Love Lost

by J L Blackstone

Author's disclaimer: I don't own em. No profit made etc.

Author's notes: Deals with the aftermath of a sexual assault. Sequel to Keys of My Soul. Thanks Maggie for the beta. Feedback is appreciated but not required.

Warnings: Angst NC-17
Story Notes: Takes place after Keys of My Soul but before Hands of Time in the Love and Friendship Series. Author's Notes: A big thank you goes out to my faithful beta reader Maggie. Feedback is appreciated but not required.

Love Lost
by Jessica L. Blackstone

Blair turned down the heat under the carrots. Jim would kill him if he let them scorch. A sound at the door caught his attention.

"Hey man, do you need some help?" Blair called as he quickly strode over and opened the door to reveal the woman whose hand was still poised to knock.

"Carolyn! How are you? Come in. Jim didn't tell me you were going to be in town." Blair hoped he was covering his shock at seeing Jim's ex-wife on their doorstep.

"Hello...Blair," Carolyn responded with a half frown before quickly recovering. "Is Jim around?" Carolyn looked curiously around the loft. It looked so different...not anything like the Spartan apartment she remembered.

"No, but he'll be back any minute. He just ran to get some secret ingredient for some dish he's making," he quickly assured her as he gestured to take her coat.

"Aaah, so Jim's cooking, huh. A Thai dish, I take it," she commented taking in the paraphernalia spread across the counter and island stove. "He must have a date."

"Uh, no," Blair said as he turned from hanging up the wool jacket on the coat rack by the door. "Just me." Blair smiled while silently cursing Jim for being an unthinking jerk. All right, their life had been pretty busy since they officially 'came out' as a couple, what with the kidnapping and all but Jim still should have made the time to tell his ex-wife. But knowing Jim, he probably thought Carolyn wouldn't care, since he didn't care who she dated.

"How about some wine?" Blair asked, pouring the red liquid into a glass as he spoke.

Carolyn took a sip, her eyebrows rising at the sweet taste. "This is very nice. Expensive. Are you sure he doesn't have a date?"

Blair was saved from answering as Jim sauntered through the door, carrying a brown grocery bag. He gave Jim a dirty look as he quickly relieved his lover of the bag and started putting away the groceries.

"Carolyn." Jim greeted her with a small kiss on the cheek as he drew her away from the kitchen and towards the living area. "I didn't know you were going to be in town."

"It was last minute, I had to bring some evidence we tested for a case that goes to trial in a couple of days."

"How long?"

"Oh, I leave the day after tomorrow. I just wanted to see how you were, it's been a while since you last called me." Carolyn looked down as she quietly spoke. Jim had called her only six times since she moved to San Francisco. All on her birthdays and once to verify her safe arrival after the move.

"You'll stay for dinner," Jim invited automatically.

Carolyn smiled, "I'd like that. I'll just go and freshen up." She immediately moved towards the bathroom with familiar ease, although she hadn't been in the apartment in years.

Blair turned to Jim after the door closed. "I thought you were going to call her!" He furiously whispered and practically threw a lime down on the counter after getting it out of the bag.

"Whoa there, Popeye." Jim smoothly took over unloading the groceries and avoided meeting the angry blue eyes in the process. "I just never got around to it."

"Never got around to it," Blair repeated slowly with an incredulous expression. He shook his head in disbelief. "I'm going to the station, get some work done," Blair suddenly decided.

"Oh no! I'm not going to let you pull what you did with Simon." Jim caught Blair's elbow in a firm grip. "We're going to do this together."

Blue met blue as each man tried to stare the other down.

Blair gave a slight nod before moving back towards the counter to resume putting away the groceries, this time more calmly. "But you're the one who's going to tell her," he muttered, determined to have the last word.

Jim's answer was lost in the sound of the bathroom door opening. Blair backed up and hopped up on the counter, content to watch "the master" at his work--and he wasn't referring to Jim's cooking.

Carolyn knew of Jim's preference to be alone behind the stove when cooking one of his "special" dishes. She sipped wine while leaning on the far side of the island counter and watched her ex-husband stir in the lightly cooked chicken slices into the wok with the carrots and bean sprouts. "So, how have you been?"

"Good, good. How about you? Still enjoying your job, Carolyn?" Jim casually replied, his attention focused on the wok as he alternately added various Thai seasonings, and soy sauce to the sizzling chicken.

"Yes, pretty much." Carolyn's eyes flitted over Jim's shoulder to focus on the long curly-haired man sitting on the counter. She was totally surprised that Sandburg was still living at the loft. She couldn't believe that Jimmy allowed a confessed fraud to continue to associate with him, let alone live with him.

"Have a seat. It's ready. Actually, it was pretty much ready before I ran out to get my secret ingredient," Jim explained as he spooned out portions on the three plates that Blair had just handed him. He was topping the chicken with cilantro, scallions, and peanuts when he realized that Blair had already set the table and was patiently standing by.

Jim gave a quick grin to Blair as he handed him a plate, before turning towards the dinner table where he slid Carolyn's plate in front of her with a flourish. He unthinkingly pulled out the chair out on his right for Blair as he sat down at the head of the table.

"Well, how is it?" Ellison asked as he watched her take a bite. He poured some wine for himself and watched as a small smile crossed her face.

"It's great. I don't remember this one?"

"It's new." Jim's gaze shifted to his right to see Blair nodding his head in agreement at Carolyn's favorable verdict. "I discovered it in a dive in Little Tokyo during a sting operation.

"But it's Thai, isn't it?"

"Primarily." Jim grinned, not even Sandburg would be able to guess what the secret ingredient was that he had added. "What case in particular brought you to town?"

"Telson," Carolyn replied, "hand me the hot oil, would you?"

Jim and Blair both automatically reached for the oil, their left hands meeting with a distinct crash over the requested item. Carolyn's eyes narrowed as she focused on the hands joined over the small dish of hot oil.

Blair quickly withdrew his hand and placed it in his lap. His face was only slightly flushed as he returned to eating as casually as possible. He was going to kill Jim for putting him through this...

"What did you guys do, join a cult or something?" Carolyn laughed as she accepted the hot oil from Jim. The black and gold bands were quite distinctive.

Blair closed his eyes at the question and took a big gulp of wine.

"Not exactly," Jim began. He extended his right hand out to Blair, "Chief?"

Blair reluctantly placed his left hand in Jim's, vowing to make him suffer for this.

Jim's thumb ran lightly over the wedding band on his partner's finger as he turned to meet Carolyn's curious eyes. "Blair and I are together, Carolyn."

Comprehension didn't immediately dawn. Carolyn's eyes widened in shock when it finally did. "But you're not gay! You can't be!"

"It doesn't matter what I am. I've settled down again...with Blair." Jim's grip tightened on Blair's hand as he felt his lover try to withdraw. Furious blue eyes met his when Jim finally turned his gaze to Blair's face. Great. They were both mad at him. He released Blair's hand with a sigh.

Carolyn closed her eyes and took a deep breath before slowly rising from the table. "I can't deal with this. Not now." She moved towards the door with Jim immediately following her. He automatically reached for her coat and helped her into it.

"Carolyn, please don't go. Not like this."

She shook her head. "I'll call you."

Jim leaned on the door after he shut it, his gaze immediately focused on the man still seated at the table, eating. He straightened up and walked back to the table, "Go ahead and say it."

Blair continued to silently eat, as if it was just another meal, although he kept his gaze from meeting Jim's.

Jim stared at Blair's profile. "You were right, okay? I should have called and told her."

Blair said nothing as he sipped his wine, while gazing out the balcony windows at the lights coming on in the Bay.

Ellison picked up his fork and began to eat dinner. 'If that was the way Blair intended to play it, it was fine with him,' he thought stubbornly. If Blair wanted to be childish about it, he wasn't going to beg him to talk. Christ! Listen to him. Hell, he admitted that he had been wrong, wasn't that enough for Sandburg?

On top of it all, the romantic dinner he had imagined was turning out like everything that he planned for Blair--a complete disaster. Jim pushed his plate away roughly. He had lost his appetite.

Jim was about to stand and begin clearing the plates when his attention was caught as Blair deliberately poured himself another full glass of wine. The dark blue eyes looked fixedly into Jim's as he did so, daring him to say something before returning his gaze to the Bay.

Blair never drank more that two glasses.

Jim folded his arms across his chest determined to sit there as long as it took. He knew Blair was about to have one of his outbursts, which had been become all too common since they became lovers. Granted, they were more often than naught because of something stupid that Jim had done.

Like this time.

Damn it, but the silence was unnerving.

"She still loves you."

Jim's startled ice blue eyes met Blair's as his lover finally turned to look at him.

Jim gave a nervous laugh. "You've got to be kidding me? Uh-uh." Jim shook his head, it was the craziest thing he had ever heard come from Sandburg's mouth, and that was saying alot. What the hell would the kid come up with next?

"You finished?" Jim asked, pausing for Blair's approval before picking up his plate and placing it on top his and Carolyn's. He was reaching for the wine bottle when Blair's voice stopped him.

"Leave it."

Jim stared fixedly at Blair for a few milliseconds before he turned away. Thoughts ran through his mind as he scraped the leftover food off the plates into the trash and rinsed them off before placing them in the sink.

He took a beer out of the refrigerator and leaned against the counter, his eyes anxiously taken again with the disconcerting sight of Blair sitting alone, apparently intent on getting drunk.

Jim set the bottle down on the counter, and turned his attention to deciding which of the items scattered across the counter by the stove really needed to be put away to avoid being spoiled. "She can't be in love with me. Carolyn started to date other men within two weeks after the divorce was final."

"Five years and she still hasn't remarried. An attractive woman like Carolyn. Who the hell are you kidding, Jim?" Blair's voice was curiously dispassionate, cold despite the angry words.

"What's the real reason why you didn't call and tell her?" Blair's eyes were unreadable as he moved to stand directly in front of Jim, forcing him to meet his eyes.

Jim hated this feeling. Trapped. "What the hell are you talking about now?" Jim asked going on the attack. "You're the one with the problem about people knowing about us! You only told Naomi, because I backed you into it."

Blair's hands closed into fists. He took a deep breath. "I might have had a problem with it in the beginning but not anymore," he said between clenched teeth. "And you still haven't answered my question."

Jim ran his right hand through his hair in frustration. Damn his head hurt!

"I didn't know how, okay! Are you happy now, Einstein?" Jim cried as he turned away and strode towards the front door. Blair's next words froze him in his tracks.

"If you go out that door, I might not be here when you get back."

Jim whirled around. Blair was deadly serious. "Why? Just because I didn't tell my ex-wife about us? That's crazy! What the hell is going on with you?" He strode back and grasped Blair's arms. "Talk to me, Blair." Jim reluctantly let go as he felt Blair tense at his closeness.

He took two steps backward to give Blair some space. Damn it, he hated how quicksilver Blair's moods were these days. Damn Thornton to the darkest level of hell. The bastard died too damn quickly.

Now it was Blair's turn to run his hands through his hair as he sighed. Confusion reigning as he tried to order his thoughts. "You should have told her," he whispered as he turned and walked into the living room to sit down on the couch. Blair rested his head in his hands wondering when 'this' had gotten so hard.

Jim followed, immediately taking a seat on the coffee table opposite Blair. He cupped Blair's face in both hands, gently raising it until the troubled eyes met his.

"I'm sorry, Blair. You're right I should have told her."

"Why didn't you?"

"Because I was afraid of what I would hear in her voice."

Blair nodded, "disgust, that what you feel, about us?"

"Of course not, don't be ridiculous. I love you, Blair." Jim's eyes didn't waver from Blair's.

"But you are ashamed, aren't you? To be in love with a man," Blair commented not really asking because he could see the truth in Jim's eyes. He had picked up that much from Jim's answer or the lack of one to Carolyn's assertions.

"More embarrassed than ashamed," Jim reluctantly admitted, his right thumb absently caressing Blair's jaw-line. "I'd thought of myself as a straight man for almost forty years before I met you and suddenly everything I was sure of went out the damn window."

"And Carolyn?"

"I don't know. I just felt better keeping Carolyn in the dark. It would raise too many questions if I told her."

"Which you just did."

"Which I just did." Jim gave a wry smile. "I guess I am going to have to come up with some answers."

Blair nodded. "I always knew I was attracted to both men and women. That I was bi-sexual since I was seventeen. But what brought this on? You seemed fine with it--us."

Jim shook his head slightly, a bitter smile on his face. "I thought I was, until...we came out at the station." He exhaled as he looked away. Blair's hand instantly came up to catch the chiseled chin, drawing it back till Jim's eyes met his once again.

"No one's asked, but what am I, Blair? I don't feel gay, but I love you. Lust after you." Jim brought his head up and gently pressed his lips to Blair's, desire coursing through him when the lips parted allowing him into the moist heat that tasted of ginger, wine, lime--Blair.

Jim gently pulled away, ending the kiss. He stood up slowly and ran a hand through his hair nervously before turning and walking towards the balcony. He stepped out, wishing for this conversation to be over.

The sound of Blair moving, made Jim's hands tense on the railing.

"You never were attracted to other men? Not ever?" The quiet words held a multitude of other unasked questions that had been building up for a while, ever since they began having sex. Maybe he should have dared Jim's annoyance.

A small chuckle that held no humor whatsoever was Jim's initial reply. His blue eyes coolly flicked behind him to the curly haired man leaning against the entrance to the balcony, patiently waiting. Always waiting it seemed, for him.

Jim went back to staring out across the water. This was a no-win situation. He knew he had to give Blair an answer. An honest one. It was just...


Blair straightened at the terse reply. "Until me." So the more vicious of the gossipmongers at the station were right after all. It was his fault. He had 'corrupted' Jim. He turned away, his shoulders slumped. Made him do something that was against his nature.


Blair hadn't even noticed Jim's approach let alone the hand which now gently held his arm.

Jim looked into Blair's face trying to read what the hell was going on behind the distressed blue eyes.

"I'm sorry." Blair whispered looking down at Jim's chest.

Confusion wrinkled Jim's forehead. "What for? I'm the one with the identity crisis."

"That I caused."

Damn it! He knew this would happen. This was why he hadn't wanted to have this conversation. Jim knew he wasn't good with words, but he also knew if he didn't dispel the demons that were rattling around in Blair's head, he would lose him.

"I'm not."

Blair looked up at Jim, meeting his eyes questioningly.

"I'm not sorry." Jim reached up to cup the right side of Blair's face. "I thank God, Yahweh, or whoever for bringing an annoying talkative grad student into my life. You're not some Greek siren. People are responsible for their own actions. You're not to blame."

He stared intently into Blair's eyes and allowed his feelings for him to show clearly.

Blair sighed. He knew that Jim wasn't only talking about them. It was just so hard to get rid of the feeling that he was somehow to blame for the whole mess. If he had just done something differently, told Naomi about Thornton...maybe it was something he did that made men--fixate on him. Lash. Brackett.

Jim watched the thoughts flick through the dark blue eyes, knowing from the past few weeks what they were. Hell, he really had fucked up this time. Carolyn showing up. The timing of this revelation was just perfect, coming so close after Blair's kidnapping. "You're not going to get rid of me that easily. I've grabbed my brass ring and I'm never letting go of it."

He grinned down at Blair, pleased when the shadows in the troubled blue eyes fled to be replaced by amusement. "How about helping me out with the clean up?" Jim asked eyeing the stuff on the counter that still needed to be put away.

Blair nodded as he followed Jim into the kitchen.

"So what did you think of the food? I know that the wine was a big hit."

"Ha, ha. Who knew that Jim Ellison didn't have a sense of humor?" Blair picked up the various spices and put them back on the rack. "The chicken was good, it probably would have tasted even better if I hadn't been too tense to REALLY enjoy it."

"I already apologized for not calling Carolyn. I'm an idiot. What, do you want even more blood?" Jim asked with an irritated expression.

"Not blood," Blair whispered as he reached up to pull Jim down for a kiss. Laughing when the scowl on Jim's face disappeared as his tongue slipped between Jim's lips to explore the spicy sweetness. The Thai food really had been good.

Cascade PD

Carolyn let out a sigh of relief as she spotted the light glaring from Simon's office as she quickly strode through Major Crime's dimly lit bullpen. She barely knocked on the door before rushing inside.

"What the hell has happened to Jim, Simon?! Jim's sleeping with men--with Blair, for god's sake. How did you let that happen?" Carolyn was actually trembling as she waited for Banks to answer her.

"Plummer, Carolyn, uh," Simon paused, completely at a loss on how to proceed. He had wondered how or if Carolyn even knew about Jim's relationship with Blair. He got his answer. "I take it you've seen Jim?"

Carolyn nodded as she sat down in a chair with a completely confused expression.

"Coffee?" Simon offered, intensely relieved when she nodded yes. It would give him time to think. He watched her take a drink, some of the tension leaving her body.

"They went through a hell of a lot of shit together after you left, Carolyn. Some of the worse cases I've ever encountered and don't wish to see the like again in my career. Even when Sandburg was merely an observer, he pulled his weight and soon Jim...hell even I and everyone else here began to depend on him."

"But he lied about Jim. He's a fraud!"

Simon shook his head, "That's something I can't comment on. You'll have to ask Jim about that. Sandburg's proven his loyalty time and again to Jim and the department. That's why I went to bat for his permanent Special Consultant status." Simon wondered when the hell he had become counselor for the detective's ex-wives, wasn't that Sandburg's job. "He's a good man, Carolyn."

"And what, they fell in love?! James Ellison. I don't believe it."

Simon sighed. His brown eyes were crystal clear as he simply answered, "Yes. I believe they did. And I'll say one last thing. Sandburg is the best thing that has ever happened to Jim."

"This will ruin Jim's career."

"If he was interested in a promotion, Jim would be a Captain by now, and you know it Carolyn."

He stood and gently raised Carolyn to her feet. "Get some rest, Carolyn. This has been a shock. Talk to Jim, tomorrow."

Carolyn nodded her head simply as she let Simon lead her towards the door. She needed to go somewhere quiet so she could think. Jimmy was in love with someone else.

"Uh-huh. Thanks, Simon." Jim ended the call just as he topped the stairs.

Blair glanced up briefly from his laptop. "Carolyn?"

"She went to the station."

"And?" He didn't even look up this time but kept on reading his appointment schedule for the day after tomorrow.

"Simon talked to her, said she was pretty upset."

"Hmmph. Wouldn't you be?"

Instead of answering, Jim grabbed the end of his t-shirt, drawing it smoothly up and off to reveal muscled perfection.

Blair swallowed at the sight and quickly returned his gaze to the screen. He finally gave up with a sigh after realizing that he was just delaying the inevitable. "What is 'gay' suppose to feel like?"

Jim gestured for his lover to move his legs, clearing a space for him to sit down on the bed next to Blair as he removed his shoes. "I don't know. Looking at guys, wearing pink, gesturing with your hands...Yeah, yeah it's stereotypical," Jim admitted in response to his lover's defensive "Hey!"

"Hmm. So you're not attracted to guys, just me, is that it?"

"I never was before..."

"And now? Hypothetically speaking, if I was out of your life, if we were no longer together who would you go out with?" Blair's blue eyes were focused on the tell-tale sign of the nerve along Jim's jaw-line which would reveal just how tense his lover was getting.

Jim sighed. "Probably no one. Remember I'm the one who never manages a second date with the same woman."

A small grin covered Blair's face before disappearing. "So it's women. You'd go back to dating women."

"Probably, but more likely I wouldn't date."

"I don't understand. Why not?" Blair said with a confused expression on his face as he watched Jim stand and put his shoes away.

"I know what the real thing feels like," Jim explained as he walked around towards his side of the bed and drew the comforter and sheet back. "You're a tough act to follow, Chief." He quipped as he slipped into the bed next to Blair.

Blair looked down at Jim's face which had relaxed into a more open countenance as soon as he had laid down. But he still didn't know if he was being kidded or not, since his lover's eyes were closed.

"You wouldn't date anyone?" Blair shook his head in disbelief at the idea.

"I can't tell you what I would do until I'm in the situation. No one can," Jim replied with his eyes still firmly closed. Immensely glad that Blair hadn't focused in on his other revelation.

"I guess the thought of spending your life alone doesn't scare you..." Blair murmured thoughtfully.

"The only thing that SCARES me, is life without you," Jim snapped, his blue eyes opening to reveal anger.

Blair started slightly at the retort, his head jerking to the left so his eyes met Jim's. He quickly looked up and away rubbing his forehead as if in pain as he sighed. "I know, I'm sorry. I don't know what I was thinking with that crack about not being here when you got back."


"I didn't mean it."

"Part of you did."

Blair picked up the laptop and stood up to walk over by the desk in the corner. He put the laptop down and kept his back turned towards Jim as he continued speaking. "Yeah, a part of me did. I'm just so tired of you not talking, repressing crap."

"It might have escaped your notice, Freud. I'm been 'talkin' all evening," Jim countered sarcastically.

"And when did this change of behavior come about, huh? Oh yeah, now I remember. Ever since I let Thornton fuck my mouth." Blair turned around as he spoke, his arms coming up to cross his chest defensively.

Jim sat up in bed to rest his back up against the railing headboard. Anything he said was going to be ripped apart, so he kept it simple. "I don't want to lose you, Blair."

"I'm not your fucking wallet."

"I know that...I just...I love you," Jim finished lamely feeling totally out of his depth as Blair continued to stare at him with unreadable dark eyes. He had absolutely no idea of what to say when Blair was in this type of mood.

Blair didn't say anything as he walked back to bed, and turned off the lamp on the nightstand before getting back into the bed.

Jim silently watched as Blair got into bed and immediately turned on his right side so that his back was facing Jim. 'At least he's still sleeping in our bed,' Jim thought as he moved to lay flat, simply grateful for the presence of the man next to him. 'Damn it! I should have told Carolyn about us a long time ago.'

Blair roused suddenly, completely surprised to find himself staring down into his algae shake. He shook his head totally disgusted with himself. A glance at the clock indicated that he had lost about ten minutes in his little zone-out. The only good thing was that Jim hadn't caught him. He had been hard enough on Jim last night. He didn't want to give him something else to worry about.

He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. It didn't help. A bitter laugh escaped as he remembered what Jim had said. He should be ecstatic. Another laugh, almost a sob escaped from his lips. Jim truly loved him. Beyond all others. The one.

But he couldn't feel anything. Anger seemed to be the only emotion he was able to feel these days. The level of it would wax and wane but it was always there. A conciliatory Jim was annoying as hell. Jim talking. It was just so weird. Jim actually talking about his feelings, fears...

Everything he once wished for and now--nothing. Nothing but the rage.

He knew it would pass in time, knew it was a result of the--rape. But that didn't help. Didn't change anything. Didn't change what he had done.

He picked up the shake and forced himself to drink it even though he had no appetite. He seemed to be forcing himself to do a lot of things these days.

Blair wiped the moisture from his upper lip with the back of his hand as he blankly gazed around the loft, 'Maybe a shower would help...give him some focus, some control.'

Blair stood motionless by the bed. His eyes mesmerized by the sight of the man sleeping peacefully before him. They slowly slid over the hard lined features in a visual caress. Memory supplied the details of the touch and taste of the strong jaw line covered in morning stubble. His eyes roamed down the length of the man whose body he knew as intimately as his own.

Blair kept waiting for it to come back. He knew he loved Jim. Knew it, but couldn't feel it. Numbness. He was dead inside.

He let his robe fall to the ground and gently knelt on the bed, careful to not wake the sleeping man as he straddled him.

The lips tasted like Blair remembered. Firm, warm, dry and responsive. He thrust his tongue into the liquid fire anxious to let it scald him. Purified.

Jim's body instantly knew this was Blair. The aggressive thrusts of the maddening tongue in his mouth pushing him to drive deep into the hot body straddling his hips. Blair knew how he was in the mornings.

Blair reached blindly behind him to push down the blanket and sheets covering Jim's hips. He licked the underside of the distinct jaw. It tasted just like he remembered. Lust flowed over him. He reached down and grasped the erect cock, automatically aligning it with the opening in his body. He returned to furiously kissing Jim's face as he began to push back.

Jim withdrew his right hand from the forest of curls and reached down to grasp Blair's left hip. Ellison's eyes narrowed as they took in the odd light shining from the dark blue eyes of the flushed face above him. "Blair?" Jim managed to gasp between the frenzied kisses. His left hand took a firmer hold on the curly head making it still so he could get a good look into his lover's eyes.

Blair jerked his head out of Jim's grasp and continued to push back, desperate to feel Jim's cock buried within him.

Jim's forehead wrinkled at Blair's reckless attempts to impale himself onto his dick without lubricant, let alone a condom. He quickly gripped Blair's hips with both hands preventing the trembling body from moving any further. "Look at me, Blair."

The eyes that peered out from under the mass of curls held a strange manic gleam.

"Come on, Jim. Get with the program," Blair teased anxiously as he bent down and nipped the side of Jim's neck in the spot that always drove the older man crazy.

"What's going on Blair?!"

Blair laughed. "Not as much as I want. Let go, Jim. Fuck me." Blair harshly whispered into Jim's left ear, "You know you want to."

The muscles in Jim's arms flexed as he re-adjusted his grip on Blair. He could hear the rapid beat of Blair's heart--way too fast even for sex. It was closer to one of the panic attacks that Blair had been having since his kidnapping. His head, his instincts were screaming that it was a mistake to continue even as his body hungered for more.

He tensed as Blair began to jerk his cock in soft teasing strokes. Jim abruptly tightened his hold on Blair's hips and unceremoniously lifted him off of him onto the bed.

"Uh-uh," Jim grunted with a shake of his head. "Not like this."

"Come on, Jim..."

Jim batted away the hand reaching towards his bare chest. "NO."

"No," Blair repeated stiffly with no expression on his face, before he quickly rose to stand by the bed. He stalked over and grabbed his robe from the floor at the foot of the bed, putting it on in short jerky movements. "Not like what?! Huh?? I want to fuck!"

Jim's eyes narrowed. "No, you want me to nail you to the damn bed like some kind of whore...I'm not going to let you turn me--us, into some sort of...punishment to get rid of whatever demons are rattling around in your brain, Sandburg!"

Blair scoffed. "So speaks, Mr. Psychoanalyst. Excuse me for wanting to make up for last night," he said in an attempt to rationalize his actions. But, he didn't meet Jim's eyes as he turned away. "I'm going to work."

Although his body was still, Jim's mind was not. He listened intently to Blair's progress as he stomped down the stairs to his study, which still held too many of his clothes for Jim's taste. 'In this case maybe it was better' he decided. Sandburg needed his space or so Blair continued to argue.

He closed his eyes in relief as he continued to monitor Blair's vitals with his senses. They were slowing down to normal although he still winced at the slam of the front door, punctuating Blair's exit from the loft.

"Damn it!" Jim swung his legs off the bed, his aching cock a painful reminder of what he had just turned down. There was nothing he could do for Blair. He would just give him the space, time he needed to work through whatever junk he needed to work through as a result of the...rape. All he could do was continue to be a 'reassuring source of love and support' for Blair, or so the therapist kept telling him.

"Hell!" The silence of the apartment was disconcerting; it lacked Sandburg's usual morning sounds while he made them breakfast. Jim barely spared a glance at the empty kitchen as he made his way to the bathroom.

Jim rubbed a hand over his jaw down his neck in frustration as he stared at himself in the bathroom mirror. He hated this. Feeling so helpless...but there was something he still had some control over. What the hell was he going to do about Carolyn?

Guilt instantly replaced the rage he felt as soon as Blair got behind the steering wheel. He pounded his fist against the wheel wondering why he couldn't get control of this--thing. He hated this feeling of helplessness. Why couldn't he just forget it? The man was dead.

Blair started the ignition and drove determinedly out of the parking lot. He had to get a grip on this anger and stop taking it out on other people--especially Jim.

Ellison didn't even glance up when Sandburg finally entered Major Crime at ten after nine.

"What's on for today?" Blair asked with an enthusiastic smile.

Jim gave a small snort. So that's the way Sandburg was going to play it. Fine by him.

"Arson case over on Cypress." Jim grabbed his jacket and moved towards the elevators, immensely relieved but showing none of it as Blair trailed behind him like usual.

"Anybody injured?"

"No, it was after hours. A warehouse," Jim explained as they made their way through the parking garage to his truck.

Silence fell as Jim maneuvered through traffic. Jim didn't ask.

"I went to Rainier..." Blair suddenly volunteered as he looked out the passenger window.

Jim gave a slight nod, his hands tightening on the wheel uncontrollably.

"It helps me think." He hadn't gone in, didn't go anywhere in fact. Just sat in his car in the parking lot, thinking. Blair had spent so much time there that it was the one place where he could feel completely relaxed. Strange. Thinking back on that time in his life when everything made sense. Getting his doctorate, riding with Jim, teaching classes. Simple.

Jim's head jerked in Blair's direction as if he had heard a shot, instead of a sigh.

"Blair?.." Jim trailed off. He had no idea what to say. He just wanted it to be--right again. For Blair to be all right. He stared fixedly forward, wondering what he...they, were suppose to do now.

Both men were relieved at the sight of the burnt warehouse. The case.

The reprieve was short-lived, lasting only the half hour it took for them to walk through the blackened ruins. They quickly realized this was an isolated case, not connected to the half dozen recent fires in the same vicinity.

"Tomkins? It's Ellison. I'm out at the warehouse. Yeah, I agree, no connection." Jim nodded as he talked on the cell phone; giving absolutely no indication that he was paying any attention to the man sitting in the truck with him, unconsciously turning over the black and gold band on his left ring finger.

"That's that," Jim unnecessarily said after he hung up.

Blair didn't respond but kept looking out the window.




Blair started and turned towards Jim with a startled expression across his handsome face. "What?"

"What are you thinking about?"

Blair gave a short bitter laugh. He shook his head. That was the most amusing thing about this whole mess. Jim had never asked him crap like that before Thornton. Now Jim walked around on eggshells, totally irritating him.

"Nothing. I was spacing out."

Jim released a huge breath, "I'm having lunch with Carolyn."

Blair's eyes narrowed slightly at the news as he watched Jim start the truck to head back to the station. "And what are you going to tell her?"

Jim glanced briefly to his right. "That I fell in love." Blair turned his head away, finding it difficult to breathe. He shut his eyes, trying to control the emotions that were threatening to overwhelm him. "Good, that's good," he finally managed. And it was good. Jim needed to come to terms with being part of a gay couple. That meant dealing with family and friends.

The radio came to life. "We have a robbery in progress. 212 Westwood. All available units respond."

Jim instantly reached for the strobe light while Blair responded, "This is one zebra one responding..."

Blair was just finishing up taking a witness statement when he felt Jim walk up behind him. "Thank you very much, Mr. Clyde," he said giving no outward indication that he was aware of his lover's presence.

Jim watched the sales clerk as he walked away past the crime scene tape. "I'm already late for lunch, are you okay here?" He hesitantly glanced down at Blair's face afraid of what he might see. He needn't have worried, Sandburg was doing a good job of keeping his eyes fastened to the notes he was writing.

"Oh fine, I'll get a ride with Joel," Blair nonchalantly said without looking up.

Ellison stood frozen in place for several seconds, discomfited. He walked away wondering when the hell Sandburg had become an uncommunicative prick, in other words, him. But first things first. Carolyn.

Blair watched Jim walk away, fighting the urge to call him back. He wanted to say...something but he didn't know what. Maybe he needed some time alone. He dismissed Joel's offer of a ride saying that he was going to get lunch around the corner.

"See ya later, Joel." He strolled along the boulevard, enjoying the feel of the sun on his face. For once it wasn't pouring. One turn and he was soon walking into McConnell's Grill. "Hey Nick," Blair called out to the man behind the counter.

"How ya doing, Blair?! The usual?" Nick answered.

"Yeah, I'll have it outside." Blair walked back outside and pulled a white iron chair from the table in the corner. He sat down and instantly leaned back, tilting his head back. 'God, it felt good to just relax,' he thought as he closed his eyes and sighed. He didn't hear the other person approach until they spoke.

"Good afternoon, Mister Sandburg."

Blair's eyes shot open. Shit! Brackett. He closed his eyes in a vain attempt to deny the rogue agent's presence but it didn't work. The covert operative was still there when he opened them. 'So much for the restful meal,' Blair thought bitterly as the man took a seat opposite of him.

Jim immediately spotted his ex-wife seated at a table in the center of the Tandori restaurant.

"Sorry I'm late," he immediately apologized and kissed her on the cheek before sitting. He looked down at the dish containing small meats wrapped in some sort of leaf. "I see you've started without me?"

Carolyn nodded, a small smile forming on her face. "Just like old times, eh?"

"Yeah." He turned his attention to the waiter approaching them, holding two menus. The next few minutes were spent with the pleasant chatter over what each of them was going to order. Jim gave a mental sigh of relief at the normality. Maybe this wasn't going to be as hard as he thought.

Silence fell after the waiter left with their orders. Jim cleared his throat awkwardly. "I have to apologize to you, Caro...I should have told you much sooner about Blair and I. He told me to. I just didn't listen."

"Nice to know some things remain the same," she said tensely, looking down with an uncomfortable expression. "Jim, did me--at all? Or was it some sort of denial? I have to know?!" She had spent the whole night going over their marriage, wondering if she had been a blind fool.

Jim reached out and grasped her left hand which was clenched into a fist. "I did love you, Caro. I still care about you deeply. You once said you got more out of a toaster than you could me, remember?"

Carolyn gave a small nod.

"It was true. I had my walls so high that no one could reach me. I knew that, but I couldn't--wouldn't change. I'm sorry for that. It was my fault that our marriage didn't work out. I wanted it to but I was just too set in my ways. You deserved, you deserve better." He gently squeezed the hand in his grip.

She stared steadily for several seconds into the blue eyes which held sad regret and sighed. "So our marriage wasn't a sham, a pretense?"

Jim shook his head. "This thing with Blair...just happened. I didn't realize I was bi-sexual until a year or so ago." He looked away, letting his gaze slide around the people in the restaurant. Returning his gaze to Carolyn, he hesitated at saying the next words. "Initially, I thought of Sandburg as just some annoying kid brother. I didn't realize my feelings had changed for him until he drowned."

Carolyn started. "Blair drowned?"

"It was the worst moment of my life, but I still couldn't face my feelings for him. I pushed him away. Denied everything." Jim was so focused on their joined hands that he missed Carolyn's knowing nod.

"And then he gave up his dream for me, and I still didn't get it. Couldn't face it," he admitted reluctantly, hoping Blair wouldn't kill him for what he was about to reveal. "I didn't know Blair felt the same way. Even though I thought he was heterosexual, I was the one who made the first move. I pursued him, not the other way around." He had to make that clear.

Jim swallowed anxiously, "Hell, I was the one who pushed for us to come out as an official couple."

Carolyn picked up his left hand with the black and gold band. "This is recent then, I take it?"

"It's just been a little over a month."

"How'd the gang take it?" Carolyn asked curiously.

He gave a slight chuckle. "Pretty well. There's been a rumor that we've been lovers since he first moved in. No one could figure out why else I would have let him move into the loft, or why I didn't throw him out after the first week."

"Why did you? I never believed that crap about his dissertation on 'police as a closed society."

Jim sighed and looked into Carolyn's eyes. "That's a long story and better left unsaid. Let's just say it would be best if people believed that we were lovers."

"Even me?" Carolyn asked with disbelief.

Ellison gave a stiff nod. "I'm sorry, Carolyn."

Their conversation was put on hold as the waiter returned with their food.

"So that's it then," Carolyn casually said, trying to keep the hurt from her voice but failing.

"I love him." Jim steadily met Carolyn's eyes.

Carolyn felt something in her let go and took a deep breath. It was over. Jim had changed. Drastically. The Jim she knew would never have revealed so much about himself. Whatever else she might feel she had to acknowledge that Simon was right. Blair Sandburg was good for Jim, better than she had been. That thought hurt worse than anything. She hated to admit that the grad student had accomplished something she couldn't. But she couldn't avoid the truth. Jim didn't love her, not anymore.

She'd accept the new promotion SFPD was offering her and she'd get on with her life without one James Ellison. "I hope this dish is as good as I heard," she commented in a pleasant tone, and began eating.

Lee watched, fascinated at the emotions flowing across the expressive face: shock, anger and finally annoyed resignation. 'Damn! He must be amazing in bed.' A flash of rage filled the blue-gray eyes for a millisecond at the thought that immediately followed, 'Ellison would know.'

Blair opened his mouth to speak but was interrupted by the appearance of Nick with his food and drink. "Thanks," he acknowledged distractedly as his mind raced.

"What can I get you?"

"A beer," Lee ordered, his eyes never wavering from Blair's face.

Nick nodded and went back indoors, leaving the two men alone once again.

Blair made no move to eat his food. "What are you doing here?"

Lee smiled broadly. "What no welcoming kiss for an old friend?" He chuckled. Blair's expression hadn't changed. In fact he grew even more annoyed.

"I don't need this, man. I don't want this--or you. Would you please leave me alone?!" Blair's voice rose in irritation. He really was tired of Tired of everything. He knew what he wanted to do. It was a feeling he recognized. He wanted to leave. Go somewhere. Anywhere else. To forget. The itch to pack a bag and catch a plane was almost overwhelming. There was only one problem.


Jim would never understand. He would interpret it as Blair leaving him, that Blair didn't want to be with him anymore. It would destroy Jim if he abandoned him like everybody else in Jim's life had. But the lure was so strong, made even stronger by the presence of the man sitting across from him, arrogantly drinking his beer.

Blair deliberately picked up his sandwich.

"Is that any way to greet a friend who thought he'd join you for lunch?"

"I didn't ask you."

"A technicality, Mister Sandburg, which I was sure you'd correct as soon as you saw me."

"You were wrong. You're one of the last people I want to see--ever."

"Is that any way to repay the man who helped save you (Blair's grip tightened on his glass) from having to eat lunch alone," Lee finished cleverly.

"GO AWAY," Blair said through gritted teeth.

"I thought I'd keep you company while Ellison was...occupied elsewhere," Brackett continued as if Blair hadn't spoken.

Of course! Comprehension dawned. So that was it. Brackett knew that Jim was having lunch with Carolyn.

Blair gave a harsh laugh before he took a bite of his sandwich. He shook his head. He couldn't believe it, but it did make some sort of twisted sense. If Brackett thought he could cause some trouble between him and Jim, he was in for one hell of a surprise. If there was one thing he had no doubts about, it was Jim's faithfulness, even with his current sexual identity problems. Jim didn't cheat.

He continued to eat, completely ignoring the other man's presence.

"You're looking well."

Blair's eyes widened at the comment. He looked questioningly at the ex-CIA agent.

"I'm glad."

Embarrassed, Blair looked down before raising his head to look past Brackett at the people walking down the street. He cleared his throat. "I'm...okay." He turned to stare into the blue-gray gaze. "Do you still want me?" he asked suddenly.

"Yes," Lee answered automatically.

"Even after--Thornton?" he asked with something threatening to shatter inside him.

"Kidnapped you? Why would that change anything?" Lee simply replied, his gaze unerringly focused on the confused blue eyes.

"But you saw! What I did," Blair choked out as he stared down at the table.

Lee leaned forward and placed his forearms on the table. "I saw an asshole using coercion to get what he wanted." Brackett sat back and took a swig of beer.

Blair blinked as the words reverberated through his brain. Something shifted inside him. He picked it up looking at it anew, yes it was the same and yet it was different. He looked at the memory objectively, finding for the first time not rage but sadness. Blair stared at Brackett, the shock of his realization mirrored in his eyes. He wasn't to blame.

Blair exhaled and laughed. A good honest laugh. It held no underlying rage, bitterness or shame. He had forgotten how good it felt. His eyes fell back to Brackett's and narrowed suspiciously. "Why are you here?"

This time it was Brackett who looked away, unable to meet the knowing blue eyes. He shrugged. "I enjoy your company Mister Sandburg. Does that surprise you?"

Sandburg began to shake his head. "No I just..." he began before he was cut off.

"I'm sure it wouldn't surprise Ellison."

Any sympathy he had been feeling for Brackett fled. Blair gritted his teeth and tried to control his rising anger. He picked his sandwich back up and continued to eat his lunch but with one important difference. The knot that had been in the pit of his stomach was gone and he could actually taste the food.

The companionable silence that fell, however, was surprising. Brackett just continued to drink his beer. Although, Blair thought ruefully to himself as he finished his sandwich, nothing the rogue agent does should surprise him at this point. He pushed away his plate with finality and leaned back against the chair, his curious gaze immediately focusing on Brackett. The man was an enigma. Blair looked away confused, very aware of the uncomfortable link he seemed to have with the other man, especially now.

Brackett watched enchanted at the struggle going on in the deep blue eyes. He smiled. "Well as much as I'd like to stay in your presence, duty calls. Mister Sandburg," Brackett announced as he rose. "Thanks for the beer."

"Lee," Blair called, causing the man to pause and look back.

The two men stared silently at each other for several long seconds.

"Anytime, Mister Sandburg," Lee replied to the unspoken emotion in the beautiful blue eyes before disappearing into the crowd.

Blair stood up trying to track the man's progress, but he was gone. He sat back down with a laugh. He was going to take the rest of the day off to think about what he had just realized. Blair went inside to pay, unaware that he was being observed.

"Wasn't that Ellison's partner?" A young rookie named Albert asked.

"Don't you mean boy-toy?" Mark sneered.

"Whatever. Look's like Ellison better watch out. The guy Sandburg was having lunch with looked like he could give Jimmy-boy a run for his money," Thompson commented, his gaze following the curly haired man until he walked out of the restaurant.

Mark shrugged, "Who do you think is going to win tomorrow's game..."

Jim held open the passenger door for Carolyn. He turned to her as he got in on the driver's side. "The courthouse?"

Carolyn nodded.

Ellison smoothly pulled out into traffic, his attention focused on driving. Carolyn stared at the unmistakable profile she would remember all of her life. She gave a soft sigh as the memory of what that face felt like ghosted through her nerve endings.

Jim turned at the sigh with his forehead slightly wrinkled.

"So how are things at the station?" she asked pleasantly.

"Good. Nothing terribly interesting at the moment. What about San Francisco?"

"Biggest case has been the Nataka murder trial."

"The head of the Leihning Triad?"

Carolyn nodded. "Every witness set to testify against him seems to always disappear. We had to work round the clock to protect Ellen Barrett from doing the same. The look on Peter Nataka's face when she walked into the courtroom was fantastic."

"I bet," Jim pulled over to the curb in front of the courthouse and parked.

They both sat uncomfortably in the silence, neither knowing what to say. Jim was the first to move, getting out of the truck and walking around to the passenger's side. A small smile formed on Carolyn's face as Jim gently helped her out of the truck, a gentleman to the end.

She stared into the light blue eyes and caressed the right side of the handsome face. "Good luck, Jim," she wished him and placed a tender kiss on his left cheek.

"You too, Caro."

Carolyn gave a single nod before turning to gracefully walk up the courthouse steps.

Jim briskly walked into Major Crime, his eyes instantly focusing in on Blair's empty desk. His eyes narrowed at the lack of chaos. Blair's desk always looked like a storm hit within five minutes of sitting down. "Brown, seen Sandburg around?"

Brown shook his head.

He took his jacket off and hung it up on the coatrack by his desk while wondering where Blair could be. Jim took one last look at the empty desk before putting his full attention on the report he needed to write. He outlined this morning's inspection of the arson scene for the case file and was printing it out when Joel walked in smiling.

"Hey Joel, Sandburg with you?"

"No Jim," Joel replied as he sat down at his desk.

"He got a ride back with you, though?"

"No, Blair said he was going to have lunch at McConnell's. Why? Is something wrong?" The man was instantly concerned. Joel had gotten quite fond of the cheerful kid and would gladly take apart anyone who hurt him.

"No," Jim replied immediately. He pushed down the unease that instantly arose at the other man's words. He had to get control of the alarm that flooded his soul when he didn't know Blair's exact whereabouts. 'Sandburg was a grown man for chris' sakes,' Jim argued to himself, but then found himself standing and knocking at Simon's door.

"Simon, have you seen Sandburg this afternoon?"

"I gave him the rest of the afternoon off," Simon replied without looking up from the papers on his desk.

"Why?" Jim asked as he stepped into the office with a curious expression.

"He called and requested it." Simon gave Ellison a penetrating stare. "You weren't aware of it?"

Jim gave a single shake of his head, worry instantly filling him at the news.

"Do you want to take the rest of the day off?"

Again, Jim shook his head. "No, if Blair wanted me around he would have told me. No, I think I'm going to have to give him the space he seems to want." Jim grimaced at the thought. His gut wanted him to do exactly the opposite. Run home and check on Blair. Something he knew his lover wouldn't appreciate at all.

"How is Blair doing?" Simon asked with a thoughtful expression.

Jim returned his attention towards the other man. "He's fine sir." Simon raised his eyebrows quizzically, and Jim added, "as well as could be expected given the circumstances." Jim knew Simon understood those circumstances even though Blair hadn't wanted anyone to know exactly what had happened to him while he was kidnapped. 'Hell,' Jim thought with a snort, 'Blair had even tried to keep it a secret from him.'

"I've got to get back to work," Jim said, already moving towards the door.

Simon watched the tall detective leave and chewed thoughtfully on the unlit cigar in his mouth. He was going to continue to keep an eye on those two. They were too good to lose, both as cops, and more importantly--friends.

Jim sat down and resigned himself to getting back to work. It was going to be a long afternoon. He found himself having to forcefully keep his attention on what he was doing otherwise he drifted off.

Carolyn. Well at least they parted as the friends they had started out being. It was really over. The stray idea that they might have gotten back together had pretty much died the second he realized that he enjoyed--wanted Blair living at the loft more than her. And that was before they had even gotten intimate.

He snorted under his breath at his thought. Intimacy. It was what Carolyn wanted but never got from him. Something he gave freely, okay maybe not so freely, to Blair. His lover would probably compare it to picking at a slab of marble with a toothpick but Blair had persevered and gotten him to open up.

A pair of blue eyes brimming with intelligence and a bright smile instantly came to mind every time he thought of Blair Sandburg. It was never just simple sexual attraction. It never had been, even in the beginning. He wasn't attracted to other men. In fact he had looked around at other guys in the showers at the gym after he and Blair had gotten together to find out if he was turned on by men. Nope, nada.

Which could mean everything or nothing. He never had been the type to cat around when he was already involved with someone. And much to Sandburg's chagrin, Jim had known that he was in love with Blair even before their first kiss.

A small smile formed on his face as he thought about life's irony. Sandburg was the one with the fear of commitment while he wanted nothing less. The smile fade as he thought of Thornton.

Blair was pulling away from him. Jim could sense it since the kidnapping. Both physically and emotionally. Isolating himself behind walls that he didn't know he could scale or even if he should try.

Jim sighed and began to stack the case files into piles. It was time to go home.

Blair stared unblinkingly into the flame, not seeing it at all. His attention was completely focused inward. He went over the kidnapping from the very beginning, way back to when he was sixteen to the moment when he pushed away from Thornton. It happened.

There was nothing he could do, nothing Jim could do to change it. It wasn't his fault. He made the best choices he could at the time with the information available. And if he had to do it again, he would. He would. He would do anything to protect Jim.

He blinked and came out of the trance with a whisper, "I'd give my soul for Jim."

His eyes were caught by the blue sparkles that seem to dance in the soft light given off by the candles scattered across the coffee table. Without conscious thought he picked up the pair of sapphire earrings which had laid undisturbed on the coffee table since he received them weeks ago.

Blair released a deep sigh. He had been raped. Dwelling on it, denying it or trying to place blame was simply destructive. For the first time he knew what it felt like to want to kill someone. Worse yet, he knew he was capable of it. That more than anything haunted him. That was just something he would have to learn to accept, along with the probability that he would never be able to go down on Jim ever again.

What mattered now was the future. His future with Jim. Their future.

The light reflecting off the sapphires seemed to dance in agreement.

Ellison let out a deep worried breath at the sound of the well-known heartbeat he heard as soon as he stepped out of the elevator. Irritation warred with relief at the certainty that Sandburg was safe in the loft.

Anxiety filled him as he wondered if it was his turn to walk into the apartment to find boxes stacked up around the door. He slowly opened the door and walked into the dim light his heart lightening at the familiar sight of Blair sitting in a lotus position on the couch surrounded by lit candles.


"Hey," Blair returned as he continued to gaze down at the glittering earrings.

Jim didn't know what to say, so he said nothing. He pulled off and hung up his jacket as usual, immediately heading towards the fridge for a drink. "Do you want a beer? Water?" he called over his shoulder as he pulled out a bottle of water for himself.

"No, I'm fine, Jim."

Jim walked back towards the couch while taking a drink from the bottle.

Blair looked up and met Jim's concerned eyes solemnly. "I mean that. I'm fine, Jim."

Jim's eyes narrowed as he scrutinized the handsome face looking up at him. The deep blue eyes, serene. He moved the candles out of the way and sat down on the table directly in front of Blair.

Blair sighed. He turned his head slightly and gazed off into the bright lights of Cascade across the Bay. "I kept thinking that it was my fault. That I didn't have enough faith in you. That I should have known you would find me. No," he cut off Jim's protestations before his lover could even start. "This is about me Jim, not you. I thought that I gave in too easily, that on some level I must have wanted it--crazy black thoughts. But none of it is true. I wasn't responsible. I was in an untenable situation and I did what I had to do."

Jim gave an affirmative nod. He had never doubted it, ever.

"It sounds so simple but I didn't get it until Brackett said it aloud."

Ellison tensed. "Brackett? He's here?! In Cascade?"

Blair tilted his head sidewise and gave a slight shrug. "He was around lunchtime. Anyway he helped me truly comprehend what you and Dr. Aaron have been telling me all this time."

"He did?" Jim asked with a disbelieving expression while wondering what Brackett was up to now.

"I was raped."

Jim winced at the bold statement but he continued to steadily gaze into the earnest blue eyes.

"But I don't have to allow it to affect every aspect of our life."


Blair smiled. "Our. Oh, I'm still angry as hell that it happened, but it did happen, Jim. Nothing you or I can do will ever change that. What's important is what we do now." He lifted the jewelry box, as he spoke. "I'm ready," Blair said as he held out the box.

An answering smile covered Jim's face as he accepted the box and carefully took out the pair of earrings. His face was a mask of concentration as he gently fastened the earrings through the newly healed earlobe. He sat back after finishing, his hands unconsciously resting on Blair's thighs.


"They look good," Jim replied with a bright smile that echoed the happiness shining from Blair's eyes.

"How about you? How did your talk with Carolyn go?"

Jim shook his head amazed. Even with all the shit Sandburg was going through he still worried about him. "We're fine, Chief. Friends."

"That's good. What about...?"

"I'm bi-sexual. Anything else, I don't know and don't care as long as I have you."

Blair grinned. Typical Ellison answer. His eyes darkened as he gazed at the rugged face so close to his. "Love me," he whispered and pulled Jim down on top of him.

"Always," Jim breathed and sealed his vow with a kiss.


A red sports car slowly cruised up Prospect, pausing in front of Colette's clothing store just long enough for the driver to toss out a lit cigarette before accelerating away with a loud screech.


Author's Addendum:
Well it's finally finished folks. Thanks for your patience. It indeed has been a long road. Thanks again for reading.