Summary: A real fic! Woo hoo. Crime and all. Set after TSbBS, Major Crime have a twisted serial killer on the loose.
Notes: Many thanks to Alyjude for patiently answering my many questions, and to her and Aloysius for kicking me up the arse, making me get this betaed, betaing it and being generally damned good eggs all round.
Simon Banks strode out into the bullpen, threw a brown card folder onto Jim's desk and grinned. More of a grimace than a grin really, as the news wasn't good - but he did love getting everyone's undivided attention.
"Listen up," he boomed. Apart from the noise of dropped pens and scraped chairs as people jumped, silence reigned.
Doors to the outside were shut as he explained the latest case.
"We've just had a case bumped up from homicide. What looked like a simple murder investigation has become a hunt for a serial killer."
He really had their attention now, and wished that he'd picked his cigar up on the way out of his office. Not to smoke, but to hold in his hand, just to add to that feeling of smug satisfaction. He knew it wouldn't last, that soon everyone would be wanting to say or do something of their own, but a guy could make the most of what he had. It wasn't that he would relish telling them the news, that wasn't nice, but to know they were listening... well, it was cool.
"It's nasty, people," he said a little more quietly, revelling in the fact that they were all listening raptly. "He's picking on newly married couples on honeymoon. Just been tied into similar cases all the way down the coast as far as Acapulco. It would seem that whoever it is, he's working his way north, killing as he goes. We have to get him before he gets to Canada. You know how messy extradition gets."
Quiet mutters of agreement rumbled through the room till he put his hands up.
"We need to get this organised. Copies of the evidence from previous murders, the ones that these have been linked to, are being sent here. There's the distinct possibility that the FBI will be brought in if we don't wrap it up quickly. And I don't want them on my patch if we can help it. So, ideas?"
Jim had a think and then said, "Is there a connection between the locations of the murders?"
"Each one was committed in a four or five star hotel and in the honeymoon suite. They're in independent hotels or in chain hotels, but there's no repetition of the chain, if you see what I mean. He commits two murders in each town, then moves on. The first ones were in Acapulco - that we know about. Hell, they could have started in Chile as far as we know."
"It may be a good idea to ask Interpol," Jim said with a shrug. "Just in case."
"Already in hand, Ellison," Simon growled. "I'll call a meeting when all the evidence has arrived. In the meantime, you'll need to go to the Cherry Tree. Take Connor and McCaffrey with you. See if the Homicide guys missed anything."
Jim stood up and grabbed his jacket, throwing Blair's at him as he did.
"C'mon, Chief. You too. Let's get there before we lose some vital piece of information."
While Connor and McCaffrey asked more questions, Jim did his thing. Glad in a way that they'd been spared the gruesome scene as it had been found, Jim also knew that he'd have to go to the mortuary to check out the bodies himself. At least Blair wouldn't have to see them as covered in blood as they'd surely been, given the state of the room. Not that Blair needed hiding from that sort of thing. Heaven only knew that the rookie detective had seen enough already, but Jim hated watching his partner's face as he dealt with death. Kids were the worst. Hell, they were the worst for them all, but for Blair, the pain was tangible. He had no idea how to check his humanity at the door. It was the character trait that Jim loved him for most of all - and the one that caused the most problems between them.
"Jim? You with me, man?" Blair's quiet voice broke his thoughts.
"I'm fine, Sandburg. You?"
Blair chuckled. "Yeah, I'm okay. You looked like you were about to zone. I was just checking."
About to snap back a cutting remark, Jim bit his tongue. No, there had been too much of that recently. Jim was fed up of hiding his feelings and it was time to remind Blair of how much he valued him - without it seeming too mushy, of course. Instead, he nodded. "Thanks. Just concentrating. Any ideas?"
If Blair was surprised, he said nothing, but just shook his head. "I'm going to be more at home with the paper trail when we get the evidence," he admitted. "In the meantime, check out the carpet. Maybe there's something there?"
Turning up the dial of his sight, Jim scanned the short pile carpet, trying to ignore the splatters and small pools of blood and came up with any number of different fibres. He sighed.
"These are no use, Chief," he complained. "Even if one of them does belong to the killer, there's going to be no way of proving when he was here." He bagged them up though, just in case they would prove to have some value. In this game, you never really knew what would be the missing link.
There was no reply to that, so Jim turned and looked.
"Chief? You okay?"
"Yeah, just thinking. Why does everyone say 'he' when talking about the killer? Why couldn't it be a woman?"
Jim stood back up and studied Blair's face.
"Are you onto something?"
"No, it's just that we're mentally dismissing 50% of our suspects. Now, I know that most murders are committed by men - especially ones like this. But it's not an exclusively male pastime, is it?"
"No, Chief, it's not. You're right. We shouldn't think like that. I guess it's just a habit."
"Not a good one," Blair said quietly, his mind once again drifting. "There's something about this that doesn't sit right," he finally added.
Knowing that he wasn't going to get more out of his partner, just yet, Jim scanned the room once more and something caught his eye. A hair clip, one of the plain-brown metal slides that women use to hide the fact they have plain-brown metal slides in their plain-brown hair.
"Have you got those pictures of the victims, Chief?" he asked distractedly.
Blair handed them to him. The man had black, short cropped hair, his young wife had shoulder-length blonde hair. Whoever it belonged to, it wasn't them.
"You getting anything from it?" Blair asked as he saw Jim pick it up.
Jim scrunched his face up, then his nose twitching with inner laughter, he said, "I see, I see a woman. With long brown hair. She's got brown eyes. Weighs about a hundred pounds..."
Blair smacked him.
"I meant was it even slightly warm?"
"I knew that, and no, it wasn't. It could have been there all night."
They bagged it anyway, unsure if it meant anything.
"I really need to see the copies of the evidence," Blair said suddenly. "I think that there's got to be more of a pattern to the killings than just random choice of hotel and honeymooners."
"Chief? What's going through that confusing brain of yours?" Jim urged quietly.
"I'm not sure. Gut feeling? There's something about this case, beyond the nastiness of it. There's a viciousness in the murder itself. The man was more cut up than the woman, the hearts were cut out, Jim. It's almost ritualistic. But, I don't think that it's a tribal ritual, if you see what I mean. Maybe it's something cooked up in the brain of whoever's behind it."
"That's fairly common with serial killers. They have to do things in their own ways, kinda like sportsmen that have to put on a left shoe before the right one before they go out to compete."
"Only to a point, more like superstitious. Come on, let's see if the others have found anything."
They ducked under the police barricade tape and left the room, both thinking along the same lines. The one advantage of serial killers over random murders was that there was always a pattern and some sort of twisted reason in the mind of the killer that justified his (or her) actions. It was just a matter of guessing what the killer's next move would be, before it was made.
They caught up with the other detectives and found nothing. The guest book had been gone through, the staff checked out - all by Homicide but the work had been thorough.
A florists' van pulled up outside as they walked out of the main door, accompanied by a still shaken manager.
"This is going to ruin us," he complained, wringing his hands. "When word gets out..."
"I shouldn't worry," Jim soothed. "Give it a few weeks, especially after we've caught the killer, and the room will take on a novelty value. You know how some people are."
Blair fought down a sickened laugh as he saw the dollar signs light up in the manager's eyes. Then he asked, "Did you have any deliveries last night?"
"We have things all the time," came the confirmation. "Especially to suites. Sometimes they're chocolates or flowers or specific foods. The delivery driver will bring them to the back usually, unless they're flowers then we don't mind them being delivered to the front of house. It makes the place look good."
"Can you check on any deliveries last night, please? Find out what came and who took it up. Here's my card," Jim said, having cottoned on to Blair's thoughts immediately. "Call me as soon as you find out anything. We'll need company names, what was delivered and who to. Descriptions of the delivery drivers would be very useful if you have any."
"Of course. I'll get onto it straight away."
The manager sounded a little put upon at being asked to compile this information, so Blair gave him a nudge.
"The sooner we catch the killer, the sooner you can use the room again."
Again, the light of money appeared in the manager's eyes and he nodded eagerly. "I'll call you later."
Back at the Precinct, Blair pulled out what information he had available and thought about it. Something nagged at him and he scanned the evidence, hoping for inspiration.
"Jim?" he asked distractedly, "do we have a list of names of the hotels yet?"
"Not sure, Chief. Maybe it's with the Captain?"
"I'll go ask." His voice trailed off and Jim decided to follow him, curious as to what his partner was thinking about. He watched him knock on Simon's door, then enter when bidden, his head still down and looking at a piece of paper.
"Sandburg? Ellison? Have you cracked it already?" came the sarcastic tone.
"Um, maybe, sort of," Blair said. "I need to see the names of all the hotels where the murders took place, and the dates."
Banks looked at Jim, who shrugged in bewilderment.
"I have no idea," he admitted. "Whatever's going on in there, he's not letting on yet." He knocked gently on Blair's head, getting a scowl in return.
"Here," Banks said, "it got faxed through from San Francisco while you were out. It's the list you want."
"Thanks." Again his voice was filled with distraction as Blair thought his way through it. Then his face broke out into a huge smile.
"Jim - phone book. We need a list of four or five star hotels in Cascade."
"There aren't that many," Simon said with a sigh.
"Um, we need one that begins with the letter 'e'."
"Why?" The question came simultaneously.
"Look. The first murder that we know about took place in Acapulco, right?"
"Right." Again, stereo replies.
Blair was almost bouncing now, his face starting to light up.
"The first murder took place in the Acapulco Angel. The second, seven days later I might add, at the Oriole."
Blair smothered a snigger as he watched the two men that he considered his closest friends acting and speaking in sync. They were both sitting on the desk and facing him, their eyes filled with expectation.
"The next murders weren't in any of the resorts along the coast, but then all of a sudden, it's Los Angeles. The Lakeside, followed nine days later by the Star."
The light started to dawn.
"San Francisco. The Shaftesbury, then eleven days later, the Occident."
"First and last letters, Sandburg. This murder was at the Cherry Tree."
"Got it. And in seven days, it will be at an hotel beginning with 'e'."
"Why seven? It went seven, nine, eleven. Why not thirteen?"
"Okay, that is a possibility, but my hunch is that it's seven. Each number corresponds to how many letters the last one is after the first one. If what you are saying is correct, then there should be three more sets of murders further south. Five, three and one day apart. If nothing comes up there, then I'd go with the letters in the name of the town."
"But why here?"
"Because, if I am not mistaken, there is bound to be an hotel beginning with 'e'. Chances are that the other resorts or coastal towns didn't have four or five star hotels with honeymoon suites in occupancy beginning with the correct letters."
"Sounds as good as any other theory that we have, Sandburg," Simon admitted. "Hell, it's the only theory that we have. Not bad work considering it's only been a couple of hours. I'm impressed."
"Save that, Captain," Blair said with a wry grin. "I could be way off base. Like I said, this is just logical progression. It's not a proof."
"Knowing this, or at least seeing as it's all we've got to work on for now, how are we going to catch the killer?" Jim sighed.
"If there is a honeymooning couple booked in, we'll have to quietly get them transferred somewhere else to protect them, then put someone in, in their place," Simon said. The others nodded in agreement, then went off to find out which hotel would contain the next target.
They came up with two.
The Eagle was a standard five star chain hotel. Clean, tidy, everything you could ask for when you wanted somewhere to stay. The staff were polite and friendly, but Blair thought that it had the atmosphere of a dentist's waiting room. Jim looked at him in bewilderment as the young man kept glancing around him as if he were expecting to hear something. He was. The whine of a drill followed by the choked scream of the victim, er, dentist's client. Shaking himself, Blair forced himself to concentrate when the manager came out to meet them.
"Mr. Williams, I'm Detective Ellison, this is Detective Sandburg. Could we go somewhere in private please? We need your assistance."
Williams looked down his nose at Blair. "You don't look like a detective," he said with a withering voice.
"I'm in disguise," came the reply.
Jim did a double take, then smothering a grin, put his hand on Blair's shoulder and propelled him forward, toward the manager's office.
"I suppose you heard about the murder at the Cherry Tree," Jim started as soon as the door shut.
"Yes! Horrible, absolutely horrible. How is Eddie taking it?" The manager sat as his desk, looking across at the two men as if he were a headmaster and they were errant pupils.
"Oh, the manager. Edward Frey. Most of the hotel managers in this town are part of a Guild. A kind of self-support network," he added with a wry smile. "He's a nice guy."
Blair and Jim didn't look at each other, they didn't dare. Obviously these two were more than acquaintances, possibly good friends - which meant that Williams was as likely to be as shallow as Frey.
"As well as can be expected," Jim finally answered.
"Good. I'll call him later. Now, I'm sure that you don't think that I had anything to do with this. Cut-throat our competition may be, but it's certainly not murderous."
"No, no, of course not," Blair put in quickly. "For reasons we are not able to explain, just yet, we think that there is a possibility that the killer may strike again in a few days' time. Here."
"WHAT?? Oh, this is terrible. I shall close. I can not put my staff and guests at risk. It would be a disaster. The hotel would be finished! I can endure a few days but..."
"Mr. Williams!" Jim barked. "Please. Listen to me. Our intelligence suggests that this is a possible target. More specifically, the honeymoon suite. Now. If you would be so kind, would you please check your bookings for the next eight days and see if the honeymoon suite is booked."
Getting himself under control, Williams tapped into his computer and brought up the information.
"Yes, we have a newly-wed couple coming in six days from now. Booked in for a week. What should we do?"
"Say nothing to anyone. Not even your staff or someone you trust implicitly. Not because we think that it's anyone you know, but because you may be overheard. If we scare this killer off, we may lose the only chance we have of catching him. I need your word on this, Mr. Williams," Jim said, his voice cold and calm. "If you cannot do this, we may have to take you into protective custody."
Jim was impressed when Blair said absolutely nothing to that.
Williams was white and shaking, but he agreed that he would, promising wholeheartedly to co-operate.
"Good. Someone from the department will make suitable alternative arrangements for the couple. They will be left with the knowledge that you at this hotel are doing everything in your power to make sure that they have a great time. You won't have a bad stain on your reputation as a result."
Nodding, Williams accepted his word. When the men stood up, he copied their actions and then ushered them out. Jim gave him his card. "If you see anyone acting suspiciously, let us know."
Outside the hotel, Blair asked, "Protective custody, Jim?"
Jim just smiled.
What the four star End of the Road lacked in facilities (in comparison with the Eagle), it certainly made up for in atmosphere. There was a lot of wood and warmth in the soft furnishings, and that was only in the lobby. The owner/manager, Mrs. De Witt, a bustling lady in her late seventies, came out to greet them with a huge smile on her face. When the introductions had been made, she ushered them into her office and bade them sit in the comfortable armchairs. There was a computer in the room, but it was tucked away on the side, not the centrepiece of modern technology that had been on display in the other place. It all smacked of a family owned and run establishment, done for the love of it and not necessarily the money.
"How can I help you gentlemen?" she asked, her voice tinged with excitement at having two nice detectives coming to visit her.
"Did you hear about the murder at the Cherry Tree?" Blair asked gently.
"I did! It's all over town. Such a terrible thing to happen. Those poor people. Just starting out on their lives together and having it snuffed out like that." She looked wistfully at a photograph on the mantelpiece above the fireplace that was in her living room-like office.
Blair saw that and he smiled. "Your wedding day?" he prompted.
"Fifty-three years ago," she said, her voice tinged with joy and sadness. "He died last year. Peacefully, thank heavens. In his sleep."
"My sympathies," both men said sincerely, and she turned and smiled.
"Don't be sorry," she replied. "Oh, I miss him, more than I'll ever be able to say. But we had fifty-two happy years of marriage. Very happy ones. I don't regret a minute of it. No one should ever turn down the chance for love however it comes. We didn't and I still think taking that chance was the best decision I ever made."
"You're very lucky," Jim sighed. Blair nodded in agreement.
"You two not married?" she asked.
"Nobody'd have me," Blair sighed.
"No, they wouldn't," Jim agreed. Sniggering when Blair poked him in the arm, he admitted to his own marriage not working out.
"So, you two aren't together?" she prompted.
Jim just shook his head, stunned when he saw Blair blush. He knew for a fact that Blair's sexuality was at best flexible, as was his own - something they'd talked about back in the early days. He also knew that Blair didn't have any hang-ups about it, not caring one jot what others thought of him. So why the embarrassment? He'd table that question till they were in private, but somehow, he knew that he'd have to ask it.
Picking up on an awkward moment between them, Mrs. De Witt changed the subject quickly. She had no intention of causing problems for the two nice young men. She asked why they were there, Jim explained, and she readily agreed to help out, promising faithfully to keep quiet.
"I was in the Army during the war, Los Alamos," she said, "I know how to keep secrets." She tapped the side of her nose as she did, making both men smile.
"I was Army," Jim informed her. "Ranger."
"Well then," she almost bristled with pride. "I know I'll be safe if you're around. Whatever it takes, gentlemen. Do whatever is necessary. Catch this maniac and give others a chance to have as happy a life as I had."
Outside the hotel, Jim observed his partner. All of a sudden, he seemed a little more distant than before, unwilling to be touched. It was strange. They got back into Jim's truck and headed towards the precinct.
"I liked her," Jim said as he drove. "She was very friendly."
"Yeah, I think I'd much rather stay in her hotel than in the Eagle."
"You won't get any arguments from me there, Chief. I'd go for warm and friendly over high-class and clinical any day."
There was something in Jim's tone that confused Blair, but he said nothing for the moment. Just how could Jim have turned that sort of statement into a question?
Hours later and they were still in the office, trying to figure out how they were going to play it. Rhonda had organised new locations for the honeymooners due in to the two target hotels, but without someone to attack, where would the killer go?
"The killer is obviously in need of the kill," Blair said distractedly as he studied all the evidence that had come their way. The more he read about it, the more he was convinced that there was a reason behind this.
In each case, the one partner had been more brutally murdered than the other. Both had had their hearts cut out - and both hearts were missing. A trophy of gruesome proportions. The most badly attacked partner had been tied down tightly as if to stop him leaving. And it was always a man that had been tied with the most ropes. Not that all of the victims had been male/female partnerships. In San Francisco, it had been a pair of male 'honeymooners'. This killer was obviously an equal opportunity maniac. But in the case of the two men, it had been the bigger, stronger one that had been trussed up like a chicken; the smaller, lighter one had been tied but not so much. Blood tests had shown that both partners had had a small quantity of a sedative in them, not enough to knock them out, but enough to stop them being strong enough to fight back, with more remaining in the smaller or female partner than in the other. There was something about the case that was setting Blair's alarm bells off and he couldn't work out what it was.
He stood up and strolled to the window, looked out and let his mind wander.
Jim watched his partner with interest. He knew that something was going on in that incredible mind of his. It was his job to help Blair figure out just what it was.
He softly walked up to him and put his hand on Blair's shoulder.
"Hey, Chief," he said quietly. "You look lost, as if your mind is leaving you. Don't leave me, eh? Come on, tell me what's going on."
The noise level in the office dropped as all of the detectives watched. There was an air about the men that just drew everyone's attention to them. Slowly, ever so slowly, Blair turned to face his partner. His expression was one initially of confusion, then it was as if a light was dawning on him.
"JIM!" he yelled. "You've got it. I've got it. I know why!"
All of a sudden Blair found himself surrounded by fascinated people, so much so that Jim had to tell them to back off. As Blair formulated his thoughts into words, he paced up and down, running his fingers through his hair so vigorously that the tie fell out. Jim picked it up and put it in his pocket.
"The killer's a woman," he said suddenly, getting everyone's undivided attention.
"Why?" Only Jim spoke, the others somehow knowing that if any of them did, it would break his train of thought.
"It has to be. She was jilted by her husband or fiancé. This is a sort of revenge. Look at the facts, man! The man, or in the San Francisco case, the bigger, stronger man, was the one most brutally attacked. There was no sexual assault on them, and let's face it, if a guy had just killed a woman's husband, there is the likelihood that he'd make the most of it - especially if she's not in a position to fight back. Not guaranteed that that would happen, but the odds are stacked in favour of that theory."
Jim said nothing, just nodded. He could argue about that, but there was something in the way that Blair was talking that made sense to him.
"I'm guessing that the killer made the partner watch as she killed him, then decided that they should be joined in death. Inseparable, don't you see? That's why the hearts. She's taken out the hearts and whatever she's doing with them, she's putting them together. I'd stake my badge on that."
"There's no need," Simon suddenly said. "I'd kept the profile away from you for a while because I wanted to see what you came up with. It's not the same, but it's similar. The professional profiler in San Francisco, as soon as the information came through that this was a serial killer, figured out that it was a man doing this, but for similar reasons. He also thinks that the hearts will be buried together or kept together in some way."
"Which profile are we going with?" Jim asked.
"Both, I guess. No way in hell am I ignoring Sandburg's theory. He's proved to be right on too many occasions. So, how are we going to catch this woman? We have an idea about where and when..."
"We need to put some couples into both hotels," Megan Connor stated, rather obviously.
"I think we need to be very careful about who we put in," Blair said. "If I'm right, the killer is only going to go after couples where at least one partner is male. So, if we put two women into the one hotel, we may drive the killer to the other. It'll be easier to trap her there."
"No guarantees that that is the case though, are there?" Simon asked.
"None whatsoever. Which is why other detectives should be on the same floor, wired, armed to the teeth..." Blair shrugged and grinned.
"So," Jim said, "who's going to get married?"
Quiet groans ran through the room. All eyes settled on Megan and the latest rookie, Caitlin McCaffrey. Young, enthusiastic and smart, the slender redhead had a wicked sense of humour. She and Megan had naturally gravitated towards each other for moral support in the sea of men that populated Major Crime. Sharing the same cutting humour they'd had many laughs at the men's expense.
"What?" they chorused.
"Come on, ladies, it's not as if we think that anything's going on between you," Simon cajoled.
"Not unless there's something you're not telling us?" Jim teased.
Megan smacked one of his arms, just as Caitlin smacked the other.
"If you two go to the Eagle, I think that you'll be safe. Call it a hunch," Blair said. "Besides, I believe that they have a jacuzzi there, chocolates on the pillows, hot and cold running waiters..."
"We'll do it," the ladies chorused.
"What about the End of the Road?" Rafe asked.
Somehow, it was no surprise when all eyes settled on Jim and Blair.
"Oh no," they both said.
"Gentlemen," Simon beamed, "we've run out of ladies to partner someone with, and tell me. Who else here is more married than you two? You live together."
"We share an apartment," they said. Together.
"You finish each other's sentences."
"We don't!" they replied. Also together.
"Jim, do we ever..."
"Never, Blair. I can't remember a single..."
"Nor me! See! We can't do this. We'd never pull it off."
"What he said," Jim agreed.
They felt the stares, knew that they were so going to lose this one. Blair sat on his chair in a huff, folding his arms in front of himself and scowling.
"Okay we'll do it," he growled. "But this time," he turned to Jim, "you wear the dress and make up. High heels really kill me."
After a moment's stunned silence, the guys in the office burst out laughing and dispersed, patting Blair on the back sympathetically as they went. Jim sat on the desk next to him.
"You okay?" he asked.
"I'm not sure I can do this," came the whisper, so quiet that only Jim could hear it.
"Let's go home. We can talk about it there, okay?"
Jim looked over to where Simon was standing and he nodded to the door, indicating that they were leaving. Simon nodded back, granting permission. Whatever it was that was bothering Blair, it had to be sorted out and soon.
"Okay, Chief, it's time to talk," Jim ordered as they sat at the kitchen table, beers in hand.
"Um, what about?"
"You, me, us. The embarrassment at being thought that you're with me. Is that such a terrible thing? Am I that awful?" Jim's voice was light, but underneath it, there was a serious tone of worry.
"NO!" Blair was up and out of his seat in moments, around the table and grabbing Jim's hands. "No, Jim, it's not that at all," he said a lot quieter.
"Then what is it?" Jim noticed that Blair was still holding on to him but said and did nothing. He rather liked it.
"It's..." Blair's voice trailed off and he blushed slightly.
"Blair? Talk to me, please."
Again, Blair resorted to pacing up and down and running his hands through his hair. Quietly, Jim stood up and moved towards him. He didn't know how he knew, but somehow everything came clear all of a sudden.
"You're getting hassled, aren't you? The rumours are back, aren't they?"
Blair stopped, looked at Jim and discovered that he was only a matter of inches away from him.
"Yes," he whispered. "I... I don't care what people think of me, man. You know that. But they could hurt you. I couldn't bear that. You get hurt and it's my fault and..."
"And nothing, Chief. I know what they say. It's none of their business. It's not as if we have that ridiculous 'don't ask' law, is it?"
Blair shook his head in agreement.
"Have you been threatened?" The question was quiet, but deadly serious.
"No, nothing like that."
"So, tell me. What's said?"
"If I'm not studying you then why am I still living with you? The only reason they can see is that you're using me, screwing me at every opportunity. It's easier to let them believe that. Safer."
"Because if we deny it, they may realise that I was lying about lying, if you see what I mean. That you really are a sentinel. That could put you in even more danger and I wouldn't do it. So, I don't deny it. I don't confirm it either, because they may take exception to two cops in MC being gay. But I don't deny it."
Jim sighed, then put his arms around his friend and pulled him close.
"This honeymoon thing is going to fuel the rumours," he said, then felt Blair nodding against his chest. "Ah Blair, it's not fair on you, is it? None of this is fair on you. If you'd not lied, I'd have been in real danger. And by lying, you've put yourself in this position. You're amazing, you know?"
"No, I'm just me."
"Just you is quite something, Chief." All of a sudden, Jim tensed and Blair looked up. "There's more, isn't there?"
"Um..." Blair knew what Jim was talking about but this wasn't something that he could bring up. No way. They'd been through too damned much to chance anything.
"Blair, you've not been dating in how long?"
Blair shrugged. "It's not something I keep a record of."
"No, I guess not. So, the question is why? To propagate the myth and keep me safe? Or is there something else?"
Jim's piercing blue eyes felt to Blair as if they were looking into his mind. He couldn't answer.
"It's not you can't get a date, is it? It's you don't want to get a date."
Swallowing hard, and taking comfort in the fact that Jim was still holding him, Blair agreed.
"Why didn't you say?"
"I know I'm not your type, Jim. I can settle for being your friend."
"Fuck," Jim whispered. "I didn't know."
"That was kinda the idea, Jim. I'm sorry. I'll try not to make you feel uncomfortable. If you want, I'll mo..."
Before he could finish his offer to move out, he found himself unable to speak. Jim's mouth was attached to his and seemed to have no intention of leaving.
Jim felt Blair tense, then pause, then smile a little as he relaxed and started to kiss him back. Blair figured that this may be the only chance he was going to get to show Jim just how he felt, so he was determined to make the most of it. If Jim didn't know how much he loved him by the time they'd broken apart, he'd never get it. So he put every ounce of love that he felt for the man into the kiss, holding Jim close, letting his body speak volumes. When they finally broke away though, Blair couldn't look at Jim's face.
"Hey," Jim said quietly, leaning his face down so that it was near Blair's ear. He smothered a chuckle when he saw Blair shiver in response.
"Shh. We'll work it out."
"Work what out? You don't really want this, do you? Are we going to work out how to be friends? Colleagues? What?"
"How about lovers? Friends? Partners?" Jim prompted. "Who said I don't want this?"
"Bbbbut you've never..."
"Neither have you, Chief."
"I didn't think you'd want me."
"I can't think of anyone I'd rather want."
At those words, Jim felt Blair relaxing physically. All of the tension in his body left him for a moment and they contented themselves with just being together.
After eating, then spending some time watching TV and necking on the sofa, they prepared for bed, both men inexplicably nervous. In the end, Blair decided to clear the air.
"I know this is going to sound crazy, I mean, it's not as if we haven't known each other for a long time and all, but would you mind if we didn't sleep together tonight?"
"Mind? Um, no. Of course not. Can't say I'm not surprised, though. What's the reason?"
Blair thought for a minute and then spoke, moving closer to Jim as he did and reaching out to hold him, wanting to give reassurance as much as receive it.
"I don't want to rush things. With past lovers, I've not usually bothered about how fast things go, probably because I knew that the relationships weren't going to go anywhere. But I want to get it right with you, you know? I guess I'm afraid that if we rush things, I could screw it up."
"Why just you, Chief? I'm a screw-up when it comes to relationships," Jim moaned in agreement. "I understand, by the way, and I agree. We'll take our time, one step at a time, as it comes, bit by bit..."
Blair shut him up with a kiss.
"I do love you," Jim whispered when they broke apart.
"Me too," Blair grinned.
"Well I know that, but do you love me?"
Jim couldn't help but smile as he felt Blair chuckling, his body moving in contact with the tremors from his lover.
"More than I'll ever be able to say," Blair finally replied. Then, kissing Jim one last time, he wished him goodnight and headed off to bed.
Jim watched him go, heard the click of the door as it shut, then as quietly as he could, he made his way upstairs. In his mind he ran through the course of events of the day. With a smug grin and a loud whoop, he bounced onto his bed, landing on his back with the biggest smile he'd had plastered to his face in a long, long time.
"It's been three days," Simon complained as his detectives trawled through the mountain of information that they'd collated. "Surely you must have some leads?"
Mutters of 'not yet' and shrugs came from his people. They were only a little further down the road than they had been on the day they'd taken over the case. The theory that this was a woman doing the killing had sparked an extra interest in the investigators but nothing concrete had come up and soon, some of them were back to following the thoughts of the professional profiler. Blair accepted this, but continued in his own vein. There was still something bugging him about the case. A few things. One of which was, where were the hearts?
Jim had tried to track them, going back to the hotel room to see if there were any residual smells, something that he could follow, but the cleaning crews had already been in and now the whole place smelt of disinfectant and air spray. All he'd come out of there with was a headache.
The other thing that bothered Blair was, why Cascade? Why not Seattle? Surely there would be suitable hotels there? He checked them out and discovered that whilst there were some with the appropriate letters, they all belonged to the chains that previous hotels did. So, was the killer pushed to Cascade? Looking at the alphabetical order of the killings, he looked at the towns. Acapulco, Los Angeles, San Francisco. He studied the map and wondered if the killer was heading for Vancouver? Perhaps she wanted to go directly there but had discovered suitable hotels in Cascade. Or, perhaps...
"The killer's local," he suddenly said. "I think that she was meant to go on honeymoon in Acapulco but when she was rejected, she went on the killing spree instead."
"Why is she local?" Simon asked, glad that there was at least an idea about the killer, even if it did seem to be strange.
"Look at the names. Seattle or Vancouver should have been next. I'm sure of it. I can't give you any more than that, Simon, I'm sorry. I running on gut instinct here."
"It's as good a place to start as any. Check out the travel agents. See if any honeymoon trips to Acapulco were cancelled in the recent past."
Blair looked at Jim in query, grinning when Jim just stood up and grabbed his jacket, throwing Blair's at him.
"Come on then, Chief. It's your idea, you do the leg work."
"Someone's got to watch your back. God only knows you'll probably end up buying a trip to Borneo otherwise."
Simon watched his two detectives with amusement, noticing that there was a lightening in their interaction with each other. They'd always been close, but there was a little change; nothing overt, just something subtle, but it was definitely there. Whatever - it was working. Blair was positively bouncy and Jim had an air about him that Simon hadn't seen before. Jim was certainly being a touch more indulgent of his unconventional partner than normal. The light started to dawn on Simon and he quickly headed into his office and shut the door to hide his shock. No wonder Blair had looked so down about the undercover work he'd been asked to do. He'd have to be extra careful in how he spoke to Blair in future and in which jobs he was given to do. You didn't get to be captain by wearing blinkers. He knew what rumours there were and how they affected his favourite rookie. He'd let Blair deal with the few rednecks that there were - he knew from bitter personal experience just how narrow-minded and bigoted some people could be and that the victim was usually better off sorting them out themselves. He also knew that Blair wanted to deal with them himself and that his way was usually to leave them stunned by their own stupidity. Even an averagely intelligent opponent could be left bewildered when Blair launched into one of his mental whirlwinds.
It never hurt for the morons to see the very large captain hovering in the corridor after Blair had dealt with them, though. Just to remind them that Blair had friends. Good friends. Large and dangerous friends. Good, large, dangerous friends that were well aware of who the troublemakers were. It usually helped.
"You and your good ideas, Chief," Jim moaned as they trawled the various travel agents. Personal experience had told Jim that physically visiting the agents would be more fruitful than calling them over the phone. Besides, he had a secret weapon. As soon as they entered the shop, he'd home in on the plainest or most bored-looking woman sitting behind a desk. Then he'd set Blair on her.
"Do your thing, hot stuff," he'd whispered at the first location, getting a bewildered but amused look from his friend.
"Hot stuff?" Blair had whispered back.
"No one hotter, Chief. Go. Turn on the charm."
"Get a date?" Blair's teasing tone had done nothing to assuage the jealousy that Jim had suddenly felt.
"Not unless you want to leave a trail of bodies. You may flirt. Then you come home. With me. No one else."
"Can't I even have a puppy?" Blair's wide-eyed, childlike look had made Jim laugh out loud, getting the pair some curious and withering looks.
Somehow, Blair guessed, if he really wanted a puppy, he'd get one. Jim was so gone. Finally!
After the tenth travel agent, Blair was starting to doubt his theory. No bookings for Acapulco matching the profiles that Blair had provided had been made.
"I was wrong," he sighed. "I'm sorry."
"Have we visited every agent yet?"
"But until we do, you can't say that. Besides, who's to say that she didn't make the bookings over the Internet?"
Blair stopped, groaned and started smacking his head against Jim's chest, getting a 'there, there' pat on the back as he did.
"Why didn't you say that before?"
"Excuse me? King of the Web and you didn't think it yourself?"
"I should be shot. C'mon, back to the Precinct. I've got an idea."
"An idea that means no more walking?"
"That sort of idea."
"That's my sort of idea, Chief. Let's go."
Back at his desk, Blair picked up the folder with the evidence information and opened it. As far as they knew, Acapulco was definitely the first location. He found the phone number of the hotel, dialled, asked to speak to the manager and then sat back and waited.
"What's he doing?" Simon asked as he came out of his office.
"What we should have done this morning before we went out there. Checking with the hotel."
"Of course." Simon hid his own annoyance at not thinking of that himself. "Come into my office, Jim, we need to talk."
Jim caught Blair's eye and pointed in the direction of Simon's office, telling him wordlessly that he was going to be there. Blair was just about to ask why when the hotel manager came on the line. In Spanish, Blair told him what they wanted to know and asked if there was any record of someone from Cascade staying there. There was no guarantee of course that the killer had stayed at that hotel, but Blair was playing a hunch.
Inside Simon's office, Jim was confused. Simon's body language was telling him that he really didn't want to bring up whatever it was that was on his mind.
"Simon? What's wrong?"
"I need you to be honest with me, Jim," Simon started.
"Of course. What is it?"
"Are you and Sandburg, er, together?"
Jim didn't know what to say at that. He didn't want to deny it and he didn't want to lie to his friend. However, Simon would be within his rights to separate them if he admitted it, and he didn't want the word to get around to protect Blair. Simon saw this and guessed what was going through his old friend's mind.
"I'm not going to say anything, Jim. I'm not going to split you up. I doubt Sandburg would even stay if I decided to do that, would he?"
"No, I don't think he would. I wouldn't either."
"We've only just got together, Simon," Jim said, his voice quiet and calm. "We're taking it slow. Hell, we haven't, er, done anything yet." At Simon's surprised look, he elaborated. "We're scared. It's as simple as that. We need to take it slowly. If this case hadn't come up and the need to go undercover hadn't arisen, chances are we'd not even be together. I don't regret this move, I've wanted it for a long time. So has he. But we both know that this is it. For that reason, we are literally going one step at a time. This can't get out, Simon, for so many reasons. He gets hassled."
"I know. I've done what I can to stop it, but in big organisations like this you'll always get some narrow-minded idiot. I'm guessing he has the same harassment that I had to endure, especially as a rookie. Most people couldn't give a shit about my colour, they just accept that I am who I am. But there's always someone. It's the same for the gay cops. Be a bit different, stick out at all in any way...."
Jim nodded. He knew that one all too well.
"I won't say anything. In fact, I wanted to know so that we'll be extra careful about this sort of thing in future. I know that Sandburg is as tough as they come, but hell, I want to protect the little guy."
Simon almost squirmed with embarrassment as he said it. Jim just laughed.
"He'd kill us if he overheard this, you know."
"I know. He's more than capable of taking care of himself, it's just..."
"You care, Simon. I understand. Even before I fell for him, I felt for him. He's just one of those people you automatically want to protect. I feel sorry for him. He's been through so much crap, but he's come out of it with such an unjaundiced view on life. Hell, he's been taking care of himself for most of his life. Then he comes here and we all want to wrap him up in cotton wool."
"Whenever he gets hurt, we all hurt," Simon agreed.
"Exactly. He's not like anyone else, Simon. If any of the rest of us gets hurt or killed, it's sad, it can be devastating to those that know whoever the casualty is, but life goes on eventually. The place isn't the same, but it recovers. But if something happens to him, it's like all the lights go off. I doubt he has any idea how we feel about him either. These last couple of days, I've been trying to tell him, but the words aren't cutting it, you know?"
Simon nodded. "I think he's getting it. He's back to his old bouncy self. I doubt you've noticed, but even though we're in the middle of this investigation, everyone has been happier these last couple of days. When he smiles, we all smile."
Jim laughed and shook his head. "You are so gone, Simon."
"You're talking about him as if you were the one that was in love with him."
"Get out of here!" Simon hooted. "No, he's more like a son, Ellison. You are sick, you know?"
"Sick? What's so sick about being in love with him?"
"He's a kid!"
"Okay, he doesn't look it. Besides, I'm the captain, he's the detective. I don't go there. Not to mention I'm straight. Jesus, Jim, not all of us are as undiscriminating about the gender of our partner as you."
Jim just sniggered, then he stopped.
"He's coming to the door."
There was a knock, Simon called 'enter', then Blair came in, positively beaming.
"I think we've got her."
"Tasmin Boudinot," Blair said. "She was engaged to be married to Joshua Leitz. They were booked into the Angel for their honeymoon but for reasons the hotel manager doesn't know, she cancelled the honeymoon suite and changed it for a single one. She was there when the couple that took their place was killed. She was still there when the second couple were killed."
"So she may be staying at the Cherry Tree?" Simon asked.
"I don't know, Simon. I've only just found this out. Connor and McCaffrey are checking up with the first hotels in LA and San Francisco to see if the pattern holds. But if this is her home town, she may not need or even want to stay there."
"We've come up with a couple of deliveries for the Cherry Tree that night. Trouble is, tracking down the various drivers is proving more difficult than you'd think," Simon put in, remembering the other line of inquiry that Blair had suggested. "They're always out," he added with a chuckle. "However, Rafe and Brown have talked to a few of them and they don't look like their our man - or woman rather."
"How many are left?" Jim asked.
"Just the one. A woman, working for, er, 'Pacific Pleasures'. Some sort of luxury chocolate shop I'm led to believe."
Blair's face glazed over.
"Oh yeah," he sighed.
"You know that place?" Jim asked, amused at the dreamy look on his partner.
"I had to buy some chocolates from there once," he admitted. "I forgot a girlfriend's birthday."
"Did they work?"
"Hell, Jim, I could have bought them six months later and they'd have worked. We're talking top of the range here."
"So," Simon interrupted, "this doesn't look like a lead."
"I'm not so sure," Jim said. "Remember that the victims were drugged. They had to be drugged somehow. How better than in chocolates?"
It made sense to the two men so they nodded.
"Go, find this woman," Simon ordered. "Maybe she saw something."
As they left, Blair stopped short. "Maybe, she's the one. We'll have to be careful when we do the questioning, Jim. Don't let anything out about the case."
Jim studied his partner, then nodded.
Jim was nearly overwhelmed when he opened the door to Pacific Pleasures, emporium of the finest chocolates from all over the world. The sweet and bitter smells assaulted his nose and Blair was quickly at his side, stroking his back and quietly reminding him to 'dial it down'. Blair's own nose was under attack, his mouth watering at the delicious scents.
"You like, Chief?" Jim asked quietly.
"Oh yeah," came the groan. He missed the secretive smile that crept over Jim's face when he saw the look of pleasure on his partner's face.
"Gentlemen, how may I help you?"
An upper-middle-class, Mid-Atlantic accent rang through the shop and their attention was brought to a middle-aged woman dressed in a matching peach-coloured skirt and cardigan, a string of pearls draped around her neck and over her silk blouse. Everything about the shop spoke 'posh' to Jim. Falling back on his own privileged background, he was able to charm the owner of the shop. Blair watched with disguised amusement as his partner discussed the qualities of the various products before finally getting to the point.
"We are investigating a case," Jim said, still holding the woman's undivided attention. "And we were hoping to talk to your delivery driver. There is a possibility that your employee may have seen something, probably without even realising it."
Reassured that they were not blaming a crime on her worker, she readily agreed to supply them with the information they needed.
"Travis is just delivering a box of 'Supreme Sensations' to the Mayor's house. It's his wife's birthday," she said conspiratorially. "I only got the call a short while ago, so I think that he'd forgotten. We have a special service for this sort of occasion, designed to make the recipient think that it was planned all along."
Both men held back their surprise at the name of the driver and covered it with a chuckle about the information. Jim asked, "When will he be back?"
"Any time soon. In fact, as it's late, I'm rather hoping he'll be here any minute. It's time to close up the shop."
On cue, Blair's stomach growled.
"Oh, I'm sorry," he said. "I've been so caught up in this investigation that I forgot to eat lunch. I think that the chocolate here is reminding me of this fact. The aroma is incredible."
Sufficiently flattered, Mrs. Tuttle offered the detectives a single chocolate. Jim grinned as he saw Blair eagerly accepting, his eyes shutting as he popped the rum truffle into his mouth, letting it melt on his tongue and thoroughly loving the tastes as they appeared one after the other.
"Hmm," he moaned. After swallowing, he opened his eyes. "Nothing better than highest quality chocolate," he smiled. "I have to thank you," he added. "You got me out of a huge hole I'd dug myself into a couple of years back. A box of your chocolates and my girlfriend forgave me."
"You'd be surprised how often I hear that," she replied with a broad smile. Then she offered a choice to Jim. He picked up a piece of chocolate covered cherry fudge, a look of bliss on his face as he enjoyed it.
"That's high cocoa content in that chocolate," he said with approval.
"I only allow the best to even enter this shop. I search many suppliers, have to do taste tests and so on."
"It's a dirty job," Blair said sympathetically. "But you're obviously the best woman for it."
She let out a peal of laughter at that and was about to reply, enjoying the gentle banter with the two men, when the door chime rang and in walked her driver.
"Ah, Travis. Did the delivery go as planned?"
"Yes, Mrs. Tuttle," he replied. "I bought the flowers as you directed and delivered the whole lot to the Mayor's wife personally with the, er, unofficial message about the organisation that goes into this sort of thing. I think that the Mayor's honour has been restored."
"Good, good. I knew I could rely on you. These gentlemen," she waved at Jim and Blair, "think that you may be able to help them too. They're detectives."
Jim studied the young man and watched his reaction. He was about nineteen years-old, clean-shaven, dressed in a uniform of Mrs. Tuttle's design. A slight twitch of nerves ran through him but he kept cool.
"Gentlemen?" He was good, Jim thought. Well-trained in keeping calm. "How may I be of assistance?"
"We don't think you've done anything wrong," Blair said, hurriedly trying to get the young man on their side. "But there is the possibility that unbeknown to you, you may have seen someone that we're looking for. May we ask you a few questions, possibly jog a memory or two?"
Jim saw a change in his demeanour. Only slight, but the clenching of a few muscles ceased and the man seemed to relax.
"Of course, anything that I can do to help. Do you want me to come to the station, or could we do this informally?"
"How about we do it informally for now?" Jim said. "If it turns out you saw something significant, then you could go to the Precinct to make a formal statement. But my partner's hungry, so how about we go grab something to eat?"
It had been the right thing to say and the youth relaxed a lot more. He popped into the back room and removed his uniform and positively bounced back into the shop to join the detectives. They thanked Mrs. Tuttle, then left, heading directly to a local diner.
Over a bowl of chilli for Blair and a plate of burger and fries for Jim (which got him a glare from his partner) and Travis, the men sat and chatted. The detectives gently won over the young man, reassuring him that he wasn't a suspect and that what he told them would be kept from his employer if he'd like. Eventually, smothered by the attentions of the men, he cracked.
"If this gets back to Mrs. Tuttle," he said quietly, "I'm going to be sacked. You see, she took me on when others thought me unemployable. She may seem a bit aloof, but underneath it, she's a good woman. And I love my job. But my cousin asked me to do her a favour. She said that she knew this couple that were getting married and wanted to surprise them."
He took another bite of his burger as this bit of information sank in with the detectives, saying more when Blair prompted him.
"She ordered a box of chocolates for delivery to the Cherry Tree, so I took the box as I would usually do. Instead of taking them to the hotel, I took them to her late mother's house. It was the last delivery of the day, so I told Mrs. Tuttle that I'd go straight home, taking the van with me. I do that sometimes if I'm running late. Tasmin somehow had organised a uniform that looked a lot like mine and she was wearing it when I got there. I gave her the chocolates and the key to the van and went home. When I woke up the next morning, the keys were posted through my door and the van was out the front. She'd even had it cleaned, inside and out. I mean, there was nothing that wasn't shining, you know? I thought she was doing that as a thank you. You see, if Mrs. Tuttle found out that I was letting someone else pretend to be working for her, she'd sack me. She has very high standards, demands the best from anyone that works for her. In return, she treats you well. It's not the best paid job in the world," he said with a sigh, "but she trusts me. You know?"
Blair reached up to the man that was sitting next to him and patted his back.
"I know. I guess that you haven't had that many people trust you before, have you?"
"No," Travis admitted. "I was in a gang as a younger teen, got into trouble. She gave me the chance. She knew my mom, knew that I came from a good family. I don't want to lose that. If this gets back to her..."
"We will do our best to keep this from her," Jim put in. It wasn't as if the young man had committed a crime. He hadn't known about his cousin's intentions, Jim was sure of it. He'd been closely studying him all through his 'confession' and knew that he was telling the truth. Yes, his heart was beating a little faster than normal, but Jim was positive that this was more from nerves about being sacked than because he was hiding anything.
"Look, we will need you to come to the station to make a statement. There are ways and means of keeping identities secret and we'll do our best," Jim added, getting a grin from the youth in reply. "We have some questions about your cousin, but they can wait till we get there. There's no point in you repeating yourself."
Jim paid for the meal, then he ushered the others out of the diner, into his truck and drove off to the station.
By the time Jim and Blair got back home that night, they were shattered. Travis had spilled everything that he knew about his cousin, repeated his information about the van and been promised faithfully by Major Crime that they would do everything they could to keep his identity a secret. He, in turn, promised faithfully to let them know if she contacted him again. He was so afraid of losing his job that the detectives were convinced he'd do as he said. He had a cover story for Mrs. Tuttle worked out with a few tantalising details if the case should go to court. Simon had been on form, gently cajoling, acting almost as if he was talking to Daryl when he was trying to get the smallest details from him.
Boudinot had been due to get married to her fiancé but he'd called the wedding off at the last moment. Then he'd disappeared. She'd seemed to have taken it well, even going to Acapulco as planned. A sort of 'fuck you' holiday, Travis had reported with a grin. She'd even been having holidays in other places, going away and coming back tanned. He wasn't sure about dates, but his rough estimates were close to the killings. He didn't see a great deal of her, most of this information was second-hand reporting from his mother.
With a name to go on, Connor and Rafe had earlier hit the phones and called up the hotels involved. At each of the first murder sites, a lady from Cascade had stayed. Tasmin Boudinot at the first, but it was a Tamara Brown and a Tabitha Bowers at the others. Her description varied, but being remembered by the managers at all the hotels as being stand-offish, quite rude in fact. At the Angel, she'd been a brunette (her natural colour), at the Lakeside, a blonde. At the Shaftesbury, her hair had been auburn. She hadn't stayed at the Cherry Tree though, probably because of the proximity to her home.
Needless to say, Jim and Blair had gone to her residence in Cascade, and also needless to say, she was no longer there. A family now lived there and they had no forwarding address. The detectives checked out her mother's house too but, even though there was evidence of recent occupation, there was nothing there in the empty house that led Jim to her current whereabouts. He was very frustrated. There were a couple more leads to follow up, but they were too tired to go on that night. They still had a couple of days before they'd need to check into the End of the Road, and as Blair was convinced that she'd go there, they'd called it a night.
"You're sure she's going to strike again, Chief?" Jim asked as they crashed on the sofa together.
"Yeah. I think it's going to be the last one, too." He let out a groan as he said that, elaborating on his thoughts as he saw Jim's querying look. "The End of the Road, man. Where else?"
Jim nodded, seeing precisely what Blair was getting at.
Blair had a question in return. "Has anyone found her ex?"
"No, he's disappeared off the face of the Earth," Jim sighed. "I'm betting he's either run for cover or he's dead."
"He's dead," Blair sighed. "And she's going to kill herself wherever she's buried him when she's committed this last murder. Do we know anything about him?"
"He was a student at the adult education centre where she taught evening classes."
"Why? What was he studying?"
"More of a catch up thing. Turns out he was dyslexic and his school hadn't caught it."
Blair let out a groan. "Don't tell me, they put him in remedial classes?"
"Got it in one. AH! I know what you're going to say, so can it. Just because the guy was dyslexic didn't make him stupid. I know. Detective Kamanski in Vice is dyslexic and he's one of the sharpest there. He just has the odd problem with doing his reports, that's all. There are ways and means of overcoming it, and he's done that. It takes work and dedication - which all goes to prove that dyslexics are neither stupid nor lazy, as they used to be thought."
Blair grinned at him for that. "Yeah. One of my students when I was a TA had a reader for her notes. Because she had difficulties with looking stuff up, she actually remembered things. Little details that others would have to go back to the books for were stored in her head. She never forgot a thing that was told her. Pretty amazing, really. At least it explains her obsession with the alphabet."
Jim did a double take and frowned.
"Boudinot. She's teaching him another, final lesson. Just something twisted, but hey, she's a serial killer with a penchant for cutting out her victims' hearts, so it's hardly surprising."
"There are times, Chief, that I am glad I don't know what's going on in your mind," Jim groaned. "Anyway, bed. It's been a long day."
Blair shifted about uncomfortably and Jim knew that something else was on his mind.
"About that bed thing," Blair said, his voice falsely light and unconcerned.
"Yeah?" Jim drawled.
"Would you mind some company tonight?"
Jim cursed under his breath as he saw Blair brace himself, ready for rejection. No way was he getting this wrong.
"If it's what you want, Chief. We don't have to do anything, if you don't want."
"Oh, I want. Wanting to do stuff isn't the problem, Jim. It's keeping my hands off you that is."
Jim stood up, laughing at that last statement.
"That is a problem that we both share."
"You like to touch yourself too, Jim?"
"You, Chief. I like to touch you."
"I'm not stopping you," Blair whispered, suddenly wondering if he was going too fast after all.
Jim detected a note of worry and quickly realised why. Letting Blair take a step back, he said, "Why don't we get ready for bed, you join me, and we go to sleep for tonight? I don't know about you but I'm tired."
Blair readily agreed, pleased that Jim was as prepared as he was to take this easy.
As he washed and generally got himself ready, Blair scolded himself. He wasn't new to any of this by a long shot. He'd fallen into bed with people he hardly knew. He'd fucked, he'd been fucked, he'd done everything that a hot, young bisexual man could think of (and get away with). His relationship with Jim, however, was special. It wasn't just the physical or the 'romantic' nature of the relationship that they had to watch out for. They had a working relationship, one which was a necessary partnership because of the sentinel/guide thing. And of course, there was that sentinel/guide thing. How would a physical relationship affect that?
That he was in love with Jim was no surprise to Blair. Jim was everything that he found attractive in a man. Knowing him as he did, Blair knew that he loved his personality too, right down to his quirks and foibles. He was still unsure as to why Jim would love him, but he seemed to. Past insecurities threatened to overwhelm him and he kicked them into touch straight away. Jim wouldn't hurt him. Jim needed him. If for no other reason, Jim wouldn't leave him because he needed him.
Blair's heart sank. He looked in the mirror and tried to convince himself that Jim loved him for him. He wasn't stupid, he knew he looked good. He'd had enough people come on to him to prove that. He may be shorter than the average, but good things come in small packages, right? He'd had taller girlfriends and his height had never been mentioned, let alone a problem. So, he surmised, Jim may well feel attracted to him. That was good, wasn't it? He'd be fucked if he ever lost his looks though, at least from that point of view.
What if Jim lost his sentinel abilities for good? What if, when he retired, he managed to find a way to shut them off? Or he decided to go live somewhere out in the wilderness where he wouldn't have to control them? He wouldn't need Blair anymore, would he? Would he?
Jim was watching the bathroom door and listening in. There was no movement in there, suggesting that Blair was either staring at himself or he was dead. Jim focussed on Blair's heartbeat and heard its steady beat. That was good. Then he heard it speed up, Blair's breathing start to shorten. He'd heard this before too, Blair was having a panic attack.
"Blair? Are you okay? C'mon, I gotta go, you know. Please, babe, open the door."
The door opened, Blair's face trying to be a mask of calm, but Jim could see that it was far from the case. He figured that he'd have to play this carefully. He didn't know what Blair was panicking about and he didn't want to jump to the wrong conclusions, as he'd done on so many occasions in the past.
"You okay?" he asked as he burst through the door, heading straight for the toilet.
"I'm fine," Blair lied.
"Good, good. You going upstairs?"
"Unless you want to share my futon."
"No, I think I'll pass. Go on, I'll be up in a minute."
Blair let out a small sigh of relief. Jim hadn't seen his panic attack. He scolded himself for even getting like that, chiding himself for being silly. But years of insecure living had left their scars. Never knowing where he'd be living from one day to the next as a child, never knowing if the man his mother was currently with would be the one he'd get to call 'dad'. Much as he'd had a loving childhood, inasmuch as Naomi had loved him openly, it had been anything but secure. As an adult, he knew that this sort of background would come and bite him on the ass every so often, and it seemed to be doing that right now. With yet another self-telling-off, he climbed the stairs to Jim's bed.
Jim had seen it though and he was currently trying to figure out what had caused it. He dismissed any thought that it would have to do with the case. Blair had seen as bad if not worse on other occasions and he knew that that wouldn't be it. So, it was likely to be personal. Running through the various options in his mind, all he could come up with was that Blair was scared of him. Not physically; emotionally. He'd been hurt, been badly let down by Jim in the past. Jim knew this, and the only thing that he could think of was that Blair was preparing himself to be let down again. It was up to him. He had to prove to Blair that he loved him. It wouldn't happen overnight, but eventually, he'd get there. In the meantime, he'd ignore any signs of doubt and just forge ahead. One thing Jim was sure of was that he'd die before he deliberately hurt Blair again.
In bed, Jim put his arm around Blair and pulled him close.
"I think," he said quietly, "that I really need you in my arms tonight, Chief. You okay with that?"
"It'll be tough, but I can do that for you... I guess."
Jim burst out laughing and reacted, flipping Blair onto his back and tickling him.
"AH! Stop it!" Blair howled. "No fair, man. You're bigger than me."
"Well, duh," Jim sniggered. Then he leant in close, putting his nose right next to Blair's. "Love you," he whispered, then he ghosted a kiss on Blair's lips.
That was all it took. The delicacy of Jim's touch, the need in his quiet voice. That and his obvious... desire... for Blair which was currently poking Blair in the thigh. The next thing Jim knew, he was flat on his back and being kissed passionately. He didn't put up much of a fight.
If Jim was honest with himself, he'd have admitted to the many fantasies he'd had about being with Blair over the years, but he'd also have to admit that they didn't even come close to the facts. He knew how well Blair could kiss, the past few evenings had been spent necking on the sofa, both men desperately trying not to go any further. He knew that Blair had been right that they should take their time too. But no way in hell was he stopping his lover now. Blair was a man on a mission and Jim was a cop, an ex-Army captain. It was his duty to aid him in this mission. And the mission? Currently, Blair had tasked himself with sending Jim slowly, but surely, out of his mind.
It was a short trip.
Butterfly strength kisses brushed Jim's bare chest, the faintest of licks swept over his nipples. He turned his sense of touch up, just a bit, but it was enough to have him shuddering.
"Have you turned it up?" Blair whispered.
Jim nodded. "Just a little bit."
"Good. Hold it there. But don't come, Jim. Not until I let you, okay?"
"You some sort of dom?" Jim gasped as delicate strokes of Blair's fingertips on Jim's inner arm sent almost electric shocks of pleasure through him.
"No," came the chuckled reply, "I just want you to get the full benefit of your senses. I don't want it ending too soon."
"Gotcha. 'Kay. I'll try."
"If it gets too much, turn it down for a moment, till you get your control back."
Unable to speak now as soft breaths warmed the skin just under his ear, Jim just grunted.
"Love you, man," Blair whispered, so quietly that Jim wondered if he'd even said it. He gasped it back in reply, trying to convey his desperation to his lover.
He never did work out how Blair got his shorts off without him noticing. All he knew was that one minute, Blair was teasing him, softly tracing patterns with his finger tips and tongue over his body, his arms and then legs included; the next minute, he felt something hot and wet engulf his cock. It wasn't a cup of coffee.
Looking down, he saw Blair's head move as the younger man worked him, running his tongue along the shaft, his fingers still barely touching Jim's flesh as they moved everywhere Blair could reach.
"Blair," Jim finally gasped, "I can't hold on."
Blair didn't stop, he just looked up at Jim, his eyes twinkling despite the dark. Jim could see them in detail though and he knew what it meant. Permission granted.
It took him quite a while to retrieve his wits. By the time he did, Blair was back up the bed and watching him intently.
"You okay?" Blair asked, his voice filled with laughter.
Jim couldn't answer, all he could do was run on instinct and return the favour. But he was in no mood to take it easy, he pushed Blair onto his back and kissed him hard. He nibbled and bit, licked and sucked all the way down. He literally seized Blair's dick with his mouth and sucked hard until Blair gave him what he wanted.
"Oh my God," Blair gasped as he came down from his own high.
He opened his eyes and saw a distinctly smug looking Jim lying above him, propped up on his elbows and starting into Blair's face.
"Hey," Blair said, a huge smile on his face.
"Hey you," came the still smug reply.
"Hmm. Oh yeah. Very okay."
"Very okay. I'm sure that's bad grammar but I can't be bothered to check. C'mere." Blair put his hands out and pulled Jim back down onto him.
"I'll squash you."
"What a way to go."
With a chuckle, Jim lay down on the bed, pulled Blair back into his arms and then pulled the cover over them.
Both men got the best night's sleep that they'd had in a very long time.
"We're going to have to move you into the hotels," Simon announced a couple of days later. Boudinot hadn't been found, despite an APB on her. They were going to have to go with their first idea. "It'll be better to get you in sooner rather than later, maybe she'll already be watching them. If that's the case, then there's always the possibility that we'll see her and catch her before she tries anything. Brown, you and Rafe will go to the Eagle with the ladies. We'll have you wired up, ready to spring into action if this maniac attacks them. Go about your day as if you were on honeymoon. I'm sure you can pretend, can't you?"
Megan shrugged. "Women don't tend to have hang ups about being in physical contact with other women." She looked at Caitlin who just rolled her eyes. "We'll be fine. We'll do the tourist thing, go shopping and so on."
Simon laughed, then he said, "Just remember you're on the department's budget, ladies. Don't spend too much."
He turned to the men and said, "I'll be at the End of the Road keeping an eye on you two."
Simon hadn't wanted anyone else with him at the hotel. Only Megan knew about Jim for sure, Brown and Rafe had an idea but weren't in the know and no one else really had a clue. By putting Megan in the Eagle, he was basically on his own, but there was nothing else he could do.
"You'll be wired too, just the same as the ladies. Do you think you'll be able to play at this?" Simon was still being extra cautious about the men's relationship getting out, worried as he was for Blair's sake. Blair observed Simon's manner and figured out what was going on quickly. Jim had told him that Simon knew, but he hadn't mentioned the details of their conversation.
Grinning to himself, Blair decided that he was safe enough in Major Crime. He shut the door to the corridor, made sure that only MC staff were in the room, then he moved up to his partner.
"C'mere," he ordered.
Jim stood up, confused, but not arguing. He was more confused when he saw a wicked smirk plastering Blair's face.
Blair put his hand out and pulled Jim right next to him, put his hands on either side of Jim's face, then drew him down for a kiss. And what a kiss it was. Before any of the other detectives in the room could react, Jim's arms were wrapped around his lover, lifting him slightly as he bent down. Blair's were around Jim's back, holding him tightly. A cheer went up, laughter filling the air. The men broke apart.
"Oh, I think we'll manage, Simon," Blair said with a chuckle.
Megan and Caitlin quickly settled into the Eagle, loving the look of the jacuzzi; relaxing in the bright, airy atmosphere of the room. Rafe and Brown had taken a double room opposite, working out a plan to watch the girls in a shift pattern. The wires had been set, they were ready. The ladies went shopping.
Tasmin Boudinot watched the two women leave the hotel, cursing to herself. They weren't right. No way would they be what she was looking for. Relieved that she had an alternative, she headed across town.
If Mrs. De Witt was surprised by the two men checking into the honeymoon suite, she said nothing. Silently, though, she was pleased. She'd seen their interaction at their first visit, their body language screaming protectiveness and possession, even of they hadn't known it. One thing she'd learned over her many years had been that love was a precious gift and shouldn't be ignored. That the men loved each other was not in doubt. Acting up for the benefit of the killer they may have been, but it wasn't a stretch for them.
Blair, knowing just what public opinion would be of a partnership consisting of a large and powerful man and his younger, shorter, long-haired lover, (gender irrespective), played it up. He looked shyly at Jim, smiling at him sweetly and giving way to him - in public at least.
In the honeymoon suite, however...
"Chief? What's with the play acting?"
Blair laughed out loud. "C'mon, Jim," he said as he launched himself onto the bed, bouncing on the thick and soft mattress, "if we want to reel the killer in, we've got to give her what she wants. I'm the bait and you know it. If Simon had partnered you, for example, she wouldn't have had anyone that she could identify with. In her eyes, if you take the San Francisco killings as a guide, I'm the partner that's most likely to be put upon."
"I had a horrible thought for a moment that you were going to say that she thought of you as a woman, there, Chief. That is so not what I want to hear."
"Uh huh, big guy, I'm no woman. Mind you, there are those women out there that would say that that is a good thing."
"This is true," Jim acknowledged. "Seeing such a hairy body in the woman's locker room would have been a heck of a fright."
Blair threw a pillow at him. Jim noticed that he had a glint in his eye.
"Chief? What's on your mind?"
"I'm on a big, comfortable, no make that sinfully comfortable bed. We're alone. Our wires aren't on yet. And I'm still dressed. What's wrong with this picture?"
"We're on duty?" Jim replied, trying to sound calm and casual and failing.
"We're on duty, granted," Blair drawled, batting his eyelashes at his lover and trying not to laugh at Jim's agonised face. "However, Simon did say we were supposed to act like honeymooners."
"Out there," Jim gasped. "That's out there, Sandburg and you know it."
Blair tried for the hurt puppy look. "So, you don't want me anymore?"
Muttering to himself, things about wanting to kill a certain person, Jim kicked off his shoes and sat on the bed, levering his feet till he was laying on the mattress, Blair soon lying across him, his blue eyes twinkling with mischief.
"I really struck out when I fell in love with you, Chief," Jim moaned.
"I'm hurt," Blair sniffed, but his eyes were still dancing. He'd seen the look in Jim's own eyes, and the fact that Jim's arms were around him and he was holding him close somewhat mitigated his statement. "Why?"
"Well, I could have fallen for someone quiet, someone of average intelligence, with a sense of humour which doesn't include strange diversions into lunacy and who doesn't want to kill me off in our first few weeks together. I mean, we've been together, what, five days? Sleeping together for two and already my dick has friction burns."
"I told you to use lube when you jerked us off last night; you wouldn't believe me, would you?"
Jim had no answer to that, he just laughed out loud. Then he pushed Blair gently onto his back and started to kiss him. One thing they'd got off pat over the previous few days was the 'kissing thing'. They'd learned each other's unconscious movements, reactions to being touched in various places and so on. They could keep this up for absolutely ages. When they finally broke for air, Blair said, "Hmm. You know, that is something I love doing."
"Yeah. Just kissing. I don't know, it's more, er, intimate than sex somehow."
"Chief? How come?"
"Not the kissing you did when you were a teenager, but this. As an adult. All adult relationships are a matter of sex. You know, it's not so much a matter of 'if' but 'when' it's going to happen. Between two guys, it's worse. You meet a guy at a club and unless you click, unless there's something there that screams 'he's relationship material', all you're interested in is how quick you're going to get off. This doesn't happen. The kissing without the need for it to go further. The pleasure in just being together like this. This is what I love."
Jim nodded, muttering an 'Ah' in acknowledgement. He understood. This was much more a statement about how comfortable the guys were with each other than any frantic sex act. Not that he was complaining about frantic sex acts, and he was sure that Blair wasn't either, it was just that this was better, more loving. The more Jim acknowledged Blair's feelings on this, the more he agreed, and the more he realised why it was so important to Blair. It all smacked of long-term to him. One thing Blair had never had in his life was stability or a sense of belonging anywhere. This simple, pleasurable act was giving him that. With a smile, Jim decided that some positive reinforcement wouldn't go amiss. He ducked back down for round two.
Checking that no one else was in the corridor of the same floor as the honeymoon suite, Simon knocked on the door to the men's rooms. He heard a quiet groan and footsteps padding across the carpeted floor, making their way towards him. The door cautiously opened, and Jim stood there, looking a little bewildered.
"Jim?" Simon asked as he moved to step in. "Are you okay?"
"I'm fine. Come on in." He stepped back and allowed Simon into the room, double-checking that no one was there before he shut the door.
Simon entered the room and looked around. It was a homely suite, the whole atmosphere speaking of comfort and romance. He chuckled to himself when he saw a rumpled-looking Sandburg making his way towards him.
"Did I disturb you?" he asked, trying to sound nonchalant.
"No, not really," Blair said with a yawn.
Jim ushered them to the living room area of the suite and the thickly cushioned seats. There was a large sofa and a couple of armchairs which encircled a gas fuelled 'log' fire and a TV nearby.
Simon sat on one of the armchairs, the men on the sofa, Jim automatically putting his arms out to Blair and pulling him close.
"You've seen nothing yet?" Simon asked.
"We haven't been here long," Jim answered. "We were just having a nap, figuring that we'd go out to dinner nearby tonight. We want to stay alert. All the killings have taken place at night after all."
"Oh, fair enough," Simon said, trying not to think of anything else they may have been getting up to. Then he looked at Blair. "Are you okay?" he said. "Your little display back at the Precinct could have backfired."
Blair chuckled quietly. "Yes, it could have," he admitted. "However, I made sure that only the guys from MC were in there, the door was shut, it wasn't as if it was hostile territory. I've never expected to get any trouble from them. Even back in the early days, when I was still an observer, I got my leg pulled but I never had any trouble from them. They've always been a bit protective of me," he said with a wry grin.
"You were a civilian," Jim said defensively. "Of course they'd be protective."
"Jim, I know that," Blair soothed. "It's okay. I know I'm capable of taking care of myself, I know what I'm able to do, and what I'm not. Back then, I hadn't had the training to do the job, I had to learn to do it. By you guys watching over me, dropping hints and tips and teaching me I was better equipped than any of the other cadets at the Academy. I felt safer, too. Let's face it, if the majority of MC were suddenly to find themselves on an expedition up the Amazon, they wouldn't be able to cope. But if I were with them, they'd have someone to teach them. It's the same thing. I'm not offended by it, a bit frustrated from time to time, but not offended."
"And now?" Simon prompted.
"Now," Blair grinned, "they take care of their own. They've all made me feel a part of the team."
"You are a part of the team, Chief," Jim insisted.
"I know. It's nice to belong somewhere," Blair smiled widely now, getting the same in return.
"What about the other departments, Sandburg?" Simon asked. "How bad is it?"
Blair shrugged. "Not too bad at all, not really. I get the odd jerk mouthing off at me, but most people are fine."
"Good. Don't take any crap, Sandburg. If nothing else, it's unprofessional behaviour. I'm sure that the captains of the jerks would want to know that their people can't be trusted to be civil. It reflects badly on the police force as a whole."
Blair nodded, muttering an agreement. Silence fell, then Simon remembered why he was there.
"Here," he said, reaching into the bag that he'd brought. "Put these on. Only I am listening in to you, so you don't have to worry too much about what you say."
He handed both the men some very small pins that could be worn as jewellery.
"The range is short, but they're pretty powerful none the less. It will be clear, even through walls. I'll watch you, not letting you out of my hearing range."
They took the pins, then Jim suggested that they got ready for dinner. Simon beat a retreat with further warnings to be careful.
Half an hour later, and the men were in the lobby of the hotel, matching pins on their ties, discussing with the receptionist the best place to eat locally outside of the hotel. Both men were dressed in suits, carefully chosen by Blair for the occasion. Jim's was dark, a stark-white shirt under a black suit. Blair's was light, a grey cotton with a pale-blue shirt. Not feminine, exactly, but the overall impression was to emphasise the strength of Jim in relation to Blair. Blair's hair was loose, and Jim gave into his now favourite out-of-bed pastime and ran his fingers through it whenever he could get away with it. As Blair said, they were playing up for the cameras, so to speak.
Across the street, Boudinot sat in a nondescript car, watching the hotel carefully. She'd earlier been into the hotel, distracted the receptionist and checked out the signatures on the register. Those two were the honeymooners. She smiled to herself. They looked remarkably similar to the men in San Francisco, and they had been so entertaining. There was a delicious irony to there being two men for her to play with.
The following night, she would play. In the meantime, she had plans to make. Just how would she get them? Chocolates? No, not chocolates. That had been done, anyway. She'd have to think of something else.
The men sat at a table overlooking the bay, the big picture window on the far side of the restaurant gave them a good view. As they chose their food, they acted up, Jim being dominant, pushing Blair towards choosing certain dishes, watching, at the same time observing the reactions of their fellow diners. They were definitely being watched. Suggesting that Blair choose a dish - which Jim knew that Blair loved anyway - he looked specifically at some of them. Life would have been a little easier if there weren't three separate women dining alone, all of whom couldn't seem to take their eyes off the couple. Which was Boudinot? Was any of them?
Blair had to fight down a snigger as Jim played up the 'big, strong man' routine. It was fun. If any other guy had done it, Blair knew that he'd have been very insulted, but somehow, he didn't mind this so much. Yes, it was only playing to the gallery, but there was a certain something about Jim's manner that sent shivers straight to Blair's groin. He tried to analyse it, then gave up. What was wrong with having someone that loved you wanting to take care of you, once in a while? Nothing, as far as Blair could work out. It wasn't as if he didn't take care of Jim at other times, was it? It wasn't as if Jim didn't respect him, either. Did he?
"Chief? What's up?" Jim's face took on a concerned look and he leaned close to Blair as he spoke.
"Nothing, I'm just enjoying myself."
"I'm always thinking, man. You know me."
"Yes, I do. So why the frown?"
"Oh. Well, I guess I was just wondering if..." his voice trailed off for a moment, then he whispered, "you know with this 'Alpha Jim' act?"
"Yes," Jim drawled, wondering where this was going.
"Well, I mean, will you, um, be wanting to act like this at home?"
"Do you want me to?"
"I'm not sure," Blair said honestly. "It's kind of nice, but..." He took a sip of the wine he had.
"But?" Jim prompted gently.
"It's a matter of respect, Jim."
"Ah, I get it. You think that if I take care of you once in a while I'll think that you're what, a kid?"
"Maybe," Blair admitted.
"Don't worry about it. I know who you are, what you are and what you're capable of. I respect you, Chief. I'm pleased that you're settling into this role without kicking up a fuss, because as you said, it's what she's going to hope for. If, at times, I get overprotective at home, I hope you'll forgive me for it."
"Nothing to forgive, Jim. I know you care."
"I love you. My need to care for you stems from that and that alone. It's not as if you don't tell me what to do on a regular basis, is it?"
Blair laughed out loud, then he blushed a little.
Carefully, Blair fingered his tie. Jim got the message. Simon had heard that conversation.
"Oops?" said Jim, trying not to laugh and only succeeding at setting Blair off again.
Neither man noticed the other diners watching them, some of them smiling, some of them not so happy about the overtness of two men as a couple. One pair of eyes studied them closely.
Dinner over, Jim paid, stood up, held Blair's jacket as he put it on and so on, treating him as if he were a female date. Part of Jim liked doing this for Blair, but the other part worried about Blair's reaction to it. Fortunately, Blair kept up the pretence. They left the restaurant and strolled along the seafront on the way back to the hotel, looking around every so often to see if they were being watched, disguising it by taking the opportunity to hold hands or kiss briefly when they thought they were clear. Jim was certain that Boudinot was following them, but he couldn't pinpoint her location. Whenever he thought he saw a woman that had been at the restaurant, she was always in a crowd of people. As he wasn't sure about her identity, he couldn't just try to capture her either. A chase along the promenade might make for good newspaper headlines, but if it wasn't Boudinot, their cover would be blown and Boudinot might change her plans. All in all, it was safer to carry on with the trap.
"Simon," Jim said, looking at Blair but speaking to his tie pin. "Watch that woman in the black suit and jacket, brunette, shoulder-length hair, about thirty-five years-old. She's following us, I'm sure of it. Do not pick her up though, I could be wrong about it."
They continued their walk till they got very close to the hotel.
"Do we go in, Chief?"
"I'm kinda enjoying the walk, man. Fresh air, sea breeze, it's not raining for once..."
Jim laughed. "Good company?"
"The best, Jimbo, the best."
"I've got an idea, come on," Jim suddenly said, leading Blair to the truck which was parked in the hotel car park. "Simon, we're taking off. She won't strike till tomorrow night and Blair and I are supposed to be on honeymoon after all. We'll be gone for a couple of hours, I think. I'll watch to see if she's following us. If she is, Blair will call you on his cellphone."
The wire was a one-way thing, and if it hadn't been Jim speaking, Simon wouldn't have been able to answer. As it was, he grinned, and said, "If you're sure, Ellison," quietly, looking as if he was just singing to himself. His own receiver was disguised as a single earphone which appeared to be connected to a Walkman. Some of the cleverer bits of technology that had turned up really grabbed his imagination, this set being one of the best of them. He was strolling about one hundred yards behind the men, watching out for the woman. He saw her, tried to keep a close eye on her, but the failing light made it difficult to watch her closely. He could see the men getting into Jim's truck and he let out a little chuckle to himself. He'd heard Blair's worries in the restaurant, but pleased with Jim's answer, he pushed them to the back of his mind. Whatever concerns they had, it wasn't his place as their captain to say anything. As their friend, maybe, but they hadn't told him anything in that capacity, so he had to forget he heard it. It didn't mean he wouldn't watch out for Blair's demeanour over the coming weeks. One sign that he was being put upon by Jim...
He was shaken out of his reverie when he saw the woman get into a car of her own. As discreetly as he could, he headed for his. By the time he was in it, she was out of the car park. He breathed a sigh of relief when he saw her go in the opposite direction. As far back away from her as he dared be, he followed her into the night.
Jim's destination of choice was a place unknown to Blair, but well-known to the Vice Squad.
"Jim? What's here?"
Jim drove up a forestry road and down a dirt track.
"Lots of couples come here to make out," he explained. "There are plenty of sidetracks, so you're not seen. The convention is, if you see anyone, you didn't see them, if you see what I mean."
"I see," Blair sniggered.
Jim slowed down and looked down one track, then another. He pointed to the second one.
"The other one is occupied."
Not for the first time, Jim appreciated his senses.
Blair started to shiver with excitement as they drove further down the trail. Eventually, Jim pulled off to one side, got out of the truck and stood still. He reached out with his hearing. He could hear noises, people making out, sometimes two men, one of them a male/female couple.
//No, don't do that. If Martin sees this ripped he'll know about you for sure.//
//Next time we come out, you wear something I can tear off you.//
//*giggle* Oh, Patrick, you are so beastly!//
Jim thought he'd puke.
All of the voices were a long way away, there were no other people around and no vehicles heading their way. He motioned to Blair to get out of the truck, leaned in, grabbed a blanket that he kept under the seat for emergencies (and cold nights on stake-out), along with a bag from the glove box and took Blair's hand. Then he stopped, removed his tie pin, and Blair's, and put them back in the truck on the dash. He didn't think that Simon would follow them out there or that the range was that far, not really, but this way, they'd stay safe. No point losing them on the forest floor.
In the forest it was dark, but Jim didn't need a light to see. He watched their path, making sure that Blair was safe, grinning to himself when he realised that Blair had said nothing, just trusted him enough to take his hand and follow him, knowing that Jim would make sure that the path was clear for him. As he took Blair to his chosen destination, Jim thought of the times that Blair had trusted him like this - implicit, unwavering trust. It blew him away. Had he shown the same level of trust to Blair? He wasn't sure. He'd try in future, but he knew that his personality didn't allow for him to trust others in the way the Blair could.
In the meantime, he found what he was looking for. A small clearing. He lay the blanket down and turned to Blair. Even in the moonlight, his blue eyes seemed to shine.
"You okay?" he asked.
"I'm fine, Jim. What have you got in mind?" Blair was shivering more rapidly now. It was starting to cool off, but that wasn't the reason. This was so unexpected, so... so... naughty! A silly word, Blair thought, but the only one that he could come up with.
In a low, commanding voice, Jim said, "Strip."
Blair's eyes opened wide. The voice. It was absolutely sensual. Erotic. He was so going to do whatever that voice said. He dropped his jacket off his shoulders, his eyes never straying from Jim's. Then the tie. Then his shirt, undoing one button at a time. Before he removed it entirely, he thumbed his belt and opened it. Jim growled. Blair fought down a laugh. No matter how alpha Jim went, he so led his sentinel by the dick.
He kicked off his shoes, toed off his socks and stepped onto the blanket. Continuing with his own private floor show, he slowly unzipped his flies, then shimmied out of the pants. Now he was only in an open shirt and a pair of boxers, and he ran his thumbs through the elastic of them, teasing Jim and getting another growl. Before he took any more off, he whispered, "Why don't you even up the score, big guy? I'm feeling kinda lonely here."
Jim was naked in next to no time. Trying hard not to pounce, Blair removed his last items of clothing.
Jim lay down on his back and indicated for Blair to join him, so he knelt as directed, straddling Jim's thighs. Blair shivered and gasped when he felt Jim's hands running up and down his thighs and over his abdomen, gasped and shivered when he felt his nipples being pinched firmly, really getting off on the sheer power of the man below him. Knowing that Jim was trying to be gentle, trying to hold back his need to dominate was mindblowing for his lover.
"What did you bring apart from the blanket, Jim?" he asked when he got his breath back.
Jim reached out, grabbed the small bag he'd picked up and gave it to Blair. Blair opened it and his mouth opened in surprise.
"Jim? Since when do you keep lube and condoms in the truck?"
"Since the day after we got together."
"Be prepared. I was a boy scout."
Blair burst out laughing. He leant down and let his hair drape over Jim's face, gently brushing his already sensitive skin. Softly, he rubbed his nose on Jim's, his tongue darted out and licked Jim's lips. Jim's mouth opened eagerly.
Blair thought that he'd like to do the long kissing session thing, but he was starting to get cold. Time to move this up a notch.
"You want to fuck me?" he whispered against Jim's mouth.
"No, you, me," was all Jim could reply.
"You sure? Don't you want me?" Blair teased.
"Yes, God yes," Jim hissed, "but not now. Please, Blair, me first?"
"You really like to make me suffer, don't you?" Blair teased, giggling more at Jim's annoyed reaction. "Jim, serious question here, man. How long has it been?"
"Ages. Too fucking long."
"Okay, you lie back and I'll make it easy for you."
Blair started. He kissed and licked Jim's face and body, nibbled and teased wherever Jim's hot spots were. Jim writhed around, trying desperately hard to a) not come and b) not throw Blair off him. Blair figured that getting Jim off first would help him relax a little, so he went down. Jim nearly shot up the nearest tree. It wasn't as if Blair hadn't done this before, it was just that one moment, he was licking out Jim's navel, the next, he was swallowing him almost to the root.
Blair grabbed the lube and condom from the bag, all the while, continuing with his self-appointed task (and one he loved to do, so he determined to do a good job). He flipped open the lid, covered a couple of fingers and then started to tease Jim's ass. If the moans and groans were anything to go by, Jim really liked bottoming. Which was cool with Blair, but he hoped that he wouldn't hog it. Fair's fair and all. He slid a finger inside Jim, then another and homed in on the gland. It took him a moment, then he found it. Stroking it at the same time as sucking particularly hard, he sent Jim over the edge.
Blair took advantage of Jim's post-orgasmic high and caught his breath before rolling the condom on.
"Jim? You with me, man?"
"Yes," Jim gasped.
"You want me to go on?"
"Okay, okay, keep your hair on," Blair teased. "Not that that is an easy task these days. After all, there does seem to be a little less than there was..."
As he was teasing, Blair was pushing inside Jim, slowly but surely. By teasing, he was distracting Jim and helping him relax.
"Whose fault is that, Sandburg?" Jim snarled (he thought he snarled, but it was intermingled with hitches, groans and finally a 'yeah', so it didn't really count.)
"Simon's," Blair said with a chuckle, leaning forward till he was able to capture Jim's lips with his own.
Jim sniggered, bending up to meet Blair halfway. He was so going to ache in the morning.
"You want to change positions?" Blair asked.
"I'm fine. I need to see you this time," Jim whispered back.
"Good. Pity I can't see much of you, so I'm going to have to do this in Braille."
"Yeah, I'm going to feel my way through it. Lie back and relax, Jim, let me do the work."
Jim flopped back and let Blair take over. This was just as he'd hoped it would go. Next time, Blair would see the other side of Jim Ellison, so to speak.
Simon cursed. He'd been caught up in traffic and had lost his suspect. He called a description of the car into the Precinct on his phone, unwilling to use his radio just in case she had a scanner. Rather than have all of the squad cars looking out for it now, the following morning's shift would get the description, be told to look and to call in when they found it. They were not to engage with the owner. There was too much to lose.
He made his way back to the hotel, wondering for a moment what the men were up to. He quickly shut down that train of thought though. He didn't want to know.
Boudinot got out of her car and entered the house she'd rented in another name. It was just outside town, away from any other dwelling. She strolled to the large freezer that she had in the utility room and opened it. Looking at the frozen body of her lover, she said, "Not long now, dear. Tomorrow will bring the last hearts. Then we'll be together for ever." She glanced at the hearts that surrounded him, grinning at her ingenuity at getting them sent here. The trickiest transportation had been across the border from Mexico, but it was good to know that even these days, people could be bought relatively cheaply. Those cool boxes with all the ice hadn't been overly expensive, either. Not that she was worried about money anymore. She wouldn't need any soon. She giggled to herself when she remembered telling the delivery guys in a 'girly voice' that there was fish in there that she'd caught 'all by herself' and she wanted to send home for her mother to see. Poor mommy. She'd never been the same after daddy had left her. Watching her pine to death had been painful and taking care of her, hard. Boudinot thought that what she'd done for her darling mommy had been the best a loving daughter could do. She was surprised at how much her mother had struggled under the pillow though. No way would she suffer the same fate; she wouldn't pine for anyone.
Just one more day, that was all.
She shut the freezer, headed into the kitchen and looked for what she wanted. How best to do this one? She wanted these fresh. Really fresh. Probably would be best to take her next targets back to the house then. How would she do that? The big guy was obviously protective of the little one. He'd come running, and she knew it. So, get the little guy. Yeah, that would do. Just him. Then tell the big guy where to find him.
Trying to look innocent, and failing, the men entered the hotel and grabbed their room key. The receptionist tried to hide a giggle when she saw them and Blair wondered why - Jim was still stunned from the forest trip so he wasn't paying attention. It was only when they got into their room did he realise. In the brighter light, Blair could see the bits of moss and the odd mud stain on their clothes. They looked at each other and then fell about laughing.
"Do you want a soak in the bath, Jim?" Blair finally asked.
"A shower will do, Chief."
"You may benefit more from a bath, Jim. You know, so you're not aching tomorrow? All that walking may make you stiff."
Their tie pins were back on, so they were trying to be a bit more circumspect in their speech. Jim grasped what Blair was talking about, so he conceded the point and headed into the bathroom. Blair shucked his clothes and got into the shower, which had its own cubicle right next to the bath. Under the water, he said, "Man, you have such good ideas, you know. I can see that I'm going to have to work hard at being inventive. Got to keep the spark alive, haven't we?"
He didn't expect, or get an answer. Jim was listening, he heard what Blair said. All he could do was respond with a groan. He really wondered if he was going to survive this relationship.
The men were reasonably sure that Boudinot would not strike that night, but they still turned down the opportunity to have something delivered to their suite. Just in case. No, they were going to play it safe. The following night they'd be more on their guard, but no point in taking chances. Jim spoke to Simon when they got into bed, using the tie pin and just listening for his friend's answer. Simon said he'd stay up that night, sleep in during the day and be alert for trouble the following evening. Given that Simon was watching over them, they felt more able to settle down to sleep.
As they did, Blair said, "Jim?"
"You know what we did in the forest?"
"I want to do the same, in reverse, so to speak."
"Not with Simon listening in, no. When we get home. You're not exclusively a bottom are you?"
Jim's eyes opened wide, then he realised that Blair was whispering very quietly and that Simon wouldn't be able to hear him anyway, so he answered.
"No, Blair. Whatever you want. I'm happy to be that, okay?"
Blair looked up at him, his eyes twinkling mischievously, replying, "Whatever?"
Jim snarled. "Watch it, Chief. Don't push your luck."
"As if I would," Blair laughed, then he yawned. Tucking himself into his favourite place (head on Jim's chest, his arm over Jim's waist, face down, one leg hooked possessively over his lover), he fell asleep.
Boudinot had everything planned down to the last detail. The final resting place was prepared, her equipment laid out and waiting. The sedative was ready. Her method of delivery was ready. All she had to do was get to her target. She watched as the driver of a black windowless mini van pulled in for breakfast into the roadside café she was sitting in. That would be just right. She quickly swallowed her coffee and slipped outside. The driver eventually exited it, surprised to see a woman standing by his passenger door.
"Where are you going?" she asked.
"Seattle," came the reply. "Need a lift?"
"If you don't mind," she sighed. "My car has broken down again and I forgot to pay for my Triple A renewal. I have to get there, I have a meeting. My brother can pick the car up later."
"Sure thing," the driver said. "Hop in."
He opened the door and she climbed up. He ran around the other side, got in and pulled off.
Fifteen minutes later, making sure that no one was watching her, she pushed the body over the edge of the cliff on the side of the road. Then she turned the van and headed back into town.
Blair awoke, feeling all warm and snuggly. Having Jim in his bed was like having a huge teddy bear - one that held you tightly. Trying not to wake his lover, he carefully edged out from Jim's grip, eliciting a mumble from the still sleeping man. When he was up, Blair picked up the alarm clock that sat on the bedside table and looked at it in amazement. It was past 10 a.m. Blair couldn't remember the last time he'd been allowed to sleep in that late, and he could never remember a fit Jim sleeping in that long. Feeling a touch sweaty from his long sleep, he padded softly into the bathroom and quickly showered. He got himself cleaned up and ready and then returned to the bedroom to find a sleepy but awake Jim making coffee with the room's kettle.
"Ah, Gentleman Jim," Blair grinned as he sat on the bed, accepting the proffered mug.
"I'm fine," Blair replied with a smile. "You?" He looked at Jim's ass specifically.
"I'm good," Jim said. At Blair's raised eyebrow, he elaborated, "That bath helped. I'm a little sore. It will pass. I dare say you'll be the same when we get home."
"Undoubtedly," Blair snickered. "I've seen the size on that thing."
Jim burst out laughing, then he said, "I was thinking. How about you and I stay here for a night or two after the case is closed? I'm sure we can persuade Simon to give us a couple of days off."
"Sounds wonderful, man," Blair agreed with a grin, rubbing his hair in the towel. He sighed when Jim took the towel off him and started to rub it for him. It was these little things that made all the difference and they both appreciated it.
"He'll want us to go in to write up our reports, but I don't see why we can't come here straight after it. I'll have a word with Mrs. De Witt and see if it's going to be okay."
"One thing, Jim. What if the killer does come in here? Will we want to stay?"
"Blair, one thing I know about you is that you don't let the bastards grind you down. When you get kicked, you get right up and kick back. If she comes here, we catch her and then go on with our lives. We won't let her spoil it."
Moments later, Jim found himself lying on the bed, a damp, naked Blair on top of him and kissing him soundly.
"So, are we going to be on honeymoon?" he teased.
Jim grunted. "Sort of. You know what I mean."
"Yeah, I do. Look, I need to go and get a few things. There's a drug store over the road, I'll be a few minutes, okay?"
"What do you need?"
"More shampoo for starters," he replied with a grin. "I picked up the wrong bottle at home. Finished this one this morning. I'll just get dressed, pop out, then we can do something honeymoon-like till this evening. She won't strike till then, given her previous MO. And what with Simon sleeping..."
He trailed his finger down Jim's chest and got the groan he was aiming for.
"You," Jim said, "are going to be the death of me."
"Uh huh, I'm going to keep you safe and healthy and with me for a very long time."
Blair got up, got dressed quickly and was heading out of the door when he heard, "I'm not giving up Wonderburgers for anyone!"
Laughing, he headed down the stairs, across the lobby and out into the street.
Boudinot jumped. This was better than she had hoped for. She watched the young man cross the road, alone for once. She had to act now.
He was heading towards her, so she grabbed the syringe and got out of the van, sliding the side door open as she stood on the pavement, waiting for him to come close. Looking around, she saw that there were very few people out and about in that area at that moment. This got better and better.
As he approached, she leaned into the van and moaned, "Ooh," sounding as if she was straining to get something out.
"Are you okay?" he asked.
"Oh, I will be," she sighed, "I just have to get this box out of here."
He was within arms reach now and she stood up. Without thinking, he looked inside the van and saw a few boxes. "Which one?" he asked as he turned back and looked at her face.
Suddenly, something told him that he wasn't safe. Her eyes were as cold as ice. He took a step back, but her hand shot out and he felt something sharp dig into his neck.
He cried out Jim's name, stumbling backwards. He tried to get away, but whatever it was that she'd injected was fast working and he lost his co-ordination. In moments, she had propelled him into the back of the van, and before anyone could look to see where the cry had come from, she was in the driver's seat and driving off.
Jim was humming to himself as he got dressed. He was umming and ahhing about whether to put his shoes on yet when he heard Blair's shout. Without thinking, he ran barefoot out of his room and down the stairs. By the time he'd crashed out of the lobby door, the van was far down the street. He looked hard and saw the registration plate. Something was wrong. Very, very wrong.
Either this wasn't the killer and Blair had been taken by someone else, or she had changed her tactics. In that case, Jim had better get back to the room.
Ignoring the looks he was getting from the other guests, he made his way upstairs, knocking on Simon's door as he went.
A bleary-eyed Simon answered.
"I think she's got him," Jim whispered, then he went back to his own room, thanking whoever was listening that he hadn't shut the door.
Simon followed him in, heading straight for the coffee.
Head in his hands, Jim explained.
"You think she's going to call you?" Simon asked.
"Yeah. Sure of it. Chances are she's going to use Blair's cellphone too."
"No point in trying to trace it then, eh?"
"Nah. She's got this so well planned that there's no way she's going to make a basic mistake like that."
"You think that the van you saw was the one?"
"Possibly." He gave Simon the details and Simon called them in. Then he discovered that her car had been found. Abandoned. A woman had been seen standing near a black van though. Simon told them to look out for a driver - probably a dead driver, and then instructed them to only pass on a location if the van was seen. Again, the 'do not engage' order was given.
He called the Eagle next and told the others to stand down from there. He'd need them for back-up at some point. Their orders were to get themselves ready as soon as possible and sit in their cars until he called them again. When he told them that Blair had been taken, the others rushed to get ready.
Boudinot parked up the van in a quiet sideroad. Grinning to herself, she picked the keys to the hire car she'd got that morning out of her purse. Knowing that the black van may be being looked for, she wasn't going to take any chances.
Jim paced nervously up and down, his cellphone on, terrified that he'd miss the call. There had been no other sound from Blair, so he assumed that he was unconscious.
"Jim? Can you listen in to him? I mean, how big is your range anyway?"
"Vast," came the shrug. "I don't really know."
Sitting on the bed, he turned his hearing up, desperately trying to filter out all of the background noises and to home in on Blair's heartbeat. It was something that he knew well. Something that he could listen out for, he was sure. It wasn't easy. He reached out with his senses and finally found what he was looking for. A slow, steady beat. It was moving away from him, not quickly, as if they were stuck in the city's traffic. He tried to widen the scope of his hearing and heard the engine of what he thought was the van, then the clatter of what could only be a pile driver.
"She's driving past a construction site," he said. "I can hear the machinery. It's starting to fade. Damn, only traffic now. Less than there was, she's heading out of town maybe?"
"Can you hear any other surrounding noises?" Simon asked.
"I'm not sure. It's too damned vague. I need Sandburg here!"
"I know, I know," Simon soothed, wishing too that the younger man were there. No matter how many times he'd tried to help Jim, this was not his area of expertise.
All through this, Jim listened to Blair, not letting go of this now, tenuous link. His heartbeat was still steady and slow, suggesting that he was unconscious. Eventually, he heard the vehicle draw to a halt.
"She's stopped," he reported. There was the sound of a door opening and he heard her puffing and panting as she hauled Blair out. Noise like wheels on gravel alerted him to the fact that she was pushing something. A wheelchair maybe?
"I think she'll call soon," he said. "She's taken him indoors."
They sat and waited, but nothing happened. There was no noise at the house apart from the odd footstep, doors opening and closing, things picked up and put down. Nothing to tell him where she was. He hoped that she'd tell him herself.
Blair's heart started to pick up, he was coming round.
//"Jim?"// Blair's voice was weak and faint, but Jim heard it clearly.
//"Don't you worry, dear," the woman's voice said, "you'll see your Jim soon enough. You'll be together for ever. He'll never leave you. Won't that be nice?"//
//"Who are you?"// Blair tried to sound calm, but it wasn't easy. He'd seen the 'after' pictures - after she'd sent those victims to meet their maker. He knew what was likely to happen to him. Hoping against hope that Jim was hearing him, he started up a running monologue when she refused to answer him. //"Why have you tied me to this chair? I don't like this. Let me at least look out of the window. I love to see the trees."//
"She's near the forest," Jim said.
"She didn't follow you last night, she went in the opposite direction."
"Towards Seattle? There's a huge patch of woodlands just off the main road," Jim said. "Maybe she's there?"
Unwilling to send a squad car into that area, Simon called up Megan and Caitlin and asked them to head off down that road, watching out for black mini vans on house drives.
More words from Blair but nothing told Jim of his location. All he knew was that his lover was alive - afraid, but coping. He drifted in and out of consciousness, Jim all the while listening to him. Simon had to force Jim to eat some lunch, urging him to keep strong for Blair.
At three o'clock, the phone rang and he nearly jumped a mile. Jim picked it up.
"Ah, Jim," the female voice said, "it's good to talk to you."
"Where is he? What have you done with him?" Jim barked.
"All in good time, dear. All in good time. You'll soon be with him, I promise. Now, I have a set of instructions for you to follow. I am watching you. Be a good boy and do as you are told and you'll be with your precious soon enough. If I see the police, however...." She let the threat hang in the air.
Jim decided to play dumb. "Why do you have him? We don't have much money. He's no heir to a fortune or anything, neither am I. What do we have that you could possibly want?"
"Love," she said simply. "Now, get in that nice truck of yours and head south till you get to 'The Cascade Café', you know, the roadside diner. Behind the white painted stone on the parking lot, you'll see a note. If I get as much as an inkling that you've involved the police, you'll never see him alive again. Understand?"
"I understand," Jim replied, "but there's nothing that I can do about the patrol cars, is there? Not unless I phone the police and tell them why."
There was silence on the other end of the phone for a moment, then she agreed. Simon grinned when Jim gave him the nod. An 'innocent' looking patrol car would pass down the road in the next fifteen minutes - about the time it would take Jim to get there. They'd look out for the black van in the vicinity.
Unfortunately for Jim, the black van was miles away.
Jim pulled into the café's parking lot, Simon on his tail in the background, keeping out of sight. The patrol car had reported nothing and they were confused. Jim headed straight for the white painted rock and found the note. It just said, "Turn around."
He turned around and looked. An elderly woman sat in a saloon car. Jim looked closer and he saw that she wasn't elderly at all. It was her.
She waved to him and he made his way towards the car, dipping his head and speaking into his tie pin, calling out the registration plate to Simon so that he could follow. As he got in, he asked where Blair was but she said nothing, just pointed a gun at him. To keep up the cover, he had no arms on him with which to counter her move. Doing as he was told, he put on the seat belt and she drove off. If he attacked her now, it could take him a long time to find Blair. It would be quicker this way.
Desperate not to lose her this time, Simon kept as close as he dared. He saw her turning off onto a sideroad. This explained why the ladies hadn't been able to find them. He called to his people, telling them where he was going, unwilling to turn up the road until he knew what was there. Unwilling to tip her off.
He parked up on the side of the road and waited for his back-up, all the while, poring over the road map he kept in the car, cursing that it wasn't detailed enough. He'd have to keep better maps in future, he scolded himself.
The others arrived in minutes.
"Does anyone know what's up there?" he asked as soon as they got out of the cars.
"Isn't that the old foresters' place?" Brown replied. "A cabin. They don't use it anymore, they come in from outside in their trucks, but each patch of forest around here used to have someone to watch over it. I heard they'd decided to rent it out as a holiday home or something."
"Find out who owns it," Simon barked, "and find out who's renting it. Chances are, it's not in her name, but if someone's renting it..."
He went quiet as he heard Jim confirming their suspicions. The range was at the edge of the receiver, but Simon still had his earpiece in. He heard, "*crackle* what *crackle* cabin why are *crackle* what *crackle* want with us."
"Forget it, they're in the cabin," Simon informed them. "How far is it?"
"About half a mile," Brown replied.
"We'll do this on foot. If she hears us approaching, there's no telling what she'll do."
They pulled out their equipment from the boots of their cars and got ready. As silently as they could, they made their way into the trees. Simon made one last comment for Jim's ears only.
"We're coming, Ellison. You keep it all together. We're about a half mile away. Five of us on foot. All armed. I hope to God you just heard that."
Jim coughed in response and Simon grinned. Somehow, they'd get through this.
Boudinot pointed the gun at Jim and told him to sit in the chair opposite Blair. Knowing that the others were coming, he did as he was told, letting her tie him up. He didn't take his eyes off her, but whenever he could, he stole the odd glance at the still sleeping Blair. Whatever that sedative was, it was affecting him badly. In and out of consciousness, he wasn't really sure where he was or what was going on. Eventually, he opened his eyes again and was very surprised to see Jim in front of him.
"Jim? Is it really you?"
"No, it's the bogeyman," Jim replied softly.
"I knew it," Blair managed to grin, "all that green slime that's around the loft..."
"That's bogeyman, Sandburg, not Booger Man."
"Oh." Blair fought to keep his eyes open, concentrating hard on his lover. Boudinot had left them alone for a few minutes so that she could finish her preparations. "She's been in that side room a lot," Blair whispered. "I think that she's got something in there."
Jim listened to her and heard her open something, then curse. Her footsteps approached them and she entered the room, knife in one hand, gun in the other. They were both surprised to see her in a full-scale wedding dress.
"You," she said to Jim, "are going to do something for me."
"What if I don't want to?" Jim challenged.
Boudinot held the knife to his face, but Jim just glared back at her. She turned to Blair and held the knife to his face instead.
"I don't really want to do this," she said, "but I will cut his face if you don't do as I ask."
"Don't do it, man," Blair urged, afraid that when she got what she wanted from Jim, she'd kill him.
"Quiet!" she ordered, pricking Blair's cheek with the blade till blood started to run.
Blair barely flinched, but Jim cried out, "Okay, I'll do it. What is it?"
"That's better. Don't want to see your baby bleeding, do you?" she drawled.
"Of course not!"
She undid Jim's ropes from behind, holding her gun to his head so that he wouldn't move. She kept it trained on him as she inched backwards towards Blair. Blair could do nothing to stop her as his feet and hands were bound to the wheelchair that he was still in. Then she held the gun to Blair's temple.
"Stand up slowly," she said, Jim following her orders to the letter. "Go to the door."
He moved and she kicked off the brake from the chair. With a grunt, she pushed it, starting it rolling with one hand and her opposite foot.
"No funny business or I will kill him."
Jim nodded. He noticed how her hand dropped so that she could hold the chair with both hands, whilst keeping hold of the gun. It was awkward, but somehow she was managing it. Her other hand still had the knife. The woman looked like she was on her way to a Mafiosi wedding.
"Go into the next room," she said and he stepped through the doorway.
He saw a large chest freezer, the lid open. He looked inside and saw a body, lying curled up, almost in a foetal position. It was intact, but a bullet hole between the eyes showed him the quite obvious cause of death. Jim observed that it had been fired at a fair distance as the peripheral damage wasn't too huge, the burns to the skin less than if they'd been inflicted at close range. Then he scolded himself for even thinking about that at that moment. It wouldn't have mattered to the unfortunate Mr. Leitz either way. The poor guy was just as dead. Jim saw that he'd been cleaned up and put in what he realised what the man's wedding outfit.
"Pick him up and take him outside," she ordered.
He shivered with horror, but did as he was told, somehow manoeuvring the frozen corpse until it was over his shoulder. He wondered how she had managed to do this on her own. Even before freezing, the man was well over her weight. He struggled under the combined weight of body and ice and stumbled out of the back door. There was a hole in the ground, large enough for two corpses to lie side by side. In each corner bar one, lay a pair of defrosting human hearts. She obviously planned for him and Blair to be the final additions to the 'decoration'.
"In the grave," she announced, yelling, "carefully!" as an afterthought. That nearly made both Jim and Blair laugh as it had been incongruous in the extreme.
He did as he was told, then moved to the tree next to the grave - also as instructed.
He listened out for Simon and the others and realised that they were still a little too far away.
"What are you going to do with us?" he demanded.
"Why," she said, "I'm going to join you two together forever. Won't that be lovely?"
"You're going to murder us in cold blood!" Blair yelled. "What's so lovely about that?"
She scowled at him, pointing the gun at Jim's head.
"Quiet! One more word and I'll kill him."
"You're going to do that anyway, what difference does it make?" Jim retorted.
"Nononononononono! You do NOT act like this."
Blair grinned and winked at Jim. He whispered as low as he could, "I've got an idea, man. Play along."
A small nod from Jim told him that his message had been received and understood.
"What makes you think that I want to be with him forever? Huh?"
She froze, then turned slowly to face Blair.
"WHAT?" she screamed.
"Aw, come on. You know what us guys are like. Here today, gone tomorrow. I mean, what he and I have is great and all, but forever? Puh-lease. I'd have to be some kind of schmuck to think that, wouldn't I?"
"Yeah," Jim agreed. "He's cute and all, but when those long locks of his go, I'm out of here."
"Same here. No hair, no Blair. And seein' as I'm working on wearing his hair out with it rubbing on the headboard..."
She let out a howl.
"NO! You will not do this! You are in love!"
"I love him, sure," Blair said, he'd have shrugged if he could. "What's not to like? But that's for now."
Jim kept listening into Simon, who had by now got close enough to hear what was going on. //"We're nearly with you,"// Jim heard. //"Keep her busy for a couple of minutes."// Jim coughed again in acknowledgement.
Boudinot was frantic now, she needed a loving couple or all of this would be for nothing. Where would she find one today?
"You must love each other," she urged.
Then Jim picked a fight with Blair.
"Sure. I really love the fact that I have to attack the sink with a plunger every time he washes his hair. It's worse than keeping a Labrador."
"What about you?" Blair howled back. "Colour-coded Tupperware? I ask you. Who does that in this day and age? He's a throwback to the fifties housewives!"
Back and forth, they traded insults, trying not to laugh at the silliness of the whole thing. She moaned 'nonononono' constantly, getting louder and louder by the minute. When Simon and the others came crashing out of the trees, it took her a few seconds to react.
"NO!" she screamed at the top of her voice. Then she pointed her gun at Blair. "I won't let you stop me!" and she pulled the trigger.
It happened in a flash. Simon, at her scream, raised his rifle and took aim. Jim, as soon as he realised that she was no longer pointing the gun at him, dived for Blair who was still stuck in the wheelchair. As she fired, Jim landed on top of him, knocking them both to the ground. Simon fired almost simultaneously and Boudinot joined her late lover and her trophies in the grave.
"J'm? C'n ou g't ff m no?"
"Huh?" Jim realised that he was covering Blair's face so he rolled off him and then yelled in pain.
"JIM? What's wrong, man? Did she shoot you?"
Jim slowly stood up as the others came crashing out of the forest and up to them. He put his hand behind his back and felt something wet.
Rafe lifted Blair back up in the chair and Caitlin and Megan quickly started to undo him. As soon as he was loose, he leapt forward, nearly lost his footing as his dead legs started to come back to life and turned to look at Jim's back. Blood was covering his light-coloured trousers.
"Jim, did she shoot you?"
"Um, no," Jim admitted, then he pointed to the ground. Her knife had been lying there, ready for use on Blair. Jim had rolled onto it and nicked his ass.
"Your ass?" Blair sniggered as Jim informed him where it hurt.
"Hey, this is a genuine 'in the line of duty' injury. One I got for saving your ass, Blair dear," he sneered.
The others tried not to laugh but failed.
"My hero," Blair said in a high-pitched voice, then he pushed Jim inside the house to see what he could find to cover up the cut.
Outside, the others were at once stricken with disgust at the grave scene and desperation not to laugh when they heard, 'Get off my ass, Sandburg!' coming from the open door to the cabin. Blair's reply of 'That's not what you said last night, big guy,' finished them off.
Simon agreed to them taking the time off and Blair typed up their reports in record time. It was still late that evening when after a quick trip home for a change of clothes and a few things, they pulled into the hotel's car park.
Mrs. De Witt was waiting for them in the lobby.
"Gentlemen, are you all right?" she asked as they entered.
"We're fine," Blair said, then informed her of the news. They'd been checked out by the police doctor, found out that it had been a form of liquid Valium in Blair's system - to which he replied that he never took that because he was never really with it all day. It explained why he'd been drifting in and out of consciousness.
"We were wondering," Jim said, "would it be possible for us to stay in the suite for a couple of days?"
"Honeymoon, gentlemen?" she asked with a smile.
Jim looked almost shyly at Blair and said, "Yeah. Honeymoon - of a sort."
"Then stay, with my blessing," she replied. "Shall I send some food up to you tonight? You don't look like you want to go anywhere."
"That would be perfect, thank you," Blair answered for them both. She asked them to wait a moment, then handed them a menu that she fetched from the dining room.
"Just call down and order whatever you want. It's on the house. I'm a sucker for a happy ending."
Blair kissed her one cheek, Jim kissed her other. With a 'be off with you', she sent them upstairs.
Dinner had been wonderful. They'd chosen foods with a specific purpose in mind. The starter had been pâté on a sesame toast, which had been eaten in front of the roaring fire on the floor; fed by hand - Jim to Blair, Blair to Jim.
The main course, a seafood salad - again fed in the same way, this time with both participants naked and adding a little spice to the matter in hand.
Naturally, dessert had been most interesting. With a small bandage and a couple of stitches, Jim was finding sitting or lying on his backside painful, so Blair told him to kneel on all fours. This he did and found that the dessert that Blair wanted to eat was trickled slowly down his spine. Blair loved chocolate mousse 'sur Ellison'. By the time he got to Jim's ass, he had only a little left. He scooped it out of the bowl with his finger and then pressed it against Jim's hole. Then he licked. Jim nearly went into orbit and Blair fell about laughing. He did it again when he'd regained control and loved the response he got. Eventually, and much to his chagrin, it was gone.
"My turn now, Chief," Jim growled. "On your back."
Blair lay on his back, looked up at Jim with a wicked smile on his face and said, "I'm going to have to give you a sponge bath later, James. You aren't allowed to shower until the stitches come out. I told you that you shouldn't have sat on the way back to the Precinct."
"How else was I supposed to go there, eh?" Jim asked as he picked up the bowl with his own choice of dessert. A fruit salad with a liqueur syrup. He looked back down at Blair, bent over and kissed where she'd cut him as if to take away the hurt, then knelt back up.
"Well, I did suggest a method, Jim, but you weren't keen," Blair sniggered.
Jim held back the laugh that he wanted to let out and said, "I told you. Going back there on all fours in the back of Simon's car would be asking for trouble."
"Instead you opened the cut up again and they had to stitch it to make sure it wouldn't reopen. Don't blame me."
Jim didn't blame him. He did, however, pick up a strawberry by the hull and dipped it into the sticky syrup, then he drew it down Blair's chest. Blair was already hard, but not aching till this point. Jim's tongue, licking up the syrup made his dick jump violently. When Jim squashed the strawberry and spread it over Blair's chest, the younger man thought he'd die.
Banana pieces squashed into Blair's thighs, kiwi into his arm, passion fruit over his abdomen; Jim followed each daubing with a lick and bite, holding his lover down every time he jumped with pleasure.
"God, man, I love you," Blair gasped every so often.
"Will you stay with me forever, Blair?" Jim asked softly, dipping his finger into the remaining syrup.
"Always. Never going to leave you." Jim smiled as he heard that, but his smile turned into an annoyed scowl when he continued, "Even if you are a touch obsessed with Tupperware."
When he looked at Blair's eyes again though, his scowl turned to mock anger. He was a sucker for the mischief in Blair's eyes and he knew it. However, he had some pride. Not much... but he kept what he could.
"Oh, it's like that is it, Sandburg?"
Blair laughed. Then he gasped when Jim dropped the syrup over the length of his cock and went down. Jim thought he'd zone on him, the taste and scent of Blair was foremost, even through the sweet alcohol flavour of the syrup. Jim knew that just as Blair's heartbeat was something that he would pick out of a crowd, his scent and his flavour would be there for him in his memory for life.
Jim saw that a bowl of cream sat on the tray to the side and he grinned. He pulled it over to him, dipped his fingers in it and then used it as a lube, pushing inside Blair without a 'by your leave'. Blair pushed back, grinding down on his fingers with a groan.
"Doitdoitdoit," Blair chanted.
Jim continued to thrust with his fingers, all the while sucking and licking until he got his reward. A quick stroke of the happy button and Blair went into meltdown.
He was still panting when Jim started to get up.
"Blair, I want you, I can't wait," Jim said.
"Do it, man," Blair ordered. "I'm clean, promise. Never gone bareback in my life."
"Aw, Chief," Jim replied. "Same here, but this is the ultimate thing. The last step. The highest mountain. The big kahuna. The head honcho. The .."
"Shut the fuck up and fuck me will you Ellison!"
So he did.
Unwilling to get a crick in his back, Blair rolled onto his stomach and waggled his ass, making Jim laugh.
"Is that supposed to be an invitation, Blair?" he asked as he got into position. With an extra dollop of the cream plastered to him he pushed in.
"It's working," Blair replied. "Don't knock it ah God that feels good."
"Better than okay. Amazing. Stupendous. Move it, will you?"
Blair pushed up onto his knees and back. Jim leant down and forward. They met in the middle and Jim did what he'd been dreaming of for a long time. He moved. So did the earth.
"I don't fucking believe it," Blair complained, as he stood outside the building, shivering from the cold as he'd only had time to barely throw a single layer of clothes on. He was glad he'd found his jeans though. Going outside in his boxers would have been a bit embarrassing.
"Who'd have thought it, Chief? An earthquake. I've heard of the earth moving but that's fucking ridiculous."
"Ah, it was only a little one," Blair shrugged.
Jim grinned. "You of all people should know that sometimes it's the little ones that do the most damage."
The roof of the hotel had been a bit damaged in the tremor and Mrs. De Witt was reluctant to allow anyone inside until she'd had someone check it over. With a sigh, Jim checked his jacket pocket, discovered that he had his keys to the loft on him, so he said, "Let's go home, Chief."
Blair smiled, hooked his arm out so that Jim could slip his through it, and he started walking to the truck.
"Yeah, Jim. Let's go home. Looks like the honeymoon's over."
"Not over, Chief," came the reply. "Not for a long, long time."