Written by Travelin and Annie
Cover by Ankaree
Art by LilyK, Lyn, Romanse, Lisa
The syrup bottle fell with a dull thud to the floor. 'Thank goodness for plastic bottles,' Jim mused. Wiggling the fingers of his right hand, he bent over to pick up the wayward bottle from its location on the floor. He stood back up, walked over to the dining table and gently placed the elusive bottle down on it. His nose sensed that the pancakes cooking were ready to be turned, so he quickly returned to the kitchen and flipped over the hotcakes.
Smiling, he looked up to the bedroom. Blair had been through so much these past few months. He'd helped to fight the entity that had tried to force Jim to take his own life. On top of that, he'd had to cope with having visions while they were working on the Jester case. Now though, they had the weekend off to just be themselves. Not detectives or Sentinel and Guide; just to be Jim and Blair; nothing else mattered this weekend. Even their captain had been warned that if he called them in this weekend, hell had better be frozen over.
Looking back at the griddle, Jim grabbed a spatula to lift and remove the breakfast pancakes and transfer them from the hot pan to the waiting serving plate. Squeezing hard to in order to feel the handle in his hand, he slid the utensil under the waiting hotcake. A shiver of electricity seemed to flow from his knuckles to his elbow, as he did so. His sense of touch dialed too far up, he closed his eyes to regain control of the sudden spike in that sense. His dial was at nine so he slowly pulled it back to four. He took a deep breath, exhaled, opened his eyes and noticed that the pancake he had tried to remove from the griddle, now lay on the floor next to the spatula. 'This is just not my day', he thought. Again flexing his fingers, he bent over and picked up the spatula and the ruined pancake. He threw away the pancake and placed the spatula in the sink to be washed. Quickly grabbing another spatula from the drawer, he managed to remove the remaining hotcakes and placed them on the serving dish, without dropping any more. Then he turned the heat off under the griddle, moved the pan and placed the teakettle on the burner.
Jim walked over to the stairs, "Blair," he called. "Breakfast time, sleepy head." Jim climbed the steps two at a time to see drowsy blue eyes staring back at him from the bed.
"Mmm, smells good, Jim. Guess it's an eat first, shower later kind of day, huh?" Blair pushed the blankets off, swung his legs over the side of the bed and sat up on the edge.
Jim loved the smell of Blair when he first woke up. It meant home and sanctuary to him. He couldn't explain it; he only knew that he felt loved and wanted whenever the scent wafted into his senses. He sat down next to his still muzzy-looking lover, running his fingers through the curly hair.
"Yeah, the pancakes are hot now. You can shower after you eat or-"
"Um, Jim, you hoping for some action while the pancakes go cold?" Blair asked
Jim followed the pointing finger and saw that he'd forgotten to button his pants and the zipper had come partly undone when he'd sat down.
He stood up and fumbled with the button, cursing under his breath as his fingers all seemed to turn to thumbs and the previously simple action defeated him.
Blair reached over and did it up for him deftly.
"I could have managed that myself, Sandburg," Jim couldn't help snapping. "I've been doing up my own pants for years."
"I thought you liked me playing with your zipper," Blair said with a small smile, hurt shadowing his eyes briefly.
Jim grinned back, pushing his frustration away. He pulled Blair up into his arms and hugged him hard. "Only when you're undoing it, Chief. Come on, let's eat."
Blair hugged him back, just as hard.
The weekend seemed way too short for them. Soon it was Monday and they were back at the office. No sooner had they walked into the bullpen than they heard Simon Banks bellow, "Ellison, Sandburg! My office, now!"
"Man, what crawled under his skin? We just walked in and we were off this weekend, so it can't be something we did!" Blair asked in a stage whisper.
"Well, if we stay on this side of the door much longer, it will be for something we just did. Get a move on, Sandburg!" Ellison said as he placed his hand on his partner's back to encourage him to move forward.
Blair turned around and thumped Jim's arm lightly. "I was just joking around, man! No need to push! I'm moving, I'm moving!"
Catching up to his partner, Sandburg and Ellison entered the captain's office. "You roared, sir," Jim remarked a little sarcastically.
"Yes, Detective, I did. I hope you both had a good weekend because you are both now assigned to bodyguard-"
"Wait a second, sir," Jim interrupted. "I thought Blair and I were only going to be assigned high-profile cases from now on. Blair's a trained profiler as well as a detective and the deal we made with the Commissioner was that-"
"Jim, I need you cover the Regional Mayor's Association meeting. Normally, I wouldn't be asking you to do this but the Mayor has received some very disturbing threats. He is taking them seriously and therefore, so are we. I was hoping that perhaps there might be some aspects of the threats that might give Blair some sort of profile of who might be involved. The RMA will be at Cascade Marriott tomorrow at 10:00am. I need you two to go over to the hotel, review the convention center, meeting rooms, staff...you know the drill. Check it all out and then secure it for the meeting tomorrow. We don't want anything to happen except for the mayors in attendance to get a few soundbites and for Cascade to look like a nice, safe place to visit. Sandburg, these are the notes the Mayor's received. Look them over on the way. See if you can come up with anything, will you?"
"Sure, Simon, we can do that," Blair replied quickly. He understood Jim's objection but he could see why the Captain thought they were the right team for this job.
"Yeah." Ellison nodded. "Okay, we can do that. Once secured, we'll hang around to keep it that way," the experienced detective continued. "The only thing happening there will be all the hot air that will be released when the politicians start to talk!" He glanced at his partner and saw the support evident in the blue gaze. Blair always understood him, even when he didn't quite understand himself.
"Knew you would see it my way, Ellison." Simon looked at the two men, frowning slightly. "So, why are you still here?"
"Leaving now, Captain," Blair assured him quickly as he pushed his partner in front of him out of the office. Blair continued to encourage his partner's forward movement until they reached the elevators. "Hey, look at this way. We get to spend the night in a hotel at the expense of the department." Blair waggled his eyebrows at Jim.
Bending his head forward, smiling, Jim reflected, "Yeah, there is that, although a bed would have been nice too!"
"Details, man, details."
Blair waited till they were in the truck before broaching the subject that had been bothering him all weekend. "Jim, are you having a problem with your sense of touch?"
Jim cut a quick sideways glance at him. "What makes you ask that?"
"Well, you seemed to have a problem with the button on your pants, you seemed to have no idea that you were shoving me on the way into Simon's office, and you dropped two glasses yesterday, one after another-"
"Oh, come on, Chief. You've never dropped a glass?" Jim kept his eyes on the road but Blair could see his hands clench tightly around the steering wheel.
"Of course, I have. Look, I thought we were a partnership here, man. Not just at work or at home but on the Sentinel deal. You tell me if you're having problems with your senses and I do my best to find an answer," Blair said reasonably.
"Not everything is about my senses," Jim said calmly back.
"What does that mean?" Blair asked. "Hey, we've got plenty of time to get to the hotel. Pull over for a minute, okay? It's too difficult to talk about this while you're driving."
Jim sighed audibly but did as his partner suggested and stopped the truck at the curb a few hundred feet further down the road.
Blair turned slightly in his seat to face him. "What's going on?" he asked, the worry evident in his voice.
"My hands feel weird," Jim replied, taking the objects in question from the wheel and holding them out in front of him. He stared at them as if hoping he could somehow see through the skin, down into the very flesh of them and find the problem.
"Define weird. You mean like after Danny died?"
"No, this is different. I don't think it's got anything to do with my senses. I think it's purely a physical problem."
"Well, you need a to see a doctor about it then, man." Blair's concern had obviously ratcheted up a notch or two with Jim's answer.
"It's not that bad, Chief. Just some weird skin sensations, that's all." Jim smiled across at his partner. "And you say I'm a mother hen."
"What sort of sensations, Jim?" Blair pressed, concern in his eyes.
Jim shrugged nonchalantly. "You know, numbness, tingling - sort of like your fingers are stuck in an electrical socket, weakness at times-"
"Jim, as soon as we're through with this case, you're seeing a doctor." Blair cut his lover a determined look. "No arguments. Okay? Sentinel problems, I feel I've got some chance of solving, but if this was me having these problems, you know you'd have carted me off to the hospital as soon as you knew about it."
"We'll see. We better get moving, Chief."
"Yeah, all right, but consider this conversation postponed, not shelved, okay?" Blair said firmly.
Jim nodded and pulled back onto the roadway.
"Here we are, Chief. Ready for a fun filled day of security planning and profiling?" Jim asked with barely veiled sarcasm as the hotel's parking garage came into view. He drove into the parking structure then pulled into the first available space.
"Yeah, Jim, I am so ready to set this all up. How many days is this conference? I'm pumped, man." Blair played along with the Sentinel. 'Two can play this game, Ellison. We will talk about this later tonight. You need to let me in on what is happening with you,' he mused silently.
The two men exited the truck and entered the spacious lobby of the hotel. Marble floors reflected the lights from the crystal chandeliers overhead.
Ellison stopped in the middle of the impressive lobby. From the tilt of his head, Blair knew Jim was taking a sense inventory of the area. He unobtrusively placed his hand on the Sentinel's back.
A young woman approached the duo. Clearing her throat, she asked, "Do you gentlemen need any assistance?"
Blair turned his head to the woman but left his hand on Jim's back. Flashing his patented 100-megawatt grin, the young man replied, "Hey. No, we're here checking the place out... for security-"
"I think I must ask you to leave now before I call the police," she interrupted.
Just as she started to walk toward the registration desk, Blair called out to her.
"Whoa, hold on a minute. We're police."
She stopped and put her hands on her hips, with her left hip slightly pushed to the side, as if daring the young man to continue. She looked Blair over from the tip of his scuffed shoes to his layered shirts and loosely curled long hair and then stared straight into his eyes. "Really?" she said, her scepticism apparent.
Not willing to rile the hotel employee any further, his grin still firmly gracing his face, Blair nodded slowly. "Yes, really. I'm Detective Sandburg and this," he tapped Jim on the shoulder, causing the detective to turn and face the young woman, "is my partner, Detective Ellison." He pulled out his badge and showed it to the woman. "We've been assigned to check the hotel meeting rooms that will be used for the RMA Conference tomorrow. Could you point us in the direction of the hotel sales manager in charge of this event? I think the Mayor's expecting to meet with us at some stage too."
She extended her hand. "Hello. My name is Elizabeth Mueller. I'm the hotel sales manager running the RMA Conference."
"Mueller?" Blair asked as he took her hand. He shot a startled sideways glance at Jim as an image took shape in his head. He released her hand quickly and watched as she shook hands with Jim. "Oh my God, I remember you now. You're Danny's sister. You probably don't remember me. Danny and I were at Rainier together. I was so sorry to hear what happened. I wanted to go the funeral but I was in the hospital-"
"Yes, I think I remember Danny mentioning you, Detective Sandburg." Elizabeth looked at him, her dark eyes sad.
"Excuse us for a minute, would you, Ms. Mueller?" Blair said as he pulled his partner toward a large potted plant in the corner of the room.
With his back to the baffled woman, Jim asked, "What's going on, Chief?"
"She's hiding something, Jim. When she started to shake my hand, I got some kind of vision. She was cutting letters out of a newspaper and sticking them onto a page of paper." Blair looked at Jim, willing the Sentinel to take him seriously. "I think she's our perp. Listen, Danny Mueller drowned in the Bay Of Aberdeen flooding. There was a big outcry at the time that the mayor should have done more to help the victims. From what I remember Danny and Elizabeth were pretty close."
Jim nodded. "I'll take your word for it, Chief. These visions of yours haven't steered us wrong before. But let's be cool about it. We don't want to tip her off."
"Yeah, well, there's also the point that we need a bit more evidence than just the fact that I 'saw' something and that she's naturally pretty cut up over her brother's death. A lot of people were pretty pissed off with the mayor at the time it happened," Blair said. "I can't see that holding up in court. Okay, let's call in some back up and have this place thoroughly checked out, just in case. Then, let's have someone run a background check on her. That should - Jim, what is it?" Blair noticed the Sentinel tilt his head again.
"Her heartbeat just spiked. I think she's gonna run," Jim whispered to his partner. He walked back across to the woman, Blair following.
"Ms. Mueller, my partner and I would like to ask you a few questions. You seem a little nervous. Is something wrong?" Jim asked casually.
"Not at all, Detective. Why should something be wrong? I was just surprised by seeing someone Danny knew, that's all."
Jim glanced across at Blair. As he did so, Blair saw the woman lunge forward, her hands going out to shove hard against the Sentinel's chest. Jim stumbled, jolting against Blair and almost knocking him off his feet. As he grabbed for Jim's arm and regained his balance, Blair saw her spin and run from the foyer.
Jim immediately took off after her while Blair grabbed his cell phone. He requested backup as he chased after his partner.
He could not see either his partner or Mueller as he turned the corner where the other two had disappeared. He moved up against the wall and peered cautiously around it, listening for movement. Just as he was about to move, he felt something jab into his shoulder. He turned and saw Elizabeth Mueller, a gun held steadily in both hands.
He could hear sirens in the distance and puffed out a small, relieved breath.
"I just wanted them all to feel as bad as my family did when the Bay of Aberdeen flooded and we were forced to leave our homes. The mayor did nothing! No federal help, no FEMA, nothing. So, now, I just want these people to feel as scared and cold as we did. They deserve it. My brother drowned and nobody cared." Elizabeth was babbling her mitigation, as if she could make him understand. Suddenly, her eyes narrowed. "You don't care either," she spat out, and he watched with morbid fascination as her finger pulled back on the trigger.
"Freeze! Police officer! Drop your weapon!"
Blair flung a relieved glance over his shoulder and saw Jim raise his gun, taking bead on the woman. Suddenly, Jim's fingers fumbled and Blair watched with sickening dread as his partner's weapon fell and skidded across the floor. He stepped back and twisted desperately to one side, heard the report of a gun and then a burning pain flared up his forearm, the impact sending him crashing to the floor.
Blair rolled to his back and grasped his injured arm tightly against his chest. He saw Jim lunge forward, tackling the woman as she aimed the gun at Blair again.
They went down in a tangle of arms and legs and then, within minutes, Jim had the woman subdued, facedown on the ground, and was snapping the cuffs around her wrists.
Blair heard footsteps thundering towards them and he looked towards the door, seeing Banks lead several uniformed cops into the room.
Jim stood up and waited till one of the other cops pulled the woman to her feet, then he moved over to kneel at Blair's side. "You okay?" he asked, one hand already going out to cover Blair's where it pressed against his blood-soaked sleeve.
Blair nodded hesitantly. Truth be told, he felt sick and dizzy and the dampness he could feel beneath his fingers wasn't making him feel any better.
Jim's other hand rested gently on his forehead for a moment. "Just take it easy. We'll get you to the hospital."
Blair nodded again then managed a smile as Jim leaned toward him and said, "You must be hurt, Chief. You're not talking."
"I'm okay," Blair said.
"Yeah, you're gonna be fine," Jim replied but he kept his hand pressed against the wound on Blair's arm till the medics arrived.
"See you're still hanging around with the cops, Sandburg."
Blair rolled his head toward the voice. "Hey, Drew, I thought you'd left Cascade."
"I did, well, almost," replied the young man who walked up to his bedside. "I was almost out of town and someone persuaded me to stay. You know how it is."
Blair grinned up at the dark-haired young doctor then cast a quick glance over at Jim, who was sitting next to the gurney. "Yeah, I do," he replied softly. "Jim, this is an old friend of mine, Dr. Andrew Zaine. We met when Drew was in pre-med at Rainier."
Jim accepted the hand Drew offered and shook it. "Nice to meet you," he said. "You the doc on call?"
Zaine nodded as he began to remove the temporary dressings from Blair's arm. "That's me." He picked up a swab and dipped it in the antiseptic solution on the dressing tray and swabbed Blair's arm gently but thoroughly. "Doesn't look too bad," he murmured. "Probably hurts like hell, though."
"A bit," Blair murmured. He felt suddenly nauseous again. His arm hurt a lot more than he wanted to let on.
"Bullet?" Drew asked casually. He picked up a syringe from the tray "This'll sting a bit at first. It's just a local but the first one always does." He pushed the needle into Blair's arm, making him jump.
Jim grabbed Blair's shoulder. "Take it easy, buddy," he murmured. "Try to breathe through it. You know the drill. Big breath in-"
"Smartass," Blair jibed back, but he relaxed a little under Jim's hand. "Yeah, bullet," he said at last, answering the doctor's earlier question. "Just a graze though, right?"
"A bit more than a graze," Drew said as he finished infiltrating the wound and picked up the suture needle. "It's gonna take about six sutures to close. You feel that?" he touched the wound with the needle and when Blair shook his head, began stitching. "Looks like you need to learn to duck, Blair."
"I did," Blair replied, his eyes never leaving Jim's. "Jim, Drew's a pretty good surgeon. You should ask him about your hands."
"It's not the first time I've dropped my gun-"
"First time you've fumbled it," Blair replied. "Other times it's been knocked out of your hand. And there's the other symptoms as well. The pain, the numbness and tingling. Jim, come on, just let Drew check you out, all right? You said you were going to see a doctor anyway so... no time like the present."
"Dr. Zaine's probably busy-"
"I've got a break coming up as soon as I've finished stitching up Detective Macho here, so..." Drew smiled across at Jim. "I don't mind taking a look at you, Detective. I owe Blair a favor." He grinned down at Blair. "Remember all that research you did for me to help me pass my finals? I never did get a chance to pay you back."
"Okay," Jim said, his voice resigned. "Only for you, Chief, you know that, right?"
"Yeah, I know that," Blair said. He reached up and placed his free hand over Jim's and squeezed it gently. "Thanks, man."
"All right. That should hold you together, Blair. I'm gonna get the nurse to bring you in a tetanus shot, seeing yours is out of date, as well as some antibiotics and some Vicodin-" He held up a warning finger as Blair began to protest, "- which you will take, once the local wears off. Believe me, Blair, you'll be glad to. That's a pretty painful injury you've got there."
Blair nodded. "All right."
"Jesus, Doc," Jim said, smiling. "You should give lessons in that technique of yours. I'd sign up for it."
"You mean my course in how to get patients to do what's good for them?" Drew replied with an answering smile. "I got plenty of practice with Blair when we were undergrads. Come with me, Detective. I'll tell you a few stories while I look you over-"
Blair pushed himself up onto one elbow. "Don't you dare tell Jim the bull and the roses story, Drew," he yelled despairingly after their retreating backs.
"Carpal Tunnel Syndrome," Drew said succinctly, peeling off his gloves and tossing them in the trash can next to the desk.
"You're kidding?" Jim asked.
"We can do more tests to verify it but they're not really necessary. The lack of pinprick response and the pain over the base of your palm pretty much nails it."
"It can be fixed, right?" Jim asked. "It won't affect my ability to handle a weapon in the future?"
Drew shook his head. "Minor surgery. You could have it done at my clinic."
"I don't react very well to anesthetics," Jim said hesitantly.
"I can give you something called twilight anesthetic. You'll be barely asleep but you won't have any pain or memory of the procedure. There'll be some post-operative pain, of course, but that can be easily managed. And once it's healed, you can go back to work in a relatively short time."
Jim nodded. "Okay," he agreed. "I guess I'll do it then."
"Good. Call my clinic in the morning." Drew pulled a card from his shirt pocket and handed it to Jim. "My nurse will set up the appointment."
"Thanks." Jim stood and shook Drew's hand.
"You're welcome, Jim. Oh, and by the way, take care of Blair. I'd really hate to see him back here with any more bullet holes in him."
"I'll do my best," Jim replied with a smile. "But he tends to have a mind of his own about things like that."
"Yeah, he's pretty stubborn. Always has been. I'll see you soon, Jim."
"So, how did it go with Drew?" Blair asked as Jim pulled the car out of the hospital parking lot and turned it toward the loft.
"Carpal Tunnel Syndrome," Jim answered succinctly. "He said it can be fixed with surgery-" He put up a hand at Blair's expected interruption. "He said there's a light anesthetic he can use called twilight sleep."
"Yeah, I've heard of it." Blair nodded. "That might be okay for you, Jim. You are going to do it, right?"
Jim glanced across at him. "I told him I'd call his office and make the arrangements. Happy?"
"Not happy you have to have surgery but yeah, I am happy you're willing to get this done," Blair replied.
"Good. Let's just forget it till the time comes, Chief. I'm beat. How's the arm?" Jim asked, a tinge of concern in his voice.
"Still numb, pretty much," Blair replied, flexing it experimentally.
"How about we call past Manny's and pick up a couple of servings of lasagne and garlic bread? You can't take the pain meds on an empty stomach."
"And Chianti?" Blair asked mock-hopefully.
"For lunch?" Jim shook his head. "Besides, you're loopy enough on painkillers as it is, Chief," Jim replied, giving him a quick grin. "No booze for you today."
By the time they arrived back at the loft, Blair's arm was beginning to throb. He sank down on the couch and watched Jim set the lasagne on the counter and then serve it up on to plates. He smiled as he saw his lover cut his portion up in deference to his injured arm then moved over to the dining table and sat in his usual chair.
"Starting to hurt, huh?" Jim asked as he put Blair's plate in front of him and sat down opposite him.
Blair shrugged. "A bit," he admitted.
Jim pulled the bottle of pills out of his shirt pocket and cursed as it dropped from his fingers and rattled down onto the tabletop. He gave Blair a rueful smile. "Guess we're both semi-wingless at the moment, Chief."
"Temporary conditions," Blair murmured around a mouthful of food. "Could have been worse." He swallowed then put his fork down. "She'll get psychiatric help, right?" he asked.
"The woman at the hotel? Yeah, probably. So " Jim put down his own fork and looked at Blair, a speculative gleam in his eyes. "This guy Drew? Just how well did you know him? He's gay, right."
"Yeah, he is but I didn't 'know' him that way," Blair replied, his fingers marking quotes around the word. "I knew him from going to a few clubs and running into him there. I guess I was questioning my sexuality at the time, like a lot of sixteen year olds." He scooped up another forkful of lasagne and chewed it thoughtfully. "Drew understood what I was going through. He told me that just because I found the odd guy or two attractive, that didn't make me gay. That, as an anthropologist, I should know that most humans appreciate physical attractiveness and that I should wait until I met someone and fell in love with them before I decided if I was het or gay or bi, for that matter."
"Wise man," Jim said. He tossed a slice of garlic bread onto Blair's plate and took one for himself, biting into it with obvious appreciation. "You seemed surprised to see him," he added after a moment.
Blair nodded. "I was. I haven't seen him in a couple of years, at least. We all assumed he'd done what he said he was going to do last time I saw him and left Cascade. None of us liked his lover much. He was pretty controlling. Guess that's why I haven't seen much of him, now that I come to think of it, if Drew stayed here because of Ray."
"Ray's his lover?" Jim asked. He finished his lasagne and picked up his plate and Blair's, carrying them over to the sink then went back and sat back down.
"Yeah, Ray Ashley. He's a pharmacist. Quite a bit older than Drew. We could never understand what Drew saw in him," Blair said.
"I'm quite a bit older than you," Jim said with a smile.
"Yeah, but you don't cut me off from my friends and family and come and haul me home from parties because you think I should be studying and spending time with you."
"Drew went along with that stuff?" Jim shrugged then stood and walked over to the sofa, sitting down and then beckoning Blair to join him. He pulled his lover down to rest across his lap and began to stroke gently through his hair. "Can't see that working with you, anyway. You'd just tell me to get fucked.""Only if I was the one doing it," Blair said, closing his eyes and relaxing into the pleasure of Jim's fingers against his scalp. "It was weird though. Before he met Ray, Drew had always been a take-charge kind of guy. Suddenly, he cut us all off. We never got invited over to their place and he turned down all our invitations, even though we told him Ray was welcome too."
"No physical abuse though?" Jim asked.
Blair shook his head. "No signs that I ever saw. We all just figured that Drew just preferred to be with Ray but then we saw him at a bar where we all used to hang out one night. Man, he was wasted. That wasn't like Drew. He told us he'd had enough of Ray trying to control his life and that he was leaving Cascade and going back to Oklahoma. He'd finish his studies there. That was the last time I saw or heard of him. I just figured he'd done what he said he was going to do."
"Guess Ray found a way to change his mind." Jim leaned down and kissed Blair's mouth. "Just like I did yours."
Blair kissed him back. "Yeah," he said as they broke apart. "Maybe the thought of losing Drew made Ray change. It happens."
Jim nodded agreement. "You changed me," he said softly.
"I know. Just like you changed me." Blair reached up with his uninjured arm and wrapped it behind Jim's neck, pulling his head down again. "Thank you," he whispered as their lips met. "Bed?"
Jim nodded. "Bed," he agreed.
Jim groaned in frustration and pulled away from Blair, moving to sit on the edge of the bed. He shook his hands over and over. "I hate this," he said, clenching and unclenching his fingers. "This is the worst part of this damn thing for me."
"What is?" Blair was kneeling behind him now, his chest warm against Jim's back.
Jim tilted his head back against Blair's welcoming shoulder and closed his eyes. "I can't feel you anymore," he whispered. "I miss that. It's like having a second layer of skin on my fingertips, and no matter how high I dial my sense of touch, it's not the same. I still can't feel you like I used to."
He felt Blair's arm snake around his shoulders, his palms stroking over his chest, bringing his nipples to peaks.
Blair's tongue lapped gently at his earlobe. "Can you feel me now?" he murmured, his breath hot and sweet against Jim's ear.
Jim turned his head and kissed his mouth and let Blair pull him back down to the mattress. "Yes, I can feel you now," he said softly. "I love you."
Blair made love to him gently with hands and mouth, keeping their bodies in sensuous contact.
Jim moaned in pleasure as Blair took his cock into his mouth and caressed his center with loving fingers.
He opened his eyes when he felt Blair pull away, and watched him smooth lube over his hard shaft. He opened his legs wide in invitation. "I want you," he whispered.
Blair bent forward and kissed his mouth and then his eyelids. "I want you too," he murmured, sliding into Jim smoothly and carefully.
Jim lifted his hips to meet his thrusts, their union slow and rhythmic till Blair's passion escalated and his movements grew more frantic, his cock brushing over Jim's sweet spot again and again till they were both gasping for breath.
"Blair!" Jim cried out as he felt his cock grasped and stroked and then he was coming, feeling Blair's warm seed spilling inside him as they reached completion.
They lay twined together for the rest of the night, Jim's hands stroking up and down Blair's back, hoping that this would be the last night he'd have to dial up his senses just to feel his lover's skin against his fingertips.
As the morning sun shone in through the skylight, Blair moved next to him, snuggling close, his head pillowed on Jim's shoulder. "It's going to be okay, you know," he said softly, clasping one of Jim's hands in his own.
Jim nodded and closed his eyes, suddenly tired, feeling able to sleep now. "It'll be fine. Go to sleep."
"We have to be up in a couple of hours," Blair said around a yawn.
Jim rolled them so he could spoon up behind him and pulled him close, resting his head on Blair's, scenting him, wanting to keep the memory of this night with him forever. "Ssh," he murmured. "Go to sleep, babe."
Jim paced restlessly around the kitchen as he waited for Blair to come out of the bathroom. He was so used to his routine - shower, coffee, and breakfast - that he was at a loss how to fill in his time when he knew he couldn't eat or drink anything till after the surgery. His stomach rumbled, giving him a sense reminder of the fact that it was used to being fed right about now. Grumbling under his breath at the unfairness of it all, he turned back to the coffeemaker and switched it on, then walked to the fridge and pulled out milk and juice for Blair. As the coffee percolated, he filled a bowl to the brim with cereal for Blair and set two slices of bread ready in the toaster.
Blair wandered out of the bathroom moments later, fully dressed, towelling his wet hair vigorously.
Jim placed the bowl on the table, set down a mug of steaming coffee in front of it then turned back to the toaster and pushed the bread down into it.
"What are you doing?" Blair asked.
"Making you breakfast," Jim replied casually.
Blair shook his head and turned back to the bathroom, returning seconds later without the towel, combing his fingers through his unruly curls. "I can grab something later," he said.
"Sit down and eat your breakfast, Sandburg," Jim said gruffly.
"I'm really not that hungry," Blair replied then grimaced as his stomach growled noisily.
"Liar," Jim retorted, sighing as his own belly echoed Blair's as if in sympathy.
"Jim, it's fine. I'll get something after I drop you off at the clinic."
"Sit down." Jim walked across and planted a firm kiss on Blair's forehead. "Come on, Chief. I just spent the best part of a half-hour slaving over a hot stove and you're not going to eat it?"
Blair laughed and pushed him away, then walked across and sat down at the table. "It's cereal and toast, man. Not too much slaving went into the preparation of this."
Jim snagged the toast from the toaster and put it on a plate, grabbed the butter from the fridge and placed both on the table in front of Blair. He sat opposite and motioned Blair to pick up the spoon. "Slaves are so under-appreciated these days," he said in a mock-mournful tone. "You were expecting bacon and eggs, maybe?"
Blair grinned as he began to eat. "It would have been nice."
"But, Jim, what about all that fat? Might as well just inject it straight into your veins," Jim shot back, giving a particularly good imitation of a Sandburgian diet lecture.
Blair snorted and grabbed for a napkin, mopping his mouth and chin. "Spew alert, Jim. God, you sounded so much like me just then, it was positively scary."
Jim stood up and headed upstairs to the bedroom. "I'm gonna go make sure I've got everything I need. Eat your breakfast, smartass."
Blair waited till Jim was upstairs, then he picked up the bowl and plate and tiptoed into the kitchen, scraping the food into the trashcan beneath the sink. He rinsed the dishes then went back and gulped down his coffee, feeling faintly guilty at his deception. By the time Jim came down, overnight bag in hand, he was sitting on the couch watching the morning news on TV.
"There could be ice cream in your future," Blair remarked casually, giving Jim a quick grin.
"Yep, double chocolate chip with hot fudge sauce."
"Ice cream's for when you have your tonsils out," Jim replied, his hands tapping out a nervous tattoo in accompaniment to the radio.
"Oh, no, no, no, man." Blair reached over and shut off the stereo then started up the truck, leaving it idling as he turned in his seat to face Jim. "When I was a kid, Naomi would take me for ice cream for every bad thing I had to face."
"Oh, you know, dentist, doctor's appointments, exams. I don't know how I didn't end up looking like Fat Albert." Blair smiled at the memory.
"I thought Naomi was into health foods."
"Oh, she is, but she was also heavily into comfort food. And ice cream was definitely a luxury, comfort food saved only for the occasions when I needed a boost to my spirits or a balm to my body," Blair said.
"I've never really thought of ice cream as a luxury item," Jim observed, intrigued by this little foray into Blair's past. "We had ice cream almost every night for dessert when I was a kid."
"See, that's why it wouldn't have worked for you as a comfort food back then, man. It was a staple, but for me " Blair stopped.
"Tell me about it," Jim said, encouraging him to continue. "It'll keep me from thinking about the surgery."
Blair turned back around and put the truck in gear, pulling out of the parking space onto the street. "Okay. Diversional therapy. I can do that. We didn't have a lot of money, as you know, when I was a kid. Naomi worked seven days from Sunday just to keep a roof over our heads, but she always somehow managed to find a little extra for a treat just when I needed it. Like I said, doctor and dentist appointments, tests at school, even when she got called in for a meeting at school because I was in trouble-"
"You got in trouble at school?" Jim shook his head. "I don't believe it. What for?"
"I wasn't always the saintly person you see before you, Jim. In kindergarten, I was a rebel. Wouldn't color between the lines, swung on the swings when I should have been taking my turn on the slide-"
"Mister Independence even then."
"You better believe it. Anyway, Naomi, Mother Earth herself, who refused to allow her only child to go out trick or treating for fear he might eat a candy or three, became the Goddess of Bounteousness when I needed comforting." Blair laughed. "Then it was chocolate milkshakes and fudge sundaes with extra sprinkles. It was cool, you know, because it really was a treat. Something I only got when she thought I really needed the lift."
"That's nice," Jim said. "So, you're gonna take me out for ice cream when all this is over."
Blair pulled into the parking lot of the hospital and found a space. He turned off the ignition then leaned across and planted a kiss that spoke of promises on Jim's lips. "When all this is over," he said as he pulled away, leaving his hands cupped around Jim's face, "I'm going to buy your favorite flavor in the biggest tub I can find and we're going to eat in. Just you and me and Ben and Jerry's. Sound good?"
Jim nodded, his eyes burning with emotion. "Sounds like comfort food to me," he whispered.
"So, you ready?" Blair looked across to where Jim sat hunched forward in the waiting room chair, his hands fisted tightly on his knees.
"Yeah, I'll be fine. Don't be late picking me up. I'm already hungry," Jim replied, giving him a faintly nervous grin.
"You've missed one meal." Blair shook his head in mock- exasperation. "I'll be here at 5." Blair stood up as a nurse came to the door and called Jim's name.
Jim followed suit then leaned across and kissed Blair's cheek. "See you soon, Chief. Stay out of trouble."
"Moi? Of course." Blair waited till they'd left the room then made his way out to the car.
Jim went semi-patiently through the normal routines of being admitted. He was weighed, had his blood pressure, pulse and temperature taken, peed in the requisite cup and had blood drawn. Then he was sent to sit in a waiting room, clothed in a draughty green gown that reached only to his knees and left his backside mercilessly exposed to the air every time he moved. They'd given him some paper slippers for his feet and a hat that he'd steadfastly vowed not to put on till the very last minute.
He picked up a magazine and flipped through it then threw it down on the table next to him when he realized he'd read the same page twice and had no idea what it was about. A television droned on the far wall and he watched it for a while, wondering vaguely if all waiting rooms across the world were showing the same cooking show at the very same moment. A large, cheerful guy in an oversized apron that looked eerily similar to the one Jim had at home, was making a beef bourguignon. Jim gave momentary thought to writing the recipe down, then realized he had no pen and paper and just watched instead. The chef was at the 'and here's one we prepared earlier' stage when Jim's name was called and he stood and shuffled apprehensively behind the nurse into the operating room.
"Hey, Jim, how you doing?"
Jim looked up into a pair of friendly eyes and recognized Blair's friend. "Okay. How are you?"
"Great. Jim, the anesthetist, Dr. Mallory, is going to start an IV in your arm and then inject a drug. You'll be in a very light state of unconsciousness. The operation will be over before you know it. You'll wake up in the recovery room and we'll give you some pain relief and keep an eye on you for a while. You should be fine to go home by 5 PM."
Jim nodded, wincing as he felt a needle slide into the vein on the back of his hand.
"Okay, Jim," the anesthetist said soothingly. "The IV's in. I'm going to inject the drug slowly. Tell me when you're starting to feel drowsy and I'll inject the rest a little more quickly, all right?"
"All right." Jim waited, feeling the hot/cold sensation of something sliding liquidly up his arm. Within moments, his head was spinning and he held up his free hand. "I feel really looped," he said, his voice slurring lazily in his ears.
"Good, that's good, Jim. Going to put you to sleep now."
Jim thought he nodded, but everything was morphing dizzily around him and he closed his eyes and went with it.
"So, Hairboy, how was Jim when you dropped him off this morning?" H asked as he paid the donut girl for his blueberry Danish.
Blair waved off the querying glance from the donut girl. He felt guilty about tossing away the breakfast Jim had prepared but he knew he couldn't eat in front of Jim. Jim's enjoyment of food was hardwired into his heightened senses and it didn't seem fair to even eat cereal and toast in front of a starving man. He was too nervous anyway about the surgery to be hungry. He knew it was a minor operation but the guide in him still worried. He looked up at his fellow detective. "He was a little nervous but I think we all would be knowing someone was going to cut open their wrists."
H flinched at the thought. "Never thought of it that way. Seems rather gruesome to me, man. Better him than me, that's what I say! So, how quick will he be back to work?" H pointed at the desk already littered with file folders that were not there the day before.
"He'll be on desk duty of course but he could be back in less than a week with reduced hours. Then in about 6 weeks or so, providing everything's healing, he can go back into the field. Everyone recovers differently, H, so nothing is etched in stone," Blair concluded.
Blair sat at his desk while H continued. "That seems fast, even for desk duty. I mean, sliced wrists and all. Won't he be in a cast or something?"
Blair leaned back in his chair. He had researched Carpal Tunnel Syndrome thoroughly before Jim entered the hospital for his outpatient surgery. He wanted to know about any side effects or problems that could irritate the sentinel from the anesthesia to the post-operative care. "Jim's wrists will be bandaged heavily to keep him from bending them. His fingers and thumb will be free to move around though. It's important he does move them. Anyway, no cast. Then in a couple of days, we go back to see the doctor, my friend Drew that I told you about, and he'll probably put a light gauze around the wrists, as well as a splint around the hand and wrist to keep Jim from bending the wrists. Then, in a couple of weeks--"
Holding up his palm to stop Blair from speaking, H interrupted, "I get it, I get it. The answer is he'll be back on light desk duty in a couple of days. That's all you had to say, Sandburg!" Shaking his head as he walked away from the energetic profiler, he mumbled, "If I wanted a long answer, I would have contacted the Mayo Clinic. Should have known better to think I would get an abridged answer when talking to Sandburg, especially when it concerns Ellison!"
Blair shrugged his shoulders as he picked up and reviewed the various case folders on his and Jim's desk. Glancing at the clock, he knew he would not be seeing Jim for another five hours. He knew that Jim was in good hands but surgery was surgery. Complications happen all the time. He peeked up again at the clock. Only five minutes past noon.
Maybe I should go to the hospital. I could take some of these folders with me. I could read and wait-- Blair's mental conversation was halted when Simon called for him. --or maybe I could just go do whatever the Captain wants. Heck, Jim probably put him up to it just to keep my mind off his operation.
"Sandburg? I know you're out there. I hear you breathing. My office - now!" Banks bellowed.
"Yes, my Captain, you call and I, your faithful servant abide by your wishes," Blair replied rising from his chair. He walked over the Captain's door, knocked, and entered the room.
The water ebbed around him. He felt the gentle fingers of the sea wash around his floating body. The body he called his own, was not. He could not move, though he did not desire to stir, as the water flowing around him was so relaxing. He wanted to see where he was and why he felt so good. Try as he would, his eyes simply refused to open. Where was he -- should he know? Why did he feel so relaxed? Why -- The meandering thoughts were interrupted by what at first sounded like buzzing. Concentrate, he told himself.
"...need to push more. I'm telling you; those guys from the Rainer are already stacking. They're trying to avoid detection as it is! You're their doctor, they trust ....... You've been seeing them for their shoulder strains..... They see you as some kind of god for saving their season .... use of anti-inflammatories instead .... for surgery .... is healing time and which puts them back in action much quicker. If you can't get them to stop ..... you need to increase the dosage."
"You're right, I am their doctor. I can't just arbitrarily say ..... that the level I've been giving them is too low!"
Jim strained to stay focused on the conversation, but his drugged system was still urging him to sleep.
"No, you don't ..... you idiot. .... tell them that the higher level will enhance .... as their doctor, you can't ..... the school won't cover the additional expense. Then, point them my way. I'll take care of ....Hook them on a higher level ..... the profits. Just like taking candy from a baby!" the buzz proclaimed adamantly.
"Hey, keep it down. Don't want to wake my patient up!" the second buzz pleaded.
"Thought you had to give him more of the anesthetic than originally planned?"
"We did! Couldn't believe ..... coming out way too soon! Had only finished the first wrist .... moan. Mallory took care .... right away, but it was pretty freaky how fast he came out ..... Most people would still be out from the first dosage .... sedate him three times! I'm curious why he -"
"Enough already! He's quiet as a mouse over there. The monitors don't register.... hasn't heard a thing, okay? Relax. .... why I took you back. You can be such a waste of air sometimes."
"You don't mean that, Ray. ... love me. You need me, you ...."
"Yeah, right. I need you. .... to the cafeteria. I need some coffee."
"Be right with you. .... check his charts then I'll join you."
"Have it your way, I'm outta here."
He heard two sets of footfalls. One set becoming dimmer as they moved away, the other more prominent as they approached his location. Finally Jim could no longer resist the pull of sleep and drifted off.
Drew picked up the charts hanging from the bed. Flipping the pages, he made a couple of notes at the bottom and replaced the chart. Placing his hand on the reclined man's ankle, he whispered, "Looking good, Jim. Blair will be happy you came through this so well. You should be waking in a little while and be fully awake before Blair comes to pick you up in a couple of hours." That said, Dr. Andrew Zaine, left Jim Ellison's room.
'Hospital, surgery' repeated in the reclined man's head. The buzzing noise had left his space. It was quiet again except for the dull hum of machines near his head. Slowly, he came out of his stupor. I'm in a hospital, he thought. Carpal Tunnel, wrists, surgery, he remembered slowly. No longer did he feel like he was floating. The drug had almost fully left his system and he was regaining all his senses. He determined that his wrists were incredibly painful. Knowing his adverse reactions to pain relief, he concentrated as Blair had shown him and found the dials. Slowly, he inched his touch dial down until the pain was minimal but still present. He was ready for Blair to pick him up.
Jim Ellison convinced his eyes to finally open, much to the surprise of the person entering the room.
"Jim," Blair blurted, "they said you'd be out for another half hour or so! Should've known with your body that they would be wrong." Blair quickly strode over to his partner's bedside, putting his hand over Jim's heart. "So glad to see you, man, so very glad."
Jim attempted a smile; still, the remnant of the drugs caused the smile to appear more like a smirk.
"You want some ice chips? Bet that'll taste good to you right now!" Blair turned to the bedside table and put some ice from the container into the cup. Taking the ice cube within his hand, he offered the melting morsel to Jim.
Jim opened his mouth like a baby bird. His lips opened, his eyes closed, trusting the ice to be deposited into his waiting mouth. He felt the chilled object on his tongue and sighed in relief, letting it melt slowly and soothe his dry throat. He opened his eyes and this time the smile was fuller than his first attempt. "Thanks, Chief," he uttered.
"More?" Blair asked while he rubbed Jim's forehead. Jim nodded. He reached for the cup to produce more ice. Then he paused for a moment, appearing to think. He returned the cup to the table then reached for the bed controls and raised the head of the bed to more of a sitting position. Blair then picked up the cup of ice and offered more. Jim willingly opened his mouth, this time licking the wet fingers as they deposited the cold substance.
"Hey," Blair objected. "No fair, I can't do anything for you here!"
"You're doing it now, being here." Ellison glanced at the clock. He returned his gaze to Blair. "Aren't you early? Thought you were coming at five. It's only three. Not that I'm complaining--"
"Yeah, well, Simon thought I wasn't paying attention properly today, so he sent me over. Said everyone would be safer with me here. So, I immediately agreed and here I am." Absentmindedly Blair started to reach for Jim's hand but abruptly stopped as his fingers grazed across the heavy bandages around the hand. "Oh, man, sorry. Did I hurt you?" Blair asked, leaning over his lover, his hair dangling in Jim's face.
Jim blew through the locks that blocked his vision. His hands still felt too heavy to move. "No, didn't hurt. Can't feel too much there right now. The drugs did their job. Drew said I would only need a day or two of pain medication and then just take Tylenol or something."
"Well, some Tylenol for you the prescription should work. Still no taking any more drugs than you have to man. Maybe after some control with your dials, we can even reduce the length of time you need to be taking the prescribed pain meds," Blair rattled off. "Can you move your fingers?"
"Some. Doc said as the medication wore off that I would be able to do more. But no lifting anything for the rest of day. Then for the first two weeks I'm not supposed to lift anything over a pound in weight. I'm supposed do what I can with the fingers and thumb to keep them flexible. But it's going to be hard to do buttons and zippers--"
"--which I'll be more than happy to help you with. Might take longer to get dressed everyday, and it will have nothing to do with your wrists." Blair winked at his lover.
Jim grinned at the image of his lover dressing him very slowly and undressing him even slower.
As the two men stared at each other, Dr. Andrew Zaine entered the room. "Hey, Blair, didn't expect you for a couple of hours," then looking around at the now sitting patient, "or see Jim as awake as he is. How are you feeling?"
"Well, doc, I feel pretty good. My lightheadedness is all but gone. I feel good enough to leave here, that's for sure. Had some pretty weird dreams while I was waking up. Felt like I was floating with something buzzing around me. Then, just as I opened my eyes, Blair was walking in. Now that's the best medicine for me." Blair placed his hand over his lover's heart again, his grin stretched as wide as his face.
"Well, I'm sure he is the best medicine for you, Jim. Tell you what. Stay with us for one more hour and then you can be released. I just want to be sure you don't have any adverse reactions to the drugs we gave you and also that wrists are still feeling good," Drew countered.
"Deal," Jim and Blair replied simultaneously. They looked at each other then sheepishly turned to Drew.
Blair continued, "Guess it shows we've been together for a while, huh?"
"It's cool, cool. You know me. Been with Ray for some time now too. It's almost like we're in each other's head, you know?" Drew picked up the chart at the foot of the bed. After writing some more notes, he returned the chart to the hook on the bed. "Okay, I've signed the authorization to release you in one hour," he said, holding up his index finger.
Jim gingerly raised his hand at the doctor. "Thanks for doing this. Without this operation, I would never have been able to be out in the field again."
"You're welcome. Just don't push yourself too fast. Remember, I'll see you back here in a couple of days. We'll change the dressing and give you a splint. The splint can be removed during the day for eating, dressing and gentle exercise," the doctor reminded.
"No, won't push," Jim concurred as he wondered why that term sounded so familiar.
Jim's return to the hospital had triggered vague memories of a conversation he was sure he'd heard as he was coming out of the anesthetic. The problem was he was certain one of the voices had been that of Drew Zaine, his surgeon, and Blair's friend. He wracked his brain now trying to dredge up the foggy, half-remembered words. Something to do with drugs and teams. Surely, he was wrong. He had to be. Drew Zaine was a respected surgeon. He turned to Blair, worry creasing his brow. "When I was coming out of the anesthetic, I heard people talking. I'm pretty sure one of them was Drew and I think he called the other guy Ray. Didn't you say Ray is the name of Drew's partner? They were talking about pushing drugs to kids." He paused a moment, thinking, frustrated when the words would not come. "Stacking What " He looked up, his eyes widening in sudden understanding. "Steroids! They were talking about steroids!"
The senior detective Jim paced the living room as he continued to gather his thoughts. "Blair, I heard what I heard. Drew and Ray were talking about pushing drugs, steroids from the sound of it, to the swim team. From what I heard, Drew is the trainer for the team and has already been giving them something. Seems Ray wants to escalate the level the guys are taking until they're really hooked."
Blair stood in his path to stop Jim's movement. His eyes were wide with disbelief. "What are you talking about? Drew is not like that, man. He's clean. He never took anything in college. Heck, the rest of us were, well, sometimes we -- Okay, we were young and foolish. But never him," Blair argued. He placed his hand on Jim's shoulder. "Jim, I believe you think you heard something, but it had to be all induced from the anesthesia. They did have to hit you harder during the surgery than they anticipated. So, you maybe had, well, like a waking dream."
"Sandburg." Ellison turned his back. "I heard what I heard. You've never doubted me or the senses before. This is not a good time to start," he replied heatedly. He stared at Blair for a long moment then said quietly, "My memory might be blotchy on the details right now and I know that's from the anesthetic but I didn't mishear the words."
Blair knew Jim was upset once he used his last name. He knew his friend though. Drew would not be involved in pushing steroids at athletes. He respected the human body too much. It was what made him such a good physician. If he even had a small amount of doubt in him, Blair would never have let him take a scalpel to Jim. Blair turned around, wrapped his arms around his lover while he let his hands roam Jim's chest.
"Jim, I don't doubt you or your senses. I just--"
"--don't believe what I'm telling you," Jim rebuked. "Sandburg, let me check for priors on Ray's background at least. You did say he was a manipulator. Maybe he forced--"
"No! " Blair blurted as he released his arms from around Jim. "Just leave it man. Look, you were coming out of an anesthetic. I know you think you heard something, but there's no way Drew would be involved in something like that," Blair insisted. He sighed and scrubbed a hand through his hair. This argument was just going nowhere. He grabbed his jacket from the hook. "I'm out of here. I'll pick up dinner on my way home. Should be around five." Without any response from Jim, he continued. "I love you. Take it easy. No heavy lifting." Still no response. With a quiet huff, Blair left the loft, silently shutting the door.
Ellison turned around after the door shut. He could hear the soft mutterings of his partner as he took the steps down to the street level. He heard the car start then join the traffic on the street. "I love you too, but I will check this Ray character out." With that pronouncement, Jim went to the office they'd created out of Blair's old bedroom and turned on the computer. They had a link to the station due to the many times Blair had taken home files for which he needed to draw up a profile. Jim's typing was slow, painfully so at times, but he was determined to prove what he'd heard was not a figment of a drugged imagination.
Blair had planned to go to the station, open a few folders and try to get some work done. No one expected him in today because of Jim's doctor's appointment. He'd only left the loft to cool off before either of them said something that they would regret. Jim is wrong, I'm sure of it, Blair mused silently. Blair made a sharp turn at the next corner in order to drive over to the hospital. Drew said that after our appointment today he would be in emergency until five. That'll give me time to look over his office and prove once and for all that Jim was just dreaming.
Blair parked the car in the main lot in front of the hospital. Before he left the car he called the station and told H he was at the hospital to talk to Drew about Jim's treatment. He didn't want Henri to let onto Jim that he was checking on Drew anyway in case Jim called looking for him. Once he ended the call he walked into the building and headed directly for the elevator bank. He entered, shivering slightly. Ever since that incident at the Wilkenson Towers, he'd avoided elevators unless absolutely necessary. This was one of those necessary times. He exited on the fifth floor and headed over to Drew's office. He peered in and saw no one there. The door opened easily. He entered and immediately started looking at the bookshelves and desk for any evidence that would totally clear his friend in the eyes of one Detective James Ellison.
Blair pulled a book from the bookcase and noticed a notebook standing parallel to the wall behind it. He opened it reluctantly and found names, dates, numbers, dosages. Everything he claimed that could not be true about his friend was in actuality, very factual. He gave thought to going back to the PD for a search warrant and placed the book back on the shelf. Before he could complete the movement, he heard a sound behind him. Blair looked around to see a tall, dark haired man wearing a white lab coat with bearing the nametag of Ray Ashley.
"What are you doing in here, punk? " Ray snarled as he slowly approached Blair.
"I, ah, came in to see Drew. He's treating my friend and I had a question about the post-operative care. But, Drew's not here so I guess I'll leave and ask him later." Blair walked towards the man, since he was blocking the way to the office door.
"I don't think so, punk. I saw you checking out the book. I know who you are. Drew told me all about his old pal and his boyfriend. Seems you're both cops too," Ray growled.
Blair attempted to dart around the tall man, but Ray grabbed him and quickly overpowered him. "Guess you're going to get a free trip to la-la land until I have a chance to tell your buddy Drew about your indiscretion here." Ray's hand covered both Blair's mouth and nose while his other arm held him tight to his body. Spots appeared in front of Blair's eyes and dizziness assailed him. He struggled weakly against the powerful grip to no avail. Finally, his strength was depleted and darkness claimed him.
Ray removed his hand from Blair's face. The unconscious man gasped slightly as his airway was cleared. He dragged Blair into the examination room and taped his hands together behind his back. He took a roll of gauze and wrapped it around Blair's mouth a few times then used medical tape to keep the gauze in his mouth. Assured that the noisy man would not be seen or heard, he left him there and went to find Drew.
After I finish with the short guy, I'll get his boyfriend. Ray silently assured himself. I'm going to enjoy teaching him to behave. He'll tell me what he knows, then...I'll kill him.
Drew looked up as Ray entered the examination room. Ray never visited him down here. "A friend of yours is waiting for you up in your office."
"What are you talking about? What friend?" Drew queried.
"Your cop friend was checking out your bookshelf! I told you to put the books into a safer place, didn't I?" Ray yelled in his lover's face. "But now he is resting quietly up there. I took good care of him. I plan to get to know him real well. He needs to tell me how he even thought to look for your books."
"C'mon Ray," Drew pleaded, "leave Blair alone. He's a friend from way back. Do you think Ellison actually heard us that day in recovery?"
Ray lifted his hand, almost about to slap the other man, but held off, still enraged. "You are a moron! Of course that's what happened. Ellison probably told him to look around only I caught him as he was putting the book back. Once I finish with him, you'll fix his friend up with a nice injection of something from that long list of things he allergic to that you were telling me about. With them both out of the way, we're back in business." Ray grabbed Drew's arm, shaking the man as he did it. "You do it. You're off at five. Call him then, have him come in. Tell him you found something in his tests. An infection or something. You can give him the injection and tell him it's an antibiotic."
"Yeah, yeah," Drew agreed, wincing in pain from his still seized arm. "I'll do it. Right after I'm off."
Ray released his hold and pushed Drew away as he did it. "Make sure you do. Now, your friend Sandburg and I are going to become better acquainted. He's going to feel my fists if he doesn't answer my questions. I'll dispose of the body. No one will find him, ever," Ray added sinisterly. "Your gun still in the top drawer?"
"No, wait. There's got to be a better way. Let me talk to him. He's my friend -"
He knows what we've done," Ray objected. He glared menacingly at his partner. "You want to ruin your career, go to jail for life? Or maybe you want to take his place up there?"
Drew swallowed nervously. "The - the gun's still there."
Ray opened the door. He looked back at Drew. "Remember to call Ellison. If I have to do it--" Ray threatened.
"No, no, I'll do it," Drew guaranteed.
Ray nodded and left the room. Drew took in a deep breath and collapsed into the chair.
"Major Crimes, Brown."
"Hey H, it's Ellison. Can I talk to Blair?"
"No can do, man. He is not here," H replied as he sat in the chair.
"He said he... do you know where he is?" Jim asked. Sometimes talking with H made him think about how hard Blair had to work to get information out of him. He made a mental note to be more forthcoming when he and Blair spoke.
"Yeah, I do."
"Well, unless its a state secret, would you mind telling me?"
"No, I don't mind."
"H, where the hell is he?" Jim asked, grinding his teeth.
"No need to get huffy, man. He's over at the hospital talking to your doc. That was about man, that was over two hours ago. Hey, Ellison, is there something about your operation that you're not telling us?"
"No, I'm doing fine." Jim paused then continued. "H, I need you to do me a big favor. I can't drive right now and I need to get over to the hospital. Blair needs to hear the information I have for him. I've been trying his cell for over an hour with no answer. I --"
"Say no more, I'll be there in ten."
"Thanks, I'll meet you. H, it's important that we hurry."
"Hanging up now."
Jim waited for H to open the door for him then hopped in. H shut the door, ran around the car and entered the car himself. He was rolling down Prospect as he put his seat belt on. "Damn, Jim, I forgot to buckle your belt."
"Just drive, H," Jim insisted.
"We're back in the Sandburg zone, aren't we? Is he in some kind of trouble?" H reluctantly asked.
Jim nodded slowly. "I think so, man, I think so." Jim prayed that Blair was okay. Prayed that he was wrong. Prayed that what he learned about Ray Ashley was somehow untrue. Prayed that H would drive faster. Prayed they would find Blair unharmed.
"Wakey, wakey, little man." Ray tapped Blair's cheeks until Blair opened his eyes. He started to struggle then realized he was strapped to a table. He tried to speak but tape covered his mouth and only garbled noises escaped. His eyes had to do all the talking at this point and they screamed for help. Screamed for Jim.
Ray squeezed Blair's cheeks until tears started to fall from his eyes. "That's just a sample of the pain you are in for, little man. You're going to tell me all you know about the tetrahydrogestrinone and what you read in the book. Then, if you're a good boy, I'll let you live. If not, you go out in a body bag. Your choice, really." He released Blair's cheeks then pulled off the tape that covered his mouth. "Make any sound except for the answers to my questions, and you'll be missing a lot of teeth," Ray cautioned.
Blair nodded his understanding of the unveiled threat. Ray removed the gauze. Blair opened and closed his mouth soundlessly to relieve the ache caused by the gag.
"Talk, little man. What do you know about the tetrahydrogestrinone for starters?"
"Well, on the street, it's called THG and is referred to as a designer steroid. The FDA -"
Ray slapped Blair soundly on the right cheek. "I warned you about being a good boy and answering the questions, didn't I?" He struck Blair on the left cheek. He aimed his fists for Blair's side, striking each side a number of times. Blair could not stay silent and started to yell from the pain. Ray proceeded to gag the struggling man again. "Guess we'll have to go for yes and no questions now. Just nod your head. You do know how to do that, don't you?"
Blair looked up at his abuser, gasping for breath. He couldn't believe the man was so composed. Suddenly Ray's hand reached and grabbed Blair's hair. He pulled it, forcing Blair to nod.
"You understand how to nod now or do I need to pull out some more of your hair, little man?"
Blair nodded towards the insane man standing over him.
"Ok, did your boyfriend tell you about the THG?"
Blair did not move. Ray slapped both of Blair's cheeks.
"Did he hear us talking that day in recovery?"
Blair did not move except for the deep breaths he was trying to inhale. Tears continued to flow down his bright red cheeks, cooling them slightly.
Ray walked over to Drew's desk. Blair heard the sounds of papers rustling then metal dragging against metal. He heard Ray return to stand next to him. He felt the barrel of the gun pushed against his forehead.
"Let's start over. I ask the question, you shake your head. Do you understand now, little man?" Ray asked as he pushed the barrel more forcefully against Blair's forehead.
Blair nodded slowly. Yeah, he thought, I want to live. I want to see Jim bend you in two.
"Good, good. You can be taught. Now, did your boyfriend tell you about the THG?"
Blair shook his head.
"He didn't, huh? So, did he hear us that day in recovery?"
Blair nodded. The gun mimicked the movement of his head.
"Okay, he heard us, concluded it was about steroids but doesn't know what we are pushing, right?"
Blair nodded again. The beating of his heart was so fast, he thought the whole building would have heard him, or at least one person, his sentinel. He was going to miss Jim. He knew Jim would have a hard time without him, just as he would without Jim. Love you, Jim, he thought.
"See that wasn't so hard, was it? Don't you feel better getting that off your chest?"
Blair did not move.
"Doesn't matter. You told me what I needed to know. How do we punish you now?" Ray looked around the room. "What if we puncture your ear drum? You shouldn't have listened to your boyfriend. It's his fault you're being punished, you know?"
Blair shook his head.
"Well, as I said, doesn't matter. First your punishment, then, well, you know what comes next. You were a bad boy, so you get the body bag." Ray turned around to pick up the tool usually used to irrigate the ear. He put the gun on the table next to Blair.
"Cascade PD! Move away from him!" Blair could only hear voices from his position, but they were the sweetest sounds he had heard in a long time.
Jim started into the room while H pointed his gun at the former pharmacist. Jim was so focused on Blair's heartbeat that he almost missed H calling out, "Gun!"
As he heard the warning shouted out, he covered Blair's body with his own and then heard two gunshots in rapid sequence. Jim looked up to see Ray grimace as he turned the gun on them. Jim smelled the acrid tang of gunpowder mixed with the taint of blood. Blood gushed from Ray's mouth. Ray's gun armed dropped, followed bonelessly by his body.
Jim walked around the table and kicked the gun away from the deranged man. He turned to congratulate H on his fine shooting, when he saw H lying prone on the ground. Jim listened and could hear a heartbeat and shallow breaths. Running into the corridor, he yelled for medical help, although he also heard that security was on its way, due to the overheard gunshots. Within seconds, the little office was full of people. One of the nurses released Blair's bound wrists and ankles.
Blair leaned against Jim, feeling a little dizzy. Both men watched, their faces grim as H was wheeled from the room.
Blair sagged into Jim's ready arms, his legs momentarily giving way. "God, Henri, is he-"
"He'll be okay, Chief." Jim's hand rubbed soothingly at the nape of Blair's neck, comforting and warm. "He's lost a lot of blood, but he'll be fine."
"How did you know where to find me?" Blair asked, pushing himself back and locking his knees firmly, determined to maintain his professional persona, even though he felt as if he was shaking like jello on the inside.
"H told me. I found out a few things about Ray I'll tell you later. Where's Drew? Was he here?" Jim asked.
"He's in his office. God, Jim, Ray told him to inject you with something, tell you it was an antibiotic-" Blair stopped, unable to believe his friend would have gone through with it, even after all he'd seen and heard tonight.
"We need to take him in, Chief. You know that, right?"
Blair nodded, his eyes burning with sudden unshed tears. "I know," he whispered. "I'll do it."
"I'm coming with you." Jim's bandaged hand brushed Blair's shoulder gently. "Not because I don't think you can do it, Sandburg. I just thought you might like some moral support."
Blair knocked on the office door and waited for a moment.
Jim, standing to one side, extended his hearing, he could hear the rapid heartbeat of one person inside. "Cascade PD! Open up!" he called out.
Footsteps neared the door then it was pulled open and Drew stepped out, unsteady hands raised in the air. "Don't shoot! I'm not armed," he said, his voice shaking.
Blair took Jim's cuffs from his belt and stepped in front of him. Looking Drew squarely in the eyes, he said, "Andrew Zaine, I'm arresting you for conspiracy to commit murder, accessory in the attempted murder of a police officer and other charges which may be presented at a later date. Please turn around and place your hands behind your back."
Drew complied, wincing as Blair put the cuffs on and tightened them. "Where's Ray?" he asked, his voice barely a whisper.
"Dead," Blair said tersely. "Jesus, Drew, why didn't you tell me tell any of us what was going on? We would have helped. You had to know that." He pulled Drew around to face him.
"I couldn't. He'd have killed me." He looked into Blair's eyes and shook his head. "I'm sorry, Blair. You don't understand, but I couldn't."
"You're right, Drew, I don't understand." Blair pushed his prisoner toward the elevator and began reciting the Miranda warning. "Andrew Zaine, you have the right to remain silent "
"So, what happens to him now?" Blair asked as Drew was loaded into the police car.
Jim shook his head. "He'll get his due process, Chief, and a chance to defend himself in court." He winced, flexing his hands.
"I'm sorry, man, I forgot about your hands. When did you last take some pain meds?"
"I don't know. A while back, I guess. Look, lets go to station and wrap the reports up. I want to go check on H before we go home." He held up a hand as Blair looked like protesting. "You can type the reports while I swallow some pills to keep you happy, all right?"
"All right." Blair followed Jim over to the truck and climbed into the drivers seat. He looked across at Jim, who was sitting, head back and eyes closed. "I should have told you I was going to check out Drew's clinic," he began.
Jim shook his head. "You did okay, Chief. You're a cop. You followed a hunch and acted on it." He opened his eyes and shot Blair a warm smile. "Can't say I haven't done the same thing on more than one occasion."
"You want me to interview Drew?" Jim asked, leaning over Blair's shoulder to pull the arrest report out of the printer. He looked it over while waiting for Blair to reply.
"Not going to happen tonight," Simon interrupted, crossing from his office to stand in front of Blair's desk. "He's lawyered up. Jim, you look beat. Blair, you don't look much better. Did you get checked out by the medics?"
Blair nodded. "I'm fine, a little shaken by all of this but I'm okay. How's Henri?"
"That's what I came to talk to you about. Jim, I know you're exhausted but H needs a blood transfusion. Problem is, the hospital is just about out of his type. I remember when we did that blood run thing last year that you and Henri were the same blood type. I was wondering-"
Jim turned and reached for his jacket then frowned down at his bandaged hands. "On it, Simon. Chief, you gonna drive me?"
"Jim, you've just had surgery yourself. Do you think it's such a good idea?" Blair stopped at the set look on Jim's face. He sighed, then stood and grabbed both their jackets from the coatrack. "Let's go."
"Call me when you've finished and let me know how's he's doing, will you?"
"Will do, sir."
Blair pushed open the door to the ICU room and let himself in. He smiled at Rafe, who was sitting next to the bed, a magazine lying ignored on his lap. "How's he doing?" Blair asked.
"He's holding his own," Rafe said, getting up and stretching the kinks out of his back. "Where's Jim?"
"Donating blood. He and H have the same bloodtype. How's Megs and Trina?" Blair sank down into Rafe's vacated chair and focused on Henri's still face.
"They're fine. As a matter of fact, I was just about to go home and let them know what's going on. I've been here past my allotted time already," Rafe said, his voice sounding tired and thin. "You staying for a while?"
"Yeah, Jim's meeting me here." Blair reached out a hand and placed it on Henri's outstretched arm. The skin was cool and he resisted the impulse to push it under the covers. He shuddered inwardly at the sound of the respirator pushing air into H's lungs. He didn't remember much about the time he'd spent on life support after being drugged with Golden but he did remember waking up, feeling as if he was choking. Only Jim's soothing voice had calmed him. He wanted to be sure H had someone here for him too, when he woke up.
"Look, Brian, I'm so sorry about this. H wouldn't have been hurt if he hadn't been looking for me-"
"That's enough!" Rafe said quickly. "He was doing his job, just like you were doing yours."
"I feel bad about the fact that it was a friend who helped to cause this," Blair replied softly. "I had no idea he was involved in something like this. I didn't know-"
Rafe moved over to his side and grasped his shoulder firmly. "That's right, Blair, you didn't know, but thanks to you and Jim and H," He stopped, then went on, "those guys have been stopped. No more kids are going to be taking their poison and having their lives and careers wrecked by it."
"I know. Thanks, man. Look, I'm going to stay as long as they'll let me so if you want to get back to Megan "
"Thanks, Blair. I'll get going then. You'll call if-"
Blair turned in his seat and nodded reassuringly. "Of course. Get some rest, Brian. You look as bad as I feel."
Ten minutes later, Blair was ushered from the room by a kindly nurse and sent to the waiting room, where he paced up and down, waiting for Jim.
"Hey, Chief, how's H?" Jim walked over and gave Blair a quick hug.
Blair allowed himself to savor the embrace for a moment before pulling away and looking up into Jim's concerned face. "Still unconscious and on life support, but the nurse told me that the surgery went well and they're going to wean him off the ventilator in the morning. They seem pretty optimistic about his chances now that he's got the blood he needs. You okay?"
"Fine. Simon's coming down to stay with H for a while. He suggested we go home and get some sleep. I don't know how much sleep we'll get while we're worrying about Henri, but home and rest sounds pretty good right now." Jim traced a finger over the lines at the edge of Blair's eyes. "You look like you could do with some pain meds yourself. Headache?"
"Yeah, not too bad. It's down from brain tumor proportions to migraine now," Blair replied with a shrug.
"Let's go, then. The only thing I want to do right now is go home and hold you till I can convince myself that you're really all right and back with me," Jim said, brushing a surreptitious kiss over Blair's forehead.
By the time they made it through the front door of the loft, it was as much as either of them could do to stay on their feet.
Blair guided Jim up the stairs, keeping one hand in the small of his back, then at the top, next to their bed, he undressed his lover and himself.
Jim collapsed into bed and held the covers up for Blair. "You didn't take anything for your headache," he mumbled as Blair curled up against him, his head on Jim's chest.
"Won't need anything now," Blair said softly, sighing against Jim's skin. "This is the best cure known to mankind."
~oOo~TWO WEEKS LATER
"Where are you going?" Jim asked as he came downstairs. There was a bowl of cereal on the table and a steaming cup of coffee next to it, but Blair was already dressed, his jacket pulled over his shirt.
"I fixed your breakfast," Blair replied, evasively. "Didn't have time for bacon and eggs so I made cereal instead. Hope that's okay."
"Where are you going?" Jim repeated. He indicated Blair's attire with a nod of his head.
"I'm going to the PD to see if Drew will talk to me-"
"He's not going to tell you anything we need to now, Chief. He lawyered up, and we've got all the evidence we need anyway. Rafe and Simon were going to interview the athletes-"
"I just need to talk to him," Blair said softly. "He used to be my friend. I need to try to get my head around what happened to him."
Jim shook his head. "Give me a minute to get dressed and I'll come with you."
"I need to speak to him alone, man. I don't want it to look like we're ganging up on him."
Jim crossed the room and pulled Blair into his arms. "You know you can't fix everyone."
Blair nodded against his chest. "I know, and at least H is out of hospital now and doing good, but I just feel like I need this closure with Drew." He tipped his head back and gazed sadly into Jim's eyes. "I couldn't be there for him before he got too deep into this. I just want him to know I'm here for him now."
"Then let me come with you and be there for you," Jim said softly.
Blair nodded. "Okay. Thanks."
"I just don't believe him," Blair said angrily, aiming his jacket at the hook and missing by inches. "How could he possibly say he didn't think we'd understand what he was going through?"
Jim bent down and picked up the jacket, managing to fumble it onto the hook. He followed Blair through to the living room and watched as he paced in front of the balcony doors. "I think he's in denial about a lot of things," he observed. "He probably can't bring himself to admit that he left it too late to tell anyone what was happening. It's a pretty common phenomenon in spousal abuse cases."
Blair opened the balcony doors and stepped out, tilting his head back, the wind blowing his hair across his face. Jim moved up behind him and wrapped his arms around him, pulling him close against his body.
"You think they'll take Ray's abuse into account?" Blair asked.
"Probably. It won't get Drew off completely, but if he agrees to counseling, it'll cut his sentence down a lot. He'll be okay, Blair."
Blair turned in his arms and lifted his hands, cupping Jim's face between them. "Thanks for understanding me," he said.
"I try," Jim replied, grinning.
He bent his head and kissed Blair's mouth, teasing gently at his lips with his tongue then slipping it inside and caressing gently.
Blair sighed, his breath warm, his mouth welcoming. After a moment, he pulled away. "Want to go upstairs?" he asked.
"We just got up," Jim replied teasingly.
"Not to sleep." Blair whacked him gently in the belly.
"Ah," Jim said. "Go on up. I'll be there in a few."
"Don't be long," Blair said, heading inside.
Jim turned to watch him go then went inside and closed and locked the balcony doors. He made his usual checks - patrolling the perimeter, Blair called it - then went to the bathroom and washed up.
He had one foot on the bottom step when someone knocked at the door.
"H!" he said in surprise as he opened the door. "Man, it is so good to see you. Come on in, buddy."
"Hope you don't me calling in unannounced," Henri said. "Rafe dropped me off. He's calling back to pick me up in a while."
"Of course we don't mind." Jim stood back and ushered Henri through the door. He looked his friend over appraisingly. Henri had lost weight and he still looked tired, but he looked a whole lot better than he had when he was lying in that hospital bed, just a couple of weeks ago.
Henri moved slowly over to the kitchen counter and leaned up against it. "I wanted to thank you. Rafe told me about you donating blood, saving my life." He held out a hand and Jim walked across and shook it, then pulled him into for a gentle hug, wary of Henri's recent chest wound.
"Anytime, buddy," Jim said, patting his back. He moved back and went into the kitchen. "Can I get you something to drink-"
"Hey, Jim, I thought you were going to join me upstairs?"
Jim watched as Henri's head jerked up and his eyes went wide.
"H! Man, this is so cool!" Blair bounded the last few steps down and ran across the room, grabbing the big detective in a hug. "How are you?" He pushed himself away. "You look terrific."
"I I'm good, Blair. Are you okay?" Henri asked, his gaze skittering sideways away from Blair to Jim, and then down to the floor.
"Me? I'm not the one who came riding to the rescue and got shot for his trouble," Blair said. "So, are you allowed to have a beer or would you prefer coffee?" Blair looked down at his bare chest and shivered. "Maybe I should go put a shirt on while Jim makes coffee. It's colder in here than I realized." Not waiting for a reply, Blair turned and ran back up the stairs.
"So," Jim said, watching H carefully, "coffee it is."
Henri walked across to Blair's old room and looked through the partly open door. He turned and looked at Jim, his eyes holding an expression of hurt. "So, you and Blair are together?" he asked.
Jim just nodded.
Henri smiled sardonically. "Rafe knows?"
"I think so," Jim replied quietly.
Henri shook his head. "Guess I'm the last one to know then," he said. "Look, I gotta go. Tell Blair I said bye."
"Look, H, stay for a while-"
"Nah, I really need to get going. I'll see you, Jim. Thanks again, you know, for the blood and all."
Jim watched him let himself out, then turned as Blair came back downstairs.
"Where's Henri?" Blair asked, buttoning his shirt as he walked.
"He left," Jim replied. "I don't think he was too thrilled about finding out that the guy who gave him blood is a fag."
Blair shook his head. "Henri's not like that-" he began.
"No? Well, he bugged out of here real quick once he saw that you weren't using your room for a bedroom anymore, Chief," Jim replied.
"We'll talk to him," Blair said, moving over and pulling Jim into his arms. "He's still not a hundred per cent well, probably just needs some time to get his head around it. It'll be fine."
"Jim, not everyone is going to understand," Blair said, reaching up to kiss him gently.
Jim buried his face in Blair's hair and inhaled the sweet, familiar scent of it. "I know. And I know I shouldn't worry about what other people think, but I want all our friends to understand. They're important enough to me for that to matter."
Blair grasped Jim's arm and lifted it, brushing a soft caress with his lips over the scar at the base of his hand. "Come to bed, Jim. We'll work it out tomorrow."
The EndComments/Feedback: Travelin, Annie