Part One by Saul
Part Two by Lyn
Epilogue by Saul
Moonridge 2006 story won by Jodi
Blair half-watched the TV while he got ready to go out, feeling half-sickened but guiltily entertained by the trashy tabloid style exposé of Cascade's own mystery man, Alexander St John Thorington III. The poor sucker was being dissected daily by journalists and TV reporters. The famous multi-billionaire recluse would be turning 30 in a few weeks and would have to put in an actual appearance at the annual Cyclops Oil board meeting. He would finally be taking control of the company after nearly 25 years of management by the trustees and the board.
The tabloid TV shows had more rumor and innuendo than facts. They were struggling for content as the man was a total mystery, no pictures and no description. There were several competing conspiracy theories that the man didn't actually exist. The press was rehashing the Cyclops Oil scandal from Peru and other corporate environmental mismanagement in an attempt to fill the airtime.
Blair could only agree with the man's decision to keep out of the spotlight. He chuckled to himself with sarcastic humor, fame was a bitch. This Alexander St John Thorington III should enjoy the nice quiet life while he could, because once the media vultures found you, you were toast. He silently wished the man a better 30th birthday than the one he had enjoyed. Blair could certainly understand the man's reluctance to deal with the media.
Luckily, the media circus was finally shifting from the 'Sentinel Superhero' to concentrate on the poor shmuck who had been cursed by all those billions of dollars. He and Jim had dealt with the worst of the persistent jackals, hopefully. Now they could get back to doing their job without constantly looking over their shoulders.
Jim pretended to watch television while secretly monitoring Blair while he got ready to go out on another tutoring session. Blair's frenetic pace almost hid the stress scent that wafted towards Jim on the currents of air that the Sandburg ball of energy created. Jim knew that Blair's financial position was precarious. The student loans were going to come due soon and he hadn't started at the police academy yet. Ellison was doubtful that Blair had finished filling out the paperwork yet, but he hadn't wanted to push him when he obviously was under enough pressure as it was.
Jim missed the warm musky scent of Blair. Nowadays, Jim only caught a few moments of happy Blair smells. Jim thought back on the last four years and how he had enjoyed the thrill of using Blair's pheromone-laden scent to secretly get his rocks off. Blair coming home from a hot date was the best. Blair seemed to radiate sex at all times, but the tail end of a good date for Blair helped Jim visualize some of his darker fantasies. Jim hadn't known that the pheromones Blair constantly emitted appealed to him until he had been caught up in the madness of Laura and that night of lust. Since then, Jim had been able to sort through Blair's scent, monitor his levels of pheromones and take full advantage of Blair's almost constant state of arousal around all the attractive women who flocked to him.
Blair had never apparently reacted to a male, so Jim only had to deal with his feelings that arose about the females that Blair lusted over. Jim's jealousy toward those lucky women who managed to get a Blair-fuck had only been lately acknowledged, and only in the quiet darkness of his own mind. Jim wasn't gay. Everyone at some stage wanted to fuck their best friend, didn't they? Jim imagined being the first man to take Blair. Having that compact, energetic body writhing under him as he pounded into him was his secret desire.
Jim's thoughts were halted as Blair sped out the front door, his ever-present backpack slung over his shoulder. The hurried 'don't wait up, might be really late' comment was tossed over his shoulder, obviously knowing that Jim wouldn't have a chance to interrogate him about his whereabouts for the night.
Jim stretched out his leg, easing the tired ache that was the last residual pain from Zeller's bullet. He was on desk duty and missed Blair at his side, but since Blair's observer's pass had been pulled, Jim would have to wait till Blair had finished the short course at the academy.
Jim eased up to grab a second beer. The two drink limit was always adhered to, as he never knew when he would be called out for a case. Rotation of detectives didn't mean much when your captain needed the special skills of a Sentinel. Just as Jim grabbed the cold neck of the bottle, the phone rang and Jim sighed, replacing the bottle. He answered the phone with his typical elegant style. "Ellison."
"Oh, umm. Is Blair still there?" a young man asked, his voice slightly slurred, obviously a bit the worse for wear.
"No, he left about thirty minutes ago." Jim could hear the noise of a party in the background.
"Okay. Can you tell him that Sam was sorry to cancel, but still wants next week's session?"
Jim grabbed a notepad and jotted down the message. "Okay, got that."
"Thanks. I hate to miss a Fucking Sandburg Fucking Special. Oops, don't tell the cop roommate." The young man didn't seem to realize he had spoken out loud. He made an effort to sound sober. "I can't get there tonight, a team thing, ya know. Tell Blair that next week I'll pay double and he can do me all night long." The caller giggled and rang off.
Jim stood, staring off into space as the caller's words echoed in his brain. 'Fucking Sandburg Fucking Special'. 'I'll pay double and he can do me.' The visions inside Jim's head showed Blair and other men, Blair being paid by other men, Blair selling himself to other men. Jim's dazed gaze fell to the notepad and saw the impression of Sandburg's distinctive scrawl on the paper. Jim ran his fingers lightly over the indentations and found an address listed with the names Sam and Joshua underneath today's date. That was where Sandburg had gone. That was where he was selling himself.
Rage flowed through Jim's body. With a dark snarl, he ripped off the top sheet and crumpled it in his hand. The pain was intense. Sandburg and other men was the thought that spun round in Jim's brain as he picked up his keys and grabbed his jacket. He was racing down the stairs and climbing into his truck before he registered he'd even moved. Then he was driving towards the address without a clear idea of what he was going to do. He was going to find Sandburg, but then what?
The quiet street was dark as Jim parked a few houses down under a large tree. Jim sat and tried to calm himself as he sent his hearing towards the house that matched the address. Jim heard hands stroking flesh. Smelled latex and excitement. Then a groan of pleasure.
Blair had managed to leave the loft without Jim asking any awkward questions. Blair didn't lie to Jim, but he didn't want to tell him about his money making venture. Therapeutic massage was totally legal, but Jim's time in Vice, Blair was certain, would make him see it as too close to prostitution.
The need for cash was high, but not urgent, not yet. If he had enough clients, he could maintain his expenses without asking Jim for a loan. Without a job and little prospect of finding another paying position with all the media attention, Blair needed to earn his keep. Not that Jim had ever needed the rent money, it was a face-saving exercise; the only way that Blair could remain living with Jim. Too many years of wearing out his welcome from Naomi's freeloading had given Blair a need to pay his own way that bordered on obsessive. Luckily, most of his appointments were during the day, so most of the time Blair didn't have to worry about Jim finding out about his new profession.
He parked and pulled his gear from the trunk. He struggled up the path, ringing the bell with his nose as the bulky gear took up both hands. Joshua answered the bell and Blair could see that he had the living room set up already. The fireplace was burning brightly and candles flickered, sending a golden glow around the very warm room. Blair looked around for his clients for the night. "Hey, Joshua, how many did you manage to invite tonight?"
Blair could do a crowd, but he had specified a limit of six. After that, the quality suffered, because he became too tired.
Joshua smiled and introduced the strapping young men sitting on the couch. "These guys are from my team. John and Walter, this is Blair. I was expecting Sam tonight, but he hasn't turned up. He's going to be pissed at missing a Sandburg special. So it's just us three, the hot tub is ready and Coach Williams has signed off on these two." Joshua grinned at the two friends waiting.
Blair smiled at the two newbies. "Okay, here's the deal. One Sandburg special massage for each of you. Hot tub before the massage to loosen muscles. Tell me if you feel uncomfortable or in pain. Do either of you have any injuries currently?" Blair watched the two new clients shake their heads. "Good. Coach Williams would so kick my butt if I put any of his prize-winning wrestlers out of commission. Have either of you had a shiatsu massage before?" He needed to get all the relevant information before attempting new clients.
The quiet men shook their heads as Joshua unpacked Blair's folding massage table, laid out the latex non-slip floor mat and set out the towels.
"Thanks. Josh. I just need the waivers signed and then we can start." Blair was a qualified and certified masseuse, courtesy of all the years spent in yoga and alternative medicine retreats with Naomi, but he didn't need to complicate his life with litigation. He got them to sign the small forms and took their money. "Josh, as John and Walter are new to this, do you mind if they watch your session?" He wasn't worried about asking, Joshua was a friend and had done this many times before.
Joshua was one of the few jocks who had succeeded academically as well as physically. He was currently working on his doctorate and as an assistant wrestling coach. He was also trying hard to keep Blair supplied with more clients than he could handle. One of the ways in which he was a true friend, the other was allowing Blair to use his house for group sessions.
"Sure, Blair, I'll go slip into the tub now." Joshua walked out to the back porch and over to the portable spa that overlooked the valley.
Blair turned back to his other clients. "I'm going to do a few exercises to warm up before Josh gets back." Blair stripped down to t-shirt and shorts. He ran through his stretching routines and then took a few minutes to sit and meditate to find his center. Working with ch'i needed balance within himself. Negative energy was not helpful and Blair had more than enough at the moment. Blair stood as Josh returned and climbed onto the massage table.
"You guys are in for a treat," Josh said with a smile. "A Sandburg special is rare. You're going to go home tonight feeling like a million dollars. For fifty bucks, you'll feel things that you never knew existed. Sandburg can show you a whole new way of life. Your sex life will never be the same after having Blair show you what your body can feel."
Josh groaned as Blair ran oiled hands over his back. Blair worked over Joshua's body as the man made small sounds of pleasure. Blair grinned at the two other clients. Big men, young, tall and did he mention big? Sandburg couldn't help but find large males to hang around, but only one interested him. Jim wasn't as big as these colossi of muscle, but Blair had developed feelings for Jim that had surprised him. It had taken a long time to come to terms with a change in sexual orientation. He was broad-minded, but had been shaken by the sudden urges that seemingly came from nowhere. Since the first day Blair had met Jim, he had fought his feelings, first because of the subject/observer rules, not to mention the whole ethical question of Jim needing him too much, to say no to any sexual advance. Jim had stolen his heart and Blair didn't know how to tell him about it. Blair didn't think that Jim would be disgusted, but it could harm their friendship.
They had managed to clamber back from the jagged edge that first, Alex, and then the dissertation had pushed them towards. They had a lot of work to do to get back to the casual ease of last year, but a declaration of gay love would shatter the calm, and send them over that edge into cold acquaintance instead of friendship. It wasn't even about finding a new place to live, which is what would be required if Jim found out. It was the easy friendship that seemed to be returning that Blair didn't want to sabotage. So Blair quietly put aside his urges and tried to just be a friend. He had, until recently, dated like a demon to keep the body satisfied, but his heart sometimes ached with the wish to be more to Jim. All Blair could do was try to ignore the impossible and concentrate on the achievable.
Blair stroked and kneaded his way along the large flesh canvas at his fingertips, happily letting his thoughts run quietly as he worked. He was using traditional and holistic massage techniques, working on the ch'i pressure points. The small hum under his breath was a rhythmic mantra as he encouraged Josh to breathe and relax into the familiar routine.
"God, Blair, you're so good. Yes, that's it." Josh grinned at the two new men who were standing now, watching Blair's handling of Josh get more physical and noisier. Their breathing synchronized as Blair pulled the bad spirits and negative energy from Josh's body, flicking them off his fingers at the end of each stroke. The shamanistic studies that Blair had explored had helped integrate Chinese ch'i with spiritual cleansing rituals. This was his signature massage, the Sandburg special.
Blair stroked down the body from head to feet, pulling all the disharmony away from the body and releasing it into the cosmos. He was panting and sweating by the time he felt that Josh was done, but that was why his clients kept coming back. Sandburg had found a way to use the gift that Incacha had bestowed upon him. Blair finished Josh with a gentle rubdown that relaxed and calmed. Josh rolled off the table, grabbed his robe and collapsed onto the couch with a sigh of satisfied exhaustion.
Jim listened with a consuming rage as he heard Blair getting physical inside the house. The soft sounds of Blair's hands stroking oiled flesh, the small gasps and moans of the man. Jim could hear other heartbeats and breathing as the stranger sang his praise of Sandburg's technique. 'Your sex life will never be the same after having Blair show you what your body can feel.' Fifty bucks a shot. Was that all Sandburg was charging? Jim not only had a roommate who was a whore, but was also a cheap whore.
The panting, the rhythmic flesh on flesh sounds pounded into Jim's brain. He couldn't stand it anymore, couldn't face hearing Blair climax with someone other than himself. He jerked the key and pulled away from the curb with the sounds of Sandburg's betrayal following him as he drove home.
'God, Blair, you're so good,' the taunting voice repeated endlessly.
Another man had been with his Guide. Jim burned with anger and humiliation. Sandburg had sold his body to strangers. Well, if Blair was going to sell his body to anyone, it was going to be him. No-one else.
Jim arrived home and sat down to wait for his Guide. After a while, the anger mutated into a hot aching burn. Jim finally gave up waiting after midnight and went to bed. He was on early shift tomorrow and not even something like this would allow him to be late. He would deal with Sandburg and his illicit money-making scheme later.
He lay in bed, trying to get the sounds out of his head, but they replayed to the accompaniment of his hand on his cock, moving in time to the grunts and pants that he remembered. Sleep came, but so did the dreams of betrayal.
The early morning pre-dawn arrived and Jim gave up the fight to get more sleep. He heard Blair arrive home, the smell of spiced oil, latex and sweat rose as he crossed the room. The ever present pheromones were a bit muted, but they just reminded Jim that Sandburg had sold himself and had seemingly enjoyed it. The rage blossomed again.
Blair quietly made his way into the apartment. The session had been a long one and he had crashed in Joshua's spare room, rather than risk waking Jim in the middle of the night. He was leaving his equipment in the car most of the time; it was too bulky to cart up and down the stairs every day, plus too noisy late at night.
It had been a good night, worth the effort. $150 and two new clients, who had already booked sessions for next week as well. They had really gotten into the whole thing about mind, body and spirit. Maybe he could actually make a living at this. At least until the police academy started.
Blair closed the door quietly and made his way to bed. He checked his wallet and put another $100 in the secret compartment. He had filled his gas tank and now had $300 squirreled away, with enough left over for the nominal rent that Jim charged. He didn't dare bank the money as he was still in arrears after his bank had canceled his overdraft. The bank had cut his credit and was demanding repayment. He needed the cash now. Later today he would add more, with a lunchtime session booked with one of his regular clients.
He readied himself for bed, planning his finances and trying to find a way to pay all his debts with just the massage work. He'd figure something out. Right now, all he wanted to do was sleep for a week.
Jim listened to Blair's movements downstairs as he got ready for work. He'd decided to go to the gym for a morning workout first and try to work past his jealousy. He would try to be calm when he talked to Blair about this, but the pain of knowing that Blair would do something like that was crushing. It was another betrayal.
He had survived discovering the divorce papers that Carolyn had left in the deserted loft one night when he came home. He had been able to find a way to become friends with Carolyn again, but the betrayal had hurt. The thought that Blair was a prostitute was an even worse betrayal, because he was using Jim to cover illegal acts.
The sight of Blair's ass as he rummaged in the fridge sent all his quiet promises out the window. The hot anger flared once more and Jim found himself coldly assessing the man in front of him. "Hard night?" Jim's hard voice was matched by the chill in his eyes.
Blair closed the fridge with a start. "Hey, Jim. Yeah, you could say that." He studied Jim for a moment. "What's up?"
Jim cocked his head and regarded Blair with a gaze that chilled Blair to the core. "Well, Sandburg, perhaps the fact that my so-called partner is a whore might just be what's up."
"Wh-what? What are you talking about?"
Jim smiled darkly. Blair knew exactly what he was talking about. His heart was hammering in his chest and Jim could see a fine line of sweat appearing on Blair's upper lip. "I want you gone by the time I return tonight. If you thought that you could get away with prostituting yourself while under my roof, think again. As of now we're finished. Done. Your ride is over, Sandburg. I'll inform Simon that you've decided not to go to the academy. As a concession to you and the help you've given me, I won't inform the captain of your illegal activities." Jim watched the stunned man with distain. "If you ever get arrested for soliciting by Vice, I will personally make sure you feel the full force of the law. Leaving Cascade might be a very good idea." He picked up his gym bag and opened the door. "You know, Sandburg, if you wanted to make a living this way, you could've aimed a lot higher, high priced rent boys at least have some dignity. Hell, I would have paid you much more than $50 a fuck. That just makes you a cheap whore. Make sure you leave the keys when you go."
Jim walked out the door without a backward glance. An hour at the gym might calm him down. Then he would deal with the pain of Sandburg's betrayal.
Blair's legs gave out with the closing of the door. The absolute gut-wrenching pain overwhelmed him as he realized that Jim had thrown him out, again. He didn't want him as a partner, or as his guide. Blair's mind spun in confusion, trying to work out what had just happened.
Naomi carefully schooled herself to calm as she drove up Prospect Avenue. Time was short and she needed to get the next few hours right if she wanted to save all her hard work. It was early, but she needed to make sure that she found Blair at home today.
It would take all her skill to get Blair to leave Jim and come with her now. Nothing that she had done in the last four years had worked, but she wasn't willing to abandon it all now. The release of Blair's dissertation hadn't had the effect she had wanted. Blair was still with his 'Holy Grail'.
She was surprised to see Jim slam out of the main door of the building as she finished parking. She watched him stalk over to his crappy old truck and peel out with a squeal. Naomi grinned, maybe this wouldn't be as hard as she thought. Mildly surprised that the key she'd stolen the last time she'd been here still worked, Naomi walked into the apartment and found Blair kneeling on the floor, shaking and looking totally lost.
"Blair, what's wrong, honey?" Naomi knelt beside Blair and gathered his limp body to her.
Blair shuddered with reaction as the one constant in his life miraculously appeared when he needed her the most. "I don't know... It's Jim... He said... He kicked me out." Blair bit back a sob, but the comforting arms of his mother undid him. The grief-filled cry was short, but powerful.
Naomi held her son as he all but collapsed, silently cheering that Jim had managed to do in a few days the thing that she hadn't managed to achieve in nearly four years. "What happened, sweetie?" Naomi carefully moderated her tone, managing to sound just like the concerned mother she was supposed to be.
"He called me a cheap whore, and told me to be gone by the end of the day. Oh god, why? Why the hell would he think that?"
Naomi's hatred of Jim Ellison blossomed further. How dare he call her son a whore? After everything Blair had sacrificed for him! She pulled Blair's face up and met his anguished eyes. "He doesn't deserve you, sweetie. I'll help you pack. It might be dangerous for you to be still here when he comes back."
Blair gaped at her for a moment. "He wouldn't - Mom, Jim wouldn't hurt me!"
Naomi's eyes flashed. "Hasn't he already done that?" She tugged at Blair's hand. "Come with me. Just for a while till you figure out what to do."
Blair stared at her for a moment, then nodded as the grief of love lost and betrayal overwhelmed him. "Okay, mom."
Naomi helped him to his feet and led him to the couch where he folded into himself and lay down. The blank-eyed stare was slightly disconcerting, but Naomi couldn't help but be glad that it was working out even better than she had planned.
She made some herbal tea and added a few drops from the small bottle she had in her purse. "Here, sweetie, drink some tea. It will make you feel better."
The drug would make Blair more compliant. She didn't want him changing his mind now. "I'll go pack for you and when you've finished your tea, we'll go."
Blair felt the world blur as he lay watching the morning sun creep across the polished floor. He knew that there were a few people in the apartment, but he was too muddle-headed to worry. He knew that there was something wrong with him, but the pain of Jim's words pooled like acid in his heart. The memory of the disgust aimed at him hurt to his bones. Blair didn't fight the pain, there was no point.
Boxes appeared and his masks and books were packed away. Naomi flitted through his line of vision every once in a while. A soft hand on his shoulder made sure he was okay, and then he was being lifted and guided out of the building by a vaguely familiar man as Naomi led the way downstairs. She helped Blair into the back seat then leaned in, framing his face with her hands, her fingertips stroking softly over his cheeks. "Just one more thing I need to do, Blair, then we'll be on our way. You're free now, sweetie."
Blair tried to get his tongue around a protest, that perhaps he should try to talk to Jim again, try to explain, but the words sounded like gibberish and his eyelids were heavy. He nodded and rested back against the seat.
Naomi left Blair in the back seat of her car with one of her assistants while she returned upstairs and burned sage around the bare-looking loft. With a final, satisfied look around, she dropped Blair's keys in the basket and pulled the door closed with a sharp bang.
Jim worked through the day with a steely determination that bothered even his co-workers. Joel was still in charge as Simon was not back from sick leave. Brown had tried to ask what was wrong, but the frosty look and barely suppressed snarl to 'drop it', stopped any further discussion.
The day was long and tiring, especially as he was still on desk duty. The endless round of thoughts about what Blair had done with those men haunted him constantly. The betrayal burned, the cynical side of him wondered how long he had been doing it, how many clients had Blair serviced.
Finally it was time to go home and Jim slowly made his way onto Prospect Avenue, hoping that Sandburg had indeed moved out. The last thing he wanted to do was deal with an unwanted tenant. Sandburg's car was nowhere to be seen. The smell of sage made Jim sneeze before he had even reached the third floor, but there were no heartbeats inside. Sandburg must have called his mommy. The open door revealed a tidy and almost bare loft. Jim noticed the keys in the basket and nodded to himself, he would probably change the lock anyway, just as a precaution. The french doors stood open and allowed a clear view of the empty room. Someone had cleaned everything thoroughly. He checked the apartment to make sure his possessions were all still untouched, and was glad that it was all still there.
He sighed as he paced around, hoping he would get over the feeling of emptiness soon. There was no goodbye note left behind, not that Jim wanted one. No forwarding address, just silence. The message light on the machine blinked at him and he listened to the messages. The usual crap from telemarketers - until the quiet warm voice of a woman calling herself Alison-Judith asking where Blair was, had she got the appointment mixed up, could Blair call her to arrange another time for her therapeutic massage. And could Blair be a darling and pick up her grocery order as her car was in the shop being repaired and she was house-bound for the next day or two. The message ended with a phone number and a surprisingly sexy giggle, 'just in case you've forgotten'.
Jim slowly picked up his phone and dialed the number. A warm sultry voice answered. Jim explained that Blair was not available and had not received the message. He talked to Alison-Judith and made sure she was able to make other arrangements for the delivery of her groceries. The woman chatted about how Blair had been wonderful since he had left the university and used much of his spare time to help with her basement conversion. The woman commented on how well Blair's new business as a massage therapist was doing and that all the girls in her email group were falling over themselves to book a time with the Witch Doctor.
The more information Alison-Judith gave Jim, the sicker he felt. The mention of discount rates for the group sessions for her friends struck hard at Jim's mind as he realized just how off-base his assumptions had been. It had all been a ghastly mistake and now he was standing in an empty loft with no idea where Blair had gone.
He finally ended the call and collapsed onto the couch. He had fucked up totally and didn't know how to fix it. Even if he could find Sandburg, how could the man ever forgive him for the things he said? He shelved that notion for now. Once he found Blair, he'd try to convince Blair to let him explain, and maybe, they could shore things up again, as they had done in the past.
He spent the night calling all Blair's friends to try and find where he had gone. The lack of success wasn't surprising, considering the reactions he heard from the callers. Sandburg's reputation had been trashed and only a few were willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Of those, none were able to shed light on where Blair might have gone.
There were very few people that Blair would be able to turn to for help. That meant trying to trace Naomi, which was difficult at the best of times. If Naomi was with Blair, then finding them was going to be even harder. Jim knew he was far from on top of Naomi's popularity list, and while he understood her feelings, he couldn't quite figure out how she'd been able to absolve her own guilt in her part involving the dissertation debacle.
He went to work the next day hoping that he could use the PD's recourses to track Blair down. Jim looked up when Joel called him into the captain's office.
Joel looked worried and ill at ease. "Jim, I'm not really sure how to tell you this, but there's a problem with Blair's entrance into the academy. His application's been denied. The background check has brought up major discrepancies. Blair Sandburg was born in San Francisco May 24, 1969 but died 10 days later."
Jim's jaw dropped. "Then who the hell has been riding along with me for nearly four years? And how could he have passed the PD's background check?"
Joel shrugged, his big shoulders slumping, showing his bitter disappointment. "I suspect that the confusion surrounding Kincaid's takeover of the station the day Sandburg submitted the paperwork, allowed it to slip through."
Jim slowly shook his head. "You would think that after all this time that I would have picked up something to tell me that he was living a lie. How much of what he told me is the truth?" Jim's confused thoughts swirled.
Joel patted Jim on the shoulder. "Bring him in to have a chat and we'll see if we can straighten out this whole mess. It might be just an administrative error."
Jim sighed. "I can't. I threw him out of the loft yesterday morning."
"What! Why?" Joel demanded.
Jim rubbed his temples. "A misunderstanding, a fuck-up on my part," it pained him to confess.
Joel sighed. "Well, when you hear from him, let him know we need to sort this out, soon. Do some digging around to see if it is just a computer error. Talk to Blair and see if he can shed some light on this." Joel dismissed Jim to continue with the paperwork that was his domain until his leg healed.
Jim settled at his desk, wondering if he would ever hear from the man who called himself Blair Sandburg, ever again.
Blair knew that he was alive because of the unending pain, but the days passed in a blur. He sat in a bedroom and sometimes ate from the trays his mother brought him. Most of the time he watched the birds in the trees outside the window, or slept. There were visitors; Blair suspected they were psychiatrists or psychologists. They asked stupid questions, asked him to sign papers, but he didn't want to talk or acknowledge them and eventually they went away.
He sat still as his hair was cut and lightened slightly. The short, almost blond curls sat tight against his skull. Penance for something, he guessed, but he wasn't bothered enough to ask why, nothing mattered anymore.
The only real peace he got was when his mother lit a candle, talked softly and rhythmically. Blair floated away into his happy place and was content for a while. But he would eventually come back to the memory of Jim and his horrible, bitter words.
Tiamat Van Asche-Thorington was defined by her upper middle class white Anglo-Saxon Protestant upbringing. There was a lot of money and power in the Van Asche dynasty, even though her parents foolishly broke ties with the family - and all the money - to marry for love. As soon as she was old enough to collect her modest inheritance from her paternal grandmother, she ran away from the boringly normal suburban box she had grown up in and moved to New York. There, she found and married a young, naïve Alexander Thorington II from the extremely rich and powerful Thoringtons. Tia, as she liked to be called, had worked hard to fit into the Thorington Empire. Producing a son and heir to the only Thorington of the next generation, within a year of the marriage, had won over the old bastard, Alexander the First, who controlled the family purse strings. Christening him Alexander the third helped tremendously. When Alexander the second unfortunately died in a car wreck within three months of his son's birth, the old man had tried to take young Alex from her.
Naomi Sandburg had been created to avoid the old man and his private investigators. She hadn't been really needed since the old man had died when Alex was five, but the false persona had proved valuable. Once her son got used to the care facility, Naomi would disappear back into Tia's box of tricks, to be pulled out again only if necessary.
The old man had died before he could force Tia to hand over the heir to the Thorington fortune. She had been quietly in charge ever since, despite what the public record said. It wasn't about the money, she had squirreled away enough to live in luxury for the rest of her life. It was about power and the control of it. Something she excelled at.
With many a silent curse about old men and complicated family trusts, Tia made ready for her day. Her only regret about the past was that she hadn't been able to change the old man's will and its conditions.
She scrutinized herself in the mirror. Her makeup was perfect as usual, the hairdresser's appointment would have to be brought forward so the faint re-growth could be touched up. Unfortunately, the latest facelift was not as successful as she had hoped, but maintaining the ageless look was getting harder each year. Maybe it was time to let a few wrinkles show.
With a sigh, she turned away from the mirror and took stock of her progress. The board meeting would be held in two weeks and all was ready. The doctors and lawyers had signed and documented Alexander's mental state, so the actual parading of the heir would be short and sweet. Nothing could go wrong now.
Jim woke each morning with the sharp pain of memory washing over him as he remembered Blair's heartbroken expression. There'd been day after day of fruitless searching, the guilt eating at Jim's soul. The replaying of the harsh words that spewed from his mouth drove his waking moments and shattered his dreams.
Jim slammed his hand down onto the keyboard and was mildly aggrieved to see that it was still in one piece, and apparently working. The latest line of searching had produced another dead end. Blair and Naomi Sandburg had dropped off the face of the earth. Customs records showed that both Blair and Naomi were in the US, but as Jim had found that both those two identities were fictitious, it didn't mean much. Official records showed that Blair and Naomi Sandburg had suddenly appeared in 1970, but who they really were, he didn't have a clue.
Simon Banks stood in his doorway and looked out at the bullpen with a frown. He had only been back for one week, still officially on light duties. The last two weeks had been hard for them all, but for Jim, it had been nearly unbearable. The time was approaching when he would have to rein Jim in. Ellison couldn't be allowed to carry on this way much longer. His official work was suffering while his private search took up most of his day. If the Chief of Police got wind of this, Jim would be out on his ear.
Banks called Ellison into his office. Simon sighed at the tired man who slumped down into the chair in front of him. "Look, Jim, I know that you want to find Blair. I want to find out who the hell he is too. Unfortunately, this is the end of the road. I don't want to lose you, but if you don't pull yourself together, you'll leave me no choice. I'm sorry, Jim, drop the search, at least using the PD time and resources."
Jim slumped further down in the chair and tipped his head back with a sigh. He knew that Simon had given him much more leeway than he deserved. The lack of progress galled him but he knew that he had indeed reached the end, at least for now. "Okay, Simon. Okay." The defeat in his voice was only tempered by the knowledge that Jim wouldn't do anything silly.
Simon was worried about Jim's state of mind, had been since he'd heard from Joel about the disastrous breakup of his best team. "How are you managing with your senses? Are you in control? What help do you need?" After four years he didn't want to take sentinel senses for granted.
"It's not bad. Most of the time I can handle them. Blair trained me well." The sharp pain at the mention of his missing partner showed briefly on his face. With a sharp breath and mental shake Jim straightened in his seat with determined resolve. "I'll be okay," Jim asserted.
Simon nodded. Much better. "Just try and keep your search to your personal time. I'm not saying that I won't help you if you find something worthwhile, but until then keep it low-key." Banks knew that pushing Jim would only make the man do something rash. Jim nodded and headed back to his desk. Simon watched him go and wondered what the future held for him without the other half of the greatest friendship he had ever seen.
Tia dressed carefully for the upcoming meeting. Classic, but understated was the way to go today. She checked with her son's attendant to make sure he was dressed and ready. Alexander was already waiting in the limousine. Tia slid into the soft leather seat and looked closely at her son. The dull-eyed stare was reassuring.
With practiced ease she spoke the words that called forth the small boy called Alex. The boy who did what his mother told him to do. By the time the limo arrived at the Cyclops Oil headquarters, Tia was sure that her beloved meal ticket was fully in her power again. The drugged tea that he had been given helped too.
The Extraordinary General Meeting was well attended by minor shareholders and all the directors. The lawyers were packed in tight at the end of the conference room. Bright lights lit up the podium and the CEO stepped up to bring the meeting to order.
Tia waited with Alexander in a side room as her hand-picked corporate officials got through the boring details of the business meeting. Finally it was time to parade the new owner before the board. Tia gathered her son to her and walked him into the packed auditorium.
He stumbled slightly, startled by the noise. The CEO was talking about the man who was tragically unable to manage his inheritance and would be leaving the day to day running of the corporation to the present board of directors. Status quo would reign while his mother would look after Alexander St John Thorington III's interests.
Tia stepped up to the microphone. She pulled Alex to her side. "Sweetie, tell these people what you want." She was certain of the control she had over him.
The man lifted his head and squinted out into the lights. "My mom will take care of me. She knows what's best for me." The words came out in a slightly stilted fashion. The pitying looks around the room told Tia that most of the witnesses assumed that Alex was slightly brain damaged, which was the intention. She beamed at Alex as he turned to her. "Can we go now, mommy?"
Tia patted his cheek softly. "Yes, sweetie, we can go now." Tia led her son away from the podium and out of the room.
The limo took them back to the Thorington estate on the outskirts of Cascade. Tia made sure that Alex was secure back in his suite. The attendant was ready to take over his care again. Soon Tia would be able to send her son to a long term care unit, but not just yet.
Jim shut the door to the loft and once again was struck by the silence. Nearly three weeks, and he still was expecting to hear, smell and see his guide. Another night of kicking himself for being such a fucked-up, paranoid and stupid asshole.
At least the last weekend had been saved by Alison-Judith and her basement conversion. She had called to see if Blair had left a contact number. By the end of the conversation, Jim had offered to help her finish the work. He met the bubbly older woman after work on the Friday to check out the job and to see what had to be done.
Jim had then spent the next two days at Alison-Judith's, working hard, putting up dry wall, installing plumbing and laying floorboards. By the end of the weekend, Alison-Judith had a substantial addition to her house that was up to code and increased the value significantly. Apart from the fact that the large open plan room had no natural light, it was perfect. The only bright spot in an otherwise devastating couple of weeks.
Jim's discovery and acceptance that he was gay had been gut-wrenchingly hard. He had been tempted to just brush it off as a mid-life crisis, until he envisioned life without Blair. The pain that filled him convinced him that he would never be able to go back to a heterosexual relationship. That was, if he could forget about the nameless strangers that had helped him out in the dark and silent rendezvous of the past.
Jim channel-surfed as he tried to fill in the lonely night. He was tempted to get drunk, but he knew that was the edge of a dangerous, slippery, downward spiral. A glimpse of the major news story about the heir to the Cyclops Oil Empire had Jim on the edge of his seat. The phone rang as Jim stared at the sight of Blair, short-haired, blond and dazed, but still Blair. Jim opened the phone and spoke on autopilot. "Ellison."
"Jim, turn on channel 14. Is that Sandburg? Is that Naomi and Blair?" Simon Banks' deep bass voice was excited, though tinged with confusion.
Jim took in the information without really understanding what was being said. He concentrated on the two main figures. Yes, definitely Naomi and Blair. Different, but the sound of their voices sang in his ears. "Yeah. It's them."
Jim closed his phone, still staring at the image of Blair. What the hell kind of game where they playing at? But then Jim realized that Blair wasn't playing a game. His demeanor was of an intellectually disabled person. Nothing like the Blair he knew. What was wrong? Jim listened to the words that came out of Blair's mouth and was struck by the almost artificial sound. The glazed eyes and almost haunted look on his face reminded Jim of POW's. The lack of emotion on Blair's face frightened him. What had he done?
Tiamat sighed in frustration, damn and blast the media. She hadn't seen the cameras at the back of the room at the board meeting. Now Alex's face was widely known as the new heir to the Thorington Empire. Ellison would come snooping around soon. Oh well, it was inevitable eventually. Might as well make the best of it.
She doubled the guard and made sure the security protocols were tight, the last thing she needed was Ellison breaking in and taking Alexander away - not after she had worked so hard to break them up.
Tia stood in the doorway of her son's room and watched him being readied for bed by the efficient nurses. The most ironic thing about all of this was that he had truly believed the peace and pacifist crap that she had used to worm her way into the environmental protest movement. She had used the Naomi persona to feed disinformation about Cyclops Oil and its intentions to the protesters. She then took the information she gathered back to the corporation. It was a very successful ruse, except for the Peru incident, which she had not sanctioned, and she had let the idiots twist in the wind for that failure.
It was almost laughable that her son had turned into a new-age hippy. He really believed the crap she fed him. The kid just ate up all her fantasies without any form of critical analysis. Perhaps his gullibility was a result of the deep hypnotic conditioning. Clothing-optional communes, summer camp for exceptional and gifted kids, well-paid long-term babysitters and even a few stays at monasteries, took care of most of the child care while she worked, either in New York or Cascade.
Despite the few disastrous choices in care-givers - a Jewish family near the end of Blair's twelfth year was, in hindsight, a poor choice - he had been happy and well cared for. Then of course there were the months of mommy care that she had to do every year to maintain the hypnotic conditioning spread out over the year.
Finding a bed partner for a few weeks or months was never a problem and 'Blair' was happy to have time with the beautiful 'Naomi' for a while. Tiamat returned to her wing and made ready for another round of meetings. The daily business still went on, and there was always more to do. She left the Thorington estate with the knowledge that her security was prepared for Ellison, should he decide to come tonight.
Simon Banks was worried. Jim hadn't answered the phone and knocking at the door produced no response. Banks used the emergency key and carefully pushed the door open. The lights were on, the TV played softly and the doors of the balcony were open.
Jim called to Simon. "It's okay, I'm out here."
Banks sighed in relief. "I thought you were zoned or something."
Jim chuckled mirthlessly. "Yeah, I just bet you were convinced I'd eaten my gun." The slightly bitter voice belied the fact that it had been a possibility, and they both knew it.
Banks sighed. "So what now? You know where he is, or can find out. Are you going to go get him?"
"She'll be expecting that. I'll have to bide my time, make it look like I've abandoned Blair. Once she lets her guard down, then I can go and rescue him." Jim's slightly distracted voice was calm and quiet.
Simon raised an eyebrow. "You make it sound like Naomi's holding him prisoner."
Jim turned to face Simon at last. "Ahh, but she is, or something like that. Blair had been drugged and his responses were artificial. Hypnosis or brainwashing, whatever you call it, Blair's being held against his will. She won't hurt Blair, at least not yet," he said grimly.
Banks studied the man, calmly watching the waves break along the coast as he sipped from a bottle of beer. "You think that Naomi is... what? Evil?"
Jim shrugged. "It would explain all her inconsistencies."
"What are you saying?" Jim turned and went inside, leaving Simon to follow him. "Red is not her natural hair color. For a non-materialistic hippie, Naomi always dressed in the finest fabrics, wore expensive, individualized perfume, had at least one facelift and was always traveling to expensive resorts and retreats. She might have espoused the hippie lifestyle, but she certainly didn't live it. Blair could never see it, but Naomi was not what she appeared. I never made a big deal about it because Blair would have been hurt."
Jim remembered the one comment he'd made about Naomi's lifestyle and the week of silent treatment that Blair gave him for it. He never openly questioned Blair again about it again. He never fully trusted Naomi, his senses had picked up on her ambiguities without him being aware of what was wrong.
"That doesn't add up to Blair being held against his will. It could be her way of protecting his privacy. You must admit that being the heir to the Thorington Empire is a huge weight to carry, and especially for one so young." Banks could think of many young men who'd come to grief by fame and money.
"Blair was drugged and not truly aware of what occurred at that board meeting," Jim insisted. "Can you see Blair inheriting a multi-billion dollar, multi-national corporation and just abdicating his responsibilities as major shareholder, to his mother? And Cyclops Oil at that? That's not the Blair Sandburg we know."
Simon pondered the facts. "Could Sandburg have been aware of his inheritance and knowingly used the false identity?"
Jim shook his head. "Four years of living with Blair and not one slip up? Not possible. I've gone over it in my mind hundreds of times. Blair didn't know. He wouldn't have taken the chance of applying to the Academy if he knew. Whatever else you say about Sandburg, he's not stupid." Jim got up and offered a beer from the fridge to Simon who declined it - he was still on pain killers from Zeller's bullet.
"So what now?" Simon asked. He was still concerned by Jim's calm acceptance.
"We watch and wait for our chance. Right now, if I go charging up to the Thorington estate, I'll look like a crazy psycho, claiming the Thorington heir is my absent partner. Naomi will have made sure the records are perfect."
Simon sighed. "Okay. Just don't do anything stupid. Explaining to the DA why my best detective kidnapped the richest man in Cascade will be hard enough, if all goes well. If you make an unsuccessful attempt, you know that you might never get another chance."
Jim nodded somberly. "Yeah, I know. When I go in, it will be successful." The unspoken 'or die trying' hung in the air between them.
Blair felt the edges of his world expand as the fuzziness eased. The daily routine of his caregivers made keeping track of the days easier. Day after day, he let himself be moved, exercised and cared for by two male nurses. Blair knew that he really should assert himself, take control of his body at least, but it was all too hard right now. The pain had died down to a bitter ache that consumed him still. The tears that now coursed down his face dripped onto his brightly colored pajamas. Blair dashed his hand at the wet tracks. He needed to pull himself together.
Why had Jim said those terrible words? Massages weren't sex, why would Jim think he was a prostitute? How could Jim think that of him? Fresh tears rolled down as Blair was once again lost in the misery of rejection.
Jim went to work each day as usual. The strain of waiting made him more abrupt, but that was accepted by his co-workers. Not much different from the way he was before Sandburg. He would not call him by that other name, because he was Blair, his Blair.
The days crawled by as Jim discreetly kept an eye on the very good surveillance operatives of Naomi who tailed him. Good, but not good enough.
It was nearly another two weeks before Jim caught the quick flash of Naomi's face on the entertainment news as he flicked through the television channels. An AIDS benefit in Seattle had attracted the famous and powerful. The live feed panned across the red carpet line to reveal the sparkling dress of Tiamat Van Asche-Thorington.
Naomi was certainly making up for lost time. She was the darling of the media at the moment. When the black jaguar strolled through the wall into the living room, Jim knew that he wasn't going to wait any longer. He had organized everything needed, he hoped.
Covert ops tricks, once learnt were never forgotten. A visit to Jack Kelso had started the ball rolling. He now had his emergency cash hoard and fake documents, untraceable cell phones and had set up automatic timers to make the loft look occupied. His duffle bags containing clothes, first aid kit and weapons had been hidden in his truck, just waiting for the right time, which was now.
He didn't know how long he would be away, but once Jim didn't turn up for work tomorrow, Simon would know what was happening. For once, Jim wasn't going to ignore the mystical side of the sentinel business. He followed the jaguar with all the desperation of a man who knew it was his only and last chance.
The trip to the Thorington estate was made using all the stealth capabilities of a highly trained covert operative who had the added advantage of being a sentinel. Jim was sure the watchers hired by Naomi were unaware of his absence. Now all he had to do was break into a house that was equipped with the best surveillance money could buy.
Jim grinned to himself, he had defeated state of the art facilities before. The first barrier was difficult only because Jim wanted silent and unnoticed egress. It took a while to find a flaw in the electronic security system surrounding the boundary and fences of the estate. Finding the security hub was easy as the black jaguar strolled through the estate with Jim following.
As Jim entered the large house, the beloved heartbeat caught his attention. Only a few people stood in his way now. Jim crept into the darkened room and gazed down at the sleeping man whose heartbeat had called to him during the last few hours.
The wolf was curled in a corner looking bedraggled and forlorn. Jim's jaguar nudged the wolf up and out of the room. Jim carefully covered Blair's mouth and shook his shoulder. His eyes barely fluttered and Jim carefully pulled up an eyelid and watched the pupil sluggishly react. Drugged. Jim had suspected as much, but it would make the exit much easier. He hoisted Blair over his shoulder and stole into the deserted corridor. He had been monitoring the background noise to make sure none of the guards had alerted additional security or the police.
Sandburg had lost weight over the last month, but not enough to make carrying him any easier. By the time Jim crept back to his concealed vehicle, he was out of breath and shaking with fatigue. He put Blair on the back seat and covered him with the warm blanket he had brought. Thank god he wouldn't need the other supplies he had packed just in case.
The rental purred softly as he started the engine and eased out of the bushes.
Jim glided the now silent car into the driveway and parked in the shadow of the house. He waited for a few minutes to make sure his arrival had not attracted any attention on the quiet street. He unlatched the door and eased it shut. He opened the back door and slung the small duffle back onto his shoulder. He then gathered Blair into his arms, still wrapped warmly in the blanket and headed to the dark backdoor step. He gave a long series of taps on the door.
He heard Alison-Judith grumble and mutter about inconsiderate visitors in the middle of the night. The careful steps came closer as Alison-Judith made her way slowly down the stairs, complaining all the way.
Jim adjusted the heavy burden again as he waited; it was a good thing he lifted weights. The porch light flared bright as Jim struggled to dial down his sight. The door opened, leaving the security screen still firmly locked.
Alison-Judith gasped as she recognized Jim standing on her back porch with a large bundle in his arms. The edge of the blanket was turned down and Alison-Judith saw Blair's face. "Is he all right?"
"I hope so. I need a place to stay, Blair needs a place to rest and get better." Jim nodded down at the still sleeping man who chose that moment to let out a soft snore.
Alison-Judith quickly unbolted the screen and let them in. Jim went straight down the stairs to the basement and laid Blair on the double bed that dominated the newly furnished room. Alison-Judith was still making her way down the stairs as Jim opened the duffle bag and took out a wad of cash. "I need you to do Blair and me a favor." At a nod from Alison-Judith, Jim continued. "We need to hide for a while." The indrawn breath from Alison-Judith caused Jim to raise his hand. "We haven't done anything illegal, but we need to stay out of the way for a while. Blair could be in danger if anyone knows where he is. This is for you to go and stay with some friends for at least two weeks, to keep you safe." Jim thrust the notes into her hand and added another request. "Please, don't tell anyone we're here. Will you do this for Blair?"
Alison-Judith looked down at the thick bundle of hundred dollar bills and then at the handsome man near the bottom of the stairs. She looked over at Blair who had curled up on the bed. He looked fragile and unwell. "Okay. Give me a couple of hours to pack and arrange things. The cupboards are reasonably full, use what you want." The money in her hand was way more than she needed to cover the cost, but her finances were tight and she couldn't afford to turn down the generous gift.
"While you're getting organized, I'm going to move the car. If you give me your car keys, I'll put my rental in your garage and park your car beside the house."
They walked up the basement stairs and started to prepare. Jim noted down the number of his new cell phone and Simon's cell phone just in case things went really bad.
Tiamat was livid. After all the money she had paid, Ellison still managed to overcome the security and surveillance to steal away her son. She regretted that she hadn't had the big dumb cop disposed of when she realized that her son had found the elusive Sentinel. Blair had been obsessed with that mythical creature ever since he had found that strange book when he was ten years old. She had grown sick of his constant talk of these supermen, believing that the boy would grow out of it, but he never did. She had thought it a strange but harmless obsession, up until she realized the cop was one.
But right now she couldn't afford to bring attention to herself. She might be able to get the feds involved, they could be used as a last resort, surprisingly few agents could be bought by her money. The less local involvement the better. But first she would do her own search. She pulled out her black book and started calling her henchmen.
Jim listened to Alison-Judith drive away, feeling relieved. At least he wasn't putting her in danger. He looked down at Blair who had rolled over onto his back and was softly snoring. He vowed to protect Blair no matter what the cost. Jim stripped to boxers and t-shirt and settled down beside Blair for some rest. It had been a long day on top of a long two months. Despite his desire for Blair, he knew he had to control himself, even though he was now lying, curled up around the still drugged man.
Blair rolled over and snuggled into Jim's chest. It looked like he was at least having a pleasant dream. Jim stroked his face and whispered apologies. Blair smiled and sighed. Jim leaned over and kissed him gently.
"Umm, nice dream," Blair whispered. He snuggled in further and faded back to sleep.
Jim sighed. The drugs were still affecting Blair. By tomorrow, maybe he'd get a more rational response.
Jim woke at dawn, after a restless night, constantly interrupted by nightmares of what Blair had endured at the hands of his mother. Standing, Jim stretched the kinks from his neck and back and headed over to the coffee-making corner that had been set up on the other side of the room. A small standing lamp had been left on just in case Blair woke, and it was more than enough light for Jim to make coffee by. There was a small table and chairs there as well as a couple of other kitchen appliances on the bench beside the coffee maker, enough to make a light breakfast or lunch without having to go to the main kitchen upstairs.
A quick scan showed that Blair was still deeply asleep, so Jim sat in the armchair, watching TV, looking for any hint that the news of Blair's kidnapping had been made public. So far, nothing.
Blair stirred in the bed. The slow and steady rise to consciousness was reassuring to Jim. Blair slowly rolled over and stumbled out of the bed to the bathroom. Jim doubted that Blair even opened his eyes for more than a few seconds during the whole trip. Then he blundered sloppily back into the bed. Only after shifting into a more comfortable position, did the reality of his situation appear to dawn upon him. "What am I doing here, where are we?" he croaked.
He glanced across and saw Jim sitting, watching him. "Jim? What are you doing here? Did my mom call you?" He looked around the room. "This isn't my bedroom." He pushed himself further up the bed, gathering bedding around him like a shield. "Where are we?"
"It's a long story, Chief." Jim stood and walked over to the bed. "You thirsty? There's some juice and I can make you some breakfast."
Blair shook his head, then reached up to massage his temples.
"You got a headache? Probably from the drugs. Alison-Judith's probably got some Tylenol in the bathroom. I'll go check." He turned to walk away but Blair reached out and snagged his arm.
"Stop! Just tell me what the hell is going on, man! Last time I saw you, you kicked me out of the apartment because you thought I was a prostitute. I'm might be fuzzy on a few details, but I remember that. Where's my mom?"
"She's not here, though she probably knows by now that I took you."
"Why? You threw me out like so much garbage! Naomi came and got me. She's the only one who cares about me. Why would you kick me out, and then... what? Kidnap me? You're not making any sense here, Jim."
Jim shook his head slowly. "I'm sorry, I totally misunderstood what was going on. I know now that I jumped to conclusions that were totally false."
"That's just not good enough. You didn't even ask me. I can't believe you mistrusted me - again!"
"I know, I'm sorry. By the time I realized what I'd done, it was too late. Naomi had kidnapped you and got you to claim the inheritance."
Blair gaped at him. "Inheritance, what inheritance?" The confused look told him that Blair was totally innocent of Naomi's duplicity.
Jim sat on the edge of the bed and told Blair what he knew and what he suspected.
Blair's now fully sober eyes glared at Jim. "Let me get this straight. You say that I am not only a rich billionaire, but that my mother kidnapped and drugged me and had me hidden away."
Jim's jaw muscle twitched with tension. "Just because it sounds bizarre doesn't mean that it's not true." Jim sighed, he didn't want to argue.
Blair's eyes showed his disbelief. "And so you kidnapped me back? Do you really expect me to swallow that crap?" The harsh words reflected Blair's anger.
"Just trust me, okay?"
"Why the fuck should I trust you? Not only did you kick me out again, but you called me a whore." Blair's expression changed to a suspicious glare. "You know, I think you're the one running a scam on me."
"That's not what's going on here. Your mother has lied to you all your life," Jim tried to explain but Blair turned his head away.
"This is crap, man! You're lying. You think I wouldn't have picked up on something, that Naomi could have kept up this act all my life?"
Jim reached out and squeezed Blair's hand. "I'm not sure how she did it, but I suspect a combination of drugs and hypnotic suggestion. You didn't wonder at all where she got the money to travel all the time, why she kept leaving you?"
A flicker of doubt crossed Blair's face. "She told me her mother sent her money, because she felt guilty about her dad sending her away when she got pregnant with me." Renewed defiance squared his jaw. "What about my uncle? The one I told you hauled a rig? What about my cousin, Robert?"
"Enough money can buy a lot of lies, Blair."
Blair stared at Jim for a long moment, then he pulled his hand away and flopped back onto the bed, rolling over to face the wall. "Leave me alone, Jim, okay? Just leave me alone."
Jim knew he should have tried to get some more sleep but by late afternoon, he was still seated on a chair, watching Blair sleeping fitfully. Blair muttered a couple of times, tossing and turning, and each time Jim reached out a hand to soothe him, but pulled away at the last moment, unsure of what reaction it might bring.
Blair woke while Jim was brewing coffee. He got out of bed and walked slowly into the bathroom, looking hollow-eyed and sad. Jim kept an ear on him while he relieved himself and washed, wanting to make sure he was steadier on his feet now that the drugs had had time to work through his system.
Jim was at the bathroom door before he'd realized he'd moved. "Blair? What's wrong?"
Blair stood in front of the washbasin, staring at his reflection in the mirror. One hand slowly reached up and touched the shorn, light brown locks. Damn, in all the stress of the night before, Jim had forgotten about that. Still, it might work to his advantage in convincing Blair that Naomi had indeed done what Jim had claimed.
"Sorry," Jim said. "I forgot. I meant to say something last night but -"
Blair whirled and glared at him. "What is this? Is this some kind of sick joke? Did you do this?"
"Naomi did it, Chief. I'm figuring it was done to avoid you being recognized by me or anyone else who knows you."
Blair stared at him for a long moment, his expression bleak and miserable. Jim wanted nothing more than to go to him and take him in his arms, to reassure him that everything would be all right. Instead, he took a step backward and gestured toward the main room. "There's coffee and bagels. And if you feel up to it, there's a videotape you need to see."
Blair turned back to the washbasin and turned on the faucet. "Give me a few minutes, okay, Jim?"
Jim tried to keep his attention on the television screen but his gaze kept straying to Blair's face. Blair looked horrified as he watched the Cyclops Oil meeting, one hand straying upward to his head to finger the light brown, shorn hair.
The camera focused for a moment on Naomi's face, and though her smile remained in place, Jim could see the malice in her eyes as she watched her 'mentally challenged' son led away from her side.
The screen went black, and Blair finally turned to Jim, his eyes wide with sorrow and confusion. "I don't understand," he said hoarsely. "She's my mother. Why..." His voice trailed off and he shook his head.
Jim turned off the TV then picked up the glass of orange juice from the table and pressed it into Blair's hand. "From what I've been able to piece together, Naomi Sandburg never really existed. She was a cover, Chief, invented in order to deflect attention from her true identity until such time as she could take control of Cyclops Oil."
"Drink, Chief," Jim urged gently. "It'll help your headache."
Sandburg obeyed, draining the glass then set it down on the table. He looked at Jim and there seemed a new resolve on his face. "So, what now?"
Jim shook his head. "I'm not sure. I think we need to lay low until we work out what to do. I don't think she'll stop at anything to keep you quiet."
Blair swallowed convulsively and nodded. "I guess this isn't really the time to ask, but I need to know... Why did you kick me out and then go to the trouble of rescuing me?"
"Because I was a fool," Jim said. "A stupid, pig-headed, jealous fool. I was so wrapped up in my anger at what I thought you were doing, at what it meant for my own feelings for you, I couldn't think straight." He looked at Blair and brushed a hand down Blair's pale face. "Once you're safe, if you never want to see me again, I'll understand."
Blair seemed not hear that. A small smile broke across his face. "Your feelings for me?"
"Took me a while to figure out that was mostly what had me so riled up," Jim admitted. "You don't need to say anything -"
"But I need to," Blair cut in. "I've felt the same way for the longest time." He leaned forward slightly and brought his lips to Jim's, kissing him tentatively. After a moment, he shifted back and reached up to cup Jim's face. "I've wanted to do that for so long."
"Me, too." Jim pulled Blair to him, wrapping an arm about Blair's shoulders and guiding Blair's head to rest on his chest. "First, we'll fix this, then, we can figure the rest of it out."
"Nothing to figure out," Blair said softly, "not if you really mean what you said."
"I mean it," Jim avowed. "I love you, Blair."
Two days after Jim had rescued Blair from his mother's clutches, he decided it was time to come out into the open. They couldn't stay here forever, Naomi - Jim still couldn't bring himself to think of her as the other woman he'd seen in front of the cameras - still had power, money and contacts. He doubted it would take her long to track them down.
They had yet to consummate their new relationship. Blair was still emotionally fragile, still reeling from his mother's betrayal. Jim wanted all this behind them before they started down that road together. Blair still seemed shell-shocked by Jim's confession of his feelings, though every now and then, Jim would catch him watching him, a small, delighted smile curving his mouth. He seemed content to take things slowly and for that, Jim was glad.
Before they emerged from hiding they would need a good plan, something already in place. They didn't want to have to answer questions on the fly. Naomi would be bound to have something in the works to dispute Jim's claims. Blair was not prepared to run Cyclops Oil. He didn't have the skills, sure, he could learn, but that would take years. In the meantime, despite its terrible environmental and ethical record, he hoped things could be turned around, with the right person in charge, to create an increasingly essential service over time. He couldn't just let it all collapse just because he didn't want to take responsibility.
Blair looked across at Jim, who was still being very gentle with him, not saying anything that might upset him. Jim was probably still afraid Blair would break down. But he wouldn't, not now. "Jim, I'm going to hand over the running of the Thorington Empire to someone else."
The look of surprise was quickly replaced by an expression of bland neutrality. "Oh, who's going to run it for you?"
"I was thinking of asking your father to run it for a few years." Blair calmly waited for a reaction.
Jim nodded. "He has the skills. And he has been bored since he retired. He might just do it, for you. He's had a soft spot for you ever since that run in with Aaron Foster."
"I didn't do anything there."
"You helped to get us back together," Jim said. "If you hadn't pushed me, I doubt I would have gone to see him." He closed his eyes briefly. "He could have been dead because I let my hurt feelings and pride get in the way."
"But he isn't, and you didn't," Blair said firmly. "This is something we need to talk about face to face. He can give us some tips on how to get control away from Naomi without causing a major scandal. I so don't want another media circus."
"I'll call Sally on her cell phone. She'll be at the market about now. She can give a quiet message to Dad." Jim stood and pulled his cell phone from his jacket pocket. "There's someone else I should call while we're waiting, someone who can help give you the protection you're going to need until everything's set up and your... your mother can't intervene."
"Tia," Blair said determinedly. "Somehow I don't think I could ever think of her as my mother or even as Naomi again."
"She fooled all of us, Chief," Jim replied. He rested his hand on Blair's shoulder, squeezing it gently.
Blair nodded. "She's the consummate actress, that's for sure. So, you're calling Simon?"
"Yeah, he needs to know what's going on anyway. I kinda left him out of the loop when I came for you. He's probably ready to kick my butt all the way to Canada."
"Do you think...? Are there any charges she can be arrested on? I mean, that would be the best protection, wouldn't it? If - if she were in prison."
"It would, but you went with her willingly, Chief. We might be able to get her on drugging charges. Let's discuss that with Simon when he gets here."
They pottered around the basement, tidying up, packing their gear and generally trying to keep busy. Two hours later, when Blair was getting too antsy to even think about sitting still, the doorbell upstairs rang.
"Wait here," Jim said, motioning to Blair to stay where he was.
Jim disappeared upstairs and a few seconds later, Blair heard muted voices in the hall above.
"Thanks for coming, both of you. Blair and I appreciate it."
"I'm your father, Jim," he heard William reply. "I'll do anything I can to help."
"Me, too," Simon's deep voice rumbled, "though if you try a stunt like this again, you'll be on traffic duty for a year."
"So noted, sir," Jim replied dutifully and Blair tried to stifle a smile.
"Sandburg!" Simon strode down the last few steps and gave Blair a hug. "Thank god you're all right."
Blair returned the embrace gratefully, feeling close to tears again. "It's good to see you too, Simon." He turned to Jim's father. "You, too, Mr. Ellison. I can't tell you how grateful I am to you both for coming."
"William, please," the older man said, giving Blair's back a pat. "Now, I only got the barest information from Sally, so perhaps you'd better get us both up to speed. I saw the Cyclops Oil handover on the news, Blair. I had no idea it was you. This has all come as something of a shock."
"To all of us."
They sat at the small table and Jim made coffee.
Hands wrapped around his mug, Blair proceeded to fill the others in on Tia's duplicity. When he was finished, he looked at each of the others in turn. "So, now you know. Tia's timing was perfect. She arrived just when I was at my lowest." He glanced apologetically at Jim, who shook his head.
"My fault, Chief, not yours."
"Anyway," Blair shook the disquieting memories from his mind, "if not then, she would have bided her time until another opportunity presented itself." He ran a hand over his face. "I still can't believe I didn't see through her. There must have been some clues, some way she slipped up."
"Like you said, she's the consummate actress," Jim replied.
"I certainly don't have a problem with running the business for you, Blair," William said. "I'll get some people to look into Cyclops Oil, find out what changes need to be made."
"Sack everyone and start fresh, if you have to," Blair said. "If there's anything underhanded or illegal in the operations, I want it stopped."
William held up a hand. "First of all, we have to get control back from your mother."
Blair winced at the word. "How do we do that? She made it look like I was some brain-damaged idiot. I 'willingly' handed the reins over to her."
"Well, it's too late for a drug test," Simon said, aiming a glare at Jim who had the grace to look suitably chastened.
"I didn't want Tia to have any chance of finding Blair," Jim said in his defense. "Not until we could get everything set up."
"I know," Simon said, "still, if you'd trusted your captain and friend, I might have been able to get the tests run without you having to come out of cover."
"Guess I wasn't thinking totally coherently," Jim admitted. "I just wanted Blair safe."
"So..." Blair put in.
"So, I can organize an independent consultation and report from a psychologist," William said. "If we can prove you were, and are of sound mind, we have a chance of petitioning the court for control of the business to revert to you."
"Sounds good." Jim nodded. "How soon can you set it up, Dad?"
William smiled and pulled his cell phone from his jacket. "Give me a couple of minutes. Paul White owes me a favor or two. He's one of the best in his field and highly respected."
Jim turned to Simon. "What about protection, if it does go to court."
"Leave that with me," Simon said. "You asked for my help, Ellison, let me do my job."
A disquieting thought came to Blair's mind. "Okay, that takes care of getting the business back, but what about after? What if my mo - what if Tia sets her goons on me, tries to kidnap me or..." He swallowed convulsively as nausea surged. "Or tries to have me killed."
"She won't get a chance to get anywhere near you, ever again," Jim vowed.
"But what if..." Blair trailed off, unable to repeat the horrifying words.
"We'll leave Cascade," Jim said, reaching out to squeeze Blair's hand. "If you get back control of Cyclops Oil, money won't be a problem. I've got some money put aside as well, investments I can cash in."
"You'd leave the PD for me?" Blair asked.
Jim shook his head. "For us. Hopefully, this takeover will scare Tia enough that she'll be the one doing the running."
Simon cleared his throat. "Something else Mr. Ellison and I should know about, you two?"
Blair looked down, suddenly registering his and Jim's clasped hands. He felt his face heat and looked across at Jim, whose face was tinged with pink. "Umm, yeah, but I guess it's pretty obvious now, isn't it?" He waited with bated breath for an explosion from one or both of the other men, but Simon finally just nodded.
"I am a police captain, after all," he said with a small chuckle. "I had picked up the odd clue."
Blair looked at William who smiled back. "Not news to me," he said. "I saw something the first time I saw you together. Not all that long ago, I have to admit I would have been disappointed, upset... disgusted, even. Congratulations, you two."
Jim looked relieved. "Thanks, Dad."
William rubbed his hands together. "Right, let's get down to business and put this plan into action."
They'd decided that they'd hole up at William's house until everything was in place for the take-over. William was able to organize an appointment with his psychiatrist friend for the following morning, so after, unpacking their things and settling into the Ellison house, both feeling a little embarrassed, though pleased by William's obvious acceptance of their relationship, they ate a delicious dinner prepared by Sally, and headed to bed for an early night.
It felt good to be held in Jim's arms, Blair thought as he snuggled closer to the man he loved. They kissed for a moment, touching each other intimately, but both aware that it was not the time to take things further, when there was still so much uncertainty and danger lurking.
The following morning, Blair was up at dawn, pacing the kitchen while he waited for the coffee to be ready. He was nervous about this meeting with the psychiatrist, despite knowing deep down, that his supposed mental instability had been instigated by drugs.
His thoughts circled endlessly, what-ifs and what thens chasing each other in a never-ending cycle. He was so caught up in his disquiet that he didn't even realize someone else had entered the room until a pair of strong arms wrapped around him from behind. He only just caught himself from struggling and leaned back against Jim's chest, his heart pounding.
"Sorry. Sorry," Jim whispered. "I didn't think."
"It's okay," Blair assured him. "Still a little jumpy, that's all."
"You're up early." Jim released him and pulled coffee cups from the cupboard.
"Just a little nervous, I guess," Blair admitted. "What if I am really am nuts?" He smiled but it felt strained. "Crazy, I guess." He snorted a little at his choice of words.
"You're not nuts," Jim said firmly. "It's going to be fine."
Blair gazed at him for a long time, realizing how lucky they both were that Jim had loved him enough to find him. "I know."
Jim knew Blair must be more nervous than he was, despite his oft-repeated line that he'd been in therapy since he was in Pampers. This wasn't just a case of dealing with ordinary, everyday problems and challenges. This time, Blair was fighting for his freedom, his life, and the worst of it was the enemy was someone Blair had loved and trusted - his mother.
Doctor Paul White was a tall, well-built, personable man with a ready smile. He shook Blair's hand and Jim's then placed a hand on Blair's shoulder and turned him toward his office. Blair hesitated for just a moment and Jim had an overwhelming urge to go with him.
Blair seemed to second-guess Jim's intention. He turned back, giving Jim a shaky smile and a small thumbs up. "See you in a little while, man. Why don't you grab a coffee from the café next door or something?"
"The session will take at least an hour," Doctor White put in.
"Nah, I'll be fine," Jim said, wanting to stay close in case things got too much for Blair to handle, hating the fact of knowing some of Blair's current condition was due to his own stupidity and behavior. "Stakeouts, remember, Chief? I'll read a magazine or something. We can get coffee when you're done. I'll tell Dad to meet us there."
Blair nodded, looking grateful. "Okay. See you in a while."
Two butt-numbing hours later, with Jim wondering why on earth anyone would give a damn who the latest Hollywood heartthrob was sleeping with, and making a silent vow to bring the good doctor some decent magazines, the office door opened and Blair stepped out, looking much calmer and happier than when he'd gone in.
Paul White followed him out, a manila folder in one hand. "So, Blair," he said, "if you're happy to continue some therapy to help you come to terms with what's happened recently in your life, I can recommend a good therapist."
Blair nodded. "Thank you, I'd like that."
The psychiatrist handed Blair a business card. "See the receptionist for an appointment."
Blair glanced at the card. "Patricia White?" He raised an eyebrow.
Doctor White held up his hands. "Yes, okay, she's my wife... but she really is very good."
"So, what's the verdict, Doc?" Jim asked, figuring things were looking positive if Blair could be so upbeat.
"I need to make out an official report, of course," Doctor White said, "but it's plainly apparent to me that Blair is suffering from no mental illness or condition. In fact, considering what he's been through, he's holding up remarkably well. I'll send the report to William's lawyers and you can take the court case from there. If I'm needed to testify on your behalf, Blair, I'm happy to do so."
"Thank you," Jim and Blair both said in heartfelt unison.
"Happy to be of service."
Jim waited while Blair made an appointment to see the therapist in a few days then wrapped an arm around the other man's shoulders and led him to the elevator. He waited until they were in the car, away from prying eyes before drawing Blair into his arms and kissing him deeply.
Breathless, Blair finally pulled back, staring at Jim with wide, sparkling eyes. "What was that for?" he asked.
Jim shrugged. "Just because. I phoned Dad," he said, "instead of coffee next door, how about we grab lunch at the pier?"
"You bet!" Blair said enthusiastically. "For the first time in forever, I'm starving!"
William was waiting for them outside the building and waved a hand across the street. "The car's over here. I can tell from your faces, the news is good, so let's wait till we get to the restaurant before you fill me in on the details."
Pausing at the pavement, they waited for a break in the traffic. Jim somehow sensed the presence, even before the shot rang out, but even then it was too late to do anything but grab Blair and his father and drag them down to the ground. Hovering over them, he pulled his gun from its holster and focused on the direction the gunshot had come from.
Blair groaned and Jim knew without looking, that his actions had been too late.
Oh god! Not now!
"Blair? Where are you hit?"
"S'okay," Blair husked out, his voice tight with pain. "Shoulder. Not bad. Go!"
Jim hesitated only for a second. Pushing his cell phone into his father's hand, he instructed him to phone for an ambulance, then took off, taking what cover he could behind the parked cars lining the street. He glanced back to see William wisely helping Blair shift behind the cover of a vehicle and saw the front door to the Paul White's building open and the psychiatrist come rushing out.
He was surprised there had been no further shooting but when he reached the mouth of the alley across the street, he knew why.
She hadn't even attempted to flee. All the fight seemed to have deserted her after her failed attempt at murder. She stood, her head hanging down, the gun drooping in her hand.
"Drop the weapon," Jim ordered, leveling his own handgun at her chest.
She did so immediately and looked at him then, but there was no sorrow, no apology there, just contempt.
Jim stepped closer and kicked away the weapon at her feet. "How... how could you do this? He's your son!"
She stared at him, her green eyes cold as ice. "I have no son," she spat. "He was simply a means to an end. If he's dead, the Thorington estate is mine. Once he turned 30 he gained legal control. His will named me as his heir, with him dead it all comes to me. It should be mine."
Jim forced back his rising rage, fighting to stay in control. Holstering his weapon, he pulled his handcuffs from his belt and grabbed her hands, snicking the restraints around her wrists. "Tiamat Thorington," he said, hating the waver in his voice, "you're under arrest for the attempted murder of... Blair Sandburg... "
Blair was standing in front of the balcony windows, when Jim entered the loft. He didn't turn around, apparently lost in his thoughts. Jim stood behind him and rested a hand on Blair's shoulder, smiling a little when Blair sighed and leaned back against his chest.
"You okay?" Jim asked.
"Just thinking," Blair replied. "Mourning, I guess." Jim squeezed his shoulder and waited for Blair to continue. "Mourning the mother I knew, the mother who raised me and loved me, who instilled in me my love of learning, my sense of adventure and curiosity. If it hadn't been for her, you and I would probably have never met." He turned and wrapped his arms around Jim's waist, and Jim reciprocated, enveloping Blair in a comforting, supportive hug.
"I'm sorry, Chief," Jim whispered.
"No, it's okay," Blair said. "You did what you had to do. The woman you arrested wasn't my mother. Naomi Sandburg was, and always will be my mother."
"You ready to come to bed?"
Blair looked up at him and smiled. "I thought you'd never ask." He moved out of Jim's arms and held out his hand, allowing Jim to lead him upstairs.
Laying down, Blair beckoned Jim to him. "Make love to me?"
Jim captured Blair's mouth, kissing him deeply, his unabated hunger catching him unawares. He made love to Blair with an intensity that had them both crying out from the pleasure of it, gave himself to Blair heart and soul, created new memories to replace the horrors that had come before, gave himself to Blair forever.
Tiamat Van Asche-Thorington's trial had been anticlimactic, within one month she had pleaded guilty to a raft of charges in exchange for a reduced sentence. She got 20 years in a medium security facility. The prosecutor was pleased not to take this to trial, an expensive undertaking with all the media attention.
Neither Blair nor Jim went to the sentencing. Blair had been recovering from the gun shot wound and was unable to face the media barrage or the woman who used to be his mother.
Jim knew that if they had pushed harder they might have got a much longer sentence, but Blair was not prepared for a full knock-down drag-out trial. At least she was convicted of her crimes, she would not be able to grab the Thorington Empire back from Blair.
Blair had not coped well with the raft of revelations that had come from Tiamat's exposure. His religion, parentage, cultural roots and even his age had all been a lie. Once the shock had worn off Blair had started to spiral out of control emotionally.
The lies were bad enough but to realize his mother was willing to kill him was what had shaken so deeply. Why would she do that? He would have gladly given her more than enough money to be comfortable, even wealthy. The woman who he thought of as his mother and the real Tiamat were so different, so evil. Her betrayal tainted the Thorington Empire and his ability to deal with the necessary business. The corporation details had been handed over to William Ellison for the foreseeable future. William still made a point of discussing the changes he was making with both Blair and Jim.
After a week of living at the loft Blair had sought refuge from the media army, with William Ellison. If the dissertation mess had been bad, this was 100 times worse. There was no peace from them. The neighbors were constantly being harassed, many times reporters had made it into the building to actually get to Jim's door. It was only the patrol officer standing outside their door that enabled them to have any privacy.
Blair had vacillated between depression and anger, bouncing with rage one minute and slumped into depression the next. Jim had moved them both into his father's house with a wry smile as his father hovered ineffectually over Blair, not knowing how to help the man who seemed so broken.
Blair's therapist Patricia White helped but as she had explained to them, Blair was going through normal emotions and needed time to adjust. The damage done by the long term hypnotic conditioning would take a while to overcome, but it was getting there. Patricia still came to the Ellison house twice a week as Blair couldn't leave the house without a camera being pushed into his face.
Jim woke as usual just as dawn broke to watch Blair sleep beside him. The only sign of stress Blair showed was the hand that clutched at Jim's t-shirt. The material was held in an iron-fisted grip that only waking would release. Jim knew this because for the past six months he had tried to gently release that hand to go to the bathroom after waking. Every day he ended up waking Blair. He knew it was a reaction to Blair losing so much. Jim was content to be the one thing that Blair needed to hang on to.
The shoulder was now well healed, a faded puckered scar to match his other ones was visible at the edge of Blair's t-shirt collar. Their lovemaking had been gentle and quiet up until now. Blair had needed a strong gentle devotion which Jim was pleased to provide. If this was the way their relationship stayed Jim would be satisfied. But he thought that once they moved out of his father's house Blair would be a much more active and rowdy lover.
"Blair," Jim watched the eyelids flicker. "Chief!" Jim watched the hand uncurl and Blair open his eyes.
"Umm." Blair watched Jim's mouth come down to his. A sweet gentle kiss on the lips and Jim was up and out of bed. Morning people, ick.
Blair rolled over and went back to sleep as Jim started his day.
Blair was having a good day today, his session with Patricia White had gone well, Jim had joined them for a joint session. They had explored plans for the future and a lot of emotional hot spots. A few tears, a lot of hugs and a growing sense of connection between the two of them had made the two hour session one of their best so far.
Six months down the track and he now just started to feel normal again. He sometimes had bad days still, but the good days now outnumbered the bad, so that was progress at least.
William and Jim had started to develop a deeper relationship that surprised them both, but not Blair. He had watched William and Jim discuss Cyclops Oil plans for South American production and grinned as he remembered the respect that grew in both their eyes as they talked about the ecological and social impacts of the drilling. Both men realized that the other man held the same values as themselves. William now made sure he was home every night for a shared dinner with his son and son-in-law, he had learned many lessons and was grateful for the second chance to get it right.
Blair was content to let William handle the business for a while. He intended to learn, but his personal life needed to be sorted first. Jim had taken a leave of absence from the PD as it would have been impossible to work anyway. He was helping William sort out the bad seeds in the corporation. Human lie detectors came in handy. Jim would occasionally go into the Cascade HQ but never traveled further. Blair needed him close and he needed to be close to Blair.
They would be okay. Eventually Blair would take over the running of his empire, with Jim at his side. Protecting Blair would always come first, being a cop had been satisfying but leaving the PD would not worry him. He would miss working with his friends, but once Blair settled as CEO of the Thorington Empire they could employ their friends in the security division. Ex cops made good security, which was something essential for a corporation that had been so scandal ridden.
Blair appreciated the amount of time Jim was spending with him. Jim showed such patience with him during the black moods that he still sometimes had. During those periods Jim didn't take offence at Blair's harsh words and knew just when to back off and give him space, or when to hold him tightly as he let the emotion out.
Jim watched Blair make dinner in the kitchen while Sally supervised. The bounce was not back yet, but it was a much happier and confident man he now saw. Blair had gained back the weight he had dropped while struggling with depression and his eyes were bright with love as he caught Jim's gaze. Words were spoken with just a look and Jim grinned as the happiness shone from Blair's eyes. It would have a happy ending after all.