*Note: This first bit is Blair, writing. It doesn't have to make sense, it's Blair.
Last chance. This was it. Do or die. Get off the pot. Sink or swim. Love him or leave him.....
No, that would be; love me or leave him.
Either Jim Ellison loves me, or I leave him.
There. I've said it.
Like - I could ever leave him.
And of course, what I really mean is:
Jim *I'm too afraid of my shadow* fucking Ellison will *admit* he loves me, or I leave him.
Like - I could ever leave him.
But could I go on, like this? Following him, living with him, *doing* for him, waiting for those rare moments when he actually *sees* me, smiles at me, gives me *that* smile? When was the last time he did see me? It's been so long, I've almost forgotten. Um......if I just really think about it......let's see, <fingers tapping on the table> uh, after Incacha died? No.
It was quite a while ago. Actually.
Monday is Valentine's Day. UGH. Hate it, hate it, hate it. Doubt that Jim remembers. And since we won't be at the station, thanks to a three day pass....when all the usual flowers arrive, and he has to turn to me and say, "Chief? What's going on?" and I have to say my usual, "It's Valentine's Day, Jim" and he has to say, "Oh, yeah. Right" so since we're off, he won't have anything to remind him.
Which is very good. I hate Valentine's Day, with a royal passion.
Wonder why? I've always remembered it, and if I was in a relationship when it hit, well, I'd always make a big deal of it....something special, rarely the usual candy and flowers, always unique, just for her, or him. It's not like I blew it, or forgot.....I never did.
So why was *I* always the one who remembered? Do you have any idea how many times I've heard, "But I didn't get anything for you?"
A lot. A whole lot. That shouldn't bother me, so why, now, after all this time, does it?
Um, gotta think about that....yes I do. Gotta think hard. Because, because.......probably shouldn't go there. It's that *piece* thing. Like Miranda told me.
"It's like you have this - piece - missing, Blair."
Piece missing. Knew I shouldn't have gone there. I'd better not tell Jim anything. He won't remember it's Valentine's Day, I'll do my utmost best to forget it......Just another Monday.
Yeah, just another Monday.
Ah, rainy days and Mondays......
~~~<~~<@ ~~~<~~<@ ~~~<~~<@
Jim strolled through the store, his eyes searching for just the right item......but still, no luck. And this was his third, no, *fourth* store.
He knew it was out there. Had to be. He couldn't have imagined anything so perfect, it had to be real.
"Sir, may I help you?"
Jim looked into the helpful face of a young man, about Blair's age. The expression said, "really, I really want to help", and Jim believed him, so....
"Well, I'm searching for something special, unique, no luck so far......"
The man didn't have to ask if it the item might be for a man or a woman, after all, Jim was searching in the *Men's* jewelry section.
"I'm Paul Richter, at your service. Perhaps you are looking for ring?
Maybe a bracelet? Or a chain with pendant?"
"Actually, *two* items. Rings. Yes, rings. Silver, engraved.....," Jim paused, uncertain how far to go in his description...."Um, a design, so to speak.....", he let his voice trail off hopefully and was surprised to see the glint come into the brown eyes of Mr. Richter.
"I do believe I have just the right thing. Came in just last week, from Peru. But not silver - white gold. Two of the loveliest pieces I've seen. But not for everyone. Let me get them." He disappeared into a back room.
Peru. That was what he'd said. Peru. This had to be it.....had to be. He drummed his fingers on the display case, his heart in his throat. Maybe, just maybe....
"Here we go. I took one look at these two rings and figured they'd been made for a specific couple. I don't know the history behind them, but my partner does. Why don't you look at them, while I pull him away from the game?"
Jim nodded, his eyes hungrily waiting....and slender fingers lifted the velvet lid and there they were.....
"I'll be right back, Mr....."
Without lifting his head, he answered, "Ellison, Detective Jim Ellison."
"They *are* what you were looking for, aren't they?" His whispered words tore Jim's eyes from the two rings and pale blues connected with rich brown eyes.....
"yes, yes they are."
"I'll get Jeremy, then. Hang on a moment. And you might want to try one on, although, we can easily size them before Monday. I'll be right back."
They were *exactly* what he was looking for, what he'd known he'd find, eventually. He took the slightly larger ring and slipped it on....he wasn't surprised to find it a perfect fit.
The design was Chopec. A Jaguar. Or rather, the Chopec symbol for the cat. And the other, the Chopec symbol for an animal they'd never seen - a wolf. And it would fit Blair. Perfectly.
"Detective Ellison, this is my partner, Jeremy Baskins."
Jim found himself shaking hands with a man, not unlike himself, and about his own age. He noted the gold band on the ring finger of his left hand. The Shawnee symbol for Twin Love and his eyes couldn't help but seek out Paul's left hand, and the gold band he knew he'd find. He wasn't disappointed. The mate to the one worn by Jeremy.
The two men shook hands as Jeremy spoke.
"I don't know that much about the rings, but what we were told was that they'd been created for two unique lifemates, but, who'd tragically never connected. The younger one, for whom this ring was designed," he picked up the smaller band, "died before, well, it was supposedly quite tragic."
"And the other.....lifemate?"
Jeremy lifted his head and met Jim's gaze. The story was sad, and perhaps, knowing it, this man would not want the rings. But the expression in the detective's eyes said differently. Jeremy had not felt good about purchasing the rings, but he'd been almost - driven to do so. Perhaps.....
"The older one, went insane, Detective. According to legend. Actually, I was quite puzzled by the man I bought these from...he said something quite odd.....I asked him who the two people were, and he said, *oh, it hasn't happened yet*, threw me for a loop, I can tell you."
Hasn't happened yet. The chill that permeated every inch of his being was almost as quickly dissipated when he picked up the other ring. The warmth that spread through him, illuminating his soul, was almost - mystical. As if Blair stood with him - now.
It never would happen. The story that went with the rings....never happen.
"I'll take them." He didn't ask the price, he didn't care. They belonged to he and Blair.
As Jim walked out of the shop, Jeremy turned to his love and smiled.
"It's them, isn't it, Jeremy?"
"Yes, love, I believe so."
~~~<~~@ ~~~<~~@ ~~~<~~@
Jim drove home carefully, the small package tucked into his coat pocket.
"Shit or get off the pot, Ellison," he scolded. Jim didn't wonder about sudden confessions and following them up with rings. He didn't once think that telling a partner, a friend, that you loved them, and then offering a ring was at all unusual.
He tried to envision Blair's face, when he sat him down, confessed his feelings. But he couldn't. And he had never been able to...Not even in his best dreams. Was that a bad sign? No. Blair loved him, of that and nothing else, Jim was certain.
He'd give it to him Monday.
Monday was days away.
~~~<~~@ ~~~<~~@ ~~~<~~@
Blair started to shut his journal when some of his newly written words jumped out at him.....
God damn that *pieces* thing. Not that he would have given it any credence, but dammit, Eddie had said the same thing.....and so had Maya, and Sam.
He let the book close with a soft *woosh* and dropped his pen on the desk. Sitting back in his chair, he contemplated why three women and one man in his life had believed he was missing a piece.
He ticked them off on his hand......
Miranda - his first love. First real love, first, *this could lead to marriage* love.
Randee for short, which she wasn't. Just about six feet of legs. Short, black curly hair and sparkling green eyes. Funny he should think of her now. How long had it been? Eight, no, nine years.
He'd just turned twenty-one and was at the airport, having just returned from a expedition. His hair was not quite as long as now, he'd been sporting a *just back from the wilds of Africa* beard, and carrying two spears and one nifty little african mask which was supposed to ward off evil spirits.
He hadn't been watching where he was going, concentrating instead on *not* sticking anyone with the spears......
He'd stuck her. In the - purse.
She carried a huge, black bottomless pit of a purse and the spear drove right through it. She'd been pretty nice about it.....and two hours later, they'd been in bed. The relationship lasted over six months, until one night, after one of their better lovemaking sessions, and two days before he was to leave on another expedition.....
He lay on his side, head propped up, watching her paint her nails. A fascinating thing, this painting of nails.
"It's a female thing, Blair," she said, obviously reading his mind, as she often did.
"I get that sense. Is there a male equivelant?", he asked, half joking.
She leaned forward, tongue sticking out the corner of her mouth, as she attacked her little toe....
"Are you asking as Randee's boyfriend or as Blair, the anthropologist?"
He stroked her bare arm as he answered, "Um, both."
"Well, then, I'd say when guys buff their dicks, they're painting their toenails."
"Buff our dicks? BUFF our dicks?"
"Yeah, you know, that little thing guys do after a shower.....rub a dub dub....."
He thought back frantically....no way, he did not *buff* his dick.....absolutely not.
"You have never seen me buff my dick."
"True, but *you* are not a typical male."
He gave that some serious consideration.
Should he be hurt by that remark, or was it a compliment? Asking never hurt.
"Is that a compliment, or an insult?"
She twisted the cap back on the small, peachy colored bottle, leaned over and set it down on the nightstand before turning and facing him.
"Um, a left handed compliment," she mused.
"Or a right handed insult?", he said with a smile.
She giggled at that and dropped down on her side to face him, head propped up by her hand, fingers meshed with kinky curls.
"You're different, Blair. Very different. I'm twenty-five, been around. But I've never gone to bed with a man two hours after I met him. And I've *never* met anyone like you. You make me feel good, you *do* for me, making love with you is just that - making love *with* you. Most guys make love *to*......and the *to* is usually themselves. But not you."
"Why did I hear a distinct - *but*?"
"Well.....there's something - missing. It's like a piece that should be there - isn't."
Okay, he didn't like the sound of that. He sat up, fast, angry, the sheet falling to his legs.
"That's a damn shitty thing to say. We've been seeing each other for months, I move in, Jesus Fucking Christ, I love you."
"I know. But.....not with everything."
"Randee, no one loves with everything. It isn't possible. But I love you with everything I know. Does that make sense?"
"So if I asked you not to go on this next expedition?"
"Why would you ask that and how would that prove anything?"
She got out of the bed and walked to the dresser where she picked up a pack of cigarettes, slipped one out, got her lighter, held it to the cigarette, lit it, took a deep drag, blew it out and faced him, arms crossed, cigarette sending a small trail of smoke up to the ceiling.
"You're hoping to find a sentinel on this one, aren't you?"
"It's always a possibility, yes."
"No, this one is special. Burton's old stomping ground. That's why I'm asking you to stay. That's the piece that's missing.....the ability to stay. If it's not a sentinel, it'll be something else. It will *always* be something else." She picked a small piece of tobacco from the tip of her tongue, the price of unfiltered cigarettes, and waited.
He got up and padded to her side. "What am I supposed to say here? Clue me in."
She looked down at him, searching his face, and not finding what she'd hoped to see.
"Nothing, Blair, nothing. The piece just isn't there. You leave in, what, two days? Maybe, it would be better if when you came back, it wasn't to here."
Just like that.
Blair remembered so well, that as she'd said those devastating words, she'd actually brushed his hair back, tucking the shorter locks behind his ear, fingers wrapping around his curls, and the look in her eyes....
He recognized the look now - sadness and love.
Pieces missing. All his life, now that he thought about it. Not one piece. Hundreds of pieces.
Hundreds of Blair pieces, scattered all over the fucking globe.....
By the time Sam had come around, it was patentedly obvious. Blair *the missing piece* Sandburg. And Maya. For all her weaknesses, she'd been smart enough to see through him. Which considering how many pieces he was missing, looking through him was relatively easy.
Last words spoken, from the airport, before she'd been deported.....
Maya tucked some hair behind her ear and glanced back at Blair. The bruise was vivid today, in the light. She reached out and fingered the bandage gently.
"I'm so sorry, Blair, so very sorry." Her voice was low, soft and melodic, the accent rich and delicious.
Blair gave a look to the two US Marshalls and they stepped back, just out of hearing, but definitely not out of sight.
"You did what you thought was right. You couldn't know that he was just using you."
Her hand reached out, but stopped, just short of his face. She pulled it back to herself.
"I wish....things had been different for *us*, Blair. But I realize, I could never have been anything deep to you."
One minute they're talking about her, the next, him. How did that happen?
"Maya, I loved you. You saw that, in my room."
"No, Blair," she said gently, "I saw a mirror of love, but not - love.
That's why I could leave.
The only time I think I saw the real you, was that first day, in your office, the way you described the tree people, and later, as you discussed sentinels...your face lit up as it never did for me. It was as if.....a piece, a vital piece, were missing. I'm sorry."
Sorry. They were always sorry, as they left him. Always. He supposed, if he and Jim ever did get together, Jim would be sorry the day he told Blair about his *missing piece*......sorry the day he asked Blair to leave......And it was so much worse coming from a man......
Eddie pushed aside sweat soaked hair and nibbled on Blair's neck, as his hand rubbed across the work shirt, teasing already hard nipples.....
"eddieeee, come on man, gotta work here."
"Nobody's stopping you....work all you want."
His fingers slipped a button open, then another and another.....his hand now against skin and hair, fingers swirling around chest hair, thumb circling over one nub.....
"Aw, man......don't do this now.....notes, god, notes due.....," his head fell back against the chest of his tormentor, who was kneeling behind his chair.
"This from a man who can study in the middle of a hurricane? Just work....while I play."
Another expedition, Florida Everglades, and Dr. Edward Mascone, a brilliant botanist, thirty-five years old to Blair's twenty-three. There'd been chemistry from the get go. Sparks flying, loins clenching.....And while Eddie was not Blair's first male lover, that honor belonged to Stuart Gibbons, star quarterback of the Roosevelt High School Cougars.....Eddie was the first Blair had loved. With all his heart.
The hand was moving down.....to the khaki's, the snaps, the zipper, and the release of his aching cock was sublime. Practised hand worked him thoroughly, as lips moved up and down his chest.....the chair was turned around, and there was Eddie, gazing at him, wicked gleam in those almost obsidian eyes.....
He was going to come.....
"No, not here......come on my little anthropologist, to the bed.......", and hands and mouth disappeared......
He was lifted and moved, sluggishly, to the cot, as his shirt was removed, and kisses were planted along his jaw, down his throat, mouth latching onto his adam's apple....sucking....even as eager hands were working his khaki's over his hips......
"god, eddie....let me.....touch you...."
"nuh, huh....this is me, doing you....just relax
beautiful, just relax....."
How could he not.....those hands, working every erogenous he possessed, lips attacking every sensitive spot.....but then, his words....
"....this is me, doing you....."
And his body was being turned over....
"NO. Eddie, no."
Sane and sober once again. The mood gone, Eddie looking angry.......
"You're the only one who can top? Did it ever occur to you that I want that too? To feel *you*, to be in *you*?"
"I'm sorry.....I'm sorry, I just - can't."
Eddie stood up, stared down at him, at his still flushed face, disheveled clothing, bruised lips, and he shook his head....
"You just don't get it, do you? Do you have any idea how you look right now? How much I want you? How far gone I am? How much I love you?"
"I love you too. But not everyone can bottom."
"You know, I don't think you do love me, not really."
Blair stood then, his own anger starting to boil.
"What, is this some kind of *if you loved me, you'd let me fuck you* shit? If I loved you, I'd let you top? Cuz if it is, you can go fuck yourself, *Dr.* Mascone."
He was zipping, snapping, buttoning, and headed out the tent when Eddie stopped him cold - with words.
"It's trust, Blair. Don't you see that? If you loved me, really loved me, you'd trust me with yourself. But it's that missing piece. The one I've tried to ignore. And it's funny, you know? Because I wonder how something in you that's missing, can possibly come between us.....".
Blair's knees almost gave way at that....his shoulders slumped, his hand grabbing the pole of the tent, holding on......fingers white with the pain.....
He straightened his shoulders, took a deep breath and walked out.
Twenty-three years old and he'd closed himself off...promising himself to never love...Fun, fucking, playing, looking for people who wanted only what he wanted, no long term committments....Until Maya.
He wondered what about Maya struck him, struck him enough to make him risk again....
But he knew. Earl Gaines. Jim and Earl Gaines. Jealousy. Because Jim had wanted Earl. Not Blair. Never Blair. Jim always wanted someone else.....Laura, Nick, Veronica, Earl, the list could go on......and no matter how long it got, Blair's name would never be on it.
So - no do or die this weekend. No getting off the pot. There simply wasn't a pot. Because Sentinel that Jim was, he'd obviously already spotted the *missing piece*.
Would that be a riddle? Spot the Blair Sandburg *missing piece*. Because of course, you can't spot what isn't there. So, it had to be:
Spot the *hole* left by the missing piece, or *find* the missing piece.....
Yeah, find the missing piece.
ATTENTION K-MART SHOPPERS!
RED LIGHT SPECIAL - $1000 REWARD FOR
ANY INFORMATION LEADING TO THE DISCOVERY OF THE BLAIR JACOB SANDBURG MISSING PIECE!
A small, hysterical laugh escaped as Blair pushed himself away from his desk.
A missing piece didn't mean he couldn't make the weekend great for Jim......concluding with a great Monday.....maybe he'd bring in Wonderburger, and rent Jim's favorite movies, not to mention "Great Moments in Basketball History".......
He had a plan.
Jim pulled the truck into it's usual place, ducked his head down to peer out the windshield. The lights in the loft were on, so contrary to the evidence, namely no Volvo, Blair was indeed home.
Jim patted the small, square box in his jacket pocket and smiled. Maybe Valentine's Day was too corny a day for professions of undying love. Should he, perhaps, tell Blair this weekend? Maybe tonight? Then the weekend would be theirs, to culminate with something special on Monday?
And since when did *he* remember Valentine's Day? Since Blair.
He glanced up again, noticed that Blair had come to the balcony, had spotted him and was waving.
~~~<~~@ ~~~<~~@ ~~~<~~@
Their home was warm and comforting, the scent of dinner filling his nostrils as he walked in. Comfort food, from Blair? If he wasn't mistaken, old-fashioned Macaroni and Cheese.....hot, bubbling....
"Uh, what's wrong, Chief?"
Blair was still on the balcony and turned as Jim dropped his keys.
"You're willingly feeding me Macaroni and Cheese? And it's gotta be, what, 35* degrees out there? And where's the Volvo?"
Blair joined Jim in the livingroom, closing the balcony door behind him. He was shivering slightly, realizing for the first time that he *was* cold.
"In order asked, I must've lost track of the time. And even you deserve some comfort food on a day like today. Besides, I used low-fat everything. As for the Volvo, hospitalized. Incurable disease."
"Sorry to hear that, when is she due to be released? And hell, even your low fat stuff is good. When do we eat?"
Blair checked his watch and said, "Dinner in about twenty. That okay with you? And they're letting her out on Tuesday."
"Well, it's not as if you don't ride with me anyway. I'm going up to change. There's a nice zinfandel in the cupboard, if you're in the mood."
Blair watched him almost run up the stairs and wondered why the detective was so happy. He shrugged and walked into the kitchen to get the salad started.
Jim was just slipping his sweater over his head when the phone rang. He heard Blair answer, and the exchange forced him to the railing.
".......no, I'll tell him....yeah, pier 40, got it. Right, Simon."
The phone was replaced and Blair stepped back and looked up and into Jim's eyes.
"Problem at the docks, Jim. Simon wants us there now. English and his co-horts."
"Yep, shit. But the dinner will be here when we get back....that's the good thing about comfort food, man, it tastes even better hours later."
Ellison smiled and nodded his agreement, slipped the sweater back over his head and with slightly less enthusiastic steps, descended. Blair grabbed Jim's jacket and started to hold it out to him, but he'd grabbed at an odd angle and something small and black dropped out of the pocket to land on the floor at Blair's feet. He scooped it up and realized that it was a jewelers box. He turned it in his hand as he looked up at Jim, who was suddenly grinning at him, looking all the world like the canary that had just swallowed the cat.....
"This isn't exactly how I planned this, but go ahead, open it."
Blair looked at Jim, then the box, then back up to Jim....
"Please, Blair, open it....", he repeated, softly.
Blair took off the lid, lifted the small ring box out, but didn't open it.
Jim noted the hesitancy, so spoke quickly, "I know this is all happening backwards, I mean, I was supposed to tell you how I feel, like, maybe over wine tonight, and hopefully I'd see the same feelings mirrored back at me, and then you'd do something typically Blair, like pin me to the floor in three seconds flat, and after we'd made love for like, three hours straight," he smiled at Blair's *oh, yeah?*expression and added, "well, I do have one hell of an imagination, so after we'd come back to earth, I'd give you that."
Blair hadn't moved or spoken and the lid remained closed, so Jim hurried on...."But now, well, you have the box, so we'll go chase and catch the bad guys, come back, have our dinner, our wine, you'll do your spontaneous thing, we'll make long, slow love, take shower together....."
"You seem to be taking a great deal for granted, Jim."
The words were like a splash of icy water. Or a cold, hard slap.
He frowned, looked hard at Sandburg, observed the flush creeping up his neck, the tenseness of his hands around the box, the way he wasn't meeting Jim's eyes......and his heartbeat, tripping so fast, Jim could barely track it.
Fear used to be a driving force for Jim Ellison, but not anymore. He'd made one leap of faith, it was time for another.
"I don't think so, Blair. I think you feel the same about me as I feel about you. Open the lid, please." His voice was low, but the command was there.
With shaking fingers, Blair lifted.
The two rings sat there, side by side. One slightly larger than the other. Blair recognized the design on both. A wolf and a jaguar. He let one finger run over the engraved surface of the larger ring and an electric warmth shot up his arm, a warmth that spread, filling him, working it's way to all the empty places, and he glanced up, into the pale blue eyes he'd come to know so well.....and he had to ask.....
"you've never noticed....anything - missing in me, Jim?"
Puzzled, Jim answered the only way he knew how, truthfully. "No, but if there is, it's only because you've given it to me."
Blair lifted the larger ring and held it out to Jim.
"I'd like to see it on you....please?"
Jim stepped close, his hand outstretched. Blair slipped the ring on. Jim reached out and took the other ring, held it and smiled.
"You know, when I first touched this....I felt such warmth, as if you were standing right there, next to me. I could smell you, hear you, feel you. Would you, " he paused and gazed down at Blair, "let me slip it on?"
Without conscious thought, Blair held out his hand and Jim slipped it on.
"Perfect fit, Blair."
But the younger man was staring down at it, and he suddenly seemed eons away......
Hot, steamy jungle. Blair running, wearing little, his body painted, hair flowing loose behind him, sandaled feet flying across the jungle floor.
He had no clue what was driving him, only that he needed to run.....and that he was running *to* something, not away. He wasn't afraid, actually the opposite. The excitement was building in the pit of his stomach and drove him faster.....
Something, off to his left...an animal. A leopard, velvet blackness, with just barely there spots....
The cat lept ahead of him, to bound onto a large, flat rock and behind him - The Temple of the Sentinels.
Blair came to a shuddering stop, chest heaving, and watched, astounded, as the cat morphed into Incacha. He half expected the Shaman to ask him what he feared......
"You have *nothing* to fear, Shaman."
Blair's forehead creased as he moved forward.
"But....Jim, he doesn't know."
"Because there is nothing to know."
Circles. Does talking to dead shaman spirits always end up in circles....it was like talking to those psychologists through the years...."Well, what do you think it meant, Blair?"
He shook his head, trying to loosen up his brain for this newest round.
"So, I'm not missing a piece? A piece that would cause Jim to......"
"To leave you? No. You found that piece three years ago, did you not?"
Now riddles. And this jungle was hot, despite his lack of clothing....But as he thought about Incacha's words....
Miranda. Knowing he would always leave. But thinking that it would always be something....when it had always been just one thing - Sentinels. He'd been driven.....to find - A Sentinel. *The* Sentinel. *His* Sentinel.
Eddie. Who'd been so right. It was about trust, and giving oneself completely, and Blair had always kept a piece of himself back, a piece so many had thought he was missing, but that in reality, had simply been held in trust....for Jim.
Maya had come closest to realizing the truth, when she said she'd seen love mirrored back at her.....his love for Jim.
"....no pieces missing at all...." he whispered.
"No, Shaman. A place filled, and a part of you finally given."
The jungle was fading, Incacha gone, and Blair glanced down, saw his brown hand, the ring shining up at him......
~~~<~~@ ~~~<~~@ ~~~<~~@
"Blair, are you okay? Blair?"
His eyes focused, he was back in the loft, eyes still fixed on the ring.....
He was engulfed in a warm embrace, pulling him in, and he let it happen, for just a minute, before saying, "We have some bad guys to catch, a dinner to eat, some wine to drink, and well, you know the rest.....we'd better get going, or Simon'll skin us alive."
John English was a man with a mission. His desire was simple. Bring down the Cascade Police Department. Specifically - Homicide. He had an ax to grind, a brother to avenge and the money, men and weapons to succeed. For the last week, he'd been making life hell for the Homicide Department, and it looked as though he'd taken it to a whole new level. Major Crime was now officially involved.
Jim negotiated the truck down the delivery road behind Pier 40, and pulled alongside Simon's Crown Victoria. For a moment, both men waited, observing Simon as he spoke on the phone.
Blair was fingering his ring, and for the first time, as he watched Simon, he found himself wondering about the information they would be imparting as people and co-workers, noted the two identical rings......
"Don't worry about it, Blair. They all think they know anyway. These will just serve as confirmation."
Blair caught Jim's smile, and returned it. Brilliantly.
"Did you have these made, Jim?"
"No, but there is a story attached, which will have to wait, because at the moment, Simon is waving us over."
The two men climbed out and joined their Captain.
"Well, it looks like our snitch was on the up and up. English and his men seem to be in one of the warehouses, getting ready for a major move. Our orders are to provide back-up, and a secondary ring of men. Just in case."
Blair considered the area around them and he didn't like it.
"Sir, what are the odds that this is an elaborate...." he never finished. The sound of gunfire interrupted his words.
Seconds later, they were running, ducking, wending their way around crates, heads low, guns drawn. Simon was shouting orders, because indeed, it was a trap, and only the officers from Major Crime were *outside* the ring of English's men.
It took over thirty minutes, but Major Crime was good. Two homicide detectives were down, four of English's men. Jim had provided the final successful assault, using his hearing to pinpoint the men, and sending MC detectives in the right direction. Only English and his right hand man, Leonard Bristol had managed to so far elude capture.
Clean up was in process, with Paramedics working on the injured men, and officers conducting a thorough search of the dock. Simon stood with Captain Murdock, accepting his thanks, as Jim stood with Joel. Blair sat a few feet away, with Megan, the two deep in conversation.
"Just keep it for me, please? You know I'm trying to quit. I asked Joel, but he said no, that he was an ex-smoker and the temptation would be too great."
"Megan, how will my keeping your cigarette case keep you from smoking?
You can just buy another pack, or ten."
"No, I only smoke from this. My father gave it to me when I graduated and became an Inspector, it means a great deal to me. Please, Blair?"
He shook his head helplessly and held out his hand. She put the silver case in his palm and watched with satisfaction as he slipped into his shirt pocket.
Simon and Captain Murdock finished talking, and as Banks stuck his cigar into his mouth, the two men headed over to the Major Crime group. "So, Sandburg, you were saying?" Banks said with a smile.
"Not a thing, sir. Not a thing."
At that moment, a tug pulling away from pier 41, blew it's horn and Jim winced as the sound pierced him. Captain Murdock turned toward the tug, putting Jim between the Homicide Captain and the warehouse behind them. Blair started toward Jim, as he noticed the pain on the older man's face, but the glint of something to his right made him look back and up.
A man, on the roof, with a rifle. Blair didn't think, didn't stop, he just moved. He launched his body sideways while at the same time shouldering Jim back. The rifle cracked, Blair felt the strike as it thudded into him, and he was falling........
The sound in Jim's head rattled around, the echoes of the horn burning.....and he'd immediately turned to his guide for assistance, only to see Blair launch himself at Jim, words screamed out.....and his eyes finally saw the rifle, the bullet, and Blair's shoulder hit him in the chest and he was moving back, into Captain Murdock, and both men were falling......Megan was down on one knee, gun pulled, Joel standing over her, his gun ready and shots were fired, and Jim tried to concentrate, to lower the dials......but all he could see was Blair, on the ground, not moving, and Jim was on his hands and knees, shaking his head like a bull in the ring........
Men were yelling, running, a body fell from the roof, another man stood, started to fire into the Major Crime group, but Simon stood tall, fired first and English went down.
Silence. Blessed silence.
Jim crawled to the body, unaware of the others, of Simon, seeing Blair's body, moving forward as his head shook in denial, or of Megan standing, moving toward the still man, Joel by her side, and Captain Murdock, face pale, knowing he'd been the initial target.....
Jim had dialed down to nothing....he could hear nothing, could only see Blair's jacketed back....
Hands reached out, pulled, voice pleading, "blair, blair....." and Jim was turning him over, pulling him into his arms......and words, "the younger one died, before......", and he shook his head because Blair was wearing the ring because they *had*.........
A hand moved, came up slowly, to the chest, to a hole, just at the heart.....a black hole.....singed, and a voice....
"Jim? Oh, man, what hit me?"
And sound slammed into Jim, the world moved, Blair's heartbeat a steady reminder of life.....
He sat Blair up, his fingers searching, below the hole.....and finding something hard, square....he brought it out....held it up.
A cigarette case. A silver cigarette case. The bullet imbedded in it......
Megan sighed and said, "Oh, Sandy, you ruined my cigarette case," and as all eyes were trained on her, she added, "And it's a damn fine thing he did, too."
~~~<~~@ ~~~<~~@ ~~~<~~@
A Bruise. Some pain, but hell, he was alive.
Blair sat on the examining table, legs dangling, Jim standing next to him, and every few moments, as the doctor had tsk-tsk'd, as Blair had slipped on his shirt, and as he buttoned, Jim had - touched. His hand, shoulder, thigh.....just - touched.
Right now, Jim's hand came up and lightly fingered a strand of hair, rubbing it between his two fingers, almost zoning in the feel.
"Jim, it's okay, I'm here, alive, everything is A-ok."
"I know. But it doesn't hurt to - reaffirm, you know?"
Blair smiled up at his partner, a gentle smile as he nodded and whispered, "I know."
Blair's left hand was lifted, and Jim's thumb rubbed across the white gold band, and he said, "I think these rings were made for us, for *us*. The man at the jewelry store purchased them in Peru and was told they were for a special couple, lifemates." Jim stopped a moment, his voice catching, but Blair's words, "go on," softly spoken, urged him to continue.
"He was told that the rings were never exchanged, because, because, the - younger one - died. The shop owner asked how, and he was told that - it hadn't happened - yet. Do you see, Blair?"
Amazingly enough, he did. He nodded, his throat tight, "yes, yes, I see...what would have happened to y....the other lifemate?"
"insane, went, would have....gone - insane......"
Blair pulled at the man, so he stood in front of him and gently wrapped his arms around Jim's body, pulled him down a bit, so his head was resting on Blair's shoulder. He felt the tremors coarse through Jim, felt the older man's arms embrace him, careful of his bruise, and they stayed like that, Blair crooning and holding and Jim feeling.
~~~<~~@ ~~~<~~@ ~~~<~~@
Jim stared at his computer screen, read the last two paragraphs through again, and finally satisfied, placed the cursor over the print icon and clicked. At the opposite desk, Blair was already signing his, getting up, albeit stiffly, and with a whispered, "slow poke" he slipped the paper into Simon's in-basket.
As Blair walked back to his desk and started to clean up, Jim noted with relief that the only sign of having taken a bullet in the *cigarette case* was the way he seemed to protect his chest. He smiled at his own quip, while at the same time sending up his prayer to whomever, that a small box had tumbled from his pocket when it had......
Jim's report was printed and he dropped it on top of Blair's, then walked back to their desks where Blair was already in his jacket and the two men faced each other in the otherwise empty squad room.
"Got an idea, Chief, if you're game," Jim offered.
Blair's questioning eyebrow was all Jim needed. "We could go home, pack up a few things, the macaroni and wine for instance, stop at the store for a few other necessities, and spend our three days up at Steven's cabin. He's already okayed it. Waddasay?"
"I like your thinking, Ellison. Let's go."
An hour and a half later, they were on their way. The back of the truck held their supplies and on the seat, sitting between the two men, rested the macaroni and cheese and of course, the wine.
Since leaving the city, neither man had spoken, but the atmosphere in the truck had not suffered. The silence was easy, comfortable, almost - gentle.
The weather promised cold but clear, with no rain or snow on the horizon, not that either man intended to stray far from either a bed or the fireplace.
As the road started to climb up, away from the city, Jim found himself smiling because he'd realized that while he and Blair now wore matching rings, that they were, for all intents and purposes, *married*, they'd yet to share so much as a kiss.
"You're grinning." Blair's voice broke through his strange reverie and he allowed his eyes to leave the road for a moment and rest on his - lifemate.
"I'm not surprised, considering my thoughts."
Jim checked the road ahead and spotted the famous Cascade Turn-out. The perfect spot.
"Give me a minute, the turn-out is just ahead."
"I've got time. Not going anywhere."
"yes, you do, and no you're not," Jim said softly.
The Cascade Turn-out was the only spot as a driver headed up, that provided a complete view of the city below. And at night, that view was spectacular.
In unspoken unison, each man got out of the truck and walked to the semi-circular cement barrier that kept the unwary from pitching headlong down the cliff.....
Below them, floating on a sea of sparkling white diamonds, lay their city.
They stood for several minutes, silent, drinking in the sight, before Jim finally spoke.
"I was realizing that we're wearing matching rings, that we're....."
"....like, married?" Blair finished for him.
Jim grinned down at his pulse and said with a chuckle, "Yeah, like, married. But we haven't even kissed."
"You want to kiss too? Like, being friends isn't enough? Jeesh. A ring, and already demanding."
"So we should, what, keep our distance?" His smile, even in the darkness, was evident in his voice.
"Well, we could shake hands, and come out - kissing. I mean, if you insist."
Jim turned, as did Blair, their bodies close, but not touching. The darkness was, of course, no barrier to Jim and he drank in the sight of the man he'd loved quietly for so long.
"Feels strange, Jim. You're my best friend, the one person in the world I trust with everything, and yet, it's - strange. You're real, this ring is real, our feelings are real, and the thought of kissing you....."
"Don't tell me it scares you?"
Blair gave a low chuckle, "No, scared isn't the right word. I remember planning for my first expedition, the packing, the hurrying, the excitement.....the stomping dinosaurs in my stomach.....this is like that, only - better."
"Better," Jim breathed out.
"much," Blair whispered huskily.
The two men leaned into each other, eyes fastened on the other's lips and suddenly, they were both laughing.
"Fuck, we're two grown men. We've been around. Kissing is no big deal.
Blair didn't answer. He chose instead to wrap one arm around Jim's waist and the other up to Jim's neck, and with his hand pushing, he brought Jim down to within reach. He then proceeded to plant one.
Jim was surprised at first, at the aggressive move, at the demanding tongue, at the complete, overwhelming assault on his mouth. His surprise didn't last long. He stepped into Blair, their bodies now aligned, with every part that could touch, touching.
Well hell, no wonder the men and women flocked to his partner. This man could kiss. Like nobody's business. Jim gave up thought and kissed him right back.
Jim's arms cocooned themselves around the kissing machine, and he felt Blair give a little - jump, which was the only possible description, and he smiled into the kiss as one of Blair's legs seemed to fold around his......so Jim gave him a little hike.....and the war commenced.
God dammit, he was being drilled, by the most incredible tongue, and Blair was now kind of in his arms, legs wrapped around him, and Jim absently noticed that he was *carrying* Blair, which was good, because it gave the younger man unlimited access to Jim's mouth.....
It was hot, it was wet, it was the tongue tango of the highest order, it was a religious experience. Saints, angels, and small white lights danced across Jim's eyes, and *the* kiss became a series of smaller kisses, of mouths separating, then back again, like two great birds, dancing around each other, and Jim opened his eyes, because he *had* to see this, and he found, to his delight, those expressive blues trained on him, crinkling with suppressed laughter, and Blair shifted, and their cocks caught on fire, and somehow, someway, Jim managed to stumble his way back to the truck, but only long enough to back Blair against the hood, to support him, to allow Jim's hands to unzip, Blair's moan through Jim's mouth urging the older man on..... But words, making their way from Blair's mouth to his.....stopped him momentarily.....
"truck, stuff, we need stuff....."
Jim hiked the man back up and laughing, Blair pretzeled around his body asthey made their way to the door, got it open, almost fell as Blair reached in, to Jim's hissed, "small bag - floor" and Blair had it, and bumped his head as Jim tried to pull him out.....and the laughter erupted again, as once more Jim maneuvered Blair around to the front of the truck......
Jim sat his *load* on the hood, as the younger man tore through the bag, pulled out three different types of lube, gave Jim a quizzical look, to which Jim replied, "didn't know what you liked.....", and as Blair plucked out the condoms, Jim added, "got a little carried away there, I mean, this new one was sitting right there....."
"Hey, man, cool choice. The new Millennium Condom....y2k safe *and* in bold blue.....ever the color co-ordinated Sentinel." Blair slapped the single pack into his sentinel's hand and went back to examining the lubes.
"Uh, Jim?", and he held up a bottle of Detane.
"Oh, yeah, well, I'm - you know, sensitive. Don't want to short shrift you......it's a sentinel thing....", he ended, lamely. Blair held up another one, a huge grin on his face. "And this?"
"Well, you're always harping, and you love, well, fruit. So....."
"....so, ID's Juicy Lube? Ah, Jim, for me?"
"Blair, there's a cliff over there.....don't tempt me."
For a moment, Blair just stared. And stared. Jim began to fidgit, but before he could ask what was wrong, Blair hopped off the hood, handed the Detane to Jim, turned around and leaned over the truck.
Now it was Jim's turn to stare, because the *way* Blair had moved, the posture he now held, didn't say, "hurry up and fuck me," but rather, Blair was saying, "For you."
"I kinda figured, maybe, the first time....", Jim's voice trailed off.
"I've never - let anyone, Jim. Never. Because, none of them were you.
Jim stepped in, his arms winding their way around the slightly shaking body, and he buried his head in Blair's hair, then lifted it and began to kiss his neck. Blair moaned, turned his head as far as he could, and Jim captured that mouth, even as his hands were undoing Blair's zipper, untucking the flannel shirt, running his hands up and down Blair's chest, reveling in the soft chest hair, and he let his hips move forward, into Blair, and celebrated as Blair's hips thrust back, almost instinctively, but then Blair's voice....."let me put it on you....", and Jim turned him around and handed him the condom, and Blair slipped it between his teeth, and slowly slid Jim's zipper down, tugged until his jeans were around his ankles, and his hands rested on the elastic, and he looked up, caught Jim's eye, smiled, then brought his shorts down....
Jim glanced down, then up at Blair, saw the widening of his love's eyes, the appreciation, watched as Blair opened the bottle, squirted some Detane onto his hands, warmed it up and then moved his hands down, to lovingly stroke the gel over Jim's penis, and Jim watched as those lips parted and the condom slipped into Blair's hands, the edge torn by his teeth, and Jim noticed that Blair's hands were shaking now, felt the heat of arousal, of Blair's passion, and he placed his slightly larger hands over Blair's and guided them down, and watched as the condom was slipped on, as Blair wiped his hands, leaned up and kissed him, then turned once again.
Jim found his hands needing to explore, to roam, to feel every possible inch of Blair's body, feeling the strong, slender back, delighting in the tremors that ran down it, at Jim's manipulations, and where Jim's hands went, his lips followed, until he knew Blair was ready, was hard, needing him, and he slipped Blair's jeans down over shaking hips, his thumbs trailing along exposed skin.....and the curve, the swelling of blair's ass, the roundness, and Jim knelt, planted kisses on each round cheek, nipped and stroked, his fingers teasing, and dipping in, or his tongue flicking out, and the tremors were uncontrollable now, with Blair begging in moans, and Jim rose, his lips finding that soft, sweet spot on the back of blair's neck, and he kissed and licked, as he prepared Blair, and was again rewarded by Blair's thrusting back, almost angrily, and his words, hissed out, "god dammit, jim....*do* something", so - Jim did.
He moved in, spread Blair's cheeks with his thumbs, and began the push in......but he hadn't counted on one, impatient rookie cop. Blair must have said a mental, "nuh, huh, no way jose," because he thrust back by pushing himself off of the truck, quickly impaling himself on Jim.....
"move it, god dammit.....this is no shrinking violet here.....i'm not gonna break....", Blair hissed out.
But that was all Jim needed.....Blair's body was pushed forward, against the truck, and Jim brought his arms up, grabbed Blair's, spread them across the hood, wrapped his hands around Blair's wrists, held them down, and the games began.
Their bodies moved together, in a rhythm that should have taken months, well, maybe for them, days, to accomplish, a rhythm synchronized, matched, slow at first, but as the two bodies experimented, finding the right - *fit*, the rhythm picked up, the thrusts deepened, the moans escalated, and Jim let go of one of Blair's wrists, dropped down, connected with Blair's engorged cock, started pumping expertly, religiously, and moments later, Blair came, and three hard pumps later, Jim followed, his face buried in damp hair, Blair's name on his lips.......
Jim felt Blair's knees give way, as he dropped into Jim's arms and the man barely had the wherewith all to turn around and slide down the front of the truck to the ground, Blair bound securely within his arms.
~~~<~~@ ~~~<~~@ ~~~<~~@
"Okaaay......that was - that was....."
"Earth shattering? Mountain moving? River changing? Call the X-Files?"
"I was going to say - different."
"Chief, remember that cliff?"
"....and earth shattering, mountain moving, river changing and who needs Mulder when you have me?"
"Scully could never have me.....she's too - short."
"Scully has Mulder."
"No, Skinner has Mulder. Don't you pay attention?"
"We've lost this conversation. And the ground is damn fucking cold. Care to move this to the truck?"
"I'm not cold."
" *Your* butt isn't on the wet ground. But I can arrange it......"
Somehow, they got up, and with great clumsiness, jeans and shorts were pulled up, Jim even managing to wipe down the front of the truck, to a smartass remark from Sandburg..
"You're cleaning me off? I was marking my territory, man, you can't clean that off....."
They sat in the truck, smiling, tidying up, smiling. Jim kept eyeing the macaroni and cheese until Blair finally gave in and opened it as Jim opened the wine. They ate with their fingers, shared the wine, and never uttered a word.
A small *bbrrbt* echoed in the cab of the truck.
"A compliment to the chef."
"We still have three days......and we aren't even at the cabin yet."
"You'll live. Barely."
"Debatable. You're one demanding slut."
Blair licked the last of the macaroni and cheese from his fingers and said, "Yep."
"I didn't get you anything for Valentine's Day, Chief."
Blair bent down, and as he rummaged in the bag of *supplies* he waggled his left hand in the air, the white gold catching in the gleam of the truck's interior light.
"But that wasn't for....."
Blair popped back up, this time waving the ID Juicy Lube......"I got this, Jim.....*ba-beeee*. And I know just how to use it.....Jim...... *ba-beeeee*."
Before Jim could protest, not that he would, if he could have....Blair had launched himself.
No, Jim would not be likely to make it to
~~~<~~@ ~~~<~~@ ~~<~~<@
<@End of I Hate Valentine's Day<@
AND NO EPILOGUE!