sandburg? Would you rather I let him leave thinking you put me up to it and that he could use you as a doormat because of it?"

"No Jim," Blair said quietly. "I won't let you twist it like that. You should have stayed away from him like I asked. You didn't. You let your anger control you like you always do and now I've got to deal with the fall out."

Jim deflated visibly. "I was only trying to help."

"I know that Jim but you've got to learn that I can take care of myself. If it gets too much I'll ask for your help." When his partner said nothing Blair stood up. "I need some air. I need to get out of here."

Jim started to rise but Blair stopped him with a hand on his shoulder. "By myself."

Settling back into his chair, Jim watched his best friend walk away. Ignoring Tony who still sat speechless he lifted his beer mug and drained it then grabbed Blair's and sipped at it, wondering if the young man would come back. In his mind he knew he wouldn't but his heart was telling him there was no way his friend would walk out on him.

Jim felt a heaviness in his limbs and at first thought it was due to depression over his fight with Blair. After a couple of minutes he began to get alarmed. His vision blurred. He was having trouble concentrating and everything suddenly seemed too loud and too bright even in the darkened room. Feeling someone kneeling at his side he looked up with difficulty. Tony.

"Are you okay detective?"

Jim shook his head. "Blair...get Blair." He tried to raise his voice but his words came out in a whisper.

Tony shook his head. "I think he's gone. Let me get you out of here." He helped Jim to his feet. The bigger man had to hold tight to Tony's shoulder to stay upright.

"Don't you worry Jim. I'll look after you."

But Jim was worried. He didn't know what was happening. All he knew in his increasingly confused state was that he needed Blair. He looked around wildly, holding on to Tony for support.

"Chief!" His voice was louder this time. "Blair!"

"Blair's gone Jim. He left, do you understand?" Tony didn't wait for a response. "I'll take care of you." He wrapped an arm around Jim's waist and started moving him unsteadily toward the door.

Blair was pissed when he left the table. How dare Jim treat him like he couldn't take care of himself. By the time he had made it to the washroom and splashed water on his face he had calmed down. In his heart he knew that the big guy only did stuff like that because he cared. He had this annoying urge to try to fix everything--even when his help wasn't needed. Blair sighed and stared at himself in the mirror. The face that looked back at him was so sad that he barely recognised himself.

"Shit," Blair swore ignoring the odd look that the other occupant of the bathroom gave him.

He hated fighting with Jim. Even more he hated trying to stay mad at the man. He never could maintain the anger. Even now he felt bad about leaving his partner. Jim meant well. He cared about him. Blair smiled slightly at the sudden warmth that filled him at the thought. It was hopeless. If there was a way to stay mad at Detective James Ellison, Blair hadn't discovered it yet. Which wasn't to say they wouldn't talk about this --at length--later. The young man smiled and was happy to see the sad reflection gone and turned away to go back to his partner.

As he exited the bathroom he spotted Jim leaning heavily on Tony. It was obvious that something was wrong. Blair pushed his way through the crowd to reach his partner's side. His heart fluttered with worry as Jim looked around. The sentinel's actions were slow, his panic was obvious. As he approached the pair he heard Jim call out to him and Tony's response. He was sure that Tony had seen him enter the washroom. A surge of anger flared through him and he pushed aside the startled young man and took his place at his sentinel's side. The only place he wanted to be.

"Jim. I'm here. It's okay big guy." Blair slipped his arm around his partner's waist and held him tight, drawing the older man's arm across his shoulders.

"Blair," Jim whispered grasping the front of the younger man's shirt with his free hand. "Thank god." Jim let himself slump a bit more, never doubting even through the increasing fog in his mind that Blair would look after him. "What's wrong with me?"

Blair looked up into his partner's face. The slurred words alarmed him. "I'm not sure big guy. Let's get you out of here and back home." Home first, then he would figure out what was wrong.

"Blair, can I help?" Tony asked.

Blair regarded the other man for a minute. He seemed sincere but..."No man, I've got him. Why don't you stay awhile?"

"Okay. If you're sure?" Tony did not sound happy but he backed off leaving Blair with his partner.

Supporting the increasingly groggy Jim, Blair directed him back to the truck. Waving off his bouncer friend, he helped Jim into the passenger side. He was happy to have his partner finally safely buckled in. Now if he could only get him to let go of his wrist. The bigger man had grabbed his hand when Blair had deposited him into the truck and tried to remove his arm from around his waist. Standing beside the open door he gently tried to pull his arm back and winced as Jim's grip tightened.

"Jim man. You've got to let me go now."

Jim tried to look at his partner but he was having trouble keeping him in focus. The only way he could be sure that Blair was with him was by the steady pulse he felt under his fingers. A heart beat that he knew better than his own. If he let go he would be lost. He wasn't letting go.


"Come on big guy. I can't drive if you don't let go."

"No." Jim muttered, his grip tightening even more as if he expected Blair would try to escape. The young man patted his partner's hand and turned the bigger man's face to his own, leaning in close.

"Listen carefully to me Jim. I know your senses are out of control. I know you're scared. I want you to trust me my friend. Do you trust me?"


"I'm not going anywhere. I'm going to walk around the truck and get in the driver's side. When I do you can take my hand again. You have to trust me Jim. Let go now. It's going to be fine."

Jim braced himself and made the only decision he could, he chose to trust his partner. He let go of Blair's wrist and felt the world spin madly around him. He heard the music from the bar loud in his ears and clasped his hands over them but even that didn't block out the sound. He pressed his eyes tightly closed as the street lamp blinded him and felt sweat break out all over his body as the night air suddenly burned him.

Then someone grabbed his hand and the steady beat was back. Jim concentrated on that well known beat and his senses came back to him slowly, still not in control but better. Jim sighed in relief and held the hand tightly, pressing it against his chest.

Starting the truck, Blair glanced over at his partner. Jim had his eyes tightly closed and was gripping his hand with enough force to bruise his skin.

"I need you to ease up a bit on my hand Jim. I might need it later you know." The pressure eased slightly and the young man threw the truck into drive. He was beginning to think that taking Jim home to the loft was a bad idea. What if it wasn't his senses? What if it was something more serious? Blair would never forgive himself if something happened to his partner because he made the wrong decision and kept Jim away from the hospital. Blair turned the truck around and headed to the Cascade General Hospital. A few hours wasted in emergency were a small price to pay on the off chance that Jim needed a doctor.

He pulled into the emergency entrance and leaned over his partner opening the passenger door. Climbing over top of Jim, not releasing his hand, he jumped out of the truck and eased Jim out after him.

"Oh no Jim. Come on big guy, we've got to stand up now." Blair grasped his partner around the waist with one arm as the older man's legs started to buckle.

"Easy there buddy. Take a deep breath and concentrate on walking." Blair felt his grip on the heavier man slipping and knew that it Jim didn't get it together, they would both end up on the ground. "You can do it Jim. Listen to my voice. Concentrate on your legs. Focus Jim, come on!" The older man slipped a bit more. Then Jim's chest heaved and his weight lifted a bit.

"That's it Jim. Now let's go inside, okay? We're going to walk now." They moved carefully, Blair still uncertain about how steady the sentinel was. He was grateful when they finally reached the hospital doors.

Once inside Blair immediately spotted Dr. Hatch and couldn't believe his luck. The tall dark-haired female doctor had helped them on several occasions in the past. She was familiar with Jim's job and would probably ask very few questions.

"Dr. Hatch," Blair called out. She looked up and saw him struggling to support the larger man and gestured to a couple of support staff who immediately brought over a wheelchair. Gratefully, Blair settled his partner into the chair, his hand still held tight.

"Mr. Sandburg. What's happened this time?"

Blair shrugged wild-eyed. "I'm not sure doc. We were out at a club. He was fine one minute and the next he was like this." He gestured to his semi-conscious friend. "I think someone might have slipped him something." Blair's mind immediately went to Professor Durn and his eyes tightened in anger. Hearing Jim's little sound of distress, Blair forced himself to calm down. As always his sentinel was tuned into his body rhythm. Even in his present state. "It's okay Jim," Blair soothed. "You'll be fine."

"Let's get him into an exam room and I'll check him out. You'll have to wait out here Mr. Sandburg."

"N-No," Jim gasped with effort. "Blair stays with me."

The doctor sighed and nodded, having spent enough time with the two men to realise how futile it was to attempt to separate them. Together they disappeared into the examination room.

Three hours later --after much handholding, one call to Simon, a complete examination amidst many complaints --Blair was on his way home with his groggy partner beside him in the truck. Jim's confusion and lack of motor control had improved since his entrance into the hospital. Enough so that after securing a promise from Blair that Jim wouldn't be left alone and to call if he became worse, the overworked doctor allowed the young man to take his partner home. The blood work would be several hours so Blair was still uncertain whether Jim had been drugged or if his senses were once again acting up. Simon was attempting to hurry along the blood tests to determine whether one of his officers had been assaulted. An angry Simon Banks was not a man to be fooled with and Blair had rarely seen the Captain angrier than when he appeared at the hospital. He took the potential drugging of one of his officers very seriously. Blair had no doubt that they would have an answer soon.

After turning the truck into their parking spot at the loft Blair glanced over at his dozing friend. Jim had finally relinquished his guide's hand an hour ago when control had begun to return to him. Blair still felt a sense of loss without the contact. It was a rare to have his stoic partner need anything, and Blair was grateful that he had been able to provide the support Jim needed. He watched his partner fondly. Jim's head was resting against the back window, eyes closed with his hands clenched in his lap. His brow was still creased, and his jaw tightly clenched. Blair longed to reach out and ease his discomfort. He pulled his eyes away with difficulty and opened his door. The young man quickly made his way to Jim's door and took his partner's arm carefully.

"Come on big guy, we're home. Let's get you inside."

Jim opened his eyes slightly then shut them again, wincing. "Everything is too bright. Everything is too loud."

Blair rubbed the bigger man's arm. "Have you tried using the dial Jim?"

Jim sighed exasperatedly. "Of course I've tried the dial Sandburg. It won't work. I've been trying since we left the hospital. It...Doesn't..Work."

"Okay Jim. Take it easy man," Blair cautioned as his partner swung his legs out and tried to stand. "Let me help you." Blair didn't wait for a response. He grabbed his partner's arm and drew it across his own shoulders, snaking an arm around the sentinel's waist. He tried to ignore Jim's flinch of pain as he touched him.

"Just lean on me buddy. Keep your eyes closed. We'll go to the loft and get your white noise generators. That should help the volume."

He helped Jim maintain his balance as they made their way to the loft. "I think you just need to ride this out big guy." At Jim's sound of annoyance Blair hastily continued. "Just listen Jim. You are much better now than you were just two hours ago. Whatever this thing is it seems to be wearing off quickly. You know how pain medication affects you--cough syrup and lord knows what else. Maybe you came into contact with something that threw you out of whack for a little while. What was the last thing you remember before your senses went haywire?"

The elevator slowly climbed to their floor. "I remember I was drinking beer one moment then wham everything was spinning out of control."

Blair swore to himself. "Do you remember anything odd about the beer Jim?

The young man's mind flashed back to Professor Durn leaning across the table at the bar.

He could easily have put something in Jim's drink. Maybe that was the real reason he came over to their table in the first place. Blair opened the door and ushered his partner inside. He directed Jim towards his bedroom.

"Stairs," he warned, remembering Jim's closed eyes just in time.

The sentinel kept a heavy arm across Blair's shoulders as the young man guided him upstairs.

"I don't remember Chief. I don't think I even tasted it as it went down. I drank mine in one breath then started on yours." Jim sat down as he felt the back of his knees hit the bed. He grabbed his partner's hand as the young man tried to move away. Ignoring the pain, he forced his eyes open, catching Blair's eyes with his own.

"I really am sorry Chief." The words were solemn.

Blair patted the sentinel's hand softly. "It's okay Jim, really. I do understand. We'll talk about it tomorrow, okay?"

Jim sighed and closed his eyes once again. "Okay."

"Why don't you get ready for bed Jim? I'm going to go lock up and grab your white noise generators."

The older man nodded and his partner disappeared back down the stairs.

Blair ran back up the stairs a few minutes later and was surprised to find Jim still sitting on the bed, bare-chested and struggling with the button on his jeans.

He swore as Blair approached. "Damn it. I can't seem to make my fingers work." Jim flopped back on the bed in frustration. "These jeans are too goddamned tight."

The young man looked down at his partner, his eyes travelling across his broad, hairless chest.

So defined. So strong. He fought the urge to reach out and touch him. Now was definitely not the time.

"Let me help you out Jim." Blair reached forward to unbutton his partner's jeans, willing the tightness in his own to go away.

He immediately saw the problem.

Several strands of thread were curled around the button. He would have to work the button through them to unfasten the jeans. This was made even more difficult by the circulation-cutting tightness of the pants.

"Jim my friend, I don't even know how you ever managed to get into these jeans in the first place."

Jim groaned and put his hands over his face. "This is the most embarrassing moment of my life."

Blair grinned. "No it's not big guy. Rafe was telling me about that time in Vice when you paid a hooker to go with you to a party as part of your cover. And who did you choose?..."

"Sandburg," Jim warned.

The young man didn't pause. "...A beautiful long-legged, red-haired beauty called Fred."

"Sandburg!" Jim said with more force.

Blair smiled at the louder exclamation. Jim was definitely feeling better. "Then during the party, while getting into character, you tried to feel her up and found a little something you weren't expecting. Then...."

Jim groaned again. "I can't believe he told you that. Rafe is a dead man. I thought he was a woman. Please just let me lie here and die."

"Don't sweat it, Jim. I was just trying to point out that this is way down in 'Jim Ellison's top ten most embarrassing moments.' Number 10 is probably that time you were in the mayor's security detail. You remember...when you drew your gun and the clip fell out, on live television. Number 9 is probably..."

"Sandburg!" Blair stopped, laughing.

"Somehow this isn't making me feel any better, Chief."

"Sorry, Jim. My point is compared to that, this is like not even on the embarrassing list big guy." As Jim shook his head and refused to look at him, Blair continued more seriously. "Look, Jim. There's only you and me here right? You trust me, don't you?"

The older man nodded and moved his hand from his face as Blair talked. "If you sleep in those pants you aren't going to be able to feel your legs in the morning. So how about letting me help you out?"

Jim sighed and agreed.

The young man rubbed his hands together in exaggerated glee. "All right then. Let's get you out of those pants." He dropped to his knees between Jim's spread legs, bringing his face to crotch level. At Jim's alarmed look he smiled.

"Take it easy, big guy, I just need a closer look at the problem."

Jim relaxed slightly and his partner began trying to free the button. His wrists brushed against Jim's cock as he worked. Blair swallowed compulsively, forcing himself to keep his mind on the job at hand. Ignoring the fact that he could just lean down four inches and touch his lips to the older man's jean clad cock was difficult. So close. Blair swayed forward then caught himself and pulled back, glancing quickly up at his partner. He blushed as he found Jim watching him intently.

"It'll just be a sec, Jim," Blair squeaked as he quickly turned back to his task, escaping his partner's gaze. Accidentally, he pressed his wrist down against his partner's groin. Well it could have been an accident Blair hastened to remind himself. Once the threads were clear he had to slip one hand down the top of Jim's jeans to work the button free. His hand was trapped for a moment, held tight against hard heated flesh. Stretching his fingers out to try to make a bit of space to work, he touched course hair. Blair gasped, then the button popped free.

The young man tried to control his breathing. 'Act normal. Don't freak Jim out.' He pulled his hand free and drew down the straining zipper. He heard Jim cry out but it was too late. He found himself facing an erect cock as it sprang free from its tight confines.

'Jim went commando, ' Blair thought, stunned.

Jim groaned and put his hands over his face again, unable to bear the sight of his partner kneeling in front of him, the young man's luscious lips almost touching his throbbing cock. Blair's light and not so light touches had been driving him mad. He had thought that once Blair got the button free he would stop. Damn.

"This is the most embarrassing moment of my life," Jim stated once again.

His partner's voice popped Blair out of his own little zone out. He blinked, realising what he was staring at, then smiled. Jim was turned on by his touch. He hadn't even done that much.

"Let's not get into that again big guy. You seem to have a problem here." Blair didn't move except to incline his head towards his partner's obvious problem.

"Can I please die now?" Jim asked the air above him.

"I could help you with this particular problem too, man," Blair whispered.

Jim looked down at his guide, crouched between his thighs, then away quickly, his face flushing. He closed his eyes tightly, the scene before him was too much. "Oh God."

"It's up to you, Jim."

The older man took a shaky breath and gave in to the needs of his body. "Touch me." He opened his eyes after a few moments when nothing happened. Blair was still crouched in front of him. "Blair?"

The young man smiled and lifted one finger, tracing the head of his partner's throbbing cock. "Just making sure you knew who you were asking, big guy...and I mean big guy." He grasped Jim's thick erection in his hand and the sentinel arched his back with a low sigh as he began a firm, even stroke.

Jim closed his eyes again, lost in the sensation. Once again his partner stopped. The hand stayed loosely wrapped around him but didn't move. He opened his eyes once more. "God Blair, what are you trying to do to me?"

Blair leaned forward and took the head of Jim's penis into his mouth, running his tongue along the slit then pulled back, fixing Jim with an intense stare. "I need you to keep your eyes open big guy. I want to be sure you're sure this is what you want. To do that I need to be sure you're with me here. Eyes on me or I stop." Blair was a bit concerned that Jim would become lost in his arousal and lose sight of who was with him, allowing this to go further than he wanted. He needed to be sure Jim wanted this, wanted him, not some imaginary person floating behind his closed eyelids.

"I'm with you, Blair. Right where I want to be. Please?" Jim asked quietly.

Blair leaned forward and took his partner's erection into his mouth once more. He pumped the base of the erection with his fist as he worked the head with his mouth, lips and tongue. Jim's hips began a shallow thrusting. Blair went with the involuntary rhythm set up by the older man as he worked more and more of the large erection into his mouth. Looking up at his partner, he moved his mouth up and down, caressing the heated flesh with his tongue.

Jim was watching the young man intently. He stayed silent except for a small intake of breath each time Blair's lips touched the bush of hair at the base of his cock.

"Blair," Jim breathed. Liking the way the name felt on his lips, he began softly chanting it over and over again as his hips thrust with increasing urgency

Keeping one hand at the base of his partner's cock, Blair slid the other down to his own pants. One-handed, he quickly unzipped the leather and grasped his own aching erection, pulling it free of its tight prison. Pressing his cock against the older man's leg, the young man began a hard and fast stroke, his erection sliding between his own hand and Jim's muscular limb.

The sentinel arched his back hard and came with a shout. "Blair!"

Hot cum flooded the young man's mouth and he swallowed greedily as his own orgasm overcame him. His body tensed and he let Jim's cock slip from between his lips. Leaning his head forward, he rested his cheek on his partner's inner thigh as his seed bathed his partner's leg. Blair stayed like that for a time, recovering from his explosive orgasm. He rested until he felt Jim curl his fingers into his hair. He couldn't help but tense. He wasn't sure how Jim would react now that the passion was over.

Jim looked down at the curly head of his partner, waiting for the young man to recover from his orgasm. The warm breath that brushed over his softened cock was a pleasurable contrast to the cool cheek resting against his thigh. Jim wondered how he had been so stupid. He couldn't remember ever coming so hard form a simple blowjob. Especially not with a headache. Actually, now that he thought about it, his headache had passed. He smiled and wondered how Blair would feel about providing this service each time he was plagued by a headache, or even when he wasn't for that matter. He felt his partner tense and wished he knew what the young man was thinking.

"Chief? Are you okay?" Jim asked with concern.

"Yeah, man. I should be asking you that question."

"I'm better than fine, Chief. Blair, will you look at me now?"

The young man lifted his head and hesitantly met Jim's eyes. The older man just gazed at his guide for a time before he began speaking.

"I've been thinking about this off and on for a long time you know."

The young man blinked in surprise. "You have?"

"Blair." Jim drew his guide up onto the bed and into his arms. His partner came willingly, pressing against the large body of his sentinel, wrapping his arms around him tightly.

"Sorry about that, Jim." Blair didn't look up from his position, face pressed against the older man's chest.

"What is there to be sorry about?" He was a bit confused.

" know...your leg man."

Jim smiled as he felt the cum slowly making its way down his leg. "Oh that. I'm not."

Blair looked up. "You're not?"

"I'm only sorry that I've fought this thing for so long."

"What thing?"

"This...attraction." Jim wasn't ready to call it by its real name yet. The term 'love' caught in his throat.

"To me?" Blair asked in disbelief.

Jim looked down with a wry expression on his face. "Come on, Sandburg, do you really think I would have let you do 'that' if I wasn't attracted to you? Usually you are much quicker on the uptake, Chief."

"I assumed it was just the moment. You got carried away or something."

"Blair, your friendship means too much to me to throw it away for a bit of pleasure."

Blair pulled away and sat cross-legged on the bed beside his partner. "What are you saying, Jim? Don't tease me here. You know how I feel about you. It's a shitty thing to do."

Jim turned to his side, supporting himself on one elbow, facing his partner. "I'm not sure I do know how you feel about me, Chief. Why did you do this?"

Blair looked at Jim in disbelief, then jumped off the bed, fastening his pants. "Why do you think I did it, Jim? Guess what? This may come as a surprise to you but I really don't jump in bed with every warm body that looks my way. God, you're such a dick sometimes. Do you really want the truth?" Blair felt himself losing control. The day had worn on him. Starting with those damned flat tires and ending with this. It was just too much. He felt ready to cry or to punch someone. Right now punching seemed more likely.

"Yeah, I want the truth, Chief."

"Because I love you, you asshole." Blair froze. He wished he could take back the words the instant they left his mouth.

What had he done? Shit. It was one thing to have a mild sexual encounter on the spur of the moment, and quite another to declare his unwanted love to his best friend. Blair turned and fled down the stairs not waiting for Jim's response.

Once in the sanctuary of his room he locked the door and flopped onto his bed. This was truly the day from hell. In one day he had managed to ruin his career at the university, his sentinel study and lose the best friend he ever had. Things could never be the same between them after this. Blair turned over and stared miserably at the ceiling that separated him from his partner.

Jim watched as his partner ran down the stairs. Blair loved him. He was having a hard time processing the information. Whatever he had expected, he hadn't expected that. In truth, he thought that his partner lived by the 'if it feels good at the time, then do it' philosophy of life. He hadn't considered that the young man might truly love him. The idea was bizarre. How could a free spirit like Blair love an uptight, retentive cop like himself? How could he hope to give the young man all that he deserved? Jim knew he loved his partner, he could admit that now even though the concept frightened him more than he could say. It would kill him if he took this step and Blair someday left him. On the other hand, the odds were good that the young man would leave him 'now' if he did nothing. In truth the damage was already done. If his partner left him now he would be just as devastated as if they'd been lovers for years. He needed to talk to Blair.

Jim rose and stripped off the unfastened jeans, pulling on a loose pair of sweat pants and headed downstairs to speak to his friend.

Hearing a soft knock on his door, Blair sighed. He gave in to the inevitable and went over to open the door. As expected his partner stood on the other side, his expression hard to read.

"Jim, can't we just talk about this in the morning?" Blair stood in the doorway, preventing his partner from entering.

"No Sandburg, we can't. We need to talk about it now. Are you going to let me in?"

Stepping back reluctantly, Blair allowed the older man to pass. Jim went directly to the bed and sat down somewhat unsteadily. The young man was there in an instant, sitting by his side, cursing himself for a fool. Jim was hurt. He needed him and how did he show his support?

"I'm so sorry Jim. I'm such an idiot. I can't believe I took advantage of the situation like that. You're not yourself." Blair jumped up and started pacing in front of the bed. "Stupid, stupid. I don't know why I did it man. I've just wanted you for so long...but that's no excuse. You were hurt, disoriented and I can't believe I took advantage of that. Then on top of it all I had the nerve to get mad at you. I am so sorry. I hope that you can forgive me." Blair wound down and sat back on the bed, not touching his partner, shoulders slumped in defeat.

"You finished?" Jim asked. Blair looked up into the half amused face of his partner. The sentinel saw the anger build and held up his hand.

"Now hold on Chief. You've said your piece. It's my turn now and I want you to listen up. Understand?" When Blair stayed silent giving a curt nod, Jim continued.

"My mental facilities are sound. The only thing that was wrong with me when we walked through the loft doors was shaky motor controls and an ongoing struggle with this sentinel stuff. Now...I want to be very clear here...neither of those things effected my ability to choose. I wasn't zoned. I wasn't confused. You offered, I accepted. End of story. I don't know where all this guilt is coming from but I want it to stop right now."

"Jim..." Blair tried, but was cut off once more.

"Give me a little credit here Chief. When have my out of whack senses ever caused my mouth to say yes when I really meant no?"

Blair grinned a little. "Never," he said quietly.

"Got it in one Chief. Never. I'm sorry for insinuating that you would sleep with me for the hell of it but you've got to cut me some slack Sandburg. You've dated how many different women since you moved in here?" Jim paused.

"A lot," Blair admitted.

Jim smiled. "That's right. A lot. But of those women, how many did you actually say you loved?" The sentinel spoke the last word softly.

"One," Blair answered, thinking momentarily of Maya. "But I never felt for her what I feel for you."

Jim wrapped his arms around the younger man. "God Chief. Do you really love me?"

Nodding, Blair pressed his face against his partner's broad chest and wrapped his arms tightly around him.

"I think I love you too Blair," Jim whispered. He heard the younger man's breath catch in surprise. "I need a little time though. This is all still new to me. Thinking my mind is far from actually doing it. I need a little time to adjust. Can you understand that?"

Pulling away a bit, Blair looked into the warm blue eyes of his friend. His world felt right once again. He marveled at how within the space of an hour he could go from exhilaration to complete despair, to finally arrive at overwhelming happiness. All revolving around one man. "Yeah man. I understand. Take all the time you need, just don't push me away."

Jim pulled Blair back to his chest. "Never Blair. Will you come back upstairs with me?"

The young man's eyes widened. "Jim, I thought..."

"Not for that Sandburg," Jim scolded lightly. "I'd like you to stay with me tonight. Just sleep, nothing else."

"Sure Jim. I'd like that." Blair smiled and stood, pulling his partner to his feet. "Well, let's go man!" When Jim looked nervous at his enthusiasm the young man continued. "Just sleep tonight. We'll go at your pace. You'll find I'm a very patient person when it comes to getting what I want."

"What do you want?" Jim asked as they moved up the stairs.

"I want you to love me as much as I love you big guy," Blair answered honestly.

Stopping beside his bed, the sentinel turned his guide to face him, putting a hand on Blair's cheek. He tilted the young man's face up till he met his eyes. "Loving you was never the problem Chief. It's the rest that I need to adjust to."

Blair bounced in place, feeling his eyes fill. "God Jim. If you love me then the rest will work out." He threw his arms around the bigger man's neck and pulled him down for a kiss, then continued down till he felt Jim's weight settle over him as his back hit the bed. Blair moved his partner till he could roll on top of the bigger man, then finally broke the kiss. "Thank you Jim."

"For what?" The older man ran his fingers through the silky curls of his partner.

"For trusting me enough to tell me."

"You're welcome then." Jim spent a few long moments looking into his partner's eyes, transfixed by all he could see there. After a time he felt his eyelids grow heavy, the night catching up with him.


"Yeah Jim," Blair sighed happily.

"Don't take this the wrong way but I need to go to sleep."

Blair couldn't help but notice the dark circles under his partner's eyes. "Sure Jim. That sounds perfect. If you'll let go for a minute I'll run back downstairs and grab my toothbrush."

Jim seemed to consider the request carefully. "You'll come right back? Stay with me?"

"For as long as you want big guy."

Jim woke to a ringing phone and a warm pressure on his chest. He looked down at the sleeping form of his partner. At some point during the night Blair had draped himself across Jim, using him like a large body pillow. He smiled down at the young man affectionately and stroked his back as he reached for the phone.


"Jim, it's Simon."

"Simon, what did you find out?"

Jim's hand stilled on his partner's back and Blair murmured sleepily, "Don't stop big guy. I was enjoying that." The sentinel resumed the light stroke.

"It's Simon Chief."

Rolling off the larger man, Blair sat up and rubbed the sleep out of his eyes.

"Is Sandburg up yet?" Simon asked.

Jim smiled at his partner, trying to ease the worry in his eyes. "Yeah Captain, he's puttering around here somewhere." Jim laughed as Blair made a face at him.

"Get him to grab the other extension. You might as well both hear this." Jim covered the receiver.

"Get the other line Blair."


"I think we're about to receive bad news."

Blair ran down the stairs and picked up the phone breathlessly. "Yeah Simon, I'm here."

"Good," the Captain began. "The test results show what the doctor expected. Jim was given flunitrazepam, probably some of the Rohypnol that's becoming a problem in our clubs and at the University."

"Someone gave me" Jim asked in amazement.

"Looks like it Jim. I'm on my way over, this is a police matter now."

Jim found his voice again. "Why Simon? What can you do really? Nothing happened."

"Jim, maybe you don't understand the implications here. Maybe that drug is still screwing up your head or something. You were drugged for unknown reasons. Think of what could have happened if Sandburg hadn't of dragged your butt out of that club. God Jim, you were drinking at the time. Alcohol mixed with Rohypnol can be deadly. Even putting that aside, it's been used in many crimes, from rape to murder. We are going to get to the bottom of this. I'll be there in a few minutes. I'm not going to argue about it."

"Thanks Simon," Blair cut in before his partner could respond. "We'll be waiting."

Simon said his good-byes and hung up. Blair was overwhelmed by what could have happened to his friend. Everyone knew about Rohypnol, it was one of the scariest drugs being used. It was a potent tranquilizer that produced a sedative effect, causing amnesia, muscle relaxation and slow motor controls. Jim had thrown off the effects relatively quickly, probably due to his sentinel abilities. It could have been so much worse.

He moved back upstairs slowly. Jim met him at the top. Blair looked up at him then grabbed him in a fierce hug. He could have lost his partner last night. He felt the older man's arms encircle him and hold him just as tightly. The young man shuddered as his body began to respond to the hands that roved his back and the groin pressed hard against his own.

"God Jim...what's going on? I'm so screwed up here. I'm confused, scared as hell, and at this moment so turned on I can't think straight. That can't be normal."

Jim chuckled, then laughed out loud, pulling Blair back to the bed with him. "I'm suffering from the same afflictions Chief. And anyway, since when did you think you were normal?"

Blair grinned, his panicked concern fading, and cuddled close to the bigger man, sighing in contentment. "Abnormal is one thing, this...this is nuts. Someone drugged you Jim, slashed my tires, my professor hates me and here I lie, happier than I can ever remember being."

Jim regarded the younger man seriously, studying his face. "You're right. You are crazy."

After a brief pause, Blair slugged his partner on the shoulder. "Not quite the response I was looking for man," he said with a pout.

Jim chuckled again and grabbed Blair's hand as he tried to slap him again. Bringing it to his lips instead, he kissed the palm gently. "Don't worry Chief. In this case I'm crazy too... crazy about you."

Blair brought his other hand up to his partner's chest, stroking over hard pecs. "That's more like it. For that you get a reward."

Jim gasped the young man's fingers strayed to his nipple, caressing it gently. "A...reward huh?" He managed to get out.

"That's right big guy. What'll it be?"

Jim closed his eyes concentrating on the wonderful feeling of Blair's hands on his chest as they moved down to run across his stomach. He licked his lips and felt Blair put his free hand on his face to capture his attention.

"Anything Jim. All you have to do is ask."

"I...want..." Jim stopped as the doorbell rang. "Simon...damn it!"

Blair jumped off the bed in mock horror. "I would never have believed it if I hadn't heard it from your own lips."

Getting out of the bed, trying to ignore his arousal, Jim searched for his pants. "Believed what Chief?"

"You and Simon," Blair said in his best hurt voice.

"What are you talking about Sandburg?" Jim paused and replayed the conversation in his head, then stepped menacingly toward Blair. "Very funny Sandburg...come here a sec."

Blair's eyes widened as he circled the bigger man. "Not just now, Jim. We have company." With that, he ran down the stairs and into his room to change. Once safely behind closed doors he whispered, "Don't worry Jim, your secret is safe with me."

"Sandburg!" Jim bellowed.

Blair smiled and got dressed as Jim stalked to the door.

As soon as the door was open, Simon pushed by Jim heading straight for the coffee pot. He looked rough. Blair came out of his room and stopped dead in his tracks as he caught sight of the captain.

"Whoa Simon, what happened to you?" Their normally neat captain had been replaced by a rumpled, unshaven, overtired, ill-tempered creature.

Simon scowled at the young man. Blair looked just a bit too cheerful given last night's happenings. "As always, you two happened to me. I must have really pissed off someone in high places to be saddled with the two of you."

Blair just grinned and slapped him on the shoulder. "You know you love us Simon." He stepped quickly away as the captain glared at him. "Sorry Simon...I could be wrong..."

Simon sighed and walked over to the couch, sitting down heavily. "No Sandburg, I'm sorry. It's not your fault. I've just spent the night at the hospital. I fell asleep in one of those god-awful chairs while waiting for the test results. I don't know what possessed me to wait in the first place. It's just put me in a rotten mood. How are you feeling Jim?" Simon turned toward his detective who had seated himself in the chair beside the couch.

"Good Simon, all things considered. So someone slipped me Rohypnol?" Jim frowned considering what might have happened if Blair hadn't come back for him. He met his partner's eyes and wondered if he was thinking the same thing.

"How much do you remember?" Simon asked.

"Surprisingly, I remember everything. I know that it's not typical of this particular drug. It must be a sentinel thing." Jim considered just how often he had said those words. It seemed anything unusual was blamed on his being a Sentinel. Usually, it was true.

"Well that's something at least. Any idea who did this?"

"My guess would be Tony."

Blair looked at him in surprise. "Tony? Why man? I'd guess Professor Durn."

Jim thought about that. "Maybe...but he just...I don't know...didn't seem to have the balls for something like that. Tony...Tony gives me the creeps. There's something off about that guy and he had his hands all over me when I started feeling the effects of the drug."

"I'll concede that he seems to have the hots for you man, but I've known him for years. He's never done anything like that before." Blair certainly understood what his partner was talking about but still felt that the Professor was the more probable suspect.

"That you know of," Jim pointed out.

"Yeah, that I know of. The good Professor was furious though. Maybe he wanted to get back at you for that stunt you pulled."

"But if it was spur of the moment, where did he get the stuff?" Jim pointed out logically.

"I don't know Jim. Maybe it's not the first time he's done something like that. Before yesterday I never would have pictured that man frequenting that sort of club. Who knows what he is capable of? Maybe he does that sort of thing all the time. Maybe he had planned using it on anyone that caught his eye that night and just took the opportunity to use it on you out of anger."

Jim considered that for a moment. "Could be Chief. There is another thing that we should be considering here."

"Maybe it wasn't meant for you?" Blair knew where Jim was going.

"On the nose Sandburg. I did after all drink some of your beer too. Maybe it was meant for you. If so then we also need to consider that leather bound freak who was watching you all night."

"Yeah." Blair shuddered considering the possibilities.

Jim continued. "The other thing is why? Why drug me...or you for that matter? To make me look foolish? To make me easier to beat up? Rape? Murder? What?"

Simon had been sitting quietly gathering the information he needed while the two men discussed their thoughts. He now sat forward to add to the conversation. "Let's concentrate on 'who' right now Jim and the why will become evident. Now I need a play by play of the evening and the name and/or descriptions of everyone who may have had access to your drinks."

Jim sat back and let Blair fill in the details, offering only a few comments and filling in the time when his partner had been absent. He purposely left out a few of those details--such as the nature of the fight with the Professor. Simon listened carefully then headed back to the station giving Jim strict instructions to stay at home for the day.

Once the door closed behind Simon, Blair found himself engulfed in the arms of his partner. He settled in, enjoying the warmth for a few minutes before pulling back.

"You sure you're okay Jim?"

"I'm fine Chief. It just feels like I have a hangover, that's all." Jim tried to pull the young man back into his arms. Blair felt so good, so natural there. He looked at Blair in confusion when the young man stepped away, avoiding his hands.

"Well, if you're sure then I really have to go to the University for a couple of hours. I have another exam to oversee." At Jim's crestfallen look Blair hastily continued. "No, on second thought I'll stay. I can just call..."

Jim took the phone from his partner's hand and hung it up. "Go Sandburg. I can make do for a couple of hours. It will only be a couple of hours right?"

Blair grinned uncertainly. "Yeah, just long enough for the exam. Are you sure big guy?"

"I'm sure. No need to give Durn more ammunition to use against you is there?"

"I'd rather not," Blair admitted, then brightened. "Hey, I still have enough time to have a nice breakfast with the man I love before I go though."

Jim smiled back at the younger man. "Well okay then...but let me get one of the guys to run you over when you're ready."

"That's 'way' harsh man!" Blair exclaimed.

Jim rolled his eyes. "Ha ha. Run you over to the University funny-man."

"Come on Jim, that's not necessary." The young man was having visions of showing up at the U in a police car. That would keep the rumor mill running nicely.

"Humor me Sandburg. Just until we figure out what's going on. Come on Blair," he cajoled, "otherwise I'll just have to follow you and no doubt end up at the station...well I would be out already so I'd have to go in to work. You don't want to be responsible for me disobeying a direct order from my captain do you?"

"And make you ruin your perfect obedience record Jim? God forbid," Blair said sarcastically, laughing.

"I'll admit obedience has never been my strong suit, Chief." Jim looked slyly at the younger man. "Maybe you can teach me, you know, give me private lessons."

"What?" Blair squeaked, wondering if Jim meant that to be a sexual invitation.

Jim grinned. "I've always been willing to try new things." At Blair's disbelieving look he laughed. "Well okay, let me clarify." He walked behind Blair and leaned forward, whispering in his ear. "I've always been willing to try new bed."

Blair stayed perfectly still for a moment then turned and flung his arms around the bigger man's neck. "I'm staying! You've convinced me. Can we start the lessons now?"

Jim laughed and disentangled himself from his partner. "No way Chief. Exam first, play later."

Blair looked down at the bulge in his pants. You expect me to go in front of my class like this?"

Jim looked down and suddenly he wanted very much to taste his partner. He pulled Blair forward and thrust his tongue into the young man's mouth. Blair jumped in surprise but responded immediately, stroking his tongue against Jim's and sucking gently on the invader. Jim groaned deeply... passionately. Releasing Blair's mouth he sank to his knees, his fingers scrabbling to remove the barrier separating him from his prize.

"Jim, what are you doing? I thought..." Blair wanted his partner to continue very badly but he was afraid Jim was about to do something he would regret.

Jim paused and looked up at the younger man, his eyes dark with arousal. "I'm finding it easier to adjust to our new relationship than I expected Blair. Do you mind?"

"You must be joking Jim. Anything you're ready for, man... anything." Blair pulled his partner up from the floor and kissed him.

"Give yourself to me," Jim whispered.

"I'm yours," the young man stated frankly, dropping his arms to the side, tilting his head back in surrender. Jim growled low in his throat and scooped him up, carrying him quickly to the closest bed. Blair found himself gently placed on his own bed, gazing up in wonder as his partner lovingly undressed him. He moaned softly as Jim pulled his pants off over his aching erection. Jim... his love... his life. Blair closed his eyes and stretched his arms above his head, wanting Jim to take whatever he felt he could.

After carefully undressing his partner, Jim quickly dispensed with his own clothes. He kept his eyes on his guide, still unable to believe that he was here like this with him. Blair... what had he done to deserve this chance? Jim's eyes widened as the young man crossed his wrists and put his arms above his head. He let his boxers drop to the ground and covered the body of his guide with his own. Blair felt perfect underneath him. His flesh burned where it touched the other man. Jim gasped and shifted down, supporting much of his weight with his arms. He felt the hair on Blair's body caress him and shivered.

"Blair... love you..." Jim sighed as he drew his lips down to his partner's neck, wetting the skin with his mouth. He sucked gently on the curve of Blair's collarbone. Tasting -- marking the younger man. Blair groaned and arched his body, straining to be closer to the older man. Jim carefully lowered himself further, pressing his partner into the mattress.

"Okay?" Jim asked, concerned his weight might be too claustrophobic for the smaller man.

"Perfect, Jim. More..."

Jim thrust his hips hard against the younger man, gasping as his cock slid along his partner's. Again he moved his hips, feeling Blair push up against him in time with his strokes. So good. Jim gathered his partner into his arms and rolled them to the side, needing more room to maneuver.

"Touch me," Blair whispered before taking Jim's lips in a kiss, all his good intentions out the window. He took his partner's hand and drew it down to his arching erection. "Touch me, lover, please?" he begged, biting Jim's chin lightly before nipping at his partner's lips once more.

Jim took the hot flesh into his hand, stroking firmly. Blair moved his hips, speeding up the pace. The sentinel drew away from the younger man's nipping kisses and lowered his head to Blair's chest. His lips automatically sought out a hard nub and drew it into his mouth. Blair gasped and moved his hips faster, seeking release. Feeling his partner's orgasm approaching Jim stopped his hand, simply holding the young man's cock. Blair cried out and tried to push Jim's hand away to finish himself. Jim refused to allow it.

"No, Chief. Mine... remember?"

"For you, Jim, only for you." Blair cried out as the bigger man leaned over further and licked the crown of his leaking erection. Jim took the head into his mouth, surprised to find that the act did nothing to diminish his desire. In fact, his cock grew surprisingly harder as he moved his lips down the throbbing shaft. The taste spiked his arousal and he growled causing vibrations to surround Blair's cock. The young man's body was racked by shudders as he came with a shout.


Jim swallowed the cum as it exploded into his mouth. Pulling back never even occurred to him. Once Blair sank back into the mattress bonelessly, he raised his head.

Blair roused himself at his partner's shocked impression. He should have warned the older man of his impending orgasm. "Sorry, man... you okay?"

Jim crawled quickly up the young man's body and claimed his mouth in a hard kiss. "I can't believe it."

Blair looked confused. "What? What's wrong?"

"I can't believe how much I liked that... how much it turned me on. God, Blair. I haven't even come yet and I feel like this has been the most intense sexual experience of my life." Jim was amazed. He'd expected to be able to perform with Blair but thought that the male-male thing would be a problem. Now all he wanted was to suck Blair dry and never get out of this bed. He grinned down at his partner. "I love you."

"I love you, big guy... so much," Blair affirmed before turning his back to the older man. "Will you?" He asked shyly. He wanted Jim to take him more than anything.

Jim shuddered and molded his body to Blair's back. "Yes, help me?" Jim didn't know how to ask for the kind of help he needed. Blair seemed to understand - as he always did.

"Kiss my back, caress my butt," Blair instructed but not without a blush making its way to the back of his neck. Jim smiled and kissed the lean back of his partner, his hands straying to the rounded buttocks, squeezing gently.

"Yeah... that's right. Suck on my skin, leave a mark. I want to feel it tomorrow... to remember."

Jim sucked the flesh above Blair's shoulder blade into his mouth, stroking with his tongue. He caressed the firm butt cheeks in his hands as his mouth worried that one spot of skin. He pulled Blair's cheeks apart slightly and stroked his fingers down the crevice between, feeling the small opening as he brushed past. Blair shuddered under his hands. He pulled back and admired the reddened spot that would surely be a marvelous hickey tomorrow and smiled. His partner pulled away slightly and fumbled in the nightstand. Reaching behind his body he pressed a small tube into Jim's hand.

"Are you sure, Blair?"

"Yes, Jim. I need to feel you in me, to know it's real. Open the tube, coat your fingers."

Jim obeyed, then at Blair's urging ran a slippery finger lightly in small circles around his partner's anus.

"Press harder... yeah that's it," Blair groaned. "Now insert just the tip of your finger." Jim watched the very tip of his finger press against and then enter the young man's body. Amazing. Blair was panting now.

"Press one finger in all the way and loosen me up, then do the same with two, and three, got it? After that, use lots of lube to coat your cock and put it in me. Slowly, a bit at a time. Let me set the pace. I'll push back when I'm ready for more. I don't think I'll be too verbal, big guy, so this is the end of the lesson." Blair looked back over his shoulder as he felt one finger slip inside him. Jim leaned forward moving his finger carefully in and out of his partner's body, and kissed him, thrusting his tongue into Blair's mouth in time with his finger moving in his partner's ass.

He felt the passage loosen and the grip on his finger lessened. He took this as the sign that it was time for two fingers and gently penetrated his partner once more. Blair began shifting his hips and making little sensual noises as he continued to move his fingers in the young man's body. He felt a small nub, deep inside Blair's body and his partner cried out and stiffened as he touched it. Jim froze for a moment, till Blair cried out again.

"Again! Feels wonderful. Stroke it again."

Blair groaned and shifted more urgently as Jim pressed against his prostate with each thrust of his twisting fingers. Soon, Blair couldn't wait any longer.

"In me now, Jim. Now!"

Jim chuckled and coated his cock. He wanted this so badly. He felt ready to explode. He placed his cock at his partner's anus, it didn't seem possible to fit it inside. Jim had a moment of doubt, then Blair pushed back a bit and the head of the older man's erection disappeared inside his body. Jim and Blair groaned as one. It was all the sentinel could do not to press forward immediately. The tight pressure surrounding his cock was almost painful, the need to move overwhelming. But he didn't move, he would rather die himself than hurt his guide. He let Blair set the pace as he had asked and after many stops and starts finally found himself completely buried in his partner. Jim paused for a moment and leaned forward kissing the young man's back, as he tried to keep control. The need to cum was quickly becoming the only thing he cared about. Soon Blair pushed back and Jim began a gentle thrusting.

The passage loosened and he sped up and began a long slide out and in, building his speed gradually. His senses were filled with the panting breathing and moans of his partner and himself as they strained toward orgasm.

"Jim, want on my knees. Help me." Blair moved to his stomach, careful to keep Jim inside him then raised himself to his knees so that Jim would have more room to maneuver.

Jim began thrusting more intently, his groin slapping noisily against the younger man's buttocks. Short jabbing thrusts, trying to reach as deeply into his partner's body as possible. His breathing became labored and sweat rolled from his body as he slammed into Blair's anus. His partner pushed back hard, urging a stronger thrust, his buttocks jiggling with each push. Jim began moving harder and faster as Blair bent forward laying his head on his folded arms, trying to give Jim more access and to brace himself. Jim grasped Blair's hips and pulled the young man back to meet each of his hard thrusts. He pounded into his lover faster as he felt his orgasm approach and roll over him.

Blair cried out in ecstasy as Jim's seed flooded his anus. His own cock twitched and tried to expel more cum but due to his recent orgasm not much was forthcoming. His body though, shuddered through a strong orgasm with his partner. Jim thrust once more and pressed deep within Blair, holding the position for a few seconds before falling forward over the young man's back. He rolled to the side and gathered Blair in a crushing embrace.

"Blair, that was fantastic. I never knew it could be like that," Jim murmured in amazement. "Did I hurt you?" He was concerned that he had been too rough.

Blair smiled lazily. "No way, man. You followed your instructions perfectly. A+ all the way. I love you."

"Love you too, Chief." Jim glanced at the clock. "Do you realize you only have 45 minutes before you have to be at the university?"

Blair sat up in the bed frantically. "Damn." He looked down at his cum-streaked stomach and felt Jim's seed as it slowly seeped from his anus. "I need a shower." With that, he jumped up and ran to the bathroom.

"I'll call Rafe to drive you," Jim called behind him, laughing.

Blair arrived at the University with a huge smile on his face. He was sure that Rafe thought he had lost his mind. During the drive over, he just couldn't stop smiling. Jim loved him. Everything else was unimportant. He got out of the car a bit gingerly, earning him yet another odd look from Rafe. Blair just smiled bigger and waved, heading for the Anthropology building. He was a bit sore, it had been a long time, after all, but it was a welcome pain. It almost felt like Jim was still with him. With one last wave at the door, Blair ran inside, arriving at the exam with two minutes to spare.

After handing out the exams, Blair sat behind the desk at the front of the room and pulled out the tests from the previous day, determined to get a start on the grading and his mind off a certain muscled chest. If he spent the entire exam time daydreaming about Jim, he would be in no condition to get up from the desk when the exam ended. Blair put on his glasses and picked up his red pen, pulling the first of the exams from his bag.

An hour and a half later, Blair sighed and stared down at the same exam. No matter how hard he tried, thoughts of Jim kept popping into his mind. The exam seemed to be trying to make him remember. 'In the vast Rainforests of Peru,' -Vast, like Jim's chest, 'many indigenous tribes are still strong,' -strong, like Jim's arms, 'in number and in their beliefs. One such tribe chiseled themselves a home out of,' -chiseled, like Jim's face. How was he supposed to concentrate with that sort of distraction?

Maybe if he turned to the short question and answer at the end of the exam. Blair flipped the pages, dislodging a loose sheet of paper.

The paper fluttered to the ground and he bent to pick it up, thinking that it was an extra page for the exam question. He gazed at it and started to tuck it back into the test before doing a double take. He took another look and found that the sheet detailed his previous week's schedule. He studied the sheet closely. Not his handwriting or Jim's. As he read the details his stomach clenched. Where he parked, where he ate, when he went to the station, his lunches with Jim, it was all there. What the hell?

Blair looked around nervously but all he saw were his students, concentrating on the tests in front of them. He closed the exam to see who had written it. Adam Grange. Hmm, odd. He had placed the exams in alphabetical order before packing them into his bag. It made thing easier when it came time to record the grades.

He pondered the oddity for a moment before he remembered. Tony had given him one last exam that had gotten mixed up with his papers. Tony. Was this his writing?

Blair dug through his knapsack, pulling out the note that Tony had left with the exams when he dropped them off at Blair's office. There was no doubt about it, the handwriting matched.

Blair felt the knot of fear in his stomach grow. Tony had been watching him. Following him. Painstakingly recording his movements. The young man looked up, eyes wide, surprised to find the classroom almost empty. The last student placed his exam on the stack on Blair's desk and with a wry smile, left. Blair felt as though eyes were on him, but found none when he turned around. Digging through his knapsack he finally came up with his cell phone and dialled the loft.

"Come on, Jim, pick up," he implored. Where was he? After five rings, the answering machine came on and Blair hung up and called his partner's cell phone. After several rings with no response, he disconnected and tried the loft for a second time. Once again the answering machine was his only response. "Jim? Jim, if you're there pick up man." He waited a few seconds before continuing. "Listen Jim, it's Tony. I found a detailed list of everything I've done in the last week mixed up with some papers he had given me. I'm on my way home, now."

The young man disconnected and quickly gathered his things together. He was back to the curb where Rafe had left him in two minutes. The detective was no where to be found, which wasn't exactly surprising considering he was ten minutes early. Not wanting to wait for his ride he jumped into a cab that was dropping off a couple of students and gave the loft address to the cab driver. As soon as the car pulled away from the curb he flipped the phone open again and punched in Simon's office number. Simon answered quickly.


"Simon, it's Blair. I know who did it." Blair spoke quickly, ignoring the curious gaze of the cab driver and trying to concentrate on what he had to tell the captain. Where was Jim? He's fine, he told himself firmly. He is just sleeping soundly, that's all. No problem.

Blair filled the captain in on his findings. When Simon didn't seem very surprised he questioned him about it.

"Well, I've uncovered a couple of interesting facts about young Mr. Cummings. Do you know where he's from?"

"No. We never really discussed anything except anthropology. Where?" Blair couldn't see what it had to do with anything.

"A small town called Tilling."

Blair felt his body grow colder. "That's where I spent my last two years of high school." The young man did not like where this seemed to be going.

"Exactly. Then he moved on to Rainier, the same year as you, even though he is one year your senior. Looking at his academic life is like looking at a carbon copy of your own. Do you know who went to Borneo when you turned it down?"


"Yeah, but he returned after only 6 months, not the year that the study lasted. I called Professor Stoddard and he hinted that there were some problems with his work. He said that he knew Tony wasn't the right man for the job but the right man had turned him down."

"He said that? Wow." Blair smiled in spite of himself at the unexpected praise from his mentor.

"Don't let it go to your head, Sandburg. I learned another interesting fact as well. Did you know he has been coming by the station quite often lately, supposedly looking for you?"


"Well, he has. When I talked to Brown and Rafe it was like they already knew and disliked him. They said that he has been coming by and asking a lot of questions. Asking how you got into the department and cozying up to them. Asking about Jim. They tried to be nice to him because they figured he was a friend of yours, till he started in on how they should be careful of trusting you and shit like that. They set him straight and after that more or less snubbed him."

Blair couldn't believe it. Tony had been to the station. He was warmed by the fact that Brown and Rafe stood up for him but wondered what Tony thought he was gaining by going to the station. Was he trying to discredit him? Blair remembered all the little problems he had been having at the University lately. Missed appointments, inexplicably angry profs and students. How many of his 'problems' has been orchestrated by Tony? Blair's anger grew.

"Son of a bitch!" he exclaimed.

Simon chuckled. "Easy Sandburg. I'll send someone over to chat with him about last night..." Blair heard someone knock on the captain's door in the background. "Just a sec," Simon said as he covered the receiver to talk to whoever had entered. He was back in a minute.

"Okay, Sandburg, care to explain to me why Rafe's calling in saying he can't find you to take you home?"

Blair grimaced. He should have told Simon that at the beginning of the conversation. He hadn't wanted to worry Rafe. "Sorry, Simon. Tell Rafe I didn't mean to blow him off but I tried Jim and there's no answer, so I hopped a cab. I'm just getting to the loft now."

"Okay, Sandburg. Just check in with Jim, then call me right back."

Blair murmured an agreement and jumped as Simon spoke sharply into the phone. "I'm serious, Sandburg! Call me right back."

"Okay, okay, I promise. " Blair closed the phone and paid the driver. He hurried up the stairs to the loft, eager to be with Jim and more than a little worried why he hadn't answered the phone.

Blair stopped in shock at the top of the stairs. The door to the loft was wide open. Jim was so anal about the door being shut properly. He would never have left it ajar. Blair stepped forward hesitantly, fear gripping him.

"Jim!" He cried out suddenly and rushed through the door, his fear for his partner overwhelming his own self-preservation. As he stepped into the room, his foot slipped out from under him and he went down hard. He put his hand down to push himself up and discovered the cause of his fall. A small pool of blood was smeared on the floor. Blair brought his hand up to his face, his mind refusing to accept what his sight told him. No.

"No,no,no," he chanted out loud and pushed himself up to search the apartment. "It's not Jim's. He's okay. Even if it is his, it doesn't mean anything." His own words did nothing to comfort him. His eyes immediately spotted a note attached to the refrigerator. Hastily scrawled in big bold letters it was handwriting he would never forget. Tony's. He read the note with an ever-increasing fear.

"I have him. I'm tired of waiting for what's rightfully mine. I've decided to take it. If you want to see him one last time, go to the address I've left in your car. I waited outside the building till I saw you enter then headed back to Ellison. You have fifteen minutes to get to the address or I'll start without you. Oh and don't worry too much about the blood. The hero tried to take me out with a loaded gun pointing at him. Not very bright, but the gunshot wasn't fatal, though he is losing a lot of blood."

Fear gripped him like a vise, making it difficult to breathe. The note wasn't signed. Blair glanced down at his watch. Fifteen minutes, five had already passed. He turned and ran down the stairs to his car. The passenger's window was broken and another note sat on the front seat. Blair reached through the window and grabbed the note, ignoring the sharp pain as he cut his arm slightly on the glass. The address was in the warehouse district. No way he could make it in nine minutes. Blair raced around the car and jumped in, starting it in one movement. He slammed it into gear and leaving a large black mark, sped down the road. He concentrated on driving as fast as the car would go, unable to spare any thoughts to what was happening to his partner and what awaited him in the warehouse.

Jim regained consciousness slowly. He kept his eyes closed and tried to assess his situation. He was bound to some sort of post, arms tied behind his back and, like his legs, secured. He tested the bonds subtly, trying not to alert his captor to his conscious state. The rope cut into his wrists, cutting off circulation and seemed securely tied. He heard men arguing in the other room, one voice heavy with fear. While they were distracted Jim tried to piece together what had happened.

He had been careless. He almost deserved to be in this situation. After all his lecturing to Blair about being careful, he hadn't taken his own advice. He opened the loft door without a thought, not even checking who it was first. Damn stupid. He pulled at the ropes angrily and gasped at the shooting pain that traveled up his injured arm.

"Arm bothering you, detective?" the man with the gun asked. Jim gave up the ruse and lifted his head, glaring at the other man.

"Fuck you, Durn." The Professor grinned and gestured for the other man to go over to Jim. The frightened grad student had no choice but to obey. Jim couldn't believe the situation had escalated so quickly. All because of his stupidity the previous night. If he had just left the professor alone, maybe he would have continued his little games until he had given himself away. Long enough so that they could catch him. But no, he had to go right over to the man and try to strong arm him into leaving Sandburg alone. He had told the professor that he knew what he was up to and he wouldn't get away with it. Stupid. The man obviously thought that he knew more than he really did about what was going on. Jim had only meant that the man was being unfair to his partner. Durn must have thought he meant far more. And where did Tony fit into everything? Jim had watched helplessly as the professor tacked up the note, laughing that this was all he needed to point the finger at the younger man.

Jim tried to offer support to Tony with a small smile as the young man approached him. His hair was matted and dirty and it was obvious he had been crying. In the few minutes that they had been alone together when Jim was brought there, Tony told him that Durn forced him here last night when he had left the club and forced him at gunpoint to write the note. The young man's wrists were red from being tied and his eyes showed his resignation to the inevitable. The hope that Jim had seen burning there when Durn had shoved him into this room had faded when the young man had realized that Jim was also a captive. Even though he knew in his mind how unfair it was, he couldn't help but be thankful that it was Tony here with him and not Blair. At least his partner was safe from this madman.

"What are you planning, Durn? You can't possibly get away with it, you know." Jim growled the words.

"Really? You don't think so? Shows that you don't know quite as much as you pretend, Detective. What makes you think this is the first time I've indulged in my little hobby? I didn't get caught before, what makes you think I will this time?" The professor smirked at the helpless detective. "I was able to handle you with no trouble after all."

Jim felt his anger spike, knowing most of it was aimed at himself. He had screwed up majorly and now he was going to pay the price. One thing he knew though, he would give Durn as little enjoyment out of this as possible. He refused to rise to the bait and stayed silent, staring hatefully at the other man.

"Nothing to say, tough man?" He snorted in derision. "I didn't think so. Well don't worry, I've had lots of practice perfecting my art." He walked up to Jim, standing very close to his chest. Putting the gun to Tony's neck, he brought his other hand up to Jim's line of sight. The knife he held glinted in the fading light of the warehouse. He drew the blade of the knife down the side of Jim's face just in front of his ear, ending at his collar bone, leaving a stinging trail in it's wake. The sentinel knew the cut was only a very shallow wound and didn't flinch, not wanting to add to the man's pleasure.

"Have you ever cut up a man, Ellison? There's nothing like it you know. The fear in their faces, the dimming hopes in their eyes. Thinking till the last possible minute that something would save them. That it wasn't possible that they could die like that. In the end, the look is always the same. Hopelessness, the final knowledge of their own death. The pain and the fear becoming their entire world..." He pushed the knife a little harder against his shoulder, drawing more blood and drew a deep excited breath.

"You sick son of a bitch!" Blair cried out from the door of the warehouse.

Jim snapped his head in his partner's direction. "Blair! Get out of here! Are you crazy?" the sentinel shouted, straining at his bonds. Of all the damn fool things to do. It was him that Durn really wanted and here he was delivering himself right into his hands.

Blair ignored his partner. He was still trying to process the fact that it was obviously the professor who was behind everything. But that didn't explain the note. Maybe he and Tony were in it together. The young man was standing to Jim's side, obviously not restrained.

"You're late, Blair. I've started without you." Durn smiled and drew his finger down the cut on Jim's face.

"Get away from him, Durn! You too, Tony. What is this? Some sort of psycho training. The only question is who is the boss here?" Blair moved further into the room, keeping as much distance as he could between himself and the two men. He moved a bit towards Tony and noticed the state of the grad student. He looked terrified.

Durn laughed and put his back to the wall beside Jim, leaning on the sentinel's shoulder casually, the knife still resting against his neck. His gun down at his side. "You really thought that Tony was capable of the subtlety of your problems? I've been directing a very complicated play here, Sandburg. Start slow, little things only...a missing book, a missed lunch date...then slowly build up the tension. Making you doubt yourself just a little. Wonder a bit more each day what was happening. Seeing the fear build in you like a beautiful crescendo, till the final act. Your death at my hands." He pushed the knife against Jim's neck, drawing a bit of blood. "Till you ruined it. Pushed up my plan. Sent this gorilla to taunt me. I'm sorry to say, I lost my temper. I moved before I was ready. You ruined my plans."

Blair took a step forward, uncertain what he intended on doing. Seeing the gun raised and levelled at him he stopped again. Durn continued. "You won't take away my final pleasure though. Because of your interference, I've decided on a little penalty. You'll die quickly, your lover here will die slowly in your place."

"NO!" Blair cried out. "You don't care about him. You admitted that. Take me. You don't need these two. We could be miles away before they were ever discovered. You would have the time you needed." Fear clutched at him, knowing he was offering himself up for a long-suffering death but not able to bear the thought of Jim, with his sentinel senses going through that kind of pain and humiliation.

"Sandburg, " Jim hissed through pain clenched teeth. "Shut up."

Durn laughed. "You're serious, aren't you? You'd go with me willingly if I let him go." He gestured to the bound sentinel. "True love, isn't it sweet? Sorry baby, but that only makes me sure that I've chosen the right ending for this little tale. If you're willing to give up anything for him, taking his torture and death with you to your grave will truly be the finale I had hoped for. Maybe this was meant to be. Maybe it was meant to happen this way."

Blair shuddered in fear at the insanity evident in the man's words. "At least release, Tony. He has nothing to do with any of this. He's not even a friend of mine. Why is he here?" He heard Tony whimper at the mention of his name.

"It's too late for that now, Blair. I can't have any witnesses. Besides, Tony is my free ticket. Why don't you tell Blair what you've been up to, Tony?" When the young man stayed quiet, Durn chuckled. "Well, how about I fill him in then? Tony here has been following you, Blair. That's why I noticed you in the first place. I've noticed him watching you when you weren't looking...out the class...following you as you walked between buildings. It made me wonder just what captivated him, so I began watching you too. The way you command respect, the way you care. I knew then that you were the one. My next project. You were so happy, intelligent, beautiful and caring. I knew breaking you would be a masterpiece." The man's eyes glowed with the memory. "And pathetic little Tony here, following you around like a stray puppy would give me the perfect scapegoat." He turned to look at the cowering young man.

Blair stared in silence at Tony who wouldn't meet his gaze. When he found the schedule he knew that Tony had been following him. But why? Obviously he hadn't done any more than follow and watch and try to talk to the police detectives down at the precinct. Blair was certain now that Durn was behind the rest. His eyes flew back to his partner as Jim cleared his throat.

"Why would you kill Blair Durn? It would hurt him far worse if he had to live with what you do to me." Jim begged his partner's forgiveness with his eyes, his heart clenching at the shocked look on the young man's face. Whatever he could do to keep Blair breathing, he would do.

Durn looked in surprise at the detective. "Well, aren't you two just the mutual sacrifice society. Sorry, big man, it comes down to no witnesses. I want to be able to continue with my interests, not rot in some jail. Otherwise the idea definitely has merits. Also, I can't run the risk of Blair surviving. Then there wouldn't be an end to the performance would there? No, we must have a definite end. The only question now is, do I kill him now, or make him watch you suffer first?" Durn tilted his head and seemed to consider the choice. "Well afterwards I might not be in any shape to enjoy killing you and Ellison here will be so much more fun to play with if he has to look at your lifeless body the entire time, so..." He raised the gun.

Jim cried out pulling at the ropes frantically, desperate to get free. He felt the rope give a bit. No time, he thought as he watched the gun raise. "NOOO! Run, Blair!" he cried out.

But Blair stayed where he was. The gun mesmerized him as it raised. He snapped out of his zone and looked for cover seeing nothing. He felt a heavy weight hit him as the gun's loud retort filled the room. Blair fell thinking that this was the last moment of his life. He landed hard and the weight, which he had thought was the impact of the bullet, followed him down.

Jim watched in horror, fighting with his bonds. Just before the gun went off Tony leapt in front of Blair, his chest exploding with the impact of the bullet. Both young men went down as Jim felt his left wrist slip free. He brought his arm up in a roundhouse awkwardly, not certain how much power he could get behind the blow after being tied for over an hour. His hand impacted with the side of Durn's head and the stunned man fell, the knife thankfully pulling away from Jim neck without doing much damage. Jim grabbed the knife clumsily as it dropped but managed to keep it in his hand. He quickly cut away the rest of his ropes and dove for the professor who was shaking his head to clear it. He hit the professor hard in the throat as the man turned toward him, gun in hand. He felt the damage inflicted by the blow and the gun fired harmlessly into the floor as Durn tried desperately to draw air in through his ruined throat. Jim watched with no remorse as the man fell, choking till he lay silent. Jim turned and moved quickly to his partner's side, falling to his knees.

"Blair," he called out to the young man.

Blair was sitting on the floor, cradling the other young man in his arms, pressing hard against the wound in his chest. He looked over at Jim, relief and fear mixed in his eyes. They both heard the sirens as the police cars pulled up outside the warehouse. Blair spoke shakily.

"I called Simon right before I came in. All I had to do was keep him talking until backup showed." His voice was filled with pain. Jim grabbed his arm, needing the touch to confirm that his partner was okay.

"He was insane, Chief. You kept him talking longer than anyone else could have. You did what you could. You have to believe that."

Blair nodded, his eyes beginning to tear, the shock catching up with him. "I'll get the paramedics. He's going to be okay." Jim tried to sound more positive than he felt. The look on Blair's face told him that he needn't have bothered. He stood and hurried out of the room to show the paramedics the way, cradling his wounded right arm against his chest.

Alone with Tony, Blair began to rock the other man a bit, murmuring that he would be alright. Tony's pain filled eyes opened and he tried to talk.

"You...okay?..." he asked faintly.

Blair nodded tearfully. "Yeah man, why'd you do it Tony? Why did you do it?" He didn't understand why the terrified young man had jumped between himself and a bullet. He needed to understand.

Tony smiled weakly and grasped Blair's arm. "Tried to be you...know are...more important...I can Okay...if I..." He paused as he coughed, blood reddening his lips. "Okay... to die... if"

Blair looked down at Tony in shock. "That is so wrong, man. You are not expendable. No person is more important than another. So wrong." Blair continued softly as the injured man drifted into unconsciousness.

The paramedics arrived and Blair backed away, his eyes searching for his partner. Jim had been hurt. He ran out of the warehouse and found Jim struggling to break free of Simon and the paramedics who were trying to tend to his wounds. His struggles stopped as he spotted his partner coming toward him. Blair walked forward, ignoring the audience, and into Jim's waiting arms.

Finally safe, he wept.

Three days later, Jim lay in bed his body entwined with his guide's. His wounds had faded to a constant but controllable ache. He had been released that morning and spent most of the day lying just like this in his lover's arms. They both felt the need for closeness. The last week had been trying for both of them. He felt Blair stir and realized his partner hadn't fallen asleep.

"Chief, you okay?" he asked, stroking the young man's back.

Blair turned over and stared at the ceiling. "Now that I know that Tony is going to make it, I'm better." They had just learned a few hours ago that the grad student had been taken off the critical list. It looked like the young man would recover, much to their relief. Blair turned to face Jim, lying on his side, pressed close. "I don't know if I could have lived with it if he had died, man. Knowing that another person had given his life for me because he felt in some twisted way that my life was more important than his own."

Jim nodded. He knew what his partner had gone through in the past couple of days. "You would have, Chief. It wasn't your fault that he fixated on you. No one can read another person's mind. He's going to be okay. He'll have the time and help he needs to get past this finally. To stop trying to be like you and find himself."

Blair sighed and cuddled close to the bigger body. "I love you, man."

"I love you too, Chief." He paused before continuing. "Simon traced Durn's movements over the past several years. We now believe him to be responsible for mutilation and murder at two other Universities. Blair-- we survived this, we found each other, we can make sure Tony gets the help he needs and we took a murderer off the street. We can deal with this together. We'll be okay."

"I know, Jim. Together we have always been able to take on anything." Blair smiled a bit. "It's the apart stuff that we have the biggest problem with."

Jim grinned and ruffled his lover's hair. "Well then, together forever it is."

The End

I'd love to know what you thought :)

End Art of Fear.