Love and Friendship Series--Sequel to Black and Gold

Dedicated to PattRose, who requested a very, very different Brackett story.

Warnings: Autopsy-like scene. H/C. Angst. Rape. Violence. Slight X-over. NC-17

 

 

Keys of My Soul

by

Jessica L. Blackstone

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A smile covered Blairís face as he read the latest news in his motherís life. He chuckled softly at Naomiís description of a fellow traveler's accidental dip into the Nile. Smiling, he anxiously glanced at the man sleeping next to him. He didnít want to wake Jim up. With the smile still on his face, he finished reading the letter unaware that he was being watched.

"Good news?"

"Damn it! Donít do that!" Blair cried as he jumped slightly. "I thought you were asleep."

Jim, with a small grin on his face, just stretched as he continued to gaze at the man who was sitting up beside him.

"Naomi says hi."

"Where is she now?"

"Journeying up the Nile with some oil baron from the States."

"She certainly knows how to pickíem."

"Yeah well...thatís Naomi," Blair said as he folded the letter and stuffed it back into the envelope. He took off his glasses and placed them along with the letter on the nightstand. Blair turned to face Jim as he laid back down.

"Any plans for today?" He asked with cheerful smile.

"Just this," replied Jim as he rolled over onto his right side and covered Blairís body with his own, his lips meeting Blairís in a good morning kiss.

Blairís eyes closed as he felt the familiar lips gently press against his until the pressure built and he parted his lips, anxious to taste Jim.

Who would have guessed that Jim was such a great kisser? The very adept tongue thrust repeatedly into his mouth, seemingly never in the same area twice, similar to the way a starving man with a banquet laid out before him, might grab a single bite from each dish.

RRRRRing.

Both men groaned deep in each otherís mouths at the sound of the phone. And they had just gotten started, too. Jim sighed, withdrawing from the heaven of Blairís mouth as Blair reached down and grabbed the phone.

"Hello. Good morning, Mr. Ellison. Yeah, heís awake. Hold on."

Blair handed the phone to the man who was still resting half sprawled on him.

"Yes. No, thatís not going to be possible. Have you checked with Steven? Well, you better let him know since he depends on Sally watching Jamie when heís out of town. I know you raised two boys, Dad, but who helped you? Yes, weíre still on for Thursday, unless something comes up with work. Right. Bye."

An exasperated expression covered Jimís face as he handed the phone back to Blair, who put it back on the nightstand.

"So?"

"Sallyís sister is dying. Sheís leaving for San Francisco this afternoon."

"How sad! Sally had mentioned that Keiko was sick but I hadnít realized it was that serious. When is Sally coming back?"

"Donít know," Jim replied as he made himself comfortable half lying on his lover, burying his right hand into the mass of curls and gently massaging the back of Blairís head. "Stevenís not going to be pleased. He has three trips abroad scheduled in the next couple of months and I KNOW he isnít going to be too happy about leaving Jamie with Dad. So guess what, partner?"

Blair groaned as he thought of the hyperactive little girl. "Donít tell me. Steven is going to want us to watch her."

"Of course...after all, I am her favorite Uncle," Jim said with a smug smile.

"Letís just wait and see what Steven says. You know how crazy both of our schedules can get," Blair suggested sleepily, Jimís fingers working their usual magic as they played with his long curly hair.

"Your hair color is lighter today" Jim whispered to Blair, absently noting that his lover was on the verge of falling asleep.

Blair mumbled something unintelligible.

This was one of the things Jim had come to cherish most about loving the man next to him...having Blair to wake up to each day. He had never felt this way about anyone else.

He was grateful that Blair allowed him to hold him while they slept. Carolyn hadnít. She had pushed him away, saying that she wasnít some baby that needed coddling. Strange that another man would allow such intimacy while a woman couldnít or wouldnít. But then again Carolyn and he had never fit together as well as they had appeared to.

Whether he was in Blairís arms or Blair in his, it just seemed right.

Jim sighed contentedly as he fell back asleep, his right hand still buried in the reddish brown curls. ĎItís too early to get up on a Sunday morning anyway,í was Jimís last conscious thought.

 

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Monday Morning--Jim

Jim was just getting out of his truck when the static over the police radio caught his attention. "Eleven-eighty. Multiple fatality accident on Highway East 35 at Ledbetter. Twenty or more vehicles involved. All available field personnel, please respond."

ĎDamní he thought with a shake of head, Ďthe weekís starting out with a bang.í Even so, he would rather have been out in the field aiding the uniforms on this one, than be stuck in a courtroom testifying. Jim sighed resignedly as he once again adjusted his clip-on tie and walked into the courthouse.

 

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Monday Morning--Blair

Blair heard the report of the multiple fatality accident as he was getting into his car, the news dispelling the almost ecstatic happiness he had been experiencing. ĎDamn it!í he thought, sad for the families who had just lost loved ones.

It was a more somber Sandburg who entered Major Crime, ten minutes later.

A flurry of activity greeted him, presumably as a result of the large accident. Sure enough Blair had just put the new brown leather carrying case, that Jim had bought him, down on his desk when Simon walked out of his office.

"All right, people, as you have probably heard, there is a major pile-up on Highway 35. As a result, we all will have to take up the slack. That means answering the odd service call which will be unable to be handled by patrol. Let's get to work people. Looks like it is going to be one of those days."

The various people who had stilled at the Captainís words started briskly moving again, serious expressions covering their faces.

Blair was about to sit down when Rhonda called to him.

"Yes?"

"Dr. Wolfe left a message for you" the pleasant woman informed him as she handed a piece of paper to him.

"Thanks."

"Blair, Gone to Cascade General to arrange the autopsies for the multiple fatality accident. J. Doe is laid out in back room. Dan" the note read.

Blair sighed. Heíd be working alone then on trying to identify the unknown remains which had been found in Hague County. That was okay; after all Dan had admitted to being out of his element on the remains. He had gotten all he could from the partial human torso but couldnít do much with a body missing its head and limbs. Dan had turned the case over to him to see what additional information he could get after a look at the bones...something which fell more to the purview of forensic anthropology.

He picked up his phone remembering why he had come up to Major Crime before going down to the Medical Examinerís office in the basement. A wide smile covered his face as punched in 3840, getting access to Jimís voice-mail. "Jim, letís have lunch today. Meet me in the bullpen at half past 12. Itís important."

The smile was still on Sandburgís face when he walked into the morgue. "Hi!" Blair cheerfully greeted Dr. Dyson, one of Cascadeís other medical examiners.

"Hey Blair. Dan has you set up in the first autopsy room by the side entrance," Dyson informed the forensic anthropologist he passed on the way into elevator.

"Thanks, Dyson."

"Dan had already done the scut work before he got the call from Cascade General. Said something about your tender stomach..." Dyson teased as the closing doors cut off the view of his grinning face.

"Ha, ha." Blair said. Shaking his head morosely, he muttered to himself, "Very funny. Lose it one time and they never let you forget it."

He continued down into the hallway on his right, nodding to the various people he passed but not stopping.

ĎWell thatís one good thing. At least I can get some fresh air if I need to,í he thought as he paused outside the autopsy room to look at the huge metal doors under the red exit sign on his left.

Blair just sighed as he looked down at the bones on the steel table, glad that he hadnít been the one to find the human torso and doubly thankful that he hadnít witnessed the defleshing process. "Thank you, Dan." His whisper slightly echoed in the big room as he reached down to pick up the small tape recorder which had a note on it.

"Definitely a Jane Doe, Blair. Episiotomy scar was clearly discernible. Condition of the torso indicates death occurred 1-1 1/2 years ago," the brief note read.

Humph. ĎSo she had at least one childí Blair thought as he picked up the ruler and placed the pelvic bone alongside it. ĎLetís see if we can get a few more identifying characteristics.í He grabbed the large overhead camera, similar to a dental X-ray machine, and began taking pictures, paying particular attention to the front arch of the pelvic bone.

ĎThis is a hell of a lot easier than doing it out at a dig,í he thought as he placed the film plates into the slots on the developing machine on his left. After returning to the table, he began a close examination of the pelvic bone, in particular the pubic area, pausing only to write on the clipboard that lay on the table to the right of the remains.

He began speaking aloud into the recording mini-cassette player sitting on the table also to his right. "Judging from the amount of metamorphic changes to the face of the pubic symphysis, measured according to the three component method of Gilbert and McKern , age is estimated at 28-40 years old."

He closely examined the sternal end of the fourth ribs to confirm his initial age estimate. "Deterioration of the ribs is consistent with prior age estimate."

Sandburg began systematically taking measurements of the upper femur, both length and diameter at various specific points, periodically speaking them out loud to document them into the still recording cassette recorder. His entire demeanor was one of quiet professionalism, something the majority of the detectives of Major Crime would find unfamiliar.

ĎFortunate that there was a complete femur still attached,í Blair thought as he used the various measurements from the one available thigh bone to calculate the estimated height of Jane Doe. "Height is estimated at 5 feet 3 inches plus/minus the 3 inches standard deviation. In Summary: Jane Doe is estimated to be a white female, 28-40 years of age, 5 ft 3in +/- 3inches, weighing approximately 123-145 lbs. Examination indicates that the subject was cut apart with a saw by someone who had basic anatomical knowledge."

A noise from the hallway made Blair look up in time to see a couple of paramedics entering through the doors pushing an empty stretcher. His hand was on the recorder about to turn it off when one of the paramedics walked into the room.

"Can I help you with something?" Blair asked pleasantly.

 

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Jim was unbuttoning his shirt collar as he walked into Major Crime. He instantly knew that his partner wasnít there. "Seen Sandburg?" he asked H who was sitting at his desk.

H shook his head, "Nope. Not since early this morning, why?"

"I was suppose to meet him for lunch forty minutes ago. Got stuck over at the courthouse. I guess heís still downstairs."

Jim walked over to his desk to see if Blair had left any message. Nothing. He quickly walked out of Major Crime and into the elevator, wondering what his lover wanted to talk to him about.

 

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A glance at the message board to the right of the elevator, showed that B. Sandburg had been assigned to Autopsy Room 4. Jim quickly strode down the hallway all too familiar with the layout of the MEís area. He pushed opened the last door on his right. The smile that had been forming on his face disappeared as he took in the condition of the room.

Light blue eyes instantly zeroed in on the blood splatters on the floor and over one of the tables. A broken microscope and various medical instruments decorated the floor along with a silver metal tray and a clipboard. The only thing that seemed to be undisturbed was the examining table containing some bones.

"What the hell happened here?" asked a voice from behind him.

Jim turned to the man, as the shock he had been in, instantly transformed into purpose. "Whenís the last time anyone saw Blair Sandburg?"

"I saw him about 11:30..." the disconcerted doctor was saying as he watched the tall man enter the room and pick up the cassette recorder with a handkerchief.

The whirling of the recorder had been an subconsciously annoying noise to him ever since Jim had opened the door. He carefully picked up the recorder which he noted was still set to sound-activated recording. After quickly rewinding the tape a bit, he hit Ďplay,í dreading what he was about to hear.

His loverís voice instantly filled the silent room, "...subject was cut apart with a saw by someone who had basic anatomical knowledge..." (soft footsteps) "...Can I help you with something?" The sounds of a fight followed as the destruction he saw before him was clearly recorded by the tape as it was happening. The crash of a body thrown against the table and the sound of fists making solid contact with a human body. Followed by the sound of a large object being moved and then the squeaking of wheels.

Jim turned to face the bewildered physician still standing in the hallway.

"Blair Sandburg has been kidnapped," he said grimly.

 

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UNKNOWN LOCATION

The tall brown-haired man sprawled with his feet on the desk in front of him, knowing that he was acting like a sad fool but setting the controls to monitor the radio traffic of Cascade, Washington anyway. Besides the gifts, it was the only vicarious, almost daily contact he allowed himself with the handsome anthropologist that he was obsessed with. Visual surveillance was too painful since finding out at that fateful dinner that HE was now sleeping with the cop.

A particular code broke his despondent reverie, making his complete attention focus on the radio chatter.

"Repeat. We have a 207. Cascade PD--victim is a white male, 5ft 8in, age 31, shoulder-length brown curly hair, last seen wearing blue jeans, blue-t-shirt. Name--Blair Sandburg."

He had gotten to his feet as he heard the location and was cursing by the end of the dispatcherís spiel. "Son of a bitch! Damn you Ellison!"

His voice was perfectly calm, showing no sign of his feelings as he buzzed his superior.

"Yes, Lee?" a smooth womanís voice questioned.

"Anything important on the boards for the next couple of days?"

"Nothing really pressing...the Middle-East is heating up again but that isnít unusual."

"Iíd like to request some downtime. Personal matter."

"You have two days. Good luck."

"Understood, Nikita."

Brackettís mind was already filling with plans as he walked out the door, grateful that Nikita had given him tacit permission with the subtle "good luck" to use Section Oneís resources to find Sandburg. Section One had become a much more pleasant place to work since she became second in command.

 

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CAPTAIN BANKSí OFFICE-MAJOR CRIME

Simonís worried brown eyes followed the tall man who was agitatedly pacing before him.

"Jim, stop wearing out the floor. Weíll find him."

"How the hell did they get him without anybody noticing?" Jim angrily asked. It had been over two hours since Blair had been seen.

"It was just another couple of paramedics transporting a body, Jim," Simon needlessly informed the detective. The abandoned ambulance had been found four blocks away. His top detective had been at the scene within minutes, identifying the black hair tie on the floor of the vehicle as belonging to Sandburg.

"There is an APB out..." Simon began in a comforting tone.

"No. This was too professional-taking him from the station. This isnít some guy Blair and I sent away for a few years."

"Brackett?" Simon ventured, an annoyed expression on his face.

Jim stared silently out the window, his arms folded across his chest. "Maybe..." he responded although it didnít really seem like the rogue CIA agentís style. His mind turned to Thornton...but there had been no indication that what Brackett had told them about the man was true.

"If it was Brackett, he would have left a calling card."

"Maybe he did. Why donít you go check out the loft?" Simon suggested to Jim, who was already heading for the door.

"Call me if ANYTHING comes in!" Jim ordered his Boss as he left the office.

Simon just sighed and nodded. Heaven help the kidnappers when Ellison caught up with them.

 

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The loft was quiet and undisturbed. Ellison had known within seconds of entering that he and Blair were the only ones who had been there. He looked around the still apartment for anything unusual anyway...just to be sure.

With long quick strides he went up the stairs to stand bewildered in their bedroom, at a complete loss as to what to do. A voice in his head screaming that he was running out of time. He was about to go back down when his light blue eyes spotted something different about the top of the dresser.

Blair had kept the black jewelry box with the rings Jim had made for them on the dresser with the box open, "as a reminder" he had said, his blue eyes sparkling.

Jim picked up the box, unaware that he was clutching it so hard that his fingers had gone white. He closed his eyes tightly to shut out the sight.

One of the rings was gone.

Blairís message on his voice mail replayed through his mind, driving shards of pain through his heart. "Itís important," his loverís cheerful voice had proclaimed.

Jim fell to his knees, unaware of the anguished wail issuing from his throat.

 

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Blair woke with a start, the growl of a big cat echoing through his mind. At least he assumed he was awake but, as he couldnít see anything, he couldnít be sure. He listened intently for several seconds, trying to identify his location. He was in some sort of moving vehicle, lying blindfolded with his hands tied behind his back which were then fastened to his ankles. From the sound of it there was at least one other person with him.

He coughed suddenly. The movement making the bruises on his face hurt along with his ribs. "Water..." he requested.

A straw was placed between his lips. Blair took a long drink, not knowing how long this was going to last. "Who do you work for?" he asked as the straw was withdrawn. His question was met only with silence. ĎGreat, just great,í he sarcastically thought, Ďyou know Iím really getting tired of this.í He settled in on the floor, trying to relax his strained arms and legs as much as possible; who knew when a possible chance for escape was going to occur?

 

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CASCADE PD-MAJOR CRIME

It was quiet in the bullpen. Everyone was walking on tiptoe. No one wanted to raise the ire of the tall grimfaced detective who had strode through only moments before and now could be clearly heard yelling in the Captainís office.

"No, Simon! Itís either Brackett or Thornton. It canít be Billings," Jim was arguing.

"Paul Thornton has been attending a business conference in Chicago for the last three days. Several witnesses verify that he is still there. There is no evidence that Brackett is involved. It has to be someone from an old case. What about Hector Carasco?" Simon aggressively countered.

Jim shook his head, "No, Sandburg still has Carascoís protection...thanks to Maya..."

"What about calling in the Feds?"

"No."

"Kidnapping is a federal crime, Jim. They would be able to use their resources to canvass the entire state."

"The Feds would spend their time waiting to hear from the kidnappers. By the time they got off their assess, Sandburg would be dead or...," Jim pressed his lips together tightly; he couldnít even say the word. "Leave the Feds out of it, Simon."

"Alright, but then weíre back to it being someone you and he put away; go out and see what the others have dug up. See if anything rings a few bells," Simon ordered the tense man.

Jim walked out of the office and over to the group of detectives scattered around Blairís desk where a stack of their old case files rested.

Meganís sharp eyes caught Hís brown eyes as they opened wide after handing Jim a case file. Her forehead wrinkled as she realized what he was looking at. Several of the other detectives had also discreetly noted the black and gold band on Ellisonís left ring finger.

None of the detectives noticed the sad smile on Rhondaís face as she sat at her desk fielding phone calls.

The Australian inspector returned to the folder she had in front of her when Smoke elbowed her on the left. She turned to the new detective. Smoke had the David Lash case file. She was about to tell him that the perp was dead when Smoke quietly spoke. "Was Sandburg sexually assaulted by this psycho?"

Jimís thoughts froze at the whispered question he heard from across the room. He was standing by Connorís desk completely unaware that he had even moved.

"Why would you ask that?" he demanded.

Smoke hesitated, not liking the look in Ellisonís eyes. He held out the forensic report. "Forensics found seminal fluid...." the detectiveís voice trailed off at Ellisonís facial expression.

Jim grabbed the paper from Smokeís outstretched hand. His blue eyes grew wide with disbelief as he read the forensic report. "Seminal fluid found in several spots on victimís blue jeans..." it read.

His mind flew back in time, hearing Sandburgís distinctive voice as he reassured him that he didnít need Jim to read his final victim statement. Blair would put it into the case file himself, officially closing it. There had been no need for him to read the forensic report or so he had thought.

Although he knew that Lash hadnít raped Blair, Jim was still furious that Blair had kept whatever had happened a secret from him. It was, therefore, very unfortunate that the handsome stranger chose to walk into Major Crime a couple of minutes later.

The normally perfectly controlled best detective of Major Crime had the man violently thrust back against the door by the neck before anyone knew what was happening.

"Where is he, Brackett??!!" Jim harshly demanded, about to begin pounding the arrogant face in front of him.

Brackett smiled before he spoke. He hadnít even tried to defend himself against the attack. "As much as I enjoy putting on a show, I think youíll want to be somewhere a little more private to hear what I have to say."

The hands of several detectives and one captain eased up on Ellisonís arms as he slowly released his deadly grip around Brackettís neck.

"My office, Detective Ellison" Simon ordered as he led the way across the bullpen with Ellison bringing up the rear after Brackett.

The shutting of the door banged loud in the tense atmosphere.

"Well, I must say Iím thinking of moving to Cascade permanently since it has such a competent police force. I mean it must be one of the safest places to live," Brackett sarcastically began, the fury in his blue-gray eyes blazing whenever they rested on Ellison.

"JIM!" Simon barked, halting his detectiveís move towards Brackett.

"A holding company, that I have traced back through several dummy corporations to Thornton Industries recently acquired an estate just over the Canadian border," Brackett stated in a business-like tone as he withdrew a map from his left breast pocket and laid it across Simonís desk. He pointed out the exact location with his right forefinger to the detective who had come up behind him on his left.

"Thorntonís behind Blairís kidnapping?" Jim asked suspiciously, although his gut was telling him that Brackett spoke the truth.

"Who else? It certainly wasnít me," Brackett replied smoothly, the gleam in his eyes the only indication of his anger. "What exact time was Mister Sandburg kidnapped?"

"11:55 this morning," Simon replied, evidently also believing the former ex-CIA agentís story.

"I wasnít able to find any indication that Thornton Industries or one of itís subsidiaries hired a private plane or chopper, so their transporting him by car. It is now 2:43. It is too late to catch them in transit. We will have to retrieve him from the Estate itself...that is, if one of your choppers can get us there in less than an hour?" Brackett finished grimly.

"Why?" Jim asked his voice filled with curious distrust.

Brackett turned to face the tall detective as the words fell damningly from his tongue, "Thorntonís Lear jet left OíHare at 1:25 Pacific time. Two hours scheduled flight time. In approximately an hour, Paul Thornton is going to arrive at Mister Sandburgís location."

A chill entered Jimís soul at Brackettís dispassionate description of hell. He withdrew his detectiveís badge from his back pocket and dropped it on Simonís desk, all the while steadily meeting the blue-gray eyes filled with a deadly resolution that matched his own.

"Simon?" Jim questioned tersely.

"Itíll be waiting on the roof," Simon promised, his hand already on the phone. He quickly ordered the helicopter and hung up.

"Letís go," Simon said as he started around his desk towards the door.

"Simon, itís not necessary...." Jim began with a small worried frown on his face.

"I owe him, Jim," was all Simon said as he continued towards the door. Jim motioned for Brackett to precede him as they walked out into the bullpen after the tall black man.

 

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"Did you see the room?" "Yeah, Blair must have put up one hell of a fight!" "I wonder what Brackettís doing here?" "I donít trust the arrogant bastard!"

Smoke listened to the chatter of the detectives scattered around him, while his green eyes focused on the three men talking intensely inside the Captainís office. He had been around long enough to realize that Ellisonís reputation for being at the center of the action was based on fact and he was always up for a bit of fun.

He walked over to the three men as soon as they stepped out of the office. "Need some help, Ellison?" Smoke offered, and instantly found himself being sized up by the tall detective whose eyes were as cold as ice.

Jim gave a curt nod, Smoke was former military like him and could handle himself in a fire-fight if it came to that.

"All right people, listen up," Captain Banks began, "Detectives Ellison and Smovinsky are about to go off-duty, along with myself. Captain Taggart, you are in charge. I leave Cascade in your capable hands, ladies and gentlemen...Do me proud."

The four men quickly strode through Major Crime, only one of them hearing the softly whispered words from Taggart, whose sentiment were shared by all present, "Good luck, guys."

Ellisonís face was expressionless as he punched the number of S.W.A.T.ís floor in the elevator, the need for serious weaponry making the short detour necessary.

 

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Blair had been alternately tensing and relaxing the various muscles in his arms and legs for the last hour, trying to increase the circulation to his limbs while listening intently to the noises around him. They had seemed to have traveled for an hour and a half on a highway from what he could figure out, but he had no idea how long he had been out from the drug they had injected him with before then. The men who held him didnít speak, giving him no clue as to who they worked for, although he had a sneaking suspicion. He hoped to God he was wrong.

ĎWhere the hell are you, Jim?í Blair questioned silently as he tried to control the fear that was threatening to overwhelm him. His mind immediately went back in time to yesterday and the wonderfully lazy Sunday he had spent with his friend and lover.

He had been gently awakened in the early afternoon by soft kisses on the left side of his neck. Blair opened his eyes briefly to see the side of Jimís head as he continued to nuzzle on his neck. His breath suddenly hitched as Jim found the spot that made shivers course up and down his spine...the soft chuckle Jim gave only heightening the intense feeling.

Hot hands grabbed his boxers, pushing them gently down as the wonderful mouth was withdrawn. His eyes shot open as his cock was enveloped in moist heat. Blair reveled in the feel of Jimís tongue as it alternately licked and sucked on the head of his cock while his right hand was clenched on the left side of Jimís head.

He had come after only a few minutes, Jim releasing his cock with a last gentle lick as he moved up to kiss him full on his lips. Blair had instantly opened his mouth deepening the kiss, communicating his love to Jim in every brush of his tongue against Jimís.

The vehicleís sudden movement to the right startled Blair from his pleasant memories of the previous day. They were exiting the highway. Sure enough, it was two right turns and one left turn later before they were heading straight again on what felt like surface streets at a slower speed.

It seemed like they were approaching their final destination.

 

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Ellison didnít even glance at the beautiful scenery passing rapidly below the police chopper. He had viciously pushed his fears down, concealing his emotions behind an expressionless mask while his mind was filled with thoughts of only one thing, Blair Sandburg.

Blair had still been sleeping when he left this morning, his schedule for once allowing him to report to the station a little later than usual. If he hadnít had to report to the DA before court convened to go over his testimony, he would have stayed in bed watching his lover sleep.

Blair had once mentioned that Jim looked much younger when the tense cop slept. He would have been shocked to know that he looked positively indecent while he himself slept. A decade or more disappeared leaving a Sandburg who looked closer to twenty than thirty, with a wanton innocence that always mesmerized Jim.

It had been that, more than anything which had motivated him to begin kissing a still deeply asleep Blair yesterday afternoon. Something ripped open deep inside Jimís soul as he remembered Blairís startled expression after he had reached down intending to bring him off in return for the blow-job Jim had just given him only to find that it wasnít necessary.

"You came?" Blair had asked in an incredulous tone.

Jim had only shrugged as he had stared into the surprised blue eyes, giving Blair another kiss. "You underestimate your appeal, Romeo. I could come from just watching you" he had said while he laid his head down on Blairís chest, falling back asleep from the touch of Blairís gentle fingers running through his hair.

"Ellison," Brackett called bringing him back to the present.

"News?" Jim asked as he watched Brackett return his cell phone to his jacket.

"Six people have arrived at the location," he informed the three men through the shared helicopter headsets.

"Thornton?"

"No. His plane is still in the air..." Brackett stated.

"Blair" Jim simply stated.

Brackett nodded.

"How much longer?" Simon asked the pilot beside him.

"Thirty to forty minutes to your indicated coordinates."

Jim exchanged a grim look with Brackett. It was going to be close. Too damn close.

"Give us everything youíve got, Fuente!" Jim ordered. Nothing mattered except Blair.

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The cessation of movement was startling after so long. The silence felt odd to his ears as the traffic sounds were quickly replaced with birds after the vehicle came to a complete stop. Blair swallowed, his mouth suddenly dry.

A door abruptly opening behind him startled him. Hands quickly grabbed his wrists, untying his ankles yet leaving his hands securely fastened behind his back. He was pulled roughly back and upright, his knees giving only slightly as he stood for the first time in hours. He felt the hot sun on his face for a few seconds before he was pushed forward into an air-conditioned place.

Blairís eyes blinked blearily in the light as the blindfold was suddenly removed. He had just realized that he was standing in front of a grand staircase before he was violently pushed forward to stumble up the stairs by the man behind him. His anxiety rose as he was efficiently steered into a big open gallery room in the middle of the second floor to the left of the stairs. Blair had long given up on trying to get the man to talk, all his questions being met with an ominous silence.

He was stopped in front of a wooden chair in the center of the room. "SIT!" Blair was ordered as he was pulled backwards. There was nothing he could do but sit as the back of his knees hit the chair painfully. Try as he might Blair couldnít get a look at the manís face as he tied his wrists to the back of the chair and his ankles on either side of the chair to the legs. The man silently exited the room through the door they had just entered giving him only a glimpse of the back of his head as he walked away. Blair wondered where the door facing him on his right lead to.

A look around at the expensive furnishings in the room confirmed his deduction that he was in a mansion of some sort. Where, he had no idea. The fingers on his right hand turning the ring on his left hand nervously.

He hadnít heard anything since the man left. Blair sighed, his forehead furrowing as his thoughts returned to Jim.

ĎI shouldnít have let my own fears keep me from putting on the ring when Jim first gave it to me.í He knew that Jim needed some visible symbol that he was with him for the long haul. Jimís doubts about the level of his commitment was easily deduced by the number of jealous outbursts and snide remarks ever since the dissertation was out of the picture. He couldnít really resent Jim for his attitude. He had such rotten luck at keeping the people he loved in his life. They either left or died.í

ĎIt had been really stupid to not put the ring on right then. I mean they were already married in every practical sense of the word. I let my fear of the unknown get in the way.í

"Iím sorry, Jim," he whispered into the silence, hoping that he got a chance to see Jim at least once more.

Blair sat despondently in the chair, taking comfort in the cold metal against his left ring finger as he continued to twist it around.

He had laid awake for several hours yesterday afternoon, his gaze fixed on the black and gold rings in their box on the dresser, long after Jim had fallen asleep with his head on his chest. Even though he couldn't see the rings in the dark, he could see every minute detail in his mind. The image had haunted him until he finally fell asleep.

The sound of several approaching male voices roused Blair from his regretful musings. One sounded all too horribly familiar. He shut his eyes tightly as he recognized the voice with a slight English accent that had once occupied his nightmares long ago.

Blair's face was an expressionless mask when the door on his right finally opened and an expensively dressed man walked in to stand directly in front of him.

Paul Thornton III had aged well. Only a few gray hairs and wrinkles showing the passage of time.

"Thornton," Blair coldly acknowledged as he met the brown eyes which were as arrogant as ever. He couldnít stop the flinch as Thorntonís right hand reached out to caress the left side of his face.

Rage shown from his blue eyes as Thornton insolently leered at his body, down to his feet and up again. Although he knew it happened, had, in fact, counseled men who had been sexually assaulted, Blair never thought that it could happen to him even with his previous close call.

"Leave us." Thornton ordered, dismissing the one man who had entered with him. He casually turned and walked to the bar in the northeast corner of the room. "Pity about the bruises," he remarked as he walked back towards Blair with a brandy in his left hand, anger briefly showing in his eyes as they slid over the cuts and bruises decorating the right side of the younger manís face.

Blair stared straight forward.

"You surprised and delighted me, you know...when I woke up to find that you had fled that morning. I admired your spirit, your passion. Still do in fact, but, of course you already know that, donít you, Blair."

Blair pressed his lips together, his eyes apparently unconcerned.

"I had thought of you from time to time, but it wasnít until I caught you on the news, that the hunger returned. Really Blair, fraud?...how disappointing," Thornton mocked as he slowly circled the bound man.

Blair tensed as Thornton stopped pressed up closed behind him, starting as the wealthy man bent down to whisper closely in his right ear.

"But a cop...I still donít see it."

Blairís mind was filled with confusion at Thorntonís words, his anxiety rising as the man suddenly moved away, apparently to pick up something from the table behind him that Blair had briefly seen when he first entered.

A photograph was thrust in front of his face from the right-Jim dressed in the navy blue suit he had planned to wear this morning.

Thorntonís words quickly confirmed Blairís thoughts, "This was taken this morning in front of the Cascade courthouse..."

ĎJim looks irritated, which he probably had been knowing his lover,í Blair absently thought as he looked at the picture before it was quickly withdrawn.

"What do you want, Thornton?" Blair grimly asked.

"You know what I want...you...responsive and willing in my bed," Thornton replied as his left hand quickly grabbed Blairís head yanking it back until the blue eyes meet his.

"Itís not going to happen," Blair coldly replied as he jerked his head away from Thorntonís touch.

"Oh, it will and quite soon, if you care about the continued health of Detective James Ellison. Even an ex-covert operative wonít be able to survive a two million dollar contract out for him. He might get lucky the first and even the second time but eventually...well...but itís all up to you. His life is in your hands."

Blair closed his eyes, trying to control the pain that was coursing through his soul. He wanted to scream his refusal even while knowing he never would...no matter how much it disgusted him. Jim had to live, otherwise there was nothing left for him.

He opened his eyes, the faint sound of a helicopter flying outside making Blairís eyes flicker towards the windows behind him for a second, before he spoke with a resigned expression on his handsome face.

"All right."

"You promise to not try to escape. You will not try to injure me. If you do, the contract will be automatically activated within 24 hours, you understand?" Thornton said, pleasure filling his voice as the man sitting before him nodded.

"I understand," Blair softly said, wondering how it had come to this. His eyes sadly stared straight ahead, seeing nothing but Jimís eyes as they had looked when he had kissed him awake yesterday.

"A little test is in order I think," continued Thornton as he unfastened first Blairís ankles and then his wrists from the chair.

Blair absently rubbed his left wrist with his right hand as his hands were finally released from each other. He made no attempt to escape. It was pointless now. Even if Jim rescued him, it would be his word against Thorntonís. He could never be the cause of Jimís death. He had no choice. His life was over.

 

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"Wonít they hear and see us as we land?" Simon asked as the helicopter approached the mansion from the southwest.

"There are several estates spread across this area; private helicopters are common," Brackett stated.

"Plus weíre coming in against the sun, so they wonít be able to identify the police markings," Jim added.

Brackett took out his phone and punched in a number. Whatever he heard on the other line made his face immobile. "Thanks, Jason. Lee, out."

"There was a second arrival 4 minutes ago. One person," Brackett grimly stated as he open the small computer like device he was holding. "This is the latest satellite view. According to the heat signatures, there are two people outside guarding the perimeter. Three people moving around on the second floor, and two people inside a room on the same floor."

He pointed at one red dot in the center of a room, "Best deduction is that this is Mister Sandburg. If we land here, we can use these trees as groundcover and get to within twenty yards of the building," Brackett proposed.

"Straight in..." Ellison stated.

"Fastest," Brackett said.

Jim nodded, "No time for subtleties."

"Only five men," Smoke commented.

"Heís not expecting anyone" Simon said.

"Arrogant," Brackett said as he put his small computer away.

"Stupid." Ellison declared as he began checking his gear. A ray of light catching the ring on his left finger making the sections of gold glint in the sunlight.

All four men quickly disembarked when the copter touched down a few minutes later in a small clearing. They stealthily made their way towards the edge of the trees where they paused.

"Wait here for the all clear," Ellison ordered Banks and Smoke while Brackett began making his way towards the house.

Simon and Smoke nodded.

Jim quickly caught up to Brackett, their movements matching seamlessly as they made their way towards the house from the west, using the scattered trees as cover. They paused again, using the trunks to block them from sight.

A man came around the corner of the building, about ten yards away walking slowly until he disappeared around the far corner.

"After you..." Brackett invited.

Ellison gave a shake of his head, his blue eyes filled with distrust.

Brackett snorted as his eyes scanned the area where the man disappeared. "Still donít trust me?"

"Should I?"

Brackett gave a quiet harsh laugh, his eyes flicking back to look at the cop on his right. "If there is any hint of suspicion of my involvement in your death, Iíd lose any possible chance I have with him." Lee stated simply, his blue gray eyes glittering with emotion.

What Jim saw in the blue-gray eyes shocked him to the bone. Brackett wasnít like Thornton. The former CIA agent actually loved Blair. It wasnít just lust but a love that mirrored his own for the anthropologist. Jim knew that if anything did happen to him, Brackett would look out for Blair. That was why Brackett was here.

Jim gave an acknowledging nod.

"Iíll take this guy out, you take care of the one the satellite indicated was in the front. You have six minutes until the next pass," Ellison said.

"Right."

Both men watched intently as the man made his return pass from the opposite direction before disappearing around the corner. They quickly crossed the distance Ellison heading to the right to meet the man when he turned back, Brackett heading towards the left, vanishing around the corner.

Ellison waited hidden by the corner, using his heightened hearing to mark the guyís progress as he approached. Jim brought the butt of his gun down on the back of the guyís head as he turned the corner, knocking him unconscious.

A sound to his left heralded the approach of someone. Jim tensed until he heard, quite unnecessarily, from his headset, "Itís Brackett." He swung around coming face to face with Brackett.

"All clear. Southeast corner," Ellison said into the mouthpiece of his headset while he and Brackett dragged the body towards the corner where the former intelligence agent indicated he had left his adversary.

After the all clear Simon and Smoke quickly joined them.

"Watch them, while we go in." Ellison ordered, as he used his eyes and ears to scan the area in front of the big building.

"Front door?"

"Why not?" Ellison replied with a mirthless smile.

The two men approached the front door and walked in, both moving quickly to opposite sides of the entryway, pressing their backs against the wall. Ellison let his hearing spread out. He held out his right hand with his fingers spread and then pointed to the left.

Brackett nodded and quickly joined Ellison before they moved down the left hallway. Ellison stationed himself to the left side of the third closed door on the right, Brackett on the right.

The feel of cold metal pressed against his right temple stopped the man within one step past the bathroom doorway. He turned to his right, only catching a glimpse of cold blue eyes before he felt a sharp pain on the back of his neck, then nothing.

Brackett caught the guard as he fell, dragging him back into the bathroom where he grabbed the handcuffs that Ellison held out to secure him.

In synch they headed back to the staircase they had passed on the way in, there was no indication of another way to the second floor...to Blair. They ran up the stairs taking them three at a time, stopping close to the top yet still out of sight while Jim listened intently.

Ellison touched Brackettís arm and pointed to the right, then touched his own chest and motioned with his gun hand to the left.

Brackett nodded. The last remaining two guards were separated, stationed in opposite directions.

 

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Blairís mind was descending into a haze. Not really hearing more of Thorntonís pitiful tirade until the one word.

"KNEEL."

His head jerked up, his blue eyes filling with horror as they met Thorntonís smug expression. Blair closed his eyes to shut out the sight. Helpless rage coursing through his veins as he slowly slid to his knees in front of the man...glad for the distracting pain in his ribs.

ĎItís really going to happen,í Blair thought to himself, dimly hearing a tearing sound close by, followed by the sound of a zipper.

"Your lips have haunted me...so full...luscious. Iíve been waiting a long time to feel them around me" Thornton said as he rolled the condom on. ĎWho knew how many men had fucked the bastard, well now it was going to be my turn. Blair was never going to humiliate me again!í thought Thornton as he grabbed Blairís head, yanking it back painfully.

"Open your eyes."

Blair slowly opened his eyes, ignoring the voices screaming through his brain, telling him to fight, to run. The cool feel of the metal on his ring finger giving him a strange sense of calm as he met the mad brown eyes.

"No teeth, and I want you looking at me the whole time. Wouldnít want you forgetting who you're with, now, would we?" Thornton taunted as he brushed the head of his dick against the right side of Blairís face.

"Open."

Blair had barely parted his lips before Thornton shove himself roughly in making him gag. The expression on the manís face made his stomach clench in disgust as he tried not to think about the thing forcing itself inside his mouth.

The hands gripping Blairís head made it impossible to move as the cock began thrusting deep inside his throat. He couldnít breathe. Panic filled his unseeing eyes. Tears appeared in the corners of the blue eyes as he struggled to relax his muscles around the thing being shoved repeatedly down his throat with brutal force.

 

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Brackett moved off to the right as Ellison moved in the opposite direction. The Section One operative walked straight down the hallway hoping that surprise would give him the few seconds he needed to take the man out.

The guard did hesitate for a couple of milliseconds, plenty of time for Brackett to shoot him in the right shoulder, before ruthlessly hitting the side of his head with the silencer, knocking him unconscious. Without stopping Brackett entered the room the man had been exiting, continuing through the empty room to a door on his left, which he quickly opened and strode through.

Blairís hands were fighting with the ones holding his head when a sound to his left startled Thornton making the manís hands loosen.

Blair shoved himself backwards away from Thornton, knocking the chair over as he gasped for breath.

Brackett quickened his pace at the sight of the two men in the room. He had Thornton by the neck and backing towards the door he had just entered, when Ellison arrived through the other door.

"Take care of Sandburg," Brackett ordered Ellison, as he continued to push Thornton backwards, using his body to block the manís partially undressed state from the detective.

Jim hesitated only a millisecond, the cold rage shining from his eyes as he looked towards the man Brackett had, before moving to help his lover who was shakily getting to his feet breathing harshly.

"Blair, are you all right?" Jim asked, love and relief filling his voice as he reached for him.

Blair pressed his hands against Jimís chest. Tears filled his eyes at how wonderfully familiar it felt as he tried to remember how to breathe and forget why he needed to.

 

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Brackett closed the door behind him as he pushed the man into the office. Thornton glanced nervously down at the bleeding guard who was still unconscious in the doorway. The man holding him by the neck finally spoke as he pressed the gun against the middle of his forehead. Cold gray eyes chilling Paul Thornton III into silence.

Lee smiled at the fear he saw in the brown eyes.

"You should never have touched him," Brackett said as he pulled the trigger.

 

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Jimís eyes were filled with worry as they flicked over the bruises decorating his loverís face. "How badly are you hurt?"

Blair shook his head. "Bruised ribs," he whispered, flinching slightly as he heard a door open.

Brackett walked slowly back into the room, his eyes focused on Sandburg who had his hands pressed against Ellisonís chest. His eyes widened as he recognized the black and gold ring on Blairís left hand, his blue gray eyes immediately flicking to the matching ring on Ellisonís hand. His eyes met Ellisonís over Blairís head.

"Thornton?" Jim asked, feeling Blair tense beside him.

"Taken care of," replied Brackett as he continued to approach the two men. Stopping within a few feet of them.

Relief filled Blair at Brackettís words. He took a deep cleansing breath at the thought that he wouldnít have to worry about the man anymore.

"Your friends?" Brackett questioned as he had taken off the headset before shooting Thornton.

"Bringing in the other two guards," Jim said, his attention still focused on the man beside him, who was now breathing regularly if a bit gingerly.

"Have them secure them in a room downstairs. What about your guy?"

"Still out," Jim indicated with his head towards the left. "First room across the hallway."

"Brackett."

Brackett gave a short nod acknowledging Ellisonís goodbye and thanks.

Blair looked up, startled at the respect he heard in Jimís voice.

"Weíve come to an understanding," explained Jim seeing his confusion as he began moving towards the door, his left arm around Blairís shoulder in an gentle embrace.

"Give me a minute," Blair softly said as he stopped after taking only two steps.

Jimís face tensed as he looked from Blair to Brackett, the nerve twitching in his cheek as he strode from the room to wait for his lover outside.

Blair walked over to stand before Brackett, finding himself unable to meet the former CIA agentís eyes.

Brackett reached out, gently lifting Blairís face by the chin with his right hand.

"Mister Sandburg," he greeted in a charming voice, sadness shining from his blue gray eyes as his thumb lightly brushed the bruised lips.

Lee released the beautiful face to reach for Sandburgís left hand. His blue gray eyes looking down at the ring which he lightly ran his finger across before he looked into the deep blue eyes.

Blair met Brackettís eyes for a long time before he finally spoke, "Thank you...Lee...for everything." His eyes full of gratitude that could never be adequately expressed with mere words.

"Until we meet again, Mister Sandburg," Brackett said with a mischievous smile on his face.

Blair gave a weak smile in return. Knowing the "presents" would continue but they would signify promises not threats, as they had always been intended. Blair nodded before turning and walking from the room.

 

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Jim stood at the top of the stairs giving every indication that he was perfectly at ease when in reality he was monitoring every sound in the room he had just left.

Blair could feel himself beginning to shake as he walked down the hallway towards Jim who instantly opened his arms and embraced him.

"Itís all right, Blair. Itís over," Jim said soothingly, as he began to wonder what the hell was going on. He could tell through a myriad of signals that his lover was holding onto his composure by a thread. "Are you sure you are all right, Blair?" he questioned as he began to suspect that he had missed something.

"Take me home," Blair said hoarsely, trying to ignore the soreness down deep in his throat that he felt every time he spoke, bringing the fear back.

Jim nodded hearing the desperation in Blairís voice, burying his rising frustration at how helpless he felt at not being able to stop whatever it was that was causing his lover such pain. He held his right arm around Blair gently as they walked down the case, meeting Simon and Smoke at the bottom. "Letís go."

"Hi, Simon," Blair said wincing at the sound of his own voice, giving a nod hello to Smoke.

"Itís good to see you Blair," Simon gently said. He had already seen Jim lose Sandburg once, he never wanted to see it again. Banks wiped something from his eye as he watched his best two men walk ahead of him towards the waiting helicopter, Jimís left hand holding Blairís as if he was never going to let him go.

"Brackett?" Smoke questioned as he got into the middle seat and began strapping himself in.

"Doing what he does best. Covering his tracks," Jim commented dryly, his gaze still on the hand clenching his own so hard that both were chalk white, making both black and gold rings even more noticeable. Blair hadnít said anything more as he got into chopper, releasing Jimís hand only long enough to fasten his seatbelt.

"Iím sorry, Jim," Blair softly said, looking up into his loverís eyes.

Jim shook his head in confusion at the regret filling the deep blue eyes. "What for, Chief?"

Blair looked down at the band on his left hand which was clutching Jimís in a death grip making the rings touch. "For waiting so long to put it on...." Blair began but stopped at the expression on Jimís face.

Jimís eyes were brimming with so many emotions, one of which was the intense love he felt for the man sitting next to him...a man who was worried about a piece of metal.

"I thought Iíd lost you, Blair. Nothing else matters," Jim said uncaring that their conversation was being overheard by three other men.

Blair closed his eyes at the love he saw in Jimís eyes and gently squeezed the hand he held in his grip, giving a slight nod as he sighed before finally relaxing his hand into a gentle hold. He held onto his life-line, concentrating on the feel of the warm firm hand beneath his own the whole way home.

 

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Brackett mechanically removed all traces tying Ellison, Sandburg or himself to the recently deceased. He had checked on the five men verifying their location and condition. Anger flared in his eyes as he looked at the men, wanting to put a bullet in their brains and be done with it. If he hadnít modified his standard modus operandi and just killed them on the way in, he might have gotten to him in time to prevent...Damn it!

He continued shredding the papers and photographs, keeping only the ones of the curly-haired anthropologist, which he nonchalantly stuffed in the front of his jacket.

After the various papers were burnt to ash in the fireplace, Brackett walked downstairs and moved over to the two guards which had been initially stationed outside.

"Gentlemen, your employer is dead. I suggest you gather your fellows and forget all that has transpired in his employ. Consider it...professional courtesy," Brackett smoothly said with a charismatic smile.

"Iíll be taking the Mercedes..." he informed them as he strolled towards the front door, stopping at the last possible moment to toss the key to the handcuffs at their feet.

ĎI wonder what the night-life in Vancouver is likeí Lee Brackett thought as he drove away.

 

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He let Jim help him disembark, as Blair could never remember feeling so damn tired.

"...he should be checked out at the hospital," Simon was saying.

"NO!" Blair said hoarsely yet emphatically. His eyes brooked no disagreement as they met Jimís light blue eyes. "Iíve been hurt often enough to judge when I need a hospital or not."

Jim winced at Blairís words, feeling guilty instantly.

"All right, Blair," Jim conceded, giving a little shake of his head over Blairís head to Simon, stopping his Captainís objection.

"Thanks for coming along, guys. Test runs can get a little boring all on your own and I needed to check out the new fuel injection line they just put in," Fuente said with a grin in Smokeís direction.

"No problem, Cesar," Simon said sharing in the camaraderie with the two men, only his brown eyes betraying his worry as he watched Jim and Blair disappear into the building.

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Blair didnít speak on their way down in the elevator. Standing beside Jim, he reflexively ran his hands over his neck, wondering how dark the bruises were that he could feel forming on the sides of his jaw where the bastard had held him.

He pushed the images ruthlessly away, he didnít want to think about it. He didnít want to think about it. It didnít matter. It was over. No need to think anymore about it.

Focused on his thoughts, Blair was oblivious to Jimís intense scrutiny cataloguing every gesture he made, from the rubbing of his upper throat to the unconscious turning of the black and gold ring on his finger.

He took a deep shaky breath, pain from his ribs a welcome distraction from the constant feel of the scraping soreness of his throat. It almost felt like it was still there. Blair closed his eyes tightly the need to scream nearly overwhelming his tattered control. He grabbed Jimís hand for something to concentrate on in an effort to block out the brutal memories which were threatening to invade his mind.

Blair barely held his equanimity down to the parking garage.

 

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Jim had them take the service elevator down from the roof, knowing that it was unlikely they would encounter anyone else using it at this time of the evening. Something Blair just was definitely not up to. Jimís face was expressionless as he stood close beside his lover, the anxiety in his eyes the only hint of emotion in his stiff stance.

The detective was regretting his concession about the hospital. Blair was paler than he had ever seen him and so still, taking up very little space in the elevator.

Jimís nerves were being stretched thin by his partnerís continued silence. The worried anxiety he was experiencing along with helpless fear formed a highly volatile mix of emotions beneath the handsome stoic face.

Desperation filled Jim at the overwhelming need to touch Blair. He almost gave an explosive sigh of relief when his lover suddenly grasped his left hand with both of his. Blairís hands were trembling so slightly he doubted the visible eye could detect it, while Jim felt it spread throughout his body. He would give Blair anything he needed...

"Blair?" Jim said softly, not wanting to startle his partner whose eyes were tightly closed. "Weíre here."

They walked out of the elevator slowly. Jim turned towards his partner by the side of the elevator. The immediate area appearing to be empty which he automatically confirmed with his hearing.

"Wait here while I drive the truck around," Jim suggested gently. He didnít want Blair to have to deal with anyone right now.

Blair gave a slight nod of his head which was looking down, his wild hair hanging down shielding his face from view.

Jim set a time record in getting the truck and driving around to Sandburgís location. The sight of his partner sent a chill down his spine. Blair was leaning with his head back against the wall, hands pressed tightly into the pockets of the black S.W.A.T. jacket Jim had made him put on, an anguished expression covering his bruised face.

 

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Blair kept his eyes closed in a vain attempt to shut out the images jaggedly tearing through his mind.

ĎJim didnít see....he doesnít know.í Thanks to Brackett. Brackett. A picture of the rogue agent flashed inside his mind, a picture which Blair roughly shoved away. He couldnít think about Brackett right now. Didnít want to think about anything. Despair rose as he failed to banish the memory of Thorntonís face and the repulsive feel of...

ĎThank god Jim didnít see...it would have disgusted him.í

 

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Jim put the truck in park and got out, cautiously approaching his partner as you would a wounded animal. "Blair..." he tenderly said.

Blairís eyes shot open, the expression vanishing from his face in a flash to be replaced with a mask that would have done Ellison proud under other circumstances.

Jimís frustration grew as Blair immediately moved, clearly indicating that he didnít want to be touched as he made his way to the passenger seat of the truck with Jim following.

As they drove home, grim certainty filled Jim that something more had happened in that mansion between Blair and Thornton.

Blair got out as soon as the truck stopped, rapidly walking across the street without a backward glance.

Jim caught up to his lover in the elevator. His blue eyes anxiously taking in Blairís position in the far corner, before he turned to stand facing forward, trying to give Blair the space he desperately seemed to need.

Blair left the elevator first, automatically reaching into his pocket for his keys before freezing.

Jim curiously looked at Blair who had frozen by the door with an incredulous expression on his face. He unlocked the door waiting for Blair to say something.

"I still have my keys..." Blair said before suddenly brushing past Jim and running into the loft with his hand held over his mouth.

The sound of Blair getting physically sick made Jimís light blue eyes fill with fury. ĎWhat the hell did he do to you, Chiefí he silently raged as he stood staring at the closed bathroom door.

 

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The urge to vomit continued even though nothing came up except acid. Blair tightly gripped the top of the tank, his fingers chalk white. ĎI have to get him out.í

He furiously began brushing his teeth, repeatedly putting more toothpaste on the brush, all the while not looking into the mirror.

The rational part of his mind knew that he was reacting like most do to being---, but he couldnít stop himself. Couldnít stop seeing...every single damn movement of the muscles in his throat making him relive it in every revolting detail.

He didnít want Jim to know, never wanted to ever see the expression in his eyes...

Helpless rage rose inside him as he finally caught his own tormented blue eyes in the bathroom mirror.

 

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The sound of breaking glass stirred Jim from his worried indecision.

"Blair, Iím coming in.." he said as he started to turn the knob, looking down in disbelief when the door refused to open. Locked.

Sandburg had never shut him out, not even when they were barely more than strangers.

"Talk to me, Blair. Please, tell me what happened?" Jim pleaded, his heightened hearing attuned to the agitated breathing on the other side of the door.

Blair shook his head at Jimís request as he sat on the bathroom floor with his back against the wall between the shower stall and the toilet, his head in his hands. "No...Leave me alone...Iíll be alright in a minute, Jim. Iíll deal with this in my own way."

Jim spoke unthinkingly, "Like Lash?"

Silence came from the bathroom for the next tense seconds before it was broken by an incredible sound that made Jimís blood run cold.

Blair was laughing. An angry harsh raspy sound that sounded closer to hysteria than amusement.

Jim stepped away from the door as it brusquely opened.

Black rage shone from Blairís eyes as he faced Jim. He shook his head slightly and gave an angry snort at Jimís expressionless face.

"Lash was nothing! Even when he was getting off rubbing against me all I could think about was dying. But Thornton!..." Blair closed his eyes tightly for a second before opening to reveal the tormented rage in their blue depths.

"You really want to know! All the sick details! How I let Thornton fuck me! How I went to my knees and let him..." Blairís right fist flew up which Jim caught, catching Blair as he slowly collapsed.

Tears fell unheeded from Jimís eyes at the raw pain he heard in Blairís shaky voice as it softly continued. The horrible details spilling from his loverís mouth. He cradled Blairís head against his chest, caressing the back of his head, gently rocking him back and forth trying to comfort him.

Jim pushed down his rage at what he was hearing. All that mattered was Blair. "It doesnít matter. You had no choice, Blair. Itís not your fault. I love you."

He looked down shocked as he felt Blair shake his head negatively at his soothing words. Jim gently lifted up his loverís face to meet the reddened blue eyes.

"I love you, Blair. No matter what."

The tears Blair had been trying to control now began to fall freely as he hugged Jim tightly.

Hours passed unnoticed as they continued to hold each other while sitting on the floor outside the bathroom.

Jim stared out the balcony windows at the lights on the Bay. Blair had fallen into an exhausted sleep in his arms after talking some more, about the kidnapping, about Lash so long ago. He had just listened, deeply glad that both of the sick bastards were dead, but still feeling guilty that he hadnít gotten there in time to prevent Thornton from raping Blair. His breathe hitched at the agony that filled him when he thought about what Blair had been through, was continuing to go through.

Blair blinked in the darkness, wondering what woke him. He looked up into Jimís face. "Jim?"

"Iím sorry, Blair."

"Jim," Blair said, his heart aching at the pain in Jimís voice. "You have nothing to be sorry about. Iím alright. Iím going to be alright." He reached up with his left hand to caress the side of Jimís face, "Weíre together, thatís all that matters."

Blair gently pulled Jimís head down and pressed his lips against Jimís, relaxing when he felt nothing but pleasure. He laid his head back against Jimís chest.

"Weíre going to be fine, Jim. Itís over."

Jim nodded, "LetĎs go to bed. You need to get some rest."

Blair looked around, realizing that they were sitting on the floor. He gingerly got up, catching his breath at the soreness around his ribs.

"Blair?" Jim questioned with a concerned look on his face.

"Uh, the guys who grabbed me got in a couple of shots to my ribs," Blair casually said as they walked to the stairs.

"Bad? Do they need to be taped up?"

Blair shook his head.

"What about your throat?"

Blair winced. He had told his lover or more accurately had cursed to Jim about how every movement of his throat muscles, which included talking, was a vicious reminder of what had happened.

"Little better..."

Jim carefully watched Blair go up the stairs before him. Not wanting to crowd him but wanting to be there if his partner should need him. Jim accepted the jacket Blair handed him and put it along with the one he had been wearing on top of the dresser. He turned around to find Blair sitting on the bed, exhaustedly trying to take off his shoes.

"Let me, babe," Jim said as he kneeled before his lover. Blair watched him with an unreadable expression on his face while Jim took off his shoes.

Blair laid down on the bed and immediately turned on his right side, staring off into nothing. He closed his eyes briefly as the mattress sunk lower as Jim, also fully clothed, joined him on the bed. Blair reached over with his left hand to grab Jimís pulling it over him in an loose embrace, Jim spooned up behind him.

They lay like that for several minutes, both men realizing how close they had come...

"It doesnít bother you that I let another man...?" Blair murmured almost inaudibly as he stared out in the darkness.

Jim turned his left hand so he was now holding Blairís. His forefinger lightly touched the black and gold ring on the beautiful finger. "You didnít...LET...him do anything. He forced you....Blair look at me please?"

Blair turned over onto his back and looked up into Jimís unguarded face.

Jimís eyes visually caressed the face looking pensively up at him, noting the purplish bruises on the face and upper throat. The expressive blue eyes which were now troubled but were usually filled with intelligence and caring. The tireless patience, caring and love that he had seen Blair demonstrate on a daily basis not only to him but to everyone, continued to astound him. Even now, he was the most attractive person Jim had ever seen.

"Nothing in this world, or even what happens after will ever change my love for you, Blair."

A deeply buried fear disappeared within Blair at Jimís words. He gently squeezed Jimís left hand which was still holding his own.

Jim leaned down and kissed Blairís forehead tenderly. "Weíre going to be fine, Chief."

Blair smiled as he closed his eyes.

Yes they were.

 

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Couple of weeks later

Saturday morning

Blairís forehead wrinkled as he looked at the television screen. He briefly looked up at Jimís entrance but then returned to his frustrated task of trying to find something worth watching.

"You would think that with more channels the odds of finding something decent to watch would increase, not decrease.." Blair complained with a dismayed shake of his head, his finger pushing on the channel button repeatedly.

Jim didnít comment as he dropped the bag full of croissants and doughnuts on the counter. "Here let me try.." he said as he joined Blair on the couch after putting down the dayís mail before them on the coffee table. Jimís eyes were on the TV as he casually informed his lover, "Thereís a package for you."

Blairís eyebrows raised at the nonchalant tone as he looked down at the letters and at said small brown package. He turned it over, knowing who it was from but humoring himself. ĎBrackett had been in South Africaí he mused as he carefully removed the brown paper and opened the lid of the box. Inside it, centered perfectly was another box which he carefully picked up.

Blair had a bemused expression on his face as he opened the lid, feeling Jimís eyes on him.

It had been three weeks since his kidnapping. Neither he nor Jim had even blinked an eye when it had hit the newswire that billionaire Paul Thornton, President and CEO of Thornton Industries had been found dead on a private estate in Canada. They had heard nothing from Brackett since that day, until now.

Surprise filled Blairís eyes at the pair of sapphire stud earrings.

Neither he nor Jim had noticed until the day after that one of his earrings had been ripped off during the...kidnapping.

Curious at his loverís reaction, Blair looked over at Jim who was watching the TV.

"Well?"

Jimís eyes flicked instantly to the earrings, then to Blairís face before returning to watch the movie Die Hard. "They match your eyes."

"This..(Blair held up the box) doesnít bother you?" He suspiciously asked.

"Iím not jealous, if thatís what your asking."

"It wonít bother you if I wear them?"

"Nope."

"Because of this...understanding youíve come to?" Blair scoffed as he put the earrings down on the table and stood up.

Jim just nodded as he looked at Blair who was walking into the kitchen.

"What exactly is this understanding? You never have fully explained it, Jim."

Jim muted the television and focused on his lover. "Itís more a feeling than logic...Letís just say that I trust Brackett with both of our lives."

Blair wrinkled his forehead in utter confusion at his loverís explanation. He got two plates from the cupboard, as he mulled over Jimís change of heart towards Brackett. ĎIt must be some bonding experience through a shared trial--warrior code--and all that,í he finally decided as he started putting the croissants on one plate and the doughnuts on the other.

His feelings toward Lee were mixed. The former intelligence agent was a trained cold-blooded killer. Blair didnít romanticize the feeling Brackett felt for him. A relationship of any kind with an amoral bastard did not give him a warm fuzzy feeling. Lee was a killer, one who had helped Jim rescue him, but a killer nevertheless.

Blair had never expected Brackett to care about what happened to him although in hindsight it made perfect sense. Irritation rose at the pure relief he still felt that Lee was the one to find him first and not Jim. He closed his eyes tightly, feeling guilty, yet at the same time glad that Thornton was dead.

Although his throat only gave him a twinge now and then of pain, he didnít know if he was ever going to be able to go down on Jim again. Hell, it was only yesterday that he finally felt comfortable enough to normally kiss Jim. The thought of giving head was enough to bring back the panic.

He wasnít going to worry about it though. During one of their joint counsel sessions with his therapist, Jim said he didnít care, and since their sex life was surprisingly fine otherwise, Blair decided heíd let it go. If his feelings changed in the future, fine and good, if it never did that was okay too.

Blairís eyes rested on the back of Jimís head as he watched television. His eyes trailed down the harnessed strength evidenced in his loverís body by the toned muscles of the arm resting on the back of the couch, stopping at the ring on Jimís hand. He looked down at the matching ring on his own hand. It wasnít until he had taken that last step of accepting the keys to Jimís soul, that he had realized that they were his own.

"What do you want to drink?" He asked Jim with a smile on his face, as he placed the two full plates on the table and turned to walk over to the refrigerator, pausing midway with his body half-turned in his loverís direction .

Jim walked over to stand before Blair. "Are you all right?"

"Iím fine, Jim," Blair replied before giving him a kiss, lingering close to him. "So what will it be?" he said, his peaceful eyes meeting the light blue ones were filled with loving concern.

"Iíll get it. You go sit down. The usual, Chief?"

"Yeah," Blair replied as he went and sat down at the dining room table, picking up the morningís paper.

Jim smiled as he placed the cup of coffee before Blair as he joined him at the table. "Anything interesting?" he asked after Blair put down the paper.

"Not really..."

"What do you want to do today?"

"Thereís a new Central American art exhibit downtown..."

"Sounds good...this pastry is great, you have to try it, Chief."

"Jim, you know how I feel about sugar..."

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Epilogue

UNKNOWN LOCATION

Two months later

The usually mocking blue gray eyes watched the screen intently as the smiling curly-haired man talked animatedly, his hands gesturing wildly as he walked besides a taller man towards an old blue and white truck. Twin sparkles occasionally being picked up by the satellite on the left side of the long-haired manís head.

ĎEverything was all rightí he thought, with an arrogant smile on his handsome face. HE was happy.

 

THE END

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Research Sources:

Blairís Corpse Identification Scene--A real life case of Forensic Anthropologist, Dr. Clyde Snow as seen on HBOís Autopsy 2: Voices from the Dead

Forensic Anthropology Technical Details:

http://www.sfu.ca/archaeology/museum/forensics/age2.html

Medical Examiners Jargon--taken from Christopher Goldenís--Jenna Blake Young Adult Fiction Series and HBOís Autopsy Series

Miscellaneous Sites:

http://www.laswatgear.com/swat_history.htm

http://crimeandclues.com/forensicanthropologist.htm

http://www.firearmsID.com/Galleries/Firearms/a_fagallery.htm

 

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Authorís Addendum: Fans of La Femme Nikita will notice that Nikita has Madelineís old position at Section One. Therefore, this story takes place after Season four. Sectionís location is also somewhere in North America. Brackett is the new darling of Section now that Michael is...elsewhere.