by alyjude

We all know the drill. No money, just good, clean, sex.

Thanks once again to the gang at The Cellar! Betas extrordinaire

Takes place during but mostly after Private Eyes

"Well, have you?"

Jim closed his eyes and gave a small shake of his head as he said, "Sandburg, what on earth does that have to do with--"

"Have you ever made love in a closet?"

When Jim didn't answer, Blair gave the man's arm a shake and repeated the question. "Have you? Come on, Jim, it's a simple question. Have you ever made love in a closet?"

"No," Jim replied tersely. The light turned green, and as the truck moved forward, Jim said, "But what that has to do with me being this vanilla-nice guy you seem to think--"

"Jim, Jim, Jim, it has everything to do with it. It was my whole point. You're just so -- so -- straightforward in your thinking. So very much the gentleman, the nice guy, the--"

"Sandburg, I've done things in my past that you could never even hope to understand, let alone believe, so don't give me that--"

"Jim, we're not talking about what you had to do in the military, we're talking about you, about how you life, how you conduct yourself, your mores, who you think you are, so to speak. And because you're a sentinel, I'm just saying that-"

"Wait, are you saying that I'm this nice guy because I'm a sentinel?"

Blair looked away from Jim to stare out the windshield of the truck as he said, "No, not exactly. Not exactly. But you do tend to think in a certain manner, and I'm saying that maybe that thinking is a result of your being a sentinel, okay?"

"So never making love in a closet is because I'm a sentinel?"

Blair could hear the laughter in Jim's voice, damn him, anyway. But before he could blast out with the appropriate retort, Jim spoke up again.

"Have you ever made love in a closet, Sandburg?"

"Hell, yeah. Closets, cars, elevators, airplane restrooms, and once, at the bottom of a--"


"---in Bogata. Talk about being in a hurry, you know? The natives were restless and about to atta--"

"Sheesh, you really are a piece of work."

"Get off it, Jim. This has nothing to do with your opinion of my sexual exploits. I'm a healthy all-American guy and in my sexual prime.

Of course, I'm a rare commodity as I've been in my sexual prime since the age of sixteen, and will undoubtedly continue until I'm past seventy, unlike most men who peter out by the time they're twenty-five."

Jim gave an inelegant snort as he turned the truck onto Adams. "Now that's something I'd believe about you, Chief. But trust me when I say that making love in a closet hardly guarantees you a place in the Hunks Hall of Fame, nor does it keep me out."

Sandburg quirked an eyebrow. With his mouth turning up fractionally, he said, "Hunks Hall of Fame? I swear, Jim, sometimes you slay me."

They were still several blocks from the station as Jim waved a hand in the air above the steering wheel and said, "Look, all I'm saying is that a person making love in a closet doesn't equate to -- to -- oh, hell." He took a deep breath, then tried again. "Look,Sandburg, I'm a normal man, with normal urges, okay? Being a sentinel has nothing to do with where and when I have sex. Or with whom. But it damn well has a hell of a lot to do with how I make love."

The smugness of Jim's tone wasn't lost on Sandburg, and he decided to take the man down a peg or two. "Oh, really? Well, I may just have to do some work on that idea, Jim. The love-making techniques of a sentinel deserve at least an entire chapter in my dissertation." He paused, then added, "Maybe two."

It was no coincidence that at Sandburg's words, the truck seemed to take on a life of its own as its speed increased rapidly.

"Sandburg, so help me--"

Blair was saved the 'delight' of hearing how many ways Jim would kill him with a rubber band by the blaring of the two-way radio. Thank God for criminals.


Bullets flew overhead, one coming close enough to trim a stray curl. Blair ducked impossibly lower, while at the same time Jim thrust his cell into Blair's face.

"It's for you, Sandburg."

Blair took the offered cell and cringed at the sound of his mother's panicked voice. After a few aborted attempts, Blair was finally able to get a word in edgewise. "Mom. No, no. What? What makes you think we're in some kind of danger?"

With help from Jim, Blair kissed the ground as a bullet hit the truck. He plugged one ear in a vain attempt to hear his mother, but it was a lost cause. He said something about the television being too loud, swatted at Jim, then hung up. Things went downhill from there.


A few days later:

"So you really believe all that psychic stuff?"

Blair looked up from the computer, gave his head a little shake, and said, "Jim, you saw Charlie work, and you told him yourself that you believed in him. Were you lying or are you finding your natural skepticism returning?"

"It's not so much being skeptical as cautious." He hid a teasing grin as he added, "Probably another you-know-what related phenomenon, like my vanilla attitude toward sex."

"Oh, man, are you still angry about that conversation?"

"Who said I was angry?"

Blair huffed some hair away from his face as he said, "You never remember what I say unless you're angry. And how many times do I have to tell you that your -- how should I word it today?"

"My inability to be spontaneous or adventuresome with regards to sex?"

"That works."

"Sandburg, did it ever occur to you that you're the one with the problem? That I'm the normal one? That a guy who, to quote you, spent his formative years suffering through anxiety attacks and seeing a multitude of therapists, might be the one with the problem? Maybe you're a sex addict. Did you ever think of that?"

A myriad of emotions made tracks across Sandburg's face. So many, in fact, that Jim had trouble cataloging all of them. He was pretty sure he'd spotted a flash of shock, followed by what he was certain was anger and hurt, then -- fear? Whatever the emotions, the final one, the one that settled, was that of wry humor.

"Oh, come on, Jim. That was a bunch of bull spread around for the sole purpose of getting you to let me talk to Joel. Do I look like the type of guy who had panic attacks or needed therapists? And watch how you answer that, I'm the whiz who does your reports."

Blair pushed back his chair and, with a deceptive laziness, stretched his arms over his head, then grinned. "Speaking of whizzes, I'm off to the 'Little Men's Whiz Room'. If mom calls, keep her on the phone, okay? She made noises about leaving with Charlie but I'm thinking I'd like to talk her into staying for a couple of days."

With that, Sandburg sauntered off, leaving Jim with his mouth hanging open. He quickly shut it.

Damn, he was a fucking sentinel and yet he didn't have a clue what Sandburg was actually feeling at the moment.

His heart rate had been normal -- completely normal, but the detective that hid deep within Jim Ellison's psyche and refused to rely on heightened senses, was telling him that something important had just happened.

His phone rang, and with eyes still glued to his partner's retreating form, he picked up.


//Jim? It's Naomi. Is Blair nearby?//

"He just stepped away for a few--"

//Oh. Well, will you tell him good-bye for me and that I'll call him when Charlie and I get to--//

Jim focused on his caller. "Naomi, Blair was hoping you'd stick around for a couple of days."

//I'd love to, but this seminar--//

"Is probably not more important than, say, your son?"

The silence was startling, considering that it was a Sandburg at the other end of the phone.

"He's really looking forward to some downtime with you. Spring break starts Monday and work's been pretty hectic lately--"

He let his voice trail off significantly -- and waited. It paid off.

//I suppose Charlie could go on ahead -- and if I flew up, I could stay a few more days--//

"Why don't you do that?" Jim prodded gently.

//All -- right, I will. Let Blair know?//

"Will do. He's got one class to teach this afternoon, then a lecture tonight that he has to attend, but that's it." A thought struck and Jim ran with it. "His car is in the shop again, so I'll be dropping him off at Rainier. Why don't I take you to dinner, then we can swing by and pick him up after his lecture?"

//That -- sounds like a plan, Jim.//

"Pick you up around seven?"

//All right. I'll be in the lobby.//


They said their good-byes, and per Blair's strict adherence to Murphy's Law, Jim was just hanging up when Blair made his reappearance.

"You just missed her, Chief," Jim said with a hapless shrug. "But the good news is that she's decided to stay a few more days. Charlie will drive up now as planned and she'll fly up later."

Blair sat down, eyes on his partner. "Are you kidding? She's really staying?"

"Yep. Just couldn't turn down the opportunity to spend some quality time with her son."

Blair frowned. "Damn, I have a class this afternoon and that lecture tonight--"

"I told her. I'll drop you off, entertain her over dinner, then we'll pick you up at ten. Okay?"

Looking somewhat amazed, Sandburg nodded. "That's -- great, Jim. Thanks."

"My pleasure, partner."


"I'll have the gratin of vegetables and tofu, and the Caesar salad, please," Naomi said as she smiled up at the waiter.

"Very good, and for you, sir?"

Jim tried to regain his appetite following Naomi's order, but God, tofu gratin? He put the menu down and said, "I'll take the Porterhouse, medium-well, the baked potato with the works, the asparagus, and the spinach salad." He glanced over at Naomi and asked, "Wine with dinner?"

She smiled and nodded, so he looked back at the waiter and asked, "What would you recommend?"

"Our 2000 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve is excellent and would complement both meals, sir."

"We'll try it, thank you."

The waiter disappeared and Jim and Naomi were left alone. Naomi reached for a roll, tore it apart and picked out the soft inside. Before popping it into her mouth, she said, "I assume there's a reason for this dinner, Jim? Besides doing my son a favor and keeping me company until he's finished at Rainier."

Like mother, like son, Jim thought. Cut through the bull-shit and go straight to the heart of the matter. He had to admire both Sandburgs. He reached for one of the rolls and said, "You caught me out. I do have an ulterior motive, Naomi. I hope you don't mind?"

"No, not at all. It's about Blair, isn't it?"

He glanced away from his buttering of the roll and nodded. "It is. You see, even after all this time I don't really know all that much about him, and I'm hoping you can fill me in."

The waiter appeared with their salads and wine, which was already opened in order to rest before being served. After Jim approved the choice with the required taste, the waiter poured before quietly vanishing. When they were alone again, Jim said, "Do you mind answering a few Blair-directed questions?"

"Not at all, but I'm at a loss as to what I can tell you that you--"

"Don't already know?" At Naomi's nod, Jim said, "But that's just it, I don't know anything, really. I know," Jim ducked his head and pretended to be interested in his roll, "that Blair never knew his father--"

"Don't you mean, never knew who his father was?" Naomi said kindly.

"I think Blair mentioned that, yeah. And I know that he started taking college courses at sixteen, and that," Jim paused, then rushed on, "he was seeing therapists at an early age, and suffered panic attacks, but that's about it. Come to think of it, I don't even know where he was born."

Naomi regarded him for several moments and Jim had the distinct impression that she was seeing straight into his soul. Damn, he'd thought only Sandburg could do that. But he supposed the ability to see intoJim Ellison ran in the family. He let her look and was rewarded as something in her eyes told him that he'd evidently passed the test, whatever the test was.

"First of all, he didn't start taking 'college courses', he just likes to say that to keep people from feeling awkward. He actually started at Rainier at sixteen. He could have started two years earlier, but I wouldn't let him. I felt he was too young, so I kept him with me, seeing the world. I don't think he suffered from that decision. Second, he doesn't know who his father was, and to be frank, neither do I. And please don't blame that fact on the 'wild sixties' and 'love-ins', okay? I was young, I was on my own, and in the space of a few weeks, I spent -- time--with, well, let's just say there was more than one possibility, none of whom I'd mind as Blair's father. They were young idealists, philosophers, and artists, and all had the same vision; to make the world a better place."

She grinned boldly, then a twinkle appeared in her eyes. "Of course, now they're probably accountants, politicians, or stockbrokers. But at least each of them would be proud of Blair."

"You never told them? Contacted them?"

Naomi's chin lifted a bit as she said, "No. They weren't prepared to be fathers, Jim. And by the time I found out, I was two hundred miles away. I told my parents, via a nervous telephone call, heard the disappointment in their voices, and decided to do the mother thing without their help. I joined an old school friend in Taos, New Mexico, and seven and a half months later, gave birth to Blair. We stayed in Taos for two years, then I broke down and took him home.

"My parents were enchanted by my little dynamo and I almost remained with them, but the chasm between us was as great, if not greater, than before I'd left. A gap that was very apparent in our radically different approaches to raising a child. I got ready to leave again, but my parents decided it would be better for all concerned if Blair stayed with them."

Naomi seemed to suddenly choke up, then she cleared her throat and said quietly, "They tried to take my son away from me, Jim. My own parents."

"You obviously succeeded in keeping him," Jim observed gently.

"I did, by running away again, in the middle of the night, no less. And I kept running for another three years until a friend called me to tell me that they'd been -- killed -- in an auto accident."

Shocked, Jim reacted instinctively; he immediately reached over and took Naomi's hand into his own.


Blair shook his head. The lecture was unbelievably boring and he was hearing nothing new. No way was he going to stay. He checked his watch and smiled. Jim and his mom were probably just sitting down to dinner, and thanks to the fact that his mechanic, an ex-pupil, had delivered the Volvo, he could surprise them by joining them in time for dessert. He closed his laptop, zipped it up and, thanks to his short stature, made an unobtrusive exit. Once outside, he took a deep breath of the fresh air, then headed for his car.

The drive to the restaurant was uneventful, and once there, he was lucky to secure a place to park in front. He glanced to his right and was surprised to see Jim and his mom at one of the window tables. Jim usually liked quiet corners where the entire restaurant was in view. He was about to shut off the engine when he observed Jim taking his mother's hand.

A bolt of pain hit him hard and he blinked furiously.

Okay, breathe. It was just -- and he was just -- but it was Jim -- taking his mother's hand. And taking a woman's hand in a restaurant was a very intimate thing to do. It was -- Jim was -- his mother was -- the way they looked - it was so damned -- intimate.

Breathe more, Sandburg. Breathe deep.

But Jim and his mom? Okay. He could handle this.

But his mother and his partner?

He could -- handle this.

Damn, he couldn't breathe, and he needed to, because hell, Jim might -- but no, Jim was connecting -- deeply -- with his mother, and wouldn't even notice, especially if Blair got the hell out of there.

Blair got the hell out of there.

As he pointed the Volvo toward home, Blaircursed his ex-student and his eagerness to help his old teacher. He'd have given anything if he hadn't seen -- what he'd seen. Man, he needed to think this one through, and based on the Jim's plan, he had a good hour and a half to process before--

Shit. He needed to call Jim right now, tell him about the delivery of the Volvo. Damn, there was an outside chance that if he called Jim from the car, the eagle-eared sentinel might pick up the fact that Blairwasn't at Rainier. On the other hand, the man wasobviously so deeply involved withNaomi that if Blair made it fast -- yeah, that could work. Hespeed-dialed Jim's cell.

'One ringy-dingy', he thought with a wry smile. 'Two ringy-dingy'--


"Hey, Jim, it's me. Look, Hal delivered the Volvo and you guys don't have to pick me up. I'll see you both back at the loft, okay?"

//Sure, see you at around--//

"Gotta get back inside, Jim. See ya at ten or so." He hung up before Jim could say anything else, before his mother got on the phone, before Jim could catalogue anything of interest.

With a sigh of relief, he hit the 'off' button.

Suddenly, the last place in the world he wanted to be -- was home.

So - he wouldn't go home - yet.


Jim stared at the phone. "O-kay, that was odd."

"Jim?" Naomi asked, one eyebrow raised.

"It was your son and my partner, Mr. Weirdo."

The perfectly arched brow rose higher.

"That was the shortest conversation I've ever had with him. He said his car had been delivered and he'd meet us at the loft around ten. Then, just like that, he hung up."

"You're right, that isn't Blair." She grinned and added, "Well, unless he's hiding something. Like being in the middle of gunfight."

Jim frowned at the words, 'unless he's hiding something," because of course, that was it.

Sandburg had to be hiding something. But what? Mentally, Jim rolled his eyes. In all likelihood, Blair was probably with some woman he'd meant at the lecture and he was bailing early. Typical.

Remembering where he and Naomi had left off in their conversation, he gave himself a little shake, cursed whoever the Blair-stealing woman was, and asked, "Not to change the subject, especially since, in a round-a-bout way, Blair is the subject, but finding out about your parents must have been very difficult."

The mood, which had been temporarily lifted by Blair's weird call, now returned to the more somber mood of earlier. Naomi tucked some hair behind her ear and said softly, "It was. And yet, by that time, they were so far away from me, so far from who I'd become, that I didn't even cry."

The waiter returned, this time with their entrees. After assuring him that they needed nothing else, he moved away and Jim immediately said, "Go on."

"That's really it. They died, I kept living and raising Blair."

"I've always had the impression that you two moved around a great deal while he was growing up. Good or bad impression?"

Naomi's fork hovered over her gratin as she pondered how to answer Jim. Finally she said, "We--I, traveled quite a bit, especially early on. I was very young, and thanks to an inheritance from a grandparent, I had the monetary means to do so. I also had friends all over the world, so whenever I felt tied down, I'd just get up and go."

Jim glanced down at his plate, speared a stalk of asparagus, and noted quietly, "Must have been hard leaving your son, leaving-- Blair."

Now it was Naomi's turn to take refuge in her meal as she responded, "I --it was difficult, leaving him with friends. So much so, that before my parents died, I actually considered taking him back to them. I even talked it over with Mark--"

She looked up and gave Jim a wry grin, "He was a young fireman I was, you know--"

Naomi waved her fork in the air, allowing the movement to tell Jim just what she'd been doing with the fireman. "He thought it was a good idea, thought that I was too young to raise a child, and I came so close, so very close to actually doing it--"

"Obviously you didn't. But Sandburg is a smart man, and was undoubtedly a smart child, so I'm guessing that he knew -- that some how, he knew." The words were cold, the anger fueling them barely contained.

Naomi flushed pink. "Look, Jim, you're asking some pretty personal questions and I'm doing my best to answer honestly, without any sugar-coating. I was barely seventeen when I gave birth to Blair." She paused, then reiterated, "Barely seventeen. I was full of myself and confident in my ability to be a mother, but that was the thinking of a little girl who didn't know any better.

"I didn't understand what it took to be a mother, let alone raise a child as gifted and unique as Blair, so I ended up running away from that on a regular basis."

Jim regarded the woman across the table from him, his gaze taking in the flushed cheeks and weary, tear-filled eyes. How had he missed this aspect of the woman who was Sandburg's mother? He'd always seen a kind of innocence in her, a youth that told him that Naomi Sandburg really didn't understand the world, or the evils that lived within its confines. He'd been wrong.

He could see it now, could see the guilt and the heavy burden of poor decisions. And just as quickly, he knew that, "in and out of therapy since I got out of pampers. Anxiety and panic attacks are a normal state of being for me" was not a bucket of bullshit thrown around so that Jim would let Blair talk to Joel.

"Naomi, Blair once said something about therapists and panic attacks. I take it he wasn't pulling my leg?"

Naomi swallowed a good portion of her wine, then said with eyes fixed on Jim, "No, he wasn't."


To think clearly, Blair needed peace and quiet; he needed his sanctuary. He drove to the river and parked in his usual spot, then climbed out of the Volvo and jumped onto the hood. Bracing his feet on the fender, he stared out over the calm dark waters and tried to bring his emotions under control.

He'd always known the day would come when Jim would, would -- with some woman. He'd always known that. Known that Jim was his on consignment only and that some day he'd have to relinquish him, give him up.

He'd known early on that Jim needed the kind of companion who could be with him in every way, through everything. Someone who would be the safe shelter that Jim, as a man and a sentinel, needed. Blair just never thought that person might be his mother.

Yet -- didn't his mother deserve a man like Jim? And wasn't it possible that the spontaneous adventuresome woman that was Naomi, could be just what Jim needed?

Blair's shoulders slumped as he rested his forearms on his thighs and clasped his hands.

The only problem with this whole scenario was the fact that both Jim and his mother had the potential of seriously hurting the other. And truth be told, the risk was far greater for Jim than Naomi. Blair didn't think he'd be able to handle it if his mother hurt Jim, if she dove in deep with all her energy and emotions, taking Jim with her,only to pull out after a few ecstatic weeks or months, and leaving a stunned Jim behind,wondering what he'd done wrong.

But did he have the right to interfere? Should he step forward and play his "but Jim, that's my mother" card?

'You know damn well what you're really at risk for losing, Sandburg.'

Hell, even his conscience now called him 'Sandburg'.

"I've been around Jim too long," he said to the unfettered river. Then in a hushed voice, he added, "Just not long enough."

As the stars twinkled overhead, and the river continued its placid journey to the Pacific Ocean, Blair mentally gave up his sentinel, his friend, his partner, and the man he'd hoped one day to--

No use going there now. In his mind's eye, he let go, and prayed that his mother would understand the gift that was Jim, and that she'd stay this time.

Blair knew without a doubt that she could be good for Jim. Very good. Maybe the best thing that ever happened to him, if -- she stayed.

Now all he had to do was live with letting go, live with seeing Jim happy with someone other than himself, to see his mother happy with Jim. Live with -- out Jim.

Falling in love was a crap shoot but somehow, his dice always came up snake eyes.


"Jim, you need to understand something about Blair. His mind just isn't like other people's. He's--"

"Different. Trust me, Naomi, this I know."

Elegant fingers busied themselves with the stem of the wineglass as Naomi said, "No, Jim, you don't. You've never really been allowed to see Blair. He doesn't permit anyone to see the real Blair. He hides most of what he's thinking, feeling, and experiencing, giving only the surface stuff, the things that are expected and--"

"Whoa, now that I find hard to believe. He's always worn his emotions on his sleeve, and his eyes, Naomi, his eyes say it all."

A challenging spark ignited within the depths of Naomi's eyes as she said, "Oh, really? So you know that my son is in love with you, then?"


Blair jumped down from the hood and walked to the edge of the river.

His internal gyroscope was settling his equilibrium, putting his decision in perspective. He was doing the right thing for both his mother and -- Jim. The two people he loved most in his world.

Turning his back on the river, he walked back to the car.


Naomi moved around to Jim's side and started rubbing soothing circles on his back as he hacked up the piece of meat that he'd been chewing when she'd dropped her little bombshell. Sensing that he was breathing again, and that the other patrons were looking at them, she walked back to her seat and sat down.

"You okay?" she asked, the devilish gleam in her eye telling Jim that she knew darn well that he wasn't.

Taking a deep, ragged breath, Jim said, "Fine, fine. Just fine." He took a hurried gulp of wine, then said, "If that was your idea of some kind of joke--"

"Jim, my son loves you. Believe me, I know."

Jim waved a hand in the air and said, "Look, let's get this back on track and come back to -- come back to --" the hand moved faster, "to -- whatever. You were trying to tell me that Blair really did see therapists as a child, and that--"

Naomi shook her head at the stubborn man, but gave in knowing that she'd bring him back to the subject before dessert. Of course, in the meantime, she was faced with the most difficult part of this 'question and answer' game of Jim's; namely telling him everything.

She took a deep breath and said flatly, "To put it bluntly; I sometimes left him with the wrong people. People who didn't understand him, his mind, or his energy. Good people, but people who tried to control him, restrain him, and ultimately mold him into what they believed he should be, what they believed was normal." She lowered her eyes. "Sometimes they hurt him and punished him and he didn't understand, because of course, he wasn't doing anything wrong, he was just being -- himself.

"Some of my friends even called in the so called," she made quote marks in the air, "experts, and after months, and yes, years, of horrible testing that he didn't understand, he was diagnosed with everything from simply being hyperactive to being ADD and later, ADHD. Finally, the worst diagnosis was given, Jim. He was actually diagnosed by some quack as being autistic. And of course, through all of these brilliant assessments, he'd be medicated accordingly.

"I'd come home each time, scoff at what the new set of doctors had said, and while Blair would be unnaturally quiet for a few weeks, eventually he'd bounce back and we'd be off and running -- until the next time I had to take off. Then, like some vicious cycle, it would start up all over again."

"Why the hell didn't you stop it? For God's sake, he was your son!"

"I was too young, too naive, Jim. Too needy, too selfish, too--"

"Blind," Jim finished angrily.

"Too blind," she agreed in a soft voice. "But eventually, I did see. I came back from Haiti and Blair was a mess. He was seven years old, and Caroline, the friend I'd left him with, had him seeing a child psychologist. I remember being so angry with her because I'd told her about the other times, and I remember yelling at her, asking her how dare she take my child to yet another doctor, and I remember her calm response. 'He's wetting the bed, Naomi. And he has terrible panic attacks, can't breathe, and he's only seven. What would you have me do?' and of course, she was right."

"How long--"

"For the next six years, off and on. I never left him again and if I had to leave, he went with me." She smiled in fond memory as she added, "Those were the best of our times together."

Naomi played with her food for a moment, then said, "Since then, he's never totally trusted anyone with who he is. Not in all the years since. The fear, one based on so much rejection and pain, is still very much there, inside my son."

Jim, no longer in the least bit hungry, pushed his half-eaten food away. Noticing, Naomi said, "Jim, it's a testament to him that in spite of what he went through, he still retains his sense of who he is. He can still be who he is, damn what anyone else thinks. It's always been one of the characteristics that I loved, yet could never understand. Based on his past, he's the exact opposite of who and what he should be."

Speaking almost to himself, Jim said, "He's almost daring people now, or maybe -- himself? Daring himself to be what he wants to be while facing his fears?"

Naomi stared at her dinner companion, his words taking hold. Finally, "My God, you're right. That's what he's doing. Why didn't I see that?"

Jim didn't bother to offer an answer. He needed to see Blair, to see his partner. This had turned out to be so much more than he'd expected. What had been an effort to -- what?

To give Blair some tit-for-tat? Damn, it was sure a hell of a lot more now. He waved the waiter over and asked for the bill. When the check holder was set down, he immediately put his card inside and let the waiter take it.

"Jim, I understand our dinner is over, but I don't think you're facing something here, namely the fact that my son is in love with you. I'd hate to think your friendship with my son would change because I made the mistake--"

"What makes you think I'm upset by your revelation?" Jim said easily.

"Ah. I see."

The waiter returned and Jim signed the bill, pocketed his card and receipt, then rose and said, "I think you've been seeing things pretty clearly all along."

Naomi couldn't deny it. Jim helped her into her coat and together, they left the restaurant.


"Jim, why don't you drop me at my hotel? That way, you and Blair can - talk."

"Was that a subtle hint, Naomi?" Jim asked as he negotiated Prentiss Circle.

"Yes, and now I know why you're a detective."

Jim shook his head as he managed to keep a smile from breaking. "Naomi, Naomi, Naomi, what am I going to do with you?"

"Make me a mother-in-law?"

Jim jammed on the brakes. Fortunately, there was no one behind him.


Blair walked into his home and dropped his jacket on the closest chair, then added his book bag. He allowed the keys to slip from his fingers and land with a small thud on his bag. For a moment he didn't move, just stood, swaying slightly. He gave a brief thought to numbing his mind and body with alcohol but it was already nine thirty and he suspected Jim and his mother would be arriving any minute. Maybe his inner gyroscope wasn't quite as up to speed as he'd believed. He really didn't think he could handle seeing that 'certain glow' emanating from his mother, let alone that special smile Jim reserved for the women he was fast falling for.

Drunk was the word.

He grabbed his jacket, but not his car keys,and headed out, intending to walk the couple of blocks that would take him to Hennesey's Pub.


Naturally Jim knew before he opened the door that his partner was not inside. Still, it was a disappointment. If Naomi was right and Sandburg had feelings for him, than he was still at the lecture. Jim figured that with the 'after-the-lecture-discussions and the 'how ya beens', it might be awhile before Sandburg returned. Jim could wait. He was a patient man. Sort of.

He walked over to the couch, picked up the remote, turned on the set, then settled down to watch the SciFi channel. He was pretty sure he'd missed Stargate SG-1. Not that missing Stargate was a bad thing. After all, he only enjoyed it with Sandburg.

As some show rambled on, Jim thought back on all that he'd learned from Naomi. It was odd that he'd never considered the possibility that Blair had experienced a bad childhood. He'd never considered that Blair's childhood could have rivaled his own for misery, and he should have. Knowing what he knew now, well, it explained a hell of a lot about both Blair and his mother.

Damn, he wished the guy would get home. Now that the path to true love was clear, he was understandably anxious to get traveling. Jim smirked at that last thought. Path to true love? He'd have to share that one with Sandburg later. Much later.


Blair walked up to his Volvo and petted it on the head. "Good Volvo, very good Volvo. My trusted friend, my chariot, my swift steed. I'd give you a drink of oil, but you're probably full, thanks to your recent stay with our wonderful mechanic." He favored his car with a lopsided grin, then kissed the hood and burped. He glanced to his right and gave out with a little cackle. "Oh goody, Jim's home. Hello, truck!" he said happily as he trotted over. He ran a possessive hand down its flank, worked his way to its rear-end, and patted it gently. "You're such a good truck, yes, you are. You carry us all over Cascade and keep us safe. You keep Jim safe when I'm not with him, and you suffer the slings and arrows of every gun runner, drug dealer, terrorist, assassin and would-be assassin, thief and female Jim-stealer that life throws at you. You are truly a mighty steed. I think I love you."

Blair dropped a kiss on the tailgate, then sighed, put his finger to his lips, and said in an exaggerated whisper, "I'm drunk, you know."


Jim woke, scratched his head, and then sat up. The television was currently trying to tell him how happy he'd be with whiter teeth. He blinked and wondered what had awakened him. He cocked his head to the right and realized that he was alone. He glanced at the VCR clock. Shit, it was after midnight. At the same moment, he realized why he'd awakened.


He could hear him downstairs in the lobby, and he was talking to someone. Jim got up, stretched, and decided that if Naomi was wrong about Blair's feelings for Jim, and the younger man walked in with some lovely co-ed clinging to his arm, he would kill them both.

//I love you, elevator, but if I use you, I'll toss my olives and pretzels, so I'm walking up, thank you very much.//

Jim's brows knitted together as he tried to make sense of what he'd just heard. Olives and pretzels? And who, exactly, was the guy talking to?

//Hell-oooo stairs! I love you this mu... oops, you tripped me. Now, stairs, that wasn't nice. Didn't I just tell you that I loved you this... DAMN!//

Jim heard the tumble and rushed to, and out, the door. He found his partner sitting on the second floor landing, legs splayed out in front of him, hands palm down on the floor behind him. Jim hurried down, only to be stopped by, "HI, JIM! LOOK, I FELL! AIN'T THAT A HOOT?"

The strong odor of alcohol hit Jim in the face. He waved a hand in front of him and said, "What the hell have you been drinking, Chief?"

Blair sat forward, brought his knees up, and said humorously, "Now, Jim, we both know you, of all people, know exactly what I've been drinking. Silly Jim."

Jim went the rest of the way down and squatted in front of his very inebriated friend. "Off hand, I'd say tequila, rum, kahlua," he narrowed his eyes, "and vodka. Does that cover it?"

Blair put his finger on his nose, or at least, where he thought his nose should be, namely his chin, and said loudly, "WE HAVE A WINNAH!"

Lowering his voice, he then said in a conspiratorial whisper, "It's called a Mayan Sacrifice, and let me tell you, after four of them," he held up a hand, "okay, six, but who's counting, you're ready to sacrifice yourself to the nearest virgin." He chuckled and added, "You can pretty much figure there were no sacrifices for me tonight. Cascade is without virgins, Jim." He sighed dramatically.

"I'm glad to hear that, Chief. I'd hate the thought of you making any kind of sacrifice. Now let's get you upstairs, okay?"

"Aw, Jim, you're so nice. Did you know," he said as Jim put his arms under Blair's and lifted, "that you're the best man in the world? The very best? Hell, I'll go you one better, you're the best anything in the world. Did you know that?" Blair tried to look backwards at his partner, but all he succeeded in doing was getting dizzy.

"Whoa, man, you are moving way too fast for this little buddy. Slow the hell down, will ya?"

"In thanks for your kind words, I'll slow the hell down. You ready to move?"

"Sure, I can do moving. On the count of three?"

"Right. One...two...."

Blair moved out of Jim's arms, took two steps forward, and sing-songed, "Oh, jii-iim," then in a softer voice, "the stairs are playing tricks on us. They're moving backwards. I don't think they want us to use them on account of me telling the elevator that I loved it. Stairs are notoriously jealous, you know."

"No, Chief, I didn't know that. How 'bout I move ahead of you and try to fool them?"

"Oo-oh, you are smart. Give it a try while I hide behind you." Blair moved to the side and Jim took his place in front.

Shaking his head, Jim said, "You ready now, Chief?" He felt a hand grab his shirt, followed by, "Yeah, but not so loud, they'll hear you."

"Right," Jim whispered, a smile twitching at the corners of his mouth.

He started up the final flight, Blair right behind him, fingers gripping his shirt tightly. They were half way up when Blair whispered, "I think it's working, man."

"Apparently, Chief, apparently."

Two more steps and Blair whispered, "Did you and mom have a good dinner?"

"Very good, Chief, very good."

"She's special, isn't she?"

"Yes, Chief, she is."

"You know, she's not all that much older than you. Only ten years. Okay, eleven, but hey, what's eleven years between two people who are really in love? A drop in the old bucket, that's what. And besides, men have been marrying younger for ever and it's worked out, hasn't it?"

"I wouldn't know, Chief. Caro's two years older than me."

A tug on his shirt alerted Jim to the fact that his partner had stopped moving. He turned around. "Chief?

"So you like older women?"

"Chief? Blair? Let's continue this inside, okay?" He had no idea where all the talk about age differences and love had come from, but damn it, he knew Sandburg, and in about five minutes or less, the guy would be

looking for something to puke in. Jim really preferred that all puking be done in the bathroom, especially since he'd be the one to have to clean it up if they were anywhere else.

"But do you?" Blair insisted.

"Chief, it's not like I knew she was older when we got married, okay?" He took Blair's arm and guided him the rest of the way up, then indoors.

"We're home, Chief. How 'bout we get you into your room and out of those clothes?"

Blair shook off the helping hand and said, "I can do it, man. I'm not a child, I'm just the better for a few Mayan Sacrifices, that's all." He then wobbled his way toward the bedroom. At the French doors, he stopped, turned, and added, "You have my blessing, by the way. I know I gave you a lot of grief the last time mom was here, but it's okay. Like I said, every guy she meets falls in love with her, but you're the only one truly worthy. Love you, man."

The doors closed and Jim was left with his mouth hanging open.


Jim stood rooted to the spot for over five minutes, his mind saying over and over again, "I've got to get him sober, I've got to get him sober...."

The sound of retching spurred Jim to finally move. With two long strides, he was inside Blair's room, where a miserable Sandburg took his head out of the waste paper basket and said, "I don't feel so well, Jim."


Jim sat on the bed, one hand absently stroking hair that had long since been brushed back from Blair's forehead. He simply couldn't believe that Sandburg thought that he and Naomi, that they'd, that --damn, where did the guy come up with this stuff anyway?

Jim continued to sit and stroke as Blair slept.


'If I get up, my head will fall off. Okay, the vote is in -- I don't get up.'


'Okay, so not getting up might not be the choice I thought it was,' Blair thought. And did Jim have to yell? Sheesh, the man had to know that he was hung over. Or he'd been taken over by aliens.

Blair rolled over and groaned. He definitely preferred the alien theory.

The French doors opened and Jim strode over to the bed. He thrust a bottle of aspirin into Blair's face and said, "I have no compassion for you, Sandburg. Any guy who could be as stupid as you, simply deserves no sympathy. Here."

Blair took the pillow from his head and blinked up at his ex-best friend. "You're a traitor, Jim. A traitor." He took the aspirin.

"Listen you idiot, I am NOT in love with your mother, but I AM in love with a Sandburg and I don't mean your cousin--"

"He's not a Sandburg," Blair said absently as he tried to twist open the adult-proof bottle cap. "He's a Rawlings."

"Oh, for-- let me," Jim said as he grabbed the bottle and opened it. He shook out two pills and handed them over.

"Thanks for nothing, you traitor."

Jim crossed his arms over his chest and watched as Blair downed the pills sans water. He'd always wondered how Blair could do that.

"How do you do that?"


"Take aspirin without water."

Blair shrugged. "Habit." He threw off the blankets and swung his legs over the side and tried to stand. He fell back immediately.

"You had a lot to drink last night, Sandburg. Care to share why?"

"The lecture was boring?"

Jim sat down on the edge of the bed. "Sandburg, did you happen to hear what I said a few moments ago?"

"Yes," Blair said as he scratched his back. "You said I had a lot to drink last night and you wanted me to share." Blair scooted until he was resting against the headboard.

"Try a little earlier, Chief."


"Let me give you a hint; I said that I wasn't in love with your mother, but that I was in love with a Sandburg, and I didn't mean your cousin."

Blair stared at Jim, then said, "He's not--"

"I know, he's a Rawlings."

"You're not in love with mom?"

"No, Sandburg, I'm not. But I am in love with her son, and I had great expectations when I got home last night, expectations that were somewhat ruined by your appearance three sheets to the wind, I might add."

Blair frowned, then rubbed his nose. "Oh," he finally said.

"Yeah, oh."

"Guess I should apologize?"

"That would be a start. Then you could let me feel you up," Jim added with a teasing grin.

One eyebrow rose. "Feel me up, Jim? Feel me up?"

"It would be a start."

"So you were just holding my mom's hand for fun?" Blair asked innocently.

"What? Holding your mom's hand? When? Where?"

"Last night, at the restaurant?" Blair said, his head doing a little wiggle.

Jim thought back quickly, and remembered, which prompted a question. "Sandburg? How did you know that?"

"Well, duh. I saw it, man. You were making the moves on my mom, and now you claim to be in love with me?" Blair said, his eyes twinkling.

"Sandburg, I was comforting her, okay? She'd just told me something about her parents, about how they'd died, all right?"

The twinkle went out of Blair's eyes. Without moving an inch, he managed to give the impression of just having moved several feet away, but when he spoke, his voice was normal. "I see. Well, thanks for helping her, man."

Jim looked down at his hands and said, "Actually, she shared a great deal about you last night."

"Did she now?" Blair said, his voice betraying nothing.

"She also shared the fact that you love me. Highlight of my evening, by the way."

"Well, you know what they say about mothers knowing best."

"That's fathers, Sandburg, but given mine, I say we go with mothers."

Without warning, Sandburg moved to the other side of the bed and climbed out. Walking to the door, he said, "I'm gonna shower. I'm one rank Sandburg."

Jim was once again left with his mouth hanging open.


The water beat down on him as Blair stood with hands braced against the tiled stall, head down, wet hair falling forward. Someone needed to tell him why he'd just run away from Jim.



He'd spent the previous night convincing himself that he could let the man go, let a relationship between his mother and Jim happen without his own self-destruction, then getting blind, stinking drunk, only to wake up and have the damn man tell him that he loved him. To top it off, Jim had managed a 'heart-to-heart' talk with Naomi about him. Oh goody.

Blair closed his eyes and tried to allow the steam and heat and beating water to soothe his muscles and pound the fear and worry away. God, all he needed in this whole friendship thing, the sentinel thing and the soon-to-be Jim and Blair thing was for Jim to know about Blair's real past. Damn, it wasn't as if Jim didn't already think Blair was a brick short of a load, oh, no, now, thanks to his beloved mother, Jim knew Blair was an entire wheelbarrow full of bricks short of a load.

Blair lifted his head. Wait. That didn't make sense. Duh. What the fuck. So what if it didn't make sense. The fact was that Blair was short of wheelbarrows, bricks, mortar, the works. And now Jim knew it. Blair knocked his head against the tile.

Then it hit him.

Jim had experienced his own version of childhood hell, so if anyone could understand Blair -- wouldn't it be Jim? Weren't they both a few miles around the bend? Hell, yeah. Man, they were so perfect for each other. It had to be fate, throwing two misfits, victims of their youth, together.

This could work. And Blair Sandburg had never been a man to turn away from a dream come true. No, sir.

Time to get out of the shower and get on with his life, as in the one with Jim.


Okay, so he'd march into the bathroom, interrupt Blair's shower, profess his undying love again, apologize for-- whatever he'd done, and suggest they make mad passionate love.

Or --he could wait and when Sandburg came out, he could suggest they sit down and talk like one repressed adult, and one highly intelligent and worried adult. Yeah, that could work. He'd wait.

Jim glanced over at Blair's bedroom and another idea crept up on him. Oh, yeah, this was way better. Jim walked over and entered the room. He sat down on the bed and waited.


Blair turned off the shower, stepped out, toweled off quickly, slipped on his robe, and set about to do the things he needed to do. He brushed his teeth, shaved, debated getting pins inserted into his neck to hold his head on, swallowed down the need to puke, and dried his hair. All of which helped bolster his earlier decision, as well as helping to take his mind temporarily off of what was probably going to happen when he faced Jim again.

Finally done, he opened the door and walked out expecting to find his partner. He found an empty room instead.

Blair glanced at the coat rack, then in the basket. Keys and jacket, check. Okay, Jim was here. Probably upstairs. With a small sigh of relief, Blair went into his room intending to change -- and stopped dead.

"I figured you'd be more relaxed if we talked in here, Chief.

Blair was faced with his fondest dream; Jim Ellison sitting on his bed, his blue eyes radiating sex. Okay, at the moment, the sexy gleam was missing, but hey.

"Jim, it's okay. I just freaked out a moment at the thought that mom had confided things about me to you. But it's really okay now. Those were things that you should know, that I probably should have told you before starting to work with you, but it was kind of embarrassing to go into specifics, so I just kind of--"

"Left it all out?" Jim inquired, his lips twitching upward.

"Yeah, that's about it. But look at it this way, to varying degrees, we both had shitty childhoods."

"Good way of looking at it, Chief. I feel so much better knowing that yours was even worse than mine. It's so refreshing to be one-upped in that arena, you know?"

"Now wait a minute, Jim. My implication was that yours was way worse than mine." He walked over and sat down next to his partner.

He tightened his robe, and realizing that he had a way to minimize what Jim had learned, he took a deep breath and said, "You have to realize that mom was sharing past events as seen through the eyes of a guilty mother. Even now, she tends to exaggerate things. Yeah, I had some difficulties, but overall, I was pretty happy -- most of the time. And when she started taking me with her everywhere, well, that was totally cool, you know? Come on, man, you've known me for over a year and you know I'm a pretty normal guy."

At the look on Jim's face, Blair grinned and added, "Normal for me. Normal for a Sandburg. Hell, for a Sandburg, I'm the poster boy for normal."

"Yeah, well, I still think we should--"

"Move toward the feeling up part?" Blair said hopefully.

"You really are a horn-dog, Sandburg."

"This horn only blows for you, Jim. Only for you," Blair declared, his eyebrows waggling suggestively.

Jim gave his head a small shake, indicating that Blair hadn't fooled him one bit, but that he was willing to suspend anymore talk about either of their childhoods -- for now. He glanced around the room, the room that said Sandburg, that smelled of Sandburg, and wondered why he hadn't 'visited' more often. He really liked this room. Or maybe it was just Sandburg. The same thought that had brought him here to begin with, started knocking again. With a sly grin, he turned to his partner and said, "I think it's time I made love in a closet, don't you, Chief?"

Surprised and more than a little taken back, Blair said, "Closet? You want to go upstairs and try to do it in that hole you call a closet? Hell, two of me couldn't do it in that thing, let alone one of me with one of you."

Jim gave an exaggerated sigh, then said, "Chief, this room is the hovel I used to call my closet."

Blair rolled his eyes and said, "Well, ye-ah, but now it's a bed--"

His voice trailed off as his eyes widened and his mouth formed a donut hole. "Oh," he finally said.

"Gosh, I hope that lightning strike wasn't too painful, Chief."

"Oh, yeah, make fun of me, that'll get you into this robe all right. Not."

Jim scooted closer and placed his hands on the tie of said plaid robe. "Sandburg, I suspect I could do nothing and I'd be inside that robe."

"If you're implying that I'm easy--"

"I am."

"Good, 'cause I am." He glanced down at Jim's hands and said huskily, "You gonna do something with those?"

"I am."

Jim slowly undid the tie and slid his hands in between the material so that his palms now rested on Blair's hips. He pulled him into his chest, eyes daring Blair to refuse him. Blair decided that he really was that easy and went without a fuss. They played at kissing for a few seconds, darting in and out, grinning, eyes shining, lips never quite touching as heads tilted right, then left, then right again. Finally Blair, whose hands weren't all that busy, captured Jim's head, held it firm, and made the final connection.

Their emotions exploded.

The room seemed to spin for both men as tongues entwined and hands began to explore, stroke and feel. Pent-up passion erupted and Jim pushed Blair until he was flat on his back, Jim hovering over him. As Blair helped Jim disrobe, their lips continued to find each other, even as words were gasped out.

"...can't get buttons--"

"...fuck the buttons--"




" they're off--"

"...god, so good, you feel so good--"

They were finally skin to skin, each fighting to cover as much flesh as possible with both their lips and hands. At one point, Blair, feeling Jim's erection leaking precum down his leg, spread them wider until Jim settled in. Then he closed them up enough to allow Jim to pump even as he thrust up and into Jim's belly.

Their bodies found synchronization and it only took a few more minutes of urgent kisses and their powerful rhythm to bring first Blair, then Jim, to completion.


Jim closed his eyes as the last of his orgasm tore through him. He felt his arms give way and tried to turn enough so that he wouldn't land on Blair, but two strong arms held him in place and helped him down.

"Just shift your hip a bit so I can hold you and still breathe," Blair whispered into his ear before nipping the lobe.

Still panting, Jim managed to say, "I -- can -- do -- that."

Moving enough to place only half his body over Blair's, he was warmed to feel Blair's arms wrap around him, one hand stroking the back of his head. Sleep was only a breath away, but words struggled up.



"Pampers. I want this until -- and long after -- we're both in Pampers."

Blair's hand squeezed the back of Jim's neck gently and Jim felt warm breath caress him as Blair whispered, "You'll be in those Pampers for Seniors long before this puppy, Jim."

Head resting now on Blair's chest, Jim smiled dreamily and said, "But you'll change 'em for me, won't you, buddy?"

"Well -- I'll certainly hire someone -- "