Disclaimer: Slash, over 18, Pet Fly, yadda, yadda, yadda...If you're not a Sentinel fan, may I recommend visiting the New Fan site before starting the story?

This story was a puny outline of ideas before my friends beat me into making it a story—Fervent 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 gods!
How do other writers do it without betas?

In the Air
by Sandy K Herrold

Part the First – the Wages of Sin

It doesn’t 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 wasn’t the first time he’d been in this very emergency room this year, um semester—hell, even this month—couldn’t change his mind. But right now, embarrassed beyond mortal understanding, he’d 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 wasn’t 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? I’m not gushing or anything, am I?"

"You think I’m going to look?"

Blair grinned. It wasn’t very often he was compensated for being injured in the line of duty; a guy took what he could get. "Hey, you’re the one pacing down that end, man. I wasn’t about to ask why."

Jim sighed, and came into view around the end of the bed. "You’ve 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 didn’t look like he was in the mood to play. "Look, it’s been twenty minutes. I’m 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 wasn’t anyone’s 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? They’re 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 hadn’t been so upset, at himself, at Blair, at the world as a whole. Would have smiled if Blair didn’t know better than do anything to set Jim off. And then Blair did smile, all teeth, giving in to the ridiculousness of it all.

Jim’s glare was bright enough to reflect off the shiny surgical stuff filling the cubicle. "Don’t you even start, Sandburg."

"Start? I’m just lying here."

"Like you were just staying in the car?"

Blair groaned, and would’ve rolled over to face the wall if he’d thought he could do it without screaming. "God, I don’t believe we’re 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 Jim’s head.

But usually, they weren’t 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 you’re told—"

"Hey, what’s this?" A close cousin of Andre the Giant stepped through the curtain in surgical green, chart in hand. "I think this guy’s been through enough for one night, don’t you think?" The man’s voice was softer than Blair expected, but if he’d thought the room had seemed crowded before, he was totally claustrophobic now.

Jim turned and smiled in a way Blair didn’t like at all. "What I think—"

"Are you the doctor?" Okay, so, it wasn’t a brilliant segue. It didn’t have to be, as long as it shut Jim up before he ripped into somebody who might be carrying more pain medication. "I’m 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, I’m Dr. Weber, and how are we doing back here?" the doctor said, faux heartily, reaching out for Blair’s chart on the end of the bed.

Why always with the ‘we’? Blair thought. He doesn’t look like anyone’s stabbed him recently. "Pretty good for someone who’s been stabbed in the ass." Not to mention kicked in the ribs—but he didn’t plan to mention that in front of Jim, at least not until Jim had calmed down a little.

"Well, we’ll just take a look at that, okay?" As the doctor stepped around the bed, he bumped into Jim. "Sir, you’re going to have to wait out front."

Blair shook his head immediately. "Hey, I don’t mind—"

"It’s okay, Chief. I need to go—practice 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 Jim’d 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 don’t even have a locker," Weber said. "Hold still. You’re not going to enjoy this part." Slowly, taking great care, he peeled back the temporary dressing the triage nurse had taped on. "This doesn’t 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 you’ve got a sense of humor. You’re 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. "I’m 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 wasn’t going to stop. He’d obviously never been in this situation if he thought—even for a minute—that conversation would make things easier.

"Yes, Detective Ellison, he’s 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 didn’t worry about it. Right now, he couldn’t imagine worrying about anything.

"Oh, he’ll calm down; he always does." It was the weirdest sensation—his 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. "He—ah, 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 that—I need to clean it up a bit before I can start to stitch it up. But you shouldn’t feel this next shot."

Blair could barely feel the doctor moving the drape over his ass. Strange in the extreme. At least he didn’t 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 isn’t very deep. Hmm—" Dr. Weber paused. "You’ve also got some bruising back here, and…yes, I’m going to need to check your file."

"Check my file? Why?" He couldn’t 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.

"You’ve got a small tear on your rectum—probably 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 couldn’t get any worse. "Um, doctor. That’s probably not from the injury at all. That’s…um…" The words ‘receptive anal sex’ just didn’t 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, "That’s from sex, earlier tonight; it’s not a problem," and then took three or four more deep breaths.

"Hmm. Okay."

Well, that wasn’t so bad, he thought, vaguely. Even the throbbing had died down a little.

"Mr. Sandburg, I’ll be right back; I need to look at your file."

Between the Percodan they’d 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 Whitebread—she 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 I’ve been reviewing your file. You’ve been in here six times this year. Cracked ribs, near concussion, actual concussion, sprained ankle and facial contusions… and each time, you’ve 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 couldn’t help noticing signs of intercourse—perhaps 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 Jim’s 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 wait—Jim always gave him the benefit of the doubt.

Weber, sounding irritated but staying hospital quiet, said, "You are going to leave NOW or I’ll call security."

Blair whispered, "No, let him stay. I want him to stay," but he wasn’t 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 worker—White? While? Something like that—exchange knowing glances. "You’re wrong, you fuckers, you’re 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 you’d think.

Jim loomed over Dr. Weber, somehow looking twice Weber’s 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 Jim’s shoulder. "Jim." Blair had the feeling only he could avert a train wreck, or at least a terrible accident. "Leave, for now. You’ll hear it all anyway, and think how much better it will look. Simon’s 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 Weber’s grasp, and turned and pushed through the exam room curtain. Even though he’d told him to go, Blair’s 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. "It’s all right, I should have waited until you were stronger."

"—Jim had nothing to do with it. Call Captain Banks; he’ll 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 we’ll 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 he’d gotten the man to shut up. In this position, all he could see was the floor, one cabinet, part of Dr. Weber’s foot, and occasional waves of color as he nearly passed out. But he didn’t want to go to sleep; he wanted to be there when Simon arrived. He wanted this all over—he 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 he’d completely forgotten about the meet—who’d want to go to that park?

Until the phone had rung, reminding him that he was late—again—he’d 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, he’d 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 friend—and 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 wouldn’t talk to him—when Jim didn’t 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 Blair’s relief, he stopped and turned back, opening his mouth for the first time since he’d 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 backup’—which 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 there—but knowing Jim, he’d probably already ID’d the heartbeat of every street kid sleeping in the park.

Blair took advantage of his solitude to squirm like he’d 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 been—of something bigger than he’d 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 he’d gotten raw didn’t 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 light—from Jim’s reaction, he must have been Charlie. Blair watched them, trying to read their lips, wishing like he’d wished for four more inches of height in junior high that he had even a hundredth of Jim’s 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 trouble—they’d never come in time, anyway—and once he had the idea, he didn’t 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 Charlie’s arm and twisting it around hard. He jerked it, once, twice, then again, harder, until Charlie dropped his knife. Blair, praying his voice wouldn’t 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 wasn’t 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 Blair’s hand, knocking the breath of out of him and spinning him around. Someone was screaming, and Blair wasn’t sure it wasn’t him. Off balance, trying not to fall, Blair grabbed at the other man’s 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 over—his 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 he’d 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 wasn’t the final straw, it was looking an awful lot like it. Fucked…fucked…Jim almost smiled as he realized he finally got what Blair’d been saying about the soothing benefits of a mantra. Too bad Blair wouldn’t approve of his word choice, but at this particular moment he didn’t 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. He’d been pacing back and forth, trying to work off some of his anger, but he didn’t 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 rawer—at 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 night—they all faded behind his focus on one room, one conversation. He almost piggybacked his sight, too, but he was afraid he’d zone and right now, who’d bring him back? Instead, he just let his hearing tell him everything that was going on—glad that he’d finally learned to focus. Initially, anytime he focused on a single sound, he’d been vulnerable to any louder sound overcoming him. Now that Blair had taught him to focus so tightly, loud sounds couldn’t 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 didn’t want to hear, no matter how embarrassing it became, he couldn’t 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.

Blair’s doctor continued, "I know this is hard for you, Mr. Sandburg, but he’s 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 couldn’t believe Blair’s priorities. Geez, he thought, Blair would make himself comfortable in front of the Spanish Inquisition. On the other hand, it seemed that Blair’s anxiety reaction had faded once the room was no longer so crowded—or once he’d 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 I’m just using SteriStrips to tape it up. Does it hurt?"

"No, but let me guess, it’s going to hurt like hell when the drugs wear off."

The doctor sighed, loudly. "Blair, you’re obviously bright and strong; you don’t have to continue in a relationship that isn’t 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 you’re 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, Blair—thanks a bunch.

"—whatever. There's no reason—"

Blair cut the doctor off. "I’m 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 Blair’s heart, then Blair continued a little groggily, "You know, Doctor, interrogation is a skill, and it’s one you don’t 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 didn’t even try to respond, and the silence was hard for Jim to track; all he could hear were rustles he couldn’t even be sure were coming from Blair’s cubicle. Jim couldn’t help himself; he had to pace back and forth, he had to move.

Just as he was about to go back to Blair’s cube, no matter how much worse that made things, Simon showed up, two coffees in hand. Jim let go a breath he didn’t 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 wasn’t hurt that badly."

"Simon, you have to go talk to Blair’s doctor. Now." He took the cup just to get Simon’s full attention.

"What? Why haven’t you?"

Simon was looking at him strangely. No wonder, Jim thought. God only knows what expression I have on my face by now. "There’s 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 it’s some kind of domestic violence or something. You have to go tell them that Blair’s with the department."

"What? You aren’t making any sense, Jim!"

Recognizing Simon’s usual tactic—making it your fault when you say something he doesn’t want to hear—didn’t 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 I’ve never seen before. You look—"

Blair looked up vaguely and groaned, "Oh god, it’s official. My day can’t 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.

"I’m Captain Banks, Cascade PD, and there appears to be some misunderstanding here about one of my men. Let’s 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, he’s outside. We can go talk there."

"No, I mean Blair Sandburg. He’s a part of my department. His partner—his work partner—says there’s been some mix-up?"

Everyone—Blair, Simon, Weber, and White—started talking at once. Even Jim’s hearing couldn’t 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 Blair’s shoulder and asked quietly, "How are you?"

Blair’s 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 Blair’s 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 Jim’s 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 stitches—get 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 you’re 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.

Blair’s 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 didn’t 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 wasn’t big, but he wasn’t light, either) Simon and a barely-coherent Blair agreed the best option was to lay him down in the backseat of Simon’s car. It didn’t look all that comfortable, but it wasn’t that long a drive.

Simon helped Jim get Blair settled in the back seat and said, "I’ll see you at the loft, Jim." He put his hand on Jim’s shoulder. "He’ll be fine."

"Yeah, but will our reputations ever recover?"

Jim clearly heard Simon mutter, "Your secret’s safe with me," as Simon started the car.

What an effing day.


Part the Second – The Little Death

The first day, Thursday, wasn’t 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 longer—Blair’s 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 he’d 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 past—and 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 he’d been cut open by mosquitoes instead of a knife. And best of all—NOT—Jim wasn’t going to work today. In fact, he gradually realized he could hear Jim trying to be quiet making a late breakfast. "I’m 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 carefully—as he did everything right now—Blair rolled out of bed, pulled his hair back and crept to the bathroom.

Getting a good look in the mirror was almost startling. He’d 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 doesn’t 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 bandages—like 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, even—oh my god—served 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 hadn’t actually eaten a real meal in days.

"Are you going to sit—" Jim pulled a chair back from the table for him.

"I’ll just lean, thanks." Not taking the plate Jim handed to him didn’t feel like an option, but eating it seemed like more than he could make himself do.

"I’d ask how you’re feeling, but you look like shit."

"Thanks. Really." He didn’t say anything, but Jim didn’t look all that much better. Jim hadn’t 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 god’s sake." Jim pushed back his chair with a clatter and snatched the plate away. "If you don’t want to eat, don’t eat." Jim put Blair’s plate on the counter and sat back down.

Blair heart beat faster, but he couldn’t 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 Jim’s gaze—just who was the Sentinel here?

Smiling vaguely—appeasingly, he hoped—Blair 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 blankets—he’d been chilly ever since they’d gotten home from the hospital, and the gray imitation of afternoon out the living room windows wasn’t helping any.

He listened to Jim clean up breakfast, following the clinks of silverware and pottery and the running water. He’d 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 find—Savage Systems by David Chidester—an 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 couldn’t 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 wasn’t grasping a single line. Finally, he looked up. Jim was sitting across from him sipping his coffee—staring 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 couldn’t fight, he couldn’t escape; sometimes the only way out was through.


"‘What,’ what?" Jim replied.

"Geez, Jim; don’t give me that. You’re obviously dying to ask; you’re holding those questions back so hard you’ve 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 bottle’s next to the fridge."

"It could have been worse, you know." Jim handed him Percodan, even though he’d 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 wasn’t that badly hurt—in fact, I’m feeling like I’ll probably be able to go to school for a while tomorrow and start getting caught up. Have I really been complaining that much?"

"You haven’t been complaining at all." Jim settled himself back on his chair, uncharacteristically putting his feet up on the table. "You’ve 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."

"That’s not why you’re 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 don’t give a damn what they think," Jim said coldly. "But I’m sure as hell pissed off that you lied to me."


Jim stopped and pointed at him. "Don’t get cute with me."

Blair flinched, unconsciously pulling back from the force of Jim’s emotion—and then flinched again from the pain he’d caused himself. It wasn’t 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?"

"Yeah—sorry, my fault; you’d think by now I’d 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 didn’t 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 didn’t want to do this, he didn’t want to have this conversation, but at heart, he knew he had nothing to be afraid of. He looked across at Jim—sure, he was both pissed off and confused, but like always, Jim was there for him. Blair never doubted that, and—as reigning king of fickle, and veteran of one too many bouts of deconstruction—knowing 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.

"Yeah, so?"


"You can’t just let this go?"

Jim didn’t even shake his head; he just looked at him.

"Okay… I think I am bisexual, but… well… I haven’t 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 you’re 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 you’d ever been with a guy, did it even occur to you then to say you were bi?"

"Back then, I didn’t realize I was. At the time I’d never been attracted to a man." Jim was inching closer to the second-most embarrassing part of all of this, and Blair wasn’t 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 tenacious—Blair was rarely on the other side of Jim’s interrogations, and he’d forgotten what a bulldog Jim could be. "Yeah, I’d 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.

Jim’s voice was getting louder, angrier. "And did it occur to you to wonder why I asked?"

Blair took a deep breath, thinking: I didn’t get pissed then I won’t get pissed off now. "I figured, well, I’ve got long hair, I dress funny, I talk with my hands a lot... you know. You’re not the first person to ask. I didn’t take it personally, you know? I wasn’t mad or anything." Mad or not, his pulse was racing. He couldn’t help wondering, Was this going to be it?

"You weren’t 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, what’s 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 he’d zoned, before walking slowly into the kitchen.

Blair couldn’t 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 off—and 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!" Jim’s 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 he’d ever wanted was all but in his grasp. Something he should have figured out long ago—something 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 didn’t 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 Jim’s 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 don’t understand—"

"Later, Jim; I swear I’ll explain everything later." Now that he was almost certain he'd figured it out, he didn't want to waste any more time. "But I’m betting that there are other things we could be doing now."

Jim sat down on the edge of the couch, right up against Blair’s groin, looking confused and still a bit pissed off, but Blair wasn’t worried. He just kept pulling on Jim, grabbing his arm, his shoulder, his neck, reeling him in, steadily, unstoppably, until Jim’s face was inches from his. Jim’s eyes, his impossibly blue eyes were closer to Blair than they’d ever been, and all Blair could think was, trust me. I just didn't know.

And then all thinking stopped, as Jim’s 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 he’d never expected to hear from Jim in this life, and suddenly Blair had to see him. He pushed back on Jim’s shoulder, pushing down the covers at the same time, and Jim reared back, starting to stand.

"No you don’t." Blair kept his grip on Jim’s arm, tight, like a lifeline. Obedient for once, Jim settled back down, snugged in again close on the couch, rubbing his hands all over Blair’s 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 Blair’s robe open further to give him more access.

"So, you’ve been attracted to me since I moved in?" Nervous chatter, but who could blame him.

Jim ran the palm of his hand down Blair’s chest, stopping only to untie Blair’s sweatpants. "You got a problem with that?"

"No," he managed, hoarsely, and meant it—but as Jim started to push at the waistband of his sweats, he was feeling a little exposed, nearly naked under Jim’s regard.

He pulled Jim down for another kiss and then squirmed a little trying to delve under Jim’s t-shirt, but it was awkward on the narrow couch. Jim must have noticed, because, without ending the kiss, Jim slid his arms under Blair’s back and thighs, and with a stifled grunt—forgive the man a little vanity, Blair thought—hoisted Blair up and started to carry him to his bedroom.

"Tell me, Jim—"

Jim nuzzled into the curve of Blair’s neck, and whispered, "What?"

"Tell me this isn’t the first step towards getting me a little French maid’s 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 Blair’s 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 didn’t 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 couldn’t reach without sitting up—and 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 Jim’s chest—after all, he’d never looked at it from the perspective of "mine." But it didn’t take him long to realize he was really hiding from looking up and seeing Jim’s face—an increasingly scary prospect—or 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 slow—or too fast, he thought as Jim’s 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 before—passion and drugs and apprehension seemed evenly mixed. He didn’t dare shut his eyes; the secret image he’d 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 he’d 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 couldn’t imagine how this was going to work, but Jim seemed completely in control. With a reassuringly careful caress over Blair’s hip, approaching but not quite touching the wound, he said, "Just be careful and let me, okay?" and immediately started kissing his way down Blair’s 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 Blair’s thighs, coaxing Blair to spread his legs a little, and fall back on the bed just a bit. The first touch of Jim’s 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 Jim’s 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 pain—as Jim sucked, Blair couldn’t help flexing the abused muscles in his ass. "Stop," he gasped, and pulled up on Jim’s head.

Jim stopped immediately, and all Blair could hear was their breaths and his own heart pounding. "It’s okay; I shouldn’t 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 other’s 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 wasn’t going to argue—he’d let Jim win this one—and then, with one large hand, Jim reached down and grabbed their cocks, rubbing them gently together, and it was whiteout—his world overexposed—he could barely hear Jim say, "It’s okay; let me…"

At that moment, Blair would have let Jim do just about anything. Jim’s hand was strong and warm, and Jim’s dick was hard and even warmer, and each stroke that Jim made up and down over their cocks sent pulses of fire throughout his body—even the whispers of pain from his ass only added a sharpness to the sensation. Lying still was killing him; giving into Jim’s rhythm was death, but he kept coming back, wordlessly craving release. He couldn’t have talked if his life depended on it. He finally reached down and put his hands over Jim’s 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 Jim’s hand, trying to get the rhythm back.

Jim didn’t answer in words, just kissed him, long and hard, lips and tongue and all of that Sentinel attention, pulling Blair more tightly to him.

Jim’s harsh pants made it hard to hold a kiss, Jim had to be close, and yet he’d 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 Blair’s skin, raising him up and up, and each slide of Jim’s 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 Jim’s 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 imagined—in fact, nothing like he’d imagined. But just as wonderful as he’d hoped it would be.

Blair finally managed to pull in a deep enough breath to sigh happily, and he smiled at Jim’s laughter. "Hey, this was my first exercise in days. Be nice." In the gathering gloom, he was lying in Jim’s 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 Blair’s hair, and pulled, just the slightest bit. "I admit, I’m a lot less worried about it than I was an hour ago—" He ran his hand up and down Blair’s hip languidly, carefully avoiding the stitches to the back and the mess to the front, and continued, "—but I still don’t get how this all adds up, you know."

Blair couldn’t 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 Jim’s arm and rolled away, nearly onto his stomach: partially he needed to find a more comfortable position, and partially, he wasn’t anxious to be making this explanation with Jim’s all-seeing eyes boring right into him. "You never dated Samantha, right?"

"Not even tempted, Chief. Predators don’t 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…"

Jim snorted.

"But one of the reasons she and I keep getting back together? She is the only woman I’ve 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 can’t chicken out now."

"…A tape called Bend Over, Boyfriend, where women use, um, toys on their boyfriends. We tried it, we liked it—we kept trying it." Blair interlaced his fingers with Jim’s in the dimness and squeezed. "But most of the thrill was imagining it was you." Blair closed his eyes and saw it again: Jim—really Jim—turning 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 hadn’t gotten around to yet.

"Bend Over, Boyfriend?" There was no other word for Jim’s tone of voice than horrified.

"Yeah, it’s 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 they’d just done, Jim thought Samantha using a toy on him was kinkier than anything he’d 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 Blair’s 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 doesn’t get much better than this…’

He meant it.

-The End-
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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