Title: Sands of Time

Author: alyjude

Rating: NC17

Pairing: J/B

Category: Drama

Date: November 9, 2001

Status: New

Series/sequel: Nope


Disclaimer:  My mommy says I have to play nice so Petfly owns Jim and Blair but I never listened to mommy anyway so I operate them as often as

possible. You know, Petfly should sell them to me--for a penny. I'd take real good care of them, honest.


Warning: Do NOT go into the basement with a pair of scissors. Jim gets very upset and Blair hides under the bed. It's really sad. Really. After

all, it's only hair.

Real Warning: To avoid spoilers, don't scroll down to the caveat. To be spoiled, scroll down at the end of this part 0.


Notes: Thanks so very much to Dolimir, Autumn Skies, DCPriestess, DebraC, Tricia and everyone at you know where and especially to Lisa for

the beta! I have made changes so mistakes are mine, not Lisa's.


Summary: Jim takes Blair to a special exhibit at the Cascade Museum of Natural History and bad things happen and they find themselves solving a

current mystery and a mystery centuries old.
















CAVEAT - Warning:


This begins in Ancient Egypt and recounts a past life of J/B where they both die. But they only die in the past - they are alive and well in the

present and remain that way. <G> I've found that the only way for me to do a death story is this way. Yes, I robbed from myself. :)) There is a

slight similarity to Through Time and Space, but only in the idea of a past life.


Sands of Time

by alyjude



His duties complete, Jacob left the palace, his heart beating fast at the thought of what lay ahead. As he walked the great hall of his Pharaoh, Hatshepsut, the torches casting long shadows before him, he thought back over his day of miracles and what had brought him to his current life.

He was the Pharaoh's personal physician, a duty he'd accepted five years ago, in order to keep his family safe. His mother Naomi, while frightened, had been proud that her son would serve the royal family.  The fact that he was, for all intents and purposes, a slave and a prisoner, never seemed to penetrate her reality. Nor was she bothered by the obvious: that neither of them were Egyptian, that they looked different, worshipped differently, and spoke differently. As long as her son was in favor, her life was good and certainly supremely better than that of their counterparts who lived in squalor and worked at Deir el-Bahri.

Today, the young prince, Tutmose III, had succumbed to another illness, one that had the palace in an uproar and the Pharaoh screaming for her personal physician. Ordinarily Jacob knew that any illness of her *son* would cause little concern in his mistress, since most of these *illnesses* were but poor attempts at getting attention. But rumors were flying that Hatshepsut had killed her half brother and husband, Tutmose II and that in order to secure her throne, Tutmose's son, by another, would have to be next.

Considering that Hatshepsut spent a great deal of time convincing her people that she was the direct descendent of Amon-Ra, well, murdering one's son (even one *not* by her womb) would be very un-Godlike. So today, with the court tongues wagging, she'd made sure that he, Jacob the Healer, was called to attend to Tutmose. And attend he had.

Using two of his herbs and mixing them with water, he'd calmed the boy's stomach enough so that he'd finally fallen into a restful, healthy sleep. Jacob had then stayed by his side for much of the morning and later, had played quiet games with the boy. By afternoon, Tutmose had his color back and was eager to get outside for his war lessons.

Of everyone at court, Jacob and Jacob alone knew what really drove his Pharaoh and it wasn't greed or power—exactly. She was a woman—in a man's position. She was also a great woman. In a very short time, she'd improved the lives of her people and even Jacob's. But the one thing she could not do was release Jacob from the servitude imposed on him by her late husband. She simply couldn't afford it. But she made up for it by making sure that he had as much freedom as possible. Like tonight.

Just as he alone knew her secrets, she was the only individual who knew his and she made every effort to *allow* them.

Stepping out into the warm night, breathing deeply of the fragrant desert air, he quickened his step, heading out of the palace grounds and to the river. Stars spread out across the inky blackness and with the full moon, lit his way. But he had to be careful, dared not be seen, especially by Hapuseneb, the High Priest of Amon-Ra. Another of the Pharaoh's necessary evils. And Hapuseneb was just that—evil.

As Jacob made his way to the river, he knew that he must talk with Hatshepsut and soon. Already Tutmose was questioning his Pharaoh, thanks to Hapuseneb. All that kept the boy faithful was his trust of, and love for, Jacob. Tutmose still listened to Jacob over Hapuseneb. And Jacob knew that Hapuseneb would do nothing to change that—for now. Because he coveted Jacob.

Ahead, through the palm trees, he could see the Nile glittering in the silvery moonlight and couldn't help but grin. Down at the river's edge, hopefully, awaited his love. And his Achilles heel.

Sennedjem. The Pharaoh's Captain. The man whose duty it was to protect the Pharaoh, to lead her army to victory and to teach Tutmose how to be a soldier. And the man Jacob loved above all else. In a few moments, they would be together, albeit briefly. A few stolen moments, heated embraces, breathed out words of passion and then—they would part. Until the next assignation. And it was enough—for now.


*)   *)    *)


Tahemet frowned at his captain and reached out for the man.

"Tell me you do not rush to meet him—again."

Sennedjem moved away and grinning, said, "I do not rush to meet him.


"You lie."

What had been an almost playful moment between two soldiers and friends, turned on those two words. Sennedjem spun about and glared at his second in command. The tall Nubian glared right back.

Sennedjem took one step closer to his second and meeting his eye, said tersely, "If I choose to meet him or anyone, it is my business and mine alone, Tahemet. Do not forget this."

"It is not just your business, Sennedjem. What you do affects us all. We

are your men and we would follow you to death, but not for a—"

"Do *not* say it, Tahemet. Do not say it."

"He is not one of us. And you know as well as I that Hapuseneb strives to bring him into his fold and the High Priest is a powerful man, Sennedjem. He would destroy you instantly if he discovered that which he desires, has chosen another."

The anger leached from Sennedjem as he thought of Jacob and all that he *wasn't*. But how could he make Tahemet understand?  Choosing his words carefully, Sennedjem said, "My friend, you are right, he is *not* one of us. But then, neither are you. And right now, he keeps the peace in the palace. Tutmose listens to him and as long as Jacob lives, Hapuseneb has limited power."

"You are playing with fire, my captain. Is he worth it?"

In answer, Sennedjem asked, "Have you ever loved, Tahemet? Truly loved?"

The dark man's eyes glittered in the firelight of their camp as he remembered his other life. Had he loved? Yes. Dearly. And she, like his tribe, was gone. There would be no other for him, his heart was a stone.  But warm memory could recall the fire of love, of feeling and caring for another more than oneself.

"I have loved, Sennedjem. And I will never love again."

Sennedjem placed his hand on Tahemet's shoulder and said quietly, "Then you must understand that I cannot turn from this. He is my destiny, old friend. My honor, my life, all I would give for him."

"It is against all our laws," Tahemet said, trying to make his friend see reason, using any tool he could.

"Against our laws? You know better, Tahemet. Tatmose himself took men to his bed and if not for the need to bring forth his seed, would never have lain with a woman. And Hapuseneb certainly does not honor these laws of which you speak. He would not only bring Jacob into the priesthood if Jacob would but say yes, he would lay with him each night, take from him, and have him by his side each day, if he could. Do not talk to me of laws. For us, they do not exist."

As Sennedjem turned to leave, Tahemet said quietly, "You risk his life, my friend. I realize that you would die for him, as we would for you, but are you as willing to consign *him* to death?"

Sennedjem faced his friend, an odd smile gracing his lips. The firelight played over his handsome, aristocratic features and for a moment, Tahemet saw more than that which could be there. He shook his head and blinked. When he gazed back, only Sennedjem stood before him.

"We know what we risk, Tahemet. And we know what we have. These times are not ours, we know this as well. We take what we can, steal moments for a touch, and for now, it is enough."

"You speak as if you see no future for either of you, Sennedjem!"

"I do not. Not here and not now. Do you truly believe we are that foolish? That ignorant? The line we walk is narrow and fine. And dangerous. We serve a great woman and as long as she can, she will protect him. But we have a strong enemy whose one goal, if he knew of us, would be to tear us asunder and use Jacob to destroy our Pharaoh."

Sennedjem's eyes glazed over and Tahemet knew that at that moment, his captain was not with him—

"And so we take those moments together, Tahemet, for they are all we have. His voice keeps me sane, the touch of his skin against mine, worth any death. To see him as he gazes up at me, to watch his lips as he speaks, and his hands, Tahemet, his hands. They do more than heal, they transport me. I cannot live without these things. I will not live without them. Without him."

"There can be only one ending, then, my captain."

That odd smile spread over Sennedjem's face again as he said softly, "Oh, no, my friend, you are wrong. There will be many endings before the final one."


*)    *)     *)


Hapuseneb, High Priest of Amon-Ra, stoked the fire that blazed at the altar, his face like stone. Jacob had already left the palace and Hapuseneb waited for his servant to tell him what he already suspected; that Jacob was meeting someone.

As he stared at the fire, he could see only blue eyes. Strange eyes, with color to rival the purest blue on the palette of the finest court artist. Eyes that could look into a soul and know the truth, eyes that recognized deception and lies—

If there *was* someone else, Hapuseneb would find this woman and destroy her. And Hatshepsut would eventually, in order to secure her place, give Jacob to him. He knew this. For now, she protected the young physician, but her reign was more important, her *people* more important than a mere slave. Yes, when he had Tutmose's ear, when her throne was in jeopardy, she would give Jacob to *him*.

Letting his mind wander, lost in the fires of Amon-Ra, his imagination supplied him with his desires.


*)    *)     *)


Jacob stood near the bank of the Nile, hidden by a small stand of palms and waited. The breeze played with his bare skin and for a moment, he imagined that the slight wind was Sennedjem's hands. He imagined that those powerful hands were stroking up and down his arms as he rested against the broad chest, so different from his own.

Jacob often wondered how Sennedjem could find his lighter skin and chest hair attractive compared to the men around them. Or his unruly brown curls, compared to the straight, shiny darkness of Egyptian hair. And his name. Jacob. To this day, listening to the people of the Pharaoh's court attempt to say the simple, two syllable word, always astounded him. Egyptians always made his name sound as though it had at least five syllables and Sennedjem was no exception, other than the fact that he also made Jacob's name sound as though it were the most important word in this land.

At a sound, Jacob glanced behind him, but saw nothing. The hair on the back of his arms rose and he turned, took two steps forward and just there, was that the shadow of a man? Jacob tried to make himself invisible, melting into the shadows, praying to his God that it was nothing.  Unless it was Sennedjem.


*)    *)    *)


Hatshepsut stood on her balcony overlooking her land. She'd seen Jacob leaving the palace grounds earlier and knew his destination would be Sennedjem's arms. She ran one hand down over the shendyt kilt that covered her lower torso, then raising an arm, she touched the nemes, the official headdress of a Pharaoh.

She was a woman—in a man's uniform. She ruled a kingdom, but not as a Queen. She had dreams for her people, not herself. No, that wasn't exactly true—she wanted—immortality. Not true immortality, but the kind that only greatness could give. Her name, revered in history, a woman Pharaoh. A *great* Pharaoh.

A woman whose death would not diminish her accomplishments.

But the jackals were at the gate and they strove to destroy, to take that which was not theirs. Tutmose was growing up and soon his own dreams and desires would take precedent over what was right. And the flames of those dreams and desires for power would be fanned by her enemy, Hapuseneb. She prayed to Amon-Ra that she would not have to sacrifice Jacob to fight Hapuseneb. But she feared the time drew near when she would be forced to do exactly that.

She raised her face to the moon and whispered, "My father, protect your daughter, and protect the man who heals your people."

"He will not listen, my love."

Hatshepsut whirled about to face her own heart; Senenmut. Holding out a hand to the man, she said, "And why not? Is this not what my father wishes?"

"He cannot protect someone that heals without Amon-Ra's blessing. Jacob does not call out to Amon-Ra to bring relief to the sick, my Pharaoh. He calls to his own God. Who cannot be."

"Amon-Ra, in his greatness, must know this, Senenmut. Did he not send Jacob to us at a time of great trial? Did Jacob not heal *you*?"

"I do not doubt Jacob's gift, love. Only that Amon-Ra will protect him.

I fear to save Jacob, we will need more than we have."

Hatshepsut moved into Senenmut's arms and rested her head on his shoulder.

"I need more time, Senenmut. And time is what I do not have."


*)    *)     *)


Sennedjem moved quietly through the desert, his goal, the river. Even from his current distance of several hundred feet, he could see Jacob in the shadows. He moved faster. When he was a few feet from the man he loved, he whispered softly, "Jacob."

The young physician turned and smiled and for a moment they stood content to drink in the sight of the other. Their moments together were always too brief, and yet, they did not move immediately into each others arms, choosing instead to simply - look.

"I beat you," Jacob said, his grin widening.

"Yes. But it gave me more time to observe you, my love."

"Are you finished?"

Smiling, Sennedjem answered by opening his arms and Jacob moved into them. They relished the sensation of skin sliding against skin, the only object in their way, the necklace Jacob wore that proclaimed him both a physician and a slave. Sennedjem's hands were quickly buried in Jacob's hair and Jacob reached up to remove the required black wig that Sennedjem wore. He let it drop to the ground and ran his palm over the soft, short bristles of the man's real hair.

"So soft," he murmured as his hand rubbed gently over the back of Sennedjem's head.

"So thick," murmured Sennedjem in response, his own fingers carding through Jacob's long curls. He fingered one of the thin braids that fell to the side, then his eyes were drawn to Jacob's lips. He lowered his head and touched them briefly with his own.

"Love you, Jacob. Need you."

"I know, I know."

They kissed again, deeper this time, enjoying the play of their tongues.  Slowly, they sank to the ground, Jacob maneuvering them so that he was on top. As he kissed Sennedjem's neck and rocked against the larger man, Sennedjem said, "I leave in two days, Jacob. Two days."

"Then we have two days."

"Two nights. We have two nights."

"You will win, return victorious and I will be here. Then we will have many nights."

"We will have eternity, Jacob."

"Yes. Eternity."

As a cloud passed across the moon, Jacob lowered himself and they kissed again, hands moving under the kilts they wore, finding hardness and stroking rapidly. Moaning into each other's mouths, they set up a rhythm, their bodies so attuned to the other that they knew when each was near completion. They were so lost in their passion, they failed to see the shadow disengage itself and move off into the darkness, his job done.


The fine, soft sand beneath did not bother either man, rather it cushioned their bodies and graced their skin. Jacob lay on his side, head propped up by a hand. He watched Sennedjem sleep and marveled at the sight. Jacob allowed his free hand to smooth over the strong, broad chest, then up to trace a line down the square jaw.

The moon, no longer protected by clouds, shone down on the two men, but left half of Sennedjem's face in shadow and as Jacob watched, it appeared that Sennedjem was two people, not one. One man, olive-skinned, here in this now, with Jacob, but the other, pale and from another time.  A disquiet settled over Jacob's heart.

Sennedjem was unlike any person Jacob had ever known—a man special beyond understanding, his gifts for all time. And Jacob? A stranger in this land, to be owned and nothing more. He dropped onto his back and clasped his hands behind his head. Staring up at the night sky, at the millions of stars that winked back at him, he pondered his luck.

He had found his other half and for that he thanked his God every day.  But to have found him here and now, in a time that did not favor their union? In a place where said union could bring down a Pharaoh? And what of Sennedjem himself? He was a great warrior who could lead Hatshepsut's people to incredible power. He could protect her as no other. What right did Jacob have to endanger all that?

Sometimes when alone with his thoughts, like now, he wondered if giving in to Hapuseneb would not be easier? Such a move would ensure Sennedjem's safety, Hatshepsut's throne and the future for all. He could control Tutmose, keep him reined in, thus allowing Hatshepsut to rule as she saw fit.

"I can hear your thoughts, Jacob."

Startled, Jacob turned his head to see his love, white teeth flashing in the darkness, smiling at him.

"You wish you could, Pamiuw."

Sennedjem turned on his side to gaze at Jacob and grinning, said, "Pamiuw? I have a nickname now, do I?"

"Yes. Senenmut gave it to me. You are like a large black cat, graceful, deadly, beautiful. Pamiuw. Simple, isn't it?"

Sennedjem ran a hand through the curling hair on Jacob's chest, his fingers tingling at the delightful feel, then said, "And you are Tepemkau, the best of souls. There, now you have an official name of the Pharaoh."

One eyebrow arched as Jacob said dryly,"I am truly blessed."

Sennedjem snorted at that, then leaned in for a kiss. When they parted, slightly breathless, he asked, "So what *were* you thinking?"

"Nothing of consequence, Pamiuw."

"I think you hide the truth. And not well, I might add."

"I hide nothing from you, nothing."

"Your fears. You hide those. Were they driving your thoughts?"

Jacob leaned into Sennedjem, trying to burrow into the larger man as if there, the world would cease to be. As Sennedjem's arms came around him, he said, "We have discussed this too many times, Sennedjem. Let's not use this precious time to once again talk of that which we cannot control."

Kissing Jacob's temple, Sennedjem said, "You and your control. You don't wish to discuss this, yet you rail against all that you can't hold, or contain! Let your fears go, Jacob. Let them go. Be who you are, and be my love."

"So you know who I am, do you?"

Sennedjem heard the anger, the bitterness, and he tried to soothe it away with a kiss, but Jacob was not appeased. Running a finger across Jacob's lower lip, Sennedjem said, "Yes, I do. You are Jacob the Healer.  A man of peace and great knowledge. You have my heart, my soul, my life.

Can that not be enough? Or do you not trust my love?"

"God above, I trust your love, Sennedjem. It is the *only* thing in this

land that I *do* trust. But I fear for your safety, for your life. We

risk more each time we meet and the risk is—"

"We have been down this road as well, Jacob. Many times. There is only death *without* you. With you, there is life."

Seeing that his words had stanched the flow of anxiety for now, Sennedjem whispered, "Love me, Jacob, love me now. tomorrow and forever."

"I do and will, Sennedjem." Then with a mischievous grin, he added, "But I wonder, Pamiuw, if in one of our later lives you talk so much about, you will remember this."

"I will remember always. You are mine, Jacob the Healer, my Tepemkau. I will remember."


*)    *)    *)



"He was not alone, my priest."

Hapuseneb's face darkened, the obsidian eyes narrowing.

"Tell me. Who?"

The servant paled and took two steps back, then said softly, "He lay with a man, my priest."

If the servant expected an explosion of rage and horror, he was sadly disappointed. Instead, Hapuseneb's expression changed to one of calculation.

"A man? You say that the *Queen's* personal physician was with a man?"

The servant cringed. Only Hapuseneb dared call the Pharaoh - the Queen.

"Yes, my priest."

"One of his own people?" Hapuseneb asked quietly, sure of the answer.


"What?" Hapuseneb hissed out.

"He lay with—Sennedjem."

A red veil seemed to pass over Hapuseneb's eyes and he closed them to his rage. Hands turning to fists, he ground out, "Go. Leave me." As the servant hastened to obey, Hapuseneb stopped him with a steely command.


"The river's edge, my priest. In a grove of palms."


He left, relieved.

Hapuseneb walked to the altar and lifted the knife that rested on the edge. It was a showpiece now, but tonight—

Hapuseneb hurried from the palace.


*)    *)    *)


Jacob watched his love walk away, then turned back to the river, not yet ready to return to slavery. Sunrise was barely an hour away, yet he made no move to return to his quarters for rest.

How long he stood gazing at the river, at the ripples that seemed to carry him beyond this land, he did not know, but finally a voice broke through his musings.


He whirled to find himself facing Hapuseneb. The man stood a few feet away, a cloak hiding his body from Jacob.

"I did not believe I would find you alone, Jacob."

"Yet, that is exactly how you find me, Hapuseneb. Alone."

"Yes. You could not sleep, Jacob?"

"Why I am here is not of your business. In fact, I shall leave you now, to return to my quarters. The sun will be up soon."

He started to walk past the man, but Hapuseneb shot out an arm, his hand grabbing Jacob's.

"You were with Sennedjem, Jacob."

Blue eyes narrowed dangerously. The moment he'd dreaded was here, yet, he knew no fear.

"I was alone, Hapuseneb. And Sennedjem would not have one such as myself. He is a great warrior, I a mere slave."

With surprising strength, Hapuseneb pulled Jacob to him, his fingers gripping tight enough to bruise. "You lay with Sennedjem, Jacob. I have eyes everywhere, Amon-Ra sees all and he informs his beloved priest."

"Amon-Ra could care less and you'd be the last person he'd confide in, Hapuseneb. If he existed."

Unfazed by the remark, Hapuseneb leaned in close enough for Jacob to smell the stench of death. Mouth close to Jacob's, Hapuseneb warned, "I give you this one chance. Come with me now, be *with* me, join me and Sennedjem will live."

"Sennedjem will live whether I join or not. You cannot best him, Hapuseneb. Do not try. His men are loyal to him and him alone. He is a favorite of the people and of the Pharaoh and he is more than you will ever be, Hapuseneb."

Voice dangerously low, Hapuseneb hissed out, "I am the High Priest of Amon-Ra. Join me now, Jacob. Join. Me. Now."

Less than an hour ago, Jacob had been considering this very thing, yet faced with the reality of it, he knew instinctively that Sennedjem would not be saved no matter what Jacob did. Sennedjem's safety did, in fact, lie with his men. Feeling incredibly strong with that knowledge, Jacob lifted his head proudly and declared, "I will never join you, Hapuseneb.  My love and loyalty belong elsewhere. You have lost."

His left hand on the hilt of the dagger, Hapuseneb said, "No, Jacob, I have not lost. You have."

With those words, he thrust the dagger up and into Jacob the Healer.

Blue eyes widened in surprise as a gasp of extreme pain was wrenched from the younger man. With his hand still around the hilt, Hapuseneb drew the man to him, wrapped his other arm around Jacob and held fast.

"You have lost, Jacob. But you will belong to me in death and in our afterlife."

Hapuseneb pulled out the knife and the body slumped against him. Letting the dagger drop to the ground, he pulled the amulet from around Jacob's neck and dropped it into the large pocket of his cloak. Then wrapping his fingers in the thick hair, he lifted the head, desiring one last look into those eyes. Warm blood flowed freely and Jacob, still alive, his life's blood seeping into the desert floor, whispered out one name....



*)    *)     *)


Sennedjem was half way back to his camp when the moonlight, filtering through the palms, caught a piece of jewelry on his hand. He paused and swore. The ring. He'd intended to give it to Jacob tonight. He glanced back toward the river, his vision flying as a hawk through the night to finally narrow down to his love. Who was no longer alone. Frowning, Sennedjem listened and moments later—took off on a run.

As he ran, heart in his throat, bare feet making little sound as they hit the sand, he felt tears stream down his face. He saw the dagger flash in the dark to be buried in his love. He heard Jacob's gasp of pain, could smell the copper tang of life as it poured from Jacob's body—and while still too far away, he heard Jacob's final vow—his name.

Through tears that could not blind him, he watched the lifeless body drop to the ground and the shadowy figure responsible move away to become one with the darkness. Caring not, Sennedjem put on a final burst of speed, down the embankment to finally come to a stop before Jacob's body.

Hair spread out, a glittering earring, the pale skin, darkened now with blood, parted lips—

Sennedjem dropped to his knees, the tears coming faster as he reached out a hand to touch the man that such a short time ago had been warm, alive and full of love and passion.


He lifted him into his arms, felt the soft brush of the linen kilt, Jacob's only clothing, against his skin. He cradled him to his chest and dropped kisses over the still face, the lifeless, unseeing eyes, and finally, on the warm, full lips.

With Sennedjem's attention fully wrapped around the man he held, he failed to see or sense the return of Hapuseneb. He never saw the dagger, once again in Hapuseneb's hand, rise high above him, nor did he feel it as it was buried in his vulnerable and bare back. But he did hear Hapuseneb's words—

"Join him in death, here and now, for it will be your only joining. He is mine now."

The words burned in his mind and releasing Jacob, Sennedjem rose, unheeding of the still buried dagger, or of the blood coursing down his back. He had no weapon, but needed none.

Moving relentlessly toward the priest, he reached out and Hapuseneb, believing himself faced by a man soon dead, did not step back. With a move Sennedjem should not have been able to make, he leapt upon the priest and with a roar of rage, using strength born of great loss and imminent death, he wrapped his hands around the man's throat and with a quick snap, broke Hapuseneb's neck. With a snarl, Sennedjem allowed the ragdoll of a body to drop.

As the body hit the sand, all strength left the warrior and he turned, stumbled a few steps toward his love, then fell to his knees. His head dropped forward and the world swam before him. Sound diminished, sight faded, but he fought it, needing to see Jacob once more, to hold him even as his own death claimed him.

He dropped forward and crawled to the body, then stretched out beside him. Two ragged breaths and the last of his strength allowed him to slide his arm under Jacob, to pull the cold body to him. He tucked Jacob's head under his, let his cheek rest against the soft, thick hair and he drew in the scent and smiled.

"there is no life without you, jacob, but together, there will always be life."

Sennedjem let go of his earthly bindings, knowing that on the other side, Jacob awaited.

Cascade, Washington - present day


Jim lay on his side, head propped up by his hand. Blair was sound asleep and that was a-ok by Jim. He enjoyed these moments of quiet observation.  He ran his hand gently up and down Blair's chest, not actually touching the skin, but enjoying the heat and *aliveness* of the man. He also found himself marveling at the new muscles. Being a cop had certainly changed Sandburg on the outside, but inside, thank God, he was still *Blair*.

The moonlight shone through the skylight and bathed the bed in an almost ghostly glow. Jim watched Blair breathe and noticed that the silvery light was doing a strange thing to his partner, who almost appeared to be another— but that was ridiculous. Jim dropped onto his back and clasped his hands behind his head.

Gazing up at what he could see of the night sky, he thought about his life since he and Blair had become lovers and realized that Blair was nothing as he'd imagined. *Being* with Blair was nothing like he'd imagined.

He turned his head to gaze again at Sandburg and he smiled. Nope, nothing as he'd imagined. Blair Sandburg was so different in bed, so different from anyone Jim had ever encountered that even now, after six months, he was constantly amazed. There was a commanding presence about Sandburg when they were alone in bed. When they made love. He was so—God damned different. Being with Blair had turned out to be a gift that sometimes seemed beyond Jim's ability to accept.

Jim tried to pin down the differences, like the strength and the complete attention Blair gave to making love to Jim Ellison, the sense of total absorption, and the way he looked and acted—so in control and easy with it, so very *male* and so very confident.

That was it—confidence. That was the big difference. Once they'd spoken up, *declared* themselves, started sleeping together, doing together, Blair had become—confident.

Supremely confident.

Jim didn't think he was doing Blair a disservice by such thoughts, after all, the *pre-Jim and sex* Sandburg had been confident—sort of. But not like now. Now, there was a sparkle in his eye, slightly devilish, always erotic and always fun. Didn't matter where or when, if Jim looked, that sparkle was there. They could be ducked down behind the truck, avoiding flying bullets and Jim could catch his eye and there it would be—that sparkle. They could be in Simon's office, heads buried in mock shame while the man dressed them down for something Sandburg had undoubtedly done and Jim would glance sideways at Blair and sure enough, there it would be, the sparkle. Just for him. Because it hadn't been there for Sam or Maya or anyone else. Although maybe a slightly altered version—for Naomi.

"Hey, man."

Shaken from thoughts of sparkling blue eyes, Jim rested his hand above Blair's heart and said, "Morning."

Blair blinked, looked up at the skylight, then back at Jim. His teeth flashed white in the darkness as he said with a smile, "Morning? It's dark out."

"It's two. That's morning."

"Well, then, morning right back atcha."

"How ya feeling, Chief?"

"Pretty good, Detective Ellison. You?"

Flashing his own grin, Jim said, "Not bad, not bad at all."

Blair turned onto his side and propped his head on his hand. "You know, we're getting pretty good at this *making love* thing."

"I noticed that. I'm thinking—"

"Dangerous thing to do—"

"I know, but still. It's altogether possible that I love you."

"I *know* you do. You're so besotted that you're actually going to the exhibit with me tomorrow."

"Going? Hell, *I* bought the damn tickets."

"See? Besotted. Beside yourself with love and passion and need—"

"Oh yeah."

Blair scooted over and with a hand resting proprietarily on Jim's bare hip, he waggled his eyebrows suggestively and said, "Wanna try some more of this *making love* stuff?"

"Oh yeah."

"I get to lead this time."

"Hey, you *always* get to lead," Jim whined.

"Yeah, and I get to lead this time."

"You leading from the top or bottom?"

Blair's grin nearly blinded him. "Oh, hey, you can choose *that*."

"Gee, Chief, thanks."

Blair snorted - against Jim's neck. Then went on to nibbling. And biting.




"You ready, Jim?"

Jim stuck his head over the rail, waved and asked, one eyebrow arched, "A little impatient, are we?"

"Get your butt down here, Ellison."



Jim grabbed his black turtleneck sweater and pulled it on. He brushed back his hair, checked himself out and nodded. He looked fine considering he was about to traipse around a museum after hours.

He still couldn't believe he'd purchased those very expensive, exclusive VIP tickets. And Blair hadn't even mentioned the show. And it was all Eberhardt's fault. If the man hadn't tried to take down the Mayor during a speech on the steps of the city's capitol, Jim wouldn't have had to be in court six weeks later to testify against Eberhardt and consequently, he wouldn't have been anywhere near Beverly Sanchez. Who had spotted him in the cafeteria line and after getting her own lunch, had joined him.

"Hey, Jim, will you give this brochure to Sandburg, for me? I think he'll be very interested."

Jim had reached over and taken the item, then, his attention caught by the words on the front that proclaimed *New tomb discovered in Egypt*, he'd opened it and found himself equally interested. So much so, that the very idea of surprising Sandburg had been to tempting and after court and testimony worthy of Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan, he'd gone to the museum and immediately purchased the tickets to the VIP opening of the new exhibit.

Truth be told, he had a special place in his heart for ancient Egypt, her rich history, pharaohs, and tombs.

Heading down the stairs to a wolf whistle from Sandburg, he smiled and held out the gold envelope. "Here you go, Detective *Blair*, two tickets to the museum. Who do you plan on taking?"

"Ha-ha. *Detective Blair*, very funny." Blair snorted as he snatched the precious tickets from Jim's fingers.

"Hey, you're the one who risked life and limb to rescue the old lady's cat. It was quite heroic. It's not my fault that she was deaf and called you Detective Blair."

"No, but it's your fault that now the entire squad is saying it.

Although, it is marginally better than *hairboy*."

Jim came up to Blair's side and wrapped an arm around his neck, tilted back the younger man's head and whispered, "*I* like it, Detective *Blair*."

"Hey, if it gets you calling me Blair, then so be it."

Jim did a little chewing on Sandburg's ear lobe, then said, "How much time do we have?"

"Not enough, Jim, not nearly enough."


"You should have thought about it twenty minutes ago when you were standing in front of the mirror and wondering if you were developing a paunch. Which, by the way, you're not."

Jim kissed Blair's temple, then said, "But when I do, you'll love me anyway, right?"

Blair almost danced away from the taller man and grinning evilly, grabbed his jacket and Jim's, then opened the front door and said, "Ready, right?"

Jim ambled over, took his good suit jacket, slipped it on and before Blair could blink, he'd stolen the tickets from unsuspecting fingers.  Taking unfair advantage of their height difference, he held them out of reach and repeated, "But when I *do*, you'll love me anyway, *right*?"

Blair's expression went from devilish to thoughtful as he eyed the tickets waving over his head, then down to Jim's waistline, then back up to the tickets.

"Why, Jim," he finally said, pouring every ounce of sincerity into his voice, "how can you think I wouldn't love you, paunch and all? What, you think I'm shallow or something? That I just love you for your gym-created body? Geesh."

Suckered in, Jim lowered the hand holding the prize and patted his washboard stomach, saying, "I'll have you know, this body is the product of excellent genes, Sandburg. I go to the gym to ogle."

Sandburg pounced, grabbed the tickets and moving quickly out into the

hall, said, "Ogle? *Ogle*? With this," his hand moved from his neck down

to his groin, "beside you in bed each night, you need to ogle? And I've

seen Steven naked, man, and that body of yours is *so* not the product

of genes—"

Jim froze in the process of locking the door and turned, key in hand.

"Excuse me? *Excuse me*? You saw Steven naked exactly when, Sandburg?"

Scratching his head while staring up at the ceiling, Blair mused, "Did I say naked? Slip of the tongue. Seen the man in swim trunks."

"You are so—dead, Sandburg."


Grinning at each other, they moved into the elevator and as the doors

closed, Blair asked, "We have three floors, Jim. Three floors. I can do

a lot in three floors—"

"Even to a man with a paunch?"

"Oh, yeah. And balding. Don't forget balding."




The Cascade Natural History Museum was on Parker Avenue and for the night's festivities, Parker had been blocked off at both ends. The broad beams from huge searchlights, placed strategically around the museum, traveled the sky over Cascade proclaiming the event. In addition, four giant spotlights were aimed at the front of the stately building where flags and banners announced the special show.

A red carpet had been spread out from the sidewalk, up the twenty steps and to the front set of double doors. From the grand archway over the entrance, the largest banner had been hung and on it, a replica of the bust of Hatshepsut that had been found in what was being called the greatest discovery of the century, swayed in the gentle breeze that favored Cascade on this special night.

Celebrities from film, television and sports, along with the rich and famous of Washington were gathering for the opening. Mayor Quintana, even Governor McGowan would be in attendance tonight as Cascade had been chosen to be one of only two American cities that would see this exhibit before it was permanently housed in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

As Jim and Blair walked up the red carpet, flash attachments going off in their faces in spite of being a couple of *nobodys*, Jim glanced up and reading the huge banner draped over the archway, asked, "What's ARCE, Chief?"

"Oh, that's the American Research Center in Egypt. They funded the expedition that uncovered what we're seeing tonight."

"And?" Jim prompted, knowing Blair had *way* more information.

"And—well, they're kind of a consortium. Founded in 1948, made up of various universities, scholars and the like. The ARCE is the only agency recognized by the Egyptian government as the exclusive vehicle for facilitating research by Americans and American institutions in Egypt."

"So that's why two American cities were allowed to host?" At Blair's nod, Jim asked, "So why Cascade and Atlanta? Why not New York or Los Angeles?"

"Well, Canada is a major part of the ARCE and Washington, in case it had skipped your notice, borders Canada. Add to that the fact that Cascade hosts one of only five chapters of the ARCE and there you have it. As for Atlanta, well, that city is the American home of the ARCE."

They had reached the entrance and as they handed over their tickets and stepped inside, Jim said, "Okay, that makes sense."

Further speech was temporarily impossible as they found themselves in the large main foyer of the museum, crowded in with the elite of Cascade, barely able to move, while all awaited the official opening of the *Hapshepsut Wing* of the museum.

After nearly fifteen minutes, Blair wiggled a bit and tried to see over the elegantly sheathed shoulder of the woman in front of him, but only got a huge lungful of Channel Number 5 for his efforts. Jim glanced over at him and grinning, asked, "You okay down there, Shorty?"

"Man, I gotta take you to the Comedy Club, Jim. Whole new career."

Jim lowered himself just enough to whisper in Blair's ear. "We could grope, you know. No one would be the wiser in this crowd."

Blair winked cheekily and responded with, "Sure. You take the big bruiser on your right and I'll grope the lady in Donna Karan in front of me."

Jim rolled his eyes, then as he stared off over the crowd, he pinched Sandburg's butt. Blair promptly jumped two feet in the air, causing the Donna Karan clotheshorse in front of him to turn and destroy her perfectly made-up face by giving him a look of such disdain that he was almost cowed. Almost.

"Sorry ma'am. Can't take the man anywhere, you know? Complete neanderthal. And talk about uncouth? Geesh."

One elegant eyebrow rose as she glanced over at Jim, who smiled charmingly and said, "Is this man bothering you? I'd be happy to take him out back perhaps?"

The woman's eyes nearly bugged out before she turned away in a disgusted huff. At that moment, a gong sounded and the huge doors, duplicates of the stone doors of Deir el-Bahri, opened and the crowd began to move.  Blair, as he was shoved forward, said, "Man, we are just *so* grown-up, you know?"

Jim, already looking ahead and enjoying the sight, nodded and said, "Yeah, I know. Ain't it great?"


As they moved slowly toward the wing, Jim said, "Okay, tell me again exactly what we're about to see."

"*Now*?" Blair asked, incredulous.

"Hey, it's going to be several minutes before the crowd thins enough to make any headway, so yeah, now. Takes my mind off all the odors."

"Jim, tell me you've turned everything down, like a good little boy?"

"Sandburg, just give me the details, okay? And I try to never turn everything down nowadays. I enjoy *you* too much."

The tide of the crowd came to a sudden stop as one young man froze in his tracks. People, after shooting disgusted looks at the obstacle, finally rerouted themselves. Jim stopped and with a sphinx-like smile, simply stared back at his partner.

"Wow. I think that was, like, the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me, Jim."

Jim took the younger man's arm and with a smug smile, led the way into the exhibit.




Jim couldn't believe the attention to detail. The recreation of Hapshepsut's palace was incredible, the museum having outdone themselves. He wandered down the hallway, opening up his senses to enjoy the sight, the smells and the sounds of the faux palace.  Somewhere along the way, he'd lost Sandburg, but he was fully aware of the man's location and if he continued his present course, he'd eventually end up in Blair's neighborhood.

He still didn't have a complete understanding of *why* the discovery of a new tomb was so important, or what it actually had to do with Hapshepsut, but he figured in about ten minutes, he'd have reached Sandburg and could ask.

As he meandered his way through the replication, he studied the photographs on either side of the hall, became fascinated by the flickering torch light as it danced over the walls and for some inexplicable reason felt—at home. And yet—not.

There was a sense of familiarity about his surroundings, as if he'd been here before, which was impossible. To his right, a large archway and a sign telling him that just beyond was the Hall of Amon-Ra. Frowning, Jim turned and entered.

Again, the museum had done an admirable job of recreation. A few people mingled in the room, but several guests stood before what was apparently Amon-Ra's altar, their eyes wide with interest. A young woman, dressed in clothing typical for the court of ancient Egypt, stood next to the altar. She was speaking to her listeners and Jim found himself listening—

"High Priest Hapuseneb has always been considered by historians to have been a staunch supporter of Queen and Pharaoh, Hatshepsut. He was very involved in supervising the creation of many of the buildings that today show the Pharaoh's progressive and imaginative mind. However, we have now learned, through the discovery of the strange tomb, that perhaps Hapuseneb actually worked against Hatshepsut."

The young woman stepped up to the altar itself and lifted an ornate knife. She held it over her head, the jewels catching the light and gleaming in the semi-dark room.

"This was found in the discovery we are now calling *Sennedjem's Tomb*.  It was once the sacrificial dagger of Amon-Ra and later served as a decorative piece in the temple. The idea that it would be in the tomb of Hatshepsut's Captain of the Guards is puzzling to the archeologists still studying the incredible find.

"But what we do know," her voice dropped dramatically, "is that the mummy Sennedjem, had a knife wound—in his back."

She paused for effect, allowing her information to sink in as her audience gasped. Jim stared at the dagger and winced, imagining how it must have felt to a soldier like Sennedjem, to have been stabbed—

"Sennedjem was Captain of the Pharaoh's personal guards, a mighty warrior, and tutor in the ways of battle to young Tutmos III. His men revered him and the Pharaoh trusted him with her life. Prior to finding his tomb, it was always believed that Sennedjem died in battle, his body taken by the opposition. But now, history is being rewritten and tonight, you have the opportunity to share in the miracle."

She set the knife down and said in conclusion, "The real dagger is in the next room, along with many of the scarabs, urns and jewelry found in Sennedjem's tomb. Enjoy your tour."

Eager to see the artifacts the guide had discussed, people began to move to a side door, but Jim remained where he was, still enthralled with the altar room.

Sennedjem, a man Jim Ellison could certainly relate to and identify with—murdered. Knifed in the back.

Jim walked up to the altar and stared at the dagger. Who would kill such a man? And why?

Were the answers elsewhere in the exhibit? And why did he care? Other than the fact that a mystery to a detective was like a bone to a starving dog.

Jim found that he couldn't take his eyes from the long elegant knife.  And it wasn't even the real thing. With a sense of unease moving through him, Jim turned and sent out his hearing—

Blair. And he sounded—uncomfortable.

Jim hurried toward the door that evidently led to the exhibition room alluded to by the guide just moments earlier. As he entered, he spotted Sandburg standing beside a large glass case and next to him, a dark handsome man in glasses.

"I do not find the explanations of Doctor Abib to be accurate, but then, I am but a poor archeologist of little consequence."

"Not at all, Doctor Ragab. Your reputation has preceded you. I have read your book on Hatshepsut and was—I found it very interesting."

"I am surprised that an American detective would be interested in Ancient Egypt."

Blair moved a bit to his right as Doctor Sayyed Ragab stepped closer to him. The archeologist was invading his personal space and the gleam in his eye was not one of simple curiosity about an American detective.

"Yes, well, we Americans love to surprise."

The man chuckled deep and placed a hand on Blair's arm. "Perhaps you would like a look behind the scenes?"


"Sandburg, there you are. Have you seen the altar of Amon-Ra yet?"

Blair glanced up at his partner, relief shining from his eyes. "Um, no, not yet, Jim." Then he turned to Ragab and said, "Doctor, I'd like you to meet my partner, Detective James Ellison. Jim, this is Doctor Sayyed Ragab. He was with the team that actually found Sennedjem's Tomb."

Jim stuck out his hand, saying, "It's an honor, Doctor. This is amazing."

They shook and something happened—Jim felt pain, then anger, then loss.

Incredible loss.

He almost cringed.

"Detective Ellison, it is a pleasure to meet the partner of Detective Sandburg. I was just offering to show Blair behind the scenes, so to speak. Please, join us?"

Curious about what had just happened, Jim found himself nodding while at the same time, pulling Blair beside him so that he now stood between Ragab and Sandburg.

"Right this way, then."

They followed Ragab to the end of the room and to a door marked *personnel*. Ragab took out a card and slid it down the box to the right, then entered his personal code and seconds later, the door swung open. He stepped in, then back to allow Jim and Blair to precede him.  Before continuing on, he made sure the door had shut and locked.

"We can't be too careful, as I'm sure you understand. The artifacts here are of such value and importance that the museum has taken very unusual precautions."

As Ragab looked at his guests, he suddenly coughed and gave a small dry laugh. "What am I saying? Of course you both would be very cognizant of the safeguards taken tonight and for the next two days."

"Yes, Doctor," Jim answered, barely concealing his dislike of the man, "we're very *cognizant*."

Coughing again, Doctor Ragab held out an arm and gestured that they should proceed down the hall. As they walked, he managed to maneuver himself so that Jim had to drop back, allowing Ragab to insinuate himself next to Blair.

"What I'm about to show you represents the efforts of some of your country's finest archeologists. The museum is showing less than half of those items found at Sennedjem's tomb and in fact, we are still working at the dig as well as still trying to piece together all that we've found."

"Is any of the investigation going on here, at the museum," Blair asked, hoping against hope that the answer would be yes.

"Actually, we do have several items here that Doctor Abib is working on.  He and Doctor Kendricks, of Rainier University, are in constant communication. They are trying to decipher the hieroglyphics on several urns, as well as several rubbings taken from the tomb."

They had reached the end of the hall and once again Ragab inserted the card and punched in his numbers. This time when the door opened, they found themselves in a typical museum lab.

From one end to the other, work tables had been set up as well as several computers. On the tables sat various objects, from jewelry to pottery. Against a far wall stood several slabs what Blair realized must be actual pieces of Sennejem's tomb. He was awestruck.

Without looking at Ragab and as he moved slowly and almost reverently to the stones, Blair asked, "The Egyptian government actually allowed pieces of the tomb to leave Egypt?"

"Yes, but then, they had no real choice. Some of the equipment necessary to accurately date and read the inscriptions resides here in Washington.  And of course, Doctor Kendricks is the foremost expert on Hatshepsut. As the co-leader of the expedition and Director of the ARCE, he had quite a bit of pull."

Neither Jim nor Blair missed the sour note that crept into Ragab's voice as he discussed Kendricks.

Blair, standing before the slabs, reached out and ran a graceful finger over the nearest slab and the figures that had been crafted into the stone. As he studied them, Jim said, "Chief, do you know Kendricks?"

"I know him. I worked an expedition with him back in '92. He's a great man."

Ragab frowned and stepped up to the two men. "Excuse me, Blair? You worked with Kendricks? How is this possible? You, a detective?"

Blair turned away from the slabs and shrugging, answered, "A detective who also happens to be an anthropologist."

"You're an anthropologist? Why should I be amazed? In America, a detective who is also a scientist? Of course. Do not also tell me that your interest lay in ancient Egypt?"

"Not primarily, no. Mayan culture caught my interest. But I was

fortunate to work two expeditions in Egypt. The first, with Doctor

Kendricks in '92 and then two years later with—"

Blair paused a moment, then once again shrugged helplessly as he said, "Doctor Abib."

Ragab's eyes glittered in the strange light of the lab and he smiled, an

almost feral grin. "My earlier comments regarding Doctor Abib must have


"Not at all, Doctor Ragab. Not at all. As you said, there would seem to be evidence to support both ideas right now and only time will tell which of you is correct."

"Diplomatically stated, Blair. Come, let me show you what we've found."

He took Blair's arm and Jim bristled at the contact but without seeming to be a jealous lout, there was nothing he could do but follow. And listen.

Doctor Ragab was *not* the lecturer that Blair could be. He had the interest, but his voice was dry and with few inflections. Not even his accent could ease the dullness of his words. But Blair appeared interested so Jim listened and waited. The odd thing about the next fifteen minutes was that every few seconds, Blair's attention would stray, his eyes flicking back to the slabs—

Jim let the voice drone on, but finally a gasp from Blair brought him back in time to catch Ragab's words and actions.

"—and this will not be shown at all, not until its provenance can be authenticated."

Ragab had opened a safe and from its dark depths, he'd pulled out a large pouch and now, with his words, he emptied the pouch onto a velvet pad. As the necklace gently dropped, Blair's eyes widened in appreciation. Jim stepped up to get a closer look and as he peered over Blair's shoulder, it seemed that the room swayed and the temperature shot up.

Suddenly a curtain that couldn't be there, billowing in an impossible breeze, appeared before Jim. As the thin material wavered, he seemed to be able to see beyond the lab and to the other side of the curtain and into another room centuries past—

A man. An amulet. The pendant swaying with his movements and two braids—

"—but I know this symbol. Both of these, in fact. This is, of course, the symbol of a physician and this, this identified the wearer as a slave of the court."

The rich beloved voice, drawing him back and Jim blinked in time to see Blair touching the amulet.

"You are correct, Blair."

"But there is no record of any slave healer in Hatshepsut's court."

"You are again correct. Is this not truly amazing? You begin to see the importance of this find? And why would there be such an amulet in the tomb of Sennedjem? If indeed, we have unearthed Sennedjem's tomb."

Blair ran his finger over the amulet again and this time—warmth.

Electricity running up his finger to his shoulder—

"I would be honored if you could find it in your calendar to come by tomorrow? We will be working on many of the things I've discussed with

you tonight and I'm certain Doctor Abib would be delighted to see you again? I'm afraid, however, that Doctor Kendricks is not here—"

"He's still at the dig, isn't he?"

"Yes. And will be, for at least another week. Will you join us tomorrow?

It is Saturday, surely you are not on duty?"

Blair glanced at Jim, who shrugged. Turning back to Ragab, Blair, who could no more have refused the opportunity than to stop loving Jim, said with a barely contained grin, "We'd be honored, Doctor Ragab."

Ragab, who managed to keep his smile in place in spite of Blair's obvious inclusion of Jim, said, "Please, call me Sayyed. So tomorrow then, about eleven?"


"Very good. Come, let me show you more—"

"Aren't you going to say anything?"


They were on their way to the truck, the cold night air sending Blair slightly behind Jim, allowing the larger man's body to act as a wind breaker. At Blair's typical answering of a question with a question, Jim stopped and Blair, who'd been walking with his head down, slammed into him.

"Ouch. Warn a guy, willya?"


"Well, what am I supposed to say and about what?"

"You're supposed to explain Ragab and then praise your good sentinel for his superior will power and restraint. Dickwad."

Grinning, Blair reached up and patted the top of Jim's head. "Good Sentinel, very good Sentinel."

"Sandburg—" Jim warned again.

"Hey, like you need me to tell you about Ragab? The man has the disgusting hots for my bod, okay?"

"Spoken like a true scholar."

"Okay, let me put it this way: Doctor Ragab reacted in a purely chemical

manner while in my presence. He found himself irresistibly drawn to me,

due to the overpowering pheromones that my body just naturally exudes

whenever I am within one square mile of my hunk of the month, my stud of

the year, my body candy of the century—"

"You were doing pretty well until you got to the body candy part."

Striking a pose that mimicked a Victorian Lothario, Blair intoned, "Let

us away, O Stud of My Heart and let me show you how I can use my

talented tongue to lap the bodily secretions from your candy bar—"

"You are one sick puppy, Sandburg. But since you *do* have a hell of a

talented tongue—"

"Uh-huh. You idiot." Blair repeated his pose, this time adding a hand

held out in supplication as he added, "My savior. My protector. The man

who would fight for my honor, save my body from a fate worse than


"Oh, shut up."

Laughing, Blair pushed Jim along until they'd reached the truck. Jim unlocked Blair's door and being no slouch in the Victorian Lothario department himself, added an arm sweep and said dramatically, "Your servant in love stands by the ready, Chief."

"Oh, shut up."




Jim sat on the edge of the bed and slipped off his socks. He balled them up and with the ease of practice, tossed them over his shoulder and listened as they landed with a rewarding thunk in the open hamper next to the dresser. Damn, he was good.

He stretched up and let his back unkink, then as the toilet was flushed downstairs, he grinned. Body candy, huh? He'd see about who was body candy tonight, oh, yeah. He listened as Blair crossed to the kitchen, opened the fridge and grabbed a water, his usual nighttime need, then listened as Blair ran his own check on the security of the loft. Jim grinned again.

The guy knew damn well that Jim locked up tighter than a drum every night, yet, since becoming a detective, he now followed a similar routine if he happened to be downstairs after Jim. You gotta love a guy who does that.

Turning anal and after only three and a half years with him. 

As Blair started upstairs, he said, "Just checking, Jim, just checking.

You never know."

"Yeah, yeah."

Blair's head appeared, then his body and Jim stood and slipped out of his boxers. An act that to this day, never ceased to stump the short guy. And excite him.

"Man, no one takes off his underwear with the same aplomb as you, Jim.

You must have been a stripper in a past life."

"Would that be male or female?"

Blair came up to him and running his hand over Jim's right ass cheek, said, "All this would have been totally wasted on a woman."

"So I was a male stripper?"

"Definitely. I'd stake my reputation as a—what do I have a reputation as?"

"Licker supreme of a studly body candy?"

"Ah. Good. I'd stake my reputation as a Licker Supreme of Studly Body Candy, that you were a *male* stripper."

Jim pressed closer to Blair, letting his dick rub over Blair's stomach and as he leaned in for a kiss, he said, lips inches from Blair's, "Wanna see me strip?"

One arched eyebrow was Blair's answer.

Chuckling, Jim started stripping—Blair.

He wrapped his fingers in the hem of Blair's tee shirt and started to bring the cloth up slowly,  letting his fingers just graze over Blair's heated skin. As Blair's arms rose, Jim carefully and languidly rolled the shirt higher, his thumbs rubbing over sensitive underarm flesh. He felt the goosebumps rise and smiled a half smile.

Jim waited until Blair pulled his arms out of the sleeves, then he tugged the rest of the way, but agonizingly slow, delighting in the flow of thick hair as it tumbled out. Tossing the shirt away, he glanced down at Blair's sweat pants and slowly untied the cord. He could see Blair's dick straining towards freedom, tenting the fabric and the already growing circle of moisture.

Their bodies were almost touching, but both men held back, choosing to draw this out, to enjoy the lazy erotic slowness of it. Jim rested his hands on Blair's hips and gently pushed, the pants giving way and moving down. Blair's dick jumped out and Jim bent down as sturdy legs were unveiled. Finally he had the pants to the floor and Blair carefully stepped out of them.

Jim stayed where he was as he shoved the sweats to the side and out of his way. On his knees before Blair, he did what he'd been resisting since starting his *strip* act, he began to explore.

Using sensitive fingers, he ran his hands up and down the flesh of Blair's inner thighs. When he felt Blair's hands on his shoulders, fingers gripping hard, he started in on the beautiful prize before him.  He lapped at the pre-come, then swirled his tongue around the head.

"Aw, Jim—"

He let his tongue bathe and taste, making sure he covered every inch.  Blair's body trembled and shook as Jim worked and by the time he took him whole, Blair was a mass of quivering goo. But Jim wasn't much better. His own hands shook as they moved up and down Blair's legs, and it seemed that the world became warm and fragrant. His knees, which had been resting on hardwood floors, seemed to suddenly be cushioned by silky sand. Silky warm sand.

Jim could feel a warm breeze caress his bare back and he smiled in spite of a mouth full of Sandburg—

Never had it been like this. His mind, his body, his senses, all were so full of Blair that he'd never felt so alive. Jim moved his hands up and let his fingers move through the soft, kinky pubic hair that curled around Blair's dick and the feel of it, the sense of Blair's orgasm, almost undid Jim. He was shaking, and as Blair came, so did Jim.

It should have been over then—but it wasn't. As Jim allowed Blair's dick to slip from his mouth, the younger man bent down and wrapped his arms around Jim's head, then rested his own on top of Jim's. Jim found his arms sliding around Blair's waist and they held on, their bodies still trembling with the after shocks.

Eyes closed, Jim let his head rest against Blair's stomach until Blair started kissing his hair. He lifted Jim's face and rained small kisses on Jim's forehead, his eyes, both temples—then he slid down so they faced each other, both on their knees.


Jim nodded and whispered back, "I know. I know."

"Jim, did you—feel—it?"

Jim didn't have to ask what Blair meant. "I felt it."

"Sand, under my feet. A breeze, warm and fragrant—"

"I know."

They were both grinning foolishly. Then Blair cocked his head and said, that sparkle in his eye, "You are one damn fine lover. You literally transported us."

Jim cupped Blair's face between his hands and kissed him. Desperately, deeply, needing more than he could put into words.




Jim was in that state, that wonderful, comfortable state between sleeping and wakefulness. He was drifting, still aware of the man who was draped across his body, of the silky skin his hand was brushing across. He wondered if being in the womb felt this good.

Jim also knew that he and Sandburg needed to talk. The events at the museum, the things Jim had experienced both here at home and in the exhibit of Hatshepsut's palace—he needed to tell these things to Blair.  He'd learned a few painful, some almost deadly, lessons about not sharing information and he wasn't about to repeat history.

He let his eyes finally shut and smiled in the darkness. Everything was so right in his world. So very right—finally. Blair shifted in his arms and moaned slightly. Jim's eyes shot open and he glanced down, trying to see Sandburg's face through the hair. He brought his hand up and brushed several silky strands away and realized that Blair was waking. A few moments later, sleepy blues were looking at him.


"Am not," came the fuzzy reply, via a yawn.

Chuckling, Jim asked, "Not high on love, eh?"

"Oh, *that*. Sure."

"Gee, thanks."

Blair rubbed his head on Jim's chest and said against his skin, "Hey, I'm draped. I'm sleeping *on top* of you."

"And without the aid of bunk beds. We are simply amazing."

They shared a laugh, both remembering the night they'd finally gotten together—




Cascade - six months previously

"Sorry, Jim."

"Hey, They're your team too, Sandburg."

"Oh, yeah, naturally."

Blair didn't have to say it, Jim still heard the words—"but it's just a game".

Blair gazed over at him, his expression one of mixed emotions. Some genuine sorrow for Jim's loss and a healthy mix of whimsy at the idea that Jim could be this bummed over a baseball game. But Blair figured he might have the cure. He stood quickly and as he rushed to the door, he threw over his shoulder, "Be right back, Jim. Got an errand to run."

"Um, Sandburg? It's late—"

"Don't worry, be right back."

And he was gone. The door shut and Jim was alone. With his misery. The Seattle Mariners had been slaughtered at the altar of the NY Yankees.  Blech. The World Series would not include his team this year. Damn.

He considered moving, getting a beer, but decided against it. When one was about to indulge in pity, one shouldn't move and he'd save the drunk part for later, when Sandburg got back. He loved Sandburg's lectures about sentinels and drinking to excess.

He was really getting into his pathetic *feel sorry for me* mood when Blair returned. Jim checked his watch and was amazed to find that only twenty minutes had passed. And he *hadn't* heard Blair's Volvo. Or Blair on the stairs. Or Blair in the hall. He'd have to share that with the guy. Sports pity muted his senses. Wow.

Jim was still considering that phenomenon when Blair bounded over the back of the couch to land remarkably soft next to Jim. He shoved a greasy brown bag in front of his face and said happily, "For you."

Jim sniffed. Then sniffed again. Onions - grilled. Relish. Umm, ketchup, cheese—double cheese. Mustard, Thousand Island dressing and two giant hamburger patties.

Wonderburger. And if he wasn't mistaken—fries, extra crispy.

Sandburg was a saint. But he was ruining a perfectly decent pity party.

Not that Jim would turn down the heart attack in a bag. No sir, not him.

He grabbed it and dug in.

Blair watched, amazed, as the huge burger was cut by half in only two bites. He trailed a small river of dressing as it flowed down Jim's chin and was considering lapping it up for the man when Jim's hand wiped it away. Damn it.

As he enjoyed his partner's glee in the burger and fries, he found himself wondering about something. It wasn't new, this subject, but it seemed that maybe tonight, well, maybe tonight would be a good time to bring it up? *After* Jim finished the burger?

Blair settled back, legs crossed Indian style, a magazine on his lap.  When a french fry was waved enticingly under his nose, he glanced up to find the burger gone and only a few crispy fried potatoes left.

"Want one?"

"No, thanks, Jim. You enjoy them."

Nodding happily, Jim popped the fry into his mouth and chewed dreamily.  Blair watched as the last fry disappeared. While Jim wiped his mouth, Blair decided that now was the time and asked, "Why am I here?"

Jim didn't even pause in his cleaning routine as he said, "You know, after three years, I get that question. However, I think you know why *you're* here, so the question you're really asking is; why are you *here*."

"You know, Jim, after three years, I get that."

"Thought you might. So, why don't you answer the question of why *you're* here, then I'll answer the question of why you're *here*.  Deal?"

Blair's face scrunched up in the manner that told Jim he was looking for

both a bear trap and a loophole. When he'd decided that there was no

trap and that he didn't want a loophole, he nodded. "Fair enough. Okay,

I'm here because—"

Jim waited. He watched Blair's eyes travel the length of the loft, then come back to rest on Jim.

"I'm here because I don't want to be anywhere else. I should be somewhere else. I mean, after all, I'm thirty. I should have my own place now. I can certainly afford it.

"You're thirty-eight, we're both way too old for roommates. But I simply don't *want* to be anywhere else."

Jim let his gaze move over Sandburg's face and he smiled at the familiar countenance, the face that still, after all this time, could surprise him with its never-ending number of expressions. Of course, there were a few Jim would never see—unless this conversation went as he now hoped it would—

"Your turn, Jim."

"Oh. Right. Well, you're *here* because—"

His next words would do it. Tip the conversation over, move it into a new realm. Change them forever. Bombs away!

"Because if you were anywhere else—I'd die."




Blair found that he could only stare at his roommate. A roommate who'd just said that he'd die—without him.

Finally, "We just—kinda—said some heavy things, Jim."

"I noticed."

"More than the typical," he made a motion of flexing his muscles, "macho type men and roommates might normally say, you know?"

"I know."

"Serious shit."


Blair gazed out the large windows and couldn't stop the huge smile that had started to spread across his face.

"You're smiling."

"I know. I was just thinking of what I like best about living here."

"Besides the charming company?"

"Yeah, Jim, besides that."

"Gonna share?"

Blair's smile got bigger. "I like—sleeping under you."

Somehow, Jim managed *not* to squeak as he repeated, "*Under* me?"

"Um, yeah. I can hear you at night, turning over, the bed springs you know. Sometimes, I can hear you punching at your pillows and I start to pity the poor criminals of Cascade."

Without making a big deal of it, Jim scooted over until his shoulder was touching Blair's.

"You know, I like the idea of you sleeping under me too, but to be honest, I'd prefer you—sleeping—on top."

"Of you?"

"That's what I'm thinking, yeah."

Blair bit back a laugh as he said, "Beds R Us is running a special on bunk beds. We could trade off."

"We could, but that's not really what I had in mind. Would you be

insulted if I mentioned that the idea of you draped over me—well, you

know, *lying* on me—is a bit of a fantasy for me? It's not a fantasy

I've had about too many people—"

"This is Laurel and Hardy thing, isn't it?"

"Um, more of a Punch and Judy thing."

"Aw, Judy, I'd never punch you. Punch you out, but never punch you."

Jim flicked a bit of Blair's hair, then tweaked the earring in his right ear. "You'd never punch me out and watch who you're calling *Judy*."

"Do you think Stan Laurel draped himself over Oliver Hardy?"

"Indubitably.We big men get cold at night. We need our cute little bedrugs."

They were staring at each other then, eyes locked, mouths twitching. Jim started to lean down, stopped, cocked his head. Blair let the smile blossom and lifted his hand to run a finger over Jim's mouth. "We're going to do this, aren't we?"

"I'm thinking—yes."

Jim's gaze dropped to Blair's lips and he gave a small, half smile, the corners of his eyes crinkling, as he said,"I love you."

"Same here."

"I realize this is new for you—"


"Well, in three years, I've never smelled a man on you, Sandburg."

Blair kept his eyes on Jim as he pulled the man's shirt out of his jeans. "Well, of course you haven't. I moved in with a cop. We both had enough on our plates, so I simply abstained  from same sex relationships and contented myself with women."

This time Jim couldn't contain the squeak as he said, "You've been in a—you're—you've been with a guy?"

"Jim, Jim, Jim. We're two men, we move in together, we do *everything* together, we touch each other like it's going out of style, neither of us really had to adjust and what, you think that's normal?"

"Good point. Not a lot of heterosexual men out there doing this at our ages."

Blair had stopped listening. His explorations under Jim's shirt had him thoroughly occupied.

Jim watched the many expressions of Blair Sandburg in love and exploring. These were new and pretty nifty. But really, it was time to get a little of his own, namely those lips.  He leaned in the rest of the way, angled a bit, tried to get Blair's attention, and finally simply swooped in and took it.

The kiss was actually several small kisses, each man tilting their heads, smiling into the kisses, changing position, finding the right angle until finally, arms entangled, the kissing became *the* kiss. A long, deep, thorough kiss. Wet, needy, tasting and dueling.

Blair pulled away first and grinned when Jim, eyes still half closed, tried to follow his mouth as if it were a suspect.

Ducking his head to avoid the air raid of Jim's lips, Blair said, grinning, "Simon's gonna shit a brick."

Capturing the elusive Blair, Jim chuckled and with lips on the move, he

murmured, "He'll have to stand in line—"