Blair peered into the gathering darkness outside the car for some
sign of Jim. The anxious observer had been ordered by Simon to stay
in the car when they had raided the prison fight and had done so
reluctantly only after the captain had threatened him with an
immediate cancellation of his observer's pass should he disobey.
Greatly relieved, he saw Jim exit the building looking bruised and
weary but as Blair stepped out of the car to meet him, the detective
had waved him away and headed up the road with his arms wrapped
tightly about his torso and his head bowed. Deeply concerned, Blair
climbed back into the vehicle and waited.
The passenger door opened and he looked over, hoping to see Jim but
it was Simon's dark face that looked in at him. "Why don't you go
home, kid? Jim said he needed to walk off some of the tension from
the past couple of days. I'll get a cruiser to stand by and give him
a ride home when he's ready."
Blair shook his head, his hands tightening reflexively on the
steering wheel as he spoke. "Thanks, Simon but I'll wait for him. I
deserted him once already inside that place. I'm not doing it again."
"It wasn't your fault, Sandburg," Simon said patiently. "You weren't
to know the note had been switched. I fell for it too."
Blair stared at the captain in disbelief. "He's undercover inside a
prison, and don't forget, I saw what it was like in there, and I
believe he's gonna bitch about the food? How could I not have known?
He's my partner, my best friend. If we'd been too late…"
He lowered his head and leaned it against the steering wheel. A
moment later, he felt a comforting pat on his shoulder then the car
door snicked shut and he was alone once more.
Wiping his sleeve over the condensation that covered the windscreen,
Blair squinted into the blackness again, searching once more for Jim.
Everyone else had gone and the area was deserted. He wondered if he
should go looking for his errant partner.
Just as he leaned forward to turn the key in the ignition, the
passenger side door was wrenched open and he jumped, then relaxed as
Jim slid into the seat beside him. The detective looked exhausted,
his face was pale and the bruises along his cheek stood out darkly in
Jim nodded and lay his head back on the headrest and closed his eyes.
Blair took the hint and started the car. He drove silently but kept a
close eye on his partner as the other man dozed in the seat beside
him. Jim's knuckles were bruised and bloody and his hands twitched
occasionally in his restless sleep.
Pulling into a parking space in front of the apartment building,
Blair reached out and tapped Jim's shoulder. He shot back against the
driver's side door as Jim's fist flashed out and caught him hard in
the upper chest. He bit down a grunt of pain and rubbed instead at
the stinging flesh as Jim bolted upright in his seat and stared
around him in some confusion.
"It's all right, man. We're home."
"Oh, okay." Jim scrubbed a hand over his face and back through his
hair then climbed out. They entered the building and rode up to the
third floor in silence. Blair unlocked the door and stood aside to
allow Jim to enter first then followed, hanging his jacket up on the
"You want some coffee?" he asked, making his way into the kitchen.
"Beer. I've been hanging out for a beer."
"Sure. Sounds good." Blair pulled two beers from the refrigerator and
popped the tops, before handing one to Jim. He sipped at the cold
brew then sat down on the couch and watched the sentinel prowl the
loft silently before moving to stand at the balcony doors, gazing out
at the dark night.
"I bet it feels good to be out of there, huh?" Blair began. "I can't
imagine what it must have been like in there. Locked up every night,
being told when to eat, when to go to bed, when…"
"I was there, Chief. You're not telling me anything here."
"Yeah, right. Sorry."
Jim spoke without turning around but Blair could see his reflection,
his face as hard as granite in the glass of the door. "Look, it's
late. Why don't you go to bed?"
"You want me to clean up some of those cuts first? I bet you've got
some spectacular bruising under your shirt there. I've got this
"I'm fine. Go to bed, Sandburg."
"Okay. If you need me…"
Blair went to his room but did not sleep as the adrenaline from the
evening still coursed through his veins keeping him jumpy and wide-
awake. He sat for a while and worked on his dissertation but couldn't
concentrate, his thoughts firmly fixed on the man in the other room
and not for the first time, he wished for Jim's heightened senses in
order to keep a closer watch on his partner. His restlessness was
exaggerated by the guilt that niggled at the back of his mind and the
urge now to keep close, to ease some of the pain haunting Jim's eyes.
He slumped down onto his bed and tossed his pen aside. Outside the
door, he could hear Jim turning on the shower and then twenty minutes
later, trudging up the stairs. Blair lay down on his bed and stared
sightlessly at the ceiling trying to think of an excuse to check on
He must have drifted off to sleep before Jim's voice woke him. It was
just a soft muttering at first and Blair crept out of his room then
stood at the foot of the stairs, debating whether to go up. A sudden
shouted 'No' convinced him and he raced up, almost stumbling on the
top riser and tumbling back down.
He made his way quickly to Jim's side and switched on the bedside
lamp, angling it so that it shone slightly away from the bed. He
watched for a moment as his partner tossed in his sleep, his face
slick with sweat and his hands balled tightly into the sheets. "No!"
Jim shouted again. "Leave him alone!"
"Jim?" Blair reached out a careful hand, wary after the incident in
the car and shook the agitated man's shoulder. "Jim? Come on, man.
It's just a bad dream."
Jim stiffened and then rolled to his side, staring up at Blair
through half-lidded, red-rimmed eyes. "Blair? What's wrong?"
Blair lowered himself to sit on the edge of the bed. "Nothing, man. I
think you had a nightmare, that's all."
Jim rolled to his back. "Sorry. I woke you up."
Blair shrugged. "I wasn't asleep." His gaze fell on Jim's broad
chest, darkening bruises exposed by the fallen sheet. He reached out
a finger and gently touched one that ran the length of the other
man's ribs. "This looks painful. I'm awake anyway, why don't you let
me get some of that liniment for you?"
Jim puffed out a breath then nodded. "Sure, okay. It can't hurt."
Blair made it down to his bedroom and up again in a flash. He took
the cap off the tube and squeezed some of the cool ointment onto
Jim's fingers. "Just rub it in gently. Don't massage it in too hard."
Jim smeared the soothing gel over the worst of the bruises along his
torso. He reached around to his back then looked at Blair. "I've got
a couple of good ones on my lower back. Would you mind?"
Blair shook his head and squeezed a generous amount of liniment onto
his own fingers. "Lay down on your stomach."
Once Jim was settled, Blair straddled the other man's legs and
smoothed the gel over the bruises that discolored Jim's hips. He
reached down and tugged Jim's boxers lower, stopping when the
detective flinched beneath his touch.
"It's okay," he whispered. "Don't want your clothes getting covered
in this stuff."
Jim nodded and settled back down on the mattress, his arms reaching
to curl around his pillow. Blair tried to be gentle but felt Jim
squirm as he smeared the liniment on. "These look nasty," he
whispered, ghosting a hand over the worst of the marks. "Do you think
you should get them checked out? Your kidneys…"
"…Are fine," Jim finished for him. "They're just bruises. Asshole
Blair reached up and spread more liniment over the broad expanse of
Jim's upper back. Though there was no bruising there he could feel
tight knots of tension. Using his thumbs, he worked the corded
muscles firmly then stroked along the strong spine to the tight swell
of buttocks below. He kept his touch firm but gentle, sweeping back
up then out to massage along Jim's ribs and back.
Leaning forward, he rubbed along Jim's upper arms, enjoying the feel
of the bulging biceps beneath his fingertips. He pressed into the
nape of Jim's neck, pleased to feel the muscles loosening beneath his
touch, then trailed his fingers around to massage at Jim's temples,
soothing the headache he knew was there.
His fingers touched wetness and he pulled them back momentarily,
afraid he may have opened one of the cuts on Jim's face but then an
almost silent sob racked the still body beneath him and Blair knew.
"Oh, Jim." He reached down and let his fingertips trail through the
tears on Jim's cheeks, whispering words of comfort as the man beneath
him cried silently. Blair leaned forward so that his upper body
blanketed Jim's and stroked his hands along the other man's shaking
shoulders. He pressed a soft kiss to the back of his partner's
neck. "It's okay. I'm here now. Let it out. I'm here."
The two men lay spooned together until dawn lit the loft, both giving
and receiving the comfort and reassurance they needed.
Jim woke first, slowly becoming aware of a heavy weight upon his
back. He shifted slightly, wincing as the movement awoke stiff
muscles and bruised flesh. Lifting his head, he turned it to the side
and encountered an arm hanging limply over his shoulder. He smiled.
Moving carefully with one hand keeping Blair firmly in place, the
detective slipped to his side and then guided the sleeping body to
lay beside him. Blair grumbled softly in his slumber but Jim soothed
him back to sleep with soft words and gentle kisses.
Cupping one large hand around the back of Blair's skull, Jim pulled
him closer, settling the curly head on his chest. Then he wrapped an
arm around the smaller man's waist and lifted one leg, laying it over
Blair's hip, so that the other man was sheltered completely in the
cradle of Jim's embrace.
The heat of a boxer-covered erection pressed against his own naked
groin and fired Jim's arousal as Blair snuffled against his chest and
burrowed closer. He looked down as Blair lifted his head and smiled
at him, his blue eyes large and dark with drowsiness.
"Mmm, morning." Blair's voice was roughened still with sleep.
Jim rolled onto his back, bringing the other man with him, wrapping a
possessive arm about his shoulders and settling Blair's head once
more over his own heart. The hard bone of a knee pushed up against
Jim's balls as Blair squirmed to find his niche. Jim's hand found
Blair's cheek and stroked over morning bristles relishing the
sandpaper brush against his fingertips.
"I've been thinking," Jim began momentously.
Blair raised an inquisitive face but Jim pushed him back down gently
and continued. "I've been thinking of turning your room into an
This time he didn't restrain Blair as the anthropologist pulled
himself upright. "You have?"
"Yeah. Somewhere quiet to study. You know?"
"Yeah." Blair's voice became hesitant. "What about…"
Blair nodded and shifted slightly away and Jim tightened his grip
aborting the movement. "I thought you could move up here with me."
"You don't want to move in with me?"
"No. I mean, yes! I mean…" Blair shook his head in confusion, his
russet curls tickling Jim's nose. He took a deep breath and stroked a
hand over his lover's chest, his flattened palm swiping across a hard
nipple. "Yes, I want to move up here with you but why now?"
Jim smiled and tried not to arch up into Blair's tantalizing
touch. "I have this need to keep you close," he said after a moment's
thought. "So much hate in there, Blair. So much violence and evil. I
just want you here, next to me."
Blair smiled sweetly then bent his head and licked a hot swathe over
the taut nub he'd been stroking. "No where else I'd rather be."