The Jester

Part Two

By Demeter

Megan and Brian were arguing, trying to be quiet, but neither Trina nor their guest could ignore them, and Trina felt vaguely embarrassed. That, and her guest seemed disconcertingly familiar, but she hadn't been able to place him yet. "Why are you staring at me?" she asked testily.

"Because you're beautiful?"

She blushed, not having expected that answer. "Tell me another one. Why are you here this afternoon anyway? I thought everybody was working on this real important case."

Shrugging, he said, "I don't know about your brother, but Megan wanted to get some files, I think. Good enough for me. What's the matter? You were planning a binge again and got interrupted?"

His tone wasn't mocking, but rather serious. Trina stared at Chris Foley, alarmed. Images came back to her, vague only, but she knew now where she'd met him before. Damn it, he'd give her away her for sure.

"You already told them?"

He was shaking his head 'no'. "You don't remember much about that night, do you?"

"You paid for a cab for me," she said, her blush deepening. "Oh shit."

"Forget about it. I have an idea, Trina. Why don't we meet tonight? There's something I want to show you."

She looked him up and down, gauging his sincerity, her eyes locking with his then. "Why not?" Trina knew well enough that she'd already been walking a fine line. She wasn't afraid of danger. There was nothing much she was afraid of, except the nightmares she still had about the destroyed buildings, the sirens, and the policemen who had told her that her parents had died in the explosion.

What was a little risk in comparison?

***

"Come on, Chief. What's going on?"

Jim's voice was insistent, full of worry, urging him back to the present. But it was the casual caress of fingers against his cheek, more than anything else, that made the images retreat enough for him to become fully aware of his surroundings again. With a shudder, Blair wiped his hands on his jeans, actually still feeling the stickiness of the blood.

"I saw... all kinds of people related to the case. And then..." He swallowed, trying to stay calm. As much as possible anyway. "Somebody washing bloody hands in a puddle."

Jim considered that for an instant. "You're getting visions of the killer again?" he asked.

If only. "It was me."

Jim looked at him quizzically, then he shook his head. "That's silly, Chief. So far, you've been getting glimpses into the killers' minds. Why would you appear in the vision?"

"I'd feel better myself if I had an answer to that," Blair snapped back at him, turning his back. Both of them were silent for a moment, and he thought it was probably a bad idea to complicate things with an unnecessary fight. This vision had been different from those previously, and even now, his hands were slightly shaking, the image of his own shocked face still lingering on his mind. "I'm sorry," he said, without looking at Jim. "But, this - is freaking me out, you know?"

Jim didn't say anything, but he laid a hand on the center of his back, the gesture a small comfort against this new, terrifying turn of events.

***

Lab analysis very quickly showed that there were no other prints on the card than Blair's - it was indeed the card he was missing from his set.

"No one but McDougall knew you even had it," Jim said with a frown. They..., Blair didn't need this now. Somehow, he'd foolishly hoped that after all the weirdness of the past few months, they would finally be able to simply live their lives - it had all been there, ghosts, evil spirits, the shaman way that had almost cost Blair his life - he would have loved just a bit of peace from all that.

"We should lean on him a little harder," he went on. "While we're at it, find out if he knew Edmonds or the other victim. And I want a crime scene unit here. There has to be something."

Of course, nobody would really suspect Blair, and he had an alibi for the time of death, but this was disconcerting, to say the least. He didn't believe for a second that they were dealing with coincidences here - the card of death, the fact that it was the one from Blair's tarot set.

Jim gazed around the crime scene, taking in the multitude of colors and sounds, separating the unwanted ones from those he felt he needed. He didn't want to share a disturbing thought with Blair right at that moment, but it wasn't so much the appearance of the missing tarot card on the victim - it was the idea that someone had clearly gained access to the loft and taken it. Why would they do that? And how had they done it? When? The loft was his and Blair's secure area, a place where they could be themselves, and not hide. It wouldn't be too difficult for an intruder to piece together the evidence that two people lived there, and there was only one bed. And that particular piece of information was something that the two of them didn't want as public knowledge.

Jim chewed his lip in thought as he finished analyzing the surrounding area, and re-settling his mind, before turning his thoughts back towards the deceased.

This time, the victim had an ID with her: Vanessa Masters, 21, a history student at Rainier. Was there a connection? To Blair? To the man who called himself the Jester?

"We got this all wrong, " Blair insisted. "Before, he only targeted people who were guilty of a crime. I don't believe he meant to kill Edmonds. He wanted to draw our attention towards her. And I'm totally sure he hasn't got anything to do with this carnage. What the hell is going on in Cascade? Some killer adopting the 'tarot card' M. O.?"

"Possibly. But that still doesn't explain why you saw yourself in that vision. It doesn't make any sense."

Jim wished he had any reason for an optimistic answer, but honestly couldn't find one. He'd wanted to say more but his cell phone rang. Expecting Simon, he answered it, surprised when he heard another voice. "Sneaks? That's a surprise, haven't heard from you in a while. Meet? Yeah, of course we can." The guy had never before called him if it wasn't important, so chances were this call had to do with their current case.

"And... is there any chance, you know...?" Sneaks inquired, and it was not so hard to guess what he was talking about.

"Absolutely. My partner just bought a great new pair of sneakers. Let's see if what you have is worth them," Jim said with a grin in Blair's direction. It was a weak attempt, he knew it, but it worked.

Blair was rolling his eyes at him, but the smile beneath was grateful.

***

The young man cursed to himself as he paced the space between his living room and kitchen, time and again. What had been meant as the big breakthrough, had turned out to be nothing but a disaster so far. That bitch had gotten in the way and suddenly become the poor murder victim, and now there was another death.

He understood the message well; the other player had made his move, and a catastrophic one at that.

Already, they were putting him under lots of pressure to reveal the Jester's identity. He wasn't looking forward to the credit being given to somebody else, but at the moment, he couldn't think of any other solution.

***

"Why are you drinking?"

Trina made a grimace. She had thought they were going to have some fun together, or that maybe he would actually come on to her, but nothing like that happened. She'd escaped a little while ago under the guise of meeting Helen, who'd cover for her, luckily. Right now, Trina was questioning the wisdom of her actions. "Because I'm having fun?"

"No, you aren't. You are incredibly sad about something, and I believe I know what it is. Megan hasn't told me much, but it was enough to put the pieces together. I can understand you."

"Really?" she said sarcastically. Trina hated how he always managed to bring her to the verge of tears. No, she definitely wouldn't see him again if he kept this up, beautiful eyes or not.

"You're not the only person who's been hurt badly, or lost someone."

"Phew, great line. I hadn't thought of that."

"I like you. And I'm not ready yet to give up on you."

He leaned over to place a chaste kiss on her lips, and Trina stared back at him, transfixed. "What was that for?"

"For new beginnings," he said, smiling at her guilelessly.

***

They had been going through all rooms together, Jim's senses accurately identifying traces left of people who had been at the loft, knowing them all by their perfumes, after-shaves, and of course, individual scents. He could tell who had touched what, or in which room they had been.

Blair and Simon were watching in awe - but the one thing he couldn't come up with proof that there had been an intruder in the apartment.

"I can't believe this! I've only had them in the car, and then here. The card was there yesterday evening!" Blair couldn't dismiss the unnerving feeling that someone, whoever that might be, not only knew that he owned a set of the tarot cards, but that they knew where to find them - and more worryingly - how to access them. What else did this whoever know?

"Look on the bright side of this, Sandburg. You've got an alibi."

"That's not funny, Simon," Jim said sharply as Blair paled at the captain's voice, no doubt recalling the vision. "Let the crime scene unit do their job now, and they should take a look at Blair's car, too. We've got an appointment anyway."

***

Sneaks was clearly nervous, his eyes darting around as if trying to identify an unseen pursuer. "Good, you're here. I don't have much time," he all but whispered.

"Calm down. What's the matter?" Jim inquired, wondering what the informant was up to.

"Something's going on." Sneaks made a dramatic pause, but he wasn't all show. His heartbeat was all over the place, his palms sweating. No good news, that was for sure. "There's a hit out on our friend. The Jester."

"Who's paying?" Blair asked.

Sneaks shrugged. "Hard to say, there are lots of people he pissed off. Word is out; people are competing to get him. Highest bidder was that distant relative of the Lazar family, Michael."

"Last thing I heard was how shocked he was about the activities of his family."

"Not anymore." Sneaks was shaking his head, looking behind him again. "There might be something else," he said with a pointed look at Blair who sighed.

"I thought that was a joke to lighten up the mood some! Give the guy a little bonus, so he can go get some Nikes - but not mine, man."

Sneaks agreed to the deal, obviously relieved he could leave again. "Check into those guys, and a Micki Baker," he advised. "That's one of the names I've heard around."

Then he was gone. Jim and Blair stayed for a moment longer, sorting the information. Michael Lazar hadn't even had a ticket until a few years ago; contrary to his infamous family, his uncle Edward and his now late sister Erica. He'd gotten on the FBI's radar last year, though, when his name appeared in connection with an arms company that had been accused of having made shipments to Iraq, but the charges had miraculously disappeared, and he was still in the business. He'd always denied any connection to the crimes of the Lazar family.

It seemed like the riddles had just gotten more confusing - why would a man like that be interested in the Jester, who had uncovered cases of domestic violence and minor drug trafficking?

There was one connection though, that seemed obvious, and Blair's question showed that he'd come to the same conclusion. "Do you think it's a coincidence that the initials are the same as Michelle Bergen?"

It was merely rhetorical.

***

"I don't understand you!" Megan barely kept herself from shouting. There was no sense in getting loud, she knew, but the feeling of frustration had been building up in her all day, and it needed to be voiced. Now.

The whole day, Rafe had barely spoken a word to her. Being worried about Trina didn't explain everything.

"What are you jealous of - Jim's abilities? I tell you, there's no point. I, for one, am glad I cannot smell a body from a few blocks away. Or is it me? I found out about the Sentinel thing coincidentally, they sure as hell didn't plan it. So talk to me, Brian, because I don't get it."

"Who isn't getting it?" he asked acidly.

"Just forget about it." She was glad when the sound of the key in the lock gave her an excuse to end this pointless conversation. Trina had just come in; guessing from the stormy look on her face, things hadn't gone too well for her either.

Megan suppressed a sigh. Forgive me if I'm feeling just a bit overtaxed with a lover who's grumpy for no reason, a charming but somehow weird ride-along, *and* a quasi-daughter.

"Bad day at school?"

Trina barely looked at her, shrugging.

"Look, I've talked to Blair. He says it would be okay for you to come over tonight, so he can take a look at your study materials, and then you two could see how to proceed. Trina," she said softly, "we're not doing this to annoy you. We don't expect you to stay at home and study all the time, either. You'll feel better when your grades are up again, I'm sure."

"Yeah, maybe. Thank you."

Trina's eyes were bright, there was something off about her, had been for a while, but Megan couldn't quite place it.

"And look on the bright side. I'm sure Blair is much more fun than one of your teachers would be."

That got her a small smile - Megan was pleased with herself.

"You're right. Sandy, huh?"

"Right. But don't let him hear that."

Megans Rafe.jpg (31343 bytes)

***

He had asked her to explain herself, actually to the point of pestering, but Trina wasn't too sure of the answer herself. It had started out innocently enough, just her, Helen and two other girls on a dare: would the owner of the deli really sell them beer or ask for an ID?

It had been ridiculously easy. They'd hung out at Helen's, getting really silly, and Trina felt like she hadn't been that free since... that day. Everything had happened so fast - her move to the US, a new school, new friends - that she never had the time to really face the feelings she had brought with her. The grief, that, too - but there was also lots of rage, seemingly uncontrollable. Those damned terrorists, who the hell did they think they were? Truth to be told, she was scared of what could happen, should that rage ever be unleashed. The alcohol kept all those emotions at bay, and that was just fine with her.

And even here and now, she thought that everybody seemed to shrug it off and get on with life. She'd tried that, too, but somewhere along the line she got stuck. Trina had been a brilliant student once, or so she'd been told, but at the moment, she couldn't bring herself to even feign interest - in anything.

She didn't really want to go and see Blair, either. Trina was also a bit embarrassed about how she'd behaved around Jim not so long ago.

***

"I don't know what you want from me!" McDougall said angrily. "Just in case you forgot. You have my alibi confirmed. I was on a plane coming back from San Francisco when that lady died, and I don't know any Michelle Bergen or Micki Baker."

He was a very good liar. With some smug satisfaction, Jim noticed how McDougall's heart rate went up with the last two names. He may not have killed any of the women, but he knew about the aliases, there was no doubt about it.

Finally, it seemed like they were getting somewhere; hopefully before another innocent victim got caught in the personal war between the Jester and Lazar.

"Thank you, Mr. McDougall," Jim said. "You've helped us a lot."

A stakeout would certainly be helpful in finding out to whom McDougall sold tarot cards to under the counter.

***

It had been a long day that had brought up more new questions than it had answered, Blair thought with a sigh. When he saw Trina sitting on the floor, leaning against the wall, he was tempted to send her away, but decided against it. Megan had been so grateful when he had agreed to some tutoring for Rafe's sister, and he didn't want to disappoint her.

"Hey, Trina," he said, giving her a friendly smile. "I hope you didn't have to wait long."

She shrugged. "Just got here a few minutes ago. But if it's a bad time, I could--"

"No, no, it's okay. Why don't you have dinner with us, and we can talk in the meantime?"

"That's a good idea, Chief," Jim chimed in, and it was only the fact that Blair paid close attention, and always had where Jim was concerned, that he was able to detect the worried undertone. He'd have to ask Jim about it later.

***

"Micki always got the job done," Michael Lazar reminded the burly man standing in front of his desk.

His visitor shrugged, his eyes flat and cold. "Same goes for me."

"Good. I want that bastard who got her killed, to pay for it. My informant has already identified him." He handed a picture to his employee. "I don't care if you kill him, but find out everything he knows, and make sure he stops playing this ridiculous game."

"Will do, Boss."

When the man had left, Michael looked at the crumpled tarot card in his hand, smiling with satisfaction. No more Jester cards. He could have even enjoyed the challenge, but the man had gone a step too far when he killed Micki. Lately, the Jester had simply become a nuisance that he needed to get rid of.

***

It wouldn't be so easy, Blair realized after a while. Trina had a hard time concentrating, and it was clear she'd only done this because Megan had asked her to, but she wasn't very motivated herself.

Well, he wasn't ready to write her off so soon. Blair knew she'd had brilliant grades before, and Trina surely could get there again, once she began to cope with what happened.

***

It was one of those days where seemingly nothing could go right. For a while, Jim wondered how to approach the subject, but even despite Rafe's strange behavior, he and Megan were friends, and in a way, Trina was, too - so he couldn't just let it slide.

For a while, he hadn't been sure, but his senses confirmed unmistakably who had the drinking problem in the household. He wasn't looking forward to this conversation, not at all, but it was too serious to just let go.

"Should we call Megan to come and get you, or is she on duty tonight?"

"Working, I think," Trina said rather uninterestedly. "I can take the bus, no problem."

"Hell, it's just a few minutes, I'm taking you home." He leaned forward and said conspirationally, "Besides, I'm sure Blair will have the dishes done by the time I get back."

She laughed at that, and Jim was all the more regretting the next steps that would have to be taken - but were inevitable.

***

Blair never got the chance to do the dishes, because a few minutes after Jim and Trina had left, the call came in. It took him a while to identify the voice that sounded on the verge of panicking.

"They're after me! It's you who put them onto me, so do something now. I need protection!"

After a moment, it sank in. "Mr. McDougall. Who is after you?"

"I'll tell you, but get me out of here first! Now!"

"All right. I'm on my way."

***

"Trina, I need to ask you something."

Oh, damn it, why hadn't he left this to Blair? He was the one who could effortlessly handle a conversation like this, but still... Maybe it wasn't very rational, but Jim had always felt a certain familiarity toward Rafe's little sister. It had to do with loss, the sudden and brutal kind; they'd both faced it. He could think of so many examples in his life, from his mother, to his men in Peru, to Incacha...

"Do you like it here? Your school, Cascade in general?"

"Well, it's not like I had a choice," she said, her voice level, but he could hear her heartbeat rise. "It's okay."

"No, it's not. Not really. We always hope to catch those bastards like the ones that took away your parents, but we don't always make it."

Trina swallowed. "I've seen a psychiatrist, you know? I know all about my justified anger, my fears, and my nightmares."

"But that doesn't make it any better - and the alcohol helps at least some, doesn't it?"

At that, she simply leaned forward and started to cry. Oh no, he shouldn't have done this himself, Jim thought with an inward sigh. But he'd started it, and he had to bring it to an end now. At least she wasn't running away, like Stacey Newman had all those years ago, so that had to count for something.

***

"Jim, where are you?"

Pushing aside his frustration, Blair realized that he would have to do this without his partner, but in any case, he'd need some back-up. McDougall hadn't said how many pursuers there were, but if Michael Lazar was behind this, they'd probably deal with the man's private security, not a troop you'd take on all by yourself.

Except for...

Could it be that the artist was the Jester himself?

***

"Oh, God." Trina raked shaking hands through her hair, obviously upset - no surprise there. "This is a nightmare. All I wanted was to get rid of those images, but it doesn't work, they come back again and again!"

"Why didn't you tell anyone?"

"I don't know. I mean Brian and Megan hardly ever have time for themselves anyway, I didn't want to bother them. I thought I could handle it, but I was probably just kidding myself."

Didn't he know that feeling... "So you were searching for something to make the pain go away."

For the first time during their conversation, she looked away. "Are you going to tell my brother?"

"I have to. Look, I know you're not getting along too well at the moment, but I'm sure he's worried. You're the only family he has left now."

When Trina looked him in the eye again, Jim was struck by how clear and adult she looked all of a sudden. Her eyes were dry, her voice calm as she asked, "Have you ever lost someone you loved?"

"Yes," he said without hesitation. She'd been honest so far, so it was only fair.

"And did it ever hurt so much, you were ready to do anything just to make the pain go away? To numb it somehow?"

Her words unexpectedly brought up images of the pools in the Temple of the Sentinels; the first time there, when he'd thought he'd lose his mind in the kaleidoscope of violence, guilt, and pain. Incacha, a trustworthy companion once, had shown him the way out of it. Trina had adults around her who wanted to help, but that was not enough, because the world looked much different from her point of view. Well, he could try anyway, as best he could.

"I tried. But it's like you say; it only numbs the pain. It doesn't make it go away in the long run."

"Then what does?"

"Time. Real good friends who don't let go when things get rough - and letting go of the guilt."

It felt weird to talk to her like this, but it was also an eye-opening experience. So clear what she was going through. For a long time, he'd laden himself with guilt, having been the only one to survive the helicopter crash in Peru.

It wasn't rational, but real all the same.

"Sounds like real work," she said with the ghost of a smile.

"It is. But it's worth it." He gave her shoulder a gentle squeeze. "You know that you can always come to Blair or me if you need to talk. But don't shut out Megan and Brian, okay? It will all work itself out in time."

"I know I did something really stupid. Thank you for listening to me."

"No problem," Jim promised her, as he got out of the car, too. "And talk to Megan and your brother. They will listen, too. But it seemed like *that* conversation would have to wait. He could easily tell that there was no one in the apartment, Megan and Rafe both being at work. "You'll be okay?"

Trina straightened her shoulders. "Why don't you come up and check that there's no more booze? I won't drink anymore, I promise you. Just please don't tell anyone."

***

"No, don't do this to me!"

But the older man's eyes closed, and he sagged in Blair's grip. If Blair didn't manage to get him to a hospital soon, he'd die for sure, and whatever information he'd had for them, would be lost. That, and Blair didn't really want to lose another life like this.

He ducked as another bullet hit the crate right next to the one they'd taken cover behind. Where was that backup anyway?

There were at least three men, and with much more firepower. And they were closing in on them. Looking at his hands, Blair had to fight a surge of sickness. They were crimson red with McDougall's blood, just like in the vision. God.

No. I'm not ready for it to be over.

He'd have to think of something, a distraction in order to put them off.

***

He pressed the button, flinching from the sound of the explosion, watching impassively. These men were ruthless killers so they certainly didn't deserve better, even if the blast wouldn't be strong enough to kill them all; they certainly hadn't deserved better. After all, the blast wouldn't be strong enough to kill them all, even if he wouldn't have minded. Not that he would mind if it did. They had killed an innocent student, just to teach him a lesson. He only hoped that his calculations had been right, and the good guys would make it out in time.

The Jester left his signature before he walked away from the scene.

***

It was way after eight, the time Brian had promised he and Megan would be back in the note.

Neither of them had returned yet, and at the moment Trina was bitterly regretting making this deal with Jim, poured the last of the vodka down the drain. He'd asked her some more precise questions, and finally agreed not to tell anyone if she really kept her side of the bargain - one sip of something alcoholic, and the deal was off.

Trina believed that Jim would know. She had been around the people of the Major Crimes unit long enough to know that there was something special about Jim - when he said he'd know if she had been drinking, there was no doubt about it.

Not that she cared right now. She lay down on her bed with her teeth chattering, even though it wasn't all that cold, and she almost gagged on imaginary dust that rose from heaps of rubble, all that had been left of her home.

Across the street, there was a gas station. Trina had never bought any drink so close to her new home, afraid that somebody could find out.

What could it hurt to try?

***

Over the commotion of the scene, it was hard for Jim to concentrate enough to find the single heartbeat he was frantically searching for. He was half listening to Rafe who informed him that Blair was going to meet McDougall, and had requested back-up.

All the while he had his cell turned off during his conversation with Trina. Damn, he shouldn't have done that.

"I'm sorry, Jim," Rafe said. "I got here within a couple of minutes, but I couldn't do anything. Maybe they'd even timed it that way..."

Jim tuned his voice out, along everything else, as he strode closer to that half-collapsed building, pushing away the cold hands of guilt. That was no help now.

He reached out further until he could hear the sounds of small animals shuffling under the concrete, and further still...

***

"Come on, Jim, I know you can hear me." Of course, it could have been a hallucination or wishful thinking, but Blair just felt that it was true. Simon had surely been trying to reach Jim himself, and as soon as he knew what was going on, he would have rushed to the scene.

He wasn't injured except for a shallow gash on his cheek, but McDougall had been unconscious for a while, and Blair was worried that this part of the building, even though it had withstood the explosion, wouldn't hold for much longer. All means of escape had been shut off - walls on two sides, piles of concrete slabs on the other. They'd have to wait until rescue personnel got them out.

"And, man, you know what? I really want to go home. Now."

***

They'd found the Jester card before the three men sent after McDougall were rescued from the building, found in the destroyed part of the building. One of them had been critically injured in the blast.

McDougall had been loaded into another ambulance, still alive, but his condition was also critical, due to a gunshot wound he'd taken to the chest.

Blair seemed okay, if a little pale, and Jim breathed a sigh of relief as he pulled him close, uncaring of anyone watching. "You're bleeding," he said, almost surprised at the emotion leaking through his voice. Even though he could tell it wasn't anything serious, some of the tension hadn't left him yet.

Until the next moment, when the remaining half of the warehouse dissolved into a formless pile of rubble with a loud and sickening noise.

***

After a quick shower in the locker room, Blair had returned to Simon's office where they'd put together the information gained on this day - bottom line - the Jester had to know that somebody was after him, playing cat and mouse with his pursuers. But which side had been responsible for the explosion?

It had been an endless day for all of them. He noticed that Megan was looking at her watch at increasingly shorter intervals, and Rafe seemed unnerved, as if anybody would make him responsible for not getting to the scene in time to prevent the explosion.

Jim... well, he seemed to have other things on his mind, had been tense ever since they'd come back. No wonder. Blair hadn't yet fully realized that he'd almost been inside when the warehouse collapsed completely, and truth be told, he didn't want to think about it too hard.

Everybody in the room all but jumped from their chairs when Simon finally declared the meeting over, reminding them that he expected every one of them at eight o'clock sharp the next morning.

***

Since their fridge had been empty except for a six-pack, a lonely tomato and the remains of already suspicious looking cheese, as Jim had put it, they had to drop by the grocery store on the way first, but they'd made it home eventually.

It was that moment when the Jaguar pounced. So to speak.

All day, Blair thought he must have felt like Jim on a bad day, the world painted in gray - like being on the verge of a zone-out, or his senses overtaxed to the point of pain. The sensations were all back with the right intensity when Jim took his face in both hands, kissing him hard, and Blair found himself with his back against their front door - on the wrong side of it.

"Jim!" he gasped, "what if somebody comes?"

Jim gave him a breathy chuckle at that. "No one but you and me, Chief - I hope."

The need had been building in both of them, enhanced by the events of the day, and for a moment, Blair just relented to the pleasure Jim's touches gave him, to their messy kisses and his own want to touch everywhere his hands could reach. Being pinned between the door and Jim's body, he didn't have much room, and that was an even bigger turn-on.

The hallway was silent except for their breathing, to Blair anyway; he supposed Jim could hear all his blood rushing south, if he bothered to listen.

"Keys," he whispered, "In--" He sagged against the door with a moan as Jim managed to pull down his zipper and started caressing him intimately, his hand warm and sure. Somehow, he'd also managed to get the key out of Blair's jeans' pocket.

"Don't worry, babe." Jim sounded drunk with lust, and it was exactly the tone that could make Blair come on the spot. Heaven.

"I'd hear if anybody's using the elevator."

"I'm so relieved," Blair forced out, when the wall holding him up suddenly disappeared, and it was only thanks to Jim's quick reaction that he was still standing on his feet, however wobbly.

Once inside and in privacy, finesse was definitely not a subject, and had long since given way to frantic kissing and getting at least enough clothes out of the way, so they could bring their bodies together in a reckless dance, touching where they needed it most.

The closed door once again a reliable support, Blair felt safe to lose himself in the sensations, the hard wood digging into his back, Jim's hands on his ass, pressing their bodies together, the rocking motion now slow and sensual.

"So good," he moaned when they had to break the kiss for the sake of breathing.

It couldn't have been more than a couple of minutes when he felt he couldn't stand it any longer, didn't really want it to end yet, but there was no chance. "I'm sorry, sorry, I--"

"It's okay. Come. Come for me, babe."

Somehow, they had ended up on the floor, all tangled together, and even at the height of his orgasm, Blair was happy to feel Jim shuddering against him, their timing almost perfect.

"Wow. What was that?" he asked bemusedly when his breathing had returned to normal, and he was taking in the sight of the two of them, still entwined, pants pooled around their ankles. "I've never done anything like that."

Jim looked at him with so much intensity, it sent a pleasant shiver down Blair's spine.

"I've never loved anyone like that," he said, and then they just stayed there for a moment longer in each other's embrace, no more words needed.

***

"How about we clean up a little, get the groceries and put them away, and go upstairs then?"

Blair looked at him quizzically, and Jim shrugged. "Okay - get the groceries, clean up a little and go upstairs. How about that?"

"Much better. And you get the groceries - no need for both of us getting dressed."

A few moments later, Blair watched Jim moving around in the bedroom, turning on the CD player - but no Santana - and lighting a candle on the nightstand. After the rushed, if passionate intermezzo halfway in the hallway, this would be a treat, and he was already shivering with anticipation.

Finally Jim slipped off the jeans he'd hastily donned to get the groceries inside, barefoot, no shirt. Not encountering any neighbor, fortunately, because it wouldn't have been too easily explained.

They just lay together side by side for a moment, grateful the day had ended as it had and not any worse - and then moved into each other's embrace with a sync borne out of familiarity, sharing long, languid kisses. "Seems like you still haven't got enough of me," Blair smiled as he settled onto his stomach, aware of the smugness in his voice as he waited for Jim's answer.

"God, I love you," Jim whispered against his neck, the feel of his warm breath sending a shiver of anticipation down Blair's spine. "I could never get enough of you." Hands traveling over his body in tantalizing caresses, making his skin prickle. Oh yes, Jim knew how to do this, the use of his senses only an additional thrill. Thinking about it always made Blair feel special, because it was understood that Jim had never opened them that much before, with any other partner.

Blair felt as if his own sense of touch had been enhanced as well. As he cooled his burning face against the soft fabric of the pillow, it was as if he could feel each individual fiber against his skin - and all along the length of his body that Jim was torturing so masterfully.

He'd always take his time, safety first, and never before had anyone's gentleness and caring felt so much like this sweet torment, making him dizzy with lust.

It would have been so good, to move just a little against the sheets, just a bit of relief to take the edge off, but Jim would have none of that, bluntly using his strength to hold Blair in place. Sometimes, this was an incredible turn-on. And torture at the same time, but it was, oh, so good.

He could have cried with relief when Jim finally deemed him ready and settled between his legs, gently and slowly pressing forward.

The slow sensual slide of their bodies against one another, their fingers entwined, they made love. As far as Blair was concerned, it could have lasted for an eternity, and of course Jim was able to dial down to a certain extent - but eventually, the need for relief became too strong. He shuddered with pleasure as Jim began to move faster, his hand trailing down, fingers curling around Blair's cock finally.

"It's all right, babe. I've got you."

And even those words felt like a caress to his over-stimulated body; it was too much, and to let go was all he could do.

sleepingJB.jpg.jpg (38679 bytes)

***

Time flies, they say. Blair certainly had no idea where it had gone during their passionate lovemaking that evening - they had slept a little, and he still felt kind of awed that the sound of his heartbeat could always lure Jim into a deep restful sleep. Resting his head on Blair's chest, even the Sentinel within could let his guard down some, and Blair himself had let himself slide into the land of dreams.

When they had finally gone back into the kitchen, it was quarter to midnight. He was cutting a few vegetables - tomatoes, paprika, cucumbers, to quickly throw together a salad, as Jim stepped behind him, wrapping his arms around Blair.

"Hey," he said, and Blair had to smile at the warm sated tone of his voice, still clearly audible.

"Don't do that. We'll never get that late-night snack."

"Do I care? Hmm, you smell good." Jim inhaled deeply, burying his nose in Blair's freshly washed hair. The shower had been needed.

"Uh-huh. You know, that really was some instinctive Sentinel behavior today. I could think of some tests there..."

The arms around him tightened, and Blair could clearly feel the tension grow in Jim's body as he no doubt recalled today's events. "I almost lost you. God, I'm so tired of this shit."

"But you didn't. We just haven't figured it out yet - it doesn't make sense. Why would that guy come after me? Every creep on the street wants the Jester, and Sneaks says that Lazar paid for the hit."

The moment he said it, the knife slipped just a tiny bit, nicking his skin, and in an instant, Blair was spiraled into another vision, running, fast, breathing hard as he ran after someone. A woman. He was gaining on her steadily, knowing he'd get her eventually. The urge to kill wasn't strong; she was just a pawn, but she couldn't get away.

He wouldn't let her.

A moment later, she stumbled with a pained outcry, dragging herself up, but it was too late.

He drew the knife.

She was looking up at him with naked fear in her eyes.

Trina Rafe.

***

 

PART THREE

INDEX

HOME