Rating: Ah, ha! Only R
Pairing: J/B, although I understand their computers are getting hot for one another and I just know the truck and the Volvo have been *doing it* since the day the truck made its first appearance.
Category: Drama, First time
Date: October 2, 2000
Status: Originally appeared in Angel on My Mind 2 - summer of '99 appears here slightly altered
Disclaimer: These things are really boring cause we all know who owns - who doesn't and what's what. So allow me to disclaim all knowledge of the current conspiracy to sneak into Blair's bedroom and snip a lock of his hair.
Note: This was my very first zine story and thank you to Bast who encouraged me as I sent her the parts and to k9 and JC who blackmailed me. It is set after Sentoo/2 but before TSbyBS.
Summary: A surprising and uncomfortable catalyst brings forth understanding after Alex.
Warning: I don't believe in spoiling the fun for those who don't need warnings but I also believe in the right of those who do. Therefore, as usual, if you dont want to be spoiled, read no further and go directly to the story. But if you have squicks, scroll down past the spoiler space to the caveat. :))
This story contains discussion and aftermath of unwanted sexual acts.
There is NO RAPE.
He tore his clothes off as quickly as possible, balling them up and stuffing them into the trashbag he'd brought with him into the bathroom. He didn't have much time.
He reached through the shower curtain, turned on the faucet and stepped in. The water cascaded over his body as he grasped the showerhead with both hands and held on for dear life.
His breathing was too fast, too hard. He really needed to get it under control. And soap. He needed soap. Lots of soap.
He reached for the bar he'd also brought with him, the soap from under the sink. The soap for heavy duty cleaning jobs, like cleaning off grease, or - or - just heavy duty.
He unwrapped it with clumsy, shaking fingers, held it under the water until it sudsed up, then began to scrub - and scrub. His arms - legs - chest - face - lips, hell, he almost soaped out his mouth. Then he scrubbed his genitals and finally his hair. Then - he did it again - and again.
He scrubbed until his skin was red and in some places, bleeding. His hands froze. Blood was not good - Jim would smell it. But he had to be clean, had to wash the smell of Gordon Meeks from his body, couldn't let Jim know, couldn't let anyone know. Wasn't that why he'd left the station first? Left so quickly? Typed his meager, less than complete report and dropped it in Simon's basket? Gotten the hell out of Dodge?
He'd been lucky, he knew that. Lucky to have hitched that ride back to the station, to have been able to avoid Jim, lucky it was Joel who'd gotten to him first in, not Jim. Because, again, Jim would have known, would have seen, would have sensed the truth.
And he'd been lucky that Gordon Meeks hadn't had time, had run out of time. He'd been lucky because Simon's voice, strong and deadly, blaring from a bullhorn, had frozen Meeks, had frozen those hands, had frozen his intent.
Yes - lucky. He knew that. Lucky to be alive, to be still - whole.
His knees gave way and he slid down the tile, down with knees bunched up, arms hugging himself.
Lucky. Damn - fucking - lucky.
So why could he still feel those hands? And feel the water and Meek's hot breath. Why could he still see the lust combined horribly with the hate? And God, such hate. So much disgust and hate - all directed at him. Water? What water?
Hatred, regret, water, hands, his thoughts spilling over each other, confusing him. Hatred. Jim's? Alex's? No. No. Meek's. Meek's hatred for the body that tempted him, hatred for the feelings coursing through his own body, betraying him because they were evil, ungodly so he had to direct the hate away, had to direct it toward the source - toward Blair.
But ultimately the hate had taken a backseat to the lust.
He'd seen it almost immediately and recognized it for what it was, but he hadn't let it stop him from doing what needed doing. From talking. From convincing Meeks to allow the other hostages to go free. And his talking had worked, Meeks had been convinced that two elderly complaining women and one gawky, gangling, pimplefaced, purple spiked hair, gum chewing teenager would get in his way, would distract him. So Sandburg convinced him to keep just one hostage, one person because four would be too hard to control. So Meeks let the others walk out. Which left the one. Which left Blair Sandburg.
He'd done his job - and done it right. But what had happened after the others had left wouldn't have happened to Simon, or Joel, or Rafe or Connor or Jim.
He needed to get up. Couldn't sit here forever. After all, wasn't he lucky?
Hot water. Not hot enough, wouldn't last much longer. He hauled himself up, shut off the cold and let the hot stream over him. He soaped up one more time, this time using his usual. He rinsed off, then redid his hair, again using his normal shampoo. The water went warm, then tepid, and finally cold, but only his shivering finally forced him to shut off the water and step out. Why was he smelling cholorine?
He toweled himself off and for the first time, noticed his wrists. They were bruised and even he could see the beginings of the raised finger marks. The chaffing from the rope was raw, red and still bleeding. He wiped down the mirror, his intention being to look for other visible bruising. As the fog cleared, a man he didn't know stared back at him, a man with a pale, wan face and dead eyes.
Ignoring the eyes, he searched the face and everything else he could see, noticing in a detached manner that there were bruises now appearing along the stranger's jawline and cheeks where he'd been grabbed, head held fiercely as deranged eyes raked over his body, always coming back to fasten like a drowning man on his mouth.
His face had been held as his mouth was forced open, fingers digging into his jaw and that god damned, fucking tongue, and the knife pressed against his neck and yes, he could see the cut where the point had dug in and he could hear Meeks daring him, taunting him, daring him to bite down, to fight and for the briefest moment he'd entertained it, considered biting down with all his strength, biting that fucking tongue off, but you don't let yourself die just to keep a tongue from climbing down your throat.
You don't let yourself die just to keep hate-filled hands from touching you, from exploring, from unbuttoning your shirt or unzipping your jeans or stroking through your hair and down your back to cup your ass, to grope your balls and squeezing them so tight, as the hate surfaces again, that you almost scream.
No, you don't let yourself die. You hang there and let it happen because it's just a body, just your body, not your mind or your soul, not really you. But - it wouldn't have happened to the - others. The others would have stopped Meeks - somehow.
The expression on the face of the stranger in the mirror never wavered.
He could hide the bruised flesh on his body, but he'd have to come up with an explanation for his face. And how many days could he wear long-sleeved, turtleneck sweaters?
As long as it took.
He continued to stare at the stranger as his hands fumbled for the toothpaste and toothbrush. He squeezed a line on the wet bristles and shoved the brush into his mouth and - gagged.
He brushed and brushed and brushed. He brushed until the paste foamed up and out, dribbling down his chin and still he brushed. Then he rinsed, gargled and repeated.
He was done. He was - clean. Sentinel clean.
He walked into his room, pulled on a clean pair of briefs, then his black jeans and finally slipped on his charcoal black, long-sleeved turtleneck sweater over his head. He sat down and pulled on socks, then his shoes.
He was ready. No - needed to dry his hair and throw out the trash, remove all evidence. He glanced at the clock on his desk. Four. How much longer did he have? And had it really only been four and half hours since he'd decided to check out the newest tourist trap on his lunch hour because he'd heard that there was a specialty store that carried totems?
A panther totem for Jim.
It was the little things that got you every time.
"Jim, we need to talk."
Ellison had just entered the bullpen having spent the last hour looking for his partner and now Simon's words increased his worry tenfold. Jim had arrived at Cannery Pier just before Meeks surrendered. He'd quickly joined Simon, ducking down behind the Captains car, both men holding their breaths and cursing Sandburg's luck.
He'd tried focusing on the shop, catching snatches of Blair's words as he tried to convince the crazy son of a bitch that had taken over the store, to surrender, explaining that in fact, his one hostage was a Special Consultant for the Cascade PD and they never negotiated for one of their own. Jim could remember how strained Blair's voice had sounded, unusually so - and - raspy, but his words had worked as Simon used the bullhorn to cement the hopelessness of the man's situation.
The bastard surrendered. Or so they thought. Meeks had sent Sandburg out first and Joel, who'd been on the side of the building had waved the younger man toward him, toward safety. Once Jim had been assured that his friend was safe, he'd been able to go back to concentrating on the shop and moments later, Meeks had tossed out his gun and one knife, then exited, his hands in the air.
Two officers rushed forward, two complacent officers who thought the small, mild looking man was no danger and in the blink of an eye, Meeks had one man down, was pulling out the other officer's gun and shoving him toward the other men rushing forward. He blanketed the area with bullets as he ran for the nearest car, jumped in and took off. It was a squad car.
Jim had been the first to react, jumping the barricade and bolting into another squad car.
It had taken him three miles before he'd been able to manuever Meeks and force him off the road. By the time he'd pulled the man from the wreck, read him his rights and returned him to the pier, Sandburg had been gone.
In questioning Joel, he'd been told that yeah, Blair had left as soon as he'd heard that Jim had the suspect and was on his way back. Jim had quizzed further, demanding to know how Sandburg was, so Joel had filled him with the, "Blair was fine, a little haggard, to be expected, caught a ride with another officer...."
But once back at the station, no Sandburg. He'd called the loft, the cell phone and received no answer. That was when he'd started to panic.
No matter what the last weeks had been like, no matter that the two men were still piecing their friendship back together after Alex, no matter that Blair had been less than his usual self, today was not Sandburg. And now - Simon wanted to see him. To talk. Not a good sign.
He walked into Simon's office and at a wave, he shut the door and took a seat. Simon pushed a piece of paper toward him and asked quietly, "Think you can explain this?"
Ellison recognized Sandburg's handwriting and realized that it had to be the man's report. He took it and started reading. After a minute, he glanced up and said, confused, "This doesn't sound like Sandburg, Simon."
"Tell me about it, Jim. Daryl could have written a better report than this. Hell, a chimpanzee could have done better." Simon took the offending item back and summarized, "Sandburg went into the store, Meeks entered the store, Meeks had a gun, Meeks took them hostage. Meeks was an angry ex-cannery employee. Meeks let three hostages go, Meeks surrendered when the Cascade PD showed up."
He looked up and said, "This is ridiculous, Jim. Especially since I have three statements here, one written by a fucking seventeen year old, all with more information than your partner gave us. A partner who, by the way, has turned report writing into an art form. A partner who can make your escapades sound perfectly normal."
"Sir, may I see the other three statements?"
Wordlessly, Simon handed them over.
Jim took his time reading them, reading thoroughly, filtering out the personal opinions, the colored exclamations and something pinged. He went back and read them again, concentrating this time on the statement from Mrs. Rhodes. The pinging became a cacophony of warning bells.
"Simon, is this Mrs. Rhodes still available?"
Banks picked up the phone and buzzed Rhonda. When she responded, he queried, "Is Mrs. Rhodes still in the break room waiting for her son? Good, bring her in, please."
He hung up and turned a questioning eye on his best detective. "Well?
Why Mrs. Rhodes?"
"There's something here. How she states that she really didn't like the way Meeks looked at Sandburg, that she didn't even want to leave," he flipped over a page and read, "...that dear boy, alone with that awful man...., Simon, I think there's more here, enough to set all my alarms off when reading this."
Simon nodded in understanding, worried now himself and unable to contain it. His fingers drummed restlessly against his coffee mug until Rhonda knocked, entered and at a nod from Banks, ushered in Mrs. Rhodes.
Ida Rhodes was a 65 year old woman, tall, and buxom. There were sprinkles of gray in her short curly hair and her smile was quick and warm. As she entered, her brown eyes scanned the room, looking disappointed by what she found.
"Oh, I was so hoping that Mr. Sandburg would be here. I wanted to thank him for what he did for us and to make sure he was all right."
"I'm sorry, Mrs. Rhodes, but I can assure you that Mr. Sandburg is fine and I'll be happy to let him know of your gratitude. I'm Captain Simon Banks and this Detective Jim Ellison. Blair Sandburg is actually a consultant with this department and is partnered with Detective Ellison."
Ida shook hands with both men, her grip strong and steady. At an invitation from Simon, she took the chair Jim pushed forward, settled herself down and asked, "You have more questions then?"
Jim cleared his throat, as much to quell his unease as to get the woman's attention. "Mrs. Rhodes, I have a couple of questions regarding your statement, which by the way, was extremely precise and..."
"Accurate," she finished for him, a smile playing about her lips.
He smiled in return and it didn't get past her notice that the smile never reached his eyes.
"Yes, I suspect so, Mrs. Rhodes..."
"Please, call me Ida."
"Ida," he smiled again, then resumed, "I got the distinct impression that there was - more. More that you wanted to say, perhaps?" At her puzzled frown, he added, "Feelings more than words? Or impressions?"
"Surely you're not telling me that the police are interested in one old woman's intuition? Or feelings?" She didn't even attempt to mask the good humored sarcasm.
Jim, surpressing the need to hurry, said with a gentle grin, "You're hardly old, Ida and both Captain Banks and I take great stock in feelings and intuitions. It may be true that facts put criminals behind bars, but it is often feelings and intuition that point us in the right direction."
She locked gazes with him and after several seconds of scrutiny, said,"I - didn't like the way that man looked at Mr. Sandburg. I didn't want to leave him alone."
Simon leaned forward, arms resting on his desk, hands tightly clenched.
"Could you be more specific?"
Her head shot up and she spat out, suddenly angry at the memory, "If he'd looked at my child the way he looked at Mr. Sandburg...I'd have killed him. Is that specific enough for you?"
Both men were stunned at the venomous tone, at the cold, clearly honest words as issued by the harmless woman sitting in front of them. Before either man could respond, Ida seemed to collapse within herself and Jim was first to voice his concern.
"Ida? Are you all right? Is there something - else?"
"The hate," she whispered. "I saw it, just now able to give it a name.
So much hate."
Jim glanced over at Simon as he moved to the distraught woman. He placed his arm around her shoulders and prodded gently, "Ida, think back. Let those impressions have a voice."
"He - hated that which he wanted." She looked into the pale blue eyes and asked, " Does that make sense? That's why I didn't want to leave him. I wanted to protect him from that hate."
She looked back at Simon, then up at Jim and she seemed to be looking for something - assurances maybe. "You got there so quickly, right? It was only, maybe, fifteen, twenty minutes? That's all, yes? Twenty minutes?"
Simon rushed to reassure her that Mr. Sandburg was fine, just fine and as Ida stood, as she shook hands and let Ronda guide her out, Simon was mentally readjusting the time, mentally castigating himself because it had been closer to thirty or forty minutes from the time the three hostages had been freed to when Blair had walked out. Thirty - to - forty minutes. Too long. Way too long.
As the door shut behind the women, Simon found himself already rationalizing. Blair had walked out, his clothes in place. Okay, he'd walked out slowly, blinking at the sudden glare, but he hadn't looked injured...so Ida was wrong.
She was just-wrong.
Jim's thoughts were running parallel to Simon's but with one exception; he had more information. He could go back and revisit with sentinel eyes, to use his memory sense as Blair had so patiently taught him. The voice hit Jim first. The raspy, strained voice, so he zeroed in on the moment Blair had stepped from the building...and he saw the navy blue shirt, buttonued but not correctly, all the buttons off by one - and the shirt itself - sloppily tucked in...
...Jim heard a low groan and realized it was coming from him.
"Jim, you all right?"
"Something happened, Simon. Something happened in that shop."
Still in denial, Simon said, "We don't know that - we don't know that."
"*I* know it. His shirt, not buttoned properly, not completely tucked in and he didn't --- look for me when he came out, you had to have noticed that. He walked to the shop on his lunch hour, but he didn't wait for me to get his ride back and his report, Simon."
Simon had to admit now, had to cave in and wearily he intoned, "I'm convinced, Jim. So how do we handle this?"
Ellison had moved to the windows, his back to Simon as he stared unseeingly out over his city. He should have been doing something, anything, but instead he stood cursing silently and asking himself the very same question. How should he handle this. But all he could say was, "I don't - know."
Disturbed by the sudden lack of emotion in Jim's response, he crossed the room to stand behind his detective - his friend. "Jim, he's going to need us. He's going to need you."
"I don't think so." Jim held his body stiffly, his emotions reigned in tight. "You don't know how its been between us, how distant we've become. I'm the last thing he'll need, Simon."
"I'm not blind, Jim. I've seen the obvious strain. I don't begin to understand it, I mean, Blair is alive, Alex is put away, you moved him back into the loft-I figured after Sierra Verde, well, that..."
"That everything would be all right? Back to normal? That we'd pick up right where we left off?"
Simon's eyes narrowed at Jim's angry, frustrated tone and he snapped back, his own frustrations of the last weeks evident, "Yeah, Jim, that's exactly what I thought. Stupid me, stupid me for thinking you'd realize that a second chance had been granted. Stupid me for thinking you could forgive and stupid me for thinking that dying might have gone a bit toward paying for his errors."
His hand dropped onto Jim's shoulder and as he continued, he squeezed hard as his voice lowered, "And stupid me for thinking that none of this matters right now, that all that matters is that we find him and help him any way we can." His voice softened as he added, already regretting his words, "Jim, it may not be as bad as we're imagining. Blair's a damn fine talker, smart as hell. Come on, he got the crazy bastard to release the others, to surrender."
Simon waited for a response and was stunned by what Jim finally said.
"He's at the loft."
"Jim? You said..."
"He isn't answering, that's all. But he's there. I know it."
Damn, he shouldn't be here when Jim came home. He had no reason to be here when he should be at the station. Okay, he needed - an errand, a reason to have left the station so quickly.
Cleaning. He could go pick up the cleaning, and - shopping. Wasn't it his turn? No, they didn't take turns anymore, not since - well, just not since. Besides, shopping wasn't in this weeks budget because he'd bought that stupid totem and it wasn't one of those little stone jobbies, no sir, not for his sentinel and eating wasn't all that important so he'd splurged knowing full well it had been a bribe. That he'd been trying to win back Jim's friendship. To say, "Look, I'm really trying here, okay? Give me a sign, little buddy."
He could feel an hysterical laugh coming on, because of course, the totem was still sitting on the counter, where he'd left it - because of Meeks.
Enough already. Errand. He still needed an errand. Cleaning did fit the bill because they both had stuff at the One Hour Cleaners and overdue. But damn, there was that little problem of money...but he could pick up Jim's stuff and he had that bag of books in the trunk of his car, books he'd purchased weeks ago but still hadn't removed...
Okay, he had it. Cleaning and books. But why would he picking up Jim's* cleaning?
*Aw, gee, Jim. Have a bad day at the office?*
Okay, that was funny. Hysterically funny, Knee slapping, har-de-har-har funny.
He needed to go, to leave. Now. He turned off the dryer, put it carefully away and checked the mirror one more time, checked to see if
the stranger was still there or if Blair had come back.
The stranger was still there. But come to think of it, he'd been there for weeks. Come to think of it.
"He's not here, no Volvo." Of course, he'd just stated the obvious but he'd felt the need to say it since Jim looked like hell, like he was about to go to Sentinel la-la land any minute.
Ellison stared at the empty parking space as he turned off the engine.
Without a word, he climbed out, Simon having no choice but to follow.
But he could ask.
"Uh, Jim? Why are we going in? He's not here." He was stating the obvious again but Jim really had him worried. "Maybe we should check his office?"
"I need to see if he's been here."
Once inside, Jim began a methodical sentinel search. He started in the bathroom and knew the moment he stepped inside that Blair had been here. Moisture that only sensitive sentinel skin could feel hung in the still air. And the scents - the fresh, natural scents of Blair's cleaning products and there - underlying the fresh scent, something different - something - stronger. He snapped his fingers. Lava.
Sandburg had used the Lava soap. He shut his eyes tightly as he ran his finger over the mirror, tracing the path of the rubbed steam that no longer existed.
He walked back out to Simon.
As he entered the living room, he found Simon frozen in place, his hand on the phone.
Dread tinging his voice, he said, "Simon?"
Banks turned, his eyes disbelieving and questioning. "Why didn't you tell me? Why didn't you say something?"
"What are you talking about?"
"Sandburg. The University. His suspension. I thought you said everything was all right after Ventriss? That he and the Chancellor had worked it out?"
The look of complete and utter confusion and astonishment on Jim's face told Simon the whole story.
"Shit. You didn't know either. Jim, he's still suspended."
Okay, he had the cleaning and the books from the trunk. Jim should be home now, so he was ready.
So - back hom...back to the loft.
Only he didn't move, didn't start the engine, didn't move a muscle.
Why, why was he doing all this? What was he afraid of? Hell, Jim couldn't think less of him than he already did, right? And at the station? Shit, who cared anymore. So why - didn't he want to face Jim?
But he knew. He knew. Hate. Jim might not hate him yet, maybe couldn't trust him anymore, but surely he didn't hate him, wouldn't hate him for this? On the other hand, Jim was feeling so little now and so damn little about him that maybe this would be the final straw?
So what if it was? What the fuck was he holding onto anyway? Why the hell was he still at the loft? It had ceased being his home and after their return from Sierra Verde, finding his stuff back in his room - his stuff still in boxes, but nothing back in the living room had simply cemented that fact.
He wrapped his arms over the steering wheel and dropped his head down.
The hate hit him then. Hit him like a physical blow, pounding relentlessly, striking at every weak spot of Blair's psyche, at every wound, at every insecurity that made up Blair Sandburg. Insecurities that he'd shoved down over the years, but that had been dredged up over the last weeks. ripped from him by his mistakes, by his failing to assist his sentinel.
Meeks had hated him, had needed something from him, but hated that need. Was that what was happening with Jim? That Jim needed him still and hated that need? Therefore, how long before he would begin to hate Blair?
God, his head hurt. If only the sound of Meek's voice, mixed with Alex's, would go away. If only he could stop feeling their hands on him, stop feeling the hate...he was drowning - in hate.
Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.
That should have made him feel better, but he'd punctuated each hard fuck with a pound to the steering wheel with his fist. And his head.
He reached down with his sore hand and started the car. Halfway back, he made a decision - a decision that calmed him.
Jim blinked uncomprehendingly back at Simon. "Suspended?" He echoed.
"Yes, Jim. Suspended. I couldn't get anything else from that closed-mouth bastard in Sandburg's office - his ex-office."
Simon's words penetrated and Jim went back to the whole Wally/Beaver discussion in the bullpen...why hadn't he known? Why hadn't he known that Blair had been lying?
Because, technically, he realized now, Blair hadn't been. He had talked with the principal, he just hadn't given Jim all the facts about the talk.
Suddenly Jim's head jerked up, then tilted to the right.
"Shit, what do we do?"
"I don't know - wing it?"
"Why do I not think that winging it is going to fly with Sandburg?
He's the fucking master of winging it."
"You got a better idea?" Jim shot back.
"Yeah, yeah I do. How about we ask him straight out?"
"He's here." And to prove Jim's words, a key turned in the lock and the door swung open.
Shit, he's here. Which was a stupid thought since of course, the truck meant Jim was home and by now, Jim knew he was home.
So. Calm. Must control breathing, the heart rate, the sweat and the shaking. Jim would sense it all and he would smell the fear. He did some deep breathing, sucked in one final breath and went inside the building.
"Hey, Jim, you're home. Here you go." He held out the hangers.
Jim expected a lot of things, but cleaning wasn't one of them. A nudge by Simon reminded him that Sandburg was still holding out the bagged clothing. On automatic pilot, Jim reached out and took them.
"Thanks - Chief." He stood holding the cleaning, not moving.
Sandburg dropped his books next to the small table, let his keys fall into the basket and as slipped out of his jacket, he addressed Simon. "Captain. Is it poker night and I forgot?"
God damn. He looked - normal. Completely, fucking normal. A bruise on his face, but other than that, he looked like Sandburg. They were wrong, had to be wrong. Nothing had happened in that shop. Before he could answer Blair, Jim spoke again.
"Why the cleaning, Sandburg? Why did you pick up my cleaning?"
Blair's movement into the kitchen was halted, but the pause was so brief, Simon wasn't sure he'd even seen it. Sandburg opened the refrigerator and grabbed a bottle of juice. "I picked up some books at Lowell's and the cleaners are right next door, it was on the way, so why the hell not, you know? No big deal." He took a long drag on the bottle.
"Books? For school?"
"Yeah." Blair ran the back of his hand across his mouth, "yeah, for school."
That's when Simon realized he was watching a battle. A dangerous, complicated battle, a battle in a war that had started months ago. But did Jim understand what was at stake? Because, of course, something had happened. So many things had happened and this recent something was just the tip of the iceburg.
Blair had moved to the couch and now sat perched on the arm, one leg dangling. "Hey, Jim. I was there, man, so I just picked up your stuff."
"What about your cleaning?"
The lip of the bottle was at Blair's mouth and again Simon caught that infinitesimal pause before Blair took another swig. "I forgot," he responded, after swallowing.
"I can see where you would do that. Forget, I mean. So anxious to get those books, for school." Jim's voice was deceptively easy, the same voice he used on suspects, just before he closed the trap. Simon knew the voice, Blair knew it better.
Sandburg got up and strolled into the kitchen to dump the now empty bottle into the recycling bin under the sink. "Speaking of books," he offered casually, "I've got to go hit some. You boys play nice."
Jim let him get to the french doors, let him open them, then...
"What books do you need to hit, being suspended and all."
Blair stopped. Turned. Smiled. "So. You found out. Hey, don't worry, we're working it out, we're negotiating."
"I see. Negotiating."
"Jim, man, I didn't tell you because, well, there was, I mean...."
Jim changed tactics. "You didn't tell me because you didn't think I'd care."
Blue eyes blinked in surprise. "I - I...."
"I'm sorry, Blair."
It was good. Jim was good, he'd even managed a chink in Sandburg's armor, but Blair shored it up quickly and moved on. Simon sat down. This was going to be a long battle.
"No sorry required." Then Blair fired one of his own volleys. "I expect you're relieved actually, no school, no dissertation." He shrugged and added, "Voila, Jim Ellison is happy." Blair's own deceptively easy voice was giving Ellison a run for his money.
Jim took the blow well. "I want you to get your doctorate."
Blair took two steps forward, still smiling. "Oh, no you don't. At least not with my current dissertation and that's okay. You don't need to worry, that's what the negotiation is all about, Jim." Blair took a final step toward Jim and with voice low and easy, said, "I destroyed it, see? POOF, no more dissertation. I'm working on something else now and if I get them an introductory chapter by the fifteenth and they accept, I'm back in. On probation of course, but back in."
Abruptly, Blair turned away and headed back to his room, but not before throwing out his last grenade.
"But you know, I've decided to chuck the whole thing. Junk the whole doctorate shit. In fact, I'm about to make you a very happy man. I'm leaving Cascade, moving on, taking the high road. Gypsy blood and wanderlust, see the USA in your Chevrolet," he chuckled, then added, "Naomi used to sing that, but I guess I'm going to see the good ol' USA in a Volvo. Doesn't ring the same bell, uh? Anyway, splitsville, outta here."
As final blows went, it was excellent. Jim even staggered back as if the blow had been delivered to his body, the color draining from his face.
Simon decided another country needed to enter the fray. The country of Banks. He fired his first volley.
"Sandburg, before you head out on this walkabout, I need a new report on today's activity. That piece of shit you turned in was useless, not to mention - incomplete."
For a split second - everything seemed to freeze. Then Simon fired again.
"I'm surprised you even thought that report would be acceptable, being the crock of shit that it was."
A lot of things could have happened, but none did. Blair simply walked into his room and shut the door.
Shit, they knew.
He'd been pretty sure they had suspicions, why else would both Simon and Jim be here? But they knew. Knew.
He'd managed to deflect Jim, throw out his own brand of misdirection but damn, Simon was good. And he'd forgotten all about him. But hey, when the battle turns against you and you have no more weapons, you retreat. So, he'd move up his timetable and split tonight. Now.
He strode to his closet, pulled out his suitcase and dufflebag and started packing.
"I pushed him too hard."
"No. He's just better at these word games than we are. I'm going to him, Simon."
"You want me to stay?"
Jim looked at his friend and nodded. "Please? I'm not sure how this is going to go."
"Jim, just let him see - the truth, for once?"
Jim put his hand on the knob of Blair's door and wondered if he could.
He also wondered how Simon knew.
Blair was standing over the bed, an open suitcase below him.
The clothes continued their relentless path into the bag.
"Chief, we, no I, want to help."
"Well, it's not like you haven't done this already, now is it? Just grab a bag and start tossing. It'll be easier this time, see?" He waved at the corner near the closet, "Most of it is still there. Just need to pack clothes."
Jim's eyes followed the waving hand and he saw the boxes. The boxes he'd placed in the room but hadn't unpacked. The boxes that after all these weeks, Blair hadn't unpacked.
The guilt almost overwhelmed him, almost sent him scurrying from the room like so many rats deserting a sinking ship.
Damn, Sandburg was good and Jim had almost fallen for it. Another nice piece of misdirection. Not this time, Sandburg. Not this time. He took a deep breath.
"Wouldn't it just be easier to tell me what Gordon Meeks did to you?"
The sweatshirt dropped from suddenly nerveless fingers as Blair's head swiveled slowly toward Jim, a slightly bemused expression on his face. But Jim saw the darkness lurking behind the expression and it chilled him to the bone.
"Ya think, Jim? You think that's all I need to do?" Blair moved swiftly then and with one sweep of his hand, the bag flew from the bed.
He pivoted and with his other hand, swept everything from his desk, books, pads, supplies, everything. Then he picked up his chair, lifted it over his head and using it like a baseball bat, he swung it at the bookshelves, bringing them down with a resounding crash of wood, metal, more books and collectibles. But he didn't stop there. He turned and hurled the chair at the his curio cabinet.
Even as the chair left his hands, as the cabinet collapsed in a shower of wood, he was looking frantically for something else to destroy, to throw, another way to vent the sudden anger and the fear that had been his constant companion for weeks. Raging, insane eyes lit on the nightstand and he lept forward but before he could take it, powerful arms came up from behind and wrapped themselves around his chest.
Blair reacted instinctively. He kicked out wildly while at the same time throwing his head to thud into the massive chest and he kept thudding, kept pounding over and over....
Jim tried to lower his head, tried to still the savage body in his arm, tried to whisper soothing words, but Blair threw his head back again. Skull and chin connected in a dull thwack.
It should have been enough to free raging man, if anyone other than Jim had been holding him, but it was Jim and he just shook his head like a prizefighter even as his arms tightened.
When the world came back into focus, Blair was still struggling and Simon, who'd apparantly come in at the first sound of crashing furniture, was asking worriedly if he should help. Jim managed to twist his head to look at Simon and he almost smiled. The man was standing just inside the doors, brown eyes widened in shock, mouth agape. Jim mouthed a no and tightened his grip.
In spite of the groan of pain the squeeze solicitated from Blair, it actually seemed to inflame the younger man and he began kicking back even harder, twisting, trying to wrench himself around and pounding his head with even greater force into Jim's chest.
Afraid that Blair might actually hurt himself, Jim slowly began to lower the two of them to the floor, whispering as he took Blair down.
"forgive me, blair, please? forgive me. forgive me."
Over and over again he spoke the words, begged the words as they hit the floor. Jim's knees came up and he wedged Blair firmly between them, plastered him against his chest as Blair's knees were drawn almost to the younger man's chest.
Gradually - Blair quieted, his struggles lessening as Jim's words were repeated over and over again and finally it seemed that Blair was listening, his head cocked to one side.
Words finally faded as Jim began to rock gently and Simon, tears stinging the back of his eyes, retreated, quietly pulling the door shut behind him.
Jim held and rocked and finally the heaving breaths slowed, returned to almost normal and Jim heard a faint whisper.
"why did you bring me back?"
For a moment, Jim was confused. Bring him back? But when the import of those words finally penetrated, Jim moaned. He dropped his head down so that his cheek rested on the top of Blair's bent head and whispered, "I brought you back because I can't make it without you."
Jim knew the instant the words left his mouth that they were wrong. Blair's body tensed and Jim got ready for another fight, but nothing happened. Instead a weak whisper floated up, "but you can't forgive me and you hate that you need anyone. how long before you begin to hate me?"
Mrs. Rhodes' words slammed into him like an avalanche. "He hated what he needed."
God. Dear God. He had to find the right words. No he didn't, he knew the right words. And the time was now - to say them, to finally say them out loud. To give them life.
"I could never hate you, never. I love you, Blair. I love you."
"you hate being a sentinel, you hate relying on someone else and you hate me for pushing you."
He closed his eyes as he rested his head on the soft hair. God, Blair was right - and wrong.
"i never believed you'd stay, blair. and from the moment I realized how I felt about you, and that you were here because of what I was, not who I was, I started hating what I was. and i know i'm not making any sense, that's what you do, but damn it, i love you. there's no part of me you don't own, no part of me that i don't want to give you. i'm in love with you."
Silence. Too much silence - then....
Jim couldn't hold back the relieved chuckle as he said, "But true. And you'll never hear this mushiness again, but Blair, that's why I brought you back, because I can't and won't exist without you. I love you so damn, fucking much." "never leave."
"You were about to, Chief."
The head dropped even lower as the body he held seemed to shink in on itself. "didn't want to, didn't want to see the - hate."
They were so close now, close to that afternoon, to the whole thing and Jim knew he had to negotiate the waters carefully.
"You mean - like Meeks." With his cheek still resting on Blair's head he could feel the hesitant nod. "Tell me, Blair, tell me what happened."
Blair did. And Jim listened and as he listened to the words describing the groping and the invasion perpetrated on Blair by Meeks, he heard the hate. It was interwoven through everything Blair recounted, the hatred and self loathing that Meeks had transferred to Blair and finally - finally Jim understood that which had driven Blair to keep it hidden.
Meeks had been the straw. The final straw in a long line of straws. Tapping into Blair's insecurities, his perceived failings. Meeks was Alex, the fountain, their lives since Alex.
Blair's words ended and Jim felt both anger and relief. Anger at Meeks and relief that he hadn't been able to perpetrate the final violation.
Sandburg's body slumped against him, all the fight drained out, the tense muscles unwinding. It had been an exhausting war.
Jim knew there was so much more that had to be said between them, that he had to say to Blair, but right now, the younger man needed sleep. He rose, gently bringing Blair with him.
"Come on, let's get you to bed, you're wiped out."
"no, need to...apologize to simon, fix the report and clean - clean up..."
Jim guided him to the bed where he tenderly pushed him down. "Simon knows, the report can wait and we'll clean up together - later. Now, sleep."
As Jim talked, he pulled off Blair's shoes then went for the turtleneck, but evidently Sandburg still had some fight left because strong hands closed over his. "NO!"
"Blair, it's okay," and he took his right hand and lovingly ran it over the bruised and bristled jaw, "I know what I'm going to see." He gave another gentle tug on the sweater and Blair let him lift it over his head. As Blair's upper torso was revealed, Jim hissed in sympathy as he viewed the bruised flesh, the impression of fingers that only he could see...and Blair's wrists.
Blue eyes flew open and Blair said, "See? Shouldn't have let you...."
"You think a few bruises are going to change anything? It's not your fault and you know that."
Blair sighed and whispered, "woudn't have happened to you or any of the others."
Jim smoothed back sweat dampened hair as he answered, "That's ridiculous, Chief and you know it. For one thing, we'd have probably gotten the others killed or the allowed the situation to escalate. You did everything right all the way down the line. And no one could have handled it better - no one."
Jim had been pulling off Blair's jeans and as they were dropped onto the bed, he looked at his friend to see if his words had penetrated. What he found was Blair staring at him. Staring hard and deep so Jim let him, hoping that the younger man would see it all, see the truth, the love. Blair's eyes widened as his mouth formed a silent o.
"Sleep, okay? We'll talk later."
Blair nodded and dropped down, his eyes closing automatically. When Jim's senses told him that Blair was asleep, he went out to join Simon.
As he stepped into the living room, Simon met him with two shot glasses full of an amber liguid. Holding one out to Jim, Simon said, "Figured you'd need this. I know I do."
Both men quickly downed the drinks and moved into the kitchen for more.
"Couldn't help it."
"Yes," Jim said, refilling their glasses. "Standing by the door and all."
"Well, yeah, there was that."
Both men stood in the kitchen, Jim with his back to the sink, Simon resting against the island, staring at each other with tired eyes as they silently acknowledged what had happened.
"You think the report can wait, Simon?"
"You know it can. All I need is a more - Sandburgesque report. Same facts, just written like..."
"Like an anthropologist?"
"I appreciate what you're trying to do here, but Meeks, with a good lawyer, could get off scott free. Most of Cascade was angry when the canneries closed and then subjected to the final degradation of becoming a mini-mall. He could walk and come after Blair."
"No, Jim, he won't walk," he shot back the last of the whiskey before adding, "He's dead, hung himself in his cell two hours ago. Taggert called while you were with Blair."
Jim was silent a moment, his feelings easily readable. Finally, "That's - too bad."
"Yeah, my sentiments exactly."
The loft was quiet, Simon long gone. Jim had checked in on Blair, found him sound asleep so had taken a shower, cleaned up and now stood outside Blair's door in a tee shirt and sweatpants. He peeked inside and satisfied, was about to head upstairs when a moan arrested his motion. He slipped inside and walked to the bed.
Blair lay on his side near the far edge, his hands convulsively opening and closing around the blanket, legs twitching, his sleep no longer peaceful. Jim tenderly smoothed his hand over the sweating brow and the younger man quieted. He remained standing there, hand on the warm forehead, gazing down at the man he loved and had nearly lost again and he flashed back over the years to Blair's fourth day of his *one week, man, only one week*.
Jim had been reading a magazine and Blair had been on the opposite couch, papers strewn over the coffee table, pencil in his mouth as he disgustingly read a student's excuse for a paper. As Jim had watched, he'd decided that it was time to let his new partner in on his sexual preferences.
Blair hadn't even looked up as he mumbled, "That's nice, Jim." So Jim had explained that while he also liked women, his gender of choice happened to be men. Blair had nodded sagely replying, "Um, that explains your rotten luck with women." They'd both laughed and at that moment, Jim had known that Blair was staying - for good.
He'd spent the next several days showing that to Sandburg and of course, he hadn't used words, not his way, not back then. But he had suggested that Blair bring out some of his CD's, books and magazines. He'd hung a couple of Blair's pictures, set up photos, knic-knacks and the ultimate; filled the kitchen with some of Blair's favorite foods, many of which he couldn't even pronounce, let alone want to eat.
He didn't fall head over heels for the anthropologist, no way, not him. Not James Ellison. Blair Sandburg might be beautiful, Jim saw that every day, but he was also very heterosexual. Very. He loved women, plain and simple. Really and truly loved them. Didn't always have a clue what to do with them, and Jim had long since suspected that Blair wasn't quite the ladies man all thought, but still - he was straight.
But in reality, Jim had fallen - almost immediately. Even now he could lie about that, but why bother? He'd fallen hard and fast. And he'd refused to acknowledge it to himself until one moment - in a doctors office.
Blair - teaching him to meditate. Lulling him into a false sense of security, his warm voice settling over him, then spooking him and laughing uproariously at his own joke. Jim had watched that animated, beautiful funny face and had known he was a goner. Sunk. In love with a straight man. So he'd buried it. Until tonight. Tonight, he'd been able to say words he'd only barely thought.
He lifted his hand and turned to the door but another moan stopped him. Blair was twitching again so Jim did the only thing he thought could help. He slipped in beside Blair, slipped under the covers letting his body rest against Blair's.
He carefully settled one arm over Blair and laid his head down on the piece of pillow. Blair quieted again and both men slept.
Blair felt safe and warm, a feeling he'd been missing for weeks. He let his eyes drift open and found himself staring at Jim. He shifted closer, dropped his own arm over Jim's chest and went back to sleep.
Sapphire blue eyes blinked up at him and Blair whispered back, "morning."
"yes, sore - a bit, but okay. you don't look very comfortable though."
"looks can be deceiving, i've never been more comfortable in my life."
"want to get up?"
"about last night...."
"i love you too, very much and more than i ever imagined loving anyone."
"yep." Jim could hear the grin in that simple yep and he smiled in return. "So, you love me. Me, a guy. Someone of the male persuasion."
"Well, unless there's something else you've repressed about youself, yeah, I'm in love with a guy. Have you repressed something else, Jim?"
The old Sandburg was coming back, long live the old Sandburg. Real long.
"Uh, good." Sandburg mimicked.
They remained in each others arms, not in the least motivated to move.
"So, care to have sex?"
Jim burst out laughing. He couldn't help it, the line was so Sandburg.
"Chief, what am I going to do with you?"
"Well, you should know, you've done this before. But if you're really stumped, I would suggest you start out with a kiss and I'll tell you if what you're doing is right."
"Blair - are you really okay with this?"
"Hey, I'd hump a table leg, remember? And I've seen your legs, I like 'em."
"I mean, after...."
"You mean after yesterday."
"Jim, I was lucky, very lucky and what happened yesterday was about power and control and hate, not love, not us. Yesterday was about warped lust. You don't have a warped lust for me, do you?"
"Well, its not warped anyway."
Blair smiled and the smile reached his eyes as they twinkled up at Jim. "See?" Then his expression turned serious as he said, "If I'd been more centered, more myself, I'd have been as angry as hell, but I'm the first to admit that he touched things in me, things I'd long since buried and it was mixed up with my feelings and fears of losing you."
At Jim's raised eyebrow, Blair added, "Minor in Psychology, remember?"
"All this and beauty too. And you were doing a pretty good example of angry yesterday, Chief."
"Shut the fuck up and let me see how well you kiss."
"I can do that," and he made a motion of kissing the air above Blair's head.
"Smart ass." Blair reached up, latched onto one ear and tugged gently. As Jim's mouth came close enough, Blair kissed him. It wasn't tender, it wasn't exploratory. What it was, was powerful, domineering and erotic. It was also the best kiss Jim Ellison could ever remember being on the receiving end.
Blair finally let Jim's mouth go, but not before nipping his bottom lip adn giving it one last swipe with his tongue. "Now that's what you do to me, see?"
"Oh, yeah, I see. I should really try that. Now you make sure and tell me if I get it right, you hear?"
Before Blair could answer, Jim's tongue was half-way down his throat. Sandburg's moans of pleasure could be felt throughout every portion of Jim's body, like a reverberation, an echo, playing him like a fine instrument. Hands began to explore, moving over Blair's chest, fingers loving the silky chest hair and the moans escalated as Blair began an almost unconscious thrusting upward, into Jim's body.
Jim pulled back a bit when he felt an accompanying shiver, but he saw only passion and love in Blair's eyes. Half jesting, he queried, "How'd I do?"
"I'm liking it so far," Blair rasped out, his voice husky with passion. "You make a fine table leg. In fact, you're my table leg of choice from now on. And bristles, suddenly highly erotic."
"It won't be so erotic when you have whisker burn on your ass, Chief."
"Promises, promises and could we do that next?"
Jim flipped Blair over so that he was completely on his back, then he rose above him, doing his best to leer. Blair grinned and said, "If that's supposed to get me excited, it's working. So do something already, you're killing me here."
One eyebrow rose as Jim said, "Why do I not think you have all the necessary supplies in here?"
"Because you underestimate me? Look in the nightstand."
Jim reached over and pulled the drawers open. "Shit, you do have everything." He pulled out condoms and lube and without moving his body, he asked suspicously, "Mind telling me why you have flavored Glide?"
"Well, I didn't just fall in love with you, you know. I've been there awhile and I'm a scholar, learned and wise, and a hopeless optimist. I'm also always prepared." He gave a mock salute, then grunted as Jim shifted back over. "Jeesh, Jim, move. You're killing me here."
"Have patience my little guppy."
Laughing, Blair gave the huge body a shove and said, "I mean you're weight, Jim. I can't breathe."
"Now that was romantic." Jim propped himself on his elbows as he gazed down at the still laughing Sandburg who managed to say, "Hey, breathing is important, you know?"
Jim quieted, pale blue eyes glistening. "I know, Chief, I know," he said softly.
They stared at each other for what seemed an eternity and then Blair's hand came up, one finger caressing Jim's cheek, eyes roving over the beloved face. "It's okay, Jim, it's okay."
Jim let his forehead rest against Blair's as he shuddered inside.
"I know, I know. God, Blair - so much to say, to explain, to tell you...," but Blair's finger touched his lips, stilling his words. "Later, right now, we need to celebrate how lucky we both are. Do you understand?"
Jim nodded and Blair continued. "Then let's make love, just us. Nobody else in the room, not Alex, nor Meeks, not Simon, not one single detective, not even Sentinel and Guide. Just Jim the table leg Ellison and Blair the sex machine Sandburg."
"Just Jim and Blair, uh?" At Blair's nod, Just Jim lowered his head to kiss Just Blair but stopping just before lips met lips to whisper, "But you're the table leg tonight and I'm the sex machine."
"This time, Ellison, but watch out because once I get the hang of this, I'm going to make you forget anyone you ever loved."
"That will be easy, Chief." His eyes were smoldering but his words, heartfelt. "There's been no one else. Never really loved before you."
Lips finally met, opened willingly and they made love, long, easy love.
Jim opened his eyes lazily and found that instead of a blanket, he had Blair. Much warmer.
He tilted his head a bit so that he could see Blair's face, beautiful in sleep and he let one finger trace the profile, then across the square jawline, up to the cheek, across the cheekbone and up to the temple. He lowered his head and rested his lips against the skin, felt the pulse beneath and marveled at his luck.
Yep, Jim Ellison was one lucky son of a bitch.
~Conclusion - Lucky~