Father, Dear Father
Summary: I saw Vow of Silence again the other week and well, I couldn't resist. I probably should have. Tis canon'ish' up to Murder 101 and then disappears up its own colon (semi, or otherwise) after that. Usual grovelling thanks to the gruesome twosome, Joy and Alyjude for back-up and kicks up the backside ;-)
It took Blair all of his powers of self-control to not skip into the Precinct. He couldn't believe how well things had turned out. Trouble was, he thought, his step automatically slowing, how would he now work with Jim? Best not to say anything for the moment, at least until he could work out how he'd tell them all the news. But then, they deserved to know. Didn't they?
Entering the bullpen, his mood had muted and he had returned to the state of confusion he'd been in ever since Jim had told him that he didn't like what Blair had written in the opening chapter of his diss. And since then, so many things had happened. Bad things. Not good, he thought. Not good at all.
He looked at Jim, who was talking animatedly to Simon, and nearly stopped in his tracks. Something was happening and it wasn't nice. He thought that the news would distract them for a moment.
"Hi guys," he said as he approached Jim's desk.
He barely got a grunt in acknowledgement.
"You'll never guess..." he started.
"Not now, Sandburg," Jim snarled.
"Oh, okay." All the final traces of his excellent mood vanished.
It had been like this at home recently. Every time he'd tried to initiate a conversation, Jim had cut him off. Even a pair of tickets to a Jags game had been greeted with 'Not this weekend, Sandburg, I've got a date.'
Got a date, I'm busy, I'm on a stake-out. If it wasn't one thing, it was another. Blair had the feeling that Jim no longer wanted him around.
"If we don't stop him, Lewicki is going to hide all of his funds and he'll get away with it! A misdemeanour charge for fuck's sake!" Simon was growling.
"Uh, Simon," Blair said, "I can hel..."
His offer of help was shut down before he could make it.
He stared closely at the men who were studiously ignoring him and realised that this was it, the end of the road. Feeling bereft, he silently slipped his ID badge off, picked up his jacket and made his way unseen out of the bullpen.
He'd known that the time would come, but he hadn't wanted it to end so soon. A chasm settled inside him, leaving him feel emptier than he'd ever done in his life. He'd given up so many things over the last three or so years and now, all he was left with was a couple of stupid letters after his name. The friends he'd stopped seeing at the university were no longer friends, and it would appear that the man he called his best friend no longer wanted him around. Considering their behaviour towards him, he doubted that the others at the station would even notice his absence. The expeditions he'd turned down would not be offered again, future ones held no appeal. The change in his subject meant that his job prospects were now limited.
He stopped at a supermarket and picked up some empty boxes from their pile, then went home and started to pack.
Jim was furious. He'd been in and out of Simon's office all day, barely sitting down at his own desk before being called in again. A fraud case was really getting on his nerves and he couldn't settle.
Finally, he sat at his desk and dropped his head in his hands as he tried to gather his thoughts. One thought in particular struck him. Where was Sandburg? Surely he had been there a few hours before? Perhaps he had gone off to the break room to carry on with that fucking dissertation.
He hated the thought of that thing. Every time Blair had tried to bring up the subject since he'd seen the opening chapter, he'd refused to talk about it. The damned thing would be finished soon and then where would Jim be? Blair would get his Ph.D. and then what? He'd be off into the wide blue yonder, leaving Jim on his own, the sentinel without his guide.
A flash of white plastic caught his eye and he turned to look at it. Blair's ID lay there, almost accusingly. He reached out to touch it, unable to comprehend the reasons behind it being there, when the phone rang.
"Ellison," he barked.
"Ah, Detective Ellison. This is Doctor Andrews from Rainier. I was wondering if I could speak to Doctor Sandburg, please? I was told that I could contact him on this number. I want to congratulate him."
"Doctor Sandburg?" Jim squeaked.
A silence descended in the bullpen at his words. Doctor? Blair hadn't said anything.
"When did this happen?" Jim asked.
"This morning. Oh dear, perhaps he was going to surprise you at home with the news. I am so sorry, I have spoilt the surprise."
"Yeah, perhaps he was going to do that," Jim agreed, his voice flat, monotone, his blood running cold as the implications of the news and the ID that he held in his hand ran through his mind. "I'll tell him you called. Bye."
Before Andrews could say any more, Jim put down the phone, grabbed Blair's ID and stormed into Simon's office. He flung the badge down on Simon's desk and told him about the phone call.
"So, this was his way of telling you?" Simon asked in surprise.
"No," Jim whispered, the memory of his earlier actions coming back to haunt him. "He tried, but we told him to shut up. I told him. Oh God, Simon, what am I going to do?"
Simon looked at his friend and saw a look of complete devastation on his face. He knew that Jim hadn't been the best of friends to Blair recently, his non-reaction (in Jim terms) to the trouble Blair had found himself in with the Ventriss affair proved that. Just how he could shrug off Blair ending up in the water so soon after his drowning, and how he could not tear the town apart to find the thugs behind the beating of his so-called best friend, was a puzzle to them all.
The only one it hadn't been a puzzle to was Blair. His rational brain had known that Jim had come too close to losing him and now he'd put up his defences again. His emotional brain just told him that Jim no longer cared.
"Go," Simon said. "Go home and talk to him."
Numbly, Jim nodded and left.
All the way home, Jim drove on autopilot, unseeing, unfeeling. A sickness lay in his stomach.
Blair's Volvo wasn't there when he arrived. He extended his hearing and knew that Blair wasn't at home. Maybe there would be a clue as to his whereabouts inside. He got out of his truck, then entered the building and the elevator, scared at what he might find.
He knew that something was very wrong when he entered the apartment. He could smell Blair, but the place looked empty. Slowly, he made his way to the small room under the stairs and saw that it was virtually deserted. A large pile of papers, floppy discs and a book sat on the desk. On top of that was an envelope.
His heart sinking even further, he reached out to it. On the envelope was one word. Jim.
His hand was shaking as he picked it up. He left the bedroom and made his way to the kitchen. Uncaring of the time of day, he poured himself a large Scotch and then sat at the table, looking at the envelope, scared to open it. It took him a few minutes before he could gather up the courage, but he finally slipped the flap up and withdrew the writing paper from inside.
"Hey, Jim. I'm betting you're relieved right about now. No mess to come home to for once, eh? I've got news for you, I got the Ph.D., but don't worry, it wasn't about you. When you told me you no longer wanted me to continue, I managed to change the subject. Not that you're going to be interested, but it was in cultural forensic anthropology and its application in case work. Sheesh, I even bore myself sometimes, so God only knows how much I must have bored you.
I know you've not wanted me around for a while, but couldn't bring yourself to kick me out again, so I'm taking the step for you. At least this way there's no 'but why?'
I've had an incredible time with you, and I just want to tell you that I'm going to miss you, man. I love you, you mean everything to me, more than career, more than fame, more than that stupid fucking dissertation that drove a wedge between us. Staying with you when you can't bear to be in the same room as me is hurting me more every day and I can't take it anymore. I'm sorry I'm leaving like this, without saying goodbye to your face, but it's going to hurt less in the long run. The last thing you want in your life is a dumb 'not a cop' civilian following you around like a lovestruck fucking puppy. It's about time you got yourself a decent partner, one you trust to back you up.
I've left all of the sentinel work here, it's yours, so do with it as you please. Maybe it can help you understand yourself a bit better than I was able to do. At least you won't hear my annoying voice when you read it. If you read it, natch. I've left you the monograph too. Perhaps that will help you out.
Good luck in finding the right guide for you. Maybe it's Megan? I know I've not lived up to your expectations, so hopefully she will.
Take care of yourself, man. I am never going to forget you, as long as I live. However long that is. Thanks for everything, for a home, for your friendship.
Love you, man, more than you can ever know
Jim saw spots on the paper in front of him, making the ink run in a few places. He ran his finger over them and felt a minuscule trace of dampness remaining. Blair had been crying when he'd written the letter.
Still staring at the words, the implications of them getting through to him, he also broke down and cried for the first time in years.
Simon Banks had been worried about the state of mind of his best detective when Jim had left his office. As soon as he had cleared his work, he followed him. Now standing outside apartment 307, he was inexplicably scared. He hammered on the door, not letting up until he saw the door move in front of him. The look on Jim's face said it all.
"He's gone," Jim said, his voice suddenly small.
"Gone?" Simon's blood ran cold for a moment, a fleeting thought made him afraid that Blair had died again.
"Left. Says he went before I could throw him out."
Jim let Simon in, even though he wanted to be alone. Simon could be the original immovable object at times and his face said that he was in that mood right now.
"Where has he gone?" Simon asked as he shut the door behind him.
"I don't know. I got here and saw this."
Jim waved his hand at the letter which sat on the table. Simon picked it up and read it, his heart sinking even further as he saw the words swimming in front of him. Surprised by his own emotions, but unwilling to cry, he wiped away the tears that had formed in his eyes as the depth of feeling in Blair's words penetrated his consciousness.
"He loves you," he whispered.
"He's in love with you, Jim."
"No, not that," Jim countered.
"YES. He's in love with you for Christ's sake! LOOK. Read the fucking words, Ellison. Read between the lines!"
"What am I going to do?"
Simon looked into Jim's blue eyes and saw how lost he looked.
"Find him," he said. "Go, find him, take whatever leave you need and get him back, dammit. Tell him."
"Tell him what?"
"That you love him too," Simon answered kindly.
"Don't give me that crap, Ellison," came the growl. "I know you, I know about you. It's not as if you don't swing that way, is it? And it's obvious to everyone that isn't you that you're in love with him."
Simon made and poured himself a coffee, handing one to Jim too. "Drink. You need a clear head, Detective."
"I didn't drink much," Jim stated, but his heart wasn't in it to argue. He drunk the coffee. "How am I going to find him? Where would he go?"
Simon sighed loudly. "Try contacting Naomi. Try his friends at the university. You know Blair better than anyone. Where would he go?"
Jim dropped his head in his hands.
"That's just it, Simon," he said eventually. "I was thinking about this before you came. I don't know him."
"What do you mean? You've lived together for over three years!"
"I know. I know his mother, I know that he has an uncle and a cousin. I know he's a genius, an amazing friend, he's got the kindest heart and he's probably the best detective I've ever known. I know he started taking classes at Rainier at sixteen and was considered the whizz kid up there and I know he once drove a truck during a summer break. But after that? I know precious little."
"You ever tried talking to him?" Jim asked.
"No, really talking to him. If you ask about him, he brushes you off, turns the conversation till he's finding out about you. You may find a snippet of information about him, but he'll get ten times as much about you."
Realising that over the years, Blair had done just that, Simon had to ask the obvious question. "Why? Why does he always turn it around?"
"I don't know."
"Then find him and find out. I'll do what I can to help."
"He's going to need a job," Jim stated. "When I get him back, he's going to need a job."
Simon picked up the letter again and said, "Ph.D. in cultural forensic anthropology, eh? I'm sure that we can do something with him."
For the first time that day, Jim smiled.
Blair pulled up outside St. Sebastian's, unsure of how he'd even got there. The whole journey had been a blur and he'd had to fight off the tears that threatened every time he thought of Jim. He needed sanctuary and his tortured mind had taken him to the one place that he'd figured he'd find it.
He got out of his car, thinking that he shouldn't have even taken it there, but needing peace and quiet he'd just followed his nose. The irony of his current location hit him and he nearly giggled with hysteria. A Jewish/Pagan/bit-of-this-bit-of-that kinda guy, he had sought refuge in a Christian monastery.
Brother Jeremy was the first to greet him. He took one look at Blair and knew that something was troubling the young man.
"Blair? What is wrong?"
"I, er, I needed somewhere to go," he whispered in reply. "My life, it's, well, it's confusing right now and I need someplace that will let me work it out without hassle."
Jeremy let out a large sigh and put his hands out to the young man, placing them on his shoulders. "You are welcome here, Brother. Why don't we have your car placed in the shed?"
"Thank you." Blair retrieved his knapsack and then handed the keys to Jeremy, who handed them on to another of the monks that had arrived a few moments before.
Not even looking where he was going, Blair went with Jeremy to a cell.
"The supper bell will be going soon, Blair," Jeremy said kindly. "Come and join us, if you are hungry."
Blair gave him a sad smile and thanked him, then flopped onto his cot. When the door shut, he looked at the walls surrounding him and sighed. What now?
Jim hadn't known how to contact Naomi. Blair had taken his phone book so he had no way of finding her. He'd called the university, but Blair's colleagues were as surprised at his disappearance as Jim had been and had no idea where he would have gone. Jim knew that he wouldn't be able to check up on Blair's financial movements until the morning as the banks had already shut, so he had no idea if he had taken out any money for fuel or not. He had managed to establish that the Volvo was not at the train or bus station and that Blair hadn't flown anywhere, so that meant he was driving. He needed to figure out in which direction. Had he gone north to Canada? East? South? He had no idea.
"Blair, where are you?" he said, looking out of the window and watching the sky as it lightened, the sun starting to rise already. "I need to find you, to make everything all right. I will make it better, I promise. I know I've been a bastard to you lately and I'm sorry. Come home, please."
Of course, there was no knock at the door, no ringing of the phone, nothing.
Even though it was dawn, he was unwilling to go to bed as that would make him feel like he had given up on his partner, so he sat on the couch and just stared at the wall in front of him until he drifted off to sleep.
His world was blue, so Jim knew that he was in one of his spirit dreams. He saw his jaguar and followed it when it moved off, slowly making its way through the forest. They came upon a pack of wolves and Jim automatically knew that the one with blue eyes was Blair's.
He went to move closer to it, but his jaguar blocked the way. Jim got the message - just watch for the moment.
The pack of wolves were turning their back on Blair's spirit animal, leaving him out of the feeding frenzy that was currently occupying them. He kept pushing, trying to join in, but the more he did, the more alone he became. In the end, Jim watched as Blair's wolf gave up and walked away.
He understood the analogy. He and the others had driven him off, he'd not left out of choice. It was up to him to go and get him back. Again, he tried to move towards the wolf, but his jaguar wouldn't let him.
This was harder for him to understand. "Why won't you let me go to him?" he asked, then he watched as the jaguar morphed into a Chopec.
"Enqueri," the Chopec acknowledged. "You have abandoned your guide, your shaman."
"He left me!" The rebuttal was automatic, but Jim's heart wasn't in it.
"You denied the bond and drove him away." His voice was gentle, but accusing.
"I will make it up to him," Jim pleaded. "Help me get him back. Please."
Incacha said nothing for a moment, then he said, "He needs a little time, Enqueri. You will know when the time is right. For now, he needs to discover some things about himself. Then he will be able to be your guide."
"He's a great guide," Jim countered. "He's been incredible."
"But he does not know that, Enqueri. He believes that he has let you down, that you do not trust him. Your rejection of him made him feel that he had failed you. How can he be your guide if you will not follow him?"
Jim was about to answer that, but found himself awake and in his living room again. He was still feeling depressed, but a little more positive. He was sure that Blair was safe for the moment, but he wanted him back. He'd have to prove to Blair that he wanted him there. How to do that?
He stood up and looked around the loft and a small smile crept over his face. He had a plan.
Blair had deliberately missed the dinner the night before, feeling too depressed to eat. So, when he was woken with the bells calling out the waking time for the monks and the beginning of their early morning prayers, he was hungry. He knew that breakfast would not be ready for ages though, so he settled down to try to return to sleep. It eluded him, so he figured that meditating would be a better bet.
He slid out of his bed, folded his rough woollen blanket and put it on the cold floor, sat in the lotus position, placed his hands on his knees and shut his eyes.
It wasn't a huge surprise to him to find himself in the spirit world.
He saw what he assumed was his wolf as it was driven away from the pack and felt sad. He had the feeling that he was being watched too, so he turned to look. A black jaguar stood alone on a ridge above the place where the wolf pack gathered. As his wolf sadly sloped off, he saw the jaguar following from a distance, never interfering, but always watching. Blair followed the wolf for a while and saw it entering a cave. He got closer and saw another pack of wolves, each one silent, each one sitting on its own. They seemed to be a bunch of reclusive wolves, if that were possible. They were comfortable in each other's presence, but not interacting with each other much. His wolf, however, was greeted by one of them; an older, grey-muzzled wolf. The older wolf sat down, the younger one lay next to it, almost snuggling in to it.
The sound of another bell tolling, marking the end of prayers and the beginning of breakfast, pulled Blair out of his meditation, more confused by the vision than he had been before. Just what did it mean? Was Jim going to be following him for the rest of his life? Was Blair going to find a new place to live? With a bunch of recluses?
Remembering suddenly where he was, Blair chuckled. No way would he become a monk. He loved these guys and he had the utmost respect for them and their life choices, but it was not for him. Was it?
He threw on some clothes and washed up quickly, then scooted to the dining room, where he was greeted warmly by the various brothers, most especially by Brother Marcus.
"Blair! It is good to see you again. What brings you to us this time?"
"Ah, Marcus, I needed to get away. I've got some good news for you, though."
"Do tell!" Marcus' eyes were twinkling as he nudged the young man with his elbow.
"I got the Ph.D.. Defended it this week. Yesterday, actually. It's all over."
Blair was overwhelmed by the congratulations of the monks. They settled down to eat, and after thanks had been given (including thanks, by Marcus, for returning Blair to their presence), Blair found himself being questioned by them as to his topic.
"Cultural forensic anthropology?" Brother Jeremy asked. "Is that why you were with the detective?"
"Yes," Blair agreed, wincing at the thought that he'd have to - not lie as such, but bend the truth in the company of monks. "I was partnered with him and studied him and the others and applied my own knowledge of the behaviour of man to criminal cases."
"It sounds fascinating," Marcus said. "So why have you come here? Why aren't you working with them now?"
"I needed a break, man," Blair muttered. "Besides, I need to find a proper job soon. I can't keep on doing unpaid work, I've got bills to pay. I hope you don't mind me being here for a few days? Just until my feet hit the ground. I'm kind of flying," he added with a grin.
Jeremy, Marcus and the others rushed to reassure him that he could spend as much time with them as he needed. A glance passed between the two older monks and Jeremy gave Marcus a shallow nod. It was time for Blair to find out a few more things. Maybe some roots would be good for him.
"I hope you know what you are doing, Ellison," Simon growled as he helped Jim carry some planks of wood inside the loft.
"Yup. When Blair comes home he's going to find everything waiting for him. If this doesn't convince him that I need him around, nothing will."
His statement brought Simon up short, alerting Jim that something was wrong. "Simon?"
"Did you just hear what you said?" Simon asked.
"Yeah. What's wrong?"
"You said, and I quote, if this doesn't convince him that I need him around, nothing will. Unquote. Need him Jim? What about wanting him?"
"Blair is in love with you! If he thinks that you only need him for your senses, he'll come back because he's that sort of guy. But he'll be as miserable as sin. If he sees this," he waved his hands over the DIY stuff that Jim had laid out, "he'll assume you're wanting to get together with him because you read his note."
"Of course I read his note! How else would I know?"
"Jim, you're missing the point. The two of you are constantly trying to do the noble thing. He's done it by leaving, thinking that he wasn't good enough to be your guide so he wanted to get out of your life so you could find the right one. If he thinks that you're prepared to make the ultimate 'sacrifice' - in his eyes - by becoming his lover, he's not going to trust that you have real feelings for him."
"You think that he'd think that I was what, getting laid by him just to keep him?"
"Yup!" Simon grinned as the reality of the situation dawned on Jim.
"But I love him!"
"Don't tell me, tell him that when you see him. What I'm saying is that you're going to have to be very careful in your choice of words. You and I, we're plain speaking people, Jim. We have a job to do and that job can be nasty. It makes us blunt. But to Blair, words are everything. You and I may consider 'need' to equate to 'want', but he won't. He will probably accept that you love him as a friend, but unless you make it abundantly clear, he will never believe that you could possibly be in love with him."
"Ever heard of hero worship?" Simon chuckled.
"Sheesh. You call yourself a sentinel, yet you're as blind as a bat sometimes," Simon muttered. He sat on the sofa and glared at Jim until he, too, sat facing him. "You and I know what he is, what he's capable of, don't we?"
"He's smart, he's quick, he's a good man. He's also a brilliant friend and a natural detective. But he doesn't see that. You and I can see he's a good-looking man..."
"He's beautiful," Jim whispered.
"Yeah, well, I'll leave that description to you," Simon laughed, "but I know what you mean. He won't see himself that way. In his eyes, he's a geek. A long-haired, short, young science nerd. In his eyes, you're a hero. You're much bigger, stronger, older than him. You've done some pretty amazing things in your life."
"So has he."
"I know, but he doesn't see that. In his eyes, he's just an anthropologist. He won't see why you could feel for him."
"But..." Jim was about to rebut Simon's words but he knew that Simon was right. All of this time, Blair had been looking up to him - and not just because of his extra seven inches in height. All of this time, Blair had thought himself unworthy in some ways. Sure, he could be arrogant about his knowledge, but only if he truly believed that his way was the right way, that unless Jim listened to him, Jim could be hurt. If Blair ever got things wrong, he was devastated for days. At the time, Jim had thought it was because Blair had been upset that his brilliant brain could get things wrong. Now he realised that Blair had been upset because he'd felt that Jim had been let down by him, and that in turn would leave Blair thinking that Jim thought less of him. He dropped his head into his hands and let out a moan.
"When did you get to be so smart?" he asked Simon with a grin.
"Hey, I didn't make captain by being the prettiest face in the bullpen, you know," Simon chuckled. "Though that's true, too," he added.
Jim burst out laughing at that, enjoying Simon's teasing. Then the big man's face fell a bit as he continued.
"You're not the only one that has let him down," Simon admitted. "There have been many occasions when I could have been quicker with the praise and slower with the complaints. How many times have I yelled at him for things that weren't his fault? How many times have I omitted telling him how brave he'd been, how much I respected him? It's up to us, Jim. You said that you're sure you'll know where he is when the time is right, didn't you?"
"That's what the vision said," Jim whispered.
"Then when it's time to get him, I'm coming too. Now, are we going to do this building or not? I've only got a weekend off, then I'm back to work. I've got a few things that I need to arrange for the kid's return, too."
"Oh yeah?" Jim looked up with a grin.
"Oh yeah," Simon replied. "You'll see."
Brother Marcus was a little worried by Blair's demeanour. He was being almost silent. Not a normal state for him. Marcus was quietly working in his workshop. When Blair wasn't meditating, he was with him, handing him tools when he requested them, but saying little.
After allowing this to go on for the entire weekend, and fed up of waiting for Blair to tell him what was bothering him, Marcus decided on a different tack.
"Blair, it's a lovely day, why don't we go and sit out in the sun for a while. Make the most of the dry weather, eh?"
"Sure," Blair agreed readily, though his enthusiasm was lacking.
Marcus led him to a tree and bade him sit in the shade of it, their feet being warmed by the sun's rays, but their faces keeping cool.
"Are you going to tell me what's wrong?" Marcus prompted after a while.
"I wish I could," Blair replied. "But there are so many secrets."
"I know all about keeping secrets," Marcus chuckled. "I tell you what, how about I tell you some of mine? Then you'll know you can trust me with yours."
"I know I can trust you," Blair replied, "but they're not all mine to share."
"I understand. Still, there have been too many secrets between you and me, and some of them nearly got you hurt, and got some of the others killed. I can trust you to keep them, can't I?"
"Absolutely!" Blair stated. "Nobody would get them from me. But you don't have to do it, Marcus. We're friends, no matter what."
Marcus beamed at Blair for that. "Yes, I know that. And that's what's giving me the courage to tell you the biggest one of all. First, though, I need you to know a bit more about me. You know what you heard, about my, er, criminal background?"
"Yeah," Blair replied. "You said you'd never been involved in murder and I believe you."
"Thank you, Blair. That means a lot to me. It is God's honest truth," he added. "I did get involved with fraud. That is to my shame and eternal regret. But I have always abhorred violence."
"I'm with you there, man," Blair nodded.
"I'm not surprised. What happened, how it happened was this. I believed in the unions, the power of the worker. I wanted to fight for their rights, to protect them."
Blair listened intently, nodding all the while in understanding.
"Unfortunately, where I was - in Chicago - the mob had got involved in the locals. At first, I didn't know this, but by the time I found out, I was too heavily involved to back out. I justified it to myself, saying that it was only money, that I was still fighting for workers' rights. I was wrong, naturally, but there you go. Then I met a young cop, an FBI agent in fact, who believed so wholeheartedly in his crusade to overturn the mob's power that I felt I could really do some good."
"It's why you took the chance and turned?"
"Yes. Exactly that. I must admit that the thought of becoming a monk was strange to me, but the more I thought of it, the more I felt it was the right thing to do. If nothing else, it would act as penance for my sins. I don't know if you know this, but converts to a religion tend to be more, er, enthusiastic."
"Converts? You're not Catholic?"
"Nope. Well, I am now. I converted when I got involved with the mob. Initially it was a expedience thing, as the local boss was Italian, but after a while it became a true conviction. I truly believe and I am truly happy with my choice."
"Fair enough," Blair shrugged. "What were you to start with?"
"I was an accountant, Blair. What do you think?"
Blair started to laugh out loud. "Oh man, that's funny."
"You're telling me? I was bar mitzvahed and all."
"Me too. Not that I go to temple much," Blair admitted with a shrug.
"What do you believe in?" Marcus asked.
"Tricky one, man. I mean, I was born Jewish, like Mom. Brought up Pagan. I'm interested in Buddhism, heck, most religions fascinate me. I guess what I do is pick out the bits I like. Pathetic, huh?"
"No, it's understandable. Tell me, what do you like in them?"
"Anything that connects with peace, tolerance, generally getting on with your fellow man and not judging them. I figure that whatever the Almighty decides about me when I die, she's not going to get the chance to say that I was cruel."
"She?" Marcus laughed.
"Hey, you don't know my Mom," Blair chuckled. "Trust me on this one, a creating god has to be a female god, according to her."
He missed the twitch that appeared on Marcus' face when he said 'you don't know my Mom'. All he picked up on was the silence that followed it.
"Marcus? What's wrong?"
"Wrong? Nothing really. It's just that big secret. Tell me something, Blair. When were you born?"
Marcus nodded. "Your mother's name is Naomi, isn't it?"
"Yeah. How did you know?"
"Come with me."
Marcus stood up and marched towards the main monastery building, so Blair stood up and followed close on his heels.
They entered the building and Marcus lead him to Brother Jeremy's office.
"Brother Jeremy?" Marcus called out as they went in. "It is time."
"If you are sure, Brother," Jeremy acknowledged. At Marcus' nod, he picked up a key and then went to a cupboard and unlocked it. Inside it was a number of books and folders. And what looked suspiciously like a photograph album. "I'll be outside if you need me," Jeremy said. "I shall go and tend to the garden."
"Thank you, Brother," Marcus replied and then sat on a bench seat, patting the side and making Blair sit next to him.
"Tell me something, Blair," Marcus said again. "Who is your father?"
"I don't know. Naomi says she didn't know. It was 1968," he shrugged.
Marcus nodded, then he opened up the first page of the album. Blair's mouth opened wide.
Jim stood back and admired his handiwork. Blair's room was now a proper office. He and Simon had spent hours creating shelving, had moved the futon out to the living room while shifting the furniture around. There was a desk, a chair, and plenty of book shelves. After cleaning it up, Jim moved the futon back in, in its sofa state, so that when Blair came home, he would have a comfortable seat for when he wanted to read. He knew that Blair would need a retreat and that this could give it to him. His next job would be to create space in his bedroom - in their bedroom.
As he stepped close to the stairs though, he stopped dead. Would Blair really want this? Was he imposing his will on the younger man again? Shit, what should he do?
Simon's words about making sure that Blair understood that Jim was in love with him rang through his mind and encouraged him to get on with it. He was doing the right thing. He hoped.
"It was summer, 1968," Marcus said. "Of course, I was Jackie Kozinski then. Much to the disappointment of my parents, I was a long-haired hippie," he said with a grin, running his fingers through Blair's own hair. Blair smiled broadly. "Anyway, there I was at Berkeley, studying company law and accounting, but at the same time looking for the world like a dropout. I met this amazing lady. Long, red hair; beautiful - and Jewish like me. We had so many things in common. She was still at high school, just leaving it in fact. Going up to university a year early because she was so smart. Her parents had brought her to visit the campus, on the understanding that she would stay with her grandparents that summer so she could settle into the area before classes started. We met in the park. She was just seventeen, I was twenty, and I fell head over heels in love. We went to a party, got drunk, and I'm ashamed to say, the inevitable happened."
Blair grinned and shrugged. "Man, I cannot pass judgement," he said. "I don't."
"Thank you. You should hear the rest."
At Blair's nod, he continued. "We continued to see each other over the holiday and I wanted more. I asked her to marry me within weeks of meeting her."
"What did she say?"
"No," he shrugged. "Well, it was more a 'no, not now, maybe later but I'm too young.' I was heartbroken, but I understood. Anyway, she was about to start her courses when suddenly she upped and went. I got a message from her saying that she couldn't stay with her grandparents, that something had happened, but that she loved me and wouldn't forget me. She also said that she would ruin my life if she stayed. I had no idea what she meant until I first saw you, Blair."
Blair could see why. The picture in the photograph album could have been of him.
"This is weird," Blair said. "Cool, but weird."
"You're telling me," Marcus chuckled.
Blair burst out laughing and put his hand on Marcus'. "Look, I'm okay with this. More than okay with it. But it's going to take a while to get used to it, you know?"
"I know, Blair. It was such a shock, seeing you that first time all those years ago. If I hadn't had to keep quiet about my background, I would have told you there and then."
"It's okay, man. I mean, I understand. It's better this way. You and me, we've already built up a friendship. If you'd come out and said, 'hey Blair, good to meet you, by the way I'm your dad' at that first meeting, I think I'd have freaked."
Blair stood up and wandered around the room for a moment, the expression on his face suddenly one of shock.
"Blair? Are you all right?"
"I... I... I..." he started.
Marcus stood and put his hands out, catching the young man as he paced, running his hands through his hair.
"I've got a dad," he suddenly whispered. "A real one."
"If you want me," Marcus replied. "I'm not sure what good I'm going to do, but..."
"WANT you? Of course I want you!"
"Thank God for that," Marcus murmured, though his words were heartfelt. "I love you, son. Don't you think that I don't. I won't be changing my calling, but I will always be here when you need me."
"It wouldn't be safe anyway, and I wouldn't expect you to," Blair replied. "Just as I can't change who I am... what I am."
"Blair? What are you?"
"Okay, I think I'd better tell you this before we go further. You may change your mind about wanting me as your son."
"What on earth would make me turn from you?"
"Come outside, Marcus, and I'll tell you. I need some air."
Sitting back on the grass, the photograph album on the ground beside them, Blair nervously stared out at the surrounding scenery.
"Marcus," he started, then he stopped. "Do you mind me calling you that?" he asked. "I mean, it's not really your name and now..."
"Blair, you call your mother by her name, don't you?"
"Some of the time. You know Mom, she wanted to be my friend not just my mother."
"I get it. And much as I'm pleased to be your father, I'm your friend first and foremost. As for the name, we all changed our names coming here. I have more emotional investment in my chosen name than in my given one, so in answer to your question, whatever makes you most comfortable. For now I'm assuming that it's Marcus?"
"Yeah. For now. Later, if you still want, I might mix it up with Dad. Will that be okay?"
Blair pointed back at the monastery as he asked that.
"I think that they would all rejoice with me," Marcus replied sincerely, understanding Blair's query. "We can tell them later if you like. Jeremy already knows and he accepts it. He's very fond of you, Blair."
Blair grinned, blushing a little. "He's a good man."
"He is. A good man. A kind man. He's been a good influence on me, not to mention a good friend to me. Now, talk young man and tell me what worries you."
"What about him?"
"A couple of things," Blair admitted. "One thing I can't tell you, but it's connected to everything else that I can. If I tell you the other things without it, they won't make sense."
"This secret, it's burning you up inside, isn't it?"
"Yeah, it is."
"Then tell me. I swear that I will never tell anyone, Blair. You know, I have never broken my vow of silence, not once. I wouldn't normally try to persuade someone to share a secret, but it's eating you up. If you don't share your burden, it will kill you."
Blair thought for a moment and then made the decision to share. Marcus was right, he needed to get this off his chest. This would be it, the big test of him accepting his father. He hadn't even shared this with Naomi, but knowing her, that was probably for the best. She wouldn't knowingly do something to harm Jim, but she had a habit of acting without thinking. Marcus on the other hand had been a stable influence on Blair ever since he'd met him years before whilst on a trip to the monastery with the anthropology department.
"Right then. You must promise me that you won't even share this with Jeremy, or I can't tell you. If you need to talk about it, you talk to me. You can't even tell Jim you know."
Marcus agreed to the conditions and waited for the explanation. He was very surprised when he got it.
Simon came out of Hargrove Hall with a grin on his face and a folder tucked under his arm just as Jim entered the university library with a folder under his. Both had a sense of purpose and both were determined to accomplish their tasks.
Jim had spent the previous day collating some papers and he was now satisfied with what he had in his arms. He strode up to the desk and asked to meet with the library's chief bookbinder. Like many universities, Rainier had its own bookbinders, based in the library, they fixed books as and when needed, and bound special editions on commission. When the man turned up, Jim gave him a big smile.
"I'm Detective Ellison," he said, sticking his hand out in greeting. "I have a special request of you. Can you keep a secret?"
Simon dropped the folder on the Commissioner's desk.
"Tell me again why you insisted on this 'appointment', Simon?" he started.
"Well, Sir, I'm going to make your day."
"Yup! And you are going to be a wonderful, far-seeing, progressive Commish."
The Commissioner dropped his head in his hands. Somehow, he thought, he was going to regret this.
"So you're telling me that Jim is one of these sentinels?" Marcus asked, when Blair had finished his explanation of his original study.
"Yeah. All five of his senses are heightened."
"What is your role?"
"I used to help him out," Blair sighed. "Because I'd studied them, I had a better idea of what was going on. One person we ran across called me his guide." His shoulders dropped as he said that.
"I'm not. I can't be."
"Because I keep letting him down."
"I doubt that, son. Maybe you made a mistake or two, but let him down? I don't think that's possible."
"Letting someone down is a deliberate act, Blair. It's not in you to be that mean."
"You'd be surprised."
"Yes, I would be. Over the years, nothing I have ever seen or heard of you has made me think that. As soon as we met, and I knew that you were my son, I begged Jeremy to help me find out about you. We read anthropology magazines, I have all of your articles," he said, sounding more and more like a proud father by the minute, "and I read of some of your more interesting exploits on your expeditions. Blair, does Jim know how you saved the life of your team in Belize?"
"Uh, no," Blair admitted.
"Now that really doesn't surprise me. If only he knew you are as much a hero as he is."
"I was just in the right place at the right time."
"And you did the right thing for the right reasons."
"There's more, isn't there?"
"You'll find it hard to accept."
"Harder than the fact that you've been working with a superhuman?"
"Yeah. You see, there was this Chopec guy called Incacha..."
He told Marcus about the shamanism, the spirit animals and then about the fact that he had died.
"I heard about that," Marcus said quietly. "It was a miracle."
"You could say that," Blair agreed. "But it was Jim. He literally entered the spirit world and saved me. I know that that is hard to accept, I find it hard to accept, but it's true."
"Have you spoken to anyone about it?"
"Just you. I tried to talk to Jim, but he didn't want what the journey was offering."
"What was that?"
"A bond. Between him and me - sentinel and guide. He rejected me as his guide when I was in the hospital. Then he ran off with the woman that killed me."
"Lucky for him, I am a man of peace and forgiveness," Marcus ground out. "If I were still with the mob, he'd be a dead man."
"Marcus! It wasn't his fault. It was a genetic imperative. He couldn't help going after her."
"Like I said, she was a sentinel too. It was some mating thing."
"Not as far as I know."
"You didn't ask?"
"I didn't want to know."
Blair lay back on the grass and put his hands together behind his head. "Uh, Marcus, there is one other biggie you should know."
"About me. I'm bi."
"Bisexual. Attracted to men as well as women."
"Oh! Sorry, my mind doesn't go there anymore. It's been a long time," Marcus chuckled. "Anyway, the answer to that is 'so what?'."
Blair sat up and stared back at him. "You're sure? I mean, I know that it's against your religion and all..."
"Blair, so is doing what I did in my past. I truly believe that God will forgive me, if He hasn't already. I don't expect you to be a celibate saint, you know."
"Well, that's a relief," Blair laughed.
Marcus joined in with the laughter, then he said, "You're in love with him, aren't you?"
Blair quietened and said, "Yeah. But he doesn't love me."
"I know that one all too well," Marcus sighed.
Blair shook his head. "Mom loved you, probably still does," he said. "She's kept the secret, after all. Think about it, man. You were going to be someone, do something. She'd have agreed with you about wanting to make things better for workers, wanted you to succeed. So by keeping me a secret from you, she let you follow your heart. That's love."
"I can see what you're saying," Marcus sighed. "But there have been many nights when I have lain in bed, wondering what my life would have been like if she'd stayed with me. Perhaps I wouldn't have done the wrong thing."
"You didn't go into that intentionally," Blair said firmly. "Who's to say you wouldn't have ended up doing it anyway? Then you'd have had a harder time escaping from it. If you'd had a wife and child to hide too, you couldn't have come here. You've said it yourself, this is your calling, what you were supposed to be. You weren't meant to be there for me when I was a kid. I'm glad you're here for me now, though. This is when I need you most, man, and you're here. How can that be wrong?"
The dinner bell rang and Marcus stood up. As they walked back to get some food, Marcus said, "You know that a shaman is supposed to be a healer, don't you?"
"Well, it's true. You're a great one, Blair. I'm very proud of you, for what it's worth."
"It's worth a lot, man. More than you can imagine."
Jim felt a bit strange, sitting cross-legged as he was. It had been the best part of a week since Blair had gone and the only way he could connect with his guide was through the spirits. Each night he had meditated, surrounded by the candles that Blair had left behind. He watched the wolf, confused when he saw it wandering around with an older wolf. Both looked peaceful and they never left each other's side. There was love between them, it was plain to see, but that of parent and child, not of mates. He felt jealous, but bit down on it. If the spirits were reflecting what was happening in the real world, then it meant that Blair was safe, well and happy. He could live with that for now.
He entered the world of the spirits and automatically sought out his guide. It was the same as always, the young wolf in the company of the old wolf, but this time, the youngster looked back at him.
"Blair?" he called out. "Please. Come home. Call me. Anything. Just talk to me. I want you, Chief. I need you. Come home, I love you."
The wolf stopped dead as he spoke. It stared at him hard, then moved closer to him. As it got to within about thirty yards of him, it morphed into a Chopec. Not Incacha again, but the warrior he had seen in the jungle in Peru.
"It is time for you to retrieve your guide," he said.
"Where is he? I've searched everywhere."
"Not everywhere," the Chopec said. "Find his retreat. Halt his retreat. Then you may take him home."
Jim jerked awake and considered the warrior's words. His retreat? He stood up and wandered around the apartment, looking for something that would tell him where Blair was. His eye was drawn to his gun holster and his jacket. Inside his jacket, along with one of Blair's hair ties, he saw his gold badge.
Police. What was it about police that would connect with where Blair was hiding out? Another thing fell out of his jacket. A receipt for the papers that Jim had handed over to the bookbinder. Knowing that quite often things happened for a reason, Jim decided that it was time to do some research. He grabbed his jacket, left the loft and headed directly for the precinct.
"I am going to get myself a computer one of these days," he muttered to himself as he sat in front of one of the ones in the bullpen.
Megan approached him cautiously, hearing the curses under Jim's breath.
"Uh, Ellison? It's not going to answer you just because you talk to it. What are you looking up?"
"I'm trying to find a connection between police and bookbinders," he replied, thinking that that would shut her up.
"Oh? Okay, shift over." She pushed him out of the way, pulled up her favourite search engine, typed "police+bookbinder" and hit enter. A second or so later, Jim had a list of sites. He scrolled down the page, looking at the various suggested sites until he saw something that made him yell out loud.
"SEBASTIAN!" he screamed, stood up, turned to go to Simon's office, stopped himself, turned again, kissed a very surprised Megan's cheek and then shot off to see his friend. "Saint Sebastian's!" he said as soon as he went in there.
"Blair! He's gone there, I'm sure of it."
"You're not going to believe it."
For once, Simon leant forward in his chair, arched his fingers together and rested his chin on them. "Try me," he said with a grin.
So Jim told him.
"...And so I did the search, or rather Connor did the search, and found that Saint Sebastian is the patron saint of police and bookbinders! Where else could he be?"
"You do realise, don't you, that if any other detective came into me and talked of visions, coincidences and morphing animals that don't really exist and said that it was proof of something, I'd say that he or she was insane. However, seeing as it's you two, what are you waiting for? Let's go!"
Jim was 'doing a Blair' in the truck, so much so that Simon had taken over the driving, pulling rank to force Jim into letting him. He was literally bouncing in his seat.
"Ellison, calm down, for fuck's sake!" Simon snarled after half an hour of Jim testing out the suspension.
"Can't you drive faster?"
"Not without breaking the sound barrier, no. Now, he's been there safe and well for a week, he will be there for a few minutes more. We'll get there!"
Blair had been meditating at the same time as Jim. His own vision had been similar, watching the two wolves, but mainly observing the jaguar that stalked them. He saw it calling out to him, roaring as it held its magnificent head up high. He stepped closer until he could see its eyes, and spoke to it.
"Jim? Is that you?"
He watched in amazement as the jaguar morphed into Incacha.
"Shaman, it is time for you to leave your retreat. There is no need to hide anymore. Enqueri searches for his guide."
"Well, he's not going to find him here, that's for sure," Blair muttered. "Do you want me to help him find a guide? Is that it?"
Incacha sighed and shook his head. "Child, you are his guide. There is no other. You have accepted that in your heart, why not accept it in your head?"
"What do you mean?"
"You accepted the bond; you wish to mate with Enqueri, no?"
Blair wasn't sure if he could blush in his spiritual form, but he was feeling like it was happening. Somehow, he managed to answer.
"Then you have accepted the bond and all that it means. Your love binds you to your sentinel. His love binds him to you. It is time for you to return to him."
"Oh no," Blair said, his hands up in front of him, stepping backwards as he spoke. "You are so wrong there. He doesn't love me. He certainly doesn't want the bond. He turned me down, remember?"
"He was afraid, shaman. His heart was recovering from your loss. He has since accepted the bond and wishes to mate with you."
Blair couldn't believe what he was hearing, was afraid to believe what he was hearing. He started to pace up and down the forest floor, muttering under his breath before saying, "Man, you are wrong! Do NOT do this to me. It's not fair. I've given up everything for him, given up my LIFE! What more do I have to do? Haven't I been punished enough for trying to help Alex?"
"Is being loved a punishment?"
"No - loving him is punishment enough. I didn't mean to hurt him, I just wanted a way out. With her, I could have carried on with my studies and kept him a secret. I only wanted to take away her pain! How could that have been so wrong?"
"It was not wrong, shaman. You did as a shaman should. You tried to heal. But the other sentinel was not good enough. She was greedy, her soul was tainted, her spirit was evil. You had no way of knowing this. Listen to me, child. He is coming for you. You should listen to him and accept him back into your heart. You have found your father and forgiven him for not being with you, have you not?"
"Forgiven him? What for? Marcus didn't do anything wrong."
Incacha smiled sadly at him. "Did Enqueri? He was afraid, shaman. You are punishing him for being afraid."
"He punished me! He pushed me away! Why?"
"To keep you safe."
"And if I go back to him? Will he do it again? Will he suddenly decide that I need to be kept 'safe' again? I can NOT deal with that."
With a sad sigh, Incacha said one last thing. "You must return to your sentinel, or he will cease to be a sentinel. It is either that or he will choose to die. When you mate, you will see that you cannot be separated."
With that he disappeared. Blair stood alone in the forest and thought one thing. "If he and I get together and then he decides that it's a mistake, it's going to kill me. I can't take that. Fuck it, no way am I going to wait around for him."
"Blair! Blair! Wake up, please!"
Blair opened his eyes and saw his worried father standing above him.
"Marcus? What's up, man?"
"I couldn't wake you. I came here to fetch you because you missed your meal and I saw you in a trance."
"I was, er, meditating, Marcus. It's okay."
"I have seen meditation, Blair, I have meditated myself. That wasn't meditating. You were in deep. You've been here for hours."
Blair sighed and stood up. "I was on a spirit journey," he admitted. "I was talking to Incacha."
"The dead shaman?" Marcus was desperately trying to believe his son, but this was very strange to him.
"Yeah. He said that Jim's on his way here. I have got to go, Marcus. I'll be back, and I promise faithfully that I'll be in touch a whole lot more. Can I tell Naomi that I know you?"
"You can't tell her how or where or..."
"I know that," Blair said, his hands up to calm the older man. "I won't tell her that. Leave it to me, okay? I'll tell her that we've been friends for years and that you still care about her. Do you forgive her for not telling you about me?"
Marcus was surprised by that question, but then he realised that a small part of him hadn't forgiven her for keeping him from his son's life. With the realisation came the ability to let it go.
"Yes. Please tell her. And you can tell her that I am so proud of you and that I love you. I couldn't have wished for a better son if I'd planned on having one."
Blair pulled Marcus into a hug and father and son held each other tightly for a moment.
"I have got to go, Dad," Blair whispered. "I just can't see him again. I'll write... soon. Thank you for being here for me. And can you thank the others for being so kind, please? I've got to go and get my keys from Brother Jeremy."
"I'll go get your keys. You pack. I'll meet you out front."
Before Blair could say anything else, he turned and left him.
Blair grabbed his meagre belongings and threw them into his knapsack. Then he made a quick detour to the chapel. In front of the icon of Saint Sebastian, he said, "I know I'm not one of your faithful, but you've got to know that I respect the men here and their beliefs and that I'd die to protect their right to believe in you. I also know you're the patron saint of police. Please, take care of the guys in Cascade. They're doing a tough job and need all the help they can get. You've got good people here, you should be proud."
With that, he turned and left the little chapel, not seeing Brother Jeremy watching him from the side. He smiled at his favourite Pagan, thinking that maybe, if the world could turn out more people like him, there wouldn't be a need for monasteries such as this.
Blair met Marcus out the front as planned, took the keys and got the directions to the shed where his car was being held.
"Please, Blair, stay a little longer. You should speak with your sentinel."
"I can't, Dad, I just can't. Please let me go."
"You are just like your mother," Marcus whispered to Blair's retreating back. "Run away, son. Just remember where I am."
"Simon, we have to get there now," Jim growled. "He's leaving, I know it."
"What, can you hear him?" Simon asked as he turned up the driveway to the monastery.
"No, it's not that, it's just a feeling. Dammit, I'm going to lose him again, I know I am."
"Not on my watch, you won't."
Simon floored it and the truck bounced through the potholes in the country track. As the monastery came into view, Jim saw Marcus looking straight at him.
"We're too late," he whispered.
Simon stopped the truck and Jim leapt out of it.
"Where is he?" he called to Marcus.
"Just about to leave," Marcus replied. "But before you go haring off after him, answer me this. Do you love him?"
Jim stopped dead, thought about Marcus' question and his reason for asking it, then answered, "With all my heart."
"Are you in love with him?"
"He's afraid of you."
"I know. I'll change that, I promise. I'll die before I let him down again."
Marcus stared hard into Jim's eyes and then pointed as he said, "He's in that shed, just getting his car. It's full of his things. Don't let him go, Detective. He has many things to tell you."
Jim ran off, forgetting about Simon who was just getting out of the truck. Simon wandered over to Marcus and introduced himself. "Hi. I'm Simon Banks. Jim's boss."
"I know who you are, Captain," Marcus replied. "Blair has told me a lot about you. We've had many chats over the last few days. He'll be surprised to see you here."
"I should imagine he would," Simon agreed. "I've not given him much cause to think that I'm his friend recently. It's not his fault, it's mine. I'm hoping he'll give me the chance to make it up to him."
"You may well get one more chance," Marcus told him, "but I doubt you'll have any more than that. Don't squander it."
The sincerity in Marcus' voice made Simon stop and think. He vowed, both to himself and to Marcus that he would do his best.
"You seem to care about the kid," Simon said.
"I love him more than life itself."
"Isn't that a bit strong for a friend?"
"Why should it be?" Marcus countered. "Besides, Blair and I are related," he added with a grin. "I'll leave him to tell you about that. Why don't we see how things are going up there?"
Simon fell into step with the much smaller man and strolled alongside him.
"Blair! Chief! Don't go!"
Blair froze, his hand on the driver's door. It was too late.
"I can't do this, Jim," he whispered. "Please, don't do this to me."
"It's okay, Blair, I understand. I get everything. I'm sorry I've been such a prick. Let me make it up to you. Come home please. I'll prove it to you."
"That it will be good. It will be good."
"Jim, did you read my letter?"
"Oh yeah. I love you, Chief. I need you and I want you and I love you. I can't go on without you. Please, come home."
"What do you mean, why?"
"Why me? Why not one of those many dates you've had, or one of your fellow officers? Why not someone you trust?"
"Blair, there is no one I trust more than you. I trust you more than anyone, including Simon, and you know how much I trust him."
"You didn't trust me to finish the dissertation and keep you safe."
"I didn't want you to finish the diss."
"Because this would happen. You'd leave me."
"You thought that? Man, you are so wrong!"
"Was I? You left!"
"You pushed me away! You gave me no reason to stay. You ignored me, you didn't want me around, you shut me up! Why would I stay to be treated like that? All you had to do was be yourself and I would stay for LIFE, man!"
Jim took a couple of steps closer, Blair took a few steps back.
"I know that now, Blair. I was scared. You're always trying to tell me about fear-based reactions, well, this was a biggie. I'm not afraid anymore. Please, give me another chance. One last chance to prove to you that I mean what I say. I want to be with you, I have to be with you."
"Do you know what it is I want from you?" came the reply.
"Yes. And you have it. Total commitment, Blair. I love you. I'm in love with you. Come home."
Jim took another step closer and this time Blair didn't move away. Cautiously, as if approaching a wounded animal, Jim put his arms out, his hands open in supplication. Blair didn't look up at him, too afraid to see Jim's face. The man usually was fairly unreadable when it came to his emotions, and Blair didn't want to see that blank look. Somehow, Jim knew that that was what Blair was feeling and he said, "Chief, look at me. Please."
Slowly, Blair tilted his head until he saw the face of the man he loved more than life. Even in the shadows of the shed, he could see the pain in Jim's eyes, the need written as plain as day.
His heart melted and he took a step closer to Jim, letting the bigger man enfold him in his arms.
"I'm so sorry, Blair, so fucking sorry. It's going to be okay."
Unsure of what was happening inside the shed, Marcus and Simon crept closer to it. The shouting had stopped, the talking had subsided. They looked around the corner and then pulled back. Jim was holding Blair tightly and it was obvious that both men were crying, letting go of the pain of the previous months.
"I love you," Jim said, over and over again. Blair echoed his words before finally pulling back and saying, "Let's go home, Jim."
Before they could move the car out of the shed, Jim realised that they were being watched.
"We've got company, Chief," he muttered.
"Simon?" Blair was shocked to see the big man.
"Nope, it's the Lone Ranger."
"I see you've met Tonto," Blair replied, pointing at Marcus.
"I thought you were about to say 'Silver'," Marcus said, running his hand through his grey, curly hair.
"Nah, I wouldn't be that cruel." Blair looked at Marcus and cocked his head, getting a broad grin back. With an acknowledging nod, he said, "Actually, Simon, Jim, I think I'd better introduce you properly."
"Sandburg, we already know who he is," Jim moaned.
Marcus sniggered. "Perhaps we'd better tell them who you are, eh?" he said, looking at Blair.
"Yeah," Blair replied, a huge grin on his face.
"Why doesn't someone just tell us what is going on?" asked Simon exasperated by the teasing.
"Okay, Jim, Simon, meet my dad."
The silence that followed was deafening. It took both big men a while to recover. In the meantime, the two shorter men were laughing out loud.
"Your dad?" Jim finally squeaked.
"Yup," Blair answered, looking pleased with himself.
"Wow. Does this mean you're changing your name?" Jim enquired, now more confused than ever.
"Yeah. It's gonna be Blair Jacob Ellison-Sandburg."
"Kozinski-Ellison-Sandburg," Marcus chuckled.
Simon harrumphed and said, "I have a better idea. Change it to Banks. Short, sweet and to the point."
When the laughter subsided, Blair said, "Uh, Simon, no offence man, but what are you doing here?"
"I've come to get the other half of my best partnership and make sure he comes home."
"Ah, well, I won't be doing that anymore, Simon. I've finished the study."
"I know, I saw the letter you left," Simon answered quietly, trying to hide his grin when he saw Blair start to flush a little. "Come home, Blair, I have a job waiting for you."
"A job? A real job? A paid job?"
"Yes, to all of the above," Simon answered with his booming laugh. "You'll see when you get there."
"Wow. If you're sure? Will I still be partnered with him?" he asked, pointing to Jim, but before Simon could answer, he continued firing questions at him. "I won't have to go to the Academy, will I? I won't have to carry a gun. And I'm not cutting my hair."
His endless questions and statements were soon drowned out by the collective laughter of the others.
"Sandburg! Cool it," Simon ordered. "We'll sort all the details out when we get home. In the meantime, we have to get you back."
"Ok-ay," Blair drawled. He moved to his father and hugged him again. "I'll see you soon, Dad, I promise."
"You make sure you do, young man," Marcus replied, his voice firm, but his eyes dancing with good humour.
Blair picked up where he had left off and started to get into his car, missing the look of pain in Jim's eyes.
"I'm going home, Jim. I promise."
Simon picked up on Jim's distress. He didn't want Blair out of his sight for a moment.
"Sandburg, why don't you let Jim come home with you. I think you two have a lot to talk about. I'll take the truck back to the Precinct and pick up my own car from there. You two can pick it up later."
"Sure," Blair shrugged, "but my car is full of boxes."
"Drive it to the truck and we'll shift some of the boxes that you don't need in a hurry into it," Simon suggested.
Agreeing, Blair got into the car and the others got out of his way. He drove slowly, suddenly understanding that Jim didn't really believe that he wasn't going to disappear again. So much for trust, he thought to himself.
He parked up right next to Jim's truck and watched as the big man made his way quickly towards him. He was confused to see Simon heading inside the monastery with Marcus.
"Where are they going?" he asked Jim as he appeared next to him.
"Oh, Marcus wanted a chat with him. One dad to another, I guess."
Blair was still confused but he just shrugged. He and Jim moved a load of boxes into the cab of the truck and then they were ready to go.
"Let's go, Chief. There's no telling how long Simon will be."
Blair nodded and got in the driver's side, Jim slid in next to him. With a last look and a wave to the monks that were looking out of the windows at them, Blair started the car up and drove off.
They barely spoke for the first half of the journey, but the silence wasn't uncomfortable. Eventually though, Jim said, "How does it feel to have a dad?"
"Pretty incredible," Blair admitted. "I know this is going to sound crazy..."
"Chief, it's coming out of your mind, of course it sounds crazy."
Blair smacked his leg.
"May I go on?" he asked.
"Yup. Tell me, Blair." Jim's voice softened from the teasing tone and Blair knew that he really did want to know.
"I, er, I never wanted a dad," he said. "Naomi and I had an amazing life together. We went places others haven't heard of, we did things that kids only dream about. I never felt like I'd lacked anything. But now I know who my father is, and having known him for years and grown to love him as a friend, it's like a piece of me that was missing has been found. Now I've got my dad, I want one. Does that make sense?"
Jim looked at his guide, the one he had never known he wanted or needed until they'd met, the missing part of his life, and smiled. "It makes perfect sense, Blair," he said quietly. "I understand."
Silence fell for a few more minutes, then Blair spoke up. "I want to keep in touch with him as much as I can, Jim."
"Consider it done."
They arrived outside the apartment block and without speaking, unloaded the car, shifted the boxes into the elevator (which was working for once) and went upstairs. Jim opened the door to the loft and the two of them moved the boxes inside.
When the door shut behind them, Blair looked around. Things had changed, but he wasn't really sure what.
Jim took him by the hand and led him to his old bedroom under the stairs.
"It's an office," Jim said. "Your office," he added quickly before Blair could get the wrong idea and think that he'd changed it for himself. "I figured that what with your new job, you'd need somewhere quiet to work. There's room on the floor for you to meditate if you want. More bookshelves too. So? You like?"
"I... I... I'm stunned, Jim. It's perfect." Knowing that he'd be able to get one over on Jim, he dipped his head shyly and looked up at him through his eyelashes. "But where am I going to sleep, man?"
It took all of Blair's powers of self-control to not laugh at Jim's reply. The poor man was stammering.
"Well, I, I, thought you might like, if you don't we can always change, and if you do then it's fine and there's room and..."
"Jim!" Blair lost it and fell about laughing. "You're saying you want me to move upstairs?"
"You're saying you want me?"
"Yes!" Jim squeaked.
"You desire me?"
"You need me?"
"More than you can imagine."
"You sure? I can imagine quite a lot."
Jim cracked and fell about laughing. "Oh yeah, Chief. I'll try to live up to your imagination. Or is that down to it."
The groan that Blair let out at that spoke volumes to Jim. He stepped closer and put his hands out to Blair, loving it when he stepped into his arms without hesitation. "I love you, Blair," he whispered. "Come to bed."
He was shocked when Blair slid out of his arms. "Bathroom first," Blair said hurriedly. "I'm gonna take a leak and then I'll see you up there." With that, the Blairblur was gone.
With a grin on his face that could only be described as smug, Jim strolled up the stairs.
Naked and lying on top of the covers, Jim wondered if he should be feeling a touch exposed, but he shrugged it off. He liked being naked as it meant that he didn't have to worry about the texture of the clothes on him. Then he wondered where the hell Blair was. He dialled up his hearing and listened in.
Blair was in the shower, quietly muttering to himself. "Better get myself smelling nice or else he's going to zone. I wonder if he can zone on body odour?"
"Only yours, Chief," Jim chuckled, "and it's not necessarily a bad thing. I think you smell nice."
"Shit," came another mutter from the bathroom. "If he's just doing this to keep me..."
Jim was off the bed and at the bathroom door in moments. He was just about to go crashing in to yell a denial at Blair, when he stopped suddenly. Hadn't he promised that he'd not listen in to him? Oops. Instead, he took a deep breath, opened the door and shocked the hell out of Blair by sliding into the shower behind him.
"Room for a little one?" he asked.
When Blair had peeled himself from the ceiling, he turned and looked Jim up and down. "Yeah, but where is he?"
With a grin, Jim took the shampoo bottle out of Blair's hand, realising that this was going to be his best chance at reassuring the younger man.
"Here," he said, "let me, please. I have dreamed of doing this."
"Speechless, eh?" Jim teased as he massaged the shampoo into Blair's scalp, eliciting a couple of groans from him as he did. "I've dreamed of rendering you speechless too. Not like that, of course."
Blair was rapidly turning into a puddle of goo as Jim's talented fingers did their thing.
"Let's get you rinsed out and up to bed and I'll show you," he whispered in Blair's ear.
The Blairblur struck again. He stood directly under the water, scrubbed his hair till it was running clear of soap, chucked some conditioner carelessly into it, muttering about how his hair would be a nightmare if he forgot it, and was out of the shower in a flash.
"What are you waiting for, man?" he taunted as he quickly towelled his hair, getting the worst out. A quick swipe of the towel over his body and the anthropologist was heading for the stairs, his dick pointing his way up.
Jim followed closely behind with an even more smug grin on his face.
When he got to the top of the stairs, he saw a naked Blair lying on the bed and looking straight at him.
"You took your time," Blair teased.
"Traffic was a nightmare," Jim shrugged. "Got held up at the lights."
That got Jim one of Blair's brightest smiles. Damn, he thought, I am so going to zone on him.
Blair noticed the look on his face. "Jim? Come back to me, man. I won't let you zone, I promise. Just trust m.." he started, then he froze.
"I trust you, Chief. I've already told you that, I trust you like I've never trusted anyone. I know you won't let me zone."
He reclaimed Blair's smile with those words and moved closer.
"God, you are so beautiful," he whispered as he started crawling up the bed. He trailed the tip of his tongue along Blair's skin, from his navel up to his chin. Finally, (finally, in Blair's view), he arrived face-to-face with Blair. Their lips met for the first time.
It was delicate at first, the most gentle of 'hellos', but soon the overflowing passion between them let loose and Blair reached up and grabbed Jim, pulling him onto the bed beside him and attaching himself limpet-like to his lover.
To an outside observer, it looked like they were wrestling. One minute Jim was on top of Blair, the next it was the other way around. Arms and legs intertwined until it was impossible to say which limbs belonged to which man. It became inevitable that this first time was not going to be one of finesse or marked for its duration. Too much time had passed with too many emotions flowing between them for either man to wait. Afraid that if he lay on top he'd hurt Blair whilst being so out of control, so Jim flipped himself onto his back, grabbed his lover, pulled him into position and growled, "Move it."
They had to stop kissing or risk sore necks the following day. For now, Blair decided that keeping their dicks in alignment would be the better way to go.
It didn't take long, a few thrusts by both men was sufficient to end it. Blair collapsed onto Jim's chest, panting hard, being jerked up and down by the heavy breathing of the man beneath him.
Jim unceremoneously dumped Blair off him and said, "You may not be as big as me but you sure ain't a lightweight, sweetheart."
Blair raised an eyebrow. "Sweetheart? And are you calling me fat?"
"Sweetheart," Jim shrugged. "So sue me."
"I know what you're worth, it's not worth the bother. You didn't answer my question."
Jim looked Blair up and down and shook his head. "You are not fat," he whispered. "If anything, you're about ten or fifteen pounds underweight. What's up with that?"
"Been busy," Blair shrugged.
"Damn it, Blair, you shouldn't neglect your food."
Blair smacked him half-heartedly. "Not now, babe. I'm tired, I'm in need of a snuggle and I'm home. Don't nag, please."
It was obvious to Jim that whatever he said right now was going to be dismissed, so he just shrugged, pulled Blair closer to him and held him tightly. "Yeah, baby, you're home."
Blair woke up, realised that he was in an armlock and let out a low, hungry groan. The scent of Jim was enough to turn him on like nothing else. He couldn't believe where he was though, still felt that this was just a figment of his imagination. After all, what else could it be?
But then figments of one's imagination didn't usually smell like they needed a shower.
"Hey." Jim's voice brought him out of his reverie and he looked up from where he was nestling his head on Jim's chest.
"Hey. This wasn't a dream?"
"Damned lifelike if it was," Jim answered with a grin. "Never had a wet dream that made me come so hard before, that's for sure. And I've had plenty."
"What, wet dreams?"
"Oh yeah. Especially since my senses came back on line. I figured it's got something to do with sense memories - at least after you taught me about them."
"Oh. So, what, you're remembering ex-lovers?" Blair sounded terribly put out.
"Not really," Jim admitted. Then he blushed.
"Okay, see, well it's like this. I would focus on you and I'd-listen-in-when-you-were-jerking-off-and-I-identified-the-scent-and-it-would-stick-in-my-brain."
"WHOA!" Blair sat up with a, er, jerk. "Number one - you are doing a 'me', and that is so uncool. Stop it."
"As you should be. Number two - what scares me to death is I understood every word of that."
"You will be. Number three - you were listening to me jerking off?"
"Um, yeah. Sorry, Chief."
"Not as sorry as you're going to be, Bubba. Jeez, can't a guy get any privacy around here? I mean, you gonna listen in when I do it now?"
"You want to jerk off now? I'm not good enough for you?" Jim asked in surprise.
"I meant 'now' as in 'not in the past'. Present and future now. If that makes sense. And you are good enough for me," Blair added with a grin. "At least, on your performance so far... I'll need a couple of extra test runs to see if I'm gonna keep you."
Jim figured that talking was overrated, especially as he was a hands-on kinda guy. He flipped Blair onto his back and gave him a repeat performance of the night before - a slightly less truncated version as he'd turned his sense of touch down.
With the smuggest grin that he'd had on his face for a long time, Jim kissed the still stunned Blair on the nose, got out of bed and had that shower. He was only a bit (okay, a lot) disappointed when he found Blair still on the bed when he came back. Sleeping.
That morning was spent in a liquid state. When they weren't taking them in (via coffee, algae shakes, juice and so on), they were in them (yet more showers) or expelling them (mainly through sex, but there was a time that Blair was caught off guard by a Jim comment whilst drinking his shake. The resulting mess had Jim rushing for the cleaning equipment so fast that Blair turned as green as his drink.) By mid-afternoon, they were, not to put too fine a point on it, fucked.
Or they would be if they'd gone that far.
A knock at the door surprised Blair, but naturally failed to surprise Jim. "It's Simon," he said, having caught the scent of his cigars.
"Ah. We haven't picked up your truck yet, Jim," Blair reminded him.
Jim opened the door as he said, "Later," to Blair.
"What, the kid's on a promise?" Simon teased.
Jim did a double take, realised what he'd said and then said, "Truck."
"And a promise," Blair said with a grin. "Hi, Simon, what can we do for you?"
"A coffee would be nice," Simon retorted, heading into the kitchen.
"Yeah, well, you know where everything is," Blair sniggered.
"That's not the way to talk to your boss, Sandburg," Simon growled.
"Perhaps not," Blair replied, "but I haven't signed a thing yet." He followed Simon and Jim into the kitchen area and sat at the table. "What's in the bag?" he asked, nodding at a large plastic carrier.
"Wait and see, kid. Let me have a coffee first, please."
"Bad morning, Simon?" Jim asked.
"Nah, just fiddly. Bits here, errands there..." His voice trailed off and he shrugged, the others muttering noises of understanding. "Anyway," he said after drinking some of the coffee, "the reason I'm here. I want to make you an offer, Sandburg."
"Will I be able to refuse it?" Blair answered, his 'Godfather' impersonation failing pitifully.
"Yeah, but I don't think you're going to want to. You see," Simon said, sitting back in his chair, a broad grin plastered to his face, "I read a certain thesis by a young doctoral candidate called Blair Sandburg. You might know him. Small, hairy, doesn't stop talking."
Blair blushed a little, grinning at the same time. "Hey, less of the 'small', please. There are more guys my size than yours. Besides, being tall isn't a factor in how big a guy is, if you get my drift."
Simon stared at Blair, the captain's 'I know a secret' smile plastered to his face. "Well, I wouldn't know about that, Sandburg. Perhaps Jim would be in a better position to comment?"
Jim wisely said nothing. He'd been thinking that way that morning. If Blair had been as tall as him and stayed in proportion... no, he was grateful that the little guy was just five seven. No fucking way would he take it otherwise. He kept that observation to himself and had his own secret smile.
"Go on, Simon, you were saying?" he prompted.
"Yeah. Anyway, I took said thesis to the Commish and made a suggestion. He agrees, by the way."
"Agrees to what?"
"That Cascade should have its own Cultural Forensic Anthropologist. More to the point, he wants one that is prepared to work on a full-time basis. Most of our forensic scientists, apart from the lab techs, are only with us on a case-by-case basis. After all, we don't need a full-time graphologist or tyre tread identification specialist."
Blair and Jim nodded in agreement.
"However, seeing as there are so many reasons why a cultural anthropologist's work and a detective's work are tied together, the Commish agreed that it would make sense to have one working full-time. Maybe teamed up with a detective?"
He looked at Blair, then at Jim, his face expectant.
"Simon, are you saying I can do this without having to carry a gun?" Blair asked.
"Sure," came the reassurance. "I think it wouldn't hurt you to go to learn how to use one. If you're ever in the position when it's a life or death thing - Jim's life or death," he added solemnly, "then maybe you'll feel better if you've had some experience. I know why you don't like them, I understand it, by the way. I'll be honest with you, I don't like guns myself. I've just learned to accept them. But if Jim's happy for you to be unarmed, then I'll let it ride. You won't have to do it."
"Thank you," Blair whispered. Ever since Simon's hint about the job back at the monastery, he'd been worried about just how he'd be employed. He looked up at Jim and saw him smiling.
"If you wish to learn, I will teach you, Chief. I promise I won't force it on you though."
Blair put his hand over Jim's and squeezed it tightly, his eyes promising a more forthright thanks later.
"You'll get paid for this job," Simon teased.
"Oh yeah? How much?" came the laughing reply.
"More than him."
"Right on!" Blair punched the air, his infectious grin spreading over his face, soon picked up and mirrored in the faces of his friends.
"Can you say 'back rent', Chief?" Jim asked.
In the living room, the three men sat in comfort, a game on the TV, a beer in hand. Simon, in the armchair, watched with a paternalistic feeling towards Blair. He smiled when he saw the young man relax under Jim's arm, literally being taken under his wing. They looked so right together. He waited until the game had finished before speaking.
"I learned a lot about you from your father," he said, directing a glare at Blair.
Blair dropped his head in his hands.
"Do tell," Jim said with a grin.
"Did you know that Sandburg's a hero?"
Jim shrugged. "I've seen him take out a gunman with a baseball, Simon, that is not news to me."
Simon laughed, then said, "He saved the lives of the anthropological team he was on when he was just eighteen."
"He is still in the room," Blair said, embarrassed by the attention.
"How did you do it, Chief?" Jim asked quietly.
Blair shrugged. "It wasn't anything special," he said, trying to forget the incident.
"Not special? Somehow, and I'm not sure of the details," Simon argued, "he managed to release the team that had been taken hostage by raiders and got all of the raiders locked up in one place, ready for the authorities to pick up. Sounds pretty special to me."
"Just in the right place at the right time," Blair tried the same argument that he'd had with Marcus. He hadn't wanted to admit to having got a bit lost in the jungle next to the camp, which in turn had led him to be away from the camp when the raiders struck. It had been easy to spike the raider's beer with the various bottles of alcohol that were stored there, rendering them all drunk enough to tie up.
"I'll get the story out of him one day," Jim promised. "I have ways of doing it." He reached around Blair and pulled him closer and onto his lap, kissing his cheek with a sloppy, wet kiss and making Blair squirm.
As he extricated himself, he complained, "Man, you are just gross!"
Simon laughed at their antics but then sobered.
"You guys are going to have to keep your relationship quiet," he counselled. "Much as I think that stinks, you don't want back-up being late or the kid getting hassled, do you?"
"The kid isn't a kid and hasn't been for some years," Blair growled. "I can take care of myself, thank you, Simon. But I agree, I've heard stuff about cops that are out at the station. If their own department doesn't back them up to the hilt, they have no one."
"Most of Major Crime would be fine," Jim stated. "The guys would be great, Megan already thinks we're together. But there are a few," he agreed. "Give them time and let them see how we work together as an official team. Maybe they'll be okay about it in future."
A short silence followed that as the implications sunk in, then Simon decided that now would be a good time to show Blair the contents of the bag. He looked at Jim, nodded towards the bag in question and then got a nod back in agreement.
"Sandburg, I've got something for you," Simon said. Having heard of Jim's plan for a present for Blair, he'd agreed and done something similar. He reached into the bag and brought out a large tissue-wrapped parcel and handed it to Blair.
Slightly nervously, Blair unwrapped it, wondering just what was in store for him. It was a deep-red leather bound book. On the front cover, in green and gold leather, were the words:
Cultural Forensic Anthropology
A study of case histories in its application in the field
Dr. B. J. Sandburg Ph.D
Blair traced the words with his finger, silently stunned by what he was seeing. He looked up at Simon and mouthed a 'thank you' to him. Simon grinned.
"Having read your thesis," he said, "I figured that it would be worth getting it bound. The guys at Rainier library did a great job in such a short time."
"How did you get a copy of it in the first place?" Blair asked.
"Ah, I used my influence," Simon answered with a chuckle. "Some of your friends at the university said it was a stunning piece of work, Blair. They were only too pleased to bend the rules and let me have an early copy of it. You didn't say that they were going to publish it, did you?"
"Huh? Oh, no. It's one of those things. If they think a diss is worth it, they have an agreement with a publisher." He shrugged off the idea that one of his works was worth publishing. He may well be unsure about how well he partnered Jim, but his studies and his ability to write were not things that he had any self-doubts about. "I can't believe you've done this, Simon. It's beautiful. Thank you so much."
"You're welcome, Blair," Simon replied, his voice full of pride. "When I said who it was for, they promised to drop everything. The chief bookbinder said he'd get right on it. Seems you've been popular with the guys in the basement for a while."
"I used to run errands for them," Blair said, not taking his eyes off the incredible work in front of him. "When I started at Rainier, I needed a job to pay for books and things. They needed a gopher. I loved working there."
Blair handed the book to Jim, pleased when his lover looked as happy about this as he had been.
"There's something else, Chief," he said after a few moments. "Simon?"
"Got it here, Jim," Simon confirmed. "You see, I got my idea about getting your diss bound after talking to Jim."
He passed the plastic bag to Blair and he took it, more confused than before. Inside it was another tissue-wrapped book. Hands shaking a little, he unwrapped it and his mouth dropped open with shock.
"I spent a very long night collating your works, Blair. I knew you'd finished the original dissertation but I also knew you'd never publish it. Somehow, it seemed wrong that all of this work would go to waste. I dawned on me that having it all in one place would keep it for future generations. Maybe in a hundred years' time, some young anthropologist will find it and become as obsessed as you?"
Blair was stunned beyond belief as he looked at the words in front of him.
Dr. B. J. Sandburg Ph.D.
"I.. I don't know what to say," Blair whispered.
"Woo hoo!" Jim yelled. "I've made you speechless twice in two days. Hey, Simon, how about I go three for three?"
Blair looked up at Jim through his eyelashes and smiled that oh, so not innocent smile of his. "But Jim, darling," he said, fluttering those long lashes, "you promised a different way of making me speechless and so far, you've failed to deliver on that one."
Trying not to giggle at Jim's blush, he whispered, "Don't worry, babe, I'll let you have another go later." Jim's blush deepened and not for the first time, Simon was glad that he didn't have sentinel hearing.
Blair stood up and reverently picked up the books, walked carefully to his room and placed them on one of the book shelves. He turned to look at the men that had followed him into the room.
"Thanks, guys," he said, his voice totally sincere. "I can't tell you what this means to me."
Simon just grinned and said, "Welcome home, Blair."
With Simon gone (with instructions for the men to turn up on time on Monday morning at work), they settled down back on the sofa. Jim had called for a delivery of Chinese food, determined to put some weight on his lover, and was breaking one of his own rules by letting them eat in front of the TV.
"You going to tell me why you've lost so much weight now?" he asked gently as they cleared up after eating.
Blair just shrugged. "I was busy," he said, "you know how I get."
"Blair, you forget to eat the odd meal, but you don't lose as much as you have."
Blair let out a sigh. "I was depressed," he admitted. "I always lose my appetite then."
"It's got to stop, Chief," came the warning. "No more starving yourself, okay?"
"Hey, I'm happy now," came the reply.
"Good. I'll do what I can to make you stay that way, I promise."
Blair twisted in his arms and straddled Jim's knees, almost sitting on his lap. "How about you try to render me speechless?" he suggested.
They moved a little closer to each other, lips touching softly. "Hello," Blair said with a grin. Jim kissed him and replied, "Well, hello there. Come here often?"
"About four times since I got here," Blair sniggered.
Jim laughed out loud, wrapped his arms tightly around Blair's waist, edged himself to the end of the sofa and took a deep breath.
"Hold tight," he whispered. "I'm going to take you for a ride."
Blair wrapped his arms around Jim's shoulders and held on tightly, unsure as to what Jim was up to. He soon found out when Jim stood up.
"Jim? You don't have to carry me, man."
"I want to," came the simple reply.
Blair had a few things running through his head at that. One was, does he think I'm a woman? He kicked that thought into touch straight away. No way would Jim think that. Another thought was about Jim's specific words. It dawned on him that Jim wanted to take care of him. Not because he couldn't take care of himself, but because Jim loved him. After all, didn't he want to take care of Jim?
"Then take me to bed, big guy," he whispered.
He felt Jim smiling at his answer and knew that the message had got across. Blair's inner demon couldn't leave it there though. "Just don't expect me to be able to return the favour," he teased. "You are like, way too big."
"Glad to see you admitting that, Chief."
"Hey, if the cap fits."
"Your PD cap. It's way too big for me."
"Not surprising, shrimp."
"Shrimp? Of course it's not surprising. You've got a big head."
They arrived at the top of the stairs and Jim dumped him on the bed. Quickly, he dropped his trousers and Blair couldn't help but look at the sight he presented.
"Good to see you admitting that too, Chief," he said with a grin, looking down at his groin.
Blair stripped quickly, throwing his clothes on the floor. "You were saying, Jim?"
"Nothing, Chief," came the whispered reply. "Absolutely nothing."
"Oh? So you're speechless, eh?" Blair teased. "How about you make good on your promise?"
With a wicked grin, Jim got on the bed and lay on top of Blair, holding himself up on his forearms. Blair shivered when he saw Jim's muscles rippling under the strain of bearing his weight, but he said nothing as his IQ was rapidly dropping and his ability to string two words together, let alone think coherently, was now severely compromised. When Jim started to sniff him though, he felt he really should say something.
"Er, Jim? Do I smell or something?"
"Everyone smells, babe. You smell good."
"I do? Phew."
"No, not pew, it's nice."
"Ri-ight. So, why are you, er, sniffing me?"
"Pheromones, babe. Goes straight to my..."
"'Kay," the strangled gasp came back. "I get the picture. Carry on."
"So kind," Jim murmured, and he carried on. His nose was barely missing Blair's skin and Blair couldn't begin to believe how much of a turn on this was. The slight feeling of the warmth of Jim's breath as it brushed his neck made him gasp.
"Oh God," he moaned. "This is so fucking erotic."
"You talk too much, Chief," Jim scolded, then he shut him up with a kiss.
It was hot. It was way beyond hot. Blair decided that breathing was way overrated and let out a hungry moan and tried to pull him back. Jim shook his head and trailed kisses down his jaw. Somehow, Blair knew that he wasn't allowed to move, so he didn't.
Though how he didn't shoot off the bed when Jim started suckling on the skin around his Adam's apple, he didn't know. How in hell's name did Jim know that he liked that? It wasn't an obvious target.
Blair wanted to get off, but it wasn't going to happen any time soon. Jim renewed his kissing assault on his face, teasing him with the tip of his tongue, the lightest touches with his lips and so on. The ghosted kisses on his temples and eyelids nearly had Blair in tears of frustration. But still he lay there, letting his sentinel do this. It was almost as if Jim was learning every square centimetre of him. All of his scents were being catalogued, and now his tastes. And that was just his head and neck. When Jim moved down and started on his arms, Blair nearly went into meltdown. The insides of his elbows and wrists were licked, his fingers were suckled, small bites were placed on the inside of his upper arms. He writhed in exquisite agony but refused to beg, suddenly knowing that Jim had to do this. He was imprinting his mate now, not just his guide. All of the smells and sounds that had kept Jim grounded over the years would be as nothing compared to how he would know him now. The frantic sex of the night before and that morning had been for fun only. This was something else.
It wasn't sex. It wasn't even making love. It was way more than that. It was primal, and Blair was loving every single second of it.
His legs and feet got the same treatment as his arms and hands had and he was left with bite marks on his inner thighs. He felt Jim sniffing near his groin and he thought that he'd finally get there, but it wasn't to be. Jim broke off, then he moved back up Blair's body and started cataloguing his scents and tastes from the neck down, detouring to play with Blair's now solid nipples on the way. It wasn't until Jim brushed the edge of Blair's navel with his tongue, though, did he scream. He should have warned Jim that he was exceptionally ticklish there.
Jim sat back on his legs and nudged Blair to turn over. The back of Blair got the same treatment as his front and he was incoherent with his need to get off by the time Jim reached the small of his back. Just when he thought that Jim was going to back off again, he felt his buttocks being parted and the unmistakable sensation of Jim's tongue swiping him from his perineum and up and over his ass.
Blair came. Hard.
He couldn't move, not even when he felt Jim reaching over him for the things on the bedside table. He still couldn't move when he felt a finger enter him. All he could do was moan. He moaned loudly when he felt Jim pushing into him, the burning sensation giving way quickly to a sensation of fullness and total pleasure.
Ridiculously, he thought to himself, he had never felt safer or more loved in his life. Here was a six two, two hundred pound man, covering him, squashing him slightly, and giving him the best ride of his life, and yet there was more love in the actions than he'd ever known before.
Jim could feel and smell how much Blair was getting out of this. His lover's scent was telling him that he was totally relaxed and happy, and more than turned on. It pushed him to the edge and he came, letting out a growl as he did.
"Oh my God," Blair panted as Jim pulled out of him gently.
"Fuck. You're not speechless," Jim said as he cleaned them up with the wipes he'd left to hand.
"I got close, big guy. Closer than I've ever been before. That was amazing."
Blair was amused by the sound of surprise and pride in Jim's voice.
Slowly, he wriggled around until he was laying on his side, facing his lover. "Best I've ever had, babe," came the husky reply. "No one has ever been better."
"No one had ever try to be better in future," came the reply.
"No one's going to get the chance." Blair's answer was so sincere that Jim knew for certain now that this was it. He wrapped Blair in his arms and pulled him close.
"Love you so much," he whispered to the younger man.
He got a quiet 'mrrrp' noise and realised that Blair had fallen asleep.
Blair woke with the sun, cursing the fact that the sky light allowed the dawn to seem so damned... bright. He looked at his lover and smiled. He couldn't believe his luck. All his life he'd craved stability, even if he did keep that to himself. His nomadic lifestyle as a kid had created an urge to settle down, but his years with Jim had always been filled with the fear that the detective would get fed up of him and throw him out. For the first time in his life, he had somewhere - and someone - to call 'home'.
Lost in his thoughts, he missed the fact that Jim had woken and was watching him closely. It was only when he felt the desperate need to go take a leak did he move and see the blue eyes staring at him.
"Hey," he said, a goofy smile on his face.
"Hey," Jim replied, his eyes smiling back. "You look happy," came the observation.
Ignoring his nagging bladder for the moment, Blair snuggled a little closer to Jim and said, "I am. For the first time in my life, I'm truly happy."
He felt Jim take a deep breath and looked up at him as he let it out.
"I make you that happy?"
"Oh yeah, man, you do. But it's more than that. This last week, it's like dream come true time. I've finally finished the doctorate, got myself a job that means I can be with you all the time, found my father... but best of all, I've got you."
"Damn, Chief, that's probably the nicest thing that's ever been said to me."
With a chuckle, Blair got out of bed, dropping a kiss on Jim's nose as he went. "You know, I've got a family now, Jim. A real one. Sure, it's dysfunctional," he shrugged as he strolled down the stairs, knowing that Jim would be listening. "But that's okay. That's like, normal for me," he laughed. "I've got a dad who's a monk, a mom who's a hippie and a partner who's a sentinel cop."
He carried on in this vein for a while as he sorted himself out in the bathroom, Jim laughing quietly at his words. The full impact of the meaning though hit home with him and he felt like shit for a moment. His behaviour had threatened Blair's happiness. By the time Blair had come out, Jim was standing at the foot of the stairs.
"Jim? What's wrong?"
"I'm sorry," came the choked reply.
"Jim? You're not saying we made a mistake, are you?" Blair's voice was filled with shock, if not absolute terror.
"NO! God, no," Jim said quickly. "Not that. I'm just sorry for making your life so miserable before. I didn't realise..."
Blair moved swiftly forward and shut him up with a kiss.
"Jim, knock it off, man," he said when they broke apart. "It's over, we're together, and I'm not going to let you throw what we have away because you've decided to go on a guilt trip. Get over it."
"Okay," Jim agreed, mainly because he didn't want to spoil Blair's excellent mood.
"So, breakfast?" Blair prompted.
"So, you going to be okay tomorrow?" Jim asked as they sat across the table from each other, eating fresh bagels that Jim had popped out to get.
"Hmm, I'm gonna be sore," Blair said, waving his head from side to side.
"I sure hope so," he answered with a grin.
"I'll see what I can do," Jim said, his eyes twinkling. Then he stopped, his head cocked and he listened, then sniffed a little.
Dropping his head in his hands, he said, "Gonna have to take a rain check on that, Chief."
"Hide the sage, Junior, it's your mother."