From Black to Grey
J L Blackstone
Jim stared out the window in the break room. ‘Blair’s plane would be taking off just about now,’ he thought as he drank his coffee without even tasting it. He suddenly turned and poured the coffee into the sink with utter disgust.
He left the break room, completely oblivious to the wary looks that were being thrown his way by the various personnel he passed on his way to Major Crime.
Word had already gotten around that Sandburg had gone out of town. It hadn’t been necessary, the dark expression on Ellison’s face telling everybody what they needed to know when he reported for work this morning. And that was only forty-seven minutes and 32 seconds ago.
Jim turned his attention to the half a dozen open cases he had to pour through. Unless a call came in all he had to look forward to for the next couple of days was the two week backlog of paperwork.
Simon walked into the bull room in an unusually good mood. The smile on the handsome face wilted slightly as he looked around the bullpen and realized that there wasn’t anyone to fully appreciate his good humor. The place was filled with only a handful of the crowd of people that normally filled the bustling department during daytime hours. His gaze settled on the brown head that was currently buried in a file that was two inches thick.
“Ellison, my office.”
Jim blinked as he looked up at the order. He was rubbing the back of his neck tiredly as he walked into his boss’ office. “What’s up Simon?”
Simons eyebrows arched. “Was there a bomb threat or holiday that I wasn’t informed of, Detective?”
Confusion filled the light blue eyes of the tall detective. “Huh…you’ve lost me, sir.”
Banks gestured in the direction of the bullpen, “Where is everybody, Jim?”
Jim turned towards the bullpen and frowned, realizing that the place was deserted. “They were here earlier…”
“Oh and when was that?” Simon asked.
“I reported to duty at 8.”
“I see the Ellison charm has done it’s work once again,” Simon sarcastically remarked.
“Hey! Why are you blaming this on me?”
“Because I’ve known you for six years.” He stared silently at the tall man. “Sandburg get to the airport okay?”
“Yes. He called me when he arrived.” Jim wasn’t going to tell his boss that his partner sounded pissed as hell--at him. The underlying irritation that had been present in his lover’s voice for the last couple of weeks amplified by the call that he’d ordered Blair to make.
Banks stared thoughtfully at the tall man, noting the shadows under his friend’s eyes. “Run this by me again. Why isn’t your butt in the seat next to Sandburg right now?”
Ellison’s face hardened at the question.
“You have plenty of vacation…”
“That’s not why.”
“What is it then? Did you two have a fight?” Simon asked concerned. He’d been keeping an eye on the two men since Blair’s kidnapping and had noticed a certain uneasiness in their relationship but not anything he could put his finger on exactly. There was just a growing distance between the two men that hadn’t been there before.
“Not exactly.” Jim walked over to the window and looked out, not really seeing anything but how Blair’s eyes looked last night as he was packing.
“I can’t explain it better than I already have, Jim,” Blair said as he folded a pair of jeans and put it in his carry on bag.
Jim’s eyes followed his lover’s path from the dresser and back to the suitcase, this time with socks.
“I don’t need a babysitter.” Blair zipped up the carry on with a sense of finality. He walked past Jim carrying the bag and down the stairs where he left it by the front door. He walked slowly back up the stairs knowing that Jim was going to be in the exact same place that he’d been in for the last two hours, leaning on the wooden banister at the top of the stairs by the nightstand. “Are you going to spend all night there?” he asked unable to keep the irritation out of his voice.
Blair shook his head in disgust as Jim just continued to silently look at him. Trying to make him feel even more guilty. Well he can just forget it. “I’m going to bed. Do whatever you want.”
He had barely managed to pull off the t-shirt before he felt the heat of a warm body pressed up behind him as he was thoroughly embraced by strong arms. Blair sighed and tilted his head to rest back on Jim’s shoulder, the tension slipping away as he did so. Long minutes passed in which nothing was said.
A kiss on the nape of Blair’s neck caused a shiver to run down his spine. He knew what Jim wanted but he wasn’t in the mood. He’d been studying for the last two weeks and…but that wasn’t the real reason. They had been using sex way too often as a way to resolve their differences lately. Even he had to agree with his therapist that it wasn’t healthy. It was his fault though, not Jim’s. He just found it much easier to use his body to show what he was feeling rather than talk about it. He snorted, unaware that he’d done it aloud until Jim spoke by his ear.
“What’s so funny?”
“Me. Not wanting to talk.”
Jim nodded against the side of Blair’s head, the soft curls tickling his nose with the movement. “I do understand,” he whispered. He slowly turned Blair around so he could meet the deep blue eyes. “I don’t like it. But I do understand.” And he did as much as he hated to admit it, he knew why his lover had told him that he was not invited to go with him to D.C.
“He didn’t want me to go.” The words were said so softly that Simon almost didn’t hear them.
Jim sighed as he turned to face the tall black man. “He wanted to get away -- from me.”
Simon looked down, not knowing what to say. Even a blind man could see that Sandburg had become increasingly frustrated with Ellison’s overprotective behavior since the kidnapping. He was surprised that the kid’s patience had lasted this long considering the detective’s behavior during the Buckley case, when he had ordered Sandburg off the case and home in front of the entire team like some child. Even now he winced at the memory of Blair’s face and the expression of utter betrayal he’d thrown at Ellison before he left.
“I know Simon. Damn it! I can’t seem to get a handle on this overprotectiveness I feel around Blair. I don’t want him to ever get hurt again.”
Simon sat down and leaned back with an knowing expression. “I empathize with you, Jim. Everyone feels that way about their loved ones, especially cops. We’re suppose to protect others from harm. When it’s our own who are hurt we feel guilty. For your information, Sandburg didn’t need to get away from just you.” Banks cut off what Jim was about to say.
“Oh you’re a big part of it in ways I think you don’t even realize. I know something happened to Sandburg while in Thornton’s custody. It’s for Blair to decide if it’s any of my business. What is my business is the conduct of the personnel in my department. There was no way I could call you on it at the time without making it worse for the kid but if you ever pull the stunt you did during the Buckley case again, your ass will be stuck behind a desk till you’re up for retirement. Are we clear on that, Detective?”
Ellison winced, knowing he was lucky. If it had been anyone else it would be a formal reprimand on his record. He nodded and waited, something telling him that his boss wasn’t finished.
“Everyone has noted your behavior, Jim. I’ve even caught myself trying to treat Sandburg with kid gloves but I stopped in time…He’s a grown man, one of my men--trained not only to protect himself but others. Treating him like some green rookie isn’t the answer to getting things back to normal.”
Jim had stiffened at Banks’ words. The ache in his gut increasing as Simon confirmed the accusations Blair had leveled at him. He knew that his actions were serving to only undermine Blair in the eyes of the other cops. And he didn’t even want to think about the Buckley debriefing.
“…All eyes are on you. Everyone is taking your cue and treating Sandburg like some kid who needs protecting from the big bad criminals. You’re not doing him any favors. No wonder Sandburg needed some time off. Hell if I was him, I wouldn’t have put up with it--especially as long as he has. I would’ve told your butt off weeks ago.” Simon stopped and took a deep breath, noting the remorse in the pale blue eyes.
“I know Simon. Don’t you think I know how much I’ve screwed up. Even as I’m doing it, I’m kicking myself but I just can’t seem to stop.”
The silence blared loud after Ellison’s declaration.
Simon sighed and shook his head slightly. “Then you’ve got a big problem. You’ve got to get some control or you’re going to lose him, Jim.” He stared steadily at his best detective for a few seconds before continuing. “However, I have no plans on losing my Special Forensic Consultant. Am I making myself clear, Detective?”
“Yes, sir.” Jim gave a stiff nod before turning on his heel and exiting the office, knowing a dismissal when he heard it. He slumped back into the chair at his desk. His eyes once again going towards the window, wondering where Blair was and if he was safe.
Jim walked into the quiet loft. Blair had only been gone a day and already it seemed too long. The silence was eerily reminiscent of that horrible day when he’d come home after Blair had been kidnapped.
He shoved the terrible memories away. Blair wasn’t gone for good--at least not yet. He was just out of town to get his certification in forensic anthropology. The assurances didn’t do much to ease the ache in his chest but it was all that he could come up with alone in the emptiness.
Jim glanced around as he walked over to the answering machine to playback the messages. His mood lightened as the cheerful voice transmitted from the tiny speaker. “Hey Jim, just thought I’d call and leave you a message at home. I already told you my room number, 374.…”
He stared intently at the machine, clearly hearing the underlying tension in Blair’s voice as well as the rapid heartbeat that was recorded by the tape.
“I need to see if I can do this, Jim. I need to know once and for all. I know I’m not making any kind of sense.”
Jim gave a small sad smile.
“It’s just something I feel I have to do. Um, I miss you. Keep out of trouble.”
He stood for a few seconds more listening to the dull sound of the dial tone before starting slightly as it abruptly cut off and the silence descended once again. Jim glanced at the kitchen but turned away. He didn’t feel like eating. He slowly strode up the stairs, for once grateful to his heightened senses which would enable him to smell Blair on the sheets of their bed for the five nights he’d be in D. C.
The detectives assigned to Major Crime breathed a collective sigh of relief when Jim Ellison walked into the bullpen smiling.
“Hey guys and girls. How’s it going?” Jim asked as he made his way to his desk.
“Doing good.” Brown was the first one to respond, edging his way cautiously towards the tall Detective who’d just sat down. He settled down in the visitor’s chair to the side of Ellison’s desk, facing him. “Hairboy back?”
Jim shook his head, the smile broadening as he looked down at the case file. “Nope.”
“Uh, hmm.” H exchanged a couple of glances with the other detectives over his shoulders. Megan shrugged, she hadn’t heard anything.
“Good to have you back, man. That’s all I have to say.” Brown stood and walked away, leaving a stunned Ellison.
Jim looked around the room. “Oh, come on. I wasn’t that bad,” he protested. Everyone diplomatically refused to respond and the bustling activity that had halted at his entrance curiously started up again.
‘Okay so maybe I am that bad,’ Jim thought. He was still smiling as he began typing the list of suspect names into the system, looking for any priors.
Strange as it seemed, his good mood was on account of an early morning phone call. He had finally gotten to sleep after restlessly tossing and turning for most of the night. Completely dumbfounded that he’d already gotten unused to sleeping alone. The emptiness on the right side of the bed achingly felt in a way he’d never experienced before.
The jarring ringing was way too close to his hear. “Yeah!” he growled into the receiver after snatching it from the base just to shut up the noise. Only hard learned control keeping him from tossing it over the railing to the floor below, where with his luck it would continue to ring.
Jim could swear he could hear the smile in Blair’s voice and just knew that it was that particular wide innocent smile that Sandburg affected just to… “What are you wearing?”
Blair gave a short bark of laughter. “Never figured that you were the type for phone sex.”
“Only with you.”
Silence fell for a few seconds. “I wanted to call, hate to break up a long standing tradition.”
Jim absently nodded. He’d realized it as well. This was the first time they hadn’t woken up together since they began having sex. He wanted to ask how Blair was but didn’t. “What are your plans for today?”
“The written’s today. Starts at 10, short break for lunch. Should be finished by five.”
“Not really, okay a little. I know I have nothing to worry about. They’ve already reviewed the cases I’ve worked on and I’ve been studying. It’ll be tough but I think I’ll do all right. Actually I’m more worried about Monday.”
“You’ll do fine. If it’s one thing you know how to do, it’s talk.” Jim said before he could stop the harsh words. Not intending the negative connotation. Instantly worried at the silence that met his words. “Blair?”
“I still shiver when you say my first name, did I ever tell you that?”
An answering quiver shot through Jim’s prone body at the low husky tone.
Blair sighed. “I needed to be someplace where no one knows me. I’m tired, Jim. Really tired…”
“What of?” Jim finally asked after several long seconds, prompting him to continue although he dreaded the answer.
“You--how you look at me.”
Jim closed his eyes tightly as breathing suddenly became very difficult.
“I’ve come to terms with what happened. I’m ready to get on with my life. But I can’t. You won’t let me. Every time you look at me, I see it in your eyes.”
Jim hunched into the bed, the damning words ripping his heart into pieces bit by bit.
“I know you feel guilty, that you want to protect me but you look at me and that’s the only thing you see.”
Jim sat up and swung his legs off the bed, filled with the urge to move. He began pacing, his hand clenching the cordless phone as Blair continued.
“I want things to go back to normal. You back to normal. Jim Ellison the cop who once called me a neo-hippie witch punk. Who gets annoyed with me when I don’t pick up my towels in the bathroom, yells at me when he comes home to a kitchen in a mess on account of a new recipe….
“Okay, okay. I got it, Sandburg!” Jim cut off the tirade irritatingly.
“I want *us* back.”
Silence fell at the simple but profound words. Blair was the first one to break it. “I know there are some things that have changed due to the rape…”
Jim nodded, realizing that Blair was referring to his inability to perform oral sex since the incident in question.
“…but it doesn’t have to affect our whole life.”
Jim gave a deep exhale, feeling something loosen in his gut.
“I thought that this time apart would be good for both of us. I can’t believe I’m saying this, maybe I am deranged, but I want hard ass, stubborn Ellison back.”
Jim laughed, feeling the stress he’d been carrying around begin to slowly fade away.
“I want *me* back. Jim, you’re going to have to let go.”
He walked slowly down the stairs and towards the balcony. He heard the words, knew they were true. That it was the crux of his problem at the station and at home. But he didn’t want Blair to get hurt again, knew he wouldn’t be able to handle it. Didn’t want to even think about what would have happened if Brackett hadn’t appeared with the necessary intel to rescue Blair…
“What are you thinking?” Blair asked, concern clearly heard in his voice.
He ran his free hand through his hair, as he stared into his hardened tense reflection in the window. “Relieved,” he responded, surprised that he actually said it aloud.
“That you’re finally talking to me, even if you are on the other side of the country.”
Blair softly chuckled.
“And you’re right. Maybe this is the only way I can really hear what you are saying.”
“You were there when I needed you, Jim. I won’t ever forget that…without you I wouldn’t have made it. It’s just that now I’m ready…”
“…to get on with your life.”
“Not only mine--ours. I don’t want anything haunting us.”
Jim nodded. “I’ll be better, I promise.”
“Don’t be better. Just be yourself, not who you think you should be or who you think I want you to be. Get angry, yell at me when I piss you off. I can take it, Jim…you know I can.”
The latter words were whispered in a husky seductive tone that instantly made Ellison all too aware of his current aroused state.
Jim unconsciously made a noise into the receiver which made Sandburg laugh softly.
“You did this on purpose,” Jim accused his lover, although he was smiling as he voiced the stern words.
“Me, never.” Blair replied in a playful tone which made Jim’s heart lighten even more. It had been a long time since they had bantered back and forth with each other--way too long.
“I gotta go. Keep that warm for me till I get back.”
Jim shook his head, unbelievably. “Yeah, Sandburg. I’m sure it’ll go over real well in the bullpen,” he replied sarcastically as he looked down at his affliction.
“You never know…I love you.”
He stood stunned for several seconds listening to the dial tone. If he didn’t have heightened senses he would have imagined he heard the last three words. The three words that Blair rarely said aloud to him. A sense of hope filled him. They were going to make it…that is, if he could get himself under control.
Jim stood around the crime scene and tried to keep the boredom off his face. He’d already seen what he needed to, thanks to his heightened senses but forensics still needed to collect the evidence. He was listened with half an ear to what Simon was telling the reporters that had swarmed upon the scene only ten minutes after the police had arrived.
He snorted as he pictured them listening to the police band, just waiting for something miserable to occur so they could broadcast all the glorious suffering on the six o’ clock news.
Rafe crossed in front of him and nodded pointedly in the direction of a man standing at the back of the crowd of onlookers. Jim nodded. He’d already spotted the brown haired man wearing a brown leather jacket and faded blue jeans. The man seemed to be closely following every white labeled bag that the forensic team was removing from the pawn shop.
He glanced up at the sun which was trying to come out from behind the clouds, and wondered how Blair’s test was going. Almost on cue, his cell phone rang. “Ellison.”
A bright smile broke over his face at the recognized voice. “Sandburg.”
“Ah, you’re on the job, I take it?”
“Crime scene, we have another robbery.”
“Same M.O. as the others.”
Jim nodded, “Yeah. Cashier was pistol whipped to death this time.”
“Simon and I are working it.” Jim looked out over the crowd. “Test over? How do you think you did?”
“Yeah. No it wasn't as difficult as I thought.”
“Well, you have been cramming for the last couple of days, Chief.”
“You’ve got it down cold, ace.”
“Well, I still have the practical on Monday.”
“You’ll do fine…” Jim turned at the call of ‘Ellison’ from his left.
“Is that Simon?”
“Gotta go, Chief.”
“Okay, talk to you later.”
Jim ended the call and swiftly walked to Banks’ side. “Sir.”
“Let’s go.” Simon had seen Jim on the phone. “Anything important?” he asked as he slipped behind the wheel of the car.
“Sandburg. Thinks he nailed the written.” Jim responded as he buckled himself into the passenger seat.
“Good for him,” Simon smiled. He felt as much pride for Sandburg as if he was his own son. “I’m sure he’ll have no problem getting certified.”
“From your mouth to Sandburg’s ears,” Jim murmured softly.
Simon gave a sharp glance to the left, seeing the worried expression on his best detective’s face. “Jim?”
Jim shook his head silently. He was tired of thinking about it let alone talking about it.
“It doesn’t really matter if he doesn’t get the certification. Blair has proven his worth to the department ten times over, I have more than a dozen people in three different departments including IA, all willing to speak on his behalf to the City Council.”
Jim nodded. He really wasn’t worried about Blair failing. No what was bugging him was something that he’d heard in his lover’s voice during the call. Instinct told him that Blair had been thinking of something else during their brief conversation. Something that he knew Jim wouldn’t approve of.
He shrugged it off. ‘There was nothing he could do about it anyway.’
Simon glanced at the cold hard visage of his passenger and sighed. It seemed bastard Ellison was back.
Jim walked tiredly into the loft. The thought of another night sleeping alone depressed him. He didn’t bother turning on any lights, his heightened eyesight making the darkness as bright as day. A beer was opened more out of habit than need. He took a swig of beer as he made his way up the stairs.
He dropped his clothes on the floor, snorting silently at what Blair would have made of it if he were to see it. Jim sighed at the feel of the cool sheets against his body as he slipped into bed.
Jim laid for several moments just letting the smell of Blair wash over him. The depth of the loneliness he felt bringing home just how dependent he’d come on Blair. Within a week of his moving into the loft, the anthropologist had managed to get so deeply under his skin that he’d known that getting rid of him would have been nigh on to impossible.
Fear based decisions. If Sandburg only knew.
He threw the top sheet off in disgust and began to pace agitatedly beside the bed. He wondered what Blair was doing right now. His mind instantly going back to their last phone conversation; the nervousness he heard in Blair’s voice. Somehow he didn’t buy that it was only due to the two tests. He also couldn’t stop worrying about his personal safety. D. C. had four times the crime than Cascade. It was the one thing cops always dreaded. A family member, especially a spouse being killed in one of the multitude random acts of violence. A simply mugging, robbery--just being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
After all that Blair had managed to live through relatively unscathed, it would be the ultimate irony for him to be killed walking down the street. He had to stop thinking of this…
Jim shook his head, wondering why it was so hard for him to get over this. It wasn’t like Blair had never been kidnapped before, he’d been shot, hell he’d even died. Why the hell was he taking this so personally? Okay, Blair had been assaulted. Raped. But that still didn’t explain his recent behavior.
Rationally, he knew that Blair was more than able to protect himself. Sandburg had picked up fighting skills that rivaled his special ops training by hanging around Jamie Williams and his boxer friends. Most of them were from the streets, where the only rule was survival.
Mentally he knew this, however whenever he thought of Blair at a crime scene, or anywhere close to a suspect in any sort of dangerous situation, his heart would freeze up. It couldn’t go on. He’d known this even before his reprimand from Simon yesterday.
The desire to talk to Blair suddenly seized him. He actually went over and picked up the cordless phone from the nightstand but froze after punching the first number. What would he say that he hadn’t said before when Blair had accused him of deliberately undermining him during the Buckley briefing? ‘Actions speak louder than words,’ was the common trite phrase.
He got into bed, suddenly enervated.
How protective was too protective? Answer: when it got somebody injured or--killed.
Once again the blaring sound of the phone woke Jim. His eyes flew wide open, his brain catching up only a second later in identifying the cause of the annoying ringing. He looked down at his right hand not really surprised to realize that he’d fallen asleep with it in his hand.
“Ellison,” he spoke into the receiver after punching the talk button. At least that was what he was attempting to say when he uncontrollably yawned in the middle causing it to come out something like “Ell…son.”
He paused expecting to hear a voice but there was nothing. Only the well-known heartbeat which he’d been lucky enough to hear as he fell asleep for the last year and a half.
Some instinct kept Jim from speaking, letting Blair have the time he seemed to need. He pushed down the instant anxiety he felt at not being able to embrace his lover, sensing that Blair was upset.
“Talk to me.” The words were said so softly that without his heightened hearing, Jim would never have heard them.
Jim’s forehead wrinkled in concern but none of that was detectable in his voice as he began to casually tell his partner about the cases he’d worked today, who he ate lunch with and who won this week’s pool. He could sense Blair slowly relaxing as he spoke about the ordinariness of the day.
An easy silence fell as Jim finished. He heard a deep sigh and the sounds of someone slowly undressing on the other side of the line.
He didn’t know if Blair wanted to still hear his voice, or if it would just set him off so Jim said nothing and listened to his lover getting undressed, picturing what Blair looked like as each item of clothing was taken off and probably thrown on the floor.
Jim unconsciously relaxed against the railing as he heard the corresponding sound of Blair relaxing down on the bed. Moving as he heard his lover move until he was settled back lying down with his head on his pillow.
Although Jim wore a puzzled frown as he ended the call after hearing Sandburg hang up, he had no problem falling asleep. The remembered heartbeat lulling him into a restful slumber.
He slowly woke and immediately turned on his right side, his left arm moving to embrace the warm body sleeping beside him. Jim’s eyes flew open as he encountered only emptiness. His hand slid slowly across the cool sheet before he fell back to lay flat on his back. ‘Blair was still in D.C.’
He laid staring at the ceiling and wondered what Blair was doing right now? Probably eating since it was around lunchtime on the east coast. ‘Damn! How he missed him.’
The call last night was worrisome, leaving him in the state of mind that was all too familiar since the kidnapping. Frustrated anxiety.
Something had happened, he didn’t know what, maybe just a panic attack but something had upset Blair, of that he was dead certain. Before all this he would have known what it was, but nowadays he had no clue what was going on in the beautiful intelligent head of his best friend and lover.
Okay so maybe that was his fault. Cutting Sandburg down during the briefing on the Buckley case was just one example and not even the worst. He winced as he thought back on the last couple of weeks, ever since Carolyn’s visit. Blair had seemed to be doing so well, handling everything, that is until…
He threw the blankets off and stood up. Jim immediately began to pace beside the bed. He had to stop, that was all there was to it. If he didn’t stop pulling all the highhandedness crap, Blair was going to leave. Not the department and hell maybe not even the loft, but definitely his bed.
Jim sat heavily down on the bed, utterly despondent. ‘But would he be able to stop?’
He straightened up and surveyed his handiwork. Light blue eyes focused in on the shower faucet, thrilled when nothing happened. The annoying drip that had been bugging them every night for weeks was gone.
Jim mentally scratched it off the list of the number of things around the loft that he’d been meaning to do for weeks now. He stepped out of the bathroom and looked around at the pristine apartment. Dismay filled him as he realized that he’d run out of things to do.
He’d already tightened the handles on the cabinet that were loose as well as oiling the hinges on the doors. His mind frantically searched for something that he had yet to do, so he wouldn’t have to think--no worry about Blair or his own behavior.
Blair’s study! He’d learned his lesson about tidying up his lover’s desk and papers but ever since he and Blair had started babysitting Jamie on nights when Steven went out on dates, he’d been making up the twin bed that he’d bought for his niece.
Jim absently straightened up the slightly rumpled comforter before sitting heavily on the bed, facing the desk overrun with a myriad of papers.
Outwardly it seemed as if nothing had really changed in Sandburg’s life, at least if one judged by the state of his lover’s desk. It looked as it did when Sandburg was working on his thesis and teaching classes at Rainier--utter chaos.
Jim sighed. Everything was going well, career-wise for Sandburg right now and when his partner got his certification as a forensic anthropologist there’d be no stopping him. Nothing that is…but him.
He stood up and walked out of the small room, carefully closing the door behind him. The rumble of his stomach reminding him that he hadn’t had anything to eat but a bagel and some coffee this morning.
He’d fix himself something to eat and try to watch some tv. That should use up a couple of hours…
Ellison had just opened the refrigerator to decide what he was going to make when the doorbell rang. His heightened senses immediately identified the sight and sound of the three individuals on the other side of the door, he was quickly walking towards. Frowning as he threw open the door with more force than he intended.
“Hey Jim! ‘Bout time, man. The pizza was getting cold.” Detective Brown didn’t even wait and walked in past the tall man, seemingly oblivious to the stern look on his “host’s” face.
Rafe gave an apologetic half shrug before following his partner, leaving Joel to explain their presence.
“Hey, Jim. Thought you could use some company. We just finished our shift. Hope you haven’t eaten. I’m starved,” Joe babbled as he made his way over to the others.
Jim stared solemnly at the three men huddled around the coffee table eating pizza and drinking the beer that one of them had commandeered from “his” refrigerator. He shook his head in disbelief and slowly shut the door. The small bemused smile on his handsome face seen by no one.
Jim handed the beer to Simon before settling down beside the black man on the couch. Banks had arrived just as the impromptu poker game had broken up. Only Connor remained.
A grin spread over Jim’s face as he listened to the redhead curse in a heavy Australian accent inside the bathroom. He stood and walked over to the bathroom door. “Problems, Connor?”
“Need more toilet paper. Ran out.” The latter words were spoken in an embarrassed tone.
Jim tried to make his voice as innocent as possible but evidently wasn’t very successful in keeping out the note of laughter. “Really, I was sure there was enough on that roll to last more than a week.”
“Listen Ellison, you bloody drongo. You might like stuff up your bum but I certainly don’t!”
Jim could no longer contain his laughter and chortled. Simon’s echoing laughter joining easily with his, carrying throughout the loft.
“Who the ‘ell is that?”
Ellison constrained himself and finally let Meghan off the hook, or toilet as it were. “Left bottom cabinet opposite the sink.” He walked back to the living room still laughing softly, not at all insulted at the remark about his sexuality. Hell, Connor had called him worse even before he and Sandburg had gotten together.
Simon shook head slightly. He didn’t know what Connor had called Jim but he was sure it wasn’t an endearment. The razzing between the two hadn’t let up much since they had first met each other. They were just too much alike really. “It was Sandburg’s idea, you know,” said Simon, indicating with a gesture of the beer bottle in Jim’s direction as the other man resumed his seat beside him on the couch.
“Ordered the gang to keep you company while he was in D.C., although,” Simon looked around at the spotless loft, every available flat surface gleamed even in the dim light, “I’m afraid that we’re too late.”
Jim caught his boss’ survey of the loft and snorted softly. He suddenly stood and walked over to look out the balcony, his back to Simon. “He knows me too damn well.”
Simon nodded. He wondered if the other man knew how lucky he was? Sandburg knew Jim backwards and forwards, the good and the bad--and still loved him. Accepted him body and soul. Most cops were divorced. It was a hard life, in some ways harder for the spouses because they had to live with the uncertainty that their husband or wife wasn’t coming home.
That was why he was taking it slow with Amy. Amy already knew the risks, having been his nurse after he was shot in an attempted robbery--off duty. Hopefully it would work out with Amy, not fall apart like it did with Joan. His focus switched back to the tall man silently staring out the window. “How are you doing, Jim?”
Jim had just turned to answer Simon when the bathroom door opened with a bang.
“Evening, Captain. What did I miss?” Meghan cheerfully asked, picking up her drink and sitting down in the armchair. “How’s Sandy doing?”
“He’s doing fine. Said he was going to do some sightseeing today, the Lincoln Memorial, the Supreme Court.”
“Good, it sounds like he’s having some fun. He deserves it.”
Jim gave a slight nod of agreement at Simon’s sentiment. He had no intention of mentioning the sadness that he’d picked up beneath his lover’s jovial tone. At least not in front of Connor. He was surprised to be jolted from his reverie by the tall redhead standing up and wishing Simon good night.
He walked her to the door and thanked her for coming over in as solicitous manner that he could affect, garnering him yet another “bugger off” from the attractive woman. That made it a total of seventy-eight bugger offs. She was the only one besides Blair that he went out of his way to tease mercilessly.
Jim sauntered slowly back into the room and resumed his place looking out at the bay through the balcony windows.
A comfortable silence fell as both men unconsciously relaxed in the dim light. It was hard to find others who understood the cop mentality so most of them stuck to their own, forming “a cloistered society” Sandburg had once remarked that rejected outsiders.
Sandburg however, had breached the gap and made it. He was now considered one of them. Hell, he was one of the “elite.” Jim mentally snorted at the thought. He definitely was more popular than him.
He sighed, as he felt the heaviness that he’d been able to ignore for most of the evening descend once again.
“Jim?” Simon had been resting his eyes.
“I need him, Simon.”
Simon sat up stiffly, too shocked at the bald-faced admission from the normally reticent man to reply.
“I never wanted to *need* anyone, let alone…” Jim shook his head stiffly back and forth. “He doesn’t need me, Simon.”
Simon suddenly stood and walked over to the dark still figure. “You’re wrong. Sandburg…Blair needs you more than you know. Both of you need the other. I remember what he was like before. He was alone, Jim. As alone as you can be in this world. As alone as you were…”
Jim turned and met Simon’s eyes for a second before looking back out at the water.
“Is that why you’ve been acting like a horse’s ass?” Simon asked as he joined Jim at looking out at the bay.
A slight shrug was Jim’s initial response, before he turned slightly, sighing as he walked back towards couch where he sat heavily down. “I don’t know, maybe….probably. I have to make up for…failing to…”
Simon turned back concerned at the desperation in Ellison’s voice. “Failing? Dammit Jim, you didn’t fail!”
“Yes I did!” Jim yelled. “Brackett saved Blair. He warned me about Thornton but I didn’t listen. I failed and Blair paid the price!” Jim stopped suddenly and turned away, shielding his face from his old friend. Damn! He’d come close to blurting out that Blair had been raped.
“Jim,” Simon began in a low gentle voice, “sit down.”
The seriousness underlying Simon’s voice pulled Jim back to sit in the armchair where he could meet his boss’ eyes.
“I know something happened to Sandburg while he was in Thornton’s custody. I can guess the nature of it.” He waved away Jim’s attempt to speak. “I saw how the kid was on his first days back at the station. Flinching, sticking close by your side. But that terrified kid wasn’t Sandburg. He wasn’t the one who stood up to Kincaid, protected my son or…the one you feel in love with. Trying to keep him in the role of a victim isn’t the way to prevent him from leaving. You’re only driving him further away.”
Jim started to refute Simon’s words but stopped realizing that it was the truth. As twisted as it sounded, that had been exactly what he’d been unconsciously doing ever since Blair had excitedly told him about his upcoming certification and acting like his old self. Terror had gripped him that Blair was going to wake up to the fact that he didn’t need some old cop anymore, especially one that had failed to protect him on more than one occasion.
Simon watched the emotions flicker across the normally expressionless face. “Sandburg loves you Jim. Everyone but you can see it in every gesture, casual look. If he leaves it’s because you drove him away.” He slowly stood up and picked up his coat. “I’m going home now, since I see you have some thinking to do.”
Jim nodded and barely registered the sound of the front door opening and closing a few moments later.
The ringing didn’t startle him this time. Jim stared out the balcony from the same seated position he’d been in when Simon had left hours earlier. He’d been expecting it. He reached over and casually picked up the cordless phone from the end table.
The sound that instantly met his ears after punching ‘talk’ however did.
“Sandburg!” Blair was drunk. It was the only time his lover giggled. Something he had the misfortune to discover only three times before--all since the kidnapping of course.
“Damn it, Blair!” Jim began before cutting off the rest of his words as fear and anger surged through him at the thought of Blair drunk, alone in a strange city.
“Blair,” Jim tried to keep calm, “what the hell are you doing drinking? You have a test on Monday.” Appealing to his sense of responsibility never failed to bring Sandburg to his senses before.
Blair burped, “I know, Jim. I scheduled it.”
That didn’t sound so bad, pretty coherent, maybe…
Maybe not. “Celebrating what?” Jim inquired in a controlled tone.
Jim stilled, instantly heightening his hearing while automatically filtering out Blair’s laughter and the familiar heartbeat until he heard it…snoring.
“Who’s there with you, Blair?”
“My new friend, Ca..pbell. Sssshhhh, he’s sleeping.”
He glared down at the phone in disbelief. Jim unclenched his left hand which had tightened into a fist and took a deep breath. Wait till he got his hands on Sandburg…
“What’s he doing in your room?”
“My hotel was closer.”
Well he’d asked the question. Of course, Blair’s hotel was closer. ‘What his lover was doing with some strange man in his hotel room…’ Jim stopped that train of thought abruptly. He clenched his eyes and rubbed his forehead tiredly.
He took another calming breath before speaking. “Blair?”
“Huh?” Blair’s voice was distracted and the sounds of something being twisted was clearly discerned, almost as if his lover was opening something.
“What are you doing?”
“Trying…to…get…this…dumb thing….open!” The last words was punctuating with a thump and curse from Blair. Silence suddenly fell. “Blair? Sandburg!” Jim exhaled as he heard his lover suddenly return.
“I’m back!” Jim’s eyes narrowed as he heard the unmistakable sound of Blair drinking something. Something that left him sputtering. He shook his head in disgust. He was going to kill Sandburg.
“Miss you, Jim.” Jim shut his eyes tightly. He knew this was coming, knew it from the moment he realized that Blair was drunk. His lover always got maudlin when under the influence, nothing like the cheerful man that Jim had fallen hard for. This was the whole reason behind the call of course. He shook his head and leaned his head back against the couch.
“You sound tired, Chief. Why don’t you get some sleep.” Jim didn’t even want to think about the strange man that could be clearly heard snoring in the background, or what said man and Blair had done or were going to do while he sat worrying on the other side of the country.
“Sounds good,” Blair slurred.
“Good night, Blair.”
“Nigh….” Whatever Blair had been trying to say was lost as he passed out, leaving the line open. Well at least this way, he would be able to keep an eye--ear on Blair. Jim sighed and laid down on the couch. It was going to be a long night.
A long groan woke Jim this time. He blinked his eyes in the pale light of dawn to the pitiful moans emitting from the phone he was loosely holding down at his side. He moved it up to his ear just in time to hear, “Oh god, what the hell was I thinking?”
“Morning, Sunshine” Jim called in loud tone.
“Owww!!!” A slight pause then the sound of someone moving, “Jim??” Blair hesitatingly said in a low voice--very low.
“Aw, damn it…I called you didn’t I?”
Jim didn’t answer. He wanted to know just how much Blair remembered of the previous night.
“Did you…all night. That’s going to cost a fortune!”
“How else was I going to make sure you kept breathing through the night.”
Silence. Of course, this allowed for the background noise to be clearly heard, heightened hearing or not. The slow even breathing of the strange man still apparently sleeping off the night’s previous activities.
“Who’s the guy, Sandburg?” Jim could hear his lover turning away from the phone, presumably to look at the object under discussion. “Or do you even remember? Christ! Did you even get a name before you picked him up?!” His voice had gotten louder by the end but…damn it! He wanted some answers.
“Chill out, Jim. And lower your voice!” Blair inhaled sharply, probably wincing at the noise of his own voice on his aching head.
“His name is Campbell. He’s a fed. Profiler actually,” explained Blair as he apparently stood up and moved to the bathroom from the sound of running water. Jim pictured his partner throwing water on his face to try to clear out the fuzziness he was probably feeling from the hangover.
“What the hell is he doing in your room, Blair? What the hell do you think?”
“He needed a place to crash. My hotel was closer, I think. Anyway, why does it matter? Joel’s a good guy, just in a bad space right now. Something we have in common…”
Jim frowned at the bitter irony in his lover’s voice. So it was Joel, huh?
“Look Jim, I’m not in the mood to be cross-examined. My head is killing me. I’ll call you later, okay?”
He rubbed his forehead, attempting to ease some of the agitation he was feeling. Jim didn’t really want the conversation to end but he didn’t know what to say to prevent it without sounding unreasonable. He had no proof that Blair had done anything wrong, per se besides the stupidity of getting drunk in a strange place. “Okay, Chief.”
Jim sat silently staring at the phone for a long time before eventually heading to the bathroom to take a shower.
Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring.
Jim knew it might be considered petty, but it wasn’t. He just didn’t want to pick up the phone. Not when he knew who it was on the other end. He wasn’t sure if it was because he was afraid of what he was going to hear or what he would end up saying.
Trust. He didn’t trust himself. He had deliberately thrust Blair and the unknown man out of his mind the entire morning. Had gone into work and buried himself gratefully in the mindless paperwork rigmarole.
Except of course after he’d first run the name Joel Campbell through the police database. He indeed was a profiler, at least that part of the man’s tale was true. Who knew what else the man had told Blair? He’d just come off of medical leave. Translation: burnt out case. Campbell had recently been involved in the capture/death of one David Griffin--suspected serial killer in over a half dozen homicides in Los Angeles and Chicago.
Sandburg definitely knew how to pick’em. Jim had shut off the thought there.
He picked up the phone, “Ellison.”
Jim heard Blair take a deep breath on the other end, probably controlling the urge to yell.
“Okay, I shouldn’t have gotten drunk in an unfamiliar place but I’m allright. No harm, no foul, man.”
“Aren’t you forgetting about something, Sherlock?”
“Nothing happened, Jim.”
“Is that a guess?” Jim didn’t give a damn about his accusatory tone. Blair was guilty of something, he could feel it.
Just no. Nothing more. “Christ, Sandburg! What the hell were you thinking? Is this why you wanted to go alone? So you could go out and pick up some drunk at a bar!? You just got lucky that the guy checked out. The guy could’ve been anybody, a psycho killer…”
“No that only happens when I’m around you.”
Jim inhaled sharply, stunned at the bitter statement. The ever-present guilt twisting in his gut. “Thornton was from your fucked up past not mine.”
“That’s right! Thornton was my fuck up, not yours. So why don’t you stay the hell out of it!”
“What the hell are you talking about?”
“I’m talking about you and your damn guilt. Trying to control my life. Yeah, it’s all for my protection. Poor little Blair got raped and can’t cope. You’re the one who can’t get over it! Playing the big macho cop.”
“Don’t turn this around on me! I wasn’t the one who went out to a strange city so I could screw around without my husband finding out!”
Jim heard a sharp gasp. “Blair?”
“…Jim, don’t please. I can’t do this right now, we’re both saying things that we’re going to regret later. We’ll talk about this when I get home. Nothing happened, though.”
He heard the honesty in Blair’s voice as well as underlying anger. “Yeah, sure, whatever.”
If his lover was affronted by his cavalier reply he couldn’t detect it in the terse, “Bye, Jim.”
Jim once again found himself standing in the middle of the loft, listening to a dial tone from the phone clutched up to his ear, wondering what the hell had just happened?
The way the last conversation ended, Jim didn’t expect the usual wake up call, so he was astounded to hear the familiar “good morning, Jim” after fumbling the phone up to his ear.
He didn’t say anything for several seconds, whether from sleepiness or pure shock, Jim didn’t know.
Jim sighed heavily. “Yeah, but more confused than anything,” he admitted.
“…happened,” Jim finished Blair’s statement. “But did you want anything to happen?”
Jim relaxed at the certainty in his lover’s voice. “Then I’ll drop it.”
Silence held for several seconds before Jim asked, “Nervous?”
“A little. I don’t know what kind of cases they’re going to throw at me.”
“You’ll do fine. Even Simon says so.”
“Huh,” Blair gave a small snort, “What kind of odds am I getting?”
Jim gave a short laugh. “12 to 1 that you pass.”
“Oh yeah?” Jim smiled at Blair’s pleased tone. “I gotta go. Wish me luck.”
“You don’t need luck, Blair.” Jim put all the faith in his partner in his voice, hoping Blair could feel it. “I love you.”
Jim could hear the smile in Blair’s voice. “Thanks, I needed that. I’ll call you afterwards.”
“Okay.” Jim hung up the phone, still smiling. He pushed away the slight uneasiness he felt at the idea of Blair’s homecoming, still unsure about his overbearing behavior and his ability to control it. ‘He just had to, there was not other choice,’ Jim thought to himself wondering why he didn’t’ feel at all reassured.
Control. It was all about control right. Easy. Even Blair said it was what he was good at…well one of things anyway. Jim couldn’t keep the wicked smile from his face as he remembered what else his lover had said he excelled at doing to him.
Jim sighed. It seemed so long ago. That life.
He closed the case file with a frustrated sigh. “Connor, you have minute?” he asked the redhead whose head was currently stuck in a case file of her own.
“Yeah, Jim. What’s up?” Megan stood as she spoke, taking the opportunity to stretch out the kink in her neck as she walked over towards Ellison’s desk. Curiosity shown from the green eyes as she pondered what he wanted. The veteran detective had been fussy all morning, not bad like before just distracted-like.
“I need a fresh perspective. I think these three homicides are connected but I just can’t put my finger on it. I’m missing something.”
Megan nodded as she accepted the case files. “Sure, I’ll take a look.” She was about to turn away when she hesitated slightly, wondering if she should ask.
Jim’s forehead furrowed in amusement. “Yes, Connor?”
“It’ll be great having Sandy back tomorrow.”
Jim smiled, “Yes, it will.”
Megan continued to smile for a few seconds, unaware of the concern that was evident in her eyes and manner.
She nodded and slowly returned to her desk.
He had just stood up and was pulling his jacket off the coatrack when the phone on his desk rang. “Ellison,” he said tersely, “I’ll be right there.” He walked across the bullpen and gave a slight knock as he walked into Simon’s office. “You wanted to see me, sir?”
Simon nodded pulling a single computer printout from the bottom of one of the piles on his right and held it up for a second. “See you’ve been spending some time downstairs, who’s,” Banks looked down at the paper as he read, “Joel Campbell?”
Jim grimaced slightly before answering. “No one important,” he didn’t really want to elaborate but knew from Simon’s steady gaze that he was going to have to. “He’s just some guy Blair met yesterday in D. C.”
“Uh-huh, and you felt the need to run a security check on him…” Simon commented in disbelief.
He pressed his lips together.
Simon sighed and realized that he wasn’t going to get anything more from the stoic man. “Fine, just keep it to a minimum.”
Jim turned to go, recognizing a dismissal when he heard it. He hesitated with his hand on the doorknob at the sound of Simon clearing his throat.
“Jim, I hope you know I’m here for you, not just as your boss but as your friend.”
Jim gave a stiff nod and walked out, closing the door softly behind him. He made his way through the bullpen, not bothering to stop at his desk. He wanted to check out the crime scenes of the last two homicides again in a last attempt to see if he could figure out why or what connection he felt he was missing between the three murders. If it was a serial killer then there would be more deaths. Murders that could be prevented if they got started investigating it as one, now rather than later.
Ellison couldn’t keep himself from periodically checking out the clock on the other side of the bullpen, getting increasingly worried as another hour passed and still no word from Blair. It was getting close to 4:00 and still nothing. The oral examination would definitely be over by now. It was already eight in the evening. Why the hell hadn’t he called?!
He went back to reviewing the coroner’s report on Adam Watson, the cashier who was pistol-whipped to death during the latest pawnshop robbery. Jim winced slightly as he read the detailed report indicating that several of the blows occurred postmortem. He frowned, that seemed strange.
Such violence, especially to the face is typical of murders where the perp knew the victim, had some sort of grievance, but that wasn’t the fact in this case…or was it? What if the killer knew Watson, or hell, even at one time worked at the pawnshop? He closed the file as he reached for his phone. Rafe and Brown were out there now looking over the crime scene.
“Rafe? Ellison. While you’re out there pick up the personnel records. I want to know who worked there for the past two years. Yeah, this one was a little too vicious, this was personal.”
Jim hung up the phone and stood. He walked out of Major Crime, heading for the elevator, unable to keep from noticing the time--4:15 as he headed down to Forensics.
An hour later, he stepped out of the elevator, no wiser after his foray to forensics as well as talking to Wolfe down in the medical examiner’s office. He approached Major Crime, totally disgruntled when he noticed the small knot of people just inside the bullpen--blocking his entrance.
He had just opened up his mouth to order--ask for them to move aside so he could get by when he heard the all to familiar low chuckle and froze.
Jim pushed forward the people parting so that the owner of the sound was revealed, his long curly hair swaying softly as his hands gestured in the telling of whatever story he was in the middle of, until his blue eyes caught sight of the tall six foot detective who was staring fixedly at him.
A shy smile formed on the tanned handsome face, so bright in its awkward intensity that Jim barely noticed the people surrounding him dispersing, leaving them alone.
Jim was at a loss. He had no idea what was appropriate. Relief warred with irritation as he stared silently at the other man.
“Hey, Jim.” Blair’s eyes flashed with wary amusement at Jim’s silence. Well, he had asked for ol’ Ellison back. Loquacious, Jim never was.
“I was worried.” Jim reached out to touch Blair’s shoulder but stopped before his hand made contact, dropping it to his side.
Blair’s smile faltered for a second before brightening. “It was either make a call or catch the flight. I figured you would rather yell at me in person.” He bent down and picked up the bag laying at his feet.
Ellison became aware of his surroundings and how everyone was determinedly not appearing to be paying attention to them. “I’ll get my jacket.”
Blair nodded and headed out to wait by the elevator. He stepped into the elevator first, feeling Jim follow him. They both faced forward, grateful that there were other people in the elevator preventing any sort of talk. At least at first. Blair could feel the tension building in the tall man standing beside him as each floor passed, so it wasn’t any real surprise when his lover punched the emergency button halting the lift between floors after the last person got off on the third floor.
“What’s going on?” Jim demanded frustratedly. “What happened?”
Blair cocked his head to the side and looked down awkwardly not meeting Jim’s eyes. The smile had long faded from his face but not the warmth in his eyes at he looked up at Jim and stepped closer. He reached up and lightly caressed the left side of Jim’s face. “I’ll explain everything, Jim, I promise. Just not here, okay?”
Jim gently pressed the hand to his face preventing Blair from removing it as he searched the darker blue eyes for some clue. Not even aware of doing so, he bent down while drawing the mesmerizing eyes closer until he felt the warm soft lips meet his. Automatically deepening the kiss when the lips parted allowing him closer. He allowed all of his senses to bathe in the warmth, scent and touch of the man standing so full of life before him. This, this was Blair Sandburg.
Life without this would be hell. Empty.
Jim opened his eyes, unaware of when he exactly had closed them and drew back pleased to find Blair dazed, his dark blues drugged with emotion.
Blair gave a wry laugh. “Let’s get outta here. Now.”
Jim shot a grin in his direction before punching the emergency button, reassured at Blair’s response to the kiss.
Not knowing how to deal with the strong emotions running through him, Jim fell back into the usual gruff, but friendly distant manner that marked the beginning of their partnership, as they walked out into the parking garage.
“So how’d the last test go?” Jim asked as he opened the truck. He immediately moved the seat forward for Blair to put the dress up bag holding his suit and carry on bag behind it.
“It went okay. I mean, there wasn’t anything that they asked me that I absolutely did not know,” Blair replied as he sat down in the passenger seat and fastened his seatbelt.
“That’s great.” Jim kept his attention and gaze on his driving and the street. He tried not to pay attention to the nervous glances or more accurately the nervous stare that Sandburg was giving him as they drove home.
“Jim,” Blair began hesitantly.
“Yeah?” Jim asked still not looking in his lover’s direction, afraid of what he might see.
Jim turned to stare at Blair, not surprised when his partner looked away. He shook his head and gripped the steering wheel tighter. Dread filled him at what he knew, he just knew Sandburg was going to tell him once they got to the loft. He pulled up and parked, unable to shake the trepidation he felt as he followed Blair across the street.
He let them into the loft, all too aware of the man following close behind him so achingly familiar after the four day absence. The keys were carelessly tossed in the basket by the door as he half turned to watch Blair enter the loft.
Blair walked over to the couch and casually laid his suit over the back while watching Jim go into the kitchen.
“Want one?” Jim asked in front of the open refrigerator, gesturing with the beer bottle in his hand.
Blair shook his head. “No thanks” he called as he moved around to the front of the couch.
Jim heard moving sounds from behind him as Sandburg settled himself on the couch. He peered into the fridge, absently wondering what Blair felt like eating for dinner.
“You were right, you know. There was a reason why I wanted to go to D.C. alone…” Blair trailed off and looked down at his hands.
Jim straightened up and closed the refrigerator, before casually leaning back against the counter. The beer in his hand forgotten as he looked over at Sandburg, stunned at his lover’s pose.
Blair was sitting on the back of the couch, his argyle socked feet resting lightly on the seat cushion. Jim noted the loafers neatly arranged on the floor in front of the couch as he walked over to the balcony windows. The position was so young and carefree. Blair hadn’t sat on the back of the couch since…before the dissertation.
He glanced over at Blair who even though nervous seemed freer somehow. So full of the energy that always seemed to threaten to burst through his skin unless he continually kept moving. Something that had been missing from Sandburg for a while although he never realized it, thought it was just Blair finally growing up. Didn’t realize that it was…
“I wanted to see Brackett alone.”
Jim turned sharply and stared at Blair, his shock easily discerned.
“I thought, no I knew that if I went alone that he’d follow and I…I wanted to get some things, him--his feelings dealt with once and for all.” Blair’s blue eyes were begging for understanding as he continued uneasily, “I…” Blair took a deep breath, “I offered myself to him.”
Jim turned heavily back towards the window, unable to face Blair as anguish filled him. He clenched his eyes shut as the images of Blair and Brackett together tore through his mind.
Blair stood and began walking towards the man whose stance screamed tension. “But nothing happened. I didn’t have sex with him.” A derisive laugh broke from him before he continued, “he turned me down.”
“But you wanted to.” Jim’s tone was as expressionless as the face he turned towards Blair.
“Yes, no. Yes, there is a part of me that is sexually attracted to Brackett, but only because he reminds me of you. You’re the one I want Jim. Although I must admit that him turning me down messed with my head.” He looked down at Jim’s chest, unwillingly to look at the rigid face and say the rest of what he had to say.
Blair nodded, his eyes still staring at the muscular chest. He swallowed awkwardly. “he saw me. Saw me on my knees…” Blair turned and began to slowly walk away. “I thought that if I slept with him then it would prove…”
“What?! What would it prove to let Brackett fuck you, Sandburg?!”
“That I wasn’t as disgusting as I feel sometimes!”
Jim stared at his lover in horror. “Is that what you’ve felt all this time?” he asked softly. “When I touched you?”
“No, but it was always there in the back of my mind. A shadow of doubt that I couldn’t shake. I don’t want you staying with me out of guilt or…”
“Is that what you think? That I’m here with you out of some misplaced sense of obligation?” Jim strode over to face Blair. He reached up with his right hand to lightly caress the left side of Blair’s face, tracing the feel of the fine bones down to the firm jaw. Jim peered into Blair’s eyes in disbelief. “I love you, Blair Sandburg.”
Blair closed his eyes tightly at the words.
“I’m not repulsed by what happened with Thornton.”
He opened his eyes at the name and stared steadily up at Jim.
“Although I didn’t actually see it, I can imagine what it looked like. It tears me up inside that it happened. Of what it did to you…but it did nothing to lessen my desire for you.” Jim’s eyes roamed over the handsome masculine face and the deep blue eyes. “You are still beautiful to me, chief. And I doubt that will ever change, even when you pull a numbskull move like getting drunk.”
Blair smiled weakly as he searched Jim’s eyes, relaxing into his partners embrace at what he found there. “About Brackett,” he began.
“Don’t Blair, just don’t.” Jim let out a deep breath. He didn’t want to dig too deep behind Blair’s motives for propositioning the secret agent, willing to accept his lover’s stated reason. Didn’t want to think how his boorish behavior towards his lover played a part.
“It’s over. There won’t be anymore *gifts* from Brackett.”
Jim looked down sharply at Blair. “Good.” He stared silently into the dark blue eyes and smiled, “I missed you, chief. Welcome home.”
He bent slowly down and kissed Blair. His hand automatically thrusting deep into the brown curls pulling his lover closer as he bent down to meet the upraised lips with his own.
Blair drew away slightly after gently kissing Jim, murmuring in a soft regretful tone, “Oh, god Jim, I almost messed up badly. If Brackett hadn’t…”
“Ssssshh,” said Jim stopping the rest of the panicked words by giving Blair a quick brief kiss. He ran a soothing hand down the long brown curls at the back of his lover’s head. “You were right, you know.”
“What?!” Blair looked sharply up at Jim in amazement.
“Not about *that*,” Jim replied with a hint of amusement. “About me, about how I’ve been acting these last couple of weeks.” He ran his hand nervously through the right side of his own short hair, a part of him absently noticing the difference between the feel of Blair’s curly hair and his own. “I just didn’t want to lose you and I felt you slipping away…”
Blair shook his head. “Not going to happen, man.” He stared steadily up into the light blue eyes. No, their ties to each other went deeper than even he was exactly comfortable with, soul-deep. There was no way Jim would ever get rid of him. Something of what he was thinking must have shown in his eyes because Jim suddenly let out a huge breath and relaxed.
“Good.” Jim looked around the loft before returning to look at Blair. “So what do you feel like for dinner?”
“Cambodian?” Blair suggested, knowing full well how Jim had hated it the last time they had tried it.
“Only for you, Sandburg, only for you.” They both began walking companionably side by side towards the door.
“So, this forgiveness thing…I mean I only did two stupid things and nothing came of them anyway, while you had two weeks in which to really screw up.”
“Yeah, yeah…don’t push it Sandburg. I still have seniority, pal.”
“Seniority, smchority. Now I think I should get at least three outings to make up for how you’ve been treating me. Dinner out with the guys…with you footing the bill, of course” Blair jokingly began.
Jim smiled bemusedly down at his partner as he continued his cheerful spiel down the hallway towards the elevator.
“Oh and Jim…”
“How do you feel about dancing?” Blair asked after they stepped into the elevator.
The smile disappeared from Jim’s face as he looked at Sandburg in horror. Oh crap, he was in trouble.
Blair’s smile broadened as he scored. Payback. It was going to be fun.