It had been almost three weeks since the event at the University, that had led Blair to turn detective. He had attempted to approach Jim on the subject of their conversation of that evening several times, but the older man had always managed to side step the issue with all the grace of a ballet dancer.
Blair Sandburg was a confused man.
He sat on the sofa, his laptop balanced precariously on one knee, and a notebook on the other. Biting nervously on a pencil, he awaited the sound of Jim's key in the door. He had come to a decision. This was it, the night that Jim Ellison sat down and discussed, like a normal human being, what he was playing at. The taunting and teasing had increased, but on the occasions that Blair had pushed him to explain himself, he'd backed off faster than a greyhound on race night.
Tonight, Jim Ellison was not going to get the chance to be evasive, or devise endless excuses why he couldn't sit and talk. Blair wasn't going to give him time. He was going in for the kill as Jim walked through the door.
<Jim, are you *really* attracted to me? I need to know where all of this innuendo is leading? And if it's leading nowhere, I want you to stop.> Blair ran through it in his mind for possibly the thousandth time that day, <Jim. Do *you* lie awake at night, imagining us together, with or without the chocolate ice cream? Do you fantasize about running your hands over me the way I do you? Those sensitive fingers, caressing my skin, slipping through my hair, tracing patterns across my thighs, sliding around my cock……oh God!> Blair sighed feeling his groin tighten,< Why am I the only one who has to furtively change the sheets every morning?> He pulled off his glasses and rubbed the bridge of his nose, <Yes,> he thought, <tonight is *the* night>
Suddenly, he heard the key slip into the lock. <This is it,> he thought nervously, < Jim, are you …>
The key turned. Blair's palms were sweating,<What if he says; 'No, I don't find you attractive you little pervert!' and throws me out?> he panicked, his heart began to pound, <Jim wouldn't do that,> reason spoke up, <No, but he might shoot you,> the dark thoughts added.
The door swung open.
"Hey, Chief," Jim's voice called cheerfully.
<He's in a good mood, great.> Blair thought, he cleared his throat, "Hey, Jim. Can I ask you something?" Suddenly he glanced down. A telltale bulge in his pants caused him to gasp. He grabbed the computer, pulling it into his lap.
"Sure. What?" Jim's voice was so close it made Blair jump, until he realized that Jim was leaning over the back of the sofa, his face only inches away from his own.
"Oh, er….well, oh…er," the younger man's mind ceased to function as his groin took over brain control.
"Got a problem, Chief?" Jim asked.
"No," Blair tried not to look at his partner, "It doesn't matter."
"Okay, I'm going to change and shower," Jim stood up straight and stretched. Suddenly he leaned back over, virtually touching Blair's face, "By the way, is that why they call that a 'hard drive'?" he sniggered. Blair flushed furiously. He could still hear the laughter as Jim walked up the stairs.
"Mmm," Jim said, mouth half-full, "this is good," he gestured to the plate in front of him.
"Glad you like it," Blair replied half-heartedly. He took a deep breath, "Jim?"
"Oh, Chief, hope you're free Saturday night?" Jim said suddenly.
Blair bit his tongue angrily, "Why?" he asked, damning himself for being so spineless, and allowing his partner to change the subject again.
"Robert Farrington is holding a benefit at the Museum and Gallery, and he's kissed a big enough ass to get Cascade PD as security for the night."
"How? That must be half the department's budget for the year!" Blair exclaimed.
"Yeah, I know. He's been getting death threats. Must be an occupational hazard when you're a corrupt, thieving, scum-bag, low life, but he's demanding protection, so we get to play nurse-maid."
"Death threats, huh?"
"Yup," Jim said, "thought of throwing one of my own in there while I was reading through all the others, but Simon said it was probably unwise."
Blair smiled. "You wouldn't have to sign it."
"I know but it's that damned cross I have to put on the bottom, give's it away every time," Jim sighed, "that and the Cascade PD notepaper," he grinned.
Blair laughed aloud. He looked up at Jim, his expression still alight with amusement. How he loved just looking at this man, reading the contours of his face. Each muscle that stretched and jumped when he smiled. Oh, that heavenly smile, the one he only ever used when he was totally relaxed and happy. And, Blair thought wishfully, he kept solely for his guide?
"So, you okay for Saturday then?" Jim said jolting Blair from his musing.
"Wha…Oh, yeah, no problem."
"Good, I'll reserve us a couple of dinner suits tomorrow." Jim pushed back his chair, and taking both empty plates, stood and walked over dropping them into the dishwasher.
"Just make sure you get the right size for me this time," Blair said, "last time I looked like a twelve year old who'd gone out in his dad's suit."
"Yeah, yeah, I'll order the right size. 'Big and macho' size for me, and 'cute and bouncy' size for you," Jim grinned.
Despite himself, Blair smiled, "Arrogant bastard!" he said, shaking his head, "Who else is on this detail then?"
Still smiling from Blair's taunt, Jim replied, "Oh, Rafe, Brown, you and me, Taggert…..and Simon," he gave a snigger.
"Simon! How did they get him to give up his Saturday? I thought he was taking Daryl to the game?"
"He was," Jim said turning to look at Blair, "orders from 'upstairs'. He is not a happy man. You want coffee?"
"Yeah, thanks." Blair walked over and sat on the sofa. He began to recite the mantra, < Jim, are you attracted to me? Do you love me? …>, it was now or never. Jim was in a good mood, they'd just had a nice meal, they were both relaxed…..No, make that Jim was relaxed, Blair had a knot in his stomach so big, it was threatening to reintroduce him to his dinner.
Jim strolled over, handing Blair a hot cup of coffee, he took it and mumbled his thanks. Jim dropped heavily down on the other end of the sofa. He kicked off his shoes and sprawled, legs wide, shoulders slumped, as he began to flick through the TV channels.
Blair watched him intently, noting his body language, the way he always seemed to dominate the situation. Everything about him screamed 'I'm in charge'. Blair on the other hand, realised that he was sitting hunched the other end of the sofa, trying to make himself look as small as possible.
<Yeah,> he thought, miserably <my body language screams invertebrate!> He looked at the side of Jim's face, all hard muscle, yet wearing the softest expression.
"Jim, I want to talk to you, about us," he said suddenly, all in one hurried sentence.
"Mmm?" Jim said, not really paying attention.
"Jim, are you listening to me?" he said beginning to feel angry. "JIM!"
"What?" the older man looked at him irritably.
"I need to talk to you. We need to get some things straight." Blair was feeling bolder by the minute.
"Sure, Chief. What's bugging you?" Jim asked.
"Well," Blair swallowed hard, he was losing it, he could feel Jim's eyes piercing his protective shield, "I er….I've been getting….messages, kind of signals,….."
"You didn't put any of those funny mushrooms in that pasta did you, Chief?" Jim smiled, "because if the next sentence out of your mouth includes the word 'aliens' or 'God', you're going downtown to get your stomach pumped," he sniggered.
"No, I did not," Blair pouted, "and I explained that…."
"Yeah, right!" Jim's attention drifted back to the TV.
Blair moved further along the sofa, until he sat next to his partner. <Close enough to kiss him,> he thought, his heart beginning to race. "Jim, I'm serious, I'm getting real confused with how things are going."
"What things?" Jim asked, eyes still watching the flickering images.
"The things with us," Blair cursed himself. He was supposed to be an educated man. He was working on *the* definitive dissertation on Sentinels. But, could he construct a coherent sentence when talking to his best friend? Could he hell, "Our…..relationship…." he continued.
"Chief, you know more about this Sentinel/guide thing than I do…" Jim sighed, still half watching the TV.
Blair put his hand on Jim's arm, "I don't mean that…" he said, desperately trying to find the right words. He found himself leaning forward, <maybe actions would speak louder than words> he considered, all semblance of rational thought deserting him, <Maybe a kiss on that muscular jaw would bring the message home?>
Suddenly the telephone rang, Jim leaped to his feet, causing Blair to fall unceremoniously onto his face.
"Yeah, Simon. Will do," Jim grumbled into the receiver. Blair still lay there. Jim slammed down the phone angrily, "I have to go back to the Precinct for a while, some perp I picked up earlier is squealing to see me," at that moment Jim looked around to see his roommate still face down on the sofa, "Hey, Chief. You okay?"
"Do me a favor, Jim?" Blair's muffled voice asked.
Saturday came so quickly, the younger man never had a chance to talk further to his partner. Jim had been busy at the precinct and setting up the security details at the museum and art gallery, so Blair had hardly seen him. Often only long enough to merely indulge in pleasantries as they had passed in the doorway.
Blair Sandburg was becoming one *very* frustrated young man.
He glanced in the mirror. At least the suit fitted this time, and with his curls pulled back and tethered at his neck, he didn't look so bad. But, alas, still nothing like a cop.
"This goddamned thing," Jim grumbled.
Blair turned to see his partner fighting with a particularly malicious bow-tie. "Oh, come here, " Blair sighed, slapping the Sentinels fingers away irritably.
"I still don't see why I can't wear the clip on tie," Jim moaned.
"Because only geeks and six year olds wear clip on bow-ties, Jim, " Blair replied.
Jim pouted, "Who exactly is going to know?" he asked.
"Me," Blair said, "I'll know. I would walk into that place, knowing that *my* partner, the big tough Cascade cop, was wearing a wussy bow-tie. This knowledge would make me unable to hold my head up in public again. So shut up and keep still," he finished the tie and stood back to admire the scenery, "Not bad. In poor lighting, you'd pass for a human being!" he grinned.
"Funny, Sandburg," Jim said, "You ready?"
"Me? Yeah, all set."
Ten minutes later, Blair still stood outside of the front door, waiting for Jim to finish his 'checks'.
"Jim, man. We're gonna be late. Will you hurry up?"
"Just checking the window locks," came the tense reply.
"You know something?" Blair said, "You are getting *seriously* neurotic about all of this. Larry went the same way, just before he *freaked* on me," Blair's hands flew into the air as he described the downfall of his 'last' primate subject.
Jim stepped out of the door and glared at his young partner, "Just because I'm paranoid, Chief, doesn't mean no one's out to get me!"
"Oh, yeah. I can definitely see the trend towards the same obsessive compulsive behaviour here that Larry showed," Blair warned gravely.
"Maybe, Sandburg," Jim said, " You should just bear this in mind- the only thing that Larry and I really have in common? Living with you!"
When they arrived at the Museum and Art Gallery, everything was quiet. The police personnel went about their duties, sweeping the place for explosive devices, checking and rechecking doors, windows and fire escapes.
After checking out the building and going through the security set up a thousand times with Simon, Blair decided he needed a break from police business. He'd decided that the lock neurosis that Jim had displayed wasn't a primate problem or even a Sentinel thing…..it was a cop thing.
The people had begun to filter through the doors. Blair stood at Jim's side. Always there should his Sentinel need him, always the watchful guide. Or, if you wanted to look at it a different way, kind of like a puppy who had been told to stay by his master's side in case he pees up the good drapes.
<Yeah, that's how Jim sees me,> Blair thought miserably watching the cop wander away suddenly, <like an incontinent Cocker Spaniel.>
"Hello," a voice said suddenly from behind him.
Blair turned to see a tall elegant man, around forty years old, with a hooked nose. He reminded Blair of some exotic bird of prey, sinewy, powerful and predatory.
"Oh. Hi," Blair smiled.
"I don't think I've seen you around here before? I'm Charles Fletcher, I have an exhibition on display tonight," he said.
"Pleased to meet you. I'm Blair Sandburg, I'm part of the Cascade PD team," Blair said with some discomfort, as Fletcher's eyes roamed slowly down his body, taking in every detail.
"You're a cop?"
"No. I'm just an observer. I work with Detective Ellison," Blair said, forcing another smile.
"Lucky him," Fletcher leered
"Er….it was nice meeting you, If you'll excuse me…..er Detective Ellison…needs me," Blair said, trying to extricate his hand from Fletcher's talon.
"Like I said. Lucky him," the tall man smiled, "I'll see you later? Or maybe you'd like to come see my private collection sometime?"
Blair swallowed hard, "Maybe," he said, trying to escape into the crowd. As the other man let go his hand, he slid his long boney fingers across Blair's palm seductively, causing the repulsed young anthropologist to shudder.
When he finally found Jim, the detective was in a huddle with Simon discussing police procedure that Blair neither wanted to know about nor cared about at this point. He just wanted to go home, with Jim, and tell him that he was in love with him. <Then get horribly murdered and spend eternity in the support column of the new freeway,> he thought, <hell, even that has to be preferable to living like this.>
Wandering back into the crowd, Blair looked around. Everything seemed very civilized. 'Nice' rich people, drinking 'nice' expensive champagne, trying to discuss art and culture that they knew nothing about, and probably never would. He had browsed the exhibits until his feet were killing him. Dipping behind the largest potted plant he had *ever* seen, he sat down on a cane bench that encircled the giant pot. Pulling off a shoe, he winced, his toes were throbbing like hell. He could take the restraints of the suit, even the tie, but to his sneaker -softened feet, these patent leather shoes were murder.
Suddenly, Blair heard familiar voices the other side of the plant. Detectives Rafe and Brown.
"Hey, Rafe. Have you noticed that weird artist guy, Fletcher? He has a *serious* case of the hots for Sandburg!" Brown giggled.
"No?" Rafe gasped.
"Yeah, like I told him, 'Man, he is the *forbidden* zone. That guy has 'property of James Ellison' tattooed across his ass, and I for one would *not* like to challenge that.' "
"Whoa, me neither!" Rafe echoed the thought nervously, "I wonder if Ellison had a teddy bear when he was a kid? I read a book that said, you get *super* possessive in adulthood if you don't have a teddy bear when you're a kid."
"Rafe, my man, you read *way* too much for your own good," Brown laughed, "anyway, what happens if you had a bear, but your older brother ripped off it's head in front of you?"
"Oh, that came under, 'psychotic behavior', didn't read that far, never got to the S's!" Rafe grinned.
Brown gave a hoot of laughter. "Hey, we'd better get back to work, before the Captain chews our ass."
Blair still sat behind the plant pot, a stunned expression on his face.
<So, that's what they think I am,> he thought angrily, <some kind of Ellison sex toy?> he gave an ironic laugh, <and it's not even goddamned true.>
Blair decided that it was time he got back to Jim, the presentation was due to start, and if there was going to be trouble, it was going to be during that.
Glancing around the room, he spotted Jim talking to a young girl. Wandering over, he caught the conversation midway through.
"Hey, that's great, I'm very pleased for you, Monica, congratulations," Jim smiled.
"Thanks, Jim," the pretty blonde girl beamed, openly flirting with him, "I couldn't have finished my portfolio without you."
"My pleasure, glad I could help."
"Hey, Jim. Wondered where you'd gone," Blair said pushing in.
"Oh, Sandburg. This is Monica Shaw, she was an art student at Rainier," Jim said with a smile that begged Blair to rescue him.
"Yeah, I remember you," Blair smiled, his mind going back to the art room at the University, the night he discovered Jim's big secret.
"She's won a scholarship to study art in Paris," Jim explained.
"Oh, wow. Congratulations!" Blair said.
She smiled shyly at him, "Thank you," her eyes strayed back to Jim.
<Hell,> Blair thought, <she has the same problem I do. *She* can't get Jim's naked butt out of her mind either.>
"Well, I'm sorry I have to rush away, Monica, but I am supposed to be working," Jim said finally.
"That's okay, it was nice to see you again."
"Yeah, you too."
Jim grabbed Blair's arm and led him away, toward the main gallery in the west wing of the Museum.
"I couldn't believe it when she recognized me," Jim whispered.
"And with your clothes on too," Blair grinned maliciously.
"Will you keep your voice down."
"What's it like to be famous?" Blair continued, "Did she ask you for your autograph? Or maybe a few more 'sketching' sessions?"
"Gimme a break, " Jim sighed.
" Detective James Ellison, Cascade PD sex symbol," Blair spread his hands wide in front of him, as if reading a headline, " they'll be asking you to do a calendar next. You know the sort, the one's where they rub you with baby oil and make you pout at the camera, " Blair began to snigger, "Just you an' your night-stick," he hooted, as his face lit up with mirth.
"You are so damn funny, Sandburg, you're painful."
"Today, Cascade PD, tomorrow Playgirl!" Blair erupted into giggles, drawing puzzled looks from the assembled crowd.
"If you can't behave yourself, you're going home, " Jim hissed.
"Okay, Dad." Blair teased. Jim shot him a stormy look. The younger man smiled apologetically, "Oh, man, I'm sorry. This is just too much fun to pass up."
"You're supposed to be working, here," Jim grumbled, "Simon wants us to check out the main gallery before Mr, 'Charisma' gives his speech. They're unveiling the new exhibits in five minutes."
"Okay, Jim. Sorry," Blair tried to control his giggles, sucking in deep breaths to quell the rising tide of laughter.