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COLLABORATION - SLASH

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FEEDBACK TO: Annie

                               Lyn

DISCLAIMER: The characters of The Sentinel are the property of Petfly and Paramount. This fanfic was written for our own and others' enjoyment. No money has been paid and no copyright infringement is intended.

CATEGORY: Drama; Missing Scenes.

RATING: NC-17

PAIRING: J/B

WARNINGS: Explicit m/m sex scenes, language.

AUTHORS' NOTES: LYN: It was only a few months ago that I began to notice my twin sister's eyes stopped rolling heavenwards whenever I started talking about fanfic, and that she asked if maybe, she could read a couple of the stories I had written. "Sure," I said, and promptly swamped her with fic, not only mine but also many of my favorite gen authors. I didn't want to scare her off after all by throwing her straight into the slash deep end. Annie started writing, and boy, is she good! It didn't take long at all for her to begin venturing over to the slash archives to see what they had to offer, and I did my best to encourage her. We collaborated on a gen SG-1 fic for a zine and not long after that, she phoned me and said, "I've got an idea for a slash fic, but I'm not sure I can write it on my own. Are you interested in collaborating?" Was I? Funnily enough, my muse had been planting a remarkably similar scenario in my head for a week or two. So, thanks, Annie, for this brilliant plot bunny and for allowing me to share in writing it with you. It's been great fun to write and I'm so pleased I was able to convince you what a great thing fanfic is, and to tempt you over to the dark side of slash. <g> Looking forward to many more collaborations in the future

- Lyn

ANNIE: Whenever I went to visit Lyn, she had this penchant for talking ad infinitum about a TV show she liked, called "The Sentinel". I'd heard of it, sure, but the only episode I'd ever caught was "The Inside Man" so maybe you'll understand why I was less than enthralled with the show at the time <g>. Anyway, pretty soon she started bringing tapes of the show with her whenever she visited me and it took like, oh... about two episodes before I was hooked. I mean, I saw "The Rig" and the shower scene and who wouldn't be, right? So, I became a card carrying "Jimbabe" right then and there. Now, my twin is no slouch in ways to pervert (I mean, of course, convert) people to her cause, so she immediately upped the ante by mentioning fanfic. As an addictive reader, this was something I couldn't resist and Lyn immediately began my education by giving me some fics of her own as well of some other great writers. She then sat back and waited, knowing I'd want to try it myself (she knows me too well, dammit). Lyn's response to that was to give me a page on her site and order me to keep it filled. So, a few gen fics later, I stumbled (okay, okay, truth here) I'd heard of slash and went looking for it. Read lots of wonderful TS slash by lots of wonderfully talented writers. Could I see slash in TS? Is the Pope Catholic? Next thing you know, I got this little bunny in my head that just wouldn't lie down and play dead. I knew I couldn't write it on my own but I knew just the person to help me. So here we are. And I've loved every minute of it. I mean, I'm writing a story with a writer who's also one of my favorite TS authors (and that's not just because she's my sister). Thanks, sis, it's been a blast. Wanna do it again?

- Annie

Huge thanks to Pattrose for the stunning cover pic she designed for this story.

 

"We live in the shadowlands. The sun’s shining somewhere else. Round a bend in the road. Over the brow of a hill…"

C.S. Lewis

 

"Come on in, man. The water's nice." - Blair, Sentinel, Too.

"Come on, Chief. Up and at ‘em! We don’t want to piss Simon off by being late on our first day back." Jim reached down, grasped his partner’s shoulder and gave it a firm shake, using his other hand to pull the blankets back from the recumbent form.

"Go ‘way," came the muffled reply from the curly head buried deep in the pillow. Blair snaked a hand down to the covers, trying ineffectually to pull them out of Jim’s fist.

"Uh-uh. No, you don’t! Blair, we’ve already had two weeks off since we got back from Mexico. The doc checked you out yesterday and gave you a clean bill of health. Simon’s not gonna spring for another paid day off!"

"Don’t get paid," Blair retorted, lifting his head and fixing Jim with a blurry glare.

"Well, I do. If I go to work, that is."

"Fine, then you go." Blair dropped his head back to the bed with finality.

"Come on, Sandburg. This isn’t like you. Do you feel sick?"

"I’m not sick. I’m just tired."

"Look, Sandburg, I’ll make you a deal. You haul your hippie butt out of bed and into the shower and I won’t pick you up bodily and do it for you!"

Muttering under his breath, Blair slowly sat up and lowered his legs to the floor.

"Now, now, Chief. No naughty words. I heard that. I’m a Sentinel, remember?" Jim grinned, ruffling Blair’s hair, then frowned as his partner twisted out from under his hand and headed for the bathroom without another word.

*Now, that was strange* Jim thought as he made his way to the kitchen. *Not even a "Not the hair, Ellison" wisecrack. *

By the time Blair was dressed, Jim had breakfast and coffee ready. "Grub’s up, Sandburg," he called as he began to eat.

"Not hungry," Blair replied, slumping down onto the couch.

"Now I know you’re sick, Chief." Jim walked to the couch and put his hand on Blair’s forehead, extending his senses as he did so. "No fever, your heart rate’s up a little, but not much," he said, puzzled.

"I told you. What part of ‘I’m not sick’ didn’t you understand, Jim?" Blair growled. "You ready? Let’s go already." He stood up, impatiently tapping his fingers against his thighs as he waited for Jim to gulp down his toast and coffee and stack the dishes in the sink.

~ooOoo~

By the time they entered the bullpen, Jim was getting tired of talking to himself. Blair hadn’t said more than five words on the way in, most of those monosyllabic grunts in response to Jim’s questions.

Ignoring H’s cheery, "Welcome back, Lazarus!" Sandburg headed for Jim’s desk and sat down, leaning forward and resting his head on his arms. Henri looked inquiringly at Jim who just rolled his eyes heavenward and shrugged, then headed for the captain’s office to check in.

"Hey, Sandy, how’re you going, mate?" came a greeting in an Australian accent, next to Blair’s ear.

"Fine," Blair replied shortly, not bothering to lift his head.

"Got a headache, Hairboy? I’ve got some aspirin here."

Blair knew without opening his eyes that the last question had come from Rafe. "No, just tired."

The three detectives looked at each other in surprise. This definitely wasn’t the Sandburg they had grown to know and love.

Captain Banks walked from his office with Jim and stopped in front of the desk. "Sandburg, you okay? Jim said you’re not your usual sparkling witty self today?"

Blair leapt to his feet. "Jeez, Jim, aren’t I allowed to have any privacy? Why don’t you just put daily updates on my private life in the Police Gazette?" He spun on his heels and headed out the door at a run, leaving the bullpen almost echoing with stunned silence.

"Jim, what’s all this about?" Simon finally managed to ask.

"I don’t know, but I intend to find out right now, sir," Jim replied, as he followed his partner.

He managed to catch up to Blair as he entered the elevator. Jim shoved his arm through the closing doors, and barreled inside. Blair stood slumped in the corner. He looked up at the intrusion, fixing Jim with a baleful glare.

"What?" he asked, sullenly.

"What's going on here, Chief?"

"Nothing's going on, Jim. I just get a little tired of the whole 'everybody watch out for Blair routine'. I feel like I have no privacy. I'm not a kid. I don't need you and Simon and everyone else checking up on me all the time." He looked down at the floor, seemingly fascinated by his sneakers.

Jim reached out and punched the stop button.

"Chief, I’m just worried about you. You've seemed all right since you got out of the hospital. I mean, you followed Alex and me down to Mexico; traipsed all through the jungle. The doc checked you out when we came back and said, physically you're okay. But your moods are all over the place the last few days, you seem to be exhausted all the time, and I know you haven't been eating. I understand you had to have had some emotional reaction to what Alex did, but why after a month? I'm just trying to figure out what's going on and what I can do to help." He reached out to clasp Blair's shoulder only to have his hand shrugged off.

"Nothing you can do, Jim. Nothing anyone can do. I just need some space. I'm really tired and I guess I need some time to process everything, that's all. Tell Simon and the guys I'm sorry, okay?" Blair sighed, finally looking up and meeting Jim's eyes.

Ellison almost flinched at the despair he saw there. "Chief, why don't we call it quits for today? How about we go home, you can get some sleep, then tonight we'll have a nice quiet dinner and a couple of beers and sit down and talk this through? I really want to help you here, you know?"

"Okay, Jim. I don't know if I can explain it. I don't understand what's going on inside my head either right now. But sleep sounds good, dinner sounds better and a couple of beers sounds great." He grinned and for a moment Jim saw of flash of the old Blair, the partner and friend he knew before Alex and the fountain and all that had gone wrong between them since.

Okay, buddy," he said tossing the truck keys to Blair. "I'll go square it all with Simon and meet you downstairs in the garage." He pushed the button for the basement, setting the elevator in motion again and let Blair out at the parking level. "We will work this out, Chief."

"Yeah, I know, man," Blair smiled waveringly at him and headed for the truck.

~oo0oo~

"All the answers to it all." - Jim, Sentinel Too.

The ride home was pretty much a repeat of that morning, but Jim didn't push conversation, hoping that once they were back at the loft and he'd been able to coax some food into his partner, they could relax and talk.

He opted for something light for dinner, thinking that Blair's stomach would probably not handle anything too heavy, and set about preparing grilled sandwiches and thawing a minestrone that he remembered Blair had frozen before they'd gone to Mexico. The meal was an equally subdued affair, though they kept up an inconsequential chatter about the weather, the latest political news and an in-depth discussion about Jim's newest case.

Taking the dishes into the kitchen, Jim watched Blair settle onto the couch and pick up the remote. "You want a beer, Chief? Or I could brew you some tea?"

"Beer is good," Blair replied absently. Then, "No, have we got any whiskey left?"

"Yeah," Jim said slowly. "You sure that's what you want?" He knew Blair was not normally a drinker of hard liquor.

"I'm sure. I just need…"

"It's fine," Jim hastened to add. "You don't need to explain yourself to me."

Blair turned to him and smiled. "Thanks. You gonna have one?"

"Why not? It's been a long day." Jim poured the drinks, adding a liberal amount of ice cubes to each and carried them to the living room. He seated himself beside Blair, then took the remote and turned the TV off. "Thought we'd have an evening without the mindless crap."

Blair made a disbelieving face. "You? Spend a night without the TV on?"

Jim shrugged. "Just thought it'd be nice for a change." He broached the worrying subject carefully. "Thought we could talk about what's going on with you."

Blair stood abruptly and faced him, his hands clenched tensely at his sides. "Why won't you leave it alone?" he asked harshly.

"Because I care about you, and I'm worried. I told you that before." Jim scrubbed his hands through his hair in frustration, then rested them in his lap, and stared down at them. A lump formed in his throat, and he had to force his next words out. "You died, for God's sake, and you had every right to react to that, but you seemed fine, and now…" He looked up. "If you can't talk to me, talk to someone else. I know someone at the station…"

Blair rolled his eyes. "You mean a shrink?"

"What's wrong with that? You told me you've been in therapy since you were in pampers." Jim tried for a jovial tone, but his eyes held a plea for understanding.

"There's nothing I need to talk about," Blair said, turning away.

Jim groaned in disbelief. "You're not sleeping worth shit, and when you do manage a few hours, you have nightmares." When Blair glared at him questioningly over his shoulder, Jim tapped at his ears, smiling a little at the resigned slump of Blair's shoulders. "You're hardly eating, and whatever you do take in comes up within a few hours. You're snapping at everyone who cares enough to ask how you're doing…"

"Because I'm…"

"Fine," Jim finished for him. "And that's the kicker, because you're not, and you know it. Look, if you won't talk to a stranger, talk to me. I know I screwed up over Alex, but I'm here now… if you need me. Whenever you need me." He waited.

Blair slumped back down beside him, looking defeated. "It's nothing," he said, sounding enormously weary. "The past few weeks have just caught up with me, I guess."

"Yeah." Jim felt relief wash over him. He reached out and grabbed Blair's glass, then held it out to him. "Here, have your drink."

"Thanks." Blair took a sip, grimaced a little then to Jim's surprise, chugged the entire contents.

Jim's eyes widened. "You might want to slow it down, Chief. I don't fancy putting you to bed tonight."

Blair's cheeks flushed at the comment. He pulled the bottle toward him, pouring another healthy slug into his own glass, then topped up Jim's. "I need the anesthesia, man."

Jim rested his hand on Blair's thigh, unconsciously stroking a rhythmic caress along its length. "Talk to me, Blair."

Blair took another swallow, motioning at Jim to do the same. Jim obliged, feeling his senses already beginning to reel a little from the combination of alcohol and not enough food.

"I can't sleep," Blair said softly. "I keep having dreams… really weird dreams."

"That's to be expected, I guess," Jim said. "You've been through a lot lately."

Blair shook his head before draining his glass and setting it on the table. He reached for the bottle once more but Jim waylaid his hand. "I think you've had enough, Chief."

Blair shook his head defiantly and gripped the neck of the bottle tightly. "Just one more, Jim." He smiled at his partner. "One for the road?"

Jim sighed and nodded. "Why not? One for the road, then I'm locking it up."

Blair's hand strayed to Jim's shoulder, rubbing absently. "Thanks."

Jim gently disengaged Blair's fingers from the bottle and poured another shot into Blair's glass. Sandburg was an adult, after all. If he wanted to cope with the hangover in the morning, it was his funeral. "Tell me about your dreams," he continued.

"Not much to tell," Blair replied, "seeing as I can't really remember them when I wake up. Really weird shit, man."

Jim frowned. A slight slur already affected Blair's speech. Then again, it might be the one way to get his partner to open up about what was bothering him. He took a sip of his own drink, not liking the way it seemed to be amplifying his senses and taking away any control he had over his dials. He felt like he had when he'd taken the cold medicine on the train. Blair copied his actions and swallowed a sizeable mouthful. He looked forlornly at Jim, and a solitary tear suddenly snaked down his cheek.

"I get so scared sometimes," he whispered.

Jim reached up and brushed away the moisture from Blair's face. "What about?" he asked, his throat growing tight.

Blair shrugged. "Everything." He hiccuped a sob and dropped his head to his chest as though ashamed at his loss of control. "I'm not like you, Jim," he said. "I can't have what happened with you and Alex and then just get back on track, seeing you with her on the beach after what she'd done. I thought I was dealing with it, but sometimes it just sneaks up on me, and takes my breath away."

Jim wrapped an arm around Blair's shoulders and pulled him close. "I'm sorry," he said roughly, "for what I did."

Blair turned his head into Jim's chest, deliberately letting Jim's misunderstanding of his words slide. He still felt unnerved by the torrent of emotions he'd felt when he'd found Jim and Alex locked in each other's embrace; still unsure that it had been only a sense of betrayal. "Not your fault. You saved my life. If it hadn't been for you, for your vision…"

Blair snuffled a couple of times then tilted his head to look at Jim. One of his hands snaked up to wrap around the back of Jim's neck and before Jim had time to react, his head was pulled downward, his lips pressed against Blair's.

Blair released a heartfelt moan at the contact, then arched upward, pressing Jim back against the couch, his tongue pushing out to demand entrance to Jim's mouth, his sturdy body blanketing Jim's.

Jim stiffened, his hands going up to push against Blair's chest, trying to put some space between them. "Blair, wait. Stop!" Jim demanded, but Blair only shifted closer, moving back in for another kiss that stifled Jim's words, his panting breath flickering pleasurable heat into Jim's mouth.

Blair's hands reached up to stroke across Jim's chest and the other man felt his nipples hardening, despite his protests.

"Please," Blair moaned. "Please."

Jim's heart clenched at the plea, and he succumbed to Blair's searching hands, one part of his mildly inebriated mind telling him this was all wrong; the other wanting only to comfort his friend, his own arousal flaring unashamedly at Blair's touch. He stiffened as Blair's hands stole to his jeans, urgently unbuttoning his fly, and he stilled the frantic movements. "Easy, Blair, easy."

But Blair appeared not to hear him as he pushed into Jim's pants and found his heated, heavy flesh. Jim groaned, despite his trepidation, and when Blair pried open the material of his pants and drew out his aroused cock, was lost in his desire. His own hands strayed under Blair's shirt to scratch through the wiry chest hair, stroking nipples to peaks before wandering down to push beneath the waistband of Blair's sweats, grasping his hips, dragging him closer.

Blair urged Jim up slightly and his jeans and boxers were tugged down to his thighs; Blair's palms cupping his buttocks for a moment before returning to stroke his weeping erection and ghost over his balls.

Jim's hands mirrored Blair's, tugging the hard cock from Blair's pants; overwhelming need obliterating common sense as his fingers curled around the silky length and he felt the thrumming rush of blood beneath his touch. He stroked firmly along Blair's rigid shaft, their movements growing rapid and erratic, their breath gasping into each other's mouths as they strained toward completion.

Jim could hear Blair's heart pounding, echoing his own. Then Blair arched up with a soft cry, and Jim felt the warm spurt of Blair's orgasm spatter his belly. The heat and smell of it was enough to wrench his coming from him. He angled his hips up, closing his own hand around Blair's and thrust into the tight tunnel of their combined grip, shuddering through the aftermath. He collapsed back against the couch, panting and sweaty, suddenly uncomfortably aware of Blair's hand still milking his cock through the aftershocks; of Blair's head resting heavy against his exposed, heaving chest.

He lay still for a long moment, with his eyes closed, afraid to see his own shame mirrored in Blair's face. Then gently, he gripped Blair's shoulders and shifted him to the side. He stood, aware of Blair's intense gaze upon him as he pulled up his pants and zipped the fly.

"I'm, uh, going to take a shower," he said, his voice sounding strained and barely there.

Blair nodded, indescribable sadness shadowing his eyes for a moment, then he looked away, staring sullenly at the balcony doors, his impersonal mask slipping back in place. Jim waited a moment, wanting to say something, to tell him he understood and that it was okay, but the words stuck in his throat. Finally he turned and strode to the bathroom.

"Need to wash me off you," Blair muttered behind him.

Jim froze, desperately wanting to go back and deny the truth of the words, but ashamed to admit to his own loss of control. Instead he closed the door and locked it, then turned on the faucet. Looking down at the mess of semen on his belly, he ran a finger through the evidence of his and Blair's lovemaking as the warm water washed it from him. When he came out of the bathroom, the apartment was in darkness and Blair's door was closed.

Suddenly enormously weary, worried sick about Blair's actions, and even more concerned over his own reactions, Jim climbed the stairs to bed.

He tossed and turned all night, his senses alert to every movement and every sound Blair made until he finally fell into a deep dreamless sleep in the early morning hours.

 

~oo0oo~

Blair had already left by the time Jim got up the next morning. He'd left a curt note, written in choppy handwriting on the counter, saying he had a full day at the university and wasn't sure when he'd be home.

"Fuck!" Jim cursed in frustration and defeat. Going into the kitchen, he fixed a pot of coffee, then, when his stomach churned at the smell, tossed the contents into the sink and collapsed into a chair, his mind racing in ever decreasing circles.

~oo0oo~

"That's the difference between you two. She lost her way." - Blair, Sentinel Too.

 

Jim turned what had happened between them every which way trying to make some sense of it and came up empty. He was no stranger to homosexual liaisons. During his time in the military there had been stolen moments in the showers and bunkrooms between ops; a quick mutual hand job helping to release the unresolved stress when they were some place where there were no women available. He'd considered the possibility that that's what had happened the night before. But deep inside Jim knew that wasn't it. Blair had sounded so desperately sad when he'd thought Jim couldn't wait to wash the evidence of their lovemaking off. Sandburg was his partner, his best friend and his Guide and Jim felt sick at the thought that he may have taken advantage of Blair's obviously inebriated and confused state. The other thing that bothered him was that he had to admit he'd enjoyed it. The act itself had been fine; it was the reason behind it that had him worried.

He came to a decision and picking up the phone, called Simon to say he had a doctor's appointment and wouldn't be in till later, relieved when the Captain refrained from asking him any questions. Then he cast his mind back to the time before he met Blair, when his senses had first come back online and he'd sought out psychologists, psychiatrists and physicians to try to get a handle on what was happening to him.

Lifting the phone again he dialed the office of Dr. Meg Samuels and made an appointment. He realized he couldn't go to the department shrink. Even if he kept it anonymous, the police psychiatrist would know he was referring to Blair. After all, how many of Jim's friends had drowned and lived to tell the tale? He knew he could not identify Blair by name. It would simply be a request for information to "help a friend". His gut clenched at the thought of discussing what had happened with a near stranger but he could see no other options. He was desperately worried about Blair and felt he had no choice.

~oo0oo~

Jim was twenty minutes early for the appointment and spent the time in the waiting room running through alternate ways to ask for the information he needed. By the time the nurse called his name, he was both relieved at the thought that he might finally get some answers to what was happening to Blair, and mortified at the idea of discussing his partner's personal problems without his knowledge or consent; finally able to justify it by acknowledging that, since the previous night's events, it had really become his problem too.

"Jim, good to see you. It's been what… 3 or 4 years?" the gray-haired woman behind the desk exclaimed, motioning him to a chair. "How are you? I figured you must have found the answer to those episodes you were having when you didn't come back to see me. Is it happening again?"

"No, no, I'm fine," Jim assured her quickly. "It's good to see you, too, Doctor. Um… this is… well… it's not about me exactly. I just need some advice to help a friend."

Meg's eyes narrowed. "Jim, you know I can't discuss specific cases with you without a patient's approval. Is this a police matter? I know you have a very good department psychologist."

"It's not a police matter," Jim answered. "I know you can't speak to me about your clients. This friend isn't a patient of yours. He hasn't done anything wrong. He's just a friend in trouble. I'm just looking for some general information so I can help him." He clenched his jaw and swallowed hard. "I just want to help him."

The psychologist looked at him searchingly. "He must be someone special, Jim. The last time I saw you I didn't think there was anyone in your life that you cared enough about to help. What do you want to know?"

Jim took a deep breath and hesitantly at first, began to speak. He omitted any mention of Blair's role as his Guide and partner, and his own Sentinel abilities but gradually he relaxed and the words began to come more easily. Meg mostly just listened, occasionally interjecting a question or a comment. Jim felt his whole body tense when he described his friend's drowning and his own terror as he'd fought to resuscitate him. When he reached the part where Blair had begun to breathe again, it was as if he was back there at the fountain, feeling the icy fist of fear unclench from around his heart and the relief that was so palpable he could still feel it.

When it came to telling her about Blair following him down to Mexico to help him catch Alex, Jim was careful to avoid any mention of the case itself, relating simply how his partner had seemed recovered from his ordeal, then his gradual decline into his current state after they got back. He didn't mention what had occurred the night before. He was hoping he might not have to. Realistically, he knew there was no magic pill for what was ailing Blair, but he hoped for answers that he could make sense of, at least.

Finally, the tumble of words stopped. He sat back in his chair, and waited for her to speak.

"Jim, your friend has a classic case of post traumatic stress disorder."

"You mean, like a delayed reaction?" he asked.

"In a way. PTSD generally doesn't manifest itself for at least a month or so after the incident itself, sometimes much longer than that. Your friend went through an extremely traumatic experience - physically, emotionally and probably spiritually. The common response is a rush of adrenaline, the so-called "fight or flight response". This would account for him leaving the hospital and appearing recovered when he went to Mexico. People at this stage of PTSD often feel as if they have energy to burn. They feel they can do whatever needs to be done to try to 'fix' what has happened. At the same time, it's a very effective way to shove the memory of the trauma to the back of the mind, leaving it in the subconscious until the adrenaline high wears off. That's when the depression, the mood swings, insomnia, irritability, nightmares and all the symptoms your friend has now, come crashing through.

Jim nodded slowly, digesting the information. It made sense.

"You said you were the one who resuscitated him? How close are you as friends? Do you see each other often? I mean, I've gathered that you work together but I was wondering, how does he react to your presence now? In cases such as this, there have been reported incidences of a type of reaction sometimes called the 'Saviour response.' "

"Saviour?"

"Yes, you said he left the hospital and followed after you to help you. Once this criminal was caught, did that seem to ease any feelings he may have that he was in your debt for saving him? It's perfectly natural for people to be grateful to someone who saves their life, but in cases of PTSD, that response becomes exaggerated. Sometimes to the extent that the sufferer either feels an overwhelming compulsion to be with their rescuer all the time, because that's when they feel safest; or conversely they begin to avoid this person because he reminds them too vividly of the trauma they have suffered. Does your friend have a wife or other family?"

"His mother travels a lot and he's not married… no girlfriend at the moment." Jim felt himself begin to tense up again, knowing where this was leading. "Doc, look. I really don't know how to say this except just to say it, I guess. Blair lives with me. No, we're not lovers. Well, we weren't until… " He took a huge breath and let the rest come out in a rush. "Last night we had a couple of drinks. Neither of us have been eating or sleeping much lately and Blair made a pass at me." He looked down, not wanting her to see his face.

"How did you respond?" she asked softly.

"I guess I accepted it. And returned it. I don't really consider myself to be gay and I don't think he is either but there've been a few experiences in my past…" He decided to leave the rest unsaid. This was about Blair, after all. "He just seemed so lost and I guess I was afraid of what he'd do if I said no."

"I take it hasn't changed how you feel about him as your friend? I mean, you came here today because you wanted to help him," Meg said gently.

"Of course not."

"Jim, I think what happened last night was your friend trying to make the most intimate connection with life that he could. He needs to feel alive. PTSD produces feelings of numbness amongst all the other torrential reactions. If you are the closest person to him, emotionally, as well as being the person who saved his life, I don't think that what happened is too surprising."

"So, how do I help him?"

"Will he come to see me?" she asked.

"Maybe; I don't know. I'll talk to him about it. Yesterday, he accused me of being over-protective." Jim grinned wryly.

"Okay, in the meantime give him every opportunity to talk about how he's feeling without demanding that he do so. Try to take advantage of the times when he seems most approachable or let him know he can come to you. As far as the sexual element goes, it may not happen again. If it does and you're not comfortable with it, then tell him so, making it clear that it's the act itself you're talking about, not him. If you are comfortable with it… well, you're both consenting adults." She smiled when he flushed. "Try to get him to see me, Jim. Offer to come with him if it will help. PTSD can be very debilitating if some resolution isn't found."

She stood up as Jim did, reaching to shake his hand.

"Thanks, doc. I'll let you know how it goes."

"You do that, Jim and good luck, to both of you."

She shook her head in wonder after he'd left. The sensitive side of Jim Ellison! She'd never have believed it possible.

Jim left her office, feeling a sense of quiet confidence. Somehow, he and Blair would get through this together. He'd help Blair with his PTSD the way Blair had helped him with his Sentinel abilities. Then they could get their lives back on track and everything would go back to the way it was before Alex Barnes tore their world apart.

~ooOoo~

"Why don't you take it easy? Don't let your anger take you out of the game." - Jim, Murder 101.

Blair stood on the balcony of the loft and wrapped his arms tightly around his chest in an attempt to keep in the warmth from his hot shower. He knew he should probably go back inside. Jim would be exiting the bathroom any minute now, and castigating Blair for negating any beneficial effect the warm water might have had. His throat felt a little scratchy and he tried an experimental cough, grimacing as pain sheared through his abdomen; the muscles still sore from the beating he'd taken at the hands of Ventriss's goons.

He felt his face heat as the memory of the attack triggered another more embarrassing one. Jim coming to his aid, then telling him to cool off his love life and Blair responding angrily that he wanted Ventriss brought to justice for raping Jill. In fact, Blair wondered if it was a little of the kettle calling the pot black. Hadn't that been after all, what he'd done to Jim just a few nights before? Granted, Jim had accepted his advances, had responded to him, but it had still been Blair who had instigated and forced himself upon his partner. He'd felt so lost, so empty at the time, and it had been good to be wanted and needed just for a short while. Jim standing and walking into the bathroom to shower immediately after their lovemaking caused the warm glow of the moment to dissipate to frost. 'He wanted to wash you off him,' he told himself miserably.

Then to add insult to injury, just when he thought he and Jim were getting back on track, feeling comfortable with each other, Jim even acknowledging that Blair's instincts about Ventriss were right on the money, Blair had gone and screwed up again. He felt bile touch the back of his throat, remembering the sight of the body as it had been dragged from Miller's Pond. The skin white and bloated from its prolonged exposure to the water, unseeing eyes staring at him as the dead man was lowered to the ground at Blair's feet. He'd had no time to react, to turn away, and as he began to heave, he felt Jim's hand on his arm, dragging him over to a secluded corner where he vomited up everything in his stomach, and then some. Jim had stayed with him until he regained his composure, but the detective's gaze kept straying back to the murdered man, slight impatience evident in his face.

Blair had waved him away, assuring him he was all right, then when his knees had stopped knocking together, he'd made his way wearily back to the truck and waited for Jim for what seemed an eternity. They'd driven home in silence, the only words spoken were Jim's orders that Blair take the first shower. "You're a little shocky there, Chief."

Was that what Jim had seen when he'd fished Blair out of the fountain, Blair wondered. Had the sight brought back as many nightmare visions for the sentinel as it had for him? He couldn't seem to get warm, but he didn't think going back inside would fix the problem. The cold seemed to be coming from within, chilling him from the inside out, and numbing his thoughts as much as his body and Blair wondered if he'd ever feel warm again. Or for that matter, if he'd ever feel anything again.

~oo0oo~

Jim stopped in the open doorway of the bathroom when he saw Blair standing out on the balcony in the chilly Cascade evening. The anthropologist stared out at the darkened horizon, shivering noticeably, his arms wound tightly around his body.

Jim chastised himself silently for taking Blair out to the last case. Admittedly, the anthropologist seemed to have no hesitation in jumping into the ocean to get Ventriss the day before. Jim suspected though, it had been a combination of Blair's determination to get Brad, coupled with an attempt to prove to Jim he had recovered from the drowning that had prompted his dive from the chopper into the frigid waters.

Jim knew his harsh words after he'd rescued Blair from Ventriss' men had played an important part too. He kicked himself mentally. Despite telling himself he'd only had sex with Blair because his partner had needed the intimacy and closeness, and refusing to admit openly that he'd enjoyed it, he'd still felt a pang of jealousy thinking that the attack had been payback for Blair sleeping with somebody's girlfriend. He'd assumed, keeping in mind Meg's words, that Blair was probably overloading on sex in an effort to keep the PTSD at bay and felt an inexplicable surge of anger that Blair had not turned once more to him. Instead of talking to Blair about it, or even telling him he understood, Jim had lashed out and embarrassed his partner in front of a witness. Didn't even get his injuries checked out!

Still, Jim couldn't forget how Blair had continued to shiver long after he'd been pulled from the water and draped in warm blankets or how silent he'd been on the drive back to the loft. By the following day, he'd seemed back to his normal self; even the bruises from his beating had faded substantially, leaving little visible evidence of the attack.

Jim had seen the color drain from Blair's face when the body of the unknown man had been pulled from Miller's Pond. The bruising became stark once more in comparison to his white features, and Jim heard the ominous churning of Blair's stomach when the body was laid on the ground, almost at their feet. Jim dragged him away to a quiet corner and tuned out the soft jibes from the other officers as Blair proceeded to retch violently. Although he felt sympathy for Blair's obvious distress, Jim couldn't help impatience pulling at him. He kept an eye on the crime scene while he waited for Blair to compose himself; worried that other cops might lose evidence only his enhanced senses might pick up. Blair assured him he was all right, but Jim watched him out of the corner of his eye as the still obviously shaken anthropologist tottered to the truck and leaned wearily against the driver's door.

Insisting that Blair take the first shower when they got home, Jim made soup and grilled sandwiches while he waited for Blair to emerge, hoping to warm the young man up from the inside as well. He looked over at the dining table and sighed. The meal still sat untouched, the cheese from the sandwiches leaking onto the plate and congealing.

Rubbing the moisture from his hair, Jim uncharacteristically tossed the towel onto the toilet seat to be dealt with later and crossed the room to the balcony doors. Blair didn't turn when Jim stepped outside, seeming lost in his thoughts. Moving closer, Jim let his hands hover in the air for a moment before bringing them down to rest on Blair's shoulders. He felt a pleasurable surge of warmth when Blair sighed and leaned back, resting his head against Jim's chest.

"Why don't you come inside?" Jim said. "You're gonna catch cold out here."

"You can't catch a cold from being cold," Blair replied, but his tone was tolerant and laced with amusement.

"Humor me."

Blair didn't respond immediately, then he turned and looked at Jim, a wistful half smile on his lips. "I'm sorry," he began, "about earlier. Stupid of me."

Jim shook his head firmly and reached up to stroke down Blair's stubbled cheek. "My fault. I didn't think."

Blair raised a hand and mirrored Jim's action. "I should be over it by now. It's been a month or more."

"You're freezing," Jim said, knowing there was nothing more to say on the other subject. "Let's go inside and get you warmed up."

"I'm not cold," Blair countered, though his shivering belied the statement. "At least not now. I just feel sort of numb, a little woozy." He ran his thumb over Jim's lower lip. "Jim…"

Jim nodded, felt his face suffuse with heat as his groin tightened in anticipation. "Whatever you need."

Blair needed no more invitation. He lifted his face and met Jim's mouth with bruising force, stealing Jim's air in breathy little moans of desire. Jim wrapped one arm around Blair's waist and pulled him closer, then moving backward, maneuvered them both into the loft, the warmth inside startling in contrast to the chill of the night air.

Blair had shifted his head, unlocking their lips and nestling his face into the crook of Jim's neck. Jim felt Blair's hands, trembling with need, fumble at his belt buckle. "I've got it," he whispered.

He led Blair to the couch and let the other man push him down until he lay sprawled on the cushions. Blair's eyes looked black with desire and Jim pulled the unresisting body on top of his own, shivering as Blair's hot tongue trailed down his chest, following the path of Blair's fingers as they unbuttoned his shirt. Jim freed his burgeoning erection from his pants, then reached for Blair's, palming the heated, damp flesh. Blair's moans grew louder at the touch, firing Jim's own arousal into hyper-drive. He pulled Blair up and devoured his mouth, wanting to take charge of the lovemaking this time, any thoughts of shame flying from his head as passion overrode them. Blair was rubbing against him now; their cocks straining against each other, the glide becoming silky as precum leaked and coated their shafts. Jim pulled Blair's jeans and boxers down to his knees and cupped the firm ass cheeks tightly, allowing Blair to push against him with more pressure. He felt a burst of warmth against his belly, Blair's cry of completion echoing in his head as his senses slipped out of control, dragging him into a whiteout of pleasure.

When the last shudders abated, he felt Blair laying on top of him, his curls tickling Jim's chin, the stickiness of their combined release still warm on his belly. He felt Blair shift, preparing to get up, but stilled him with a gentle press back against him.

"You'll need another shower." Blair's words were muffled into his chest.

Jim carded his fingers through Blair's silky hair, the slow downward slide of post-coital satisfaction hypnotic and soothing. "Plenty of time," he whispered. "Just want to stay here a while. Rest."

"Okay."

Jim felt Blair's breathing even out, felt his own eyelids grow heavy as he flirted with sleep. He knew they should be talking about all of this, knew Blair needed help that he was unable to give, and as uncontrollable as the situation seemed to be getting, knew he didn't want it to end.

~ooOoo~

"Well, legally, I'm not here, but go ahead." - Blair, Four Point Shot.

 

It was late by the time they got back to the loft. Jim looked over at his partner, seeing the almost hyperactive bounce in Blair's step as they walked inside.

Over the course of the past 24 hours, Jim had seen Blair's emotions whiplash back and forth.

When he'd been told that he wasn't officially part of the police team at the exhibition basketball match, Sandburg had sauntered off to the sidelines to talk to Daryl, couching his response to the teen's request for his opinion in sarcasm that he knew Jim would hear.

"Well, legally, I'm not here, but ask me anyway."

Then when Daryl had voiced his desire to go to the Police Academy against his father's wishes, Blair had glanced sidelong at the Captain almost insolently before replying loud enough for Simon to hear that Daryl should do what he wanted, no matter what anybody else thought.

It was a side of Sandburg he'd never really seen, Jim realized as he watched Blair head off into the bathroom after they got home. Sure, the observer had bitched from time to time about being reminded he wasn't really a cop, but this was the first time Jim could remember him making his feelings about his unofficial status quite so plain.

But he had to admit that, despite everything his partner was going through, as well as the terror he had to have experienced at finding himself in Kincaid's hands again, he'd kept his head. When they'd shut Kincaid and his men down with a well placed four point shot of tear gas into the coaming of the submarine, Blair had been there cheering and high-fiving along with everyone else.

Then, they'd gone back to the station and done the paper work and Blair had grown quieter and quieter, shooting furtive looks at Jim from the neighboring desk then glancing down quickly whenever their eyes met.

By the time they were in the truck heading for home, Jim had decided enough was enough.

"Hey, Chief, you okay?" he asked, trying to keep the inquiry matter of fact.

"Yeah, sure, man. I'm cool. That was some night, hey?" Blair gave him a self-conscious smile and turned to stare out the window again.

Then and there Jim had made the decision that tonight he was going to try to convince Blair to go see Meg Samuels. Blair's moods were still all over the shop and Jim knew that the only nights he didn't have nightmares or lay awake until the early morning hours were the ones when they'd had sex. But the mornings after those encounters were almost as bad, because then Blair either left the loft before Jim was up or scurried around as if apologizing for his very presence in Jim's life.

Jim went to the kitchen and boiled water for tea. No booze tonight. He wanted Sandburg sober for this discussion. He already felt guilty for not having pushed Blair to do this earlier, but he'd kept hoping that time and patience would take care of the problem. He shook himself mentally. Meg had told him it wouldn't just go away. And deep down he admitted to himself that his feelings for Blair had begun to change, moving imperceptibly from friendship to something he didn't want to confess to anyone yet. Certainly not to Blair while he was still in this emotionally fragile state. So he hid the feelings away deep inside, something he was well used to doing, and disguised it with concern for his Guide.

"You hungry, Chief?" he asked as Blair came out of the bathroom.

"No, not really. Are you? I could cook something if you want, Jim."

Jim swallowed the lump in his throat at hearing Blair sound almost desperately eager to please. He watched him head to the couch and sit down, then stiffening his resolve and extending his hearing and touch slightly, walked casually over to plant himself next to his friend.

Blair looked up and gave Jim a quick grin then reached for the TV remote. Jim reached an arm around Blair's shoulders, feeling the almost reflexive tensing of the muscles beneath his hand and hearing the acceleration in Sandburg's heart rate.

"Whoa, calm down, buddy," he said quietly, wrapping his arm more firmly around the tight shoulders. Whether this was designed to keep Blair in place or to reassure him, even Jim wasn't sure.

"I'm calm, man."

He felt Blair make a conscious effort to relax into his embrace but there was no way to slow down his pulse which continued to trip away in double time.

"Blair, I just want to talk to you about something, okay?" Jim fought to keep his voice steady and neutral, although he knew his heart was keeping time with Blair's. "I don't want you to get upset, just listen to what I say and give it due consideration before you make a decision. Will you do that, Chief?" he asked.

Blair eyed him suspiciously and moved away a fraction, but he kept an unconcerned smile on his face and said, "Sure, Jim. Whatever you say."

"There's this psychologist I know, Meg Samuels," Jim began. He could see Blair beginning to sidle further away and reached out a hand, grasping Blair's arm, keeping him firmly anchored at his side. "Blair, please, just listen first."

Blair nodded stiffly.

"I want you to just go talk to her. She's very understanding. I'll come with you if it'll help."

"No!" Blair blurted out.

"No what, Chief? No, you won't go see her or no, you don't want me to go with you?" Jim asked gently, his hand shifting down to take Blair's own, rubbing his thumb hypnotically over the point where the pulse was thundering away beneath the skin.

"I just don't think I can, Jim..."

"Why not? What are you afraid of, Blair?"

"I don't want everyone thinking I couldn't handle it. That I caved..."

"What? You mean at the station?"

Blair nodded, his eyes downcast.

"God, Chief, you've been through more than most cops go through in a whole career! Listen, I know Meg Samuels because I went to see her when this thing with my senses first happened. I've told you, Chief, I thought I was going nuts. I went to every doctor and psychologist I could find. That's how I found you, remember?" Jim smiled encouragingly. "Blair, there's no shame in admitting you need help to deal with something as terrible as what happened to you. I don't think I could have pulled through it even half as well as you have. But I just think it wouldn't hurt to talk to a professional about it. Get some ideas on what else you can do to deal with it."

"You want me to do it, don't you?" Blair asked quietly.

"Yes, I do. Because..." Jim leaned forward and grasped Blair's chin firmly in his hand, angling his face up until they were looking into each other's eyes, "because I care about you, Blair, and I'll do anything it takes to help you get through this."

Blair kept his gaze on Jim's eyes. He could see nothing but kindness there. He gritted his teeth against the emotions that threatened to overwhelm him.

"Okay, I'll go. By myself, Jim," he said firmly, feeling something fall into place inside him, as if he'd turned a corner somewhere and was heading for home at last.

"Good, I'm glad, Chief. Any time you want me to come with you, I will, you know that, right?" Jim said, feeling relief flood through his body.

"I think I need to do this on my own, Jim. I appreciate the offer, though," Blair replied, offering a trademark Sandburg grin.

"Well, I'm gonna hit the sack. You tired, buddy?" Jim said as he stood up.

"No, not really. Guess I'm still a bit wired after today. You go on to bed, though. I'll just watch TV for a while, maybe grade some papers. I'll keep the sound down."

Jim turned at the foot of the stairs, in time to see the wistful expression on Blair's face. He only took a second to decide.

"Blair, you can sleep upstairs if you want..." he felt his face flushing, his heart racing, and his tongue stumbling over the words he wanted to say. "I mean, if you think you'd sleep better. It's up to you, of course."

He waited a heartbeat and then began to head up the stairs. By the time he reached the top step, Blair was behind him, his warm hand on the small of Jim's back.

"Jim, you sure?" Blair asked in a hushed voice.

"I wouldn't have said it if I wasn't sure, Chief. I've told you, you need me, I'm here. It's the least I can do."

Something about the answer bothered Blair but he couldn't concentrate on the intricacies right now. All he knew was that Jim wanted him here with him, and he wanted to be here with Jim and they'd sort the rest of it out later. He'd go see the doctor and once he'd found a way to stop the fear eating away at him, he and Jim could sit down and talk all the complications out together. For the first time in over a month, he was starting to see the glass half full instead of half empty. It was a good feeling.

He toed off his sneakers and socks, and stripped off his jeans and sweatshirt. Leaving his boxers on, he crawled under the covers, moving as far to the edge as he could without falling off. Now that he was actually in Jim's bed, doubts assailed him. He lay frozen, unconsciously holding his breath as he felt Jim slip into bed beside him.

Jim looked across at his partner huddled in a bundle on the very edge of the bed. He moved till he could reach an arm around Blair's waist and tugged gently, pulling back until they were spooned together in the center of the bed.

He bent his head to Blair's neck and whispered softly, "It's okay, Blair. Relax, buddy. It'll be fine. You'll be fine."

He rubbed Blair's shoulders gently, feeling the tenseness gradually evaporate, then moved his hands down over the knotted muscles in his partner's back, continuing the massage until Blair finally relaxed enough so he could turn him in his arms. This time it was Jim who made the first move, leaning down to capture Blair's mouth. He traced along Blair's lips with his tongue until he felt them open under his. He raised a hand to trace along the shoulder pressing into his chest, moving further down to find and gently pinch a nipple to firmness beneath his touch, his mouth following his hand. He took one nipple in his fingers and rolled it gently to a hard nub while his tongue laved the other.

Blair moaned, arching his chest to meet his partner's questing mouth. Jim pushed him back onto the bed and trailed his tongue down the body splayed beneath him. He dipped his tongue into the well of Blair's navel, then moved down further until he was laying between Blair's thighs, pulling the boxers down over the other man's hips and shucking them off. Blair quivered, his cock erect and leaking. Jim traced the join of thigh and groin with his fingers. Then, tentatively, he lapped at the slit of Blair's cock.

Blair writhed beneath him and Jim placed an arm across his hips, keeping him in place as he bent his head and licked up one side of Blair's penis and down the other, before taking the head in his mouth.

"God, Jim," Blair groaned, bucking his hips against the restraining arm.

Jim lowered a hand to rub across his lover's balls, cupping them as he suckled at the head of Blair's cock. He dropped his head to take in the shaft and began a gentle up and down motion, increasing the pace and pressure as he felt Blair begin to thrust up into his mouth. He felt Blair stiffen and still a second before the cock in his mouth began to spasm, jetting the creamy semen down his throat. He swallowed it, mouthing the softening organ until the body beneath him relaxed into small shudders and eventually lay still. Then he kissed his way up Blair's body to his mouth.

"You okay, Blair?" he whispered.

"Yes. What about you?" Blair murmured.

"I'm okay, too. How about we get some sleep?"

"No, I mean, I could do that for you, too."

"That's okay, Chief. I'm fine. I'm glad if it made you feel better. Just sleep now, okay," Jim replied, turning Blair onto his side and curling away from him, hoping Blair hadn't noticed his own burgeoning erection. "Go to sleep, Blair. You need the rest."

Blair reached out and grasped Jim's hand desperately in his. "Jim, you sure?"

"I'm sure, Blair. Ssh, go to sleep. I'll be right here, buddy." Eventually, when he was sure his desire was no longer evident, he turned and spooned up at his partner's back, keeping their hands entwined and rubbed his other hand soothingly up and down Blair's back until he felt him relax into sleep.

~ooOoo~

Jim insisted on driving Blair to the psychologist's office every day for the next week, even though Blair still refused to let Jim come in with him. Jim didn't really mind. As long as Blair was seeing Meg, he didn't need to know exactly what they were discussing. If Blair wanted to tell him about the sessions, he would.

He hadn't seen any huge changes in his partner's condition yet, but there were small signs - fewer nightmares for one and he was eating more. Jim had known it would be a gradual recovery and he was prepared to wait it out. Blair had gone back to sleeping in his own room again and neither of them had approached the other sexually since the night the idea of therapy had been broached. It was as if they'd unconsciously slipped back into their old relationship - best friends, nothing more.

~oo0oo~

Blair liked Meg. The first appointment had been nerve-wracking but she'd put him at his ease right away. He liked talking to her. She never pushed, just let him talk, occasionally asking a question about how he felt about something, but never insisting on answers if he seemed unwilling to give them. Slowly but surely she nudged him along, coaxing his feelings from him with a practiced ease until by the end of the week he felt as if there was nothing she didn't know about him. Except how he really felt about Jim, of course. That was a secret he hugged to himself. Sometimes, after a session with Meg, when he was feeling confident about beating this thing that had him in its grip, he would take the feelings out and gloat over them, like a kid with a new toy. Then, he would tuck them away again so no one, especially not Jim, would know that he had them.

At the end of the week, Meg started the session with the usual queries about the nightmares and how he was feeling. He answered surely. The nightmares were becoming much less frequent, he felt better than he had in a long time. Then, she looked at him and asked why he wasn't angry.

"Angry at whom, at what?" he wondered aloud.

"At what happened," she said. "Angry at the person who drowned you, at Jim for not being there when it happened, at your friends, your mother for not being there either. At dying and then coming back and having to deal with all this?"

"It wasn't anyone's fault. It just happened," he replied defensively.

"Blair, why are you so afraid of being angry? Do you think Jim and your other friends will desert you if you tell them you are? You have every right to be angry at what happened to you. I would be. You're coming along very well, Blair, but you've skipped one of the most important steps in grieving - anger. You buried it and if you don't let it out and admit that you have every right to feel it, you won't get completely well. I'm not telling you to go and kick in walls or scream at people. Just tell yourself it's okay when you do feel that way. And tell the people you care about when you're angry with them and why. Can you do that, Blair?" She smiled gently at him.

"I don't know. I'll try."

"Okay, think about it over the weekend and I'll see you next week, alright? Tell Jim I said hi, okay?"

"Yeah, I will, thank you," he said absently as he left the office deep in thought.

 

To Part Two