Title:Auld Lang Syne





Date:December 31, 2000

Status:New, complete

Series/sequel: Nope

Other website: www.skeeter63/k9kennel and thank you again, Michelle, for hosting me and posting me. <G>

Disclaimer: I suppose I should say no infringement implied, intended or otherwise occurring. I suppose I should disclaim all knowledge of the plot to kidnap the chads. And I know I should disclaim all knowledge of the plot Jim has hatched to get the short guy into his bed.

Warning: Don't eat strange mushrooms and then expect to lead a normal life.

Note: This is the second half of the strange challenge given to me by my new stamper friend, Karen. The story Christmas Eve was the result of the first half of the challenge. She requested that I do a Christmas story with Blair gone from Jim's life and incorporate actual lyrics from Christmas songs into the story, then to write a New Year's story, again with Blair no longer in Jim's life and somehow using Auld Lang Syne. In this half of the challenge - it is post Sentoo/part 2, unlike Christmas Eve which was post TSbyBS.

Thank you to Greenie and Melvin for the beta and ideas. I might actually learn to write one of these days.

Summary: Jim is stuck in Canada on New Year's Eve and has only his own thoughts and memories to keep him warm.

Auld Lang Syne

by alyjude



God damn it. It was here just a minute ago --- thank God.

I pull out the wrinkled paper that represents my airline ticket and place it on the counter. The ticket agent takes it, works his magic and hands me a boarding pass.

"Gate 12, to your left and up the escalator."

"Thank you."

I move to my left, hike my overnight bag a bit higher up my shoulder and head toward the ramp and gate 12.

Ah, Canada. And soon to be ah, Cascade, Washington. Adios Vancouver, hello Cascade.

I flash my badge and the permit, sling my bag onto the conveyor belt then step through the metal detector. Nothing happens in spite of my weapon, thanks to my permit. The airline knows they have a cop about to board one of their flights. An armed cop.

It's been a long three days and all I want to do is go home.

And kill Simon Banks.

Because here I am, ex-Detective of the Year, James Joseph Ellison, coming off of a simple extradition. Who would have imagined that I would be escorting a criminal back to Canada to face charges that took precedence over his minor infractions in Cascade?

Of course, I personally don't think that bombing the hell out of two schools and one hospital can really count as minor infractions, but Vancouver did. After all, Clayton Edney bombed two post offices, shot and killed two policemen and took two government employees hostage before he escaped, crossed the border and started in on America.

Lucky us.

But we brought him down and were immediately informed that we were to extradite him to Vancouver.

Lucky them.

So who did Simon Banks pick for this plum job? This ripe assignment? The Grinch of Major Crime - Detective Ellison, that's who.

Okay, I really don't blame the man. After all, did I have anyone to spend the holidays with, to cook for, to visit? Nope. Not with Dad and Steven in England with Steven's new British wife Sharon and her family.

Of course, there was another reason, and I'll have to quote Simon here: "I either send you, thereby getting you the hell out of town, or you take your chances with the rest of the squad who think that now is a good time for a lynching."

Umph. Like I'm that bad?

And you noticed, didn't you, the absence of a name. Yes? Yes.

Blair Sandburg.

After all, if there were still a Blair Sandburg around, I'd be in Cascade right now and some other sucker would have brought Mr. Edney to Vancouver. Some other schmuck would have been stuck in Canada for three days while the paperwork caught up and the wheels of justice ground down.

But - he's gone and I am in Canada.

Why is he gone? Well, how about irreconcilable differences?

Insurmountable tensions? A blonde named Alex? Or maybe a trust broken?

Oh, and the small matter of a drowning.

So - no Blair. After three years, umpteen car chases, three crashed vehicles, serial killers, mad bombers, South American drug runners and their daughters, past lovers, weird cold medicines, more tests than you could count between now and the year 3000, fights, strong discussions, mixed up tupperware, long hair everywhere, meditation, really weird music, telling him stuff I've never told anyone, not being told anything by him, and - it's over. He's gone.

I'm - partner - less.

Things are back the way they were before.

BS. Before Sandburg.

And you know what? I'm loving it. Free as a bird, come and go as I please, no yapper in the corner, no tag-a-long, no constant nagging or ragging on me to talk it out, Jim, that's what friends are all about, no long, lengthy stories that are supposed to illustrate a point - but never do - no sage, no drum music - no Blair.

No - Blair.

No Jim and Blair. Ellison and Sandburg.

You know, it's funny but when I was married it was never Jim and Carolyn. Never. To anyone. But almost from day one - it was Jim and Blair. Or Jim and Sandburg. How does that figure? I was married to Carolyn, but Sandburg was only my partner - my unofficial partner. And yet ---

Of course - he lived with me longer than Carolyn.

Lived with me. Lived with me. Lived with me. Lived with me.

I'm going crazy and what the fuck did they just announce over the loudspeaker? Fog? All flights delayed?

Well, let this be a very sound fuck.


The young man stepped out of his walk-up apartment, shut the door, locked it, pocketed the key, turned up the collar of the thick woolen jacket and stepped down onto the sidewalk.

The fog was settling in and the cold whipped through his lungs, bringing up a cough. He brought up a fisted hand to cover the hacking sound, then moved up the street. He had a five block hike to work.

Christmas was over but the holiday trimmings were still up in shop windows, on street lamps and all around him and would be until after New Year's, but the man barely noticed. Many of the people he passed were in a rush, it being the thirty-first of December.

He checked his watch and smiled. He was right on time.

He had no plans for later that night - other than to go to bed early. But at the store, right after closing at five, they were going to have their own small celebration and he'd promised to stay. But that would be over early - by seven or so. He'd still be home by eight.

He'd have Monday off, but Tuesday and Wednesday promised to be hectic, what with year-end inventory.

He turned the corner and stopped in front of a quaint store front with a green sign that read, Nooks of Books. He took out a key ring, inserted a key, pushed open the sliding bars, then unlocked the front door and stepped inside. He immediately hit the lights and headed for the climate controls. He liked having the shop nice and warm before the rest of the staff arrived.

Once he'd turned up the thermostat and removed and hung up his jacket, he turned his attention to the coffee machines. Within minutes, the shop was filled with the aroma of good coffee.

He spent the next fifteen minutes working on a display table and was busy rearranging the books when the bell on the front door tinkled and Margaret Chao, another salesperson, stepped inside.

"Morning, Blair. God, but it's nice in here. And is that hazelnut I smell?"

"Yep. Thought we'd try something new today."

"God, divine." She went into the back room to hang up her coat, then came back out and opened the register.

"Andy's going to be late, did he tell you yesterday?"

"Yes. And it's not unexpected."

Margaret chuckled. "No, I guess it isn't. Another new boyfriend for our Andy so of course that translates into being late."

"You said it, not me."

"Is Jeffrey coming in today?"

Blair wiped his hands on his jeans, stepped back from the table and gave a critical eye to the display as he shook his head.

"Nope, 'fraid not. At least not until closing. He'll be here for his own New Year's party but until then, it's just going to be you, me and half of Andy."

"Oh, I like that - half of Andy. And I suppose, being the owner, Jeffrey can stay home. After all, he has such wonderful people working for him."

"Too true and you make sure and tell him that tonight, you hear?"

Margaret finished doing her morning count and closed the register, then picked up several new magazines and moving through the shop, began to place them stratigically around the store.

Nooks of Books was the kind of bookstore that was a rarity in big cities. A small, family type business with big, comfortable chairs for reading, several worktables for studying, three coffee stations and good reading lamps spread throughout.

Jeffrey Treder, the owner, wanted Nooks of Books to be a place people could come and relax, read before purchasing, browse, and feel like they were home. He also surrounded himself with people who knew books.

Every member of his staff could find any book any customer needed. They knew their authors, knew subject matter and each one was versed in one or more category of fiction and or non-fiction.

For Margaret, a forty year old mother of two, it was mysteries, whether fiction or true crime. And she considered her minor to be science fiction and fantasy.

For Andy Pepper, a recent college graduate, it was the classics and surprisingly enough, romance novels. He considered his minor to be in horror novels and self-help books, as well as how to books.

And for the newest member and recently promoted store manager, Blair Sandburg, it was everything and anything under the sun. With heavy leanings toward archeaology, anthropology and other sciences. Oh, and explorers. Very heavy on explorers. Like Sir Richard Burton.

At ten sharp, Blair walked to the front window and flipped up the OPEN sign.

It was official. Nooks of Books was open for business.


Okay, three hours and still all flights delayed.

To quote a one-time best friend - This sucks.

Like I need to be stuck in an airport on New Year's Eve? Like I need to be stuck with me? And my thoughts? Maybe the gift store and another magazine or two. And - a giant pretzel smothered in parmesean. And a huge coke.

Yeah, freedom is great.


"We have several biographies on Robbie Burns but the one I'd recommend is by James MacKay. You might also be interested in the Complete Poetical Works by the same author."

"Oh, thank you, Mr. Sandburg. That sounds like just what I'm looking for. And where..."

"Third aisle over, Mrs. Cobb. Second shelf from the top."

"Thank you and Happy New Year."

Blair smiled and nodded as the matronly Mrs. Cobb headed for the biography section of the book store. He checked his watch and sighed. Four more hours.

"Blair, you haven't taken your lunch break. Now that Andy's here, why don't you go into the back room and eat? We can hold down the fort."

Blair looked around the store, and satisfied that none of the currently happy customers would need anything from him, he gave Margaret a grin.

"You know, I could eat. Okay, back in thirty. Yell if you need anything."

"We will. Go, munch, enjoy."

He stepped into the stock room and took a seat at the small table set up for breaks. For a moment he just enjoyed the feel of sitting, of being off his feet. He wasn't really hungry but he'd found as the day progressed, as the year 2001 drew ever closer, he was experiencing another bout of depression. And it was becoming increasingly difficult to hide it. He needed this break, needed to give himself a little peptalk.

He got up and took the three steps to the small refrigerator, pulled out an ice tea and sat back down. He opened the bottle absently and took a long draught, then set it down and wiped his mouth.

How many months? Six? Eight? They'd all run together now. He was pretty sure it was - eight.

Eight months since he'd left Cascade.

Left - Jim.

Eight months since he'd destroyed his life. Destroyed the dissertation. Left Rainier. Left his doctorate behind, his friends behind, Jim behind. But it had been a good choice, the right choice. He supposed.

Oh, he knew he could have stayed, changed subject matter, with some difficulty, but hell, why? His only interest had been - had been...

Yeah, right.

For the hundredth time he wondered if he should have stayed. Should have fought harder to get Jim to talk? Or maybe he should have stayed, kept the status quo and hoped for the best?

But damn, Jim's reluctance to talk combined with his pretense that everything was back to normal had been more than Blair could handle. Too much had happened, too much that no one had been willing to talk about. And damn, he'd needed to talk.

And with Megan finding out about Jim, well, that seemed to signal fate. Seemed to say, "Sandburg, no reason to stay, look what we've handed Jim."

So, after five weeks of strange silences, eyes drifting away, needful touches absent - he'd gone to Sid, pulled out of the doctorate program, destroyed his notes, tapes, and everything Sentinel and then told Jim that he was transferring to another university. Whopper of a lie but told with a normal heartbeat, quiet breathing and a steadfast gaze.

Jim never blinked. Never faltered.

"Okay, understood, Sandburg. You gotta think of your career, I get that.

No problem."

And here he was. In a bookstore. Quiet life, no stress, no danger, no Jim. No classes, no papers, no tests. No Simon, or Megan or Joel.

No loft.

No Jim.

Should he have stayed? Should he have said something to Jim? Tried to get the man to talk?

But so many times - and he'd been so damn - tired and ill and he had done wrong, nothing could change that. Could it? No, nothing could change that. He'd finally confirmed in Jim's mind what the detective had believed all along - that he was nothing but a Frankenstein to Blair's mad scientist.

He supposed he could have told Jim about his true feelings. But it would have meant nothing by then. Not while his friend was struggling with his feelings for Alex and the loss.

But God, how he missed the man.

Blair rubbed his eyes hard, then ran a trembling hand over his jaw. He'd been so god damned stupid. But - damn it, he was a scientist, and Alex represented another sentinel. And he had tried to tell Jim.

*But you were so wrapped up in your find that you failed to notice his


Oh sure, wouldn't Blair Sandburg have to have a loud conscience? He always thought Pinocchio should have swatted that Jiminy Cricket bug. With a large book.

On the other hand, truth was truth even when spoken by a bug. And he had been so wrapped up in Alex, so excited and puzzled and worried that he had missed Jim's pain and strange behavior. Well, not missed it exactly but certainly ignored it or misinterpreted it. Or all of the above.

And once those chips had fallen, Blair hadn't been able to assist Jim in picking them up. But in his own way, Jim had exacted an unintentional punishment. Blair had been forced to watch Jim love Alex. To kiss her, to hurt when her mind was destroyed and to know that he, Blair Sandburg, the scientist and ex-child prodigy, could do nothing to help. Could do nothing but hurt in his own love for Jim.

Surely he'd paid enough now? Maybe that's what he should have said to Jim.

"Hey, you can forgive me now. I drowned and may I say, yuck, don't try it. And I had to watch you kiss Alex on the beach, almost as bad, no definitely worse than drowning and then I had to watch you kiss her again, in the Temple and then lose her. Haven't I paid enough for my mistakes? Can't we go on? Be best buds again?"

Well, okay - Jim paid pretty heavily too so that kind of muted his own misery and you can't really use that to mitigate your own mistakes. You know? Kind of defeats the purpose. So that leaves Blair Sandburg where, exactly?

In Nooks of Books, with lungs that might never heal and a heart that's skipped town.

In the manner of a man three times his age, Blair slowly stood, put the unfinished tea back in the fridge and went back out front.

Payback is a bitch.

But no less than he deserved.


Swell. Now all flights are cancelled. So what do I do?

God damn it to hell and back. Stuck in Vancouver on New Year's Eve. In the airport of the dead. Well I can tell you this much, James Joseph Ellison is not sleeping in this fucking airport. And the airline will put me up in a hotel. So there.

But I'm not moving. Can't move. Because all I can see is what I've been seeing for the last eight months.

Blair's face.

Always Blair's face.

Eyes wide and innocent, dark circles ringing the pale tender flesh below the eyelashes, his lips moving but the words hitting sensitive ears too many seconds after they'd been spoken ---

"...so I'm transferring back East, Jim. I think it's best, don't you? And yeah, I've changed my subject matter so to quote Megan, *no worries, mate*."

"Ah, no, Jim, I see no reason to make a fuss, to say good-bye to anyone. Best that I just go. Better for all concerned, you know? Good thing I never really unpacked all my stuff, eh?"

That wry smile, the eyes hiding behind so much loose hair, hiding the pain that I can so clearly see now - eight months later.

And they call me a Sentinel.

He called me a Sentinel. A guardian. Protect the fucking tribe. Well, fuck the tribe. Where are they now? What about the man behind the sentinel? Who protects him? Who protects him from the sentinel? Who cherishes him? Holds him? Understands him? Accepts him? Who loves this man standing guard over the sentinel?

I bow my head then - because the answer is the same as it's been for eight months; Jim Ellison does. Or should. Or would - if given another chance.

But chances are given to others, not to me.

I can feel the hot burning liquid behind my eyes and I rub them hard, then stroke a trembling hand over my jaw.

God, why didn't I just talk to him? Why didn't we sit down and hash it out? Why couldn't I fucking say the words?

Why didn't I shake some sense into him when he stood there in front of me, and spewed out the garbage about transferring?

Sense. That's funny, Ellison. You're a laugh a minute.

So. I'm evidently spending the night in Vancouver. Better call Simon.


One more hour.

Blair held back a yawn and continued to leaf through the new Publishers Digest. The store was almost empty, with only two customers reading quietly in their respective corners. Andy was doing some non-essential rearranging of shelves, trying to keep busy until they could officially close and indulge in their small party, and Margaret was in the back preparing some surprises.

Jeffrey had popped in about an hour ago and promised that he'd be back just before closing and that he hoped they'd all have healthy appetites.

Naomi had called to wish him a Happy New Year and was he certain that he didn't want to join her in New Orleans? Somehow she couldn't get it around her mind that he had a job and that he couldn't just take off any time he wanted. But man, he'd have loved to have joined her in the Big Easy. For one thing - it was nice in Louisiana. Warm even. And New Year's in New Orleans? Could anything be better?

Yes - New Year's at - home. In Cascade, at 852 Prospect.


"He wants what?"

//You heard me, Ellison. And since you're now stuck in Vancouver, would

you mind?//

What could I say to my Captain?

"Sure, no problem, Simon."

//I wouldn't ask if I hadn't made twenty different phone calls here in

Cascade and the surrounding towns. With no luck.//

I could say something about doing your son's Christmas shopping a bit earlier - like before Christmas, but since Daryl spent the holiday with his mother and was spending New Year's with his dad, they were having a second Christmas - for New Year's. I was supposed to be there - but guess what?

"Like I said, Simon, no problemo. I'll make a few calls from my hotel room and pick it up if I find it."

//Think you'll get out tomorrow?//

"Sure. I'll call you when I know. If we're lucky, it won't be in the middle of a bowl game. Or if it is, it'll be half-time."

//Damn straight, Ellison. I'll only pick you up if it is half time!//

"Hey, just remember who's responsible for pulling your fat from the fire."

//*If* you find it.//

"Have no fear - Ellison's on the case."


I can hear his deep chuckle and I smile in response. We say our good-byes and he reminds me to watch my expense account and I end with a brief description of the lobster dinner I'm planning. I can almost *see* the rolling of his eyes.

We hang up and with a glance around me, I say a mental good-bye to the airport and head over to the Airport Hilton. And my lonely room for the night.

And damn, I think I *will* have lobster for my New Year's Eve dinner. *And* champagne.

But first, check-in, then phone calls for Daryl.

"Hey, Blair, do we have something called, *Genes, Peoples and Languages*?"

Blair glanced up from his work at the coffee station near the door and frowned as his mind's eye reviewed the anthropology section of the bookstore. Mentally he spotted it and his face cleared.

"Yep, one copy left."

Margaret gave him the thumbs up sign and went back to the phone.

"Yes sir, we have one copy left. Would you like me to hold it for you? Oh? Well, we close in a few min - oh, you can? Yes, we're on the corner of Seventh Avenue and Crimson. All right, we'll see you in a few minutes."

She dropped the receiver back into its old fashioned cradle. "Looks like we'll have at least one last minute customer, Blair. This guy is coming to pick up that book. Can you grab it from the back?"

"Sure, no problemo." He finished putting the supplies away then turned to head to the rear of the shop. He was half way when the bell over the door tinkled merrily. He glanced over his shoulder and grinned.

"Hey, Jeffrey, you finally made it to work!"

"Ha, ha, Sandburg. And is someone going to give me a hand, Andy?"

Jeffrey Treder's arms were full and as Andy rushed around the corner to help, the large man jerked his head toward the Mercedes parked out front. "There's more in the car, Andy. Would you?"

"Got it, boss."

There were no customers left in the store and with only minutes until closing, Treder decided to set up for their celebration.

"Mags, why don't we clear the front worktable? Party right out here, eh?

Much more comfortable than the back room."

Nodding enthusiastically, she hurried to the table and began to remove books that had been left by the day's customers. She piled them on the counter, knowing that later she'd have to put them away, but the smells wafting up from the box Treder had just set down were too good to ignore. She walked into the back room, picked up the plates, cups and tablecloth she'd purchased earlier, and carried them out to the front.

Andy returned carrying another bag and at Jeffrey's instructions, set it down on the now gaily covered worktable.

"Be careful with that, Andy - that's the champagne."

"Nothing is safer with me than alcohol, boss. You know that. Especially," he lifted out the two bottles and whistled before adding, "especially when it's Cristal. Wow, we're gonna party down tonight!"

Blair's eyebrows rose as he got his first look at the goodies his boss had brought and as he set the requested book on the counter, he added a whistle of his own.

"Thank God I'm walking home, Jeff."


Man, this is colder than home. And foggy as hell too. Cold, foggy and I have to find this dumb store.

Okay, so a cab. I hail a cab, they drive me to the shop, I purchase said item and I'm back in my room ordering room service by six. Maybe a little turf with my surf?

Oh, yeah.

And why do all cabbies chew gum? And god, wouldn't you know - he's got the radio on and that song is playing.

I hate Auld Lang Syne. Me and Billy Crystal. I mean, what the fuck do those lyrics mean anyway?

*Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind? Should

auld acquaintance be forgot and days of auld lang syne?*

In a fucking word - yes. Remembering days of auld lang syne only serves to make a man miserable. Much better to repress them. Stuff them down so deep - not even Blair Sandburg could dredge them up.

On the other hand-how would I stay sane if I didn't have my memories of Blair?

Those memories are all that keep me going. Which is strange in and of itself. The memories should make things worse, not better. Well, they don't make things better - just bearable.

Old acquaintance. Is that what Blair is to me now? And old acquaintance?

And my times with him - days of auld lang syne?

Days gone past. My history and now Blair joins the others I've lost?

But there's a difference this time - this time - I let it happen. I had control, I had choices. I couldn't prevent the chopper from going down in Peru. Couldn't help Lila or Alex. But I could have stopped Blair from leaving. With just a few words.

I think.

I think a few words - a few choice, correct words would have kept him with me. Words like, "I'm sorry, Blair. We're in this together and we can work it out." Or, "I want you to stay, Sandburg." Or of course, the big one, "I love you, Chief."

God, I'd have loved to have seen his face if I'd had the cajones to say that to him. Hell, I'd have loved to have seen my face.

I love you, Chief. I love you, Chief.

I love you, Blair. I love you, Blair. I love you, Blair. I love you, Blair.

An old acquaintance now. If I were to see him, say tonight, is that all I'd be to him? An old acquaintance? Would we do like the song suggests? Share a cup of kindness then? For Auld Lang Syne? Or would I ---

"Here's the place, man."

"Thanks and would you wait, I'll only be a moment."

"Hate to tell you this, bub, but they look closed." Shit, he's right. I'm too late. But - there are shadows, dancing lights and we both can hear music. Maybe they'll let me...

"I'm getting out anyway, maybe they'll open for me. Just hang loose and keep the meter running."

"Hey, you're the bossman."

I step out and onto the curb and for some reason, I'm praying that they'll open for me. Like Daryl's book is so important?


Margaret set her glass on the counter and spotted the book she'd asked Blair to grab.

"Hey, Blair, guess the guy who wanted this didn't make it in time after all. What should we do?"

"Guess we can hold it - until Thursday."

"Okay, I'll stick it under the counter."

Blair took another crab puff and before popping it into his mouth, asked, "Better put his name on it. He did leave a name, right?"

"Nope, no name."

"Well, let me take it into the back room and put it with the other holds. I need to add those anyway," he said, indicating several other books that had been requested for pick-up on Friday.

He stood, and after grabbing another delicious crab puff, picked up the book and walked into the back room.

As Blair disappeared, someone knocked on the front door. Margaret looked at Andy, who looked at Jeffrey, who shrugged.

"Let 'em knock. we're closed."

The knocking continued, stopped, then the

person began to rap on the window.


"Jeffrey?" Margaret whined.

"It couldn't hurt to see what they want," Andy hazarded.

"It could be the guy for the book...," Margaret suggested helpfully.

"All right, go ahead, see who it is."

Margaret smiled and with key in hand, walked to the front door and unlocked it, then opened it just a bit.

"May I help you? We are closed, I'm afraid."

"I'm the guy who called about the book? The fog was too - and it took longer than I thought. I catch a plane home tomorrow and this is a belated Christmas present. I'd appreciate it if you'd let me..."

"Of course, please come in. Let me get the book."

Margaret stepped aside and the tall, good-looking gentleman entered, a swirl of fog and cold following him. After shutting the door against the weather, she hurried to the counter.

"We just put it in the back room, so hang on a moment and I'll get it."

"Thank you."

The handsome customer with the pale blue eyes glanced at the other two men and ducked his head in embarassment.

"I'm really grateful and sorry, it appears I've interrupted a party."

"Please, don't give it another thought. Glad we're still here to help." Treder held out his hand and said, "I'm Jeffrey Treder by the way, and the owner."

"Jim Ellison and again, thank you."

Treder waved off the thank you and poured some champagne, then offered it to the tall man.

"Enjoy and Happy New Year, Mr. Ellison."


"Blair, the man for that Genes book is here. You got it handy?"

Blair was at the table scribbling names on pink cards and slipping the cards under rubberbands that held stacks of books together. At Margaret's words, he reached over, lifted the large tome and handed it to Margaret.

"Here you go."

She took it and smiling, said, "You gonna come out here and rejoin the party? And I do believe Andy is head over heels again."

"I'll be out in a minute - get this done now and one less thing to do on Tuesday. And how can he be in love again?"

Margaret hefted the book and shook it in the air. "Well, you oughta see the guy picking this up. He's a dream, Blair. An absolute dream."

"Sounds yummy. Now maybe you'd better get that out there, uh?"

"Spoilsport. Hurry up yourself or all the crab puffs will be gone."

Blair had bent his head back down to his task and laughing lightly, he waved her out.


Okay, the champagne is excellent. And the bookstore is quite - nice.

Homey even.

Something Blair would have ---

Nope, no more thoughts about Blair. Not tonight. Besides, the woman is back and she has Daryl's gift.

"Here you go, sir. That'll be twenty-six ninety-five."

The book is resting on the counter and as I pull the money from my wallet I realize that something is - wonderfully familiar. A scent? I look at the book and I catch myself smiling. It's definitely something Blair would have read, would have, maybe - had. But a strange choice for Daryl, a young man who planned to become a cop - just like his old man.

And now I know why this scent is comfortable. Books, stale coffee, the smell of old leather, just like his - office, or - dining room table when it was littered with Blair's school work...

And with this familiarity, this sudden memory of Sandburg, I'm - needful.

"Do you have books on Sir Richard Burton, the explorer, not the actor?"

Margaret held off ringing up the sale as she nodded. "I'm sure we do, but let me check with..."

"No, no, how stupid. You're closed. Forget I asked. Let me get out of your hair."

God, I am an idiot. They're closed, having a private party and here I am asking about ---

"It's no problem, really. Let me ask..."

"No, please, forget I asked. Just bag the book and I'll leave you to your party."

Thank god, she's doing it. Like I need a book on Sir Richard Burton?

Let me just get out of here and get to my hotel. Just let me be - alone.


Blair finished the last of the requests and with a sigh, walked back out into the shop. As he stepped up behind Margaret, the front door was just shutting.

"Ah, Blair, you missed him."

"Yeah, Andy, I know. And you're in love again."

"Blair my boy, our Andy is always falling in love."

"Ah, come on, boss. Can I help it if I'd hump a table leg?"

Blair had been reaching for his drink when Andy made the table leg remark. His hand froze.


What was that? I've had my senses down since the airport, dials reading four, which for me is normal. But now, something caught my ear, a word or phrase as I step away from the shop door.

Table leg.

And suddenly the dials are moving up as I strain to hear - because all I can think about is Sandburg. I'm eavesdropping just because someone might have said - table leg.


"Well, Andy, that gorgeous hunk that just left is a table leg I'd hump in two seconds flat."

Andy laughed and tossed a cracker at Margaret while shooting a half humorous look at his boss. But Jeffrey was staring at his manager.

"Hey, kid, you okay?"

Blair glanced up, ripping his mind from the past.

"Sure, fine. Just - thinking of something, that's all."

Margaret caught the tossed cracker but before eating it, asked, "Blair, honey, tell me about Sir Richard Burton, the explorer, not the actor."

Sandburg whirled around, his face paling. "Why would you ask about Burton, Margaret?"

Puzzled and concerned, she answered, "That guy, the hunk, he asked about any books we might have. It was cute the way he said, *the explorer, not the actor* like he knew I was about to direct him to the film section."

Blair stood, hand gripping the edge of the table.

"He said that? Those exact words?"

"Well, like, yeah. I could make that up? And what the heck is wrong?"

But Blair wasn't listening. He was almost running to the front door. His hand reached out, fumbled with the lock, scrabbled in his pocket for the key to the double lock and as fingers closed over the metal, someone knocked.


I should leave. Except -


The words scream in my head, my ears ringing with the sound I've not heard in months. And footsteps coming toward the door...

Okay, I know my senses have been blinking on and off for months, but I know that voice and I'm watching my hand as it curls into a fist and I'm reaching up and bringing it down against the glass...


The key turned and Blair fought the knob, his hands sweaty and slipping around the brass.

But finally, he had it and thank god, it turned and the door is swinging open and standing in the cold and fog is ---




It's all I can say as I stare at my friend. At my old acquaintance. As I stare into the eyes of my soul.

He's blinking up at me and it's the most - endearing action I've ever seen him take. His mouth is open and my eyes drink him in and - and - he - cut - his - hair.

"You - cut your hair."

They hand out college degrees for that kind of brilliance.

His hand absently moves up and nervous fingers touch the short curls that linger around his ear, the ear with the two silver hoops. The earrings he hadn't worn in quite awhile...

He still hasn't spoken and his fingers are still unconsciously fiddling but his eyes are now traveling over me the way a car negotiates the freeways in Los Angeles. A car that loves freeways.

"*You* ordered the book?"

Ah, he speaks. And that voice is syrup, rich, thick maple syrup as it's poured over lonely, dry pancakes. I should be able to come up with a better metaphor for his voice but you know, I really love maple syrup. And I love his voice more.

"Yes, for Daryl. My flight was cancelled due to fog, I called Simon, he's having trouble finding the book in Cascade. I got lucky, didn't I?" Inane conversation.

"Nooks of Books is rather famous in Vancouver for having hard to find books."

"I called five other stores before this one."

Could this conversation get any - weirder?

"So - how is Simon?"

"Fine, just fine. Everyone's fine. You?"

"Fine," he jerks his head back a bit and adds, "working."

"Yes, working. No university? Or did you transfer to the University of British Columbia?"

He has the grace to blush.

And we're still standing at the door.

"I, uh, that was, like, you know, an obfus..."

"Uh, huh, I figured that, Sandburg."

His eyes finally leave me as he drops his head down a bit. I miss that gaze. Already.

"So, I think Daryl will enjoy the book. Margaret mentioned that you were interested in books about Burton?"

Now I'm the one blinking. What's this guy's IQ again?

"No, Blair, not really. But I'd been thinking about you and I wanted to somehow - know more about you and it struck me while I was standing by the counter that reading about Burton might just help."

During my little speech I've watched his eyes widen and his mouth is open again.

"You were - thinking about me?"

"Well, duh, Einstein. Of course, not all that much since you left Cascade, only about 24/7. But nothing earth shattering. Just the usual. Like how stupid could I be and how a few well chosen words might have kept you with me, you know, things like that."

"Yeah, I see. Things like that."

His co-workers are watching us, with an almost fanatical interest. Much like I suspect a vampire who'd not eaten in days might look at a bleeding man. I wave at them. The young guy waves back and winks. I turn my attention back to Sandburg. And the expression on his face nearly drives me to my knees.

I'd like to be able to explain it. How that look of complete and utter confusion and raw emotion and pain, how that spark of hope flickering behind his puzzled gaze pierced me to the core.

But I think I'm zoning.


"Well, you haven't done that in awhile. Or have you?"

I'm shaking my head like I have fleas in my ears because damn it, I did zone.

"Jim, have you? Zoned recently?"

"No, no, no zones."

He's behind me, rubbing my shoulders and speaking softly because while the zone itself is no big deal, when I go deep, it's rough coming back. And in the past it's usually been something violent that brought me out.

Like being tackled and run over by a trash truck - for instance.

I really shouldn't be giving into this - not now, not here. But damn, his fingers feel like nirvana and I really don't care who's watching. I open my eyes and discover that I'm not in the store - exactly. I'm in a small - back room?

"Uh, Sandburg, where..."

"I guided you in here, the stock room. Didn't think you'd really want the others to see - this. They've gone home, by the way."

His fingers continued to knead the muscles around my neck, moving down to ease the tension across my shoulders and at a moment of supreme happiness - I feel like a total shit.

"God, I'm sorry, Sandburg. You were all having a nice..."

"They had their own parties to attend, don't worry. What you saw was just a small celebration - Jeffrey's idea. It's after six."

My eyes slide shut again as that voice drifts over me, soothing, reaching into crevices, spreading warmly throughout my now mushy insides. I'm one, big, soggy pancake. And I have this urge to beg Blair to eat me.

"Have your senses been okay, Jim?"

Shit, I have to answer him. Someone should tell him that soggy pancakes can't talk.

"fine, dandy - no problemo," I manage to mumble. And lie like a rug.

"Uh, huh. Good."

Aw, god - he's gone. Fingers gone. Heat gone. And to top it off, he's shut up. I suppose I have to open my eyes. He's sitting opposite me - just looking. Waiting.


Another brilliant piece of rhetoric.

He's still just looking.

"Is there a nice place nearby? Where we could slip in and maybe get a drink?"

One eyebrow rises and I suddenly realize that there is nothing in his eyes. The windows of a man's soul and I can't see a god damned thing. And Blair's eyes have always told me all I'd ever needed to know - and ignore. But not tonight. Not anymore.

"For auld lang syne, Jim?"


I need to know what he's thinking - I need a clue - anything.

"Yeah, two buddies - old times. New Year's Eve."

He stands and turns away from me and for the first time I notice his clothing. Black jeans, black, long-sleeved turtleneck sweater, tucked in, and that surprises me. Mr. Seven Layers, always wearing baggy pants and yet, tight jeans and a tucked in sweater? And he's very slender, thinner than I think I've seen him. It looks - strange on him, but good because I see the muscles beneath the material, the cords of strength in the visible arms from where he's pushed up the sleeves...

"Sorry Jim, but it is New Year's Eve and I have plans. In fact," his voice is low, almost without inflection, "I'm going to be late."

God, could I be any more dim? Of course Blair Sandburg has plans.

Probably a very hot date. Some beauty with legs up to her neck.

"Sorry. Should have realized," I say lamely. I join him and together we walk back into the main room of the store. Blair picks something up, then guides me to the front door and unlocks it. He swings it open and steps aside.

"It's been good seeing you again."

That's it? It's been good seeing you again?

"Yeah, you too, Sandburg."

This just keeps getting better and better. And he hasn't even asked me why I zoned.

"Say hi to Simon and Daryl and the rest of the gang and don't forget this." He hands me the bag with Daryl's book.

"Yeah, can't forget Daryl's gift. Simon'd kill me."

Blair smiles, but it doesn't reach those dark, unfathomable eyes. I step out and notice that the cab is still there. I turn back to him. "Well, I'll see you around." I hold out my hand and he takes it. We shake just like two grown up men. Two old friends.

I let his hand slip away and climb into the cab. I direct the cabbie back to the hotel and as we pull away, I glance back. Blair's already inside and the door is closed.

I let the cab get about two blocks down the street and then I tell him to pull over. I pay him, grab the package with Daryl's book and let him leave. It's cold and the fog is just as thick as earlier but I can see the store. Like an idiot - I wait. I haven't seen the Volvo so I'm taking a chance here - that wherever he lives, it's within walking distance.


Blair moved slowly to the counter and stood a moment just leaning against the oak frame for support.

A drink. Jim had wanted to go someplace for a drink. For auld lang syne.

What were the lyrics?

"We'll take a cup o' kindness yet for auld lang syne."

So that was it. The big moment he could admit to himself that he'd been dreaming about had just happened and all Jim had wanted was for two old buddies to go out and a have a couple of drinks. Maybe share a few laughs.

Blair spread his hands across the smooth surface and dropped his head, then knocked it against the wood - three times.

Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.

He straightened and rubbed his forehead.

Stupid hurt.


A bit dazed, he glanced around him and realized that there was nothing for him to do but grab his jacket, turn off the heater and lights and - head home.

He did just that.

Although hari-kari did enter his mind.


I feel like a fruitcake. I'm standing in the fog, in the shadows, hiding from a streetlamp and waiting for Blair to show. Sam Spade. But no trenchcoat.

Here he comes. And he's walking. No car. And what would I have done if he'd climbed into the Volvo and driven off?

Hari-kari sounds good.

So I follow him. And why? Because I don't know if he was lying.

Because I pray that he was. Because I used to know when he was lying. But not anymore. And because - if he was lying - maybe I can ask for a do over.


The fog showed no sign of lifting. Blair stuffed his hands in his pockets and with head down, kept walking. The streets were quiet and Blair had no doubt that the fog would put quite a damper on many a New Year's party that night. Maybe the drunks would be forced to stay home.

As he traversed Walker Avenue something changed. The air moved about him differently or maybe ---

Blair stopped. Cocked his head and listened.

And heard absolutely nothing out of the ordinary.


He's stopped. Why? I know he can't hear me or see me.


Blair lifted his head and smiled. Nothing out of the ordinary at all.

"jim?" he whispered.

Then in his normal tone, "Jim, get your butt over here."


I've been ratted out. I'm discovered. I'm a fool. I check in both directions even though I know damn well it's clear, cross the street, then jog the two blocks and come up to him.

"Are you following me, Jim?"


"Were you going to follow me all the way home?"

"Uh, huh."

"Didn't believe me about the date?"

"Couldn't tell."

"That must have rattled you."

I shrug, then say with a smile, "Actually, I wanted to check out your date. I was worried. That old protective instinct just kind of kicked in. You know, you don't have the best track record with women."

His expression is a killer. Eyes pop wide, jaw drops open and his hands fly helplessly into the air.

"My track record? My track record?" He jabs a finger into my chest and says, "You, my man, are the one with the bad track record, not me."

Another elegant shrug. "Yeah, I know. That's why I switched to men - exclusively."

Oh, I've got him now. He looks like a carp out of water. Mouth going - open, shut, open, shut...

"Of course," I go on proudly, "my track record with men hasn't been any better. Not that it ever was..."

He's blinking again, rapidly. God, he looks so cute. I think I've just been given my do over.

He swallows hard, then clears his throat. "Well, maybe you haven't tried the right man or woman yet."

"Ya think? Maybe you could - help? Offer a few suggestions?"

"*You* want me to find you a date?"

I could let this go on...but in truth, I'm dying here. I know just where he belongs and I long to put him there. To end this farce. He knew I was behind him. Two fucking blocks away and he knew. They don't pay me the big detective bucks for nothing. Blair loves me.

"No, Blair," I say with the utmost sincerity, "I want you to be my

date. And I don't want to have a drink with you or share old times, or

catch up or ask you what's new. I want to climb inside you, I want you

to come home, or I'll move here, I want to go to which ever is closer,

your place, my hotel, a back alley and I want to strip you naked and



I might have gone just a bit too far. He just took two steps away from me. Backwards.

Yep, went too far.

Or not.

He's stepping forward again and he just grabbed my coat lapels. He's pulling me toward him...

When my face is mere centimeters from his, he hisses out, "my place is closer and it's too damn cold for an alley."

I'm down with that.

We don't run to his place - exactly. But I would call it a very brisk - jog.

Okay - we ran.


No talking, no clearing the air, just cleaning out the pipes - so to speak.

Blair nearly broke down his front door, one hand pushing while his left hand hauled me inside. He kicked the door shut and slammed me up against the wall. Felt good too.

He had to hike himself up a bit, stretch his body and yank me down, but when he finally has my face next to his and I'm pretty damn certain he's gonna kiss me, he says, "You are such a dick."

What can I say? When a man's right, he's right.

"You are the biggest dickhead in the..."

I duck my head and grin as I interrupt him.

"Ah, no, but it is a nice size. I think you'll appreciate it."

His left hand leaves my shirt and slides down...

"Um, not so great, but no one has ever accused me of being a size queen."

And that's it. We're suddenly laughing and stripping and I'm moving him backward, my eyes fastened on his, our laughter swirling around us like the fog of only minutes ago. I'm trying to work his zipper, check his dick out when I realize - no bed.

"Uh, Sandburg? Bed?"

He's busy with my chest, with pushing aside material and lapping at my left nipple, but he manages to mumble, "wall, in the wall, just keep going backwards."

"You have a Murphy bed?" I squeak out.

"uh, huh, now shut up and keep moving."


The passion is put on hold just long enough for Blair to reach back and pull on some cord and seconds later - a bed appears. Rumpled of course. Unmade of course. But hey, at least he put it up.

"Quick, we only have a few seconds," and he's pushing me down and back...

He throws himself on top of me, grinning like a banshee and whispers, "it's broken. once you're out of it, after a few seconds, whap, it folds up."

He just lost brownie points. But his - kissing, well, he lost five with the Murphy bed but gained - one thousand on kissing. He's way ahead.

He's pushing me down again and starts kissing my jaw, my neck, lapping and sucking where appropriate, holding my hands down and away, taking control and I love it.

But I have to ask something.

"So, we're not going to talk? Explain?"

He lifts his lips from my shoulder and smiles knowingly.

"You've been unhappy, Jim?"

"uh, huh."

"Senses on the blink?"

"uh, huh."

"A grumpy bastard and missing me so much your teeth hurt?"

"uh, huh." Man, does this guy know me or what?

"Having wet dreams about me at the station?"

"uh, huh."

"Happy now?"

"uh, huh."

"What's there to talk about?"

He lowers his mouth and latches onto my shoulder again. Somehow I manage to gaze about the room and folks, it ain't much. Better than the rat infested warehouse he inhabited before it blew up, thankfully, and he moved in with me, but still - and he's working in a book store. My Blair Sandburg - Naomi's little prodigy, the man with an IQ in the upper stratosphere and he's working in a book store. In Vancouver. And as much as I'm enjoying what he's doing to me - we need to - talk.

"And you, Sandburg, you've been feeling miserable?" There's no humor in my voice and he catches it. His head rises slowly and he frowns even as his eyes search my face. Finally, he makes a decision.

"You have to be able to feel, Jim, in order to be miserable."

Before I know it, my hands are on either side of his face and I'm cupping that beautiful head, holding him so gently as I whisper, "i'm so sorry, chief, so very sorry."

He leans in and rests his forehead against mine and whispers back, "i know, me too. so very sorry. i let you down and i'm your partner and i'd give anything to undo..."

I can't let him finish, I just can't. We both screwed up so royally but now, we're here, together. And that's all that must matter.

"Ssh, ssh. it's over, babe, over. You , me, we both blew it but we learn, we learn. "

"You think we ever will, Jim?"

I rest my lips against his temple and nod. "Oh, yeah, we'll learn. Life is a great school, Chief."

"So you admit that I'm always right, then?"

Damn, he's good.

"uh, huh." But so am I.

"Good, good. You just remember that in the future."

And his mouth is on mine, our lips parting, tongues dipping in, playing the mating dance and he wins. He draws mine into his mouth and for the first time in three years - I turn up the dials while kissing.

Crab puffs. Really good crab puffs. And - champagne. Really good champagne. And vegetables and some kind of - dip and cheeses, and - and - Blair.

Warm, wet, and wild. Peaches, raw sweet carrots, something tangy, his teeth, his tongue, and I sneak open my eyes because I need to see his face and he's beautiful and concentrating and he's pushing now, pushing me into the mattress and his tongue is half way down my throat as our bodies start to hump each other.

Speed has become important because we both want nothing more between us - not Alex, not the past and certainly not clothing. Our efforts are economical and fast. Clothes go flying and then he slides down my body, my naked body with his equally unclothed body and I have to take a deep breath, I have to control the dials or I'll...

"let go, jim, baby, i've got you, just let go..."

I-I can-do-that.

His tongue is on my stomach, in my navel, floating across my skin, setting it on fire and it's both rough and velvet, pure velvet and then he's lower, and my dick is waving in front of his face and he smiles just before he takes one, long, slow, swipe...

He is the devil incarnate.

He's a saint.

He's holding my dick with one hand and lapping at it and how many times have I seen him eating one of those waffle cones from the park? I'm a human waffle cone.

I have to close my eyes - no, I have to keep them open. I have to watch him. I can't watch him. The pain is so good. Ah, God, I'm inside him, inside that mouth and he's doing it all, giving it all to me, and he's singing, or humming or something and what the hell is that?

Oh fuck. He's singing - For Auld Lang Syne.

He's a little shit.

But man, it's happening. I'm coming...


The year 2001 is about an hour away and at the moment we're enjoying a bowl of Raisin Bran together. It's all he has in the place. I offered him dinner at my hotel but he just gave me this look and so we fucked again. When the guy has a plan, it behooves me to listen.

There's one spoonful left and at least two raisins in there. He's eyeing them. And me.

"You could have had lobster, Chief," I remind him smugly.

"Had you instead. Beats lobster everytime."

Didn't I tell you he had an IQ in the upper stratosphere?

"Okay, they're yours."

He digs in and spoons the last few flakes and raisins into his mouth.

The small heater is on but it's not warm enough for sitting at the small pull down table in our birthday suits. And yes, I said pull down table. I'm officially leery about entering the bathroom. God only knows what I'll have to pull down in there.

Blair is wrapped in his blanket and I've slipped on my boxers and sweater. Still not warm enough but it will do until we get back into bed. Although - I'm seriously considering talking him into heading back to my hotel. In fact-

"We have an hour left - before midnight. Why don't we climb into the Volvo and head over to the hotel? Warmth, champagne, good eats, warmth, what do you say?"

He gets up and takes the bowl to the small sink and quickly rinses it out, then places it carefully into the draining rack. Not easy while trying to hold the blanket around him indian style.

"No Volvo. Sold it."

"You're kidding? You sold the Volvo?"


"So what do we climb into now? What amazingly unrunnable classic did you buy this time?"

"Um, a taxi?"

"You bought a taxi?"

"No, we'd take a taxi to your hotel."

I'm seriously missing something here. But it's right there, right in front of me now.

He had to sell the Volvo.

I really look around his place now.

It's not the best he could find - it's the only place he could afford. And he couldn't afford a car, not even one completely paid for which means he needed the money that selling a classic car like the Volvo would net him.

"Why - aren't you at some other university?"

He shuffles over to the ratty couch by the window, drops down and pulls his legs up under him.

He shrugs.

"Blair, why aren't you at another university?"

"Not interested in pursuing anything, to be honest."

I'm too far away from him. I move to the couch and sit beside him. I fix him with my best detective stare. It works so well, he laughs.

"I don't think that look ever worked on me, Jim."

"I know, but I thought it was worth a try. So save me further humiliation by just telling me the truth, okay?"

"Jim, you don't just change your dissertation subject, you know?

Especially if you're me, with my history."

"*Your* history? What history, Chief?"

He looks at me as if I've been living on Pluto.

"Jim, I believe in Sentinels."

Well, duh. Doesn't everybody?


"Of course you believe in Sentinels." Even to my ears - that sounded stupid. And I said it.

"Jim, no one else does, see? I've been bucking the system for years. I've been the weird one, the off-beat doctoral candidate, and when I went to my advisor and told him there was no sentinel after all - well, everything everyone used to believe about me - was given credence, see?"

And for the first time in three years - I do.

A whiz kid that believed in Burton's theories and unproven claims of tribal guardians with heightened senses. A good, even great, anthropologist, but one with this little - chink. He believed in something that couldn't possibly exist, something that no one else had even considered as being possible.

No one except Sir Richard Burton, the explorer, not the actor.

And when he denied me to his advisor, he gave up everything. He lost everything. Including his home.

"Hey, man, don't look like that. I got what I wanted - I found a real sentinel, okay? For myself, I proved Burton right. That's enough."

We're shoulder to shoulder, hip to hip and I need more so I pull him closer, into my chest, a bit awkwardly, but he's now exactly where he belongs, where I knew he belonged and I'm holding tight.

"Blair Sandburg, I love you."

He's laughing into my sweater and his words float up...

"That's good, because I'm fairly certain I'm pregnant now."

I push him away and he immediately tucks a short, springy stray curl behind his ear. Then bats his eyelashes at me. And puckers his lips.

"You dickwad. And how do I know it's mine?"

"Man, this is virgin territory. No one's touched this body in months.

Living like a monk."

"I think you mean a nun. Living like a nun. An unprotected nun."

His hand moves under my sweater as he says, "You know what I think?"

"No, what?"

"I think it's my turn to get you pregnant."

"Whoo hoo and hot doggie!"

We race back to the wall, pull the bed down and jump on. Somewhere along the way, the blanket was dropped and I have this inviting, naked body in my arms. And it's all male with not a nun in sight.


Five minutes after midnight. The year 2001.

Blair is staring at me and I'm staring at him.

He's wonderfully sweaty, damp hair stuck to his forehead and he's holding impossibly still - for me. He's letting me savor this moment of bliss, this moment of Blair Sandburg buried deep inside Jim Ellison.

I never even considered the possibility that I'd be able to feel Blair's heart beating - through his dick buried in my ass. But I can. And it is this that I must savor. His heart - in stereo.

God, there is just no way to explain the ecstacy of seeing the throbbing vein in his throat, hear his heart beating in his chest and feel it in my ass. I wouldn't give this up for anything and I wouldn't dial it down for anything.

I'm no longer afraid. This is the perk of being a sentinel. Too bad Burton didn't have a clue.

Blair needs to move and I need him to move.

"go, deep, do it, blair," I manage to gasp out.

His heart is in my hands now, as he moves in and out, slowly, deeply, religiously. Deeper, longer, in and out, his eyes glued to mine, his lips dipping in for a touch, a kiss, a sweet moan and then we both speed up, I'm almost rocking with the movement of his body and the synchronization is timeless.

I start to pump my own dick but he stops me and wraps his hand around it and slides in perfect harmony with his body and for me - it's over. I come almost ferociously, his name dragged out of me. He makes two, three more deep humps and he's coming and I try to feel that too but I'm floating too high as his body drops down onto mine.


Sweat, semen, tangled limbs and silky chest hair plastered to my chest. I feel great. He's awake and his fingers are making small circles on my left arm. I can feel his smile against my skin. My right hand is buried in his short, thick curls while my left hand rests possessively on his ass.

I'm in the state of euphoria with no wish to do any traveling in the near future. This is one state I can get behind. I squeeze his right butt cheek and the grin widens.

"happy new year, blair."

"back at you."

"so, got any plans for 2001?"

There's this infintesimal pause, his fingers stop their tracings and I can sense that he's holding his breath. He finally exhales and says in a rush, "i'mthinkingoftheacademyjim."

I am speechless. Totally and completely speechless. I think my god damned heart just stopped beating and I'm having a fucking heart attack.

"Oh, for crying out loud, breathe, Jim."

Good idea. I exhale, long and hard. Okay, sinus rhythm is normal, blood pressure - down...

But jeesh, what do you expect? In a rush of words, in one night, less than a few hours, I've been given everything I ever wanted. I have Blair in a bed, and he's talking about being a cop. A cop. My real partner.

"The academy, huh?"

He nods, warily.

"Would that be the Cascade Police Academy? Or some other academy?"

"West Point - you jerk."

"Ah. West Point."

I start drumming my fingers on his ass.

"So. The academy, huh?"

"Jim, come on, spill. What do you really think?"

I wrap my fingers around curls and gently bring his head up. His eyes are big and round and I can't describe the color, not and do it justice.

"I think - I'm happier than I've ever been in my life. That's what I think."

"Oh, okay then."

He settles back down and I know I'm grinning like a loon.

"So, it's settled. On Tuesday, I'll give my notice to Jeffrey and then I'm off to West Point." Then he wiggles against me - teasingingly and adds, "I do so love all those men in uniform."

The sound of the flat of my hand hitting the soft, pale flesh of his ass rings in the New Year. His loud OW is a perfect counterpoint.


"No Simon, it isn't still foggy. But I did work over a holiday and I'm asking for a few days."

It's Monday, the big game starts in twenty minutes and I'm on the couch in my hotel room, phone stuck to my ear as I listen to Simon giving me an earful. I let him wind down as I watch Blair, who's standing at the window of my room, back straight, almost ramrod stiff. He's waiting for the ax to fall.

"Look Simon, I ran into an old buddy and I'd like to spend some time with him. Well, as a matter of fact, yes, you do know him. Used to be my partner. You remember the little short guy? With the long hair? Blair Sandburg?"

I have to hold the phone away from my ear.

Simon finally runs out of steam and questions. When I'm positive of the silence, I put the phone back to my ear.

"Yes he's fine. A little too thin and he cut his hair but overall, he's fine. What? Well, I bought the book from him. Yes, that's what I said. He's been working in a book store. No, that isn't what he wants to do. Um, now that you mention it, he does have certain - aspirations. He's kind of interested in attending the academy."

It isn't possible for Blair's back to become any stiffer - yet it does.

How little he knew Simon. How little Simon let him see.

"No sir, West Point." That brings a supressed chuckle out of my man.

"Yes sir, the police academy. Yes sir, the Cascade Police Academy. Yes, I'll tell him in exactly those words. No problem, Simon and Happy New Year to you too. What? Oh, no, it looks good. Well, not really that short, just kind of, well, just below his ears. Right. Yes, I agree. I'll suggest that. Right, see you in a few." I hang up and wait. Blair doesn't turn around.

"Um, Simon says Happy New Year, you bum."

Only a slight chuckle. I really should put him out of his misery.

"He also says you'd better let your hair grow out. He really needs a weird looking detective in Major Crime and your long hair balances out my thinning hair. Besides, it'll make going undercover that much easier."

He finally faces me. And he looks like a small, lost child whose dad just found him.

"He's - really okay with it?"

"Yes, Blair. Simon is really okay with it. He'll have everything arranged by the time we get home. And your time with me - well, he figures that'll shave off several weeks. You'll only need about three weeks - tops. Firearms, self defense, the like. Then you'll be my official partner."

"No way!"

I go to his side and gaze down into his surprised face.

"Yes," I say softly, "way."

"And who are you calling the little short guy?"

I think I'll just kiss him senseless. Then watch the game.


*And here's a hand, my trusty friend, And gie's a hand o' thine; We'll

take a cup o' kindness yet, For auld lang syne.*

End - Auld Lang Syne