Find Our Way Home

By Lyn

 

The cubicle was silent when Nurse Jenny Black entered, save for the soft rhythmic beeping of the heart monitor and the steady susurration of the ventilator that delivered measured doses of oxygen to the comatose patient in the bed.

The man seated beside the bed startled back awake when Jenny entered, blinking slowly as he looked up.

"Sorry, Jim," Jenny said softly. "Didn't mean to wake you."

Jim Ellison shook his head and shifted a little in the chair, stretching out his cramped muscles. "I wasn't asleep," he said. "Just concentrating." His attention turned back to the unconscious man and his hand reached out to grasp the lax one on the bed. He waited until Jenny finished checking Blair's vitals and emptied the catheter collection bag before speaking again. "So, how's he doing?"

Jenny gave a small smile. "Seems to me, you're so focused on him, you can probably tell me more than I can tell you." At Jim's silence, she continued, " He's holding his own. No change." She left the room but in the doorway, she stopped and turned back. "Keep talking to him," she added. "Help him find his way back."

Jim nodded and leaned forward, reaching up to stroke a gentle hand across the brow of the patient. "You hear that, Chief. I'm talking and talking but you don't seem to be listening." He sighed. "It's been four days, Blair, and I'm tired but I won't give in until you open those baby blues and look at me. I miss you, Chief. I miss hearing your endless chatter. I miss your mess in the apartment. I - I miss you." He let go of the hand he'd been holding and took a few sips of water from the tumbler on the bedside table before resuming his vigil. "I should never have let you go out there..."

Four Days Earlier:

"No. No way, Sandburg. You're not going out there."

"Jim, come on, man. I know this guy. We grew up together. I know I can talk him into coming out." Blair turned a pleading look on his partner but Jim wasn't swayed.

"I meant what I said, Sandburg. We have no idea of what's going on in that van. The guy's emotionally distraught." He dismissed the notion with a wave of his hand and turned back to stare at the dilapidated van parked in front of the Family Law courthouse.

"Detective?"

Jim turned his attention to the SWAT commander headed his way with a cell phone in his hand. "What have you got, Malone?"

"The negotiator was able to get Jackson to answer his phone. Jackson says he wants to talk to your partner, and he won't talk to anyone else."

Jim sighed and scrubbed a hand over his face. He'd hoped to be at home with a beer in his hand by now. They'd just been about to leave the station when the call had come in. A man, pissed off and apparently drunk, had parked his van in front of the courthouse. He'd been told that afternoon that his access rights to his two children had been revoked due to his continued drinking and the subsequent endangerment of his children. He claimed to have loaded his van with explosives and was going to blow it up if the judge didn't overturn her decision.

That had been bad enough. Then when they arrived, Blair had recognized the guy's name and immediately (and surreptitiously) phoned Jackson on his cell phone and asked if he'd talk to him. Jim had vociferously vetoed the suggestion, but now it looked like Blair was going to get his way. The SWAT sniper couldn't get a clear shot at the guy, and they had no idea whether a wayward bullet would trigger any explosives that might be secreted in the van.

Jim turned to Blair and frowned. "See if he'll let me come with you."

Malone shook his head. "Jackson said he'll only talk to Sandburg, and we have his word that your partner will be safe."

"Yeah, right, like we can believe that," Jim muttered. He turned back to Blair. "I'm gonna get as close as I can," he said. "I'll be keeping tabs on you both." He touched one ear and Blair nodded in understanding.

"I'll be fine," he assured Jim, swallowing nervously. Jim could hear Blair's heart pounding and he was bouncing nervously on his toes, despite his outward assurances.

Together the two men walked toward the van. They'd only just ducked under the police tape when a voice called from the van. "That's far enough, cop. Blair can walk the rest of the way on his own."

Jim paused and scanned the area, hoping to find a way to unobtrusively get closer. If things started to go south, he wanted to be near enough to yank Blair out. He looked over at his partner when Blair touched his arm. "Let me do this, okay?" Blair said. "I know him."

Jim nodded reluctantly. "Any sign of trouble and you get your ass out of there."

Blair nodded. "I will." He took a deep breath and resumed his walk toward the van.

Jim stayed where he was, resigned to the fact that there seemed no way to get closer without tipping Jackson off. There was still one way for him to keep tabs on his partner's safety though. Focusing on Blair, he dialed up his hearing.

"Blair, how you doin', man? Long time, no see. Climb in."

Jackson sounded decidedly drunk and Jim frowned. Explosives and a drunk - not a good combination. He turned his attention back to the van, his trepidation mounting when Blair opened the passenger door and seated himself. Should have just talked to him through the window, Chief. If it goes to hell, at least you can run.

"Hey, Robbie, what the hell are you up to?" Blair's voice sounded a little shaky.

"What's it look like? Makin' that bitch give me back my kids. How come you haven't been around, Blair? Guess you didn't want to hang out with a loser like me once you went off to Rainier."

"I've just been busy .I'm sorry I didn't stay in touch more often. How long has it been? About two years?"

"'Bout that."

" What happened between you and Lori, Rob? Last I heard you two were happily married and had another baby on the way."

"Got two now. Wanna see a photo?"

There was the sound of rustling paper.

"This is Tommy. He's six and real smart. This is Lucy, two years old and she's already got her ol' man wrapped around her finger. Hey, wanna beer?"

"Sure, why not."

Jim heard the caps on two bottles pop.

"So," Blair continued, "you've got two beautiful kids. What the hell are you doing this for?"

"Not allowed to see 'em anyway. She gives 'em back to me, no trouble. She doesn't... well, there's nothing left for me to live for."

"And they grow up, knowing their daddy blew himself up. Is that any kind of legacy for them?"

"I... I don't know what else to do."

"Let me help you, man. We can get out of here, go somewhere and talk. I could help you get into a rehab program -"

"I tried that. Didn't work."

"But this time I'll be there to support you. We'll get you into rehab, get you sorted out and you can reapply for visitation in a few months' time."

There was a long silence and just when Jim was getting ready to storm the van and to hell with the consequences, Jackson spoke again.

"I don't know, Blair. I'm not sure I can do it. I'm not like you. You always were the sensible one, always getting me out of scrapes, letting me stay at your place when my old man kicked me out....

Hey, how's Naomi?"

"She's good, Rob. Really great." Blair sighed. "Robbie, please, let me help you. Think about your kids, huh?"

"I - I don't know. I need to think about it. You go, Blair. I'll be in touch."

There was another long pause. Come on, Sandburg, get the hell out of there, Jim thought desperately.

"You haven't really got any explosives in here, have you?" Blair asked.

"Maybe not."

"Okay, I'm gonna go. Let you think. Think about Tommy and Lucy, Rob. Okay?"

"Yeah, Blair, that's all I've been thinking about since this whole shit started. I'll see you, man."

"I'm warning you though. If you're not out in five minutes, I'm gonna come back and get you... Okay?"

"Yeah, okay."

Jim sagged with relief when he saw Blair climb out of the van and trot toward him. Impatiently, he waited for his partner to get near enough so he could drag him out of the danger area. Blair gave him a wave and a small, relieved smile...

And then the van exploded in a blinding kaleidoscope of fire and sound. Jim felt himself tossed back by the force of the explosion. His hearing, still dialed up, spiked uncontrollably, sending spikes of agony through his head. He hit the ground hard, and clutched at his head, desperately fighting to get his senses under control. Over the deafening ringing in his ears, he could hear panicked shouts and screaming.

Oh, god! Blair!

Jim staggered to his feet, squinting through the acrid smoke. Just a few feet away, Blair lay on the ground, sprawled like a rag doll, a thin line of blood dribbling from his nose.

~o0o~

Four days later, Blair had shown no signs of returning to consciousness. A CT scan had revealed a medium-sized bleed in his brain, caused by the impact of his head against the blacktop. The doctors were treating it conservatively for now, with medication, in the hopes that the clot might dissolve of its own accord.

There was a pressure device inserted into the top of Blair's head. Every time Jim reached up to brush Blair's wayward curls off his forehead, his fingers would touch it and he'd shudder. He'd seen worse, far gorier injuries during his time in the army but this... This was Blair, his best friend, his brother, his guide and deep inside, in a small corner of his mind, Jim knew that Blair had come to mean so much more than that to him.

Why had it come to this before Jim could form the thoughts that even now he couldn't give voice to? That he loved Blair. As a friend and brother, certainly, but more than that, he was in love with Blair. Love wasn't something that sat easily with Jim. He'd grown up in a motherless home, with a father that set Jim and his brother against each other at every opportunity, and ruled his household with steely discipline. He'd escaped into the army and returned from Covert Ops, scarred and disillusioned by what he'd seen and done. His marriage to Carolyn had been a farce almost from the beginning. Carolyn wanted a career, Jim wanted a family and a wife who stayed at home, like the mother in his childhood dreams.

Once his senses had come back online when he returned from Peru, he found himself retreating more and more into his shell. He was unable to prevent or control the raucous attacks on his hyperactive senses from everyday life, and was unwilling to allow anyone in who would see the chink in his armor, the burden his father had said made him a freak.

Until Blair, who let him see his burden as a gift; who taught him control and led him out of the darkness his life had become. Yet, he still couldn't say the words he wanted to say, because he was afraid that saying them would cause him to lose Blair forever.

He didn't care about any of that right now. He'd lived with his secret for so long that it had become a cherished treasure, something to think what-ifs about in his darkest times. Like when Blair had been poisoned by Golden, and when Lash had taken his guide... like now. None of it mattered. He just wanted Blair awake... Blair undamaged. Back to his annoying, funny, loving self. Chattering a mile a minute, ignoring Jim's demands for peace and quiet, going off on tangents, only for them both to find that it was often that small side trip into the Sandburg Zone that delivered the clues they needed to solve the case or gave Jim a way to handle yet another curveball that his senses threw him.

God, he was tired. Simon had threatened to drag him out tonight and take him home to shower, eat and get some sleep. Nobody seemed to understand that he could do none of that until Blair's eyes opened and Jim could see he was all right.

Giving into his exhaustion, Jim folded one arm on the bed and rested his head upon it, keeping his other hand firmly clenched around Blair's. He'd rest... just for a minute and then he'd go back to talking to his guide, cajoling him to come out from wherever he was hiding. He focused his hearing on Blair's steady heartbeat, allowing it to swell in his head until he was conscious of nothing else...

The trees above him rustled and a flock of birds emerged noisily from their haven, soaring up on the tropical breeze. Fronds rustled and then parted and he glimpsed a pair of indigo eyes that crinkled in delight. Wild chestnut curls framed a smiling face that sobered suddenly with sorrow.*

"Blair," Jim whispered.

Blair shook his head. "I have to go."

"No!" Jim tried to take a step forward but his feet would not move. He looked down and saw strong vines wound about his bare ankles. "Wait! I'll come with you."

Blair turned his head and looked longingly at the path ahead of him. "You can't. You chose the path. This one is mine."

"No! Wait!"

"Jim! Jim! Wake up!"

Jim's eyes snapped open at the insistent shaking of his shoulder. He surged up, his gaze going immediately to Blair.

No change. Damn it! No change!

Slowly he looked up to see Simon standing at his side, a worried expression clouding his dark eyes. Jim yawned and scrubbed his hands over his face. "Sorry, he said, his voice rough. "Must have dropped off to sleep."

Simon nodded and spared Blair a quick glance. "Time to go home," he replied firmly. "Doctor's orders."

"I'm fine," Jim insisted stubbornly.

"You look almost as bad as Sandburg," Simon insisted. "Besides, you promised that if the doctor let you stay for the day, you'd go home and get some rest."

Jim's attention had turned back to Blair. Reaching out, he stroked a thumb along the bruising under Blair's eyes. "Swelling's going down," he said softly. "That's a good sign."

"Pressure's down too."

Both men turned at the sound of another voice. Blair's doctor, Doug Kelly walked up to the bed and scrutinized the monitors. "Looks like the medication's working."

Jim became animated, his energy rejuvenated at the positive words. "That's good, right? Means he'll wake up soon."

Kelly held up a silencing hand. "Not so fast, Jim. The signs are all good, I agree, but even if Blair wakes up, we have no way of knowing what damage has been caused by the bleed."

Jim pushed his chair back and stood. "If? What do you mean, if? His vitals are good, you said so yourself." His gaze went back to Blair. "Of course he's going to wake up!"

"Jim." Simon's voice was low but full of warning.

Jim rounded on him then. "Come on, Simon. You know Sandburg almost as well as I do. He survived Golden; he survived Lash! He's going to be fine."

"Jim." Doctor Kelly placed a hand on Jim's arm. "All I'm saying is we need to be prepared. I'm fairly confident that Blair will wake up but we need to be aware that there may be complications."

Jim slumped back into the chair and stared at his unconscious guide. "Brain damage."

"Yes," Kelly agreed.

Jim nodded, suddenly feeling enormously weary all over again. "I'd like to stay with him until he wakes up."

"Sorry," Kelly said sympathetically. "I think the pressure's down enough for us to remove the probe and I want to run another CT scan. I want you to go home, have something to eat and get some sleep. I don't want to see you back here before 0700."

"I can sleep here," Jim replied mulishly.

"Or I could make that 0900," Kelly replied just as obstinately.

Jim looked up and glared at the doctor, who stared back uncompromisingly. Finally, Jim capitulated. "Okay, but if there's any change, I want to know."

"I'll call you myself," Kelly promised.

Begrudgingly, Jim stood and leaned over Blair. He reached out, running a hand across Blair's brow. "I'll be back before you know it, Chief. How about you be awake when I get here?" He turned and walked to the door, waiting for Simon to join him.

"I'll drive you home," Simon said. "I'll pick you up first thing in the morning on my way to work."

Jim nodded. "Thank you, sir."

Simon slung an arm around Jim's shoulders and led the reluctant detective out of the room. "One more thing, Jim, and trust me on this. Have a shower before you come in tomorrow."

Jim gave a weary smile that felt like it would crack his face. "I get the hint, Simon."

~o0o~

As exhausted as he was, Jim doubted he'd be able to relax enough to sleep once he arrived back at his apartment. There was too much to think about, worst of all, the doctor's dire warning that Blair may have suffered some irreversible brain damage in the explosion.

Would things have been different had Jim confessed his deeper feelings for Blair before now? Perhaps, but Blair would still be lying in that hospital bed, hooked up to god knows how many machines. If the worst happened, Jim would care for Blair as best he could. He would not have turned his back on his partner even his feelings for him had been no more than friendship; and he wouldn't now, but he felt a deep regret knowing it was possible, even if Blair woke up, that he'd never know how Jim truly felt.

That thought led into wondering how Blair would react if Jim did tell him of his feelings. Jim doubted the man would run screaming for the hills - Blair had always been a live and let live kind of guy - but that didn't mean it wouldn't affect their friendship or their partnership.

By the time, Jim climbed the stairs to his bedroom, he'd firmly convinced himself that, regardless of the outcome of Blair's injury, things would be better left the way they were. His confession better left unsaid.

He lay on the bed and stared at the ceiling, his thoughts chasing each other in never-ending circles, while he counted the hours until he could return to Blair's side.

~o0o~

Jim got up the next morning, feeling frazzled and rough from no sleep, deeply disappointed that there had no call from the hospital during the night to say Blair had woken up. He showered quickly and grabbed an apple from the bowl on the kitchen counter, too impatient to bother with cooking breakfast, then hurried downstairs to await Simon's arrival.

"No news, I take it?" Simon commented when Jim slid into the passenger seat.

Jim shook his head brusquely. "No," he said around a yawn. "I'm hoping by the time we get there, there'll be better news."

"Me, too." Simon reached forward and turned on the radio. The strains of a mellow jazz tune filled the air and the two men stayed silent, both lost in their own thoughts as they made their way to the hospital.

~o0o~

Doug Kelly was just exiting Blair's room when they arrived. He greeted them with a smile. "Good news," he said. "He's not fully back yet but he's showing good response to stimuli."

Jim nodded, relief flooding him. "No brain damage?"

"We can't be entirely sure until he's fully conscious," Doug replied, "but the signs are optimistic. It's going to take him a while to recover even if there's no residual brain injury, but I think I can guardedly say that he will make a full recovery."

Simon slapped Jim on the back. "That's great news, Doc. Okay if I stop by quickly to see him before I head into work?"

Doug waved them into the room. "Be my guest." He reached out and grabbed Jim's arm as he went to follow Simon. "You don't look much better than you did when you left here yesterday. Did you get any sleep?"

"Not much," Jim admitted. "Once Blair wakes up, I'll be fine."

"Try to keep your strength up," Doug advised. "Even a half hour nap in the armchair will help. Blair's going to need you fit and healthy."

"Thanks... thanks for everything you've done."

Kelly smiled. "That's what they pay me for. Go on in and see your partner."

The ventilator was gone, Jim noted with relieved surprise. The doctor hadn't mentioned that. It was good to see Blair's face clearly, unfettered by the tube. There was a small patch of redness at the corner of Blair's mouth and Jim touched it gently, feeling the sticky residue of tape.

Simon shifted to allow Jim to take his usual place at Blair's bedside. "He looks better," he announced with satisfaction. "The swelling around his eyes has gone down."

"Yeah." Jim lowered his weary body into the armchair, thoughtfully provided by the staff the first night, and reached out to take Blair's hand. "Hey there, Chief. I'm back. How about you wake up for me?"

Simon patted Jim's shoulder. "I'll call in later today, once I clear that stack of reports off my desk. Call me if there's any change."

"You bet." Jim's gaze didn't shift from Blair's face and he barely noticed Simon taking his leave.

There was something more than physical signs, something indefinable that told Jim that Blair was indeed returning to consciousness. He studied Blair's face closely, noticing that his flesh seemed less sallow, color beginning to return beneath the dark stubble on Blair's cheeks. Opening up his hearing, Jim listened past the beeping of the heart monitor, reassured by the steadier cadence of Blair's heartbeat. Blair's lungs expanded and contracted rhythmically, with no sign of the laboring gasps for air that had frightened Jim so much when he'd first made it to Blair's side the day he'd been injured. Absently stroking the back of Blair's hand with his thumb, Jim froze when that hand twitched minutely under his own.

"Blair?"

The hand gripped his weakly for a moment, flexed and then went still. Deflated, Jim sat back and went back to mapping his partner's vitals, losing himself in the search for some sign that Blair was waking up, subconsciously willing the younger man into opening his eyes and speaking.

The grass was prickly beneath his feet, irritating his sensitive soles. A steady stream of light rain drizzled from above, cooling him. The jungle was silent, save for the rustling of leaves when the rain hit them. In front of him, a child, dressed only in a loincloth, squatted on the ground, watching him with curious eyes.

"Blair."

The hair was shorter, curling in tendrils around his ears, but Jim knew that face. He smiled and stepped forward, holding out a hand. "Blair?"

The child's expression turned sad and he shook his head and turned away. "I searched for you," he said, "for half my life, only to find you didn't want me."

"I do want you," Jim insisted. "I've always wanted you. You're my guide, my best friend."

The child spun around to face him, but now it was a grown Blair who stood in his place. "You can't," he replied, tears glistening in his eyes. "Not the way I want you. My life is meaningless without you. I have to make a choice, to stay or go."

"Stay, please," Jim begged but Blair had already taken several steps further into the jungle, his body almost swallowed up by the lush greenery.

There was a low growl from beside him. Jim looked down and saw the panther, who stared back at him with a kind of resigned, impatient look that seemed to say, "What are you waiting for? Go after him."

"Blair, wait." Jim took off after his friend, catching up quickly and grabbing at Blair's hand.

Blair turned and looked at him. "Make a choice, Jim, so I can make mine."

Jim pulled Blair closer and bent his head to capture Blair's lips, rejoicing when Blair moaned softly and opened his mouth. Jim deepened the kiss, wrapping his arms around Blair, stroking a caress down his bare back. After a moment, he pulled back and ran a finger down Blair's cheek. "I want you, Blair. I need you. I love you."

Jim opened his eyes and attempted to reorient himself. Sunlight shone through the large window opposite. The blanket beneath his head was the regulation hospital blue. A soft beeping drew his attention to the heart monitor beside the bed. The hospital then. Not the jungle. Dreaming again.

Blair's hand twitched in his and Jim let his gaze travel up to Blair's face... to see a pair of drowsy blue eyes staring back at him. He smiled, feeling the muscles of his face tighten as though they had been tensed for too long. "Hey," he croaked, uncaring of the tears that stung his eyes. "Look who's back?"

Blair continued to gaze at him, his eyes still slightly unfocused then he blinked slowly. Trepidation tightened Jim's chest, and he sat up and leaned in close to his friend.

"Do you know who I am?" he asked hesitantly.

Blair nodded, then winced. His hand dislodged from Jim's and reached up to rub at his forehead. "J - Jim. Head 'urts."

The relief at hearing those few words almost made Jim weep. He stroked Blair's forehead soothingly. "Yeah. Lucky for you, you have a hard head." Without thought, he touched his lips to Blair's. "I love you."

"I - I know," Blair whispered.

Not wanting anyone to intrude on this special moment but knowing they must, Jim searched for, and found the call button and pressed it. While he waited, he turned his attention back to Blair, drinking in the sight of those deep blue eyes, still washed out with fatigue and pain, but becoming more lucid.

When the nurse bustled in and set about checking Blair, Jim stood and stretched the kinks from his back, feeling lightheaded from not enough sleep, too much worry and more than a little elation.

When the doctor arrived, greeting Blair with a wide grin, then wasting no time in beginning a neurological exam, Jim leaned in once more to speak to Blair. "I'm gonna go phone Simon, Chief," he told him. "Everyone's been waiting to hear that you're awake."

Blair gave him a small nod and a thumbs-up, his eyes fluttering closed, then opening again when the doctor called his name.

Doctor Kelly glanced at Jim and nodded. "Well, that's a good sign to start with, but I'll give you a more definitive prognosis when I'm finished here."

Jim gave Blair a smile and hurried out to share the good news with their friends.

~o0o~

"You dreamed of the j-jungle again?" Blair's eyes gleamed with an enthusiasm Jim had missed seeing for so long.

Doug Kelly had suggested that Jim take Blair out to the garden for a much-needed breath of fresh air. Blair was due to be discharged the following day, and, frustrated with what he considered to be miniscule steps forward in his recovery in the past two weeks since he'd regained consciousness, he had become uncharacteristically listless and morose over the past few days. Jim, on the other hand, was more encouraged at Blair's eventual return to full health each time he saw him. He'd slowly regained the strength in his limbs and his initially slow speech had been replaced with just a mild stutter whenever he became excited or upset.

Contrary to his initial doubts, Jim had found it easy to confess his true feelings for Blair and now, the words, I love you, slipped out with increasing frequency, often without conscious thought. Blair seemed to have simply accepted it, telling Jim in a particularly down moment, that he'd had an epiphany of sorts while unconscious. "I don't know where I was. Just lost. There was a light in the darkness and I so wanted to go to it, but something was holding me back. I couldn't decide what to do. When I woke up, I knew what it was. I couldn't go because you needed me, and I wanted you."

Jim leaned back on the bench and tipped his face up to the sun. He might be finding it easier to express his emotions to Blair these days, but he just knew that Blair, bored and frustrated, would grab hold of his confession of his own dreams and study it to death.

"Come on, Jim, give. I - I told you."

Jim gave a theatrical sigh. "All right already, Chief. Just gathering my thoughts." He leaned forward and clasped his hands together on his knees. "I fell asleep, and then I was in the jungle. I saw you and asked you to come back, but you said you couldn't. That you'd chosen a different path. The second time, you said I didn't need you the way you needed me, and I told you I did. When I woke up, you were looking at me."

There was a long silence then Blair said, "That's it? Come on, Jim, you can do better than that. Th - there's so m - much tied up in y - your visions." Blair pushed himself up in the wheelchair and tugged on Jim's arm. "Start again."

Jim groaned. "I swear, you're gonna be the death of me, Sandburg."

"Can you go to the hospital shop?" Blair prattled on. "Buy me a notebook and a pen. Better y - yet. Bring my laptop in."

"You'll be coming home tomorrow. Can't it wait till then?"

Blair shook his head and tapped at his forehead. "The old gray matter's still not up to par. Might forget something."

~o0o~

"Jim?"

Jim looked down at Blair who lay on the couch with his head pillowed on Jim's lap. Smiling, he brushed the hair from Blair's face so he could see him more clearly. "Yeah?"

"Do you think the vision you had brought me back?"

Jim leaned back and closed his eyes. "I like to think so, but who knows? Maybe it was just good timing and you were going to wake up anyway."

"Mm. You know what I think?"

"What do you think?"

Blair struggled upright, his muscles still a little slow to respond. Carefully, he slid sideways and straddled Jim's legs, then locked his arms around Jim's neck. "I think," he began, gently massaging the back of Jim's neck, "that us falling in love was pre-destined."

Jim opened his eyes. "Like me being a sentinel?"

"Yeah. I mean," Blair leaned in and peppered Jim's mouth with tiny kisses that stirred Jim's desire, "I'm your guide and this way, we'll always be able to look out for each other. Maybe that's how it works." He paused in his delicious nibbling and Jim groaned, recognizing the thoughtful look that stole into Blair's eyes. "I need to check some stuff out. I can't come back to the station for another week. I might head down to the university library tomorrow, see what I can find. Burton never did say much about the role of the guide."

"You know what I think?" Jim asked, pulling Blair in for a more thorough kiss.

"What?" Blair asked, his eyes darkening with need.

"I think you think too much. Time for bed." He stood suddenly, dislodging Blair, who wavered uncertainly on his feet. Jim reached out and steadied him, having forgotten his lover's still slightly precarious balance. "Shit! Sorry, Chief."

"S'okay." Blair leaned in and rested his head against Jim's chest, puffing out a small sigh.

Jim tangled his fingers in Blair's luxuriant curls, letting his fingers slide through them, feeling the warmth of Blair's skin against his own, determinedly pushing away the what-if and what-could-have-been that threatened to ruin this moment, focusing only on what he'd denied for so long - he loved Blair and was loved in return.

~o0o~

Later, sprawled over Blair, who lay quiescent and sated, a small smile of satisfaction brightening his drowsy features, Jim allowed himself to be lost for a moment in his senses, taking in all that made Blair who he was, drifting away on the pleasure of it... until Blair's gentle voice called him back, and he smiled and rolled to the side, drew Blair to him, so that they rested, arms and legs tangled about each other... and slept... and dreamed of what could be and what was to come.