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Driven By Instinct by Jayd

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Disclaimer: Blair, Jim and The Sentinel belong to Pet Fly Prod. and its affiliates. I make no claim on them or any money for that matter. I promise to return them in good working order, if not a bit bruised occasionally.

Driven By Instinct

by Jayd

Something nagged at Jim, pulled at him and made him restless with some need he didn't understand. The feeling had been haunting him for days...even weeks now, growing bigger, digging deeper into him.

When Blair wasn't with him the feeling nibbled at his soul, made him think of the young man in strange ways he had never experienced. When Blair was there he felt distracted, drawn to looking at his partner. An instinct close to possessiveness swept over him sometimes and he had to bite down on the impulse to take what was rightfully his.

Whoa Jim, boy! You and Professor Darwin are spending way too much time together if you've started thinking of...of...

Jim pushed at the feeling and shoved it back with a brutal thrust.

Hey, I'm as macho as the next guy. Could get any babe I tried for and there have been plenty in my time. Maybe I'll ask that blond in records out. She's been giving me signals for weeks while all I've had on my mind is Blair's blue eyes and that tight little ass. God! What is wrong with me?

He examined these feelings, never having had anything akin to them for a man. But he wasn't thinking of men...he was thinking of Blair. And he had to examine that thought as well, with no intention of insulting even the thought of Blair. This was about something else all together and it was really starting to bug him big time.

Jim glanced up from the couch to watch Blair making dinner in the kitchen. He forgot the report he had been trying to read for the last twenty minutes and watched the young man without Blair realizing he was being watched.

"Have you had a chance to read this yet, Chief?" Jim asked, trying to get his mind to focus beyond Blair. "It's likely to be our next assignment. Smuggling of stolen artifacts it sounds like."

Blair looked up, hands occupied with a strainer full of spaghetti and tried to push his hair back out of his eyes with his forearm. Jim felt his pulse quicken at the casual gesture. He could just walk right over there and brush Blair's hair back out of those damned beautiful eyes, run his hands through that mane of dark hair...

"Sorry Jim, not yet. I had papers to grade and just finished them before I started dinner. I'll read it, promise. Is there something important I should know?"

"I don't know." Jim forced a chuckle. "I keep getting distracted and can't seem to finish it."

"Must be boring."

"Must be." Jim rose and strolled into the kitchen knowing he should stay on the couch, decidedly away from Blair when this possessiveness had a grip on him. But he went, defying the irrational instinct trying to force this feeling on him. Taking the lid off a pot, he took a deep breath of the bubbling sauce and backed off quickly. "Do you think you used enough garlic and basil?"

Blair gave him a look he had become familiar with, of strained patience and stoicism.

"Funny, Jim. I used just the right amount. You're the one that stuck your head into the pot. What did you expect?"

Jim shook his head and reached, brushing a hand passed Blair to snag a newly baked breadstick. A tremor went through him as his hand touched his partner's bare arm, an electrical charge of energy that had nothing to do with carpeting and shoe soles.

Blair whirled and stared at him as if he'd been bit.

"What was that?"

Jim shrugged and tried to sound nonchalant. "I don't know, but it's something different. I've been feeling something...odd...weird...I can't find a good word to describe it without you thinking I'm coming on to you." Which he was about to do if he wasn't very, very careful. Blair was no more than a foot away from him, easily within grabbing distance and what would the smaller man do if he laid a big kiss on those sensuous lips?

Blair's brows shot up and eyes grew large with surprise and speculation.

"Describe it. Maybe it has something to do with your Sentinel abilities."

"I don't know, Chief. You felt it though, didn't you?"

"Yeah. Just now when you touched me. Almost like an electrical current, but lower or more like when you're in rhythm...like Tibetan monks doing their "ohm" chants. A low output energy surge or something. Have you felt this before?"

Jim suppressed a smile. "Only around women I'm attracted to." And when I think of you. God! This is crazy!

Blair fought off a blush. "Man, you are weird tonight. Seriously, Jim. How would you describe it?"

Jim felt the restlessness again and a need, almost overwhelming, to make contact again, to take what was his. There! There it was again --- instinct, territorial. He fought the urge to reach out to Blair and offered a nonchalant glance while his friend was being so analytical about this strange feeling building up inside of him.

"Like I said. An attraction. A..." Should he say it? Should he tell Blair that it felt like a sexual desire? He didn't want to drive his partner away or scare him. "I don't know. Let's eat dinner before it gets cold. You went to all this trouble. I should appreciate it."

Blair was staring at him as he grabbed a plate from the counter and dished up a pile of spaghetti and dipped sauce over it. He handed it to the younger man and pointed to the table.

"Sit...eat."

"Yes, sir. Want a beer?"

"Sounds good."

They ate across from each other and Jim felt the strangeness building. Blair seemed to have noticed it also, fiddling with the beer bottle nervously and avoiding Jim's direct gaze. Jim watched his friend shiver in a warm room and went to turn up the heat. Personally, he needed a fan.

Blair was clearing away dishes when he returned and together they cleaned up the kitchen, wiping away spilled sauce and letting the dishes dry in the drainer. They avoided touching each other all the while Jim was thinking that was all he wanted. He'd always been a physical person, needing to touch to make communication. He didn't think Blair was to the same extent, though they were making progress. Now he feared this growing instinct that seemed to want some dominating action from him, demanding he listen to the rhythm of its non-existent words. Take him! Take him! He belongs to you. Your Guide. Your Life. Your Breath. Your only Need.

"Okay. We have got to figure this thing out, Jim. What is going on? Something strange happened and we need to know what. There is so little written on this subject. I guess sometimes I feel like we're experimenting on ourselves and I'll be the first one to write it down for posterity."

"It didn't happen, Blair. It's happening. Nothing has stopped. Don't you feel it?" Jim wanted desperately to emphasize his words with a firm grip on Blair's bicep, but he restrained himself, knowing if he took that first step it might be hard to back off.

Jim watched Blair's gaze dart away in confusion. "I...I...don't...yes, I feel something." He watched Blair's gaze slide back and away again in contemplation, searching for the right words to describe his own take on the situation. "I've been feeling something, but its confused, distant. Yet, it's building up, isn't it? Is there some release? Some way to spend this energy and where is it coming from? What is it for?"

Jim saw an idea come to Blair and it took all his restraint not to reach out to touch the young man's face with caressing fingers. Instead, he put a hand on Blair's shoulder and gently pushed him towards the couch. Even through Blair's shirt, he felt the energy, pulsing a little now, a beating that made his heart beat a little faster, the blood in his veins throb through his body.

He felt Blair feel it too, but the young man breathed deeply and tried to reach out to touch it and understand. They settled across from each other and stared.

"What were you thinking?" Jim asked.

"Okay," Blair said, his hands already moving in familiar gestures. "Just listen and don't think I'm crazy. What if this has something to do with you being a Sentinel and me being your Guide. There has to be a connection, maybe something forming to...to...bind...us to each other. Don't laugh."

"I'm not laughing, Chief. Go on. It's making sense so far." What a brilliant boy. What a beautiful boy.

Blair nodded and licked his lips. The action nearly drove Jim to distraction with the desire to touch, to just reach out and touch Blair's skin, to put his lips against Blair's...and...

"Jim? You're not listening. What is it?"

"Nothing. Go on."

"So if a Sentinel and a Guide form this partnership, maybe it has different levels and gets deeper as the binding grows tighter, or stronger...more enduring. Maybe we're beginning to experience this level between the Sentinel and the Guide."

"How far are you willing to go with this?"

Jim heard Blair's heartbeat pick up, heard the man's breath go a little ragged and shallow. Did Blair understand the implication of his words?

"As far as it takes."

But Jim heard just a note of quaver in the voice.

"God Jim. I've already nearly been killed a dozen times just to work with you, just to be with you, beside you when you needed me."

"And God knows I've needed you, Blair. I still do. I want you...here...near me. To help me."

How was he going to face this need? What if Blair wasn't willing to go to that extreme, but that was what was required for them to keep working on this sentinel thing? He'd never been attracted to a man before, but this wasn't about male and female, about sexual preferences. This was about him and Blair, about a Sentinel and his guide through this world. This was about the ultimate commitment for two people to make to unite them and yes, bind them forever together as two halves of a whole. Partners in all things.

This was quickly becoming an obsession where only a few hours ago it had been some strange current of energy, nothing he couldn't have handled and pushed off and gone about his business. But now, with each passing moment of staring at Blair, watching him, all Jim could do was hang onto the moment of speech so that he didn't grab the smaller man and drag him off to his bedroom.

"Jim, I guess I'm still confused about exactly what this is?"

"Are you?"

That caught Blair off guard and this time Jim did reach out a hand, gently caressing Blair's face, thumb running over the cheek bone. Blair's breath caught and eyes fluttered closed as if in a trance or swoon.

Jim stood, drawing Blair up with him into an embrace. His fingers moved through Blair's hair, soft and thick and long. He moved the curls away from the young man's neck and bent to kiss the sweetness of Blair's throat.

The energy burst through them, a shock of pure feeling, intense and powerfully overwhelming. Blair's fingers locked onto Jim's biceps, clinging when their lips met and devoured each other's mouths. Heat rose between them, surrounding and saturating them with this power. Jim moved his mouth away from Blair's, roaming down the curve of his partner's neck. Blair breathed in gasps of air as if he were a drowning man, but he didn't resist what was happening, caught up like Jim in the power of the moment.

The surge subsided momentarily and they pulled back, practically shoving away from each other to stare again at one another in shocked surprise and near panic.

"What...is happening? Blair breathed, shivering and gasping. "I've never felt...anything like this...before."

"I know. God. I know," Jim agreed. He ran his hands over his face and let out a huge breath. "But we've got to think a minute here."

Jim moved forward towards Blair only to see his partner shrink away, back away and turn, moving across the room to stand staring out the open balcony doors.

"I'm sorry, Blair. The feeling is so overwhelming. I've been fighting it for weeks now. God, I don't want to lose your friendship. You mean so much to me, Chief."

Blair turned then, staring with large, panicked eyes, arms crossed against his chest, tight and protective.

"I've been feeling something too, Jim, but not this intense. I kept catching you watching me and I thought maybe you thought I was doing something wrong. I was starting to get paranoid, but you never said anything so I thought maybe I was imagining things. Yet, something was there...something. But what is it about? Is it the Sentinel/Guide relationship? Are we suppose to be all things to each other? Did we sign on for this, Jim? For the long haul? I'm mighty confused right now. And if you get any nearer to me I won't be able to think of anything but that kiss you just laid on me, man."

Jim almost smiled. Blair was talking around in circles...seeing and yet not. For all the young man's wisdom of words and cultures, Jim imagined that Blair had yet to have a deep meaningful relationship with anyone. Maybe this was the first. Suddenly, Jim wanted desperately for this to be such a relationship, but only if Blair wanted it too.

"I'm trying to understand this thing, Blair. You and I both know that neither of us has been interested in anything but the female form before. Then all of a sudden this feeling starts creeping over me and I start thinking you and I have been spending way too much time together. But then all I can think of is you and being with you." Jim shook his head. "No, I'm not being honest enough. You know me, Chief. I'm not that great with words. I'm a man of action, as the saying goes. What I'm trying to say is that I think you are right that it has something to do with our Sentinel/Guide relationship and we have to decide now if its going forward or if its over cause I can't go back now. I don't even know how long I can control it."

Jim saw something flash in Blair's eyes, a moment of fear then a sparkle of excitement?

"I don't want to hurt you, Sandburg. I don't ever want to make you do something you don't want to do just because some weird, primitive instinct is rearing its ugly head through me. I don't like being out of control here."

Jim took a tentative step forward, towards Blair's still form standing isolated in the balcony doorway. The wind had picked up and blew the soft dark curls back around Blair's cheeks and chin, blowing across the forehead and into his eyes. The young man reached up and pushed hair from his face, pushing it behind one ear where silver hoops hung with little beads gleaming.

"You're awfully quiet, Sandburg."

Blair shrugged and Jim almost pounced like the panther rearing up inside of him. He pushed it down, subdued the beast again and took another step closer.

"Do we want this to happen, Chief? This thing will either bind us together forever, permanent for the rest of our lives or it will drive us apart forever. I don't want to lose you. Please. Help me understand what is happening to me...to us."

"It...has to be...the sentinel abilities. The partnership of the two to each other. Maybe this is the final test of it. That we can survive this together," Blair finally said with innocent eyes and a beseeching gaze.

"Does that mean we go with it or fight it?"

Blair's face turned anguished with lack of knowledge.

"I don't know, Jim. I don't know. But I don't want to lose you either. I want to make you happy...safe...secure...."

Jim stood before his destiny and looked into Blair's blue-eyed open and ready gaze. Had Blair just offered himself up as a test...the sacrifice if necessary to the Sentinel, allowing Jim the choice? Forward or back and Jim couldn't see behind him any longer. The path had disappeared and the panther ran ahead, motioning him to follow this new path that had opened up before him and Blair.

"Then come with me. But do it willingly. Don't ever say you didn't have a choice or that I forced you."

"I wouldn't do that, Jim. You are my future."

"And you are mine."

Up the stairs they went, Jim nearly pulling Blair off his feet as they reached the top step. Jim whirled Blair around and picked him up. He was on top of Blair then, kissing those lips just as he'd been dreaming of for weeks, feeling the mass of dark hair against his cheek. Blair's hands clutched at his arms, still obviously scared ut of his wits, yet trying so hard to comply with Jim's need and what Jim hoped was Blair's as well. He didn't want this to be one sided, his pleasure and his satisfaction at the cost of causing Blair pain.

"Are you sure you want this, Chief? I can still stop," Jim whispered into Blair's ear and kissed the lobe with earrings dangling down.

"No, don't. I want it too. I'm...I'm just not sure what to do is all."

"Go with it, Partner. Let the power take us. Let the panther lead."

Then the power surged through them again, shocking them into action. Jim rose off the bed and pulled off his shirt and kicked off his shoes. He watched Blair gaze up at him, mesmerized with his actions. He slipped out of his jeans and reached for Blair's waist, pulling the sweat pants easily down and off. The shirt came last and Jim lay again on top of his partner, skin bare against skin, hot and tingling when the surge overcame them again.

It went on and on, not letting up at all. The power drove them together and Jim took control, turning Blair around, positioning and Blair seemed to shake with the knowledge of what was about to happen, letting Jim drive into him with a cry and a gasp of surprise.

Jim pulled Blair up to him, chest pressed to his partner's back. He lay kiss after kiss along the back of Blair's sweat soaked neck, kissing just behind the ear and that made Blair moan with more than pain. Jim's hand came around and grasped Blair's hard erection, stroking him while they rocked gently. The power swelled within them, seeping out and soaked back up through their pores, right through the skin of their naked bodies bound together in mutual need for each other.

Oh god! This was ecstasy. This was more than sex...more than physical...more than life and breath and love and pain. This was completeness.

Jim sucked in air, feeling Blair arch back and actually meet his thrusts. His partner wrapped fingers around his thighs and held on, coming with a moan that had forgotten pain or hesitation. And Jim thrust harder with the need to finish this as close to Blair's coming as possible.

He forced the smaller man down onto the bed, driving harder with his urgency, clinging with a firm grip on Blair's hips. Light exploded, energy seeming to spark out across the loft to singe the ceiling and railing and their bodies as well. A roaring filled Jim's hearing. Light blinded him. He tasted only Blair's essence, felt only Blair's hot skin against his for what might have been eternity.

Sound slowly began to seep back to normal, Blair's breathing ragged in his ears, unsteady and gasping, but the young man's heart beat strong and fast, powerfully alluring in its rhythm. Normal darkness descended, brightness fading to the light from below the stairway. Only Blair's scent remained just beneath him, soft hair tickling his nose, smelling of aloe and honeysuckle. And the body, pinned beneath him, still hot and sweat drenched, shivered ever so subtly.

They had made love. God! What had they done?! God! And he didn't care.

"Jim," Blair gasped.

Jim kissed the back of his partner's head, hands running down Blair's sides.

"What, Chief?"

"My arm is going to sleep, man. Let me up."

Jim chuckled, pulled out and rolled, pulling Blair with him, secure in his embrace. He felt Blair tense for a brief moment then relax into his arms.

"Sorry."

Blair said nothing and lay there, hand lingering on Jim's chest, tentative, unsure about showing affection perhaps.

"You okay, Blair? I hope I didn't hurt you."

"I'm fine," Blair said too quickly. "Fine...okay...I think I'm losing my mind. But otherwise okay."

"Yeah. It's crazy."

"Understatement, man."

"Tell me what you really think. This is as new to me as it is to you."

Blair had yet to look at him, eyes either closed or straying to some point on the hazy, dark ceiling. Jim reached down and drew the young man's face up. Blair's vision had adjusted now to the dimness and was staring at him. Jim had no trouble seeing the confusion and a little embarrassment in those expressive eyes, blue-green and deep, not with color but with depth of character.

Fear drove through Jim's bowels, fear cold and sobering like nothing, but ice cold water.

"Don't tell me I've lost you, Chief. I can't deal with it. I swear I need you. I want you."

"No, not lost," Blair whispered. "Just changed. Suddenly. Violently. Extraordinarily. Jesus, I felt like I was in the middle of a hurricane with lightning and thunder and I was being scorched, yet...there are no words to describe this, Jim. I really need to think long and hard about what this was...maybe what this is."

"It's not over, Blair. It's subdued, sated for now, but I feel like something, something big and out of our control, just reached down and shoved us together and we couldn't resist it."

Blair nodded against his shoulder in agreement.

"Are we going to be okay with this?" Blair asked the question finally.

"God, I hope so. I can't even look ahead without you, Blair."

Jim felt Blair smile and relax a little more into his shoulder. He stroked the young man's hair out of his eyes and bent to kiss the cooling forehead.

"The rest of our lives is a long time, Jim."

Jim thought of Blair's future if he stayed with him. Doctorate maybe, but a wife...kids? The possessiveness overwhelmed him and gave the younger man an owning squeeze.

"Let's not think that far."

Blair looked up again, hand reaching up to tentatively brush fingers along Jim's jawline almost experimentally.

"I can't think of anywhere else I want to be...ever."

Jim smiled in relief and turned his face to kiss Blair's fingers hoping there wouldn't be a change of heart someday when some pretty brunette or blond bombshell sauntered passed and Blair's hormones raged for something closer to curves and soft flesh. Somehow his desires for such had disappeared almost completely. He held in his arms his only desire.

"Is this love, Jim?" Blair continued. "What the hell is this if it isn't?"

"I...damn...I don't know. I wish I did? I know I care for you more than life. I need you beside me to live and breath and think and act. Yeah, I'll go with it. God knows I never felt this with Carolyn. I think it is love."

"But will you still love me tomorrow?"

"Carol King - Tapestry."

"What?"

"The song."

A low rumble of laughter shook from Blair's chest, easing out like a seedling sprouting from the earth. Jim fell instantly in love with the sound and with the man that was Blair Sandburg.

"Man Jim, you are really weird tonight."


 

Blair woke, body aching and a little sore where he'd never felt sore before. With a start, his eyes popped open, breath gone ragged with the vividness of his vision.

Jim.

Blair stared up at the ceiling and instantly knew it was not the ceiling of his room. He let his gaze wander, searching the bedroom for his partner who was not beside him in bed.

"Oh god. It did happen."

A note lay on the pillow beside him, his name alone on the folded white paper. He reached with a trembling hand, wanting to feel the warmth of Jim there, but too much time had passed and only the aroma of their lovemaking greeted him as he rolled over to open the note and read. He had to work at it without his glasses, but managed to make out Jim's neat handwriting.

 

Blair,

Sorry I couldn't be here when you woke. I didn't have the heart to wake you when you looked so peaceful and beautiful lying there. I forgot to tell you last night that I had to be in early for a meeting with Simon. I know you have a class to teach this morning. Coffee is in the warmer. Muffins are on the table. Come on by the station when you finish with class. Don't forget we have a new case to start today.

We'll talk about last night, tonight. Be careful and make sure the cell phone is charged!

Jim

P.S. There ought to be hot water by the time you get up.

Blair touched the words with a tentative finger, confused and a little frightened by the suddenness of expectation, of a relationship that had changed so dramatically with one decision. Jim was right. They couldn't go back and he didn't want this relationship to end. But this was a commitment he wasn't used to making, yet the first he truly wanted to make.

"God, don't let me screw this on up."

With a shove he sat up and ran his fingers back through his mass of hair, holding his head while images of hot passionate sex played havoc with his body. And even when Jim had taken him, shoving inside of him, the pain was only one moment in an eternity of bliss. He had been thoroughly possessed, owned and he minded it not one little bit.

"Wow, man. Intense," he murmured and managed to gather his wits about him, climb form the bed and go about the process of showering, shaving and finding something to wear. Running late, he grabbed a cup of coffee and a muffin, his pack and keys and was out the door and on his way to class.

The morning went by like Blair was in a dream, glad his lecture was one he'd given before for last quarter's class. Distractedly, he answered questions and wondered if anyone could see that he'd had sex last night with a man for the first time in his life. He felt as though the fact had been branded on his entire body, tattooed on his forehead. And not just any man. This wasn't about men and women, hetero vs. homo. This was about Jim...and him, Sentinel and Guide. He thought for a moment and wondered if he was in some kind of denial. No. Blair felt confident that he had no prejudices on the subject and he was right. This was way beyond sexual preferences.

With no test or papers due for the next two weeks, Blair managed to get to the precinct by 11:30. Jim was in Simon's office when he arrived and he settled in at his partner's desk to wait. He pulled out a book and drew his glasses out of his shirt pocket.

Jim's hand on his shoulder startled Blair into almost dropping the book, turning his wide-eyed gaze up with a gasp.

"Careful, Chief. Didn't mean to spook you." Jim gave Blair's feet a gentle shove off his desk. "I thought people only got that lost in fiction."

"It's about the Yanomamo, you know, a primitive Brazilian tribe," Blair said, rising to give Jim his seat. "It's for my Intro to Anthro class." His gaze moved away form Jim, unable yet to look at him full on without visions coming to mind. Jim seemed rather non-plus, casual even as if nothing had happened some fourteen hours ago between them that had changed the course of their lives.

"Sounds boring as hell, Chief. You'll have to read it to me some night when I have insomnia." Jim smiled then and Blair relaxed a little. He sat on the desk's edge and let his feet dangle over the side.

"So what's up? Is our new case the smuggling thing?"

"Yeah, some ancient Chinese artifacts showed up at a local gallery to be auctioned next week. Someone recognized them as missing in action. They're not sure which was more extraordinary, the fact that they showed up at a semi-public venue or...."

"That someone noticed and reported them?"

Jim pointed at Blair then touched his own nose. "I'll make a cop out of you yet."

"This is my realm of expertise, Jim. Though, I probably would want to do a little studying up on ancient Chinese artifacts."

"Believe it or not, that's why Simon gave us the assignment. Because of you."

Blair's brows rose incredulously. "Simon? As in Banks? He usually tries his best not to think of me."

"He thinks you'll be a real asset on this one, Partner. And I know you'll be. You always are."

Blair glowed in the warmth of Jim's praise. "Don't...stop. Don't stop."

They laughed easily together, eyes finally lighting on each other for more than three seconds. Their smiles widened, sharing something yet indefinable.

"Well," Jim said after a long moment. "How about lunch and then off to talk to the manager of that gallery?"

"You always have a plan, don't you? There's a new East African place just opened. Haven't had a chance to try it yet."

Jim gave him a skeptical glance and rose, grabbing his jacket and handing Blair's to him. "And just what do they eat in East Africa, Professor?"

Blair offered him a mischievous grin. "Oh, grubs, tubers and yams sauteed in a mixture of----"

Jim slapped him lightly up side of the head. "Not today, Chief, had grubs yesterday for lunch. If you're not careful we'll order a pizza."

"Not funny, big guy. You'll be eating by yourself if you keep that up."

"Just kidding. I wouldn't miss your company for the world."

Once in the truck and on their way to lunch, Jim glanced over at Blair with a concerned look.

"You okay, Blair?"

"Yeah, I'm fine...really. I'm okay. What about you?"

Jim took longer to answer, seemingly contemplating this enormous question. Blair's heart skipped a beat and watched Jim's sharp gaze light on him, knowing Jim had heard. And that only made his breath go shallow and ragged.

"Calm down, Blair. I'm fine. We're fine. Nothing has changed since last night. Of course, I'm not certain that wasn't what you were hoping for --- that things had changed again or back or something."

"We can't go back, Jim," Blair said very quietly. "It's forward or not at all. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that I don't want the not at all. This is really scary though."

"Damn straight it's scary. It's all I've thought about all day. Listening to Simon go over this case with me this morning was like trying to distract a cat from a bird. I had to keep dragging myself back to the case."

"Yeah, class was like that too."

"The feeling has subsided some. It's controllable now. I didn't feel like I was about jump on you the second I saw you."

Blair chewed the inside of his lower lip and shot Jim a sideways glance.

"Does this mean the only time you have these feelings for me is when this is going on? When the instinct is driving you?"

"Whoa, Blair. That's a loaded question. I haven't even had time to figure out what this thing is...we haven't had time. But---" Jim held up a hand to still Blair's premature response. "But I know that I care for you. That you are important to my life and that what happened last night was real and genuine even if the instinct was pushing us."

"Okay...okay."

"What about you? You wouldn't have even thought of us being together in this way if not for this sentinel thing."

"Maybe, but now that it has, I guess I just want...if we are going to have this relationship, I guess I...god, I can't think straight."

Blair laughed, thinking he'd just offered up quite a pun.

"What?"

"Don't you get it --- think straight! Ha!"

"We are not gay."

"What are we then, Jim? Maybe that's what I'm feeling so confused about. If I'm committing to a relationship, I'd like it to be based on something more than you Sentinel instincts. I'd like to think we can base it on love as well. I don't know. Maybe need is enough."

Jim pulled over, braking faster than he should have. The car behind passed them with the blaring of a horn, but Jim didn't seem to even notice with his gaze focused uncomfortably intense on Blair.

"It's not just my instincts, its yours as well, Blair. You felt it too. This thing is not one sided. Tell me it isn't one sided. That you didn't do this just for me."

Blair saw something he hadn't seen last night, a fear that Jim held too closely. A fear that he had pushed Blair to do this, to fulfill his need, to appease this primitive instinct.

"I did feel it, Jim. Though I would do anything for you. I feel it now, something I want to keep happening. I'm afraid of this thing coming and going, at some whim we don't understand or know how to control. I don't want it to use us for some purpose we don't have a stake in or say so. If we're meant to be together I can deal with that. I meant it when I said I can't think of anywhere else I want to be ever. But I don't want to be a toy to this thing. I don't want for us to go about some semblance of normal life as before when everything is fine then --- Bam! --- be slammed into this position --- either of us. I just want to know if we are building a relationship that now includes sex or if the sex is an aside that will happen once in a while when this instinct hits."

Jim stared at him until he blushed and looked away in confused embarrassment.

Oh god! I've said something stupid! He probably thinks I'm desperate for affection!

"I think that is the most honest and straightforward answer I've even gotten from you, Chief," JIm said with such tenderness in his voice that Blair looked up in startlement. "On any subject."

Blair laughed, relief flooding his features, cascading down through is body till he thought he'd melt with Jim's gaze on him.

"You are so beautiful, Blair"

"I...I..."

Jim moved closer, obviously uncaring about the cars zooming passed on the highway. Blair leaned a little as Jim's hand reached out to touch his hair, caress his cheek and run down under the curls to his neck. Jim drew him in for a kiss, electric yet not the shattering impulsive out of control of last night. It was a kiss between two people learning to be together in a loving relationship.

"Partners, Blair," Jim whispered against his mouth, tongue touching his lower lip for a moment then the kiss grew deep again and Blair opened his mouth to taste Jim's tongue against his own. A low throbbing pulse beckoned to them, but it was controllable now. They had time to choose the place and time and not be slaves to the instinct. "Partners in all things," Jim said as he drew away a little to gaze into Blair's eyes.

Blair smiled. "I like the sound of that."


 

"Look at this, Jim." Blair held up a one of the many books he had confiscated from his office and the university library to show his partner a picture of one of the possible pieces to be auctioned off. "This should be in a museum...if this is the same piece...not in some private collection where no one will ever see it again. That in itself is a crime. The people who would buy these things have no concept about the difference between art and artifacts. You can't put a price on history, man. Culture. Civilization. The things that a culture leaves behind are what tell us how we've gotten where we are." Blair laughed. "I'm starting to sound more like an archaeologist than an anthropologist."

Jim leaned over the couch and studied the photograph. His sense of smell picked up instantly on Blair's distinctive scent, subtle and earthy laced with some spice the anthropologist liked to wear.

"Looks like the vase. Are you sure?"

"Pretty sure without getting a much better look at it up close." Blair offered a sheepish grin. "Chinese isn't exactly what I'm best at."

Jim eyed him dubiously. "You mean you...obfuscated about this being your realm of expertise?"

"Well, it is in a general sense. Culture and artifacts... I did take a couple of courses on the art and culture of China. Anyway, Simon's the one that thinks if you know one culture you know them all. I didn't give us this assignment, he did."

"But you said---"

"I know what I said, Jim. I should be able to tell you if the artifacts are real, at the very least...if I can get a closer look."

"Maybe that can be arranged tomorrow."

Blair nodded and went back to studying the book, page after page of photographs, hand reaching to adjust his glasses automatically. Jim handed him a beer and settled down beside him on the couch to look over at the same photos.

"So do you think these are real or what?"

Blair took a drink and set his beer on the table then glanced sideways. He shrugged. "Maybe, but why take the chance of showing what might be stolen treasures like these at a public auction, no matter how elite the customers? Either the thief is not smart or there's some other game going on here. I'd bet my next paycheck these are genuine. They wouldn't be at this sale if they weren't."

"Your next paycheck huh? Not that much to talk about, Chief." Jim gave Blair half a smile to show he was kidding.

"Very funny, Ellison. It's all I have."

"Oh you have much more than that, Chief."

"You're horny again, aren't you, Jim?"

Jim leaned over and kissed Blair's neck. "How could you tell?"

"Instinct."

Jim glanced up sharply, saw Blair's grin then he pounced, knocking the books off the couch and pushing the smaller man down on his back. He lay on top of blair, keeping his hip on the side of the couch to keep from crushing the breath from his partner. His mouth came down hard, possessive and demanding, hands groping over Blair's body, hands wrapping up into fistfuls of dark hair.

"God, you feel so good, smell so good, taste so good."

"Mmmmm," was all Blair could manage when Jim's lips crushed his again. Jim felt Blair fumble with his glasses and assumed they had been safely set aside. If not, Jim would buy Blair a new pair.

Jim's mouth moved again, kissing Blair's ear, tongue running along the graceful neck. He could taste a mild perspiration just behind the ear, salt tangy on his tongue. He breathed in the younger man's scent and almost took a bite.

Blair jumped as Jim's teeth nipped his throat, but Jim's strong hands held the smaller man down, one large hand wrapped around Blair's slender wrist. Jim sucked until he was rewarded with a moan and lifted his head to see his handiwork, a purple spot the size of a silver dollar on the left side of Blair's neck. He pulled at Blair's shirt then stopped, rose and swept Blair up in his arms in one fell swoop.

"Jim! You are not carrying me up those steps! You'll kill us both!"

"Then to your room. This couch is for petting, not for sex."

Blair clung to him, arms wrapped around his neck. He slid onto Blair's bed and buried his face in the younger man's hair, arms possessively wound around and under Blair.

"You are mine. Tell me, Blair. Tell me you are mine forever."

Blair's head rolled back to take Jim's kisses against his throat. "God, yes, Jim. I'm yours. I belong to you."

"How long? Say it."

"Forever."

Then Jim did reach for Blair's shirt, pulling it over his head. The jeans he had to work at, fitting so tight and snug around those thighs and ass. He pulled off his own shirt and watched Blair bite his lower lip, heartbeat increasing and breath going ragged. He slid his own pants down powerful thighs and lay again to cover his lover. His lover. Yes, that's what they were...lovers. At last he felt whole, not just driven by instinct, but by the undeniable fact that he loved this man, was meant to be with him and for him...to own him.

There bodies pressed together and Blair felt so hot, burning with a fire so intense it would have scorched a lesser man. But Jim just held Blair closer, moving to lick at the dark nipples, listening for the subtle changes in Blair's breathing and sighs so he'd know what pleased his partner most. He moved down, kissing and licking his way to between Blair's legs. He'd never done this before, never sucked another man's cock, but there was a first time for everything and he wanted to do this, to taste Blair completely and give him that pleasure. Then he'd take what he wanted without guilt or fear.

He licked then let the long hard erection slide into his mouth. Blair moaned his name, caressed it with sighing breath. He sucked and teased, feeling the coming building to a climax of passion.

"Oh god! Yes!" Blair cried out as hot cum spewed into Jim's mouth, rewarded for his efforts with the very essence of his lover. "Oh, oh, yes, yes, yes. Oh god Jim!"

Jim didn't want it to stop, but slowly Blair relaxed and Jim rose over him, sliding down onto Blair again to kiss and lick the sweat from the young man. Blair wrapped his arms around Jim and held on, seeming near to tears.

"Hold on, partner. Everything's fine. Everything's great."

"I know. I know."

Jim reached up and pushed the hair from Blair's face, kissing the chin and each cheek, the nose and both closed eyes.

"You are so very beautiful."

"You keep saying that."

"It's true."

"Thank you. I'm just not used to those kinds of compliments."

"Well get used to it, Chief. I intend to tell you as often as possible."

Jim pressed a kiss against Blair's mouth, tongue searching, exploring then tasting Blair's tongue against his. The passion began to burn again, building up to a roaring inferno. Jim knew he was starting to be rough, more than he wanted to be, but something drove him to it. He held Blair down with pinned wrists. Devoured Blair with his mouth and yet the younger man took it, seemed to thrive on it just as he did.

"Do it, Jim. Don't wait any longer. God, I need you."

Jim took a handful of hair and one arm and forced Blair over onto his stomach. Blair gasped, but didn't resist. Jim wetted his cock with his own spit and wondered if there was a better way to do this. They'd have to find out. He wetted his fingers again and worked them into Blair.

"Oh god!" Blair exclaimed, but stayed as he was, unresisting. "Oh god," he exclaimed again when Jim replaced his fingers with his hard cock, driving full force and to the hilt into Blair.

Jim gathered Blair up close to him, laying out on his lover's back and slowly, gently moved with a steady rhythm. Blair whimpered senselessly, fingers digging into the sheets, clinging like his life depended on it. Blair turned his face, trying to breath past the mattress and the hair. Jim moved a hand up and brushed the curls away so he could see Blair's half turned face, pained with ecstasy, eyes closed and concentrating on the movement that was starting to pick up. Jim's hips drove harder, his hand spreading Blair wider to get full access. He watched the effects of his movements on Blair's face, that expressive, beautiful face that hid nothing and gave everything to the moment. Every change in movement reflected there and Jim tried to keep the outright pain from coming too easily to his beloved's expression. Yet all he could think of now was the driving rhythm and his need to possess.

He's mine! He's mine!

Jim came in a series of hard, violent thrusts he knew must have hurt, must have caused Blair some pain. After all, the younger man had been a virgin of sorts only yesterday and now Jim was using him thoroughly as if they had been doing this for years.

Slowly Jim eased down, pressing his full weight onto his partner. He ran his hands down Blair's sides then up each arm, feeling the quivering of muscles, the satin of skin. Their fingers twined together, Jim's palms against the back of Blair's hands. After a long moment, Jim released Blair's fingers with a gentle squeeze and moved the hair away from the younger man's neck and face.

"Beautiful Blair," Jim whispered and watched a smile tug at the full mouth. Kisses along the jaw and neck, tracing the pattern of Blair's ear followed.

"No one's ever thought I was beautiful before."

"Oh, I bet lots have. They just didn't tell you so."

A grimace replaced the smile and Blair gasped, trying to move to a different position, impossible with Jim on top of him. Jim pulled out and rolled to his side.

"Jesus, Jim, I think you dislocated my hip."

"I'm sorry, Chief. God, didn't mean to hurt you."

"I'm kidding...I think."

Slowly, Blair turned over, rolling to snuggle against Jim's side, head laying on the broad, smooth chest.

"Did I hurt you?" Jim asked. "Was I too rough?"

"I'm okay. Relax. I'm at least bigger than most women you've been with, aren't I?"

"Well, mostly."

"Would you have been that rough with them?"

Jim didn't answer. Instead he lay there thinking how good it had felt to fuck Blair that hard.

"You haven't, have you?"

"No. I would never have been that rough with a woman."

"Well...that's okay. I'm not going to break, man. I'm not that delicate."

Jim leaned up on one elbow, gazing down on his partner and wondering about the change in this relationship. He remembered his own thoughts, sharp and demanding. 'He's mine...mine. Ownership, proprietary, territorial...mine.'

"But I never want to hurt you, Blair. I never want you to be afraid of me."

Blair shook his head. "It's not going to happen, man. Promise. There was some pain, but there was so much more than that. It was all sensation and passion. I feel more alive now than I have in my whole life."

"Yeah, as if we hadn't really started to live till we came together."

He bent and kissed full lips, demanding again that the mouth give him satisfaction, ease his desire and Blair gave what he demanded and more. Hands pulled him down to lay again, cuddling close. Blair's fingers stroked his back, sending waves of warmth tingling down his spine and down over his buttocks.

Desire tasted like Blair, smelled like Blair, felt like Blair and he wanted all of his senses to be filled with the essence that was Blair. He was lost in this world of sensation and had nearly zoned out.

Blair was pushing at him, trying to say something against his mouth. The young man's fist beat once, twice, three times against his shoulder before he came back to himself with a hand clenched tightly in Blair's hair, the other holding onto Blair's wrist.

"The door, man. Someone's at the door."

"Dammit!" Jim rolled and glanced at the clock. 9:52pm. They hadn't even waited for bedtime to start fucking. He fumbled for his jeans, yanking them on and zipping them while he found his shirt. Blair was trying to pull on a pair of sweat pants, but Jim left him there. He ran his hands over his face and realized he smelled of sex.

"Okay, Ellison...Sandburg. I know you're in there. You wouldn't have left the TV on."

Simon. Damn and double damn. He wasn't ready for this.

"Coming, Simon."

Jim unlatched the door and stood there staring at his captain. Simon stared back expectantly.

"Well, aren't you going to let me in?"

"Sure." Jim stepped back and almost stepped on one of the books he had swept off the couch an hour ago.

"The kid's getting messy again I see."

"We both kinda made the mess, Simon. Studying up on Ancient Chinese artifacts. How about a beer."

"No thanks. I need you and Sandburg to run over with me to that gallery. They got hit tonight."

"What?! And the artifacts in question?"

"Gone. All of them."

Blair came into the living room, running his fingers through his hair to comb out the tangles.

"What's with you, Sandburg? You look like you just went three rounds with a gorilla and you didn't win."

Blair's gaze darted feverishly to Jim then back to Simon. "Nothing. I'm fine. What's up?"

The gallery got hit," Jim offered. "All the artifacts were taken."

"All of them?"

"Yeah...all," Simon repeated. "How many times are we going to do this, gents? Get your butt dressed, Sandburg. We're going to the showroom." Simon's gaze focused suddenly on something below Blair's face. "What's that?"

"What's what?" Blair glanced down at his t-shirt, hands moving to find what Simon was talking about.

Jim's breath caught. A vivid purple bruise stood out like a stop sign on Blair's neck right where he had put it.

I don't believe I gave him a hickey!

"No, Sandburg, on your neck."

Blair clutched his throat, a look of panic seizing that too expressive face.

"It's nothing. I'll go get dressed." Blair disappeared back into his room.

"I've got to clean up, Simon. Be right back," Jim said and hurried to the bathroom.

"Something weird is going on here, you two."

Jim had no trouble hearing his captain's words and closed his eyes. Should he tell him? How would Simon take it?

He ran cold water and splashed it over his face, washed his hands and brushed his teeth hoping most of Blair's aroma on him wasn't as obvious to Simon as it was to him. And Blair had looked momentarily terrified, not knowing whether to come or go or scream.

On his way out, Blair moved passed him to the bathroom, their gazes meeting.

"It's going to be all right, Blair. We'll work this thing out."

Blair only nodded and took his turn in the bathroom.

Jim didn't want to go back into Blair's room to retrieve his shoes and socks. That would be too obvious to Simon. Instead, Jim moved up the stairway and found another pair of both and put them on.

"All right, girls. Let's get moving. We should have been there ten minutes ago."

"Don't expect us to be waiting up for you to show, Simon. We do have lives outside the PD," Jim said, coming back down the stairs.

Simon feigned surprise. "You do? Then you're doing better than most of the detectives."

Blair came out of the bathroom, looking more civilized, his hair pulled down around his face, trying to hide the bruise. Simon was heading for the door when Jim bent next to Blair's ear.

"Don't you have a turtleneck you could wear?" he whispered.

"No I don't or I would be wearing it, you big brute," Blair whispered back.

"Come on, kids. Let's move."

They rode with Simon, Blair grateful to be in the back seat, willing his pounding heart to calm down. He hadn't even remembered the hickey. God, he hadn't had a hickey since he was seventeen! How ridiculous. Then he remembered how it got there and a wave of excitement touched his loins, grazed his spinal column and made him feel weak with Jim's possession of him.

"So what's with you two?" Simon asked. "Come on, spit it out. Sandburg, where's your usual annoying chatter?"

"Simon, leave him alone, will you?" Jim said, sounding annoyed himself.

"Hey, just trying to figure this thing out. Sandburg quiet...you defending him. Sounds like love."

Blair saw Jim glance at Simon with a near panicked look then back at him.

Well, that should give us away, he thought.

Simon drove on, taking the freeway to the other side of the city. Simon seemed deep in thought as was Jim just now.

"So, who gave you the hickey, Sandburg? That's what's on your neck. Am I right or what?"

Blair groaned and sank down in his seat.

Simon pulled into the parking lot and turned off the car, but before Blair or Jim could escape, he hit the lock button, trapping both men inside.

"No one gets out of this car till I get some answers. What is going on with you two?"

"Simon, just leave it alone," Jim said. "As a friend, leave it alone."

"As your boss, I can't leave something that I think may effect your job."

"You don't know what you are talking about, Simon."

"I think I do. How long has this been going on?"

"Oh god," Blair moaned.

"Shut up, Sandburg. This is probably your fault."

"My fault?! Wait a minute. Do you even know what you are talking about?"

"Yeah, you two are sleeping together."

"Okay. So you got that right. Feel better, Captain?" Jim offered sarcastically. "What goes on between me and Blair on our own time is our business, not yours or the PD's."

"Technically, you're right, but I can pull Sandburg's observer status anytime I want if I think you can't do your job because of this relationship. It's one thing to be partners because of this sentinel thing, its another to get caught up in some sexual tryst that is totally unlike you, Jim. How could you let Sandburg talk you into this?"

"It's because of the sentinel thing that this happened, Simon. It's what pulled us together and demanded this of us."

Simon snorted in disgust.

"Well, Captain, get this," Jim continued with ice lacing his voice. "I came onto Blair, not vice versa. I'm the one with the sexual urges that revolve around him. I'm the one that pushed when he was reluctant so be careful where you place blame if you think you have to place it somewhere. Blair is as caught up in this as I am. And I think we've decided we don't want it to stop. In fact, I think...no, I know, I'm in love with him. I love him. You got that, Simon." Jim's jaw clenched in anger, the muscle popping with tension.

Blair stared at the two men in the seat in front of him, discussing him as if he weren't even there. Jim loved him. Was in love with him. How in the hell did this happen? He hadn't tried to make this happen. Neither of them had, yet here they were like two teenage kids trying to convince their parents that they were old enough to understand what love was.

"Jim, have you any idea how you'll be treated by the other cops if this gets out? You know how macho they can be. You know how unforgiving they can be if they feel one of their own has let them down."

"Simon, first of all, we didn't intend to shout it from the rooftops. We're both half scared out of our minds over this thing as it is. We don't understand it. And we can't go back now. It's too late."

"Too late?" Simon's tone had turned incredulous. "Too late for what? People have flings all the time and then go about their business. Why can't you two be normal? No---never mind. I know neither of you is normal...in any way. And just how long has this been going on?"

Blair glanced up to Jim to see what his partner would say, hands clasped before him, tight and fidgeting with his jacket zipper. Jim just stared back at him with a loving gaze that made Blair's heart hurt. He didn't want Jim to suffer because of this. Maybe it was his fault. Maybe he had somehow caused this to happen.

"I've been having these feelings for weeks now. But last night was the first time...."

Blair lowered his gaze as Jim's words faltered.

"Don't look so guilty, Sandburg," Jim admonished gently. "You have nothing to feel guilty about."

Simon sighed heavily. "So there's still time. Maybe nothing else has to happen. You and Blair just need to get away from each other. You've spent too much time together."

Jim twisted in the seat, his face gone hard and cold as iron. Blair almost gasped at the intensity of those eyes and was mightily glad the look hadn't been turned on him.

"You seem to have forgotten something, Simon. I told you I am in love with Blair. I don't want it to stop. I don't intend for it to end --- ever."

"Jim...." Simon began imploringly.

"No, Simon. I won't have it. I want this. Blair wants it. Don't you, Blair?"

Blair looked up again. Simon stared at him as if he were some specimen of an experiment gone terribly wrong. And then there was Jim, staring at him also, but with confidence and a need to hear him confirm the truth of it.

"Yes," he said very low, but loud enough for Simon to hear. "I want this. Jim and I were meant to be together. And I love him."

Jim looked suddenly relieved as if fearing to hear Blair's denial of him and their feelings for each other.

"Okay, I'm not going to convince either of you of anything. We've got a job to do. I'll have to think about Sandburg's observer status later."

Jim's hand shot out to stop Simon from unlocking the door.

"No, Simon. Either Blair stays on with me as my working partner or I'm off the force. I can't do my job without him anymore. We work together or not at all."

"Jim, don't," Blair said, sitting forward and leaning on the back of the seat. "Don't say what you don't mean, man."

"I mean it, Chief. I can't do this without you anymore. I won't. Simon, you want to loss a good detective? Then pull Blair as my partner. But I swear he and I working together will not effect our job performance. We can do this, Simon. Just let us. If we fail to meet department standards then we can rethink this thing, but right now you have no grounds to make this decision."

Simon looked away obviously uncomfortable with the turn in the discussion. He stared at the window, stared at the door they should be heading towards, should have been minutes ago then turned back to glance at each of them.

"All right, Jim. I'll give you and Sandburg a chance to prove yourselves, but be careful about who knows about this. And be careful that you aren't so busy watching him that you don't watch what's coming at you."

"I know, Simon. Blair and I have a strong sense of survival. We'll do as well as we ever did. Maybe even better."

Blair swallowed down a wad of fear and hoped Jim was right about that.


 

You look tired, Blair," Jim said as he took off his jacket and hung it up on a hook. He reached and pulled Blair into the room, shutting and locking the door behind. Blair stood staring, looking half numb with need for sleep.

"Yeah, tired," was all Blair said.

Jim watched as Blair ran his hands across his face then drew fingers through dark curls. With a shake of his head, Jim helped Blair off with his coat and gently pushed the young man towards the bathroom.

"Go on, get ready for bed before you fall asleep on your feet. Then I would have to carry you upstairs."

Blair glanced up then, focus sharpening.

"You want me to sleep upstairs?"

Jim felt the sudden possessiveness wrench at his gut.

"Only if you want to, Blair," Jim offered with forced control. "No demands. Whatever you want to do."

"I'm just so tired."

"I know, kid. We can just sleep, you know."

Blair nodded.

The sudden battle with Simon had taken a toll on both of them, but Simon's insinuation that this was Blair's fault still hung like a guilty sign around the anthropologist's throat, blaring as the purple spot vivid on Blair's neck.

Jim couldn't help but reach out, laying fingers against the place. Blair's gaze rose to meet Jim's and the young man's hand came up to touch his there.

"I'm sorry, Blair. I'm sorry for what Simon said to you. I'm sorry I dragged you into this insanity."

"Jim, stop. Don't blame yourself. Maybe this is my fault."

"No. Let's stop with the blame now. We made a commitment back there. We meant it didn't we?"

Blair bit his lower lip, eyes straying then moving back to gaze up at him again.

"Yes. I've not committed to a lot of things in my life other than school and research, but this I've committed to for something far more than that, Jim. I'm committing myself to you. One on one, you and me. That's what this is about."

Blair drew in a huge breath and let it out, looking calmer for having done so.

Jim reached out and pulled Blair into an embrace, hand running up through dark locks. He felt Blair meld into his frame, hands locked around him, gripping the back of his shirt.

"We're going to make this work, Blair. I promise we will. The hell with the rest of the world."

Blair nodded against his shoulder and held on.


 

The dream had been nice. Warm arms around him, a firm body close against his back. Blair sighed with the remembrance and almost reached out to find the heat again.

There it was. The bed dipped beside him and the arms returned pulling him against the warmth he had feared was gone forever. He felt lips against his forehead then at his temple. Hands roamed over his bare skin and stroked his hair.

"I love you, Blair," a voice said like soft satin cloth, whispering and sighing his name. "You are mine and I'll never let you go."

Blair's eyes felt heavy still with drowsiness and light still lay subtle against the wall and ceiling, not quite dawn. He said nothing and let the warmth take him back to the dream.

Blair woke again with the warmth still surrounding him, his head nestled against Jim's strong broad shoulder. He tilted his head up and Jim's lips met his, drinking him in like wine. A hand stroked his hip, another cupping his face and holding him there, mouth opening to accept the deepest of kisses.

His body trembled with sensation, electric currents of energy pulsing down his limbs, throbbing through his body like the waves of a stormy sea. His fingers flexed, grasping at Jim's waist, hand then running up across his lover's chest. He gasped for breath between kisses and sucked in air like he'd die for lack of it soon.

"Good morning, sunshine," Jim whispered against his mouth.

"Oh Jim," he sighed, eyes closing again. "Man, what you do to me."

He heard Jim chuckle and felt the man's hand run the length of his chest and stomach then reach to stroke his hardening erection. "Oh, god."

He felt Jim's knee move between his, forcing his legs apart. He felt a hand knot in his hair and turn his face till Jim's mouth latched onto his and refused to let go while the stroking continued, constant and rhythmic and oh so alluring in its sensation. He felt lost in his body's stimulation, lost amongst the chemical reactions and tactile responses and he wondered if this was how Jim felt when he zoned out while concentrating on something. Yet, his entire body was wrapped up in this sensation, this feeling of being alive and living for one thing and that was to be with Jim and no one else.

Then the sensation reached that fine line between pleasure and pain, coming and going, being and disappearing into the darkness. He gasped beneath Jim's mouth and rode the orgasm, centering wholly on the length of the pleasure, the length of the experience. His hips rose up in his need to press against Jim's hand until he'd finished the last of the coming and collapsed back onto the bed.

Jim's kisses became gentle along his jaw and cheek, nibbling at his ear and neck. Blair gulped in air and slowly relaxed.

"Wow," he gasped out.

He heard Jim chuckle and turned to see the man smiling at him like the cat who caught the mouse.

"I think you enjoyed that as much as I did."

Jim's hand moved up his body, caressing and it felt to Blair as if Jim was memorizing the contours of his body without sight and only by touch.

"Oh I certainly did, Chief. I enjoyed it very much. Watching your face is better than watching sports. I never know quite what I'm going to see."

Blair rolled and leaned up to gaze down on Jim. He reached out, letting the back of his hand slide down the big man's face, feeling the morning stubble there, rough against his skin. He watched Jim's eyes close and mouth open slightly, breath drawn in with a slow shudder. Blair bent and brushed his lips across Jim's, easing into a deeper kiss till Blair moved to straddle his lover's chest.

"What do you think you are doing?"

Blair smiled down, turning his head this way then that in a speculative yet seductive manner.

"Oh, just thinking."

"Well, that's one thing you do very well...sometimes, prof."

"Be nice Jim or I won't do wonderful things to you."

"Okay, I'll be nice," Jim said and ran his hands over Blair's thighs and up to caress the young man's waist to pull him down for a kiss. Jim's fingers wound in his hair and held him down, possessive again and the thrill sent pulsing responses down Blair's limbs and drove into his loins. He pulled and Jim let him slip out of the embrace to kiss his way down the man's hard chest and firm stomach. He knew technically what to do, but never having done this before hesitated, kissing around Jim's hard cock, the balls and then licked the length of it. He was rewarded with a moan from his lover and a hand locking onto his hair to guide him back for more. Blair licked again, lips and tongue driving towards the tip until his mouth covered the head, letting it slide into his mouth and down his throat. Jim moaned again in response and encouragement.

"You like that?" he asked, breathing along the shaft. His tongue did a little dance and Jim's hand drew him back to the tip again.

"Yes, oh yes. Don't stop, babe."

Blair chuckled and obeyed, finding pleasure in giving pleasure. He felt Jim grow even harder, the man's hips rising to meet his mouth. But Blair eased back, still stroking with his hands. He leaned over the side of the bed and reached for the nightstand drawer. With a quick movement he pulled out a tube of lubricant and some condoms.

"Can you tell me why we didn't use these...babe?"

Jim stared at the objects through heated eyes and breath ragged with passion.

"Didn't think of it, Chief. Sorry."

"Should we bother now?"

"Well, we've already had unprotected sex. I've never been with a man before you. You've never been with a man before me. We both used protection with the women we've been with. Surely, we're as safe as we can be. It's too late now anyway."

Blair nodded. "At least you could have used the lube, big guy."

He squeezed some out of the tube and began massaging Jim's erection, slowly to keep from making his lover come too soon. Jim responded again with primal noises that made Blair's heart beat faster and pulse pick up.

Blair moved forward on his knees still straddling Jim's body till he hovered over the hard cock.

God, this is either going to be great or I'm going to be clinging to the ceiling in about twenty seconds.

He held Jim's erection and leaned back, letting it push at his opening. With a deep breath and a shove, he sat back and almost screamed at the intensity of the motion. A gasp stole his breath and Jim's hands wrapped around his waist ready to pull him off if necessary.

"I'm okay," he said breathlessly. "Just give me a minute to get used to it."

"Dammit, Blair, don't hurt yourself on my account," Jim offered gently, but didn't force him to move.

He leaned forward, hair falling down around Jim's face, hands sliding over the hard smooth chest. Jim's hands moved up his back and into his hair again and the kiss was rich as cream, sweet as chocolate. Jim moved, spreading his legs some and arching up to gain full penetration. The man's hands ran down Blair's sides and latched onto his hips, fingers digging into the flesh a little, pushing him down.

Blair groaned and gasped against Jim's mouth then slowly sat up. His breath felt ragged in his chest, aching for something he couldn't quite grasp. He felt Jim full inside of him and moved to slide up and down again and again. His eyes closed in a mixture of pain and ecstasy, a paradox of sensation. He licked his dry lips and Jim reached up for him again to drag him down for more kisses against his mouth.

Oh...my...god!

The power had taken hold again, sending electric energy through his veins, shooting through every nerve in his body. He felt drenched in fire, yet he didn't burn. It glowed around him and in him and Jim thrust up as he forced his body downward, riding the current cascading from Jim's body into his. He plunged downward onto a rod of lightning and he shrieked with the intensity of it, the sheer magnitude of the experience. He fell forward afterwards, falling against Jim's chest with a heaving breath that would not subside. He gasped and clutched at Jim's shoulders, buried his face against the man's neck while hands roamed over his back and shoulders and ran up into his hair. He felt lips against his neck and little whispers of reassurance in his ear. And Jim's arms wrapped around him and held him tightly while the gasping and heaving slowly dissipated.

Jim eased Blair up and off of him, never making the younger man lose his grip on his shoulders or forcing Blair's face away from his neck. This had been an extraordinary experience of giving and Blair wasn't ready to face what had happened just yet. He let Blair lay out on top of him, grateful for the warmth of the young man's body against his.

"It's all right, sweetheart. Everything is fine."

Jim kissed Blair's cheek, brush the hair back from beautiful eyes, but the lids only quivered and did not open.

"I love you. I love you. I love you," Blair whispered against Jim's neck. "I belong to you and only you always."

Jim thought the words sounded almost like a chant, rhythmic and ritualistic in the pattern.

"You are my master. You are my life. You are my world and my existence."

"Blair. Hey, look at me." Jim moved his head back so he could look at Blair. "Hey, Chief. That's pretty intense stuff you're saying."

Blair's eyes opened, and the black pupils inside the blue irises were nothing but pinpoints, almost lost like the sound of Blair's voice as he chanted the words again.

"Blair," Jim said again more urgently, almost panicked by the distant, hypnotic quality of Blair's expression and the words he repeated then added more to the chant.

"I will follow where you lead. I will be beside you in good times and bad. I will lead when you are blinded. I will be your guide when you do not hear. And you will be my blessed protector. We shall not be parted in this world or the next."

Jim watched Blair's eyes slowly close as if sudden sleep had come over him. He felt Blair become a limp weight against his chest and stomach. But the heart still beat strong, rapid yet slowing to something akin to normal.

"Blair," Jim said again, rolling the younger man off of him and leaning over the still form.

What in the hell just happened? It was like Blair was in a trance, not even knowing what he was saying. Yet, the words had meaning, were deliberate in their intent and purpose. Had Blair at that moment fully accepted his place in the scheme of this relationship? Had the...what...spirits...whatever was behind the mysticism of the Sentinel abilities, required an oath of some sort? Jim's mind reeled at the implications and Blair still lay, unconscious or sleeping, in a state not completely natural.

"Blair, come on. Wake up."

Jim patted his partner's face gently, rubbed at the temples until Blair's eyes fluttered and a moan slipped from between dry lips.

"That's it, Chief. Wake up, sleepy head."

Blair's eyes finally came open, heavy lidded yet acknowledging where he was. Jim smiled down with relief and smoothed hair from Blair's face.

"Do you remember what just happened?"

Blair looked confused then embarrassed. "We were, you know, having phenomenal sex and then..." The confusion returned to his expression. "I had a dream. When did I fall asleep?"

Jim shook his head in dismissal. "What did you dream?"

"There was a panther," Blair said slowly. "And a...man." He said..." Blair's brown drew together in thought. "He said I had to commit...completely. That I hadn't fully committed. I had to put away my fear and doubts. I took an oath. And you were there also, standing before me, no kneeling. We were both kneeling and I took an oath."

The blue eyes went wide open, brows up and Jim almost laughed at how cute the expression looked on Blair's face.

God, he is so beautiful. He is mine. I am his. I am his Blessed Protector for all eternity. And he is my Guide through a thousand lifetimes.

"I heard your oath. You were in some sort of trance. You were zoned out except you were speaking. You said your oath then collapsed.

"I only remember it in the dream."

"How do you feel?"

"I'm okay. I feel fine, really."

"Good. You don't have classes today, right?"

Blair nodded. "Right."

"It's almost 7 am. You're sure you're okay?"

Blair nodded again.

"Then we can go on into the station and get some work done," Jim said with a grin.

Blair made a face. "I'm not looking forward to facing Simon this morning. He blames me for this you know, Jim."

"There's nothing to blame here."

"Get Simon to believe that. He thinks I've corrupted you or something."

"We'll work things out with Simon, Blair. Everything will be fine. This is meant to be and that's what we have to go on. I'm going to get a shower. You'll be okay?"

"Yeah, I'll get breakfast going. God, I need about a gallon of coffee. And a whole lot less mysticism."

Jim laughed and headed for the shower.


 

Blair stood at the photocopier making duplicates of the pictures of the artifacts.

Stolen and stolen again? he thought. What is going on with this mixed-up case?

He finished the last one and headed back to Jim's desk when he caught a glimpse of Simon coming out of the elevator. He tried to slink back out of the line of sight, but to no avail.

"Sandburg," Simon bellowed. "In my office. Now!"

Jim looked up with a fierce, protective expression.

"Simon," he said through clenched teeth and an ominous tone.

"Ellison." Simon cut him off. "Forensics needs to see you now! For at least twenty minutes. Go!"

Blair swallowed down the fear that had lodged in his throat, but meekly went to Simon's office. He glanced behind him to see Jim and Simon having quiet, intense words in the middle of the room with the entire Major Crimes staff staring on in surprise and speculation. Jim's face still reflected that ferocious protectiveness, but went cold and calm after a moment. Blair felt bereft of comfort as he watched Jim turn and head towards forensics and Simon towards him.

He stared at the floor, not chancing a direct meeting of the captain's eyes just then. He listened to the door being shut and Simon pulling the shades to his window.

Oh, this is serious. I'm about to be canned...or shot maybe. Simon would need to use a silencer and find a way to dispose of his body quickly.

"Sit down, Sandburg. I'm not going to bite you."

Blair glanced up and obeyed without a word.

"I see you found a turtleneck."

Blair grimaced. "We stopped at a store and got me one." His voice sounded hoarse and strained in his own ears.

"Sandburg, I'm not going to chew you out or can you or kill you. What I am going to do is apologize for my unfortunate choice of words and harsh tone last night."

Blair shook his head as if he hadn't heard right.

"You are apologizing to me? Last night you were blaming me for corrupting your best detective like I was some pervert and now you're sorry?"

Simon sat back, weariness seeping out from around the edges of a carefully maintained facade of complete control.

"I had no right to make judgments about yours and Jim's private life. I was too busy seeing complications and I have to admit I was concerned and still am concerned about this situation. It's not like Jim, and I find it strange and...well. Not that I'm homophobic or anything. I have no problem with that, but I know Jim well enough to know he's never had a thing for men.

Blair thought a moment, something he knew he ought to do more often before he spoke.

"Are you under the impression that I have, Captain? Because if you are, you're mistaken. I have just about as much experience with this situation as Jim does. No more. This is so new to both of us and it's down right scary. I know you don't understand much about Jim's Sentinel abilities and even less about my part in helping him with them. But Jim and I have been learning as we go along and neither of us realized the commitment that was expected of us by this thing. Jim was right though, Simon. We can not possibly go back now and this is too important not to go forward. Jim will lose so much of himself, so much of what he is capable of doing if we don't proceed. And if this complete relationship is what is required we must go on with it. And now...it's as if we couldn't go back even if we wanted to. It won't let us. I don't know how natural or unnatural this thing is, but it has us wrapped up and caught and it doesn't intend to let go. I don't want it to let go anymore. And neither does Jim."

Simon's face reflected a desire to understand, more than Blair had dreamed. Last night Simon had been surprised and had reacted with shock. What else could he have expected from a man like Simon Banks.

Would I have reacted any other way?

"Why didn't you talk to Jim about this, Simon? Why are you talking to me? I didn't think you cared all that much what I thought about much of anything?"

Simon almost laughed then.

"Sandburg, I really have you railroaded, don't I?"

Blair stared at him, feeling inept and inadequate.

"Sandburg, you're a smart guy. You know things that no one I know knows. You've been useful on more than one case. And you've put your life on the line when you've had no reason to think you had to. Jim trusts you more than any one of those guys that have been trained out there. So there must be something to this sentinel thing and there must be something to you or Jim wouldn't bother."

A slow grin spread across Blair's face.

Simon leaned forward with his finger out, pointing threateningly.

"But if you repeat what I just said to anyone, including Jim, I'll deny it under oath. Got that?"

Blair literally wiped the smile from his face with his hand, suppressing the grin that tried to return.

"Got it, Captain."

"Good. Now. As to why I'm talking to you instead of Ellison --- he's not listening to anyone. He's so protective of you I'm surprised the others aren't figuring this thing out as fast as I did."

"You caught us off guard," Blair offered with a slight blush and averted eyes.

"So, will anyone else catch you off guard?"

"Simon, we've talked about this, Jim and I. On the way here. We keep everything professional when we are working, his work...my work. I don't need harassment at the university anymore than Jim needs it here. Okay? But if something happens and it gets to be known, we'll deal with it then."

"Well, Jim needs to tone down his pounce meter. Someone is going to get suspicious fast if he keeps acting like a wild panther protecting his mate."

Blair nodded, recognizing the look Simon was describing.

"I'll talk to him."

"Fine. But I think I will talk to him too. I owe him an apology as well."

Blair rose, thinking the interview over.

"Blair," Simon said before he could reach the door.

"Woah, Simon, not my first name. I thought maybe you couldn't pronounce it. What with it being one syllable and all."

"Smart ass, kid." But Simon smiled as he said it. "Listen. Jim's a very special person. He's put a lot of faith in you. I'm putting a lot of faith in you everyday I let you go out on the street with him. Don't let us down, Sandburg. Don't ever hurt him."

Blair nodded and felt the weight of his world bearing down on him.


 

"You're still in one piece, I see," Jim said very low, bending over next to Blair's ear. The young man glanced up at him from the computer screen.

God, he smells so good...so full of life. Look at those eyes, that hair, those kissable lips.

"Only a few bites. I'll live. Everything's fine, Jim. Don't worry about it. We've come to an understanding, Simon and me."

Jim raised an eyebrow incredulously and backed off with effort.

"All right. So I can get out of protective mode now."

"Yeah, good idea. Or Simon will call you into his office for one of those man to man talks real soon. Try to save the protective mode for serial killers and such."

"Will do, Chief. Grab your jacket, we've got some people to talk to this morning and afternoon."

"Just let me close this file and I'll be right there. Should I bring the photocopies?"

"Yeah, bring 'em. I'd like for a few people to take a long hard look."

Jim stood at the elevator, hands clasped deliberately behind him to keep from reaching out to grab Blair. He rose up and down on the balls of his feet with nervous, frustrated energy.

This wasn't going to be as easy as he'd hoped. He needed desperately to get a handle on this thing. Blair would have to help him with this, help him learn to control these urges to hold and possess that which was his. Blair had helped him learn to control his senses, now his Guide was going to have to help him learn to control his instincts as well.

"You okay, man?" Blair asked then followed Jim into the elevator.

Jim just nodded, afraid of what he might say.

"Jim, just try to relax a little. It'll pass. Take a deep breath and let it out slowly."

Jim obeyed, following Blair's quiet voice as the elevator hummed to the garage level. By the time the car stopped, Jim felt more in control, relaxed and even again.

"Did that help?"

"Yeah, Chief. Like magic. How did you know?"

Blair slid a sideways glance, moving around the far side of the truck to peer over the hood.

"You get this look on your face. I'm about to dub it the panther pounce."

Jim winced. "That bad, eh?"

"Yeah. Ummmm. We need to be more careful about it."

"I'm working on it as fast as I can. I've just now identified it. If you see it happening try to catch it like you just did."

Blair nodded and got into the truck.


 

"How about dinner?" Jim asked as he turned the truck down a street towards a line of restaurants. They had spent the entire day following leads, lunch missed along the way somehow. "Chinese...Greek...."

"Seafood?" Blair suggested as an alternative.

"See food, eat food." Jim smiled at the expression of long suffering on Blair's face.

"Oh man, do I have to put up with this?"

"Yeah, I'm driving and I'm buying. So take your pick of restaurants."

"Does this constitute a date, Jim?"

"Very funny, Chief. Next time I'll be sure to bring you flowers."

"Red roses for passion? Or yellow for friendship? Or white for chaste affection?"

"Red...definitely red."

Blair turned, leaning a little on the truck door to gaze on his partner. Only a few days ago this conversation would have made him very uncomfortable yet he felt only the usual camaraderie he had come to feel with Jim. Only something more had happened, something that made his heart sing with excitement and flutter with joy and yes....red rose passion.

"What is it, Blair? You okay?" Jim asked suddenly concerned.

"I'm perfectly fine, Jim. Everything is just...great. Never been happier actually."

Jim offered him a skeptical glance, hovering between continued concern and bafflement.

"Seafood then. I'm in the mood for lobster...babe." Blair grinned and put a hand over his mouth to stop his silly snickering.

"You're cracking up, Sandburg," Jim said. "I could say horseshoe right now and you'd giggle."

"No way, man. It would take way more than----"

"Horseshoe."

Blair nearly fell over with laughter. He felt giddy with this...this...

God, I'm in love!

He laughed so hard tears rolled down his cheeks and he leaned his head back, hands clasped against his face.

"Jim...you'd better...get us to a restaurant...now or I'm going to explode or implode or something that will make a mess of your truck."

Jim had started laughing too, looking relieved and amused at his young partner.

"How can I take you into a restaurant acting like this?"

"I'm calming down. Watch me. Calm...relax." Blair suppressed another giggle and went on. "Relaxed...everything is fine...calm."

He took a deep cleansing breath and wiped his face free of the last trace of tears.

"I'm ready for my lobster now."

"I'm about ready for you now if you don't stop looking so damned cute, Sandburg. You're driving me crazy here."

"Jim..." Blair said in a chastising tone. "Not in public. And not before you buy me my lobster."

"Lobster. He wants lobster he says. Geez, what I do to keep you happy, Chief."


 

"So tell me, Chief," Jim said while he leaned up on one elbow and ran his fingers down Blair's bare chest. "What do you think is going on with this case? Give me you opinion."

Blair's eyes opened and gazed languidly up at Jim. The detective felt his body reacting again to Blair's nearness.

"Uh. What was the question?" Blair grinned to show his partner he was kidding.

"The case, Blair. Is sex all you think about?" Jim chided with a smile and a tweek of one nipple.

"Ow! You brute. You'll never make me talk."

"Oh yes I will!"

Jim loomed over Blair suddenly, straddling him and holding down the smaller man's wrists against the bed. His mouth caught Blair's in a rough caress, bruising in its intensity. Blair just moved against him, demanding more of the rough treatment. Jim leaned back, still holding his captive's wrists and looked down on his prize.

Blair Sandburg, ten days now his lover. Ten days that seemed like a million or only one. That's what this relationship had become, past and present and future rolled up into Blair.

But this case was really getting to him, ancient Chinese art appearing and disappearing and reappearing in the same ten days that they had been lovers. Jim was starting to believe that someone was playing a cat and mouse game with them.

"Tell me what you think of Mr. Pickworth. You're the people watcher, Chief."

"He's telling the truth, Jim. He's just concerned about his gallery's reputation. Now that woman, the one that was wearing the black dress...."

"Diana Sutcliff."

"Yeah, she's phoney. She's got something to hide."

Jim smiled down at Blair. "We're having her checked out. Simon said we'd have something on her by morning if there's anything to have."

Blair struggled a little, trying to wrest his wrists out of Jim's grip. Jim held on and tightened his hold.

"Then what did you need with my opinion?"

"I like having backup. Those were my assessments as well."

"So glad to confirm you right, Mr. Perfect."

Jim forced Blair's wrists up over his head and held them there against the sheets with one hand, ignoring Blair's struggles. He leaned down again, face inches from Blair's. He could taste his partner at this distance, the aroma intoxicating, the flavor better than any known food in existence.

"You like it like this, don't you, babe?"

Jim watched Blair's fine white upper teeth plunge into his lower lip, tugging on it in a playfully nervous gesture. The action sent a thrill through him and made him want to pounce and take and devour in the most delicious way.

"What would make you think that?" Blair asked breathlessly.

Jim reached around with his free hand and stroked Blair's hardening cock.

"Oh...." Blair moaned. "Good guess."

Jim moved to lay on top of his partner, moved to stroke his erection against Blair's. Then his mouth came down again, this time possessing the young man's throat and neck, kisses and bites, brutally passionate.

They had made love every night for ten nights. Had made love every morning for nine mornings and still Jim was not satiated. The power swam through his veins. The panther threatened to pounce until he had claimed his mate, each morning and evening. And he didn't want it to stop...ever. He luxuriated in Blair's essence, his partner's boundless willingness to explore, go forth into this unknown territory of physical and emotional commitment. He'd never felt so complete in his entire life as he did now with Blair by his side, his partner, his guide, his mate for life.

Blair's throat looked like a battlefield by the time he'd finished and had moved back to the young man's lips. Their tongues met and Jim sucked, while his body moved with rhythm against his lover.

"Fuck me, Jim. Do it. I like it. I love it. Do it hard," Blair gasped between kisses.

"You don't have to ask me twice, Chief," Jim growled back. "Come here."

Jim rolled from the bed and dragged Blair with him.

"Bend over and take it like a man, Sandburg."

"God, I love it when you say things like that."

Jim hurriedly applied lubricant then ran his hands over Blair's bent back and ass.

What a beautiful body, compact yet well proportioned, slender and sleek like a Greek youth.

Jim snuggled up behind his lover, fingers digging into those slender hips and shoved in. Blair gasped and tensed then slowly relaxed as they adjusted to the new position. Jim forced Blair's legs apart further, shoving him down until the young man's face pushed into the sheets and the bed braced Blair's legs.

"So you want it hard, babe? I can give you that."

"Yes," Blair whispered. "Do it hard."

Jim pulled out and shoved back in, rewarded with Blair's gasp and moan. He almost pulled out again, but instead shoved in hard again. Blair cried out with the pain and ecstasy of it and Jim started up a rhythm impossible to ignore. Soon, Blair was meeting his thrusts, pushing back against him to take all of his erection and Jim's hand moved around to grasp Blair's cock, continuing the rhythm they had created with their bodies.

This loving was almost too much to bear at times. The fulfillment carried so much weight, felt so deep and abiding. Jim wanted nothing more than to wrap Blair up in his body and hold him for eternity, basking in this warmth and pleasure and reassurance. No one would ever take Blair from him. He'd fight them to the death and anyone who threatened his beloved would suffer something greater than death.

Blair came in a rush against his hand, thrusting up then back, trying to get full pleasure from both sensations. And that set Jim off like a rocket, pumping into Blair until he'd emptied himself as well. He clung to his lover's smaller frame when Blair sagged a bit, still not wanting the moment to end. He pulled Blair up to stand upright, arms winding around the young man's chest. Jim let his cheek rub against Blair's hair, lips kissing along the neck line and the back of the ear.

Finally, Jim pulled out and lifted Blair onto the bed, snuggling against his bedmate with arms wrapped protectively around his lover. With gentleness belied by their earlier violent lovemaking, Jim brushed his fingers through Blair's hair, moving it back away from his partner's face. The kisses that followed were just as gentle and loving.

"Mmmmm."

"That good?"

"Oh yes. I love what you do to me, Jim," Blair murmured. "I never thought I'd like it like this so much, but I do. With you. No one else though. I'd never trust anyone else with being this vulnerable, man. I know you'd never take it too far...farther than I want."

"You truly believe that, don't you?" Jim felt real astonishment, touched that Blair trusted him so completely.

"I do, Jim. I trust you with all of me, man."

Jim gazed down until Blair's eyes slowly opened and gazed back in return.

"God, I love you, Blair."

Blair smiled. "I love you too, Jim."


 

"Jim, you've changed...dramatically."

Blair whirled around in Jim's chair, staring in surprise at the familiar face of Jim's ex-wife, Carolyn. Taggert came by and said a few words to her, drawing her attention away from him for the few moments it took for Blair to stand and pull off his glasses, glance at the computer screen behind and turn again to find Carolyn appraising him with an almost cold gaze.

"Carolyn, hi. Uh, what are you doing back in Cascade?"

She sat on the edge of the desk in a familiar manner and glanced around the room.

"I wish I was visiting for a better reason, but I'm here for a funeral. An old friend of mine died last week of cancer. I thought I'd stop by and visit friends here at the precinct. I'm surprised to find you still here, Blair."

"Why? I was here when you left for San Francisco."

She looked down, fingering a framed photo on Jim's desk then her gaze rose again to meet his eyes, direct as always.

"I didn't think you would stay on for the long haul is all. I had you pegged as one of those interested in one thing one day, something else another."

Blair tried not to let her shallow impression of him strike too deep. He and Carolyn had spent little time together, seldom had spoken more than simple courtesies. Yet, a sudden sense of irrational jealousy had started chewing at his stomach and he had to shove it down till it lay gnawing instead at his bowels.

"As long as Jim wants me here, I'm here. As long as he needs my help, I won't walk out on him."

It came out colder than he had intended, almost an accusation. He watched Carolyn stiffen, then soften again with effort.

"Well, I'm glad you care enough." She watched him fidget with his glasses only making him more nervous. "But I still don't see what help you could possibly provide Jim," Carolyn continued. "You are only an observer, aren't you?"

"Technically," Blair said, but wondered why she was making such a point of this all of a sudden. Before, she had seemed to take his presence in stride, kind of like a piece of the furnishings. But she hadn't questioned his presence. At least, not to his face. "Jim bounces a lot of stuff off of me. I'm a consultant, of sorts, on the nature of the human mind."

"Good answer, Blair," Carolyn offered, but with a calculating narrowing of the eyes. Like he was a student she was trying to catch cheating.

"Do you have a point, Carolyn? Where are you going with this?"

"I'm not sure yet. I'll let you know when I am." She continued to gaze at him, knowing she was making him uncomfortable. "I'm just trying to figure out why Jim lets you stick around."

"I don't need to have this conversation with you."

"Fine. Will Jim be back at his desk anytime soon?"

"He's in with Simon right now. He'll be out in a little while. Feel free to wait."

With that, Blair turned his back to her, sat and began working on the report he'd been doing before he had been so rudely interrupted.

Had he overreacted? Was she staring a hole in his back? That's what it felt like. Like she was trying to see through to his motives and thoughts and finding him wanting some how. Or that she could see that he and Jim had been lovers now for three months and were happy with things that way. No, everything is fine. She can't see into your heart or your brain. But she can sense jealousy and resentment for all the crap she put Jim through and for having the gall to come here and insult him. He resented her coming back to Cascade and back into their comfortable lives even if it was only for a few brief days due to a friend's death.

Blair stared at the computer and realized he hadn't done anything for at least three minutes. He grabbed at his glasses with an irritated gesture, shoving them onto his face and reading over what he had already written. He heard the door to Simon's office open and Jim and Simon come out, talking about last night's game. He heard Simon greet Carolyn with affection and surprise. He turned, catching Jim glance his way and the surprised expression there when Jim greeted his ex-wife with a kiss on the cheek and a hug.

"Jim, you look wonderful. It's good to see you."

"Carolyn, you too. What's brought you back to Cascade unannounced?"

Carolyn's face took on a pained look, sadness wrinkling the corner's of her eyes.

"You remember Ellen, don't you?"

"Of course. And her husband, John."

"Ellen passed away last week. Cancer."

"I'm so sorry. I know you two were close."

They walked back over towards the desk and Blair hurriedly busied himself finishing up the report, hitting the print button for a hard copy.

"You remember Blair Sandburg, don't you?"

"Blair and I have already spoken. I was just telling him how surprised I was to see him still following you around. He must have quite a crush."

Blair almost choked and was certain the look on his face would give them away. Then he realized she was pretending to be joking and he laughed along with them fake and shallow and irritated.

"Ah, Blair is a real asset to the department, Carolyn. He's been instrumental in breaking no less than five of the last seven cases we've worked on. And I've just about house trained him as well."

"Funny, Jim," Blair flung at them and turned back to his printed report to proof it before letting Jim give it over to Simon. "There, that's what I'm good for," Blair offered. "Paperwork. Do you want to look at this before Simon gets it, Jim?"

"Is that the final report on the Leverton case?"

"The very one."

"Yeah, I'd better take a look at it. Good job, Chief?"

Jim gave him a conspiratorial wink or was it just reassurance that all was well?

"Well, Carolyn, it was good seeing you. Give John my condolences...."

"Jim, I was hoping you'd go with me to the funeral. You knew Ellen and John well enough...I really hate to go alone."

"I don't know, Carol," Jim began. Blair could see the unease creeping out around the edges of Jim's good manners. "We're not married anymore. And you know how much I hate funerals."

"Jim, Ellen was an old friend. Please. I could really use your strength to get through this. She was so young. So vital and full of li..."

Tears welled up in the woman's eyes, spilling down her face. Carolyn's hands went to her face, holding in gentle sobs of true grief. Blair felt a wash of guilt for having been so cold to her earlier. But hadn't she started it?

Jim put a gentle hand on his ex-wife's back, patting and rubbing her shoulder in a soothing gesture. She leaned into him and his arm went around her. Jim glanced up then at Blair and rolled his eyes. Blair offered him a shrug and a "whatever" hands gesture.

"It's all right. Okay, okay. I'll go with you. When is the funeral?"

Carolyn sniffed and wiped at her eyes with her fingers. Blair found a clean tissue and handed it to her without a word.

"Thank you. Tomorrow morning at ten. Should I come by and pick you up? I have a rental car."

"No. I'll pick you up. Where are you staying?"

"Hotel Cascade. I'll meet you in the lobby at say nine?"

"All right, but I feel coerced. You know I can't stand a crying woman." He smiled and Blair knew Jim was trying to joke with her. Carolyn smiled in appreciation.

"Thanks, Jim. I'll see you tomorrow."

Together, they watched her go. Blair felt a weight lift as she went and the irrational jealousy left with her.

"You okay with this, Chief?" Jim asked in a low tone. "I didn't know what else to do."

"I know. Don't worry about it. So you're going to a funeral with your ex-wife. She's still your ex-wife."

"That's very understanding of you."

Blair glanced around to make sure no one was listening in on this subtle conversation, but all seemed well in the precinct. Blair breathed easier for it. Things had been going so well lately, so why rock the boat if it didn't need rocking? He wasn't sure how he would deal with the precinct knowing he and Jim were lovers. And he didn't want to find out what Carolyn would say about the whole thing.

"What? Am I suppose to be jealous or something? It ain't going to happen, man."

Jim laughed. "Glad to hear it, Chief. Glad to hear it."



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not "she". Paragraph 55 - 4th sentence. "And" not "and". Paragraph 76 -
"from" not "form" (again).

The fire blazed in the fireplace, glowing warmly and making the living room cozy and romantic. Blair snuggled securely between Jim's legs as they sat on the couch. Jim watched the game while Blair read up on a class he had to teach the following afternoon for a fellow instructor who had the flu. Jim brushed his hand absently through Blair's hair, playing with the curls and letting his fingers trail along his partner's neck.

"Jim, you are distracting me. I really have got to know this chapter if I'm going to not sound like an idiot tomorrow in front of thirty students."

"You never sound like an idiot, Chief. BS you way through it if you have to. BS does stand for Blair Sandburg after all."

"Cute, Jim. Very cute. How long did it take you to think that one up?"

"Touchy tonight, aren't we? I thought you said you weren't jealous."

Blair turned enough to gaze on Jim with a withering gaze and the bigger man felt his pounce meter rise to near maximum. He loved those glasses, the wire rims sitting just so on that cute nose and those eyes looking at him from beneath hooded lids. Jim leaned forward, his hand going up and grasping gently a handful of curls, pulling Blair back and to the side a little.

"Be very careful, Sandburg or you won't be doing anymore studying tonight," Jim said very quietly.

Blair's breath caught, heartbeat quickening. The tip of the younger man's tongue touched ever so delicately at his upper lip and ran down over his teeth. Then he swallowed hard.

"Jim," he said breathlessly. "I've got work to do."

"You can study in the morning since we won't be going into the the station."

"You are a sex driven brute. Do you know that?"

Jim caught Blair's mouth, his other hand maneuvering Blair a little to get a better position.

"You are the most sensual creature I've ever known, Chief," Jim said against Blair's lips. "You are absolutely gorgeous."

"More sensual than Carolyn?"

"You are jealous."

"No, man....just asking."

"Yeah, more than Carolyn."

"And you say gorgeous too?"

"Yeah, more gorgeous too. Happy now?"

Blair smiled. "You are spoiling me, Jim. I don't know how much I can take."

"Take it all, sweetheart, cause I have so much to give."

"Oh god, Jim...."

The kisses were electric still after three months and the lovemaking had not diminished in intensity as they had expected. The bond had actually grown and Jim thought they were getting along better than ever with their working relationship seeming to actually blossom even more. Blair's insight into culture and the workings of the human mind complimented Jim's senses and his knowledge of the criminal element. Together they appeared to be unbeatable and they were often the envy of many of the other partnered detectives. Blair fit into his life like a piece of a puzzle that had been missing in his life all along. Now Jim was complete and Blair was here in his arms, warm and smelling of spice and that unmistakable element that was Blair's very essence.

Blair alternately relaxed and tensed in his arms, moving against his body and making him hard with his need for this man. Jim pushed Blair down onto the couch and they lay wrapped together in each other's bodies. Jim was just unbuttoning Blair's shirt when a knock on the door nearly had him falling off the couch.

"Shit," he hissed and heard Blair moan in repressed sexual frustration.

"Be quiet," Blair whispered. "Maybe they'll go away."

They listened while the person on the other side of the door knocked again then called out, "Jim, its Carolyn. You must be in there, the TV is on."

"Man, we have got to turn the television off before we start making out."

Jim shook his head and got off the couch. He turned and motioned Blair to straighten himself up. Blair reluctantly obeyed. Rubbing his face, Jim unlocked the door and opened it to Carolyn's expectant gaze.

"Carolyn, how delightful," Jim offered, allowing her to enter. "What's brought you out of the Hotel Cascade at 9:00 at night?"

"I was just driving around, reminiscing with myself. I found I was near the loft and thought I'd see if I could talk you into going out for a cup of coffee."

She glanced over at Blair who stood with arms crossed against his chest, his glasses dangling from one finger.

"Blair."

"Carolyn."

"I don't think so, Carol. We're comfortable here watching the game. Don't really feel like getting out tonight."

She stared at Blair a moment longer then turned her attention back to Jim.

"I'd really like to talk to you, Jim."

"So talk. I can fix coffee if you like or Blair. His is probably more palatable."

Jim heard her heartbeat increase when he mentioned Blair's name and she glanced again at his partner.

"I'll make some coffee," Blair said and moved towards the kitchen.

"No, that's not necessary."

Blair turned back with a "what should I do" expression.

"I'd like to talk to you alone, Jim."

Jim felt the muscle in his jaw jump with irritation and he knew Blair saw it as well as Carolyn.

"Look, I'll be seeing you tomorrow. If you need to say something to me you can't say in front of Blair, then it will wait till then. This is Blair's home too. I'm not sending him to his room." And he noticed that Blair was making no move to leave them alone, standing and looking almost defiantly towards Carolyn.

"I asked you to go out, dammit," Carolyn hissed. "Why do you have to be so stubborn, Ellison?"

"You're the one that showed up unannounced and unexpected earlier today and then again tonight and expects me to jump like we're still married, Carolyn. Forget it. Now do you still want me to come pick you up in the morning?"

Carolyn shifted her angry gaze from Jim to Blair then back again. "Yes, I'll see you at nine. Goodnight."

Jim shut the door behind her, staring at her afterimage on his retina. He had loved this woman once and now all he wanted was for her to go away, out of his life and leave him alone. She had always been particularly perceptive and now....

"She knows, Jim. She looks at me almost with contempt. How does she know?"

"She doesn't know, Blair or she would have said what she had to say to both of us. She may be suspicious and I don't know how or why."

"I didn't say anything, man. I swear it. She did say some things earlier that ticked me off, like she was baiting me or something, but I didn't spill anything. It was the weirdest conversation. Carolyn and I have barely spoken to each other yet it was as if she was suddenly sitting in judgment over me."

Jim's heart lurched at the look on his partner's face. Blair looked like a child in fear of being punished. This secret keeping was taking a toll on both of them, yet neither was ready or willing to make their relationship open to public knowledge.

"Blair," Jim said and went to his partner with open arms. "I didn't think you had. There's more here than we know and I'll find out tomorrow. It's none of her business anyway."

Blair wrapped arms around Jim and Jim thought his partner seemed so young and fragile just then. This was all he wanted in life. Someone to understand him and love him unconditionally. And to cap all that with a cherry, Blair trusted him more than the young man trusted himself. The instinct had driven them together and no man or woman would ever drive them apart.

Jim reached a hand down under Blair's hair, tilting the young man's head back. He bent and let his lips press gently against his partner's. Blair almost swooned under Jim's touch.

"Now, where were we before we were so rudely interrupted?"

Blair waved a hand in the general direction of the couch, eyes dreamy and mouth ready for another kiss.

God, I'm going to devour him.

Jim growled and wrapped his fist up into Blair's hair, pulling his partner back further to have easy access to the throat. Blair moaned in his arms and clung with fingers digging into his biceps, letting him suck at Blair's neck and nip his way around to the ear. He sucked on the earring laced lobe, tongue tracing a pattern up and back down.

"Jim. Jim!"

The detective dragged himself away from Blair's neck and met his lover's gaze.

"Jim. You're breaking my back."

"Oh, sorry, Chief."

He pulled Blair upright and headed for the couch with Blair in tow. Sitting, he placed Blair before him and reached for the younger man's belt.

"If we're going to screw on the couch I'd better go get the lube now," Blair offered. He pulled free of Jim's grip and went up the stairs with agile steps, padding back down with the grace of a cocker spaniel. "Success in my mission, sir." Blair gave Jim a mock salute.

Jim smiled. "You deserve a reward for your successful mission, Private."

"Only a private? Couldn't I, at least, be a corporal of something?"

"You have to earn you stripes, boy," Jim said in his most military voice. "Come here and stand at attention."

"I'm already at attention, Jim." Blair grinned and gestured at his erection trying to come through his jeans.

"That's sir to you, boy."

"Yes, sir."

"Now come here."

Blair moved to stand before Jim, eyes straight ahead as if he were an army recruit.

"Now...we need to get to the bottom of things, Private."

Jim undid Blair's belt and jean button and zipper, dragging the offending garment down over Blair's ass and thighs. He licked at the tip of Blair's cock as it was released form its confines. The breath caught in Blair's throat and sent an ache through Jim that would not let up until he'd had his fill of one Blair Sandburg. Blair stepped out of the jeans and briefs and gave them a little kick to the side. Jim caught the young man about to laugh and gave him a stern expression underlaid with a smirk.

"Off with the shirt, private or do I have to do it for you?"

"Yes sir. I can do it, sir."

"You do that very well, Sandburg. Are you sure you were never in the military?"

Blair grazed Jim with an incredulous glance.

"You have got to be kidding, man. I'd never last a day in boot camp."

"Well, you're in my boot camp now, boy." Jim resumed his military voice.

Blair stood at attention again, but barely suppressed a giggle.

"On you knees, Private."

Blair didn't hesitate. He went to his knees and looked up expectantly.

Jim still sat on the couch fully clothed, a naked Blair between his legs. He hadn't realized how much he'd like this sight. Blair kneeling before him as if he were some sex slave ready and willing to do anything for the master. Hadn't Blair said something like that in his oath? Blair gazed up with innocent eyes, ready for him to take control. Jim reached out, gently caressing the long curls of dark hair, hands moving under and around to pull Blair forward. Blair came without resistance and Jim leaned into the kiss, mouth opening and Blair's mouth responded in kind. He tasted Blair's essence, smelled Blair's scent, felt Blair's blood pounding like a raging river through the arteries and veins. With his eyes closed, Jim forced his others senses to gather all the data he wanted to fully experience Blair.

Jim pulled back some, wanting his vision to add to everything else and before him knelt an angel...no...a spirit...some fey creature who had put a spell on him and had been caught in the web of its own deceit. But there was no deceit here only love and passion and complete need to fill his instincts to the brink with the only real need in his life.

Jim leaned again, mouth covering all the same territory yet never did he tire of the sweet, sweat drenched neck or the smell of honeysuckle and aloe in Blair's hair. He never tired of those full, willing lips and the tongue that drove him to distraction when it was applied to any part of his anatomy. Jim's fingers wound up in those curls and the other hand stroked the young man's shoulder and neck, touched and caressed cheek and chin, smoothed hair from the temple. His kisses spilled over Blair's face. Then he forced Blair to kneel up and began working his way down his partner's body, playing with the nipples until they were sore from sucking and nibbles. Blair was breathing hard, reveling, it seemed, in the sensations Jim was giving his body. Jim licked the little buds soothingly and Blair whimpered with what Jim knew was need for more direct stimulation.

"Stand up, boy," Jim said breathless, no longer caring much about the little game they had been playing.

"As you command, my master," Blair murmured.

Jim reached out and pulled Blair closer, kisses applied to the young man's stomach and hips and down the hardened shaft. Blair's hands went to Jim's shoulders and hung on, leaning a little for support while Jim let Blair's erection slide into his mouth and down his throat, tasting the most crucial essence of Blair himself.

Jim heard the moaning, heard Blair's voice echoing his name over and over again and little endearments that felt so wonderful against his psyche. Blair's hips tried to move, but Jim's hands held the young man. Then just as he felt Blair's coming he loosened his grip and the hips rammed forward in need and he took it all to give all back to his beloved.

Blair slumped against him, leaning hard and breathing hard. Jim pushed Blair back to his knees and cradled the smaller man's head against his chest, stroking dark curls, so soft and full and sweet smelling. Finally, he pulled Blair's head back. The blue eyes slowly opened, mouth partially open and begging to be kissed.

"God," Jim whispered. "Oh god, why do I deserve this?"

A smile crept across Blair's face, soft and sensual.

Jim couldn't resist any longer. His mouth covered Blair's and it was an explosion of sensation. He could still taste Blair and now he could taste even more, different parts, semen and sweat and saliva. And the tastes were wonderfully satisfying.

Slowly, Blair pulled away and looked up at Jim.

"Don't you think its time you shed some clothes, big guy? I feel like I'm in one of Anne Rice's pornography novels."

"You've read that stuff, Chief?"

Blair laughed. "Got on a kick a few years ago. Read all of her stuff in one summer including the porno. Hot if you like S&M."

"Hmmmmm," Jim said speculatively.

"Don't get any ideas, big guy. I'm into intensity, not abuse. Now let's get these clothes of yours off that gorgeous bod."

Blair reached for Jim's belt, slowly undoing it just as Jim had done for Blair earlier. Jim sat back and let it happen, not hindering, but not helping much either, enjoying watching Blair work. He watched the expressive face, the face of an angel or a little devil depending on the circumstances. Blair's hands against his bare skin, sliding his pants off made his erection harden further. Then Blair was licking his cock, the sensation of hands and mouth on him an almost overwhelming stimulation of his senses. His body tingled with Blair's touch, electricity bouncing off those expert hands and sinking into his loins at a pulsing rate of speed.

Just as he thought he would explode, Blair let up. The young man ran his hands up and down Jim's thighs, up over his chest and stomach, but let his cock rest a moment. Blair's hand were on him again, slick with lubrication.

Jim wondered for a moment why Blair always wanted intercourse. Jim would have thought that the younger man might want to give it a rest once in a while. Not that he didn't want it. Actually, being inside of Blair was like the icing on the cake, sweet and intense, luscious even. Blair never seemed to shy away from this final giving and always gave him this, never once denied him this gift of bodies and souls entwined. Maybe it was something Blair needed even if he didn't understand the need.

Jim opened his eyes and watched Blair climb onto the couch, straddling him on knees. That intense blue gaze locked with his and came closer until the eyes closed and mouth was against his again. Jim pulled Blair closer, the throat at just the right height to nibble and lick and kiss until love bites lined the lovely neck. He always seemed to leave some mark on Blair somewhere and Blair had taken to wearing turtlenecks on a regular basis.

Blair moved up, positioning then sliding back and down onto Jim. He watched the expressive face, mouth open in a gasp, eyes closed and head thrown back a little. He felt overwhelmed by Blair's sensuousness. It seemed to exude from every pore, flash in blue eyes, escape from ragged breath and quiver in every muscle. He felt Blair tighten around him, yet they didn't move, just grew comfortable with this position until Blair's eyes opened, dreamy and distant, lips licked then moving against his. Their mouths opened for each other and their tongues did a slow waltz.

Jim let his hands roam over Blair's back and hips, spreading Blair wider and wiggling to push full into his partner. Blair moaned in response and wiggled in return.

Blair's hands were on his face, caressing his jaw, fingertips tracing his cheekbone and around his eyes. Jim tilted his face up for more kisses and Blair obliged with eager enthusiasm. Blair began to move, sliding up and down. With a slow building, the movement increased and Blair didn't release his mouth, hands holding Jim's face. Not until Jim was ready to explode did Blair's mouth let go and the young man gave all to making Jim's orgasm an event of immense proportion. In near exhaustion, Blair sank down against his chest, head secure on Jim's shoulder. The young man clung to him with quivering muscles and shaking hands, heart rate high enough to nearly scare Jim.

"It's okay, baby. You're all right, sweetheart. Calm down. Relax."

"It's so intense, Jim. Oh god. I love it."

That was it. Adrenaline high or something like that. That's what Blair got off on. The combination of borderline pain and ecstasy must produce in Blair a high so potent that he craved it. Jim smiled and was glad he could give Blair such a need for that feeling. And that he could satisfy that need.

"I love you, Jim," Blair said against his neck. "I love you more than anything or anyone."

"I love you just as much, Chief. God, I can't live without you ever again."


 

The funeral had been a sad affair indeed. Ellen'd had three daughters and a son, all of which had loved their mother dearly.

No mommy dearest, here, Jim had thought. And John had looked devastated and beyond repair, a broken hearted man on the verge of collapse. Jim understood the feeling and his mind reached out to his beloved and knew Blair had felt his fear of loss.

Lately, he and Blair often experienced the same feelings simultaneously. Thought the same thoughts, finished each others sentences. They hadn't had a single argument since the panther had lead them into each others arms and they'd committed to each other forever. And Jim was certain that was one of the reason they had been so successful of late on most of their cases. This bonding was deeper than sex and love, it was a wavelength they both ran on just using different methods to get there.

Jim took a deep breath, scanning the road before him with a sharp gaze. Carolyn had been quiet since they had gotten back to the truck. Her tears had been dried and her sorrow contained as best it could be after watching a good friend being lowered into the ground. Such a final state for those left behind to grieve and miss. Jim was just beginning to think she had forgotten what she had wanted to talk to him about the night before.

"Do you want to go get some lunch?" she asked.

"If you want to."

"Unless you need to get back to Blair."

Jim looked over with a stony gaze, knowing it was coming now. She was about to embark on a mission of interference for the sake of something she didn't even understand.

"Blair has classes to teach this afternoon."

They were quiet a long moment and Jim went back to paying attention to the traffic.

"Lyle Masters told me yesterday that he saw you one night last month at a restaurant."

"Oh? Why didn't he come say hello?"

Carolyn shifted uneasily. "He said he didn't feel...comfortable speaking to you just then. He said you looked quite preoccupied with your companion."

"You mean Blair, don't you?"

"Jim..." Carolyn began, leaning towards him with a concerned look. "He said you kept touching Blair's arm and hand. That you two were leaning together, talking intensely. He said you two looked like...lovers."

"And?"

"And?! Jim, what is going on with you? Why do you still let him work with you? He's not even a cop. He's an anthropologist for god's sakes."

"I have my reasons, Carolyn."

"He has really worked his little charms on you, hasn't he, Ellison? My god, the boy is good. I'll give him that."

"Blair is not a boy. Dammit Carolyn. He's a man with a master's degree in anthropology and well on his way to a Ph.D. Why does everyone want to make Blair out to be some dumb kid?"

He had just lost his cool, big time. But he was sick and tired of everyone that thought because Blair was small and young looking that he didn't have a brain or a lick of sense.

"Jim, please listen to yourself."

"What do you want from me, Carol? You want some true confessions? What business is it of yours whether Blair works with me? Simon doesn't have a problem with it. Why do you?"

"This isn't about you and Blair working together, Jim. You told Sharon Johnson today at the funeral that you didn't have a woman in your life right now. But yesterday Simon told me you were seeing someone. Then he clammed up when I tried to get more from him. That's a direct contradiction, Jim. And that's not like you."

Jim stared straight ahead, heading back to the hotel at a speed he should have reserved for worse situations than this one. But he desperately wanted to be rid of his ex-wife and her annoying, intruding questions.

"No contradiction, Carolyn. Just the simple truth."

"Jim, are you out of your mind? What are you thinking? You could ruin your life, your career. For what? A kinky fling with some little gigolo who's wormed his way into your life, your house and your bed?"

Jim slammed on the brakes and pulled to the side of the road. He felt his face flush hot with Carolyn's outrage.

"That's enough, lady. We are not married anymore. You have no right to interfere in my life in any way. I was nice enough to go with you to this funeral and all you can do is insult my best friend and partner and treat me like I couldn't have a clue as to what I want in life. You think you know so much, lady, but you don't. I don't know if you are unhappy with your life or what, but stay out of mine. You walked out and left me on my own. Now let me make my own decisions about what's best for me. Blair is the best thing that has ever happened to me, Carolyn. And instead of being happy for me, you resent it. Selfish, I'd say. Now give it a rest."

Jim pulled back onto the road, his mouth tight with suppressed anger. Within a few, quiet seething moments the truck pulled up in front of the hotel.

"See you around, Carolyn. But I hope not too soon."

She flung him a glare.

"I only said what I did because I care about you, Jim. Truly. I hate to see you throw away your life."

"Whatever you think you know, you keep to yourself, Carol. Go back to your life in San Francisco and leave me and Blair the hell alone."

Carolyn started to say something and Jim gave a slashing motion with his hand. "Goodbye."

She climbed out and Jim gunned the motor, pulling away with a squealing of tires.

Carolyn watched Jim pull away and sighed in defeat and resignation.

Jim Ellison what has gotten into you? Why would you turn so suddenly into some alien creature I hardly recognize?

No, that wasn't fair. Jim seemed happy and balanced. Before she had started with her accusations and prying questions. But Lyle Master's interpretation of what he had seen at that restaurant a month ago had unsettled her to the point that she just couldn't have let it go. And it seemed Lyle had been right, though she still had no direct confirmation from Jim. He had said everything, but that he and Blair were lovers. This was so unlike the Jim Ellison she had known, so unlike the military man, the exemplary cop she had fallen in and then out of love with over the course of their courtship, marriage and finally their divorce. Jim was right. She had walked out on him and now she was sticking her nose where it didn't belong. But she couldn't let it go. She couldn't just catch her flight back to San Francisco and not be assured that one Blair Sandburg knew that she'd fry his pretty little ass if he hurt Jim.

Within moments Carolyn made her way to her rental car in the parking garage and was heading to the University. Jim had said Blair had classes this afternoon. She could assume, within reason, that sooner or later he would have to go back to his office. And then she would have a few words for Mr. Sandburg.


 

Blair pulled open his office door without dumping the pile of papers in his arms. There were too many for his already overstuffed backpack and he clutched them precariously in the crook of his arm and against his stomach. His glasses had slid down his nose, making his vision weave in and out nauseatingly. The pile fell onto his desk in a heap as he pulled off his glasses. Rubbing his eyes, he felt the long day of classes catching up with him. The extra class recently dumped on him had worn him down a bit when coupled with the police work that seemed more and more to occupy a permanent part of his life. He knew why. Jim, of course. He could be with Jim when he was doing police work and that was always a good thing. He had almost forgotten Carolyn's intrusion into their lives when he heard a female clearing of the throat at his open office door. Blair turned to find Carolyn standing there, expression reserved and impossible to read just then.

"Carolyn."

She said nothing and stepped into his office, deliberately closing the door with great care that it latched.

"I'd like a few words with you, Blair."

"I'm rather busy right now. Why didn't you say what you had to say last night?"

She moved closer, examining the office as she moved, hardly actually glancing at him until she was only a foot away from him.

"I wasn't certain what I wanted to say last night or what I knew. But I'm certain enough now to say what I wish before I go."

Blair made an acquiescing gesture.

Hopefully she'll say what she has to say, not too loudly and go away. That's all he wanted was for her to go away and leave them alone.

"I don't know how you did it, Blair. I don't know how you could manage to convince a straight arrow like Jim Ellison to take you to his bed, but its done I suppose and he seems happy enough. But I've seen your kind before, free and easy and full of promises you never intend to keep."

Blair felt stunned and he didn't know why. He expected that everyone that ever found out about him and Jim would assume he had been the seducer, that somehow he had been able to convince Jim Ellison to forget his own sexuality to try a pretty little boy anthropologist who could do things for him that he'd never experienced before. Just like Simon had in the beginning. Man, did that give him way too much credit.

"Carolyn, you've got it wrong."

"Shut up and let me finish, you little slut!" she hissed, her hands balled into fists like she'd like to hit him.

Blair didn't know whether to laugh or be appalled. All he knew was that his face was flushing hot with her insult.

"I don't know how you did it, Sandburg, but he's absolutely mad for you and you can see it a mile away. Why the entire station doesn't know, I can't imagine."

"They're not looking for it."

She glared at him for replying.

"Don't hurt him. Don't use him for your little fling or your dissertation or whatever ulterior motives you may have and then toss him away. Don't you ever walk out on him, Blair."

"I have no intentions of doing so, Carolyn. He doesn't need to be walked out on more than once by someone he loves and he thought loved him. But your marriage wasn't working out to your liking, was it? Was it too hard, Carolyn? Was it too much work or was Jim just not worth it too you?"

Her open hand caught his face hard, stinging on impact with pain and surprise and nearly knocking him sideways. She brought her hand up, trying to slap him again, but Blair caught her wrist. She swung with the other and he caught that one as well. They stood locked, nearly eye to eye, glaring. Carolyn finally broke loose and took a step back. Blair felt her hand print on his face burning.

"Are you quite finished, Carolyn?"

"I suppose," she replied with contained contempt and anger.

"Well, its my turn now, if you don't mind."

She started to protest, but then quieted and Blair wondered why.

"No one in this world cares for Jim as much as I do," Blair began. "What relationship we have is between Jim and me. It comes from us and stays with us and is ours and no one else's. We owe no one explanations, Carolyn. Not Simon, not the Cascade PD, not this university and certainly not you. I will never hurt him and he will never hurt me. That's how much confidence I have in the partnership we have created. We were meant to be together, Jim and I, meant to do the work we're doing. Nothing means more to me than that, not even my doctorate. You belittle him by even suggesting I have the power to seduce him. Jim knows what he wants in life and you would make him into some weak willed dope who can't resist a pretty face. Jim is a strong man, with a mind of his own and if you don't know that, Carolyn, then you never knew James Ellison."

Blair looked away, taking a cleansing breath to get calm and gain his equilibrium.

"Carolyn," he continued. "What Jim and I have is something extraordinary. It can't be defined in terms of love or lust or anything so simple and yet something as simple as an instinct. Sometimes destiny has to be fulfilled whether everyone is happy with it or not. But Jim and I are happy. We are right where we want to be. And we are not going to apologize to this narrow minded, superstitious world we live in with its ridiculous taboos and its prejudices. Please believe me when I say I love him and I won't hurt him. He's everything to me."

He almost expected her to slap him again, but instead Carolyn took another step back, seeming uncertain now of what to say or do.

"I...shouldn't have come here," she said very quietly. She glanced towards the door as if she feared someone coming in. Perhaps she feared Jim would suddenly appear and she would have to explain her presence and the still stinging hand print Blair could feel on his face. "I was just concerned about him. I worry about him sometimes. Sometimes I regret...." With a calming gesture Carolyn ran her fingers back through her hair and sighed. "I'm sorry, Blair. I'm sorry I hit you and that I...underestimated you. Perhaps you are the best thing that has ever happened to Jim just as he said. I hope so anyway." Her face went cold again, hard and icy with determination. "Cause if you hurt him I'll kick your ass all over Cascade. You hear me, Blair Sandburg?"

"I hear you, but you can stop worrying. I won't hurt him."

"I just had to know."

"Well, now you know. Go back to San Francisco, Carolyn and leave me and Jim alone."

Blair still felt the sting of Carolyn's accusations, still felt the pain of being thought shallow, a seducer...a slut. He tried to push it off as he drove home, but the insults stuck like mud to his psyche, making him feel dirty.

How had she known? How had she pegged them so readily? That really bothered him since they had been trying so hard to be business like when on the job. And if they were that obvious, why hadn't others said so? Something had set her off and Blair spent the rest of the trip home trying to figure out what he had done to make her so suspicious so quickly.

Blair dumped his backpack beside the table long enough to take off his jacket and throw his keys into the basket.

"Honey, I'm home," he called in his best Ricky Ricardo imitation, trying to lighten his own mood and hoping Jim appreciated it.

"Hey Chief," Jim offered, coming out of the bathroom. "I've ordered Chinese if you don't mind."

"Not if you're buying." Blair grinned at him and moved to take his backpack into the back room.

Jim's hand on his arm stopped him and the detective's other hand reached out to his face.

"What happened?"

"You can see that?"

Jim frowned in irritation that was not directed at him. "I can see a hand print on your face like someone slapped you. Who hit you, Chief?"

Blair sighed. He hadn't wanted to say anything, hoping the faint mark wouldn't be noticed. He should have known eagle eye Ellison would see it a mile away.

"Carolyn."

"What?!"

Blair glanced away, uneasy with telling the whole thing, but knowing Jim would have it before the night was out.

Get it over with, Sandburg.

"Carolyn came to my office. We had words. She flung accusations. I defended myself. She lost it and slapped me a good one. She just caught me by surprise. I didn't let her slap me again."

"She tried to hit you again?"

"Three time actually. That's pretty good odds, one out of three."

"This isn't a joke, Blair. She had no right."

"I know, Jim, but she felt the need to tell me what a slut I was for seducing you and I'd better not hurt you. Listen, I gave her reason to hit me. I was pretty brutal with my retaliating comments. She's heading back to San Francisco and everything is fine. But I'd better not hurt you or she's going to kick my butt all over Cascade. That's if you haven't already done it."

Jim stared at him like he was some alien life form.

"Jim. Earth to Jim."

"Sorry, Chief. I'm really sorry for what she did and said."

"What happened, Jim? How did she even guess about us? I swear I didn't say anything to her. She said she could see it a mile off and that she wondered why the entire station didn't know."

Jim shook his head. "A guy that knows Carolyn and me saw you and me at a restaurant. He came to some conclusions based on our behavior I suppose and relayed them to her. I didn't think we were being that obvious though. And we were on our own time so I guess I wasn't paying attention. I guess I thought Cascade was big enough that no one would notice us."

"What are we going to do when it happens, Jim?"

Jim glanced away and up, uncomfortable with the question.

"Jim, it's going to happen. Sooner or later. Someone we know will see something, tell someone and people will know. What are we going to do then?"

Jim's sight finally lighted on Blair again, fixing him with a clear blue gaze that melted him into the floor with love and passion.

"We'll live with it, Blair. We're not going to change, we can't now. That's been agreed on by both of us. There's no turning back and I'd rather die than not have you beside me...under me...on me...god, I'm getting edgy and hot just thinking about it."

Jim moved closer and pulled Blair to him. The backpack fell to the floor with a thud. Jim's hands and mouth were all over him then, kissing and licking and biting his neck, pushing away the cloth and trying to get to his bare shoulder. Blair felt teeth sink into his flesh and sucked in a breath of pain and passion. He'd never deny Jim anything, not even his very flesh would he deny this man.

Jim licked and kissed the bite, then nibbled his way up to behind Blair's ear.

"Oh my god," he murmured breathlessly. "Oh...my...god."

He wiggled in Jim's arms. Jim pulled back a little, hot blue gaze searing him, stripping him where he stood, hardly able to stand.

"I love you, Blair and no one will take you from me. You are mine. You belong to me. I'm not ashamed of what has happened between us and if the time comes to admit to the world that we love each other then so be it. Until then, I'll love you in private. I don't need anyone's permission to do that."

"I know, Jim. I just worry about your job. I can probably get away with only a few hassles at the university, but you..."

Jim shook his head again. "I hope you know that it will be you taking the brunt of any disapproval at the station, not me. They won't say much to my face, but you I'm afraid the other cops won't hesitate to tell you what they think of you."

"Like Carolyn...or Simon, at first?"

"Yeah."

"I know. I've thought of it. They'll think I seduced you. That I was gay or bi or whatever their narrow little minds will think or already think of me. But I love you too, Jim and I'll face that if need be. I just can't believe the credit they give me is all. That I could seduce James Ellison. Now that's a hoot."

With a smile, Jim let Blair go and headed for the door.

"Dinner's here." Then someone knocked.

"You are really hard to surprise, Ellison."

Blair moved his backpack and went to the kitchen to gather plates and open a couple of beers. Jim came up behind him, moved his hair to the side and planted a kiss on his neck, just below the ear.

"Man, that drives me crazy."

"Good crazy or bad crazy?"

"Oh, good crazy. Definitely good, big guy."

Jim nuzzled the other side of his neck, arms going around his waist.

"You feel so good, Blair. I just can't get enough of you."

"I guess I ought to try harder."

"No. You're just right. You don't have to try to do anything. You're just right and that's enough for me."

"God. Jim, you are the best thing that ever happened to my ego. Did you tell Carolyn I was the best thing that ever happened to you?"

Jim kissed his earring laced lobe and licked the back of his ear.

"Yeah and you are by the way."

Blair let a silly grin play on his face.

"That's the nicest thing anyone's ever said about me, man. Thanks."

"You're welcome."

"Now are we eating Chinese or what?"

"How about Chinese then what?"

"You've always got a plan, don't you Jim?"


 

Jim felt someone staring at him, but when he looked up, no one seemed to be paying him any attention. He wondered if he was being paranoid or if the signs did show that people were aware of his and Blair's relationship. He stared at the computer screen, tapping in the information he needed on his next case and let his hearing wander around the room in an attempt to pick up any threads of conversation that might be about him and Blair.

This is ridiculous, Ellison. What are you doing? When did you become so damned paranoid?

But he was never paranoid and that's what bothered him. He had noticed way too many searching glances, stares that were abruptly cut off when he passed by or turned that way. And what of Blair? Had he noticed anything, but had been trying to ignore it too?

"Yeah, that's what I heard. Ellison's boy wonder is a wonder in bed as well. Guess that's why Ellison keeps him around. I bet he gives good head."

Jim gritted his teeth and pinpointed the conversation to one between a uniformed officer, Duane Slade and some yet unknown.

"Don't be so obnoxious, Slade," a female voice spoke up. "You know, really it's no one's business and all you have are rumors from some creep down in vice who doesn't even know them. Why don't you do some work around here instead of rumor mongering?"

That was Janet Lovell, another uniformed cop. Jim had always liked her and wondered why she hadn't tried for detective. She had a good head on her shoulders. He'd talked to her once about it and she'd said she liked the beat, liked meeting with the people in the neighborhood. She was good at her job and good for the people of Cascade right where she was.

So it's starting. The rumors will turn into accusations and then what? What would he do if someone started making remarks like that to Blair's face. Technically, the man was correct --- Blair was good in bed, but Slade made sex between two consenting adults sound dirty, trashy...even perverted.

"Hey, Jimmy boy." Slade's voice slid across the room like snake oil. "Where's your boyfriend, Blair baby?"

Jim slowly turned around and the room had gone completely quiet. He stared at the man until Slade began to look uncomfortable.

"Blair's teaching classes today. I'll tell him you asked, but I can't say he'll be particularly flattered by your attention...Slade, isn't it?"

A couple of people laughed nervously and Jim turned back to his computer, glad that he hadn't jumped up and ripped Slade's throat out with his bare hands. That would have satisfied his protective instincts, but would have been a couple of days worth of paperwork.

"Watch yourself, Duane," he heard Janet say. "You don't want to be on Jim Ellison's shit list...ever."

"To hell with the fag. I've got work to do."

Jim tried to concentrate, tried to make his brain work around this new assault. He nor Blair needed this, but it was coming and quick. They had to brace for the storm and weather out this attack. For six months they had made this work without interference. But a new test was about to be heap on them.

"Jim," Janet said behind him.

"Janet," he said turning to meet her gaze.

"I'm sorry about Slade. He's a real prick."

"Thanks, but its not your fault he's a prick." He smiled to show her it was as all right as it was going to be.

She returned the smile with a look of relief.

"There's some rumors going down about you and Sandburg. I guess you could tell, huh?"

"Yeah. Well. Silence is the best defense. I'm not defending myself or Blair to people like Slade. His opinion is pretty meaningless to me."

She stepped closer. "Do you have time for a cup of coffee or lunch somewhere quiet? I'd like you to know what's being said. I'm afraid Blair might be pretty embarrassed by the talk. Maybe you can get Captain Banks to head it off before it gets dangerous."

Jim nodded, shut down his file and grabbed his coat. With a finger raised he delayed her and went to Simon's office.

"Sir?" he said after knocking. "I've got to go out for a few minutes."

"Jim, there's something we need to talk about as soon as you get back," Simon offered with a look of concern.

"I probably already know what it is, but I'll check back in with you in a few. Okay?"

Simon nodded and returned to his phone call.

Jim and Janet headed out to a small coffee shop a few blocks down the street, walking in relative silence. They settled into a booth and ordered coffee and lunch.

"Well, might as well tell me, Janet. I'd rather hear how the whole things coming down from a sympathetic observer than from someone like Slade who'll make a big thing out of something that isn't his business."

"Jim, someone in vice says he saw you and Sandburg kiss each other. I don't know where, but that you had an arm around Blair and that it was pretty obvious that you two were lovers."

"Who was it that says he saw us?"

"I'm not sure. Maybe Reynolds. He doesn't like you much and thinks Sandburg ought to be anywhere but in the precinct."

"Has anyone looked at mine and Blair's arrest record and recent conviction record?"

"Jim, you know they don't care. Not the jealous ones that see an outsider come in without going through the academy or is not even a cop of any kind suddenly being treated like an equal partner by one of the best detectives Cascade has ever had. They resent Blair's status as your partner and they are looking for reasons to condemn him particularly and you if they can catch you in the rumor net."

"Janet, this thing is going to grow," Jim replied to her explanation. "Those that want to bring us down have found what they have been looking for and now Blair and I have to face the consequences."

"What are you saying, Jim. That the rumors are true?"

Jim thought a moment. He shouldn't admit this to anyone without Blair's consent, but he could feel the escalation already and he needed allies. He had to confide in Janet and hope she would be understanding and supportive.

"Yes. The rumors are true. If...if the rumor is that Blair and I are lovers. We've kept it as quiet as possible and have tried to be careful. We knew it couldn't last and that we'd face it sometime. But you know how it goes. You always hope the time will be later. I love Blair and he loves me and don't look so surprised. No one was more surprised by all this than me and Blair. Neither of us has ever looked at a man before in that way until we met each other."

"That's not what's being said, Jim. It's pretty brutal already from what I've heard. They've got Blair pegged as a ----"

"Don't say it. Blair is not a gigolo, a whore, a slut, a harlot or any other derogatory name. It was over a year before our feelings started coming out for each other and I'm the one that made the first move. I was the pursuer. I was the seducer. I convinced him that it was the right thing for us. Now the heat will be on him when I'm the one that started the whole affair. No. That's the wrong word. What Blair and I have is more than an affair. We have a lifetime commitment going and we don't intend for anything or anyone to get in our way, particularly not an empty-minded bunch of neanderthals like Slade or Reynolds."

A slow smile spread across Janet's face.

"What?" he said with some irritation.

Janet said nothing while their lunch came then she leaned over the table and said, "Jim Ellison, you are a passionate man. Blair's lucky to have found you."

"Fate. Destiny. That's what we call it. We were meant to be, Janet. It really is that simple. That's why I have no doubts."

"As I said, Blair's a lucky man."


 

"Jim, I'm glad you're back. Something else has come up I need to talk to you about," Simon said from his doorway.

Jim went directly to Simon's office, even foregoing dropping his jacket at his desk.

"Something other than what you wanted to talk about earlier?"

"That will have to be dealt with. Taggert told me what Slade said to you. It's started. Rumors are flying as fast as 747's and Sandburg is being bashed as hard and fast as if he had a target on his back."

Jim rubbed his face then glanced up at the ceiling searching for inspiration.

"It's going to get ugly quick, Jim and I don't know how well we can contain it. The kid hasn't heard yet, has he?"

"No. I just heard this morning. Then Janet Lovell gave me the scoop. She says she'll be as helpful as she can, but too many love this kind of controversy. They get bored easily and love sticking it to whoever they can."

"Particularly to someone like Blair. He's really vulnerable, Jim. And I need you to keep your cool. No pouncing and ripping out hearts."

Jim said nothing for a moment then glanced up.

"What was the other thing, Simon?"

"God, you don't need this right now, but...well, Jerome Zane is out on parole. He was released yesterday."

Jim felt his heart contract and all he could think of was Blair. Protect Blair. Zane had threatened to hurt Jim, to find the worst possible pain he could inflict on Jim Ellison when he got out of prison. Zane had been his first fully successful case as a detective, from investigation to conviction, Jim had ridden the issue hard and had won the day. He'd been on a cloud of righteousness over that one.

Zane was one sick bastard, an armed robber and a rapist. And he didn't care whose life he destroyed as he went up and down the coast of Washington. Only Jim had finally stopped Zane in Cascade, ending the man's rampage. Zane always picked a place with good looking young women, either convenience stores or quiet little shops. One sixteen year old girl had testified against him and one twenty-two year old. Many others slipped through their fingers because of fear and society's bad habit of blaming rape victims for their own plight. But seven counts of armed robbery had stuck and Jim was wondering how Zane had already come up for parole. Two accomplices had been convicted also on lesser charges and were already out on parole. Now, Jerome Zane was free and Blair was unprotected.

"Why, Simon? Why has Zane been paroled already?"

Simon sighed and pulled off his glasses. "It has to be some sort of mistake, Jim. I'm having it looked into even as we speak, but until then he is free."

"I've got to go find Blair, Simon."

"I know. Go on. Stay with him until we get a focus on Zane and what he's doing. Take a few days off. That might help both problems."

Jim nearly ran from Simon's office, poking the elevator button with an impatient finger.

Come on, come on, come on.

Suddenly, he thought of his cell phone and punched Blair's office number.

"Blair Sandburg."

"Blair, are you okay?"

"Yeah, Jim. What's up?"

"Just stay in your office until I get there. Don't go anywhere, you hear?"

"Yeah. Jim, tell me what's going on. You sound totally panicked, man. And scared...for me. Is someone after me, Jim? Oh god. Who?"

"Calm down, Chief. I don't know anything for certain. Just stay there and I'll be there as quick as I can."

"Okay. I can do that. But hurry. You're scaring the hell out of me."

Blair hung up the phone. One moment he had nothing more to worry about than getting twenty-six essays graded before next Tuesday. The next moment he had to worry that some serial killer was after him...again. No. Lash was dead. Lash would never hurt him again. Lash...oh god. Who then? Being Jim Ellison's partner certainly made life exciting in ways he could live without any day of the week. And other times, being Jim Ellison's partner was all he lived for.

Twenty-five minutes later, the same Jim Ellison was standing in Blair's doorway, glancing around his office as if the man feared an ogre would jump out and devour Blair.

Jim closed the door and went to look out the window.

"Have you seen anyone strange around campus today? Six foot two or so, muscular, dark hair and eyes, mid-thirties?"

"No. Can't say that I noticed. But then there are several thousand people on this campus, Jim and I don't know them all."

Jim really looked at him then and Blair watched Jim's gaze soften. The next thing he knew Jim had him in a tight embrace, mouth covering his with a passion they only reserved for home.

"Jim," he said breathlessly while his partner's lips kissed just below his ear. "Oh Jim...please...this is my office. We...weren't...going to...you...know...here...oh god."

Jim's mouth had his again and he hoped his door was locked since many of his students often just walked right in. What had gotten into Jim? Why was he being so careless...unless?

"Hey, time out. Okay, big guy? You've got some explaining to do."

Carefully and with a lingering caress, Jim released him, letting him back up and sat on his desk for support.

"What's going on, Jim? You've just about scared the hell out of me."

"Two things, Chief, neither good."

"So this is your way of softening the blow?"

Jim smiled then, a shadow of amusement, but the fear returned that was aimed at him and was for him not for Jim himself.

"Spit it out, Ellison. I'd like to get home some time tonight."

"Have you heard of Jerome Zane?"

Blair thought a moment then shook his head.

"He was convicted of robbery and rape a few years ago. I was the investigating officer. Testified against him and fought tooth and nail to see him convicted.

Blair nodded. "Okay."

"He was released on parole yesterday."

Blair's heart did a roll and thump that Jim obviously heard.

"There's more. There's always more, isn't there?"

A muscle jumped in Jim's jaw, a sure sign of anger or frustration.

"He vowed to hurt me real bad when he got out."

"So you're afraid he'll come after me."

"Yeah, I am. He's an armed robber and a rapist, Blair."

Blair shifted uncomfortably and his heart did another little thump and roll.

"But Jim, he doesn't even know me. That was before we had even met. How would he know about me?"

"He had two accomplices. Both have been out on parole for over three months. Neither would do anything without Zane's leadership, but now...god Blair, I'm afraid he'll come after you."

Blair ran his hands through his hair and he closed his eyes against this new fear.

"Oh man, I do not need this kind of anxiety, Jim."

"And..."

Blair's attention flicked back up to his partner.

"And what?"

"The rumor mill has commenced. Someone saw us somewhere and it won't be long before everyone know we're lovers."

Blair felt the blood drain from his face. He had to look like a ghost or, at the very least, like he was about to faint.

"Blair, we knew it was bound to happen some time."

"I know, but so soon."

"It's been over six months, babe."

"I know. It's just kind of scary still."

"We'll get through this."

"How bad is it?"

Jim said nothing.

"That bad? Oh great."

"Pretty brutal from what a friend told me."

"Who?" Blair asked with almost a scowl.

"Janet Lovell. Uniform."

"I think I know which one she is. She seems nice enough."

Jim hesitated and Blair threw him a questioning glance. Jim moved forward, cupping Blair's face with a gentle touch, thumb running over his full lower lip, clear blue eyes searching his face for a response to a statement yet unspoken.

"I told her about us."

"Jim..."

"She'll be an ally, Blair. I wouldn't have if she hadn't been so nice and understanding. She thinks you're real lucky, too."

"Me, lucky? I don't think so, Jim."

"I don't know, Chief. You caught a guy like me."

Blair laughed and leaned into Jim's embrace. To hell with everything. If the station was going to know about them, then so could the university. To hell with everyone and Jerome Zane.

Jim's lips caught Blair's, hands moving up into his hair, holding him there in that wonderfully possessive stance. This was the only place Blair truly felt safe...in Jim's arms...with Jim's lips against his and hands holding him tight and lovingly. Jim pulled back a little, gazing at Blair with that soft caressing look.

"How about we go home. I'll drive and you can leave your car here tonight."

"Jim, come on, man. I hate leaving my car here overnight."

"It's not like someone is going to steal it...again. Please Blair. I'm spooked and I don't want to let you out of my sight right now. This would be one hell of a way for Zane to get revenge on me. He'd love taking you away from me and..."

"Please don't say it."

Jim shook his head. "Oh god, Blair, I couldn't stand it if he got his hands on you."

"Stop scaring me, Jim."

"Then come home with me, Chief. Don't drive tonight."

Blair chewed his lower lip then nodded. "Okay."


 

Lying in bed that night, Blair listened to Jim's heartbeat just beneath his ear, the rhythmic thumping comforting, the large hands holding him, caressing his shoulder and side, warm and reassuring. They hadn't made love, just laid there together, clinging in some abstract fear that something was about to happen and they couldn't control it.

Blair felt his fingers convulse, gripping Jim's arm as if he'd fall if he let go just then. Jim's arm tightened around him and he turned his face up to see his partner looking at him with concern.

"I'm sorry, babe. I'm sorry to put you through all this. You don't deserve it, sweetheart," Jim murmured against his hair.

"And you do?"

"I knew the consequences when I became a cop. You seem to learn the consequences as something bad is happening to you."

"I know what I've gotten myself into, Jim. If that's what this is about. I knew your life could be dangerous being a cop. Don't start having doubts on me now, man. I'm in this too deep for you to suddenly say that it's enough, that it's too much. I want to be with you no matter the consequences. It's my decision, Jim, not yours. I'm an adult and I know the consequences. Turn you blessed protector meter down now. If you want something constructive to do, turn up your pounce meter and fuck my brain's out. Okay?"

Jim leaned over him and smiled down.

"That's the best idea I've heard all day, Chief, but ah...let's do things a little different tonight."

Jim gathered Blair into his arms and rolled till Blair leaned over Jim. Blair reached down to kiss his partner, tongue licking at Jim's mouth.

"Different huh? Like what, big guy?"

Jim's gaze penetrated his soul, sought out his most hidden desires, tore open his heart and healed it back again with love so deep, desire so strong and instinct so primal, Blair thought he might not survive the impact of all the emotion and deep abiding longing he saw there in those beautiful blue eyes.

"Fuck MY brains out, Blair. I want you inside me. I want to feel you filling me up, loving me the way I love you."

Blair stared down. "Really? You want me to take you? I...Wow. Okay."

"Why are you so surprised, babe? Because we haven't? I've taken and taken---"

Blair put a finger to Jim's lips, hushing him.

"No, Jim. I've given. There is a difference. You've taken nothing from me that I wasn't giving with full consent and passionate love."

"But now it's my turn to give, sweetheart."

Blair smiled, pleased with this sudden turn in Jim's attitude.

"I just thought you wouldn't want to. That you'd be giving up too much...ummm..."

"Control?" Jim said with a smirk.

"Yeah, control."

Jim reached up, stroking Blair's hair, running fingers over his lips and down his nose with affection and desire.

"With you I can give up control...for a little while. Only with you, my love. You are my everything. You are my life, Blair Sandburg. I belong to you as you belong to me."

"Yes," Blair whispered. "Oh yes."

Blair pushed Jim into the bed, knee forcing the bigger man's legs apart. He grasped Jim's hard shaft and Jim moaned against Blair's lips. He tilted Jim's head back a little to expose the flesh of the throat. His mouth moved up and down then up to Jim's ear. Wet kisses echoed in the night air, tickling and tingling down spines with delicate fingers of electrical sparks.

Blair moved, drawing Jim's head up to nuzzle his furry chest. Jim searched for a nipple and began sucking, teeth brushing and nibbling then licking again. Blair felt Jim hardened against him, that long length rubbing his own now. Jim sought Blair's other nipple and suckled it as well until Blair's mouth came down possessing his partner's again and their tongues sought refuge with each other. Blair kissed his way down Jim's body, stopping to play for a while across Jim's chest, stroking each nipple with careful administration of tongue and fingers. Down Jim's body Blair continued until he lay between Jim's spread legs. He worked a finger into Jim's hole and heard Jim gasped with the feeling. Blair's tongue licked the long cock, stroking it from the root to the tip in long slurping licks. He pushed two wetted fingers up into Jim and the man bucked from the overwhelming combination of licking and finger fucking. Jim whimpered and thrust his hips down to meet each little thrust and lick. Blair's mouth covered the cock completely, sending that electrical charge through him as he sucked. Jim gave an exalted shout of what appeared to be joy when Blair managed three fingers and sucked the cock hard.

"Oh god, Blair, please fuck me now. Please, please, please. Do it now!"

Blair lifted his head and chuckled. "Are you sure, babe? Cause I could make this last for hours."

"No! Please, now!"

Jim managed to turn over, grabbing for the lube on the table. Blair took it from him and spread the slick ointment onto his cock then slipped his fingers into Jim again for good measure.

"There, I think maybe...just maybe you're ready now."

"I've been ready forever."

"On you hands and knees, sweetheart."

Jim obeyed and waited while Blair positioned himself behind him. The thrust came gentle yet deep. And Blair felt Jim tense up and gasp for breath.

"It's okay, babe. It hurts some at first. It gets better. Oh yeah. It gets so much better. Let go of control. I'll be gentle."

"Shut up and fuck me, Chief," Jim said through gritted teeth. "And don't go easy on me. I was never easy on you."

"You asked for it," Blair murmured. "Paybacks can be hell." But he laughed when he said it and stroked Jim's hips, enjoying the tight feel of Jim's ass pressed against his balls, stroking the soft skin with a velvet touch. And Jim's hole squeezing his cock made him want to ram it hard into that tight hole.

All at once, Blair drove into Jim, nearly driving the bigger man into the headboard head first, but Blair grabbed hold and dragged Jim back, spreading his legs for better balance.

"You like that, don't you, babe?"

"I love it, babe."

"I want to possess you, sweetheart."

"You do possess me. You own me, sweetheart."

"Good. That's the way I like it. Get ready for the fuck of your life."

Blair slammed into Jim again and Jim moaned with the intensity. Jim's body worked at meeting Blair's thrusts, the series of impacts like a thousand meteors striking the earth. The rush of adrenaline fed Blair's need and his need was the man before him, the man he was inside of, possessing and caressing. Blair reached around and grasped Jim, pumping the long hard cock to the rhythm of their lovemaking. Blair groaned and ached, ecstasy rolling over him until he could not tell if they were one person or two in this manic dance of possession.

Don't stop too soon...don't stop.

But his body betrayed him and Jim's body squeezed his cock pumping his orgasm out of him. He let out half a scream and bit down on the rest, containing the whole of the experience, the intensity of the action and emotion and the charge of electricity that pumped in and out of their bodies, mixing and melding between them as Jim came right with him.

Blair didn't know how long they stayed locked like that, breathing hard and leaning against the headboard and wall. He pulled out and dragged Jim down beside him, holding him in a possessive embrace.

"You really didn't mind me talking to you like that?" Blair asked.

He looked up at Jim leaning over him. His eyes felt heavy, but he let a smile tug at his mouth, sensuous and sweet at the same time.

"It turned me on, Blair. Just don't try to pull that stuff where business is concerned," Jim said with a mock stern expression.

"But if I own you..."

"Don't push you luck, sweetheart. No branding irons or whips for me. Got that?"

"Got that, sweetheart. I'd never lay a finger to harm that beautiful skin of yours."

Jim bent low, brushing Blair's hair back away from his neck. Lips and the nip of teeth locked on and sucked, sending tingling fingers down his spine again. He moaned with the sensation of it, body stretching out and fingers locking onto Jim's biceps.

"There," Jim said, lifting his head away and gazing at his handiwork. "My mark is on your neck. Oh, and there's another one. I guess it's a turtleneck for you again tomorrow."

"You just had to do that, didn't you?" Blair smiled, but it faded away quickly when reality struck. "What are we going to do about things at the station?"

"Weather the storm, Chief. Weather the storm."

Jim lay back then and pulled Blair into his arms.

"What if its a hurricane...like Andrew or something? What if it's more than we can handle, Jim?"

Jim's blue-eyed gaze locked onto him, confident and loving and so very reassuring.

"There's nothing we can't handle, Blair. Not together."


 

Blair slid through the door of the precinct, flashing his observer badge to the officer there. The man glanced up at him then did a double take with a smirk forming on his lips. The officer made a show of examining his badge, finally waving him through.

Blair headed for the elevator with a dozen sets of eyes watching him, all uniformed. He felt like a criminal, like an outsider again just as he was finally feeling comfortable here at the station.

No more of that, Sandburg. You'll be lucky if you get to Jim's desk without someone calling you a fag. God, I do not need this.

"Blair," a feminine voice called out. He turned and saw a pretty blond saunter his way. Denise Murdock, computer technician, had expressed interest in getting together some time, but some time was not to be...ever. "I haven't heard from you. I was wondering what happened to us getting together."

"Denise, hi. Yeah, well...I've just been real busy. You know, classes and cases---"

"And Jim Ellison?"

Blair just stared at her and felt a part of himself crash away forever into a deep abyss.

Denise smiled seductively. "Ellison is good looking and all, but I thought you liked a feminine touch. Guess I was wrong about you."

She said it loud enough for every person standing within fifteen feet to hear, as if she'd been put up to it.

"Denise, I'm sorry...."

"You could have just told me you weren't interested. I don't chase after other people's boyfriends. No wonder you stood up Samantha. You were probably already busy in Ellison's bed."

"Denise, please don't---" I was interested...then. And then seemed like such a long time ago now.

"Don't what, Blair?" she said tauntingly.

He turned away and caught the stares aimed at him.

"Forget it," he mumbled and headed for the elevator.

She laughed and several laughed with her. He'd always thought Denise was a better person than that.

Three large, muscular policemen stepped to block his escape, arms crossed and looks of cold contempt a solid formidable wall. Blair hesitated and swallowed hard. He pushed passed them only to have one grab his arm with a steel grip.

"Where you going, fag boy? The door out of here is back the other way."

Blair's mouth went tight with controlled anger. "That's Mr. Sandburg to you, officer. Now let go of me. I don't like being manhandled."

The man let a smirk pull at his mouth. "That's not what I heard, pretty boy."

Others laughed around him, at him and at his expense. Blair jerked free from the man's hold and they let him go. The elevator door slid closed, but not before Blair heard the last comment flung at him.

"Ellison can't protect you all the time, Sandburg. We'll be seeing you around."

Blair came out of the elevator with his mind seeking shelter elsewhere. He shrugged his backpack up on one shoulder and headed towards Jim's desk.

Wolf whistles, loud and obnoxious followed him and when he got to Jim's empty desk he turned and made a theatrical bow, much to the approval of the entire room who only hooted and whistled louder.

Jim was suddenly beside him looking like he was about to start ripping throats and Simon was yelling for quiet.

"If I hear one more whistle or anything else that is not work related aimed towards Sandburg, I'll personally see to it the culprits spend next week on double duty...scrubbing the floors," Simon yelled. "Now get back to work." Simon looked none too happy, but the room stayed eerily silent. Slowly the room went back to a normal hum and buzz under Simon's cold scrutiny. "In my office you two."

"Well, wasn't that fun?" Blair offered with sarcasm and fell into a seat.

"You weren't helping out there, Sandburg. What was the bow all about?"

"What was I suppose to do, Captain? Cry? Stamp my foot and say stop it you big bullies? I thought a little humor might defuse things. It might have worked if Jim hadn't been about to pounce and shred flesh and you hadn't started yelling. Now, they'll know I can't defend myself. That you will be doing it for me. That makes me a target every time I have to go somewhere in this building without one of you."

Jim and Simon stared at each other, then at Blair.

"I think that actually made sense, sir."

"Yeah, believe it or not, the kid was onto something and we blew it."

"Thanks," Blair said and crossed his arms against his chest.

"Well, I'm afraid that is secondary to what is going on with Jerome Zane," Simon said as he sat at his desk. "It's taken some time, but the prison confirmed it made a mistake in letting Zane out. Somehow papers got switched and they let him walk."

"Why can't they just pick him up, Simon?" Blair asked, his interest peaked when self preservation set in. "He's been under surveillance since he's gotten out. That's the only reason Jim has let me out of his sight for two minutes in spite of the fact that I have a half dozen classes to teach.

Simon pursed his lips and looked away with an uncomfortable expression.

"Zane's disappeared, hasn't he?" Jim asked and answered his own question.

Simon nodded reluctantly.

"Damn," Jim hissed. "I thought we had people on him."

"We did until this morning. A traffic accident separated them and Zane slipped away. They called for backup from the other side, but it was too late."

Blair's head hurt and he felt the rough edges of fear cutting away at his stomach, grinding up against his chest and cutting off his breath. He knew Jim could hear his accelerated heartbeat and the sudden rapid shallowness of his breath. He felt his blood pressure soaring through the roof. Suddenly, he felt very vulnerable and he did wonder now if Jerome Zane had found out enough about Jim Ellison to know about him.

"That's it, Chief. I'm permanently attached to you until Zane is back in custody."

"Jim, do you really think that's necessary?" But Blair's tone was less than convincing even to himself. He didn't want Jim to leave his side. He didn't want to ever feel as frightened as he had felt when Lash'd had him, as helpless and useless and terrified. But Zane wasn't a murderer. The convict was many things, but not a murderer.

There are worse fates than death, Sandburg, he reminded himself then shuddered at the thought.

Jim's hand on his shoulder brought him back to the moment, a reassuring squeeze and rub enough to calm his fears for the moment. He forced a smile up at his partner and nodded.

"I'm not letting you out of my sight, Blair. Zane will have to go through me to get to you."

"God, I hope it doesn't come down to something like that." He jumped up out of the chair and began to pace across Simon's office. "Okay, shouldn't we be working on something? I'm so antsy I could do flips. That would entertain the troops out there. And then there's that." Blair waved a hand towards Simon's window, shades half open to reveal the rest of the department humming along nicely.

"Just keep a low profile, Sandburg. Stay close to Jim's desk for awhile and don't go anywhere else if you can help it without one of us with you."

"Will I need you to hold my hand when I go to the bathroom?"

It came out harsher than he had intended, but the warring factions in his head, one worrying about Jerome Zane and the other worrying about the general hostility he had already encountered in the precinct, had him wound up and anxious.

"I'm sorry, Simon. It's not your fault. I'm just frustrated."

"I know, kid. I'll give you a break this time," Simon offered. "Jim why don't you try to stick around here a few days? Catch up on some paperwork. You can drive Sandburg to and from the University and back and forth from home."

"I've got to teach my classes, Jim," Blair said when Jim seemed about to protest.

"Okay, but I stay with you."

"Great, I'll look like I have a baby sitter." But he said it lightly and smiled so Jim could see that he was actually relieved.

"Sandburg, you need a baby sitter," Simon injected. "Now, get out of my office you two and get some work done."


 

Blair stood in the bathroom outside of Major Crimes, wet hands running over his face and back through his hair. He sniffed and tried to get his emotions under control. He wanted to escape, to hide, to not fight more than one fear at a time, but life was never that easy...or simple. No, nothing in his life was ever easy and he wondered what he'd done in his short life to have deserved such bad karma.

No, that wasn't really fair. Having Jim in his life was everything he'd ever dreamed of and so much more. He'd never felt so fulfilled and useful and needed...and wanted as he did with James Ellison.

But a conspiracy to keep him from having a continuously happy existence had made his life a living hell the last few days and he didn't care much for this test of his strength and endurance of other people's intolerances.

He'd been called everything from fag boy to whore by people he didn't even know knew he existed. Why had his and Jim's private lives suddenly become the primary concern of this entire station? Why did they all think it was their right to pass judgment, condemn him as seducer and destroyer of Jim Ellison's chastity? God, this was so ridiculous!

No, again he wasn't being completely fair. Some...many, in fact, had been supportive and had even defended him and Jim if in earshot of the insults and name calling. Brown had nearly knocked Duane Slade down the stairs for calling Blair an ass fucking faggot. Man, were things getting ugly in here. Rising above all this was getting harder by the moment.

Blair dried his face with a paper towel and turned to exit the bathroom. But the door opened in his face, shoving him back a couple of steps. The three uniformed officers he remembered from that first encounter blocked his way out. They smirked that familiar smirk that Blair was beginning to despise. One showed him a sign that read out of order and opened the door just enough to put the sign on the outside. Then he leaned against the door and crossed his arms.

"Well, Sandburg, it was bound to happen. Ellison had to run an errand down to forensics and we thought this would be a good time to have a little man to fag talk with you."

"Get out of the way and let me out of here." Blair heard his voice shake a bit, saw by the grins on the men's faces that they heard it too.

"Sandburg, you scared? Poor little queer boy."

"Go to hell," he said with an angry glint in his blue eyes. He was sick of this bullying, sick of the names and insults, sick of the sickness of homophobia. "Don't you three have something better to do than stick your nose into other people's business? Don't you have some criminals to arrest? Don't you have a job to do somewhere?"

Two of them moved towards him while one stayed leaning hard on the door. They backed him against the sink, the porcelain stabbing him in the small of the back. Both men moved at the same time, grabbing him and forcing his arms up high behind him. One had a hand in his hair, jerking his head back. One leaned into his face with a sneer of contempt.

"Let...go of me. You are going to be in a lot of trouble for this."

"Yeah? You going to tell? You going to go run to your sweetie and tell him those big bad cops hurt your feelings? Scared you?"

"God, you make me sick," Blair spat at them.

The man's big hand gripped his face, fingers digging into his jaw and squeezing until Blair felt tears forming under his eyelids.

"You listen to me, you slutty little queer. We don't need your kind around here. You're not even a cop. You've managed to snow Banks somehow, but the rest of us know the only way you'd be allowed to stick around Ellison is by you blowing him. I'm sure he gets his fill of your ass too. But we don't like your kind. And Ellison better learn to stick with women if he doesn't want to be thrown out of the brotherhood."

"You'd better be careful," Blair said in a low deadly tone. "Be very careful about threatening Jim Ellison. I promise that you will regret it. Now get your hands off of me before I start yelling. Cause if he catches you roughing me up he'll rip your arms off and beat you unconscious with them."

"You're pretty brave for a little shit, Sandburg. I'll give you that," the man behind him said in his ear and twisted his arms up higher against his back.

Blair gasped for breath against the pain, the hand on his face still painfully tight. The one behind chuckled and twisted harder, gaining some sort of sick satisfaction from the infliction of pain.

God, he's going to break my arm!

The door crashed open, shoving the one leaning against it a few feet forward. Blair couldn't see beyond the haze of pain or the big bodies blocking his view, but he heard Jim curse and felt the holds abruptly loosen, shoving him aside into a stall door. He managed to keep his feet, grabbing onto the door for support. His arms and shoulders protested, but held him up nevertheless.

Jim slammed one up against the wall twice and dropped the dazed officer to the floor. With a balled fist, Jim knocked another through the other stall door, went after him and slammed his fist again into the man's face. The third hit the opened door, flung through it and almost hit Joel Taggert who stepped aside in time to watch the man fall to the corridor floor, scramble up and run down the hall. The man didn't even turn to look behind him, just kept running till he disappeared around the corner.

"I'll file charges, Ellison. I'll have your job," the second cop had the nerve to say with a nasal tone, holding his broken nose. "We didn't hurt the little faggot."

"You just do that, Thornton," Jim said in his coldest tone, finger pointing like a sharpened blade. "I'll see you in court or hell, whichever comes first. But if you or any one else lays a hand on Blair again, I promise you it will be hell, cause I'll rip your head off."

Jim dismissed them with a contemptuous glare, his gaze moving to meet Blair's. Blair looked away with a humiliated flush and leaned against the wall. He rubbed the ache from his shoulder and finally looked up when Jim stood before him, the room empty now except for them. Jim reached up a hand, running the back down along Blair's face. The detective's fingers trailed through the long curls, pushing one side back behind Blair's ear.

"God, I'm sorry, Blair. Those morons. We'll file assault charges against them."

"No. Leave it, Jim. That little display ought to get around. Maybe no one else with mess with me. I don't know," he offered with a weary glance away then back. "I don't care anymore."

A look of apparent distress crossed Jim's face, fear of some sort. "What do you mean, Chief? You're not walking out on me, are you?"

"Jim. How can you think that? I love you. I just don't care what these...jerks think of me anymore. No one's going to change their narrow little minds about anything, particularly their homophobia."

Jim nodded. "You're right. What can I say? We just have to get through it till they get tired of the subject. And they will tire of it, babe. I promise. They might never forget and you won't ever make friends with them, but they will back off eventually when they see we're not going to."

"With friends like that..."

"Yeah. Right."

"Come on," Blair said, leaning up and stealing a kiss from his lover. "I've got a class to get to. You're driving, remember?"

Jim nodded again, gave Blair's cheek a lingering caress and followed him out the door.


 

"This entire situation is feeling very wrong, Chief. Four days have passed and no one has even caught a glimpse of Zane or his two buddies. It's like they've disappeared from the face of the earth."

Blair glanced over as they walked and Jim's heart did a little dance of excitement. They might be alone in the elevator...

Not now! he berated himself. They had more important things to think about than that. His instincts had been raging havoc with him the last few days, accelerating dangerously, overloading his circuits ever since that altercation with the three uniforms. His senses and his instincts seemed to be fighting each other in a way that just might lead to disaster if he wasn't very careful. Jim took a deep breath and tried to gain command of this uneasy combat being waged within him.

Blair hit the down button on the elevator and fidgeted before the closed doors. Their floor light lit up and the doors opened. Three people got off, no one but the two of them got on.

"Maybe Zane caught a slow steamer to Rio or something. Maybe he's not even in Cascade anymore," Blair said with a hopeful tone.

"Maybe we need to catch him instead of hoping he's gotten away, Chief."

Blair sighed and looked like he hadn't slept well in quite a few nights.

"I'm sorry, Jim. You're right, of course. But I just want this over so we can deal with everything else that's been happening. Zane is like a dark cloud hanging over us when we're already having a tornado."

Blair had indeed been taking the brunt of insults and sneering glances, just as Jim had feared. Some of it had calmed down after the bathroom incident and most of the detectives kept their verbal distance, trying to keep things on an even keel in spite of the little demonstration the other day, but many others had been sure to direct slurs and taunts Blair's way anytime they thought they could get away with it...out of Jim's or Simon's hearing. But Jim heard more than they knew and was keeping tally of who and how many times Blair had blushed or gone pure white unable to even think of a snappy comeback to some of the more brutal comments. He knew Blair was feeling battered and beaten down by the constant assault on his reputation in spite of his declaration that he didn't care anymore.

They had tried ignoring it all, tried to rise above the accusations. After all, their private lives were no one else's business. But the PD was a brotherhood of sorts that even women had only recently been allowed to enter with full honors, some even still feeling they have to prove something to be accepted. Same sex relationships was even less accepted in a macho group like the police department and Blair was still considered an outsider by many, someone who had brought down one of their own to a lower level. That thought made Jim want to spit nails and crucify someone. It made him want to bash some heads together and force the morons to see reality.

Taggert and Brown and, of course, Janet Lovell along with a few others had openly offered their support regardless of the truth and for that Jim was grateful. And Simon's support meant the world to both him and Blair. But Blair was right. How could they concentrate on putting Zane back in prison where he belonged when their attention was divided between this precinct insanity and Jim's fear for Blair's safety? And he couldn't help but wonder how hard some of the uniformed officers were trying to find Zane when everyone knew if Zane was after someone it would be him, Jim Ellison and anyone he cared about. No, he was getting paranoid. He had nothing on which to base that accusation, no evidence that supported such a theory. Just lack of positive action. Just Zane still not in custody.

They reached the parking garage and headed towards the truck. Jim ruffled Blair's hair and gave him a quick smile, trying to reassure the younger man. Blair tried to smile back, but it was half-hearted at best, bleak for his young partner like he sensed something building to an inevitable climax.

A van gunned its motor and headed towards them. All Jim's senses came instantly into play, his instincts driving him to drag Blair behind him, his gun pulled and ready. Out of his peripheral vision, Jim saw Blair stumble back towards someone who hadn't been there a moment before. Torn between the van and this new person Jim whirled one way then the other just in time to see Jerome Zane step from behind a truck, grab Blair around the neck and put a gun to his partner's head.

"No!" Jim bellowed and trained his weapon on Zane.

The van screeched to a halt and the side door flew open, revealing one of Zane's accomplices holding a semi-automatic weapon.

"I'll kill him right here, Ellison," Zane said rather softly, but the tone was full of intent. "Or my man will kill you and I'll have lots of time with pretty Blair here."

"Let him go now, Zane." Jim's mind raced to find some sensible conclusion to this final insanity. But nothing sensible seemed forthcoming only the overwhelming need to protect Blair and destroy his enemy.

Blair's eyes were closed and face was tense with terror. The young man's fingers clutched at the arm around his throat, trying desperately to free himself and being choked for his effort. Jim could hear his partner's heart racing, thumping like a jungle drum.

"Lots of time to get to know your little sweetheart, Ellison," Zane taunted...and distracted. "That's what he is, isn't he, Jimmy boy?"

Jim's senses were on overload trying to find a solution. A cacophony of sounds berated his hearing, the smell of gasoline and carbon and motor oil assaulting his sense of smell. Blair's terror raged at his protective instincts, battering him until he felt almost blinded by the red haze of rage bludgeoning his senses. He heard, through shouts and a roaring in his ears, the other man behind him too late. The butt of a gun came down hard, bashing him at the temple as he turned. The last thing Jim thought before darkness took him was that Blair was going to miss his afternoon class.


 

"Jim!" Blair croaked, little breath keeping him from screaming out his horror. Zane practically lifted him off his feet by the neck, dragging him to the van and throwing him in. A gun in his face kept him lying on the floor for the few moments it took for them to pick Jim up and dump him into the vehicle.

Blair heard the sound of the semi-automatic being fired. Glass shattered all around and people were shouting and running. Shots hit the van, but a moment later the vehicle roared out of the parking garage and away from the precinct.

This can't be happening. This can not be happening, Blair's mind chanted, but the evidence was to the contrary. He watched past the gun barrel in his face, one of the men, six foot something and well over two hundred and fifty pounds, pull Jim's arms behind him and handcuff him with his own cuffs. The man stayed near with the weapon trained on Jim's unconscious form. The third man drove now while Zane moved a little towards him and put away his gun.

Zane turned to Blair then and smiled, a sight that sent shivers down Blair's spine. The convict grabbed Blair by the hair and forced him face down on the floor, knee digging into his back. Strong, ruthless fingers pulled his hands behind him and wrapped a slender yet sturdy piece of rope around his wrists, tightening the bindings tight enough to nearly cut off circulation.

"Can't have Ellison's little sweetheart getting away now can I?"

Zane pulled him to a sitting position, sitting behind him with long legs on either side of his. Blair shivered again, his terror metallic in his mouth and he realized he was tasting his own blood from where he'd bit his lip. Zane's fingers wound in his hair, pulling him back against the man's chest.

"There, we've got a bit of a ride ahead of us, little boy. So get comfortable."

Blair tried to think, tried to look around to find some way out of this. Jim lay, still and quiet. Blood seeped from a cut that looked deep and ragged.

Oh god, Jim, please wake up. Please, man, you've got to help me out here. I can't do this without you.

"You won't get away with this, you know," he found himself saying before he could shut his own mouth.

But Zane just chuckled, obviously amused. "That must be a standard line these days, Blair baby. Must be standard issue response to when someone fucks up real bad and you're in deep shit."

"The police are looking for you. It won't be long."

"Yeah. Well, they haven't had much luck yet and I just grabbed a Cascade PD detective and his pretty partner in the PD parking garage and got clean away with it." Blair felt the man's mouth move closer to him, body leaning against him. Fingers moved his hair away from his ear and a hot breath teased the tender skin of his neck. "You'd better be thinking about being nice to me, darlin'. Cause I can hurt you real bad."

"There were cameras in the parking garage, Zane. The cops have this on tape. You won't get away with it," Blair gasped out.

The man's moist tongue slid up his neck and along the back of his ear. Blair jerked away, but the hand in his hair jerked him back and held him still while teeth sank into his his neck and sucked hard. He cried out and jerked again, feet trying to get a purchase on the van floor. Longer legs wrapped around his and held him still again while the mouth moved up and down his neck. The hand pulled his head sideways, revealing his throat and the mouth continued its feasting. Blair gasped for breath as the man's other hand roamed over his body, caressing him through his clothing.

"You taste good, sweetheart. Kinda sweet and salty at the same time." Zane laughed softly into Blair's ear, but his own harsh breathing and the pounding of his heart filled his hearing until all else seemed distant and muffled.

Time slowed down and he tried to distance himself from what was happening. The sound and motion of the van helped him concentrate, to drift away from Zane's pawing and licking.

"I hope Jimmy boy wakes up sometime before this is all over. I really want him to watch us...you know...get it on."

Blair felt jolted back to the moment.

God, I'm going to be sick.

"Won't be long now, little sweetheart. We're almost there."

Blair looked again at Jim's still form and saw the first signs of movement. A moan escaped from Jim's lips and the gun trained more closely on the stirring man.

The van made an abrupt turn to the left then another to the right and stopped. Zane pushed him out before him, gun back in the man's hand and at his head with an arm once again around his throat. He heard rather than saw the other two hauling Jim out of the vehicle and dragging him towards the same house Zane was heading for.

Inside, Zane shoved Blair down onto the polished wood, his knees striking the floor in a burst of pain up his legs. Zane left him there and concentrated on getting Jim into and cuffed to a chair before the detective gained full consciousness. When the man had finished he came to stand over Blair, towering over him like a vulture waiting for him to die.

"Now, I think we'll wait a little while till Ellison has had a chance to wake up some more and see what's going on. What do you think, sweetness? The party can't start without the guest of honor, don't you agree?"

"You can still stop this, Zane," Blair offered in return, controlling his terror and the shaking of his voice. "You can walk out of here and you can disappear for good. You'll have thrown away this opportunity to escape for nothing but revenge."

"Nothing but revenge? What more is there?"

"Justice."

Blair glanced up sharply at hearing Jim's voice. Zane turned slowly and grinned at his newly awakened captive. Blair watched his partner swallow hard, jaw clenched against pain. Jim's eyes looked glassy, but he was coherent and his gaze focused on Zane.

"Justice, detective? Your justice don't mean a thing to me."

"That's what's wrong with this world, Zane. People like you who don't care. Even go out of your way to destroy lives then want revenge when society makes you pay for your crimes. You can't have it all."

Jerome Zane smirked, glancing up and down at Jim with an incredulous expression.

"But I think I can have it all, Ellison. Fate has given me this moment of revenge. It was handed to me on a silver platter. Then to have such a sweet way of achieving my revenge...well, how could I pass that up? When I'm finished with you two, I'll take my time getting out of town. It's all arranged. But business comes first." Zane reached down and dragged Blair up to his knees by his shirt. "Or maybe pleasure should come first in this case. You know, Ellison, I used to like the pretty girls. Remember all those pretty girls I had before you brought me down?" Zane didn't wait for Jim to answer. "But now, after spending some time in prison I've developed a liking for pretty boys too. And there are so many pretty boys to choose from, none too willing, but available all the same. I like them that way. I see you like the pretty boys too or, at least, one pretty boy."

Zane gave Jim that same spine chilling smile, but this time it was full of self-righteous smugness.

Blair saw fire flash in Jim's eyes, the instinct blazing there, primitive...primal...protective. And yet, impotent because of metal cuffs holding him to the rails of a sturdy chair.

"Let him go, Zane," Jim growled. "I swear you'll pay for this. I'll hunt you down to the ends of this earth if you hurt him. You wanted me. You got me. Blair doesn't have anything to do with this. He's not responsible for anything you are blaming on me."

"You'd like that, wouldn't you, Ellison? Let little Blair go. But he means so much to you. My friends here have been watching you two for months now and this one means the world to you, doesn't he, detective? I'll do as I please with your little sweetheart here. He's real fine, Jimmy boy." Zane moved behind Blair and dragged his head up by his hair, holding him there while Zane's other hand ran over his face and down his neck. "Real fine piece of flesh."

Blair struggled then, trying to pull away from Zane's hold. Zane jerked him back and kicked him in the side.

Jim let out a wordless bellow and tried without success to get free of the handcuffs and the chair. One of the accomplices moved forward, gun out and aimed at Jim. The third man's fist lashed out, striking Jim's cheekbone with a thud then again just above the eye.

"Stop it! Stop it, damn you!" Blair shouted.

"Enough. I have a much better idea of how to handle this," Zane said in a voice that sought to be reasonable. "Now, Blair...baby...come on." Zane moved to sit in a comfortable chair and dragged Blair on his knees over to face him. "Here's the deal, babe. There's Jimmy boy with a gun on him. If you do as you're told JoJo there won't shoot him. You fight me or balk at what I want you to do...he shoots Ellison in the shoulder. You still give me trouble, he shoots Ellison in the other shoulder, then the knee, then the other knee and so forth. Do you understand what I'm saying to you, little boy?"

Blair stared at Zane, refusing to comprehend just then. He shook his head, eyes glazing over with near shock.

Zane couldn't mean what he thought he meant...couldn't... Oh god. This is bad. This is so bad. Jim! Do something!

But he knew there was nothing to be done. This moment was driving towards a terrible climax, a cliff he was about to be shoved over...oh god...please...no!

Zane twisted Blair's head around to the side so he could see Jim. Their gazes met, partners seeking mutual guidance and reassurance and there was neither to give for either of them.

"You're not stupid, boy. I know that. Pull yourself together. You want JoJo to shoot your lover boy?"

Blair shook his head again and watched Jim close his eyes in anguish.

"God no, Blair. Don't do it," Jim whispered.

"Don't hurt him," Blair whispered in return, a sob almost escaping him.

"JoJo won't shoot him if you do what I want you to. Now, come on, baby. You and I can be real good together. I know we can."

"Stop it, Zane! I swear I'll kill you if you do this to him," Jim yelled. "I swear I'll hunt you down and tear you to pieces with my own hands."

But Zane wasn't listening. He had Blair's face in his hands then, caressing and running fingers back through the soft dark curls. Hands drew Blair's face up and lips moved against his, forcing his mouth open. He fought down the urge to struggle, trying again to distance himself, to think of Jim dead, horribly dead, full of bullets and blood seeping out. He had to think of this image to keep the image of Zane out of his mind, to not fight, to keep from going into heaving convulsions.

He heard Jim yelling, voice reverberating in his ears, screaming threats and obscenities so unlike his partner. Jim's terror was tangible now and racing his to the finish line. Jim's voice broke off abruptly into muffled silence. Somewhere in his inner self he heard Jim's anguished plea, pushing through his resolve, passed his terror and his need to save Jim.

'Don't do it, Blair. Don't let him do this to you. Not because of me.'

'I have to Jim. I have to save you. Please...please don't make this any harder than it already is.'

He felt Jim's mind caressing his, easing his terror with his presence. Jim rested there inside of his thoughts, drawing strength from somewhere unknown and feeding it to him.

Zane's tongue worked its way around Blair's mouth, lips sucking at his. Suddenly, the man pushed Blair back and struck him across the face with a backhanded blow. Just as suddenly Zane had a hold of him again, running hands over his face and acting like they were the most intimate of lovers. The lips were on his again, brutal this time, hands knotted in his hair, holding him on his knees with his wrists still bound behind him.

Blair felt his helplessness as acutely as ever. This was worse than Lash...worse than thinking he was about to die...wondering if it would hurt or if he'd even be conscious when it happened. Yes, indeed there were worse fates than death and he faced it this very moment. And the worst was that they were making Jim watch this demeaning act he was being forced to perform.

Zane pushed Blair back again and struck him, backhanded fist smashing into his cheekbone in a mimic of what had been done to Jim only a little while ago. He felt a gasp escape him and his body go sideways with the blow. Zane caught him, hauled him back to his knees and hit him again. He felt blood, warm and salty run from his lower lip. He coughed as some of the blood ran back down his throat and choked him.

Why was Zane doing this to him? No, don't ask. It's better than the alternative. It would take Zane longer to get to...to...no, don't think of it!

Jim's essence swirled around him, clouding the terrible thought of what Zane intended to do to him. Only Jim's ethereal presence kept his sanity intact.

Again, Zane held him up and pressed lips to his. The man licked the blood from Blair's chin then moved down to start sucking on his neck. His head was forced back, throat exposed like a sacrificial lamb. But like a flash of inspiration, the driving thought of Jim and the panther becoming one, broke through the continued assault on his physical being. The panther readied itself to pounce and rip flesh and tear out hearts. The imagery grew vivid in his mind's eye, a vision of his blessed protector coming to his aid, destroying his enemies, taking back what belonged to the Sentinel.

Blair felt hands on his shirt, slowly unbuttoning each button. Hands pushed back the garment from his shoulders, letting it fall against his bound hands. Hands were at his belt, but then moved instead somewhere else.

"I've got something here for you, sweetheart. A test of your endurance. I'm going to see what you are made of, little boy. Test that resolve of yours. Or maybe I just want to see James Ellison full of bullets."

Blair opened his eyes to see Zane working at his own belt instead, pulling open his jeans. Blair leaned back away from the man, knowing where this was going.

"Come on, baby. You're going to suck me or Ellison gets a bullet in the shoulder. Or maybe we'll just go straight for the groin. What do you say, darlin'?"

"Please..." Blair whispered and it came out a sob. "Don't make me do this. Please..."

Zane's smile turned into a leering grin.

"Let's do it, boy. Or your partner there won't ever fuck your pretty ass again."

Blair felt Zane's hand in his hair, pulling him forward. Horror and nausea had him by the throat, choking him, making the room spin in dizzying circles.

Again, the image of the panther filled Blair's inner vision and a roar and crash sounded behind him, a roar like an enraged animal ready to protect its mate. Screams filled the room. The sound of a gun going off deafened him. Something shoved him sideways and he rolled, eyes tightly shut as the fury whirled, tearing and shredding, growling and roaring like a thousand rampaging lions whose hunger could not be sated.

Silence descended and Blair thought for a moment that he had gone deaf. Slowly, sound returned, a rustling of cloth brushing against cloth and heavy breathing that was not his own. Someone knelt beside him and he tensed in a moment of crystallizing terror. But the hands that reached for him were familiar and gentle, loving and...bleeding.

"Jim," Blair sobbed and his partner gathered him up in strong arms, holding him while the terror melted away with his weeping.

"Blair, my Blair," Jim murmured and reached to pull his shirt together, buttoning it back up.

Blair glanced at the hands, a metal cuff still wrapped around each of Jim's mangled wrists. Blood oozed from around the edges.

"Oh god, Jim, you're bleeding."

"I'm okay. Let me get these ropes off of you."

"What happened? How did you...?" Blair looked around and indeed, a wild animal named James had nearly wrecked the room. The three men lay strewn about, unconscious or dead, he didn't know and was afraid to find out. Then he saw that each had been securely bound and hoped that meant that each still lived, even Zane and that Jim had stopped short of murdering the bastards.

"I couldn't let you do that, Blair. It's my job to protect you. To keep you safe and I failed you."

Blair was shaking his head, but Jim was nodding.

"Yes, I failed you and you were forced to make a terrible choice just to keep me from being shot."

"I didn't know what else to do, Jim." Blair started sobbing again and pressed his face against Jim's chest, unable to face what he had almost been forced to do. "I want to go home. Please let's go home."

"We will, Chief. I've called, now we just have to wait for the police to get here. Then we'll go home. I don't know whose house this is, but I'd bet Zane didn't have permission to use it. Do you need a doctor?"

"No. I'm okay. I've been beaten up worse than this and not gone to the hospital." Blair reached up, touching gently the cut at Jim's temple. "What about you? You were unconscious. You could have a concussion or something."

"I'm fine. The panther saw to that."

A light went on in Blair's head and his gaze sharpened.

"Jim, did you...talk to me...in my head?" He felt so rattled he couldn't even think of the technical term.

Jim smiled, blue eyes lighting up with relief and something more undefinable. "Telepathy? I don't know, Blair, but something happened. They put tape over my mouth and I just started thinking at you, trying to get you to fight him. And why should we be surprised about this after everything we've found out about ourselves?"

Blair nodded and tried to calm down.

Jim's gaze softened to something that looked like adoration.

"I love you so much, babe. I couldn't stand the thought or sight of that animal pawing at you, kissing you and then when he had the most beautiful creature in this world in his hands that he could strike you. God, Chief, I almost killed him for what he did to you."

"Please Jim, I don't want to think of Zane anymore. Please just hold me."

They leaned against the wall wrapped up together until they heard the sound of sirens.


 

Jim was still holding Blair when the police came. Simon pushed through the other officers and stood staring at the havoc that had been wrought. Then he moved forward, standing over Jim and Blair, staring in wonder and something very close to a renewed respect.

"Jim, you and Sandburg okay?"

Jim watched as Simon's gaze moved to Blair's still form in his arms, still pressed into him and clinging like he'd fall from a cliff if he let go.

"We'll live, Simon, but it was bad. He's pretty traumatized right now."

Simon nodded. He glanced back over his shoulder at the paramedics moving to examine the still unconscious convicts.

"And I thought, at least, one of the ambulances would be for one of you."

"I almost killed them, Simon. I almost ripped their throats out." Jim's gaze sought the ceiling as he struggled with the desire to do just that even now. His hands pulled Blair closer and hung onto the smaller man.

Simon hunkered down and leaned towards them.

"Jim, you and Blair ought to be examined by the paramedics. Maybe you two should go to the hospital."

"I don't want to go, please," Blair said in a small voice. "I want to go home. I'm not hurt, really."

"You could have fooled me, Sandburg. You haven't looked in a mirror lately have you?"

Blair shook his head.

"We'll let the paramedics take a look, Captain. But we'd really like a ride home as soon as possible. I'll get my truck later."

"It's a deal. I'll get one over here."

Jim watched the captain rise and move across the room, saw him beckon a young woman over and bend to talk to her privately.

"We're going home in a few minutes, babe. Everything will be fine."

"I know. I'm okay."

"You're shivering."

"Normal reaction, man. Terror does that to a body. Uh, Jim?"

"Yeah, Chief?"

"Do you realize that you have your arms wrapped around me in front of a bunch of police officers?"

"Yeah, Chief, I do. I doubt they're going to say anything ever again to you or me. I doubt they'll have much of anything to say about it. If they do, I'll have to remind them of what Zane and his accomplices looked like after I finished with them."

Blair laughed, an almost hysterical little chuckle. He grinned even with a few more tears escaping his defenses. Jim saw him bite his lower lip then wince in pain. Jim leaned down and gently kissed the corner of Blair's bruised mouth, hand caressing his partner's cheek with that adoration again.

"Detective Ellison?" The female paramedic had come over to them, kneeling down with her medical case beside her. "Captain Banks says I need to check you and Mr. Sandburg over, just to be sure you're all right and don't need further medical attention."

"Yes, thanks. Here," Jim said and maneuvered Blair out of his embrace. "Go ahead and look him over. I just need to talk to the captain a moment." He rose and let a hand run back over Blair's hair. "I'll be right over there with Simon, Chief. Don't go anywhere."

"Funny, Jim," Blair said, but gave him a fleeting smile.

Jim drew Simon aside, glancing over his shoulder once to see the paramedic talking quietly to Blair, checking the bruises and cuts on his face. Other than emotional trauma, Blair looked like he'd recover. But Jim still watched, still feared the damage that could have and may have been done in these few hours of hell.

"Jim, what happened? I had a half-dozen cops come running to tell me you'd been snatched. Weapons were fired. A few say they only saw the last of it and the van was moving fast. It was too late for anyone to stop it by the time they'd figured out what was happening. But we have it on tape. Zane must have been crazy to think he'd get away with this."

"I know he is, Simon. But he was still smart enough to distract me long enough for him to use Blair against me. They came from three directions. I couldn't focus enough to stop from being hit from behind. I should have realized that the van was a distraction while Zane came up and grabbed Blair."

"Is he all right?" Simon asked with a glance thrown back Blair's direction.

"As I said, he's been traumatized."

Simon pulled out his handcuff key. "Here, let me get those off of you."

Jim put out a wrist then offered the other. He couldn't help seeing the awe Simon displayed as he examined the broken lengths of chain dangling from the metal cuffs.

"Jim, those guys are messed up pretty bad. I hope we can keep police brutality from being brought up against you."

Jim felt the fury rise up in him again, the desire to rip out Zane's heart and feed it to him. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly just as Blair had taught him and let it take some of his rage with it.

"Simon, Zane was going to rape him in front of me. He had his hands all over Blair, taunting me with it. He was going to force Blair to have sex with him and if he didn't do it, they were going to start putting bullets in me."

Simon's eyes went wide open, shock and disgust vying for prominence with the expression on his face.

"I will not apologize or feel any remorse for what I did to those bastard perverts. I was defending my---defending Blair and myself. Zane and the other two are lucking they're not dead right now."

Simon nodded.

"I'll be sure the powers that be understand exactly what was at stake here. I'll take care of it, Jim. You take care of Sandburg. And get yourself taken care of while you're at it. You've got quite a cut at your temple and your cheekbone."

"Thanks for understanding, Sir."


 

Blair lay in bed waiting for Jim to come up from the bathroom. He turned onto his back and stared up at the shadowy ceiling, trying to get the memory of Zane out of his brain, off of his skin, out of his mind's eye.

Would this be his new nightmare for the next three months? Zane's mouth on his, making him feel sick and helpless? How long had it taken to get the memory of Lash laid to rest? Too long, he remembered and refused to let that vision back in to haunt him again.

This night would be the either/or, if he would or if he wouldn't be plagued with Zane biting his neck, licking his ear, breathing against his throat in every dream for the next who knew how many months.

No!

The only one he wanted to think of in those terms was Jim. Only Jim could kill these newly forming memories, destroy them before they had their claws in him. He couldn't let these thoughts fester. That was just the sort of thing that so easily came between people that loved each other yet somehow were driven apart by memories of this kind.

But he wasn't raped. Jim had stopped Zane in time. Jim...Jim...Jim...his everything.

When they'd gotten home, he had gone into the bathroom and thrown up. And Jim had been there to hold him afterwards, help him out of his clothing and shower, brush his teeth and try to feel clean again.

It was so like the night that Jim had saved him from David Lash. Except this time, Jim would climb into bed with him and hold him and they would make love.

Yes, that was what he needed to put away these terrible thoughts that would become his dreams if he didn't chase them away.

Blair rolled to his side and waited, hearing Jim moving around the loft, turning down the lights and checking the locks for the night. He heard Jim's quiet footsteps on the stairs and leaned on one elbow to watch his lover emerge.

"Still awake, babe?"

"I was waiting for you, babe."

"Good, I want to snuggle up with you."

Blair smiled and watched Jim undress. He was constantly amazed at what a handsome body Jim had. His Sentinel was as beautiful as he was talented, a true hero in every sense of the term. Blair threw a thank you up to the gods, any that would listen that this man had been given to him, to help, to lead at times, to follow always and be his companion for a lifetime and perhaps several lifetimes to come.

Jim slid into bed and gently pulled Blair into his arms, seeming to be taking special care not to be rough in any way.

"I'm all right, Jim. I'm not that fragile. I'm not going to break so easily. I promise."

"I can't help but worry, sweetheart. You were roughed up pretty bad today. What Zane did...what he was going to do...."

Blair put a finger to Jim's lips and he leaned up over his partner.

"Jim, don't. Not tonight. I know I'll need to talk about it. I know I'd probably best go see the shrink just to be sure I've got a handle on this thing, but lets not talk about Him tonight. I don't want to have nightmares. If I have them tonight, I'll have them for months. And if you need to talk about it, I'll listen. I'll do that for you. But just not tonight."

Blair bent down, letting his lips brush against Jim's, ignoring the slight pain from his battered mouth. The kiss deepened, gentle still, yet intense with need for connection.

"Make love to me, my Sentinel. Make me forget that another man ever touched me."

"Blair, are you sure that's what you want? Are you certain that's what you need?"

Jim's expression of concern and love almost made Blair cry.

"It's what I need. I want only a vision of you in my mind as I go to sleep tonight and when I dream let it be of you and only you."

Jim moved and rolled Blair over onto his back. The kiss against his cheek was blissfully sweet. The mouth, soft and comforting, traced a line along his bruised cheekbone, nipped at the end of his nose, brushed his closed eyelids and rested against his temple. The fingers brushed back his hair and lay like feathers against his cheek.

Blair opened his eyes and he gazed up, tears finally coming and he felt Jim's fall against his face, sliding into his mouth and tasting salty.

"I'll make love to you, my Guide," Jim said, low and lingering with melodious melancholy. "And it will be gentle and loving and everything you'll ever need in your entire life."

Blair smiled and knew his dreams that night would be clean and sweet and filled with his Sentinel.