Rated SAFE

"Shit," Jim growled, and for a second, Blair didn't notice the slowly growing stain on the jacket. For a moment, Blair thought the word was for their horrible position on the docks behind wood crates that were entirely too thin for his liking. For a moment, he thought the word was for the sharp staccato pings of bullets against the metal struts of the crane and the dull clangs of bullets off the hulls of the ship and the heavy thuds of bullets into the crates, which shivered under the attack. Blair only noticed the wound when Jim stopped firing.

"Shit, shit, shit," he echoed his Sentinel's words as he grabbed the man's arm and pressed his own fingers into the slippery, wet material.

"It's a flesh wound. I'm fine," Jim said through clenched teeth.

"Just dial down the touch; back up's on its way," Blair promised. Even though Jim knew what to do, Blair liked to pretend that the man still needed to hear it, and he did think Jim's jaw relaxed a little. As if to prove Blair's words, two cars screeched to a halt at the end of the dock.

"Great. They show up *after* Nusco makes a run for it," Jim groused, and then a large hand closed over Blair's fingers. "We're going to be stuck here for a while until these idiots figure out their boss left them high and dry," he predicted.

"Oh man, but you're shot." Blair looked at the length of dock between them and safety, and then he looked back at Jim's arm.

"It's a scratch, but if I try running the length of that dock, I'm going to have more than just a flesh wound," Jim answered the unasked question. "Give me your underwear."

Blair froze, his fingers still wrapped around Jim's arm with Jim's palm on top of his hand, pressing down. He mentally rewound the last five seconds, replayed it in his head, and still couldn't come up with anything that made sense.


"Underwear, Sandburg. The elastic will keep pressure on the jacket without cutting off too much circulation."

"You want to wrap my underwear around your arm?" Blair felt the panic circling in his stomach.

"Not particularly, but it's better than not having anything around my arm. I need my free hand to shoot, and I can't move if you're keeping pressure on my arm."

"Right. Pressure. Elastic." The panic circled faster, threatening to turn into a whole cyclone. "Um, Jim, that might be a problem."

"Sandburg, it's clothing. I've picked your underwear up off the floor of the bathroom, the living room, and the kitchen of all places, and I don't even want to think about that. Once in the Army I actually got stuck washing, drying, and folding an entire platoon's underwear for failing inspection. I'm not shy, so hand it over."

"Um." Oh yeah, that was panic. "Man, I don't have that many, so let's just use yours."

"Right, I'll just shimmy out of them while you hold the gun," Jim snapped sarcastically and then he sighed.

Okay, that was Jim's frustrated tone. Blair glanced over, and found Jim's frustrated face frowning over at him. A burst of thundering bullets made the crates in front of them shimmy and scoot back with the force of the impacts.

"Oh man."

"Sandburg, your underwear."

Oh boy, not a happy Sentinel, and a Sentinel about to become even less happy. "Um, I might just…"

"I don't have time for your obfuscations, so just cough it out."

"I'm wearing yours." Blair blurted the words, and he could feel the heat gathering in his face.

"You're—" Jim looked over and Blair could practically feel the senses turned on him as Jim stared. "You're wearing *my* underwear?" Jim's face lost all hints of pain, and Blair pulled his hand free, studying the red stain circling his fingers in blobs as he considered any number of lies: he didn't have any clean, Jim's underwear had been mixed up in the wash, he had gotten dressed in the dark and didn't notice. He considered each and dismissed them.

"Yeah," he answered softly as he eyed the distance across the dock to the new police cars pulling up next to the two units that had arrived earlier. He weighed his chances with Jim against his chances running that gamut.

"Chief." A hand fell on Blair's knee and he looked over. "We'll talk about this later, but right now, I really need the underwear."

Blair tried to interpret the look Jim gave him, but the man's stoic mask had slipped into place. He could only hope the gun runners and the injury had caused the expression and not his stolen bit of clothing. Sliding out of his jeans, Blair pulled off the underwear, praying that no one on scene had a telephoto lens or a good angle.

Jim took them without comment and wrapped the boxers around the injured arm over the jacket, twisting them several times to get pressure right. Blair watched.

"Man, I don't know—"

"Chief, I know." Jim said as he picked up his gun and pressed into the crate again.

"I'm really sorry," Blair tried again. Jim turned to him, reaching out with that injured arm and letting his hand rest on Blair's shoulder.

"Chief," he said slowly, looking into Blair's eyes. "I know."

Blair studied Jim's expression for several seconds before the words and their meaning sank in. There was no anger, no condemnation, no disgust in that face.

"You knew," Blair repeated. Jim turned back toward the crates, but an arm covered in blood and tied with light blue boxers pulled Blair closer, wrapping around Blair's back and tucking him into Jim's chest.

"They're talking about surrendering," Jim whispered, and Blair let his forehead rest against Jim's shoulder as months…no, years of frustration and fear slid away like the water that splashed up onto the lower docks and then ran through all the cracks and crevasses to flow back into the ocean.

"You knew." Blair shook his head a little as he tried to process this new information.

"They've figured out Nusco's not coming back."

"You knew," he repeated, the relief slowly ebbing as anger rose. Jim knew and had left him twisting and resorting to stealing underwear.

"Looks like we're in the clear, Chief."

"You knew." Blair leaned back and looked up at the man who had made his life equal parts bliss and frustration over the last months. "Why didn't you say anything?" he demanded.

Jim pulled his injured arm to his stomach and holstered his sidearm before taking a deep breath. Then he stood, waiting as Blair got up on legs that could have been big pasta noodles for all their stability.

"Until I saw you blush, I didn't know. I thought you were just too damn cheap to buy your own," he shrugged and then gave a devilish smile. "You do blush nicely, Sandburg. Now let's see how fast we can get into and out of the hospital. I think we have some talking to do."

Blair could only stand in shock as Jim put his uninjured arm on the small of Blair's back and guided him over to the truck.

"You didn't know," he accused Jim as his partner pressed truck keys into his hand.

"Do now." Jim pointed out as he held his injured arm with his other hand and walked around to the passenger side. "That's all that counts."


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