"Rafe? Brown? My office," Simon Banks called. The two detectives walked in and closed the door. Banks eyed them, "Just tell me something, and I want you to be honest here," he said. Both nodded. "Do either of you have a problem with homosexuality?"
Brown looked nervously at Rafe, then back to his Captain, "In what way, Sir?" he asked.
"Is a prejudice towards gays going to interfere with your ability to investigate this case? If you do have a problem, I would rather you said so now, 'cause we're already hip deep in the shit on this one and I can still feel myself sinking," Banks sighed.
"No, Sir. No problems there," Rafe shrugged, shooting his partner a furtive glance.
"Me neither, Captain. Live and let live," Brown replied.
"Good. Okay you two are now officially on the Ellison case. Philips is out. Out of this case and out of this department and if I have my way, out of this job!" the Captain said angrily. Rafe and Brown exchanged surprised looks, "So, I want you two to go down to the scene and check it out. Philips 'overlooked' certain things that could have been evidence in Ellison's favor. Now I know that they can't be introduced as evidence now, but at least they give rise to doubts on our part. I want this done right, gentlemen."
Brown nodded, "On our way."
"Oh, and send Rhonda in on your way out."
A few moments later: "Sir?" the pretty blonde woman smiled.
"Rhonda, would you do something for me? I want Philips' locker cleared. I told him to come do it straight away, but he hasn't, so you do it and put his stuff in a trash bag, he can collect it from me," Banks said tiredly.
"Philips is off the case?" Jim frowned.
"Yeah, suspended. And Captain Banks is overseeing the investigation. He's really a pretty cool guy, you know?" Blair smiled.
"How come he's suspended?" Jim asked, noticing his friend's heart beat increase.
"Oh," Blair said looking away, "We had a little altercation."
"What happened?" Jim said angrily, suddenly he reached across the table and grabbed Blair's hand. The one that had been conveniently tucked inside his jacket the whole time. Pulling Blair's bruised fingers towards him, he frowned,
"Did he hurt you?" he asked dangerously.
"No," Blair said with a wince, "Actually, I hurt him."
"What happened?" Jim demanded, still holding onto the offending hand.
"He just tried to hassle me, that's all," Blair said, "Just a little name calling."
"What kind of hassle? What names? You're not telling me everything, Blair. What did he do to you?"
"He didn't do anything," Blair insisted, looking up into Jim's eyes, "I'm fine. He did us a favor, he was a jerk and he got caught in the act. End of story."
"You're sure he didn't hurt you?" Jim insisted, losing himself in that beautiful blue gaze.
Blair smiled gently, he slipped his fingers into Jim's hand and held tight, "No, he didn't hurt me. I hurt me. This body wasn't build for all that macho shit!" he grinned.
Jim relaxed slightly, the touch of his friend sent a warm feeling coursing through his body. He realized that their enforced separation had been difficult for him.
Though he had only known this man a few months, existing without him now seemed intolerable. Another thought that bit and clawed at his mind, was the overwhelming desire to possess this man, body and soul. "I..er..I" he began.
"Yeah?" Blair said quizzically.
"I..I've missed you," Jim said in a whisper, looking away shyly.
Blair's face lit up, "Hey, I've missed you too," he beamed, tightening his grip on Jim's hand.
"Blair," Jim said quietly, "You know they're watching us, don't you?"
"Of course," the younger man replied.
"And you're holding my hand. They're going to jump to conclusions, knowing what I am, what I do.." Jim said with growing discomfort.
"Man, they jumped to those conclusions a long time ago. It doesn't bother me if it doesn't bother you." Blair tried to recapture Jim's gaze, "Well does it?"
Jim looked puzzled at the young mans attitude, "Me?" he said incredulously.
"Yeah. Does it bother you that they think you're involved with some 'queer little hippie punk'?" Blair grinned.
Jim smiled as Blair threw back at him, the words he'd used in anger against the young anthropologist, "I think my reputation can survive it," he joked.
"Glad to hear it," Blair said, "Now, has Joe been to see you today?"
"Yeah, this morning. He said you were giving him some serious hassle over this. Something about getting your Mom in on the action?" Jim said puzzled.
"She always could get him moving!" Blair replied with a sly smile, "But, I've told him about the left out evidence I found, and told him to speak to Captain Banks."
Suddenly the door opened, and a guard entered, "Your times almost up, Sir," he said.
"Okay, thank you," Blair replied, "Looks like I gotta go. Is there anything you need?"
"No," Jim said with a sigh, then in a whisper added, "Just you."
Blair shivered. A lump formed in his throat as he tried to speak, "I'm always here for you, no matter what happens," he said with difficulty.
Jim smiled and nodded, "You be careful," he said, "Don't get talking to any strange cops, now, particularly in lonely parking lots!"
"I'll try to behave, " Blair grinned, "And I'll see you tomorrow."
"Yeah, I'll be here."
"Sir?" Rhonda said quietly.
Banks looked up to see the young woman in the doorway, clutching a photograph, "Yes, Rhonda?"
"Sir, I don't know whether this means anything, but it just seemed a little strange," she held out the photo, "I found this is Philips' locker. I thought that the guy there looked familiar. Isn't that Ellison?"
Banks studied the photo carefully, just a group shot of army men, marine types, "It..it could be. What was he doing with this in his locker?"
"That's what I wondered, Sir. That's the reason I brought it to your attention."
"Good work, Rhonda. I'll look into it."
Jim sat in his cell. He glanced down at the book Blair had brought for him to read.
If he dialed up his senses, he could detect the younger mans scent in the leather binding. The aroma of his young friend, twinned with the memory of
Blair's touch sent a shiver through his entire body.
He pressed the book against his face and inhaled deeply. The essence of Blair washed over him like a waterfall, engulfing every sense.
It took little real soul searching to realize that he was falling in love with this vibrant young man.
The thought both thrilled and troubled him at the same time. The thrill was the knowledge that despite everything that had happened, he was still capable of feeling love. The fear, was that Blair, for all his kindness and understanding, did not share these feelings and merely saw Jim as a subject to be studied and as a friend, but nothing more.
Clinging to a vain hope, Jim closed his eyes and tried to recreate the vision of the young anthropologist, his face lit up with a smile that could melt ice flows, gently holding Jim's hand like a lover. It was precious little, but enough to keep him fighting for now.
Suddenly, Jim glanced up. In his love-induced stupor, he had failed to notice three large burly men enter his cell. Jim sprang to his feet.
"What do you want?" he growled.
"You're the fag who killed that guy..fucked him first though huh?" the largest and ugliest man snarled,
"Get the fuck outta here," Jim spat.
The first man launched himself at Jim clumsily, being easily deflected. The second swung at him with more skill, but Jim dodged the punch, placing a well-aimed fist squarely in his gut, causing him to double over. A knee to his face sent him sprawling, but by now the ugly man had seized him from behind, pinning his arms behind him.
Jim struggled, and succeeded in freeing one arm, but the men on the floor had recovered, and rained down blows on his head and to his stomach. The big man dragged him up onto the bunk, his arm was twisted awkwardly behind his back. Jim could no longer focus, his head swam and nausea built in his belly.
"So, tough guy, let's see what makes you so fuckin' special, that guy's pay for it," the ugly man sneered.
Jim struggled, but a sudden pain in his shoulder, almost caused him to pass out. He clenched his teeth as the pain of the thug invading his body threatened to overwhelm his senses, bright lights flashed behind his eyes, his own rapid heartbeat drummed in his ears and his world crashed down into oblivion.
Simon Banks rubbed his eyes, the tiredness washed over him. This had to be the case that broke the pissed-off Captain's back, he thought. What had seemed like a straightforward murder case was turning into the Kennedy assassination, complete with a never-ending line-up of suspects and plot twists that wouldn't shame a Le Carre novel.
All he'd ever wanted was a simple life. Just enough money from a Lotto win to retire somewhere warm, someplace where it didn't rain solidly for ten months of the year and where the fish leaped from the laden streams right into the frying pan.
<Nice dream,> Banks thought with a wry smile, <And what a shitty reality to come back to,> he decided, glancing down at the picture in front of him.
The face of Jim Ellison gazed up from the dog-eared photograph. <What the hell happened that turned you from that man, to the man you are today, Ellison, huh?> Banks wondered, <What event made your life go in that direction?>
A knock at the door made Simon Banks glance up, "Come," he said.
"Captain?" Rhonda said gravely, "I've just found some information that I don't think you're going to be pleased with."
"Like what?" he said nervously, wondering if it were possible that this day could get worse.
"Like that guy there in the photograph," she pointed to a young soldier standing behind Jim Ellison, " that's Detective Philips' brother."
"Go on," Banks said with a sinking feeling of dread.
"He didn't come back from the last mission he went on with Ellison. In fact, no one but Ellison did. That was why he was discharged from the army, they found him negligent in his duties concerning the deaths of his men," Rhonda said, laying the document down on the desk.
"Oh, great!" Banks sighed, burying his head in his hands, "Thanks Rhonda. Good work."
"Sorry it had to be so depressing, Sir," she smiled weakly.
"I get the feeling that I haven't even reached depressing yet," he replied, "Oh Rhonda? Get Philips on the phone, tell him to be here in twenty minutes...or I'll send a couple of uniforms to arrest him."
"Ah, Philips," Simon Banks smiled the unfriendliest smile he could muster, "Do come in and sit."
The young detective slid into the chair warily, "What's all this about?" he asked.
Banks pushed the photograph towards him, "Recognize this?" he said.
"Who are the people in this photograph?"
"That's my brother," Philips said shortly, stabbing a finger at the fading image.
"And who is that in front of him?" Banks asked.
"James Ellison? The man you arrested for murder?"
"But you never felt it important enough to mention? That our murder suspect was the man supposedly responsible for your brothers death?" the angry Captain said through tight lips.
"Didn't see the point, it had nothing to do with the case."
"So, you don't think that your personal feelings were at all involved here?"
"And deliberately ignoring evidence and witness statements was merely an oversight on your part? Observations that had to be brought to my notice by a civilian!" Banks raged suddenly.
Philips jumped in his seat, "Sandburg!" he spat.
"If I were you, I'd just be damned grateful he isn't slapping you with a lawsuit right now!" the Captain leaned over the desk, "Your behavior in this case is the worst I've ever seen in my entire career. And if I think you've deliberately set
Ellison up, I'll have you in the cell next to him before you can scream for your mamma!"
Blair rushed along the hospital corridor. The call from Captain Banks had set him into a mild panic. All the big cop would tell him was that Jim had been taken to hospital and that since he hadn't requested any family members or in fact anyone be informed, Banks felt it only right to tell Blair, him being the only person who actually seemed to give a damn.
In the distance, he saw Captain Banks talking to a doctor, who nodded gravely, this caused Blair's heart to leap into his mouth, "Captain?" Blair called, "What's happened?"
"It's okay, calm down. Ellison's fine. He got into a fight with three guys, they've roughed him up, he has a dislocated shoulder, a couple of cracked ribs, a concussion, bruises," Banks looked away suddenly.
"What? What aren't you telling me?" Blair asked, fear tightening his throat.
"Blair, since you're not strictly speaking next of kin, I shouldn't be telling you any of this," Bank's said awkwardly.
"He doesn't have anyone else who cares about him, Captain, just me. Now please," the young man pleaded.
Banks squirmed slightly, "He has a couple of minor internal injuries due to being sexually assaulted," he said finally.
"Oh my God!" Blair gasped, his stomach turned over violently, "Can I see him?"
"Sure," Banks said, "But you're going to have to let the officer at the door pat you down for weapons. It's the rules Blair, nothing personal, he's still a suspected murderer."
"No, it's okay, I understand," Blair nodded, he shot the Captain a slight smile, "Captain Banks?"
"Thanks for being so understanding," he said. Banks clapped a huge hand on his shoulder and gave him a smile.
Blair pushed open the door tentatively, his stomach still churned and his mind raced. What was he going to say? How do you talk to someone who has gone through that? On the bed he saw a hunched figure, with its back to him. Before he'd reached the bedside, a rasping voice rang out.
"What the fuck are you doing here?" Jim growled.
"I've come to see you, " Blair replied.
"Well don't bother, go away."
Blair stood next to the bed, looking down at a bruised neck and shoulders, Jim's face was still not visible. He reached out and touched the shoulder.
Jim pulled away like a man scalded, "Don't touch me, Blair," he hissed, "Go away!"
"No," the young man stated flatly, "You can growl and complain all you like, but I'm staying. You need me," he said quietly.
"Just do yourself a favor, kid, walk away," Jim pleaded.
"Why?" Blair said.
"Because you deserve so much more....better than me," the older man said with a sadness that tore at Blair's heart.
"But," Blair began, trying to find the words, "I...care about you," he whispered.
"Don't say that!" Jim growled, "Don't you say that. I don't deserve you. Look at me!"
Blair laid his hand on Jim's shoulder, the bigger man rolled over. Blair gasped at the state of his blackened and bruised face, but it was the look of despair in his eyes that caused Blair to choke back a sob. The younger man brushed his fingers lightly across Jim's face, "Oh, man. Look at the state of you," he said sadly, "I wish I could have ten minutes with a .44 Magnum and the bastards who did this."
"So much for the pacifist philosophy," Jim said.
Blair smiled as he continued to gently stroke the bruised jaw-line. Jim leaned into the caress, drinking in the sensation.
Blair carefully lowered himself onto the side of the bed, to sit next to his friend, "Are you okay?" he asked.
Jim nodded, "I didn't want you to see me like this," he said.
"Why not? You're my friend and you're in pain," Blair replied.
"They told you," Jim said, suddenly gritting his teeth, "Didn't they?"
Blair swallowed hard, "About the 'sexual assault'? Yes," he said in a whisper.
Jim turned away from him again, "They had no right to," he said angrily.
"Jim, it doesn't matter to me," Blair pleaded, "It wasn't your fault."
"How do you know?" the older man said with venom, "How do you know that I didn't just come on to somebody who got pissed off with me?"
"Because I know you," Blair said with an edge to his voice, "You've never done what you did by choice. You were just trying to survive."
"And I told you that so it must be true, huh?" Jim sneered.
Blair pulled the bigger man back over to face him, "Yes. I wouldn't be in this at all if I thought you'd lied to me about anything" he stressed. "I believe you and I trust you," he looked directly into Jim's pale blue eyes, "And if I didn't think these guys would freak big time, I'd kiss you right here and now, to prove it!"
Jim smiled properly for the first time since this whole mess had started. He reached out a hand and touched Blair's face tenderly, "Save it for the day I walk out of prison a free man," he said.
Blair beamed, his smile seemed to light the room, "Yeah. That's a promise," he said, taking the hand and squeezing it, "Are you sure you're okay?"
"I'll be fine. Bruises heal," Jim shrugged.
"It's not the bruises I'm worried about," Blair replied sadly.
"Hey, I'll be okay," Jim pulled Blair's hand to his face and lightly kissed the fingers, "I don't want you worrying about me."
"That's something I can't promise you," Blair said with the softest smile.
"I'm going to be transferred back to the prison hospital tomorrow, will you visit me there?" Jim asked, still holding on to Blair's hand.
The younger man smiled, "Of course I will. I'm going to see Joe later, he says he has some interesting information for me," he said.
"Oh yeah, this has all been a terrible mistake and the mayor's going to give me the freedom of the city," Jim replied lightly.
"Well, we can hope," the younger man smiled, running a finger along Jim's cheek.
"Blair, my boy. How are you?" Joe Shaw asked grasping Blair's hand and shaking it heartily.
"Fine, thanks. What do you have?"
"Straight down to business, eh? Just like your Mother," Joe grinned, "Well, I sent one of my investigators out to speak to some of Richard Packington's friends and colleagues. It seems that Mr Packington wasn't the paragon of virtue that the authorities would have us believe. He'd been involved in some very shady deals of late and had a more than unhealthy taste for male prostitutes despite the fact that he was married with a young child."
"So, how does all of this help Jim?" Blair asked.
"Well, from what we can gather, Mrs Packington just found out about her husband's 'tastes' and was very upset. In fact just before he left for Cascade on this trip, she caused a scene in his office where she threatened to kill him."
Blair frowned, "But surely, a heated threat like that means very little. She was upset and shocked?" he said.
Joe grinned, "Oh, I'd say that taking a .38 caliber handgun into your husbands office and trying to shoot him through the head was more than 'a little upset' wouldn't you?" he said leafing through a file on hiss desk. "On top of that, he'd just screwed his partner on a major deal, with some very shady dealing and the guy was more than slightly angry at him. Blair, I smell conspiracy here. I don't believe in coincidences and Richard Packington getting murdered right now would be a major coincidence!"
"Do we have anything in the way of proof?" Blair asked.
"Not yet, but I have my man working on it. This, on top of the lousy police work involved, I'd say that things are at last looking up for Jim Ellison."
Blair sat in his office. He leaned back in the chair as tiredness washed over him.
He was running on fumes, what with the work at the U, visiting Jim, trying to keep a head start on the case, sleeping came pretty low down on his list of priorities.
All of this would be worth it if Jim walked out of that prison as an innocent man and Blair was in no doubt that he was indeed innocent.
So much had happened in his life in such a short time. He'd discovered a real life Sentinel, whose abilities were more astonishing than anything he could have imagined. He'd found a friend who, despite living such a totally different lifestyle, was more in tune with him than any of his academic friends.
And he'd fallen in love.
Blair tried to shake away that last thought, denying that his tenacity, in search of the truth in this case, was at all hormone driven. He would only allow himself to think those things once Jim was a free man.
Looking down at his workload, he sighed. It would not and could not wait any longer, there really was no peace for the wicked in this world.
Simon Banks paced the room, he was tired and had one hell of a headache. Each time Rafe and Brown checked in, they'd found something else that Philips had failed to mention. Witnesses, evidence. God, what kind of a kiddy-playground was he running here that an officer under his command could get away with doing such a phenomenally shitty job?
"Sir?" Rafe said suddenly.
Banks looked up a little startled, "Come on in, Rafe, what's up?" he asked with yet another sinking feeling.
"We just checked out the dead guy's business partner, the one the lawyer was getting on our case about? He had a sudden withdrawal of $250,000 from his bank account a week before Packington was killed. He can't account for it and has refused to answer any more questions unless we read him his rights!" Rafe said with a sigh.
"This gets more complicated by the hour," Banks said, "What about the wife?"
"She's clammed up too. Playing the grieving widow."
"Okay, Rafe. You and Brown keep on it. You're both doing a fine job on this," Banks said looking at the young officer.
Rafe's handsome young face broke into a smile, "Thank you, Sir. I'll pass that message along!"
"Sir? Those test results you asked to see are back," Rhonda said placing a file on Banks' desk.
Simon Banks turned from the window and smiled, "Thanks, Rhonda," he sighed.
A part of him was dreading opening the file and have the results smack him in the face. In his own mind, he now seriously doubted Ellison's guilt. This was all just a little too convenient, that a major ass-hole like Packington should be murdered just as he'd ripped of his business partner and pissed-off his wife.
He peeled back the cover. Just as he thought, the lab tests on the other condoms were there in black and white, they didn't belong to Ellison.
So, Sandburg was right, someone had been in there after Ellison left, as the desk clerk said. This, along with half a dozen other assorted pieces of screwed up information as good as proved that Ellison didn't kill Packington.
No wonder that smug bastard of a lawyer was salivating this morning when he'd sat in Banks' office and discussed the possibility of his client suing for compensation when he was released.
Now, all they had to do was find out who did kill him and they could all live happily ever after.
Simon Banks leaned back in the chair, drawing heavily on his cigar. He needed to make a call to the D.A, though he knew that the case against Ellison had just crumbled. Then he guessed he'd have to call Shaw and smile while that smug son-of-a-bitch rubbed his nose in it. Finally, he wanted to be the one to tell Blair Sandburg, that all of his effort had paid off and any time he wanted a job in Major Crimes, he could have one.
Pushing at the phone keys, he took a deep breath, "Hello? This is Captain Banks, Major Crimes, I need to speak to the D.A."
"Hey, guys," Philips smiled. Rafe and Brown shot each other a nervous look.
"You shouldn't be here, man," Brown said looking away, "This is a police investigation."
"Come on, Brown! We're all 'brother officers' here," Philips implored.
Brown rounded on the man, "No, don't you class us as the same as you, Philips. You deliberately set that guy up because of some personal grudge and a large dose of bigotry," he growled.
"Whatever happened to cops sticking together?" Philips snapped, "Or is that only if you're the right color or the right 'sexual persuasion?" he sneered.
Brown launched himself at the wiry older man, Rafe grabbing him before his fist could make contact, "Brown! Cool it." Rafe gasped, "Philips, get out of here. I'm ashamed to be seen with someone like you."
"Yeah, hit a sore point, huh 'boys'? I won't ask whose ass you two are fucking, seems pretty damned obvious to me!" Philips taunted as he turned and walked away.
The two officers watched him leave in silence. Rafe ran his fingers through his hair, "How? How could he know?" he said quietly.
Brown glared at his partner for a moment, before his expression softened, "He doesn't know shit, man. He's just blowing off steam. He'd accuse the Pope of being a queer at the moment. Just take no notice, let's get back to the precinct with this," he shook a piece of paper in front of Rafe's nose, "This is going to blow Banks out of the water."
"What?" Simon Banks gasped.
"Yeah, we ran the D.N.A sample and that print they found through the computer and came up with a possible match.
Now, we know that it couldn't be submitted as evidence by itself, but there was nothing to stop us talking to the guy, so we did. Young kid by the name of Charlie Fisher; well-known prostitute. When we got there he almost killed us in the rush to spill his guts. Seems that some guy hired him to pick up Packington and keep him in the motel room.
Unfortunately, Packington was already with Ellison when he arrived, so Charlie followed them back and waited for Ellison to leave.
He then knocked on the door and said that the guy who'd just left had told him there might be some action going," Brown said, "He said that Packington almost dragged him inside. He kept Packington 'busy' until another guy arrived, who proceeded to kill Packington. Charlie was so shit scared he ran for his life. He's been hiding ever since."
"And he's willing to say all of this in court?" Banks asked.
"Oh yeah," Rafe smiled, "He's willing to do anything he can to protect his ass. The description he gave us could fit the partner, but we need to get him in an I.D. Of course, this does prove that Ellison is innocent."
"Yeah, the final straw. The D.A already threw out the case anyway, too much dirty laundry for the police department already on this. If Ellison sues, and I wouldn't blame him if he did, we are all in the shit." Banks rested his head on his hand, "Excellent job, gentlemen. You two are a credit to the department. And if the shit hits the fan, I'm going to make sure everyone knows what a good job you made of cleaning up Philips' lousy effort."
"Sir, we're just doing our job, this is what we're paid for. Philips wasn't your fault," Rafe insisted.
"That's a kind thought, but, yes, he was. It's my job to make sure this department stays clean. I'm going over to see Ellison myself, and I'm going to offer him the option to take us to the cleaners!"
"Mr Ellison?" Banks said.
"Captain Banks? To what do I owe this honor?" Jim said suspiciously.
Banks gestured to the chair, "May I?"
"As you probably know by now, the case against you has been thrown out and as soon as the paperwork goes through, you're a free man. But, I just wanted to personally apologize for all that's happened to you because one of my officers did a lousy job."
Jim studied the big cop for a moment, "Yes, he did. And I accept your apology."
"I also wanted you to know that you have the option to bring a lawsuit against the department for wrongful arrest and any number of other assorted charges."
"That would make all the officers in Major Crimes look as bad as Philips, wouldn't it? Especially you," Jim said watching the older man shift uneasily.
"Yes, Mr Ellison it would. But as his commanding officer, it was up to me to see that he did his job and I failed in that,"
Banks' honest gaze caused Jim to reach out with his senses, the cop's heartbeat was regular and he showed no sign of lying.
"I've already spoken to my lawyer about this," Jim said finally. Banks nodded glumly. "I won't be taking any action against the department, as long as Philips doesn't return to any job in law enforcement."
Banks looked up with a shocked expression on his face, "You won't?"
"No. My lawyer disagrees with me, but I've made my mind up. Most of your officers have been very good at their job. I don't want to see them tainted by all of this. God knows, I understand that feeling if nothing else. And, Captain, if it wasn't for you Blair would have been dragged into this by Philips. For that you have my eternal gratitude." Jim said with a slight smile.
"Does he know you're free yet?" Banks asked returning the smile.
"Yeah," Jim smiled shyly, "I already called him. He's coming to pick me up."
"Good luck," Banks held out his hand.
Gripping the big cops hand, Jim nodded, "Thanks."
Jim breathed in the air deeply as he stepped from the prison door. Momentarily closing his eyes, he could almost forget that all that had happened in the past few weeks. Opening them again, he was met by a vision that would aid his healing process more than medicine or therapy ever could, Blair Sandburg's heavenly, smiling face. The young man stood in front of him, leaning nonchalantly against his old Volvo car. Jim walked slowly up to him, stopping an arm's length away.
"Welcome back to the land of the living," Blair grinned.
"Thanks for coming to pick me up," Jim replied, barely able to restrain the smile that played on his lips.
"Put your bag in the back, man. You're coming to stay with me until we can get you some place to live," the young man instructed, opening the back door of the car.
"Blair, I can't do that," Jim protested.
"Look, I know you saw the size of the rats last time you were there, and yes they're a little scary, but I have a spare baseball bat, so you'll be safe," Blair grinned.
Jim grabbed his arm, "Blair, I don't mean that and you know it. What about your reputation? Everyone in Cascade knows about me, they know I'm gay and that I've sold my body. I don't want to hurt your career," he pleaded.
Blair suddenly clasped his hand over the bigger man's mouth, "Jim? Shut up and listen, 'cause I'm only going to say this once. Firstly; I never gave a shit what people thought before, so why should I start now? Yeah, everyone knows you're gay, so what? You are a wonderful, caring and very special man.
What you do in bed should only concern you and your partner, be that a man or woman. As for my 'reputation', I don't think I have one. They've always thought I was a little weird.
Anyway, if my academic career is so fragile that it can topple because of who I share my home with, then maybe I don't want it. Lastly and most importantly, you are my friend and I love you. I'm sure as hell not going to see you back out on the streets after all that's happened," he gazed into Jim's eyes with an iron resolve, "Am I making myself clear?"
"Crystal," Jim smiled lovingly.
Blair started to walk away, around to the other side of the car. Suddenly he stopped, "Oh yeah. I owe you something," he grinned. Walking back to his friend, he reached up, pulling Jim's face down to his level. He met the older man's lips tenderly.
Jim engulfed him in his arms, pulling him close. The kiss grew deep and passionate, the pent up desire of all these months of longing almost overcame the Sentinel, as, at last, he could taste and touch this man.
Blair's hand slid beneath Jim's jacket, sweeping across his tee shirted chest, scratching across sensitized nipples.
Jim grasped Blair's hips, pulling him in so that groin's could rub and grind hotly. His senses almost spinning out of control.
Suddenly, Blair pulled back; he looked up into the desire soaked face of his friend and Sentinel. He smiled. "Maybe this is not the best place to do this," he panted, glancing over at the prison. Jim smiled and nodded, pulling away slowly. Blair smiled, "Let's go home."
"Do you want any more?" Blair asked, as Jim finished off his second plate of pasta.
"No, this is fine, really," Jim smiled shyly.
"It's okay, there's plenty. Got to build you up, get your strength back," Blair said, ladling him another plate full.
"You really don't have to do this, you know," Jim said looking up into those heart-stopping blue eyes.
"Of course I do, " the young man said sternly, "You're my guest, I have to take care of you. Now eat up."
Jim smiled and started into the third plate full with relish. He continued to watch his young friend furtively. Somehow, since they had arrived at his home, he'd seemed...nervous. Maybe he was changing his mind, and didn't know how to say it. "Blair?"
"Yeah, Jim?" the younger man looked up.
"Is everything okay?"
"Great, why?" Blair smiled.
"Well, you seem a little nervous. Does my being here make you uncomfortable?" Jim asked.
"No!" Blair said a little more forcefully than intended.
"Then why has your heart rate just increased, your sweat levels doubled and your pheromones are leaking all over the place," Jim suddenly looked up at the now furiously blushing face of his friend, "I'm sorry, Blair. I didn't mean to.." he put down his fork and rubbed his hand across his face wearily, "I didn't mean to intrude. I.."
"Hey, Jim. Chill out," Blair smiled, his face scarlet, "I of all people should know that there are things you can't keep from a Sentinel," he laughed nervously.
"That's no excuse. I didn't think," Jim replied.
"Look at it this way, at least you've learned to control your senses. That was a pretty quick and thorough investigation," he grinned, "And damned accurate."
"Oh, Blair. I'm sorry," Jim unconsciously reached for the younger man's hand. He sucked in a breath as their skins met, "Whoa!"
"Yeah, yeah. Before you say it, my pulse just doubled again," Blair said looking away, "I'm not scared of you, Jim, if that's what you think," he said
"Blair?" Jim frowned.
"Jim. Oh man, I'm in love with you," he said in one rushed sentence, "I got it so bad, you're all I think about anymore. It's so dumb. What the hell would a guy like you see in someone like me?"
"What?" Jim gasped, unable to believe what he was hearing, "Are you serious?"
"Oh," Blair looked up, shaking his head, "Very. I wish I weren't. I am like so serious, it's scary!"
"Blair?" Jim began, "You are the smartest, brightest, most attractive young man I've ever met. And you're worried that a sad, destitute old whore isn't going to find you worthy of his affections?"
Blair leaped to his feet, pacing erratically, "Don't say that about yourself, man," he said angrily, "You were never a whore," he waved his arms around wildly, "Just don't say those things!"
Jim pushed back the chair and climbed to his feet. Grabbing the young mans flailing arms he pulled him into an embrace. Folding his big arms around the smaller body, he held him tightly. He spoke gently as he rested his forehead against Blair's head, "I'm sorry, okay? Just take it easy."
"I'm sorry, Jim," Blair's muffled voice echoed through his body, "I just want you so bad."
Jim closed his eyes. Only in his wildest fantasies had he imagined hearing those words, "Oh, Blair. I hope you know what you're saying."
"I know," Blair's voice suddenly became clear as he looked up into Jim's eyes, "I know exactly what I'm saying."
"Have you ever had a relationship with a man before?" Jim asked.
Blair looked away shyly, "No," he whispered.
"Oh boy. The whore and the virgin. Sounds like somebody's bad comedy routine," Jim laughed lightly.
Blair sniggered against Jim's chest, "Oh don't tease, man. This is hard enough for me as it is. I feel like such a dork."
"You're no dork, trust me," Jim said kissing the top of Blair's head lightly, "Just one thing. If we're going to get into something heavy here, I just want you to promise one thing."
"We don't have full sex without protection, certainly not until I get my test results back," Jim said quietly, "After what happened in prison, I'm not sure I'm clean anymore. There is no way I'm going to put you at risk."
Blair tightened his arms around Jim's waist, "Okay. I can wait," he said in a whisper, the disappointment dripping from his words.
Jim reached down and pulled up his chin, "Hey, I didn't say we couldn't have sex," he grinned, "As long as we're careful."
Blair grinned, "Really?"
"Oh yeah," Jim met his lips hungrily. The younger man melted against him. Jim slid his hands beneath Blair's tee shirt, caressing the skin lightly. The action eliciting soft moans. "You are so beautiful, Blair," Jim whispered, "You're the only thing that's kept me going the past few months," he kissed Blair gently, running his fingers through tawny curls, "I don't know how I'll ever repay you for what you've done for me."
The younger man smiled, "You just did," he whispered.
"One kiss?" Jim said in mock surprise, "Wow, you're cheap!" he smiled into the bluest eyes he'd ever seen gazing up at him.
"Jim?" Blair said with a nervous tremor to his voice.
"Will...will you sleep with me tonight?" he asked in a small voice, "I mean...we don't have to. I..er..you know, just hold me?" he finished, squirming at the older man's smiling gaze.
"Of course I will," Jim kissed Blair's neck lightly, "And we'll do anything you want to do. If you just want to sleep the night away in my arms, then that's fine with me. Okay?"
"Okay," Blair sighed. Suddenly there was a scuttling sound and a snap, "Jim?"
"How accurate are you with a baseball bat?"
"You really should get better security measures," Jim warned, as they locked up before going to bed, "A five year old could break in here."
"And steal what?" Blair said with a smile, "My fifteen year old TV or my collection of Superman comics."
Jim grinned, "I was thinking more of your personal safety," he warned.
"I'm okay, why would anyone bother with me?" Blair asked as they walked into the bedroom.
"People don't need a reason," Jim said seriously. Suddenly, he stopped. Turning around he looked at his young friend. "So, how do you want to do this?" he asked.
Blair swallowed nervously, "What do you mean?"
Jim smiled at his reaction, "All I meant was, do you want some privacy to get undressed and get into bed? Or are you okay with me being here? It's your call, Blair."
"No, I...I'm okay with you being here," Blair smiled a weak, terrified smile.
"Okay," Jim said, pulling off his shirt.
Blair stared as the older man quickly stripped down to his boxers. He couldn't quite convince his fingers to work on opening the buttons of his shirt and the prospect of unzipping his jeans seemed like a Mensa test. Suddenly he realized that Jim was standing, smiling at him.
"You okay?" Jim said.
"What? Yeah!" Blair replied hurriedly looking away and trying to concentrate on his shirt buttons.
"Do you need any help?" the older man offered.
"No, I'm okay," Blair whispered. He pulled open a couple of buttons then gave up, wrenching the garment over his head. "Ouch!" he yelped, "The damn thing's caught on my earring."
"Come here. Keep still," Jim took the shirt and gently teased the tangled material from around the silver hoop. He smiled as Blair rubbed painfully at his ear. Suddenly, Jim leaned in and took the earlobe between his lips, sucking gently. Blair groaned and moved forward, resting against Jim's chest. "Have I kissed it better yet?" Jim whispered.
"Not yet," Blair panted.
Jim smiled as he took the delicate flesh back into his mouth, feeling the two metal rings against his tongue. Gently, he slid his hand down and unfastened Blair's jeans, pushing them down off his hips in one fluid motion. Sliding his hand back up the young man's chest he soon had the tee shirt over his head.
Blair suddenly realized that he was naked, all but for his jeans and boxers pooled around his ankles. He shook them off his feet and stepped back to look at his friend, "Wow, that was quick," he smiled at his strewn clothes. His eyes still dilated with the passion he'd succumbed to.
"Trick of the trade," Jim teased.
Blair swatted him playfully, "Can we get into bed now? The draught in here is cutting me in half."
"Sure," Jim pulled back the covers.
"Hey," Blair said suddenly, "How come I get naked and you still have shorts on?"
Jim raised his eyebrows and thought for a moment before swooping the shorts off and tossing them onto the chair, "Happy?" he asked, standing before Blair naked for the first time.
The younger man blushed, "Yeah," he laughed nervously, his eyes refusing to pull away from the sight of the most beautiful man he'd ever seen. Steeling himself, Blair slipped under the covers, pulling them up around his shoulders.
Jim clicked off the light and slid in beside him, "You are cold," he said pulling the young man into his arms.
Blair snuggled into the warm embrace, "I'll be okay, I soon warm up," he smiled.
"I'll make sure of that," Jim whispered. He felt Blair shudder, he wasn't sure if it was the cold air or the heated promise he'd just made that had caused the reaction.
"Oh, man. You are one fine hot water bottle," Blair sighed suddenly.
"Why thank you," Jim smiled in the darkness as he gently stroked the younger mans hair, "Glad I can be of service."
Blair gently ran his fingers across Jim's chest, "Oh, I love the feel of your smooth chest," he said in a small, sleepy voice, "I hate being hairy. Sleeping with me must be like sleeping with a rug," he giggled.
Jim gave a laugh, "Hey, I'm not complaining, am I?" he entwined his fingers in Blair's auburn curls, "You're just perfect for me." Jim leaned down and gently kissed him, first on the end of his nose, then lightly on the lips. In the dim light he saw Blair smile up at him sleepily. "Now go to sleep," he whispered.
"Your wish is my command," Blair said cuddling even closer, before drifting off into a deep sleep.
When Blair stirred, he was still firmly engulfed in Jim's arms. The bigger man slept soundly, his face relaxed in sleep, so handsome and so gentle. Blair merely lay and watched his Sentinel breathing, the way his chest rose and fell and the muscles, still lean from the last few months of pain and suffering, rippled and tensed under taut, bronzed skin. He couldn't think of anything quite so breathtaking as the sight that lay beside him.
Suddenly, Jim's eyes flickered open, he glanced down at the young man who lay curled into his side, "You're awake early," he whispered.
"Mmm, just watching you," Blair grinned.
"Really? Why, what was I doing?" Jim asked puzzled.
"Just sleeping," the younger man replied, "But you're so beautiful, I just had to watch."
Jim's face broke into a wide smile, he pulled Blair in closer, until the young man was sprawled on top of him, "Do I get a good morning kiss?" he asked.
Blair answered by assaulting Jim's mouth with an earth-shattering kiss, his body writhing as Jim's hands swept down his back, resting on his ass, pressing him in close. Blair could feel himself coming alive, he was getting hard just thinking about this man, let alone under the caress of these big, powerful hands.
He could feel Jim's growing erection pressing into him, urging him on. "Jim?" he gasped.
"I want to make love," Blair said pulling away to look into Jim's eyes.
"You sure?" the older man asked, "There are things we'll need."
Blair reached into the bedside cabinet and pulled out condoms and a bottle. "This do?" he asked unsurely.
"Were you a boy-scout?" Jim teased.
Blair laughed, "Well, will you?"
"Of course I will," Jim smiled gently, letting Blair fall back onto the bed. He covered the younger man's body, kissing and teasing the skin with such delicate touches.
As they explored each other intimately, Jim discovered the true pleasures of being a Sentinel, at least a Sentinel in love.
His senses were so heightened, so sharp that several times it was only the low, erotic moaning of his lover that grounded him and prevented him from spiraling off into zone-out. But, he always knew he was all right with Blair there to guide him.
His lover...his guide.
"Jim, now?" Blair breathed heavily.
"Okay, come on," Jim turned Blair over. Playfully, he bit the soft flesh of Blair's ass, causing the young man to shriek and then fall into a fit of giggles.
Jim teased and petted until he felt Blair relax beneath him. He was already hard, his cock ached for release, but Blair's pleasure was his goal, not his own. He wanted to make this beautiful young man ecstatic, make him scream with the joy of being loved.
Gentling his young lover like a skittish colt, he prepared himself and when at last he slid himself into Blair's ass, he could barely contain the orgasm that pounded at his mind and body.
Gripping his lover's hips, he waited for the nod that signaled he was happy to continue. Jim began to build a steady rhythm, pushing Blair, listening to his heart beat faster and his lung's gulp for air, almost zoning on the pheromones that flooded the air.
He reached around the supple young body beneath him. Grasping for Blair's erection, he almost caused the younger man to lose control when he began stroking his fingers lightly up and down its length.
Blair began to thrust into Jim's hand, his head thrown back, curls awry and floating in the air, the low guttural sounds replaced by fevered panting as he reached orgasm with a shout. Jim followed quickly, he pounded into his young lover with animal need, shuddering as he climaxed.
Lying silently together in the soft morning light, they enjoyed each other's warmth and slept.
Sitting in the lawyer's office made Jim very uncomfortable. Though he was now a free man, the feelings he had developed each time he saw the middle-aged graying man enter the room with yet more bad and damning news, could not be shaken.
Joe Shaw stood, arms folded, looking for all the world like the cat who'd licked the cream. He regarded Jim Ellison carefully, and the way Naomi's boy looked at him. Young Blair trusted him and that was all that mattered.
Slowly, he reached down and picked up a folder, "Before we conclude our business, Jim, I'd just like to give you this," he handed the brown file across the desk.
Jim took it from his fingers and quickly read the contents. Puzzled, he glanced back up at the older man, "I don't understand?" he said.
"Well, after what young Blair here told me about your situation and how you were dishonorably discharged from the army, I did a little checking," he grinned.
"You couldn't have found anything, it was secret work," Jim said suspiciously.
"Jim, there is more than one way to skin a cat," Joe smiled, "I have some very useful contacts, who heavily hinted at a military 'let's cover our ass' campaign. So I did some digging, called in a few favors," Joe began to pace around the room like a smug tiger who'd just had human for dinner, "And you should have seen what crawled from the woodwork on this one!"
"What do you mean?" Jim asked.
"Oh, I won't bore you with the details, suffice to say, the army have offered a small 'gratuity' payment to you, for any 'personal distress' caused. You see Jim, if they try to change your record, they admit liability for what happened out there, so that's not going to happen. But by offering you this, albeit secretly and off the record, they are admitting to you that it was not your fault."
"Is this what they consider the lives of my men is worth?" Jim said bitterly.
"No. This is what they consider your silence to be worth. It's not enough, not nearly enough, Jim. But it will give you a new start in life. Think about it. Just a week ago, you were looking at a lifetime in prison. Today, with this, you can start again."
"I know, you're right," Jim said, staring down at the check, "$250,000! Here I am turning up my nose at $250,000, and a few weeks ago I was selling my body for the cost of a meal."
Blair tightened his grip on Jim's arm, giving silent support to his beloved Sentinel.
"Your decision, Jim," Joe said.
Jim pondered for a moment, "Maybe it's time to move on, put the past behind me. I know that what I did in the jungle, for my men, was the most anyone could have done. I also know that if I try to take on the service in this, I'll lose. So, I'll take the money and make a new life. Do something worthwhile with it. That's the only way I know to really honor their memory," he said. Looking up at the lawyer, he smiled, "I don't think I ever quite thanked you for all you did, Joe."
"Hey, it was my pleasure. If I hadn't won this for you, Naomi would have eaten me alive," he grinned
Jim stood up and offered his hand, "Well, I really appreciate everything you've done," he said.
"I know you do, son. You just take care of Naomi's boy there," Joe smiled, "Because trust me, his mom is one lady you don't want to mess with."
Blair blushed slightly, before offering his hand also, "Joe, I'll be forever in your debt for this one," he smiled.
"No you won't. Watching the army brass squirm was payment in full," he grinned, "but you could put in a good word with your mother for me, the next time we fall out."
"Consider it done," Blair beamed. He turned to Jim and smiled softly, "Ready to go?"
"I think so," Jim said looking into Blair's eyes for just a moment too long for the expression to be anything but love.
"Good luck, gentlemen," Joe Shaw said quietly as he watched them leave.
Simon Banks stood at the door to Blair's warehouse home. He smiled widely at Jim Ellison, "It's good to see you free," he said.
"It's pretty good to be free," Jim replied, "Thanks to Blair and you."
"I was just doing my job. I'm just sorry that one of my officers didn't do theirs better in the first place, save you all this misery."
"That's life, Captain. But, I have a lot to thank this 'misery' for. I have the money to start again with a clean slate, my self respect back...and Blair," Jim smiled fondly.
"How is he?" Banks asked, "That kid is one of the toughest characters I've ever met. You should have seen the right hook he used to lay out Philips!"
Jim grinned, "Yeah, his looks are a little deceiving, huh?"
"I'll say. So, Ellison," Banks said, "What you going to do with yourself now?"
"Well, with the pay-out from the army, I thought I'd buy a decent place to live for starters," Jim smiled.
"What about a job? Those unique talents of yours shouldn't be wasted."
"Yeah, I'd been thinking about that," Jim said with a smile, "And I'd thought about starting up on my own as a private investigator. After all, my police record is clean now, so.."
Simon Banks smiled, "That's not a bad idea," he said with a nod, "With any luck you'll put me outta business. If I can do anything to help, you let me know."
"That's very kind of you. Captain Banks?" Jim said suddenly turning serious, "Thanks for being so good with Blair. I really appreciate it. He, he's very...special to me."
"He's a very 'special' young man," Banks clapped his large hand on Jim's shoulder, "You take care of him, now," he said quietly, "otherwise you'll have me to answer to."
"Tell me something?" Banks asked as he turned to walk away, "Does he always talk that much?"
Jim laughed, " 'Fraid so." The big cop gave a deep, rumbling snigger, and patted Jim sympathetically on the shoulder once again, before climbing into his car and driving away.
"Hey, Jim? Has Captain Banks gone?" Blair said suddenly appearing at Jim's side, "I wanted to thank him again."
"Yeah, just. Where have you been?"
"Just checking out the real estate places. I brought a few of these for you to go look at," Blair handed Jim a huge pile of papers.
"Okay," Jim opened the top one, "Let's go look at this one first. 852 Prospect."
"Oh, wow!" Blair whistled as they entered the loft apartment, 307 at 852 Prospect, "Man, this is like so cool."
"Mmm, it's nice. Plenty of room," Jim peered into what was obviously a kitchen. He wandered across the polished wooden floor and climbed the open staircase, which led into a bedroom. Looking down, he saw Blair step out onto the balcony and take a deep breath of the cool April air.
Moving silently back down the stairs, he moved in close behind his friend. Slipping his arms around the slim waist, he kissed the back of Blair's head tenderly. The young man leaned back into the embrace, reveling in the sudden warmth.
"You like it then?" Jim asked.
"Oh, yeah. This place is so beautiful, Jim," Blair sighed.
"So you'd live here?" Jim asked off-handedly
"Hell, yeah. You've seen my place. You can saddle those rodents, man," Blair giggled.
"So," Jim said trying to find the right words, "If I bought this place, would you come too?"
Blair turned around in Jim's arms, a puzzled look on his face, "Hey, I didn't mean that!" he protested, "I wasn't hinting or anything."
His worried face made Jim smile, "I know. What I'm trying to ask you, badly, is if I buy this place will you come live with me?"
"Why?" Blair gasped.
Jim sighed, looking down at the younger man patiently, "Because I'm going to need someone to clean and cook for me," he said with a straight face, " Why do you think? Because I love you and I want you to live with me."
Blair's face dropped, "Oh," he said swallowing noisily.
"Look, I don't mean you have to live with me as a lover or anything that you don't want to be. Just as my friend, to help me with my senses, to be there when I need you. God, this sounds so selfish," Jim shook his head.
Blair reached up and cupped the muscular jaw in his hands, reaching forward, he kissed the Sentinel's lips lightly, "It doesn't sound even slightly selfish and yes, I'd love to come live with you," he whispered.
Jim's face broke into a heart-stopping smile, he pulled the younger man into a bear hug, desperate to feel his warmth and breathe in his essence, "We're going to be okay, this time," he said.
"*We* will always be okay, so long as we have each other," Blair smiled, "All we ever needed to do was take a chance."