WHY SANDBURG WEARS FLANNEL

By: Lyn

EMAIL: townsend297@ozemail.com.au

DISCLAIMER: Not mine. Never will be. They belong to Paramount, Petfly and each other.

RATED: NC-17

PAIRING: J/B

SUMMARY: Blair goes to the Academy and Jim… copes.

 

Sex in the morning was great, Blair thought drowsily. Actually, sex with Jim anytime was un-fucking-believable, but especially in the mornings, when it was slow and easy, almost silent, save for the occasional whisper of love or erotic suggestion, and muffled groans of pleasure. When in the aftermath, he could collapse sated and boneless into Jim's arms and drift gently back to sleep.

Except this morning, he couldn't… They couldn't.

He groaned, as a muscled arm wrapped around his body, drawing him closer to the man behind him, and a large hand, the palm callused from years of gripping a gun, ghosted over his nipples, teasing the nubs into hard peaks. A single finger stole between his ass cheeks and rubbed enticingly over his pucker.

"Jim, we can't, man," he protested, even as he shifted backward to allow Jim's finger to slip just inside and stroke invitingly.

Jim nuzzled at his neck, then nibbled on a sensitive ear lobe, causing Blair to shiver. "Why not?" he whispered.

"Because I'll be late, and this is one day I can't - Oh God!" A moan of pleasure escaped Blair’s lips as Jim's hand traveled lower, scratching through his pubic hair and then encircling his cock, pumping it slowly, the touch barely there.

"Won't be late," Jim replied, his grip on Blair's cock firming as his finger pressed deeper into Blair's passage. He pulled out abruptly and sat up then decisively flipped Blair onto his back before settling himself between Blair's splayed legs. "I set the clock back half an hour." He bent his head and pressed a kiss to the crease in Blair's groin then looked up and grinned, lust darkening his eyes to a deep glacier blue. "You're going to be at the Academy for two weeks, Blair. I wanted to say goodbye properly."

Blair gasped as Jim's hot wet mouth suckled on his cock. He arched up, and felt Jim's finger press into him once more and gladly gave up the fight. Sex in the mornings with Jim was so good.

 

~o0o~

"You got everything, Chief?"

Blair looked over at the bags that sat by the front door and nodded. "Yep, besides if I've forgotten anything, I can pick it up next weekend."

"Cell phone charged?"

"You should know, you did it yourself last night."

"Just making sure." The tiny crease of worry on Jim's forehead that had never entirely disappeared as this day had loomed, deepened. "If you need anything, need me at all, any time -"

"Hey, chill, Jim." Blair walked over and wrapped his arms around Jim's waist, squeezing tightly. "It's going to be fine. It's the Police Academy and I'm only going to be there for two weeks. Weapons training, that’s all. The Commissioner agreed." He leaned his head against Jim's chest and closed his eyes briefly, wishing he felt as confident as he sounded.

He felt Jim's lips press against the top of his head. "You know as well as I do, Sandburg, that there are still people out there who think you've been given a free ride straight into Major Crime."

"And we both know that's not true." Blair looked up and smiled. "Besides, you've taught me pretty well over the years. I can take care of myself."

"Still -" Jim sighed as Blair reached up and held a finger to his lips, silencing his concerns.

"Anyway," Blair continued, "I'm more worried about you. Are you sure you're going to be okay without me? Megan's pretty up with what she needs to do if you zone or have a sensory spike but I want you to promise me you won't overdo it until I'm back."

Jim grinned back at him and tousled his hair. "Trust me, Chief, after the way you grilled both Simon and Connor, there's no way either of them is even going to let me pee on my own."

"Just making sure you're looked after," Blair said smugly. "I have to admit I'd rather be staying right here, but I know it's what I have to do -"

Jim shook his head vehemently and pulled out of Blair's embrace before grasping Blair by the shoulders. "Not 'have to', Chief. We've been through that."

"Yes, have to," Blair countered, "because I want to be your partner, I want to be your back-up. It's okay. There's no problem here, Jim, I'm fine." He glanced at his watch. "I've got to go. I'll call you tonight." Lifting his head, he kissed Jim deeply, wishing they could stay in this moment forever. Pulling back, he strode decisively to the door and picked up his bags. "I love you, Jim."

"Love you too, Chief."

TWO WEEKS LATER:

Jim sat at his desk, immersed in paperwork in order to avoid the baleful glares being sent his way from Connor, Rafe, Brown and pretty much everyone else in Major Crime. He didn't know why everyone seemed to think all of this was his fault. After all, he could hardly be blamed for Connor not knowing right from left. She came from a country where they drove on the wrong side of the road, for god’s sake. And he thought Rafe was being just a little too finicky. He knew the young detective fancied himself as model material but doing the job they did, it just didn't pay to wear your best clothes to work. As for Henri, how was Jim to know the usually jovial detective was trying to outdo Sandburg in the women department?

The thought of Blair brought a smile to his lips and he looked down at his watch and sighed. In a few more hours, his lover would be walking through the doors of the loft and everything could go back to normal. Well, as normal as it ever got for the two of them anyway. Memories of the previous weekend's marathon lovemaking session rose unbidden, his mind supplying the vision of Blair, sprawled naked on their bed, his need evident in his darkened eyes as he stroked himself gently and bid Jim closer in a hoarse whisper. Jim didn't think he'd ever come as many times or as violently. He was pretty sure he'd actually zoned at one point, only returning when Blair's voice, laced with amusement and faint concern, lured him back.

"Jim." Simon's voice dragged him from his lustful reverie and Jim looked up, his face reddening when he realized he'd been about to cream his pants like a horny teenager, just over a daydream.

He cleared his throat and thanked heaven for long sweaters that hid his rampant erection. "Yes, sir?"

"We need to talk."

"Problem, sir?"

Simon rolled his eyes. "After the week you've been having, I hope not."

"If it's about Joel, I can explain -"

"Let's go down to the break room," Simon said, turning and heading in that direction. "I need a sugar hit." He waited until they'd entered the break room before turning to Jim. "When does Sandburg get back?"

"Late tonight. Why?"

"Not a minute too soon." Simon fed coins into the candy machine and selected a chocolate bar before continuing. "Look, Jim, I know you're missing Sandburg but you have to keep your mind on the job."

"Are you saying that everything that's happened this week has been my fault, Simon? That's not entirely true -"

"Yes, I am and yes, it is." Simon sat down at a table and looked up at Jim. "If Sandburg was here, you wouldn't be going off half-cocked like you have been. For a little guy, he sure has you towing the line. It's not just your concentration, it's your attitude."

Jim squared his shoulders. "My attitude, sir? Someone does something stupid, I shouldn't call them on it?"

"As long as you're prepared to have the same thing happen to you when you do the wrong thing. And this territoriality over your desk and Sandburg's desk. I thought that only happened if there was another sentinel nearby."

"Taylor was looking for a fight, Simon, and you know it. He's been pissed with Blair joining the squad from the beginning. Taking over Sandburg's desk and saying he didn't think Blair would be needing it because he wouldn't be able to cut the firearms course was out of line."

"I agree," Simon said. "But I want you to bring those grievances to me, not brawl it out in the bullpen. Is that understood?"

Jim dropped his head, looking appropriately chastised and knowing if Will Taylor ever came near him or Blair again, he'd break his nose all over again. "Yes, sir."

"And telling the Mayor not to get her knickers in a knot over our inability to catch the third restaurant bandit was not your finest moment." Simon frowned. "Did you learn that line from Connor?"

Jim allowed a small smile to grace his face. "You have to admit, Simon, Connor comes out with some pretty good one-liners."

"That she does," Simon agreed. "About the Mayor?"

"I'll apologize, sir, but she had it coming… sir."

"I tend to agree with you on that, Jim but I'd like to continue getting a paycheck for a few more years. Joan likes the alimony and I haven't put Daryl through college yet." Simon tore the wrapper off his chocolate bar and took a bite. "So, Sandburg tell you how he's doing at the course?" he asked around his mouthful.

Jim relaxed now the lecture was over. "He didn't have much to say about it," he replied, refraining from telling Simon they'd been way too busy doing other things. "I'm hoping no one gave him a hard time. The fraud thing has never gone entirely away and there are still some people out there that don't think he should have been offered a badge."

Simon gave a mock shudder. "Then I feel sorry for them. Sandburg will have them either shaking in their boots or becoming his best buddy the minute he opens his mouth."

Jim smiled. "You're probably right. Is that all?"

Simon stood. "I'll walk back with you." He clapped Jim's shoulder. "Trust me, Jim, you're not the only one who'll be glad to have Sandburg back. Let's just try to get everybody through today in one piece. I think the best way to do that is to put you on desk duty until Blair gets back and is sworn in."

"Oh, come on, Simon, that's not necessary -"

"It's only for a few days, Jim. You'll survive."

~o0o~

Blair paused for a moment in front of the bullpen door and composed himself. He wasn't due back at the loft until late evening but once the firearms course was over, he couldn't wait to get home. He declined a celebratory dinner with the group, settling for a couple of beers at the local pub before heading out amidst promises to stay in touch.

Once he'd hit the outskirts of Cascade, it seemed like he couldn't get home fast enough, as though he'd been away for months - even though he'd been home the previous weekend. Because the course was held in Seattle, he'd had to stay in one of the Academy dorms during the week, but on weekends, he was free to come and go as he pleased. He and Jim hadn't spoken much about the firearms course or about how Jim was handling his senses with Megan as his guide. It had been difficult to talk about much at all, since Jim had dragged him bodily into the loft the moment he opened the door, slammed the door shut and locked it, unplugged the phone and then led Blair upstairs to the bedroom. They'd barely come up for air the whole weekend.

Not that Blair was complaining. He loved this passionate side of Jim. It was a side that few people saw and Blair was immensely glad to be among those privileged few. When Jim had asked about the Academy, Blair had kept his answers deliberately vague, though not because he had something to hide. In fact, everyone in the group, except for one Sergeant Kilmyer, had been more than welcoming, and Blair quickly learned that Kilmyer didn't have a kind word to say to anybody.

But there was something Blair didn't want Jim to know until the course was over and he had his final results safely tucked in his pocket. He had a speech of sorts lined up, in case he needed it. These days it seemed to be a habit he couldn't get out of. One never knew when the sentinel stuff was going to throw them for another loop and Blair had learned to be prepared. This speech wasn't about the sentinel stuff, but it was about the two of them, and what being Jim's partner meant to him. Now, he knew he didn't need to say the words he'd memorized, but he wanted to anyway.

Jim hadn't exactly been forthcoming about his own week without Blair but waved away Blair's concern with a gentle kiss.

"I'm here, aren't I?" he growled in Blair's ear. "Still in one piece. Not a scratch on me."

And then Blair had lost track of what he wanted to say, courtesy of Jim's talented mouth descending on his needy cock.

Later, lying wrapped together in each other's arms, Jim had admitted to some minor problems. One small zone, he insisted, that Megan had brought him out of with little trouble. Blair couldn't help feeling a little miffed at that. Maybe the Sentinel/Guide thing wasn't as ingrained as he'd thought it to be.

The door to the bullpen swung open and the exiting detective gave Blair a friendly smile. "Hey, Sandburg. Welcome back. The guys are going to be really pleased to see you."

Blair grinned. "Thanks, Artie. It's nice to be back." His thoughts uplifted by the welcome he knew he'd receive, Blair entered the bullpen…

And stopped dead.

"Sandy!" Megan Connor struggled to her feet and hobbled over to Blair, her right leg, from her knee to her toes, encased in a pink cast that was even brighter than the suit she'd worn on the day she'd arrived in Cascade.

Blair gaped. "Megan? What happened to you?"

Megan rolled her eyes and gave him a quick hug before settling herself on the edge of Jim's desk and resting her injured leg on a chair. "Your partner, that's what happened."

"Jim! Is Jim okay?"

"Jim's fine, and so am I, thanks for asking."

"Sorry." Blair patted her shoulder apologetically. "What the heck happened?"

"We were chasing a perp. Jim spotted the guy and recognized him from a wanted flyer. Of course, the perp took off and Jim decided to chase him down. Took off like a bat out of hell, yelling at me to go left, only I thought he meant my left." She broke off and shook her head. "That partner of yours is directionally challenged."

Blair tried to hide a smile at that comment.

Megan continued. "We got tangled up in each other. The result? A broken ankle for me, the perp got away and Jim got to ride with Joel."

"You sure you're all right?"

Megan smiled. "I'm fine, just don't ask -"

"I don't care what you say, Jim." Simon's distinctive voice echoed from the corridor. "You are on desk duty until Sandburg comes back."

"Come on, Simon," Blair heard Jim reply. "It'll be fine. Look, what happened this past week could happen to anyone."

"But it didn't happen to anyone, did it, Detective? It happened to Connor, and Joel and Rafe and Brown - and me."

"I said I was sorry, didn't I? Simon - Blair!" Jim took a step into the bullpen and grinned before hurrying over and wrapping Blair in a hug. Stepping back, he gripped the younger man by the shoulders and smiled. "We didn't expect you back until tonight."

"Yeah, well, I missed you guys and I was worried about you." Blair frowned at his partner. "Seems like I had good reason to be." He waved at the captain. "Hey, Simon. You're putting Jim on desk duty? Why?"

Banks rolled his eyes. "You don't want to know. Let's just say it gives me a whole new understanding of why you wear flannel. Now that you're back, providing you have an important piece of certification to show me, he's all yours."

Blair's smile faltered and Simon looked nervous. "Look, Sandburg, we all knew how you felt about firearms before you took the course. If you couldn't hack it, I understand. Maybe I can talk to the Commissioner again about a consultant's position."

Blair shook his head and pulled a folded piece of paper from his pocket. "That won't be necessary, Simon - sir." He held out the paper and watched as Simon read it, a slow grin spreading over his face. The captain looked up and positively beamed. "Well, damn. Jim, I think you might have a run for your money at this year's marksmanship competition. Seems Sandburg here is a natural with a gun. Completed the course with high honors."

Blair felt his face heat. "Yeah, well, being good with a gun doesn't mean I like them any more than I did before." He grinned at his partner. "Trust me, Jim, your marksmanship award is safe."

Jim reached out and ruffled Blair’s hair. "I’m proud of you, Chief."

"Now," Blair crossed his arms over his chest and gave his partner a frown, "is someone going to fill me in about what happened while I was gone?"

"Tell you what, Sandburg," Simon interjected. "Why don't I take us all out for a celebratory dinner and the guys can each tell you their stories of woe. Trust me, they're going to be glad to hear you're home."

"Sounds like a plan," Blair agreed. "If Jim's on desk duty anyway, Captain, mind if I take him off your hands for a few hours. I need his help… with unpacking."

Simon waved a hand, shooing them off. "Go."

"Wait a minute," Jim retorted. "Don't I get a say in this?"

"You don't want to help me unpack?" Blair asked innocently.

"You know I do, Chief. I just can't help feeling unwanted here."

"But not unloved," Blair whispered, sentinel-soft, and grinned at the blush that colored Jim's cheeks. "Let's go."

"See you tonight, guys. Enrico's at seven." Simon waved an admonishing finger at the two men. "Don't be late."

"Your buy, Simon." Jim shook his head. "No way am I missing that."

~o0o~

Warm water cascaded down Blair's back, causing him to arch back in pleasure against Jim. "God, it's good to be home," he sighed.

"Good to have you home, Chief," Jim said. His hands massaged Blair's shoulders then moved down to his back and finally over his buttocks, fingers firmly stroking away Blair's tension. His thumbs stole into the crevice of Blair's ass, the lubrication of the shower gel, easing their way and Blair pushed back further, allowing the digits to stroke over his hole.

"Now, Jim, need you," Blair groaned urgently.

"Right here, Chief, I'm right here." And he was. Pressing Blair up against the tiles, Jim blanketed Blair with his body, his cock finding its way into Blair's waiting passage, one hand reaching around to grasp and pump Blair's straining erection. It took only a few strokes for each of them, too few, but both were so needy, so desperate. Within seconds, they were both coming with grunts of pleasure.

Blair sagged against the wall, his earlier energy depleted along with his need. "Oh man, that was good." He turned within the circle of Jim's arms, and pressed a gentle kiss to his lover's lips. "There's something I need to say."

"If it's about the shield -"

Blair shook his head, smiling when Jim blinked furiously as stray drops of water from Blair's curls splattered his face. "It's about us. I just wanted to say that I've never felt more certain about where I'm supposed to be than I do right now. Whether it's just as your guide or as your partner and your lover, I know it's where I belong."

Jim smiled gently and pulled Blair into a full body hug. "I'm so glad to hear you say that, Chief, because if you weren't going to be here with me, I was going to walk away."

"From the job?" Blair pulled back a little, disconcerted at Jim's words. "Jim -"

Jim pressed a finger against Blair's full lips. "Shh. I know my place too, and it's beside you… with you, whatever you decide."

Blair smiled and sucked Jim's finger into his mouth. "I love you, you big lug," he announced around his mouthful.

"Back at ya, Chief. Now let's scramble before we miss out on ordering the most expensive dinner at Enrico's."

~o0o~

Making their way into the restaurant, Jim and Blair found Simon, Megan and Joel already seated at the table. Joel had his back to the door and seemed deep in conversation with Megan, so Blair crept up, holding one finger to his lips in a shushing motion, a wide grin on his face, ready to surprise the jovial captain. Quickly he placed his hands over Joel's eyes and said in a mock growl, "Guess who?"

He was startled when Joel flinched, shifting forward and banging the table with his ample stomach, making the glassware teeter.

"Ah, Sandburg," Jim placed a restraining hand on Blair's arm, "I meant to tell you -"

"Blair!" Joel turned to face the newest detective of the team and Blair stared in shock. A narrow plastic splint covered Joel's nose, the ends held in place by tape. "Joel? What the hell happened?"

Joel rolled his eyes and grimaced. "Your partner happened, that's what," he replied nasally.

"Sit down, guys," Simon interrupted. "Beer's on its way."

Jim and Blair took seats next to each other but before Jim could say anything, Blair turned his attention back fully to Joel. "So?"

"Simon asked me to go out on a call with Jim. There was another armed robbery at that new Italian restaurant."

"Same guys we've been chasing for a month?" Blair asked.

"Yeah. Anyway, Jim wanted to take a closer look at the place and… well, he started acting weird."

"Weird?" Blair glanced at Jim.

"He wouldn't listen to me and he had this strange look on his face, like he was miles away. Anyway, Megan had told me what to do if that happened so I -"

"I didn't tell you to hit him," Megan interjected.

Blair turned back to Jim and whispered harshly, "You zoned - again?"

Jim shook his head and took a large swallow of his beer the moment the waitress put it in front of him. "I was concentrating, that's all."

Blair crossed his arms over his chest and glared. "You zoned," he replied smugly.

"All right already," Jim agreed with reluctance. "For a second, a minute or two, tops."

"So I gave him a slap on his shoulder," Joel continued.

"I told you to shake him. Gently," Megan added grumpily. "Sandy doesn't need to touch him. He just speaks to Jim in that voice and he comes back from wherever he is."

"It was just a small tap -" Joel complained.

"You just about dislocated my shoulder -" Jim interjected.

"Children, children." Simon held up both hands in a placating gesture. "Can we keep it down. We don't need the whole restaurant knowing about Jim's… peculiarities." Jim gave him a dark look for that comment and Simon sighed and waved a hand. "Go on, Joel."

"The next thing I know I'm flat on my back on the floor with blood streaming out my nose."

Jim picked up a breadstick and pointed it at Joel. "You of all people should know not to do that to an Army Ranger."

"Especially one with heightened senses," Blair added softly. He couldn't fight the smile that blossomed and put a conciliatory hand on Joel's arm. "I'm sorry, man."

Joel covered Blair's hand with his own large one. "No big deal, Blair, just don't ask me to babysit your partner again."

"And speaking of babysitters, here come the final two now."

"Hairboy!" Henri Brown gave Blair's hair a tug and sat beside Megan, while a rather rumpled looking Rafe sat beside Jim. "Sorry we're late," Rafe scowled. "My good suit is at the cleaners."

Blair raised an eyebrow. "Jim?"

Rafe nodded and brushed an invisible thread from the shoulder of his jacket.

Simon clapped his hands. "Before we get into that particular conversation, let's order. I'm starved."

By the end of dinner, Blair could no longer contain his curiosity. Finishing off his risotto and wiping his mouth with a napkin, he sat back and glanced around at the assembled team. "So, is someone going to tell me what happened?" he asked, breaking into the idle discussion regarding the Jags' chances in the playoffs.

Jim looked up from toying with a bread stick. "It wasn't anything earth shattering, Chief," he said reluctantly. "It was just a suit."

"A $300 suit," Rafe clarified.

Megan reached out and patted his hand comfortingly. "And a very nice suit it was too."

Rafe shot her a withering look. "That doesn't help, Connor."

Megan had the grace to look abashed. "Sorry." She poured herself another glass of wine and sat back, not able to entirely hide her smile.

Rafe sighed and leaned his elbows on the table, resting his chin on his hands. "We got a call that there was another restaurant robbery going down. Jim and I were the closest to the scene, H was in court and well… Joel was having his nose set. We got there in record time." He gave a theatrical shudder. "Amazingly in one piece, and found the perps were still there. Jim took the back and I went in through the kitchen. What we didn't know was the second guy had set himself up just inside the door with a pot of spaghetti sauce for a weapon."

Blair snorted. "You mean he just poured it over you?"

"He threw it at me! I ducked. Just not quickly enough!" Rafe said indignantly. "Anyway, we got two of them. I managed to bring my guy down with a none too shabby flying tackle - I always knew my years playing rugby in South Africa would pay off," he added with a small degree of pride. "Jim grabbed the other guy as he headed out the door. Unfortunately the driver got away."

Blair struggled desperately not to give into his laughter. "I don't see how it's Jim's fault your suit got ruined," he forced out.

"We tossed for it, Chief," Jim explained. "I won the toss, meaning he got to go in through the kitchen."

"Oh." Blair glanced over at Henri who had remained somewhat silent over dinner. "Seems like you and Simon are the only ones who came out of this week unscathed," Blair said.

Henri gave him a mournful look. "My wounds are all on the inside, Hairboy."

Blair gave his partner a stern look. "Oh God. What did he do?"

Henri gave a melancholy sigh. "You remember Jenna?"

"From Records? How could I forget her!" Blair said enthusiastically. He ignored the nudge under the table from Jim. "What about her?"

"While Rafe was getting changed, Jim asked me to help him go over the witness statements and we ran into Jenna -"

Blair turned to Jim and waggled his eyebrows. "She's something, huh, Jim?"

"Yeah. Get it over with, Brown," Jim added to Henri with an aggrieved look.

"I started to introduce her to Jim, who cuts in, all charming, and says, "Oh, you must be Donna. Henri talks about you all the time."

"You didn't!" Blair said. "Donna was, like, weeks ago, Jim."

"How was I to know that?" Jim asked. "H goes through women almost as fast as you used to."

"Did not," Blair countered.

"Did too," Jim replied stubbornly.

"You were just jealous," Blair added.

Jim stuck his tongue out in a decidedly childish manner. "Table leg," he muttered.

"I'm getting a headache," Joel groaned.

Megan patted his arm sympathetically. "I'll give you a ride home," then looked down at her cast ankle. "Oh. I came with Simon."

Simon shook his head. "I'll go pay the bill."

"That's okay, Captain. Rafe and I can give Connor and Joel a ride home. We have to stop and pick up Rafe's suit and I need to go find something suitably expensive to try and get back into Jenna's… good graces," Henri offered.

"Hmph," Simon replied. He nodded and stood, heading for the cashier's desk, pulling his wallet from his pocket. "See you all in the morning. Don't be late, people."

"I need to go to the bathroom before we leave," Blair said, pushing his chair back. He stood and walked around the table, hugging each of his friends and accepting their congratulations with a smile and a slight blush. He watched them leave, then shook an admonishing finger at his partner. "Now you know why it's so important I hang around, man, and it's not just because of the sentinel stuff."

"It was just one of those weeks, Chief, but as you can see, I'm not the only one glad to have you home -" Jim was interrupted by a woman's scream and a crashing of dishes from the kitchen. Standing, Jim headed for the kitchen at a run with Blair close behind him. "Stay behind me, Chief," he admonished, "You don't have your sidearm yet."

Hurrying to keep up with Jim and dodging startled diners and restaurant staff, Blair snagged Jim's arm and pulled him to a halt. "Maybe someone just dropped some plates," he suggested hopefully. This was getting really old. Couldn't they even go out for a nice quiet meal without some idiot - His thoughts were cut off by the sound of a gunshot.

Jim merely raised an eyebrow and pulled his weapon from its holster. Simon met them at the swinging door that led into the kitchen. "How do you want to handle this, Jim?"

Holding a hand to his lips, Jim extended his hearing into the room beyond. Four, maybe five heartbeats, all of them rapid. A voice, deep and angry, issuing curt orders for money, joined by another, wavering and accented, trying to explain the money was kept in a safe in the manager's office.

Reaching out, Jim gently pushed on the door, swinging it open. He raised his weapon and stepped into the kitchen. Three panic-stricken faces swung to look at him. "He's gone!" a short, pimply-faced youth said. "He shot Santo."

Jim, Blair and Simon ran forward. Simon knelt beside the injured man, who lay on the ground, moaning and clutching at his shoulder. Blood stained his white chef's jacket and seeped onto the floor. Pressing his hand on the wound, Simon looked up and quickly began to issue orders. "Ellison, see if you can catch the guy. You, -" he pointed to the youth who had spoken - "call 911, ask for an ambulance and police backup."

Jim had already run to the door and looked out. The thief was in a panic as he attempted to start his car. Just when Jim thought he might have a chance to grab the guy before he got away, the car's engine roared to life. "Keys, sir," he called back to Simon. "The truck's parked too far away."

Simon gave a rather strangled groan but dug in his pocket with his free hand and pulled out his keys. Tossing them to Blair, he warned, "One scratch…" but Jim was already out the door with Blair close behind. Dialing up his sight, Jim mentally registered the make and license number of the car as it peeled out of the parking lot with a squeal of smoking rubber. Reaching Simon's car, fortuitously parked near the restaurant entrance, Jim climbed behind the wheel and started the engine, pressing his foot to the accelerator almost before Blair had his door shut.

"Easy, big guy," Blair warned as he snapped his seat belt into place. He knew how focused and determined Jim got when it came to chasing down perps. The last thing they needed was to be plastered all over the blacktop when he'd just got home.

Jim gave him a curt nod then turned his attention to the task at hand and pushed down on the gas pedal some more. The thief was just ahead, swerving wildly to avoid oncoming traffic, the back end of the car fishtailing as he struggled to keep the sedan under control at high speed. "Radio," Jim ordered. "Get us some backup and tell them to clear the road."

Relieved to have something to do to take his attention from the harrowing sight of the nighttime scenery speeding by at a way too rapid pace, Blair reached forward and unhooked the mike.

~o0o~

The pursuit hadn't lasted too long and there were blessedly no injured parties, for which Blair was immensely grateful. He winced as he climbed out of Simon's car and reached up to gingerly rub at the rapidly growing lump on his temple. A larger hand covered his and massaged gently.

"You okay, Chief?" Jim asked, his voice laced with concern.

"Just a bump on the head," Blair assured him. He stepped onto the pavement then turned to look at the heart-stopping sight of Simon's car jammed into the side of the perp's sedan. "Which is more than I can say for you when Simon -"

"Ellison!" The captain's bellow was unmistakable.

Blair gave Jim a meek grin. "Speak of the devil," he said.

Jim turned in the direction of Simon's voice and watched the captain bear down on them, his face like thunder, a cigar clamped between his teeth. "It's not as bad as it looks, sir," he began.

Simon ignored him for a moment, pushing past him to get to his car. He stood, slack-jawed, the cigar dropping forgotten to the sidewalk. His normally dark complexion looked suddenly gray. Finally, he rounded on Jim. "Just what part of 'not a scratch' didn't you get, Detective."

"We're fine, sir, thanks for asking." Even a tough detective like Ellison wilted under the stormy glare Simon sent in Jim's direction. "Hey, he rammed us," Jim explained in protest. "It was the only way I could stop him before he pushed us into a pole. Right, Sandburg?"

Blair nodded then stopped and shrugged his shoulders. "To tell you the truth, Jim, by that time I had my eyes closed. I didn't really see anything." He looked at Simon. "But I did feel it, Si - sir. I know I saw stars when my head hit the window."

Simon frowned. "You all right?"

Blair smiled. He'd known all along that under that gruff exterior, Simon was a teddy bear.

"Good," Simon continued before Blair could reply. "Get to work then. Clean up this mess, get the reports written up before you go home and I want you in the bullpen ready for work at 0700 in the morning."

Blair's mouth dropped open. "Simon, it's already one am," he protested.

"And the problem is?" Simon scowled at Blair then bent to retrieve his cigar, giving the crumpled fender of his car a loving pat as he did so. "You're now a member of my team, Detective - all that remains is the swearing in, so that's sir to you."

"Yes, sir," Blair replied meekly.

The captain turned his attention back to Jim. "If my insurance premiums go up because of this, Jim, it's coming out of your pay." He waved off Jim's apologies and stormed off, obviously looking for another hapless victim.

Blair looked up at his lover. "Well, that was a fun welcome home," he said, falling into step beside the taller man.

Jim gave him a suggestive look. "I can make it more fun when we get home," he whispered.

"Cool." Blair gave his partner a full body nudge. "Can I play with your handcuffs?"

FIN

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