Making Amends

By Annie

EMAIL: Annie

NOTES: This story was written for The Moonridge Charity Auction and was won by Dudette (Colleen). She also suggested the plot, though I took a few liberties along the way. Hopefully, she'll still like it as much as I enjoyed writing it for her. Thank you to Lyn for the beta and suggestions as always.

 

Detective Jim Ellison sighed with heartfelt relief as the ancient elevator finally clunked to a halt and deposited him on the third floor of his apartment building. He could probably have walked up the stairs more quickly but after a long non-productive night on stakeout he quite simply hadn't the energy. All he'd been able to think of since he'd left the Cascade PD was getting home and having a long, hot shower (as long as Sandburg had left him some hot water, that is). Maybe he'd eat dinner first - well, breakfast, strictly speaking, considering it was 9AM - then he could shower and climb into bed for at least 8 hours sleep. That sleep should be uninterrupted, seeing that Blair would be at the Academy doing his firearms course and also had plans, he'd told Jim, to go the University and finish clearing out his office.

Jim had offered to go with him, knowing how difficult it would be for his partner to return to the place where he'd once been liked and respected, but now was known as a self confessed fraud. The fact that the real fraud had been the press conference Blair had held informing the world that his dissertation about Jim being a Sentinel, a man with five heightened senses, was a lie, didn't make it any easier for either of them.

Rafe had been witness to the last time Blair had been on campus to pick up some belongings. The young detective had told Jim how several students had approached Sandburg and abused him verbally. One of them had then walked within inches of Sandburg and spat in his face. Blair had refused to discuss the incident with Jim later, but the detective hadn't missed the distress that had permeated his friend's eyes for days afterwards.

The guilt Jim experienced over all that Blair had felt compelled to give up in order to protect the Sentinel had been assuaged marginally by Captain Banks offering Blair the opportunity to become a detective. It meant Sandburg would be partnering Jim in an official capacity, once he completed the firearms training course at the Academy.

Blair had appeared happy with the offer, excited even, and gradually life was returning to some semblance of normality. If Blair still seemed depressed over the loss of his academic career from time to time, Ellison felt he was entitled. He was grieving, after all, for the loss of something that had been his whole world up till now. Time would heal, Jim thought, and until it did, he'd do all he could to keep his friend from dwelling on all he'd sacrificed.

With those thoughts in mind, he opened the front door of the loft, surprised to see Blair curled up on the couch, coffee cup in one hand and remote in the other. He was dressed only in boxers and a shabby t-shirt, the afghan wrapped loosely around his shoulders.

"Hi," Jim said, tossing his keys into the basket next to the phone. "I thought you were going to the Academy today." He moved into the kitchen and turned on the coffeepot, then opened the fridge to get eggs and bacon to cook for breakfast.

"Um, yeah I was," Blair said hesitantly. He stood up, pulling the afghan more firmly around his shoulders. "But I didn't sleep too well last night and I've got a headache, so I called in and said I wouldn't be there today. All that noise on the firing range, you know..." He winced and rubbed one hand across his forehead, lending credence to his words.

Jim began pulling out dishes and a frying pan from the cupboards. "You take something for it?" he asked, sure he already knew the answer. Blair didn't take anything medicinal, apart from herbs, if he could avoid it.

"Yeah, I've taken so much Tylenol since last night, I swear you can hear me rattling when I walk, man," Blair said.

Jim was surprised to say the least. "Maybe you should go to the doctor," he replied, concerned. Blair had mentioned suffering from migraines as a teenager, though he hadn't had any in the time he'd lived with Jim, as far as the detective knew. Blair's response to that wasn't a surprise.

"No, I'll be okay. I probably just need more sleep."

"Blair, you've been averaging ten hours sleep a night plus daytime naps in the past couple of weeks since the press conference. Maybe you're getting too much sleep," Jim suggested.

"Yeah, well, it's not like I have a lot else to do, you know, Jim," Blair spat, his voice harsh. "Oh man," he said suddenly, as Jim looked up at him, both of them seemingly shocked by the vehemence in his tone. "I am so sorry, Jim. I don't know where that came from. I'm just really tired and this headache is driving me nuts. I'm sorry. I didn't mean..." He turned away from the Sentinel's probing gaze. "Um, I think I'll go lie down for a while."

Jim dropped the fork he was using into the bowl of eggs and moved quickly around to stand in front of his partner, blocking his exit. 'Whoa, slow down, Chief," he said, both hands moving to grip Blair's shoulders firmly. "What's really going on here, buddy? I think we need to sit down and talk, don't you?"

Blair looked up at him, his face pale and his eyes dark-rimmed and suspiciously damp. He shook his head and pulled back out of Jim's hold. "Not right now, Jim, okay? Please. Give me an hour or so and I promise we'll talk but right now I really need to go lie down."

The plea in the blue eyes swayed Jim's determination and he capitulated, loosening his grip on Blair's shoulders but leaving his hands resting on them. "All right, but we are going to talk, Chief." He moved back to the kitchen counter and resumed preparing breakfast. "How about you try eating something?" he asked, holding up a bacon rasher.

"Oh man..." Blair blurted as he ran full-tilt for the bathroom, his hand covering his mouth.

Shit! Jim swore sub-vocally. Way to go, Ellison. Make the kid throw up on top of everything else. Sighing, he went to the linen closet and grabbed a wash cloth and a clean towel, then took up position outside the bathroom door, waiting till he heard the retching sounds cease. When they did, he tapped on the door then entered the room and wet the washer. He handed it to Blair and helped his friend clean up. Then he placed an arm around Blair's shoulders and helped him to his room.

Blair flopped down onto the bed, barely stirring as Jim pulled the covers up over his faintly shivering body. "Sorry," he muttered as his eyes closed.

"No problem," Jim replied quietly. He bent and ran his hand over Blair's head, then, as if it were the most natural thing in the world to do, he leaned forward and placed a chaste kiss on Blair's temple.

Blair's eyes opened and looked into his. "Jim?" he whispered.

"Not now, Blair. When you've had some sleep and you've gotten rid of that headache. We'll talk then. Okay?" Jim said.

"Okay," Blair murmured, closing his eyes again.

Jim stood and moved to the doorway, standing sentinel till he thought his guide was asleep. "I love you," he breathed, then he closed the door behind him and went back to cooking his breakfast.

~oOo~

Blair woke slowly, his head feeling stuffed with cottonwool, though the headache that had plagued him for the past couple of days was gone.

He rolled onto his back and tried to sort through his memories of what had happened before he'd gone to sleep.

Jim had come home and wanted to know why he hadn't gone to the Academy. He recalled their conversation about his headache and perennial tiredness. He remembered with awful vividness, his rush to the bathroom and throwing up. Jim had come in and helped him, wiped his face with a damp washcloth, flushed the toilet and handed Blair his toothbrush, then carted him to his room and virtually - no, literally - put him to bed.

It was at that point that his memories became confused with his dreams. He thought Jim had kissed him. Nothing passionate, of course. Just a gentle brush of lips across his temple. He would have written that off as a dream born of wishful thinking, brought on by his depression, but for what he thought he'd heard as he drifted off to sleep. That had to have been a dream. That Jim had said, "I love you."

Blair scrunched his pillow up beneath his shoulders so he was half-propped up, the fingers of one hand tracing unconsciously over the place he'd felt Jim's mouth. He wanted desperately to believe that he'd heard the words. He'd loved Jim almost as long as they'd known each other, had repressed it equally as long, knowing it could only be given voice in his mind. He'd held it all inside, content to know the love was there even if he could never say it openly. He'd always known Jim loved him too. It was that love that had enabled him to get through the bad times when he'd felt abandoned by his Sentinel. The time when he'd been drowned by Alex Barnes, after Jim had kicked him out of the loft and more recently, when Jim believed that Blair had betrayed his trust by sending his dissertation, naming Jim Ellison as a Sentinel, to a publisher. Their friends had questioned how Blair could forgive Jim so easily and continue to stay at the detective's side, in his home. Love forgives all manner of insults, Blair wanted to say. He didn't, of course, because while Jim loved him, Blair knew, it was a platonic love, a love between friends, brothers in arms, not like the love Blair had for Jim. For Blair, it wasn't about friendship at all, as he'd once told Jim. It went far beyond that. Blair was in love with Jim, now and forever.

A clatter of dishes in the kitchen made his eyes dart in the direction of his closed door and he sat up, swinging his legs over the side of the bed. He took a deep breath to clear his head, then stood and dressed in the baggy sweats he'd left on the chair next to his bed the night before.

~oOo~

If anything, Jim thought, Blair looked worse now than he had before he'd gone to sleep, although the Sentinel was glad to see that the pain-lines around his eyes seemed to have diminished. But the dark shadows were still there and he was still pale. He watched as Blair shuffled tiredly across to pull up a chair at the dining table. Jim turned to switch on the kettle before moving over and taking up a seat across from his friend.

"I was just about to make some tea. Would you like some?"

"Yeah, thanks, Jim. Look, I'm sorry about not going to the range today. I really did have a headache," Blair said quietly, his eyes downcast, seemingly intrigued by the pattern he was tracing on the tabletop with his forefinger.

"It's okay, Blair. You can go tomorrow. There's no rush. Your preliminary scores on the range have already showed you're a good shot. Guess not wanting to fire a gun doesn't translate to not being good with one, hey?" Jim smiled but Blair didn't look up.

They both jumped a little as the kettle whistled and Jim reached over and patted Blair's still-nervously moving hand with his, then went and made the tea.

By the time they'd finished it, Blair still hadn't said another word and Jim could almost feel the air around them sizzling with unspoken tension. Finally, he sighed and decided to take the bull by the horns. Normally, it was the Guide coaxing words and feelings from the Sentinel but today it looked like Jim was going to have to do all the cajoling to get Blair to say what was really on his mind.

"Blair, listen, I get the feeling there was more to this than you just not wanting to go the range because of a headache..." Jim began.

Blair's head snapped up then, his doodling on the tabletop forgotten as he leapt to his feet. "What do you mean?" he asked, almost snarling. "You saying I lied about that, too?"

"What? Lied...? No, I didn't mean you lied about it, Blair." Jim was stunned by the sudden change in Blair's attitude. One minute, he'd seemed so lethargic that it appeared the loft could fall down around their ears without a response from him; now, he was leaning forward, his face inches from Jim's, his eyes snapping fire.

Blair straightened up and took a step back. He smiled, a sardonic mirthless grin that bore no resemblance to the smiles Jim had seen on his face before. "Can't say I blame you for thinking I'd lie about it, Jim," he said, his voice flat now, the anger seemingly dissipated. "The Great Obfuscator, that's me. All that stuff I said to you and Joel about obfuscations not being really lies? That was sheer unadulterated Sandburg BS. Hey, I've even got the right initials for it..." He lifted a hand as Jim stood up and began to interrupt his self-mockery. "Don't bother pretending you disagree, man. We both know it's true. I mean, look at my track record. I lied so I'd get to meet you, I lied when I told you I could help you, I lied -"

"No way, Chief. No way you lied about that," Jim jumped in, determined to say at least this much. "You told me you were feeling your way with this Sentinel stuff, right along with me, and you have helped me. You know you have and so does everyone else who knows about it."

"Maybe," Blair whispered. "I hope you're right about that. Doesn't change the rest of it, though, man. I guess lying is something that just comes easy to me. Good thing, in a way, otherwise nobody would have believed I falsified my dissertation, would they?"

"I'm sorry you felt you had to do that. I've told you this before but I'm saying it again just so you know I mean it. I understand what you gave up when you did that for me. You gave up everything you'd worked so hard all your life for so that I could continue to live my life the way I wanted to." Jim looked into Blair's eyes, wanting desperately to convey how much that sacrifice had meant to him. "I know you could have done so much with the knowledge you gained from working with me. You could have gone anywhere, named your own price, worked anywhere you wanted..."

"I wanted to do that for you, Jim, but by saving your life, your career, I may have cost a lot of other people theirs," Blair said quietly.

"I don't understand what you mean. How could not telling the world I'm a Sentinel affect anybody else?" Jim asked, confused now.

"See, this is what it always comes down to, Jim," Blair shouted, all the anger back full force in his voice and his eyes. "God! When are you going to understand that not everything is about you? What about all those other people out there that are having problems with their senses? I didn't expect to find even one Sentinel, let alone two, so who knows? There could be other people out there, suffering just like you were, Jim. People whose families think they're crazy, who lock them away in mental institutions or write them off as autistic or worse. What about babies or little kids who have unexplained rashes, or seizures or zoneouts that aren't diagnosed properly because their parents and their doctors don't realize they're little Sentinels? What about those kids in school that nobody plays with because the other kids think they're weird because they say that they can hear and see things that nobody else can? Jesus, Jim! You lived that life, but you found me. You say I've helped you. What about all those people who don't have a guide to get them through it, who don't even know that what they have is a gift, not a curse?"

Blair's voice had lowered to a whisper again by now. He leaned back against the wall and slid down it till he was sitting on the floor, his legs pulled up in front of him. "I'm sorry, Jim, I don't know what's wrong with me. My emotions are all over the place." He looked up into his partner's eyes and Jim felt his heart ache at the desolation he saw there. "I wanted to help people so much, you know? Especially you. I didn't want there to be any more lost and lonely little Jimmy Ellison's out there, not when there was a chance I could teach people not to be afraid of what you have, but to embrace it and use it properly, like you've learned to."

Jim moved over and crouched next to his friend, this friend who had sacrificed so much for him, this friend who'd asked so little in return and who still wanted to give more in spite of all he'd given already. He bent his head forward and rested his forehead on Blair's head. "I'm sorry. I was wrong. Please let me help to make it right. I love you, Blair. Let me help."

The keening sob that burst forth from Blair's mouth sounded as if it was issuing from his very soul. Jim's heart felt as if it would shatter in a million pieces with sorrow at the pain in that sound. Speechless with grief at his part in causing it, he gathered Blair into his arms and rocked him gently. He didn't try to shush the desperate sobs. Blair needed this outpouring, deserved it even and if all Jim could do was hold him till it was over then he'd stay right here till Hell froze over, if that's what Blair needed him to do.

Whether they stayed that way for hours or only minutes, Jim had no idea. All his being was concentrated on the man in his arms. Gradually Blair's sobs quieted and the violent spasms that had racked his body became shudders. Then even those died away and Jim could hear his Guide's heart slowing to its usual even pace.

Jim turned Blair's tear-stained face to his and bent and kissed his mouth, tenderly. Blair's lips opened tentatively beneath his and Jim ran his hands up and down Blair's back then tangled them in the soft silkiness of his Guide's hair. He pulled Blair's head away from his and looked deeply into his eyes. "I love you, Blair. Do you believe me?"

Blair nodded, his curls catching the light with the movement and he leaned forward, taking Jim's mouth again, more surely this time, then pulling away. "I love you too, Jim. But, I don't know how to fix this..." His hand swept around them in an all-encompassing gesture.

"Whatever there is to be fixed, we'll fix together, Blair," Jim replied surely. Then he stood and pulled Blair up with him. "Tomorrow," he added. "We'll fix it tomorrow. Today, I just want to hold you and show you how much you're loved. Will you come upstairs with me?"

Blair nodded. "I want that more than anything," he said.

~oOo~

Blair had been surprised when Jim had been true to his word and done no more than hold him. He'd stripped himself of his clothes and then undressed Blair, dropping gentle kisses on Blair's face from time to time. Then, he'd pulled back the blankets and pushed Blair down onto the bed and curled up behind him, pulling Blair back to rest against him. His hand had stroked lovingly up and down Blair's arm till Blair fell into a light sleep, feeling safer and more loved than he ever had before.

It was light again when Blair woke. He could feel Jim's warm body still pressed up against his own, Jim's half-hard cock nestled in the cleft of his buttocks. His own cock stirred and hardened in sympathy and Blair found himself pushing back against Jim, hoping he hadn't misunderstood Jim's words, that Jim really did want and love him the way Blair had always wanted him to.

As if in answer to his unspoken question, Jim thrust forward against him.

"Are you sure this is what you want, Blair?" Jim asked, his words puffing warmly into Blair's ear.

Blair rolled over and tilted his head up, capturing Jim's mouth with his own. Then he pulled back and looked into Jim's eyes. "I love you, Jim. You love me." There was no question in his words.

"God, Blair," Jim husked out. He bent and kissed Blair's full lips passionately then trickled a trail of caresses down Blair's throat with his mouth.

He stroked his hands across Blair's chest, teasing his nipples to hardness with fingers and tongue, as Blair arched up and pulled Jim down to rest against his body.

Their bodies pressed together, they kissed passionately for long moments, letting their hunger build.

Jim could feel the hardness of Blair's cock against his own and he moved against it, pushing down as Blair thrust up till they were sliding against each other, their bodies becoming slick with pre-come and sweat, increasing the glide, their actions becoming more fervent, finally pushing them up over the edge to orgasm.

Jim began to roll off to one side as the tremors of climax subsided but was stilled by his lover's hands.

"Not yet," Blair whispered. "Just want to feel you here a little longer."

"I'll squash you, babe," Jim murmured back, laughing softly and feeling the vibration of it through both their bodies.

"That tickles," Blair said, laughing as well as he let Jim move to the side and spoon up behind him.

"It's good to hear you laugh again, Blair," Jim said, kissing the ear he could reach.

"It's good to want to," Blair replied. He turned onto his back and ran a finger through the semen that coated his belly. "Shower?" he suggested, a hopeful tone to his question.

"Oh God, I'm older than you, Chief, remember?" Jim said, grinning. "It's gonna take a while for the little Sentinel to recover."

"The little Sentinel?" Blair burst out laughing again. "Come on, big guy," he said as he rose to his knees and strained to pull his much larger partner up with him. "Let's see what the little Guide can do to resuscitate him. Maybe he just needs a little mouth to mouth." He raised his eyebrows and gave Jim a lascivious wink.

"Geez, Chief, you're gonna be the death of me," Jim mock-groaned, allowing himself to be pulled from the bed.

"Yeah, but what a way to go," Blair shot back over his shoulder as he led the way downstairs.

~oOo~

Jim watched Blair buzzing around the loft as he packed his belongings in preparation for moving them upstairs, into Jim's bedroom. Blair had already moved his clothes and now he was sorting through his books and knick-knacks, trying to decide what he should move upstairs and what should be left in his old room which would now be turned into an office. Every now and then, he'd hold an article up for Jim's inspection as if asking his opinion, then before Jim could utter a word, would shake his head vigorously and consign the article to the pile on his left, presumably the pile for those items that would be left downstairs or conversely to the one on the right for those that would make the journey upstairs to Jim's room.

Blair had been somewhat stunned when Jim had asked him to move upstairs, then, when that had worn off had become concerned that their friends at the precinct would catch onto them being lovers, if they happened to drop by. He'd been somewhat mollified by Jim's explanation that the only friends who were likely to drop by were friends they'd want to know about their new relationship anyway.

Jim had surprised himself a little with the sure knowledge that he wasn't the least embarrassed about his new life with Blair, and he didn't think their true friends would be either. If they were, then it was their loss, Jim had decided as he'd helped Blair pick out furnishings for his new downstairs office from a catalogue.

Blair had continued his studies at the Academy, saying he was still determined to become Jim's official partner but Jim knew the hope he might one day find his way back into the academia he loved was never far from his mind. This way, Blair would have a bolthole, a safe place where he could retire and read and research, as he'd always loved to do.

Finally, when he'd become exhausted just watching his lover, Jim called a halt.

"How about," he murmured, moving up behind his whirlwind of a partner and softly nuzzling into the fragrant newly short curls at his neck, "I take you out for a night on the town. Fancy dinner at a snazzy restaurant, I'll ply you with wine and good food then bring you home and ravage you. Hmm? Sound good, sweetheart?"

Blair turned in his arms and planted a loud smacking kiss on his mouth. "Why, fiddle-dee-dee, Mista Jim! I do declare you're trying to get me drunk so you can have your wicked way with me!"

Jim grinned broadly and returned the kiss, turning it into a soft slow exploration of Blair's warm mouth. He pulled away, thrilled at the change he saw in Blair since they'd declared their love for each other and amazed that he'd been the one who'd seemingly wrought that change. "Never had to get you drunk before," he said, ducking the expected smack to his head. "Go on, get changed," he said. "Leave me some hot water, though, please."

"We could shower together, lover," Blair suggested impishly, pushing his jeans down seductively over his hips as he spoke.

Jim deliberately turned away and walked into the kitchen and poured himself a glass of water. "Um, I'd actually like to eat sometime this month, Chief," he replied. "I get into that shower with you and we'll never get to dinner."

Blair hurriedly pulled his jeans partway up and shuffled into the bathroom. "I hear that," he called in a credible imitation of his mother's voice as he closed the door.

Jim laughed so hard he sprayed water all over the kitchen sink.

~oOo~

Blair pushed himself back from the table a little with a satisfied smile. "That was so great," he said. "This is so great, just being here, having dinner with you."

Jim smiled back. "We've had dinner together before, Chief."

"Yeah, but not as a couple, you know..." Blair looked down at the table, fiddling with the silverware. "It's nice," he said softly.

"Yeah, it is nice, Blair," Jim replied, reaching out and covering Blair's fingers with his hand.

Blair glanced around the room quickly. "Um, we need to be careful, Jim. I mean, can't do much more damage to my reputation but I don't think it'd be good for your career if word got out that we were together, you know?"

"Don't care," Jim murmured, leaving his hand where it was. He gave Blair a look so filled with love that Blair would have sworn he felt his heart literally skip a beat and he laughed out loud.

"What's so funny?" Jim asked, cocking his head quizzically.

'Just thinking how strange it is that we lived in each other's pockets all these years and never knew either of us were bi or gay or whatever."

Jim shrugged. "Hadn't really thought about it. Never felt attracted to guys before. Were you?"

"Me? Yeah, well... I've always known I was bi but I just always seemed to meet more women I was attracted to than guys, that's all. Does it bother you... that you're in love with a guy?" Blair asked.

'I'm here holding your hand in a public place, Blair. Do you think it bothers me?" Jim asked.

Blair shook his head, smiling broadly now. "I don't think I've ever been this happy, Jim."

"I'm glad. I know we still have a lot of stuff to sort out and we will but I just wanted to have a couple of weeks of being together..."

"Jimmy! I didn't know you ate here," came a booming voice from behind Jim's shoulder.

"Shit!" Jim swore sub-vocally then turned and rose to his feet, extending his hand to the man who'd called his name. "Dad, how are you? Um, you remember my partner, Blair Sandburg, don't you?"

"Mr. Ellison, sir, it's good to see you..." Blair began then looked down at his ignored hand and put it in his pocket.

"Yes, I remember him." Ellison senior's voice was cold and dismissive. "Well, Jimmy, you look well. You should come by the house more. I know Sally would like to see you."

'Yeah, Dad, I'll try. I've been busy. How is Sally?" Jim asked as the back of his neck turned red with the slow burn of his anger at his father's snubbing of Blair.

"Good, she's fine. Mr. Sandburg, I'm sure you wouldn't mind if Jimmy and I have a few minutes in private, would you?" William Ellison finally deigned to turn cold eyes on Blair, who'd returned to his seat.

"That's not necessary, Dad. You can say whatever you want in front of Blair -" Jim began only to be cut off by his lover.

"No, that's fine, Mr. Ellison, really. Jim, I was just gonna go to the men's room anyway. Why don't you and your Dad go have a drink together at his table or at the bar. I'll meet you at the truck when you're finished, okay?" Blair shot a pleading look at Jim. He'd wanted to see a rapprochement between the two men for so long, had actually believed it might be happening after Jim rescued his father from a killer a year or so before. But instead the two men had gone back to their old relationship, barely seeing each other, communicating with a Christmas card and not much else.

"All right," Jim said, giving in. He handed Blair the keys to the truck. "I won't be long, Blair. Start the engine and get the heater going, will you, babe?"

Blair gasped as the endearment slipped out. William's eyes narrowed perceptively but Jim simply turned a defiant gaze on his father. "After you, Dad," he said, ushering the older man before him over to the bar.

Jim watched his father turn his head from side to side as if making sure there were no eavesdroppers present. "Just say what you want to say, Dad, please. I don't want Blair to have to wait out in the parking lot for too long." He deliberately kept his voice impersonal, hoping his father would just get it over with.

"I can't believe you're allowing yourself to be seen in public with him, after what he did, Jimmy. And," the voice dropped to a whisper, "I know for a fact you're not gay. You were married, for Heaven's sake."

"What did he do, Dad?" Jim asked, arching his eyebrows and deliberately ignoring the last part of his father's accusation.

"He said he was a fraud. He said he'd lied about his dissertation, Jimmy. Lied about you. About what you are." William reached out a hand and grasped Jim's shoulder, giving it a shake.

Jim stepped back a pace, out of his father's reach, shaking off the hand. "Would you have preferred it if he'd told the truth?"

"Well, no, of course not but why did he send his thesis to that publisher in the first place. God, Jimmy, I had people at the club asking me about it, making jokes about it for weeks after. I had to make things up to avoid telling them..."

"So it's okay for you to lie, is it, Dad? Blair calls it obfuscating but it's pretty much the same thing, really." Jim moved back into his father's personal space and placed both his hands on the older man's shoulders, pinning him in place. "This is what happened. This is the truth, no lies, no obfuscations and this is why, whether I'm gay or not, which is none of your goddamned business, by the way... this is why I love Blair Sandburg. He didn't send his thesis to a publisher. Someone else did it in error and the press picked it up and ran with it. He held that press conference and sacrificed himself, his life, his career and said he'd lied about me when we both know he hadn't, don't we?" He gave his father's shoulders a little shake and waited till the older man nodded hesitantly. "He gave up everything for me and you know what? The thing he's most worried about now is that by denying his research he's been prevented from helping other people like me. Other kids like I was. Dad, you remember what I was like when I was a kid? How scared you were that people were going to think I was crazy? How the other kids thought I was weird and didn't want to play with me? Dear God, I wish I'd known Blair Sandburg then. I wish we both had. Maybe then we wouldn't..." Jim sank down onto the stool next to his father, his anger gone. He looked up, amazed to see the shine of tears in William's eyes.

"Wouldn't hate each other?" William held up a hand as Jim began to speak. "It's okay, Jim. You have every right to feel that way. You're right, you know. I should have tried to understand, especially when you were a little boy. I can trot out all the excuses about wanting you to be normal but that's not the point. I should have been there for you anyway. It's too late now. But he has been, hasn't he?"

Jim nodded silently, not trusting himself to speak past the lump in his throat.

William turned his back to his son momentarily, pulling a handkerchief from his breast pocket and swiping at his eyes with it.

"I'm sorry, Jim. This probably isn't the time or the place to talk about this. May I call you tomorrow?" William asked, sounding more unsure than Jim could ever remember hearing him.

Jim nodded tersely. "Sure. You have my number. One thing, though, Dad. I will not have you interfering in my relationship with Blair. My private life is just that - private, even for you. You got that?"

William nodded. "Yes, I understand, Jim. You have my word."

"Good enough. Goodnight, Dad."

Jim made his way out to the truck, deep in thought. Blair was sitting in the passenger seat, his head resting back and his eyes closed when Jim climbed in. He opened his eyes and looked over at his lover, curiosity warring with apprehension on his expressive face.

'Is everything okay?" he asked, swallowing nervously.

"Everything's fine, babe. I'll tell you all about it when we get home, all right?" Jim replied, leaning over to plant a gentle kiss on Blair's mouth. "I love you," he added.

Blair nodded, the beginning of relief in his eyes. "I love you, too."

Jim started the engine and turned the car for home.

~oOo~

Jim reached for the phone the moment it rang, knowing it would be his father. He looked over at Blair, who was sitting on the couch, idly flipping through a magazine. "I'm gonna take this upstairs, Chief. You mind?" he asked before he picked up the receiver.

"Of course not, Jim. You don't have to ask," Blair replied.

Jim nodded and pushed the button to take the call. "Ellison," he said, moving quickly towards the stairs and up to his the bedroom. He wasn't sure what his father would say, despite his promise to not comment on Jim and Blair's relationship and Jim didn't want to take any chances on Blair overhearing anything that would hurt him in any way.

"I'm a blind ignorant old fool, Jim. You know, I instinctively already knew everything you've just told me since I saw the young man's press conference. I was so caught up in how it would reflect on the Ellison name that I buried the truth about what he was doing under a mountain of self-righteous indignation. Do you think he'd come to see me? I'd like to try to help give him back what he's lost... what he gave up for you. You say his thesis was released inadvertently, without his permission?"

"Yes," Jim managed to say breathlessly, scarcely daring to believe that maybe everything would be all right after all.

"I think I may know a way to help. Ask him to come and see me. You have my word I'll treat him with due respect. And apologize to him for me. I shouldn't have treated him like that, no matter what my personal feelings were. But when I saw you together, at the table, and you looked so comfortable with each other... You're right, you know. Your personal relationships... your... sexuality..." William lowered his voice, "are none of my business. I've always prided myself on being enlightened and this really has nothing to do with your personal relationship with your friend. I'm sorry, Jim. Tell Mr. Sandburg I'm truly sorry."

"I'll tell Blair what you said. Knowing Blair, you'll have no need to worry about him not accepting your apology. Blair's the most forgiving man I've ever known and believe me, I've been fortunate enough to be on the receiving end of that forgiveness more times than I've had a right to be. But maybe you'll get the chance to make it in person. Goodnight. Give Sally my love."

~oOo~

Blair listened without interruption as Jim outlined his conversation with William Ellison.

"I really think he wants to help, Chief," Jim finished, "but it's your call. Are you willing to go and talk to him at least?" He watched Blair's face carefully, alert to every nuance of emotion that had crossed his lover's face while he'd been speaking. He was sure Blair felt the same way he did - hopeful but wary of allowing his hope to overshadow reality.

"Do you want me to?" Blair asked. He felt conflicted if the truth be told. He'd felt hope surging in his heart at the thought that maybe all wasn't lost after all; that perhaps Jim's father could help open the way for them to help others like Jim, just as he'd always wanted. He also knew that there was another reason he was so desperate to find other Sentinels. He believed that there was safety in numbers. That if Jim wasn't the only person out there with heightened senses then it made him less attractive to those who would want to use his gifts for their own nefarious means.

He'd rationalized it to himself so many times. Rare animals became extinct purely because their very scarcity made them valuable. If Jim's Sentinel abilities were found to be less rare then perhaps there was less chance of him being kidnapped by unscrupulous individuals. Blair was aware that this meant those other unknown Sentinels were then at risk as well. But his need to somehow find a way to protect Jim was overwhelming and he could only hope that together they could perhaps set up some sort of guardian network to ensure that these people were protected as well, and who better to undertake that job than The Sentinel of the Great City and his Shaman. But that sort of protection would cost money and influence, something Blair was lacking but that Jim's father had in abundance.

Coming to a sudden decision, he rose to his feet and crossed to where Jim stood, his back propped against the kitchen counter. Wrapping his arms around his lover's waist, Blair placed a soft kiss over Jim's heart then rested his head against the firm chest, closing his eyes and allowing the steady thrumming beneath his cheek to seep inside his skin. He stayed that way for a few minutes, relishing the warmth of Jim's arms around his back then he looked into his partner's eyes.

"Will you come with me when I go to talk to him?" Blair asked. "I think we could use his help."

"Of course I will, Chief," Jim replied, bringing one hand up to trail down the side of Blair's face, following it with his mouth. "Wherever you want to be, I'll be there with you."

Blair tilted his head back and pushed his body further into Jim's embrace, his arousal evident now in the hardness of his erection pressing into Jim's thigh. He felt the response of Jim's own body as their mouths met.

Then Blair turned and led the way upstairs.

~oOo~

William Ellison's offices were much like the man himself - sparse and elegant. Blair walked nervously across the plush carpeting when the secretary called his name, looking over his shoulder to make sure Jim was following.

William met them at the door, his hand coming out immediately this time to shake Blair's. "Mr. Sandburg," he said, "thank you for agreeing to come and see me. Jimmy, would you mind if I spoke to your partner alone for a few minutes?"

Jim looked inquiringly at his lover. "Blair?"

"It's all right, Jim. I'm sure your dad doesn't intend to do me any bodily harm." Blair quirked a crooked grin back at the detective.

"He wouldn't want to try," Jim muttered as he turned and left the room.

Blair wasn't sure what he expected from his partner's father but it certainly wasn't what occurred. By the time he left the office to rejoin Jim he was smiling broadly and Jim could detect a new lightness in his step as if somehow, all the worries that had been plaguing him had been magically lifted.

'Let's go home, Jim," Blair said as he reached up and gave Jim's mouth a sweet and chaste kiss.

Jim lifted his head and saw his dad watching them, a tolerant smile gracing the older man's features. "Was it... I mean, how did it go?" he asked, burning with curiosity.

"I'll explain it all to you when we get home," Blair said. "It's really going to be okay, Jim. I really believe that now." He turned a flashed a smile at William. "Thank you," he said quietly.

"No, Blair, thank you," William replied. "We'll talk again soon. Perhaps you and Jimmy - Jim," he corrected, "would like to join Sally and me for dinner at home on Friday. I'll call Steven, see if he would like to come as well."

"That'd be great, sir." Blair tugged on Jim's arm and dragged the stunned detective along in his wake out to the truck.

4 Weeks Later

Jim opened the door to the loft and found Blair sitting still as a statue on the couch. In his hand he held a sheet of paper.

He looked up as Jim entered and shook his head slowly.

"Blair? What's up?" Jim crossed to his partner's side and sat down next to him.

Blair didn't answer. He held the sheet of paper out to Jim wordlessly.

"You sure you want me to read this?" Jim asked. Blair simply nodded so Jim took it and smoothed it out. He read it carefully to the end then looked back up at Blair. "You know what this means, don't you?"

"We won," Blair said, finally, his voice sounding shocked. "The court said that as I didn't give permission for my diss to be published, the publisher infringed on my right to my intellectual property. The judge also said that several newspapers slandered me by printing inaccuracies about my work and my personal life and he's awarded me damages..."

"Of $750,000," Jim finished for him. "Guess you're gonna be keeping me in the style to which I'd like to become accustomed, hey?"

"I don't know what to do," Blair whispered.

"What do you mean? I thought you'd be pleased," Jim replied, puzzled. He'd thought this was what Blair had wanted - the clearing of his name and recompense for all he'd given up.

"I am," Blair said, still quietly. "I just... I don't know how to be about this. I'm glad I won, I'm glad it's over but... Oh wait, there's more." He jumped to his feet and went over to the answering machine and turned it on.

"Mr. Sandburg," said the voice on the tape. "This is Dean Wallace of Rainier University. I'm calling to congratulate you on your victory in the courts. I hope you don't mind, but the judge who oversaw your case is a good friend of the University and he gave me a heads-up on the outcome. Would you be willing to come to see me tomorrow and discuss re-entering the Doctorate program? It appears your thesis was never actually submitted, Mr. Sandburg and therefore my predecessor had no right to exclude you from the program. If you'd like to submit your thesis, or indeed, take a little extra time to work on the one you wish to submit, please call me at your earliest convenience."

"Blair, that's fantastic!" Jim moved to gather Blair into his arms and hugged him tightly, kissing the top of his head. "You are going to do it, right?" He pushed Blair away a little so he could look into his face.

"I want to," Blair replied, "but..."

"But nothing, Chief. This is your dream. You have to do this."

"But I was going to be a cop and be your real partner," Blair said, his face showing his conflicting emotions all too clearly.

"You have been and always will be my real partner, Chief," Jim said firmly. "This doesn't have to change that. You worked with me before while you were working on your thesis. You could do that again. Work part time at the PD and part time at the U."

"I don't know if the Commissioner will go for it, Jim."

"I have an idea, babe. Leave it with me, all right? But for now, let's go celebrate." Jim pulled Blair in close to him and kissed him softly.

"Um, your dad already called and said he'd booked a table at Sammy's for 8. He invited Simon and everyone from Major Crime," Blair said with a smile.

"Okay. We'll go celebrate with our friends and then we can come home and celebrate privately." Jim slipped a hand down between their bodies and rubbed meaningfully over Blair's groin, laughing as Blair pushed into his hand. "I better go shower," he said, pulling away, "or there's absolutely no way we'll get to Sammy's."

"Cock-tease," Blair called after him, then the younger man headed for the bedroom to find something to wear worthy of the occasion.

~oOo~

"A consultant?" Blair asked, his voice showing his disbelief. "The Commissioner wants me to be a consultant to Major Crimes?"

"Why not?" Jim asked. "It's not really a lot different to what you were doing before, when you were an observer."

"The only real difference, Sandburg," Simon Banks broke in, "is that then we called you a consultant to give a reason for you being an observer for so long. This time, it'd be for real. After all, those years you worked here, as Jim's partner, you helped solve a lot of cases. Jim didn't do it all on his own, and it wasn't all because of those senses of his. You gave a lot of input and the input you gave was valuable. What do you say, Blair? Wanna give it a shot?"

"I'd still be Jim's official partner, right?" Blair asked, hardly daring to believe it could be this simple.

"Yep," Jim said. "Chief, you know I'd resign before I'd accept another partner. You work with me like before but this time you get paid. You can still go to the University and work on your thin blue line subject for your diss. The only condition on it is that if anyone else in the department needs your expertise, you help them out with advice. Well, what do you think?"

Blair nodded, swallowing hard. "I think... yes... I just can't believe you're doing this for me... that the Commissioner would do this for me."

"Chief, when are you going to realize how valuable you are? You're a great cop, Blair, one of the best. This city can't afford to lose you."

Blair looked over at Simon who was nodding vigorously. "Thank you, Simon," he said softly. "For everything."

"Blair, I owe you. You've shown me what it means to really be a friend," Simon replied.

"He's worth it," Blair said, wrapping an arm around Jim's waist.

"Okay, enough of the mushy stuff," Jim growled mock-seriously. "Let's go home, Chief. You and I have a little private celebrating to do."

"I don't want to know," Simon muttered, one arm coming up to cover his eyes. "Get out of here, you two. I want you back here 8AM sharp on Monday. Got that?"

"No problem, Simon... I mean, sir... um, Captain," Blair stammered, allowing himself to be pulled out of the room by his arm. He turned back and knocked on the door then opened it. "See, Captain," he said, grinning broadly. "That's one thing they taught me at the Academy. I learned how to knock." He ducked back out quickly, hearing Banks' deep chuckle behind him as he shut the door.

Jim was watching him as he turned around, a smile on his face. "Do you know," the cop asked as he pulled Blair to him and gave him a noogie, "how much I love you?"

"I think so," Blair answered, pulling his head out of reach of Jim's teasing hands.

"Only think so, huh? Guess I'd better get you home and show you," Jim said. He turned and grabbed Blair's hand and pulled him through the doors of the bullpen and out to the elevator.

~oOo~

The fingers ghosting circles around his nipples had Blair arching up off the bed. Then Jim's mouth was there as well, alternately licking and nibbling first at one nipple and then the other. Blair moaned as Jim obviously decided to concentrate on the one that had been pierced. The ring was gone but the nub was still achingly sensitive when Blair was aroused, a fact Jim knew only too well. So he nuzzled it with his nose, ran his fingers around it and pinched it gently and licked and suckled it over and over till Blair was almost coming just from that.

When Blair was teetering on the brink, Jim moved away from his lover's chest and trailed a path of wet licks down to his abdomen. He allowed his fingers to massage the bones at Blair's hips, tracing a line down the join of his thigh and groin then circled around his lover's penis with soft fingers.

Blair was tossing his head now and pushing his pelvis up off the bed, desperately trying to shove his fully erect penis into the way of Jim's wandering hands. Finally, Jim took pity on him and encircled Blair's cock with his large palm.

"Oh, yes, Jim, please," Blair begged as he bucked up and down, fucking himself in the loose tunnel of Jim's fist.

Jim allowed him to do so for a few thrusts then he tightened his grip and pushed Blair flat against the bed with his other arm. Holding him there, his arm draped heavily across Blair's hips, he brought one finger to rub gently at the spot where the crown met the shaft, causing Blair to moan louder. Then he used the palm of the hand that had been encircling Blair's cock to rub over the glans in small circles.

"Jesus, Jim!" Blair cried as he fought against the restraining arm.

"Like that?" Jim asked, a smile lighting his face. He released Blair's cock to the accompaniment of a disappointed moan from his lover. "Roll over, babe," he said in the husky tones that turned Blair on so much.

Once Blair complied, Jim pulled a small bottle of massage oil from the drawer of the bedside table.

"Lift up," Jim ordered and pushed a pillow beneath Blair's raised hips. "Uh-uh, not yet," he warned as Blair began to rub his aching engorged cock on the smooth cold linen of the pillowcase.

Jim hooked an arm around his lover's waist and hauled him up so he was on all fours, then he began dropping kisses all the way down Blair's spine. Reaching the soft swell of his lover's ass, he dropped a kiss on each cheek then gently pulled them apart, exposing the small pucker inside.

Blair's head tilted back in ecstasy as he felt Jim's tongue lick tentatively across his hole. From some reserve of strength, he managed to ask if Jim was sure he wanted to do that and got an affirmative growl in response. By then the feeling was so overwhelmingly good that Blair was simply begging Jim not to stop and he found himself pushing backwards into the caress, jumping a little as he felt an oil-slick finger penetrate his body.

They hadn't done this before, hadn't even really discussed it. Blair had assumed they'd probably try it some time but he was in no rush. His previous homosexual encounters had stopped short of actual penetration so he was as much a virgin in this type of loving as Jim. Now, with two fingers stretching him he was glad they weren't going to wait any longer.

The third finger made him feel momentarily overfull but then he found himself moving back into Jim's small thrusts and a slight nudge against the gland hidden inside had him almost arching off the bed in an explosion of pleasure.

He could hear Jim fumbling with the wrapper of a condom and then Jim's slick cock was pressing against his opening.

"You okay with this, babe," Jim asked, his voice husky with need. "I should've asked..."

"I'm fine, Jim. I want it too. Please!" Blair pushed back against Jim's cock, his frantic motions conveying his urgency.

Blair groaned as he felt his center breached, the muscles seeming to spasm. He gasped as Jim reached around and took hold of his cock, his warm hand sliding up and down, using just the right amount of pressure in just the right places to arouse. He could feel one of Jim's fingers slide across the slit in his glans on every upstroke and he sighed with sheer pleasure at the sensation. As he did, he felt his internal muscles relax, allowing Jim entrance to his body.

Jim moaned and bit down gently on Blair's shoulder as he became fully sheathed in his lover's warm heat. He began to thrust as Blair pushed back in counterstroke, welcoming him in as their rhythm built to a crescendo then began to become fragmented as they built toward orgasm, their breathing ragged and gasping with desire.

Blair felt his climax curling up from within him, igniting his very soul. He bent forward, taking Jim with him, his lover curled over his back and continuing to thrust urgently. He felt Jim freeze then grind against his back once more. Within seconds, Blair could feel Jim's seed pumping out, bathing his channel as his own semen spurted forth, coating Jim's hand and his own belly.

Blair dropped down to the bed, his arms no longer able to hold him, aware that Jim had followed him down and rolled to the side, immediately taking Blair into his arms and holding him close. Jim's panting breath lifted wisps of Blair's hair, tickling his ear and his neck.

Blair sighed and turned so he was facing Jim and rested his head against Jim's chest, hearing the galloping beat of Jim's heart, knowing his own was keeping pace.

"Should I apologize, Blair?" Jim asked.

"For what?' Blair replied, puzzled.

"We hadn't discussed... this," Jim said softly.

"It was right, Jim. It felt right to me. Didn't it to you?"

"Hell, yes, Blair, more than right. It felt fantastic. But..."

"Then it was right and you don't need to apologize," Blair said drowsily. "I love you, Jim. We did it, you know?"

"Did what?" It was Jim's turn to sound puzzled now.

"Fixed it. Remember?"

Blair looked into Jim's eyes, the icy blue now transformed to warm azure.

Jim nodded and Blair knew he was thinking back to that day when he'd knelt next to a broken friend and held him close and promised to mend whatever he'd - they'd - broken. And they had. Or rather their love had. Now, they could stop looking back. The only way they needed to go was forward.

The End