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Summary: Blair has been missing without a trace for nearly six years, and Jim is on the verge of giving up the search. Then, on the tenth anniversary of the day they first met, a clue emerges as to Blair’s whereabouts. Can Jim find him, and persuade him to come home?

Author’s Note: This story was originally conceived to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the first airing of The Sentinel. It ended up taking longer than expected to finish off so, in a bid to make a few bucks for Moonridge, it got offered up for the 2006 auction instead.

Category/Rating/Warnings: Slash, NC-17, first-time, romance. Pretty much totally unlike my usual fare, apart from the extra added angst, and the fact it takes place post-TSbyBS!

Acknowledgements: Thanks to my wonderful beta, Tesserae. Thanks also to Luicat and Rhianne for their enthusiastic support. And many, many thanks to Joanne, for her generous donation to Moonridge - this story is dedicated to her.

By Fluterbev

June 2006

“Hey, Ellison – you comin’, man?”

Glancing up at the speaker from the file he was studying, Jim Ellison shook his head. “Not tonight, huh? I’ve got something to finish off here.”

Jim’s colleague, Henri Brown shrugged. “Your loss - I hear there’s a great jazz band playing tonight at The Hacienda. How about you come down later?” This was the start of Henri’s last week as a detective with Major Crime, and he seemed determined to go out in style. It was the third night in a row he’d invited the whole gang out to celebrate his promotion.

Jim smiled. “Maybe.”

That was good enough for Henri. “Okay. But,” he pointed a finger in Ellison’s face, “All work and no play, you hear what I’m sayin’? Give yourself a break, man. And by this time next week,” he grinned widely, “that’ll be an order!” And with that, Henri headed to the door.

Smiling bemusedly at the antics of his captain-to-be, Jim got back to his paperwork. But instead of the words on the page, he was assailed suddenly by a vivid sense memory - a young man in a basement office, long, curly hair bouncing as he bopped to loud, rhythmic music.

Memories, Jim thought bitterly, as he tried to banish the ten-year-old image and focus on his work, could ambush you like that sometimes.

Especially on the eve of anniversaries.


In the end, unable to concentrate thanks to the intrusion of too much painful memory, Jim decided to join his friends and colleagues at The Hacienda after all. Tonight, of all nights, he could really use the distraction.

There was a good turnout, he found, as he joined Henri’s party at their table. Rafe was there, every bit as well-dressed now that he ran his own business as he’d been as a detective. Joel Taggart, retired now from the force, looking trim and neat since he’d shed the excess weight he used to carry, greeted Jim warmly. And there were a good number of the rest of the men and women who’d worked in Major Crime during the decade or so that Henri had been a detective there.

Simon Banks, now the Cascade Police Commissioner, was among the revelers. “Hey, Ellison!” Jim’s old friend called, making room for the latecomer to pull up a seat beside him. “How you doing?”

“Simon,” Jim greeted, sitting down and taking a sip of his beer. “I’m late to the party, I see.” He grinned, taking in the relative inebriation of the rest of the group.

Henri was waxing lyrical, in nostalgic mood. “Hey Rafe? You remember the time we busted that guy, down in Stanley Park? The one who was running around nude, high on acid, who believed he was some kind of warrior? What was his name, again?”

Rafe grinned. “I believe it was Riley.”

“Riley, yeah,” Henri nodded. “And remember afterward, when we got back to the bullpen? The guy was standing there,” Henri’s account was punctuated by his intermittent laughter, “completely nude, man. And everybody was making comments, you know? About the, ah, unimpressive size of the guy’s dick. Because he kept telling people to look at it, you remember? Jeez, the guy was high as a kite. Then someone said… someone said…”

As his account tailed off into breathless chuckles, Rafe carried on, “Oh, I remember. What was it again? Some story about warrior prowess in ancient cultures, and size of equipment, wasn’t it? The length of a guy’s dick being relative to his ability to kick ass. And the guy-”

“Riley,” Henri put in.

“Riley, right,” Rafe nodded, “Riley said, without a word of a lie, he said, ‘this one ain’t mine, dudes. Mine is actually bigger!’”

“Yeah, right, that was it!” Henri looked around at the bemused faces of his guests. “You had to be there, really. But hell, it was funny at the time. Hey, Rafe,” he asked, “Who was it said that? About the ancient cultures thing?” He looked at Dills. “Was it you?”

Dills shook his head. “No. It was Sandburg.”

“Ah,” Henri nodded. “Hairboy. Of course.” Then his face fell. “Shit,” he said, looking over at Jim. “I’m sorry, man. I didn’t mean to remind you-”

Jim shook his head, his smile fixed in place. “No problem, H,” he said.

But Henri was no longer laughing. “Jim-” he pleaded, obviously upset at having inadvertently raked up the past.

But Jim waved off his apology. “It’s fine, H. Ancient history. Forget it, okay? Hey,” he said brightly, changing the subject. “Remember the time Walsh from Patrol arrested that guy in a monkey suit?”

But as he waxed lyrical, diverting everyone’s thoughts away from his missing partner, loss and grief hung heavy in his heart. And he felt the concerned gaze of his colleagues upon him at intervals for the rest of the night.


The party finally broke up a little after midnight. Still sober after his single bottle of beer, Jim ferried home a couple of his colleagues before heading back to the loft.

He never got there, though. At some point, his subconscious took over, perhaps recognizing the fact that one day had already turned into the next, and he found himself driving toward the PD. As he pulled up in the station garage and parked, just before one o’clock in the morning - on a date that would be burned into his memory forever - he cursed himself vehemently.

He’d promised himself that, this year, he wouldn’t do this. That he wouldn’t indulge in the ritual he’d performed every single year for the past three years; ever since, by force of will, he’d made this an annual - rather than almost daily - event.

But then, giving in to the inevitable, he got out of the car, and headed toward the elevator.

Once more. He’d do it once more, one final time, then quit. It was time to be decisive, and put the past behind him.

Resolute, he got into the elevator, and pressed the button for floor six.


The bullpen was pretty deserted, as it usually was this time of night unless some big case was going down. Jim gave a cursory wave to the two detectives who were working the swing shift, as he headed toward his desk.

The missing person’s case had been officially closed for several years now. Foul play had never been suspected, even by Jim; and the department had limited resources to spare for something as trivial as searching for a grown man who was not a victim of a crime but, quite simply, didn’t want to be found.

It was amazing how easy it could be for someone with Blair’s skills and intelligence to disappear completely and, in the end, Jim had been forced to accept the probability that that was exactly what had happened. That his former partner had found the pressure he’d been under too hard to bear, and had simply run away from it all. Blair had left a note to that effect, in any case, and there was no evidence at all to suggest he’d gone under duress.

The fact that no trace of him had been evident since, not in tax or employment records, flight manifests, hospital admissions or police reports; just demonstrated how adept Blair could be at going underground and remaining hidden.

Jim refused to accept the other possibility – that Blair could be dead, perhaps as a result of suicide, considering the frame of mind he’d been in when he ran away. Or that he may have died as a result of foul play, or an accident, or some other unknown reason. No, Jim had to tell himself. That was unthinkable. Blair was alive; he just wanted to leave the past behind, because he couldn’t face the consequences of his actions. He’d run away to make a new start, somewhere that people didn’t view him as a liar and a fraud.

Coward,” Jim mentally taunted Blair, when he was in his angriest and most bitter frame of mind. “You left me high and dry, you selfish little shit - holding that press conference, and getting out of Dodge, didn’t even come close to putting right your mistake. It’s not a secret any more, okay? And, because you were too chicken-shit to face the fallout, I’ve had to deal with the consequences of going public on my own, and get used to using the senses without you.

It wasn’t your fault!” he cried inside at other times; like now. “You did nothing wrong – you were shafted, just as much as I was. And in the end, I didn’t support you when you needed me the most, and you threw away your career – and your whole life - for nothing. I understand now why you left, but I wish you’d stayed so we could have helped each other through it.

And now?” Jim sighed as the familiar train of thought rattled to its unsatisfactory conclusion. “I just need to know that you’re okay; even if you never want to see me again.

That’s not to say there wasn’t still some underlying anger left inside Jim. But these days, that was really directed more at himself than toward his absent friend - for continuing to obsess at moments like this, despite the years that had passed. Blair had left six years ago. He obviously didn’t want to keep in touch; and it was likely, in fact, that he’d gone to a lot of effort to avoid being found. He may even have left the country for good.

Why the hell, after all this time, should Jim still care?

He shook his head, giving in to the inevitable. “Because I do, Chief. Simple as that.

The first month after Blair had left, Jim had taken leave from the PD, and chased up every lead he could find; interviewing Blair’s friends, colleagues and students ad infinitum. He’d turned up precisely nothing – it was as if Blair had vanished off the face of the earth.

Jim had managed to track down Naomi, but she had proven to be little help. She hadn’t known where Blair was and, in fact, had tried to dissuade Jim from searching for him. “He’s hurt, Jim,” she’d said. “He needs to do this; to be alone, so that he can heal. He’ll come back when he’s ready. When it’s time. Leave him be, all right?” Despite the promise he’d managed to exact from her - that she’d let him know if Blair contacted her - he’d heard nothing from her since. And he hadn’t had the heart to go looking for her again, just to get the same unsatisfactory answer. Instead, he’d resolved to continue the search in his way.

When it’s time, Naomi had said. Jim sighed, as he sat down at his desk. Six fucking years - it was now way past time.

Months had passed after that, and Jim had gone back to work; but he had been like a dog with a bone, allowing his other responsibilities to fall by the wayside while he continued the hunt for Blair from his desk. Eventually, Simon had been forced to remove Jim from the case, threatening him with suspension if he didn’t get his act together.

Jim continued to search in his own time, but he toned it down, recognizing that his obsession with finding Blair was doing neither himself nor the department any good. Instead, he followed up the sparse leads he’d gotten sporadically, then reduced his activities to once a month, then every six months. Then, three years ago, he’d made the decision to limit himself to a database search just once a year.

He had chosen, instead of the date in early June that Blair had disappeared, to run it on the anniversary of the day they met – March 21st. The date that Blair had impersonated a doctor, confronted Jim with the reality of what he was, and saved his life. It seemed, somehow, more hopeful to focus on a date which had such positive connotations, rather than one so strongly associated with loss.

Now, logging into the PD system, and setting the parameters to seek any mention of Sandburg, Blair, Jim set the first of his planned database searches running; then went to get a cup of coffee.

This was going to be a long – and no doubt fruitless - night.

Rubbing his eyes tiredly as he walked back from the break room five minutes later, Jim sat down and took a sip of the too-hot coffee. Glancing blearily back at the computer screen, his heart almost stopped in shock when he saw the words flashing on the screen.

Match found.


Seattle? All these years that we looked for him, and he’s in Seattle?” Simon’s voice was incredulous.

Jim shifted the cell phone to his other ear, and rubbed tired eyes with one hand. He glanced up through his car window at the imposing building which held the central precinct of Seattle PD. “Well, he’s here now,” he confirmed wearily.

So what are you going to do?

Jim glanced at his watch. “The detective who’s dealing with the case – guy name of Nugent - is supposed to get in to work in about half an hour. I’m gonna talk to him; try to get some details. All I know from the computer record is that Blair was assaulted - nothing else.”

What about an address? Did you check that out?

“Yeah, it was logged in the database entry, so I went there first.” Jim sighed. “He lives in a small apartment – doesn’t look bigger than one or two rooms, from what I could see from the outside. The area’s pretty rough – while I was there, I saw drug deals going down, and a couple of hookers turning tricks right outside - so if it happened near there, I’m not all that surprised. He wasn’t in, though. The place was locked up and in darkness, and none of his neighbors could tell me a thing.” None of them were all that happy about being woken at five a.m. by a cop from out of town either; but Jim didn’t bother telling Simon that. “I got the impression he keeps a low profile.”

Worry crept in to Simon’s voice. “That doesn’t sound like him, or like somewhere he’d choose to live. Are you sure it was the right address?

“Yeah. I showed his picture around, and a few of them recognized him. They uh,” he paused. “They said his hair’s shorter now, and he’s thinner. Older, obviously. But basically, yeah, it’s definitely his place.”

There was silence for a heartbeat. Then, Simon told him, “Jim, if you see him…

“Yeah. I know.” A world of pain was in the words. “I’ll tell him, Simon.”

Jim terminated the call, and glanced again at his watch. Twenty-seven minutes to go. He leaned his head back against the headrest and closed his eyes, willing himself not to doze off, his gut churning with anxiety and need.

This was the hardest stakeout he’d ever done.


In the end, it took considerably longer than twenty-seven minutes. Detective Nugent met Jim a little after nine-o’clock, after keeping him waiting for an interminable time in an interview room. “Yeah, I remember,” the cop said, after a cursory glace at the printout Jim handed him. “It was a gay bashing.” He handed the piece of paper back to Jim. “Guy was in the wrong place at the wrong time. No witnesses. End of story.”

Jim’s hackles rose. “And?” he demanded.

“And, what?” Nugent didn’t react to his change in attitude.

“And,” Jim clarified coldly, “have you got any leads?”

Nugent snickered. “Give me a break, Detective… what was it again? Ellison? Look,” he leaned forward. “This is Seattle – not some backwater like Cascade.” Jim raised his eyebrows, almost more amused by the inappropriate slur on his city than annoyed. Oblivious, Nugent carried on. “I’ve got three homicides and fifteen serious assaults in my caseload right now. Guys like this,” he flicked desultorily at the piece of paper, “who take stupid risks in the pursuit of their ‘lifestyle’, are way down my list of priorities.”

Controlling his impulse to slap the idiot around the head – by reminding himself forcefully that he was here to get information – Jim asked, “Where’s Sandburg now?”

Nugent’s brows creased as he tried to remember. “When I went to interview him, he was in Mercy General. Or was it Seattle Central? I forget – it was a couple days ago. I’d have to consult the file.”

“I’d like to see it.” Jim could play ball, along with the best of them; but this guy was severely trying his patience. Still, he managed to school his demeanor to professional indifference – no point in making this asshole so defensive he wouldn’t cooperate. “If you don’t mind.”

Nugent stood up. “Let’s go to my desk. I can spare you five minutes,” he said.

Silently seething, Jim followed.

Standing at Nugent’s desk a few minutes later, Jim found that the file contained minimal information. Used to the high standards of record keeping that Captain Banks had always insisted on, he shook his head in irritation. But it did, at least, tell him which hospital Sandburg had been admitted to – as well as filling in some of the essential blanks that Nugent seemed unwilling or incapable of elaborating on.

Nugent interrupted his perusal. “What’s…” he peered at the name on the front of the file, “Sandburg,” he read, “wanted for in Cascade, anyway?”

Jim blinked. “Excuse me?”

Nugent grinned. “Well, you’ve come all the way over here in person. I’m guessing you want to nail this guy bad. What is it? He a pedophile, or something?”

Jim glared at him. “It’s a missing person case. He’s been gone without a trace for six years.”

Nugent snorted. “Is that all? Seriously? You’re kidding! Jesus, things must be real slow in your town, Detective. Six years, and you’re still looking this hard?” Nugent sketched quote marks in the air. “You guys call that a ‘Major Crime’, huh?”

Jim had had enough. “Look,” he said testily. “Sandburg is… was… a friend of mine, all right?”

“Ah.” Nugent was watching him with beady eyes. “It’s personal. What’s this guy to you, huh?” The innuendo – as well as the underlying bigotry in his words - was unmistakable.

“None of your goddamned business.” Jim thrust the file at Nugent. “I’m gonna need copies of everything in this.”

Nugent pushed the file back at him with a sneer. “Copier’s out in the hall, Detective - I’m not your secretary. Unlike where you come from, we do our own administrative work around here.”

Wishing fervently that he could punch this moron in the face, Jim nevertheless took the file and headed out, his need to track down Blair taking precedence over his homicidal feelings.

But he managed to at least level his iciest stare at Nugent first.


Sandburg, it seemed, had only spent one night in Mercy General. Jim’s relief that Blair had not been injured so badly that he’d needed to stay longer, warred with his overwhelming disappointment that the six year search was not quite at an end.

A second trip to the apartment building where Blair lived suggested, however, that he hadn’t returned home at all after being discharged. After briefly scanning the apartment from the outside with a cursory sensory sweep, it was obvious that Blair was not there. And a look at the unopened envelopes in Sandburg’s mailbox – which Jim expertly jimmied open - confirmed that the elusive occupant had not emptied it since the day before the assault took place.

Jim briefly considered breaking into the apartment itself, to see if he could find any clue as to where Sandburg might be staying. But he couldn’t bring himself to do it just yet – invading the space of a man he desperately wanted to reconcile with did not seem like an appropriate thing to do; not unless the circumstances became more desperate. So instead, he headed out to the only other place he knew, from the information in the police file he’d obtained a copy of, that Sandburg had a connection with in this town.

A counseling and drop-in center for HIV positive gay men, three blocks away, which was listed as Blair’s place of work.


A decisive flash of his badge got him immediate access to a building which was locked up like Fort Knox. The middle aged man that let him in, who introduced himself as Pete Telford, Coordinator of the Center, noticed Jim’s quizzical glance at the locks and security system. “It’s because of the break-in.” Pete paused, looking at him hopefully, as he led Jim into an office. “It’s good that you’re finally here – have you found the culprit?”

Jim grunted noncommittally as he took the seat which was offered – the break-in Telford was alluding to wasn’t the reason for his visit, after all. But Telford had given Jim the opening he needed to ask about Blair. “Do you think that the recent assault on Blair Sandburg is related to the break-in?”

Telford sat down behind his desk. “I don’t know.” He shrugged. “Could be – it wouldn’t be the first time one of our staff was targeted. But this is a rough neighborhood, so shit like that happens all the time. It’s just a shame Blair couldn’t identify his attacker.” Then he frowned. “Sandburg’s not his last name, though.”

“It’s the one he gave in his statement,” Jim deadpanned. “What does he go by these days?”

Telford leaned forward, fixing Jim with a cautious look. “What did you say your name was, again, Detective?”

“I didn’t.” Jim gave back look for look. “Is Sandburg here?”

“No.” Telford rose abruptly. “You’re not here about the break-in, are you?” he said flatly. “This conversation is over.” He moved forward, evidently intending to usher Jim to the door. Then his gaze abruptly snapped away, to focus on a point over the detective’s shoulder.

Someone had come into the room. Jim heart skipped a beat as his senses were filled with a familiar scent he’d feared he might never encounter again. Then, a startled voice. A voice Jim didn’t realize how much he’d missed until that moment. “Oh, my god - Jim!”

Slowly, Jim rose and turned, simultaneously dreading and longing to lay eyes on the speaker. And he was both elated and horrified at what he found.

“Sandburg,” he breathed, taking in the sight before him.

Blair was standing in the doorway, slouched against the frame as though it was the only thing keeping him on his feet – despite the crutch that was propped under his one good arm. His left arm and right leg were in casts, and his face was a nauseating patchwork of bruises, swellings and abrasions.

Blair’s hair was now a short mop of curls, graying slightly and receding at the temples. But his blue eyes, still startling in their clarity, hadn’t changed. Right now they were staring at Jim with unmistakable shock and longing, from a distinctive face that neither the disfigurement of injury, nor the changes six years had wrought, could ever fully disguise. It was Blair, Jim realized in a moment of intense, breathless epiphany. Jim’s friend, the man he’d yearned so desperately to see, for so damned long.

The moment stretched out to eternity.

Then Blair took a step forward, breaking the spell abruptly. He stumbled, and both Jim and Telford moved to steady him simultaneously. “Hey, come sit down,” Telford urged. He and Jim each took hold of an arm to steer Sandburg into the room, and at the first touch between Jim and Blair in six years, it felt as though a bolt of electricity shot through Jim’s hand. Blair, it seemed, felt it too, judging by the startled gasp he gave.

Between them, Jim and Telford steered Blair onto the chair Jim had just vacated. As Telford took Sandburg’s crutch and went to prop it up in the corner, Jim appropriated another chair, and sat down facing Sandburg, close enough that their knees touched. “Hey,” he said softly, feasting on the vision before him, a hard lump in his throat – Blair. Here. Alive.

Blair lifted pained eyes. “Jim,” he croaked, his voice harsh with echoing emotion. “I’m sorry, man.”

Oh, god. Without another word, Jim reached a hand around the back of Sandburg’s neck and pulled him close. Overawed by the intensity of emotion he was feeling right now, he couldn’t resist touching his lips to Blair’s forehead before engulfing Blair in a hug. “Oh, man,” he whispered, delivering the understatement of the year. “It’s so good to see you, Chief.”

Blair’s breath hitched, and his uninjured hand reached around to grasp the back of Jim’s jacket in a strong grip.

Behind them, Telford asked, “Hey, Blair? You want some time alone with this guy?” The suspicion in his voice was obvious – Telford wanted to be sure that Jim wasn’t a threat.

Blair responded from the circle of Jim’s arms. “Yeah,” he said, his voice muffled, but resolute. “It’s okay, man. Really. This is…” he faltered momentarily, then found his voice again. “This is Jim Ellison. Jim’s a friend of mine,” he said. “A good friend.”

“Okay.” Telford gave Jim a calculating look. “I’ll be just outside,” he said pointedly. “You need me, Blair, you call. I’ll hear you.” And with one last, pointed glare at Jim, he disappeared out through the door, leaving it slightly ajar.

In Telford’s wake, Jim was in no hurry to let go, now that he finally had Blair here, in his arms; and Blair seemed equally unwilling to end the embrace. For Jim, holding Blair like this was the culmination of six bitter years of hope and longing. Six years, during which he’d run the whole gamut of emotion, from anger, to fear, to desperate sadness. Six years during which he’d been on the verge of giving up all hope of ever seeing Blair alive again.

After uncounted minutes, Blair finally pulled away, and Jim reluctantly released him. Blair’s eyes were dark and liquid, his voice reflecting the myriad conflicting feelings that were assailing him – feelings which were, apparently, the mirror of Jim’s own. “I thought you’d punch me out man, if I ever saw you again,” he gasped. “Not react like this.”

“I was angry for a while, after you left,” Jim admitted. Then he shook his head. “Not now, though. Not for a long time.”

Blair swallowed. “I’m sorry I left like that, Jim.” He reached out, and Jim held his breath as those sure, strong fingers cupped his cheek, the gentle touch the most wonderful thing he’d ever felt. “I’m so sorry I hurt you.”

“Don’t do it again, huh?” Jim smiled through his pain, willing Sandburg to hear him. “I don’t think I can take another six years of not knowing if you’re alive or dead.”

“Okay.” Blair’s agreement was expressed in a hoarse whisper. “I won’t.” He was looking at Jim with an expression of such tenderness and awe, that it tore at Jim’s heart. “I missed you, Jim,” he said fervently. “So much, man.”

Wordlessly, Jim gathered him in again. “Me too,” he murmured as Sandburg’s shoulders shook, and the world before his own eyes blurred. “Oh god, me too.”


It was clear, once Jim and Blair had gotten their initial reunion out of the way, that they needed to talk - and that Telford’s office was not the place to do it.

Jim shamelessly listened in from the corridor outside the room, as Blair informed Telford that they were going to head out for a while. The guy was proving to be surprisingly protective of Blair, which inevitably forced Jim to speculate about the nature of their relationship. “Blair, I don’t know – look, you’re not in great shape right now, babe. You should be resting.

Hey, I’ll be fine.” There was a suggestion of intimacy in Blair’s voice which made Jim’s gut clench in resentment. Angry at himself, he tried to banish the uncharitable nature of his thoughts. Blair had a new life here, new friends. Perhaps more than friends. What business was it of his to feel jealous?

Blair left you,” his inner voice informed him snidely.

Shut up!” he told it firmly.

Annoyed at himself, Jim tuned back into Blair’s leave taking from Telford. He heard Blair say, “Hey, c’mon, Pete. Don’t worry, okay? Jim is… Jim is a great guy.

Telford seemed unimpressed. “If he’s so great, how come you didn’t want any contact with him all these years, huh?

It’s complicated.

It sure is! Look, Blair,” Telford was wheedling now. “I care about you, okay? You’ve been hurt enough. This guy’s from your past, right? You know, the same past you absolutely refuse to talk about? I just don’t want him to rake up a load of stuff that’ll upset you.” His voice lowered, purposeful calculation in the words. “He already made you cry - don’t think for a minute that I can’t tell. I don’t trust him, Blair. Don’t go with him.

Jesus. In a minute, Jim was going to go back in there, and cram the ignorant bastard’s words back in his throat.

Listen.” There was a hard tone in Blair’s voice suddenly. “Jim is the most incredible, honorable man I’ve ever met. You don’t trust him?” Blair laughed shortly. “Well I do, Pete. I trust him with my life, and he’s never let me down. You know nothing about Jim – nothing at all. Butt out, okay?

Jim couldn’t help but feel amazingly touched at that evidence of Blair’s loyalty, even six years – and a lot of heartache – down the line. And, as Blair emerged from the office - leaning heavily on his crutch - to exit the building at Jim’s side, the worst of his fears were banished in a sudden rush of familiar, warm affection.


As Jim had half suspected, Blair had been staying with Pete Telford since the attack. So, at Blair’s request, they headed to Telford’s apartment, leaving Blair’s disgruntled friend holding the fort at the drop-in centre.

“Nice place,” Jim noted as he looked around. It was, too, he had to grudgingly admit; a modern loft apartment in a nice area, airy and tastefully furnished, with high ceilings and strategically placed skylights. Minimalist in décor, with subtle ethnic touches; in some ways not unlike how his own loft back in Cascade had looked during the years that Blair lived with him – only more polished around the edges.

“Isn’t it great? Pete’s life-partner was an interior designer,” Blair told him, as they moved slowly through to the seating area, Blair leaning heavily on his crutch. “Joe was really well respected, man. He did a lot of commissions down in LA, Beverly Hills, places like that, designing homes for the rich and famous. He was known for the tribal influences in his work.”

“Was?” Jim looked at him quizzically.

“Yeah.” Blair lowered himself carefully onto the couch. “He died last year. He had cancer.”

“Oh. That’s too bad.”

“Yeah, it was. He was a great guy.” Blair propped his leg up on the couch with a sigh. He looked, Jim had to admit, pretty awful, the bruises on his face, and casts on his arms and leg giving him a terrifyingly fragile appearance.

Carefully, needing to know, Jim asked. “So, are you and Pete…?”

Blair looked at him. His eyes widened. “You mean are we together?” He shook his head. “No, man. We’re friends. That’s all.”

“Right.” Jim felt unaccountably relieved.

“I… I did have someone. For a little while.” Blair confessed awkwardly. He shrugged. “It didn’t work out, though.”


“Yeah. Oh, hey…” Blair changed the subject, “you want some coffee, man?” He made as if to get up. “I can-”

“No!” Jim stopped him. “Stay right there, Chief. I’ll get it.” He headed around the nearby kitchen counter. As he searched through cupboards for coffee to use in the shiny, chrome, top-of-the-range machine he found there, he asked, “So this guy you were with. What went wrong, huh?”

Blair let out a weak laugh. “I never said it was a guy.”

“Well, was it?” Jim carried on with his task as he spoke. “I mean, that wouldn’t exactly be news to me, Chief.” He grinned, hoping to set Blair at ease. “I used to wonder if you and I were heading in that direction at one time.”

Blair looked abashed. “Okay, yeah,” he admitted. “It was a guy.”

“So, what happened?” Jim opened the bag he found – a good, strong java. He took a deep breath, luxuriating in the potency his heightened sense of smell added to the delicious aroma.

Blair seemed reluctant to answer. “He, uh, broke it off. Things…” Blair faltered, “Things haven’t been all that easy for me. He found me pretty difficult to be around.”

“Oh. Sorry to hear that.” Jim added coffee to the machine. Jeez, this thing might look terrifyingly state-of-the-art, but it worked just like his own ten-year-old coffee maker back home. Hardly rocket science.

The oddness of the conversation seemed to hit Blair suddenly. “What are we doing here, man? I can’t believe I’m telling you about Tim, and you’re being all sympathetic. Why aren’t you mad at me?” He shook his head incredulously. “Why are you even here at all?”

Leaving the coffee machine to work its magic, Jim came back over into the living area. Crouching down in front of Blair, he said, “I was mad, when you left. For a long time, I alternated between being angry as hell, and scared shitless that you might be dead. But you know what?” He put out a hand, rested it on Blair’s uninjured leg. “After that, I started to ask myself why you left. What had been going through your head. And I realized what a self-centered, despicable bastard I’d been to drive you to the point where you thought your only choice was to disappear.” He held Blair’s gaze with his own forthright one. “I’m not mad any more, Blair. I’m just relieved you’re okay. That’s all I wanted to know.”

“It wasn’t your fault,” Blair protested. “I was the one who screwed everything up, Jim.”

Jim shook his head. “You did nothing wrong. You were a victim of circumstance, just like I was. You tried your damnedest to put it right, and all I could do was blame you, when we should have been supporting each other. I’m the one who screwed up, Chief, and I can’t tell you how sorry I am for that.”


Jim squeezed Blair’s knee. “I wish you hadn’t left, Blair, but I understand why you felt you had to.”

Blair choked back something suspiciously like a sob. “I wish I hadn’t left, too.”

Jim shifted to sit up beside Blair on the couch, who moved his leg slightly to accommodate Jim. “It’s been hard, huh?” Jim observed. He’d been in his own familiar surroundings these past six years, with the support of friends who knew him, knew what he’d been through. Blair, on the other hand, had been god knows where for the past six years, away from people who cared about him deeply.

Needing his friend to understand how precious this reunion was to him, Jim pleaded, “Don’t disappear on me now I’ve found you, Blair, okay? Don’t put us both through that again.”

“I don’t think I could, if I wanted to, man. I’m through running.” Blair sighed. “I’m… I’m just tired of being alone, you know?”

Jim frowned. “You have friends here, right? This guy – Telford?”

“Yeah, but it’s not the same. There’s a lot they don’t know about me. A lot I can’t talk to them about.” Blair smiled sadly. “That’s one reason it didn’t work out for me and Tim – he didn’t like it that I wouldn’t tell him about my past.”

“Still keeping my secret, huh?”

Guilt flashed across Blair’s face. “Trying to do it better this time.”

Jim caught Blair’s hand in his own. “Blair – it’s not a secret any more. I had to fess up, after you left. I could have lost my job otherwise.”

Blair flinched slightly. “Oh, man. I’m so sorry,” he said. “God, Jim-”

Jim waved him silent. “Forget it. It had to happen – I realize now what an idiot I was to try and keep it under wraps like that. The funny part was, it turned out it was never such a big secret anyway. Just about everybody at the PD already suspected something was up with me, and so did anyone else that ever saw me do something strange.” He looked at Blair earnestly. “You didn’t ‘out’ me, Chief – all the release of your dissertation did was confirm what they already knew. I pretty much outed myself, every time I used the damned senses.”

“It was all for nothing, then.” Blair seemed devastated. “When I said I lied.”

There was no point in shading the truth, not this many years down the line - Blair deserved to know what he’d given up. “If you’d stayed,” Jim told him, “it would have been put right. As it was, Chief Warren interceded with Rainier in your absence, as soon as he learned the truth. As far as the university is concerned, you’ve been cleared of any wrongdoing. Only,” he added, “they had no way of contacting you to let you know.”

Blair looked away, obviously upset. “Oh, man,” he said, withdrawing his hand from Jim’s to run it through his short curls in an achingly familiar gesture. “What a fucking mess.”

“Hey.” Jim said gently. “Don’t sweat it, Chief. Things were tough, at the time. Neither of us were thinking all that clearly.”

“You got that right,” Blair said bitterly. “Especially me. God, I shouldn’t have run off like I did. I should have stayed, faced it all, backed you up. What a coward, huh?”

“You were hurt.” Jim wasn’t going to let Blair beat himself up. “It was a natural human reaction, Sandburg. Fight or flight. Your back was up against the wall.”

“You offered me a way out.” Blair hadn’t finished with the self-condemnation. “You offered me a badge, a chance to be your partner for real. I chose to run. I didn’t even have the guts to face you and tell you myself.”

“It wasn’t the right thing for you, but you thought you were letting me down by refusing. You couldn’t face seeing my disappointment in you when you turned it down, and you were scared I wouldn’t want anything more to do with you after that.”

Blair looked at him quizzically. “You been taking psych classes, huh?”

Jim smiled. “Nah. But I used to live with a psych minor - he taught me a thing or two. Seems I learned some lessons better than others.”

Despite himself, Blair laughed, sun peeking out from behind a heavy cloud, and lightening Jim’s heart a little. “God it’s good to see you, man,” Blair said, after a moment; the sincerity of his words undeniable. “If you only knew how long I’ve dreaded us meeting again like this. And how much I wanted it too.” Despite the smile on his lips, there was still sadness in Blair’s eyes; which were surrounded by unfamiliar age-lines and an overall vulnerability that appalled Jim. The last six years, it seemed, had not been kind.

Wanting to know – to share – what Blair had been through, Jim asked, “Where did you go, Chief? When you left Cascade? Were you here all the time?”

Blair looked down at his hands, the left one half encased in a plaster cast, and cradled in his right. “I wanted to get as far away as I could.” He peeked at Jim through lowered lashes. “You said it, man. Fight or flight. I wanted to run, as far away as possible from everything. And,” he added apologetically, “everybody.” He took a deep breath, closing his eyes briefly before continuing, his gaze averted. “I went down to the docks, and signed on to a ship. Spent nearly a year at sea. After that,” he glanced Jim’s way, “I ended up in Africa. Traveled around the continent for a few months, and ended up working for a South African AIDS charity, first as a volunteer, then as a paid counselor.” He paused. “Man, that was… let’s just say, it helped me put my own problems in perspective, big time.”

“I can imagine.”

“Anyway,” Blair carried on, “I spent a year or so down there. I would probably still be there now, but the group I was working for had serious funding difficulties, and they were forced to downsize. I decided to move on after they terminated my contract, and managed to get work on another ship, which eventually gave me passage home. Took six months, though. All in all, I was away from the States for a little over three years.”

“What did you do when you got back?”

Blair shrugged. “I traveled some more. Got work as I went along; casual labor of various kinds. Did some driving, worked construction. I worked in a sheet metal plant for a while – man, that was a blast from the past. I gradually made my way up here over the next few months - I guess I had some kind of weird homing instinct. Once I arrived in Seattle, I volunteered at the center part time. Then, after a few weeks, they hired me on the strength of the experience I got in Africa. And that’s where I’ve been ever since.”

“I wondered,” Jim said, “why I couldn’t find you. I was looking in the wrong places.”

“Yeah,” Blair breathed.

“Blair, why didn’t you call me? Drop me a line, just to say you were okay?”

“Good question.” Blair shook his head. “It wasn’t that I didn’t think about it – sometimes I couldn’t think about anything else. One reason, I guess, is that at first it wasn’t easy. The only opportunity I had to call or post a letter was when the ship was in dock. We spent weeks at a time at sea and, for some reason, I never could bring myself to do it, any of the times we hit land. By the time I got to Africa, I think I’d convinced myself that you’d have gotten used to me not being around, and just gone on with your life. After that - it got harder and harder to look back, you know? I couldn’t think of you, or Cascade, without it twisting me up inside. So I didn’t. Or,” he amended, “I tried not to. And by the time four or five years had passed?” He shrugged. “I didn’t think you’d want to hear from me, anyway.”

“You changed your name,” Jim accused. “Your friend Pete told me you didn’t go by ‘Sandburg’ any more. You didn’t want me to find you once you got back, did you?”

Blair looked away. “I-”

“I was gonna stop looking,” Jim said, and Blair’s gaze snapped back toward him. “I’ve looked for you for the past six years, and never found a trace of where you went. But yesterday?” Jim shook his head. “I promised myself it’d be the last time. That I’d finally stop searching and get on with my life. That it was way past time I accepted you just didn’t want to know me any more.”


Jim cut him off. “You gave your real name when you were taken to the ER two days ago, as well as in the statement you gave to the cop who interviewed you. That’s how I found you – I couldn’t believe my eyes when, after all these years, the very last time I was gonna try and find you, your name came up on my database search. Why’d you do that, Chief?”

Blair’s voice was barely audible – or would have been to anyone except Jim. “I was concussed, man. I wasn’t thinking straight.”

“You know what I think?” Jim carried on, relentless. “I think that’s a load of bull. I think you knew, deep down, that I’d still be searching for you, and I think you wanted me to find you. I think you’re tired of this – of running, hiding; of just getting by, day by day, having all that unfinished business weighing you down. I think you were hurt, and you were scared, and you needed me.”

Blair wouldn’t look at him, but he didn’t deny it either. His heart rate was through the roof.

Jim spoke softly. “You know what today is, Chief? It’s ten years to the day since we first met. Ten years,” he glanced at his watch, “almost to the hour since you walked into my examination room, pretending to be a doctor. Ten years since you saved my life.”

“I don’t know what you want me to say.” Blair spoke in a whisper.

“Say you won’t disappear again, Chief. Make me believe it.” Jim reached out, grabbed Blair’s wrist. “Tell me that there’s a reason we’re here, together again, exactly ten years after we first met – call it fate, destiny, conjunction of the planets, whatever you like. Tell me I’m right, goddamn it! Come home.”

Blair seemed beyond speech. He ducked his head, unable to answer.

Desperately, Jim hissed, “Don’t you… don’t you run from this, Blair. You’re through running – you said so. There’s nothing for you to run from; not any more.” He shook the wrist he held. “Chief, please!”

There was silence for an endless interval, Blair’s pulse jumping rapidly under Jim’s fingers. Then Jim watched the set of Blair’s shoulders slowly straighten, as a burden he’d carried alone for far too long was hefted by another set of strong shoulders, and hoisted aloft – to be tossed away, like the trash that it was.

In its wake, watery eyes lifted, to gaze deeply into Jim’s. And Jim held his breath, as a nod of assent finally sealed Blair’s agreement.

Without another word, Jim leaned forward, holding out his arms, and Blair moved into them as though he belonged there.

A moment later, Blair murmured into Jim’s chest, “I’m already home.”


As they sat there a short while later, their composure reestablished, drinking coffee side by side on the couch with Blair’s broken leg extended out to rest on the coffee table, Blair could no longer keep his curiosity at bay. “I told you about me, man. What I’ve been doing. About Tim.” He peered at Jim. “What about you? I always thought you’d be married by now; maybe have a baby sentinel or two crawling around.”

Jim was sprawled casually next to Blair on the sofa, looking - as he’d always had a habit of doing - like he owned the room. He’d hardly aged at all; if anything the extra years looked good on him, Blair thought.

The feelings surging within Blair right now, as he sat here with his friend, were so different from the loneliness, pain and anxiety which had dogged him constantly since he left Cascade – but he knew that as soon as the initial gloss of their reunion wore off, he’d be waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Not right now, though, he told himself firmly. Now he planned to luxuriate in it.

Jim reached across, and rested a hand on Blair’s shoulder. Since Jim had turned up, he’d hardly been able to keep his hands off of Blair – as though afraid that he would disappear again at any moment. Not that Blair was complaining – he’d missed Jim’s casual, affectionate touches so very, very much.

“You know me, Chief,” Jim answered him. “Apart from the first few months after you went, it’s been pretty much business as usual. Work’s fine. The senses have been fine – mostly. I dated a few thieves and assassins - never felt the urge to make honest women of any of them, though. Or,” a mischievous glint appeared in his eyes, “honest men.”

Blair blinked. “You’ve been dating men?”

Jim shrugged. “Well, you know. You and I are pretty much the same, on that score.”

Blair had gotten that vibe from Jim, sure, in the past, but he’d never seen Jim pursue guys in actuality – unless you counted the endless flirtation they’d had going on between themselves. “You never dated guys when I lived with you,” he couldn’t help but point out.

“Yeah, well.” Jim said. “Maybe I didn’t feel the need, back then. Maybe I was only interested in one guy.” He winked suggestively.

Blair snorted. “Yeah, right.”

“What, you don’t believe me?”

“Give me a break, man. Yeah, you and I flirted; like, all the time. But that’s as far as it ever went between us. You dated women, Jim!”

“So did you. But it was me you wanted, Sandburg.”

The self-assured bullshitting was so Jim, and this whole exchange was so much like their playful interaction of old, that Blair couldn’t help but laugh delightedly. “Oh, man! You are too funny.”

“Who’s kidding?”

Something in Jim’s voice pulled Blair up short. “What?”

Jim just grinned infuriatingly. He took Blair’s cup. “More coffee, Chief?”

Watching as Jim walked back into the kitchen – a little trimmer, hair a little thinner, but still fucking gorgeous - Blair had to admit that one thing, at least, hadn’t changed during their separation. And that was that his long-held attraction to Jim really was every bit as potent today, as it had been six years ago.

The thought inspired Blair to be reckless. Hell, Jim seemed so pleased to see him, he could probably get away with anything right now. “If that’s so,” Blair demanded, “how come you never said anything?”

Jim paused from pouring coffee to glance at him. “I couldn’t,” he said flatly. “We worked together, Chief. I didn’t want to jeopardize our working relationship – hell, it was under enough of a threat, as it was, toward the end.”

Blair was having trouble getting his head around what Jim was saying. “You’re serious? You wanted me? Like, in a sexual way?”

Jim shrugged offhandedly. “It was more than just sexual. And don’t try to tell me it wasn’t mutual, Sandburg. You didn’t make any moves either, but I could tell. Sentinel, remember?”

Blair blinked, speechless. Jim, on the other hand, just looked smug as he brought the coffee over. “Here you go,” he said, handing Blair a mug.

Taking the cup automatically and placing it down on the table, Blair demanded, “It was work that stopped you making a move?”

Jim took a sip of his own coffee before he answered. “At the time,” he confessed, placing his cup down alongside Blair’s, “I could see it all slipping away. I knew you were attracted to me, but you didn’t seem in a hurry to bring it out into the open, either. I assumed it was something you didn’t want to risk, like me. I loved working with you, being friends. I didn’t want to lose any of that – it was all too important - but all the time I could see the end getting closer. Your dissertation was close to being done, and things were never the same between us after Barnes. Our relationship was going downhill, fast. I was afraid that taking that step, telling you how I felt, would accelerate it; drive you away faster.”

“Why would you think that?” The long-buried hurt and terror of those frantic few months where nothing had seemed to be going right, and everything he loved had been slipping away, hit Blair in the gut. “Jim, I felt the same as you,” Blair said desperately. “You were everything to me, man. God, I… I loved you so much. And yeah, I was scared that we were losing everything, too. But – if you’d told me, I wouldn’t-”

“I couldn’t risk it.” Jim put out a hand, and Blair’s cheek tingled at the tender touch as it was cupped in the other man’s palm. “Things were complicated,” Jim said, and Blair shivered at the caressing tone, and the gentle hand he couldn’t help leaning into, like a cat.

“There was a lot of pressure, those last few months, on both of us,” Jim went on softly, his expression nakedly candid in a way that Blair couldn’t ever remember seeing before. “We both made mistakes. And deep down inside, I knew there was a danger you’d leave. I didn’t,” Jim leaned closer, his voice a murmur, “want that to be the final straw. I didn’t want me telling you how I felt – how much I wanted you, needed you - to be the ultimate reason you left.” He sighed. “I got it all wrong. You left anyway, and I never got the chance to tell you how important you were to me.”

“And now?” Blair could almost taste the coffee on Jim’s lips, he was so close.

“Now,” Jim breathed, “I want to put it right. And I want to give you a really, really good reason to stay around.” And Blair shuddered, his nerves on fire, when Jim’s lips closed the distance, emphasizing the point.


Exhausted as Jim was - after a night of no sleep and the adrenaline rush of finally finding Blair after six interminable years - that, when Blair breathlessly suggested, a short while later, that he go lie down for a while, he gladly accepted.

But he didn’t want to go alone – especially given the circumstances. “Come with me,” Jim urged in between kisses, luxuriating in having Blair right here in his arms, Blair’s taste in his mouth, Blair’s scent filling Jim’s senses - his fantasy come to life.

“Aren’t we moving a little fast, man?” Blair objected.

“God damn it, Sandburg!” Jim’s frustration could not be contained. “Fast? Are you insane? We’ve been leading up to this since the day we met. Ten goddamned years! Exactly ten!” When Blair laughed at him delightedly, Jim knew he’d been had. “Sandburg!” he growled.

“Okay, okay!” Blair was gazing at him fondly, the unfamiliar laugh lines around his eyes reminding Jim achingly of their lost years. “We’ll both go. But I’m warning you, man - I’m not up to doing much right now. Okay?”

For the first time since they’d started making out, all lips and hands and urgent desire, Jim was reminded that not all the lines on Blair’s face were a result of age. “God, Chief,” Jim said, appalled at having momentarily cast aside the fact that Blair was hurt and in pain. “Do you need to take something?”

Blair nodded. “Ah, yeah. Yeah, it’s about time for my meds.”

“I’ll get them for you.” And, over Blair’s protests that he could do it himself, Jim proceeded to do exactly that; finding pills and water, and helping Blair limp across the room to visit the bathroom, before firmly taking his arm and leading him into the bedroom he was using while staying at Telford’s place.

He helped Blair lie down; then, after covering him with the comforter, slipped off his shoes and slid in alongside him. Blair’s eyes were heavy lidded, and Jim kissed him gently before laying down. “Rest,” he said. “I’m right here.”

“It’s like a dream.” Blair was gazing at Jim with naked adoration. “I… I thought you’d hate me. I can’t believe we’re here together, like this.”

“It’s the same for me.” Jim reached out to tenderly stroke Blair’s cheek. Even marred as it was by disfiguring bruises, Blair’s face was the most beautiful sight Jim could imagine.

Blair caught Jim’s hand in his own, and kissed the palm lovingly. “You rest, too,” he whispered. And, his hand still held in Blair’s, feeling at peace for the first time in an eternity, Jim found himself unable to resist the lure of sleep as it claimed him.


He was surrounded by the essence of Sandburg. That was Jim’s first thought, as he surfaced from a deep sleep sometime later, the sleep-warmed aroma of his friend – and soon-to-be-lover, if he had any say in the matter - infusing the sheets enveloping him and the pillow under his face.

Blair, however, was no longer lying there beside him. Jim could hear him talking in the next room, his voice, scent and residual warmth causing Jim to relax in comfortable lethargy and listen.

It’s not what you think, man,” Blair was saying. There was a pause, then he added, “Okay, maybe it is what you think.

Blair,” Telford protested in a long-suffering tone. “Sweetheart, don’t you think you’re moving a little fast?

Sandburg snorted at the echo of his own words earlier, even as Jim felt an amused grin creep across his own features. Jeez, if only the guy knew. “Um, no,” he heard Blair retort. “Trust me, Pete. I know exactly what I’m doing. For the first time in, like, forever.

So that’s it?” Telford sounded hurt and angry. “You’re just going to go off with this guy, back to whatever it is you left behind? For god’s sake Blair,” Jim bristled at the sound of flesh clutching fabric, as Telford grabbed hold of Sandburg. “Yesterday, you wouldn’t even talk about your past. Today, you’re rushing off back to it?

I know what I’m doing.” Blair’s voice was firm, but there was a contradictory, underlying uncertainty in it which inspired Jim to move from his comfortable nest, despite his determination to leave Blair to handle this. As he padded over to the door, he heard Blair say in a much gentler tone, “Look, it’s not as if I’m just throwing everything here away, all right? I’ll stay in touch. I’ll still be there for you, man. Cascade isn’t all that far away.

Jim paused, shamelessly listening through the closed door. “Did you say that to him?” Telford demanded flatly. “Before you walked out on him, then refused to even say his name for six freaking years?”

I had my reasons.” A touch of hardness was back in Blair’s voice – though to Jim’s hearing, it seemed to be masking unutterable pain, the depth of which Jim totally understood, having experienced it himself. “Though it turns out that most of my reasons were a crock. Listen, Pete,” Blair sighed. “I have a chance now to go back, and put it all right. I can’t turn away from that, okay? I lost six years of my life already.

So that’s how you see being here - how you see me - as a waste of your time?

No!” Now Blair sounded hurt. “Of course not! How can you say that? Pete, you’re my friend! You’re practically the only real friend I’ve had since I left Cascade. You matter to me, man!

There was a pause. Then Jim heard Telford say, in a voice filled with strong emotion, “I thought… you were such a great support to me, after Joe died, Blair. I was hoping that, maybe…” He stopped. “Never mind. I should have known it was a stupid idea.

Oh, Pete.” Blair got the implication of Pete’s words. “Oh, man, I’m so sorry. You’re a good friend – the best, man. But…

It’s okay. I get it.” Telford sounded resigned. “You really love this guy, huh?

Yeah,” Blair said simply.

Then be happy, Blair.” As Jim held his breath wonderingly at Blair’s admission, Telford sounded resigned. “I wish you well. But I want you to know, if that son of a bitch hurts you, or you find out it’s all a big mistake, you come back to me. I’m here for you, Blair, as a friend or anything else you need. Okay?

Jim had heard enough. He blocked out the sound of the two men in the other room moving closer, fabric abrading fabric as they hugged, and crept back into the bed to bury himself once again in Sandburg’s sensory aura. And, lying there in Blair’s bed and pondering what he’d just overheard, Jim tried to process it all.

Yesterday, Jim didn’t know whether Blair was alive or dead, or if he hated Jim’s guts. Today, Blair loved him, and was planning to come back to Cascade.

Moving fast? Jeez, they were already way out in hyperspace!


Jim must have dozed off again because, the next time he woke, Blair was asleep beside him, and it was dark. Glancing at his watch – and utilizing his sentinel vision to allow him to see it despite the absence of light – he found to his astonishment that he had slept round the clock. It was just after 5.00 in the morning.

Contentment, after years of uncertainty, could do that, he guessed. Not to mention his exhaustion following the sleepless night he’d had yesterday, when he’d been frantically trying to track Blair down.

Stealthily, so as not to wake Blair, Jim got up, and made his way to the kitchen. In the pre-dawn grayness, he again tackled the gleaming, futuristic coffee machine. And finally, fortified with a mug of hot, black liquid, he sat on the couch to drink it and ponder his next move.

Blair had yesterday said he would come back to Cascade; and had also, apparently, told Telford – who was Blair’s boss at the center – that very same thing, effectively handing in his notice. That made it pretty much a certainty that Blair would be coming back; and Jim wanted nothing more than to bundle Sandburg into his truck and take him home right now.

But – he couldn’t do that. Not yet. The cop in him - as well as the friend in him - recognized that there was unfinished business here to take care of. Business they had not, as yet, even discussed - the matter of the assault on Blair, and the obvious inadequacy of the cop who was assigned to investigate the case.

Detective Nugent’s attitude had pissed Jim off – big time. Not only was his approach personally offensive, it was unprofessional in the extreme. Anyone displaying that kind of bigoted attitude to a hate crime in Cascade (if, indeed, that was what it was – Nugent could well have been making an assumption based on his prejudice) would be courting dismissal at the very least; and a hauling over the IA coals into the bargain. It was completely unacceptable.

Well, Jim was going to make sure that the case was investigated properly, and the perpetrator brought to justice. He smiled to himself. There were times when being close friends with the Police Commissioner of Cascade, and the associated clout that could potentially give him – even in a place that was outside his jurisdiction - might be made to work in his favor.

Finishing up his coffee, Jim looked at his watch again. 5.30 am – more than late enough to wake up Simon Banks, and get things moving. Resolute, he pulled out his cell phone.


Blair didn’t so much wake up, as flounder to the surface of his uneasy dreams. Grim reality beckoned him; the all-encompassing discomfort of healing bones and battered flesh, as well as the residual anxiety and vulnerability deep within which was an inevitable consequence of victimhood.

The past few mornings had been the worst part. Every ache in his body seemed to have intensified during the night, to the extent that even moving to ease the pain was an intolerable chore. But, at least, this time he’d slept the night through for once. He’d felt so secure with Jim beside him, that the nightmares he’d suffered since the attack hadn’t disturbed him at all.

And there was a thought - Jim. For the first time in what felt like an eternity, Blair was able to lie here, and say Jim’s name to himself without pain, or guilt, or desperate sadness. It was a name he’d avoided invoking for so long, even in the privacy of his own thoughts, because the associated sense of loss and failure was often so intense that he just couldn’t handle it. All except for three days ago when, lying bleeding and terrified, he’d wanted Jim, needed him with such a sense of, soul-deep longing, it had inspired him to reach out, and throw his own name out, like a message in a bottle that only one man could possibly be watching for; could possibly understand.

And now, Jim was here. He’d gotten the message – no matter how indirectly Blair had sent it, and how much, deep down, Blair had never really expected him to. Jim had never stopped looking, and he wanted Blair back. He wanted him.


Blair heard the door open and close, as the subject of Blair’s thoughts entered. “Hey, Chief.” Jim’s voice was soft, as though he’d somehow known that Blair’s emotions were all over the place. “You okay?”

“I’m fine.” Blair scrubbed at his sleep-filled eyes, then peered across at Jim, who was looking at him a little anxiously. “Just a little… overwhelmed. You know? I mean...” He laughed shortly. “Here you are,” he said. “With me. Pinch me, huh? Tell me I’m not dreaming.”

Jim grinned. “I wouldn’t know which spot to pick,” he said. “You’re bruised enough as it is.”

There was something in Jim’s words, and the fact that his gaze roved speculatively over Blair’s injuries as he spoke, that caused Blair’s long-buried observer instinct to lift up its muzzle and sniff the air. Pushing himself painfully upright, Blair fixed Jim with a measuring stare. “Okay,” he demanded. “What’s going on, man?”

“I’m taking you to breakfast. My treat,” Jim neatly deflected. “You need any help getting washed and dressed, Hopalong?”

“Jeez, man, no I don’t,” Blair told him petulantly. “But you can help me up, if you like.” He held his good hand up toward Jim, who grasped it and pulled. Wow, Blair thought, as he came unsteadily upright. The guy still had the strength of ten men. He staggered a little, only to be caught and steadied against a broad expanse of chest.

“Sandburg,” Jim growled a few moments later, as Blair stayed where he landed, shamelessly soaking up the proximity of that chest.

Big. It was big. And hard, oh yeah.

“Um, what is it man?” Blair asked innocently, his uninjured hand grasping Jim’s waist. For support. Yeah, that’s what it was.

Arms snaked around Blair’s own waist, pulling him closer. “You going to get moving, or what?” Jim murmured into Blair’s hair.

Blair snickered - that really didn’t deserve an answer. After a moment, he felt - and heard - a chuckle well up in Jim’s chest too. They stayed like that for a moment, both of them laughing breathlessly and almost uncontrollably at the innuendo. Eventually, Blair pulled back to look at Jim. “Oh, man,” he said. “What happened to you? You’re… I don’t know. Playful.”

Jim was looking back at him, no trace of self-consciousness in evidence. “Maybe I’m just pleased to see you,” he quipped. As he spoke, his groin moved against Blair’s suggestively.

“So I see,” Blair told him, pressing back in kind. “I don’t remember you ever putting your gun in your pocket, man!”

Jim harrumphed with amusement, squeezing him tight for a moment. Then Blair felt Jim’s hand slap his ass. “Come on, Sandburg,” his friend said, gently pushing him away. “Time’s a-wasting.”

Blair couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed. “What about finishing what you started, huh?”

Jim winked at him cheekily, as he backed off to pick up Blair’s crutch from where it rested against a chest of drawers. “Let’s take a rain check for now, huh, Chief?” He handed Blair the crutch, his fingers brushing against Blair’s as he did so in a wholly intentional fashion, conveying more succinctly than words that this hiatus wouldn’t last forever. “We need to set the ball rolling on a few things. After that?” He leaned in to kiss Blair quickly on the lips. “I’m all yours, buddy.”

Speechless – this ‘thing’ with Jim was going to take some getting used to – Blair just stood there, not without a little frustration, as Jim left him alone. After a few moments, when it became clear that he wasn’t coming back, Blair shrugged, subdued his raging libido, and started to get ready for the day.


Jim wasn’t the only one who had mellowed during the six years they had been apart. No longer bothering to launch into a lecture about the horrors of fast food, Blair tucked quite happily into pancakes and sausage, not bothering to conceal his amusement as Jim took a bite of an Egg McMuffin, a rapturous expression on his face.

Jim caught Blair watching him, and schooled his features to a look of disdain. “Not as good as Wonderburger,” he complained.

Blair grinned. “Whatever you say, man.”

It was, Blair had to acknowledge, as though the years of their separation had never happened. As they ate, they bantered good naturedly about inconsequential topics, Jim’s sarcastic wit not having been blunted at all in the time they’d been apart. It was like so many breakfasts they’d shared in the past, on their way to or from stakeouts, crime scenes or just a regular day at the PD.

The little oasis of normality they seemed to have recreated gave Blair a chance to catch up on the latest news from Cascade. “Oh man!” He was both impressed and delighted at Simon’s elevated status. “He’s Police Commissioner now?”

“Yeah.” Jim took a gulp of coffee. “He started a month ago. We had a temporary captain in Major Crime the past few weeks, until Henri got his promotion. He takes over next Monday.”

Blair blinked. “Henri? Henri Brown? He made Captain?”


“Whoa.” He’d have a different style, that was for sure. Then, at a thought, Blair asked, “What about you? I mean, you’re the senior detective in that department, right? Didn’t you go for it?”

Jim finished chewing. “Went for it, didn’t get it,” he confirmed. He didn’t look upset at the admission, though. “You know me, Chief. I got the impression I wasn’t diplomatic enough at the interview.”

Blair snorted understandingly. Then his eyes narrowed. “What, and Henri was?”

Jim shrugged, his eyes filled with amusement. “Go figure!”

Things continued in that vein; their discussion light, at ease in each other’s company. It was great that they could sit here and be so relaxed, Blair had to acknowledge, when, basically, the world was about to turn on its head once again.

But maybe, he mused philosophically, the reason for his easy acceptance was because this was actually less the world turning on its head, than the world finally righting itself at last.


Blair was so caught up in the good humor they shared, that he didn’t bother to ask where they were going; assuming, naturally, that Jim was just taking him back to Pete’s place. So it came as a surprise when Jim’s car pulled up in the parking lot just down the block from the main building of Seattle PD.

Blair looked suspiciously across the street, then back at Jim. “What’s going on, man?”

Jim looked smug. “The new Police Commissioner of Cascade and his counterpart in Seattle have decided that our two fine cities have a lot to learn from each other. So Chief Banks has sent a liaison officer to Seattle, to work with the local cops for a couple of days as a consultant on hate crimes. Specifically, violent crime against members of the gay community, and the effectiveness of the way those crimes are being investigated.”


Ellison smiled. "Let’s just say that Simon’s old pal from his beat days wasn’t too happy to hear about the homophobic cop in his town, who is refusing to take an assault case seriously because the victim is a gay man. Especially when that victim is a personal friend of his buddy.”

Blair blinked. There was a wealth of information in what Jim had said which affected him deeply – not the least the fact that Simon apparently still regarded him as a close enough friend to get involved on what had happened to him at such a high level. In an attempt to play down the impact that revelation had on him, Blair decided to latch onto the least emotive part of what Jim had said. “Bisexual, Jim, not gay. I’m bisexual.”

Jim shrugged. “Whatever.”

Blair glanced back over at the PD, then back at Jim. “So, doesn’t this, uh, ‘liaison’ job require the appointee to actually, you know, have outstanding skills in diplomacy?”

Jim affected hurt. “You saying I’m not diplomatic, Sandburg?”

“Well, no, I’m not actually coming right out and saying it,” Blair hedged. “But, the captain’s job, remember? You said that was why you didn’t get it.”

“This is not a captain’s job, Chief,” Jim pointed out. “This is a ‘shake up the asshole’s bigoted little world’ job.”

“Ah ha.” Blair nodded sagely. “Gotcha.”

Jim grinned at him delightedly, before putting his game face firmly in place, as he clipped his Cascade PD badge to his belt. “Let’s roll, Sandburg,” he said. And chuckling, Blair opened to car door and levered himself out, feeling an overwhelming sense that this was exactly like old times.


They hadn’t actually talked at all about what had happened to Blair up until now, although Jim clearly knew some of the details from the copy of Blair’s file he’d acquired, as well as whatever had passed between him and Detective Nugent yesterday (and Blair was guessing that that particular meeting had most definitely not gone well).

Ever since Jim and he had reconciled just one day ago, Blair had been more than happy to pretend the whole nightmare of his assault had never happened – he was feeling so euphoric about having his friend back in his life, that it had been easy to put it into the back of his mind; the constant reminder of pain from his injuries notwithstanding.

But now? Now he was back in the thick of it. But that was okay – because now, he had Jim on his side.

Watching Jim walk into Seattle PD Serious Crime Unit as though he owned the place, was a sight to behold. The captain of the unit had clearly been notified of the impending arrival of the ‘liaison officer’ from Cascade, because the moment Jim flashed his badge he was ushered into the captain’s office. Feeling a little self conscious, Blair stood awkwardly outside, leaning heavily on his crutch, waiting for his friend to come back out.

Movement caught his eye, as the officer who had taken a cursory statement from him in the ER walked past, a cup of coffee in his hand. Nugent didn’t seem to notice Blair at all, though; let alone actually recognize him as the victim in one of his current cases.

The captain’s door opened, and Jim re-emerged – he hadn’t been in there longer than a couple of minutes. And just as he had been since they’d entered the building, Jim was clearly in full-on cop mode, expressionlessly directing Blair to follow him, with a cursory, “Sandburg. This way.”

Jim led Blair out of the unit and down the corridor. Behind them, the captain’s voice rivaled that of Banks at his loudest: “Nugent! My office, now!”

Jim led Blair to a row of interview rooms, finding them without hesitation as though he belonged in this department. “In here,” he directed, ushering Sandburg inside one of them. Jim’s voice was still curt, but the hand on his elbow that steadied Blair as he hobbled inside was gentle and solicitous. The touch also made him shiver – but Blair clamped down on that impulse hard. This was definitely not the time or place to dwell on the effect that Jim’s proximity had on him.

As the door closed, though, Jim gave him a knowing grin, fully aware of the reaction he’d inspired, before getting down to business. “Sit down, Chief. You’re gonna get re-interviewed.”

Blair lowered himself down into a chair. “By who?” he asked.

“By me. Nugent will be observing.” Jim cocked his head. “He’s on his way.”

Sure enough, the door opened a second or two after Jim spoke, and a very disgruntled-looking Detective Nugent entered. The cop glared resentfully at Ellison, then shifted his murderous gaze to Blair, who squirmed uncomfortably.

Blair remembered the last time he’d met this guy. Nugent had been a complete asshole when he was lying concussed in the ER, accusing Blair of making things up at a time when he was having trouble remembering what had happened. He’d treated him like shit.

Actually, Nugent was looking at him the same way now - until Jim got the cop’s attention. “Detective Nugent, you’ve met Blair Sandburg.” Blair breathed a sigh of relief as the man’s hate-filled stare was transferred away, and back to Ellison. “And you and I spoke yesterday. I assume Captain Sorensen has told you why I’m here.”

The cat seemed to have gotten Nugent’s tongue – well, it was either that, or the guy didn’t trust himself not to let fly with his real feelings about the matter if he opened his mouth.

Ellison turned the screw, just a little bit more. “We’ll need Mr. Sandburg’s file, Detective - five copies, at least. To include with my report to our superiors, you understand. And how about some coffee before we start, huh? Cream for Mr. Sandburg, and I’ll take mine black. No sugar.”

The door was flung wide, the resounding slam as it closed making Blair nearly jump out of his seat, injuries or no injuries. In the silence of Nugent’s wake, Blair looked at Jim incredulously. “You call that diplomacy, man?”

Ellison shrugged. “There’s more than one kind, Chief,” he said smugly.


When Nugent returned and the interview finally got underway, Jim didn’t even bother to hide his satisfaction at Nugent’s all-too-obvious humiliation at having an outsider come into his territory to show him how to do his job. The bastard didn’t deserve to have his dignity preserved in this situation, Jim decided. He didn’t even, in Jim’s view, deserve to be a cop at all, with an attitude as bigoted and prejudiced as his.

So as not to inhibit Blair from relating the events of the attack, he sat Nugent off to the side, making sure the angry-faced cop was out of Blair’s line of sight. And he kept the dialogue between himself and Blair professional, not wanting to give Nugent any ammunition. The guy already knew they were old friends – there was no reason to allow him to suspect they might be something more.

Sandburg himself was pretty composed and philosophical, despite the horrifying acts of violence on his person that he was describing. Once again, Jim couldn’t help but marvel at his resilience.

Blair had been walking home from work, when he’d stopped to use an ATM a couple of blocks from his apartment. “There may have been three or four of them,” Blair told him. “I couldn’t tell for sure. They grabbed me from behind, put something over my head – some kind of bag, or something...”

“Did they speak?”

“Yeah.” Blair shrugged. “The one guy called me a faggot. He didn’t really have much of a distinctive voice – he just sounded ordinary, you know? I couldn’t even guess at his age. Oh, but,” he frowned, “one guy said a name – ‘Chuck’, I think. He said it a couple of times, and one of the others told him to shut up.”

“So you heard three voices. Young? Old? What?”

“Young, all of them. Male, definitely. Nothing unusual about the way they spoke, nothing I would particularly recognize if I heard them again.”

Jim looked at Nugent, who was obviously wishing he was elsewhere. “There’s nothing in this report,” Jim pointed out to him, forcing his attention by tapping the file that lay open on the table before him, “about what showed up on CCTV at the ATM. What did your investigation of the footage indicate?” Jim didn’t doubt for a moment that there had been no such investigation.

Nugent looked uncomfortable. “Nothing was said about an ATM in his statement.”

“Is that right?” Jim asked Blair.

Blair frowned. “I don’t remember much abut the statement I gave, to be honest. I was, uh, in pretty bad shape when Detective Nugent spoke to me.”

Jim let that slide, for now – although he fully intended to make sure Nugent was taken to task for it later. Instead, he asked Blair, “What happened next?”

Blair shrugged. “I guess they dragged me away, into the alley where I was found. I don’t remember much after that – they beat me up pretty good.”

That was an understatement, definitely. To make sure that Nugent understood once and for all that they were dealing with a serious assault, Jim asked, “Could you list your injuries, for the record? The details on file are a little sketchy.”

Blair glanced at Nugent, then back at Jim. “Uh, well, broken wrist, obviously. They hit me with something – a stick or a baseball bat – to make me let go of my wallet. Broken leg too; I guess they got annoyed when I called them a few names, man. Apart from that, just bruises and abrasions - I got stitches in a couple of places. And they hit me over the head – knocked me out for a while. On the plus side, the bag they put over it probably cushioned my skull. I mean,” he laughed nervously, “I’m still here, right?”

Jim felt a little sick, even though he’d seen the evidence on Blair’s body for himself. “Right.” He turned to look back at Nugent. “Detective, I’d like a word.” He glanced back at Blair. “Excuse me.”

“No problem, man.”

Outside the room, Jim wasted no time in laying into Nugent. “You take an incomplete statement from a man while he’s semi-conscious in the E.R. You fail to find out the full details, and do no follow up. You fail to view the relevant CCTV footage, which might identify the perps. And why? Because you assume that, because the victim works at a drop-in centre for gay men, the assault was justified. And how do you come to that conclusion?” He backed Nugent into the wall. “Because, in your eyes, he’s nothing but a worthless fag.”

“Now, hang on a minute!” Nugent was livid. “I never said that!”

“You said it with your body language every time Sandburg opened his mouth in that room just now.”

“And what the hell makes you think I’m wrong, huh?” Nugent was an asshole, but he didn’t seem to be unduly cowed by Ellison, given the fact that he made no attempt to modify his attitude. “You heard what he said in there. The guys who beat him up called him a faggot! It was a gay bashing, pure and simple - I see this kind of thing every day. The only way it will stop is when slime like him,” Nugent gestured toward the room holding Sandburg, “stop flaunting their perversions all over that part of town!”

That was it – Ellison had heard enough. Grabbing Nugent by the scruff of the neck, he dragged him into the empty room next door to the one they had been using, and slammed him bodily up against the wall.

“Listen, you stupid, prejudiced son of a bitch,” Jim snarled into the suddenly terrified man’s face. “A guy, coming home from work, goes to use the ATM, and he’s flaunting himself? That somehow justifies what those murderous bastards did?” He shook Nugent hard. “This case is robbery and attempted murder, pure and simple. They tried to crack his skull with a baseball bat. And if you’d done your homework, like I have, you’d realize that the assault on Sandburg is only part of the picture. Because in the past three weeks, there have been four similar assaults on ATM users in that area, none of them gay. And in two of the cases, the victim died of massive head trauma.”

He had Nugent on the ropes, quite literally. The guy had majorly fucked up – all because of his prejudice. “I swear,” Nugent whined, “I never knew until he said so just now that they attacked him at the ATM! That was never mentioned! If I’d suspected that it was another hit by the ATM gang, I’d’ve handed the case over to Correlli and Patterson, okay? All I knew about Sandburg was that he was a fa… a guy from that AIDS place, who’d been left for dead in an alley. I assumed he was turning tricks, all right? What else was I supposed to think?”

“You were supposed to do your goddamned job. You were supposed to interview him when he was actually conscious, ascertain the facts, and take appropriate action. You were supposed to see beyond your own ridiculous bigotry, and act like a cop!”


They were gone for so long that Blair couldn’t help but wonder if Jim had actually given in and killed Nugent.

Finally, the door opened, and Ellison walked in, alone.

“Hey,” Blair greeted. “Where’s your friend?”

“He’s no friend of mine, Chief.” Ellison sat down wearily, and ran a hand over his face.

“Are you okay, man?” Blair asked, worried.

Jim reached out, and took Blair’s hand. Such a display was a little unexpected, given their location, and Blair found himself looking at Jim quizzically. Jim gave Blair’s hand a squeeze, and said earnestly, “I’m sorry, Blair. Not all cops are like him.”

Blair hiccupped a little nervous laugh. “Hey, Jim, this is me you’re talking to. I know that – remember?”


“So,” Blair tried for humor. “You want me to help you hide the body?”

At last, Ellison cracked a smile. “No,” he said. "It’s funnier to let the idiot live with defeat. After his boss, and Simon’s friend the local Commissioner, get my report, Nugent’ll be lucky to still have a job.”

“Ah. Right.” Blair swallowed. Jim’s thumb was rubbing his knuckles, and it was doing strange things to his libido. “What happens now?” he asked hopefully, wishing for privacy. “Can we get out of here?”

“Sorry. You’ve got to be interviewed again.”

This was getting ridiculous. “You’re joking! By who?”

“By the right detectives. The ones who Nugent should have handed your case over to in the first place.”

“Don’t tell me,” Blair guessed. “The guys who attacked me were serial robbers, who choose their targets randomly, abduct them from ATMs they’ve just used, take their cash, then kill them by hitting them over the head with a baseball bat, and I’m just the latest in a long line of victims?”

Jim looked at him in surprise. “How d’you know all that?”

Blair rolled his eyes. “Simple, man. It’s just business as usual in my world – especially now that you’re back in it!”


By the time Blair had given his third and – hopefully - final statement, the constantly needling ache from his injuries was really screaming out for his attention. Taking in his pinched look of pain at a glance, Jim offered to drive him home. “I need to come back here afterward, though, Chief. I’m gonna work with these guys on this. The scumbags who did this to you can’t be allowed to do it again.”

Blair really would have liked to hang with Jim – he was getting an intense and satisfying feeling of déjà vu from all of this. But he saw the sense in taking a break – especially since he’d left his pain meds back at Pete’s apartment. “Okay,” he agreed regretfully. “Let’s get out of here, man.”

They called into a deli on the way home, and got sandwiches to go. Back at Pete’s, they ate a quick lunch together, before Jim stood to head off back to the station. He had a look on his face that Blair remembered well from the time they’d worked together – an intense, preoccupied expression, reflecting his intense focus on solving the case. Blair smiled at the sight. Jim wouldn’t rest until the guys who had beaten him up were apprehended, he was certain. It was just the way the detective worked.

Jim caught the smile. “What?” he asked.

“Nothing, man.” At Jim’s continued look of puzzlement, Blair said softly, “It’s just… it’s really good to see you.”

Jim smiled, a tender, beautiful smile that made Blair’s breath catch in his throat. “Yeah,” he said softly. “You too, Chief.” Blair held his breath as Jim reached out a fine-boned hand to lightly caress his face; the intent look in his eyes holding Blair immobile with anticipation. In the next moment, Jim leaned in and their lips met in an achingly gentle kiss, the soft touch infused with the strength of feeling they had for each other, and the wonder of being reunited after so many years of sorrow.

Blair could only sit stunned in the aftermath, as Jim pulled away. “Get some rest,” Jim ordered, all-business again, although he sounded huskier now. “I’ll see you later, Chief.”

When the door closed between them, Blair still hadn’t managed to find his voice.


It was after midnight when Jim got back. Blair had given him a key, so he let himself in to the silent, dark apartment. Opening his awareness wide, he could sense that just one other person was home, evident in the soft, snuffling sounds of sleep coming from behind the closed door to Blair’s room.

There was a piece of paper, a note, on the kitchen counter, addressed to him. Spying it brought back a sudden, painful flashback to what had to have been of the worst moments in his life, and Jim’s heart sped up in dread as he picked it up, despite the reassuring evidence of Blair’s sleeping presence.

A second later, Jim’s impulsive panic subsided when he realized it was not Blair who had written it. It was a note from Pete Telford, saying that he’d gone to stay with a friend for a few days, so that they could have the apartment to themselves. The terse wording left Jim in no doubt that Telford resented him more than a little. “Take care of Blair,” Telford’s note ordered in a scrawled postscript. “Treat him right, or deal with me.” Jim shook his head wonderingly. It seemed that Blair’s ability to attract loyal friends was still intact, despite the fact that he didn’t seem to realize it himself. There were a lot of people in Cascade who had been worried sick about Blair for the past six years, yet Blair hadn’t, apparently, felt able to turn to any of them for support.

Jim used the bathroom, and then slipped silently into Blair’s room. Blair was lying on his back, wearing just a tee shirt and shorts in the warm night air, his broken leg and arm propped up on pillows. Asleep, he looked far younger than his thirty-six years; the few age lines he’d gotten smoothed out in repose. All in all, he looked very like his old self, Jim thought; the evidence of violent assault and the shorter hair notwithstanding.

Taking a moment to cover Blair with the comforter, which had fallen onto the floor, Jim undressed down to his boxers. Blair stirred, frowning as Jim got in the bed next to him. “No...” Blair protested breathily, evidently in the midst of a dream – of an undoubtedly unpleasant nature. “Please, stop... don’t…”

He was getting agitated, so Jim reached out, soothing him with a gentle touch on the brow. “It’s okay, Blair,” he whispered, stroking Blair’s short curls back. “Everything’s fine. It’s just me.” He was pleased when Blair’s restlessness subsided, and he slipped into deeper sleep as he subconsciously registered Jim’s presence.

Feeling intensely protective, as well as awed by the evidence of Blair’s unquestioning trust, Jim moved up close beside him, luxuriating in the feel of Blair’s warm body against his own. And closing his own eyes with an exhausted sigh, Jim gratefully joined his friend in sleep.


The buzzing of an unfamiliar cell phone roused Blair from a deep sleep. He shifted uncomfortably, the re-awakened throb from healing bones making him sluggish. Dimly, he was aware of Jim’s voice. “Yeah…. Yeah, I’ll be right there.”

A moment later, he opened his eyes as a gentle kiss was placed on his forehead. Jim was gazing down at him, a preoccupied frown on his face. “I gotta go,” he murmured. “There’s been a break in the case. The guys we identified yesterday have been located, and I need to be in on the arrests.”

Blair pushed himself jerkily upright, the casts on his limbs making him clumsy. “I’ll come with you,” he said, his voice still thick with sleep.

Jim shook his head. “No can do, Chief,” he said. “I’ve gotta go now. It’ll take you too long to get ready.”

Cursing his unresponsive body, Blair sighed unhappily as Jim got up off the bed. He watched appreciatively as Jim pulled on a tee-shirt, his well-defined muscles rippling enticingly. Jim caught the look, and grinned knowingly. Then he sobered again. “I may be gone for a while. Once we bring these guys in, I’m gonna help with the interrogations.”

“Be careful, all right?” Blair pleaded. “I mean, don’t go in there intending to get revenge or anything, okay?”

Jim pulled on his shoulder holster. “What, me?” he protested innocently. “I’m a professional, Chief. Diplomacy is part of the job.”

Blair chuckled. “Yeah, right.” He licked lips gone suddenly dry. “So,” he asked, “You think this is it, huh? You got them?”

Jim came back over, and leaned down to look Blair in the eye. “I’m certain we’ve got them,” he assured Blair earnestly. “As soon as we have them in custody, it’s over.”

Blair nodded, his simmering anger at the faceless people who had hurt him so badly breaking free in a single, hard word. “Good.”

Jim nodded in understanding. Then he rose again, and moved to open the door. Before he went out, he turned and looked back at Blair. “You’re coming back to Cascade with me, right?” he asked, a slight flicker of uncertainty making itself evident. “When this is all over, huh? Because this is likely to be wrapped up today, no matter what.”

“You just try and stop me, man,” Blair confirmed. “You and I are so out of here.”

Jim’s face broke into a blinding smile. “I’ll see you later, Chief,” he said. And waving farewell, he disappeared through the door.

Blair listened until he heard the front door of the apartment open and close, then levered himself up out of bed to find his pain meds and get dressed. He needed to get moving right away, since he had plenty to do today – because he fully intended to be packed and ready to go by the time Jim got back.


It was another long day but, finally, the bastards who had left Blair for dead, lying beaten in an alley with a bag over his head, were in custody. Like the cowards they were, a minimal amount of pressure had resulted in the four of them rolling over on each other, each one more than eager than the next to dish the dirt on the others, if it meant a chance to save their own skin.

Not that the saving their skin part had worked. All four had been charged with first degree murder, as well as a range of lesser offenses - including attempted murder on a certain Blair Sandburg. It was unlikely any of them would know freedom again. And that fact, Jim had to concede, made him more than happy.

Blair was asleep once more, when Jim got back to the apartment – not surprising, since it was way after one in the morning. The pain meds Blair was taking tended, from what Jim had seen, to knock him out for the count. Jim certainly couldn’t begrudge him that – Blair, quite clearly, needed the healing rest that deep sleep could provide for bones that were just beginning to knit back together. But he couldn’t help wishing ruefully that they’d soon get round an opportunity to indulge in more than the tender cuddling and hot kisses they’d already shared.

Despite his wistful longing, Jim was pleased, however, to see a modest-sized stack of packed bags and boxes by the front door. Blair had been busy today as well, it seemed, making good on his vow to leave Seattle and come back to Cascade.

He just hoped that his friend hadn’t attempted to do it all alone, injured as he was, and with Jim otherwise occupied as he’d been.

Like he had the previous night, Jim slid smoothly into bed beside Blair, taking care not to jar his injuries as he did so. Blair sighed in his sleep, and Jim froze for a second, then relaxed when Blair reflexively turned his face toward him, clearly still deeply asleep. Feeling intensely tender, Jim couldn’t help but place a gentle kiss on his sleeping partner’s face. “It’s okay, Chief,” he whispered. “We got them. It’s all over. And tomorrow…” he paused, a lump in his throat. “Tomorrow, we’re going home. I’m taking you home, buddy.”

Blair sighed sleepily again, a relaxed, happy sound.

Smiling, his heart aching with emotion, Jim settled down next to him.

The place where, from now on, he hoped he’d always be.


The next morning began in a flurry of activity. Despite the opportunity of a lazy few hours in bed, if they’d wanted it, Blair could see that Jim was eager to get packed and on the road, and so he made no protest when Jim insisted that they get up and get moving.

Blair was equally eager, as a matter of fact. His stomach churned in anticipation, adrenaline making him edgy. There was something desperate within him, trying to claw its way out – a yearning, overwhelming desire to see Cascade again, coupled with an equally voracious, amorphous fear that too much would have changed, and that he wouldn’t recognize it any more. That Cascade would no longer be, for him, home.

As he shaved, his fingers clumsy with nerves, he thought back to his time there. He tried to visualize the route from the loft to Rainier – a route he’d driven a million times – and couldn’t quite remember all the detail. Names of roads he’d known well - like the name of the street his warehouse had been on - were oddly absent from his memory.

Was it a sign he’d been too long away, to even think of going back? Could this really work at all?

But, conversely, when he tried to imagine staying here; visualizing Jim walking out of the door to take the trip back to Cascade without him, it twisted his stomach with such anxiety and grief that he couldn’t bear it.

“Okay, breathe,” he muttered to himself, weakly holding on to the edge of the sink with the fingers of his broken arm, and balancing tiredly on the one leg which would bear his weight, the razor held stiffly in his other hand. “Get a grip, damn it!”

Behind his tired face in the mirror, streaked now with tiny rivulets of bright red where he’d nicked himself with the razor, he saw the bathroom door open and close, and Jim fill the space of the small room behind him. Matter-of-factly, seemingly as cool, calm and collected as Blair emphatically was not, Jim produced a towel and, reaching around, blotted the evidence of Blair’s half-hearted attempt at shaving from his flesh. “Let me help you,” he murmured, as fresh foam was produced and smeared onto Blair’s face; and Blair stood, mesmerized and unresisting when Jim pried the razor from his fingers.

Blair could only watch in the mirror, feeling the heat and the pressure of Jim’s body behind him. Wielding the razor like a pro, Jim tipped Blair’s head back to bare his throat, the razor cutting neat paths through the foam as Jim applied it deftly in a series of upward movements. Trusting Jim absolutely – far, far more than he trusted himself, right now - Blair felt his head being maneuvered this way and that, as Jim established the best angles, the most advantageous amounts of pressure; the razor in his hand cutting a methodical, relentless swathe through Blair’s morning beard.

There was something unimaginably erotic at being the center of Jim’s attention like this. Jim’s face in the mirror – intent, focused – as he used his amazing senses to get the pressure of the blade just right, filled Blair with a kind of breathless wonder, even as urgent heat collected low in his belly. Captivated, he watched their reflections as Jim finished up, a facecloth and a final sweep of the towel cleaning off the remnants of foam and blood from his face. And next, Jim’s mirrored gaze refocused onto Blair’s, an answering look of desire in his eyes that made Blair go weak at the knees.

As Blair slumped, the one good leg on which he had his weight balanced giving out under the force of that stare, Jim buoyed him up, his strength – which had always been such a turn-on for Blair - more than equal to the task. Strong arms encircled him, pulling him back against a hard, hot chest while one hand – relentless, capable, uncompromising – slid down the front of Blair’s shorts to take his cock in an iron grip.

Blair gasped and closed his eyes, the heat and pressure electrifying. A sharp nip at his neck made him open them again suddenly, his cock jumping excitedly in Jim’s hand. Hot, blue eyes were looking at him hungrily from the mirror, Jim now kissing and licking the spot he’d bitten as the hand down the front of Blair’s boxers began to move. “Watch me,” Jim murmured, his lips moving sensuously against Blair’s skin, the soft words an order which Blair dared not disobey. “Watch yourself.”

The hand holding him prisoner was moving, slippery with pre-come already, the motion speeding up, keeping pace with Blair’s pounding pulse. Blair panted, the lips of his mirror image wetly parted, and his eyes huge and dark with passion. Watching the two of them like this was incredibly hot, and Blair found himself quickly reaching and straining desperately toward the bright-hot moment of ecstasy that loomed, leaning his whole weight helplessly against Jim; while Jim pinned his gaze speculatively in the glass, kissing and sucking at Blair’s neck the whole time, his expression sure and confident and so damned sexy.

Jim’s nibbles moved to Blair’s earlobe, making him shudder at the sensation. Words of encouragement dripped silkily from Jim’s lips, heightening Blair’s pleasure almost unbearably. “Yeah, that’s it, go with it. Let yourself go, Blair. I got you. Come for me, Blair, let me see you…” And suddenly, as Jim’s teeth closed again on Blair’s ear, Blair was there the whole thing too perfect, too incredible, that he had no choice but to surrender to the explosion of heat, and fire and toe-curling rapture which overwhelmed him in Jim’s powerful, tender grasp.

High as a kite on endorphins in the aftermath, Blair was totally pliant as Jim maneuvered him to sit on the closed lid of the john, Blair’s head cradled close against Jim’s flat stomach as the other man stood in front of him, one hand cupping the crown of Blair’s head lovingly.

As Blair rested there, gradually coming down from the high of his life, he watched in wonderment as Jim unzipped his own pants and reached inside, allowing his swollen cock to spring free where it bobbed, suggestively, against Blair’s chin. From such close quarters, Blair could see that, like the rest of Jim, this most private part of him was beautiful. Sculpted, perfect, big. And, without any further prompting, Blair leaned down eagerly, and took it into his mouth.

Blair was sure he was not the greatest at giving head as, despite what Jim might suspect, Blair’s sexual exploits with men had been nowhere near as extensive as those he’d had with women. But he went at this with a will, nevertheless, loving the moans and sighs he wrung from Jim with his mouth, as he enthusiastically sucked and licked and nibbled, and the little, desperate hip jerks Jim couldn’t help but make when Blair held the base of Jim’s cock with his good hand and pressed his tongue just there.

Jim liked that. Oh boy, did he like that, so Blair kept doing it. And he sucked, hard, flicking his tongue over and over in that place which made Jim whimper, and suddenly Jim was coming, the sour taste of him in Blair’s mouth, so much of it, man, and Blair kept sucking, and even swallowed some, despite the fact that he’d lost more than half of it down his chin. And even though it tasted weird, he loved it, because this was part of Jim, the man he loved more than anyone else in the world. The man who was his world.

And when it was over, and Blair at last released Jim’s softening flesh from his mouth, he felt so pumped. He’d done this. He’d made Jim completelylose it. He was the reason that Jim now fell to his knees at Blair’s feet, breathing hard as though he’d run a marathon, his hands gripping Blair’s thighs like a lifeline, his face flushed and sweaty and his neatly pressed clothes crumpled and stained with semen.

Triumphant, awed and more in love than he ever thought possible, Blair reached out and drew Jim towards him, so that he could hold him through the aftermath; just as Jim, a few moments ago, had held him.


During his travels, it seemed, Blair really hadn’t accumulated many belongings. According to what he’d told Jim, it had taken Pete Telford and he just a couple of hours yesterday to clear out the tiny apartment he’d been living in. In the end, Blair had donated most of his things to his neighbors, or thrown them away, retaining just a few clothes, books and miscellaneous items that he’d acquired over the past few years. So, in short order, Jim had loaded the truck with Sandburg’s few remaining possessions, and the two of them had set out on the road to Cascade.

To Jim’s amusement, Blair still bore a blissed-out expression as they drove off, the nervousness he’d been exuding earlier now completely obliterated by the little erotic interlude they’d shared in the bathroom. Not that Jim didn’t feel pretty blissed-out himself, he had to admit, a vivid sense-memory of Blair going down on him hijacking his thoughts. Jim squirmed in the driver’s seat for a moment, his nerve endings tingling deliciously in remembered ecstasy.

Traffic was pretty heavy on the way out of the city, forcing Jim to place his erotic daydreams forcefully to one side, so that he could concentrate on getting them through it safely. Blair kept his peace, and Jim wondered if his silence was part of the new, older version of Blair Sandburg, or simply that the other man was busy bidding a silent farewell to the city which had been his home for the past couple of years

Blair had seemed pretty freaked out earlier, although he hadn’t shared with Jim the reason for his sudden attack of the shakes. Jim suspected that more than one trigger had been at work – Blair was still hurt, had just gotten through a pretty traumatic experience with the assault and its aftermath, and had now been uprooted yet again. Plus, the idea of going back to Cascade, and everything he thought he’d lost forever, had to be pretty overwhelming.

So Jim concentrated on his driving, and let Blair be for now. And he reveled in the thought that every mile they traveled took them closer to home.


Watching the miles roll past, Blair could hardly believe it. A sense of unreality permeated everything, giving the world outside the truck window a surreal edge. He was with Jim. He’d had sex with Jim. Jim loved him.

He was going home to Cascade. With Jim.

Blair had gotten through the past few days in a daze, the euphoria of the two of them being reunited keeping him as high as a kite. But now that they were packed and on their way, he felt exhausted. Utterly, utterly exhausted. And under it all was a paralyzing fear that, despite the assurances Jim had given him, it would all go horribly wrong once they got to their destination.

Rainer wanted him back, Jim had said. But they’d said that nearly six years ago. What if the offer was no longer on the table? What if it was no longer something he actually even wanted to do?

As for his observer status at Cascade PD, well that was emphatically in the past. Jim was coping just fine with his senses these days. He’d been working alone for the past six years, without any trouble. And Blair’s dissertation – the original reason he had ridden along with Jim – was dead and gone, no matter what happened with Rainier. So there was no longer a place for Blair there.

So where the hell did Blair fit in? Was he, perhaps, making the biggest mistake of his life, by going back to Cascade, and trying to recreate a past which had no correlation to who he was in the present?

Surreptitiously, Blair glanced at Jim, sitting beside him in the driver’s seat. With a shiver of arousal he remembered this morning, and the incredible sensuality of what had happened between them in the bathroom. God, he’d been so turned on. Jim’s strength and self-assurance had excited him to fever pitch. It was as though that sharp, almost painful edge of pleasure that Jim’s manhandling of him had inspired, had been what Blair had been waiting for all his life.

And then, it had all turned around, to get even more satisfying. By the use of nothing more than his mouth and his one good hand, Blair had managed to reduce Jim to a heap of quivering, panting flesh, unable to do anything but cling to Blair in the wake of his orgasm. And that incredible act had demonstrated to Blair, as nothing else could, that things between them were now irrevocably changed forever.

And what was between them emphatically wasn’t all about sex. Jim’s love for Blair, his devotion to him, was palpable. In the years that they’d been apart, something had happened to Jim. Something had opened him up, chilled him out and, generally, transformed him from an uptight, psychologically damaged macho-man into a generous, confident, laid-back guy, who was totally in touch with his feelings, and had no problem expressing them. And not only that – Jim had never, during their entire separation, stopped looking for Blair. Sure, he’d said he’d been on the verge of it. But he’d looked, anyway. And he’d found Blair, and he was here. And the fact that he still wanted Blair in his life so emphatically could not be denied. Not any more.

They fitted each other so damned well, like two halves of a coin, or a hand in a glove. So, maybe, that was it - that was Blair’s place. No longer the anthropologist ride along; but Jim’s partner, in a completely different sense of the word.

Jim’s life partner. His soul mate.

Blair certainly couldn’t deny that his love for Jim, his need for Jim, was all-consuming. Maybe, he suspected, it always had been. It certainly would explain the fact that, over the past six years, he had hardly been able to think of anything else but Jim, no matter how hard he’d tried not to. And that any kind of future without Jim in it, had felt like he’d been simply passing time, merely surviving, until his life reached its natural conclusion. Which, when he looked back at it, had really not been living at all. And now that Jim was back in his life? He actually felt alive. It was as though he’d been in a coma for six years, and had just awoken.

Jim, it seemed, was his life. And maybe, just maybe, that revelation was the answer to his dilemma. Maybe he’d been conceptualizing this all wrong, and all he actually needed was a re-evaluation of his options, based on his gut feeling, and an acknowledgement of exactly where and who he was right now.

Perhaps, Blair speculated, revisiting Rainier was the wrong thing to do, just like revisiting the PD was also wrong. Maybe, it was time not to turn the clock back, but to turn it forward instead, and to find a new calling. And to do it using the skills he’d learned, the interests he’d developed and the experience he’d gained during the past six years.

But this time, it would be different. This time, he’d be progressing from a position of strength, where he loved and was loved in return. This time, he could be true to himself, and finally become the person he wanted to be.

This time, he’d be with Jim.

Now, he would have a home and a man he loved behind him, a man who loved him in return. He would not be alone, living hand to mouth in a haze of grief and despair, trying to run from his past in a rundown studio apartment and spending his nights just waiting for the next day to come.

Certain, finally, that he was on the right track, Blair took a deep breath, and let it out. Then another. And another. And as he did, he visualized his tension, his fears, and his sense of displacement flowing away with each exhale.

Jim’s hand crept across the bench seat to grasp his, as though aware Blair had come to some accommodation with his emotional turmoil. And with his fingers sheltered in that safe, warm grip, Blair knew, finally, deep in his heart, that he could make this work.

The two of them could do it. Together.


Their arrival back at 852 Prospect was almost an anti-climax, after so many years of longing for this moment.

As Jim made repeated trips, carrying Blair’s belongings the short distance from the elevator and in through the open door of his loft apartment which Blair had preceded him into, he thought that there should, at least, be a fanfare. Maybe fireworks. Hell, he’d settle for champagne.

In the end, it was beer that he got. While Jim made three or four forays back and forth with boxes and bags, Blair hobbled around inside the loft, reacquainting himself with the lay of the land. And he wasted no time, to Jim’s delight, in making himself at home, foraging in the fridge for drinks while Jim did the lifting and carrying.

As Jim carried in the last bag and closed the door, he found Blair leaning on his crutch just inside the kitchen, a couple of cold bottles open on the counter in front of him. Blair was smiling widely as he looked around, his eyes shining with happiness.

Smiling in return, Jim picked up one of the beers, his partner mirroring the action. Without further ado, they clinked the bottles together. “Welcome home, Blair,” Jim said simply.

Blair just nodded, swallowing heavily. He sniffed, clearly managing to maintain his macho front with an effort and a bit of misdirection. “Place looks great,” he said huskily, gesturing with his bottle.

“It does now,” Jim answered pointedly.

“Yeah, doesn’t it,” Blair agreed, clear understanding in his blinding smile

Jim chuckled. “Never better, Chief.”

For a second they just stood there, looking their fill at each other, with matching goofy grins on both of their faces. And then Jim closed the distance, Blair’s arms coming out to beckon him in.

And Jim finally understood, as they stood holding each other tightly, that home wasn’t a place. Home wasn’t Cascade, or the loft.

Home was this man in his arms. And there was no need for fanfare, because they’d both been home for four days already. This return from exile was merely the finishing touch; as the hearthstone of their personal castle was firmly mortared into place.


They spent the afternoon unpacking Blair’s things, and re-installing him as a resident of the loft. They were totally relaxed in each other’s presence; teasing each other good naturedly, laughing and joking, and generally enjoying the fact that they were here, together, at long last. It was just like old times.

Well, maybe not just like old times, Blair actually had to admit. He didn’t remember them touching as much as this, or kissing, or groping each others asses during the last time he’d lived here.

Jim, especially, seemed to be in a party mood. He got steaks out of the freezer, marinating them in teriyaki seasoning, and prepared baked potatoes to eat with sour cream, before heating up the barbeque. Kissing Blair thoroughly after he’d put the potatoes in the oven, he lamented the fact that they had no fresh salad ingredients. “But I’m not setting foot outside the door, now I’ve gotten you here,” he declared, pulling Blair in for more of the same. “Otherwise I’d go get some.”

“Then I guess I can live without salad,” Blair grinned in response, before swooping in and giving as good as he got.

They took their beers out onto the sunny balcony, where Jim settled Blair into a lounger, his broken leg resting comfortably on a cushion as he reclined. Blair watched Jim work, feeling thoroughly cared for and relaxed in a way he hadn’t felt in – well, in forever, really. The two beers he’d drunk had given him a pleasant enough buzz that the pain retreated to a dull throb, hardly uncomfortable enough to ruin his good mood in any way.

Jim, seemingly, was aware of Blair’s scrutiny. He glanced Blair’s way, raising an eyebrow in amusement, as he flipped the steaks, the potatoes now wrapped in foil and keeping warm beside them over the coals. “Something on your mind, Junior?”

That made Blair laugh out loud. “Not so ‘junior’ any more, man.”

“I guess you’re not.” Jim left the steaks for a second, and came to sit in the chair next to Blair, nursing his beer. “You seemed pretty thoughtful, back there on the way home,” he noted, a little hesitantly. “You still okay with all of this?”

“Yeah, I am,” Blair said confidently. “More than okay.”

“Good.” Jim took a gulp of beer, and leaned back. “So, what was on your mind, huh?”

Blair shrugged. “Just thinking. You know, about what I’m gonna do now I’m here. The next step.”

“You’re gonna stay here, right? At the loft, with me?”

Blair looked sharply at Jim. “You want me to, don’t you?”

Jim seemed oddly vulnerable, suddenly. “Yeah,” he said softly. “Yeah, I do.”

Blair reached out and, to his delight, Jim’s hand met him halfway. As their fingers clasped, Blair assured him, “Then I’m exactly where I want to be. You’re stuck with me, buddy.”

An unmistakable look of relief passed over Jim’s face. “Good,” he said.

Smiling reassuringly, Blair clarified, “No, I was just thinking about work, you know? What I’ll do for a living now I’m here. I left Seattle with nothing, man. My last job didn’t exactly allow me much leeway to put money into savings.”

Jim squeezed his hand. “You know I’ll help out until you get on your feet, don’t you?” he said.

Blair nodded. “Yeah, I know.” He squeezed back. “But I’ve got to have a direction, even if I’m your kept man.”

Jim snickered. “Right.”

“I was thinking,” Blair said carefully, “of doing the same kind of thing here that I was doing in Seattle. Maybe even take a proper counseling course as well, you know? Get some actual, professional qualifications. Rainier used to run a good social work degree program – I’m sure they still do.”

Jim was nodding along with his words. “You liked your job, huh?”

“Well, I liked working with the clients, man. And feeling that I was, I don’t know. Making a difference. It’s just, it might take a while, you know? To get fully qualified. And it’d cost as well. But that’s what I need to do if I’m gonna seriously consider a career in that field. Something that’s gonna pay more than a pittance in the long run.”

“Then that’s what you should do, Chief.” Jim was looking at him earnestly. “It’s something you’re good at, something that’s meaningful to you. You should go back to school; study for it, if that’s what you want. I’ll help you out, if you need me to.”

Blair smiled ruefully. “Even if it means you supporting a penniless student for a few more years?”

“If it’s you, then yeah, I can live with that,” Jim assured him softly. Then he sniffed the air delicately. “Oh, hell,” he growled, leaping to his feet. “I hope you still like your steak well done, Sandburg,”

And Blair could only laugh delightedly as Jim rescued their dinner, cursing all the while. Some things, he was pleased to see, hadn’t changed one bit.


Later, while Blair was cleaning up in the bathroom, Jim ambled over to the phone to listen to the messages that had been left in his absence. He’d noticed the message light blinking earlier, but hadn’t felt like coming back to the reality of his everyday life quite yet, focused on Blair’s return as he’d been. Now they’d been here a few hours, though, he acknowledged that he really should check it out, in case anything important had happened while he’d been gone.

It was mostly the usual crap; a couple of salespeople, and an automated voice trying to convince him that he’d won a prize. He deleted that one before it had even got beyond a complete sentence – it was a regular scam he’d been getting lately.

The very last message, though, was a familiar voice – Henri Brown. “Jim, my man! Yo, babe, I have no idea what’s going on with you or when you’ll be back, but you’d better get your ass home soon. Because this particular detective is going out in style, and I want you here! My place, Saturday afternoon, from noon onwards. Beer and barbeque, and dancing! Yeah, definitely dancing. Get your butt over here. And babe…” the voice sobered slightly, “I hope you’re okay, you know? Simon wouldn’t say anything beyond it was a personal emergency that took you outta town. Be well, huh? And you know where I am if you need me. Later, man."

The honest concern in Henri’s words filled Jim with warmth, just as the support of his friends had done ever since Blair had disappeared. Jeez, it’d been a tough few years, But with friends like Henri and Simon on his side, not to mention Joel, Rafe and all the rest, Jim had done more than just survive.

He was one lucky, lucky man, he had to admit.

“Hey.” Lost in thought as he’d been, Jim hadn’t heard Blair approach, and he started at the soft voice. “You okay, man?”

“Yeah,” Jim breathed, taking in the sight of his partner, clad in nothing but a towel wrapped loosely around his slim hips. Jim looked him up and down appraisingly. “My, my, Sandburg,” he said. “You do clean up well.”

Blair giggled endearingly, the laugh a mixture of bashful charm and masculine sensuality. “Yeah, well,” he said, waving his broken arm in Jim’s direction. “I guess I’ll look better when I get this stuff off me, man.”

Obligingly, Jim helped divest Blair of the plastic he’d taped securely around the cast on his wrist, to enable him to take a shower. Kneeling down, Jim leaned in shamelessly and filled his lungs with Sandburg’s fresh, just-washed smell, as though nosing a fine wine.

Blair shuddered. “God, man,” he said huskily. “Do you have any idea how much it turns me on when you do that?”

Face-to-face with Blair’s towel-covered crotch as he unwrapped the plastic from his leg, Jim had to admit that he did. He turned his gaze up toward Sandburg, bare-chested and beautiful above him. “Why don’t you go upstairs, huh?” he suggested meaningfully. “I’ll take a shower myself, and join you.”

Blair’s darkened eyes and wet, parted lips spoke to how much he liked that suggestion. He nodded. “Yeah,” he breathed. “I can do that.”

Jim stood and, taking Sandburg by the shoulders, guided him toward the stairs. Glancing up, he asked, “You need help getting up there?”

“Nah. Just pass me my crutch - I can make it,” Blair said. “And anyway,” he licked those gorgeous lips again. “I want you to hurry, man.”

Grinning in understanding, Jim did what Blair said. But he watched anxiously until Blair had gotten safely up to the bedroom before heading to the bathroom.

He really couldn’t help himself – he was damned if he was going to let Blair get hurt again.


When Jim finally made his way upstairs, he found that Blair was not (as he had fantasized) lying naked on the bed, looking like the embodiment of desire. Instead, he was leaning on his crutch around the other side of the bed, wrapped lopsidedly in Jim’s bathrobe – which he evidently couldn’t get his cast into the sleeve of.

Smiling at him encouragingly, Jim nodded toward the bed, as he toweled off his hair. “Why don’t you make yourself comfortable, Chief?” he suggested.

Blair nodded, but made no move to lie down. “Yeah,” he said, a little breathlessly, avoiding looking at Jim, and in particular a certain part of Jim, which had been revealed since he’d unselfconsciously removed his towel to use on his hair. “I was, ah, just waiting for you, man.”

Okay, the kid was just a little shy. Jim could work with that.

Dropping the towel, Jim moved around the bed and, without another word, pulled Blair into his arms. “Hey,” he said softly. “Relax. I’m not gonna bite you.”

Blair snickered - being held like this seemed to help alleviate his momentary attack of nerves considerably. “You sure about that, man?” he asked.

Jim stroked his back reassuringly, then slid his hand down to grope Blair’s ass through the soft toweling. “Not unless you want me to,” he promised jokingly. Moving away slightly, looking into Blair’s eyes the whole time, Jim parted the bathrobe Blair was wearing, and slid it off. “Come on,” he murmured, tugging him toward the bed.

Still quivering a little with nerves – as well as obvious arousal - Sandburg allowed himself to be maneuvered so that he was lying down. Jim wasted no time in sliding down beside him and, without hesitation took Blair into his arms, and proceeded to kiss him senseless.

It was perfect. They were home, in his bed, together. A dream – a very wet dream – come true at last.

It didn’t take long for Blair to relax, being held and attended to like this. And he seemed more than content to let Jim lead the dance, gasping in pleasure in between kisses, as Jim’s hands roamed freely and confidently over his body.

That slight passivity didn’t really surprise Jim - he’d been fully aware of how much Blair had enjoyed him taking charge earlier in front of the mirror. It seemed, he deduced in satisfaction, that his little guppy had a particular kink that Jim was only too happy to satisfy – especially as it fitted so well with his own.

As soon as he had Blair writhing in his arms and all-but begging for more, Jim decided that it was time to up the stakes – although he recognized that their activities were currently limited to actions which wouldn’t be likely to cause Blair discomfort, injured as he was. Sliding down the bed purposefully, he parted Blair’s thighs a little and moved in between his legs, nosing into the crease between his thigh and groin. He made a point of sniffing conspicuously, knowing how much Blair was aroused by that, and was rewarded by escalating moans and bone-deep shudders.

Encouraging Blair to bend the knee of his uninjured leg, Jim nosed around some more, licking and nuzzling as well as bringing his hands into play, working his way down and back. Blair twitched under him, panting as it became clear where Jim was headed; and he cried out when the destination was reached.

Sandburg tasted and smelled of clean skin and sex, here in this deep recess of his body. Jim licked and suckled, his tongue venturing deep, as Blair squirmed and moaned helplessly, lost in rapture.

Blair’s reaction was so satisfying, that Jim spent some time there, lavishing his hole with loving attention. Then, sensing finally that Blair was getting close, he raised himself up, pressed Blair’s hips down on the bed to keep him still, and zoomed in on his cock, licking up the length before enveloping the head in his mouth.

Under his hands, Blair tried, involuntarily, to arch up off the bed, but Jim’s weight prevented him. “Oh god,” Blair panted. “Oh… oh god…” a long, drawn out groan followed, his head thrashing around from side to side on the pillow as Jim took him deep into his mouth, sucking hard. Releasing Blair long enough to wet his forefinger, Jim sucked him in deep again, and circled Blair’s opening with his finger before plunging in hard.

Blair let loose a wordless cry and convulsed, as he came explosively in Jim’s mouth.

Jim had always prided himself on his ability to pleasure his sexual partners, but this was just the best, the most erotic, and the most satisfying experience he’d ever had. Blair was so goddamned beautiful when he came. Beautiful in the way he looked, the way he tasted. The smell of his musk, the sounds that he made, and the way he shuddered against Jim’s skin.

Turned on so much that he ached, it took just two strokes of Jim’s hand on himself before he joined Blair in ecstasy, lights flashing before his eyes and his toes curling almost painfully, surrounded by the sensual perfection of Blair’s completion.


Replete and more relaxed than he could remember being for an eternity, Blair drifted off shortly afterwards. But, gradually, the increasing discomfort from his injuries prodded him to wakefulness again. Eager as he’d been to go to bed with Jim, he’d totally forgotten to take his pain meds, and now he shifted uncomfortably, as he contemplated the arduous trip downstairs to get them.

Jim was fast asleep beside him and, glancing over, Blair felt a little guilty that he hadn’t reciprocated earlier when Jim had given him the orgasm of his life. It had been a sight to behold, though; when Jim had brought himself off just a few moments after Blair, his face creased intently as though in great pain or great rapture. God, even the memory of it was enough to make Blair hard again, despite his discomfort.

Flexing his aching limbs experimentally, Blair paused wonderingly when he realized that Jim must have taken the time to place pillows under his broken arm and leg before joining Blair in sleep. That evidence of Jim’s care for him – which had, if he was honest, been evident in just about every word and deed since they’d found each other again – moved Blair profoundly.

Jim had always had a protective streak where Blair was concerned – although in a totally hands-off way on occasion, since he had often known when to give Blair the space he needed to deal with difficult stuff. Blair had been immensely grateful for that on more than one occasion.

Blair would never forget, for example, the way Jim had pushed him forcefully back on the horse, the time when he’d been abducted by Iris and her cronies. It had helped Blair gain back a huge measure of self-respect when Jim had treated him like a cop instead of a victim, urging him to capture his own kidnapper. And that had done more to get Blair through the immediate aftermath of his abduction than any amount of coddling would have done.

And later, when Blair was arrested? Blair certainly understood the hows and whys of that. He’d been a suspect after all and, as such, Simon had been obliged to take him into custody until the mess was sorted out. But Blair still remembered Jim’s voice, raised in utter outrage on his behalf, directing the formidable force of his anger and fear for Blair at Simon. And during the whole, subsequent humiliation of being fingerprinted and photographed, Jim had been a solid, reassuring presence at his side; just as he had made sure Blair was given an opportunity to rest in Simon’s office instead of in lockup, with Jim’s own jacket covering him like a blanket. And Jim had gone out for food – not just any old crap but Blair's favorite sandwich from the local deli – despite the fact that Blair had still been too wound up to eat.

And later? When the others had finished eating the meal Blair had prepared for his thwarted date and left, and he had finally given in to the shakes, Jim had been there to see him through it, and to tell him he did good. Just as he’d done a million times before.

Blair sighed. That had been a tough time, one of the worst. But they’d been so together, that he’d felt as though he could deal with anything. It was after that, when the dissertation deadline had loomed, and Blair had realized he couldn’t stall forever, that things had gone so horribly wrong. And the reason, it seemed, was the same for both of them. They were both terrified that the end of their partnership was in sight, and both of them had felt powerless to prevent it.

It still hurt immensely to think back to that time. To the endless accusations of betrayal, and the awful mistakes they’d both made. To the terrible rift that had grown between them, so that by the time Alex Barnes came on the scene, they were so divided, they’d been incapable of being the formidable force they should have been in the face of an enemy sentinel. And that, truly, had been the kiss of death for their partnership. Everything that had happened after that had just been further nails in the coffin.

Blair took some deep breaths, trying to banish the memories - for now. But he recognized, finally, that he couldn’t banish them forever. For this to work - for the two of them to have a real future together - he would have to face those memories, and talk about them, and lay them to rest. Because if he’d learned one thing during the past six, lonely, miserable years, it was that running from your past didn’t heal anything – it only made the wounds fester.

Jim shifted beside him, and Blair realized he was being watched. “Penny for your thoughts,” Jim murmured, his eyes crinkling fondly.

Blair reached out and stroked the side of Jim’s face. “I’m just thinking how glad I am to be here,” he said. “I missed you so much, Jim.”

Jim mirrored Blair’s gesture, his hand amazingly gentle on Blair’s face. “Yeah,” he breathed. “Me too, Chief.” Then he frowned. “You hurting, huh?”

Blair chuckled. “You’re amazing, man,” he said. “How can you tell?”

Jim’s fingers moved to the side of Blair’s eye. “Your skin gets all tight, around here,” Jim told him, his face taking on the far away look he got when focusing his senses. “I can feel it. See it, as well.”

“Wow.” Blair would never stop being impressed at Jim’s abilities.

The next few minutes were taken up with trips down to the bathroom – not half so difficult now that Jim was awake to help – and ingestion of meds. And, finally, by unspoken agreement – since it was now close to midnight – they headed back up to bed, Blair no longer feeling at all awkward about being there in Jim’s space.

As they settled down again, Jim solicitously helping Blair to arrange his sore limbs, Blair found he had to say it. “Jim,” he breathed, and something in his voice caused Jim to pause and look at him closely. “I…” Blair swallowed, the words caught in his throat.

Jim smiled. “I know,” he answered simply. “Me too, Chief.”

Blair laughed - he couldn’t help it. “Jeez, man,” he said. “I was lying here, thinking how we had to be honest with each other from now on, and talk to each other, damn it. But the words still won’t come out!”

Jim leaned over him predatorily. And just before his lips descended on Blair’s, he murmured, “There’s more than one way to say I love you.”

And then he proceeded to demonstrate exactly that.


“Where are we going, man?” Blair had assumed, when they’d gotten in the truck late the next morning at Jim’s urging, that they’d be spending some time together today, just the two of them. It was, in a sense, a honeymoon, after all. But they had taken a turn off which led to a residential area of Cascade – hardly a place to go for an outing, unless they were visiting someone.

“It’s a surprise, Chief. You’ll see.” Jim was inscrutable behind his dark glasses.

And now, suddenly, Blair recognized where they were. He’d been here before, on many a Major Crime poker night. This was the neighborhood Henri Brown lived in. “What the…”

Maybe understanding that the surprise was already shot, Jim said, “Henri is having a barbeque today, celebrating his promotion. The whole gang are gonna be there.”

Blair’s heart jumped in nervousness. “Oh no, Jim, no! I’m not ready for this, man. Come on!”

Hearing the panic in Blair’s voice, Jim hit the turn signal and pulled over to the curb. He switched off the engine, and turned to Blair. “Chief,” he said firmly. “If you think I’m the only person in Cascade who missed you all these years, you’re dead wrong. You need this. They need this.”

“Why now?” Blair was shaking in mingled rage and apprehension. “I mean, why not give me time to settle in, get used to being back, first? Then after a few weeks, I could maybe talk to Henri on his own, Simon, as well, possibly, just to test the waters. See if they still want to see me, right? Because for all I know, man,” he laughed mirthlessly, “they could all hate me. I ran out on you, on them, without another word, man! I just can’t go in there like this. Jim, come on!”

“Blair, they don’t hate you.” Jim’s voice was oddly calm. “They’ve missed you, almost as much as I have. Simon already knows I’ve found you – I don’t think he’s told the others, but they’ll all find out soon enough. This way, you can see them all at once, get it out of the way, and get on with rebuilding your life. Isn’t that what you want?”

Blair stared at Jim incredulously. “And what do we tell them about us, huh? How the hell are they going to react to that?”

Jim shrugged. “We tell them we’re together. I’m not only not ashamed of that fact, Chief, I’m proud of it. And you know what? I think they’ll be happy for us. Happy you’re back, safe and relatively sound, and happy we’ve found each other again. Just like they’ll be happy to see you.”

Blair looked away, trying to process. Jim wanted them to be out. Jim was proud of their relationship. Jim was certain Blair would be welcomed back with open arms.

Blair’s gut clenched in anxiety. He’d been practically a recluse the past six years, doing his job and not much else, and he’d lost the knack of social occasions like this. He’d only gotten close to one person – Pete Telford – because the guy had so very badly needed a friend when his partner died. And now Jim wanted him to walk into Henri’s party, uninvited, to be reunited with the old friends he’d turned his back on six years ago?

Blair took one deep breath, and then another, as Jim waited patiently for him to get his thoughts in order. Giving him the space he needed to think it through.

Damn, Blair realized. He was being pushed back up on the damned horse again, wasn’t he?

The thought calmed him. Jim wouldn’t hurt him, and wouldn’t let anyone else hurt him, either. Jim thought this was the right thing to do, and that it would be okay.

Needing to know, Blair asked, “Did you tell them I was coming?”

Jim shook his head. “They don’t know I’m back. The only person who knows I’ve found you is Simon.”

Blair nodded. “Okay.” He looked across at Jim. “I can’t pretend that this is easy for me, man. But I guess you’re right. No time like the present, huh?”

Jim reached across, and took his hand. “I promise you, Chief, it’ll be okay.”

Blair nodded, although he still didn’t like it. But he kept his peace, as Jim started the engine and pulled out. And he set his jaw, determined to get through this.

It was time to face the past. He’d put it off long enough.


Jim had been having second thoughts about it too, ever since Blair’s outburst. But in his heart, he knew that this was the best thing to do.

The best thing for everybody.

Blair had no idea how much his friends from Major Crime – the ones who had been there during the time they had been partners – had come to mean to Jim. He had no idea how much support they’d given Jim in Blair’s absence, or how personally affected by Blair’s sacrifice and subsequent disappearance they had been.

Henri and Rafe, he knew, had suffered from their own share of guilt. They’d teased Blair unmercifully when his dissertation had been leaked, and they both profoundly regretted that now. Joel – who Blair had helped so much when Brackett’s bomb had made him lose his nerve – had never stopped feeling guilty for not doing more to support Blair when the shit had hit the fan.

And Simon?

Simon cared deeply for Blair. Sure, Jim acknowledged ruefully, his former captain might be inclined to chew Sandburg out, when he got the chance. He had a few things he’d indicated he needed to say to the kid, to clear the air between them, if they ever met again. But Jim knew that he’d growl, and he’d curse. And then he’d welcome Blair with open arms, and make damned sure Blair knew exactlywho his friends were.

They reached Henri’s house, and parked up, getting out without a word. Blair’s heart was racing as Jim handed Blair his crutch, which he propped under his arm, not meeting Jim’s eyes for a second.

Solicitously, Jim put an arm around Blair’s shoulders and, despite the little tremors of apprehension he could feel through his partner’s frame as he hobbled up the path, Jim kept it there all the way to the front door.

When they got there, Blair hovered off to the side, still skirting the edge of panic, as Jim rang the doorbell. After a few seconds, Henri opened the door. “Jim, my man! You’re back!”

Jim ignored Henri’s effort to usher him inside. “I, uh, brought someone with me, H.” He moved, revealing Blair, who was hanging back looking, frankly, terrified.

There was silence for a second – stunned, shocked silence. Then, “Hairboy?”

Blair ran a hand through his short curls. “Not so much hair these days, H,” he said, with a nervous laugh.

The next word was shouted, as Henri all but barreled into him. “Hairboy!” Blair reeled as he was caught in a bear hug, his crutch clattering to the ground. “God, man, it’s so good to see you!”

Blair seemed stunned at the onslaught, so was powerless to prevent it when Henri shouted at the top of his voice, “Hey, you guys, get out here! Look who’s back! It’s Sandburg!”

And in the next moment, the whole gang were there – Simon, Rafe, Joel – who actually had tears rolling down his cheeks – as well as a host of others, who stepped forward to add their own enthusiastic greetings, or simply stood back, grinning at the antics.

And, bringing up the rear was another surprise; since she’d been back in Australia for two years now. Even overwhelmed as he was, Blair managed to find his voice as Connor emerged. “Megan!”

“Hey, Sandy!” She glanced at Jim. “Jimbo, how you doing?” then moved forward, to kiss Blair on the cheek. “Looks like I chose to visit Cascade at the right time!”

Jim grinned as she moved over to do the same to him. “You don’t know the half of it, Connor.”

“So how about you tell me?” she said, linking her arm with Jim’s, as Blair’s crutch was retrieved by Rafe and handed back to him from where it had fallen. “Come on, guys,” she called, as she led Jim back inside. “Where’s the beer? It looks like these two could do with some. I know I could!”


Blair couldn’t stop smiling. The reunion with the Major Crime gang had been everything Jim had promised, and more.

Much, much more.

Blair’s battered body ached, as he stood out here on Henri’s lawn, in the cold night air. But he didn’t care, not one bit. He didn’t think he’d ever care about being cold, or being hurt, ever again.

He knew, now, what he’d turned his back on - and he knew he’d never do it again. He had come full circle, through several seasons of despair, and now he was home. He had a man he loved, who loved him. He had friends - real, lifelong friends, and a future just ready to be carved out.

It was as if he’d been healed inside. What were one or two superficial aches and pains, when he had all this?

The gang was all inside, now that the last of the burgers and chicken wings had been devoured, and the cooler air of evening had chased them into the warmth of Henri’s house. A poker game had been suggested, and the table was being cleared to get it underway. And in a few moments, Blair was going to go back in there, and clean them all out. Yeah, just like old times.

Only better.

He sensed Jim’s arrival in nothing more than a disturbance of the air – the guy still moved as stealthily as a cat. Blair sighed happily, as Jim’s arm came around his shoulders. Jim had been doing a lot of that today, putting a proprietary hand on Blair, or pulling him close. No-one had remarked on it at all, or even seemed surprised by it.

Blair had caught Megan grinning knowingly at them once or twice, though.

A touch of Jim’s lips stirred the hair at his temple. “You doing okay, Chief?”

Blair put his arm around Jim’s waist. “I am way more than okay, man,”

Jim chuckled. “So, you’re not mad at me any more, huh?”

Blair leaned into Jim, soaking up his warmth. “I wasn’t really mad,” he confessed. “Just… scared.”

“Yeah, I know.”

They stood in silence, a moment longer, until Henri’s voice called from the doorway. “Hey, you two! The game’s starting. You in?”

“We’ll be right there, H,” Jim called. Then looked at Blair. “Right?” he asked.

“You kidding?” Blair looked at him incredulously. “Man, I have years to make up for, here. I gotta make sure I’ve still got it.”

“Hey, be easy on them, Tiger,” Jim said. “They’ve forgotten how dangerous you are.”

They looked at each other a moment, then both cracked up. “Jeez, man,” Blair wheezed. “This is the best, you know?”

“I can’t imagine anything better,” Jim agreed, grinning widely.

They both turned as one, and made their way back inside, to where the love and laughter of their friends awaited them; everything in their world coming together at last, to the place where it was meant to be.

In perfect conjunction.

The End

Comments are welcome, but absolutely not necessary - all of my stories are offered freely and without obligation. If you do wish to comment below please sign your name/pseudonym if you are not logged-in to Dreamwidth or Open ID, or alternatively you can email me at fluterbev@gmail.com

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Date: 2007-08-05 12:53 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] klgrem.livejournal.com
Fantastic, fantastic, fantastic. Loved the story. Loved Jim getting in the face of the detective in Seattle. And the end was really heartwarming. Loved the whole story. :)

Found a couple of tiny errors in part two.

Bair tried for humor. --- Should be 'Blair' :)

“No,” he said. It’s funnier to --- Need a " before 'It's' :)

Great job with this. :)

Date: 2007-08-05 07:51 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fluterbev-fic.livejournal.com
Thanks so much! I'm thrilled you liked it :-)

And thanks for the catches! Very much appreciated ::hugs::

Date: 2008-10-24 04:17 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] j-amanda.livejournal.com
Perfect. I love the changes in Jim since Blair left. Love their tenderness with each other. The mind-blowing -- and other-blowing -- relaxation techniques Jim used to show his love for Blair.

Nothing is better than having them back together, with friends, at home where they belong. Happily ever after. :-)

Thanks so much!

Date: 2008-10-24 10:50 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fluterbev-fic.livejournal.com
Hey there! Thanks so much for this lovely feedback - very much appreciated :-).

Date: 2009-09-07 05:01 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] doingsoso.livejournal.com
Heck I just found this story...It's just great! Beautiful plot and a happy ending which I'm very fond of:)

Date: 2009-09-07 11:40 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fluterbev-fic.livejournal.com
Hi there, thanks for this nice comment! I am very pleased you liked it :-)

Date: 2009-09-09 04:18 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] shiredancer.livejournal.com
Well, thank goodness for Sentinel Fic Finders! I hadn't read this before either, though I've heard high praise of it for years. What a delight! Soooo satisfying to see how they've changed into that perfect conjunction. It's lovely and hot and just so good. I love Henri making captain, and Jim being totally okay with it! It's a really feel-good story... erm, in more ways than one...

Date: 2009-09-09 06:54 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fluterbev-fic.livejournal.com
I didn't know it had been mentioned at Fic Finders, so thanks for the heads up! I wondered why a comment (now two *g*) came out of the blue :-).

I'm very pleased you liked it, and thanks so much for your lovely feedback :-)

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

Date: 2009-12-20 02:59 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] bluecimmers.livejournal.com
At least one for each of your stories. I read and enjoyed this one before, but I was much shyer about commenting back then. Keep up the good work, and may the coming year keep you well.

Re: How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

Date: 2009-12-20 11:42 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fluterbev-fic.livejournal.com
You're very kind, and it is very nice of you to comment. I totally get the shyness thing as I was the same for a long time before I posted any stories myself. It's really nice that you've enjoyed my stories enough to tell me about it now, though, so thanks for that! Best wishes to you in return :-)

Date: 2010-08-01 10:08 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ladytygereyez.livejournal.com
I can't believe that I'm just now finding this story. I loved it more than I can say. I had tears in my eyes while reading the reunion scene. Just beautiful.

Thank you so much for sharing.

Date: 2010-08-06 08:26 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fluterbev-fic.livejournal.com
Hey, it's so nice that you enjoyed it. Thanks very much for letting me know :-)

Date: 2010-11-21 10:29 pm (UTC)
franscats: (Default)
From: [personal profile] franscats
I absolutely loved this story.
Thank you.


fluterbev_fic: (Default)

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