FAULT LINES

 

By Mason-Dixon

 

 

Authors’ disclaimer: The Sentinel and all related characters are the property of Paramount Pictures and Pet Fly Productions. No copyright infringement intended.

 

WARNING: This story contains non-sexual, disciplinary spanking; it is slash and adult in nature.

 

We, Mason-Dixon, would like to dedicate this story to T & B.  To thank them for the lightness of their being, the variegations of their souls, and the joy they bring us in the knowing.

 

 

I do more than walk the line I sometimes cross it. The lines are not barriers. They do not contain me, they are merely boundaries that help define me and keep me true to form. I rise within the lines, safe and secure---for there are no limits to what I can be---only guides to get me there.  I have never reached so far beyond my limits…than when love drew lines for me.  (From the Lines of Demarcation)

 

 

The morning light spun the loft in a golden haze, languorous and warm.  Blair hugged the pillow next to him still lingering with the scent of his beloved.  He stretched his compact form to cover the imprints of heat that had moments ago come from James Ellison’s body. Still wishing to push back morning’s daunting reality, he allowed his mind to drift back to the night.  They had not made love, but that was fine with him.  Sometimes it was just as nice to curl his body around his lover's and drift to sleep, feeling safe and warm. Trying to catch the fleeting memory, he curled more tightly around the pillow. 

 

“Sandburg, get a move on it.  Breakfast is almost ready and I am not waiting for you.”  The first warning burst forth upon his pleasant memories of a night in Jim’s arms.  Well, so much for the lover in Jim. Gone were the lazy mornings at the beginning of their relationship when Jim would wake him up with small kisses, leading to tender lovemaking.  Cop Jim was in full force this morning just as surely as he had made his appearance at dinner yesterday.  Blair grimaced into the pillow at the memory. 

 

They had just sat down to dinner, one of Blair’s culinary creations.  Spinach-Cheese pie and cornbread graced the table as Jim lowered himself into the chair opposite his lover and roommate.

 

“What is it?” Jim asked in a peculiarly curt tone, staring at the food in front of him.

 

“What’s what, Jim?” Blair questioned the inquisitor, a bit perturbed, himself. “It’s vegetarian, full of nutrients and flavor and you can at least give it a try.”

 

“Well, I don’t feel like experimenting,” he said as he took a whiff of the pungent cheeses, their odors still strongly abrasive to his senses. He sat there, glaring at the food.

 

“You know, if you just tasted it, you’d find it quite delicious. Can’t you just try something first before you make one of your faces.”  Blair took a large slice of the pie for himself.

 

“I just expect a little more effort on your part, Sandburg, that’s all. I haven’t seen hide nor hair of you at the station for the past several weeks.”  Jim reached over and spooned a small helping of the questionable meal onto his plate.  Putting a huge spatter of butter on his cornbread, he pointed his knife in the direction of the living room.

 

“You haven’t been keeping things clean around here, either, and I’m beginning to wonder if the rules of communal living have slipped your mind.”

 

“Man, you are so anal.  I can see why Carolyn had a hard time living with you," Blair retorted, yanking the butter away from Jim, "Don't use so much, it is not healthy,” he griped, still smarting from the lack of appreciation for his dinner and Jim's attitude. 

 

True, he had originally entered Jim Ellison’s life as a Guide.   The true meaning of the word slowly became evident to him as their partnership deepened.  The eager student blessed with a discovery he could only dream of, never imagining it to be true. A real live Sentinel crossing his path, becoming a willing topic for his dissertation…well... almost willing...semi-cooperative at best, but still within his realm to monitor and assess.

 

"SANDBURG!" The call came louder, more threatening.

 

Dragging himself out of the bed, clad in pajama bottoms and a tee shirt, he grabbed his robe from a chair? Stumbling down the stairs, he spotted the object of his affections cracking eggs into a bowl.

 

"I'm up already, no need to yell.  You better have saved me some hot water, Jim. It's freezing in here."

 

"The days are getting warmer, Chief. No sense in wasting heat."

 

"Well, I'm cold," a pouting voice came back at him from behind the bathroom door. Then more quietly, knowing full well that Jim could hear him, "Seems it's always the temperature you're comfortable with. I live here, too, you know."

 

Jim shot a frustrated look toward the bathroom and shook his head as he beat the eggs more fervently than necessary. They were both getting on each other's nerves lately.  For two years Blair had pretty much fit into the loft, tucked into the corners, quietly leaking out into his daily routine.  It was an unexpected surprise to the hard-ass cop that this antithesis to all the discipline and control he had practiced most of his life could have charmed and bewitched him so subtly.

 

In a matter of months, he recognized stirrings beneath his hard shell. First, friendship quietly prodded the sealed chambers of his heart, opening them wide to the need and comfort of someone to share space with and toss around ideas like a football into the early morning hours. Then, desire had lit a flame beneath the cold exterior of macho self-control.  At first he denied the passion and attraction the blue eyes evoked when they turned to him with sadness or fear or concern. However, when the spark lit in the kid's eyes and he realized it was indeed a two way street, the detective, like a primal animal bidding for the attentions of his mate, took charge in a proprietary and decisive fashion.  The futon was immediately relegated to the basement and Blair Sandburg, friend, Guide, and doctoral candidate was safely ensconced beneath the constant protection of Jim Ellison.  Once they shared a bed, he put an even tighter rein on his young lover.

 

Now, one year later, the fibers of that nest were beginning to prickle and tease.  He loved the damn kid, there was nothing he could do to deny it or change it and he didn't want to if he could, but the little things were beginning to chafe.

 

The last few weeks alone were a sore spot.  Blair had practically spent all his time at the University. There were piles of reports that needed to be filed, sitting patiently on Detective Ellison's desk.  If Blair didn't get his butt down to the station soon, he would just have to tackle them himself… a chore that would surely press and crease his sharp edges to an even finer point.

 

The kid works long hours; he has a life at the University, Jim reasoned as he scraped the last of the eggs onto a plate, I can't always expect him to give me all his spare time.   Then the little child in him, afraid of being forgotten and unloved, surfaced and took over his reasoning.  I just wish he would make the effort to cut back a bit on his teaching assignments. This guide thing can't work very well when he's never with me anymore.

 

"Man, I froze my butt off in there." His thoughts were interrupted by his lover's appearance. Jim set the pan on the table, then turned quickly to the curly-headed young man. Blair's head was down as he tightened the belt of his robe against the chill. Jim grabbed him by his shoulders and passionately kissed the lips that were still pouting.  The peppermint taste of toothpaste mingled with the sweet warmth of Blair's lips.  Jim pulled playfully at the lower petal, tempting the soft flesh, while making a low, primal growl out of,  "Good morning, love."

 

Blue eyes met blue eyes in a fiery glance of recognition.  For all their differences, all their polar views and contrary opinions, when they met on that plane of pure passion and emotion, all the colors and hues that shaded their personalities melted into one burning rainbow.

 

Blair's eyes were smoky, like they were wont to get when Jim ignited the flame of passion. The smaller man leaned into the larger man’s embrace and tightly gripped Jim's shirt.  Torn between his desires and the responsibilities of the day, he seemed to be contemplating how far to take this kiss.

 

"I thought that would warm you up," Jim said teasingly, "not to mention, shutting you up."

 

"Damn it, Jim, I wish you wouldn't do that." Blair laughed. "Not when I have to get to the University." He pushed off and backed away from Ellison. Lowering himself into the chair, he reached for a slice of the freshly toasted bread.  "You are such a tease sometimes.  You leave me in bed without even a good morning kiss and then you tempt me in the kitchen only to say 'no’ just when I was starting to enjoy it." 

 

They both lapped into a comfortable silence enjoying their food and paper for a few minutes.

 

“I’m going to be late tonight, so I was thinking maybe we could do carry out,” Blair said, as he forked a large portion of the fluffy eggs into his mouth. Following the eggs, he bit into the toast and immediately grabbed his mug.  The look on Ellison’s face already began to mold with frustration and anger.

 

“Hey, man, I know I haven’t been spending a lot of time with you.  I know I promised you at least one night this week to shuffle the paper trail up and away from your desk; but, Jim, I’ve got some students I’m counseling and I have an appointment this evening with one of them.”

 

“I think you need to settle down, Chief. You’ve been operating at full throttle for the past two months and not holding your end of this relationship up.  I’ve done the shopping, cooked the meals, washed the clothes, and basically tried to keep your end up, but you still haven’t organized your life.  I’m always willing to help you, but I expect you to see the problem and start working on a fix.”  Jim eyed him, trying to see if he was making his point. He didn’t want to sound like a fishwife, complaining all the time, but Sandburg’s life style was out of control.

 

“Next week is spring break, right?” Jim asked, stabbing his utensil in the air, aiming the tongs towards Blair trying to keep the petulant tone out of his voice.

 

“Yeah, we talked about this, Jim, quality time, just you and me. You cleared it with Simon, some time off, right?” Blair asked, using his own slice of toast as a weapon to punctuate his question.

 

“Don’t worry about me keeping promises, Chief. Just make sure you have some time for me.  Of course, after some time in bed, I might have to put you through obedience training one more time.  I admit you haven’t spotted the carpet in awhile, but you haven’t hit the hamper in weeks and I’m tired of picking up the wet towels off the floor.”  Jim finished off his eggs and immediately took his plate to the sink.  Downing his coffee, he rinsed his cup and left it in the sink.

 

“Well, I’m off, Sandburg,” he said as he came up behind his lover and planted a firm kiss on the upturned lips.  “I want your butt back here no later than midnight tonight. Got it?”

 

“Yeah, got it.”

 

“Have a nice day.”

 

“Yeah, you, too, Jim. Love ya.”

 

As soon as the door closed, Blair leaned back and shook his head at his lover's behavior.  Jim was definitely feeling neglected. Taking several deep breaths, trying to get rid of the tension of the past several weeks, he smiled eagerly at the golden sun rising beyond the city.  One week in the mountains, just the two of them, it was just what they needed.  What good fortune that Professor White’s wife needed that emergency hysterectomy. Well, not good fortune for Mrs. White, Blair admitted wryly, but definitely good fortune for Jim and me.

 

Professor White needed someone to cover his advanced Anthro class for three weeks so he could be with his ailing wife. Their 35th wedding anniversary was in a week and he had planned to take his wife up to a secluded mountain cabin. Since she was in no shape to travel, the professor had eagerly given the keys to Blair in payment for taking his class load.  It would be a surprise for Jim. One year together and they needed the time alone. 

 

They needed some quiet, stress-free time to reconnect and just enjoy their love. Blair's schedule had been especially hectic this term and the strain was beginning to show on them both.  Jim had come to expect Blair's help around the station, but when he was busy at the university, the detective had a tendency to become possessive and pensive.

 

When he entered into a sexual relationship with Detective Ellison, he knew what he was getting into. There were no blinders on his eyes. Naomi Sandburg had long ago opened her son’s eyes to the ways of the world.  Men like Ellison didn’t shed skins when they loved someone, they still chiseled out lives to degrees and specifications, bending themselves to no one’s will, they sometimes seemed cruel and uncaring.  Blair knew differently. The cold, hard casing housed a tender man. The loving nature that crept out in the shadows of their bedroom, the prying mind that pulled and teased information from his sometimes, troubled Guide, the soft whispers in the night of tender feelings and promises of forever showed Blair the secret man.

 

He loved Jim. He loved his tight-ass ways, for they were merely pillars to lean on. He loved the strong, silent moods that often pulled him back to safety---the watcher in Jim, gauging the situation at all times.  With eager, careless steps Blair rushed in head on to meet the situation, while Jim assessed and waited and calculated, oftentimes to Blair’s quiet thanks.  The Blessed Protector name only seemed to broaden his shoulders.  From then on, the simple things, flu, sleep-robbing finals, suggestions of tattooing, all brought out the defender ready to kick ass to ensure Blair’s safety…even if the ass in need of kicking was Blair’s.

 

Blair thought back to finals last term.  He had graded 175 final papers and approximately 200 essay finals in four straight marathon days.  He had slept less then 2 hours a day and ate almost nothing, save vending machine cheese crackers.  Knowing that he was behind on his grading and knowing that Jim would not allow him to pull the grading marathon he needed to do, Blair lied to him.   Saying that he was busy grading, talking to students and posting grades, he swore it would be easier for him to stay with a fellow professor on campus.  Jim had not been happy about the situation.  It was only when Simon pulled Jim onto a temporary witness protection case that Sandburg's plan fell into place.  He avoided the loft and Jim's calls, leaving messages for the detective when he knew the other man would not be around to answer the phone.  His plan had worked.  He got through with his grading and posting in time and was beyond exhausted.

 

He was also in deep trouble with Jim.  After stumbling home, his lover had immediately tucked him in bed, saying nothing except they would talk about his behavior later. 

 

The next morning, after sleeping almost 20 hours, Blair woke feeling refreshed and somewhat guilty.    Sitting up in bed for a few minutes, trying to decide if he was getting up or going back to sleep, he heard Jim walk up the stairs to the bedroom. 

 

Jim stopped for a moment just inside the bedroom area, looking at Blair with a mixture of anger, concern and disappointment.  

 

The younger man did not move or say anything.  He looked down at the quilt, not wanting to see the disappointment or anger that he read in the detective’s face.  He was startled when he felt the mattress shift and strong arms wrap around him from behind.  He allowed himself to be pulled in a quick hug and settled in a warm embrace on the other man's lap.  Grasping the hands that held him, Blair whispered, "I'm sorry."

 

"I know you are.  But we need to talk about it."

 

"Not now."

 

"Okay, but soon."

 

"Are you going to spank me?"

 

"Did you deliberately lie to me?  Did you act irresponsibly when it came to taking care of yourself by not eating or sleeping?  We talked about it.  We made an agreement when this sort of thing happened at the end of Summer Term, that if it ever happened again you would be spanked.  It is something we both agreed we needed and wanted to do.  Right?"

 

"Yeah, I know.  I don't like it."

 

"You're not supposed to.  That's why it is called a punishment."

 

"I love you, Jim," he whispered, snuggling deeper and closing his eyes.

 

"I love you too, love," the other man whispered back, feeling the most important person in the world to him relax back into a light sleep.

 

 

Blair shook his head at the memory of the discussion they had later that morning, and the spanking that had followed.  It had been his second disciplinary spanking from his lover and although Jim had threatened several times since then, his behavior had not called for one.  I think that's going to change soon if I don't get my act together.  We have been snapping at each other lately. I've been rude and not keeping up my end of this relationship.  The stress, the hours and we're taking it out on each other.  We need to get away.  Yes, indeed, he thought to himself, as he collected his own breakfast dishes and washed then in the sink, a week in the mountains is just what we need right now.  We've got a great thing going here. It's time I saw a relationship through for the distance.

 

Blair's life under the guidance of Naomi Sandburg had been ethereal and enlightening. The free spirit of counter-culture pulled both mother and son into corners of the world other children only dreamed about. Adaptability was a cloak Blair wore well, but always with the thought that it was only an overcoat, soon to be discarded as they moved on to brighter and newer things, when a coat of different colors was needed.

 

Now, for the first time in his restless life, Blair wanted roots. Looking up from the chore of wiping the counter, he gazed with pleasure on the place that he had come to think of as home.  Home, what a simple word to most people, not one reflected on much, but taken for granted in the busy scheme of life. To the uprooted, socially mobile Sandburg, it had come to mean much, much more. Jim Ellison embodied the rock solid frame on which structures were built.  He was the quiet security of reason, trust, and commitment. The military efficiency that ran his household operations like an army camp was soon downshifted into a more relaxed hum. True, rules, lists, chores, and everyday little 'no-no's' still peppered their day, but communal living had taught both men to compromise.

 

On cold, bitter nights, warm lamps now glowed brightly; a fireplace tempered the chill with crackling insistence. Often while he and Jim sat side-by-side on the sofa… one channel surfing for worthwhile viewing, the other deeply buried in a book braced against his knees as he leaned back into the other's strong arms…their world looked picture perfect.  In fact, even before they had admitted the mutual attraction, they were developing a close relationship in which they were learning to overlook the small annoyances that each one had.  Their love simply enforced this commitment.  One man, so totally antithetical, had pulled the young man off course and settled him snugly into a warm and loving routine.

 

However, over time tiny flaws can threaten the most solid of structures. Earthquakes topple trees, bring buildings crashing down, and fracture the earth.  Small fissures become large and obtrusive when they are not addressed and filled and watched.  Blair valued the relationship too much to lose what he treasured above life itself.

 

Yes, he thought, a week away is just what we need. The fact that Jim has no idea about the cabin, well, it'll make the treat all that much sweeter.  Shaking his head vigorously, smiling smugly to himself, he went upstairs to get dressed.  As he picked up his backpack and jacket on the way out of the loft, he gave his home a quick glance and found himself smiling with the simple joy of it all.

 

 

 

The phones were a heckling crowd in the background, pestering Major Crimes with their insistent ringing.  Although the crime rate had been down in the city the past several weeks, the paper trail had stopped its slow progression and settled contentedly on Ellison's desk.  Grimacing at the pile of forms in his in-box, Ellison looked up to see his Captain and friend, Simon Banks glaring down at him, disapprovingly.

 

"Jim, why is this pile of forms the same size it was yesterday?  I thought you said Sandburg would be in this week to help you process all the paperwork."  The tall, black man placed his hands on his hips, daring his best detective to tell him more lies.

 

"Sir, he's busy today, and, he has some meeting late this evening. I'm sure he'll make it in tomorrow. He gave me his word, Simon," Jim said as he stood, eyeing his friend hopefully.

 

"Captain, I was wondering, things have been slow around here, today, could I maybe hit the streets and do some leg work on that skin head group that's been harassing the local businesses?" Jim looked hopefully at the formidable man who hadn't budged from his spot in front of the mountain of forms.

 

"No, Jim, you cannot leave the department. You have more than enough work right here, mister, to keep you busy until quitting time and probably long after," Simon said authoritatively. Then pointing a finger at Ellison's vacant chair he said, "Sit. I'd suggest you get busy."

 

Then turning towards his office, he paused briefly, "How about lunch today, Jim? I have a craving for Thai if it's okay with you?"

 

"Sure," Ellison said as he held his head in his hands and grudgingly pulled the next offending form in front of him. "Sandburg, you owe me big time, buddy."

________

 

The late morning sun sparkled through the trees, dancing brightly in patterns along the walk towards Hargrove Hall. Blair Sandburg hefted his backpack high on his shoulders, a smile playing along his lips. Thoughts of the week ahead, the surprise treat for Jim and their one year anniversary together, the spring break that would take him away from the political and social problems that were raising their ugly heads on campus lately all made him feel lighthearted.

 

"I told you to stay out of my way, Shrimpboat," an angry voice broke out of the shadows that sprung around the corner of the building.

 

Blair stopped and watched as a figure tumbled back from behind some shrubs. Staggering, regaining his balance, Blair watched Ben Cutler, push his long hair behind his ear.  "I'm tired of you telling me what I can and can't do, Bailey."

 

Gus Bailey's tall, lanky form pulled from the shadows, neatly groomed, golden hair, short and wavy, falling in soft wisps over his brow.  Blair knew for a fact many co-ed hearts were stopped by that innocent boyish face. If only Gus' grades were as important to him as being top man on campus, the charm could have been put to better use. "You'll mind what I tell you, punk."

 

Gus walked off never having spotted Blair.  Ben Cutler's face hardened as he watched his persecutor walk off into the shadows. Blair stood his ground as Ben turned slowly and spotted him. A flash of embarrassment added heat to the small man's features. Blair had been counseling the young student for the past few months. Ben Cutler's sharp mind and high-level of achievement had allowed him to enter college at sixteen. Since Blair had experienced all the anxieties and problems younger students are beset with, Dean Evers had clearly thought Sandburg could help out Cutler more than any other advisor.

 

Although Cutler was not in any of Blair's classes, the seventeen-year-old was constantly bringing him essays and papers that other professors had graded too harshly or critiqued with a biased eye. Nothing Blair could say or do could convince Cutler that the rest of the campus held nothing against him. Recalling his own feelings of exclusion and rejection, Blair gave the boy as much time and encouragement as he could.

 

However, last week, one of Cutler's professors had left an irate voice mail for Sandburg telling him that the student was his problem now and he needed to talk to 'that boy about his attitude problem.’  Apparently, Ben had done a presentation on subcultures that are detrimental to the campus social life.  Jocks, Greeks, and all social bonding systems within the world of academia had fallen under his sharp, bright, rapier wit.  Professor Dane's message had said it took all his best efforts to keep the class from rioting and tar and feathering the obnoxiously bright, younger student. No doubt, Gus Bailey had gotten wind of the offending paper and poor Ben was going to be the object of much abuse.

 

Why does he do this to himself? Blair asked as he waited for the boy to approach him. However, Ben turned abruptly and headed off in the opposite direction Gus had taken.  Okay, Ben, you better keep your appointment...I've got all evening set-aside for you and we need to have a talk.

 

­­­­

Blair climbed the stairs cautiously.  Bypassing the elevator, lest his Sentinel hear the chains and pulleys of the lift, he carefully placed his key in the lock and turned it.  Moonlit patches speckled the interior with warm welcome.  A soft sigh escaped his lips as he quietly set down his backpack and slowly stripped off his jacket.  He tiptoed across the floor, passing the couch along his route to the stairs.  Stopping at the foot of the stairs, he paused to give his plight full consideration.

 

If I wake Jim up, he'll probably start in on a long lecture about my hours again. I must admit three a.m. is pushing his patience, when he insists I get my butt home by midnight. He started slowly backing up with each page of the argument flipping across his mind. He'll probably start in again about my absence from the station and all the forms that I've been promising him daily I'll get to. Inching further back towards the couch, where logic told him, he would find rest from the long and trying day.

 

"Didn’t I tell you to be home by midnight. Where the hell have you been?" a voice barked out from the upstairs bedroom.

 

Blair yelped in surprised,  "Damn it, Jim, you almost gave me a heart attack, man," his indignation quickly becoming the forerunner to all other emotions.

 

He slowly climbed the stairs, not wanting to deal with his annoyed lover any sooner then he had to.  Jim was sitting up in bed and clearly had not been asleep.  Undressing quickly, he got into bed, snuggling up to the older man.

 

Jim easily rolled Blair on top of him, settling him against his chest, securing him there with his arms. 

 

“Do you want to talk about it?” Jim asked, trying hard to be patient and understanding.  His plans for an early evening shattered when he realized most of the time he focused his hearing on the sound of his lover’s heartbeat. Not hearing that sound for several hours eventually led him to give up and just wait for the younger man to get home.

 

“Jim, you remember me telling you how I started college at sixteen.  College is a change for any eighteen year-old leaving High School and all his friends behind. Academia can be a little daunting when you still haven’t reached an emotional and maturity level equal to your classmates,” Blair began, gently nudging Jim's chest with his head, his normal indication he wanted his hair stroked.

 

Jim brought one large hand up and began to slowly massage the hair that was tickling his chin.

 

“Well, one of the kids I counsel, Ben Cutler, he’s so like me at that age.  A real smart ass, know it all, who thinks he’s in college to enlighten everyone else, the profs included.”

 

“Yeah, I can imagine what a pain in the ass you were, Chief. Simon can vouch for first impressions where you’re concerned,” Jim laughed, remembering Simon’s incessant doubts and objections to Blair’s tag along status.  The know-it-all attitude had proved true and after a few insightful angles presented on cases, Captain Banks had developed a quiet, respectful awe of the younger man.

 

“Why don’t you just set him up with a hard ass cop and let him set him straight,” Jim suggested, giving Blair a firm swat on his bottom, "not that I am doing that good of a job right now with you."

 

“Come on, Jim, be serious. I feel for this kid. He means well. His approach is all off. We sat in my office for several hours going over his assignments and his attitude. He just doesn’t get it. This kid is brilliant, Jim, a real thinker, but his delivery of his ideas sucks big time.”

 

“Don’t worry about. He’ll come around, you did.”

 

“It’s not that simple, Jim. He’s antagonized some campus heavyweights. I’m just afraid that if he doesn’t do a quick turn around or at least soften his views, he’s in for some rough times. I just don’t want blood, man. You know how I hate blood.”

 

"Want to invite him to go to the gym with me and I can teach him how to defend himself?" Jim asked with a laugh.

 

"Seriously, though, I know what this kid is going through and it’s bringing back all the fears and frustrations. I just want to help the boy. Is that so wrong?”

 

"No of course not, you want to help him.  You understand what he is going through.  But there is only so much help you can give someone who is not asking for it.  Sometimes people just need to learn their own lessons, telling them doesn't work; they need to learn for themselves. What is wrong is you letting this kid take advantage of you and getting you into trouble. What time were you supposed to be home?"

 

"He is not taking advantage of me, love.  It was my fault we were out so late, he left around midnight and I just got caught up working and…" Blair's voice was interrupted by a huge yawn.

 

Smiling down at his lover, Jim said, "Let's finish this tomorrow.  You are about to fall asleep and we both have to get up early. "

 

Blair just nodded sleepily, allowing himself to be rolled on his side and spooned.

 

Within a matter of minutes, the even breathing of his sleeping lover sent the Sentinel into a deep and restful slumber.

 

 

Morning warmed the loft in a golden film, casting her glow on the cozy dwelling.  The smells of breakfast teased the air and the morning routine was under way.

 

Jim exited the shower when his senses were assaulted with burnt toast and the crackling sounds of sparks.  Rounding the corner he zoned in immediately to the electrical plug where the toaster unit was still connected, then focusing out, as his instincts led the search, he saw his Guide ready to stick a fork into the toaster.

 

Racing forward, Jim slammed into Blair, knocking him back against the counter, the fork flying to the floor. 

 

"Damn it, Jim! What the hell is wrong with you?" Blair yelled, anger heating his facial expressions.

 

Pushing his hair out of his eyes, the rough treatment shaking more than his equilibrium, he angrily shoved Jim back and away from him.

 

Ellison stood his ground and pointed at the plug.  "Did it ever occur to you to disconnect it?"

 

Blair blushed, his face turning a deep crimson, heat warming his flesh, a droplet of sweat tipping his hairline. "Oh, man! God, Jim, I swear I thought I unplugged it."

 

Jim reached over and unplugged the unit from the wall socket. He picked it up and shook the burnt toast out into the sink.

 

Blair shook his long locks as though shaking off some fugue state that threatened him. "I swear, Jim, I really thought I did."

 

"Well, you didn't, Chief." Jim growled out angrily.  Then turning his back, he headed for the bathroom, leaving a frightened and confused young man standing alone staring at the fork now lying on the floor.

 

 

­­The afternoon sun rested casually on the horizon, silently sneaking beyond the day. Blair looked at his watch. Four o’clock, time to meet Jim at the station or my lover is not going to be into any romance next week.  Collecting his papers and stuffing them as neatly as possible into his backpack, he paused briefly at the sound of running feet in the hall. Suddenly his door was pushed open wide; a frantic figure, long hair whipping wildly, burst into the room.  Turning quickly the figure closed the door and positioning himself securely against any intrusion, he exhaled a sigh of relief.

 

“Ben? What’s happened?” Blair came around his desk and caught the young man by his upper arm, half the intent of securing him from further flight and half to grab the attention of the fugitive.

 

“Mr. Sandburg, they think I did it. I didn’t. I know I said I would, I know I wanted to, God, did I ever want to, but I didn’t.” 

 

“Ben, do what? What do they think you did?”

 

Suddenly, a loud raucous could be heard in the hall. The young man’s eyes turned desperately to Blair, an agonizing plea for help.

 

Blair didn’t think. This kid was frightened and he needed help.  Pulling the dazed student with him, he opened the metal cabinet that housed camera equipment, overhead screens and miscellaneous larger equipment.  Pointing to the bottom of the cabinet, he whispered, “Get in there and keep quiet.”

 

Once Ben situated himself in the cabinet, Blair handed him his backpack and pressing his index finger to his lips, signaled silence.

 

Returning to his desk, he quickly bent his head and got into the act.  As a knock sounded on the door, he inhaled deeply, calming himself for his performance, “Come in,” he called, wiping his face of all emotions.

 

“Sorry, to bother you, umm ... Mr. Sandburg,” the tall, muscular man wearing a campus security uniform said, glancing quickly at the lettering on the door,  “but there’s been an incident and I was questioning one of the students. We have every reason to believe he’s our perp.  He ran out on us during questioning and we have reason to believe he entered this building.”

 

“If he did,” Blair said, evenly, “he’s not here," casually shrugging his shoulders.  The tall man scanned the area, and entering quickly, looked behind the door.  Blair looked amused.

 

The large man grinned sheepishly. “Sorry, not doubting you, Mr. Sandburg, but he could have had a gun on you or something.”

 

“You new here?” Blair asked, not recalling having ever seen this mountain of a man on campus before.  “Where’s Will Temple?”

 

“Oh, he took early retirement. It was sudden. His wife’s mother became ill and they just decided to move to Florida.”  Then as though suddenly remembering his purpose, he straightened to his full height.

 

“Kid’s name is Ben Cutler, long-haired, neo-hippie type.  Typical troublemaker, dresses like a freak.”

 

Hearing the stereotypical tags that had long attached themselves to his own life, Blair bristled.  “Mr. Err?”

 

”Ed Tarrington, Chief of Campus Security.”

 

“What did Ben Cutler supposedly do?”

 

“Just beat the living crap out of Gus Bailey.  Poor kid. He’s a real jock and chances are he’ll never play again…after the beating he took.  Baseball bat. This Cutler’s dangerous. Hippie radical types always are,” he said with a slight smirk on his face as he deliberately stared at Blair’s long curls.  Then he turned to leave. Pulling the door closed behind him he peered back at Blair, “you be sure and lock this door after I leave and call security if you see anyone strange around here.”

 

“Only one strange around here is you,” Blair mumbled to himself as he got up and turned the lock on his office door.  Waiting several minutes, he went to the metal cabinet and opened the door.  Motioning for Ben to come out of hiding, he grabbed his backpack and helped the visibly shaken refugee to his feet.

 

“Mr. Sandburg, I didn’t do it. I swear. This Tarrington, he’s got it in for me, always has.”

 

“Ben, just stop it.  Not everyone on campus is out to get you. This paranoia is getting out of hand,” he said, rubbing a hand across his face.

 

“No, it’s true,” Ben pleaded, grabbing Blair by the arm. “He hates the way I dress; everything about me. He’s called me a faggot, a Mama’s boy.  I saw him talking to Bailey the other day, they were laughing at me.”

 

“What do you know about this assault on Gus Bailey?” Blair perched one leg on his desk as Ben sat in the chair in front of his desk. “And don’t lie to me, Ben, I saw you arguing with him yesterday in front of Hargrove.”

 

Just then the door burst open and Ed Tarrington, accompanied by two other security guards, pressed into the room. Grabbing Ben by the arm, Tarrington twisted it behind his back.  Blair reached out a protective arm, “Hey, there’s no need for this.”

 

“Stay out of this, Professor,” Tarrington ground out.  “Your kind always sticks together.” 

 

Years of repressed resentment in Blair overcame all reasoning. Years of being the object of derision, the smaller, weaker man, harshly and cruelly labeled by his trappings, had finally boiled over.  He pushed Tarrington away from Ben.

 

“Grab him,” Tarrington yelled to the other guards, and before Blair knew what was happening he was being cuffed and marched out of Hargrove Hall alongside Ben Cutler.

 

 

“Where the hell is he?” Jim mumbled to himself as he checked his watch for the hundredth time.  What the hell was Sandburg’s problem lately?  He kept making promises he seemed to have no intention of keeping, putting Jim off like a bothersome chore.  The kid was making no effort to make this relationship work. Sandburg, it’s time you and I sat down and discussed this whole commitment business.  I think you’re missing the whole point.

 

Lately Blair had been so preoccupied with school and counseling that he was endangering himself. Running himself ragged with commitments beyond his ability to meet and an erratic eating schedule.  He was constantly putting himself in danger as he had only this morning with the toaster.  Jim had absolutely no patience with the offhanded attitude he sometimes took regarding his own health.

 

The morning’s episode was only one of many in the past few weeks.  Just last week a similar incident confirmed Jim’s growing suspicions that his guide needed guidance.

 

Jim came out of the bathroom in a burst of energy. The squealing of brakes had not gotten his attention, the horns blaring had not done it, no, it was the loud, anxiety ridden voice of the one he knew like no other. "I'm sorry. Jeez, mister, I'm sorry. I never saw you."

 

The response, "Damn it, I blew my horn at you. What the hell is the matter with you? Where the hell is your head, you idiot?"

 

Jim tensed monitoring the situation from above in the loft; he had a pretty good visual idea in his head of what was taking place down below on the street in front of the loft. His reckless guide had no doubt done something stupid again, something totally dangerous and life threatening.

 

Another, new voice, added to the assault, "Young man, I saw you. You totally ignored the horns and you never even bothered to look before crossing. You are a nuisance. If you never learned how to cross the street, you should stay indoors," the elderly, maternal voice chastised.

 

"Yes, ma'am, sorry," the penitent replied.

 

Jim focused on the heart rate---the increased rhythm that showed the scare his guide had indeed suffered.

 

Then the heartbeat began its ascent up the elevator. Jim leaned back against the counter, the towel wrapped around his waist, his arms crossed high on his bare chest. He looked like a Viking Lord not quite happy with the peasantry at the moment.

 

The door opened slowly, Sandburg's downcast eyes lost in some perusal of floor tiles. Looking up he saw an angry and impatient Sentinel awaiting his return.

 

"What's up, man?" Blair questioned, hoping the scene below was not monitored by the mother ship.

 

"What the hell just happened out there, Chief? Or maybe I don't really have to ask. Maybe I can write the scenario line for line now. It's the same one last week with the broken light bulb and wet hands, or the short fall down the stairs not watching where you were going, ...or,"

 

"Okay, man, okay. I get the picture. I've been a little pre-occupied lately, so what? You have things on your mind and I have things on mine...it works both ways.  No big deal."  Attitude had clearly surfaced and Jim maneuvered the arms now onto his hips...clearly not happy with the change in temperature.

 

"Saannndbuuuurrrg!" Jim growled out in a low and even rumble.

 

"No, really, man. What is the big deal? Like you don't drive like a lunatic and risk our lives every day?"

 

"You are NOT putting this off on me right now. Let's deal with the issues here, Chief. You've been a walking trouble magnet since the day I met you, but this total lack of interest in your own welfare is getting me just a bit pissed. I want your butt in bed tonight before Midnight." With that he turned to go back into the bathroom and finish his morning's sartorial.

 

"Jim, I'm not tired and I'm not..."

 

The cold look in the blue eyes that turned his way, cut his explanations and excuses short. Then the simple phrase cut the air in a clear, crisp, no-prisoner's- taken tone, "We will NOT have this conversation again."

 

“JIM!” Simon’s voice cut through his thoughts. Captain Banks was a man who bellowed, usually startling his men into instantaneous compliance.  Rising quickly, Jim walked into his boss’ office.

 

“Close the door, Jim,” Simon said, lighting his cigar.  “There’s been some trouble on campus.”

 

“What kind of trouble?”

 

“Sit down,” Simon said, pointing to the chair with his freshly lit cigar, “it’s under control, or at least it better be. It seems Sandburg ran interference during a routine campus arrest and harbored a suspected felon. I thought he was on our side, Jim? What the hell’s the matter with the kid?”

 

“Where is he?” Jim asked, rubbing his chin, trying to contain the anger and frustration that twitched along his jaw line. The tense muscle indicating how tightly strung Ellison really was.

 

“Some uniforms have him downstairs. Campus security called them in. Jim, it’s Ed Tarrington. He’s Chief of Security at Rainier now.”

 

“Tarrington?  I’ve heard the guy's a straight shooter. I can’t believe Sandburg didn’t charm the pants off of him. Who’s the suspect?”

 

“Ben Cutler, a seventeen-year-old trouble maker from what I’ve gathered from the reports the University faxed over.  He’s against everyone and everything. One of the students was worked over pretty good with a baseball bat. Another student pointed the finger at Cutler. The kid’s been writing reactionary, anti-establishment, anti-conformist, anti-everything you can think of papers and raising a few voices all over the place.  It was a known fact, Bailey and Cutler were having differences of opinion.”

 

A burst of noise broke through the glass barriers that separated Simon’s office from the bullpen. “What the hell…” Simon’s voice trailed off as he and Jim rose in unison.  Blair was marching towards Simon’s office, sandwiched between a tall security guard and Joel Taggart.  The smaller man kept pulling indignantly out of both men’s grasp.

 

“Jim!”  Blair said, finally managing to pull free, rushing into the office and immediately positioning himself behind his taller friend. “Jim, this goon has been manhandling me for the past hour.”

 

“Jim, I don’t know what’s got into him,” Joel Taggart’s soft voice tried to push reason back into the room.

 

“Me?” Blair cried out, “Me? This military reject started pushing one of my students around.”  Then seeing the stern look Captain Bank’s threw his way, the apologetic look that passed from Joel to Tarrington, he came forward to stand next to Jim and look up to his best friend and lover for understanding and acceptance.

 

“Jim, he’s arresting Cutler because of the way he looks, the long hair and earring, he’s making judgments based on how someone looks not on any tangible evidence.”

 

Jim reached forward and grabbed Blair by both shoulders, “ Okay, calm down; what happened?”

 

“Cutler came into my office, scared, real scared, Jim,” he emphasized, throwing a scowl at Tarrington, who stood silently by never saying one word.  “He just needed to talk to me, tell me the whole story.  I would have talked him into turning himself in, but no, Jim. No! Campus security broke into my office, the door was locked, they just took it for granted that I was harboring him, because of the way I dress, Jim.”

 

“SANDBURG!” Simon bellowed, “I won’t have my office and a member of my department, making accusations of wrongdoing to another officer.  Especially upon finding a suspected felon hiding out in your office moments after you were told to be on the look out for the suspect.”

 

“Tarrington, what do you have to say for yourself?” Simon asked the man who at one time wore a uniform in the same precinct.

 

“Sir, he shoved me during the arrest. However, we were only going to take him in to the office and find out what was going on. We were advised the student in question wrote several papers whereby he suggested certain ways to eliminate campus dissension.  Apparently all these papers were in Mr. Sandburg’s possession and we found out the night before, Mr. Sandburg and Cutler burned the papers in back of Hargrove Hall. It just looked awfully suspicious that maybe Mr. Sandburg and Cutler were aware of how compromising these papers would prove when Cutler finally whacked Bailey.”

 

“I was counseling the kid…Jim, tell him,” Blair’s voice cracking with frustration, “tell him I was trying to get the kid to use a different approach to expressing his ideas.”

 

Tarrington snorted his disbelief, derision clear in the note.

 

“You’ve prejudged him and me, haven’t you? Where do you get off just taking over from Will Temple and making character evaluations based on other student’s likes and dislikes. It’s a common fact you’ve been friendly with Gus Bailey.” Blair's voice rising in anger and frustration.

 

“I’m just doing my job, Mr. Sandburg.”  Then turning to Simon, he added, “which I think I’ll get back to. I didn’t know Mr. Sandburg was a friend of yours, Simon. I’ll let you handle the situation now.”

 

"Thanks, Ed, I will," Simon said, briefly replacing the glare he was aiming at Blair with a smile for Tarrington.

 

As soon as the campus security chief left, Blair turned his frustration toward Jim. "Thanks so much, Ellison.  Way to support your partner!" the hurt and anger being evident in his voice.  With that remark, he stormed out of the office, through the bullpen toward the elevator.

 

"I thought you had that kid on a tighter rein, Jim?" Simon said with a mixture of humor and disbelief.

 

"I am trying, Sir.  I am trying," he replied wearily, heading toward the elevator where his partner waited.

 

Why do these stupid elevators always take so long, Blair thought to himself.  He glanced over his shoulder and saw a frustrated Jim coming toward him. Not wishing to continue the discussion from Simon's office, he turned and bolted toward the stairs.

 

"SANDBURG! Stop right there!  Do not make me chase you!"  Jim shouted after him.

 

Pausing briefly, Blair seemed to consider stopping, then turned and raced down the stairs.

 

"Shit," Jim muttered to himself.  Grabbing the arriving elevator, he hoped to get to the parking garage before Blair did.  The fates were with him and he made it to the ground floor with no stops in between.  Extending his hearing, he could make out Blair running down the steps, breathing hard.  Stepping into the stairwell quietly, he waited for his runaway Guide to come to him.

 

Blair was running at full speed, certain that he could hear Jim behind him.  He was mad and upset and did not want to talk to anyone; especially his so called partner who refused to support and defend him in front of his attackers.  He skidded to a stop at the bottom landing when he saw Jim waiting for him.

 

"What do you want, man?  I don't want to talk to you right now,” Blair said, crossing his arms and glaring down at the detective.  

 

"That is fine, I don't want you to talk.  You did enough of that upstairs; you are going to listen.  Sit. Don't talk," Jim said, pointing to the stairs, scowling at the younger man.

 

Sitting down with a pouting expression on his face, Blair crossed his arms, “Fine!  Talk."

 

"Be quiet, Sandburg, what part of 'don't talk' is confusing to you?"  When Blair did not say anything, Jim continued, "You made some pretty harsh accusations up there, of me and of another officer.  You accused me of not supporting you against him.  But, how could I, when you storm in after resisting arrest, harboring a fugitive, and accusing someone of false arrest?  You want me to jump to your defense but you made it almost impossible for me.  I am a police officer, what you did was against the law.  This other officer might have been wrong in assuming you were protecting this kid because of the way you look, but," Jim emphasized, pointing his finger at Blair, "his hunch was correct.  You were hiding him."

 

"But, Jim, it isn't fair, Ben is being accused because he has a different opinion than the majority, because he dresses a little different!  That is the ONLY reason!  You know it!"

 

"Blair," Jim said, a little more softly, coming up the stair, "you don't know that is the only reason.  It may have been a reason, but there has to be something else."  He sat down on the stairs, next to his lover.  Picking up one of his guide's hands, softly stroking the palm of it with his fingers, he continued, "You cannot take this personally, this isn't about you.  Me not jumping to your defense in Simon's office was not about you and me; it was about a detective not automatically distrusting a fellow officer.  This kid has problems that you don't need to be taking on; you have enough going on.  You have to understand that."

 

"No, I don't!" he said, jerking his hand away from Jim. "By you not sticking up for me in front of everybody, you basically told them that you don't believe me; that you think I am some sort of radical, who is against the establishment just for the hell of it!  You don't trust me!"

 

"What?  Where in God's name are you getting this from?"  Jim said, trying to control his anger, but failing.  "I never said I don't trust you.  I never said you were against the establishment.  What I said was you broke the law several times and by doing so and acting irrationally upstairs, you made it impossible for me to defend you up there."

 

"Same thing man.  You don't like me; you want to change who I am!  You are always doing that with all of your house rules and your 'do's and don'ts ' and your superior attitude that you are the only one who knows anything!" he said standing up, his voice rising in anger and hurt.  "I know what I am talking about!  I know this student and he would never, could never, do this to someone.  He is lost and confused and just trying to prove to people that look down on him just because of his age or how he dresses or what he believes that he is smart and is not lesser then he is!  Don't you understand?  I was him; he is me at that age; just trying to prove to everyone that he belongs somewhere!"  Blair finished in a half sob, choked with anger and emotion too powerful to contain any longer.  Spinning around, he fled down the stairs and out into the parking garage.

 

"Blair!" Jim cried, trying to snag his lover before he escaped, but missing.  Jumping up to follow him, he ran into the parking garage in time to see his truck drive out onto the street.  Cursing the fact that he had given Blair a spare key to the truck in case of emergencies, Jim headed back to Major Crimes.

 

"So where is the kid?" asked Simon, when he saw Jim coming in alone.

 

"Driving off in my truck," was the curt reply.  Jim sighed, "I don't know what’s gotten into him,” following Simon into his office, he settled down in a chair while the police captain poured two cups of coffee.

 

"Thanks," Ellison said, accepting the coffee. "I cornered him in the stairwell near the parking garage and he went off on me about how I was trying to change him, how I didn't accept him for who he was and how I showed that by not immediately jumping to his defense this afternoon."

 

"Jim, there was nothing you could do about this afternoon.  Sandburg came in here ranting and raving, accusing a former officer of discrimination without evidence one way or the other, it would have been inappropriate for you to take sides.  I thought you handled the whole situation well; you stayed pretty neutral and let me handle it."

 

"I don't know, Captain, he was upset.  He is taking this whole case very personally.  Speaking of which, what is happening with Cutler?"

 

"Brown and Rafe are interviewing him now.  But there is no direct evidence to link him to the beating and until Bailey regains consciousness and can hopefully identify his attacker, there is not much to go on.  The baseball bat used was wiped clean of prints.  Forensic is over at the kid's dorm room looking for blood traces, but I haven't heard yet if they’ve found anything."  Simon sipped his coffee. "Why is Sandburg taking this case so personally?  You two having problems on top of this?"

 

"I don't know. No, we are not having any major problems.  He has been testy lately and I have gotten on his case about not being around here more.   In the stairs he mentioned that Cutler was the same as he was when he was that age.  You know that Blair started college at sixteen, don’t you?"

 

"Yeah, I remember that now."

 

"I think he just can relate to how difficult it is to be accepted by your peers; you know, younger, shorter and probably more intelligent than they are.  He mentioned something about overcompensating to be noticed, equating 'being noticed' to 'fitting in.’ Blair has always thought he didn’t fit in anywhere, moving around so much I guess can do that to you."  Jim trailed off thinking of his lover and the insecurities the young man brought to their relationship.

 

"So what are you going to do about this.  Tarrington told me that the University is not going to press charges against Sandburg for harboring that student; they caught him and that is all that matters to them.  Brown and Rafe seem to have it under control.  You made a noticeable dent in that pile of paperwork on your desk, why don't you go home and see about Sandburg?"

 

Jim flashed him a smile, "Thanks, Sir, I think I will. I appreciate it.“

 

Jim stood and walked out of the office, gathering his stuff, he paused.  "Shit," he said, remembering that his truck had driven away an hour ago with his guide.  Walking back into Simon's office, he smiled. Simon was putting on his coat and gathering his stuff. 

 

"Forget that your truck went AWOL this afternoon, Detective?"  Simon asked, with a laugh, "Come on, I'll drive."

 

 

City lights sparkled brightly in the panoramic view.  A soft fire glowed in the hearth. Earth music filtered the air in soft tinkles of zither, cello and flute.  One lonely anthropologist sat cross-legged in the middle of the patterned carpet, thumbs pressed into palms, eyes closed, breathing in and out as though the exercise gave life and eased his troubled soul.

 

Jim will be home soon. Man, I don’t want to deal with this. I just don’t feel like hashing this out again. He’s like so into not seeing my side of things lately.

 

A deeper breath filled his lungs. Clear your thoughts…that’s it...easy…no Jim, no Simon, no Ed Tarringtons and Gus Baileys…relax. 

 

So into the exercise of concentration and acceptance, he never heard the door open nor saw the large figure looming over him.

 

Catching the shadow in his peripheral, he jumped. “God, Jim, I don’t have your hearing, man. Can’t you make your presence known before you give me a heart attack.”

 

Jim glared down on him, hands on hips, dour countenance showing full displeasure.

 

“Do you want to explain the truck-jacking, Chief? I had to have Simon drop me off.”

 

“Well, you and he are cops…don’t you think you owe each other a lift now and then,” Blair mumbled sarcastically.  Trying to rise from his cross-legged position, he felt his arms grasped above the elbow as he was unceremoniously hauled to his feet.

 

“You want to can the attitude, Chief.  You never did stay to hear out my little talk.”

 

Blue eyes challenged bluer eyes; both ignited by anger and the passion of the self-righteous.  “Oh, yeah, I forgot. I listen; you talk. You make rules; I obey.  You set guidelines I follow. You outline the parameters of this relationship and I stay within the lines.  Well, I never mastered coloring and you can ask Naomi, I always went outside the lines.”

 

Still holding the arms of his lover, Jim gave the captive a slight shake. “Will you just stop it. Put the poor me attitude away and let’s talk about this, Chief.  We’re drifting here and if we don’t make the effort to connect, we could be in serious trouble.”

 

“And whose fault would that be, Jim? Mine, because I have a life outside your little boys in blue setup?  Well, I do.  I’ve never stopped being me, Jim, just because I happened to fall in love with a hard ass cop.”  Tears began to well in the blue pools, threatening to overflow.  All the protective instincts that monitored the emotional and physical well being of Blair Sandburg came bursting forth.  The large man pulled the smaller one into his arms.  Turning the petulant mouth up, he firmly kissed the quivering lips, silencing all protest, rebellion, and doubts.

 

"Fuck you, Jim!" Blair said, pushing back angrily from his lover.  "Don't do that!  Don't pretend a kiss can make everything all better because it can't!" The last part almost screamed out as Blair turned quickly and fled into his office.  Slamming the door behind him, Blair collapsed in the soft recliner in the corner.  Drawing himself into a small ball, he tried to ignore the feelings of hurt and disappointment at Jim's actions, and, Blair admitted with hesitation, his own.

 

Oh God, he thought to himself, I have so messed this up.  I had a wonderful relationship going with him and now I have gone and totally fucked it up.  It's over and it’s all my fault, me and my stupid, stupid problems.  Blair sighed and curled up deep into himself.  The little voice in his head, the one that told him he did not fit in, that told him that nothing he would do would ever be good enough, was going full tilt.  Tears ran down his face and his breath came in short gasps that he did not have the energy to try to control.

 

A few minutes later, a knock on the office door startled the younger man from his latest round of why he was such a bad person.  Looking toward the door, he said wearily, "Come in, Jim."

 

The door opened and the detective came in carrying a cold, wet washcloth.  Walking gently towards his lover, he said, “Blair, I am sorry.  I never, ever meant to say that the small problems we are going through are your entire fault.  When I saw you upset and I couldn't think of the words to say to make it all better, I did the only thing I could think of doing to comfort you and to let you know how much I love you.  I am sorry, I never meant to hurt you even more."  The older man suddenly looked uncomfortable with his admission.  Leaning forward to place the washcloth on the small table next to the chair, he said softly, "Here, I thought this might make your eyes feel better." Laughing almost to himself, he continued "You know how your eyes get all red and puffy when you cry.”

 

Blair grabbed his arm before its retreat.  Pulling the other man closer to him, he said simply, "Please stay with me.  I don't want to be alone."

 

Jim sank to his knees in front of his partner, gathering Blair’s hands together; he drew them to his lips.  He kissed them softly and whispered, " I swear to you, Blair Sandburg, as long as I am alive, you will never be alone." Tears ran down his face, thinking back to the cold loneliness that was his life before the bright, life-filled imp came to him.  "There is no problem in this world, that you and I cannot face and overcome together.  You have to believe me."  The Sentinel bowed his head and rested it in his Guide's lap.

 

Blair curled protectively over him, whispering in a sentinel-soft voice, "I'm sorry I ran from you.  I am sorry I didn't trust you.  I am letting old insecurities hurt us, I have to get past them somehow."

 

They stayed that way, holding each other closely, using each other to help banish the fears temporarily from their minds.  Jim shifted slightly and Blair lifted his head up and smiled down. 

 

Laughing he said, "Is your pride starting to have problems kneeling before me?"

 

Jim kissed him as he stood up and said with equal humor, "No, not my pride, my knees."

 

Sharing the laugh, Blair allowed himself to be drawn up and nestled close to Jim.

"I love you,” he said as he burrowed himself deeper.  "I hate it when we fight."

 

"Me too, love, me too." 

 

"But," Jim said a moment later, "making up can be fun," as the hands that were wrapped tightly around the younger man's waist dropped lower and began to gently knead the jeans-covered butt.

 

Blair shifted back into his lover's hands, welcoming the feel of the gentle, but insistent, hands on his body.  Briefly taking his hands from around Jim's chest, he unbuttoned the detective's shirt and freed it from his pants.   Slowly running his tongue around a sensitive nipple, he heard Jim groan.

 

"I don't think this is fair, Chief," he murmured, lifting Blair's face upward.  "You always keep this beautiful, perfect body hidden.  I think we need to take care of that. "

 

Quickly stripping Blair of his clothes, Jim stepped back and smiled.  "You know, I take that back, you need to wear more clothes when you go out.  I don't want anyone to get a hint of how amazing you are."  Laughing he continued, " I think it might put a damper on our relationship if I have to kill someone defending my property.”

 

Blair laughed, "Property?  I am your property?  Well, I guess that means you belong to me, too.  And, I for one, never buy anything sight unseen.  I think I need to inspect the merchandise."

 

After hungrily peeling Jim's clothes off, Blair stepped back and eyed him appreciatively.  "Oh yeah, I think you'll do.  In a pinch."

 

"In a 'pinch,' Sandburg?" Jim said laughing, "I'll give you a pinch."  Grabbing the younger man gently and pulling him closer, the detective silenced the laughter with a kiss.  Weaving his hands into the thick curls, he held the object of his desire in place while he drank his fill of what his soul knew only as "lover.”

 

Turning up his sense of smell and taste, the Sentinel allowed himself to almost zone on the essence of Blair Sandburg.  The combination of herbal shampoo and conditioner mixed with the slight tang from the coffee he had drunk earlier and the unmistakable scent of arousal and sweat all combined to form a solid image in his mind.  Jim briefly thought that he could locate Blair in a crowd by scent alone.   The rational part of his mind was quickly replaced with the more primal one as Blair plunged his tongue into Jim's mouth. 

 

Untangling one hand from Blair's hair, he slowly trailed an outstretched finger down the sweaty back, bringing the hand to rest cupping a cheek, fingers curved into the cleft.

 

Blair shifted, spreading his legs farther apart, never breaking the kiss, allowing Jim better access.

 

Reaching down, Jim teasingly tickled Blair's opening, briefly plunging a finger in, never going in too deeply, never quite giving the younger man what his body was screaming for.

 

After a few moments of such teasing, Blair broke the kiss laughing.  "Let's take this upstairs where you can finish what you've started."

 

Looking down at his lover, the detective smiled, never taking his hand from between Blair's cheeks.  "I don't know, love, I am a little tired, I may be done for the night."   

 

He laughed as Blair swatted him across the butt.  "Okay, okay, no need to threaten me."  Leaning down as if for another kiss, he scooped the smaller man up and settled him in his arms. 

 

Blair gasped and laughed, wrapping an arm around the broad shoulders.  Rubbing a hand on the hard chest that was cradling him, he said, "I love it when you do your caveman impression."

 

Laughter echoed their progress up the stairs.

 

<end of part 1>

 

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