When did this happen? When did the simple acceptance of his partner in his life become a neccessity? And when did it turn into this all consuming hunger?
He thought, "Dear God. Him. A man. A he. Not a woman, not a she. The wrong gender."
And he couldn't get a handle on it. Hell, he wasn't sure he even knew what "it" was.
The myriad of things he felt, the warmth when he stood next to him, the wonderful ease of being with him. And the missing him when they were apart. How the sound of his laugh could ease tense muscles and how a simple placement of a hand on an arm could calm.
If he made a list of all the secret things he wanted in a woman, in his "soulmate", how would his partner measure up?
Being the selfish man he was, he knew he wanted "her" to put him before all others. And she had to have a sense of humor, because he didn't do humor well, but needed it in his life now. A few years ago he would have said he wanted someone who thought as he thought, saw the world as he saw it, but he'd had that and it hadn't given him "forever", and he needed forever.
Intelligence. She has got to be smart. And have a wide-eyed wonderment of life and it's mysteries.
Energy, excitement. He has to have that, but also the ability to find the quiet in himself.
And faith. In him, because he knew he was a tough nut to crack, had his weaknesses, but with that faith would be the love to give him in spite....no...because of those weaknesses.
Reality check here. Looks aren't everything, but they have to be on the list. Ok, so... Blonde? Redhead? Brunette? Brunette, definitely brunette. With gold highlights, and sometimes auburn, when the light hits just right. And blue eyes, deeper than his own. Eyes that say so much and hide even more.
Shit. When did "she" become "he", "him"?
//I just described Blair.//
In Peru Jim had been told he would have to give up his life, his soul, and he had. But he hadn't. Blair was his life...his soul. Jim had been given so much more than he had given up.
//I need to tell him. Now//
Blair deserved to know. He may not return the feelings, but he had to know. He wouldn't panic or judge. He might analyze, examine and maybe? Just maybe, return Jim's feelings?
"Ellison, Sandburg. In my office."
//I'll tell him tonight.// *****************************************************
Once the two men were settled in his office, Simon addressed them.
"Word on the streets is that the Manetti brothers are back in business. We have feelers out, but Jim I need you to talk with your people, see if we can find the location of their new meth lab."
"No problem, Simon." Jim answered.
"Five teens died last go around, so this will be a joint effort between our department and Vice. Let's shut these guys down before their poison hits the streets....again."
Both Ellison and Sandburg nodded, both remembering all too well the last time tainted drugs from the Manetti brothers had hit the streets. They got up and headed out.
By the end of the morning, one of Ellison's "snitches", Sneakers, had come through with a location. And this time Sandburg kept his shoes.
Now, several hours later, Jim and Blair were parked at the south end of Clauson street, facing the building that housed the meth lab.
This part of town was deserted, as most of the buildings were slated for demolition as part of the city's Urban Renewal Program. Members of Vice and Major Crimes were stratigically placed around the building. Ryf and Brown were at the north of the street and Simon was just around the corner from where Jim was parked. They were waiting for the signal that the Manetti brothers had arrived, then everyone would move in.
Sandburg sat quietly next to Jim, staring out the window, and Jim found his thoughts straying back to the conclusions he had come to earlier as he watched Blair under the guise of checking out the area....and changed his mind.
//I can't tell him.//
If Blair didn't return his feelings, couldn't return them...then their relationship would be forever changed, and Jim couldn't risk losing what he already had with the young anthropologist. *****************************************************
Blair was confused. His mind and body were giving messages about Jim that he no longer understood.
//Jim's my best friend.//
Best friend. There was something he had never had, not even close friends. With a mother never able to stay in one place for very long, Blair learned that making friends was a no-no. Instead he had buried himself in books, observing Naomi and her friends and Naomi and her many boyfriends. And Blair learned early, when the boyfriends were around, he needed to be invisible. Because a few of those boyfriends wanted to get a little too close, had gotten a little to close, to Naomi's boy.
So, invisible became good...safe. But, one had to bury so much....and eventually Blair had buried too much of himself with the hurt and pain of those early years. He learned to use his manic energy, his "talk a mile-a-minute" style to direct people "away" from him, away from getting too close. And no one had ever figured it out, because he had become that good at "misdirection".
But lately...he was slowing down, too tired to hide and maybe...just maybe, hoping someone would "catch" him.
Would care enough, dig deep enough, and love him enough to accept what was found.
Blair could look at the new feelings he was experiencing for his partner and recognize them for what they were. Love. He loved Jim Ellison. And he would do nothing about it. If he did, Jim would find out the truth and he couldn't let that happen....there were fantasies and there was reality. Fantasy tried to convince him of happy endings, reality said, "Shut up and leave things alone. Accept the status quo, it's more than you have ever had before." So, Sentinel/ Guide, Friends, Partners, and that was enough. ******************************************************
The radio cracked in Jim's ear.
"Ellison, they just arrived. You ready?"
Jim turned to Sandburg and said his usual stay put. Sandburg started to argue, as usual, but Jim waved him off, "Chief, this will go down hard. You have the radio, if I need you, I'll call." And with that, Jim left the truck and moved towards Simon.
Jim was right. It went down hard and it went down bad.
Two vice cops jumped the gun and the shoot-out began. Officers moved in and the lab was soon over-run...but the Manetti brothers managed to get out in the same van in which they'd arrived. Unfortunately, Jim and Simon were just crossing in front of the garage doors when Jim heard the revving engine and realized what was about to happen.
He moved fast, yelling a warning to Simon at the same time as his body hit the larger man's knocking them both back and out the way of the van as it crashed through the doors.
It careened around the corner and down Clausen. Brown and Ryf took position and fired, hitting the tires.
The driver lost control, the van swerved and headed, still at high speed, toward a certain parked truck. ****************************************************
As soon as the gunfire started, Blair's first impulse was to join his sentinel, and a few months ago, he would have. But now he knew from experience that without knowledge of everyone's position, he could do more harm than good. So he stayed put. Anxious, but "put".
And a few moments later saw the van coming straight for him.
He released the seatbelt and reached for the door..... *****************************************************
Jim and Simon struggled up and started after the van. As they rounded the corner they were rocked by an explosion.
Jim heard Brown yell and Ryf scream and he knew.
He and Simon came around the corner to a vision straight from hell.
The van had slammed into Jim's truck, forcing it up and over the curb, both vehicles coming to rest against the buildings.
Seconds later the van, full of guns, ammo and chemicals, exploded, taking the truck with it.
In spite of the intense heat of the blaze Jim ran straight towards truck, screaming Blair's name. Brown grabbed him as he started to run past, pulling him back. They struggled, then Jim's body went still. He heard it. A voice. The voice. Yelling out a name.
He quickly scanned the area, his body again straining against Brown, and then Brown's voice.
"It's no use Jim. No one could survive."
"Quiet!" Jim yelled. Brown started to say something but was stopped by Simon.
"No, Brown, let him go."
Jim moved forward and finally "saw" Blair. Judging by his body temperature and the sound of strained breathing, they didn't have much time. He turned back to Simon.
"We need to move those vehicles now. Blair is trapped between the two buildings...the heat, losing oxygen..."
"How does he know..." Ryf began, but Simon interrupted him.
"Never mind Ryf, you heard the man, think!"
The answer turned the corner. The Coroners vehicle. Jim didn't hesitate. He ran up, pulled the driver out to "What the Hell?", jumped in, shoved it into drive and moved forward. Lining up to the burning vehicles, he pushed the accelerator to the floor and acting like a battering ram, shoved the vehicles away from the alley between the two buildings.
Simon, Ryf and Brown rushed towards the slight figure on his knees in the small alleyway. Jim got there first. ******************************************************
"I'm not spending the night in the hospital. Period."
"Yes you are Chief."
"Jim, I'm ok. It's just a precaution anyway, you know how doctors are. Look, I just want to go home."
Jim found that he couldn't refuse him, this time.
"Ok, you win. Let's go home."
Once home, all Blair wanted was a hot shower and clean clothes. As he headed into the bathroom, Jim went to the kitchen to get dinner started.
When Blair came out, in sweatpants and a T-shirt, it was to the wonderful aroma of chilli warming on the stove.
"I wasn't, but your chili just sent me over the edge", he laughed.
"Well, thank god for freezing leftovers. Let's eat."
Blair sat down while Jim served up a salad and the chili. They ate in companionable silence, with Blair stifling only a couple of yawns. When he finished, he got up to take his dishes into the kitchen, but Jim stopped him.
"I'll get that Chief, why don't you get comfortable in the livingroom, I'll clean up and then start a fire. Sound good?"
Blair froze...and thought briefly of the Twilight Zone, then looked closely at Jim...who looked back, smiling.
"Um, ok JIm...and thanks."
Jim just kept smiling.
To the domestic sounds of Jim in the kitchen, Blair settled deeply into the couch, closed his eyes and listened. He may not have sentinel hearing, but what he could hear of Jim in the kitchen, he could enjoy.
He must of nodded off, because the next thing he heard was a crackling sound. His eyes popped open and he realized it was just the fireplace. Jim had lit a fire as promised and it was now spreading it's warmth throughout the darkened loft.
Blair turned his head and was surprised to see Jim settled in on the other end of the couch, looking at him and still smiling.
"Feeling Ok? Warm enough?" Jim asked.
"Yeah, this is great, man."
Jim leaned forward.
"Good, because...well, there is something I need to say."
Jim smiled, "Yeah Chief, you always do."
Blair waited, curious and not a little puzzled.
Jim had thought of a dozen ways to tell him since he'd pulled him out of that alley, but for the life of him, he couldn't think of a single one, now that he was looking at the beautiful man next to him....so he plunged in.
"Blair, I....almost lost you today, so I.... changed my mind."
Blair's eyes widened, "You changed your mind about what exactly?"
"I wasn't going to tell you, but then...the fire, you trapped....so I changed my mind", Jim finished, as if that explained everything.
"Jim, I am so lost here..."
"I love you, Blair."
//There, I've said it.//
"Well, ok...I love you too."
Jim was shaking his head, "No, Blair, I am in love with you."
And Blair's world cracked. And broke. *****************************************************
Jim saw the expression of pain on Blair's face and the words began to tumble out.
"It's ok Blair, if you can't, don't....feel the same way. I don't expect you to. But..well, after today, you deserve to know...that someone loves you. Loves you more than their own life. And it can't hurt to be loved....can it?"
//I didn't think so, until now.//
Blair jumped off the couch and hurried toward the door, then turned to the kitchen, then turned again...completely lost.
Jim could smell the panic and fear in Blair and quickly got up to help him, hold him. He moved to the younger man, reached out a hand as he got closer.
"Please, Blair, it's ok", he whispered.
"You can't love me, Jim. You don't know... you don't know what I've done...".
Jim had stopped a few feet away and as if sensing him, Blair turned to face him.
"Blair, there is nothing you could do or say, that would change how I feel about you."
Blair's eyes lifted to Jim's, looked deep, then squared his shoulders and responded.
"Ok, Jim, let's see...", he said it as if it were a dare.
Blair walked to the couch, placed his hands on the back and whispered, "I sat right here. With Amber, while she talked about what she did, why she did it. I told her I wasn't judging. She didn't believe me, said all men judge", he gave a bitter laugh, "But I wasn't judging, but I didn't tell her the truth either, I let her believe...what she believed, when in reality", he held his arms out hopelessly, "I was no different."
//Be careful Jim, very careful.//
Jim said nothing, just let Blair see he was willing for the younger man to continue.
Blair saw, and it angered him. He took two angry steps toward Jim.
"Don't you get it, man? I was...no....different! Understand? How could I judge Amber when I'd been there....get it now, Jim?", his voice rose, "Your guide, your partner, the person you love", he spat out the word, "PROSTITUTED HIMSELF! SOLD HIMSELF! Now do you understand?"
//Don't let him see the shock.//
"Blair, if you chose that...at some point, you must have had a good reason. I know how you feel about prostitution, the damage it does to the soul....", his voice trailed off.
//Oh, God. Blair.//
But Blair was smiling and it wasn't a nice smile.
"Oh yeah, Jim, I had a real good reason. I needed money. Good enough for you?", he didn't wait for an answer, "Just money. I ran out. I was already working one job and because I was underage I couldn't find another. I confided in a "friend", there's a laugh, and he said he knew a way to make some easy money, working parties a couple nights a week. Working parties, right. I knew exactly what he meant. And I did it."
"My God, Blair, where was Naomi?"
Blair waved his arms dismissively, "Where is Naomi ever?"
Then Blair's "underage" remark hit Jim like a fist.
"Blair....how...old were you?"
"Just turned seventeen", he responded, his voice flat.
Jim tried to put the facts together with bits and pieces of Blair information. He knew Blair had been left virtually on his own, with friends and relatives helping out, from the time he turned thirteen and that he had started some classes at Rainier at sixteen.
//Jesus. What can I say to him?//
Then Jim had an idea. A word really. An important word to Blair. Unconditional.
"Blair, I don't really understand everything yet, I'm a bit...lost here, but I do know one thing. My love for you is unconditional. Nothing you could do will change that. My love won't go away and neither will I."
Blair whirled around and yelled.
"WEREN'T YOU LISTENING? I....SOLD... MYSELF...FOR MONEY! WHAT PART OF THAT DIDN'T YOU UNDERSTAND?"
Jim calmly responded, "What part of "unconditional" didn't you understand, Blair?"
Blair shook his head.
//Keep him talking, get it all out.//
"Blair, how long?"
Blair's head stopped shaking. Now he just stood there, head down, hands quietly at his side.
"A few weeks."
"What stopped you?"
"The last one...got violent. And when I realized I wanted him to kill me.....I knew I was in trouble, got the hell out..."
Jim reached out for Blair's arm. When Blair made no move to stop him, he took it and guided him to the couch and sat him down.
"What happened next?"
Blair brought his legs up onto the couch, crossing them, and ran his hands through his hair.
"You really want all of this, JIm? I mean, haven't you heard enough?"
"Blair, again, you have said nothing that would change how I feel. What happened next?"
Blair stared at him, bored into him, really. And Jim stayed still, expectant.
Blair must have seen what he needed, because he continued, his voice stronger.
"I guess you could say I had a ...kind of a... breakdown. It didn't take me long to realize you don't have a breakdown because of a few weeks of....", he stopped, seemed to collect himself and continued, "Well, I knew there was something wrong....and I remembered a friend of Naomi's, a pyschologist and I went to her....".
"And she helped you...?"
"Yeah, she really did. I was in serious denial about...some incidents...from when I was a child...she helped to see that these "incidents" had done a real number on my sense of self worth....on my self image...", Blair stopped, looked at Jim with a weak smile, "Guess you're not the only one in this partnership who is into serious repression, man."
Jim smiled back, feeling, for the first time, that there was light at the end of this particular tunnel. But he also realized that the hard part was still to come. He moved closer, their knees now touching and was relieved when Blair didn't pull away. In fact, he seemed to lean into the closeness, taking strength from it.
"Look Jim, you know about all the moving around, all the different communes, cities, friends....boyfriends...", seeing Jim nod, he continued, "Well sometimes, the boyfriends got a little too....friendly....with me...And a couple of times, it was....more. First when I was....six, then again...when I was ten. That time....was the worst."
"What did Naomi do?"
//Hell, how could she have let this happen//
"I...didn't tell her, I mean, she knows now, the therapy sessions and all, but then, well they threatened me...I was a kid, I believed them... that I would be taken from my mother, or worse, put in jail...I mean...I was a kid", he ended helplessly...
"And yeah, Jim, I *know* I was the victim, I *know* it wasn't my fault....but I still sold myself and nothing, no excuses can change that."
Jim reached for one of Blair's hands, capturing it as it moved restlessly about and said, "Wrong. Very Wrong! You weren't responsible at six, you weren't responsible at ten and you weren't responsible at seventeen. You were the victim all the way down the line. Period." Then he added, "So now, I've heard everything?" Blair nodded.
"Good. See Blair, I still love you. Even more, if that's possible. So the only question is, will you let me love you?"
Blair's eyes widened, his mouth forming an "o".
//Ok, Jim. Here it comes, your future//
Blair pulled his hand from Jim's, but before Jim could misunderstand he took Jim's hand and brought the palm to his lips.
"There is nothing I've wanted more, Jim. And there is nothing else I've wanted to do exept love you back."
Blair was still holding Jim's hand, so Jim used his other one to caress Blair's face, then moved it to the back of Blair's head and gently pulled him close. When their faces were inches apart, he stopped. Blair's lips were slightly parted, his breathing accelerated and his eyes focused on Jim's mouth. Jim knew instinctively that the next move had to be Blair's.
Blair completed the move, his lips meeting Jim's. It was softer and sweeter than anything Jim had imagined.
They pulled away, only slightly, as if to see how the other was taking the kiss, and found that they were both smiling. In a voice husky with passion, Jim said, "I love you, Blair."
"I love you, Jim, with everything I have", he answered simply.
Jim felt the hunger now, the need. He had to claim that mouth. With one arm wrapped around his waist and one hand tangled in his hair, Jim pulled Blair into his arms. His mouth fastened onto Blair's, demanding entrance. Entrance was granted and he found his tongue sucked into that sweetness. Blair's arms encircled Jim's chest.
Jim realized he was losing himself in the taste, the feel and the smell of the man he was holding, but it was the kind of "lost" he wanted. He didn't want to zone, but at the same time he wanted to experience all of this man, use all his senses to know him in every way. He wanted to be in him, bury himself as deeply as he could, forging a connection that could never be broken. And judging by the way Blair was moving against Jim, as if he could enter him by sheer osmosis, Blair wanted that same connection.
Their hands were now exploring, stopping only long enough for Jim to pull the T-shirt over Blair's head and for Blair to pull open buttons and slide Jim's shirt aside.
Now lips and tongues joined the exploration, kissing, tasting and licking. The heat between the two men building rapidly.
"I've got to ....feel you", Jim breathed and his hands went down to the sweatpants, pulling them below Blair's hips and finally his hand closed around Blair's engorged cock. He was already so close to the edge that it didn't take long for Jim's actions to push him over. He came, yelling Jim's name. And the sight and sound of his lover's orgasm brought Jim to his climax.
For a few minutes they just held on to each other, as breathing slowed and vision was restored.
Finally Jim got them flat on the couch with Blair laying over him, his head fitting just beneath Jim's chin. Their arms were wrapped around each other, their hearts beating in a single matched rythm.
After several minutes, Blair mumbled into Jim's chest.
"Jim, from now on, I don't wait in the truck, right?"