By Lyn & Annie
Cover by Ankaree
Art by Romanse, Annie, Lyn
It had been a brutal few weeks, Jim thought as he wearily followed his exhausted partner into the apartment. Hanging his jacket up on the coat hook, he held out his hand for Blair's and hung it alongside his own. If he'd left it to Blair, it would probably have ended on the floor on top of his backpack.
Blair loped into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator, slouching against the door and blinking dazedly at the contents inside. "Beer?" he asked, "or water?"
Jim thought for a moment. He must be tired if it took that much mental power to decide. "Beer," he finally said.
Blair emerged with two beers in hand, twisted off the caps and handed one to Jim. He took a long swallow of his own and wiped the froth from his mouth with his shirtsleeve. "Bad day."
"Bad week… bad month," Jim commiserated. He took Blair's hand and led him over to the couch, pushed him down onto the cushions then sat beside him. He drained half his beer in one gulp, then set it on the coffee table in front of him. "You wanted to discuss the latest homicide?"
He really wasn't up to it himself. The last thing he wanted to do right now was talk about the two young boys who'd been discovered in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, sexually abused, tortured, their broken, dead bodies cast aside when the sick fuck who'd kidnapped them got tired of his games. He knew though that the crimes were playing on Blair's mind, knew Blair had slept even less than he had for the last couple of weeks, had felt him tossing and turning, heard the disjointed muttering, woken him from a nightmare or three. There had been no visions to aid them this time, just the awful specter of bloody, brutalized bodies and the absolute hopelessness of knowing they had no clues, no comfort to offer the grieving families, and the dread certainty that he'd strike again.
Blair put his own bottle on the table and turned into Jim's ready embrace, resting his head on Jim's chest and twining their hands together. He stroked his free hand along Jim's chest. "Do you mind?"
"I don't mind."
"It's gonna be more me thinking out loud than anything. I don't have anything solid to go on."
Jim kissed the top of Blair's head. "Go for it. Do your profiling thing."
"Not much of a profile," Blair said around a yawn. "Okay. We have two dead teenagers. All were runaways, all living on the street, working as rentboys, definite drug use by one of them. All died from massive blood loss from being raped with a blunt instrument of some kind." He stopped then and Jim waited a moment then nudged him.
"We don't have to do this now," he said.
"No, I need to. Just… just give me a minute." Blair's voice was muffled as he pressed his face against Jim's shirt and took a couple of slow, deep breaths. After a moment, he straightened slightly. "Okay. The first boy had been missing for two days, the second, a week but Dan says neither of them had been dead for longer than twelve or so hours when they were found."
Jim thought about that. "He's keeping them somewhere."
"Yeah, but where?" Blair sat up and stared at Jim. "He's torturing them, sticking objects up their asses and nobody hears anything?"
"We know they both had large amounts of sedatives in their bloodstreams. And if he's taking them somewhere deserted, a warehouse, maybe, like Lash -"
Blair went visibly pale at the mention of the serial killer's name. He thumped Jim's chest lightly. "Let's not go there."
"Sorry." He stretched and yawned. "Look, we're both beat and we're just going in circles here. How about we get some sleep and talk about it tomorrow?"
"We're going to interview those registered sex offenders tomorrow, right?" Blair held out a hand as Jim stood and allowed his lover to pull him to his feet.
"Yeah." Jim turned Blair toward the stairs and gave him a push to get him moving. "Never top of my wish list, talking to those slimes."
"You never know, we might get a break."
Upstairs, Jim pushed Blair back to lie against the pillows, smiling as his lover sprawled out bonelessly. Reaching down, Jim quickly stripped Blair's clothes from his body then undressed himself.
Pulling open the bedside drawer, he found a small bottle of lightly scented massage oil and poured a small amount into his hands, sneezing then quickly dialing down his sense of smell at Blair's whispered command. He urged Blair over onto his stomach and, climbing onto the bed, began to stroke his broad hands across the tense muscles of the other man’s back. He allowed his fingers to knead gently at the nape of Blair’s neck, not being able to resist leaning in to deposit a soft kiss there. He took his attention lower, stroking firmly across the small of Blair’s back and down over each firm, muscled ass cheek, then along the length of each leg, before gently fondling the ball of each foot.
Placing a hand on Blair’s hip, Jim encouraged the relaxed man to turn to his stomach and straddled Blair's body before pouring more oil into his hands and repeating the performance on Blair’s front. He couldn’t help noticing Blair’s erection hardening at the attention, despite his lover’s exhausted state.
Finally Blair spoke. "Thanks for letting me talk the case through. I know it's just as tough on you every time we get a call that there's another boy been found but I don't know I'll ever be able to shelve it away and deal with it later, like you do."
"It's not easy, Chief. I've had my share of nightmares lately too."
"I know. I didn't mean it to sound like you were an uncaring, heartless bastard -"
"You didn't," Jim assured him.
Blair smiled at him. "I love you."
"Ditto." Jim pushed Blair back and continued his ministrations, pausing only when a soft snore emanated from the lax body below him. He dialed up his sight. Blair was asleep, his eyes still framed with shadows of exhaustion but his brow finally free of the furrows of sadness that had haunted him for the past month. He looked at peace with himself and the world. He looked… beautiful, Jim decided. It was not a word he would normally attribute to a male lover, he knew, but in this case it was entirely appropriate.
Jim leaned forward and pressed a gentle kiss to Blair’s full lips. "Pleasant dreams tonight, Chief."
Jim awoke to something wet swiping down his foot, the sensation so delightful that it made his toes curl. As he stretched languorously, said toes were enveloped in a moist cavern and given a thorough tongue bath.
"Mm," he managed to get out. "Nice."
Blair's riotous curls appeared from the foot of the bed, a wide grin in place. "My thanks for last night," he said. He shimmied up Jim's body, his torso skimming along knees, thighs, cock and abdomen until he was face to face, then he bestowed a soft, lingering kiss on Jim's lips that made them tingle. "Good morning."
Jim fisted one hand gently into Blair's hair and pulled him back in for a more thorough mapping of his sweet-tasting mouth. "You've been up already," he noted, surprised. "You taste like toothpaste."
"Yeah, well, your senses are always spiking a little first thing in the morning," Blair said with a shrug. "My guess is you need a little time awake before you can manage control." He winked rakishly before sliding back down to devour a hard nipple. "Didn't you ever wonder why I'm such a morning sex person?" he asked around a mouthful.
Jim arched up into the sweet torture, his breath catching, sweat already breaking out on his brow as Blair's hand slipped down between their bodies and he scraped a fingernail along Jim’s already weeping erection. "Didn't want to ask," he panted, pushing his hips up to get more contact with the maddening hand. "You might have thought I was complaining and stopped."
Blair released Jim's nipple with a satisfied slurp and slid further down his lover's taut body, the hair on his chest igniting fire in Jim's groin as it scraped against Jim's hypersensitive skin. A hot tongue teased up his erection, tearing a moan from his throat.
Blair's head appeared once more from below his belly. "I take it you don't want me to stop?"
"You do and I swear I'll kill you, Sandburg."
Blair shrugged before descending on Jim's balls like a starving man. "Just checking," he mumbled.
Jim felt him push against the backs of his thighs and lifted his legs readily, bringing his knees up toward his head and holding himself open to Blair's loving. The first swipe of wet tongue over his pucker had him bucking into the air, his breath gone.
Blair's hands clamped down on his hips. "Dial it down, man. Just a fraction. I want you to come in me."
The words themselves were almost enough to make him erupt but Jim gritted his teeth and managed with short panting breaths to pull his sense of touch back. He waited, suddenly feeling foolish as he lay with his ass in the air, his hole suddenly chilled from the cool air drifting across the wetness of Blair's saliva.
"Very nice," Blair whispered. He looked at Jim and once again, a wide grin lit up his face. It was something that Jim knew he would never tire of seeing - Blair happy.
Blair leaned in again and began to ghost across Jim's ass with feather-light touches of his tongue, and just when Jim thought he’d explode, he stopped, reaching up to fist Jim's erection with slow, firm strokes. "Want to give you a little bit of everything today, Jim," he said.
Lowering his head once more, the ends of his hair brushed enticingly over Jim's balls as he went down on Jim and began to suck his cock voraciously. His tongue made a slow journey up one side then his teeth took over, raking down until they reached Jim's sac. He continued to suck Jim for long minutes, bringing him to the brink of orgasm, pulling his mouth away at just the right moment, leaving Jim gasping like a grounded fish. Jim’s balls and cock ached and he was sure he was going to explode.
"Okay, no more teasing," Blair replied, a note of reluctance evident in his voice. He leaned sideways to open the drawer of the bedside stand and took a condom from the drawer. Tearing the package, he rolled the rubber over Jim's cock and bestowed a soft kiss to the head of the sheathed penis before grasping Jim's shoulders and rolling them both so that now he lay on his back on the bed with Jim hovering over him. He lifted his legs and placed his feet over Jim's shoulders.
"When did you get so strong?" Jim growled, rubbing his hands appreciatively over Blair's firmly muscled arms.
Blair shrugged. "Bill Ryan showed me a few things in the gym," he answered laconically. As Jim's hands tightened possessively on him, he smiled. "Easy, big guy. Bill's got to be like a hundred years old, man."
Jim leaned in and nuzzled at Blair's throat. "You like old men, Sandburg," he said. "You like me."
"Oh yeah, that's right, I do. Maybe I'll give old Bill a phone call, see what he's doing on the weekend." He collapsed in laughter as Jim nipped his neck lightly and trailed a tickling finger along his ribs. Blair sobered after a moment and looked up at Jim seriously. "I love you, Jim."
"I love you, Chief." Jim found the lube and slicked his fingers then pushed one inside his lover. Blair arched up at the pleasant, familiar sensation, then as Jim pushed further inward, rubbing against Blair’s prostate, he urged himself back onto Jim's hand, pressing until Jim's palm lay flush against his ass cheeks. He began to move back and forth, fucking himself slowly at first but then with more vigor as Jim inserted a second then finally a third finger into his ass, scissoring and rotating them. This much preparation wasn't necessary anymore but Jim was determined to extend the foreplay for as long as he could, enjoying the relaxed lovemaking.
Jim wrapped a hand around Blair's erection at the same moment as he withdrew his fingers and replaced them with his cock. Pushing gently, he breached the still firm ring of muscle and immediately felt Blair's channel clutch at him, its hot velvet grasp pulling a moan from his throat.
"Now, Jim, now." Blair was already bearing down on him, then arching up into his stroking hand, his body slick and gleaming with sweat as he rode the shaft impaling him. Muttered approval spilled from his trembling lips as his body writhed.
Jim grasped Blair's ankles and moved them from his shoulders, pushing himself away slightly from Blair's body and changing the angle of his thrusts so that he stroked against Blair's prostate over and over. "That's it. Come for me," Jim urged as Blair cried out when a particularly hard thrust had him pushed up almost onto his shoulders, and still he bore down hard as though he was trying to get all of Jim inside him.
Feeling his orgasm surging up from his cock to obliterate all rational thought, Jim leaned in closer, needing to get as deep as he could. He stroked faster until with a strangled cry, he froze as his coming all but paralyzed him and he felt his semen gush into the condom. Distantly, he registered Blair's passage clenching spasmodically around his cock, and his lover came in a rush over his hand.
Jim pulled out and slumped to one side, his hands reaching instantly to draw Blair to him, enveloping the still shuddering young man in the warmth of his arms. He placed a soft kiss on Blair's brow before turning him in his arms so that they were spooned together, back to chest, cock to ass. Jim stroked a loving hand down Blair's back, soothing the heaving breaths, gentling Blair until he lay boneless, sprawled against him, eyes heavy once more with the bliss of completion.
Then the ringing of the phone broke the contented silence.
"Damn!" Jim was up immediately, grabbing the receiver from its cradle. "Ellison. Yes, Simon." He listened for a moment then spoke again. "Be there in a half hour." Hanging up the phone, he looked at Blair, the frown back on his face.
Blair sat up and reached for his robe. "Troy Cotton," he said.
"Yeah." Jim scrubbed a hand through his hair, enormously disappointed. "Hiker found his body. The ME's on his way."
Blair stood at Jim's side, desperately trying to avert his gaze from the examination being performed by Dan Wolfe. It was a part of police work he knew he'd never get used to. Even after all this time, the mere thought of accompanying Jim to the morgue set his stomach roiling. He had to get past it though. Jim had already scouted out the area where Troy Cotton's body had been found and had come up with nothing. Blair knew it was now his turn to perform the job he'd been trained to do, and he couldn't do that with his head and imagination concentrated on the horrific things that had been done to the young man before and after death.
"Hey, Dan," Jim greeted the Medical Examiner. "What have you got for us?"
Dan looked up from recording his findings in a small tape recorder. "Nothing new, I'm afraid, guys."
"Hey, Blair." He indicated a stool set just inside the doorway of the autopsy room and Blair took it with a grateful smile.
Even from here though, he could see the black sutures that closed the autopsy incision standing out starkly against the almost translucent skin of the body. Troy, he reminded himself. Poor kid's still got a name even if he's dead.
Dan was talking again, indicating marks on the boy's body to Jim, who stood next to the table. Blair pulled his attention back to the task at hand. "Same cause of death?" he asked.
"I'm afraid so," Dan said. "Massive loss of blood, caused by something - and I'm thinking a beer bottle - being inserted into the anus. Numerous signs of torture: cigarette burns, rope burns, whip marks on the back…" He sighed and shook his head, reaching out to run a gentle hand down the side of the boy's face. "I'm still waiting on the blood work up. I'll get it to you as soon as I can."
"Okay, thanks, Dan," Jim said. "Come on, Chief, let's check out the pedophile sheet."
"The victim's parents are here," Dan said. "I told them I'd be out to talk to them shortly."
Blair stood. "As much as I hate it, it wouldn't hurt for us to speak to them, Jim. Might give us something."
Jim nodded. "At least they're here. The first two victims' parents seemed relieved to have them gone."
"Some people just shouldn't be parents," Dan observed sadly. "Let Mr. and Mrs. Cotton know they'll be able to see Troy in about twenty minutes."
On the way to the waiting room, Blair stopped at the break room and poured coffee into two cups. He placed them on a tray and added a small jug of milk and a couple of sachets of sugar. Lifting the tray, he nodded to Jim. "I'm about as ready as I'll ever be. Lead the way."
"Mr. and Mrs. Cotton," Blair said as he entered the room, "I'm Detective Blair Sandburg and this is my partner, Jim Ellison." He waved them back into their seats when they stood. "First of all, I want to say how very sorry we are for your loss."
"You're sorry, are you?" Cotton stood anyway, shaking off his wife's hand. "If you're that sorry, how about you find the bastard that did this to our boy?"
Blair set the tray on the coffee table and grasped Mr. Cotton's shoulder. "That's why we're here. We need to talk to you about Troy. The more you can tell us about him, the better our chances for catching the murderer."
Cotton faced him down for a moment, then seemed to deflate and nodded. He sat back at his wife's side, pulling a handkerchief from his pocket and dabbing roughly at his eyes. "Troy was a good boy," he said, his voice quavering. "We brought him and his sister up right."
"I'm sure you did," Jim said. He poured the coffee and handed a cup to each of the parents, leaving the interview to Blair, knowing how much better Blair was at this, how he could draw out even the most uncommunicative person and have them talking a mile a minute in no time.
Blair sat at Mrs. Cotton's side and took her hand. "Tell me about Troy. What happened the night he disappeared."
"That's the thing," Mrs. Cotton said. She gave her husband a stricken look and he handed his handkerchief to her as tears began to course down her cheeks. "Nothing happened. Troy had a friend over for dinner. Fred offered to drive him home but he said he'd catch the bus. Troy walked him to the stop and never came home."
"What's his friend's name?" Jim asked.
"Daniel, Daniel Kelly, but the police already interviewed him. He said the last time he saw Troy, he was walking back toward home."
"That's okay," Blair said. "If we need to talk with him again, we will." He leaned forward. "Had Troy ever run away?"
"No!" Mr. Cotton stood and began to pace the small room. "No! I told you, he was a good boy."
"Sometimes, when kids are growing up, they want more than parents think they should have," Blair said. He smiled gently at Cotton. "I'm sure I gave my mom her share of grey hairs, thinking I was old enough to do things she knew I wasn't."
Mr. Cotton shook his head. "Sometimes I worried we were too close, Troy and I. That he wanted to spend too much time with me and not enough with his friends, but we never fought, not enough for him to want to leave."
Blair nodded. "Okay. That's fine. We just need to cover every base here. Did Troy ever go to nightclubs?"
Mrs. Cotton shook her head. "He wasn't old enough. Besides, he preferred his sport and his studies."
"Okay." Blair stood and shook the parents' hands. "Again, we're sorry for your loss. We'll stay in touch and let you know if there are any developments."
Mr. Cotton covered Blair's hand with both of his own, his cheeks once more wet with tears. "Just find the animal who did this. Promise me that."
Blair nodded gravely. "We will."
Blair slumped down in his desk chair and stared over at Jim. "What now?"
Jim turned on his computer and motioned for Blair to do the same. "Grunt work," he replied. "Let's check out the sex offenders list. See if we come up with anyone who rings a bell."
An hour later, Blair straightened in his seat. "Jim, I might have something."
Standing, Jim walked over and stood behind his partner, studying the computer screen. "What?"
Blair tapped a finger on the screen. "Michael James Williams. He has a sex offence record as long as your arm. Ten years ago, he was convicted of kidnapping a teenage boy and keeping him imprisoned for two days, raping him before dumping him on a deserted road. The victim had sedatives in his blood… Jim," he looked up at his partner, his eyes hopeful, "this could be our guy."
"Could," Jim said, not wanting to get Blair's hopes up that it could be this easy. "Where did he pick the kid up?"
Blair scrolled down the screen. "Kid was a runaway, raising cash selling drugs and pimping himself. Williams met him at Cinders. That's the same club the first two boys disappeared from!"
"Not Troy Cotton though," Jim said.
"But he's changed his M.O. already," Blair countered. He looked down at his notes. "If it's him, he was drugging and raping them, then releasing them. Now he's got bolder. He's keeping them for an increasing period of time and now he's killing them."
"Troy Cotton disappeared on the way back from the bus stop."
"Victim of opportunity," Blair said. "Jim, we have to check this guy out." He paused a moment and Jim could almost hear the cogs turning in his brain. "But we can't let him know we're onto him. It's Friday night. Let's head over to Cinders."
Jim quirked an eyebrow at Blair. "You sure. If he's changed his M. O. though…"
"Like I said, Troy might have just been in the wrong place at the wrong time," Blair explained. "That doesn't mean Williams won't frequent his old haunts to pick up more victims."
Jim straightened and pulled Blair's chair back. "Okay, Chief, you're the expert here. Cinders is a gay club, right?" At Blair's nod, he smiled. "Not as though we won't fit in."
The pounding music set up a resounding matching tattoo inside Jim's head almost from the moment they walked into the club. Strobing lights made it difficult for him to focus enough to see where he was going and he decided immediately that this had been a very bad idea. He turned to say just that to Sandburg but his partner grabbed his arm and led him over to a table in the corner where the light at least was less brilliant. Blair sat beside him and placed a hand on his arm, squeezing lightly.
"Dial it down a bit, Jim," he said right in Jim's ear. "Sorry, I didn't think… Maybe I should have brought H or Rafe with me. You want some water?"
Jim shook his head and waved away the offer. Even with his hearing lowered, just concentrating on their surroundings was taking more effort than he cared to admit. It was another twenty mind numbing minutes before they saw him.
"Williams," Blair said, indicating the middle-aged, balding man who was skirting the edge of the dancing crowd. Even from here, Jim could see the predatory gleam in the man's eyes. "Now what?" Blair's voice held an edge of… excitement, not nerves, Jim realized and that made him a little sad. He's one of us now. No longer on the outside looking in, trying to fit in and make like a cop. "Jim?" Blair shook his shoulder and he blinked, brought himself back to full focus with an effort.
"Sorry." Jim rubbed at an ear. "Damn music. Nothing we can do except watch him. We can hope he finds someone he likes, follow him, try to catch him in the act."
Blair looked discomfited by that and Jim realized that there was a part of the former Blair that no amount of police work would ever change. "I'm going to get a bottle of water," Blair said, standing and fidgeting in his pocket for change. "You sure you don't want a drink?"
"No." Jim's kept his gaze on Williams, watching as he worked the crowd of young men. The man's eyes were almost reptilian as he stalked his prey, pudgy hands reaching out from time to time to squeeze a tight, denim-clad ass, or to stroke across a thin, hairless chest. They had their murderer, of that Jim was certain, even without evidence, cop instincts were often right on the money, and it made him antsy waiting but he knew they had no choice. Jim wasn't going to take any chance of Williams walking free. He searched the crowded bar area for Blair and saw him talking to a young man near the dance floor. The two seemed deep in conversation but Jim couldn't risk dialing up his hearing to hear what they were saying. He looked back at the dance floor and realized Williams was gone. "Shit!"
He stood, making his way quickly over to his partner. "Blair…"
Blair looked up at him, his eyes over-bright, one hand resting on the young boy's arm. "Give me a minute." He turned his attention back to the boy. "All I'm saying is if the cops raid this place, you're gonna be spending a night or two in Juvie."
The boy gave Jim an overtly nasty glare. "So, you a cop?" he asked Blair.
"Yeah, Blair Sandburg."
"Sandburg!" Jim hissed. He grabbed Blair's arm and dragged him a little away. "You want to blow our cover?"
Blair had the grace to look ashamed. "Sorry, didn't think. I just got involved in trying to convince Billy to leave before Williams gets his claws into him." He turned back to Billy. "All I'm saying is you leave now and no one needs to know you were here."
Billy didn't even take time to think the proposition over. "I'm out of here. Place is full of perverts anyway." He turned and sauntered off in the direction of the exit.
Jim threw up his hands in exasperation. He knew Sandburg wore his heart on his sleeve, knew he was terrified that Billy would go the way of the other victims… Jim wondered if Blair would ever truly be able to harden himself to the realities of police work, even after all he'd seen and done.
"Hey, Billy!" a voice called from behind.
Glancing over his shoulder, Jim saw Williams headed their way with a glass of beer in each hand. "Shit!" he swore. Grabbing Blair's arm, he dragged his protesting partner back to their table. "What the hell are you doing?" he hissed. Williams was standing flat-footed by the dance floor, looking angry.
"The kid's not even legal, Jim," Blair said. "If Williams got a hold of him -"
"That's what we want!"
Blair stared at him open-mouthed for a moment then a look of utter guilt flitted over his face and he slumped. "Sorry," he muttered. "I still can't think like a cop. I screwed this right up."
Jim's ire disappeared immediately. He patted Blair's shoulder. "No, it's okay. You were worried about the boy, I understand that." He glanced at his watch. "We'll watch him for another hour then get H and Rafe to take over outside."
Blair nodded but kept his gaze on the table. Jim grasped his hand and sat, urging Blair to do the same. He kept his eyes on Williams but didn't release Blair's hand. He had to admit it was good to be able to be close like this, out in public, even if they were on duty.
A half hour later, a dejected looking Williams left the club. Jim and Blair followed him but he headed straight to his apartment building and disappeared inside.