THE SHADOWLANDS

BY: Annie and Lyn

 

PART TWO

"Oh, Chief, um... I'm sorry. I was wrong about her. You were right." - Jim, Dead End on Blank Street.

Blair had been mulling over Meg's words for several days, and when Veronica Archer came back into Jim's life, the feelings he'd been desperately holding at bay came crashing through full-force.

Jim had been spending most nights out, and it didn't take a genius to figure out that he was sleeping with Veronica. Blair told himself it didn't matter, but his heart didn't agree with his head. He knew he was falling in love with Jim, and the thought of Jim sleeping with Veronica hurt him more than he liked to admit. If he'd ever had hope that perhaps Jim was beginning to reciprocate his feelings, it was destroyed when he walked into the Archer's home to find Jim crouched over Veronica's dying body. Even when she'd betrayed Jim, and tried to kill him, it was obvious that he still loved her.

Suddenly Jim's words and actions in the past few weeks hit Blair in the face like a glass of cold water. "Whatever you need," Jim had told him the first night they'd made love. "It's the least I can do," he'd said just a couple of days ago when he'd told Blair he could sleep in Jim's bed. Then when Jim had given Blair one of the most exquisite blow-jobs he'd ever had, he'd turned away, refusing Blair's offer of reciprocation.

Slowly, doubts began to surface, dragging with it the anger he'd been holding at bay. It had been there all along, Blair thought, simmering just below the surface, and when it boiled over, Jim was in the firing line. What Blair had thought was a blossoming relationship had just been Jim's way of making up for the guilt he felt over what had happened with Alex. The only love here was Blair's. Jim had just been going along with Blair's seduction out of guilt. In all the times they'd had sex, neither of them had ever said I love you, and the reason was clear, because Jim didn't love Blair. He was straight after all. Blair's embarrassment at his foolish thoughts added fuel to his ire.

Blair went back to sleeping in his own bed. He made no more approaches toward Jim for sex or even an embrace. If Jim tried to join him on the couch, Blair would make an excuse to go out for the evening or go to his room to study. Laying on his bed, he'd jack himself off roughly, conjuring up images of Jim's mouth and hands on him, bringing him to orgasms that failed to give any relief. After, he'd clean himself off, castigating himself for his stupidity and weakness.

Blair could see Jim becoming more morose as time went on. The detective started going out of his way in an attempt to please Blair, but the overt attention only served to make Blair angrier. The atmosphere in the loft was so thick you could have carved it with a knife. Blair's remorse at his behavior began to morph into a feeling of righteous animosity when Jim made no motions at re-igniting their relationship. It proved to Blair, after all, that he'd been right.

They'd gone to the station to put the final touches on their statements regarding the Archer case.

"I can't believe you still had feelings for Veronica, Jim, after the way she tried to frame you," Blair said patronizingly, reading over his finalized report.

Jim glanced at him quickly. "I guess I'd always been in love with her," he replied, obviously not picking up on the hostility in Blair's voice, "even when she dropped out of sight. I think that's part of the reason things didn't work out with Carolyn and me."

"She screwed you over, man," Blair said hotly. "You weren't so forgiving when you thought I'd betrayed you with Alex."

"What are you getting at, Chief? The thing with Alex was totally different. You know that." Jim said. He stood and picked up both reports, his fingers gripping the papers tightly. "You just jealous of my feelings for Veronica, because I slept with her, or is there more to it than that? Is this the reason for your pissy attitude lately?"

Blair exploded, words spilling out of his mouth faster than he could give them thought. "Jealous?" he sputtered. "I'm not jealous! I was just thinking about seeing you there when Veronica died. Even after she tried to kill you, you couldn't stop loving her."

"That's the first time I've ever been yelled at for caring, Sandburg," Jim replied, his own voice rising. "And I never thought I'd see the day when you wouldn't have some feelings for a dying woman."

"Yeah, well, I thought that you… cared about me too, when I drowned. All you could say was that you were glad I hadn't died because I owed you back rent! Then you went off to Mexico without me. And then… seeing you on the beach with her, holding her, kissing her… She killed me, Jim!"

"You think I don't know that!" Jim shouted, his eyes flashing fire. "You think I don't wake up drenched in sweat dreaming about what might have happened? You don't think I blame myself everyday for kicking you out, for not protecting you?"

"And that's what it's been about all along, hasn't it?" Blair spat. He looked around the bullpen. There was no one else around but he lowered his voice anyway, the muted tone making his words sound all the more venomous. "All those times I thought we were making love, you were just assuaging your guilt."

Jim looked dumbstruck, his face paling until it was almost white, his balled fists trembling, but before he could attempt a reply, a voice from the doorway startled them both.

"Someone want to tell me what the hell is going on here?" Simon stood in the doorway, his arms crossed over his chest, his face creased into a disapproving frown.

Jim's tension evaporated suddenly, and he sagged with a sigh. "It's nothing, Captain. Just a disagreement."

"Sounded more like World War Three to me," Simon observed, stepping into the bullpen.

Blair glared at Jim, then turned away. "Jim's right, Simon. It's nothing."

"Yeah, well, take your *disagreement* home, all right? I don't need it here."

"You're right, sir," Jim replied. "Sorry." He held out the reports. "If this is all you need, I'd like to head on home."

Simon took the files and nodded. "No problem, Jim. See you in the morning."

By the time Blair gathered his wits and turned around, Jim was gone. "Great," he muttered. "Guess it's the bus for me."

"I'll give you a ride," Simon offered, steering Blair toward the door. "I think it's time you and I had a little talk anyway."

~oo0oo~

Uncomfortably aware of Simon's silent scrutiny, Blair turned away and stared out of the passenger window at the passing scenery. "How much did you hear?" he asked finally.

"Enough to know you and Jim are in some serious trouble," Simon replied. He turned the car into a parking space next to Jim's truck and switched off the ignition. Shifting to face Blair, he spoke again. "You do know how much he cares about you, don't you? About how much your behavior lately has been eating him up?"

Blair shrugged. "He seemed happy enough when he was with Veronica."

"The woman is dead, Sandburg!"

"I know that!" Blair turned to face Simon. "And I feel like an absolute asshole for what I said to him about her. I don't know why…"

"That's what we'd all like to know," Simon shot back. "You haven't been yourself for months now, and Jim isn't the only one who's noticed. You want to tell me what's going on in that genius brain of yours."

Blair dropped his gaze and studied his trembling hands. "I don't know," he finally husked out. "I saw how he reacted over Veronica's death, and all I got when I died was some wisecrack about back rent. He didn't even apologize, Simon, for kicking me out."

"You told him you understood, that it was all part of the sentinel thing," Simon reminded him.

"I still think it was," Blair replied, "but it still hurt. I thought he cared about me as much as I do about him."

"You didn't see him at the fountain," Simon said quietly, "when the paramedics told us you were gone. I've never seen Jim so devastated before, and you know he's not one to show his emotions. That day, he didn't care who saw him. When he brought you back… I've always said I didn't want to know anything about the sentinel side of things, Blair, but whatever happened, vision or whatever, I believe it was Jim's love for you that brought you back. If it wasn't for that, you'd be six feet under by now and we wouldn't be having this conversation."

Blair looked up at that, tears stinging his eyes. He wiped them away roughly with the heel of his hand. "I've really screwed things up, haven't I?"

"Then fix it. Unless you two sort this out, it'll tear you both apart. Are you sure you want to risk your partnership like that?"

Blair looked away. "He hates me, especially after what I just said about Veronica."

"I think you need to give Jim more credit than that. He knows what kind of stress you've been under, trying to deal with the after-effects of the drowning, both physically and emotionally," Simon said. He reached out and took Blair's hand, squeezing it gently. "I know you're mad, Sandburg, and you have every right to be, but be mad at the situation, at Alex. Hell, be pissed off with the way Jim kicked you out, but don't ever doubt Jim's feelings for you. He cares, just give him the chance to prove it."

Blair stared at Simon for a moment, then nodded. "You're right, and if we're going to fix this, I have to make the first move. Thanks, for everything."

"See you both tomorrow," Simon said, the smile on his face changing to a stern look of authority. "7AM sharp, you got that?"

"Yes, sir." With a lighter heart, but still filled with trepidation, Blair climbed out of the car and headed into the apartment building. As the elevator deposited him on the third floor, he took a deep breath and gathered his resolve.

The loft was in semi-darkness when he let himself in. Jim sat on the couch, staring into space.

Blair took a step into the living room and stood, fidgeting nervously with the strap of his backpack. "Jim, I'm sorry. I've been an asshole and I won't blame you in the slightest if you tell me to leave."

Jim gave him a sad, sweet smile. "Get over here, you idiot."

Blair grinned and obeyed with alacrity. Sinking onto Jim's lap, he pressed his lips to Jim's, whispering, "I'm sorry," over and over.

Jim pulled back after a moment and ran his fingers down Blair's cheek. "I've been keeping my share of secrets too, Chief. I love you, and I never want you to leave."

"I don't want to go," Blair assured him. He wrapped his arms tightly around Jim's body and hugged him fiercely.

They talked long into the night, their voices sometimes raised, but never in anger. Finally, with declarations of love, both vowed to put the ghost of Alex's deeds behind them, and move on, into a new life together.

~oo0oo~

"I'll have enough trouble presenting my dissertation on sentinels. Could you imagine my department if I started throwing ectoplasm at them?" - Blair, The Waiting Room.

"I'm going to have to process everything that happened in that house, man. I mean, it was way beyond anything I expected. Burton wrote of sentinels having five heightened senses but he never mentioned anything about the sixth sense. I guess he didn't really take it into consideration. Although, he was a pretty esoteric guy, so you'd figure he'd probably have some knowledge of ESP and stuff. I mean spiritualism was a recognized field of study and form of entertainment in England even in the 1800's. Apparently, even Queen Victoria was into table rapping. Did you know that, Jim?" Blair finally took a long breath and turned an inquiring eye on his partner.

"Know what, Chief?" Jim pulled his eyes away from the Jags game he was watching and realized a little guiltily that he'd hardly heard a word Sandburg had said.

"That Queen Victoria of England was into table rapping. You know, trying to communicate with her dead consort, Prince Albert, through mediums and stuff. A lot of people believed that John Brown, her ghillie, was actually a medium and that's why she kept him around all the time after Albert died. Though, just as many people thought he was her lover..." Blair rattled on, apparently oblivious to the dazed look on Jim's face.

"What's a ghillie, Chief?" Jim asked, pleased to be able to show that he had been listening, well, half- listening anyway.

"It's some kind of Highland servant, Jim. But that's not important. What's important is, I've gotta try to work out some tests to see if there's any way we can trigger some of that sixth sense stuff into happening again."

Jim groaned as he heard the dread word. "Tests, Blair? Look, I don't think the stuff that happened with Molly is something I can control, even with your help. It was more like she was just speaking to me, not because I have ESP. It might have something to do with the sentinel thing, I guess. But I can't read minds or anything as far as I know."

"I know that, man. But, it's just that... well, my thesis is almost finished. At least, I thought it was until this weird stuff happened during the Molly Charles case..." Blair replied, an expression of something Jim couldn't identify crossing his mobile face.

Jim shivered slightly, the brief chill reminding him of the sensation he'd experienced when Molly's spirit had tried to contact him. He shook the feeling off. He was tired and as Blair had admitted, the niktabi root he'd taken for his cold did have minute traces of a substance that mimicked peyote in it. He convinced himself that was all there was to it, and then the meaning of what Blair had just said hit home.

"Whoa, slow down, Chief," Jim said. "It's almost finished? I still get to read it before you air it, though, right?"

"Right. Jim, we already agreed on that, remember? Anyhow, like I said, it was pretty much done with, but now I'm wondering how much of this new stuff to put in. I mean *you* know she communicated with you and *I* believe you, but the thesis committee... well, let's just say that people going around saying, "I see dead people" probably isn't high on their list of things to take seriously." Blair grinned at Jim a little ruefully.

"Oh, but they'll buy this sentinel stuff?" Jim asked.

"Well, that's different. Most of the tests we've done on your other senses can be quantified scientifically. This is a whole different thing, man."

"Uh huh." Jim turned back to the TV, only to see that the game had ended and he had no idea who'd won. "Damn! Well, Chief, tell you what? I'll do you a deal. Forget the X-Files tests. Instead you come upstairs with me, right now," Jim paused to paste what he hoped passed for a suggestive leer on his face, then continued, "and we'll run a few tests of our own on all my other senses, as well as checking out yours. What do you say, Darwin?"

Blair grinned back. "All in the name of scientific accuracy, right?"

"Of course", Jim replied, smiling.

"Lead on, my little lab rat," Blair laughed, jumping to his feet and following his lover up the stairs.

~oo0oo~

"What are we? The three little bears, Vince?" - Jim, The Real Deal.

"Well, Chief, I'm proud of you," Jim said, placing an affectionate arm around Blair's shoulders as they sat on the couch, aimlessly watching a movie.

"Yeah?" Blair responded, sounding surprised. "Why's that?"

" Well, for one thing, for once it wasn't you who ended up in the hospital."

"Yeah, poor Rafe. But he's okay, right?" Blair asked, concerned.

Rafe had been knocked out while he was acting as backup for Conner and Blair during their recent undercover job to bring down a bent security firm. Blair could well imagine that Rafe would be feeling more than a little embarrassed that he'd been blindsided so easily, allowing Megan and Blair to be kidnapped. Jim and Vince Deal had found Rafe slumped semi-conscious over the steering wheel of his car, and he'd been taken to hospital to get the gash in his head sutured then kept overnight for observation.

"He's fine, Blair. We'll go check up on him tomorrow if you like."

"Yeah, let's do that, Jim. So, what else are you proud of me for?"

"Hey, you fishing for compliments?" Jim laughed, grabbing Blair's head in an armlock and ruffling his hair, glad it was out of the pony tail Blair had worn it in that day. He loved being able to thread his fingers through the thick curls.

"Ow, man! Not the hair, Ellison!" Blair yelped.

"Now you're sounding like the Sandburg I used to know," Jim said with a smile, releasing him and leaning in to place a soft kiss on his mouth. "But yeah, the way you handled things with this Hydra case. I still can't believe I got stuck with Vince Deal for a partner this time round."

Blair laughed as Jim pulled a rueful face and reached out to give his lover a tap on the jaw. "Oh, come on now, man, Vince is an all right guy. He's pretty cool, actually. He did help us out. You gotta admit that."

"I guess he did, buddy. But you know what really bugged me about us not working together? I got Vince and you were out there pretending to be Conner's lover." Jim shook his head as he pulled Blair in closer to his side.

"What, Jim? Were you jealous?" Blair grinned furtively to himself. Oh yeah, he could have fun with this.

"Me? No, I'm not the jealous type, Chief, sorry," Jim retorted.

"Right, of course you're not. I was just wondering because when Megan and I were talking outside the bullpen before we went undercover, she asked me if *I* was jealous of Vince hitting on *her*."

"She did?" Jim asked innocently. "What did you tell her?"

"You know damn well what I told her, man. I saw your head peeking out from around the corner of the door. But what I want to know is, who were you jealous of... me or Megan?" Blair tried to keep a straight face, but it was no use. One look at the expression on Jim's face and the laughter bubbled up.

"Come here!" Jim ordered, pulling Blair up and over till he had him straddling his lap. He held Blair's face gently between his hands then said gruffly, "Okay, so I was jealous... of Conner for being with you, for being able to say you were her lover, even if it was just a con. Happy now, Sandburg?"

"Hey, I don't mind. I'm kinda flattered. And you know even when she kissed me..."

Blair abruptly found himself on the floor as Jim stood up.

"She did what?" Ellison asked incredulously.

"Whoa, calm down, big guy. It was just for cover, you know." Blair stood up, rubbing a tender part of his anatomy that had connected particularly hard with the floor. Suddenly, a ludicrous image of Jim confronting Megan in the bullpen and challenging her to a duel popped into his head and he burst out laughing again.

"What's so funny, Sandburg?" Jim asked, trying unsuccessfully to keep a straight face.

"Believe me, Jim, you don't want to know." Blair's laughter was suddenly stifled as Jim pulled him into a bear hug.

"Sorry, Chief. I didn't mean to dump you on the floor like that. You okay?"

"I'm okay. Just bruised my pride, that's all," Blair said, pulling back a little so he could look up at his lover's face.

"Let me make it better for you," Jim whispered, his hand stealing down to massage Blair's ass, grinding their groins together. He bent and took Blair's mouth, feeling it open willingly beneath his.

Blair groaned into Jim's mouth as he felt his cock begin to harden. He writhed against the firm pressure of Jim's erection and flicked his tongue into Jim's mouth.

They stayed like that for a few minutes, then Jim pulled back, his hands continuing to rub gently up and down his partner's back. "Jesus, Blair, do you have any idea what you do to me?" he asked softly.

"I've got a pretty good idea," Blair answered equally quietly. He smiled suddenly, "Probably the same thing you do to me," he continued, gesturing down at where his jeans bulged tightly over his erection, matching the one he could see in his partner's pants. "You want to go upstairs, big guy?"

"Hell, yes!" Jim said, grabbing Blair's arm and beginning to hustle him up the stairs to his bedroom.

"Uh, Jim?" Blair asked, trying to halt the headlong rush up the stairs, "You think we should turn off the TV first?"

Jim smiled. "Now you really know what you do to me, Chief. Make me forget all my anal-retentive conditioning. You go on up. I'll be there in a minute."

Blair ran up the stairs and quickly undressed. Making himself comfortable under the covers, he cast his mind back over the past few weeks. He still found it hard to believe that he'd come from the depths of despair to such a pinnacle of hope and happiness in such a short time. He still had days when the old fears and insecurities crept up to haunt him, but he and Jim were so closely bonded now that Jim could pick up on those moods immediately, chasing them away with a kiss or a hug, or even just by the touch of his hand on Blair's cheek. He loved the sex, he knew Jim did too. But he was sure that even that part of their life together was only so wonderful because of the strength of the love they'd learned to share. His whole body quivered in anticipation as he saw the lights go off downstairs, heard the TV switched off and then Jim's surprisingly light tread as he came upstairs.

"Hey, you starting without me, Blair?" Jim asked, in a mock disappointed tone, casting his clothes off as quickly as he could.

Blair smiled to himself as he noticed his partner still taking the time to fold his clothes neatly and place them on the chair, despite his obviously aroused state. "Me start without you? Uh uh, never again, lover. Come on, hurry up and get in here, will ya? It's cold without you."

Jim slid into the bed, reaching out to fold Blair into his arms so they were lying face to face, their bodies barely touching. "I swear, Sandburg, you'd be cold in Australia in summertime." He propped himself up on one elbow and leaned down to plant a feathery kiss along his lover's forehead, trailing his lips down the stubbled cheek and then to the full mouth. In spite of his own homosexual experiences, Jim was still surprised at how quickly he had adjusted to the feel of a bristled cheek beneath his mouth, a masculine body against his own, instead of the soft suppleness of a woman.

Blair met the kiss and returned it with interest, their tongues sliding against each other's, tracing along teeth and lips, exchanging wisps of air till both pulled back to breathe.

Jim traced his fingers down the line of Blair's neck and shoulder, shivering as he felt his lover reciprocating his caress. As he sought and found Blair's nipple and rubbed his thumb firmly around it, he was aware of Blair's hand moving across his own chest, outlining the strong muscles with the palm of his hand. Blair lifted his head to lick along the trail of his hand and take a nipple in his mouth, gently worrying it with his teeth. Jim sucked in a breath at the sensation, looking down as he felt Blair pull his mouth away. He moaned a little at the loss of contact but then Blair was pushing himself up to his knees, urging Jim down to lie flat as he did so.

"My turn to turn you on," Blair whispered, bending close to Jim's ear, sucking the lobe into his mouth and wetting it with his tongue.

Jim found himself unable to voice anything, except for moans of pleasure that grew more heartfelt, as Blair moved slowly down his body, using his mouth and hands to excite every bit of flesh he could reach. He groaned as he felt Blair bypass his aching cock and continue on down his thighs and calves to his feet, then jumped with shock as he felt his big toe sucked into his partner's mouth. Then his foot was released and he felt the bed move as Blair moved up to lie between his legs.

"Jim," Blair said hesitantly, "You'll tell me if you're not comfortable with anything we do, won't you?"

Jim nodded, reaching a hand down to rest tenderly on Blair's head. "It's all right," he murmured, "I trust you."

With that, Blair took the shaft of Jim's penis in his hand, stroking firmly up and down, then as his lover began to push up into his fist, he tightened his fingers around the base and closed his mouth over the head, laving it with his tongue. Jim's fists tangled into the sheet. Gradually Blair took more of Jim's cock into his mouth, tasting the slightly sour pre-come on his lips as he sucked more firmly, feeling Jim arching his hips up off the bed, pushing himself harder and faster into his mouth.

Blair released Jim's cock briefly. "Slow down, Jim. Let me do this for you, okay?" he said, lifting his head to look into Jim's sweat streaked face. Jim's eyes looked fever bright and he was panting with the strength of his passion. But he nodded his acquiescence, and Blair heard him take a calming breath as he lay back on the pillow.

Blair bent his head and took Jim's penis into his mouth again, this time keeping the strokes slow and languorous. A hand crept down to roll the heavy balls, then he extended a finger and reached further back rubbing along his lover's perineum. Jim lifted his hips a little and Blair took his hand away and wet one finger before returning it to stroke further back until he reached the entrance of Jim's body. "Jim?" he whispered, asking permission.

"Please, Blair," Jim groaned, "Don't stop."

Blair took Jim's cock as deeply into his mouth as he could, sucking hard. At the same moment, he pressed his finger into Jim's body, thrusting gently back and forth, keeping time with the movement of his mouth.

Jim gasped, his body writhing down onto the questing finger, then surging up to pump his cock into Blair's mouth.

Moments later, Blair felt his lover's body stiffen in the throes of orgasm. He continued to suck the softening organ, swallowing the semen filling his mouth. "Jim, that was incredible," he said softly, moving up to fold himself into Jim's arms.

"You should've have felt it from my side." Jim began to kiss a trail from Blair's eyes down to his mouth. "Now," he said, "Time for a little payback, don't you think?"

"Oh yeah," Blair agreed, "I'm all yours, partner." He rolled onto his back and closed his eyes as Jim tenderly made love to him, bringing him to his own climax and leaving him shuddering with tremors.

~ooOoo~

"So, did you like it?" Jim asked much later, pulling Blair back to rest spooned against him.

"You're joking, right? Wasn't it obvious how much I liked it?" Blair replied.

"Not this. I could tell how much you liked this," Jim whispered, nuzzling into Blair's hair. "I meant, kissing Megan. Did you like it?"

Blair grinned secretly, glad he was turned away from his partner so Jim couldn't see the amusement on his face. "Yeah, it was all right," he responded glibly. "She's a good kisser, although I can't see myself wanting to do it again."

"You can't?" Jim said, satisfaction evident in his voice. "I mean, she's an attractive woman and I know she likes you, so if... I mean..." He stuttered to a halt.

Blair rolled over and grasped his partner in a hug, pulling his head down for a deep kiss that left them both gasping for breath. "Jim, Megan's great, you know, but I'm already with the only person I want to be with."

"I'm glad, Blair. I don't want to lose you just when I've found you," Jim murmured.

"Me either, Jim. Besides, there's another reason why I don't want to kiss her again."

"What's that, Chief?" Jim asked, curious.

"She bit my lip, man," Blair said in a tone of disbelief.

Jim burst out laughing and rolled himself over to curl up again at Blair's back. "Hey, Blair?" he whispered after a few minutes, hearing Blair's breathing begin to settle into the restful rhythm of sleep, "Want me to kiss it better for you?"

The only response was a small snore. Jim smiled to himself and closed his eyes.

~ooOoo~

"You two...have a chance to resolve things here. If it were me, I don't think I could just let that slip by." - Blair, Most Wanted.

Jim lay on his back in bed, on the cusp of sleep, his senses ranged slightly higher than normal, in order to experience every nuance of the man lying beside him.

Blair's PTSD appeared to be under control, and Jim felt enormous relief at that bit of good news from Meg, though it had initially been coupled with concern that now Blair didn't need him emotionally, their relationship would return to being that of just partners and friends. It had taken a huge dose of courage for Jim to admit to Blair that he was in love with him and to convince Blair that the physical aspects of their love had been welcomed and wanted by him. Jim couldn't remember when he'd felt more content and at peace.

The subject of his thoughts shifted against him, turning first to his back then onto his side, Blair's head moving up a little to rest on Jim's chest, a muttered, drowsy "Ow" puffing from his lips. Jim came instantly alert.

"You all right, Chief?" he asked.

Blair's eyes opened sleepily and he gazed at Jim in some confusion for a moment as though trying to process the question. Then he smiled happily, nuzzling Jim's chest gently, pressing a soft kiss to one nipple and Jim fell in love all over again.

"I'm fine," Blair replied, still sounding half-asleep. "Shoulder's a bit sore from taking that dive into the trap Harry set for us."

Jim pushed Blair away a little so that he lay on his back, then sat up and dialed up both sight and touch. Blair's left shoulder looked a little swollen, and the joint felt warm against his fingers. "Bruised," he said softly, almost to himself. "The joint's not dislocated. Are you hurting anywhere else?"

Blair shrugged. "A few bruises on my back and side. Nothing major." His brow furrowed. "What's the matter? Can't you sleep?"

Jim smiled at him. "I'm fine, just processing everything. A lot's happened over the past few weeks. It's a lot to take in."

"You mean us?" Blair asked. "If you're not sure about…"

Jim leaned forward and stifled Blair's words with a kiss. "I'm sure," he said.

Blair smiled then. "Okay. If you can't sleep, I could…" A hand stole to Jim's groin and gently rubbed over Jim's boxer covered cock, bringing it instantly awake.

Jim stifled a moan of pleasure and closed his own hand over Blair's, pulling it away from his erection. "It's fine," he said, lying just a little. "You're tired and sore." He pushed himself up to his knees and straddled Blair's body. "Roll onto your stomach," he said.

"Why?"

"No talking, Sandburg. Just do it."

Blair gave a shrug of mild confusion then did as Jim had asked.

Reaching out to the chest of drawers by the bed, Jim pulled open the top drawer and pulled out a small bottle of massage oil, sneezing a little at the sweet lavender scent. Pouring some into his hand, he smoothed it over Blair's back, smiling at Blair's soft moan of pleasure.

Jim splayed out his hands, enjoying the feel of soft skin beneath his palms, overlaying strong muscles. He worked his fingers firmly, kneading tense muscles until he felt them relax, then moved further down, gentling his touch over the heated areas of bruising, his hands barely ghosting over the damaged flesh. By the time he reached the firm swell of Blair's buttocks, his lover was deeply asleep, steady breaths stirring a wayward curl where it lay against his cheek.

Jim reached out and brushed the strand away, then carded his fingers through the luxuriant tresses, the sensation of the silky strands slipping through his fingers both soothing and erotic.

He returned to his task, massaging Blair's hips and thighs, working down until he reached Blair's feet, lifting each one to rub the soles. He pressed a kiss to the small of Blair's back, then yawned mightily. Shifting carefully to avoid waking Blair, Jim lay back down at his lover's side and drew Blair closer. Blair complied with a sleepy, indecipherable mutter and turned onto his side, allowing Jim to spoon up behind him, his half-aroused cock finding a warm home against Blair's ass.

Stroking one hand over Blair's back in a rhythmic, hypnotic touch, Jim felt his eyelids grow heavy, and drifted to sleep, comforted by the steady cadence of Blair's heartbeat.

~oo0oo~

Jim rolled over in bed, automatically seeking the warmth of his guide's body, even in his half-awake state. Usually, Blair would be curled as close as he could physically get to Jim, almost as if he was unconsciously trying to climb inside Jim's skin. It had bothered Jim a little at first, but over the past few weeks, he'd grown accustomed to it, welcomed it even and now it bothered him that Blair wasn't there. He'd woken on his own before, of course, when Blair had to get up earlier for some reason. But neither of them had anywhere in particular to be today and, after the pleasures of the massage the night before, Jim had looked forward to a prolonged and sensual morning in bed.

He reached out with his senses, searching the loft for signs of Blair's presence. He could hear his heartbeat. It was a little fast but not unduly so. Jim sat up and grabbed his robe, then hurried downstairs as he heard Blair's breathing become unsteady, almost as if he were trying to stifle sobs. *Oh no, Chief* he thought, *I really hoped we were way past this.*

Blair was on the balcony, fully dressed, a mug of coffee clutched in his hand. He sat with his head bowed, his other hand covering his eyes. He jumped as he heard Jim open the door and step outside, looking up with that indefinable expression on his face that Jim had seen a few weeks before, when he'd said his thesis was almost complete. The look gave Jim the same uncomfortable feeling as it had then - a sense of something bad about to happen, something he couldn't even begin to identify.

"Chief? What's up?" Jim crouched next to his partner, an arm stretching out to pull the younger man into an embrace. He kissed Blair's cheek, noting the faint taste of salt and a trace of moisture. He was right. Blair had been crying. "Has something happened? You get some bad news? What? Talk to me, Blair. You're worrying me here, buddy."

Blair put down his cup and used both hands to wipe the evidence of his emotional outburst from his face. "It's stupid, man. Don't worry about it."

"Well, it's a little late for that, Chief, because I am worried about it. Now, how about we move this indoors where it's warmer and you can spill the beans to your Blessed Protector, okay?" He gave Blair a lighthearted grin, tamping down the concern that was beginning to churn in his gut. Pulling his guide to his feet, he steered him inside and pushed him down onto the couch. "Wait here, Blair. I'm just going to grab some coffee. You want more?" Seeing Blair shake his head, he went into the kitchen and grabbed the pot, pouring himself a mugful of the still hot brew. He cast his mind back over the past few weeks, trying to identify anything that might have caused Blair's PTSD to flare up again, but couldn't think of anything. Their relationship was great, as far as he could tell. Still turning events over in his mind, he went back and sat down on the coffee table opposite Blair.

He reached out a hand, taking Blair's chin in a gentle grip, then leaned in and kissed the full mouth softly. "Now tell me what's going on in 'The Sandburg Zone' this morning, Chief. I won't think it's stupid or crazy... well, maybe I'll think it's crazy, but you... you could never be stupid."

Blair looked deep into his lover's eyes and sighed, pulling his head out of Jim's hand. "All right. I told you I've nearly finished my thesis. I've pretty much decided to leave the sixth sense stuff out. Like I said, there's really no way for me to quantify that sort of data. So, that means all I have left to do is finish typing it up." He stopped again, casting his eyes downward.

"And this is bad because?" Jim encouraged, one hand resting on his partner's knee, unconsciously stroking up and down.

"Well, because, once it's finished there's going to be no need for me to be your partner anymore." The words came out in a rush. "You have good control a lot of the time, Jim. And once Simon knows the diss is finished, I can't imagine he'll want to keep me on as an observer. I'm way past my use-by date as it is."

"Blair, you told me that a sentinel always has his guide along, didn't you? I mean, yes, I seem to have control most of the time, but look what happened with Lila. I can still zone or have sensory spikes with no warning. And Conner and Simon are not my substitute guides. Yes, they know about my senses, but Incacha made you the 'Shaman of the Great City'. I don't think you can just resign from that any more than I can from being a Sentinel, once we accepted the responsibility. I believe we accepted our roles - you when Incacha died, and me down in Peru and again in Mexico. Secondly, Simon doesn't just see you as an observer. You've proven yourself to be more than that many times, Chief. He's not going to throw you out on your butt. There's also the fact that I trust you. I still need you working with me. Blair, look at me," Jim said quietly, waiting until his guide's eyes met his before continuing. "There's another reason why the end of your thesis doesn't end this partnership and you know what that is, don't you?"

Blair nodded slowly, a smile beginning to tilt the corners of his mouth. "Because we love each other, Jim," he whispered, leaning forward to press his lips against his lover's, tracing them sweetly with his tongue.

"That's the one, Chief," Jim said as he pulled back a little. "Want to come back to bed and put it into practice?"

"Yes."

The word was a mere breath of air but it had the effect of dampening down all the fear Jim had felt since finding Blair on the balcony. He grasped Blair's arms and pulled him up, embracing him quickly before turning him in the direction of the stairs. "I do love you, Blair," he said quietly.

"I know." Blair turned and flashed a smile of such tenderness that Jim's heart missed a beat.

Jim climbed the stairs lightly, sure that whatever catastrophe had been threatening was now averted.

~oo0oo~

"Oh, yeah, you saw it? It's just a book." - Blair.

"It was your life." - Jim, TSbyBS.

 

"You might have been just an observer, but you were the best cop I've ever met and the best partner I could have ever asked for. You've been a great friend and you've pulled me through some pretty weird stuff." - Jim.

"Thanks. " - Blair, TSbyBS.

After the presentation of the detective's shield at the precinct, Blair had refused Simon's invitation to go out for a celebratory drink, saying he wanted to get back to the loft and process everything. Jim had offered to drive him back, but Blair had pushed him to go and by the time Jim had arrived home, he was feeling pleasantly drunk. That's when Blair had dropped his bombshell.

"I don't know if I can do this cop thing, Jim," he said, almost casually.

"What do you mean, Chief? You don't want to be my partner?" Jim asked.

"Yes, I do. But not as a cop, man. That's just not me. You know that, Jim."

"Blair, I meant what I said at the hospital. You're the best cop I've ever known…" Jim began, reaching out to clasp Blair's shoulder warmly.

"Jim, let me try to explain, okay. I just think there are other things I'd be better off doing. I want to try to find out what that is, for myself. I know you and Simon were just trying to help, but this is something I have to do, on my own. Ever since I started getting the PTSD under control I've realized that it's time for me take charge of my own life, man. I love you, Jim, but I don't want us to be partners at work because you feel bad that I don't have my teaching career anymore. I definitely don't want a relationship with you that's based on the fact that it really only began because I had PTSD," Blair said softly, covering Jim's hand with his own.

"You think that's all it's about for me?" Jim whispered, pulling Blair closer.

"No, not now, but it is how it started. You can't deny that. I can accept it, just like I know it's gone beyond that. But that's not the point here. I have to take control of my own life back, just like you have with your senses. I helped you with that, and you helped me get my head back together. We're even now, Jim. Nobody's keeping score anymore."

"God, Chief, I never was. You think I only slept with you because I thought I owed you?" Jim asked, stunned.

"No, not that. I'm saying that we helped *each other* regain control of our senses and now we have to decide if there's a relationship beyond that." Blair turned and pulled Jim into a hug, then moved back and traced a finger along his partner's jaw. "I love you so much. Please don't doubt that. But I need to know that this is only about love. Not about duty or the Sentinel thing or either of us feeling we owe each other anything. Look, I'm sorry, I've got an appointment about a job, Jim. We'll talk more later, okay?"

Jim felt his heart plummet at the words. He wasn't sure if he'd really expected Blair to want to stay on as a detective but he knew he didn't want him to leave now. This wasn't just about their working partnership anymore. They were life partners and though Jim knew he'd come within an inch of blowing everything away, he thought Blair had forgiven him.

 

Jim swallowed hard then leaned down and kissed Blair gently on the mouth. "Sure, Chief. Go do what you have to do, then we'll talk. I'll be here." He watched, frozen, as Blair left, then moved to the balcony and watched him drive away, extending his sight to follow the car till even his enhanced vision couldn't see it anymore.

~oOo~

"Jim, it's Simon. I need to talk to you and Blair, as soon as possible." The answering machine had picked up the call and Jim felt no inclination to rush down and grab the phone.

He rolled over and glanced at the clock next to his bed. 7 AM.

He'd finally dragged himself to bed at midnight after waiting fruitlessly for Blair to come home. Even then, he hadn't been able to sleep. By the time he'd picked up the sound of Blair's heartbeat in the loft and his partner had finally climbed into bed with him at oh-dark-thirty, Blair had simply leaned over and given Jim a gentle kiss tasting of several varieties of alcohol before slumping onto his side and subsiding into sleep. Jim debated waking him but then he'd simply curled around his lover and peacefully breathed in his scent. He'd placed the palm of his hand over Blair's heart and let the beat lull him to sleep.

Now, he leaned over and placed a soft kiss on Blair's cheek.

"Jim? Morning already?" Blair's words were slightly dulled by sleep, his eyes remaining firmly closed.

"Yeah, it's just after 7. Simon called. Says he needs to see us both ASAP. So, you're going to have to put your hangover on hold for a while, Chief. I'm going to go take a shower. Don't go back to sleep, okay?" Jim warned teasingly as he slipped from the bed and made his way downstairs.

"Yeah, yeah," Blair mumbled. "Simon's a slave driver, you know that, Jim?" Not getting any answer he dragged his unwilling body out of bed and snagged his robe from the chair. "Coffee," he said quietly to himself, "I just need coffee. I don't have a hangover, Jim," he called, raising his voice over the sound of the shower. "Didn't get drunk… well, maybe just a little."

He had breakfast and coffee ready by the time Jim came out and went to take his own turn in the bathroom, giving his partner a peck on the cheek as they passed each other in the doorway.

Simon was already in his office when they arrived, but Jim held Blair back for a moment. "Don't forget, Chief, we still need to have that talk."

"Um, I think you'll find that what Simon wants to talk to us about will kinda cancel out the need for that, Jim," Blair said, not daring to meet Jim's eyes.

"You know what this is about?" Jim asked. "Were you and Simon planning on letting me in on the secret?"

"Well, that's what's about to happen, Jim, and Simon didn't really know. He would have only found out late last night or this morning and he's probably just as surprised as you're going to be," Blair replied, nudging Jim firmly towards the captain's office.

Jim raised a hand to knock on the door just as Simon opened it and roared, "Ellison, Sandburg, my… oh, you're here. Come in."

"What's going on, sir?" Jim asked, taking a seat.

"You didn't tell him, Sandburg?" Banks asked.

Blair shook his head. "I wanted to see how it panned out first. I also didn't want to make any decisions for him. This has to be Jim's choice as much as it's mine."

"Would someone please just tell me what the hell is going on? What choice, Chief?" Jim began, then held a hand up. "No, don't answer that yet," he continued more quietly. "One of you just start at the beginning and tell me what this is all about."

"Seems the Commissioner had a visit from a certain anthropologist of our acquaintance yesterday, Jim." Simon watched as Blair moved to sit down. Blair kept his eyes firmly fixed on his feet but Simon could see a faint tinge of pink coloring his cheeks. "Sandburg thanked the Commissioner very politely for his offer of a detective shield and then basically told him where he could stick it."

Blair's head shot up at that and he interrupted. "Hey, come on, Simon, it wasn't like that."

"Don't worry about it, Sandburg. I've wanted to tell him the same thing a few times myself. Anyway, long story short, Sandburg knocked back a job as one of Cascade's finest but made the Commissioner a counter-offer. Seeing as how Cascade seems to be the venue of choice for most of the crazies in the world, the powers that be have been talking about setting up a specialized murder department within Major Crime. They don't want to pull anybody new in for it so your boy here put it to the boss that he'd like to be part of it, not as a cop but as a profiler and official consultant." Simon looked at Jim, trying to gauge how the detective was taking all this.

Jim's face gave nothing away at the moment but he turned to his partner and asked, "You really want to do this, Chief?"

"Yeah, I do. Look, as an anthropologist you're basically observing people and profiling them anyway. So, I don't really see it as being a huge jump. And, you gotta admit, Jim, I've had a few front row seats to observe psychos since I've been riding along with you. I think I've probably picked up a few things. I do have to go to Quantico first, though. You know, do the Profiling course, and I couldn't get out of the firearms training but that's cool. I'm down with that. The best thing though is that I won two really good concessions," Blair said, smiling now.

"And they are?" Jim said, waiting, hardly daring to breathe.

"I don't have to cut my hair and I get to choose the lead detective. I figured I couldn't do any better than Cascade's Detective Of The Year," Blair replied, looking deeply into Jim's eyes, his own bright with emotion. "You don't have to do this, Jim. It's still about what I said last night. Making choices for ourselves and taking control. It's up to you."

"So we'd still be partners?" Jim asked.

"Yeah."

"I'd like to do it, Chief." he said, hearing Blair sigh loudly with relief at the words. "Simon, you okay with this?"

Banks grinned. "You joking? This way, I get to keep both the Sentinel and the Guide on my team. Just try not to get into so much trouble this time round, all right. I'm getting too old for all that shit. Go on, get out of here. Go home, talk, make plans. Some of us have real work to do."

~oOo~

AT THE LOFT:

"So, Chief," Jim said as he handed Blair a beer. "You going to let me in on how you managed to get the Commissioner to agree to all this?" He settled himself on the edge of the coffee table and looked inquiringly at his partner.

Blair moved back so he was resting comfortably against the back of the couch and raised his bottle in a salute to Jim. "Okay, I give. I'll admit there might have been just a little blackmail involved. See, there's this girl down in Records who sorta likes me," he stopped, grinning delightedly at Jim's expression. "Don't be jealous, big guy. I fixed her up with a friend of mine. But anyway, she's best friends with the Commissioner's secretary and that's how I found out about the new department. Sarah knew I would be looking for another job and she told me about it. She also told me that Jenny, the secretary had said that the boss didn't want anyone but you heading the unit. I figured, with me not wanting to be a cop as such, it meant we wouldn't be working together anymore."

"I wasn't sure you still wanted to, Chief," Jim said, softly.

"I know. I'm sorry. " Blair leaned across and clasped Jim's hand in his. "I knew I wanted us to be partners in every area of our lives, but within the parameters I told you about last night. So, I saw the Commissioner, told him that I knew he was going to ask you to take this job and told him you'd refuse it if I wasn't part of the package." Blair sat back, releasing Jim's hand and smiled with an expression of such confident smugness that Jim couldn't help but laugh.

"You know me too well, Blair," Jim said. He put his beer down on the table and moved to stand in front of his lover. He took Blair's drink from his hand, put it down next to his, then grabbed Blair's hand, and pulled him up into an embrace. They kissed tenderly for a long moment, tongues gently probing open mouths, then pulled back, both of them breathing heavily.

Jim lifted a hand cupped Blair's cheek, feeling Blair's hand mirroring the gesture.

"I love you, Blair. Always."

"I know you do. I love you too, Jim. Forever," Blair whispered back. "Make love to me, Jim, please. Properly, this time."

Jim pulled back a little, a frown on his face. "Properly, Chief? You telling me I've been doing it wrong all this time?" He smiled, taking the sting out of the words.

"No, of course not. Jim, stop yanking my chain. I'm serious here. I want you inside me. Is that all right with you?" He looked shyly into Jim's eyes.

"Oh babe, of course it is. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to hurt your feelings. I want to make love to you that way. Have wanted to before, but I was scared of hurting you or frightening you away. You know me. All those fear based responses, right?" Jim planted feathery kisses on each of Blair's eyelids then turned and led him upstairs.

They undressed each other slowly, taking time to stroke and kiss every inch of skin that was exposed as they did so. Then Jim pushed Blair down onto the bed, blanketing his body with his own, and began a gentle exploration. He kissed a trail of kisses down the side of his neck, sucking Blair's earlobe into his mouth and nibbling carefully on it.

Then he pushed himself down so he could reach his partner's chest, rubbing his palms over the hard nipples, then caressing them with his tongue, hearing Blair groan and stretch up to increase the contact.

Jim moved to lie between Blair's thighs, pushing them apart. He ran a finger along the length of the hard cock, massaging the vein on its underside and tracing his finger around the head. He bent his head and licked the slit then slowly slid it all the way into his mouth, moving up and down gently, while his other hand rubbed Blair's balls. He increased the pressure and pace as Blair began to moan, and feeling him push up off the bed, he sucked hard.

"Jim! God, stop! I want you in me, now, please." Blair's voice was husky with desire.

"All right, babe. Relax, okay." Jim released Blair's penis and knelt so he could lean across to open the drawer of the bedside table. He grabbed the tube of lube and condoms he'd stashed there weeks before. At the time he'd had no real expectations of using them, just a hope that maybe one day, they might both be ready for this.

"Wait, Jim. Let me do that for you, please," Blair said, holding his hand out, palm up.

Jim squeezed a generous amount of lube into Blair's hand, then shivered as he felt Blair's warm hand spreading the cold gel along his erect cock. Jim thrust into the tunnel of Blair's fist, feeling himself grow impossibly harder. He bent to take Blair's mouth, thrusting his tongue in, nipping on his lips, till they were both groaning.

"Jim, now, please," Blair said, taking his hand away and rolling onto his belly.

"Wait," Jim whispered, grabbing a pillow and placing beneath his lover's hips. "I won't do anything that causes you pain, babe. You tell me if I do and we'll stop."

"It's okay, lover," Blair whispered back, angling his hips so he could rub his cock against the mattress.

Jim coated his fingers with the lube and gently inserted one finger into his lover's center, waiting until Blair began to push back onto it before he added a second.

"You okay, Blair?" he asked, leaning down to plant a kiss on Blair's shoulder.

"It's fine, Jim. Don't stop." Blair raised himself onto hands and knees and began to rock back and forth onto Jim's fingers, humming with pleasure.

Jim took his hand away then returned with three fingers, using them to stretch and scissor the tight muscle. He massaged Blair's hole gently, pushing further inside and angling up to stroke across his prostate. Blair arched up as he found it, muttering incoherently.

"Jesus, Jim, do it already. You're killing me here," Blair managed to grunt out.

"Okay, but promise you'll tell me if I hurt you?" Jim entreated, rolling the condom on his hard flesh and pressing gently at Blair's anus.

"I promise already. Jim, please," Blair begged, shoving his ass back against Jim's cock.

Jim pressed in gently, hearing Blair gasp a sob of relief as he made it past the guardian muscle. He pulled back a little then pushed back in, feeling Blair's muscles contracting around him. He opened up his senses a little, the touch of the silky lining on his sensitive flesh making him groan and began to thrust in and out harder and faster.

"God, I'm sorry, babe. I can't hold it back," Jim moaned, reaching a hand round to grasp Blair's cock and fisting it in time with his thrusts.

Blair was shoving back against him now, moaning almost continuously, then pushing forward into his fist.

Jim felt his orgasm building, his movements becoming more ragged. He thrust in and out hard once, twice, then he was over the edge feeling Blair's inner muscles clenching around him and the warm gush of semen over his hand as his guide climaxed with him.

Jim pulled out carefully and stripped off the condom, throwing it into the small bin next to the bed. He pulled Blair into his arms, placing a finger beneath his chin, tilting his head so he could look into his lover's beautiful eyes."You all right, Blair?"

"Oh yeah, I've never been better, Jim. I love you so much, you know?" Blair reached up and traced his hand lovingly over Jim's mouth.

"We're okay, now, aren't we?" Jim asked, kissing Blair's fingertips.

"We're better than okay. I think I finally made it home."

"For this, I bless you as the ruin falls.

The pains you gave me

Were more precious than all other gains."

"As The Ruin Falls" by C.S. Lewis

The End.