DRAWING THE LINES - part 2

 

 

When Blair entered the loft, he knew he was in trouble.  He had spotted Jim's truck out in front when Brown and Rafe had dropped him off. Each man showed chagrinned looks and offered their apologies, when Blair explained the stack of exams that still awaited his attention.  Now closing the door, the loft dark except for the soft glow from the end light of the sofa, he saw his Sentinel awaiting the return of his errant Guide.

 

"Hi, Jim," he said wearily as he closed the door. "Please let's not start on it tonight. I've had a really bad night."

 

"Blair, I have no issue with you going out.   I wish you had left a note, and I was a little worried but I figured you went out with friends.  As long as you are happy with your progress and not under any more pressure. So, are you done?" Jim asked, but by his tone, Blair knew that Jim had seen the large stack still sitting on the table.

 

"Well, not exactly, but, man, I just had to see the Sonics game. Rafe and Brown had front row seats. I would have been back earlier if we hadn't of gotten the call to check out an accident on Highway 9."  He came around and sat on the couch next to Jim, keeping about two feet between them.

 

"Was it a bad one?" Jim asked watching his lover's face in the dim light for the usual distress when Blair saw someone injured or killed.

 

"A woman drove off the road. She has a concussion and was unconscious when they took her to Cascade General. I hope she makes it, Jim.  Rafe and Brown got the call, she was apparently assaulted in her home and swerved off the road trying to get away."

 

Ellison’s jaw flared in its usual reaction to the frustrations of police work. Ellison sighed heavily. "I hope so, too, Chief."  Extending his arm along the back of the sofa, he said softly "Come here.  I’ve missed you".

 

Blair quickly crossed the distance and snuggled his face into Jim's shoulder. "Man, I've missed you, too. I thought I'd enjoy the time by myself, without you here to tell me to do this and do that," he laughed as Jim, swatted the back of his head with his free arm, the one he now brought up behind Blair to pull him in closely.  "It's too quiet around here sometimes without you."

 

"Do you think you'll have these graded by tomorrow night?"

 

"Hey, man, no problem," Blair said, pushing away. "I've only got about 75 more to go. How about you show me how much you missed me." Then with a lascivious grin, he jumped off the sofa and raced up the stairs two at a time.  Ellison was right behind him.

 

 

 

 

MONDAY

 

Monday came and went with little incident for Sandburg. The day seemed to tailor itself to his demands.  Most of the exams were finished grading by four. Picking up the phone he called Jim at the station.

 

“Jim, I’ll be here late tonight. I’ve got ninety five-percent of the exams graded and there’s really no sense in lugging the rest of this stuff home. I can finish up here by nine and I should be home after that.”

 

“Fine, Chief, but no later than nine. I’ll probably be tied up late tonight myself,” Jim told him.

 

“How’s Katherine Barkley?” Blair asked, feeling sick to his stomach, remembering the young woman on the stretcher.

 

“Chief, she’s still in a coma.  The lab boys didn’t pick up much. He apparently is the same rapist that’s been attacking women in the vicinity.  He wears surgical gloves, so he didn’t leave any prints.”

 

“I just hope you catch him, Jim.”

 

“Me, too.  With you by my side, I’m sure we will, Chief.”

 

“Yeah, Jim, we will.”

 

Ellison heard the pleased sound and smiled to himself. “Talk to you later, and remember,” he paused for effect, “no later than nine.”

 

“Gotcha,” Sandburg said and hung up the phone.

 

 

 

“Ellison! Brown! Rafe!” Simon bellowed for an audience.

 

As soon as Ellison closed the door and took his seat at the conference table, Simon threw a report in front of each of them.

 

“Seems our rapist has struck again, or more to the fact, tried to strike again. Katherine Barkley was assaulted before her accident. Bruises along her neck, abdomen and face show she was physically assaulted.  She must have broken away and just ran to her car.  In a blind panic trying to get away from her attacker, she lost control of the car and went down the incline.”

 

“Rafe, set up a map and plot the rapes in grids, Brown talk to her friends; find out who she met with, knew, what stores she shopped, I want to know everyone she had lunch with, I want to find out her activities for the past two months. If she walked her dog or talked to the mailman, I want to know about it. It seems Ms. Barkley is the sister-in-law of Commissioner Vondberg.  We’re going to start feeling the heat on this one, people, let’s get to work.”

 

Ellison remained seated while Rafe and Brown eagerly exited.  Simon followed them to the door and waited until they had returned to their respective desks. Then he shut the door and turned to Ellison.

 

“Jim, the car is in the garage. I want you to look over it. Forensics came up with squat, but seeing as how you’re a one man crime lab, I want you to give it a shot.”

 

“Sure, Simon,” Jim said, but remained seated. He heard the increased heartbeat of his friend and Captain.  “You seem pretty upset about this.  Did you know her?”

 

The tall man returned to his desk. He poured himself a cup of coffee then sat down in his chair.  Leaning back, he sighed. “I met Katherine last Christmas at the Commissioner’s house. It was a small party and she was my dinner companion. It just grates, Jim, when it’s someone you know. Rape is a vicious crime, but when it’s someone you know, then it hits home."

 

“Sir, we’ll catch this guy. I promise you.” 

 

Jim rose and opened the door. “Oh, sir, Sandburg should be available starting tomorrow afternoon. We’ll get him involved.”

 

Simon smiled as Ellison made his way back to his desk. I wonder if he realizes how much he really does depend on the kid.

 

 

 

 

TUESDAY

 

Blair entered the bullpen Tuesday afternoon feeling good.  It had all worked out in the end.  Grades were posted, three weeks of non-academia awaited him, and he could work with Jim in the ease and friendship that he treasured.

 

Jim was nowhere in sight.  He sat down at Ellison’s desk and started shuffling through the reports.

 

Brown perched over his desk across from him, his rump raised high in the air, body forward over his task.  Looking back he saw the young anthropologist.

 

“Hey, Hairboy!”

 

“Hey, Brown, how’s it going?” Sandburg threw back.

 

“She was badly beaten,” was all Brown said.

 

“Yeah, Jim filled me in.”  Blair rose now to see what Brown was studying so intently that his whole body was shifted downward into a mountain of intense concentration.

 

"Whatcha got there?” Blair asked coming up behind him.

 

“We’re working out a composite of the rapist.  We’re also plotting out the victim’s locations of residence, dry cleaners, grocery stores, bookstores, anything and everything they do in their daily lives.  We’re looking for the cross point where their lives intersect with the rapist.”

 

Blair studied the area. Three of the rapes had taken place in the southeast section of Cascade two were east of the city.  All three victims lived in homes alone.  All were young women in their late twenties and early thirties.  All had long, dark hair and were attractive.  They were all attacked on the weekend after returning to their homes.”

 

Brown pointed a sturdy digit at the map, “See, the first two lived here,” Brown indicated the two red dots, one several miles east of Highway 9, the other several miles west.  “Katherine Barkley, our accident victim Saturday night, she lived here,” Brown pointed to a small dot on the map, just south of Cricket Lake off of Route 9.

 

“Were the other women beaten?” Blair watched as Brown’s face tightened.

 

“Yeah, he roughed them up some. Took real pleasure in watching them beg. Cynthia Collins, the second victim, said he laughed at her.  Said he took pleasure in watching her face as he forced himself upon her. When she closed her eyes, he pulled her hair back and made her look him in the eyes. She remembers how cold and black his eyes were. Then she pretty much closed off her mind. Doesn’t really remember much after that, just dragging herself to the phone and calling 911.”

 

Blair opened his mouth to ask about the other victims, but Jim interrupted.

 

“Chief, am I to assume you’re mine for three weeks, lock, stock and barrel?”  Jim stood over his partner and studied the map laid out on Brown’s desk.

 

“It’s over, Jim. The grades are posted and I’m as free as they come.” Then grinning widely at Brown, he added, “well, not free, but a high priced lunch should cinch the deal.”

 

“What’s the matter, Sandburg, can’t afford lunch after that speeding ticket?” Rafe asked in good cheer as he joined the group. No doubt he was listening in as he came down the hall.  Sandburg paled behind Jim’s back and started gesturing with his hands wildly expressing “don’t go there.”

 

Ellison straightened and turned. The dark look on his face telegraphing a series of unanswered questions: When did this happen? Why wasn’t I told? What was the ticket for?

 

Rafe had the good grace to look embarrassed. Brown tried to save the day. “Hey, I’m sure it was nothing. Probably not even deserved. Morton looked like a man who filled his book every month.”

 

Then realizing the damage was done, Rafe offered his apologies, “Sorry, Blair, Morton mentioned it to us. Said it was why he knew you.”

 

“No problem,” Blair waved an indifferent hand in the air, his eyes never leaving Jim’s face.

 

“I HOPE BUSINESS IS THE TOPIC OF THIS SOCIAL HOUR?” Simon raised his voice as he came out of his office. “I’d better have something by this afternoon on my desk.”

 

Rafe and Brown both busied themselves over the map again. Jim and Blair walked over to his desk.  Jim took his usual seat and Blair sat on the side chair.

 

“Hey, man, it was unfair. I plan on fighting it.”

 

“When were you going to tell me, Chief?” Jim said shuffling the papers as though he could speed-read.

 

“I was going to tell you, Jim. Really. You were busy with the fishing trip and I had the exams. I was going to tell you this evening.”

 

Jim studied the earnest face, the beseeching eyes, and the eager lips that pouted with frustration.  A crevice that had formed inside his heart when the young man had moved in as a friend was now wider and deeper than any fissure his heart had ever known.   His moods and feelings shifted like fault lines with the emotions that swept across that other’s face.  He weakened, his resolve diminished by the reasoning of his love.

 

“Okay, we’ll talk about it later.

 

"Jim, I really don’t think there's much to talk about.  I got a speeding ticket---plain and simple.  It's not like your driving record is spotless,"  Blair hissed at him, annoyed at how quickly his lover was jumping on this, not even giving him time to explain himself.

 

The detective sighed, rubbing his eyes,  "You're right, Chief, you're right.  I just don't like you speeding and maybe getting hurt."

 

Blair flashed him a warm, loving smile.  "I really wasn't speeding much, Jim.  I know how you feel, though, I'll try to be more careful.  Okay?"

 

"Okay.  But," his voice going stern again, "you should have told me right away."

 

"Next time, promise."

Side by side they worked away the hours. Jim read the reports on the rape victims.  With ease they accommodated one another at the desk.  Jim rose, stretched and headed towards the men’s room.  Blair unconsciously moved into the empty desk chair in front of the computer.  Searching the database he typed in Devon Morton.  The data given was minimal, but Blair realized that Devon had recently been divorced.  The home address and age were listed, but personal information was restricted.  Blair got up and checked the map. Crestview in Whitefalls was in Northern Cascade.  Sandburg checked the lines on the map, tracing his finger along Highway 9.  Kind of went of your way to take your son to that game in Seattle, he thought to himself.

 

“What’s up, Chief?” Jim asked as he reseated himself at his desk. Glancing up at his monitor, he saw the search results on Devon Morton.  With a creased brow and critical eye, he glared at Blair.  “Chief, what’s this all about?”

 

“Nothing, Jim, at least I don’t think it’s anything, but it just seems to me it was awfully coincidental for Morton to be on Highway 9 the exact same time Katherine Barkley was running to escape a rapist.”

 

“Sandburg,” Jim ground out, fully aware of Blair’s theories of thin blue lines and the brotherhood of the badge, he also knew Naomi’s free-spirited lifestyle had oftentimes opposed law enforcement agents.  Thus Blair, though respectful, was somewhat skeptical to the infallibility of the long arm of the law.

 

“No, man, don’t start here. Look, Jim, I just have a feeling about this guy.  I’m not saying I’m right. Hell, I think it’s silly myself, but I just feel I have to ask you to do something.”  Blair rose from the maps and came to stand next to Jim’s desk.

 

“Have you checked the car?”

 

“Chief, the lab went over it with a fine tooth comb,” Jim said, wearily.  “It was clean.”

 

“No man, have you checked it?” Blair asked eagerly.

 

“As a matter of fact, Sandburg, I have.  Simon, asked me.  Nothing unusual.”

 

Sandburg’s face fell, he picked up a paperweight and toyed with the object distractedly.

 

“Jim, maybe you could do it again.”  His voice sounded hopeful.

 

“Blair, I have a feeling this is all because Morton gave you a speeding ticket. You can’t stand there and tell me you don’t feel some animosity towards this guy.  I mean, I quite frankly can’t imagine you going thirty over the speed limit. I’ve seen you drive, Chief, and sometimes…mind you not always, but sometimes little old ladies from Pasadena pass you up. That Volvo is a classic, but she does have her good and bad days.”

 

“That’s just it, Jim, don’t you see. If he’s capable of such vindictive extensions of the law, then what’s to say he’s not capable of other misuses of his badge.  I really think that ticket was more for the fact that he mistook me for a woman.”  Blair put the paperweight back on the desk.

 

“Please, Jim, just do another check. I’ll be there. Maybe you missed something.”

 

Jim looked up into the beseeching eyes. Blair was not vengeful.  Perhaps his reasoning was slightly skewed by some resentment towards Morton, but no doubt his premises for suspicion sprung from his sharp and intelligent mind.

 

“Okay, the cars downstairs in the lot. Let me grab the lab report and we’ll take another look.”

 

The smile that lit the bullpen warmed Ellison’s heart. Bones of contention were never easy to deal with and Sandburg tended to gnaw one like a pit bull.  Too many times they had bucked heads on issues that Jim later had to acknowledge as being right on the mark. Sandburg was a sharp and astute observer.

 

 

 

 

The wreck was just outside the garage doors in the back lot.  Jim stood by reading the report and checking out certain details.  Sandburg stood by and only when Jim proceeded to feel the metal and touch the seats or examine closely a thread of carpeting, did his Guide step forward and indeed “guide.”

 

“That’s it, Jim, easy.  Focus on the feel of the metal and let it come naturally.  Don’t fight the sensation. Close your eyes, man, go with the feel.”

 

Jim covered every viable portion of the car that could possibly hold a thread or snag, hair fragments or grain of sand, there was nothing that the lab did not account for already.

 

“Okay, Jim, one thing more.  The door, here,” Blair said as he went to the driver’s side.  It was still badly bent backwards, almost at a ninety-degree angle to the body of the car.

 

Jim looked at him suspiciously, “What am I looking for Sandburg?”

 

“Jim, please, just examine it okay?  Stepping back he let the now irritated detective slowly cover every inch of the door, inside and out.”

 

“Chief, there’s something here.”  Jim paused running his fingers carefully over the top of the door where the window disappeared into the frame.

 

“What? What, man?” Blair asked excitedly, knowing full well what Jim would find.

 

“Pricks of some kind, small indentations.  Can’t make out what they are, they’re barely noticeable except for the paint that’s chipped here, but that could have been caused by tree branches at the time of impact.”

 

“No, Jim, those are made by a ballpoint pen. I know, because Morton made those same marks on my car when he stopped me.”

 

Jim’s face reddened. He had been tricked. “Damn it, Sandburg,” he said angrily, “what the hell kind of trick is this. Is this supposed to be evidence that Morton is a rapist?” Jim asked loudly. Then seeing some uniformed officers looking up at him in the back lot, he lowered his voice, grabbed his partner’s upper arm and hauled him towards the elevator.

 

“Did it ever occur to you, Jim, that you are using reverse discrimination. On the same grounds of excluding my suspicions you are biased against them because I am your partner who happened to get a speeding ticket.”

 

Ellison cut off any further discussion on the subject with a stone, cold look that Sandburg had learnt long ago as subject closed.  Well for the time being, Jim, for the time being only.

 

 

 

The rest of the week, Sandburg worked side-by-side with Ellison, keeping his own counsel.  Simon, Brown and Rafe were tracking leads trying desperately to find a common denominator that linked the victims to the perpetrator.  By Thursday evening, no further along on finding a suspect, Blair sat at Jim’s computer reading the FBI profile that had been sent.  The key words on the report might as well have been bolded and capped for the clarity with which they demanded attention: anger, hates females, feels used and abused by women.

 

 

 

THURSDAY

 

“Okay, people,” Simon called out as he left his office. It was six o’clock and after working overtime all week on the case, the weary inhabitants of the bullpen watched their Captain shut his office for the evening with envy.

 

Pausing for effect, Simon smiled, “Let’s all call it an early night tonight. Maybe we can come up with some fresh leads after a little R&R.”

 

Captain Banks smiled cheerily as he walked out of the bullpen amid the cheers and good humor of his subordinates.

 

Jim came out of the break room munching on a candy bar, picking up their jackets from the hook, he threw Blair’s jacket at him over the desk.  Catching it, Sandburg looked up questioningly, “Hey, don’t you think we should be alert now more than ever. I mean this guy usually strikes on weekends.”

 

“Sandburg, I hate to say it, but unless he strikes again and we have more clues, I’m afraid we’re at a dead-end.”

 

Blair nodded his head, almost, but not quite coming to the conclusion that his own suspicions against Morton were unwarranted.

 

“Let’s stop for some carry out, I’m beat, Chief, and there’s a game on tonight I want to watch. If we hurry, we can catch the first quarter.”

 

“See you guys tomorrow,” Brown said as he followed Rafe out.

 

Blair raced forward and grabbed Rafe by the arm, turning back slightly he said, “Just a minute, Jim, I’ll be right with you.”

 

Then lowering his voice he asked the young detective, “Did you ask them?”

 

“Cynthia Collins says she was pulled over and given a warning. But, and you have to pay attention here, Sandburg,” Rafe whispered in an even thicker accent, “she got it on Virginia Avenue, nowhere near Highway 9. She doesn’t remember the cop who gave her the warning, only that he was on a motorcycle. So it proves nothing. The first victim never received any traffic violations or warnings.  Katherine Barkley has a perfect driving record and there is no way we can determine if she was pulled over until she regains consciousness.”

 

Blair nodded his head, digesting the information. He gave a cursory look up at Ellison who seemed lost in some light bantering with Brown over the probabilities of who might win the game tonight.  Rafe cuffed him playfully on the side of the head and lowered his voice even more, having heard through the grapevine of Jim’s low tolerance for Blair’s suspicions.

 

“You want some advice, Sandburg, either pay the fine or fight it in court. This is not the way to do it.”  Rafe joined Brown and they waved their farewells once again. Blair stood there with his mouth open, feeling hurt and betrayed. Do they really think I have a personal grudge against this guy?

 

 

 

 

Sandburg raced ahead of Jim as they entered the loft.  A sack of Wonder burgers with fries in one arm, he put the meal on the table and headed into the office.  Booting up his laptop on the small desk, he came back out while removing his jacket.  Ellison had set about pulling the foil-wrapped burgers from the bag. Sandburg passed the refrigerator and with a routine down to seconds in timing, grabbed two beers and set them down as he seated himself.

 

Ellison’s mouth was already filled with his favorite meal.  Sandburg shook his head slowly as he pulled the tab on his beer, “Jim, what is it with you and Wonder burgers?”

 

“This is a cop’s happy meal, Chief.  I remember stakeouts with Pendergast.  After hours of watching a mark, nothing saves the day like one of these babies.” Jim tenderly looked at the half-finished burger clutched in his huge paw.

 

“Now I know why so many cops die of heart attacks. I used to think it was the stress of the job, now I know it’s a “happy meal,” Sandburg mused.

 

Peeling back the wrapper on his own sandwich, he took a bite.  He nodded his head towards Jim with a smile, “I admit, they are good.”

 

Ellison merely nodded and was reaching for his second burger.

 

“Jim, I forgot to mention, but I won’t be home tomorrow night or Saturday. I have plans. There’s a foreign film fest at the Americana and I’m going with a friend.”

 

“Oh, anyone I know, Sandburg, anyone I should be jealous of?” Jim asked teasingly, popping several fries into his mouth, obviously not concerned in the least.

 

“Jackie Dawes, a professor at Rainier.  I won’t be home until late, probably after midnight.”

 

“You’re on vacation, you might as well have fun. I’ll probably be working. Simon’s pretty sure our rapist is about to strike again and he might call for a full force.  I’m glad you’ll be doing something fun.”

 

Feeling the guilt rise, his burger suddenly lost its appeal.  He finished off a few fries and told Jim he wasn’t hungry.  Ellison quickly headed for the sofa, picked up the remote and was soon lost in the cheer of the crowd and scoreboard.

 

Blair cleaned the table and headed for his computer.  Several messages awaited him.  The first was the answer to the question he had asked Officer Carmichael in Traffic.  All tickets used by the Cascade Traffic Control were light green in color.  The pink pads had been used several years ago and were no longer valid.

 

Remembering Morton's initial pink pad when he had stopped Blair, the question tugged at him like a loose shoelace, tripping his thought processes up.  Finally e-mailing Carmichael he had anxiously awaited an explanation for the two pads for traffic violations.  The second e-mail was from the control desk that took the 911 call. Morton had called the accident in, but he was not the first.  A passing motorist had slowed, seeing Morton rushing down the slope, and waved to him that he would call.  Morton's call for an ambulance followed by two minutes.

 

The third correspondence was a somewhat pointblank warning from Damien St. Claire.  Bristling at the sanctimonious approach to lecturing that Damien had, he hoped he wouldn’t regret telling his friend---as yet unmet---in England about his suspicions, Jim’s aversion to all reasoning, and his singular plan to trap the rapist.

 

Damien was clearly cautious and pointed out that taking matters into his own hand could prove not only dangerous, but highly punitive should they be found out.  “In a discipline relationship, my friend, you do not jump foolishly into situations to prove your disciplinarian wrong.  Please respond and tell me you are thinking twice about such action.”

 

Blair jotted off a quick response assuring his friend that all was well, and nothing dangerous or foolhardy would be attempted.  Give him the old Sandburg brush-off; he’ll be no wiser. Unfortunately, he didn’t realize he was trying to fool a master, one who had in his own time tried his hand at all the games; until, Vincent Cade started calling the shots and Damien played along the straight and narrow or at least sometimes tried to.

 

Several nights ago, Jackie had written Blair an e-mail. She had thanked him for dropping her off last week and that her car was back from repair, running nicely. In passing she had mentioned that she thought there was a prowler around her house.  Remembering the warning she had gotten from Morton, Blair cautioned her without causing her to panic.  Then he had come up with a plan.  Jackie was at a convention until tomorrow.  However, when she returned on Friday evening, she would pick Blair up at the loft on her way from the airport.  Having Blair spending a goodly portion of the night there would help ease her fears.

 

No need to give Jim all the details.  The rapes had all taken place on weekends, Friday through Sunday.  If Morton's the man and Jackie is a potential victim, I’ll be here every weekend until this guy’s caught, with or without Jim’s approval.

 

He typed back a quick confirmation, which Jackie could pick up in Los Angeles.  Closing the laptop, he felt a small wave of guilt. It’s not betrayal, he insisted, I tried to help, but Jim won’t believe me. Won’t even consider it.  I need to prove my theory, but I can’t.  All I can do is hope to catch this guy in action.

 

Jackie could be a possible victim, but then so could several other women. Morton might not even be the rapist, but until someone was caught with reasonable proof, Morton fit the bill.  Blair had queried many of the traffic cops and it was common knowledge that Morton’s divorce had been brutal and unpleasant. His wife had vengefully stripped him of dignity and the man could not speak of her without vehemence.

 

The divorce had been final one week before the first attack.   Even if he was wrong, he would get a chance to help Jackie out, which alone would be worth it.

 

Arriving on the couch as Jim watched the final play, he snuggled close.  Pulling the larger man’s arm around his shoulder he cuddled against his chest.  He hated being away from Jim this weekend, but it just couldn’t be helped.

 

 

 

 

FRIDAY

 

Jim sat at his computer checking all rapes reported within the last year. The database had supplied them with every reported incident within a twenty-five mile radius around Cascade.  Blair had sat patiently checking details against a checklist Rafe had prepared, looking for similarities, small details that reflected some of the pattern they had established for their rapist.

 

By three, he had begged off, and Jim wished him a pleasant evening. “Remember, Chief, not too late.”

 

“I know, but like I said, it’s going to be after midnight. There are several films, Jim, it’s a film fest.  Don’t wait up and don’t worry.  We might go out for breakfast if it’s really late.”

 

Knowing that Blair needed time out with friends of his own, Jim bit back the short censure that sprang to his lips. The rules did not apply when plans were made in advance and discussed and he had given Blair room to move around in their relationship.  Blair’s passion for old films and foreign artistic theater were best left to his enjoyment with others. Jim could not see himself sitting through a complete showing of all three Godfather movies.

 

 

 

 

Jackie picked him up at the loft at five and they had driven to Cricket Lake.  After stopping on their way to pick up a pizza, they had enjoyed a leisurely meal in the kitchen with the drapes and blinds closed tightly.  Blair took up his position on the floor of Jackie’s bedroom, well out of view from the windows and the doorway.  Jackie sat in bed watching the television across the room. All the lights were off and they kept up a low conversation.

 

“Did you ever wonder,” Jackie asked in a quiet voice as she looked towards the television screen, trying to look for all the world like a woman home alone, “what your life could have been like if you had made other choices?”

 

“Sure, everybody does, though,” Blair responded.

 

“I guess I’m basically happy. I’m certainly overjoyed at snagging this position at Rainier, but I sometimes wonder what my life would have been like if I had chosen another field or maybe gotten married already.”

 

Blair chuckled softly, “I’ve wondered myself,” he mused, what my life would have been like without one pigheaded lover who just happened to have heightened senses.  I know I never would have loved anyone as much.

 

 

 

 

ENGLAND – SATURDAY MORNING

 

Two bright eyes stared intently at the sleeping face in front of him, the bottom lip lightly chewed in nervousness, knowing what needed to be done, but also not wanting to do it.

 

"Brat," a strong voice breaking through the darkness, "if you don't either spit out what's bothering you or lie back down and go to sleep, you will not be very happy sitting at the auction later this morning. Hell, it's barely five a.m."

 

"Vin,” then ‘the pause’ as Vincent Cade had come to call Day’s cautious admissions of his crimes. “I have to tell you something, something important."

 

Vincent immediately sat up in bed, reached over and flipped on the bedside light.  "What is it, Day?" his voice low, but patient, recognizing the need, ready to aid his young lover any way he could.

 

Damien was sitting up in bed, nervously twisting the bedclothes in his hand, no longer looking at the bigger man.  Taking a deep breath, steeling himself, he said in a rush of words, "Blair---Jim's Blair---“ he took a deep breath.

 

“Yes, Yes, I know who Blair is,” Vince said growing impatient.  “DAAAAYYY….” He pushed his irritation to the forefront.

 

The hazel eyes widened, taking the hint, “He’s going to try to catch some rapist that Jim's trying to catch---alone by making himself a target for the guy."  He glanced up to try to gauge the reaction of his lover on this announcement.

 

"And how do you know about this?"

 

"Well...... Blair sort of told me that he had this theory on who the rapist was and Jim wasn't listening to him about it and so he figured that if he could catch the guy or at least get proof about what he was doing then Jim would have to believe him," he told the story in a quick rush.

 

"Blair told you this? When exactly?  And when exactly was he going to pull this stupid stunt?"

 

Damien ducked his head again, hoping to avoid the first question altogether, deciding that maybe if he didn't answer it, Vin would, miraculously, forget about it. "Tonight, I think; this weekend.  The guy always strikes on the weekends."

 

Vin shook his head at the irresponsibility of brats no matter where they lived.  "When did you find out about this, young man?"

 

Day mumbled something, not looking up.

 

Not put off and getting annoyed, Vincent snapped again, "I asked you a question, little boy."

 

"On Thursday."

 

"THURSDAY?  And you just now see fit to tell me, to tell Jim, what trouble his partner is getting involved in?"

 

"I guess so...I kept hoping that I would hear from Blair saying he decided not to go through with it."

 

"Damien Michael you know better than that.  You know I should have heard about this when you did.  At the very least, you should have told Jim.  You owe it to Blair, as his friend.  Not to mention the fact that you are serving as his mentor in helping him adjust to a disciplinary relationship.  From what I understand from Jim---and from what I've told you---this is exactly the type of behavior that our friend is trying to get Blair past."

 

"I know, I'm sorry."

 

Vincent shook his head again, "While I am calling Jim, I want you in the corner thinking about your actions and thinking about the paddling you have just earned and are going to get in a few minutes."

 

"Vin..." Day began, but was cut off with a sharp wave of a huge hand.

 

"Damien! I don't want to hear it.  You know you were wrong, the fact that you told me is the only reason I am not going to take a strap to your backside.  Another word about it and I'll reconsider that, young man.  Now," he said, pausing, giving his lover a hard look, "I highly suggest you get yourself planted in that corner."

 

 

 

 

FRIDAY NIGHT

 

Ellison sat looking over the maps.  Friday evening put the added stress on Major Crimes knowing that the rapist was due to strike within the window of the weekend.   Brown and Rafe were checking the calls coming through 911 looking for anything that might have the shading of an attempted rape. All breaking and enterings, reports of prowlers, and suspicious behavior were immediately directed to them.

 

Entering the bullpen, Simon watched his men working.  Ellison looked disgusted and his jaw twitched in an even rhythm.  Looking up at his Captain, he was about to ask if he could check out some calls----anything to avoid the long wait---when his phone rang.

 

"Ellison," he snapped into the phone on the first ring.

 

“James, I’ll have you know that it is five o'clock in the morning here, and I am not happy that I have to be awake right now.”

 

Ellison immediately recognized the strong, deep voice of Vincent Cade. 

 

“Vin, it’s good to hear from you, but what’s up?” Jim was caught off guard.  The two had remained close friends since Jim's return from Peru and subsequent time spent in England under the guidance and firm hand of the older man, even if they rarely saw each other.  Vincent had been the one to hear about Jim's growing attraction for the young man and the concern and frustration on how to keep the same young man from self-destructing.  It had been Vin who had originally brought up the subject of using discipline as a way to curb some of Blair's freethinking ways and actions.  Now, that they were starting a full-time disciplinary relationship to try and help Blair cope with his added responsibilities as a shaman, student, teacher and police observer, Jim had found it necessary to discuss his own failings and responsibilities with his old mentor. 

 

“I tried to reach you at home, but the answering machine picked up.  I am not even going to discuss with you right now your hours.  You and I have more important things on our plate.  Damien is standing in the corner with his nose pressed firmly to the wall about to be paddled, and I am willing to bet that Blair will find himself in a similar situation soon.  It would seem my love’s conscience got the best of him in the middle of the night and now he has seen fit to share some rather disturbing information. Which brings me to the one pointed question: I know where my brat is…do you know where yours is?  Damien tells me he is setting up a sting to trap a rapist and he is offering himself up as the bait.”

 

WHAT?” Jim shouted into the phone bringing Simon closer to his desk, his eyes wide with his own questions.  “That’s impossible, he’s at a film festival with a friend.  He knows better than that,” Jim said, doubt tingeing the final down note in his statement.

 

“You don’t sound very sure, James,” Vince’s tone was one of amusement, “either way, I think you need to seek some home truths as quickly as possible."

 

"I will.  Rest assured, I will."

 

"Good man.  Give me a ring later and let me know how it goes.  You need to go and track down your brat and I have my own very, sorry young man to deal with right now.  Take care.”

 

"Thanks for letting me know, Vin.  I'll call you."

 

Hanging up the phone, Ellison grunted, clearly angered. Simon stood by his desk, “What was that all about?”

 

“An old friend in England I’ve stayed in touch with. It seems Blair has been telling his partner, who he is friends with, about setting a trap to catch our rapist.”

 

“Wonderful, some Brit knows more about what goes on with my men than I do,” Simon bellowed.

 

"Captain, " Jim began, but was interrupted by a shout from Brown.

 

Henry yelled from his desk, “He’s hit. Crescent View Heights. Let’s go,” cutting off any further tirade.

 

Simon, Jim, Brown and Rafe immediately sprung into action with the practiced ease of men trained well in the execution of their duties.

 

 

 

 

At ten o’clock, Blair laid his head against a pillow that Jackie had thrown to him. He was quite comfortable against the corner wall. Jackie had piled pillows and blankets there for him and he admitted he was enjoying himself with her. She was not only bright and witty, but understanding and considerate. The evening had threaded a fine coverlet of conversations, entwining academic as well as pithy badinage.

 

As Jackie scuffed off to the bathroom in her pink, fuzzy slippers, Blair fluffed the pillows getting ready for the possibility that the evening would hold nothing more than television viewing and idle chitchat. 

 

“Blair! Blair!” Jackie whispered coming quickly back into the room.  “I hear someone at the back door.”

 

Blair picked up the pipe he had set aside for protection.  Handing Jackie his cell phone, he pointed towards the bathroom and whispered, “You’re on, just like we talked about. You go in there, lock the door, keep the lights off and call 911. Then call speed dial 1.  Jim Ellison, the friend I told you about, will pick up. Tell him to get over here ASAP.”

 

Nodding her head vigorously, Blair could see the terror in her face. “Remember, don’t come out of there, no matter what you hear.”

 

 

 

 

Jim took the corner squealing the tires, almost tipping the truck.

 

“Damn it, Ellison, slow down. Don’t take your frustrations out on the poor citizens of Cascade.”

 

“Sorry, sir.” Ellison slowed.  “It wasn’t our guy, but this punk should still learn to take no for an answer.”  The case had been nothing more than a first-date drop-off that had demanded more than a good night kiss.

 

“What the hell is this about Sandburg setting up a sting?” Simon asked in a rather loud voice.

 

“Sir, I don’t know, but I intend to get to the bottom of this.  Sandburg got a speeding ticket, then while working on the rape case, he started having suspicions…” just then Ellison’s cell phone rang.

 

“Ellison, here,” he said, casting Simon an apologetic look.

 

“Detective, this is Jackie Dawes, Blair’s friend.  Please come to 1752 Lakeshore. There is an intruder and Blair is here,” she said it in a whisper, remembering what Blair said to her about Jim’s phone being especially equipped with a volume control.  A war injury, Blair said with a slight smile, and aging caused Jim to need the added help in hearing.  “I am locked in the bathroom, but Blair is out there.”

 

“Jackie, stay put. We’re on our way.” Jim filled Simon in and setting off the lights and siren, he took off towards the South Lake District.

 

 

 

 

Blair carefully made his way out of the bedroom. Not wanting to lead the intruder to Jackie, he moved out into the living room.  He unlocked the front door.  His plan was to lead the guy out of the house and away from Jackie, giving her plenty of time to call Jim.  The small lead pipe, which looked so formidable this afternoon when he considered some sort of weapon, now looked childishly inadequate.

 

As he crouched against the wall leading out from the hallway, he saw a dark figure moving into the living room area.  Blair saw the knife as it glinted off the lambent glow of moonlight breaking through the blinds.  Raising the pipe, he moved forward, but his calculations failed. Instead of bringing the pipe down hard on the hand holding the knife out in front, he barely had time to realize the shadow and hand were two distinct objects. A sharp pain ripped his left arm high near the shoulder, he brought the pipe down, but the shock of pain diminished the force.  He heard a soft grunt from the impact on bone, but a raging cry soon followed the sounds of surprise.

 

Blair raced towards the front door. Please, please, please, let Jim come.  Jackie please….. I hope you called him.  Blair tried to count the minutes when Jackie had entered the bathroom, but his mind could not do the calculations. Pain fought for his total concentration and the need to run.  He grabbed his left shoulder with his right hand and the warm, sticky substance confirmed his suspicions that the cut was deep.

 

Once outside, he turned towards the back of the house, only vaguely aware that the intruder was behind him.  The lake stood grand and glorious in the moonlight ahead of him.  The crickets chirped in early summer’s peace.  Blair rushed towards the water, assuming the muddy landscape might buy him some time.

 

He headed for the bank, with the low-hanging branches of willows and vines, he could stall for those precious minutes that would bring a black and white or, Ellison hurling down the road.  The heavy vines and drooping limbs attacked his shoulder and he more than once caught himself gasping from surprise assaults.

 

Finally, a wave of dizziness convinced him he might black out if he didn’t give up the chase.

 

He turned and banked for the grassy yard that paralleled the lake. Ready to take a stand…after all, the object of this exercise was stopping this man, not doing night maneuvers.  Okay, Sandburg, this is it. No Jim, you’re on your own. This is what you wanted, proof of your convictions and ending this guy’s reign of terror.

 

Approaching steadily now, the pursuer was tall and slender. Blair noted the dark ski mask covering his hair and face.  It was all blackness to Blair in the moonlight.  Pushing his hair back off his face, he straightened himself trying to look formidable. Dropping his hand from the sticky mess his shoulder had become, he prepared himself for battle. Whatever fight I have left in me, he thought, I’m going to make sure Morton is carrying my mark.

 

He played his trump card, surprise, “All right, I’m a man, not a helpless female. I’m Blair Sandburg and I know you…you’re Devon Morton.”

 

Blair saw the head jerk up, then the man let out a guttural sound of rage and he charged, knife raised high, deadly intent it’s only purpose.

 

Blair Sandburg had always had good instincts. Many times he had dodged bullets, evaded killers, and used vending machines to take out terrorists, and found survival in his blood.  However, this time, he froze. Later, he would chalk it off to an uncontrollable curiosity about his attacker…a need to prove it was Morton even if it was the final conviction before the end of everything, as he knew it.  He stood stock-still and waited for the knife.

 

His eyes could only focus on the face, the dark shadow coming towards him, seeking some clue as to the validity of his suspicions.  The man was walking towards him one moment, then he was flying through the air and Blair almost laughed at the absurdity of the man’s abilities. Perhaps he was dealing with a vampire.  Then Simon was beside him, “Blair, are you all right?” and realization hit him full force.  Turning he saw Ellison, flipping the figure over and cuffing his hands behind his back.

 

Smiling wearily in the moonlight, he reassured Simon that he was indeed all right. The response brought ice to his veins, “I’m glad, because you won’t be for long, depending on who gets you first, but either way, Jim or me, you’re ass is getting kicked.”

 

Blair blanched, but raised a quick hand to brush Simon’s anger off. Walking forward he looked first at the rage in Jim’s eyes, then down at the masked intruder. “I have to know.”

 

Jim reached down and pulled the knitted cap off of Devon Morton's head.

 

 

 

 

 ENGLAND – SATURDAY MORNING

 

“I couldn’t betray Blair’s trust. You know that,” Day said, softly to the wall, becoming intimate with the familiar setting as he pressed his forehead against the cool surface.  Think…Vin’s fair if nothing else.  This is extenuating circumstances…yeah, that’s it…

 

“This was an extenuating circumstance. I had to give him the benefit of doubt and try to caution him myself…..which, in fact,” he said more forcefully, only showing a hint of petulance in his tone, “I most certainly did.”

 

Vin listened to the defense attorney’s closing statement. Not really all that impressed with the usual Damien St. Claire excuses, he chose not to interrupt. Day had a wonderful ability to dig himself deeper if left to his own devices.  But, Vin had learned early on in their relationship, it was in the psychological tactics of avoiding punishment that Damien learned the most about his failings and the lessons for future behavior.

 

“Little boy, did it ever occur to you, the Master of Bullshit, that perhaps someone else might employ similar techniques on you?”  Vincent remained seated at the small desk in their bedroom, casually looking at his lover.

 

“No!” Day almost shouted, but refrained. Vincent did not like a great display of attitude, especially at five a.m., and most certainly not when he was pissed off to begin with.

 

“So, your experience with young men like yourself---bright, intelligent, independent---has always been a quick cessation of dangerous activities upon a mild suggestion from a friend?”  Vin watched the slumped shoulders sag a little further into the corner.

 

“Come on, Day, is that what you’re saying?” Vin said, trying hard not to laugh.

 

A low mumble came out of the corner that sounded very much like, “Fuck.”

 

“Am I now getting bad language?  Do I need to wash your mouth out before you're paddled?” Vin asked as he rose from the desk.

 

“NO!” A definite shout.  “I mean, No, sir, but I was trying to be a good friend. I don’t know Blair; I can’t judge him. He may very well have listened to me.” Damien turned from the wall looking at his lover, “You don’t know he wouldn’t! You don’t know him, either!” The last statements came out more as an accusation, Day's attitude in full force.

 

Vince glared at him until he quickly turned back, facing the corner.  “But I do know Jim Ellison, don’t I?”  Vincent now began to pace the tastefully appointed room.

 

“Yes, I guess so.”

 

“No, you know so, young man, because you've heard me talk about him, about our history.  You know so because he lived here with us for six months.  Do not give me an ‘I guess so,’ little boy.”

 

“Okay, you know Jim Ellison. But Jim is not Blair.” Day felt he was on a roll now.  The logical ball was thrown and he was proud of the pitch.  “You could no more have made a proper call on this one than I could of.”

 

“I remember telling you at the beginning of your correspondence with Blair that he was new to this type of relationship. You would have to monitor his emotions and attitude carefully. Did I not say that to you?”

 

“Yes, sir, you did, but I was doing that.  He was just having a problem getting through to Ellison. Seems to me the problem was with Ellison, and, pardon me for the comment, but Jim was your responsibility.”

 

Vin stopped dead in his tracks and glared angrily at the back of his lover’s head. Oh, young man, you are so in need of some clarification on things to say when you are facing a paddling.

 

“I will give you that point, Damien, and Ellison will be handled.  However, since in your book I have failed a part of my responsibility in setting Ellison on track, I don’t intend to be guilty of failing you.  Thus, you have earned a little more attention than I was at first determined to give you.”

 

“Uh…..oh….” a miserable sound came from the corner as the balloon of logic hit turbulence. 

 

Opening the bottom drawer of the desk, Vin looked inside, pondering its contents.  Inside were two different size paddles and a hairbrush, each implement nestled in its own spot.  In addition to the paddles, a leather strap hung in the closet.  Withdrawing the smaller of the two paddles from the drawer, he sat down at the desk chair.

 

“Damien,” he called sweetly, “come here, please.”

 

Turning from the corner, the younger man couldn’t help making a face when he saw the paddle.

 

“Vin …” he started to whine, but was cut short.

 

“I did not ask for a commentary, young man.  I asked you to come here.”

 

Shuffling forward, Day, too quickly for his liking, found himself lying over his partner’s lap, pajama bottoms pooled around his ankles, his bottom bare and vulnerable.

 

"Young man, I want to make sure you understand that you’re not being punished for what you told Blair or what you didn't tell him.  You are being punished for not informing either Jim or me about Blair's plan.  If you had told me about it, and told me that Blair was listening to you and you felt confident that he was not going through with this stupid stunt, you would not be in the trouble you are in now.  Is that understood?"

 

“Yes,” came the mumbled reply.

 

 

 

 

SATURDAY MORNING

 

“Careful.  Careful, Blair,” Jim said, as he tried to gently support his uncooperative partner.   Sandburg tried unsuccessfully to break free from the ‘helpful’ hands and make it on his own power to the couch.

 

“Jim, I love you, but if you don’t get off me now, I swear, man, I’m going to kill you,” Blair muttered, silently thinking to himself that if his partner thought he could get away with it, Blair would not even be walking right now. 

 

Choosing to ignore the comment and the slight struggling to get free, he asked, “Couch or upstairs to bed?”

 

Pausing for a moment, thinking about his options, Blair decided that if he was upstairs Jim might not hover as much as if he were in plain view on the couch.  “Bed,” he said simply.

 

Twenty minutes later, Blair was comfortably situated in bed.  Looking expectantly at Jim, he seemed to be waiting for him to say something.

 

The detective, on the other hand, was roaming around the bedroom, fussily straightening objects on the dresser, picking up and refolding clothes sitting on a chair.

 

“Okay, Jim, yell at me.  I’ve been home for half an hour so far and you haven’t even hinted that you’re mad about last night.  Come on, it’s not fair to make me wait like this!”

 

Throwing a notebook that was in his hand down hard against the dresser top, Jim turned around, anger briefly crossing his face, playing a tune along his jawbone.  It was quickly replaced with the blank, cold look that frustrated Blair so much---the patented, ‘I’m in total control of the situation, nothing is affecting me’ look.

 

“We are not going to talk about last night, right now, Sandburg.  It's been a long night.”  With that pronouncement, he resumed his cleaning.

 

“What do you mean, we aren’t going to talk?  Yes, we are.  We need to talk right now, so get your butt over here and sit down with me and let’s talk.”

 

Turning around, a small smile graced his face at his partner’s voice and tone.  It was good to see the Sandburg spunk alive and well.  Diminishing that flame was one of his concerns about a discipline relationship, he never wanted Blair to be afraid of standing up to him out of fear of punishment.

 

Shaking his head, he said, “Blair, you’re hurt.  The Doctor said you should rest for the next couple of days; I shouldn’t even be up here, I’m probably disturbing you.  I’ll just go downstairs.  Let me know if you need anything.”

 

Blair gave him an angry look, “Jim Ellison, I swear to you, you go downstairs, and I will get out of this bed and follow you.  Now, “ he said, giving Jim his own patented look, “you don’t want me to do that, do you?  I might fall or something, rip out these stitches.”

 

After a brief “stare war” skirmish, Jim muttered, “Brat,” before walking over to the bed and gently sitting down next to his injured partner.

 

“You’re mad about last night,” Blair stated simply.

 

“Blair, love, I am so far beyond mad…,” Jim said, his voice trailing off.  Shaking his head he continued,  “But anger doesn’t even begin to cover it.  I was so terrified when Vincent called me. I am so angry at you for pulling a stunt like this, I’m angry at myself for obviously not taking you seriously and for forcing you---at least in your mind---to take such a stupid, dangerous risk.  Not that that absolves you of responsibility for it, you are still in deep trouble.”

 

“I had to do something!  You weren’t listening and you wouldn’t believe me, I had to get proof and I had no other recourse left to me!”

 

Jim winced at Blair’s words, knowing that he had, in a way, driven his guide, his partner, his lover, into a dangerous situation, one in which he had gotten hurt. Pushing aside his guilt, knowing that Vin would help him deal with it later---especially if the tone of voice last night was any indication---he said, “Blair, regardless of what I did or didn’t do, you are still responsible for your actions.  Actions that you know I wouldn’t approve of and ones that were dangerous and stupid.  Actions that could also have harmed Jackie Dawes.”

 

“No,” Blair barked out, annoyed, “you know what’s stupid and dangerous? NOT listening to your partner!  I am your partner---at work and in life.  You lecture me about trusting you, trusting our relationship, and then you don’t even listen to me.  You put no value on my ideas!  You just assume that I’m blowing something out of proportion or trying to get back at some cop, because he gave me a ticket!”

 

Pausing, he let his hurt pierce each word, “What kind of person do you think I am?”

 

He was on a full tear now, the combination of little sleep, drugs, conflicting emotions and the stress of the last couple weeks were bottled up and were now spewing forth with a vengeance.  “I did the only thing I could do!  You didn’t believe me and I had to make you believe me.  I had to make you see that I was right.  Jackie was a marked victim. I saw this.  I was there as protection.”

 

Jim closed his eyes, his face tight with pain.  “Blair, I am so sorry.  You’re right.  I screwed this up; I screwed this whole thing up.  I’m sorry.  I don’t know why I would think you would try to put suspicion on this guy.  I just got it in my head that you were allowing your emotions to run away with you.  I don’t know what got into me.”

 

Jim tilted his head back and took a deep breath.  Reaching out, he grabbed Blair’s hands, clasping them together in his.  “Blair, I don’t know what I would have done if something had happened to you because of my stubbornness, my pig-headedness.  I was disrespectful to you, to our relationship, and I am very sorry.  I can promise you, I will try my best not to let it happen again.  You are smart, observant, and you have a natural talent for reading people.  There is no reason for me not to trust you.  And I do trust you---I trust you with my life.  I’m sorry, Chief, I really missed the ball on this one.”

 

Blair reached out, pulling the larger man down so that his head was resting on the bed nestled against his hip.  “I know, Jim, I know you’re sorry."

 

A shuddering sigh escaped from his Sentinel, as he eased into the warmth, seeking comfort and forgiveness.  Draping one arm across Blair's lap, he snuggled closer, welcoming the first step to making it all right again.

 

Blair reached down and softly stroked his hair, like Jim had done so many times for him when he needed reassurance that he was loved and protected.  A change in breathing patterns alerted him to the soft tears of retribution.  Choosing to allow Jim the privacy of tears, he continued the comforting strokes. 

 

"I love you, Jim,” he whispered some time later, in the aftermath of the tears.

 

"I love you, too, Blair,” and the bond was secured.

 

 

 

 

SUNDAY MORNING

 

 "So James, what do you have to say for yourself?" asked a strong voice with a hint of an English accent.

 

"Vin, I really don't have anything to say.  I screwed up---plain and simple," Jim said.  He had called Vin the next morning, filling him in on what had happened and his subsequent apology to Blair when they got home from the hospital.  He had thought the focus of the conversation was how or if he was going to punish Blair for his actions while he was hurt.  Even though the cut was not serious, it did require 10 stitches.  Now, instead of Blair's actions, Vin was focusing in on his.

 

"Young man,” Jim had heard that tone and that address before, usually when he was in trouble, “when you are dealing with the delicate balance in a relationship, especially in a disciplinary relationship, things are rarely plain and simple.  I think when you and your young man are here visiting in a couple of months, you and I should sit down privately and discuss this."

 

Jim gave an impatient sigh, "I really don't think that's necessary, Vin .  I said I was sorry, let's drop it," he added impatiently. 

 

"Do NOT take that tone of voice with me.  Would you like to talk to another young man who did and ask him what the outcome was?"  Vincent Cade was not a man to parry with verbally or otherwise. Next to Vincent Cade, Simon Banks was a man of finesse and gentle persuasion.

 

Jim sighed heavily into the connection, allowing his acquiescence to cross the miles.

 

 

 

Across the pond, that particular sampling of young man was lying on his side.  Curled up on the couch reading, he glanced up at his lover’s tone and smiled.  I guess Vin really is upset with Jimbo, he thought to himself.  Shifting, trying to find a position that did not place too much weight on his still sore bottom, he went back to his book, blocking out the rest of the conversation, soon bored with the familiar routine….glad his moment under fire was over.

 

Ten minutes later the sound of a phone being set into its cradle alerted him to the termination of the call.  Vincent entered the study.  Shifting into a semi-erect sitting position, he put the book down and looked up at his lover, recognizing the lines of concern on the older man’s face.

 

"Still sore?" 

 

"A little, not too bad though.   Just enough to remind,” Day grinned sheepishly.

 

"Demon,” Vin said, motioning him to make room on the couch.    

 

Day smiled and sat up at the pet name Vin had given him at their first meeting. A routine of petulant non-cooperation had made him mumble his name to the formidable and threatening army officer after he had thrown himself in front of his car.

 

Damien had come out as Demon, at least to the ears of the impatient and irate officer. Now Demon was a name that usually meant all was forgiven or mildly tolerated.

 

The larger man wrapped his arms around the smaller one now nestled on his lap, patting his bottom gently. “But for how long little boy?”

 

 

 

 

TUESDAY

 

Two days later, Blair was in the office, straightening his notes and materials from the just finished term.  Summer term was due to start in a couple of weeks and he had new materials to work into a syllabus and form a solid structure for his course.  His shoulder felt better and he was going to be returning to the station tomorrow.  Jim had gone in to work today and Blair had been left to his own devices.  He and Jackie had lunch and had rehashed the events of Friday night.  She was grateful for Blair's involvement but had also felt guilty over his injury.  He was quick to reassure her that it was not major and he was fine.  The doctor's did not even think physical therapy was going to be necessary.

 

The ringing telephone interrupted his concentration.

 

"Hello," he said cheerfully, thinking it was probably Jim calling to make sure he was OK.

 

"Blair Sandburg, please," an unfamiliar voice said.

 

Deciding it was a student who had just gotten bad news in the mail with his report card, Blair replied, "This is Mr. Sandburg, how can I help you?"  The voice on the other end did not say anything for a moment, Yep, a dissatisfied student, Blair thought to himself.

 

"Umm…Blair, it's Day….. Damien St. Claire, in England.  Did I catch you at a bad time?  I can call back if I have?"

 

Giving a surprised laugh, Blair said, "Oh my God.  Day!  Wow, this is a surprise!  No, this is a great time.  Grades were mailed out yesterday and I just figured you were a student calling to let me know how unhappy you were with my grading! Wow, this is great.  How are you?"

 

Day's smile came through the phone lines in a light and airy tone, "I'm fine.  How are you?  That's really why I called."

 

"Oh, the shoulder…yeah, it's fine.  I got a few stitches, but I’ll live at least if Jim lets me.  And,” he paused for effect, “it really does only hurt if I laugh.”

 

"Then I promise to be my usual morose self,” Damien said, barely containing his mirth, “I'm glad to hear that Blair."

 

"So, how are things with you and Vincent?"  Blair asked.  Jim had told him that Damien had gotten into trouble for not telling anyone about his investigative plans.  "Day, I need to apologize for getting you into trouble.  I'm sorry that I caused you problems."

 

"Blair!” he started, feigning what Blair could guess was a Vincent Cade reprimand.   “My dear boy, that's part of the reason I was calling."

 

Good going, Sandburg Blair thought, alienate the one person you can talk to about this relationship with Jim, not to mention someone who was starting to be a good friend.

 

Again, only warmth, humor, and friendship came through in the pleasantly mellow voice, "I wanted to make sure you didn't feel guilty over anything.  What you did---trying to catch that rapist---which by the way, man, was very cool, but I’d be sorely remiss…and I do mean sorely,” he laughed at his own pun,  “if I didn’t also add very stupid---is totally between you and Jim.  Vincent paddled me for not telling someone about it.  I should have, as a friend and someone who is supposed to be helping you and looking out for you.  I was calling to apologize for letting you down and allowing you to get hurt."

 

"Day…." Blair's voice trailed off. "I don't know what to say.  I still feel guilty for getting you in trouble.  I wasn't really telling you what I was doing so that you would tell Vin or Jim and have them stop me."

 

"I don't know, Blair.  You might have been.  I know I've done that in the past.  Done something or told someone something that I was planning.  At the time, I was pissed when Vin found out, but then afterwards, I don't know…afterwards it was like that's what I wanted all along.  I don't know, that might not be the case here."  But Blair could tell that Day really thought it was the case indeed.

 

Blair thought for a moment, thinking back to the conversation that he and Jim had lying in bed together after he got home from the hospital.  "Maybe … maybe I wanted him to take me seriously and I knew that he would do something if I made sure I was personally involved.  I don’t know, either," he finished with a laugh.

 

Day joined in with good humor of his own, "Don't worry, you may never figure it out and you just need to go with the flow and just accept this type of relationship, it will all work out.  Speaking of working out, have you and your's talked yet about that stunt yet?"

 

From the emphasis that he placed on 'talk,’ Blair knew talking was not the activity Day had in mind.  "We talked,” Blair laughed, “talk talked, a little the morning I got back.  But I don't think he's going to do anything.  He admits he screwed up on this one, too.  I think we are just going to call it even."

 

A loud laugh filled the phone lines. "Blair, if you really believe that, then I have seriously failed you, Grasshopper.  There is no way Jim is going to let this action of yours go by without major attention paid to your butt."

 

"But he screwed up, too, that's not fair."

 

"Oh don't worry, my friend, Vin is pissed at him and Jim knows that he's going to get taken care of when you guys are over here.  Rest assured that Jim is in trouble, too."

 

"What?"  Blair asked surprised, "What do you mean?  Jim's going to be spanked by Vin?  When?"

 

There was dead silence on the other end, and then a quiet, unsure voice asked, "Jim never told you that?  He never told you that he and Vin had a discipline relationship years ago when he lived with us for several months?"

 

"No, he didn't," Blair was thunderstruck with this revelation.  The thought of Jim, strong, competent, man-in-charge bending over someone's knees, being spanked for some misdeed. "Wow, I had no idea…”

 

"Shit!  Blair, I'm sorry.  I shouldn't have told you.  Jim will tell you I'm sure.  I guess I thought you knew."

 

"Well, I didn’t, but now that you mention it, he does speak of Vincent Cade with a certain reservation.  Wow, this is still sort of a shock to me."

 

"Well, it happens to all of them.  Vin had someone when he was younger, it's really not that big of a deal."

 

"Yeah, I guess not.  I don't know.  Just seems strange somehow.  I can't see myself ever spanking him."

 

"No, most of us can't, which is why it's nice when yours already has a handler and someone you can turn to when the one who deals with you, needs to be dealt with."  Day let out a soft chuckle.  “Can’t let Vin hear me talking like that, or I’ll be getting another crash course myself.”

 

Blair did not say anything for several moments.  What a strange new world I’ve come upon. It’s going to take some time getting used to that’s for sure.

 

"Blair?   Are you okay with this?"  Day asked, concern obvious in his voice.   

 

"Yeah, I'm fine with it.  I am sort of glad he has someone who can out alpha him," he laughed.

 

"Okay, look I need to run, if you are okay?"

 

"I am, thanks for calling, Day, and I can't wait to see you in a couple of months."

 

"Me, too, say ‘hi’ to Jimbo for me.  Take care."

 

"You, too, bye."

 

Damien hung up the phone, glad he had called and apologized.  Now, how to deal with accidentally telling Blair about Jim and Vin.  Well, I already know how delay can be painful.

 

"VIN!!!!!" he yelled at the top of his lungs.

 

A few seconds later, the intercom activated, "Little boy, we have this lovely system which should eliminate your need to yell in the house when you are looking for me.  Should we have another lesson in using it?"

 

"Ummm…Vin… there's something I need to tell you.” The confessional was once again occupied.

 

 

 

 

FRIDAY

 

"Jim…  I'm sorry.  I know it was stupid…" as the punishing hairbrush descended again on his upturned butt, Blair cried out with added remorse, "beyond stupid!"

 

Lying over Jim’s lap on the couch, his head and shoulders supported by cushions to ensure his comfort---at least in certain areas---they were deep in a discussion about good judgment and foolish heroics.  The emphasis on certain words had left his butt a bright red, fueling Jim’s passionate determination to drive his point home, or at least in the back door.

 

Jim looked down at the flaming posterior, feeling the heat emanating from the flesh as he repeatedly brought the wooden brush down with a fervor born of fear for his young friend’s safety.

 

“Never, <swat> Ever, <swat> Do <swat> Anything <swat> So <swat> Foolhardy <swat> Again.” A final sharp smack resounding through the loft, followed by a loud cry, “OUCH! OK – I PROMISE!”

 

Jim stopped long enough to toss the brush on the coffee table.

 

“Now, Chief, we need to discuss the rules. Those ten little items you have chosen to flaunt with total abandon.”

 

Blair groaned forgetting all about the rules and his total disregard of them these past two weeks.

 

Jim raised his hand high in the air and counting down every rule with a loud, sharp spank to the already painful bottom, he emphasized a repeat performance. Every number followed with a sharp smack. The rule was clearly recited and then Jim paused allowing his penitent to repeat the rule. Another sharp whack was delivered to drive the rule home once and for all.

 

The ten rules totaled twenty additional spanks, plus the two earned strikes applied when Blair petulantly added his own commentary on “No lying and keeping secrets.”

 

“It wasn’t a secret if I told Day.” <Whack>

 

“The rules are for us. They apply to our relationship, not yours and Day’s.” <Whack>

 

Finally realizing he’d best repeat by rote and with all the sincerity he could muster, he hiccuped his answers like a dutiful student.

 

Finishing with three punishing swats in the dead center of his partner's bottom, for good and final measure, the punishment ceased. It had been a hard and long paddling and an equally passionate spanking.  Blair putting himself in danger was a high crime.  Hopefully, this punishment would stay with the younger man and be remembered the next time.

 

He allowed Blair to rest on his lap, spent and deflated, until his crying eased into short sobs.  When he seemed to have settled down, Jim gently helped him stand up, pulling his boxers carefully over his abused rump.  Seeing the exhaustion clearly evident on his tear-stained face, Jim scooped him up in his arms and carried up to bed.

 

"Come on, love, it's late.  It's been a rough night, let's get you to bed."

 

Gently easing the overwrought young man down onto the bed, Jim was thankful that Blair had been made to strip to his boxers and t-shirt for his punishment. It made a quick and easy job of settling him in bed on his stomach.  Tears still came in a steady stream, misery apparent with every movement.   Jim propped extra pillows under his shoulder, easing the weight off the injured area.

 

Moments later, Blair awoke from the first soft slide into sleep. "Huh?" he asked, confused as he felt the sheet being pulled back, his boxers gently pulled down, exposing his bare bottom; the cool air feeling good.  “What are you doing, Jim?" he mumbled, half rising up.

 

"Shhhh, lie back down.  It's okay," Jim said softly.

 

Blair relaxed and snuggled down, hugging the pillow beneath him.

 

Jim began to rub the aloe gently on each cheek.

 

Blair hissed as the cool lotion made contact, squirming slightly as the large hands began to slowly rub it in, leaving a trail of soothing coolness in its wake.

 

"Oh," Blair said a few minutes later, his voice heavy with sleep, "that feels good."

 

"Just a little something to help take some of the sting away.  Now, go to sleep."

 

“Seems such a wasted effort,” Blair mumbled slowly into the soft folds, “could ‘ave voided…all…by not spanking me.”

 

Smiling down at the logical-minded anthropologist, Jim nodded his head, “It was worth every sore spot, Chief, if it keeps you from ever doing anything so foolish again.”

 

Then, rubbing some on his own stinging palm, Detective James Ellison snuggled under the covers.  Turning in towards the one who mattered most to him, thankful for the second chances that the dawn would bring, he knew his own retribution awaited him.

 

The lines were drawn and if crossed, there was always a gentle, but firm hand to bring you back. He wouldn’t mind, in the least, it was just the way these relationships worked. 

 

In time Blair, too, would see.

 

There were lines of descent in these relationships. As Vin brought Jim back in line, straightened his thinking out and set him upright again, so, too, he would help the often foolhardy anthropologist.  It was all about Guidelines, one guiding the other, then another, until everyone was right on track.  And with that final acceptance and secure knowledge of knowing someone always cared, he evened-out his breathing and softly gave himself up to the night.

 

THE END

 

Thank you for reading.  We hope you have been entertained.

 

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