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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.

By Mia Athlas

"Race you to the top?" Blair shouted to Jim as they climbed off their mountain bikes.

"Yeah right, Chief." Jim smiled. "You," he said, pointing at the young man, "want to race with me?" He finished the sentence with a disbelieving look on his face.

"What? I promise not to beat you too badly, old man. I realise all those bulky muscles probably weigh you down. Don't feel too bad, man, not everyone can be built for speed like me. I'm sure there's other things you're good at."

Jim studied his partner as he stretched his aching muscles. The kid was just begging for it. "What say we make a little wager on this race, Sandburg? Seeing as you are a shoe in to win and all."

Blair grinned. "You're on. If I win I get to take the hick-mobile to the University next week and you take my car." The young man was thinking about the move that he had agreed to help his friend Dave with. Jim had been very clear about his dislike of the other student. Dave had made the mistake of showing up at the loft smelling of marijuana. No way would Jim let him borrow the truck to help his friend move. If he could, Blair was sure Jim would forbid him to see the man at all. Thankfully, not even his blessed protector would go that far over the line. Now all he had to do was win the race.

Mind over matter, Blair told himself. It was all a matter of who wanted it more. He really, really didn't want to have to ask Jim to borrow the truck. Motivation was a wonderful thing.

Jim considered the offer. He would have to deal with massive amounts of teasing at the station if he lost but, on the other hand, there was no way his partner could beat him, surely. He worked out constantly and he was in the best shape of his life. He couldn't remember the last time he had seen Blair exercise. Well, to be fair, he knew how hard the kid worked. Between his time at the station and the university, there really wasn't enough time for exercise, unless you counted running after criminals and between classes. "Okay, Sandburg. But if I become my personal assistant all of next week. Oh and my truck is not a hick-mobile, got it?"

Blair held up his hand. "Hey! Chill, Rambo. What would I have to do as this personal assistant?" he inquired.

"Fetch my coffee, pick up the dry-cleaning, draw my bath, you know the typical duties of a valet." Jim grinned, positive that Blair wouldn't agree to such an outrageous request.

Blair's mind wandered, captured by visions of the possibilities. Chief, I'd like some coffee now. Chief, time for my bath. Chief, I can't quite reach that spot in the middle of my back, do you mind washing it for me? Oh yeah. Oh no. Blair snapped back to reality. Not in this lifetime but it was fun to think about.

Unfortunately, Blair had long since accepted the fact that the closest he could hope to come to a sensual touch from Jim was the occasional touches and pats that were bestowed upon him, and his active imagination, of course. He'd take whatever he could get. "Deal, Jim." Blair grinned at the older man's shocked expression and began running through a series of stretches.

"Uh, okay, Sandburg." Jim looked up the hill zeroing in on a large fir tree at the top. "See that large tree?" He pointed. Blair nodded, following Jim's gaze. "That's our marker. First one there wins. Agreed?"

"You got it. Let's get this show on the road. On the count of three."

"Just a minute, Chief. Be careful going up. The ground is still wet from this morning's rain.

Blair sighed exasperatedly. A blessed protector's job is never done. "Yes, mother. I can see that."

"Hey, I just don't want you breaking anything. No way I'm carrying you down this mountain," Jim explained.

Blair smiled. "Sure, Jim, whatever you say man."

"Okay then, Sandburg. OneTwoThree." Jim sprinted away, surprising the young man. After a second's pause, Blair took off after him.

"You're dead meat, Ellison! That was like so juvenile."

Jim laughed and ran up the steep surface. He could hear Blair gaining on him. Gaining on him!? It seemed the young man had hidden talents. He redoubled his efforts as he felt Blair just behind him. No way was Sandburg beating him. He'd never live it down.

Three quarters of the way to the marker Blair pulled even with Jim. The sentinel glanced over, catching the look of concentration on his guide's face. Then the world fell out from under him. He only had time to process that he needed to protect Blair before the surface reappeared. He landed hard, attempting to twist his body enough to soften his partner's fall. He felt his leg twist under him. Unprepared for the heavy weight striking his chest he continued down, slamming his head hard against the ground. The world went black.

Blair concentrated on keeping his gait even and his breathing controlled. He pulled up beside Jim and felt the ground move. He looked over to see his partner falling through the ground. He just had time to reach out to him, then he was falling as well. He landed suddenly, Jim cushioning his fall with his own body. Rolling to the side he tried to regain his breath. The dirt and rock filled the air, making it difficult to see. Blair latched onto Jim's arm and automatically looked up. The sky could be seen through a hole about 12 feet above their heads. Shit. Blair turned back to his partner.

"Jim!" he said between coughs. The debris settled quickly, weighted down by the wet conditions. "Jim!" Blair called out again, feeling for the pulse of his unconscious friend. He sighed in relief as he felt the steady beating under his fingers. Looking around in panic for some way to help his partner, he took in their surroundings.

They had fallen into some sort of crevice. It had been covered over the years by fallen branches and brush, and he and his partner had run straight into the hole, not seeing it at all. Why did these things always happen to them, Blair asked himself. This was supposed to be a nice relaxing week in the mountains, not yet another fight for survival. The crevice was about eight feet long and four feet wide. It didn't seem to go anywhere. A glance at the wall made Blair's heart sink. The sides of the hole were slick due to the rain of the morning. No way were they climbing out of here anytime soon, if at all. He turned back to his partner.

"Jim, wake up, buddy. I need your help here." Blair gently ran his hands over his partner's body, searching for signs of injury. He had a nasty bruise on the side of his head. "Damn it, Jim. Why couldn't you just look after yourself for once?" He knew that Jim had taken the brunt of the fall purposefully. He had felt Jim grab his waist and twist his body just before they hit, taking the brunt of the impact himself.

Running his hands over Jim's stomach and sides he spoke to the unconscious man. "You better not have given yourself internal injuries, Jim. God, what were you thinking letting me land on you like that? I'm not exactly a lightweight."

"Who are you trying to kid, Sandburg?" Jim chose that moment to groan out. Blair started in surprise.

"Jim! Oh man, Jim... What? What do you mean? Are you hurt?" Blair stammered. Jim was awake. Thank God.

"There's nothing to you, Chief. Skin and bones. Never could get you to eat anything except rabbit food."

Blair's mind blanked for a moment then he smiled as he caught up with the conversation. "Right, Jim. I'm sure having me fall on you was a great feeling. Are you hurt?" Blair implored, finding it impossible to maintain the joke.

Jim groaned and shifted, giving a grunt of pain.

Blair immediately swept his eyes down his partner's body. "What is it? What can I do?" He immediately spotted the problem. Jim's leg was bent back in an unnatural position. "Oh Jim, man. You broke your leg."

"Yeah, I had already figured that out, Sherlock." Pain laced the older man's words. "I need you to straighten my leg, Chief. Is there anything here that you can use to brace it?"

Blair looked around and spotted a few branches that had fallen when they did. "Yeah, I think so. Just a sec." He scooted over to the branches and found a couple that were semi-straight. Quickly cutting off the smaller branches with his pocket knife, he hurried back to his partner's side.

Jim looked down at the branches in his guide's hands and nodded. "Good, Blair, perfect."

"What do I do?" the young man inquired looking fearfully at Jim's twisted leg.

"Straighten the leg then brace it with the branches on either side." The sentinel grimaced as he said the words.

Blair looked back at his partner in alarm. "Are you sure we should move anything, Jim? I mean, what if you have other injuries?" Blair didn't want to hurt his partner and he knew even touching the broken limb would be excruciating. Not to mention the danger of moving him if he had internal injuries.

"Sandburg, just do it. Other than a headache and a multitude of bruises I seem to be okay. It has to be straightened out if I expect to heal properly... And besides, it hurts like hell as it is, I don't think it can get any worse. Blair?"

The young man stayed still his gaze moving from the dirt streaked face of his partner to the sentinel's broken leg anxiously.

Jim whispered catching Blair's traveling eyes. "I can't do this myself, Blair. I need your help. You can do this, Chief."

Blair nodded finally, knowing there was no choice. "Okay, big guy. Turn down your touch as far as you can."

"Already done, Sandburg, and it still hurts like hell." Jim gasped as Blair touched his leg. It felt like it was on fire. His dials didn't seem to be working at all. He decided that it was better if Blair didn't know the extent of his lack of control.

Pausing for a moment Blair pulled off his own belt then did the same to his partner's belt. "Ready?" Blair asked, gripping his foot. Jim put his wallet between his teeth biting down hard and nodded.

Taking a deep breath, Blair pulled the leg straight. His partner's face contorted, turning red and an uncharacteristic strangled sound came from deep in his throat then his body went slack.

Alarmed, Blair looked up in time to see the wallet hit the ground. Passed out. Just passed out. Ignoring his panic he finished straightening the limb then secured it with the tree branches held tight to the leg by the looped belts. With a sigh of relief Blair moved up, settling himself cross-legged and pulling Jim's head into his lap. He gently brushed the dirt from his partner's face with his fingers and stroked the flushed brow, waiting for his sentinel to awaken.

Blair examined their surroundings more carefully, searching for a way out with his wounded partner. Even if he were able to somehow climb out, Jim could never manage it. He would have to leave him here and go for help. His heart clenched at the thought of leaving Jim alone and injured.

It was a rare thing for his tough partner to be vulnerable physically. Through all of his revelations and memories over the past couple of years the sentinel could always count on one thing - his physical fortitude. Well, two things actually. It had just taken the older man a little while to realise that he could depend on one Blair Sandburg for anything. Vulnerability, be it mental or physical was a difficult thing for Jim. Blair knew this about his partner and tried to be understanding each time Jim pushed him away with words or actions because he was unable to cope with needing anyone.

Blair knelt back down beside his friend and put his hand on the older man's fevered forehead. He looked down at his sentinel, letting the normally hidden love for the man shine in his eyes.

"You'll be okay, big guy," Blair whispered, hoping that somehow Jim would hear the words and be comforted.

Blair liked to think that, with his help, Jim was getting better. More open, less reluctant to share his feelings or fears with him. In the year since he had almost died at Alex's hands, he and Jim had been building something stronger between them. Opening their lives to each other more and more. Sharing and rebuilding the trust that they had almost lost. Blair felt that the bond between he and Jim was stronger, firmer than ever before.

He felt a shiver run down his back as he remembered waking up after his near death experience with Jim leaning over him, clutching his arms painfully. The older man's eyes were frantic as Jim pleaded with him not to die. At that instant, Blair had known in one clear unfettered moment how much he loved the other man. As Jim's arms had closed around him and he was pulled to the large shaking chest, he had sworn that he would tell Jim he loved him before anything else happened to them.

In the time since that moment, real life had kept him from confessing his feelings. This one thing he continued to keep to himself. He never seemed to be able to find the right time for the conversation.

Now, here he sat, a full year later. Holding the hand of his unconscious partner. Jim could have died today. Not on the job, not in some grand rescue, but in a freak accident. The kind of thing no one had any control over. Impossible to guard against. Blair shivered again, the fragility of life pressing down on him. Jim could have died without ever knowing. Without ever having the chance to choose a future with him. Together in all things.

He couldn't let that happen.

Jim's eyes fluttered and opened.

Moving so that he was supporting his partner's head and shoulders in his lap, Blair settled down.

"Hey, Jim. Glad to have you back, man," he said in hushed tones.

"I'm not sure at this point whether I'm glad or not, Chief." The pain in Jim's rasping voice was obvious.

"Can you turn down your dials, big guy?"

"I've been trying, Blair, but I can't seem to get a handle on it."

Blair leaned over and brought his hand up to Jim's forehead. "Concentrate on my fingers stroking your brow, Jim. Let the pain go. Concentrate only on my fingers." Blair spoke in a low even tone. Lulling Jim with his voice and his fingers, he felt the older man relax under his hands. "Now picture your dial and turn it. Picture the pain lessening."

Jim smiled slightly after a few moments. "Thanks, Chief. It's much better. And thanks for fixing up my leg. What would I do without you?" The sentinel let himself relax further, enjoying the feel of Blair's hands and the lessening pain.

"You'll never have to find out, Jim, if I have any say in it." Blair whispered the words and bent down further, pressing his lips against the older man's forehead.

Jim rolled his eyes back, looking up at the younger man. "You okay, Chief? You're not hurt are you? Damn. I can't see you like this. Help me over to the side." Jim raised his head and shoulders and with Blair's help soon leaned against the dirt wall of the hole.

"So you're all right, aren't you?" Jim's eyes traveled the length of his partner's body, looking for any signs of injury.

"I'm fine, Jim, really." Blair knelt beside his friend, facing him. "Jim, I need to tell you something. I realise this may seem to be odd timing but I know that if I wait I may lose my nerve. And I want you to know. I need you to know."

"Well seeing that it doesn't look like I'm going anywhere anytime soon, this seems like the perfect time."

Blair smiled. "Well when you look at it that way, I guess this is the moment I've been waiting for."

"Why, Blair... afraid I'd try to take off?"

"Honestly...well... yeah."

"Now's the time then, out with it, Sandburg. What did you do?" Jim assumed Blair was about to confess to breaking something but couldn't imagine what it was, unless... "Did you damage my truck? Is that why you wanted to bet for it, so you could fix it before I found out? That's it, isn't it?" Jim had it all worked out in his head and was pleased at his own insight. No matter. Whatever it was he would make Blair sweat a bit then forgive him. At this point, he really didn't think that there was anything he wouldn't forgive his partner. Or give his partner for that matter. Thank God Blair didn't know.

"Well?" Jim asked again.

"You are so far off, man. Not even in the same stratosphere."

Jim frowned. "Okay, then what? Quit stalling, Chief. It can't be that bad," Jim paused, "can it?"

"No," Blair longed to soothe the worry crinkling his partner's forehead. "It's not bad news. In fact, I think that it's marvelous. I just need you to let me say this in my own way. Hear me out before you say anything."

"You got it, buddy," Jim promised, anxious to get the young man talking. What a thought, usually trying to get Blair talking wasn't a problem.

"We have been closer than ever these last few months." He looked to Jim who nodded his confirmation. "Since my near drowning," Blair noted the look of pain that crossed Jim's face. "Since the near drowning, I've had a lot of time to think about what's important in my life. What's important to me. I discovered that it is time to look seriously at where I'm at and where I want to be. What I want..."

"No." Jim said firmly.

Blair stopped in surprise. "Just listen, Jim."

"No," Jim said again, louder this time. "I know what you're going to say and I can't sit here and let you say it."

"Jim..." Blair pleaded, "let me finish."

"No. Listen, Blair," Jim leaned forward and grasped his partner's arms hard. "I can't let you go. I'm sorry. I thought that we were okay. I thought you forgave me. I thought we were friends."

"We are friends, Jim. What are you talking about? We forgave each other long ago."

"Listen," Jim said desperately. "I wasn't going to tell you this yet but since you are thinking of leaving I want you to have all the facts. I don't want to be just your friend. I want more."

Blair's heart skipped a beat and he was certain Jim must have heard it. "Jim, I never had any intention of going anywhere."

The words sank in slowly. "But I thought..."

"You thought that I'd pick just after you'd broken your leg to inform you that I was moving on. God, Jim, we're trapped here. No one knows where we are, we went off the trail that we should have been on. We may die here and you think I would pick now to give you the brush-off. Is that what you think?"

Jim stammered. "Uh... no...I guess not."

"You're damn right 'not'. What do you mean you want to be more than friends?"

Jim looked down, letting go of his partner's arm. "I don't suppose we can just drop this? Forget I said anything?"

"No, Jim. I don't suppose we can." Blair softened and took his partner's hand in his own. "It's okay, Jim. Just tell me what you want."

"You," Jim whispered. "All of you. I can't believe I'm saying it but it doesn't make it any less true."

Blair smiled and carefully hugged the bigger man, mindful not to jar his leg. "Thank you, Jim. Now will you listen to what I have to say?" The older man hugged his partner awkwardly with one arm and then let him go. Blair leaned back again.

"I've thought a lot about what I want in my life. I came to the decision when I saw you lying on the ground, unconscious that I couldn't wait to tell you any longer. Life is such a fleeting thing man. Accept me or refuse me, I decided that I had to tell you that I want you and get on with the rest of my life. Hopefully with you as my life partner but I can handle it as long as you stay my friend. So I guess what I've been trying to say is that I love you."

"You do?" Jim asked, his voice shaking. Blair nodded, then frowned as the older man turned his face away. Blair leaned forward and turned it back catching a single tear as it rolled down his friend's cheek.

"What's going on here, Jim? Afraid I'll see the crack in your tough guy veneer?" Blair smiled at his partner.

"It's just... it's been a rough day, Sandburg." He leaned forward accepting Blair's gentle embrace, resting his forehead on the young man's shoulder.

As the older man spoke, Blair could felt his breath through his shirt. "Now you tell me. Now, when I'm good for nothing. Now, when I can't even get us out of this damned hole in the ground." Blair released his partner and stood up. "You're right. We've got to get out of this hole, Jim. Sooner we get out the sooner you get to a hospital and the sooner you heal and become available to fulfill my numerous fantasies." Blair grinned and looked around.

He and Jim explored their options, which unfortunately turned out to be few. The walls were too slippery to climb out. When Blair tried he ended up gaining another bruise on his already bruised bottom. Jim decided that it would be a good idea for Blair to stand on his shoulders and try to reach the top that way. Stretching, the young man was able to reach the top but the sides of the hole crumbled under his fingers as he tried to get a secure grip. Jim wasn't able to sustain Blair on his shoulders for very long and they both ended up sitting back down on the floor, side by side, exhausted.

"Shit, shit, shit," Jim swore.

Blair looked around in disbelief. "I can't believe this is how we go out, man."

Jim looked ready to pass out. His face was pale and lined with the strain of too many hours fighting to keep the pain at bay. His large body shivered. Blair stood and slid in between his partner and the dirt wall, wrapping his arms and legs around Jim's body. He pressed his own shivering body against the bigger man's back, trying to give him warmth where there was none. The night was fast approaching and the temperature had dropped considerably. Blair wasn't sure how long they could last before succumbing to exposure. The young man turned his head sideways and laid his cheek on his sentinel's back. "I wish we had more time."

"We're not going to die, Sandburg."

"It doesn't look good, big guy."

"I refuse to die until I've made love with you at least once. Since there is no way in hell my body is going to cooperate tonight, I refuse to go. It's just not going to happen, Chief."

Blair smiled and kissed Jim's back. "Good plan, Jim. If the grim reaper comes calling you just kick his butt. I'm with you, man. You're right you know, death is not an option here."

"Glad you're finally seeing things my way, Chief. As nice as it feels with your chest pressed against me, I need to see your face... Now what could I do to get you to come out from behind my back?"

"Kiss me?" Blair said frankly.

"As often as I can, Chief, from now on."

Blair quickly pulled away and knelt in front of his partner. "Deal." He leaned in and touched his sentinel's chilly lips with his own. Opening his mouth he allowed Jim's tongue entrance, enjoying the warmth that spread though his body. Jim's hand worked its way into the young man's hair, pulling Blair closer to him. Careful not to touch Jim's injury, Blair straddled the older man's legs and pressed his chest against him.

Finally they broke the kiss with a sigh of regret. Blair rested his forehead against the older man's. "I love you, Jim. Whatever happens, it's okay as long as you love me."

Jim held his partner tight. "I do love you, Blair. More than my life but we're not going to die."

They both looked up as the moonlight was blocked out.

"Detective Ellison?" A voice called down.

"Here!" Jim yelled as Blair stood.

"Are you folks okay down there? I found your bikes and backpacks with your i.d. down the hill and followed your path up here. Are you hurt?"

"Detective Ellison has a broken leg. We need a little help," Blair called up to the other man.

"My name is Phillips. I'm a park warden here. Don't worry, I'll radio in for rescue. Help is on the way, gentlemen. Just sit tight." The warden left but was back in a minute. He tossed down a thermos of coffee and a couple of blankets to help them warm up. Blair gratefully caught the items and settled down beside Jim to wait.

Shortly the rescue team arrived and he and his partner were pulled to safety. The rescue workers pulled Jim away to tend his wounds. Sure that his partner was in good hands, Blair walked over to the warden to thank him and shake his hand. The warden accepted the thanks gracefully.

"You guys sure are lucky that I happened by," he started. "This path was deemed unsafe for obvious reasons." He looked critically at Blair as if trying to figure out why they would do such a foolhardy thing. "I haven't been up this way in a couple of months. You two sure have luck or fate or whatever on your side."

Blair smiled and turned away locking his gaze with Jim as the rescue workers loaded him onto the backboard for his trip down the hill. Fate. Providing one moment where everything aligned leaving them free enough to reveal what they felt. Bringing them to this place at this time so that they could take the next step together. Yeah. He and Jim were meant to be. Blair smiled again and went forward to take Jim's hand.

The end.

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