A slash TS/ Diagnosis: Murder crossover.
Written for CalicOcat for her generous donation to Moonridge. Thank you for bidding on me, mate. Hope you like the story. Sorry it's late. RL has been a bear and like Topsy, this story just growed.
"You going to show me the case file?" Blair asked as he settled into the plane seat and fastened his seatbelt.
"It'll wait," Jim replied easily. "I've only just seen a little of it myself. Didn't get much time to check it out before we had to be at the airport. Anyway, it's in my suitcase."
"This detective we're meeting up with in California, you know him pretty well, huh?"
Jim looked over at him. "Steve Sloan? Yeah, although *knew* would be more accurate. We haven't seen each other in years. He's a bit older than me."
"How did you know him?" Blair went on.
"Didn't I explain all this to you already, Chief? Sloan and I met at a police conference a few years back. It was not long after I joined the PD and my captain in Vice didn't want to go. I was low man on the totem pole so I got volunteered." He shrugged. "It turned out to be a pretty decent conference. That's where I met Steve and we stayed in touch on and off ever since."
"I've just never heard you mention him before now," Blair replied quietly, unable to stop the twinge of hurt that Jim hadn't shared everything with him.
"I didn't know you needed to know everything about me, Sandburg. I'm sure you've got friends I don't know too."
"It just seemed like Sloan must have been a pretty good friend from the way you reacted when Simon told you he was going to be our contact in California," Blair pressed.
Jim turned slightly in his seat to face his partner. "Why does it bother you so much? The fact that I know Steve, and that I haven't mentioned him to you before?' he asked, his eyes watching Blair shrewdly.
Blair turned away from the Sentinel gaze and looked out of the window at the runway speeding past. "I don't know," he admitted quietly. "I just know it does."
Jim shook his head slightly, then leaned it back against the headrest. He rolled his head and lowered his eyelids enough so he could watch Blair without his friend noticing it. He knew why it bothered Blair, had known for some time, in fact. He wondered how long it would be before Blair admitted it, to him, and more importantly to himself.
Blair mirrored his actions and turned his head towards Jim. His eyes closed, he took a shaky breath then his eyes flickered open again. "You're watching me," he said.
"And you're watching me," Jim replied equably. "Try to get some sleep. We're gonna be run ragged by the time this case is over."
Blair turned to his side and Jim just barely resisted the urge to run a soothing hand down his back. 'It's okay,' he wanted to say. 'Steve's a friend, nothing more. Don't you know yet that no one can mean more to me than you?' But he didn't. Instead, he closed his own eyes and let Blair's gentle breathing lull him to sleep.
"Hey, Steve, it's great to see you. You're looking terrific." And he was, Jim thought, with admiration. Steve had to be nudging fifty but he was still buff and the only outward signs of his age were a few more crinkles around his eyes and mouth, and some silver threading through his hair.
"You look pretty darn good yourself, Jim." Steve grasped his hand and pulled him in for a bearhug that went on just a fraction longer than most between two old friends.
"Oh, sorry, this is my partner, Blair Sandburg." Jim turned and motioned Blair forward.
"It's good to meet you, Blair. I've heard a lot about you in the past few days," Steve said, shaking the young man's hand firmly.
"Well, you're one up on me then because I haven't heard much about you at all," Blair replied.
Steve arched an eyebrow at Jim. "Yeah, well, Ellison wasn't very chatty back when I first met him. Guess he hasn't changed."
"Guess not," Blair muttered as he hoisted his backpack higher on his shoulder and followed the others over to the luggage carousel.
They made their way out to Steve's car and settled themselves in for the drive out to Malibu. Jim had told Steve they could stay in a motel, but Steve had insisted his beach house would be more comfortable, and that he had plenty of room.
They made idle chat on the way, neither Jim nor Steve mentioning the case that had brought them together after so many years. There'd be time enough for that tomorrow after Jim and Blair had a chance to rest.
Steve pulled up in the driveway and Blair climbed out, a low whistle escaping his lips as he surveyed his new surroundings.
"Nice, huh?" Steve asked and Blair nodded.
"Yeah, this is beautiful, man. Wow!"
The house sat high above a long sandy beach, a deck at the front facing the sparkling waters.
"Let's get inside. I'll show you guys where you'll be sleeping and then we can have a drink and some dinner. I thought I'd barbecue some steaks. You're not a vegetarian, are you?" he added, eyeing Blair's long hair and earrings.
"No way, man. I love a good steak."
"Okay. Here we go." Steve opened the door and stood back, ushering Jim and Blair ahead of him into the large bedroom. There was a television on a stand in one corner, comfortable-looking armchairs and spacious walk-in closets and one large double bed.
Steve turned and made to leave but Blair's hand grabbed at his arm and stopped him.
"Um, Steve, man, there's only one bed." Blair looked across at Jim, seeing the flush creeping up his throat and into his face. "Oh," he said quietly, understanding suddenly dawning crystal-clear.
"Steve, Blair and I aren't partners in the domestic sense," Jim said, his voice equally soft, an undefinable look in his eyes as he watched Blair's reaction.
"Jesus, I'm sorry. I mean, I just thought when you said you and Blair lived together and you said he's your partner Oh, man, Blair, Jim, I am so sorry. I've really fucked up. Jesse's gonna kill me for this one." Steve's face was as red as Jim's was.
"It's okay, man. It's cool. Understandable mistake," Blair said. "Hey, it's not like Jim and I haven't shared rooms and even beds before, right, Jim?" Blair knew he was babbling now, could feel his own face heating under Jim's inscrutable gaze. "Remember that time in Cold Springs when our tents got rained out? We went into the town and they only had one room left and man, Cold Springs was definitely the right name for that place, hey, Jim?"
"Yeah, I remember that. It was cold, all right. Listen, Steve, it's no big deal, really. Like Blair said, a misunderstanding. Why don't we get cleaned up and you can get that barbecue going? I'm starved."
"You're always starving," Blair rejoined, but Jim shot him a smile of pure gratitude and just like that, the awkwardness of the past few minutes was gone and they were just Jim and Blair again, trading barbs and jokes like the two friends they were.
Steve nodded, obviously pleased at the chance to escape and recover from his gaffe. "I'll see you downstairs in a while then." He beat a hasty retreat and Blair stood still watching the door close behind him.
"You take the shower first, Chief," Jim said. "I'll start unpacking."
Blair nodded and opened his suitcase, pulling out clean jeans and a t-shirt then went into the bathroom and closed the door behind him.
A half-hour later they were downstairs. Steve was out on the patio, firing up the grill. "Feel better?" he asked, looking over at them.
"Much," Blair replied with a smile.
"Almost human," Jim added.
"Now that'd be a stretch," Blair cracked, quick as a whip.
"Watch it, Chief, or you'll be sleeping on the floor tonight." Jim whapped the back of Blair's head gently. "So, when do we get to meet Jesse?" he asked.
"Any minute now," Steve replied. "I heard the car pull up out front a minute before you guys came down."
Suddenly the front door crashed open, making Jim jump with the noise of it, and a young man burst into the living room then ran out to the patio.
"Sorry, I'm late. We had a two car pile-up on the freeway just as I was about to leave and I had to wait till Dr Watson got there before I could leave." The man threw himself into Steve's arms and kissed his mouth enthusiastically.
"Um, babe, we have guests," Steve managed to mumble.
"Whoops! Sorry about that." Jesse Travis turned and gave Jim and Blair a wide smile. "I'm Jesse." He walked over and shook both their hands.
"Jesse, right," Blair said.
"You thought I was a female, didn't you?" Jesse said, his blue eyes crinkling attractively. "Steve, I'm disappointed. I thought you'd've told your friends all about me by now."
"They've been here less than an hour, Jess. Give a man a chance." Steve walked over and put an arm around Jesse's waist. "Dr. Jesse Travis, love of my life, this is Detective Jim Ellison and his partner, Detective Blair Sandburg."
"You're a cop?" Jesse whistled. "They don't have cops like you in Steve's PD."
"I was an anthropologist before I joined the force," Blair said with a grin. "I'd already worked with Jim for a few years as a consultant and observer by then, so they kinda relaxed the dress code for me and I only had to do the firearms training at the Academy."
"Say, Steve, you planning on charcoaling those steaks?" Jim asked, his sensitive nose picking up on the scent of steaks that were about to be more than well done.
"Shit!" Steve went back to the grill and flipped the steaks. "Hey, Jess, why don't you get us all a beer, and grab the salad out of the fridge while you're at it."
"Slavedriver," Jesse grumbled but he did what he was told anyway.
"Need a hand?" Blair asked, following him inside.
"Thanks, that'd be great." Jesse put the salad on the counter and looked outside at the two detectives standing next to the grill, talking. "What is it with guys who look like you and me and big, buff cops, do you think?" he asked.
Blair put the beer bottles on the counter next to the salad bowl. "Me and you?" he asked.
"Yeah, you know," Jesse pointed at his small, trim body, "you and I have a similar physique, sorta nerdy-looking, no offence, man."
"None taken," Blair said. "Believe me, nerdy is definitely not the worst thing I've been called since I hooked up with Jim and the Cascade PD."
"I know what you mean. I was the original ninety-pound weakling when I met Steve. I've muscled up a little since then. I mean, there was no way I was letting him go off to the gym without me, if you get my drift." Jesse gave Blair a slow salacious wink. "I just meant, here we are, two short academic-type guys hooked up with these big tough action-type guys-"
Blair felt his face heat and wondered how many times he'd have to explain this. "Jim and I aren't hooked up, not in that way," he said quickly.
"Oh. Sorry, man. You both just looked so together, you know."
"Forget it. Steve thought the same thing. We did?" Blair asked suddenly as his brain caught up with the rest of Jesse's sentence.
"Yeah, you two look like you're made for each other." Jesse patted Blair's shoulder as he picked up the salad bowl and two of the beers. "Let's go eat, shall we? I'm starved."
Once dinner and the resultant clean up was over, they all talked desultorily of sports and work, getting to know each other better.
Eventually, Blair yawned and yawned again. He apologized but Steve waved it away and stood up, holding out hand to Jesse to pull him to his feet.
"Let's all get some sleep. We've got a busy couple of days ahead if we're going to catch this bastard before he hurts anyone else." He slanted an apologetic look down at Blair. "I really am sorry about the room. The couch is pretty comfortable, if you'd prefer that, or I have a camping mattress-"
"It's fine, Steve, really." Blair stood up and gave Sloan a grin. "No big deal, really. As long as Jim doesn't hog the covers or snore too loud, we'll be fine."
"Me snore?" Jim stood up as well then reached out to tousle Blair's hair. "I *never* snore, Chief."
"You better hope not. Mind you," Blair stifled another yawn, "even if you do, I don't think you'd keep me awake tonight, man. I am wiped."
"Me too," Jesse replied. "So, see you in the morning then. I've got the next couple of days off so I'm going to come into the PD with you, see if Steve really works as hard as he tells me does."
"Smartass," Steve murmured, pulling Jesse in for a hug.
"Your smartass," Jesse said softly back.
Blair watched them, unable to help a smile creeping across his face at their obvious affection. He looked across at Jim, wondering how he was taking it, and was surprised to see Jim looking at him instead, an enigmatic smile on his face.
"Well, goodnight then." Blair waved a hand and headed up the stairs to their room.
By the time, he was inside the bedroom, Jim was there too, pulling off his sweater and then his shirt as he walked through the door. "What side, Chief?" he asked.
"What?" Blair looked at his partner in confusion.
"What side of the bed do you want?" Jim asked, motioning towards the huge mattress.
"Oh, um, left, I guess Unless you want the left side I don't mind sleeping on the right side " Blair stammered out.
"The right side is fine with me, Chief." Jim toed off his shoes than shimmied his jeans down over his legs. He sat on the bed to pull them all the way off then folded them and placed them over the chair next to bed. "You can get undressed, Sandburg," he said as he pulled the covers back and climbed beneath them. "I'm sure you haven't got anything I haven't seen already."
"I know," Blair snapped, feeling uncharacteristically pissy. He lifted his shirt over his head and tossed it onto the couch across the room, then yanked off his own jeans, finally having to sit down on the edge of the bed when he realized he'd forgotten to take his shoes off first and his pants were wedged immovably around his ankles. Having finally got that done, he threw the jeans over to the couch as well, and pushed his shoes and socks under the edge of the bed. Then he lifted his side of the covers and gingerly crawled into bed. "Well, goodnight," he said, hugging the edge of the bed as tightly as he could.
"Night, Chief," Jim said easily as he reached out a hand and flicked off the light.
Blair woke to morning light streaming through the windows and the feel of a hard, warm chest at his back. Unable to help himself, he lay still, revelling in the feeling of contentment that crept over him. He thought back over Jesse's words from the night before - "You both just looked so together, you know." Was that how most people saw them? He'd heard the rumors himself of course, that he and Jim were lovers, that they had to be because why else would hard-ass Ellison let a self-confessed liar like Sandburg stay on as his partner unless they were partners in the sack as well? The rumors hadn't bothered him; the fact that over the past couple of months he'd begun to wish they were true, did. He wasn't gay. He'd been straight all his life, always loved women, loved their softness, their beauty, and their voices. He'd been mortified to wake from a wet dream one night, come dribbling over his belly, with Jim's name a whisper on his lips.
He felt Jim move behind him and then a warm voice in his ear. "Sorry, Chief, didn't mean to squish you."
"It's okay," he replied, feeling unaccountably sorry as he felt Jim's warmth move away. He turned onto his back and watched as Jim sat up on the side of the bed and stretch, his muscles rippling. "Do you think we look like a couple?" he asked tentatively.
"A couple of what?" Jim asked, turning his head and flashing Blair a mischievous grin. "Oh, a 'couple - couple'." He scratched his cheek thoughtfully. "I guess. We certainly act like it, sometimes. I think you and I have had more domestics than Caro and I ever did."
Blair leaned up on his elbows. "It doesn't bother you?" he asked.
Jim stood up. "Does it bother you?"
"Stop answering my questions with a question, man. Does it?"
Jim shook his head then leaned across the bed and gave Blair's forehead a gentle brush with his lips. "No," he said. He pulled away and looked Blair in the eyes, "It doesn't bother me at all. Does it bother you?" he asked again.
"I don't know yet." He sat up and swung his legs over the side of the bed. "It's not easy to explain. Knowing other people think we're a couple doesn't really faze me at all. You know, people are going to think what they want and there's not much you can do with some people to convince them different. Knowing you and I are beginning to feel like we're a couple even though we've never " He stopped, inwardly cursing the flush he could feel heating his face. "Were you and Steve lovers?" he asked suddenly.
Jim nodded. "Briefly. We were too alike for it to last and he wasn't my type really. I mean, he's a great guy and a fantastic cop but-"
"He didn't ping your radar," Blair jumped in, smiling now. "What is your type, Jim? I'd always thought it was long-legged redheads with nice-"
Jim walked around the bed and ruffled his hair as he passed by on his way to the shower. "Maybe they were my cover, Chief, ever think about that? Maybe my type are short-legged brunettes."
Blair fell back across the bed as Jim closed the bathroom door behind him. "Jesus, James," he murmured. "I think I'm totally screwed here." He wasn't even able to raise a smile at his own Freudian slip.
Blair looked around the busy bullpen. It looked pretty much like the bullpen back home in Cascade. Desks littered the room, phones jangled noisily for attention, and people rushed from place to place.
"You okay, Chief?"
Jim's voice startled him and he turned his head. "Yeah, just thinking that bullpens look the same no matter where you go," he said with a grin.
"We can talk in one of the interrogation rooms," Steve said. "It'll be quieter, less distractions. Jesse-"
"I know, I can't be an official part of what you're discussing. I have to keep my mouth shut and simply observe," Jesse said, as if quoting the words by rote. "I am not a cop," he added.
"You wouldn't believe how many times I heard that exact same lecture till I actually did become one," Blair said, smiling over at the doctor.
"You were an academic before, right?" Jesse asked as they trailed behind Jim and Steve to the interrogation room.
"How did you end up becoming a cop?" Jesse asked. He held the door open for Blair to walk through ahead of him.
Blair shot a quick look over at Jim, but his partner was already sitting down at the table and exchanging files with Steve. "It's a long story, and not particularly interesting," he obfuscated. "At the time it just seemed the right thing to do." He watched as Jim's head turned and looked straight at him, then Jim smiled, and Blair felt all the tension he'd been feeling since their morning conversation melt away.
"Jesse has a habit of getting involved in my cases," Steve said with a chuckle. "Mind you, he's helped me solve more than a few of them too, cop or not. I wouldn't be letting him sit in on this discussion if I didn't know for a fact he can be trusted to be discreet and helpful."
Blair watched as Jesse beamed a smile of pure gratitude across at Steve. He thought back to his own relationship with Jim. Sure, they worked together great, and he did care for Jim. He couldn't help wondering just where the new direction their partnership seemed to have taken might lead them.
"You with us, Chief?"
Blair jumped and realized he'd allowed his thoughts to pull him away from the conversation. "Yeah, sure," he said. "Sorry."
"So, Steve, you want to start. Tell us about this case of yours," Jim said.
"Okay, we've had three young gay men turn up dead in the past 4 months, all of them stabbed to death and, except for the first one, they were brutally raped. They all disappeared from known gay hangouts in the area. There have been no witnesses to their disappearances and no other clues to help us find the perp. The only commonalities we've found, apart from them all being gay, is that they were all drugged with Rohypnol shortly before their deaths."
He stopped and gave a quick look over at Jim then went on. "I did a computer search looking for any murders over the past ten years that had those factors in common with our murders and came up with a series in Cascade-"
"Five years ago," Jim interrupted. "It was before I got into Major Crime. Two young men were murdered a month apart. They were both gay, had been at a local gay bar, and been drugged before being stabbed to death. Neither of them were raped though."
"So the guy's escalating," Blair said quietly. He saw Jesse's raised eyebrows and explained further. "He was content at first to just kill them but maybe when the Cascade PD didn't catch him, he got frustrated and moved away. Then, he got angry at the lack of attention. Has there been much publicity about the victims?" he asked Steve.
"Yeah, most of it sympathetic to them too. It's a pretty enlightened community," Steve replied. The general consensus here was that it didn't matter that the victims were gay, they didn't deserve to die the way they did."
"So, the guy gets pissed because all the attention is on the victims, not him," Blair said thoughtfully. "Were the wounds different?"
"Yeah," Steve said, looking surprised. "The first guy died from a single stab wound straight through the heart. Coroner said he would have been dead before he knew what hit him. He's the one who wasn't sexually assaulted. The next one was stabbed several times in the chest and back. The last victim had his head almost severed from his body, as well as being stabbed about fifteen times before and after death."
"I think our killer's getting pissed with all the sympathy his victims are getting. He's killing these men because he thinks he's punishing them righteously and instead of being applauded for cleaning up the streets, he's being called a killer and his vics are being hailed almost as heroes," Blair said.
"Makes sense," Jim said.
"Do you have a map of where the men disappeared from?" Blair asked suddenly.
"Yeah, I can get one," Steve replied. "Why?"
"Just an idea," Blair said.
Steve opened the folder in front of him again and pulled out a map, opening it and pushing it across to Blair. "What are you thinking?" he asked.
"Like I said, just a hunch. Look, these sites all line up," Blair said, following the marked spots with his finger.
Jesse leaned over and peered at the map. "Sorry, not that I can see," he said. "I mean, one guy disappeared here, another up here and another down there."
"It's a cross," Jim said suddenly.
Blair nodded, grateful for the bond that helped them communicate instinctively like this. "And they all disappeared from gay bars, right?" he asked.
Steve nodded. "How does that help?"
Blair moved his finger down the map until it rested on a point equidistant from the site of the third kidnapping. "If there's a gay bar right about here, I think that's where he'll strike next.
"There is," Jesse said. He smiled apologetically at Steve. "I know it from before we met."
"What dates were the victims killed?"
"Another hunch?" Steve asked, but he pulled out the necessary paperwork and read out the dates.
"These are all Christian holidays," Blair said. "Christmas, Lent, Easter What's today's date?" he asked suddenly.
"November 27th," Jim replied.
"Advent," Blair said. "It's the beginning of the Christian Church year," he explained. "I think there's a good chance he'll strike again tonight, right here." Blair pressed his finger down on the map.
"It's a stretch, Chief," Jim said.
"No, I don't think it is. These are cause killings. I think our perp's a deeply religious man who's offended by homosexuality. I think he believes he's doing God's will by ridding the world of homosexuals."
"But why would he leave clues like that behind?' Jesse asked.
"I don't think he can help himself. He's a conflicted individual. As much as he believes his cause is right and driven by the desire to please God, as a committed Christian, he'd have to know that murder is wrong too. Maybe he wants to be caught," Blair said. "Or maybe he's testing the fleece."
"Which means?" Jim sounded puzzled.
"He might be testing God to see if what he's doing truly has God's blessing," Blair replied. "It's an Old Testament thing. A prophet or holy man would ask God for something, then he'd say he'd only believe that what happened was God's will by leaving a sheepskin outside his tent, hut, whatever. He'd pray that if the fleece was dry in the morning that would be God telling him he was on the right track. Our perp may be leaving clues in the belief that if we don't find him in spite of them, it means he truly has God's blessing in his work."
"Whoa, now that's impressive profiling," Steve said. "So, ideas?"
"What about baiting a trap for him?" Blair asked.
"You mean send someone in to one of these bars and hope he tries to pick them up?" Jesse asked. "That's kind of risky, isn't it?"
Steve shrugged. "It can be. We did think about it but we were worried the kind of close surveillance we'd need to use to make sure our 'bait' stayed safe would tip the guy off. We couldn't risk that. Plus we had no idea which bar to stake out. If we did tip our hand, he'd more than likely just move on again, like he did from Cascade."
Blair looked over at Jim. "We could do it," he said softly.
Jim sighed and shook his head. "I don't know, Chief. It'd still be risky. This guy picks up men who are alone. I wouldn't be able to go in with you-"
"I don't want you in there with me," Blair interrupted. "I want you on the outside, watching my back."
"We'd still need to wire you," Steve said. "I can't see how that's going to be any different than if we'd tried it with one of our own men."
"You wouldn't need to wire him," Jim said finally after a long pause. "I'd be able to track him with my senses."
"What?" Steve looked stunned, Jesse no less so.
"Look, it's no big deal," Jim said, his voice matter of fact. "I have what can best be described as hyperactive senses-"
"To put it simply, Jim's what's known as a Sentinel." Blair took a deep breath and looked over at Steve and Jesse. Instinct told him these two could be trusted with Jim's secret. "We haven't publicized it because it could hamper his job as a cop if it was public knowledge-"
"In other words, I don't need the perps knowing I've got an edge," Jim jumped in.
"Anyway, long story short, Jim can hear and see and smell better than the average guy. His taste and tactile senses are heightened too," Blair went on.
"Like an organic Superman," Jesse said, his voice alive with excitement. "This is so cool."
"Ease up on the Superman stuff, Jesse," Jim said with a grin. "My senses are heightened, that's all. I can't see through walls or anything." He stopped, looking worried. "Steve, this stuff has to stay under wraps, completely between us, though, okay?"
Steve nodded, still looking stunned. "Sure," he said. "I get that completely. I'm just a little "
"He gets that a lot when people find out," Blair said, grinning at the detective. "You should have heard what our Captain said when Jim told him."
"So nobody else knows?" Jesse asked. "I'm surprised you've kept it under wraps."
"It kind of got out a year or so ago," Blair replied quietly, remembered guilt making his stomach churn. "My mom released my thesis on Sentinels to a publisher."
"What happened?" Jesse asked, his eyes wide.
"Blair gave a press conference and said he'd falsified his thesis," Jim replied flatly though his eyes were soft as he looked at Blair.
"Wow! Bet that went over well at the U," Jesse remarked.
"They kicked me out." Blair shrugged as if it was just so much water under the bridge. "I got offered a badge. I took it."
Steve looked at Jim and shook his head. "That's friendship above and beyond the call," he said.
"I know," Jim replied, smiling at Blair.
"So, we going to do this?" Blair asked.
"Why do you need to be the bait, Chief?" Jim asked. "Steve's got other cops-"
"Because I'm the one who knows how to work with you on the outside listening in, man. And because his choice of victim has been guys around my age and build, with long hair. And because with my background in profiling and Forensic Psychology, I've got the best chance of talking the guy down if he does get hold of me. Jim, please don't tell me you don't think I can do this? I'm a cop just like you now, remember?"
"I know," Jim said, his jaw clenching tight. "I wish I didn't agree with you, but you're right."
"I am?" Blair said, surprised. "You really think this will work?"
"Yeah, I do."
"Why?" Blair asked, hating to sound needy but needing to hear Jim's answer just the same.
"Because like I told you once before, you're the best cop I've ever known and if anyone can help these guys catch this bastard, it's you, Chief," Jim replied softly. "I don't like it, I'll admit. It's your choice though. Nobody's going to think anything less of you for saying no."
Blair held Jim's gaze, overwhelmed by his partner's trust in his abilities. "I'm doing it," he said. "You'll be there, anyway, backing me up, right?"
"Damn straight," Jim said.
"Then I don't have anything to worry about."
Blair looked around the crowded bar from his seat in a back corner booth. Both he and Jim had agreed that the perp, if he showed tonight was hardly likely to walk up to someone sitting at the bar, drop knockout drops in their drink and then cart them out past countless onlookers.
The music was loud and the atmosphere smoky. Couples moved closely together on the dance floor, arms wrapped around necks or waists, dancing to the sensuous beat of Santana.
Blair sipped his beer slowly, trying to make it last. He scanned the crowd around him, spotting Jesse sitting at the bar, trying to watch him from the corner of his eye.
Steve had argued strenuously against his lover's presence at first, till Jesse had pointed out, logically enough, that he'd frequented this bar many times before he and Steve had got together. He told Steve that his presence there tonight wouldn't raise any alarm bells, whereas the presence of any undercover men, whose very appearance screamed 'cop!' might just throw off the killer. Besides, he'd added, he was a doctor. Who better to be able to see quickly and at first hand if Blair was showing any signs of having been drugged.
Blair downed the last of his beer and motioned the waitress to bring another one. "Still nothing, Jim," he said quietly, dipping his chin to hide his mouth from anyone watching. He hoped desperately that Jim would be able to hear him through the surrounding noise. He knew Jim was well practiced these days at discarding extraneous noise and focusing in on what he needed to hear, but usually he'd had Blair at his side when he'd done that. He also wished he and Jim had at least had time to talk more about what was going on between them before doing this.
It was obvious Jim loved him, wanted more than just friendship from him. Blair was almost sure he wanted that too. He did love Jim. He didn't doubt that but their friendship had been rocky from the beginning. It had been hard enough to patch up their friendship after the disaster of the dissertation leak. It was only the fact that the friendship had been so important to both of them that had enabled them to work things out. If it didn't work out between them as lovers, could they ever go back to being friends? he wondered.
"Here's your beer."
Blair looked up and smiled at the waitress. "Thanks," he said.
"Haven't seen you in here before," she said, smiling back.
"I'm new in town. Hoping I can make some new friends," he replied, sipping at the drink.
"Or meet that special someone?" she asked, winking at him.
"Yeah, that'd be nice too," he said. He paid her for the beer, adding a substantial tip, then leaned back in his chair and began to observe his surroundings again. A few minutes later, his bladder made its presence known. "Gotta go to the bathroom, Jim," he murmured.
Jesse watched intently as Blair stood and walked towards the sign that pointed the way to the restroom. He stood up as he saw Blair stagger slightly, his hip bumping against a table in his way. Leaving his glass on the bartop, hoping he wasn't breaking some unknown law of police stakeout protocol, but figuring it was better to be safe than sorry, he followed Blair, making sure to keep a few steps behind him. Just as he turned into the hallway leading to the restrooms, a cacophony of sound erupted behind him. He looked back, seeing the waitress who'd served Blair, arguing vociferously with a customer. The man smashed his beer glass down on the bar and next minute all hell broke loose.
Jesse paused for a moment then turned back to see Blair disappearing through the restroom door. His gait looked off and Jesse hastened his steps. "You guys better get in here," he said quietly, feeling momentarily foolish to be talking to thin air. He hoped like hell that what he'd learned about Ellison's abilities was true and that the Sentinel had heard him. He had a really bad feeling about this.
He made it to the door and put his hand on the handle, then swung about as he heard a shuffle of feet behind him. There was an implosion of pain in his head, the world appeared to turn upside down and he felt himself hit the floor. Lights pulsed at the edges of his sight as he tried to stay conscious, then a boot met his ribs with crushing force and blackness descended.
Steve watched Jim as they sat in the front seat of a sedan parked in front of the bar. Jim's eyes were focused on the front door of the building, a distant look on his face, his head cocked slightly to one side. Blair had told him to keep as quiet as possible when Jim was using his senses, but to watch for signs of a zoneout. Now, with his friend sitting so still beside him, Steve was beginning to wonder if Jim had indeed slipped into one of the fugue-like states he'd been warned about. He reached out a hand and placed it on the Sentinel's arm.
"I'm okay," Jim said briefly. He shook his head then blinked a few times. "I'm finding it hard to split my focus without Blair here to guide me," he said.
"Is he all right?"
"Yeah. Wait a minute." Jim held up a hand then cocked his head again. "He's going to the bathroom," he said.
"You going to listen in on that too?" Steve asked with a grin.
"Won't be the first time," Jim replied, smiling back. "Before Blair helped me get control, it was pretty difficult to not hear everything he did after he moved into the loft." He turned his gaze back to the building again then stiffened. "Shit!"
"What?" Steve asked, already pulling his gun out of its holster.
"A fight just broke out inside. I've lost Blair's voice."
They were out of the car and barrelling through the front door in seconds, Steve calling in all the available units via his radio mic as they went.
The scene inside was chaos, chairs and tables overturned or being thrown. Steve ducked a glass that smashed against the wall behind his head then stood up warily, looking for Jesse.
Jim had raced toward the bathrooms at the back of the room, pushing combatants out of his way as he went.
Steve turned to see uniforms racing into the bar and decided to leave the cleanup to them. He cast another quick look around for his lover, then, heart hammering madly in his chest, he followed Jim.
He skidded to a halt behind the other detective, his breath hitching in his chest as he saw Ellison crouched over a crumpled body on the floor. "Oh, God, Jesse," he whispered through arid lips as he recognized the bloodstained face of the downed man.
Jesse looked barely conscious, his eyelids flickering as he moved his head away from Jim's hands.
Steve moved, pushing the Sentinel aside till he was at his lover's shoulder. "Jesse? Take it easy, babe, don't try to move."
Jesse struggled against the soft-handed grip Steve had on his shoulder, his lips opening in a pretence at words.
Steve bent forward, placing his ear over Jesse's mouth.
"Go after Blair," Jesse whispered. "I'll be okay. Go."
Steve looked up at Jim. The Cascade detective was standing, his head turned to one side.
"They're in the parking lot," Jim said. "I'm going after them. You stay here with Jesse." He turned and headed for the rear restroom door at a dead run.
"I'm okay." Jesse's hand gripped Steve's arm convulsively. "Go with him. Find Blair."
Steve shook his head. "I'm staying with you till the medics get here."
"Go! Please! Help Jim!" Jesse's head flopped back to the floor. "Steve, go!"
"I need medics in here," Steve called through his radio mic. He waited a half-heartbeat till he heard running feet and turned to see a couple of uniforms burst in through the restroom door. "Take care of him," he said, then he took off after Jim.
Jim stood in the parking lot at the back of the bar. He raised a hand for silence as Steve ran across to him. "I can hear Blair. He's talking to someone. He sounds really groggy though. We need to get to him before he passes out."
"Let's go!" Steve pulled the carkeys from his pocket as he ran, Jim at his heels. They all but fell into the vehicle and within seconds, Steve was peeling out onto the street, leaving rubber in his wake. "Which way?" he asked urgently.
Jim focused ahead, his mind casting aside extraneous noises, trying desperately to piggyback his sight to his hearing in hope of identifying the vehicle that was carrying Blair. "Keep going straight," he said.
After a moment, frustrated, he shook his head. "It's fading. Too much traffic. Wait! Turn left on Gibbs Street."
"How'd you know Gibbs Street was the next cross street?" Steve asked as he made the turn and accelerated up the roadway.
"Blair just asked the guy his name. When he didn't answer, Blair said he had to call him something and said, 'How about Gibbs?'"
"Yeah. He's still talking to the guy." Jim cocked his head to one side. "The man's saying something about he's carrying out God's plan." He smiled.
"What?" Steve asked, sounding perplexed.
"Is there a bridge or something up here somewhere?'
"Yeah. Basin Street bridge. It's an overpass over Gibbs."
"Slow down before we get to it. Blair's singing a song called 'Underneath the Arches'. He's telling us where he is."
Steve shook his head as if in disbelief. "Okay, there's the bridge about a hundred yards ahead. It's pretty dark under there."
"Doesn't matter. I can see." Jim tapped an eyelid with his forefinger. "Stop the car here. We'll go in on foot."
Steve pulled the car to a quiet halt and they climbed out, weapons in hand, then headed toward the shadows of the bridge at a stealthy run.
Jim halted at the edge of one the bridge supports, motioning Steve to stay behind him. He dialed his eyesight up more, peering into the darkness beneath the bridge. "There's a dark-colored van parked there. No lights but I'm almost sure it's them. I can 'feel' Blair's there."
"Feel?" Steve asked dubiously.
"Blair would say it's a Sentinel-Guide thing. I prefer to think it's a Jim-Blair thing," Jim murmured softly.
He scanned the darkness ahead as he heard a door opening. "Heads up," Jim said. "He's getting out."
They waited, holding back till the man exited the van and walked around to the passenger door.
He opened it, reaching inside and unclipping the seat belt. "Time for you to meet your Judge," the man said harshly.
Jim stepped forward swiftly and placed his gun firmly against the man's neck. "Or for you to meet yours," he said.
The man gasped and bucked back against him.
Jim's fist snapped out and clipped him efficiently on the back of the neck. He smiled in grim satisfaction as the man dropped like a stone.
He left him to Steve and stepped over the prone body, leaning in through the open door and reaching a hand out to steady Blair, who was slouched against the back of the seat. "Hey there," he said, cupping Blair's chilled cheek gently.
Blair grinned drowsily at him. "Hey, Jim. You foun' me, huh?"
"Yep, thanks to you we did. You did some quick thinking there, Chief."
"I was singin'," Blair said, sounding woozy.
"I heard you," Jim said. He pulled Blair toward him and helped him out of the van, holding him tightly around the waist as Blair's legs buckled beneath him.
"He okay, Jim?" Steve asked, straightening up from handcuffing the perp.
"Hey, Steve," Blair said, giving him a wobbly grin. "Where's Jesse?"
"Oh shit, Jesse!" Steve keyed his radio mic and called for back up to collect their prisoner, as well as an ambulance for Blair.
"I don' need an ambulance, man. I'm fine," Blair reassured him, making a lie of the statement as he stepped forward and lost his balance, almost crashing to the ground.
Jim caught him around the waist and hauled him close to his side, then steered him over to one of the bridge stanchions where he lowered him to the ground. "How about you sit down and take it easy, Chief?"
"I hate hospitals," Blair said, an enormous yawn almost blotting out his words.
"I know." Jim ruffled his hair gently, then leaned forward and kissed his forehead. "Jesse's already there. You two can share a room, take turns driving the nurses nuts-"
"Oh God, what happened to Jesse?" Blair's eyes were wide open now, and fear for his new friend seemed to have shucked off his drowsiness.
"He'll be fine," Jim reassured him. "He's a little the worse for wear after following you into the restroom. Got hit in the head, but he'll be okay. You just relax." He sat down next to Blair and pulled him close against his side. "Let me do the worrying for now, okay."
The room was in darkness when Jesse opened his eyes. He turned his head to the side, trying to bring the figure sitting at his bedside into clearer focus.
"Hey, you awake at last?"
Jesse smiled as Steve's hand touched his face gently. "You okay?"
"Me? I'm fine, babe. You're the one who decided to play the hero and got his skull cracked open for his trouble."
"Blair! God, Steve, did you-" Jesse surged up in the bed, gasping as his ribs protested the movement. His shoulder was gripped firmly but gently, and he was pushed back down to rest against the pillows.
"Blair's okay, babe. We got to him in time, *and* we got the killer too," Steve said reassuringly. "Man, you should have seen Jim. I've never seen anyone that focused before. I still can't believe the stuff he did. He could hear Blair talking to the guy when we were still a mile behind them."
"So, all that stuff about Jim being a Sentinel is true then," Jesse said. He shook his head, wincing as the movement brought his headache back to life.
"Yeah, it's true, all right. Dad says you need to get some more sleep. He and Amanda will be in to see you in a few hours. You need anything? Pain meds, something to eat "
Jesse shook his head carefully. "I'm fine, Steve. Just don't go too far away, okay?"
Steve leaned in and kissed his mouth softly. "Blair's in the room next door. I'll be back in five."
"Go." Jesse waved an unsteady hand in the direction of the door. "Tell him to come see me when he's feeling up to it, all right?"
Steve straightened at a knock on the door. "Hey, Jim, come on in, buddy. How's Blair doing? I was just about to come check on him."
Jim stepped into the room and walked across to Jesse's bed. "He'll be fine. He's got a headache of hangover proportions, but the doc's releasing him in the morning. How are you?" he asked, looking at Jesse.
"A little bruised and battered, but I'm fine," Jesse said. "I'm glad Blair's okay."
"I wanted to say thank you for doing what you did If you hadn't picked up on Blair being drugged, and then following him, I might have lost him." Jim's voice was husky and he sounded exhausted.
"All part of being a friend," Jesse said, tears prickling his eyes hotly. He swiped at them with the back of his hand.
"Hey, take it easy, Jess," Steve said, sitting down on the side of the bed and gently lifting him up. He pulled Jesse against him and kissed the top of his head.
"I'm okay." He looked up at Jim. "Blair loves you, you know. He's just not sure what to do about it."
Jim nodded, reaching out to pat Jesse's shoulder. "I know he does. I love him too. We'll work it out." He turned and went to the door, stopping as he reached it. "Why don't you stay here with Jesse, Steve? I'll tell Blair you were asking about him. I'll bring him by in the morning before we leave the hospital."
Jesse watched the door close behind Jim, then snuggled more deeply into his lover's strong arms. "Sounds good to me. What do you think?"
Steve moved him back to rest against the pillows again, then placed his arms beneath him, lifting him carefully to the other side of the bed. Having made room, he toed off his shoes then lay down next to Jesse and pulled him over. He settled Jesse's head comfortably on his chest, and wrapped his free arm around his back, stroking rhythmically up and down. "Sounds like a damn fine idea to me, sweetheart."
Jim dropped his bag on the floor of the loft gratefully, then walked across to the kitchen and grabbed two beers out of the fridge. He twisted the top off his, then went over and gave one to Blair, who'd collapsed onto the sofa with an audible sigh of relief.
Steve had wanted them to stay longer in California now the case was wrapped up, but as soon as Blair was cleared by the hospital and they knew Jesse would be okay, Sentinel and Guide had wanted nothing more than to get back to Cascade. They'd have to go back for the trial of Joseph Manning, the serial killer who'd snuffed out the lives of five young men for his own perverted idea of justice. He'd almost snuffed out Blair's too, a thought that still had the capacity to give Jim chills when he thought about that night. But, right now, Jim and Blair both wanted time alone, to begin living their new life together.
They'd talked for a long time the night before they'd left Steve's place, affirming what they both now knew to be true. That they loved each other and wanted to have a life together as lovers, as well as friends.
Jim had told Blair they'd take the physical side slowly, then found himself gasping in joyful surprise as Blair had cupped his face between his hands and kissed him, long and deep and passionately. "I don't want to go slow," he'd whispered, when they broke apart, panting. "I want it all, Jim. I've wasted enough time."
On the plane, he'd sat down next to Jim and clasped their hands together, an open affirmation of their new relationship.
"What are you smiling at?' Blair asked.
"Just remembering the past few days. How everything came together perfectly in the end," Jim said. He leaned sideways and kissed the curve of Blair's ear.
"You knew long before I did that this was what I wanted, didn't you?" Blair asked, putting his beer down on the table, and turning so he was pressed against Jim's chest, his legs slung over Jim's lap.
"I've known for a while, yeah. I didn't want to rush you, difficult as it was not to."
"How did you know? I thought I was being pretty subtle about it. Heck, even I wasn't sure it was what I wanted till a few days ago," Blair asked. He took Jim's beer from him and put it next to his, then moved and straddled Jim's lap, sighing in pleasure as Jim's hands stroked up and down his back.
"It was a knowing me, knowing you thing, Chief," Jim said as he pulled his lover in close and kissed his mouth, then trailed his lips down over Blair's neck to the pulse throbbing heatedly beneath the skin there. He suckled on it, then licked the red mark he'd left behind. "My bed or yours?" he asked huskily.
Blair pointed up to the loft bedroom. "How about ours?" he said.
"Yeah, ours. I like the way that sounds." Jim dumped his lover gently onto the floor as he stood up, then grabbed his hand and towed him upstairs to bed.