This story was a puny outline of ideas before my friends beat me into
making it a storyFervent thanks to Brie, best of all partners, Laura,
cheerleader above and beyond, Tina, Gwyneth
& Rachael S
for willingly reading the earliest, roughest draft, Merry for
adding all the BEST LINES to the first scene, the lady of shalott for her
thoroughness, Agnes for medical and other checks, Shelley for catching a
logic flaw, Melissa & JoSpy for pointing out where I'd shortchanged
Jim, Nicole, who demands sequiturs, and Shoshanna, copy editor of the
Part the First the Wages of Sin
It doesnt get much better than this, Blair thought. Yup, people were standing in line for the chance to find themselves lying down, butt up in the air, ass throbbing and hot while freezing to death in a curtained cubicle in the emergency room at Cascade General Hospital.
This is the life, all right. And generally it was a nice life. Even the fact that this wasnt the first time hed been in this very emergency room this year, um semesterhell, even this monthcouldnt change his mind. But right now, embarrassed beyond mortal understanding, hed gladly exchange it for something a little more boring.
A little more beige.
He wanted to say, stop the rollercoaster, man. I want to get off.
Not that there was anyone who would actually hear it. Jim was there, but he certainly wasnt being chatty. Even in the tiny space, somehow Jim had figured out a way to pace back and forth. With his face down, Blair couldn't really see him, but with Jim, pissed-off rarely needed a visual.
The pacing stopped.
"Jim? Everything okay back there? Im not gushing or anything, am I?"
"You think Im going to look?"
Blair grinned. It wasnt very often he was compensated for being injured in the line of duty; a guy took what he could get. "Hey, youre the one pacing down that end, man. I wasnt about to ask why."
Jim sighed, and came into view around the end of the bed. "Youve got a filthy mind, Sandburg," he said. The bruise on his forehead was swelling and beginning to color up, his hands were on his hips, and he didnt look like he was in the mood to play. "Look, its been twenty minutes. Im going to find somebody."
He knew that Jim knew that it was a busy night in Emergency and that the stab wound behind curtain number two wasnt anyones highest priority, but it would give Jim something to do, and give them both some space. Blair gritted his teeth and said, "Sure, man, but be nice, okay? Theyre going to be sticking needles in me."
It was another ten minutes before Jim came back with a nurse in tow, and Blair almost smiled when she stayed only long enough to tell Jim to sit down, or be banished back to the waiting area. Almost smiled. Might have smiled, if Jim hadnt been so upset, at himself, at Blair, at the world as a whole. Would have smiled if Blair didnt know better than do anything to set Jim off. And then Blair did smile, all teeth, giving in to the ridiculousness of it all.
Jims glare was bright enough to reflect off the shiny surgical stuff filling the cubicle. "Dont you even start, Sandburg."
"Start? Im just lying here."
"Like you were just staying in the car?"
Blair groaned, and wouldve rolled over to face the wall if hed thought he could do it without screaming. "God, I dont believe were going to have this conversation again."
There was death, there was taxes, and then there was this fight, the same one they had every single time Blair put a toe across some weird Blessed Protector line in Jims head.
But usually, they werent having it in an emergency-room cubicle. And usually, any bleeding that went on was purely metaphorical.
Tonight, Jim definitely had an unfair advantage.
Taking a deep breath for patience, Blair attempted reason. "He had a knife, Jim. And unless I was seeing things, he was going to perforate your lungs with it."
"He was going to try. I had things under control. If you would, for once, just do as youre told"
"Hey, whats this?" A close cousin of Andre the Giant stepped through the curtain in surgical green, chart in hand. "I think this guys been through enough for one night, dont you think?" The mans voice was softer than Blair expected, but if hed thought the room had seemed crowded before, he was totally claustrophobic now.
Jim turned and smiled in a way Blair didnt like at all. "What I think"
"Are you the doctor?" Okay, so, it wasnt a brilliant segue. It didnt have to be, as long as it shut Jim up before he ripped into somebody who might be carrying more pain medication. "Im Blair Sandburg. The guy with the attitude is my partner, Jim Ellison."
That earned him a glare sharp enough to strip paint, but Blair ignored it. Time enough to pay for it later. After somebody dispensed some more drugs.
"Yes, Im Dr. Weber, and how are we doing back here?" the doctor said, faux heartily, reaching out for Blairs chart on the end of the bed.
Why always with the we? Blair thought. He doesnt look like anyones stabbed him recently. "Pretty good for someone whos been stabbed in the ass." Not to mention kicked in the ribsbut he didnt plan to mention that in front of Jim, at least not until Jim had calmed down a little.
"Well, well just take a look at that, okay?" As the doctor stepped around the bed, he bumped into Jim. "Sir, youre going to have to wait out front."
Blair shook his head immediately. "Hey, I dont mind"
"Its okay, Chief. I need to gopractice my breathing, or something." Jim attempted a smile and slipped out of the cubicle.
Blair tried to return the smile and followed Jim with his eyes, trying not to feel completely alone. At least Jimd closed the curtains on his way out.
"Sandburg, huh?" the doctor said, as he glanced over the chart. "You look familiar."
"Yeah, two more visits and I get my own locker in the lounge."
"Hey, I dont even have a locker," Weber said. "Hold still. Youre not going to enjoy this part." Slowly, taking great care, he peeled back the temporary dressing the triage nurse had taped on. "This doesnt look too bad. Must have hurt, though."
No shit. I am bleeding, Blair grumped silently. "Only a flesh wound," he said, teeth clenched tight against the pain.
Weber chuckled. "Glad youve got a sense of humor. Youre going to need it." After a few seconds of prodding, during which the patient strained several muscles in his jaw, the doctor started his routine.
"So, what do you do for a living?"
Blair grimaced. Bad enough when your dentist kept up a steady flow of questions. Worse when someone was staring at your ass and doing it. "Im a grad student at Rainier."
"Oh, what field," Dr. Weber asked, then before Blair could answer, Weber continued, "You're going to feel a pinch, and then a little pressure," and pushed the needle in.
'A little pressure my ass, thought Blair, but he managed to stifle a yelp, knowing that Jim was hearing everything.
"So, your partner is a cop?"
Geez, this guy just wasnt going to stop. Hed obviously never been in this situation if he thoughteven for a minutethat conversation would make things easier.
"Yes, Detective Ellison, hes a city cop. Major Crimes. Cop of the year last year." Blair was beginning to wonder if the Percodan was making him chatty.
"He seemed a little angry, frankly." The doctor sounded a little less than impressed, but Blair didnt worry about it. Right now, he couldnt imagine worrying about anything.
"Oh, hell calm down; he always does." It was the weirdest sensationhis entire butt was gradually becoming numb. There was still a throbbing pain, but the tickle of the blood drying on his thigh and the feeling of cold hospital air had disappeared. Only an almost ghostly feeling of hands remained.
"Could you roll over just a little?" Dr. Weber adjusted the pillows underneath him. "Heah, Ellison, you said?looked rather beaten up, too."
"Yeah, well, it goes with the job."
"And the person who did this ?"
A sharp twinge made it through the local, and Blair gasped, "He got away."
"Hmm. Sorry about thatI need to clean it up a bit before I can start to stitch it up. But you shouldnt feel this next shot."
Blair could barely feel the doctor moving the drape over his ass. Strange in the extreme. At least he didnt have to be all twisted around keeping pressure on the dressing. The only thing worse than that was Jim offering to hold it. Geez.
"Well, your wound is about 16 millimeters long, but most of it isnt very deep. Hmm" Dr. Weber paused. "Youve also got some bruising back here, and yes, Im going to need to check your file."
"Check my file? Why?" He couldnt really tell, but it suddenly felt like the doctor was holding his butt cheeks apart. This day just kept getting weirder. He found himself listening to the sounds of the emergency room as if they were music, finding rhythms and melodies, even repeating choruses.
"Youve got a small tear on your rectumprobably nothing to worry about, but it could indicate internal injuries."
Okay, now it was really official, he thought, trying to ignore a sharp throbbing behind his eyes. This day couldnt get any worse. "Um, doctor. Thats probably not from the injury at all. Thats um " The words receptive anal sex just didnt want to come out of his mouth. He, Blair "I have no hang-ups about sex" Sandburg, was choking in the clutch here. He took a deep breath, and just spit out, "Thats from sex, earlier tonight; its not a problem," and then took three or four more deep breaths.
Well, that wasnt so bad, he thought, vaguely. Even the throbbing had died down a little.
"Mr. Sandburg, Ill be right back; I need to look at your file."
Between the Percodan theyd given him, the adrenaline hangover, the local anesthetic, and the blank whiteness of the emergency room wall, he had no idea how long it was before the doctor returned. He jumped a little when the curtain was pulled back.
"Mr. Sandburg, this is Ms. White, a social worker here at the hospital. She deals with rape and domestic violence issues." Blair smiled confusedly in her direction, craning his head up to see. My god, Blair thought, her name should have been Whitebreadshe was so bland that describing her would be like a police joke, "average height, weight, looks ".
"Um, hello." It was odd being formally introduced while lying on his stomach, ass in the air. As much as he could, he looked questioningly at Dr. Weber.
"Blair, I know this is hard for you," White had a soft voice, hard to hear with all the background noise, and her face seemed to be going in and out of focus, "but Ive been reviewing your file. Youve been in here six times this year. Cracked ribs, near concussion, actual concussion, sprained ankle and facial contusions and each time, youve been brought in by your partner."
She stopped and looked at Dr. Weber. Blair was having a hard time following. "Uh huh."
Dr. Weber jumped in. "Mr. Sandburg, in my physical investigation of the wound, I couldnt help noticing signs of intercourseperhaps violent intercourse."
Ms. White had the grace to look embarrassed, but continued. "This, along with your current injury, and the pattern of injuries your chart shows, makes us think you might benefit from counseling."
The curtain flew back again, and Jim appeared, looking furious and lost all at once.
"Counseling?" Blair tried to get up, but the numbness had seeped down into his legs. The crowded room began to spin, and Jim reached out to catch him. The doctor tried to move between them, and Blair thought Jim was going to take Weber out. Blair gasped, and Jims attention came back to him immediately.
"Are you okay?" Jim deliberately moved around Dr. Weber and bent down over Blair, pushing his hair back out of his eyes.
Blair's heart stuttered a bit. In the harsh light, Jim was so outrageously strong and furious, no wonder he could make the entire room respond to him. Blair couldn't even think of explaining here, in front of all these people. Jim would waitJim always gave him the benefit of the doubt.
Weber, sounding irritated but staying hospital quiet, said, "You are going to leave NOW or Ill call security."
Blair whispered, "No, let him stay. I want him to stay," but he wasnt sure they could hear him. He felt like he was at the bottom of a well, and the walls were pulsing around him. He repeated, "I want him to stay," and saw the doctor and social workerWhite? While? Something like thatexchange knowing glances. "Youre wrong, you fuckers, youre so wrong. It was Charlie who stabbed me. Tell them, Jim." Getting mad never worked for him; he just lost his ability to make an argument. Shutting his eyes to block out the crowded room, and bracing himself against possible pain, he took a couple of slow deep breaths. He wanted to calm down so that they'd listen to him. Adding drug side-effects to his panic attacks wasn't as much fun as youd think.
Jim loomed over Dr. Weber, somehow looking twice Webers size and a million times angrier.
Getting himself a little more under control, Blair said, "Jim, stop," and Jim paused. Weber appeared heartened by this, and grabbed Jims shoulder. "Jim." Blair had the feeling only he could avert a train wreck, or at least a terrible accident. "Leave, for now. Youll hear it all anyway, and think how much better it will look. Simons coming, right?" Jim looked agonized, but stepped back from the doctor. "I know, Jim, I know, but "
Without saying a word, Jim carefully pulled his forearm out of Webers grasp, and turned and pushed through the exam room curtain. Even though hed told him to go, Blairs throat tightened, and he felt deserted. He felt his breath creeping faster again.
Blair took another deep breath, determined to recover enough to be heard by non-Sentinels. "You guys have it all wrong. There really was a perpetrator, Charlie, ah, Charlie somebody, who stabbed me. And the sex" He paused; it really was hard to breathe in this position. "was perfectly consensual"
Doctor Weber held up a hand. "Its all right, I should have waited until you were stronger."
"Jim had nothing to do with it. Call Captain Banks; hell tell you."
"Whatever you say. Calm down now." Dr. Weber moved back around to the end of the bed where Blair could barely see him. "Just lie back down, and well get the stitches in."
The second shot had apparently taken effect. For all Blair could tell, Dr. Weber was just waving his hands back there. At least hed gotten the man to shut up. In this position, all he could see was the floor, one cabinet, part of Dr. Webers foot, and occasional waves of color as he nearly passed out. But he didnt want to go to sleep; he wanted to be there when Simon arrived. He wanted this all overhe wanted it never to have happened in the first place. Why the hell had Jim set up a meet in Myrtle Park, anyway?
As his eyes closed, Myrtle Park appeared behind his eyelids in all of its seedy, bare, and neglected splendor. It was nothing but dying grass, rickety picnic tables and overgrown pathways. No wonder hed completely forgotten about the meetwhod want to go to that park?
Until the phone had rung, reminding him that he was lateagainhed been having a good day. No, a great day. Probably better not to think about that now, half-naked with a guy putting stitches into his flesh, and a social worker lurking around. Blair sighed, pushing the memories of their activities before the meet carefully to the side, at least for the moment.
Okay, the meet itself. What a fiasco. First, hed forgotten to show. Jim had called to remind him, and oh god he hated it when that happened. Each time it was the same, watching Jim asking himself if he really had faith in Blair, if Blair was really committed to helping him, to being his friendand of course, all of the questions were asked in silence. The only thing worse than a meet in the dark and the cold was a meet in the dark and the cold when Jim wouldnt talk to himwhen Jim didnt trust him.
Myrtle Park was officially open even after dark, but on a chilly fall night, the lights were few and far between and the parking lot all but empty. Jim drove them through the narrow park roads, ignoring the 15-mile-an-hour signs with impunity, and pulled into a isolated parking space, tucked into a stand of trees.
Jim turned off the lights, and started to open the door. To Blairs relief, he stopped and turned back, opening his mouth for the first time since hed sarcastically thanked Blair for joining him back at the station. "I told Charlie that I was coming alone, so stay in the truck, and "
Without meaning to, Blair tuned him out completely. Sure, now Jim was talking to him, but it was only recitation number 42,at the first sign of trouble, call for backupwhich Blair could recite forwards, backwards, and in Quechua. Not exactly proof that Jim was feeling forgiving.
Jim got out of the truck, and walked through the rough parking lot to a nearby picnic table. There was barely enough light for Blair to see him. He looked amazingly alone out therebut knowing Jim, hed probably already IDd the heartbeat of every street kid sleeping in the park.
Blair took advantage of his solitude to squirm like hed wanted to ever since he got in the truck. The bench seat was hard at the best of times, and tonight his butt was all but raw. A good raw, though, the sort that was going to be a multi-day reminder of how good it had beenof something bigger than hed ever imagined he could take pushing and sliding into him balls-deep. He squirmed carefully; you never knew how much Jim could see or hear.
And thinking about how hed gotten raw didnt seem very smart, either, if he hoped to pay attention. But in the lonely dark, it seemed like hours before a man appeared in the darkness next to Jim. Tall, dark, grungy-looking even in the low lightfrom Jims reaction, he must have been Charlie. Blair watched them, trying to read their lips, wishing like hed wished for four more inches of height in junior high that he had even a hundredth of Jims abilities. It was hard to say how it was going; Jim looked pissed off, but he often did, after all.
Then suddenly, another man joined them; taller, even less kempt. Blair racked his brain, trying to remember if Jim had said anything about a second man at the meet. As Jim turned to look at the other man, Blair saw Charlie pull out a knife. Blair felt his heart start to pound, and then he smiled in relief as Jim obviously saw the knife and whirled back around to grab Charlie. But the other man pulled a knife too, and curved around to circle him.
Oh God! Blair fumbled urgently for the phone, his heart racing, unable to calm down enough to dial, seeing the knives glinting in the streetlights. He had to hurry, Jim was in troubletheyd never come in time, anywayand once he had the idea, he didnt stop to think, he just opened the truck door and held the phone pointing out in front of him. "Hands up! Police!"
They all stopped for a second, but Jim recovered first, grabbing Charlies arm and twisting it around hard. He jerked it, once, twice, then again, harder, until Charlie dropped his knife. Blair, praying his voice wouldnt shake, yelled, "You! Drop your knife, too," and he walked closer, stumbling a little, trying to see better in the faint light, trying to hear over his own thudding heartbeat.
Nothing. He had time to think that it wasnt working, when the other guy dropped his knife too, and Blair breathed in great gulps of air in relief. Jim barely looked at him, just dug in his jeans pocket for his handcuffs. Blair yelled, "Keep your hands up" as he'd heard Jim do so many times. He bent over to pick up the knives, every inch of his body wired for sound, panting with relief...when suddenly Charlie made a break for it, kicking Jim, trying to sweep his legs. Everything happened at once. Jim hit the ground and rolled just as the other guy pulled out a second knife and knocked the phone out of Blairs hand, knocking the breath of out of him and spinning him around. Someone was screaming, and Blair wasnt sure it wasnt him. Off balance, trying not to fall, Blair grabbed at the other mans arm, but he pulled away incredibly fast and all Blair felt was an insanely sharp slice of pain right across his ass.
His legs collapsed and Blair fell, numb for a second, and then consumed by agony, cruel and hot. He was insensible to the sound of running feet or even to Jim turning him overhis whole world was throbbing and pain. He could barely hear Jim checking the phone, and reassuring him it would be faster to just drive to the hospital. He hoped hed never remember just how much it hurt to have Jim help him into the truck. Jim had the Murphy lights on even before he got the truck started, and he drove top speed to Cascade General. Blair spent the trip lying across the bench seat with his head on Jim's lap, wincing with each bump and jostle, paying no attention as Jim cursed out every car that dared get in their way.
Fucked, fucked, fucked! Jim muttered under his breath. If this wasnt the final straw, it was looking an awful lot like it. Fucked fucked Jim almost smiled as he realized he finally got what Blaird been saying about the soothing benefits of a mantra. Too bad Blair wouldnt approve of his word choice, but at this particular moment he didnt care what Blair thought. About anything.
Fight adrenaline, fear adrenaline, and now fury adrenaline, all had a chance to do a little dance throughout his system today, making it nearly impossible to sit in the stark waiting room. He tried anyway, coiled in on himself, for the first time feeling like the panther really was his spirit animal. Hed been pacing back and forth, trying to work off some of his anger, but he didnt like the stares he was getting. Now he was just trying not to tap his feet, rock back and forth in the cheap plastic chair, or rub his skinned knuckles even rawerat this time of night, half the people there were waiting to get admitted into the psych ward; he was a little afraid of fitting in.
And in truth, he was only half there. The people around him, the sharp smells, the sounds of the nurses station behind him, the bustle of a big-city emergency room at nightthey all faded behind his focus on one room, one conversation. He almost piggybacked his sight, too, but he was afraid hed zone and right now, whod bring him back? Instead, he just let his hearing tell him everything that was going onglad that hed finally learned to focus. Initially, anytime he focused on a single sound, hed been vulnerable to any louder sound overcoming him. Now that Blair had taught him to focus so tightly, loud sounds couldnt shake him. Of course, his new ability made it harder for anyone but Blair to get his attention when he was doing it.
None of his efforts to distract himself were working at all, and no matter how much he didnt want to hear, no matter how embarrassing it became, he couldnt stop listening. He knew Blair deserved his privacy; he knew it was none of his business, except that Blair had become his business, his work life and home life and everything in between.
Blairs doctor continued, "I know this is hard for you, Mr. Sandburg, but hes gone now, and you can talk openly."
Blair laughed, rather hollowly. "As if. Listen, first, just call me Blair, okay? Not even my students call me Mr. Sandburg."
Jim couldnt believe Blairs priorities. Geez, he thought, Blair would make himself comfortable in front of the Spanish Inquisition. On the other hand, it seemed that Blairs anxiety reaction had faded once the room was no longer so crowdedor once hed left? The thought, or the adrenaline reaction finally fading, gave him a sick taste in his stomach.
"Ah, that feels strange," Blair said. "How many stitches am I getting?"
"Just a few, in the deep spots. Mostly Im just using SteriStrips to tape it up. Does it hurt?"
"No, but let me guess, its going to hurt like hell when the drugs wear off."
The doctor sighed, loudly. "Blair, youre obviously bright and strong; you dont have to continue in a relationship that isnt good for you."
Jim looked at his hands clenched tightly in front of him. More than once he'd had his own doubts about how good their relationship was for Blair.
"Doctor, with all due respect, you have no idea what youre talking about."
There was a pause before the doctor continued more casually, "There's nothing wrong with being gay"
"Bisexual," Blair corrected quickly.
Bisexual, Jim repeated somberly. He could barely swallow around the knot in his throat. What a way to find out, Blairthanks a bunch.
"whatever. There's no reason"
Blair cut the doctor off. "Im having a hard time talking with my butt up in the air. Could we finish this up later?" Jim heard him mutter, "I hope you treat real rape survivors with a little more respect." They were each quiet for a second, and Jim just concentrated on the fast beat of Blairs heart, then Blair continued a little groggily, "You know, Doctor, interrogation is a skill, and its one you dont have."
You tell him, Blair, Jim cheered him on. He was still pissed off, but damn it, no one got to pick on Sandburg but him.
The doctor didnt even try to respond, and the silence was hard for Jim to track; all he could hear were rustles he couldnt even be sure were coming from Blairs cubicle. Jim couldnt help himself; he had to pace back and forth, he had to move.
Just as he was about to go back to Blairs cube, no matter how much worse that made things, Simon showed up, two coffees in hand. Jim let go a breath he didnt even realize he was holding, sagging in relief.
"So, how is he, Jim? Have you heard from his doctor yet?" Simon tried to hand him one of the cups. "Hey, you look pretty strung out. I thought you said he wasnt hurt that badly."
"Simon, you have to go talk to Blairs doctor. Now." He took the cup just to get Simons full attention.
"What? Why havent you?"
Simon was looking at him strangely. No wonder, Jim thought. God only knows what expression I have on my face by now. "Theres been some kind of mix-up, Simon." Jim rolled his eyes, finally seeing how ridiculous it was, now that Simon was here to fix everything. "They think they think it was me that hurt Blair. That its some kind of domestic violence or something. You have to go tell them that Blairs with the department."
"What? You arent making any sense, Jim!"
Recognizing Simons usual tacticmaking it your fault when you say something he doesnt want to heardidnt make it any easier to take right then. "Just go talk to them," Jim said tightly. He pointed out the curtain-covered alcove Blair was in and then followed Simon, staying a few steps behind. He completely ignored White standing in the opening.
Simon pulled back the curtain gingerly, leaving Jim half-hidden behind him. "Sandburg! Well, this is a side of you Ive never seen before. You look"
Blair looked up vaguely and groaned, "Oh god, its official. My day cant get worse. Hi, Simon."
The doctor looked up from the dressing he was finishing and frowned. "Could you please wait outside, sir?"
Jim hissed, "No! Get this cleared up."
Simon frowned but held his ground.
"Im Captain Banks, Cascade PD, and there appears to be some misunderstanding here about one of my men. Lets get this straightened out."
Simon to the rescue, Jim thought, glad to work for someone who always came through eventually. As he listened, he tried to figure out an appropriate recompense in fancy coffee and fly fishing equipment.
Weber gathered up his drapes and swabs and gauze and walked over to the sink, stripping off his gloves as he went. "If you insist. Your man, Mr. Ellison, hes outside. We can go talk there."
"No, I mean Blair Sandburg. Hes a part of my department. His partnerhis work partnersays theres been some mix-up?"
EveryoneBlair, Simon, Weber, and Whitestarted talking at once. Even Jims hearing couldnt sort them all out, and he decided to stop trying, glad it was out of his control. Ignoring everyone but Blair, he stepped past the curtain, touched Blairs shoulder and asked quietly, "How are you?"
Blairs smile, though embarrassed, showed he was unmistakably relieved to see him. Jim smiled back and then looked up, feeling pinned. The tiny room seemed even smaller full of people. Especially when every one of them was staring directly at him and Blair. He pulled his hand back from Blairs shoulder guiltily, but Blair grabbed it back and tugged, whispering, "Get me out of here, Jim. Take me home."
From that point, it was all over but the shouting. Unfortunately, Simon and Weber seemed willing to shout all day. At one point, even the social worker jumped back in. But Simon carried the day, and the doctor was a good loser. To Jims amazement, Weber even allowed him to stay to hear the care instructions.
"Showers only, and even that should probably wait a day or two; cover the dressing with Saran wrap or something, okay? Avoid any reaching or stretching that pulls on the stitchesget help if you need to." Jim ignored the way the doctor kept glancing at Simon throughout all of this; he knew damn well who was going to be fetching hot cups of tea every hour on the hour. "Watch for redness, heat, swelling, fever, increased drainage and no driving or operating machinery while youre still on pain meds."
Personally, Jim thought Blair would be better off staying in a place with hot and cold running nurses for a few days, but after the disaster of the last couple of hours, who could blame him for wanting to come home. And now Blair was so woozy, an intelligent conversation was impossible anyway. Whenever anyone asked him anything, he just kept saying, "Take me hooome," in a fairly silly voice.
Blairs jeans were hopeless, but Jim managed to liberate a pair of surgical scrubs. The usual "take them to the exit in a wheelchair" policy clearly didnt apply in this case, and after watching Blair walk a few painful and unbalanced steps, Jim carefully picked him up and carried him outside. After a pointlessly long debate (Blair wasnt big, but he wasnt light, either) Simon and a barely-coherent Blair agreed the best option was to lay him down in the backseat of Simons car. It didnt look all that comfortable, but it wasnt that long a drive.
Simon helped Jim get Blair settled in the back seat and said, "Ill see you at the loft, Jim." He put his hand on Jims shoulder. "Hell be fine."
"Yeah, but will our reputations ever recover?"
Jim clearly heard Simon mutter, "Your secrets safe with me," as Simon started the car.
What an effing day.
Part the Second The Little Death
The first day, Thursday, wasnt bad. Blair passed the time in a haze of heavy sleep, light napping, and daytime TV. He barely roused each time Jim came by to check on him, and slept most of the evening away after dinner. His dreams were hideous, though, and when he woke up needing to pee in the middle of the night, Jim had been there to help before he'd managed to drag the tangled blankets off the bed.
Friday lasted a little longerBlairs naps were shorter, at least, and as the cottonmouth from the drugs was driving him crazy, he was able to skip pain pills altogether for a few hours in the afternoon. But hed been happy to dose back up by the time Jim came home from work, and even happier to go to bed right after he choked down a few bites of dinner. Avoidance had worked plenty of times in the pastand right now, it was the only tactic he had the energy for.
Saturday, he woke to the realization that he was nearly out of good drugs, tired of sleeping, and his butt itched like hed been cut open by mosquitoes instead of a knife. And best of allNOTJim wasnt going to work today. In fact, he gradually realized he could hear Jim trying to be quiet making a late breakfast. "Im awake," he muttered quietly.
Jim called from the kitchen, "Yeah, I knew, but you like to wake up kinda gradual."
Blair groaned to himself. Gradual, ha! Sleeping the whole weekend through and getting up Monday wouldn't be gradual enough. Slowly and carefullyas he did everything right nowBlair rolled out of bed, pulled his hair back and crept to the bathroom.
Getting a good look in the mirror was almost startling. Hed been avoiding seeing the bruises, but now he opened his robe, pulled his sweats down and took it all in. The right side of his ribs was a wonderful shade of purple-green, still a little bit swollen and puffy. Seeing it made it hurt worse, like a cut that doesnt sting until you notice it. And his butt he craned his neck and carefully peeked under the bandage, but all he could see was a line of crooked little butterfly bandageslike a paper railroad track built by drunkards.
Peeing and a quick spit bath took what little energy he had, all he wanted to do was crash, but Jim had gone to the trouble to make eggs just the way Blair liked them, evenoh my godserved them with toast and fresh fruit. Now what do I do? Blair thought. He stood by the kitchen table for a minute, realizing that he hadnt actually eaten a real meal in days.
"Are you going to sit" Jim pulled a chair back from the table for him.
"Ill just lean, thanks." Not taking the plate Jim handed to him didnt feel like an option, but eating it seemed like more than he could make himself do.
"Id ask how youre feeling, but you look like shit."
"Thanks. Really." He didnt say anything, but Jim didnt look all that much better. Jim hadnt been badly hurt, but the shiner on his eye had colored up nicely, and he didn't look like he'd been getting enough sleep, despite the fact it was already past noon.
Close up, the eggs actually smelled kind of good, and he took a few bites before losing steam. Jim was still eating, so he pushed the eggs around his plate with his fork, then made little fruit baskets out of bits of the toast.
"Oh for gods sake." Jim pushed back his chair with a clatter and snatched the plate away. "If you dont want to eat, dont eat." Jim put Blairs plate on the counter and sat back down.
Blair heart beat faster, but he couldnt think of a thing to say; he just stood there and let the counter support him. He looked down, knowing Jim was watching. Funny how he could feel the weight of Jims gazejust who was the Sentinel here?
Smiling vaguelyappeasingly, he hopedBlair pushed off the counter to shuffle over to the couch. With the sort of care that made him think of old dogs lying down, he lowered himself tenderly onto the less-injured cheek and pulled up both blanketshed been chilly ever since theyd gotten home from the hospital, and the gray imitation of afternoon out the living room windows wasnt helping any.
He listened to Jim clean up breakfast, following the clinks of silverware and pottery and the running water. Hed been getting a real workout visualizing what he could hear since the hospital. He could even hear Jim dry dishes; go figure. If nothing else, this mess had given him ideas for some more tests for Jim.
As Jim finished up, Blair grabbed the nearest book he could findSavage Systems by David Chidesteran award-winning tome guaranteed to put the most steadfast graduate student to sleep. He cocooned himself in the covers, carefully positioned the book to hide his face, and began to read. But no matter how hard he squinted, he couldnt turn the black squiggles on white paper into nouns and verbs and adjectives.
A nap would have been a blessing, but he was finally wide awake; feeling the passage of each minute with excruciating clarity. Every so often he turned a page, ignoring the fact that he wasnt grasping a single line. Finally, he looked up. Jim was sitting across from him sipping his coffeestaring at him, of course. He was beginning to suspect that Jim was watching him sleep at night. He was tired of feeling trapped and guilty for no reason. He couldnt fight, he couldnt escape; sometimes the only way out was through.
"What, what?" Jim replied.
"Geez, Jim; dont give me that. Youre obviously dying to ask; youre holding those questions back so hard youve got chipmunk cheeks."
"Cute, Sandburg." Jim drank the last of his coffee, and stood up. "You need anything from the kitchen?"
Fine, Blair thought disconcertedly, torment me a little first. What do I care? He put his book down on the table and wiggled around, trying for the ninety-seventh time since Wednesday to get comfortable. "The valerian root tablets?the bottles next to the fridge."
"It could have been worse, you know." Jim handed him Percodan, even though hed asked for valerian, and put a glass of water on the coaster in front of him with a clack.
"Of course it could be worse," he said, ignoring the drug issue for now and grabbing the glass eagerly. He was thirsty to his toes. "I wasnt that badly hurtin fact, Im feeling like Ill probably be able to go to school for a while tomorrow and start getting caught up. Have I really been complaining that much?"
"You havent been complaining at all." Jim settled himself back on his chair, uncharacteristically putting his feet up on the table. "Youve just slunk around here like someone shot your dog."
"Jim, they thought I was an abused wife!"
Jim laughed a little, not very sincerely. "Well, they thought I was the wife-abuser. We all have our crosses to bear."
"Thats not why youre mad, though," Blair said, sure of at least one thing.
"Damn right." Jim abruptly pulled himself back out of the chair and started to pace back and forth in front of the couch. "I dont give a damn what they think," Jim said coldly. "But Im sure as hell pissed off that you lied to me."
Jim stopped and pointed at him. "Dont get cute with me."
Blair flinched, unconsciously pulling back from the force of Jims emotionand then flinched again from the pain hed caused himself. It wasnt so much that the wound hurt, as that after three days of favoring one side over the other, and standing funny and sitting funny and sleeping funny, he ached everywhere.
"Are you okay?"
"Yeahsorry, my fault; youd think by now Id remember not to move without thinking." Blair dug himself out of his covers, grabbed the last of his water and with a shrug, took the Percodan Jim had brought him.
Without missing a beat, Jim pulled his blanket back up for him, tucking it in behind him. "I asked you point blank, over a year ago, have you ever been with a guy? And you stood there and lied to me."
"I didnt lie to you." Blair twisted again on the couch, trying futilely to find a comfortable position where he could look Jim in the eye. "You, and everyone else that at that damn hospital, completely misunderstood." He didnt want to do this, he didnt want to have this conversation, but at heart, he knew he had nothing to be afraid of. He looked across at Jimsure, he was both pissed off and confused, but like always, Jim was there for him. Blair never doubted that, andas reigning king of fickle, and veteran of one too many bouts of deconstructionknowing that was a pretty cool thing.
"Blair, you said you were bisexual."
Cool or not, though, he was ready to beg Jim to give this up for now.
"You cant just let this go?"
Jim didnt even shake his head; he just looked at him.
"Okay I think I am bisexual, but well I havent actually had sex with a man." Without even trying, he flipped right into lecture mode. "You know, Jim, a virgin can have a sexual orientation. All it takes is knowing who youre attracted by, knowing what makes Mr. Happy pay attention."
Jim just stared at him, his eyes like washed glass in the window light. Blair damn well knew what Jim was most confused about, but it was also what Blair was most embarrassed about. If Jim really wanted to know, Blair was going to make him ask.
As usual, though, Jim surprised him, obviously heading somewhere else. "So when I asked if youd ever been with a guy, did it even occur to you then to say you were bi?"
"Back then, I didnt realize I was. At the time Id never been attracted to a man." Jim was inching closer to the second-most embarrassing part of all of this, and Blair wasnt going to help him with that, either. He fiddled with the couch blankets, straightening them out a little and pulling them back up around his neck, ignoring the little puffs of cold air that inevitably followed.
Jim said, unevenly, "Well, do you remember when I asked you if "
God, Jim could be tenaciousBlair was rarely on the other side of Jims interrogations, and hed forgotten what a bulldog Jim could be. "Yeah, Id been living here for a couple of months; we were both beginning to realize that maybe I was going to keep living here." Blair affected a bored, and why does this matter now tone, trying to get Jim to let it go.
Jims voice was getting louder, angrier. "And did it occur to you to wonder why I asked?"
Blair took a deep breath, thinking: I didnt get pissed then I wont get pissed off now. "I figured, well, Ive got long hair, I dress funny, I talk with my hands a lot... you know. Youre not the first person to ask. I didnt take it personally, you know? I wasnt mad or anything." Mad or not, his pulse was racing. He couldnt help wondering, Was this going to be it?
"You werent mad or anything," Jim repeated after him, flatly, and then just looked at him. He had an indecipherable look on his face, and he looked as uncomfortable as a man ensconced in an overstuffed chair could. Blair wondered, whats he got to be uncomfortable about?
He knew he was missing something important, even crucial; he tried to swallow, but between his fear and the drugs, his throat was too dry. "Um, Jim, could you get me a glass of water?" Jim jumped, almost as if hed zoned, before walking slowly into the kitchen.
Blair couldnt see over the back of the sofa, but he could follow Jim's movements as he started the water running, letting it run clear as Jim always did with city water. He heard the water glugging into the glass and Jim turning the water offand then a crash and the sounds of water splashing and glass breaking. "Jim? Are you okay?"
Jim stormed back into the living room, apparently leaving the glass in pieces where it lay. "I am never calling you Darwin, or Professor, or any nickname in the universe that implies you could think your way out of a wet paper bag, ever again. You thought I asked you because you have long hair and you talk with your hands!" Jims expression of disgust would have intimidated a lesser man, but Blair was beginning to think he was on the verge of figuring out something really important. Like, that he was an idiot, and that maybe, just maybe, everything hed ever wanted was all but in his grasp. Something he should have figured out long agosomething he would have figured out if he'd thought a little more about Jim, and a lot less about himself.
Jim stalked closer and closer, his face reddened and angry, and Blair doubted his own conclusion. What if he was wrong? And even if he was right, a smart man didnt mess with Jim when he was mad. But that cowardice was what had gotten them into this situation in the first place.
Finally Blair just smiled, suddenly happy the drugs had kicked in. When Jim came close enough, he held out his hands and grabbed Jims arm, stopping him, pulling him down. "So is there some other reason you wanted to know?" he asked, his voice low and as sexy as he could make it while trying hard just to breathe. His heart was racing, and suddenly he had a faint line of sweat down the middle of his back, his days-long chill erased in an instant.
"I still dont understand"
"Later, Jim; I swear Ill explain everything later." Now that he was almost certain he'd figured it out, he didn't want to waste any more time. "But Im betting that there are other things we could be doing now."
Jim sat down on the edge of the couch, right up against Blairs groin, looking confused and still a bit pissed off, but Blair wasnt worried. He just kept pulling on Jim, grabbing his arm, his shoulder, his neck, reeling him in, steadily, unstoppably, until Jims face was inches from his. Jims eyes, his impossibly blue eyes were closer to Blair than theyd ever been, and all Blair could think was, trust me. I just didn't know.
And then all thinking stopped, as Jims lips met his.
Jim kissed him, tasting of coffee and milk and home and need, and then kissed him again, and again, and Blair squeezed his shoulder and kissed him back, and Jim groaned into his mouth, deeply, a groan like timbers giving way, a groan like hed never expected to hear from Jim in this life, and suddenly Blair had to see him. He pushed back on Jims shoulder, pushing down the covers at the same time, and Jim reared back, starting to stand.
"No you dont." Blair kept his grip on Jims arm, tight, like a lifeline. Obedient for once, Jim settled back down, snugged in again close on the couch, rubbing his hands all over Blairs shoulders and chest and upper back, soothing all the tight nerves and muscles. Blair was torn between thinking how wonderful it was, and how now was not the time for a backrub of any kind. Whatever this was felt too precarious, too easily sidetracked. "Jim?"
Jim looked up at him without stopping what he was doing, pushing Blairs robe open further to give him more access.
"So, youve been attracted to me since I moved in?" Nervous chatter, but who could blame him.
Jim ran the palm of his hand down Blairs chest, stopping only to untie Blairs sweatpants. "You got a problem with that?"
"No," he managed, hoarsely, and meant itbut as Jim started to push at the waistband of his sweats, he was feeling a little exposed, nearly naked under Jims regard.
He pulled Jim down for another kiss and then squirmed a little trying to delve under Jims t-shirt, but it was awkward on the narrow couch. Jim must have noticed, because, without ending the kiss, Jim slid his arms under Blairs back and thighs, and with a stifled gruntforgive the man a little vanity, Blair thoughthoisted Blair up and started to carry him to his bedroom.
"Tell me, Jim"
Jim nuzzled into the curve of Blairs neck, and whispered, "What?"
"Tell me this isnt the first step towards getting me a little French maids costume, and me doing all the cooking until the end of time."
Jim just laughed and kissed him again, long and slow and strangely reassuring, then bent slightly to thread Blairs legs though the doorway to his room.
With that same gentleness, Jim carefully lowered him to the bed, pulling his robe off him as he let him go. Blair had to stop himself from clutching at his sweatpants as they felt like they were sliding off too. He was having a hard time stretching his self-image around the concept of being shy or modest, but it was one of too darn many self-image issues at the moment, and he didnt have time to worry about it.
"Hey, you too, okay?"
Not exactly poetry, but Jim seemed to understand. He pulled his sweatshirt off in one smooth gesture, heeled his shoes off, and set his hands to his waistband. Blair ached to be the one to unfasten each button, but he couldnt reach without sitting upand he knew better than to even try that.
In the overcast light from the living room, Jim looked like a statue, all buff edges and shadows and dark-gold skin. Blair let his eyes drop and spent some time really looking at Jims chestafter all, hed never looked at it from the perspective of "mine." But it didnt take him long to realize he was really hiding from looking up and seeing Jims facean increasingly scary prospector looking down and seeing something even more disconcerting. Somehow none of his rather specialized fantasies had prepared him for this.
He pushed his comforter out of their way, suddenly wanting Jim to join him on the bed. Time to think was the last thing he needed, everything was moving too slowor too fast, he thought as Jims hands grabbed his loose sweatpants, and started pulling them down. He lifted up his hips a little, carefully, helping Jim get his pants off, laughing a little when the waistband got caught on his dick.
Blair swallowed hard, and rubbed his sweaty palm on his thigh before reaching it out to Jim. His dick was pulsing, his butt was throbbing, his head was pounding, and his throat was dry like it had never been beforepassion and drugs and apprehension seemed evenly mixed. He didnt dare shut his eyes; the secret image hed held of Jim someday casually turning him over and sliding in balls-deep, pushing into him and never ever letting him go well he was suddenly closer to that fantasy than hed ever expected to be, and afraid to come before Jim even touched him.
Jim took his hand and used it to steady himself as he climbed over Blair, sliding down on the bed next to him, face to face, side by side. Blair couldnt imagine how this was going to work, but Jim seemed completely in control. With a reassuringly careful caress over Blairs hip, approaching but not quite touching the wound, he said, "Just be careful and let me, okay?" and immediately started kissing his way down Blairs chest and abdomen. Blair gasped, and reached out, but Jim pushed his hands away and kept moving down his body, making quiet licking and kissing sounds, muttering obscenely appreciative phrases.
Without pausing, Jim licked at the inside of Blairs thighs, coaxing Blair to spread his legs a little, and fall back on the bed just a bit. The first touch of Jims tongue on his balls made Blair gulp. Jim licked there as if he had all day to do it, in long, sure, strokes. Blair looked down at him; there was a dark light in Jims eyes, something more primitive than Blair had words for. It felt so good it was almost too much, a pleasure so great it was almost pain. Jim raised up and pulled Blair into his mouth and suddenly it was painas Jim sucked, Blair couldnt help flexing the abused muscles in his ass. "Stop," he gasped, and pulled up on Jims head.
Jim stopped immediately, and all Blair could hear was their breaths and his own heart pounding. "Its okay; I shouldnt have flexed."
"No, my fault." Jim slid back up the bed next to him, fitting them together on their sides, close and tight, sharing each others breath. "I told you, just let me " Jim whispered, pulling him tighter into his arms, supporting Blair on his chest, anchoring them, molding them together, murmuring, "for once, let me do my job and stop you from getting hurt," and Blair wasnt going to arguehed let Jim win this oneand then, with one large hand, Jim reached down and grabbed their cocks, rubbing them gently together, and it was whiteouthis world overexposedhe could barely hear Jim say, "Its okay; let me "
At that moment, Blair would have let Jim do just about anything. Jims hand was strong and warm, and Jims dick was hard and even warmer, and each stroke that Jim made up and down over their cocks sent pulses of fire throughout his bodyeven the whispers of pain from his ass only added a sharpness to the sensation. Lying still was killing him; giving into Jims rhythm was death, but he kept coming back, wordlessly craving release. He couldnt have talked if his life depended on it. He finally reached down and put his hands over Jims and pulled, faster and faster and then harder, as his pants of breath grew shorter and sharper.
When Jim stopped, Blair could have killed him. "What!" he wailed, and pushed on Jims hand, trying to get the rhythm back.
Jim didnt answer in words, just kissed him, long and hard, lips and tongue and all of that Sentinel attention, pulling Blair more tightly to him.
Jims harsh pants made it hard to hold a kiss, Jim had to be close, and yet hed stopped to do this. Blair broke away to gasp a little himself, trying to hold back, trying to figure out what Jim needed.
"Jim?" His name came out somewhere between a prayer and a curse.
Jim laughed, and kissed him hard, and started stroking their cocks again, still laughing, and the laugh was like bubbles under Blairs skin, raising him up and up, and each slide of Jims hands on their cocks pulled him down until he was being pulled apart, stretched, every part of his body tensed and tight and teetering
and with a final stroke of Jims large hand, he let go and came, and as if they were connected somehow, he brought Jim right along with him, panting in time.
It was careful and awkward, and a lot more than a little painful, and sweeter than he could have imaginedin fact, nothing like hed imagined. But just as wonderful as hed hoped it would be.
Blair finally managed to pull in a deep enough breath to sigh happily, and he smiled at Jims laughter. "Hey, this was my first exercise in days. Be nice." In the gathering gloom, he was lying in Jims arms, glued together from shoulders to knees, hot, sweaty, come-covered, aching, and incredibly, almost inconceivably, happy.
Jim said, "Kids, no stamina these days." He threaded his hand into Blairs hair, and pulled, just the slightest bit. "I admit, Im a lot less worried about it than I was an hour ago" He ran his hand up and down Blairs hip languidly, carefully avoiding the stitches to the back and the mess to the front, and continued, "but I still dont get how this all adds up, you know."
Blair couldnt believe it. No wonder Jim was Cop of the Year. Frankly, this redefined the word tenacious. What did it take to wear this guy out and would Blair ever recover enough to find out? "Well, just how good is Sentinel vision? Can you see me blush?"
"I assumed it was afterglow."
"Cute. Well " Blair wiggled his way free of Jims arm and rolled away, nearly onto his stomach: partially he needed to find a more comfortable position, and partially, he wasnt anxious to be making this explanation with Jims all-seeing eyes boring right into him. "You never dated Samantha, right?"
"Not even tempted, Chief. Predators dont have the same fascination for me as they do for you " It was obvious to Blair that Jim thought he was trying to change the subject.
"Well, not to kiss and tell or anything "
"But one of the reasons she and I keep getting back together? She is the only woman Ive ever met who has even fewer sexual hang-ups than I do." Blair peeked back over his shoulder but Jim just gave him an innocent look. "Well, one of the things she likes to do is rent porn videos, and then we try whatever looked interesting."
"Interesting?" Jim said dubiously.
"Uh huh. One night, a few months ago, she rented " Blair let his voice fade out, getting his nerve back, teasing Jim just a bit, silly and almost drunk with pleasure and relief.
Jim fidgeted a little, and ended up curved around him, a blanket of heat on his side. Between them now, they were taking up every square inch his bed had available, and for the first time in days, Blair was finally comfortable.
Jim nudged him gently. "Come on, you cant chicken out now."
" A tape called Bend Over, Boyfriend, where women use, um, toys on their boyfriends. We tried it, we liked itwe kept trying it." Blair interlaced his fingers with Jims in the dimness and squeezed. "But most of the thrill was imagining it was you." Blair closed his eyes and saw it again: Jimreally Jimturning him over and sliding in balls deep, pushing into him and never ever letting him go. It was no longer a dream or a hopeless fantasy; just something they hadnt gotten around to yet.
"Bend Over, Boyfriend?" There was no other word for Jims tone of voice than horrified.
"Yeah, its like a training video for women who want to, um, do their boyfriends."
"And you went along with this?"
His face hidden by the mattress, Blair smiled. It was clear that despite what theyd just done, Jim thought Samantha using a toy on him was kinkier than anything hed ever imagined. Blair laughed quietly, thinking, Just you wait, James Ellison. It might take me some time to get the basics down, but after that, watch out.
Jim rolled over a bit on the small bed, reaching a long arm over Blairs waist, gently moving himself just a little closer.
Blair smiled again in the darkness, realizing that yet again, he was lying with his naked ass up in the air. And this time, when he thought, It doesnt get much better than this
He meant it.
Author's note: Yes, Virginia, there really is a video called "Bend Over, Boyfriend," and no, I didn't save the ordering address.
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