Recovery Epic

Cycle Three: Partnership


066. Rain

Blair walked past Jim and back into the loft they had shared for so long. This was the first place he had ever called home, and now, looking around, the pieces that made it home were gone.

"Bobby moved out about a month ago, and Simon closed the place up for me," Jim said. As he hung his keys over a hook and then added his jacket over it. Somehow Blair found himself missing the basket that had once caught their keys, even though the last time he had seen it, he had been dropping his keys to Jim's life into it one at a time as he pulled them off the key ring. But now the very fact that the basket with the mail scattered around it was gone, heck the whole table was gone, it just didn't feel right.

"It's a little empty," Blair commented. The baskets and giant pots that lived on top of the kitchen cupboards, the jar of spatulas and skewers that stood next to the stove, the collection of magazines that normally lived on the coffee table, the bills that Jim would jam between the phone of the wall, the red and black blanket that was normally folded over the back of one chair: it was all gone. Only the major furniture was left, draped in sheets as though dressed up for Halloween.

"Yeah, Chief, but we can fill it up again." Jim dropped their suitcases inside the door and went over to the couch where a white sheet was draped over it. He started pulling the fabric from the couch, and even Blair could smell the dust rising in the air. He couldn't even imagine how much the smell had to be annoying Jim, but the Sentinel just kept going from one piece of the furniture to another ripping off the sheets. Before long, the television and chair, and the couch in the kitchen table had all reappeared.

"Right, I'll get the broom and dustpan." Blair headed for the kitchen automatically before it dawned on him that there probably wasn't a broom in there anymore. Yeah, Jim had been with him in Phoenix, but he still couldn't imagine someone else walking around their home, moving the things that Blair remembered. Blair stopped without warning and Jim bumped into him from behind.

"I'm going to buy you brake lights, Chief," Jim complained.

"Hardy har har, man." Blair covered his moment of confusion with a complaint of his own, but Jim stopped with one hand on Blair’s shoulder. When Blair turned to look at him, he saw from the expression that Jim understood. Jim had a slightly panicked, confused expression that matched what Blair felt. Blair opened his mouth to say something, anything that would fill this awkward silence.

"Simon left cleaning supplies right where they used to be, so don't think you're getting out of your half of the chores," Jim said quickly.

"Oh man, we've been driving for 6 hours today, and your first thought when you get home is to clean. There is something seriously wrong with you."

"I just like a clean place, Chief." Jim walked past him and opened the cupboard under the sink. The allergy-sensitive cleaners in their white labels stood lined up neatly.

By the time the loft had reached Sentinel-approved cleanliness levels, the sun had faded and Blair lay sprawled across the couch in exhaustion. He eyed the stairs that led up to the loft and wondered whether he would even make it to the top. Of course, Jim was currently putting the only clean sheets in the apartment on his bed. Jim's bed. Blair glanced at the stairs again and then at the small room under the stairs. The futon had a plain brown cover and a couple of couch pillows sitting on it, but it was clear the room wasn't a bedroom anymore. But then again, Blair wasn't exactly comfortable inviting himself upstairs.

White curtains that Bobby must have added lazily flopped in the breeze that drifted into the windows, and Blair turned his head toward the fresh air. The air in Phoenix had smelled of dust... nothing else, just dust. Now Blair could smell the salt of the ocean and the tangy scent of fresh cut grass. Of course he could also smell car exhaust, but no place was perfect.

"You about ready for bed, Chief?"

"Man, I think I might already be asleep." Blair emphasized his words by closing his eyes and letting his head flop back against the couch. Jim chuckled.

"I thought I was supposed to be the old man here. Aren't you supposed to be the young pup with all the energy?"

"Don't you dare start, Jim Ellison," Blair threatened as he opened one eye. "You don't exactly qualify for Social Security." Blair let his eye fall closed again. Part of him wanted to talk about this sudden strangeness, this sudden feeling that the home he had longed for over the last several months suddenly wasn't his home… the feeling like everything was a half a centimeter off and he didn't fit. Part of him wanted to meditate and talk and discuss until this feeling of wrongness passed. Another part of him was just too damn tired to care. And if he was going to be absolutely honest, a big part of him was quickly getting in touch with a huge reservoir of fear and panic.

"No, Chief, I guess I don't." The silence of the room grew heavy, and if he'd been with anyone else, Blair would have faked sleep. Unfortunately, he was with a Sentinel who wasn't likely to be fooled. Jim had been leaning against the railing, but now Blair heard him walk over to the chair, and Blair assumed that the man sat down. However, Blair was too tired to look.

"You okay, Chief?"

Blair silently cursed Sentinel senses that would allow Jim to know how Blair's heart was pounding, and how shallow his breathing had become.

"Just trying to get used to being back here."

"Yeah," Jim answered quietly. Blair squirmed a bit as the awkwardness from the continuing silence and the feeling that he just didn't belong grew, clinging to him like the rising humidity from the breeze blowing in the open window. In the distance he could hear thunder. Not the loud distinct cracks of a desert thunderstorm, but the low rolling rumbling sound of a storm blowing in from over the ocean.

Blair turned his head and looked at the lights out of the loft windows. Blair knew that the loft hadn't changed, or least it hadn't changed much, and the view definitely hadn't changed at all. Logically, he knew that he was the one who had changed, but that didn't stop him from feeling irrationally disappointed that he couldn't be a new person and still seamlessly slide back into his old life.

"Are you sorry?" Jim asked in the silence. Blair didn't ask for clarification; he knew it his partner meant.

"Never, man!" The rolling thunder came closer and Blair could see flashes illuminating the undersides of the gray clouds that hovered over the city. "Beautiful," Blair commented.


"This storm," Blair clarified as he nodded toward the open windows. Jim turned and looked just as another flash of lightning traveled across the sky, its branches reaching out from that central streak of brilliant light.

"Guess so."

Blair pushed himself up so that he was leaning forward with his elbows braced on his knees as he watched the storm roll in. The air that drifted in through the open windows had the weight that announced a coming rain. Blair wasn't sure when it had happened, but sometime during his stay in Phoenix, he'd grown to miss the way the air felt before a storm. It was heavy against his skin and as the rain approached the temperature dropped. Blair shivered even though he was wearing two flannel shirts.

"Want me to close the window?" Jim asked. Blair looked over in surprise.

"No way, man. I can't believe I'm saying this, and I will deny it if you ever tell anyone, but I missed being cold." Blair stood up and walked over to the windows. Leaning against the rough and cool brick, he let the wind ruffle his hair. The first few drops of rain struck like ice against his face and hands.

"Now I know you aren't Sandburg," Jim snorted. Before Blair even realized that Jim had gotten up, the man's arms closed around his waist and Jim's cheek rested against the side of Blair's head.

"Some days I don't feel like I am," Blair admitted. "Some days... some days I just don't know who I am."

Jim didn't answer, and Blair really didn't expect him to. It was enough that Jim was there holding him, and Blair thought that Jim probably did understand since the man had reinvented himself several times.

The wind picked up again, and Blair stepped back from the window as the rain began in earnest, pushing himself into Jim's chest. Jim moved with him so that now they stood leaning against each other several feet back from the window as the rain fell on the floor and tapped on the windows and beat on the roof.

"Okay, I'm now officially over missing the cold," Blair complained as a full body shiver ran through him.

Jim let go and walked around Blair to close the windows as the storm intensified.

"I have to say though, it does make the loft smell a lot better," Blair said as he realized that the smell of dust and disuse and orange cleaner had been replaced with the fresh scent of rain and ocean.

"You mean you wouldn't trade it in for the smell of night-blooming flowers and desert?" Jim stepped close, the two of them standing face-to-face well inside each other’s personal space.

"Hell no! Cascade is home, even when I'm running away from it." They both smiled at that.

"No more running, huh Chief? I'm getting too old for it." Blair opened his mouth to once again tell Jim to drop the old man routine, but Jim reached up and ran a single finger from the outside of Blair’s eye over his cheek and down to his chin, just below his lower lip. Blair suddenly lost all ability to form coherent thought.

Oh yeah, he was home.


067. Snow
The single touch sent Blair reeling so badly that he felt like he was the Sentinel unable to control his sense of touch. He could feel the trail of Jim's finger tingling down the side of his cheek. He could hear his own heart pounding in desperate need. Hell, he could smell the sweat and orange cleaner on Jim.

Blair brought his hand up and braced it on Jim's forearm, as much to keep from falling over as anything else. Standing with his hand wrapped around Jim's arm, Blair looked into Jim's blue eyes and realized that he had no idea what he was doing. Every other time he'd felt like this, his partner had curves. Not that Jim didn't have curves, because he did, but not in the same places.

"Oh man, do you have any idea what to do?" Blair quietly asked. Yeah, he might be attracted to powerful people, but never before had a powerful man left him breathless and hungry and completely unsure about what to do next.

"I might have one or two ideas," Jim said, and Blair watched with a strange feeling of floating as Jim bent down. Jim's lips pressed against his own softly, moving slowly as Jim's hand slid around Blair's shoulder. The tenderness surprised Blair; the motion was so gentle that it tickled. Blair opened his mouth a little as he moaned, and Jim's lips pressed more firmly against his. Blair groaned louder as his cock hardened. Oh yeah, the angle might be different, but he knew this.

Blair opened his mouth farther and sucked Jim's lower lip into his mouth as he ran dull teeth over it. Jim waited until Blair released his lower lip, and then Blair felt his mouth invaded as the kiss grew more aggressive. Blair has always been careful with his dates, which was a little ironic since they were generally aggressive women who rarely showed the same concern, but now Blair let himself go. He tilted his head a little to the side to get a better angle and attacked Jim's mouth hungrily. Breathing heavily through his nose, he pressed forward and ground his erection into Jim's hip. The feeling of Jim's own bulge caused only a second of hesitation and then Blair pushed his weight into Jim. Strong hands pulled him even tighter as Jim made a strangled sound into Blair's mouth. Jim pulled back, and Blair gasped for breath as he tried to not come in his pants.

"That work?" Jim asked with a chuckle, and Blair realized that the Sentinel could probably smell the pheromones pouring off Blair. Right, Sentinel stuff later, sex now, Blair decided.

"Oh hell, yeah," Blair agreed.

"Upstairs," Jim said.

"Yeah," Blair agreed and then the two of them stood motionless in the living room looking at one another.

"Upstairs," Blair repeated as he stepped back. Jim's arms opened, and the awkwardness returned. "Um... I'll just go upstairs," he said as he took a step backwards. Jim just watched with those dark eyes, so Blair turned and started climbing the stairs.

"So…" Blair said as he reached the top and looked around.

"We don't have to do anything tonight," Jim promised as he reached the top of the stairs.

"Fuck, yes we do," Blair insisted as he considered the idea of going all night with an erection that was already straining his pants and aching with need.

"Which is also fine with me," Jim agreed as he closed the distance between them, and then Blair was lost in another kiss that made him forget all his nervousness. He liked Jim kisses, he decided as he felt Jim's large body press into his. When Blair's knees hit the edge of the bed, Blair fell backwards without even trying to catch himself, and Jim fell on top.

"Never dared do that to Carolyn," Jim whispered before moving on to nibbling on Blair's ear.

"Fuck yeah," Blair encouraged his lover while he pulled at the bottom of Jim's shirt. He had gotten the fabric bunched up under Jim's armpits before Jim stopped and yanked his shirt off before returning to the task of tasting and nipping and kissing the skin from Blair's ear down to the collar bone. Blair fumbled with the buttons on his own shirt. When the last button gave, Jim slipped his hands between their bodies and put them palm down on Blair's chest so that Blair could feel the heat of them. Blair watched as Jim pushed himself up to his knees, his legs straddling Blair's body.

As Jim gazed down with wide, dark eyes, Blair wondered what his Sentinel could see with his pupils dilated so much. He decided he didn't care any more when Jim's weight pressed down on his cock. Jim gave a small smile that made it clear that it wasn't an accident.

"Fuck. Oh man. Move or this is going to be over," Blair hissed, and Jim shifted his weight onto Blair's thighs as Blair pressed his eyes closed and struggled to stop his orgasm. Warm hands returned to his chest, running through his chest hair and over his nipples before pressing up toward his shoulders, pushing the shirt out of their way as they went. Blair cooperated by half sitting up and shimmying out of the thing.

"Oh, Chief," Jim whispered, and then Blair found himself under Jim's weight again. For one moment, he was so distracted by the flurry of kisses across his neck that he didn't notice the hands deftly working his jeans. When Jim tugged at the waist, Blair pushed his hips up as the jeans disappeared. But pushing up had brought his cock up against Jim's stomach, and Blair could feel the heat from Jim's body soak into him.

The urge was too great to deny, and Blair began thrusting up into that heat. When Jim sat up to unfasten his own pants, Blair groaned with loss and need and an overwhelming desire for that heat.

"Patience, Sandburg," Jim said smugly.

"Fuck patience," Blair shot back, and he would have had more to say except that Jim was pushing down his own pants. Blair had never been cock-shy in the various locker room of his youth, but he'd never before had access to any cock but his own. He reached out and took Jim's cock in his own hand feeling it twitch as he squeezed a little. For purely scientific reasons, he closed his other hand around his own cock, feeling the similarities in their girth and their hardness and their twitching. However, Jim's cock was longer and more pale, which left the vein far more visible. The head was rounder and Blair ran his thumb over the end. Their two cocks leaked just the same, and Jim groaned loudly as he threw his head back, his mouth falling open even though Jim didn't make any more noise.

Blair let go of his prize, especially since he wasn't entirely sure what he wanted to do with it. Almost immediately, Jim dropped back down, his weight pinning Blair, and the pressure on Blair's cock demanded that he move. He thrust up into Jim's body, and almost felt guilty about using Jim like the table leg Jim used to tease him about. Well, he would have felt guilty except that Jim was thrusting down into him just as enthusiastically. Blair grabbed Jim's shoulders and pulled Jim's full weight down onto him as he angled his hips and lunged upward.

Blair bit his lip as the need started building to a critical mass. When Jim's whole body shuddered and jerked, Blair opened his eyes to find Jim's face twisted into an expression of ecstasy. A feeling of warmth spread on Blair's stomach and his cock now slid smoothly between as Blair thrust up even more vigorously two or three more times before he felt himself stiffen as his balls drew up. On last thrust and Blair fell over the edge into orgasm as he gave several more thrusts up into his now-lover's body.

Blair lay gasping for air, Jim now half on him and half on the bed.

"Not how I imagined the first time," Jim said, and Blair felt a softness run across his stomach. He looked down to see Jim slowly wiping the mess they had both formed with a white towel.

"How did you imagine it?" Blair asked curiously. It wasn't his most elegant experience, but he wasn't going to complain about any evening where he got off. He really wasn't going to complain when the evening ended in Jim's bed. Blair smiled as he realized that the fact it was Jim made it the perfect evening even though he had sort of bumbled his way through it. Next time he would just have to make it better. He smiled even wider at the thought of a next time.

"I wanted to taste every inch of you. I wanted to know what every centimeter of your body feels like and tastes like and smells like," Jim whispered, and the towel was replaced with Jim's hand rubbing circles on Blair's stomach.

"Oh shit, man. Just give me some time to recover and I am totally there with that," Blair agreed. The mind was willing, but the body needed some time to recoup.

"We have all the time in the world, Chief," Jim said, and then he moved his hand up to Blair's face where his thumb traced the edge of Blair's upper lip. Blair reached over to Jim who lay next to him and traced the edge of one of the muscles in Jim's arm. He didn't have any idea which muscle it was, but he had been admiring those arms for years. He thought he'd admired them in a 'god I wish I had those' type way, but looking back he had to question his own feelings over the past several years.

"Look," Jim suddenly said in a far more conversational tone. "It's snowing." Blair craned his neck to look at the dark windows, and he could only vaguely see lighter and darker shadows passing over the glass. However, he didn't doubt that Jim could see every single snowflake that touched the window.

"Never would have seen that in the desert," Blair said.

"Nope," Jim agreed before lying all the way down on his side, looking at Blair. Blair shifted so that he could see the window, and that put Jim at his back. Blair smiled as he felt Jim move forward to fit himself against Blair's back.

"If we don't get up and put on some sort of night clothes, we're going to freeze," Blair pointed out.

"I'll keep you warm," Jim muttered. Blair smiled at the tone; Jim was already half asleep. And that was a new benefit to his newly discovered gayness: Rolling over and going to sleep was definitely okay. Blair used his foot to grab the blue sheet and brown comforter folded down to the foot of the bed. Dragging it up to where he could reach it, Blair pulled the covers over both of them as sleep sucked him under.


068. Lightening
Blair watched as the windows above the bed slowly lightened as the sun rose. He lay sprawled across the covers, an arm thrown over Jim's back and a leg trapped under Jim's thigh. Funny, before he left, he had always been the one to sleep late, but now he got to watch his sleeping partner.

Even in sleep, Jim had a strong, chiseled face. Beard stubble shaded his cheeks and his eyes twitched, proof of some dream. Blair let his eyes wander down to Jim's chest, which was a tribute to the wonders of weightlifting even when a man ate as much junk food as Jim Ellison did.

Funny, last night Blair hadn't know how to touch Jim, but now his mind supplied any number of possibilities. He smiled as he thought about having a chance to try them all. A little nagging voice whispered that Blair had never been good at keeping relationships going, but he viciously shoved that thought to the back of his mind as he considered the sleeping body next to him. Blair wanted to touch those curves and angles. He wanted to kiss the inside of Jim's thigh and see if it would tickle the man or drive him wild with lust. However, he wasn't ready to wake him. So instead he slipped out of bed as quietly as possible.

Blair had no idea where his robe had ended up in his packing, so he didn't bother digging through the various suitcases and boxes in order to find it. Instead he snagged his boxer shorts from last night off the floor and went to his still unpacked suitcase and pulled a t-shirt from a side pocket. Then he padded downstairs. The living room was quiet and still seemed strangely empty without all the bits and pieces of the life that he and Jim had shared there.

"Chief?" Blair's heart almost pounded through his chest as he spun around to find a Jim standing at the top of the stairs.

"Oh man, you almost gave me a heart attack," Blair complained.

"You okay?"

"Yeah, I guess I'm just trying to figure out what to do next."

"It's a little early for big life-changing decisions, so are you talking about what to do next in terms of breakfast or what to do next in terms of life?" Jim's tone of voice made Blair stop and really think about what his partner meant. He could hear the defensiveness, and he'd known Jim long enough to know that that hid fear.

"Breakfast would be a good start," Blair quickly assured Jim. "Of course, that again, I wouldn't mind knowing what the hell I'm going to do about work."

"I told you Simon offered us both jobs," Jim said with a confused look as he started coming down the stairs rubbing his hair.

"Yeah, man, I know that. I guess I'm just getting those first-day jitters, you know? I used to get those before the first day of class, even if I was the one teaching and even if I had taught the class a dozen times. I just..." Blair stopped as he struggled for the words that would explain his problem without making Jim think that he regretted his decision.

"I know, Chief. Let's get dressed and I'll take you out for breakfast.

"Is this going to be breakfast with actual food, or breakfast with grease disguised as food?" Blair asked, trying to lighten the mood.

"Would I feed you grease for breakfast?" Jim asked as he headed for the bathroom.

"Yes," Blair answered to Jim's back as he started up the stairs. If they were going out for breakfast, he probably needed to get dressed.

The restaurant Jim picked did in fact have a few breakfast items that didn't feature grease as the first ingredient. Blair worked on his omelet and whole-grain bagel as he considered which of the questions currently rattling around in his brain Jim might be able to answer.

"So," Blair began as he tore off another piece of bagel and spread cream cheese on it. "How exactly was Simon able to get us both back into major crimes after we quit?"

"Technically, I never really quit." Jim quickly took an enormous bite of Belgian waffle which precluded any further conversation. Blair found himself sitting with bagel half way to his mouth in utter and complete shock.

"You never quit!?"

Jim shrugged even though his mouth was still full.

"Oh man, no no no. You do not get to say something like that and then shove food in your mouth." Blair put his bagel down and glared at his partner who gave him a wry smile even as he continued chewing. Determined to get some sort of explanation, Blair leaned back and waited. Jim had to swallow eventually.

"I tried to quit, but Simon wouldn't accept my resignation," Jim said once he finished swallowing.

"For four months?"

"I had a lot of leave saved up," Jim shrugged.

"You didn't think it would work with us." Blair realized he was right the minute Jim blushed, and he had no idea how he felt about Jim having an escape plan for all those months in Phoenix.

"I didn't know," Jim admitted. "When you left, I thought it was the right thing for you. I didn't want to be the one who dragged you back into this again if you finally managed to get yourself free."

"Into this?" Blair asked incredulously.

"You know what I mean, Chief."

"Being a cop. You didn't think I'd stick with it."

"I didn't know if you wanted to, Chief. I knew that if you put your heart into it, you'd do well. I just didn't know where your heart was."

"Okay, I guess that explains why your job is still open," Blair said slowly. "It doesn't really explain how Simon can just hire me back without any sort of explanation to the Commissioner."

"Oh, I figure the Commissioner is feeling rather generous toward you lately," Jim said uneasily.

"Oh man, what did you do?"

"Me? Nothing." Jim had that self-satisfied look that suggested that Jim had done a whole lot more than nothing.

"Man, you are a seriously bad liar." Jim's smirk grew a little wider as he shrugged. "Come on, you can't just leave it at that. Spill!" Blair ordered.

"I know they gave you shit, Chief."

"Yeah? So? I mean, I told you they hassled me some, but the real problem was that *I* wasn't so sure I could do the job."

"Well, I just had a discussion with Simon and the Commissioner and a couple of the instructors from the Academy about professional ethics."

Blair's eyes went wide as he started to put pieces together in his mind. He could only hope that he was putting them together wrong because this wasn't a pretty picture.

"You didn't," Blair said with a growing heaviness as he watched Jim's expression.

Jim shrugged noncommittally. "I wasn't going to let them get away with it."

"Oh man, I'm never going to live this down." Blair groaned as he considered just how screwed he was.

"Nothing to live down, Chief. I might have mentioned that you felt a little harassed by some of their sexist and small-minded comments. I also might have mentioned that you left town to avoid suing the department that you felt so much loyalty toward. I made it very clear that if you pushed things, you could make sure that everyone in the state looked at the Cascade police department differently. I pointed out that one word in the wrong ear and certain instructors would be working from a street corner as they directed traffic. Then I pointed out that you chose not to do that." Blair sat looking at his partner in shock. Suddenly had a mental image of Jim in full out Blessed Protector mode with his jaw twitching and his blue eyes pinning the Commissioner to his seat. Blair felt the giggle starting to form in his chest, and he couldn't help it. He started laughing.


"Oh man, you did it, didn't you? Shit, I can't believe you bluffed like that."

"It wasn't a bluff, Sandburg," Jim said fiercely. "A couple times I came early to pick you up thinking I might get to see you working on the obstacle course, and I heard what they said. It was everything I could do not come across that field and break their fucking necks. Some of those cops out there became trainers because they couldn't handle it on the streets, and they still thought they had a right to judge you. They saw you with your long hair and your earrings and your strange attitudes, and they never even took into consideration that you have more guts than all of them put together."

Blair sat at the table in utter shock. Yeah, on the surface Jim looked angry -- Jim looked downright enraged, but under that anger Blair heard more.

"Oh man..." Blair looked at Jim and had no words to answer him. Jim shrugged and the fury seemed to drain from his face.

"I couldn't let them get away with that. In Phoenix, they weren't willing to bend rules that were on the books, but they didn't try and drive you away because of who you were."

"That wasn't what drove me away," Blair said softly. "I couldn't find myself here," he tried to explain.

"I know that now, and maybe it would have happened anyway... maybe we would have needed time away from each other no matter what happened."

"I know what I want now," Blair said confidently.

"Me too," Jim said quietly before he turned his full attention back to his waffles. As Jim devoured his breakfast with singular devotion, Blair knew the time for sharing had passed. But he couldn't help feeling that some great weight had been taken off his shoulders and suddenly he had the feeling that everything was going to be all right.


No Silver Linings

069. Thunder

I see a little silhouetto of a man
Will you do the fandango
Thunderbolt and lightning
Very, very frightening me

Galileo, Galileo
Galileo Galileo
Galileo, figaro

The speakers at the front of the club screamed, and Blair put his hand on Jim's back where the muscles had tightened into thick cords that slowly loosened as Blair traced a small circle on Jim's skin. Blair continued until Jim's back had relaxed--a sign that the Sentinel had found the setting on the dials that made the club bearable. The overhead lights flared with the words creating a strobe light effect that made Blair flinch, but Jim gave a small hand gesture, and Blair pulled back.

Blair had missed the non-stop rollercoaster action of Major Crimes, and now not only had he gotten back on the roller coaster, but Simon had loaned them out to a joint FBI investigation of a serial killer or killers in the area. Blair started walking the perimeter of the room, letting his body sway in the time with the music as he bobbed his head. Even now that he was getting older, he could still blend in just because he knew how to let his body go. Jim on the other hand was looking a little painfully stiff as he made his way over to a spot near the bathrooms.

Of course, what the two agents in the room didn't know was that Jim could hear everything in the room. He and Blair had practiced this exercise. Jim would let his eyes sweep the room, and his hearing would follow, allowing him to concentrate on a conversation in the far corner while still blocking out the blaring music. However, Blair was still a little worried about the strobe light effect affecting Jim's vision.

Meanwhile, Blair danced his way through the crowd looking for the most vulnerable targets. He didn't have far to look; he soon found himself weaving to the beat next to a small gaggle of pierced and colorful and mostly nude young women. Their eyes focused on the distant lights flashing in the ceiling, and Blair recognized that blissed-out expression of ecstasy.

As the song changed, Blair let himself jerk to the new beat, his eyes half closed. He wondered if any of these kids even listened to the lyrics which screamed about making mistakes, facing mistakes even when you wanted to run. Blair understood that need to both run and to face up to his mistakes, but he didn't think these kids were hearing anything other than the beat. And the very fact that some asshole was using this weakness to turn these kids into prey… that infuriated Blair. If the FBI was right, somewhere in this crowd, one or more rapists stalked these girls whose only sin was being lost and confused and young and in possession of a fake ID. But none of those offenses deserved the punishment that Blair had seen in the FBI photos of the dead bodies.

As Blair let his body fall into the rhythm, he tried not to see these girls’ faces superimposed over those broken and dirty bodies. Instead he tried to imagine them growing up and growing into something healthier, better. And if he could help that by catching these assholes and putting them in jail for the rest of their lives, he would do what he needed to do to make that happen.

Blair glanced over towards Jim, but his partner was still scanning the crowd, which meant he hadn't heard anything yet. Even while keeping an eye on this group, Blair started threading through the thundering crowd. The FBI agent had seemed cynical when Blair had claimed to be able to profile possible victims from the floor, but Jim had backed his claims.

Of course, the fact that the two lead agents had asked whether he and Jim were planning on going renegade on this investigation was a big hint that the agents had called around and gotten his Phoenix record, and that probably helped Blair's case too. No matter what had convinced them, he now moved from one group to another, looking for girls who fit the profile and any man or men who might be watching them. Men who might be a little too sober or too observant to fit in at a rave.

For three nights he and Jim had done this, and for three days the only report to Simon the next morning had been that they had wandered through the crowd unable to identify anyone suspicious. But Blair still clung to the hope that tonight would be it. The timing was right, and Blair *needed* to get these guys.

When he had first seen the FBI file, Blair had felt his stomach curl in revolt: both at how many girls disappeared and in how vicious the attacks had been. The attacker or attackers had worked their way west to Cascade, and these were sadists who left no evidence behind. Well, unless you counted the bodies with their red tracks and curled burns. But nothing had led back to any suspects.

Blair spotted a blonde near the back door. She had a streak of blue going through her hair and blue eye makeup that made her look vaguely clown-like, but her expression was one of utter despair. She was on a trip, and from the expression on her face, it wasn't a good one either. Blair watched as she put a hand on the wall to brace herself, her fingers splayed across the white surface. Blair had seen enough bad trips to know one when he saw one, but what interested him a lot more was the man who watched her from the shadow of a pillar.

The man was unremarkable in his normalcy. No birth marks, no unusual characteristics, nothing remarkable at all. He swayed as though dancing, but his body moved to some internal rhythm that had nothing to do with the music, so he moved out of sync and awkwardly. Someone else might have mistaken that motion for being stoned; however, as he moved, his gaze remained locked on the blonde. Blair's alarm bells went off. While this might just be some perverted businessman trying to pick up an underage date, Blair didn't think so. In fact, he was so certain he signaled his partner.

Blair let himself be swept back into a clump of dancers as the thundering music kept him from using his radio. Well, technically he could use it, but he didn't think anyone on the other end could hear him. Blair orbited around the girl and her watcher, determined not to let her turn into one more body that would be dumped on the street in a week.

Blair smiled as a cute red-head flashed him a grin full of metal from a tongue ring and a lip ring before she curled her arms around him. With the girl clinging to him, Blair felt safer staying in one place and watching. He took a quick peek over her shoulder and saw Jim working his way through the crowd, but Jim wasn't close enough and the man with the girl was entirely too close to the back exit.

Blair worked his way slowly toward the wall so that he would have a clear shot at the door if worse came to worse. Of course he was hoping for better, for Jim to have signaled the feds, for backup to be outside the back door, but he had learned to prepare for the worst.

Jim had almost reached him when the man made his move. Blair watched as Mr. Normal moved in and slipped a sympathetic arm around the blonde's shoulder. At first the girl flinched back, but then the man must've whispered something into her ear because she leaned into him. The hand that had been braced against the wall now curled against his shoulder, her bright red fingernails contrasting against the man's black T-shirt.

Blair danced closer, unwilling to let this creep get far enough away to have even the slightest chance of escape. Looking back he saw Jim now shoving through bodies recklessly.

Blair screamed something at his dance partner that he suspected she couldn't hear over the thundering music, but his gentle push certainly told her what she needed to know. She made a rude gesture in his direction before turning away and curling herself around an orange-haired black boy.

Blair abandoned his attempts to be subtle in favor of making a straight line toward the suspect and the girl, but the man didn't even notice. He had already pulled open an exit door that was supposedly alarmed and was busy herding the girl out the door. Blair ran the last few steps and the cold night air hit him in the face at the same time as he pulled his weapon.

Standing at the door to the club, Blair took aim and yelled his warning. "Cascade PD! Stop right there!"

Blair wondered why he even bothered yelling because no one ever stopped. This man was no exception. The arm that had soothingly embraced the girl shoved her away so that she hit a blue dumpster and rebounded onto the concrete ground in the alley. His other hand pulled a gun from waistband and brought it up.

Blair ducked just as the blast from the gunfire rang in his ears. For one blind moment, Blair thought he'd been shot. Then he brought his fingers up to his face and realized that a bullet had shattered the wood frame of the door leaving a trail of splinters down his cheek. Blair wasn't about to let that stop him, so just as Jim reached the door, Blair darted across the alley and used a dumpster on the far side for cover. Jim had his own weapon out and pointed down the alley instantly.

As it turned out, neither of them needed to do a thing. Agents and uniformed cops swarmed the alley from the far end, and faced with such overwhelming numbers, the man held up his hands.


Blair nodded as another officer gave him a 'thumbs up' gesture. This had been a large operation and the arrest meant that a dozen teams that had been canvassing a dozen raves had congregated on the site.

"Not bad, Sandburg," offered one of the same FBI officers who had earlier demanded to know whether Blair and Jim planned on going rogue.

"Thanks," Blair grinned back and then winced. He could afford to give up grudges tonight. One bad guy in custody, and Blair could tell from the snippets he'd overheard that the man was singing like a bird. Blair felt the normal adrenaline rush of the arrest, and part of him wanted to go run the mountain. Instead he struggled to sit still on the cold metal.

"Definitely not bad, Chief. If he'd gotten out that back door unseen…" Jim leaned against the open door to the ambulance and Blair flinched as the medic pulled another splinter.

"Ow!" Blair complained.

"This would be a lot easier if you'd go to the hospital," the medic complained, but Blair just glared up.

"No way, man. No hospitals."

"We're going to need your statements," Agent Berger interrupted, ignoring both the medic's soft Spanish curses and Blair's outburst.

"Oh shit, please tell me I have time to change," Blair begged as he gestured toward his shirt with splatters of blood and a ripped collar where Jim had been a little too enthusiastic about checking out the injury. Then he yelped again as the medic pulled a deep splinter out of his cheek near his hairline.

"I think we can wait a few minutes for the walking wounded to change," Berger agreed with a crooked smile. "Ellison, we'll need yours right away."

"No problem," Jim answered, but Blair noticed that his lover's eyes never left him. He thought back and realized Jim had always done that when he got hurt. He would talk to Simon while still watching Blair. Blair wondered if it was a Sentinel thing or if Jim had been falling way back then. Jim interrupted his thoughts with a far more mundane question. "Chief, do you want me to drive you home or do you want to bum a ride off a black-and-white?"

Blair tried to relax his face and wait for another splinter to be pulled before answering. At least this time he managed to limit himself to a hiss. "I think I can bum a ride, unless Dr. Frankenstein here leaves me permanently disfigured,"

"Very funny, tough guy," the medic rolled his eyes and then got revenge with another splinter. "I think that's the last of them," he announced as he ran a gloved finger over the sore skin.

"Yeah," Blair agreed. "Feels like."

"Right, so if you'll sign here that you're an idiot who doesn't want to go to the hospital where they have topical anesthetics and antibiotics, I'll go find someone who's actually injured." Blair signed the paper that the grouchy medic thrust into his hands.

"Hospitals are dangerous, man. You have no idea how many diseases those places have," Blair defended himself as he handed the paper back with his signature.

"You cops are all the same. You'll face some psycho with a shotgun but you run away from one little germ." The medic rolled his eyes again, and Blair just shrugged his answer.

Blair hopped off the end of the ambulance and Jim followed him over to the main FBI van. As they walked, Jim's hand found the small of Blair's back, and Blair let himself bounce a little at getting one more scumbag off the street, and getting credit on the arrest didn't hurt either. Blair hadn't said anything, but he and Jim had traded glances as Simon had failed to assign Blair as primary on any cases.

Jim had been wonderful about remembering the lessons of Phoenix and giving Blair room to use his own talents, but that didn't stop Simon's actions from stinging. But now, Blair smiled as he reached the van and then regretted it when his sore cheek started to tingle and throb. Well, Simon couldn't ignore the fact that Blair had identified the suspect, and Blair had gotten primary credit for the arrest. Blair even planned on being there when the FBI agents questioned the other suspects.

"What do we have, people?" a deep voice bellowed, and Blair thought of the old saying about speaking of the devil. He immediately regretted it, especially since the Simon had gotten Blair his first badge and convinced Roth to hire him in Phoenix. In fact, it was Simon who had sent to Jim to Phoenix in search of the serial killer in the hopes that the two men could recover their friendship. Blair knew he had a lot to think Simon for, but somehow that still didn't make up for the fact that Simon couldn't seem to give him the one thing Blair truly wanted: respect.

"We have a viable suspect, a confession, and two teams going to pick up co-conspirators," Agent Finnegan, Berger's partner, said with obvious glee. "You have a damn fine team here, and if I thought it would do any good, I'd try to get them federal badges."

"Don't even think it," Simon threatened as he took the cigar from his mouth and pointed it in Finnegan's general direction. "But you're right about them being a good team. One of my best." Simon smiled widely and stuck the cigar right back in his mouth, even if it wasn't lit. Blair felt the warmth of the praise even if he didn't dare smile back. Instead he ducked his head a little in embarrassment.

"Your man identified and flushed him. Sandburg's quite the cop," Finnegan hadn't quite gotten the end of his sentence out when Simon's shocked voice cut him off.

"Sandburg?!" Simon demanded incredulously as he snatched the cigar from his mouth again.

Blair's head snapped up at the tone of voice, and his eyes caught Simon's gaze.

"I mean, of course they're both excellent officers," Simon stumbled, but Blair felt the warmth of the compliment darken into a blush as the three FBI officers turned to look in confusion at Simon's disbelief. Blair could feel Jim tighten up next to him, a subtle shifting of weight that told Blair that Jim wanted to attack something, and would be very much in need of a backrub later.

Blair waited for the explosion, but Jim remained quiet, and Simon quickly turned the conversation to other matters. However, Blair didn't miss the glances the agents would give him. As soon as he could, Blair pled exhaustion and went in search of a ride home. He wasn't surprised when Jim followed, the statement and Blair's offer to catch a ride with a black-and-white forgotten.


Blair slammed the passenger side door shut on the truck a whole lot harder than necessary, but Jim didn't comment as he started the engine.

"Do you want…"

"I don't want anything other than a change of clothes, a quick statement, and a good night's sleep. I need a chance to think about just what I want to say," Blair snapped back. He instantly felt guilty about taking his anger out on Jim, but Jim just nodded slowly as he navigated the streets of Cascade.


070. Storm
Blair stormed out of the elevator angry enough that he found himself whispering Buddhist chants just to keep from either having a heart attack or emotionally vomiting on everyone in the room. He could feel himself caught between wanting to cry in frustration and scream in anger. He was just happy that he had waited until morning when he had regained at least some of his control.

As they walked, Jim's hand touched the small of his back where Jim often let his hand linger, since long before they'd become lovers, but now Blair walked faster. He knew that hand would sooth him, just like Jim intended it to, but he needed to stay good and angry. Behind him, Blair heard Jim's footsteps pause for a moment, and then Jim followed several steps behind.

When Blair pushed open the double doors to the bullpen, he stood for a moment unsure about what exactly he was supposed to do. Part of him said to push everything from his desk into his bag and just get the fuck out, but he'd tried that once and it hadn't gone well. If he were to be perfectly honest, all the things that had gone well hadn't made up for the lack of Jim in his life.

He needed to find a new pattern, and he needed to tattoo that pattern into Simon's hide. Blair's stomach tightened into knots at the thought of confronting Simon. He would rather face five armed suspects than Simon. If there was any way in the universe of avoiding this, Blair would take it. Unfortunately, the only way to avoid the confrontation was to swallow his pride and allow Simon to keep treating him like the tag-along observer trotting after Jim. Blair clenched his jaw and took deep breaths as he strode forward toward Simon's office.

When his hand closed around the doorknob, Blair glanced back, and Jim was sitting on the edge of his desk watching. Part of Blair wanted Jim to deal with this while Blair stood back, but that wasn't exactly a good solution for either of them. Instead Blair knocked sharply on the door and waited for Simon's answering bellow.

The moment Blair opened the door, he knew that Simon didn't want to deal with their problems. That was evident in the way that Simon instantly frowned as Blair came in the office.

"Sandburg, I don't have time for this today." Blair could feel the urge to back down crawling up his backbone like ice water, but he steeled himself and dropped into one of the chairs across from Simon.

"Oh no, man. No, we are not dropping this."

"Sandburg, get out," Simon said as he turned back to his computer screen.

"Not a chance. We need to talk about what happened last night."

"Dammit, Sandburg, I don't have time. I'm not telling you this again."

"Simon, you make time for every other detective on this floor, and if you won't make time for me, then I guess that says what my status is here, doesn't it?" Blair snapped even though the confrontation made his morning bagel churn uncomfortably in his stomach. Blair just hoped he got through this before he had to throw up because running to the bathroom in the middle of this conversation wouldn't exactly improve his standing.

"Don't you dare tell me what your status is or isn't in my department." Simon stood up and leaned over his desk, but Blair refused to back down.

"You humiliated me out there. You really expect I'm just going to let that slide?" Blair demanded incredulously.

"Look, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to say it. But I don't have time for this right now," Simon said as he dropped back down into his seat.

"You didn't mean to say it? Great! So that supposed to make everything okay?" Blair could feel his anger override his meditative breathing as he considered Simon's unmoving attitude. "You may not have meant to say it, but you were fucking surprised that I had done a good job. What does that say about me as a detective? What does that say about your expectations of me?" Blair demanded, his voice rising and his bagel turning to lead in his stomach.

"Sandburg, I said you were a good cop. Look, I slipped and I didn't mean to. So, take it however you want to, but I'm busy."

"You don't think I can't do the job." Blair's voice dropped to a near whisper in his rage and hurt.

"I never said that," Simon quickly snapped back.

"You don't have to, Simon. If you thought I could do the job, you wouldn't have been fucking surprised when I got it done. If you thought I could do the job, I would have cases of my own out there instead of tagging after other detectives."

"Is that with this is about? You're upset about how I assign cases?" Simon growled dangerously, but Blair had long since passed the point where he could be intimidated. Simon's distrust of him was far more painful than Simon's anger.

"I'm upset about how you don't assign cases, Simon. Come on, man, look at the board! I don't have a single case. I never have."

"You and Ellison have plenty of cases. If you want more, just let me know and I'm capable of burying you under cases."

"No, Simon. Jim has cases; I tag along after Jim."

"What is your problem, Sandburg?" Simon demanded in an exasperated tone of voice.

"Damn it. You don't even see it, do you? Brown and Rafe work together most of the time, but each one gets his own cases. But not me! No, I'm just the tag-along who follows after Jim. I don't count as a real detective up there on that board."

"You can stop the histrionics now, Sandburg." Simon's voice dropped into a low rumble that warned Blair that the man was no longer amused, not that he'd been all that amused at the beginning.

"Oh man, if I wanted to be hysterical, I would've done that in front of the FBI agents when you humiliated me by implying that me doing a good job is somehow surprising. If I wanted histrionics I'd go to the commissioner and point out the fact that I'm a detective in my own right and yet I don't have any cases.

"I'm not an observer anymore, Simon. I'm a fucking cop, and I can do my own job without having to tag along behind someone else. They offered me my own corner office down in Phoenix, and they don't do that because somebody's good at following along. For three months I worked down there without Jim at all! And for two of the months when Jim worked there, we had very few cases together. But you? You just still see me as the observer. If I can't be a detective in this department, then find me a department with a captain that will let me do my fucking job."

Blair had pushed himself up to his feet before he even stopped talking. And without waiting for any sort of response or reaction, he slammed out of the office. Jim quickly stood, and Blair had no illusions about privacy when there was a Sentinel in the building, but he also didn't want to talk about it right now.

So instead of stopping at his partner's desk or at his own desk, he grabbed his leather messenger bag and slammed back out the bullpen doors. Blair stormed down six flights of stairs before his stomach forced him to find a bathroom where he could empty out his morning meal. Waves of guilt and fear and tidal waves of anger and fucking tsunamis of uncertainty crashed into him.

Blair couldn't stay at the precinct, and so he pushed his way outside to his own car, thanking God that he had insisted on driving himself to work today. He wasn't fit company for anyone, not even Jim. Maybe especially not Jim.


Blair was sitting on a bench that overlooked the commercial docks with the huge barges being towed through the sluggish waves. The water in postcards always looked blue, but from here Blair could only see grays and black and a few shades of dark green.

"I thought I might find you here," Jim said as he came and sat on the bench.

"You did, huh? How's that?" Blair asked. This wasn't exactly a normal hang-out for him. In Phoenix he had always retreated to the mountain, but in Cascade, Rainier had once been his safe retreat.

"I put an APB out on your plates," Jim admitted with a shrug. Blair couldn't help but smile a little. It was such a damn Jim-thing to do.

"I'm fine," Blair promised.

"That's good because Simon's not," Jim answered. "Simon is chewing through his entire cigar stash at a pretty good clip."

"Good," Blair said uncharitably. He didn't have the emotional energy left for charity.

"He really hadn't realized that he'd been shutting you out."

"Did he realize that before or after you told him he'd been shutting me out?" Blair asked, well aware that his tirade had expressed his anger, but it hadn't changed the stubborn expression on Simon's face.

"I might have told him that if he treated you like that again I'd kick his ass," Jim admitted.

"My Blessed Protector," Blair sighed, but he had to admit that it was nice knowing that someone would always take his side. He had known it wasn't going to be easy coming back, but now that he was here, he realized that Phoenix had never been home. He had never tried to make anything permanent there. He had never hung decorations or put down roots. He missed Roth and Bets and the others more than he had expected, and he had expected to miss them a lot, but he didn't miss Phoenix. Looking out over the grey water and bluish-grey sky, Blair realized that it was because Cascade would always be home to him in some intangible way. He just hated the fact that Major Crimes might not be home for him.

"I'm not the only one, Chief. When I left Simon's office, Taggart was waiting outside and he had a look of thunder on his face," Jim added.

"Really? Over me?" Blair looked over, and Jim nodded with an expression of pity, but somehow Blair didn't think the pity was for him.

"Oh yeah," Jim said in a tone that made it clear he expected Simon to walk away from that conversation missing a limb. “And then Brown was explaining what happened last night to Megan, and both of them looked fairly pissed. I might have mentioned that you had asked for a transfer if Simon couldn't respect your judgment and trust your abilities as a cop." Blair flinched as he imagined what Megan would have to say to Simon.

"Oh man, that wasn't very nice," Blair said as he looked at Jim. Jim looked over at him with a small smile, and then the expression faded under something more unreadable.

"What are you thinking?" Blair asked since he couldn't quite identify Jim's emotion.

"I'm thinking how many of us owe you, including Taggart, including Simon, including me. But before you left…" Jim paused, and Blair could feel his partner struggling for the right words. "I don't know." Even though Jim had fallen silent, Blair could feel the apology and the guilt. Rather than say something that would embarrass both of them, Blair slipped his hand under Jim's arm and let his fingers trace the sensitive skin of the inside of Jim's forearm.

"I won't lose you again, Chief. Not over this job I won't." Jim's voice was rough and gravelly even though his face remained stoically unemotional. Blair looked out over the water where Jim had focused his own eyes.

"Oh man, you won't," Blair promised. "Ever." Jim's hand came down and rested on the top of Blair's thigh, and they sat and watched the boats navigate around each other in the crowded harbor.



071. Broken

"Oh, man. Chill out. I am not broken," Blair complained as he lay on his stomach in Jim's bed.

"I smell blood."

"You could smell blood from a paper cut a block away. You smelling blood doesn't actually count as blood," Blair insisted, as his legs were gently but firmly forced farther apart as Jim searched for a source of the scent. Struggling to not squirm, Blair gasped as warm fingers skimmed the sensitive skin behind his balls and over his pucker. The movements left Blair both ticklish and horny, which was an uncomfortable combination considering it looked like he might not get any tonight.

"Ha!" Jim said triumphantly, holding out a finger so that Blair could turn his head and see the small streak of pink running across the pad.

"Okay, if you let that stop you, I am going to fucking kill you," Blair threatened.

"You're the one who said stop," Jim pointed out, and Blair noticed that Jim's cock had softened far more than Blair's had.

"I meant stop as in slow down and give me time to adjust," Blair fumed

"You winced."

"It hurt."

"And that's why I stopped."

"And it doesn't hurt any more," Blair said with clenched teeth. As far as sexual encounters were concerned, this wasn't one of his better ones.

"Let's try it the other way," Jim offered again with all the enthusiasm of a sacrificial victim.

"No. I don't trust you," Blair shot back, and he blamed the poor phrasing on the fact that his blood was all trapped in his cock, despite Jim's fear that adding a second finger had caused massive internal bleeding.

"You… what?"

"I don't trust you to stay 'stop'," Blair tried to explain as he looked at Jim's devastated expression." You'd dial down the pain, and then I really might hurt you."

"As opposed to me hurting you?" Jim demanded, and Blair sighed as he realized he had triggered the defensive, alpha-dog Jim. The arms crossed over the chest and the narrowed eyes were a dead giveaway. Blair wasn't sure he wanted to face alpha-Jim buck naked and face down on the bed. Not exactly a strong negotiating position, Blair mused.

"You didn't hurt me,” Blair pointed out. “I, however, am on the verge of hurting you.” He unconsciously writhed his hips against the bed.

"But you bled," Jim said, in his “but Chief, I’m only being reasonable” tone. So, that was his defense against trying to slowly kill Blair with sexual frustration?

"We both knew it might happen the first time or two, it doesn't mean you've hurt me." Blair glanced over his shoulder, and Jim still had a determined expression on his face. "Oh man, I do not like that look," Blair complained.

Jim rubbed his hand over his face as though he could wipe away the expression. "Chief, I'm just not okay with hurting you."

"If I have to tell you that you didn't hurt me one more time, I’m going to go get a frying pan out of the kitchen and hit you upside the head," Blair growled as he half rolled onto one elbow. With Jim kneeling between his legs, those large hands cradling his hips, Blair really couldn't move any farther. "Now get your fingers back in there," Blair demanded, and he suddenly had an image of some covert ops team conducting illegal surveillance on them and getting that on tape. However, Jim obediently picked up the lube from the towel spread out on the edge of the bed and did as ordered.

Blair used meditative breathing to try and relax as muscles strained around the large, slippery intrusion. He tried to not mentally compare the size of those two fingers to the size of Jim's cock because the man had been blessed in the genitals department. He was smaller than porn stars, but bigger than any men Blair had ever showered with after P.E. class. The same spot inside that had caused problems before started stinging again, and Blair groaned in frustration because Jim had just reached in far enough to press into the prostate, a gland Blair was just now beginning to fully appreciate.

"Is that a good or a bad groan?" Jim demanded as he immediately froze.

"That's a good groan, with a warning that ‘this is as far as we're getting tonight’ groan," Blair admitted as the one spot started really hurting. Jim carefully pulled out, and then Blair felt Jim move up and lay over him so that Jim's cock was nestled between Blair's cheeks.

"Fucking tease," Blair pouted, with a small hump into the bed below him.

"I'll just have to take care of you the old fashioned way," Jim said softly, and Blair felt lips brush the back of his neck. The feeling of Jim kissing him, tasting him with small licks across his shoulder, made Blair's whole body shiver in need. Blair pulled his hands out from under the pillow where he had tucked them and reached behind to stroke one of Jim's muscular thighs. Blair could feel Jim's cock harden at even that small touch, and he hitched up so he could close his thighs tight around it.

Jim moaned appreciatively and gave a few small thrusts into the tight space, but the kisses and licks continued across Blair's neck and now teeth worried the earrings of one ear. Blair squirmed happily and tried to roll enough so that he could get a hand under him to grab his own cock.

Jim sat up, his legs now straddling Blair's thighs, and Blair looked over his shoulder at Jim's large eyes, the pupils dilated so far that they looked almost black. Blair opened his mouth to ask what Jim needed, but Jim's fingers trailed over his lips, silencing him. Blair lay back and waited. For the longest time, Jim just stared.

Then, Jim's hands pulled at Blair's waist, and Blair cooperated with the grip that flipped him on the bed. Jim again lowered his weight, and this time the two cocks were trapped side by side. Blair groaned.

"Oh man, fuck, yeah," he encouraged as Jim started up a slow rocking motion that was more teasing than actual satisfaction." Fuck, more," Blair hissed as he clutched at Jim's shoulders and tried to thrust up. Jim's weight was too much though, and Blair was stuck having to accept Jim's slow pace.

"Fuck, faster. Come on. Have some mercy," Blair begged. He could hear Jim panting in need just as much as he was, but Jim kept the motions steady. Blair started to make another death threat, but then Jim shifted his weight so that Blair’s cock pressed into his stomach even harder, and Blair couldn't think about anything other than coming, not even killing his partner.

Blair squirmed and struggled to get a hand in between them until Jim finally caught one of Blair's hands in each of his and pinned them to the mattress. Their fingers twined together as Blair threw back his head and gasped for air. Moaning, Jim sped up and Blair felt his own balls draw up as he started coming between their two bodies. The warm liquid spread across his stomach and chest as Jim's now-frantic humping spread it about. Blair was still floating on the bubble of his own orgasm when he felt Jim start to shudder as he came.

Once Jim finished, he released Blair's hands and slumped down onto Blair's body. Blair could feel their come sliding down his waist, and hopefully the large towel Jim had laid out would catch it because Blair couldn't come up with the energy to care enough to check.

"So, how was that?" Jim asked with a chuckle.

"I think you broke me," Blair said with a happy sigh.


072. Fixed
"Sandburg, you have the Red Rock Raceway case," Simon said at the morning meeting. Blair's head snapped up as Simon dropped the file in front of him.

"The Raceway case?" he asked, his eyes going to the print-out summary as Simon wrote down Blair's name in his paperwork.

"You got a problem with that?" Simon demanded darkly, and obviously the man wasn't yet over the part where Blair had yelled something about fucking off or fucking respecting him or something with fuck in it. Blair didn't exactly remember *what* he had said, but Simon clearly did.

"No problem, Simon," Blair quickly answered. Simon went about assigning the two other cases that had landed in Major Crimes overnight, and Blair glanced around at his coworkers. Since he had made a point of demanding his own cases without Jim, he couldn't exactly ask Jim to be second on the case. Simon ended the meeting, and the detectives wandered away.

"Think you might need some help with that, mate?" Megan asked, and Blair smiled widely at the one member of Major Crimes who actually knew something about horses.

"Please?" Blair said in his most winsome voice. Megan laughed.

"Yeah, yeah. You can turn the charm off there, Sandy," she said as she reached for the file. Blair surrendered it without a fight.


As Megan negotiated traffic, Blair flipped through the through the case notes from Vice."It looks like someone is fixing the races," he said.

"Which wouldn't be a major crime if the mayor's major campaign contributor didn't own half the place," Megan agreed.

"Yeah, can't get away from politics no matter where you go," Blair said.

"Could be organized crime."

"Yeah, except they're usually more organized. This is just sloppy. I'm surprised Vice didn't catch these morons," Blair pointed out. The file showed that on certain days, all but one or two horses would suddenly run entire seconds under their normal times, a method of fixing races that was both obvious and stupid.

"Everyone's stretched a little thin with the flu. You've only got this one case to work on as primary. Most officers are running more than a dozen right now."

"Yeah, there's that," Blair said unhappily, as he considered what had led up to him being assigned his first case.

"Are you two okay now? 'Cause I don't mind telling you that if you take off again, I just may chase you down and haul you back to Cascade by the scruff of your neck."

"I missed you too," Blair said as he rolled his eyes. "But I think Simon and I are okay. I hope so anyway." Blair finished a little more unsure than he had intended.

"I heard about what he said, Sandy. You know that's not how he really feels, right?"

"Oh man, I am not up to having this discussion right now."

"Yeah, just keep in mind that the poor schmuck they hired after Jim left spent several months listening to Simon complain about how he needed to be more aggressive like Jim and how he needed to be quicker to spot things like you. Poor bastard jumped at the chance to transfer to Vice."

"Megan, if you're trying to convince me of something..."

"Just saying, mate, keep an open mind." She kept her eyes on the road.

"You mean don't go cursing Simon out again?"

"That would be a start," Megan said as she pulled into the driveway in front of the racetrack.

"Yeah, well I don't think it's going to be an issue because if Simon can't learn to see me as a cop, I'll just transfer to another unit. Assuming another unit would have me." Megan pulled smoothly into a parking spot near the main building and turned off the car before turning to look at Blair.

"Sandy, half the captains in the precinct would be happy to have you, and the ones that wouldn't aren't worth a tinker's damn. But as much as Simon blows hard, he does respect you. I think it's more that he doesn't expect other people to respect you." Blair had been putting the file back into his bag as Megan spoke, and he found himself frozen as the picture in his mind suddenly rearranged into a new pattern.

"When did you turn into the smart one?" he finally asked.

"Always was, mate." Megan gave him a wink before opening her car door and getting out. Blair shook his head as he considered the possibility that Megan might be right and he might be wrong. In the end, only time would tell. Either Simon respected him and they'd be able to work together or Simon didn't, and he'd transfer.

Blair shook his head for a moment as he realized that Megan was halfway to the front door, and he was still in the car. He finished shoving the file into his bag and hurried to follow her into the building.


A man wearing an off-the-rack business suit and polished shoes showed them to the stables where the horses that were going to race later in the day or later in the week were housed.

"So who has access to the horses?" Blair asked as he looked at the padlocked stalls and the tightly woven wire mesh that kept fingers and treats away from these animals whose diets were carefully monitored by veterinarians and trainers, all of whom had thousands of dollars at stake.

"Every time a trainer or owner checks in a new horse, we give them one key to the lock you see on that there stall door. The other key is kept in a safe in the main room just in case of fire or emergency. But the safe is locked, and no one’s opened it in at least three weeks."

"Who has access to the combination?" Blair asked.

"I do, the night manager does, the track owner, the on-staff veterinarian, the head of security, and the head of maintenance."

"Mate, that's a lot of people who know the combination do that safe," Megan pointed out.

"I trust my people," the man instantly snapped. Megan made an unpleasant expression and then shrugged as she physically backed off a step.

"So in an average day, how many times are these stalls open?" Blair quickly asked as much to distract the man as to get the information.

"Usually, the horses are out for some morning exercise, the staff will clean out the stall while the horses are on the track, and the trainers will bring them back and feed 'em. Any horses that are racing that day will be out about two hours before their race. The ones that are racing will stay in the stalls until evening, and the trainers'll take those horses out again at night."

Blair exchanged glances with Megan and wondered if it could be just that easy. He knew from the paperwork that none of the trainers or owners was benefiting from having their horses run far slower than usual, so his newest theory he seemed at least possible. From the small grin on Megan's face, Blair thought she might have come up with the same idea.


073. Light
"Oh for God's sake Connor, let me lift that," Blair said as he heard Megan groaning as she struggled to shift another bale of hay. She straightened up and turned around long enough to glare at him angrily.

"Just check your side," Megan said through clenched teeth, and Blair could tell that he was about two seconds away from getting something thrown at his head.

"Stubborn," Blair muttered to himself as he went back to feeling with his hands behind the hay bales. Only the stable hands worked in his room, so Blair was hoping that they would be arrogant enough or stupid enough to leave some sort of evidence around. After all, they were stupid enough to be so obvious in their schemes as to attract the attention of Vice. And they were stupid enough to target a racetrack that had as one of its co-owners one of the most politically influential men in Cascade. So overall, Blair was guessing they were pretty stupid.

"I have seen the light!" Megan suddenly exclaimed as she held up a black object. Blair turned around and spotted the Bible in her hand.

"Religious epiphany?" Blair asked innocently.

"Not quite," Megan said, flipping open the front cover. Inside was a hollowed-out space, crammed full of little brown balls.

"I'm betting that that stuff isn't good for horses," Blair said with a wide smile of his own. He'd learned the hard way that many cases required weeks or months of hard work. He'd grown to accept the fact that many cases would never be solved at all. So, to have his first case back on his home turf practically wrapped up in a little over an hour would have to leave even Simon pleased.

Blair smiled. One way or another, Simon was going to see the light.


074. Dark
"This would be a lot easier with the lights on," Blair tried.

"Forget it, Sandburg. The lights stay off."

"Come on, man. This isn't fair." Blair heard Jim chuckle as the mattress dipped to one side.

"Bully," Blair complained. The small movements of the mattress stopped and Blair could practically feel Jim freeze in place.

"Maybe we could turn on a light downstairs," Jim said, and Blair could feel the uncertainty.

"Oh man, ignore me. I'll whine about doing it with the lights on later. With light, without light, whatever," Blair insisted as he realized just how uncomfortable Jim must be. The mattress tilted again as Jim got up, and Blair lunged up, fumbling to grab Jim in the dark. With the new moon in the sky and the streetlight next to Prospect Place out, the bedroom was pitch black with only the pinpoints of stars contained in the square windows to give Blair a sense of direction.

"I'll switch on the light over the sink," Jim said, pulling against Blair's grip.

"No way. Forget I said anything."

"Sandburg." Jim turned his name into something that was half warning and half curse. Blair would have been frustrated, but he understood Jim's misgivings. The more Jim tried to not take control of everything, the more frustrated he got with Blair changing his mind… which was a problem since Blair seemed to change his mind all the time. Blair knew they were off balance and needed to work this out in time, but right now he just needed his lover beside him.

"Stay," he whispered as his hand held on to Jim's forearm. Blair felt the pressure as Jim continued pulling away for a minute before he relented and got back on the bed.

"I'm not trying to bully you," Jim said quietly.

"I didn't mean you to take it seriously. I say something stupid, you growl at me, we get on with life," Blair reminded his lover. The mattress rolled a bit as Jim stretched out next to him, and now Blair released that arm and allowed his fingers to travel over Jim's stomach and right down to the prize.

"Remember?" Blair asked as he ran a slow finger up the side of Jim's cock. He felt with satisfaction the way the flesh started hardening instantly under his touch.

"Yeah," Jim said roughly, and Blair felt a warm hand rub his upper arm before sliding down to his thigh. Blair opened his knees in invitation, and that large unseen hand slipped between his legs to fondled his cock and balls until Blair had to grab Jim's shoulder and gasp for breath to keep from thrusting into that grip. He suspected Jim wanted him to finish. Jim couldn't get over the idea that he was using or hurting Blair, even as he admitted that he really did want to have sex.

Well this time, Blair didn't plan on making it easy for his Sentinel. He had jerked off that morning after Jim left for work, so he planned on holding out until he had Jim inside of him. The feeling of Jim's fingers moving inside him, pressing to the point of near pain and then hitting his prostate… it left Blair craving more, and Jim wasn't going to get out of giving him more.

Jim stroked Blair's perineum with a knuckle, and Blair's body jerked uncontrollably as he swore loudly.

"Fuck, yes." Blair rolled partially away from Jim and bent down to taste his cock. Jim's hand tightened on Blair’s shoulder as he sucked the crown into his mouth, using his tongue to trace the slit and explore the underside of the ridge. Jim hissed sharply, but didn't make any other sound as Blair leaned up, savoring the taste of precum in his mouth.

"Planning on doing anything about that?" Blair asked as he placed a chaste kiss on Jim's lips and pressed his thigh into his still-damp erection.

"Chief," Jim said in a small strangled voice.

"Want you in me," Blair whispered back, half plea, half promise. Blair closed his eyes against the velvety darkness as a big hand cupped the side of his face, the thumb stroking the outside corner of his mouth. The hand disappeared for a second, and Blair could feel the mattress shift and hear the sound of wood dragging on wood as Jim opened the bedside table.

When a hand returned to tease his cock, Blair bent his top leg to give Jim more room to work. A small popping noise warned him before a cool lubed finger massaged his perineum and circled his hole. Blair took deep meditative breaths, leaning his head back against the pillow as he relaxed his muscles. Blair was concentrating on how that touch made him squirm, so the warm lips against his came as a surprise.

Blair gasped and slid both arms around Jim’s broad shoulders . Opening to the kiss, Blair invaded Jim's mouth just as he felt the first finger push into him. He bore down to help loosen the ring of muscle, and hummed a little as he felt Jim’s finger slid easily inside. Without breaking the kiss, Blair hooked an ankle behind Jim's thigh, pulling him closer.

Jim took control of the kiss now, sending his tongue to explore and taste as his finger probed into Blair’s body. Moaning happily, Blair started squirming his encouragement, rocking his hips in tiny ovals. When Jim's mouth withdrew, Blair made a string of soft curses as he threw his head back and tried to grind down onto Jim's finger. Frustratingly, that finger was stroking just a little too lightly to set off the sparks of pleasure that Blair felt so tantalizingly close.

"You ready?" Jim asked as he curled his finger, and the slight extra pressure made Blair shiver. He could hear the smile in Jim’s voice, even he couldn’t see it in the total darkness of the loft.

"Fuck, yeah," he gasped. The finger disappeared, and were replaced with something larger. Blair bore down again to help the two fingers slide inside smoothly, the sting of penetration now becoming familiar. Blair leaned forward blindly until his lips touched some part of Jim's face. He could feel the tiny spears of stubble against his lips as he planted small trailing kisses down the side of Jim's cheek until he reached his lips, through happy trial and error.

Jim's mouth opened almost immediately, and Blair threw himself back into that kiss even as the fingers inside him stretched him. He couldn't seem to make Jim understand how much he loved this. His body felt like the way it did when he had a good run, that same stretching sensation… that same sensation of things feeling right and healthy.

Blair almost purred with joy as Jim scissored his fingers, carefully opening him. This was as far as they had ever gone, and Blair used his ankle to pull Jim's body close, although in reality he just dragged his own body closer to Jim since he was a good deal lighter. Either way, Jim got the message because Blair now felt himself stretching to accommodate a third finger.

Blair broke off the kiss as he let his head flop down onto the pillow. "Yeah, oh shit yeah," he muttered happily as he squirmed and Jim's fingers reached in far enough to make the pressure on his cock suddenly double. "Fuck," Blair managed a strangled cry as his body trembled with need. He wanted to thrust so bad he could barely stop himself, but there was no way he would risk having Jim find blood and stop again. Blair felt overwhelming need to just slam and push and fuck and be fucked. Just then Jim's fingers stopped.

Jim's fingers pulled out for a moment, but then Jim pressed one finger back in slowly enough to leave Blair groaning and tightening his muscles in a vain attempt to regain the feeling of fullness.

"Roll over," Jim said hoarsely, and Blair felt a large hand guide him up onto his elbows and knees in the dark room. Blair let his back dip as he tucked his forearms under his pillow, reaching to grab the railing. Jim's finger pulled out and then two fingers pressed back in, slick and cool with lube.

"More," Blair demanded as he realized the change in position left him more room, which mean it took more to reach that feeling of stretching and pulling that he loved. Blair had thought Jim would add a third finger, but suddenly the pressure at his ass was larger, duller. Blair had a flash of panic that there was no way Jim would fit without a funnel since the pressure just felt like something pushing against his skin, not pushing to get inside.

Blair remembered to bear down to open the first ring of muscle, and the sensation of pressure increased without actually pushing into him, and then something changed in the angle, and Blair felt the head pop inside in one swift motion. The sudden size of Jim's cock made Blair gasp as the muscles were abruptly stretched to the point of pain.

"Blair?!" Jim called in obvious concern, and then that pressure started pulling back so that Blair felt a sharp sting.

"No, just wait," Blair answered, and the body behind him froze." Oh man, yeah, that's good. God. I love it, I just need… I need a second. Just let me wait," Blair knew that half his words weren't making sense, but he could feel his muscles stretch into new shapes as he relaxed his body. Jim’s hands were motionless on Blair’s hips as he waited for his signal.

Jim must have recognized the signs of relaxation because now Blair could feel his lover rocking back and forth so slightly that he could barely feel it as Jim's cock slowly worked into his body. Blair pushed back, impaling himself a fraction of an inch at a time. Jim froze as Blair repeated the maneuver, slowly taking his lover deeper into his body. Blair groaned as the pressure moved toward the underside of his cock, pressing against the prostate gland and making his body ache with need.

Blair rocked forward on his knees to feel the slick pull of Jim's cock. Gasping, Jim tightened his hands on Blair’s hips as he thrust in harder than before, wringing a shout of surprised pleasure from Blair.

"Fuck, yes." Blair’s encouragement must have worked because Jim pulled back and slammed in again, and now Blair started squirming for real. Jim thrust a third time, and at last Blair felt a hard stomach tapping his backside. He drew a shaky breath- this was it. His lover was finally seated deep in his body. Above him in the darkness, Jim’s answering groan sent a shiver through Blair. For a man who obviously didn't talk during sex, that one moan said everything. Blair curled his fists around the railing to hold himself steady, but he couldn't keep his back from arching and curving in an imitation of a thrust.

A slick hand reached around and grabbed Blair's cock as the sex degenerated into uncoordinated thrusting and moaning and cursing and straining until Blair felt his orgasm tear through him, shredding reality and leaving nothing but the feeling of warm metal under his hands and a huge cock buried inside his body and his own cock emptying out into a hot fist. Blair collapsed bonelessly on the bed before he even thought to wonder whether Jim had finished or not.

Obviously he had, because Blair could feel the cock inside him changing shape. They had discussed condoms and partner history and decided to make a monogamous commitment, Now Blair was grateful that he trusted his partner enough for them to make that decision together- he knew full well that for a condom to be effective, you had to pull out before the erection was totally soft. But this languid, slow withdrawal, with his lover’s weight pressed into his back as Jim panting his own breathless lust in his ear- the delicious sensation of that hard cock softening, shrinking to its normal size as it slipped gently from him… this was right.

Blair opened his fists slowly, working the fingers to get the blood circulating after closing his fists around the railing so hard.

"Love you," Jim whispered, and Blair felt fingers running through his hair, tenderly pushing some of the growing strands back out of his face. It was just at that awkward stage of neither long nor short, but Blair hated to give up and cut it when Jim spent so much time gently carding his hair, fingertips running over cheeks and forehead and neck as the Sentinel sought to make order out of Blair's unruly curls.

"Love you, too," Blair smiled into the darkness.




075. Shade

"Ellison!" a deep voice called as soon as Jim opened the door. Blair was sitting on the couch cross-legged in sweat pants and a CPD sweat shirt, laptop balanced on his knees and some old western on the television, so he hadn't bothered getting up.

"Carl?" Ellison asked in a shocked voice. "What the hell are you doing here?" The words sounded angry, but the tone was amused and happy.

"Just passing through, and I thought I'd see if you were still stuck in the same mud puddle," the man came in now, and Blair looked up. The man was Hispanic with a wide pox-marked face and a deep scar that ran the length of his left arm leaving a furrow of puckered skin.

"Oh, didn't know you had company," the man said as he caught sight of Blair on the couch.

"He doesn't count; he's just my partner," Jim said, and Blair flicked his middle finger toward the men. The guest laughed easily.

"Blair Sandburg," he offered as he moved the computer to the coffee table before standing and offering his hand.

"Carl Perti," the man offered his name.

"Nice to meet you." Blair went back to the sofa and closed the screen on his computer.

"Obviously you don't know Perti well," Jim said as he held out a beer toward Perti before bringing Blair one. "He is one of the shadiest, most underhanded, unreliable bastards I met in my covert ops days."

"Yeah, but I'm good at what I do," Perti said with a wink.

"And why do I have the feeling that I don't want to know what that is," Blair said with a smile as he brought the beer up to his mouth.

"Smart man," Perti said. Jim gestured toward a chair and Perti sat down and leaned forward with his elbows braced on his spread knees. "So, you and Jim work for the locals, huh? God, Jim, I remember a day when you used to make fun of the locals and now you've gone and joined the dark side."

"Perti, I think what we used to do was the dark side," Jim retorted dryly.

"So, are you busily saving society from the evil influences of crime and urban decay?" Perti asked with half a smirk.

"Since someone let you into town, obviously not well enough."

"You hurt me Ellie-boy."

"Ellie-boy?" Blair asked with amusement as he looked over at Jim who had a look of dismay on his face.

"You are evil," Jim growled at Perti.

"So, am I interrupting some important, top-secret meeting on some criminal mastermind who keeps tagging walls in South-town?"

"Oh no, I'm just looking over a paper for a friend. Nothing work related," Blair hurried to reassure the man. Then he glanced over at Jim trying to decide how Jim wanted to handle this. With the door to the office open, it was clearly not a bedroom and with the open floor plan in the loft, there was no way to hide the fact that the two men only had one bedroom.

"Blair lives here, if you can't already tell that from the mess," Jim said as he looked around the room.

"Oh Ellie-boy, you haven't changed a bit. You were the only man I ever knew who looked forward to inspections. So you're staying here?" Perti's voice took on a sudden cautiousness as he turned to Blair.

Blair froze, he wasn't sure how to answer that without either denying his relationship with Jim or outting him to someone that Jim might not want to be outted around.

"For the last four or five years," Jim said quietly, his voice suddenly tightly controlled. "Like I said, Blair's my partner." Jim took a long drink from his beer while keeping his eyes on Perti. Blair held his breath as he waited for the reaction.

"Well, Ellie-boy, I guess you've gone to the dark side in more ways than one."

"Careful, Perti. I've kicked your ass before, and I can do it again," Jim answered. Blair started searching for plausible reasons to run for the hills.

"Hey, whatever floats your boat," Perti held up his hands in a placating gesture. "I just thought you might be up for some pool and beers. If you've gone and gotten yourself a... partner, no skin off my nose."

Jim was silent for a long time, and Blair could practically touch discomfort in the room.

"So, you haven't taken up knitting or anything, have you?" Perti threw out in the silence. Blair snorted his laughter, not sure whether he was laughing at the image of Jim Ellison knitting or just because the situation was so damn uncomfortable.

"Not likely. I can still kick your ass in a game of pool," Jim glowered back at the man, crossing his arms with the beer bottle still hanging from one hand.

"Now that sounds like a challenge."

"It's a promise."

"Bring it on!" Perti said with a smile that reminded Blair of Russo.

Blair had just finished reading Rebecca's dissertation on the cultural norms of young girls in gangs when the door slammed open. Jim came in with a slightly glazed expression that suggested he had consumed about a half dozen beers to many.

"Oh man, why didn't you call? Tell me you didn't drive," Blair said as he pushed the computer to one side and hurried to close the door behind Jim.

"Don't nag, Sandburg," Jim said as he tossed his keys at the wicker basket they had bought for next to the front door. He managed to hit the basket hard enough to make it and all the mail in it slide off the small table and onto the floor.

"I am so not picking that up," Blair said as he went into the kitchen to get Jim a large glass of water.

"You know what, Sandburg?" Jim asked, and Blair found strong arms wrapped around his waist as Jim leaned his weight against Blair's back.


"I'm gay," Jim whispered in Blair's ear. The scent of beer and whiskey made Blair wrinkle his nose.

"Okay," he answered slowly. "And does that work for you?" Blair braced his hands on the edge of the sink. He wasn't sure if he wanted to hear the answer. The saying " en vino veritas" floated to the top of his mind.

"I don't want to buy any Judy Garland movies." Jim put his chin on Blair's shoulder even though he had to slump down to manage it. It also meant that Jim's hands slipped farther south.

"Okay," Blair answered with even more caution.

"And I don't want to put in track lighting or buy leather pants." Jim slurred his words until Blair wasn't even sure that he had heard correctly.

"That's fine. I have to say you look good in leather, though," Blair said as he thought back to Miss Rose's wardrobe choices during that stakeout.

"Mmmm. Is it okay if the only part of gay that I feel like doing is the whole fucking and loving a man part?" Now Jim's words slurred so badly that Blair was afraid he might hit the floor. Blair squirmed around until he faced Jim and put his own hands around Jim's waist.

"Oh man, that's just fine with me. Let's just get you upstairs before you pass out because I'm not carrying your ass up all those stairs." Jim responded by slowly sliding to the ground, dragging Blair down with him.

"Or we could just sleep here," Blair said as he found himself sitting on the floor with Jim lying in his lap. Jim just reached up and patted Blair on the nose clumsily before Blair could intercept that drunken gesture. "Man, you are one pathetic drunk."

Two weeks later, Blair picked up the mail only to find an oversized white envelope with embossed flowers decorating the front. It was addressed to both of them, so he slit the envelop open in the elevator, the rest of the mail shoved under his arm. He pulled a wedding card out, a fancy one with roses in shades of pink and embossed baby's breath flowers decorating the front. Blair opened it.

"Congrats Ellie-boy. He sounds like quite the catch," a rough hand had scrawled on the opposite side from a hallmark comment in scrolling cursive. Blair smiled. Sometimes people surprised you.




Relevant Questions

076. Who

Who the hell do you think you are; this is a federal investigation scene," a man in a brown suit demanded as he charged toward them.

Blair pulled out his most charming smile and his badge. "Blair Sandburg, Major Crimes. My captain is the one who called you in." The man physically took the badge of out Blair's hand before reaching over to Taggart and taking his badge as well. Taggart glanced over to Blair with an amused expression. Blair coughed to cover an urge to smile. He and Taggart probably had the most in common of any of the guys, and they had spent more than one lunch hour talking about how ridiculous some people got about defending their 'turf.'

"I'll need to call these in and get confirmation," the man said as he stared at the badges as though looking for an 'Acme Co.' logo on the bottom. Blair just nodded without comment. Trying to push in now would just make the man get his back up.

"So, want to go get coffee?" Taggart asked. Blair looked at the large man in confusion, but Taggart nodded across the street. A coffee shop with a huge glass pane in front had a perfect view of the crime scene. And in that window stood the indistinct form of a woman "You could use a little of that Sandburg charm," Taggart suggested.

"Oh yeah. Definitely feeling a need for coffee," Blair said with a smile. There was more than one way to skin a cat or get around a cranky FBI agent.


077. What
"What's up?" Jim asked as he pushed open the door to the coffee shop.

"What do you mean, what's up? We're just having coffee and thought you might like to join us," Blair said. After a morning of working with Agents Stuck-Up and Passive-Aggressive, Blair and Taggart had allowed themselves to be pushed out of the way again.

"I'll even spot you to the first cup," Taggart offered, and Blair thanked god he had gotten paired with the laid back man for this case. Brown or Megan or Jim would have told the agents off long before.

"So, we're just drinking coffee?" Jim asked, clearly confused.

"Oh yeah. Man, we do not spend enough time just chilling out and listening," Blair said with a nod toward one of the junior suits sitting at a far table eating lunch.

"Ah," Jim said with a small smile as Taggart got up to get a coffee.

"Hey, you want a sandwich with that coffee?" Taggart asked.

"Yeah, lunch would be good," Blair answered for Jim who had his head cocked to the side.


078. Where
"Where are they?" Taggart asked as he parked the car beside the supermarket.

Jim tilted his head to the side for a second before pointing to the far corner of the lot. A dark van waited in the shadow caused by broken streetlight.

"Oh man, if they're going for subtle, I think they missed the mark."

"The FBI isn't known for subtle," Taggart pointed out. "So how are we going to do this?"

"Do what?" Jim asked. "I'm just doing my shopping."

Blair snorted. "Those agents catch you out there, and you're going to have a hard time convincing them that you normally shop 20 miles away from the loft."

"Then it's a good thing they don't know me, huh, Chief?" Jim said as he opened the door to Taggart's car and got out. "I'll let you know the minute I hear anything interesting."

"So," Taggart asked as Jim pulled the baseball cap down over his eyes and then sauntered into the grocery store looking like a single man on the prowl for a date. "Are we just going to wait?"

"Not a chance, my friend," Blair smiled. "Let Jim try and figure out what the FBI is doing while you and I look for the suspect.

"Simon's going to hang you out by your ears if we end up at cross purposes with the FBI," Taggart pointed out, and Blair smiled at him.

"Hey, they're the ones who told us to get lost. If I happen to show up where they are..." Blair shrugged to show his complete innocence in the matter. From the skeptical expression on Taggart's face, he wasn't impressed.

"That look may work on Jim, but you're going to need something better than puppy dog eyes if you piss Simon off," Taggart said, but then he opened his car door and pushed himself up and out without another word. Blair followed him out into the night.

079. When
"When were you planning to tell my detectives what you found?" Simon demanded in a barely contained fury. Blair leaned back against the car and just thanked his lucky stars that Simon's anger was directed at the FBI and not toward him.

The heavier of the two FBI agents answered. "We had reason to believe that the suspect was a member of law enforcement. After all, you were concerned enough about the lack of forensics evidence to call us, so you had to recognize that this was not a local issue." Blair cringed as Simon's back went stiff. If it weren't for the bright lights and cameras, he suspected Simon would have verbal skinned these two by now. Instead he answered in a tight, low voice.

"What I recognized was that this was a serious offender, and that these rapes were violent enough and often enough that the suspect had probably moved into the area from somewhere else. What I recognized was that you have a wider database and could help coordinate information from other departments. What I recognized was that my officers would benefit from having another pair of eyes on the case. What I refused to recognize is that you had any right to walk in here and shut my detectives out. What you did was out of line, and your boss can expect to hear from me."

"Look Captain, the job got done." The second senior agent, the man who had originally taken Blair's badge, stepped forward now.

"And when you say that, you damn well better say who managed to get that job done. Sandburg spotted the potential victim, Taggart was in the car that cut the suspect off, and Ellison and Sandburg together ran the suspect down. I don't hear where the FBI has anything to do with any of that."

"So your official..."

"When we file our official reports, they are going to reflect the truth," Simon insisted as he shoved a cigar in his mouth angrily. One of the agents opened his mouth to continue the arguments, but Simon turned his back and stormed away.


080. Why
Blair picked up his official report on the arrest of the serial rapist and headed for Simon's office.

"Hey, Simon," he said as he walked into the office and put the file down.

"That the serial rapist case?" Simon asked, and Blair instantly went on the defensive. He didn't know what it was about the tone of voice, but he recognized something not good was coming.

"Yeah," Blair said slowly.

"Next time you think you're getting the runaround, you don't go off on your own."


"Don't give me one of your longwinded 'buts', Sandburg. Why the hell do you think you have a Captain? You solve the crimes, I make sure you have what you need and that no one's giving you shit. So next time, you tell me before you go off half cocked and running your own operation," Blair opened his mouth to protest, but the similarities to what Roth had said to him so many months ago stopped him cold.

"You're right, like totally right," Blair finally said as he realized no captain, not Roth or Simon or even Taggart when Taggart had been a captain would have been okay with what he did. "Next time I'll let you know. I just forget to ask for help sometimes," Blair admitted with a shake of his head and a shrug.

"Shit. I understand that, Sandburg. And you need to know that you don't have anything to prove here." Simon looked up from the report, and Blair caught the earnest expression on Simon's face, an expression Blair had seen when he watched Simon talk to Daryl.

"If you need help, like any other detective in this department, you ask me first," Simon ordered quietly. With that, Simon swung his chair around and focused on his computer screen which Blair took as a clear dismissal.

Funny, he'd never before felt so good about getting his ass chewed out.





and oh boy did Velvet Virago help with this chapter

081. How?

"Mmmm. How do you want it?" Blair asked as he straddled Jim's prone body and ran his hands over those impressive shoulders. Of course there were other, even more impressive body parts lying under him, but Blair wanted this to last. He wasn't about to hurry.

"I want… you know," Jim said in a low, ragged whisper. Blair gazed down at his partner whose strong features were lit only by the moon and the light from the streetlight trickling in from the windows. It lent the room a grayish-blue tone that almost mimicked the color of the dreams Blair no longer had.

"No, I *don't* know," Blair corrected him as he bent down and started laying a trail of kisses across Jim's chest until he reached a small nipple. He sucked hard to bring the flesh to a point and then licked at it gently, enjoying the sensation of Jim's powerful body writhing beneath his mouth.

Jim's large hands closed around his back and pulled their two bodies together, and Blair had to fight the urge to start humping his partner. While they both enjoyed frottage, he wanted to make tonight something a little more special. After all, they had worked far too many hours on the Atwood case. They deserved a treat.

"Yeah, more of that," Jim said encouragingly when Blair sat up.

"More of what? This?" Blair asked as he turned his attention to the other nipple. Bingo- Jim jerked up so hard that Blair was almost bucked right off.

"Yeah," Jim begged as his hands restlessly explored Blair's waist and back.

Blair obligingly leaned into the embrace, resting his chest against Jim’s. He lowered his head so that he could feel Jim’s breath ghosting against his own lips. “Tell me what you want,” Blair whispered. Jim started thrusting up mutely, and Blair immediately transferred his weight up to his hands and knees, denying his partner a chance to end it quickly.

“Nuh-uh,” he said with a smile that he knew his Sentinel could see in the dark.

"Come on, Chief; have some mercy here," Jim complained, but in a light tone of voice that suggested that he wasn't really all that upset.

"I will, just as soon as you tell me what kind of mercy you're looking for," Blair said as he slowly and carefully lowered his weight back down. This time Jim lay still although Blair could feel the hard cock twitching under him.

"Just, you know…" Jim said helplessly.

"Oh man, I am not a mind reader and I totally don't know. What do you want?"

"You, Chief. I want you." Maybe it was the words or the desperation in those words or the way Jim now shifted uncomfortably, but a light bulb went off in Blair's mind.

"How do you want me? Because I'm right here," Blair answered, needing to be sure.

"I *want* you." Was that a blush? It was so hard to tell in the dim light.

"As in?" Blair prompted.

"Whatever, just do something," Jim's tone of voice geared up from needy to confrontational even as he lay unmoving. Blair smiled as he leaned his forehead against Jim’s neck; clearly, he was going to have to help his Sentinel along a little.

Blair planted a line of tiny licks along that neck until he reached an ear, and then he whispered, "Do you want to feel me inside you, pressing into your body, touching you from the inside as you come?"

He briefly worried that the dirty talk would be too much for his normally stoic partner-- would he be embarrassed, or would he laugh? Neither. Jim’s arms tightened convulsively round him until Blair gasped, and Jim released a little pressure.

"Yeah," Jim pleaded with just the one word.

"So tell me," Blair insisted softly.

"I want you inside," Jim sighed, eyes closed tightly.

"Just tell me what you want, man. I want to make you happy." Blair shimmied his hips against Jim’s, and Jim caught his breath.

"God, you already do, Chief."

"So tell me how to make you happier," Blair suggested as he pushed himself up to his knees and straddled Jim's thighs. "Tell me how to make you deliriously happy.” Please, man. Say the words. Just tell me, Blair begged in his own mind. He needed to know.

Blair looked down at his lover, and even in the low light, he could see Jim struggling with the concept of using actual words. The hard cock pearled with precome shining at the slit demanded action, but Blair needed more. So often Jim would remain silent when it came to what he wanted or what he needed. By nature Jim took care of everyone else and not himself.

"Tell me and I'll take care of this," Blair breathed as he rubbed his thumb in a soft circle around the swollen crown. Jim jerked up off the bed with a gasp. "Tell me," Blair begged.

"Touch me," Jim finally asked, and Blair wrapped his hand at once around the shaft of Jim's cock.

"What now?" Blair asked, and Jim's eyes drifted open.

"I think you know this part," Jim remarked as he gave a small thrust with his hips.

"Man, I have so many different ideas about what to do… I just want to know what you need. What do *you* want?"

"Rub it," Jim asked, and that was definitely a blush staining his cheeks as he finally said the words.

"Gladly." Blair began a slow, warm stroking up and down the shaft. Since he didn't have lube on his hand, he kept his grip light and teasing, watching as Jim helplessly fisted the sheets.

"Harder," Jim demanded breathily, and Blair closed his hand and fisted the cock tightly.

"Whoa." Jim's voice had a strained edge to it, and Blair instantly stopped. "Lube." Jim already had the bedside drawer open and was fumbling inside for the towel and lube. That answered one question--Jim definitely seemed to lack any interest in having a little pain with his pleasure. Reaching for the proffered lube, Blair flipped the cap and dripped slick into his hands, rubbing them together to warm the gel.

"What now?" Despite Blair's question, Jim remained silent. Blair just waited with the lube warming in his hands and his own erection throbbing. Finally Jim spoke.

"Chief, do what you want."

"I am," Blair pointed out. "I want to know what you're thinking and wanting, so I'm asking." Jim muttered something so soft that the only word Blair could hear was 'annoying.'

"Touch me," he finally asked, and this time he opened his eyes to look up at Blair.


"Oh for… touch my cock." At Jim's words, Blair closed his slick and warm hand around that throbbing cock, feeling the flesh harden even more under his fingers.

"Stroke it," Jim ordered, very softly.

Blair set up a slow pattern up and down the length of the shaft. He smiled… Jim was finally getting it.

"The head, touch the head," Jim gasped, and on the next upstroke, Blair closed his thumb and forefinger into a ring around the ridge of the glans as he used his left palm to rub teasing circles over the slit. Jim arched his back, mouth open in a soundless gasp as his strong legs stiffened under Blair.

"Stop. Shit. I'm not ready to come," Jim panted. Blair knew the feeling--the sight and sound of Jim squirming and begging had brought Blair almost to the edge of orgasm without any touching at all. So he sat up and took deep cleansing breaths to regain his own control while Jim's chest heaved below him.

"Can you… get up a minute?" Jim finally managed to ask between gasps. Blair wiggled backwards on his knees until he came to the edge of the bed and climbed off. Jim rolled over and got up onto his knees. Blair tried to not show his shock since he knew Jim could see him as clearly as if all the lights were on, but then the sight of Jim vulnerable and waiting made the shock disappear under pure lust. Blair struggled to control his own rising fantasies in favor of listening to his partner.

"Where do I start?" Blair asked as he stood beside the bed.

"Just," Jim's voice stopped for a moment, "fuck me." Blair opened his mouth to point out that maybe that would be missing a few steps, but Jim started talking before Blair could say anything. "Put a finger in me, Chief, find that spot that always makes you swear when I touch yours...”

Well, he wasn’t going to have to ask twice. Blair hopped back onto the bed behind Jim and grabbed the lube. As soon as he generously slicked one finger, he started rubbing the puckered entrance in front of him.

"Oh yeah," Jim shivered. "I like that, and the skin below it," he suggested. Blair widened the massage so that he was teasing the hole and the perineum with first a firm and then a feather-light touch. He put his free hand on Jim's ass and felt the firm muscles trembling under his touch.

"Inside." Jim’s voice was hoarse with desire. Panting, Blair slipped a finger inside Jim's body. The passage was tighter than he'd expected and he could feel the pressure around the base of his finger as he reached in for the little nub of the prostate. He knew he found it when Jim pushed back onto his hand, his ass tightening into cords of muscle.

"Yeah, do that again," Jim demanded more firmly now, and Blair crooked his finger over the swelling again.

"Shit. Chief, a second finger." Blair pulled out slowly and then pushed back in as he tried to loosen up the muscles enough to do that, but the ring remained frighteningly tight.

"Jim, where is your dial for touch?" Blair asked suspiciously. Silence answered him. "Jim?"

"At about a 7," Jim finally admitted.

"You're dialing up too high, your body won't loosen up with that much tactile input. Dial it down," Blair said as he ran a soothing hand over Jim's back. He could feel Jim take deep breaths, and he waited as the muscle around his finger finally relaxed.

Blair started the stroking again, and now the muscle began to soften until his finger moved without resistance. Blair hurried to get more lube before adding a second finger. He pushed in slowly and steadily as Jim’s breath caught in hitched little groans. The second finger slipped in easier than he had expected, and Blair placed a kiss on one of Jim's exposed cheeks as he began to stroke and spread Jim's passage.

"More," Jim gasped, and Blair smiled. Oh yeah, he knew that song. He spread his fingers until they ached from the unusual movement and then Blair pulled them out.

"No, don't stop," Jim said as he started to push himself up.

"Just a second," Blair soothed as he added more lube, and then pressed into Jim's loosened hole with three fingers tightly compressed into a triangle. Blair knew the pleasure of being on the bottom, feeling that burn and stretch and then the glorious pressure as his partner stroked his prostate. He hadn't known how sexy it was to be the one giving such pleasure. Even now he felt his erection harden at the sight of his strong lover, so exposed and vulnerable and trusting. Jim arched his back and spread his thighs even wider, and it was the most erotic thing Blair had ever seen. He was reducing the most controlled man he had ever known to pure lust and need.

"Fuck, Sandburg, move," Jim half demanded and half begged, and Blair pressed his fingers in farther. Resistance squeezed his fingers almost painfully , and Blair pulled out a little before pressing firmly in again. Then again, slowly seating his fingers even more deeply into Jim’s body.

"Just—" Jim's words broke off into a hiss as Blair pressed into the prostate. "Just fuck me," Jim finally finished.

Blair pulled his fingers out and grabbed the lube. His fingers shook as he struggled to open it and get himself lubed up. The first touch of his own slick fingers across the head of his cock nearly did him in. He knelt on the bed fighting to control his own body.

"Chief, just fuck me, damn it," Jim swore below him, and the sound of that beloved voice begging made Blair gasp as he struggled not to come on the spot.

"Oh man, I'm trying. I just need a minute," Blair hissed.

"Think Russo," Jim suggested with a chuckle, and Blair's orgasm retreated at once.

"Oh man, that's not an image I want to have during sex. Why would you say that?" Blair asked incredulously.

"What the hell do you think I’m doing down here? If you don't hurry up and fuck me, I'm not going to make it through the main event, Chief," Jim said with a strangled laugh.

"yeah, well, I could have lived without ever having that image," Blair muttered as he took his slightly more manageable cock in hand and lined up with Jim's opened hole. He pressed forward, and sucked in a surprised breath at the unexpected pain as his sensitive cock tried pushing into that maddeningly small opening.

"It's okay, Chief. Just push past that first bit, and it's more than worth it," Jim offered from below. Blair sucked in a deep breath and took the advice. The unfamiliar and painful pressure gripping the head of his cock instantly turned into a delicious squeezing sensation as Blair slid home into Jim's body.

Jim panted a harsh "fuck" and arched his back. Blair took that as a good sign and pressed in a little farther. The muscles around his cock rippled, and that gorgeous clench made Blair grab for Jim's hips to steady himself as he cursed in pleasure.

Blair rocked forward, burying himself in that smooth tightness that felt nothing like a woman. Jim started moving below him, and Blair decided to abandon the whole 'make Jim talk' plan since it was now pretty obvious what his lover wanted. Blair braced himself on Jim's back as he pulled back and then slid in. The familiar motion and the unfamiliar tightness sent hot shivers of lust up his backbone as he thrust in again. Gasping, he reached around to grab Jim's cock.

"Yeah… like that… fuck me, please fuck me…" Jim now started to thrust in earnest, and Blair nearly lost himself as the feeling of Jim impaling himself and the rippling muscles gripping his cock built to an almost unendurable pleasure.

Jim half-sobbed and stiffened, and Blair felt the cock in his hand thicken as the balls drew up in release. A clasping heat rippled around Blair’s cock, unlike anything he’d ever experienced. Wailing, he lunged forward, slamming deep into Jim's spasming body just once more before he fell away the void of orgasm, pleasure rocketing along every nerve. Nothing existed except the two of them, joined at the very core.

Blair wandered his way back to the real world slowly, first becoming aware of his cock slowly slipping out of that glorious tightness. Then the gentle rising and falling motion, like the ocean, rocking him where he lay on Jim’s broad back. Finally, he connected that motion to Jim's labored breathing as the Sentinel sprawled under his weight. Blair struggled just to roll over to one side so Jim could breathe easier.

Blair had no more than touched the mattress when strong arms pulled him into an embrace.

"How was that?" Blair murmured as sleep started fuzzing the edges of his newly formed reality.

"Perfect," Jim whispered back.

082. If
"Jim, have you ever thought about what would have happened if we’d met some other way?" Blair asked as he stared at the TV screen.

"What?" Jim looked over at Blair, ignoring the game. Then again, the Jags were up by 50 points, so it wasn't exactly an exciting game.

"You know, the old 'what if' game," Blair shrugged.

"No, I don't know, Sandburg. You mean what would have happened if we'd met after I'd been shoved in a nuthouse for seeing things no one else could see?" Jim asked with a half-raised eyebrow.

"Oh man, that is not what I mean. I mean more like what would have happened if we had met when you first went into the military--you as a cadet in uniform," Blair let his eyes travel his partner's body at the thought.

"Considering you would have been about six at the time, I can safely say 'no'," Jim answered, amused.

"No way. I would have been at least..." Blair stopped, and the small grin on Jim's face made it clear that he understood exactly why. "Okay, so maybe that wasn't a good example. Let's not think about that any more."

"Please," Jim confirmed.

"Haven't you ever wanted to play at being someone else?" Blair tried again. Jim's lips quirked in that way they did when he was trying not to laugh. Crossing his arms, Blair glared.

"Okay, okay, Junior, chill out. Right, so role play you mean."

Blair bit back a surprised comment that strait-laced Jim had 'fessed up to understanding so quickly. "Man, haven't you at least thought of other scenarios?"

"You mean like I could be one of those annoying FBI agents who don't know their asses from a hole in the ground?"

"And I could be a hippy on the run for twenty years." Blair stopped and thought about what they had just said. "Oh man, we suck at this game."

"What do you mean? I can work with that," Jim insisted.

"You're playing a law enforcement officer and I'm playing a hippy,” Blair sighed. “That's not thinking outside the box; that's more like circling the box. The point is to be something you'd never normally be."

"Okay, considering you've been a student, a teacher, an anthropologist, a truck driver, a shaman, a welder, a drug runner," Jim's lip twitched at that one and Blair glared again, "and impersonated a doctor, that doesn't leave you much room to work, Chief."

"Very funny, man. The trick is to pick something that's the opposite of who you are so that you can do what you’d usually never get to do.” He brightened. “Oh. I've got it! I could be a suit. I’ve never even been close to being a yuppie, so I can be the spoiled, rich businessman who inherited his company from his father and has never had to actually work. Someone who thinks he can buy everything and everyone." Blair smiled in triumph, but Jim looked at him dubiously.

"Okay," Jim finally answered slowly, standing up from the couch and switching off the television before pacing between the TV and the stairs. "Fine," he announced after several laps. "I'm the jaded male prostitute who pulls down the big bucks." Blair had stood when Jim did, and now he leaned back against the arm of the couch, jaw literally dropped in shock. Blair could see the triumph in Jim's eyes at having chosen a role that shocked even Blair.

"Um… right."

"Okay." Jim looked a trifle smug.

"So, um, how much for a night," Blair finally asked.

"I can't do this. I really can't," Jim said as he started smiling. "I'm sorry, but this is just too funny," Jim leaned back against the stair railing and laughed softly.

"Oh man, you suck!"

"Only if you pay me, Chief," Jim shot back.

"Whatever." Blair turned and went to the bathroom. He'd learned long ago that when all else failed, a trip to the can was often the best way to save face.

Blair took extra time, so when he opened the door, the last thing he expected was to find Jim leaning against the wall insolently with a dark expression.

"So you think you can buy me?" Jim asked, his voice silky and tough at the same time. Blair stood open-mouthed as Jim's eyes traveled his body curiously as though never having seen it before. For one moment, Blair's brain stuttered—probably because all his blood was heading for points south. Then Blair leaned back against the door frame.

"Oh, I know I can," he answered confidently. "I can afford a thousand whores like you," Blair said, and Jim's lip twitched before he could cover with a cough.

"You seem awfully sure of yourself," Jim said once he'd taken a deep breath. Blair could practically feel Jim's struggle to control his laughter like a tangible wave rolling just beneath that cool exterior.

"You seem rather buyable," Blair responded quickly. "But I'm not sure you have that special something that's worth buying." Blair shrugged and started walking down the hallway. He caught the surprised expression on Jim's face just before he turned his back.

"Oh no," Blair felt a hand grab his arm and push his back into the wall. "You aren't walking away that easy," Jim said, and the edge of danger in that voice made Blair even harder, and he had no illusion that Jim didn't know that too.

Now Jim pressed Blair into the wall with his body and lowered his head to whisper in Blair's ear. "I can make every fantasy you ever had come true. Tell me what you dream of, and I'll make you come so hard you’ll forget your own name," Jim promised, and Blair couldn't stop a shiver from making his legs tremble.

"You're awfully sure of yourself," Blair said as he swallowed heavily.

"I'm awfully good," Jim answered as he backed off, cool blue eyes never leaving Blair’s.

"How much for a striptease?" Blair blurted. Jim cocked his head for a moment, obviously taken by surprise, and Blair feared he had pushed too hard, but Jim just slowly smiled.

"Fifty bucks," he said.

"Oh man, you have an inflated sense of your own worth. I'll give you twenty," Blair countered. Once again, that surprised look crossed Jim's face, but then he nodded before crossing to the stereo.

Blair dove for the couch, sure his trembling knees weren’t going to hold him up much longer. As soft jazz music filled the loft, Jim quickly pulled down the window blinds, moving with a subtle roll of his hips that made Blair breathe harder. Privacy assured, Jim turned to throw a melting glance at Blair as he started undulating to the music, his shoulders dipping in time with the saxophone's melody.

Slowly, Jim brought his hand up and undid the bottom button on his shirt with one hand while he pulled it out from the waist of his pants with the other. He moved lazily and languidly, a knowing smile touching his lips as he locked eyes with his customer. Blair found himself desperate to see the skin that Jim revealed only in the most tempting glimpses, a lift of the hem here, a button flicked open there…

Blair tightened his hand around the arm of the couch as Jim slowly ran a hand up his stomach, disappearing under his shirt. Blair longed touch that skin, but now that he’d set the rules, he didn't want to end the game. So he sat, cock straining against his jeans, watching avidly as one button after another gave way under Jim's nimble fingers.

Now Jim closed his eyes and started writhing to the music as his blue shirt slid off one shoulder. Rather than let it fall away, Jim brought his arms up over his head, bending his elbows and twisting his hips. Blair lost all coherent thought at the sight of Jim's broad chest first hidden and then revealed by the silky blue fabric, as Jim threw him teasing glances.

As the song came to an end, Jim brought his hands down and shrugged so that his shirt fell to the ground behind him. Jim had ended the song half turned away, so now Blair had a front row view of the flexing muscles in those perfect arms, framed by back muscles tightening in rhythm. Blair wondered how he could have ever missed the sexual appeal of that broad back and perfectly defined body.

A new song started, the piano taking center stage, and now Jim's movements were more sinuous as he toyed with his own nipples, sliding his fingers down well-defined abs before casually flicking open his pants button. Jim danced closer, smiling an invitation as he rocked his hips wantonly. Blair gasped and very nearly came in his pants. Damn, who knew Mr. Strong and Silent had such a wicked streak in him?

He had seen Jim use that body as a battering ram and as a weapon, as a shield and as a crime lab. He had never before seen Jim use his body like this. Jim rolled his hips again as he pushed the zipper of his pants so agonizingly slowly that Blair heard every click of the fastener opening. Jim licked his lips as both hands disappeared into the front of his pants, and now he closed his eyes and tossed his head back. Blair resisted the urge to grab his own pants, transfixed by the sight before him.

Jim’s thumbs hooked over his waistband and he shimmied his hips, pushing down slowly until his cock finally appeared, and Blair gasped for air. He'd seen Jim naked any number of times, but this--the sight of that hard cock slowly appearing as Jim slithered out of his pants and boxers at the same time--this made Blair nearly mad with lust. Blair looked away for a moment to get his control back, and when he opened his eyes Jim was in front of him, naked and hard and looking incredibly smug as he still swayed in time with the music.

"So, still think you can afford me?" Jim challenged, all arrogance.

"I can buy and sell you a dozen times," Blair said, but the words came out far breathier and higher than he intended. Jim gave him a predatory smile and bent over with his hands braced on the back of the couch on either side of Blair's head.

"So, Bigshot, what are you looking to buy?"

Blair swallowed again even though he couldn't come up with enough moisture to spit. "What are you selling?"

"Oh, if you want my mouth, it's a hundred. If you want my ass, it's two hundred." Jim bent his arms so that his mouth was right next to Blair's ear, naked thighs straddling his lap. "If you want me to take that ass of yours, I'll do that for free, but I expect a two hundred dollar tip afterwards." Jim straightened up some so that he was an inch from Blair's face staring him straight in the eye. "And if you want something less vanilla, all prices are negotiable."

Blair could feel his cock ache with need as his brain struggled to get enough blood up to his top head to actually get his mind to work. He hadn't ever dared imagine that Jim might be willing to get this creative. He didn’t want to blow it by not being able to come up with any ideas, but all he could do was stare at the magnificent body arched over him.

"What are the menu options?" Blair finally managed to squeak out. Oh yeah, he was doing a great job being the large and in charge type. Jim cocked his head and sucked in his cheek a little, and Blair could tell he was biting it to keep from laughing. Blair cleared his throat and struggled to not be totally distracted by that beautiful naked body, so close he could feel the heat drifting off it.

"For an extra hundred, I can tie you up. For two hundred, you can tie me up," Jim leaned forward again and whispered conspiratorially. "And if you want me to call you 'Daddy', you can call a cab." Blair was so desperately close to coming that he had to take several deep breaths.

"So that will be two hundred and two hundred," Blair choked out. "Oh yeah, man. I can handle four hundred. I can totally handle four hundred. No problem at all," Blair babbled as he firmly told himself to not babble.

"Four hundred and twenty," Jim corrected him haughtily. "I don't dance for free."

"Yeah, four-twenty," Blair repeated, but then he would have agreed to anything by that point. And he’d babble while doing it.

"Plus tip," Jim reminded him, closing his legs to press tight on the outside of Blair's thighs.

"Only if you make it worth my while," Blair insisted as he struggled to get back into his role.

"Oh, I'm worth your while," Jim promised smoothly.

"So get upstairs, and I'll be there in a few minutes," Blair squeaked. There was no way he could walk upstairs until he had gotten control of himself. Jim straightened and looked down at Blair, pupils so wide that his eyes appeared to be almost black. Then he turned and scooped his pants and shirt off the floor in one graceful motion, striding across the floor as he headed for the loft as ordered.

Blair flopped his head against the back of the couch and tried to slow his breathing, focusing on sucking air in through his nose, whooshing it out through his mouth. Calm… calm… When he thought he could move without humiliating himself, Blair hoisted himself up from the couch and followed Jim upstairs. He had his shirt off before he even reached the bedroom, but the sight from the top of the stairs stopped him in his tracks, flannel shirt hanging limply from one hand.

Jim sprawled decadently on his side, his legs bent and open to frame the hard cock resting on his thigh, one arm propped up on his bent knee. From the wrist of that hand dangled a length of rope, one end knotted around the wrist and the other end hanging free. The hand braced on the bed trailed a second length of rope and Blair suddenly lost all coherent thought at the sight.

"So, you're the customer," Jim shrugged nonchalantly. "How do you want me?"

Blair realized that Jim was much better at this game, and never had he been so happy to lose at anything. His brain felt like it was shorting out from too much erotic input. He couldn't have told Jim his name. Instead he stood and simply stared at that body laid out like a lewd banquet, his brain shrieking so many suggestions at once that Blair couldn't even sort through the images.

"On your back," Blair finally ordered, and Jim shifted languidly, flexing his muscles in clear display as he lay back on the bed and stretched his hands over his head. Blair walked over and took one trailing end of rope in his hand. Gazing down at his lover, he saw the trust and humor in Jim's eyes as he pulled a trapped hand up off the bed. Blair took a second to trail a finger across the exposed palm before he let the hand fall back to the bed. He knotted the rope to the railing. He walked around the bed and tied off the second rope, and now Jim was truly his. Opening a drawer, he retrieved a bottle and towel.

Blair ran an appreciative finger across Jim's arm and shoulder and then down to a tight nipple. Jim shivered but stayed silent, his eyes warm on Blair’s. As quickly as he could, Blair stripped out of what was left of his clothes and climbed on the bed. Jim obligingly spread his thighs to make room. Kneeling between those spread legs, Blair slicked his hand, and closed his fist around his own erection as hips thrust with a mind of their own. In an instant he was coming, like fireworks behind his eyes, gasoline flung on a fire.

"Well that seems like a waste of $420," Jim remarked, brow raised. Blair just gasped for air as he braced himself with one hand on Jim's exposed thigh.

"Oh, you can't possibly think I'm done with you yet," Blair panted as he struggled to put the world back in order, which included remembering his part in this kinky little play. "That was just taking the edge off." He reached for the towel and gently cleaned his come from Jim’s stomach and chest.

"Told you I was worth it," Jim boasted, and Blair rolled his eyes.

"Yeah, yeah. As much as I'm paying, I plan to get my money's worth," Blair said as he opened the lube again. With his non-sticky hand, Blair reached up and grabbed a pillow.

"Up," he ordered, and Jim obediently raised his ass so that Blair could slip the pillow underneath. When Jim settled back against it, his ass was angled perfectly, and Blair smiled wolfishly at the sight. So often Jim's hands would be all over him, distracting him, tormenting him, making him crazy with desire. Now the tables were turned, and Blair had a free pass to explore Jim at his leisure. He started by running a slicked finger over the perineum and up to the balls, reaching to cup and roll them lightly until Jim bit back a moan.

From there, he let his fingers carefully explore every part of Jim's cock, from the bold vein down the underside to the edge of the plum-shaped head- the arrow-shaped indentation underneath, and the little slit like a tiny pair of lips at the very crown. He gently mapped the ridged, bumpy surface of the shaft and the baby-soft, sensitive skin hidden under the curls where the cock joined his body. For all his iron control earlier, Jim couldn’t help thrusting up slightly now, and Blair smiled as Jim's pinioned hands curled into fists.

Bending over, Blair took the head in his mouth, lapping up both the musky salt of Jim and the faint medicinal taste of the lube. He danced his tongue along the slit, and now Jim swore, breathless and low and needy.

"God, Blair, more," he begged, and Blair obliged with slightly more suction, quite forgetting to mention that he’d never “told” his name to the high-priced rentboy.

Jim writhed beneath the tormenting mouth and thrust roughly. Blair sat up at once, pulling away from the wet cock and letting Jim push into nothing but air.

"Fuck!" Jim swore.

"Or not," Blair answered blithely. "After all, I'm the one paying here, so it's kinda my choice."

Blair dropped onto the bed, curling against Jim’s side with his head propped on one arm while his free hand trailed over a hard stomach and chest. "I could leave you here aching," Blair threatened softly, running a thumbnail over a pebbled nipple.

"Chief," Jim hoarsely whispered.

"My money," Blair repeated as he leaned down to kiss Jim. Jim returned the kiss enthusiastically. Blair shifted to better press himself to that talented mouth, hand cupping the back of Jim’s head. Then he felt the thrusting from below and the sudden warmth as Jim came with a happy groan. Blair let himself sag onto Jim, nuzzling kisses along his jawline.

"Well, so much for the long buildup," Blair said wryly.

"Don't worry, Chief. I still owe you $200 in services," Jim laughed softly. "After all, if I didn't know how to keep my customers happy, they wouldn't come back, would they?"





083. And

"That's strange," Blair said as he looked at the picture half cut from its frame and drooping down in a way that reminded Blair of a dog's ear, the way it folded over itself.

"And, but, or, yet, so?" Rafe asked in an exaggerated tone of voice.

"Oh, man, you watch entirely too much Stargate," Blair laughed. He hadn't pegged Rafe as a sci-fi fan, but then again, Blair had learned that people were often more than they appeared to be.

"What? I'm not," Rafe protested. "Now Law and Order... that's a seriously good show."

"Don't give me that; you're quoting Stargate."

"I did not," Rafe insisted, and now Blair could see Rafe start to blush.

"And, but, or, yet, so?" Blair repeated. "That's classic O'Neill."

"It's just a saying, Hairboy," Rafe said, picking up on Henry's favorite nickname. Blair wondered why all his nicknames seemed to focus on his hair. He also had a flashing thought that the assignment of communal nicknames could be an interesting topic for a paper. He let that thought go.

"The only person I've ever heard say it is Colonel O'Neill. Just saying," Blair quickly added when Rafe opened his mouth to protest again. "Now this is different," Blair said as he gestured toward the painting. "If these guys are such pro's, why would they leave a job half done?"

"Good question," Rafe answered as he walked around the armchair in the lavish study so that he could look at the painting from the side as the techs fingerprinted everything around. Blair didn't expect them to find anything, especially since Jim hadn't found a single clue despite the three crime scenes he'd visited. Simon had finally pulled Jim off to deal with a homicide leaving Rafe and Blair to handle the rash of art thefts from private homes.

"I suppose they could have been interrupted," Blair thought out loud as he circled to the opposite side.

"And what interrupted them?" Rafe asked.

"Something or someone that didn't trip the alarm or call the police."

"And that someone or something is now... where?"

"Somewhere else, and yeah, this theory is not really working," Blair said without bitterness. As a scientist, he knew the value of challenging a hypothesis.

"Not really," Rafe agreed.

"Could they have had an accomplice who pulled them out for some reason, maybe buzzed their phone?"

"And why do that?" Blair took his turn at asking the questions.

"Because... okay, you got me there. I have no idea."

"Okay, let's take a step back," Blair said as he walked out to the garden room where a neat hole had been cut in the glass door. "I come in looking for art work. I've obviously cased the place..."

"And you watch way too many bad detective shows if you think in terms of 'casing a place,'" Rafe interrupted.

"Whatever, man. I'm looking for art, and I go straight for the study because I know that Roberts has an original Dorothea Tanning in there." Blair stopped and Rafe picked up the story.

"And you're obviously an idiot because you start taking the painting and then abandon a $30,000 piece of art for no reason." Rafe had no more than said the words when he looked over at Blair with an expression of revelation. Blair smiled as he had the same thought.

"We need to take this painting back to the lab," Blair said.

"Indeed," Rafe said with a deadpan voice.

084. He
"He really had a lot of people fooled," Rafe said as he leaned over Blair's desk and looked at the lab report.

"No kidding. I can't believe all that stuff was forged."

"What people won't do to keep up a front, huh?" Rafe said as he straightened up.

"You mean, like hiding a little Stargate obsession?"

"Or hiding a relationship," Rafe shot back, and then the man instantly stepped back as he flushed slightly. "I'm sorry. That's really not my business," he quickly added.

"Whoa. I have never hid my relationship, and if I don't go waving it in people's faces, I think I have my reasons."

"I know. It was a stupid thing to say," Rafe quickly agreed.

"Then why did you bring it up?" Blair demanded. He wasn't about to let this slide. If there was a problem, he would rather have it out right up front.

"No problem," Rafe insisted in a tone of voice that begged Blair to drop the matter.

"Oh man, cough it up."

"Blair, let's not go there."

"Oh, let's."

"Fine. I just think it's pretty crappy that you were hiding behind all those women."

"Wha... all what women?"

"Oh come on, you had a parade of love interests that you used to trot out. I mean, poor Sam."

"Poor Sam?" Blair nearly squeaked. He could think of many words to describe Sam, who he still considered a friend, but poor wasn't one of them. Brilliant, beautiful, arrogant and terrifying maybe, but not poor.

"You used her."

"I dated her!"

"When you were interested in him!"

"Whoa, what the hell are you talking about?"

"You and Ellison."

"Ellison and I weren't an 'us' until we came back from Phoenix. I never used Sam or any of those other women to put up some front."

"You mean... you two weren't…?" Rafe's voice trailed off in confusion.

"Man, I am as wysiwyg as they come. What you see is what you get."

Rafe snorted. "If you think that's true, then you were putting on a front for yourself because everyone except you and Ellison already knew you two loved each other." Rafe answered. Blair opened his mouth to respond, but then he closed it again. He had already come to a similar conclusion himself. Blair shrugged as he took the lab report and added it to the art theft file.

"Whatever," Blair answered. After all, he couldn't change the past now.



The Return of Alex

085. She

"Okay, you smartasses, where is she?" Blair demanded, his arms crossed over his chest as he glared from one member of Major Crime to another. Taggart swung his chair around and suddenly started typing. Brown smirked back. Rafe became interested in the grain of his desk.

"What's the matter, Sandy?" Megan asked as she came across the bullpen.

"Who took Alex?" Blair growled. No one messed with his purple girl.

"Someone snagged your favorite sheila?" Megan said with eye wide in shock. A little too wide.

"Yes, someone took Alex, and someone better 'fess up," Blair said as he focused his glare on Megan.

"Geez, Hairboy, it's only a stuffed toy," Brown pointed out as he leaned against a file cabinet to watch the morning's entertainment. Blair turned to include Brown in his glare, but the other detective just laughed.

"No, she's only *my* stuffed toy, and if someone doesn't return her to *me*, retaliatory strikes are entirely possible."

"She'll be apples, Sandy. Just chill," Megan laughed.

"And just what makes you so sure that she's okay?" Blair demanded. Megan held her hands up in surrender as she backed away from him.

"Woman's intuition?" she asked unconvincingly. Blair would have followed up, but Simon came in with an expression that suggested he had more important concerns that a missing toy. Alex would have to wait.


086. Choices
Blair tried not to look suspicious as he walked into the bullpen before the sun even rose. A few people from the night shifts wandered the halls, but at 5 in the morning, even the criminals tended to be in bed. Blair went over to Brown's desk and slowly slid his knife between the desk and the drawer. It was handy having a lover who was willing to teach you completely illegal tricks, Blair mused as he used the point of the knife to spring the catch.

Sliding Brown's desk drawer open, Blair searched for something worthwhile to steal. There was Brown's stash of top of the line and possibly illegally imported cigars or Brown's black book of girl's phone numbers which was actually green. Choices, choices. Blair's hand hovered before he snatched both the cigar case and the little book.

Blair pushed the drawer closed with his hip as he slid the items into his jacket. One quick trip to his car, and he could hide the loot. Now he had some bargaining power. Blair made the trip down and up in record time without everyone else trying to get on the elevators at the same time, but by the time he got back, another Polaroid sat on his desk.

A uniformed man Blair didn't recognized held Alex in his arm as he leaned on a sign that read "Mount Gilead Police Department." Blair groaned, and he would have gotten on the map and looked up Mount Gilead, but he knew from past experience that he would eventually find another conspirator who would laugh and say he had already mailed Alex to the next address on the list.

"Hey, Hairboy," Brown said as he came in the door. Blair narrowed his eyes defiantly stared at the man who Blair just *knew* was in on Alex's little road trip. Brown and Megan were definitely in on the scheme, and possibly Rafe.

"If she so much as has a dirty patch of fur," Blair threatened as he held up the newest picture before opening his drawer and dropping it in with his growing pile of Polaroids.

"Hey, why are you telling me? I keep tellin' ya, Sandburg, I'm not the mastermind here!"

"Right," Blair said as he slammed the drawer. "Well whoever the mastermind is, you'd better get in touch with him or *her* if you want your own stuff back," Blair said with a smug smile. Blair watched in satisfaction as Brown hurried to his desk only to find the lock jimmied and his stuff gone.

"That's… that's just not right," Brown eventually fumed. "Those were my best cigars!"

Blair leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms feeling more than a little satisfied with himself. Now Brown had a few choices to make, and hopefully he'd choose the one where he'd call the next name on the list, whoever came after the Mount Gilead Police Department.


087. Life

"Hairboy," I need that book. "Man, I've got to call Karla or I'm never going to get out of the doghouse," Brown begged.

"And I need Alex back," Blair pointed out. He would have felt a lot more sympathy if he hadn't just gotten yet another Polaroid, this time from all the way over in Nova Scotia. The picture showed a man in a beige uniform leaning on a blue sign that read "Yarmouth Town Detachment-RCMP" in both English and French.

"I don't know who's next on the list. Have some mercy here, have you seen Karla? I can't afford to go pissin' her off."

Blair just sat back with a vicious smile as he watched Brown panic.

"Man, Hairboy, you used to be a lot nicer."

"You never stole my stuffed toys before. This one time when I was five and someone stole my woobie, I made an entire commune abandon the state," Blair shot back. He could admit to having a seed of pity for Brown, but there was no way Megan would crack and give the name of Alex's current location, so Brown was his best chance.

"How about if I give you a lead, would that be enough to get my stuff back?" Brown asked. Blair tilted his head in confusion.

"What kind of lead do you think would be worth me giving up my only leverage?" Blair demanded.

"I could flip on the ringleader; that'd be worth something."

"Oh please. Like I don't know it's Megan," Blair rolled his eyes.

"It's not. Look, just promise me you'll give me back my stuff before you do something that gets your ass thrown in jail for the rest of your life."

"This better be good," Blair threatened as he reached in his pocket for his car keys.

"It is. Just give me the book, and I'll give you a lead you can work with." In the end, Blair's curiosity won out and he led Brown down to his car where he'd hidden the cigars and the book under the emergency blanket Jim had bought him. He held the items out, but didn't let go as he waited for the grand revelation. Brown sighed heavily.

"He's going to kill me, but better him than Karla. Ellison has the list of addresses," Brown said, and Blair had to rewind that bit of speech and run it through his brain a second time before he believed his ears.

"Ellison?" Blair said incredulously.

"Ellison. Now look, Hairboy, it was supposed to be a joke," Brown explained as he took his valuables from Blair's suddenly numb hands.

"Oh, I'll show him a joke, alright," Blair said as he pulled the keys from the trunk and slammed it down as hard as he could. "I'll joke him right into a coma." Brown was still talking, but Blair didn't listen as he got in the car and headed for the loft.

Blair pushed the door open hard enough that it bounced off the wall.

"Chief? You okay?" Jim came out of the kitchen with a spoon still in his hand and a slightly panicked expression on his face.

"Alex." Blair announced the single word, and Jim's eyes widened just a bit.

"What about her? Did someone mail her back?" Jim asked, but Blair could read the lie in Jim as easily as Jim could read the lies in a suspect's beating heart.

"Where is she?" Blair demanded as he stepped into the loft and slammed the door behind him.

"How should I know?" Jim shrugged.

"Oh man, just tell me where my stuffed toy is and no one has to get hurt," Blair threatened as he walked toward Jim with one hand raised and one finger pointed at his partner.

"Blair? Come on now, you know I wouldn't do anything to Alex," Jim tried placating him, but Blair continued until he was inches from Jim and physically poking Jim in the chest with one finger.

"Where the hell is my fucking Alex?" Blair demanded.

"She's just out enjoying life, having a bit of a road trip," Jim said. "*Whoever* sent her just wants to have a little fun."

Blair wasn't fooled by Jim's words or by the way the side of Jim's lip twitched as he tried not to smile.

"I want my fucking stuffed monster back," Blair growled. Jim obviously couldn't take it anymore and that lip twitched its way up into a smile as Jim's body started to tremble with repressed laughter. Blair poked his finger into Jim's chest again for emphasis, and it was like pressing a whoopee cushion: The air came out of Jim in one long hiss and then Jim started laughing uncontrollably.

"Weirdo," Blair complained.

"Yeah, but I'm your weirdo," Jim said as he closed his arms around Blair. Blair tried to back off, but Jim's arms held him tight even while Jim laughed, his breath stirring Blair's curls.

"I still want my Alex back," Blair insisted even as he let his own arms come around Jim's waist.

"We'll call Frank up in Canada and tell him to skip ahead to the last address. I guess the joke's run its course," Jim agreed.

"You have a warped sense of humor, Jim Ellison" Blair said into Jim's chest.

"Yep," Jim agreed happily.

Bonus: "Singing in the Rain"
Written for Patty1h for Moonridge 2006

"If you're that upset, we could wait it out," Blair said as he leaned against the brick arch and watched the Cascade sky dump summer rains down onto the street. Not a single star shone through the clouds, and even the light of the street lamps seemed dimmed by the downpour.

"I'm not upset, I'm annoyed," Jim corrected him. "And I'm not annoyed at the rain as much as the partner who forgot the umbrella," he finished. Blair looked out the side of his eyes and Jim was wearing his patented frustrated face. It was a combination of his constipated expression and the face that convinced perps Jim was one inch from strangling them to death.

"So, do we wait it out or make a run for the truck?" Blair asked as he peered through the darkness to the truck parked on the far side. Unfortunately he couldn't catch even a glimpse of blue paint. So not good.

"If we wait, we're going to be here a long time," Jim said as he tilted his head and looked up at the clouds.

"Oh, man, that's cool. You can tell that?!" Blair pushed away from the arch of the museum and practically sprang to Jim's side where he peered first at the sky Jim studied and then at Jim himself. "What senses are you using, smell? sight?" Blair questioned, and the Sentinel turned toward him with a barely contained smile.

"The weatherman said this front's going to hover all night."

Blair crossed his arms as Jim's smirk told him he'd been set up. "Keep it up, just keep it up. One of these days, you're going to say something and I'm going to be so suspicious and jaded that I’m not even going to bounce," Blair threatened as he poked a finger into Jim's stomach.

"Never going to happen, Chief," Jim answered with a quick swipe at the invading hand.

"So, last one to the truck's a rotten egg," Blair casually commented, and then he bolted down the museum steps, his hand sliding along the banister as he counted on surprise to give him a head start… well surprise and Jim's sense of propriety, which would make the man stop and check for witnesses before doing something as silly as racing through the rain.

The circular driveway was a collection of dim oil rainbows sliding in the weak light of the street lamps, and Blair slowed to a trot to avoid falling on his ass. His hair stuck to his face and his neck and rain poured down the back collar of his coat. When he reached the grass of the park, Blair took off running without even looking for Jim.

After nearly a week of rain, each step drove his foot deep into the damp ground. Going in, his foot ripped at the grass and slipped in the mud. Coming out, it made a sick slurping sound as the mire pulled at his sneakers.

Blair was just rounding a bush when he felt something catch at his shirt. It might have been a tree branch or a burst of wind, but Blair somehow knew it had been Jim trying to grab him. He pushed his legs harder, listening to the squetch-slurrp of his footsteps as he leaped a row of yellow flowers, their heads drooping in the heavy rain.

Blair stumbled forward, his foot slipping when a chunk of grass ripped free of the mud underneath, and before he could recover, an arm grabbed him around the waist and yanked him off the ground.

"If I'm going down, you're going with me," Blair shouted into the wind as he squirmed. He could feel Jim stagger back under the weight, and then Blair's feet touched ground again. Blair shoved back into Jim, trying to throw him off balance. Feeling Jim start to tip, Blair laughed as he twisted in Jim's arms. He might love his Sentinel, but he didn't throw a race for anyone!

One of Jim's arms came free and windmilled wildly as Jim lost his balance and started slipping down the slight hill. Blair tried to press his advantage by giving Jim a little shove, but Jim's second arm clamped around him. Within a second, Blair found himself sliding down an incline slimy and wet with mud, Jim's arm still around him. They came to rest under a large bush with tiny green berries gathered in clusters.

"You okay?" Jim immediately asked, large hands checking elbows and knees and hips and.... Blair squeaked as Jim's hand grabbed him in a far more personal body part.

"What's the matter, Chief, you suddenly coming down with a case of shyness?" Jim teased. Blair grabbed for Jim's shoulder as the hand tightened.

"Shit. Man, if someone sees us," Blair gasped. The bush above them shivered with the force of the rain, and a mist filtered through the leaves.

"I think I'd hear them coming," Jim pointed out as he worked at the zipper of Blair's pants. Blair lost his next thought as a hot hand worked inside his pants, tracing the outline of his cock still trapped by his briefs.

"What happened to being annoyed?" Blair teased as he reached for Jim's pants to return the favor. He had a brief image of the guys at the station discovering this side of Jim: playful, adventurous, downright horny.

"Oh, I'm still annoyed, Chief," Jim promised, but then he reached down and kissed Blair. It wasn't the first-thing-in-the-morning-brush-of-lips-while-not-breathing-to-avoid-bad-breath kiss or even the you-annoy-me-but-you're-still-hot kiss. No, this was the full out, hand-behind-his-neck, Jim-lips-sealing-over-his-mouth-while-a-tongue-thrust-naughtily-into-his-mouth kiss.

By the time Jim pulled back, Blair was panting and had his fist curled around Jim's shirt. "Feel like getting a little dirty?" Jim whispered into the skin just below Blair's ear, and Blair could feel a shiver run through his entire body. Jim laughed.

"I think we're already dirty," Blair just said as he held up an arm that, from the heel of the hand to the elbow, dripped with mud and had strings of grass randomly imbedded in the mire.

Jim had been licking a patch of skin just below the ear, and now he started sucking so hard that, even as Blair bucked and writhed in Jim's grip, he panted out an objection. "Oh man… Jim… come on… Fuck… the guys… Jim… they'll see…"

Eventually Jim raised his head and looked Blair in the eye.

"Problem there, Chief?"

"You suck," Blair retaliated. He didn't even catch his own pun until Jim quirked an eyebrow at him as the corners of Jim's lips twitched. "Man, you know what I mean," Blair insisted, squinting his eyes again the mist that still filtered through the leaves above them.

"I do suck," Jim muttered as he leaned closer. Blair tightened his fist around Jim's pants which he had only gotten half open before the Sentinel had stolen every rational thought.

"Fuck it," Blair finally laughed as he leaned into the next kiss, working Jim's pants open with one hand while he hungrily sucked at Jim's lower lip. Slipping a hand into Jim's boxers, he found the hard cock inside and squeezed just hard enough to tease.

Jim made a strangled noise and thrust his hips forward.

"Something wrong?" Blair asked with mock innocence as he pulled out of the kiss.

"Tease," Jim growled, and then Blair gasped as Jim threw himself forward, trapping Blair under him. Blair felt his pants and boxers pulled down just far enough for his own cock to come free, and then Jim was pressing down on him, both of their cocks side by side in Jim's rain-slicked fist so that Blair could feel the aching need through Jim's twitching cock.

"Never a tease," Blair said as he reached behind Jim's neck, pulling him in for another kiss as Jim started humping. For his part, Blair spread his legs and angled his hips so that the rubbing hit the skin just below the head of his cock. The need spread until the cold rain felt good on his overheated face and he had to break the kiss just to breath. Jim's mouth panted loudly into his ear, and Blair could feel his own heart throb heavily in his chest as the heat became a delicious ache that made him grab handfuls of Jim's shirt and ram up.

Blair started a brief moment before Jim, crying out as the orgasm made everything in the world except Jim disappear for a brief moment. By the time Blair even registered the existence of a world again, Jim lay on him, limp and panting as he stroked Blair's cheek.

"Still annoyed," Jim whispered playfully, and Blair smiled.

"Yeah, yeah. Just wait 'til you see your truck seat tomorrow, and then see how annoyed you are," Blair pointed out as he felt cool mud slipping up his bare butt and sliding against his neck.

"Is that why…" Jim paused and then pushed himself up on one arm, the mud making slurpy sounds around his splayed fingers. "Is that why you hesitated?" Jim asked. "Because I thought making love out in the great outdoors would be right up your alley."

Blair blushed. "Oh, the nature thing, and the whole spontaneously throwing me to the ground, yeah, I'm good with that, but you know you're going to hate yourself when Brown pokes fun at the hickey and your truck looks like someone left the windows down during a hurricane. Of course, we don't ever get hurricanes around here, so I'm not sure—"

Jim stopped him with a kiss. This time it was a long, slow kiss that gently explored the contours of lips.

"Chief, I don't care who at the station knows I love you as long as it isn't the brass who would split us up as partners. And as far as the truck goes, yeah, I'll take it to have the upholstery cleaned tomorrow, but you're a little more important than the truck."

"Yeah?" Blair asked with a slow, satisfied grin.

"Yeah," Jim answered before taking another kiss.

"So," Jim said as he rolled to the side, rain dripping off his nose as he fastened his pants. "I guess this makes you the rotten egg." Before Blair's brain could process the statement, Jim leapt up and started running for the truck.

"Hey, that's so cheating," Blair yelled as he hurried to tuck himself back in before starting after his partner. He had no hope of winning the race now, but he wasn't about to just give up. As he struggled up, shedding chunks of mud as he stood, he glanced at the man sized body-imprint in the mud and wondered what the gardeners would make of it tomorrow. Laughing, he turned and ran through the downpour in the direction of the truck and Jim.


Swinging Pendulum

088. School

Blair stood by the front door, so shocked that he couldn't get his legs to move well enough to carry him to the couch. He was aware of time only as a distant concept, at least until the lock rattled as Jim worked his key from the outside. The door swung open, and Blair continued to stand staring at the phone and the wall and the electric bill propped up behind the phone. They were shapes, squares and rectangles, but Blair somehow couldn't make sense out of them.

"Chief?" Jim's voice sounded worried, and Blair wondered how Jim could know within one second of getting home that Blair's life had managed to somehow turn itself upside down once again. Blair didn't answer.

"Chief, you okay?" Jim's voice was louder now, and Blair turned to face him. Blair opened his mouth to explain the impossible thing that had just suddenly become possible, but the words refused to form in his mouth.

"Blair, you're really worrying me now." Jim's hands closed over Blair's shoulders, and Blair began to slowly smile.

"Oh, man," Blair managed after a second.

"Come on now, Chief. I need a little more to work with than that. Is that an 'oh man, someone is out to kill me' or an 'oh man, I just won the lottery'?"

"Man," Blair whispered.

"I'm looking for more words here, Chief, not fewer." Blair felt strong hands guide him toward the couch, and he followed along without protest.

"You're not going to believe it. Oh man, no fucking *way* are you going to believe it."

"Chief, if you don't tell me what's going on, I can't believe it. What's more, you're frustrating me enough to consider beating a few facts out of you." Blair just smiled wider at Jim's threat.

"They want to hire me," Blair said in a shocked voice. If he hadn't been looking at Jim, and he never would have seen the moment of pure pain that crossed Jim's face, but the moment he saw that expression, Blair could have kicked himself. "Whoa there, no jumping to conclusions!" Blair blurted, but Jim held up a hand to keep Blair from saying any more.

"If someone's offering you some big chance, you need to take it. You turned down your own department once, and if you do it again you can't expect fate to keep giving you new chances."

"Man, you are the world's biggest goober. No one's offering a different job. That was the University of Phoenix on the phone. They want me to teach at their new online program. Me. Teaching again." Blair stopped as his brain once again stuttered to a halt—shock making him temporarily incapable of forming complete thoughts or sentences.

"Teaching?" Jim seemed just as shocked as Blair had been when he picked up the phone. In fact, Blair had thought it was a practical joke at first. However both the program and the offer had been legit.

"Yeah, isn't that cool? They want me to teach Criminal Culture and Working with Marginalized Populations. The whole program is online, so I could do all of my grading and paperwork right on my laptop."

"They don't," Jim stopped in the middle of the sentence, but Blair could hear the rest just as clearly as if Jim had said the words.

"Man, that's the perfect part. I talked to the chancellor for over an hour about the diss and the press conference and my lack of academic credentials. The man told me it was a good thing that I was a cop because I didn't understand how criminals worked. He said if I was actually a fraud, I would've taken the $3 million. Said that the very fact that I gave it back proved that I was just somebody who got caught in the middle of other people's ambitions. He wants to hire me, Jim." Blair realized that he was sitting on the couch only when he turned to face his partner. "They really want to hire me."

"Don't sound so surprised, Junior. You have some pretty unique credentials. How many trained anthropologists ever get a chance to see inside police culture and criminal culture as much as you have?" Something in Jim's words set off alarm bells in Blair's head.

"That's true," he said slowly. "A trained anthropologist inside police culture, huh?" Blair watched as just the edges of Jim's ears turned pink. "Oh man, if you want to avoid torture, start talking."

"What?" Jim demanded as he scooted a couple of inches farther away on the couch and crossed his arms over his chest. Blair didn't answer but simply glared.

"Okay, Simon might have mentioned to me that he and Roth had recommended you for the position," Jim admitted. "They wanted to know whether this would be something you wanted or whether this would be rubbing salt into an open wound. For some reason they seem to think that I understand you.

I told them that I had no fucking clue what made you tick, but that I was fairly sure that the idea of holding down two jobs and trying to live on caffeine and two hours' sleep a night would make you happy." Jim shrugged dismissively and then stood up as he headed to the small table next to the door. He dropped the keys from his hand into the basket.

"Jim, have I mentioned lately that I love you?"

"Not lately, no." The answer took Blair aback for a minute, but then he realized that even if they didn't say the words, it was still there.

"I do, you know."

"Yeah, yeah. Don't go mushy on me, Chief." And with those words Jim retreated to the bathroom.


089. Work
"Oh man, I forgot it's my turn to cook dinner," Blair said as Jim came through the door. "Man, I am so sorry."

"No problem, Chief. New case?" Jim came over and looked over Blair's shoulder.

"I wish. These psych papers are driving me nuts. The students don't know the difference between Jung and Adler, and you don't even want to know some of their theories on crime and poverty. If these guys don't get over their chauvinistic attitudes, they're going to do more harm than good no matter what part of law enforcement they go into."

"Well, I know you'll whip them into shape." Jim's strong fingers started rubbing along his neck, and Blair could feel the tension draining from his body.

"But it was my turn to cook," Blair said guiltily.

"It's worth it to see you back to the same bouncing, hyper, overcommitted goof I fell for," Jim assured him.

"Hey, I resemble that remark," Blair swatted at Jim's thigh.

"Yeah, well, I'll call for Chinese."

"Oh, hey, order me some sweet and sour chicken," Blair called as he went back to a paper on the psychology of gangs.

"No problem. After all, it's your night, so you're paying."

"Whatever," Blair said absent-mindedly as typed his response to the paper in a second e-mail window. He was so tired of his students using post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacies. Next semester he was definitely going to send out an e-mail on logical argumentation.


090. Home
"Damn it, have you ever considered picking up your own shit," shouted a voice from downstairs and Blair sat up in the bed with adrenaline running through his body from the shock of being woken up by a bellowing Ellison. He reached over and grabbed his robe from the railing before heading down the stairs.

"What are you yelling about?" Blair asked as he ran his fingers through his curls and headed for the coffeepot.

"Just once, would it kill you to pick up your own damn stuff?" Jim snarled, and Blair stopped by the kitchen table. Jim was busily mopping up coffee with paper towels, at least he was mopping up the coffee that hadn't soaked into the papers and files stacked on the table.

"Oh man," Blair breathed softly as he looked at the mess.

"If you'd pick up after yourself, this wouldn't happen," Jim said as he threw the coffee soaked paper towel down on top of what used to be Blair's case file for the Sisson rape. Blair thanked god that he followed policy obsessively, meaning that all his personal files were photocopies with the originals safely stored at the station. Of course, that meant that he would have to photocopy and highlight and annotate another set of files. Blair winced.

"Oh boy," Blair said both at the sight in front of him and the idea of spending hours redoing all his lost work.

"Well, if you wouldn't leave your crap sitting around on every available surface, maybe this wouldn't happen." Jim stormed back into the kitchen and slammed the mug down on the counter hard enough that Blair flinched and half-expected the thing to shatter.

"It's not as if—"

"It shouldn't have happened at all," Jim said in a low, deep voice that practically trembled with frustration and anger. Blair also suspected Jim had a bit of guilt in there since that was the one emotion guaranteed to send Jim off into a tight-lipped rage. Blair bit his lip in indecision. Usually his relationships fell apart before they got into the daily aggravations stage, so he wasn't entirely sure about how to handle this.

"I'll get this cleaned up," Blair offered as he headed for the cupboard with the trash bags. He would have to take the files to work until they dried out and he could shred them, but he didn't think Jim would want to have the smell of drying coffee and wet ink in the loft.

"Leave it. I'll get it after my shower," Jim snarled.

"It's okay I'll just—"

"Leave it, Sandburg. You didn't get in 'til after three, and you're not the one who spilled the damn coffee." Jim hurried out of the kitchen, detouring around the far side of the table to avoid Blair.

Blair watched Jim disappear into the bathroom and slam the door. Nice. Well, Blair supposed they had to have fights over something. Blair decided that the best way to keep the peace was to take Jim at his word and go back to bed. Blair suspected he wasn't going to get much sleep.


Blair cursed out the walnut-colored laminate board as he turned it one way and then the other trying to figure out how to make the object in his hand look like the object in the drawing. Deciding it was futile, Blair put that board down and picked up a slightly longer plank and repeated the process. He was so engrossed that he didn't notice Jim until the man stood over him, blocking the light from the living room windows.

"Sandburg?" Jim asked in a wary tone of voice. Blair just wasn't sure whether the man was wary because of their morning fight or because of the disaster in his living room.

"Oh, hey. I can explain," Blair said quickly as he looked up into Jim's patented frustrated expression.

"This should be good."

"It's from Ikea," Blair explained with a wave toward the various boxes and faux wood planks and pieces of hardware strewn about the room like shrapnel from some home decorating war. "I thought it would be a little easier to put together than this," he admitted.

"Is this why you borrowed the truck at lunch?" Jim asked as he started stepping over pieces to look at the pictures on the fronts of the boxes.

"Um, yeah. It's called the home office organizer. It comes with file cabinets, work space, a mail organizer, vertical filing slots, the whole works," Blair said enthusiastically. He could just see the spare room with the small desk moved out and this whole unit in its place. Or at least he would be able to see it if he could get it put together.

"So is this because of this morning?" Jim asked as he moved a particularly long board in order to sit on the couch.

"Oh man, I totally didn't realize how I let my stuff collect all over the house," Blair said. When he'd gotten up the second time, he had looked around the loft and realized that Jim had been right about one thing: he had started leaving his stuff absolutely everywhere. In the past, Jim had started yelling when the clutter reached a certain point, and Blair had cleaned it. This time, Jim hadn't yelled and Blair hadn't cleaned.

"This is your home, you shouldn't have to listen to me yell about how you live in your own home," Jim sighed.

"This is your home too, and you shouldn't have to put up with my shit if it frustrates you," Blair quickly pointed out. "I'm just not good at noticing that I'm spreading, so here's the deal. When I leave my shit all over, you yell and I'll put it way in my brand new home office organizer."

"Just like old times?" Jim asked.

"Oh hell yeah. Your yelling is not exactly new."

"I—" Jim stopped after the one word, obviously trying to come to some decision. Blair waited as Jim struggled with some internal demon that Blair didn't even understand. "What piece are you looking for?" Jim finally asked.


Jim looked around the room, getting up so he could circle a bit before picking up a long skinny board from near the front door and handing it over.

"Finally!" Blair exclaimed as he compared the piece in his hand to the picture in the directions. "Now we need to attach this to B-1." Blair started looking at the pieces near the couch while Jim hung up his jacket before looking at the pieces laid out near the kitchen table.

Jim quickly spotted the missing piece, and handed it over.

"Thanks man." Blair smiled as he took the piece.

"What's the next piece on the list? I want the living room turned back into a living room before we go to bed."


"You start putting it together and I'll get these pieces in some sort of order. We'll get this up in no time," Jim promised.

"Good to have you home," Blair said, and Jim stopped for a moment, his hand reaching for a thin strip of laminate. Then Jim picked up the wood and Blair started using bolt T8 to attach C-13 to B-1.



So Married

091. Birthday

"But that is just not cool. I can't believe I missed it." Blair threw his keys in the basket and shrugged out of his jacket before heading to the kitchen as Jim stood by the table sorting mail.

"If you start going on about windows and make-up gifts, I will not be held accountable for my actions."

"But your birthday was last week; that's not in anyone's window, man. I mean, we've had dinner six times and I haven't even mentioned it." Blair grabbed a bottle of water from the fridge and leaned against the wall as he watched Jim quickly sorting out the junk mail.

"Which is fine, Sandburg," he insisted without looking up.

"But I forgot your birthday."

"Chief, you've had so much going on lately that I'm surprised you remember your name on a daily basis." Jim finished his sort and headed for the kitchen. Blair thought he might be forgiven from the way Jim walked close enough that their bare arms brushed against each other.

"Pure exaggeration, man, *pure* exaggeration," Blair complained as Jim pulled out a beer for himself.

"Oh yeah?"


"How many online classes are you teaching?" Jim asked quickly, an expression on his face that suggested he expected to win this fight.

"Oh man, is that what this is about? I only have the two, which is fewer than when I rode along with you *and* took classes *and* taught."

"Uh, huh. And how many active files are you working right now?"

"I don't see what that has to do with anything. We all have big case loads," Blair said defensively and without actually answering the question.

"Stop obfuscating, Chief. How many?"

"Seventeen, okay," he snapped, "but most of those are dead in the water."

"And every week you still make the rounds on all seventeen cases, no filing them away into the inactive files."

"You never know when you might get a break," Blair insisted stubbornly. He wasn't going to budge on this point, not for Roth not for Simon and not even for Jim.

"I agree, Chief, but you can't kill yourself or you're going to do anyone any good. And right now, how many of your friends' dissertations are you 'looking over'?"

"Ah-HA! Only one. Got ya there."

"And if I added in master's thesis and other research papers, papers for publication, and honor's projects?" Jim asked with that victorious smile widening.

"Oh, man."

"Yeah, Chief. 'Oh man' would be one way to put it. 'Way too many' would be another."

"But that still doesn't excuse me forgetting your birthday."

"No, but it explains it. And I don't need a guilt gift and no talking about windows for forgiveness."

"But it's a cultural rule man, you miss a major event by this much and it's like WHOA!" Blair held out his hands wide to illustrate just how big of an issue he thought it.

"Then let's make up our own rules, including one that says the window of forgiveness never closes here."

"Hey, like a countercultural norm established in our little society of two," Blair said as he flopped down on the couch. He could definitely get used to not having to grovel or beg forgiveness or buy gifts he couldn't afford.

"Chief, you're strange."

"Yep, but you still love me... even when I forget your birthday." Blair said certainly. Jim's only answer was to sit on the couch and turn on the television. Someone else might have been insulted by the lack of an answer, but Blair focused on the way Jim sat just close enough for their knees to touch.

092. Christmas
"Bets!" Blair said happily as he pulled the door open fast enough to make the bells hanging on the door wreath jingle. "Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, Good Solstice!" Blair said as he hugged the woman before waving her into the loft.

Funny, she looked smaller than he remembered, but then again, she tended to dominate every memory with her larger than life personality, so he supposed that it was psychologically inevitable that he remember her as larger than she really was. Of course, she was still a physically imposing woman and taller than he was. But as she came in the loft and stood next to Simon and Jim, she no longer looked impossibly large.

"Bets, good to see you," Jim said as he stepped forward with his hand stretched out. Bets ignored the hand and pulled Jim into a hug.

"How are you two no-good trouble makers?" Bets demanded.

"Still causing trouble," Jim said agreeably.

"I'll second that," Simon said as he stood up from the couch and held out his hand. "Simon Banks. I've heard a lot about you, and I'm glad Blair had a friend down in Phoenix those first few months."

"He had a lot of friends. He's a damn good cop," Bets corrected him fiercely, and Blair wondered for a second whether guides had some sort of 'protect me' smell that made warriors get all defensive on his behalf. Then again, Alex... the blonde one, not the purple one… kind of disproved that theory.

"We're lucky we got both of them back," Simon agreed, and that seemed to make the aggression levels drop significantly.

"Yeah. Roth complains constantly about you stealing Ellison and Frizz. But from the sounds of it, he's happier being back here, so we'll just have to live with the loss, even if it does mean I keep getting suck on Russo-duty."

"Frizz?" Simon asked with an amused expression.

"Don't start," Blair warned as he went back to the couch and sat on the arm.

"Yeah, lay off Frizz," Jim teased as he emphasized the nickname. Blair tried to shoot his partner an evil glare, but Jim had turned his back and headed for the kitchen.

"Watch it, Ellie-boy," Blair counter-attacked. Simon's expression grew even more amused.

"Ellie-boy? Oh, wait 'til Russo hears that one," Bets said with a wide smile.

"He'd just better not say it in front of me," Jim warned as he returned with beers.

"Boys and their egos," Bets said as she laughed and rolled her eyes. "How do you put up with them, Frizz."

"Hey, I'm a boy too just in case you didn't notice. Just because I'm sleeping with a guy doesn't mean that my dick fell off," Blair complained. He was rewarded with Simon sending beer out his nose as he choked from shock. It wasn't easy to shock Simon, and Blair felt a moment of pride at the accomplishment.

"You're all guy, Frizz. I know a dozen girls who would like a chance to remind you about all the things Ellison can't do for you. However, you aren't one of these guys with so much ego that you go around trying to defend your manhood by pissing all over your territory and shaking your spear at the enemy." Bets picked a chair and sat down.

"It sounds like you're accusing us of being some sort of throwback to a primitive form of man," Jim said with a smile over to Blair at the private joke.

"Oh man, do not agree with that," Blair warned Bets. "I told him that the first time I met him, and he slammed me into a wall." Bets looked over at Jim in shock, and Jim could only shrug.

"And did you think slamming Frizz around would prove you were a civilized human being?" Bets demanded with a raised eyebrow.

"Wasn't really thinking at all," Jim admitted. "But it all worked out in the end."

Blair looked around the room as Jim and Simon settled into seats, and he was shocked at how easily the two parts of his life slipped together. Bets with her plain-speak and Simon with his casual acceptance of her rather overpowering personality and Jim on the couch in an alpha-male sprawl that practically screamed his comfort with having these people in his territory.

"So, what have you two been up to lately?" Bets asked before taking a deep drink of her beer. Blair and Jim exchanged glances, and Blair took a deep breath and started in on their latest case.

Several hours, several attempts to play one-upmanship on who had the biggest case load, and several stories featuring psychopaths later, the four of them sat around the table with the smell of Christmas dinner drifting past them. Blair studied his cards and tried to use his knowledge of the players to figure out which of them was bluffing.

Simon gently chewed a cigar that he wouldn't light in the loft. Jim had a closed expression that even Blair had trouble reading. Bets looked amused, but she had looked amused when both folding and raising any number of hands. Blair decided to make a run at the pot this time.

"I'm in."

"I hope you don't play poker often." Bets said as she leaned back and considered the others.

"I'm in, so let's see what you have," Simon insisted unhappily as he dropped his money in the pot. But then the man was down by twenty dollars, so he had a right to be grumpy.

"Like taking candy from babes," Bets said as she laid out her cards triumphantly. Blair groaned before tossing his own pair of queens face down on the table.

"Well I'm out. Unless I want to hock Jim's Christmas present, my mad money for the week is gone."

"That's my Frizz, the only man to admit that he's outgunned rather than keep firing blanks."

"You know, if I wanted to be verbally abused, I could go have Christmas with my ex-wife and Daryl."

Bets laughed. "Okay, I'll stop picking on the men-folk."

"And I'm going to go check on the bird. It should be time to take the tinfoil off," Blair said as he stood up. "Jim, you're on dressing duty."

"Hell, it's not like I'm doing any good here," Jim said disgustedly as he pushed his chair back.

"How in the hell are we supposed to play poker with two people?" Simon demanded. "I'm not stopping until I win my money back off this witch."

"Sweet-talker," Bets said cheerfully. "Tell you what, let's have a little game of 21."

"You're on," Simon grabbed the deck and started shuffling.

"Man, should I point out that Bets paid her way through college by gambling?" Blair asked as he opened the oven door.

"Traitor," Bets hissed.

"Oh, Chief. You're in for it now," Jim whispered as he grabbed the French bread and pulled a knife out of the knife block. Blair shrugged. What was Christmas without a little bloodshed. Besides, he could hear Simon shuffling the cards even as he complained about Bets being a con artist.

Jim was busy carting dishes to the table while Blair carved the turkey and transferred the cut pieces to a plate, the steam slowly rising from the white meat.

"You two are quite the cooks," Bets said as she reached over with her fingers and grabbed a bit of stuffing. Jim took a swipe at her with a serving spoon, but she pulled her hand back with her prize before popping it in her mouth.

"Candy from a baby," Bets taunted, and Blair didn't have to see Jim's face to know what expression he'd find on Jim's face.

"Blair, did you invite Brown today?" Jim suddenly asked out of nowhere.

"Yeah, but he said he had to work," Blair answered as he look up. Jim's head was tilted at a particular angle Blair always associated with Jim using his Sentinel senses.

"He does. He's taking calls for the department," Simon added.

"Well, he's storming up the stairs two at a time," Jim said.

"Shit." Blair slammed the knife down on the counter. "Is it too much to ask for one day off?" Blair demanded to know as he pulled Tupperware out of the cupboard.

"But, how…" Bets asked, clearly confused. Simon ignored her as he got up and opened the door as a breathless Brown came into sight. Jim picked up the bowls he had just put on the table and put them back on the counter.

"Been trying to call you," Brown said as he came through the door.

"Yeah, some of us planned a quiet day without family members calling and pissing someone off, so some of us disconnected the phones," Blair said as he transferred hunks of meat and dressing into the plastic containers.

"Well, we have a bomb threat. Bomb squad says the first device was real, and the bomber says he's planted three other bombs."

"Oh for crying out loud. Can't criminals take at least one day off?" Simon demanded as he pulled his coat off the rack.

"Not in Cascade. Bets, welcome to the world's most dangerous city," Jim offered before heading up the stairs. Knowing that Jim would grab both their weapons, Blair kept packing up Christmas dinner.

"So, you want to ride along?" Blair asked Bets who still had a slightly bewildered look on her face.

"Sandburg, this is police business."

"And she's a police officer. Considering you let an anthropologist with no police experience at all ride along…." Blair looked over at Simon as he put the rest of the mashed potatoes into a container.

"And here I thought you guys were exaggerating," Bets said with a shake of her head as she stood up and pulled her own coat off a hook.

"Oh man, when you live in Cascade, you don't have to exaggerate," Blair answered as he grabbed a canvas shopping bag out of a drawer and started loading the food.

"Chief," Jim appeared in the kitchen, wearing one shoulder holster and carrying a second one. Blair took the second holster and slipped into it as Jim finished packing and picked up the heavy bag.

"Are we ready, people?" Simon asked, and Jim headed for the door while Bets followed. Blair brought up the rear, grabbing his keys out of the basket and locking the door behind him. Merry Christmas, Cascade style.


093. Thanksgiving
Blair ran his hands over his lover's chest, letting his fingers lightly trace the indentions formed by various muscles and the puckered texture of the small nipples. He allowed his hands to travel up to Jim's collarbone where he added small kisses as they lay together on the bed, the television that had been moved up to the bedroom showing the game and casting strange colors over their bedroom.

"Blair, I'm fine," Jim said as he continued to watch the game with one hand curled around Blair's waist.

"I know," Blair murmured against Jim's skin as he moved his hand down under the sheet. He found the curve of Jim's hipbone and traced the edge of the bone before letting his fingers slide down into the dip formed by the lower curve of that feature.

"So stop acting like I'm going to break. It's annoying, Sandburg." Despite Jim's words, Blair continued to explore every small shape and angle and texture on Jim's body. He touched everything except for the spot where gauze and white tape covered a hole that Blair didn't want to think about.

"I know you won't break," Blair said as he allowed his fingers to trail down to Jim's thigh where he could feel the coarse hairs under his fingertips.

"So what's this about?" Jim asked as he finally turned his head. Blair looked into the blue eyes of his lover, his injured lover, the lover he had nearly lost to a madman with a bomb and a gun and not enough brains to take his insanity somewhere other than Cascade.

"Just giving thanks, man," Blair said honestly. He leaned forward and pressed a gentle kiss to Jim's lips as he gave thanks to every deity whose name he could remember.


Bonus: "Shaving Kink "
Written for Patty1h for Moonridge 2006
"Sandburg, I can shave myself," Jim complained. Blair ignored his grouchy partner who always became even more grouchy when injured.

"Uh-huh. One hand to brace yourself on the counter, one hand to brace your bandages, one hand for the soap and one hand for the razor," Blair offered in a perfectly serious tone. He carefully balanced the crock-pot of water on the side table as Jim clicked the television off. Crawling on the floor, he struggled to get the cord into the wall, otherwise the water would get too cold too fast.


"Yep," he agreed as he lay flat on his stomach. He smiled with his success as the plug slipped into place.

"I'm not going to lie here while you fuss over me like an old man. It's a minor injury."

"It's a gunshot wound. You had surgery," Blair contradicted Jim as he got up and laid out the various tools. "If it helps, think of it as kinky," Blair said with a wink. That stopped Jim whose frown turned to surprise as Blair sat on the edge of the bed on Jim's uninjured side.

"Kinky, huh?" Jim asked, and Blair smiled at the tone. "I can do kinky," Jim agreed. A large hand rested on Blair's arm, Jim's thumb sliding over the skin invitingly. Blair reached down and pulled at the bottom of Jim's t-shirt, easing it over Jim's head and revealing the white bandages on one side. Blair forced himself to ignore the injury since too much fussing would just get him kicked out of his own bedroom.

"So let me do my kinky thing," Blair said as he pulled the towel out of the steaming bowl of water, wringing the water out before reaching over and curling the towel around Jim's face.

While the steam softened Jim's bristles, Blair soaked the brush in the basin of water, turning it slowly while watching Jim's body relax as the heat soaked into his face. Lifting the brush, Blair allowed the water to drip from it for a second before swirling the tip on the cake soap.

"Ready?" he asked Jim. The protests of earlier turned into an affirmative grunt as Jim reached up to take the towel off his face.

"My kink… you just lay there," Blair insisted as he pushed Jim's hand back down and pulled the towel off. Jim looked up with amused eyes but didn't argue.

Dropping the towel back into the warm water, Blair began near Jim's ear, working the brush in circles that slowly trailed down Jim's jaw line toward his neck. Jim sighed and tiled his head back farther as Blair lightened his touch, tickling the skin before working the lather into Jim's face.

Jim's sighed and made a small humming noise as Blair worked the brush, stopping once to reload the brush and continue the strokes up and over Jim's upper lip.

Opening the straight-razor, Blair checked the edge.

"You do know how to use that, right Junior?" "Fastest blade at Walt's Barber Shop," Blair agreed.

"Speed is not the issue," Jim pointed out, but he also closed his eyes and shifted a bit in the bed so that he could tilt his head back. Starting on the round of Jim's cheek, Blair angled the blade and drew it gently down, the familiar whoop noise ending as he flicked the blade off the end of Jim's chin. Jim didn't even flinch.

The hum continued as Jim worked, and Blair smiled at the trust his partner gave him. Putting the fingers of his free hand at the corners of Jim's mouth, he pulled the skin tight as he ran the straight razor over the sensitive skin, carefully avoiding the lip. Finishing the face, Blair moved to the neck.

Slipping his hand under Jim's neck and adjusting to the unusual angle, Blair gently pulled the razor up the exposed neck toward the chin. Using his thumb, he gently traced the newly shaved skin, checking for stubble, and Jim's body shivered in response.

"Kinky," Jim whispered hoarsely.

"Oh yeah," Blair answered as he looked at that neck, layered with lather, exposed, with a single track of smooth skin running up to the chin. Blair gently pulled the blade up a second time, and a third, stopping to run a thumb over the sensitive skin with each stroke.

When he finished, Jim's face, he carefully set the razor on the table and dunked the towel in the warm water.

"Over?" Jim asked sleepily.

"Not even close," Blair whispered. "Have to run the blade the opposite direction to make sure we take off every bit of stubble," Blair answered as he wrung the towel out, folding it and then laying it over Jim's face for the second time. "After all, we want you nice and smooth," Blair pointed out as he took a moment to trace the edge of a nipple with his thumb. Jim's hand came up and captured his wrist. Blair used his free hand to trace the muscles under the forearm for a second.

"My kink, you're just laying there, remember," Blair eventually said as he pushed Jim's arm back down to the bed. Picking up the bristle brush, he soaked and soaped it before pulling the warm towel off and again using small strokes to lather Jim's face. This time Jim watched with half-open eyes.

Blair retrieved the blade and slowly drew it from Jim's jaw up and over the round of his cheek. Trailing his fingers over the newly exposed skin, Blair could feel the perfectly slick surface.

"Feels good," Jim muttered, and for the first time, Blair wondered just how different it did feel for a Sentinel who could feel every single bit of stubble every time something touched his face. Blair turned his hand and ran the back of a knuckle over the smooth skin. Jim's eyes darkened. "You better finish before doing that too much," Jim warned, and Blair gave his partner a smile before pulling the razor up and clearing another line.

Once he had finished Jim's face, he turned his attention to his neck, running the blade against the grain as he finished the shave. Rinsing the blade, Blair carefully closed it and set it aside as he pulled the towel out for a third time, rinsing Jim's face.

Grabbing a bottle, he poured out the cooling balm and smoothed it over his palms before bringing both hands up to cup Jim's cheeks. Slowly, he stroked his lover's face, letting this thumbs trace the small lines at the corners of his mouth and trailing his fingers down Jim's neck and to his collarbone. Bending down, Blair pressed his lips to Jim's and felt Jim's mouth open for him as they slowly kissed. Blair allowed a hand to wander down to Jim's boxers, and Jim hummed into his mouth.

Eventually, Blair sat up. "So, kinky enough for you?" he asked as he looked down into Jim's blue eyes.

"Definitely," Jim answered as he reached up and caught Blair's neck, pulling him back down into the bed. "Remind me to get shot more often," Jim sighed.

"Don't even think it," Blair threatened. "Man, if you want another shave, I'm very open to bribery."

"Bribes. I can do that," Jim said as a warm hand slid around Blair's waist and fingers crept under the waistband of his pants.

"Bribes are good," Blair agreed softly, reaching up to kiss Jim again, and if that gave the man's fingers more room to work, it was all good.


094. Independence
Blair sprawled on the couch with one hand down the front of his sweats idly teasing the head of his own cock as he watched NASCAR. Yeah, he had been the one to insist on independence at the office, but this alternating shifts thing was killing his sex life. Blair rubbed a little harder and moaned as he imagined it was Jim doing the touching.

Jim was off working a multiple homicide case with the FBI while Blair was working a serial rapist case. Blair pushed the details of his case out of his mind as he stroked a little harder, the cars racing around the track becoming background noise to his own rising lust. Oh yeah. Blair squeezed a little harder and angled his hips to give himself a greater range of motion. Oh fucking yeah.

The keys in the lock didn't register on Blair's lust addled brain until the door swung open. Oh shit. Blair pulled his hand out of his sweats and tried to will the blood back out of his cock. No way was he letting Jim catch him wanking on the couch.

"Hey, you're home early," Blair said as casually as possible as he focused on the cars.

"Told Simon I was getting a headache." Jim dropped his keys in the basket and went to the refrigerator where Blair heard a beer pop open.

"Hey, bring me one," Blair called.

"Aren't you on duty later?" Jim asked, but the refrigerator door opened again as he fished a second beer out.

"Much later," Blair said looking at the clock.

"How's the case going?"

"It sucks. Oh man, these prostitutes are never going to open up."

"You'll get there, Chief."

"So are you doing okay with your senses?" Blair asked, as he took the beer from Jim's hand. His Sentinel really did look worn and tired.

"Yeah, I just get headaches when I use them too much. As soon as you're done with the rape taskforce, Simon promises you'll be on this homicide."

"No guarantees, man, but I can feel it in my bones… we're this close to a suspect."

"I know you'll get him." Jim dropped to the couch heavily, and Blair had a flare of guilt that he couldn't be on both task forces at once. For a second he wondered whether Jim had been this worn out and frayed at the edges the whole time Blair had been in Phoenix alone.

"So, what have you been up to today?" Jim asked. For a second, Blair feared he'd been busted, but Jim just relaxed into the couch and cracked his neck first one direction and then the other.

"Not much. I have trouble sleeping in the day," Blair admitted. He didn't say that he had trouble sleeping without Jim, but he thought Jim knew it.

"Yeah, know what you mean, Chief." Jim agreed as he rolled his head so that his cheek rested on the couch and he looked over with a predatory stare that Blair recognized a second too late. Just as Blair went to flee the couch, a large hand grabbed his arm and pulled him back. Jim's forearm wrapped around him trapping one of his arms to his side as Jim's other hand started tickling his side.

"No. Man. Stop it. Jim!" Blair hissed between fits of laughter as Jim hijacked his body. "Red!" Blair finally gasped out, and the tickling stopped only to have Jim flip him onto his back on the couch with Jim crouching over him. Times like this, Blair could practically see Jim's spirit animal in him.

"Jacking off on the couch, Darwin? I'm sure there's a house rule about that somewhere," Jim insisted with a dangerous grin. Blair wrapped his legs around Jim's lower body so that Jim was just as trapped on the couch as he was.

"Rules, schmules," he shrugged.

"Oh, Chief, I can't have you breaking the rules by jacking off on the couch, Jim insisted as he shifted his weight to one side and moved his hand between them. "What kind of partner would I be if I didn't save you from yourself?"

Jim's hand pulled down Blair's sweatpants so that Blair's erection popped free. Blair went to grab his own cock, but Jim intercepted his hand so that no one was touching it, and Blair groaned his displeasure.

"Can't have you breaking the rules, Chief." Jim said in a falsely concerned voice. However, Blair let his arm relax against the couch as he waited to figure out his lover's game. Jim let go and slipped his hand in to unbutton and unzip his own pants before pushing them down. Jim lowered his weight a bit so that Blair could smell the beer and sour onions on Jim's breath as Jim grabbed both their cocks in one hand.

Blair bucked up off the couch and grabbed Jim's shoulders as he felt his lover's warm and twitching cock lying next to his in that tight grip. The hand vanished for a moment and then returned.

"Oh fuck," Blair grunted as Jim started working his fist up and down. Blair realized the whole thing had been a set up when he felt the cool slick of lube slide over his cock. And with each stroke, Blair could feel the warmth of that hand and the heat of Jim's cock travel through him.

"Oh fuck. Fuck," Blair threw his head back as he struggled to buck up with Jim's weight pinning him to the couch. "Fuck!" he nearly screamed as he fell over the edge of his orgasm and his muscles stiffened as his orgasm began. Jim pumped harder for a second, then stopped as Blair's cock emptied over both their clothes and probably dribbled onto the couch. Blair lay boneless and sated as Jim continued the last few strokes to finish himself off so that they really had created an impressive mess between them.

Jim's trembling arm collapsed, and Blair grunted as his partner's weight fell on him, both of their heads resting on the same cushion. Blair tightened his legs around Jim.

"Oh man, I think that last part qualified as jerking off on the couch," Blair muttered.

"Then we're even," Jim answered sleepily.

"Sometimes," Blair murmured, "too much independence sucks, man."

"Sometimes, Chief," Jim answered. Blair glanced at the clock on the TV, checking for the red light that told him he'd switched on the alarm, before closing his eyes and going to sleep to the sounds of cars racing laps on television and Jim's steady breathing in his ear.


095. New Years
"Gong hay fat choy" Blair offered loudly as he came into the bull pen.

"What?" Brown asked since he was the only other one there yet.

"You just had to ask, didn't you?" Jim rolled his eyes and went to his desk.

"Happy New Year!" Blair translated while Brown looked over in confusion.

"You have a problem there, Hairboy. It's February."

"Exactly. Time to put away the brooms and open the windows and welcome in the new year."

"Okay, you have definitely been smokin' something," Brown said as he shook his head.

"No way, man. Today is the beginning of Chinese New Year. There's a parade down in Chinatown and millions of people are celebrating the beginning of new chances."

"This ain't China," Brown pointed out with a smile.

"Yeah, but you should take every opportunity to remember that the world is full of new chances and new starts," Blair pointed out as he sat at his desk and started sorting the various lab reports on his cases.

"Hairboy, you are weird," Brown finally announced.

"Welcome to the Sandburg zone," Jim offered from his own desk.

"Whatever. You two need to broaden your horizons," Blair shot back with a smile. He just knew that he was ready to open the windows and let the old year out. As he thought back on the growing pains of the last year, he hoped that he would never again have to go through so much, and he hoped that he never lost the things that he had gained. Megan came in the door with a nod to him, and Blair nodded back.

"Hey, Blair. Got a weird one for you," Taggart called as he came through the doors. "Has your name all over it."

"What's up?" Blair asked.

"Did you know there's a Romanian mob? Got a shooting down at 14th with a bunch of grandmothers as witnesses. Won't talk to anyone."

"Let me grab my bag," Blair said as he shoved all his reports back into his in-box. "Catch you later, Jim," Blair said as he walked past his partner's desk.

"Home for dinner?" Jim asked.

"Yeah, but it's your turn to cook."

"Whatever," Jim answered, throwing Blair's favorite word back at him. Blair gave his partner a small smile as he followed Taggart out the doors. New year, new chances, new life: Blair would celebrate those just as often as he got the opportunity.


Bonus: "Camera Shy"
Written for Suziq for the 200Celebration on LJ
"If I was any Joe off the street, you would not be harrassin' me like this." "If you ran around flashing your genitals, I would," Jim answered dryly.

"Police brutality, this is good old fashioned police brutality," the perp complained, and Blair had to conceal a smile. If Jim had wanted to engage in some police brutality, this cross dressing Dorothy with an Adam's apple and a blonde pig-tailed wig would see serious police brutality. But from the way his partner bit his cheek, Blair guessed that Jim was more likely to laugh.

"Keep telling yourself that," Jim answered as he kept a hand on the tranny's arm. Blair followed behind in his dress blues, a police presence on Cascade's first gay pride parade. Unfortunately the uniform itched and three men so far had mistaken him for a dressed up stripper. Not that he could blame them since his growing hair hanging against his collar made him look like more like a hooker, at least according to Jim and most of the Major Crimes unit.

"I'm going to the press. I'm going to tell them that..." the tranny peered at Jim's badge. "I'm going to tell them that Ellison is a homophobic pig that tried to destroy the parade." Jim stiffened, and Blair thought back to all the times Jim had faced the press.

The times, when tired from Peru, magazine photographers had caught him looking worn and fragile even in fatigues. Jim had no love for the press, but then later the coverage of his first partner's disappearance led to suggestions that the man had been on the take. Blair had read any number of articles that suggested Jim might have been dirty, too. And most recently there was the big elephant in the room. The topic that even three years later they rarely discussed: the press feeding frenzy after the diss disaster. Oh yeah, the perp had hit a button there.

Blair held his breath as Jim hesitated, and even some undercurrent of tension warned the perp to shut up as Jim's jaw muscled flexed visibly. Blair wished he could take some of pain that his partner carried, but he couldn't. He could only stand by Jim's side as he fought his own demons. Blair watched as that muscle suddenly smoothed as Jim smiled.

"Buddy, if you want to go to the press, you go. I'll just point out that I was trying to save people the horror of looking at your scrawny ass," Jim commented as he pushed the Dorothy-dressed tranny toward a waiting police van. "And that wig does not work with your skin tone," he added as a uniformed officer took custody. Blair had to smile, both at the expression on the perp's face and at the sight of Jim's smile.

"Come on, Chief, we're missing the parade," Jim said as he briskly strode down the street toward the parade. Blair took a moment to admire the sight of his uniformed partner before hurrying after him. It was a good day.


The Epilogue... Twenty years later

096. Writer's Choice
"Nice turnout," Simon said.

"Yeah, more than I expected," Blair answered. The bar was crowded with police officers who were quickly getting drunk as they huddled in groups telling stories that made Blair blush until he finally retreated to the corner where he'd spotted Simon. It seemed like everyone knew the story of him falling for a drug dealer or taking out a bank robber with a baseball. There was only so much embarrassment that Blair could take.

"Don't sell yourself short, Sandburg. A lot of people want to make sure to get in a few last cheap shots before you head off for Florida."

"No way. I'll leave Florida to you old guys," Blair insisted.

"Watch it Sandburg," Simon warned as he lifted his cane and threatened Blair with the curved end.

"Aren't you two a little old to still be threatening each other?" Jim asked with a chuckle as he came up behind Blair.

"Not so old that I can't take care of the kid."

"Simon, I’m on the far side of fifty, no one calls me a kid any more."

"Still, I'm surprised you're retiring."

"Oh man, I have two books I'm working on and a half dozen seminars planned. But I have my twenty in, and I'm ready to move on."

"More like the new captain is ready to move us along," Jim corrected him. "And I notice the good captain is missing tonight."

"After you made him look like a fool on the Kilmer case, I'm not surprised," Blair said laughing at the thought.

"The captain *is* a fool. I don't have to *make* him look like anything."

"So you two are still making captains miserable." Simon shook his head sadly, but Blair recognized the fond expression.

"This guy deserves it, though," Jim said with a weary sigh as he sat down next to Blair. Blair looked at his lover sharply. All too often Jim tried to hide the way the years had started to make his joints ache.

"What? You think Simon didn't?" Blair teased. Simon had a look of exaggerated shock on his wrinkled face, but his retort was interrupted by someone ringing a bell at the bar.

"People, come on now, people," Ricky Williams yelled from the bar. Jim ducked his head, well aware that the rookie had a case of Ellison worship and was probably about to say something horribly embarrassing. Blair would have offered sympathy, but he was too busy planting an elbow in his partner's ribs.

"Quiet!" Bets yelled, and the bar grew suddenly silent. Then a wave of laughter swept through the place as Ricky had one of his famous blushes at being out-shouted by an elderly black woman with grey hair.

"Thanks," he muttered. "So, I figure it's time we have something to say about the two guests of honor," Ricky started.

"Yeah, before we're too drunk to remember," one voice from the crowd shouted out.

"Or they drop dead of old age," another answered, and Blair recognized the second voice as Rafe. He leaned forward so that he could glare at the captain of the organized crime division. Rafe just smiled back.

"So, does anyone want to start?" Ricky asked the crowd. A dozen voices shouted, but one shouted them all down.

"Quiet up," Bets yelled over the crowd. A lot of people in the room knew her from her visits, but Blair thought the others had probably figured out who she was from the various stories he and Jim both loved to tell. The voices slowly subsided. "I worked with Frizz, that's Sandburg to you lot, back in the Phoenix PD. When I first saw him, he was this long-haired skinny white boy who looked like something the cat dragged in." Several voices yelled comments about Blair not haven't changed a bit, and Blair flipped off a number of people in the room. When he turned back to face front, he caught Jim biting the inside of his cheek in an attempt not to laugh along with the others.

"Laugh it up—your turn is coming," Blair hissed. Jim's smirk just grew wider.

"I wondered if my captain had taken to picking up detectives down at the bargain basement, but then I started working with him. First week we went out together, that boy lectured me on everything from how many vitamins I needed to the ways the Native culture had influenced modern Phoenix." The room broke into a chorus of agreement at that point. Bets held up her hand to quiet them again.

"But Frizz never backed down off a fight. We were questioning everyone in this neighborhood about a girl who got attacked, and we went up the driveway to where this guy was fixing his car. We identified ourselves as police, and before I knew what happened, I have a big-ass gun pointed at me." The room fell quiet as Bets shared the common fear of every person in the room.

"I figure, great, I'm on a call with the second-hand detective over there and I don't even have a chance to pull my own weapon. Thought that was the end 'cause Lord knows I'm not one to talk my way out of something like that. Next thing I know, Frizz has his weapon out and orders the man to the ground. I can tell this guy ain't goin' for it, and Frizz is sounding more desperate, and I'm standing there like a useless clod with that gun pointed straight at me." Blair ran his hand over his graying curls as he remembered that day. It wasn't something he had wanted to remember today, but he had to admit it was part of who he was. Even though he'd never had to face that horror again, every time he pulled his weapon, he remembered that day.

"I see the guy's finger start to twitch, and I brace for it, and then this sound roars, and I start feeling myself up looking for the entry wound before I realize Frizz took the guy down." Blair felt a warm hand close over his arm, and he leaned toward Jim for support in the suddenly quiet room.

"That tore him up, shooting a man. He used to go to the grave, but Frizz did what he had to do. He never backed down when standing up was the right thing. More amazingly, he never got his back up when he didn't need to. If you lot are anything like the testosterone driven morons down in Phoenix… and from the stories Frizz tells, you are," Bets accused the room. The solemn mood broken, several people in the crowd yelled their disagreement. "Well, it's amazing that Frizz never stood up and picked a fight that he didn't need to. When he stood up and took a stand, you knew he was doin' it for the right reasons.

"So, I know you're leaving the force for the right reasons, and now that you aren't stuck up here with more cases than the Lord himself could handle, I better see your scrawny white ass visiting Phoenix a little more often." Bets raised her glass toward their table, and Blair raised his own in return before drinking. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Jim smiling at him.

"Oh," Bets suddenly added. "Jim's not bad either as far as testosterone driven morons go." Bets' words caught Blair so off guard that he snorted beer and sudden found himself choking, much to the amusement of the entire room. Jim snagged Blair's glass out of his hand to keep him from spilling it while raising his own glass to Bets in acknowledgement.

"And from an old pain in the ass like you, I take that as a compliment," Jim called over the crowd's voices. Bets laughed with the rest of the guests.


097. Writer's Choice
"Okay, my turn," a beautiful woman with short, silver hair and a small smile said as she worked her way to the bar.

"I figure after spending a couple of years married to the great Ellison, I have a right to say a thing or two." Blair smiled as Jim started turning a gentle shade of pink. No one else might notice, but Blair knew that Jim was slowly dying of embarrassment. Considering how hard it was to embarrass Jim, those pink ears made it worth having his own past remembered

"To the man who managed to make male pattern baldness sexy," Carolyn began, and the room was suddenly filled with wolf whistles and shouts of approval. Looking at his partner, Blair had to admit the man aged well. Take out a little grey, add an inch or two of hair at the top, and take way a few laugh lines, and Jim was the same man he had fallen in love with. Jim's ears turned a darker shade of pink.

"You know, for years I tried to figure out why my marriage fell apart. I think I just may have figured it out," she said with a smile and a nod at Blair, which precipitated another round of wolf whistles, and this time Blair could feel the heat of his own blush.

"The first time I knew that Jim loved Blair was the day that I came over to yell at Ellison about doing some piece of paperwork wrong, and I stepped into the living room to find nests of papers and feathered masks all over the living room. I figured Jim wouldn't put up with that mess for just anyone. After all, mess is definitely against his house rules." A ripple of laughter traveled through their closest friends.

"And for those of you who wondered, he had those house rules when I lived there too. I once spend hours trying to sort the paperwork from four difference cases because Jim had been kind enough to 'clean up' after me."

"But really, Blair puts up with more than I would have ever put up: the house rules, the growling, the practical jokes, the horrible sense of humor, and enough bad luck for any ten people." That comment caused a number of hallelujahs from the crowd. "But considering Blair's luck, it's a good thing those two can't have kids because the combined bad luck genes would probably cause an Armageddon." Now the crowd shouted their agreement, and Carolyn had to wait for the noise to subside.

"Jimbo managed to be targeted by a serial bomber, poisoned by a designer drug, and shot at in a monastery." The noise had steadily increased as she gave her list, and Blair could hear people at the tables around him add their own Ellison stories. Carolyn held up her hand for the room to settle down again.

"But that's only fair since Blair managed to get trapped in an elevator with a bomb while trying to do some work for the university, got kidnapped by scientists raising deadly spiders, and was once kidnapped four times in one day." Blair ducked his head in embarrassment as the crowd roared. Put all together like that, it sounded... well, it sounded pretty damn bad.

"And the sad thing is, that's not even my favorite story," Carolyn said over the crowd. "I doubt these two ever told you about their vacation to Minnesota." Blair groaned, and he could practically feel Jim stiffen beside him. He turned and saw Jim shaking his head and mouthing the world 'no' to his ex-wife, but she just smiled back sweetly before taking a breath.

"It seems like Jim trusted Blair to read the map," and the roar of laughter and shouts made Blair blush even darker. Yeah, yeah, so he wasn't the best at navigation. "And Blair managed to get them onto some back logging road that no one had used in a hundred years, well no one except the counterfeiters who Jim stopped and asked directions from." The whole room erupted at that, Simon laughed so hard that he was gasping for breath until Blair worried about the man's heart.

"Oh yeah. Only them," Carolyn said cheerfully once the room finally settled. "Well, the bad guys got the drop on our fearless duo, but luckily these were small-town criminals who didn't want to kill two cops, so instead they made the boys strip naked and stole the truck." By this time Carolyn was having to shout over the cheering crowd. "Hey, quiet down... it gets better." Blair turned his back to Carolyn and put his head on the table so that he wouldn't have to face everyone after the next part. Simon's heavy hand patted his back once or twice.

"So there they are wandering buck naked and lost when they find a clothesline. By the time they get to town and go to the police station, the officer behind the desk arrests them both for indecent exposure since Blair was wearing a skirt and Jim there a red and white tablecloth." Blair flinched at the crowd roared uncontrollably. When he tilted his head up to look, Rafe and Brown were both laughing so hard that tears ran from the corner of their eyes. Blair looked at Jim who was slowly shaking his head in resignation.

"I thought we had an agreement, Carolyn. You don't tell anyone, I won't kill you..." Jim let his words trail off but he had a small smile on his face.

"The Black Duck police department called and asked me to vouch for them. And despite Jimbo's threats, it's time you guys know what kind of trouble magnets you've been sheltering all this time. Heck, as soon as they leave Cascade, I expect the crime rate to drop. The trouble will just follow those two wherever they go."

Blair looked at his partner, and Jim smiled back with a shrug. "Probably," Jim whispered just to Blair since the rest of the room was still in chaos.

098. Writer's Choice
"Hold on… hold on. I put up with these two for fifteen years, so I get to have my say now," Simon said as he pushed himself up leaning on both the table and his cane. But the voice was that same booming bellow that once rattled the windows in Major Crimes.

"When I met Jim, he was a real piece of work: earrings hanging out his ear, unshaven, dressed straight out of a dumpster. Hell, I knew he could do good work, but he looked more like a suspect than an officer." Blair noticed that the people shouting now were the older officers, the ones who remembered a Jim whom he had never known.

"He had attitude with his attitude, and then he started changing. It seemed like overnight he went from an arrogant and obnoxious pain in the ass to an arrogant and silent pain in the ass." Blair smiled as Jim flipped off the move vocal supporters of that statement.

"And then Sandburg shows up talking about the thin blue line and looking like a prime suspect in a drug bust."

"Hey!" Blair protested, and Simon just waved dismissively to Blair in a clear gesture intended to communicate a quick 'shut up'.

"When they started working together, my first bet was that the kid would run off before the end of the first work day. Didn't think he could handle a normal day in the life of a Major Crimes cop. Well, he handled just about the worst day you could imagine, and managed to take out a suspect with a vending machine." Simon's words, and the warm smile he flashed made Blair blush, and the crowd erupted in another round of talking as older officers gave abbreviated versions of the story to their younger partners.

"You people have no idea how much paperwork is involved in explaining something like that," Simon complained in mock horror. "Despite my every expectation, the kid stuck it out and became an asset to the department."

"But I still figured his days were numbered because no way could Jim Ellison put up with the cloud of chaos that followed Sandburg everywhere he went. The kid left papers all over Jim's desk and I can't count the number of times I would listen to Jim chew the kid out." Blair glanced over, and Jim was now squirming uncomfortably. Blair laughed and when Jim looked up, Blair shrugged to show it hadn't bothered him.

"But the longer they were together, the less flaky Sandburg got and the less arrogant Ellison got. You two are better together than you would ever be apart." Simon tried to keep taking, but the roar in the room drowned even his voice so that he stood leaning on his cane and waiting for the noise level to drop. Finally he managed to shout over the crowd.

"So thank god you two found each other because individually you were both insufferable," Simon finished, and the crowd degenerated into shouts and cheers and the sounds of glasses clinking.

"Boy with friends like these," Jim shouted, but Blair suspected that he was the only one who could hear, and that was because Jim had shouted no more than six inches from his ear.

"No wonder we're retiring," Blair replied with a smile.

099. Writer's Choice
"Thanks for coming," Blair smiled at the woman and realized that he couldn't remember her name. She dropped a quick kiss on his cheek.

"I'm sorry we missed that window," she said, and Blair's memory suddenly snapped to the dark-haired beauty who had once threatened to steal his heart.

"Thanks, Sam. So, how's DC going?"

"It's good. But I'd better not keep you; you have a line of waiting fans," she said as she stepped away, and Blair opened his mouth to protest but another hand was in his.

"God, I can't believe we're losing you, Hairboy." Brown slapped Blair's arm as Rafe shook hands with him.

"It's not like disappearing forever. A little travel, a little consulting work on the road, a little sightseeing. Before you know it, Jim and I will be ready to kill each other from spending too much time together in the car, and then we'll come home.

"As long as you work in a nice long visit to Phoenix," Bets said as she worked her way through the crowd.

"You know we will," Blair said as the woman smiled and kept going toward the door. Blair was feeling a need to get out of the crowd himself, but he didn't think his friends would let him out the door.

Blair had shaken a thousand hands and been surprised by any number of faces from the past before he felt a large hand on his shoulder. He backed up a step and let himself lean against Jim's body as the young woman he was talking to got a dreamy look on her face. Blair wondered when exactly he and Jim's relationship had gone from the thing that no one talked about to the object of dreamy stares. Sometime during those decades when his hair had turned gray, no doubt.

"Getting late, Chief," Jim said, and Blair could have blessed his partner for the rescue.

"Yeah, and we have to be on the road in the morning," Blair apologized to the woman.

"So, I think I'm going to sneak my partner out of here, if you don't mind," Jim smiled, and the woman's expression turned from dreaminess to longing.

Blair let himself be pushed toward the door, away from the lingering group that kept trying to buy him more beers. He felt like a huge part of him was still in that room, was still a cop. However as he and Jim walked to the street where a yellow cab waited, Blair realized that the larger part of him was ready to move on. His Sentinel groaned a little as he got into the cab, his knees probably bothering him. Blair walked around, one hand trailing on the cab to keep his balance.

Blair got in and watched through the back window as another part of his life closed.

100. Writer's Choice

Blair woke up with a mouth lined in cotton and a head two sized too big. He groaned as he rolled to his side and searched the side table with is hand rather than open his eyes.

"You're getting old, Chief. I remember a time when you could hold your beer," a teasing voice put something thin and cold in his hand. Blair unfolded his glasses and slipped them on as he opened one eye half way.

"Fuck you man," he cursed mildly.

"I don't think you could manage that right now." Jim leaned against the railing, and Blair struggled to get his feet out of bed.

"I'm younger than you," Blair pointed out smugly as he grabbed his robe and wandered toward the stairs.

"Not by that much." Jim followed him downstairs. By the time Blair got out of the bathroom, bagels and orange juice waited at the counter. The room was clean… Jim Ellison clean, and Blair found it almost disturbing. A stack of white sheets waited to be flung over the furniture, and Blair had a strange sense of déjà vu.

"Oh man, I feel like I just started my life as a cop, and now I'm ending it. This is weird man. Freaky weird. Time defying the laws of physics and speeding up weird."

"Then think of it as a beginning. You get to finally concentrate on just your academic career the way you set out when you were sixteen."

"Man, I am so not sixteen anymore," Blair pointed out as he pulling on his graying hair. The course, thick hairs stuck out from his natural brown curls.

"Still not an end, Chief. The end was when you walked out that door and I thought I lost you forever. As long as we're together, we're just moving on to a new beginning."

"You're getting sappy in your old age, Ellison," Blair said before taking a bite of bagel.

"Watch it, Junior. I can still take you," he threatened with the spoon he was using for his Grape Nuts.

"Whatever," Blair said with his mouth full.




"Sunshine," Blair said in his best imitation of Banks.

"Frizzy," Jim replied in a Bets voice.

"Ellie-boy," Blair said as he struggled to not laugh.

"Whatever," Jim said as he shoved another spoonful of cereal in his mouth. "You just better be ready to go in an hour because I'm ready to hit the road, Chief. We're supposed to be in Colorado for that job with the Denver PD in three days, and I don't feel like rushing on the road."

Blair smiled at his graying and cranky lover as he got up and threw away the paper plate his bagel had been on. "I'm always ready," he suggested salaciously.

"When are you going to grow up, Chief?"

"Hopefully never," Blair answered as he headed for their bedroom so he could pack his suitcase. "I like me the way I am."

"Me too," Jim added softly. Blair smiled as he climbed the steps up to their bedroom. He didn't know when they'd be back, but at least this time they were going together.




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