Thanksgiving Past by Kerensa

Thanksgiving Past - Kerensa

Blair grinned in triumph and stuck out his hand expectantly toward Jim when he saw Joel get up from the couch. The fact that the big detective had deserted the ongoing football game and was going back into the kitchen for some of Blair's weird fruit and custard parfait cinched the deal. Blair looked over at Jim, raised his eyebrows and wiggled his fingers, demanding payment. Jim frowned at the returning detective and leaned to one side so he could get his wallet out of his back pocket. Jim handed over a twenty dollar bill with a pretend scowl.

Pocketing the money happily, Blair smiled. Under his breath he muttered, "Ain't nobody that don't like parfait." Jim was the only one who heard the Shrek quote, well, almost quote, but he was the only one who needed to. The Sentinel had told Blair that none of the cops coming to their Thanksgiving Day celebration would be caught dead eating such a weird and froufrou desert. Blair said they would and the bet was made.

Now twenty bucks richer, Blair decided not to gloat. His newfound riches would go to the local food pantry, just like he had Jim had planned, no matter who won the bet. Jim turned back to his game and Blair looked around at their friends and family happily.

They weren't a very big group right now. Rafe and Henri had already left; H saying he had to get to his parents' house and Rafe stating that he had a pressing engagement, i.e., a date. Megan hadn't even made it this year; she had used the time off to go visit her family in Australia. So, this late in the evening, it was just the four of them: Blair, Jim, Simon and Joel.

Joel was still eating on his desert, sitting on the couch with a napkin carefully spread on his lap to avoid spills and Jim's ire if he made a mess on the couch. Simon was eyeing the creamy confection with a mixture of envy and hunger. Blair wondered how long it would be before the captain gave in and got some for himself. Probably not very long, if Blair was any judge.

Blair glanced over his shoulder, towards the dining room and kitchen, wondering if there was any more food to be had. Not much, from what he could see.

The turkey carcass was little more than bones and there were only a few scraggly slices of the ham left as well. Everyone, with the exception of Blair, was a big meat eater, so that portion of the meal had been depleted quickly. The rolls had been history before the end of the official meal, let alone with all the snacking that had gone on since then.

Luckily, there were a few slices of pumpkin pie left and at least a couple of servings of the parfait. Lazily, Blair contemplated the mess of the other rooms. The lower half of the loft looked like a bomb had gone off in it. The kitchen wasn't quite as bad, because of Jim's fastidiousness and Rule #12; Clean up as you go. But the dinning room and living room were scattered with used plates and glasses. Even Blair's old room was a mess, because it was littered with coats, scarves and hats.

He knew that he should get up and at least make a pretense of cleaning up, but Blair was too tired and relaxed to make the effort right now. Blair watched the other three men cheering and yelling at the televised game and thought how lucky he was. He had good friends, a great job, a wonderful home and, most importantly, an amazing lover.

Blair leaned his head back against the corner of the couch and closed his eyes. I'll just rest for a minute or two, he thought sleepily. He heard Jim laugh and opened his eyes to look at the Sentinel. Jim's happy image wavered for a moment, and another, somewhat different looking Jim took his place.

^^^^^

"Brother Ellis."

James Ellis stopped and turned when he heard someone calling out to him. A tall, thin man was motioning to him from across the street. James inclined his head to indicate that he had heard him and waited for the other man to join him. "Brother Brandford."

The grey haired man crossed the dirt road and came to stand by Ellis. James watched him with some trepidation, although Ellis' stoic façade never wavered and he doubted the older man noticed a thing; subtlety was not the other man's strong suit.

"Well and met, Brother Ellis," the man greeted with a tight lipped smile, one that never really reached the dark eyes.

"Well and met, Brother Brandford, and how are you this fine morning?" Truthfully, James didn't care how the other man was. Ezra Brandford was a pompous busybody, more interested in causing trouble than he was in growing the crops on his farm, but it wasn't smart to give the influential man any reason to cause trouble. James, as the head of the local constabulary, had to remain friendly with the members of his community.

"I am well, Brother Ellis, and thank you for asking." Brandford smiled and eyed Ellis' attire, looking for something, anything, amiss. The older, gray haired man was always trying to find fault with James' appearance.

James smiled back confidently, he knew that his clothing was free of blemish and his leather cloak had been buffed to a fare-the-well; he had done it himself. His green linen shirt and brown leather breeches had not a stitch undone or a thread untrimmed; neither did his woolen leggings. James kept his hair short and underneath his woolen stocking cap, also bright green, so not a hair was out of place.

As a bachelor, Ellis had to be on constant vigil, because the well meaning people of the town, busybodies as he liked to call them, were always trying to find a wife for him. Add to that his father's continuous attempts to re-wed him and James found that he needed to be on watch at all times, lest they try to find a new reason to foist a spouse on him.

It wasn't that there weren't suitable maidens around for the eminently eligible and rich widower to choose from. No, James simply didn't find any of them interesting enough to want to spend the rest of his life with. The pitiful excuse of a marriage that he had had with Carolyn had convinced James that marriage simply wasn't for him. Carolyn's untimely and tragic, but fortunate for him, death three years earlier had freed them both from the unhappy shackles of matrimony and he had no intention of being caught again.

"I have heard that Mistress Jensen lost several more of her hens last night." Ezra shook his head and sighed. "That makes 5 pullets that have disappeared from her farm in the last week."

"Yes," James agreed, "and that makes the third household to suffer similar loses lately. I am going to investigate further. In fact, I am heading to Mistress Jensen's place right now."

"Hello, Brother Brandford." A tall young woman with bright red hair sauntered up. "Hello, James, I mean, Brother Ellis." Cassandra Wells ducked her head demurely at the misspeak. Wisps of curly hair framed her face where they had escaped from the heavy bun at the back of her head.

Ezra smiled indulgently at his niece and patted her on the arm. He wouldn't say anything about her being so personal with the constable, but he insisted that she refer to him by his full name, Brother Brandford, rather than calling him uncle. The older man watched as Cassandra glanced at Ellis out of the corner of her eye, to see what he thought of the use of such familiarity.

James had to consciously force himself not to roll his eyes at her less than subtle antics. She had set her cap for Ellis the moment she first noticed him six months ago. He smiled tightly at the young woman and tried to figure out what it was that bothered him so much about her. It certainly isn't her appearance, he decided to himself.

The red head was pleasant enough to look at and James had to admit that he had a weakness for red hair. Her skin was creamy white and her cheeks were suspiciously pink, as were her lips. Personally, James suspected that she used something to brighten them. The same was true with her hair; the red color seemed too uniform to be true. Maybe that was the problem, Cassandra was full of artifice, and nothing about her seemed real. James preferred a little less perfect, if it meant that the person was being honest.

"Brother Ellis and I were just discussing the loss of livestock that our fair community has been suffering from recently," Brandford said pompously.

James waited for the voluble young woman to offer her opinion. She was known for interjecting what she thought about the subject, no matter what it was, whether people were interested in her opinion or not. Usually it was not, but considering who her uncle was, the townsfolk wouldn't admit that. Neither would anyone admit that the young woman was usually wrong in her theories.

"Do you believe it is wild animals?" Cassandra smiled knowingly. "Seems fairly obvious, doesn't it." She straightened her skirts, smoothing them and making sure to emphasize the long legs hidden underneath the voluminous dress.

James wasn't above looking at her fine figure; he was a man after all. He just wasn't interested in the woman. James noticed that her dress was a bright green, just like his own clothing. The white lace bodice and darker green "stomacher" only emphasized the size, big and small of both areas of her anatomy.

'It has to be a coincidence that she is dressed in similar colors,' James decided. 'It is too fanciful to think any other way.'

"Animals killed, the bodies torn to shreds; it's not really much of a challenge for such an experienced military man such as yourself." Right on time, the young woman solved the case without even knowing the facts and managed to flatter James at the same time.

James grimaced in what was supposed to be a smile. The grimace was a poor imitation though and even the oblivious Cassandra realized she had made a mistake. James didn't even know what had happened yet and he at least knew better than to decide what happened before all the evidence was in.

"Possibly," he said evenly. "I'll wait and decide, after I've examined the scene."

"Naturally, Brother Ellis. I'm certain that my niece was only giving her opinion."

Cassandra nodded, wide eyed, as if to dispute any other motive. James naturally accepted the semi-apology with good grace. Anything else would be churlish.

"Of course," he said with a tight smile. "But there hasn't been that much evidence. Most of the chickens are just missing, not torn to pieces, so there are many different explanations." What galled Ellis more than anything was the fact that, in this instance at least, Cassandra was probably right in her assumption. Not that James was going to admit that to her; she would interfere even more in his job if that were the case. "Now, if you will excuse me." James nodded to the niece and uncle. "I need to be on my way."

"Certainly," Ezra said expansively. "Good day to you."

"And to you, Mr. Brandford." James was sick of the formality of town life and the way they spoke there, all Misters and Mistresses and such. Mister Ellis was his father, a very cold and unfeeling man, not James. "Mistress Wells."

"Good day, sir," she said with a simper. James felt his stomach churning and left without a backwards glance, so he missed the speculative look she gave him.

^^^^^

"James, that young woman has set her cap for you."

Ellis turned around to face his good friend. Simon Bankston was a very tall, black man who worked with James at the constabulary. He was a free man and always had been, but he was not treated very well by the people in town. While the Puritans wanted freedom for themselves, they were reluctant to give it to other people.

Simon and his family had come to Elliston township, in New York, when James came back after being in the army for several years. Simon had been in the army as well and had wanted a new start. Sadly, his young family had fallen victim to small pox within the first year they had lived there. Simons's wife, Joanna, had succumbed to the illness, while his son, Daryl had lived through it, although just barely. James accompanied Simon and Daryl to the tiny graveyard every month to visit her grave.

"I know," James shook his head ruefully. "No matter how I try to discourage her, she still keeps coming back." The constable started to walk down the street again and Simon walked along beside him. "I wish everyone would leave me alone. I will not risk another marriage like the one I had with Carolyn." James' mouth was set in a stubborn line, a muscle twitched in the corner of his jaw.

"The whole town is in on the conspiracy," he muttered. This time the vein on his temple was throbbing in time with his fast heartbeat.

"Conspiracy?" Simon smirked at Ellis. "Is that not a little harsh."

"No!" the constable snapped. "I've had four people trying to set me up with their daughters and that has only been in the last week. For heaven's sake, Jennifer Alanson is only 15 years old. I will not marry a child." James walked faster. Luckily for Simon, his legs were longer than Ellis' and so he had no trouble keeping up. "Dad has been pushing Cassandra at me. Like I would marry that," he paused for a moment, even going so far as to stop walking. "…that harridan." James tossed his hands into the air in exasperation and started walking again.

"Not all marriages are a disaster like yours was," Simon spoke softly, not wanting prying ears to overhear their talk. "My marriage was wonderful and if I could find a woman that I loved, I would marry her in a heartbeat."

James glanced over at his friend. "I know you are lonely, I am too. But…" Ellis glanced around carefully. "I do not find any of the women around here attractive."

"Maybe it is not the women you should be looking at."

Ellis turned his head sharply and narrowed his eyes at Bankston. Simon merely raised his eyebrows and waited. He knew of James' dalliances before his marriage; ones that were with other men. James snorted and nodded his head in agreement. "Maybe you're right, Simon, maybe you're right."

The two big men walked down the street silently. The half frozen mud from the recent rains squelched with each step they took. The sky overheard was an iron gray and storm clouds threatened to dump more rain on the already soaked ground.

"Of course, I haven't seen any men I like either. Although…" Simon looked at his friend hopefully. "…there is Brother Edwards…"

James laughed at the horrified look on Simon's face, until Simon realized Jim was teasing him and laughed along. Edwards was attractive enough, if you liked men, but he had the personality of a moss covered rock.

"Too much information, James."

Ellis laughed and clapped his fellow peacekeeper on the back. They talked about suitable and unsuitable men and women as they left the town.

^^^^^

Cassandra kept a sweet and innocent, or so she thought, look on her face. Her uncle was fooled, as were many of the men folk in town. The women saw through her act though and avoided the woman like she carried the pox.

The young woman was livid. All her hard work had been for naught. The handsome constable hadn't paid her carefully thought out attire any mind at all. She had stood beside her front window for a solid hour, waiting for him to travel by. It had taken her another hour to find the perfect outfit; one that matched his to an astonishing degree. She had seen the green linen shirt on James some time before and had convinced one of the townswomen to dye some wool to match it. It hadn't been easy, because the woman intensely disliked Cassandra.

The young woman wasn't giving up hope though. There were only so many eligible women in town and very few of them were suitable marriage material for the well-to-do Ellis. She would bide her time and eventually be one of the Ellis' in the big house on the hill.

^^^^^

James followed the animal tracks back into the woods. It was as he had suspected, the killing of the hens was due to a human culprit rather than an animal one. He had found a few stray feathers and a small streak of blood on one of the henhouse walls. However, according to James' nose, the blood belonged to that of a person, not a fowl.

Ellis suspected young Timothy Oakley as being the culprit. His family was desperately poor and had suffered terribly when the father had died suddenly, early in the spring. The constable figured that a few well placed words would stop the boy's thievery and possibly supply some much needed help for the struggling family. James knew that he could personally arrange it that a few coins accidentally fell into their hands.

Goodness knows that I have enough money, James thought ruefully. The Ellis family was the richest in five counties and Carolyn's family had come from a wealthy family as well. Hence the marriage, James admitted. If dad hadn't pushed, I would never have married Carolyn. Ellis sighed to himself. I didn't even like Carolyn all that much and she was more interested in the large wedding than she was the marriage.

So, it wasn't an animal that caused the damage. However, there were some tracks, wolf he thought, that were too close to the settlement. He wanted to head off any trouble before it began and take care of the animal quickly. Although he was loathe to kill an innocent animal, Ellis knew that with winter coming, the likelihood of an attack was more likely. No, it was better to get rid of the problem now.

A flash of gray over to one side caught his attention. Ellis left the path and followed the animal into the woods, readying his flintlock as he hurried along. His training in the military had taught James to pour powder and stuff a ball down the barrel while he was on the move. Not having to stop and reload had saved his life on more than one occasion.

He came around a bend in the path and stopped and stared for a moment. There, right in front of him, stood the wolf he was looking for. It had stopped in the middle of a clearing and was looking back at him, as if it had been waiting for him. The wolf was sleek and well groomed, its coat a glossy gray. It seemed to be watching him knowingly, like it knew he was going to kill it. James hesitated, he didn't want to kill such a magnificent creature, but he didn't want it to endanger anyone else either.

Not really having a choice in the matter, James placed the stock of his musket against his shoulder and took aim. In an instant, the quiet wolf got to its feet and began to snarl at him; the hackles on its back were standing straight up. This helped Ellis a little; obviously the wolf was a danger to the settlement if it could be angered so quickly. Thinking resolutely about the defenseless people in his charge, James began to squeeze the trigger.

Just as he was about to shoot and kill the animal, as painlessly as possible, James realized something was wrong. The wolf wasn't snarling at him, it was looking over his shoulder. Up over his shoulder.

Another snarl, this time behind him, had James spinning around, bringing his gun up at the same time. The bear was enormous, at least eight feet tall and black as night. It was standing not three feet away from James and the wolf that was behind him.

How did I not hear this? he wondered in surprise. Or smell it. Ellis wrinkled his nose up as the pungent odor of unwashed bear skin assaulted his nose.

James aimed for the big chest and fired his rifle. The bear roared in pain. Angrily it swung one massive paw at Ellis' head. He never felt his body hit the ground.

^^^^^

"It is alright. You are in danger no more."

The soft, alluring voice was somewhere behind him. It filtered through the pain that was blanketing Ellis' mind. James wanted to turn and look, but he couldn't seem to get his eyes open. He desperately wanted to see who was comforting him. That voice was like warm molasses; it soothed his nerves and made the pain in his head dim to a somewhat more tolerable level.

"I will not let you be shot," the voice continued on quietly.

Damnation. The voice wasn't talking to him, unless…Ellis took stock of his body, trying to decide where he had been injured. No, only his head hurt, so he hadn't been shot and as far as he knew, no one other than the bear had threatened him. James listened to the other man talk and realized two things. One, he could hear the wolf yipping back to his unseen companion, and two, the other man wasn't speaking English. That meant an Indian had him. This could be good or it could be bad. Indians were like the Pilgrims, some good and some not so good. It only remained to be seen what this man would be like.

Well, considering that he's helping me, I'd say he's probably good, James rationalized to himself. He could still hear that wonderful voice behind him. Ellis had to know who the other man was. James opened his eyes and turned his head to look behind him. The motion caused his head to feel like it was being sawed off at the neck. He moaned in pain and immediately realized he was being lowered to the ground. It was only then that Ellis noticed he was lying on something flat and had been being drug along. A travois, he decided fuzzily. That motion had stopped now.

"Can you open your eyes?" the deep voice asked quietly.

Ellis hadn't realized he'd closed his eyes again. He opened them and cautiously turned his head to the right and looked into a pair of the most beautiful blue eyes the older man had ever seen. They were framed by a wealth of curly, dark brown hair.

James gasped at the beauty of the other man, his mouth falling open in shock. He'd never considered another man beautiful before, only women had caught his eye that way. Yes, he had been intimate with other men and had considered them to be comely enough, yet this man was undoubtedly attractive.

Squatting on the ground beside Ellis, the younger man spoke to him, but James' head felt so woozy that he missed what was said. A movement behind his rescuer caught James' attention. It was the wolf! Before he could warn the other man, the wolf came to stand by his new companion. It stood at his left shoulder, apparently guarding the younger man, and rubbed its gray head against the man's side. The curly haired man patted the wolf on the back, even as he kept an eye on Ellis. James relaxed; the wolf seemed to be a pet of the younger man and not a danger.

"Hello," the young man said, trying again. He tilted his head and arched his dark eyebrows at the constable when Ellis didn't answer him. "Can you understand me?"

James nodded his head and frowned at the pain that swelled up, threatening to throw him back into unconsciousness. A strong, warm hand rubbed his brow, soothing away the pain. James reveled in the feeling of being cosseted; for once he didn't have to be in charge.

"Rest, we will be at my home soon."

Ellis felt the square of comfort on his forehead disappear when the young man removed his hand and he mourned the loss. Immediately thereafter the head of his litter was raised up again and James was being moved. The bumpiness of the path jarred the injured man unmercifully. All too quickly, James lost the tiny hold he had on consciousness and went back into that dark, but not painful place.

^^^^^

Bay-lair squeezed the excess water out of the cloth and washed more of the blood off of the side of his companion's face where it had oozed from the cut on his head. There was quite a lot of blood, because head wounds tend to bleed extensively, no matter how minor the cut might be. For this reason, Bay-lair had removed the injured man's coat, vest and shirt, leaving his upper torso uncovered.

The Indian man tried not to stare at the white man lying on his bed, but it wasn't easy. His body was a thing of legend and his face seemed to be carved by the gods.

Shaking his head to remove such fanciful thoughts, Bay-lair continued to clean and minister to the man he had saved. He still couldn't believe that the rock he'd thrown had hit the huge bear's nose or that it had scared the bear off. Certainly, being shot in the chest had slowed the bear down, but it had been about to kill the unconscious man when Bay-lair stopped it.

The younger man leaned forward to inspect the cut on his patient's head better and one of his long braids brushed against the other man's naked torso. The older man groaned and slowly opened his eyes…

^^^^^

James regained consciousness slowly, like he was rising up through a thick fog. He wasn't scared or even worried. Ellis felt safer than he had since his mother died and for once his head wasn't thrumming with the smells and sounds of things around him. So he laid there for a moment, trying to remember where he was and what had happened to him. It was a strategy that he had learned in the army; don't let the enemy know you are aware until after you have assessed the situation. That gives the advantage of surprise over the enemy, an edge that was oftentimes a lifesaver.

The constable listened and could tell that there was only one other person in the room with him; one animal too, the wolf by the smell of it, but just the one person. Considering that that person had saved his life and was busy taking care of him, James wasn't too overly concerned.

He felt a shifting in the air around him and realized that the person was standing beside him again, as opposed to the other side of the room like he was a few moments ago. James took a careful breath and let the smell of the young man flow over him like rippling water over a riverbed. Ellis felt a soft, cool wetness running over his body and decided to stay unconscious a while longer. The wet cloth was gone far too soon, but it was replaced by the most delicious tickling feeling on his chest.

James had to bite back a moan at the intense sensation and was surprised to find himself becoming aroused. He shifted minutely on the bed, so subtly in fact that the man standing beside him didn't notice anything.

Deciding he had postponed the moment as long as he could possibly manage it, James finally opened his eyes and looked straight into Bay-lair's. Both men gasped at the rush of emotion they felt. The constable felt his heart start racing, the blood in his body felt like it was boiling in a pot and setting his skin on fire. He watched in amazement as the man leaning over him blushed, his browned skin turning a dusky rose color.

Ellis felt himself falling into the deep blue of those eyes. The world shrank down to the different shades of blue, with tiny gold flecks…going deeper and deeper...

^^^^^

The younger man swallowed hard, his Adam's apple bobbing up and down quickly, and tried to speak, but his voice had fled with the breath he seemed to be fighting for. The breath had left his body when the injured man had opened his eyes. A connection had flared up between them that had startled both men.

But now…he frowned and pulled back. Something was wrong with his companion. The other man's eyes had glazed over and he didn't seem to see anything. His eyes were still open, so Bay-lair knew that he hadn't fallen back into unconsciousness again. That was a blessing from the Gods, but what could possibly be wrong with him?

"Hello," Bay-lair said, but there was no response. He bent over, placing his hands on the other man's chest, his hair once again falling forward. The two braids on either side of Bay-lair's head and the rest of his long, loose curls slid forward to caress the other man's muscular chest.

"Hello," Bay-lair repeated. "Are you all right?"

There was no response, so he kept trying. After a few minutes, the man on the bed blinked and looked up at him. Bay-lair whimpered slightly at the look in his eyes. No one had ever looked at him that way before, like he was the sun and the stars.

"How are you feeling?" The pale blue eyes kept roaming over his face. The younger man didn't know what to make of such intensity. "I...do you know what I am saying?" Bay-lair said with difficulty; he was having trouble concentrating with so many feelings going around in his head.

"Yes, I do." That was the first thing that the other man had said and Bay-lair was ecstatic. He had been worried that the bear had caused more damage to his head than Bay-lair had originally thought, what with the way the other man was acting. "What is your name, Chief?" James asked quietly.

Bay-lair tilted his head, puzzled. "My name is Bay-lair. I am sorry, but you are mistaken. I am not the chieftain of our tribe, I am a medicine man."

"Bay-lair?" James wrinkled his nose as he frowned. "That is a little difficult to say. How about if I call you Blair instead?" the constable asked permission.

"All right." Bay-lair didn't mind. He was called by many different names, this was just the newest. "What is your name?"

"James Josiah Ellis, Jr. I was named after my grandfather."

The younger man blinked at the long name. Before he could think of a response, there was a tap on his doorframe. The heavy blanket that served as a door was swept back and a young woman stuck her head inside.

"Bay-lair, may I speak with you for a minute?" She glanced at the bed and smiled. "I see that your injured one is awake. That is good." The smile slipped off of her face when James glared at her.

"I will be right out, Running Elk." Bay-lair smiled at the young woman, who retreated under James' less than friendly stare. He smiled and reassured James, "I will return shortly."

The young man was glad to leave his patient for a few moments, as the feelings he was having around the other man were confusing. It was the same stirring in his heart and loins that Bay-lair had felt for May Flower, the young woman who had come through with her father two winters past. But this was different. He and James were both men; that made it wrong...didn't it?

"...his wife is ill again."

Bay-lair looked over at the young woman. "Forgive me, I did not hear what you said."

Running Elk smiled and stepped closer to Bay-lair. She placed a small hand on his forearm and rubbed the soft leather covering it. "I said that Oak Fall's wife has fallen ill again."

The medicine man sighed and turned to glare at Oak Fall's wigwam. The wood covered dwelling stood mute at the end of the settlement; it accepted Bay-lair's stare. "She has been working too hard again. If Moon Dream does not take better care of herself, she will never recover from the fever she had."

"I am sure that you will figure out something," she said quietly.

Leaning against Bay-lair's arm, Running Elk ducked her head shyly as she made sure to touch the medicine man...a lot. Bay-lair frowned and tried to move away. He wasn't comfortable having the chieftain's daughter rubbing her breasts against his arm.

He had learned his lesson with May Flower. The young maiden had said she loved Bay-lair, but when her father had turned out to be trying to steal from Bay-lair's tribe and he had accidentally found the proof, the young woman's supposed love had quickly turned to hate. So, Bay-lair had avoided young women who seemed eager to be with him; he just didn't trust them. Things were even more difficult now, especially with the confusing feelings he was having about James running around in his head.

"Can you take some medicine to her for me?" Bay-lair's request was made with a dazzling smile.

Running Elk smiled, sure that she was finally getting the response she wanted. "Certainly, anything I can do to make your burden easier is my pleasure." There was no doubting the emphasis on the word pleasure.

"Thank you." The medicine man pulled a small, tied bundle from the inside of his shirt. Running Elk's eyes eagerly watched him, hoping for a peek at what lay inside the pale brown shirt. Bay-lair was smarter than that though and no part of his chest showed to the obviously disappointed young woman.

"Here you go," he said, as he placed the medicine in her hand. "Take that to Moon Dream immediately, please. I would go myself, but I am reluctant to leave the injured white man alone."

The Indian woman smiled and hurried off. Bay-lair waited until she was out of sight before he relaxed, slumping against his wigwam. The rough bark scraped against his bare palm. Bay-lair sighed in relief, his distraction had worked. Now he had to get back to the stranger.

^^^^^

James tried to get out of the bedlike platform and realized, to his chagrin, that he couldn't; he was still too weak from the blow to his head. The wolf hopped onto the end of the bed and stared at him, as if daring the constable to try again.

"I have to get out there," he complained to the animal. "Who knows what that child is up to."

Ellis didn't understand the instant hatred he had for the young woman. As soon as she stuck her very young and very pretty head into Blair's home James had wanted to toss her back out again. "And now he's out there...with her." James started to push up again. He watched in shock as the wolf stood up, walked alongside James' body on the bed and pushed on Ellis' chest with his forepaws until James lay back down. The animal then crossed its paws on James' chest and lay its head down on them. Unless James wanted to toss the canine onto the floor, Ellis was effectively restrained.

"All right, I get the idea." James glared at the animal, which looked back at him steadily. "He is still out there," Ellis said, as he absently began to pet the gray animal. The wolf closed its eyes in bliss. It was at that moment that Ellis realized he had been having a conversation with a wolf. He looked at the animal in question and snorted. The gray head rose up and tilted to one side questioningly. James laughed. "Actually, this has been one of the more intelligent talks I've had lately."

James sighed and had almost relaxed when the curtain reopened. Blair was alone and for that James was immensely grateful; he was unsure if he could have been civil to the young Indian woman. In his mind, James reminded himself that he hadn't been civil in the first place, but he ignored that voice.

"Who was that, Chief?"

Was that really him talking? He sounded so possessive. Judging by the startled look on Blair's face, James reckoned it was.

^^^^^

Upon entering the room, Blair was brought to a standstill by the most intense stare he had ever been on the receiving end of in his entire life. The blue eyes staring back at him flickered between Bay-lair and the closed door. "Who was that, Chief?" James' voice was low and growly.

Bay-lair blinked in surprise and shivered as his body responded to that tone. "Uhm, what?" He frowned and looked back at the door; he had already forgotten the eager young woman. "Oh! That is Running Elk...she is the chieftain's daughter." He shuddered slightly and, since he was still turned away, Bay-lair missed the satisfied smirk on Ellis' face. "One of the women is ill. She had a child not long ago and contracted milk fever afterwards. She will not stay in bed though, and so every time I get the fever under control it comes back again."

The young man sat down on the side of James' bed and smiled in puzzlement. What was the meaning of his charge's mysterious smile? Bay-lair finally tore himself away from the other man's stare and noticed that his wolf, Lupus, was lying with his paws on the big man's chest and smiled. Not very many people could get close to the wild animal, let alone snuggle with him. It was a good indicator of the white man's nature and reassured Bay-lair more than his own rampaging hormones ever could.

"Your name is Jay-hems?" Bay-lair struggled with the name; it seemed so foreign on his tongue for some reason.

"That is close," James answered in a distracted voice as he raised his head off the bed and took a deep breath.

"I..." Blair faltered, he wasn't really used to someone sniffing him. "I find that hard to say. Would you mind if I called you Jim? It means 'protector' in my language."

"That is fine, Chief." Jim smiled up at Blair.

^^^^^

It was two days later and James was feeling a lot better. Already he was able to walk around the village and talk to people. They were a friendly group; a lot friendlier than his own people would have been, had the circumstances been reversed.

"So, Chief...tell me a little about yourself."

Blair looked up from where he was sitting cross-legged on the ground. There was a flat rock in front of the young man that had an indention in the center of it. Blair had a long, rounded stone in one hand and he was grinding some medicine in the big stone with it.

"What would you like to know?" Blair smiled at the older man, friendly as always.

"How about you tell me where you come from." James eyed the Indian man carefully. "It is obvious that you are not really an Indian."

"Oh?" Blair arched his eyebrows "What gave you that idea?" The man's blue eyes sparkled with mischief.

"Oh, I do not know." James waved his hand negligently. "Perhaps it is because of your blue eyes and curly hair." Ellis cocked his head. "You do not exactly blend in around here." He looked pointedly at the other Indians who all had straight black hair and dark eyes.

Blair followed his gaze and laughed. "No, I am unique here in that way. So is my mother."

"Your mother?" James scanned the village, looking for another curly head of hair. Ellis frowned when he realized that he could see all of the village. All the way to the end...

"Yes." Blair unknowingly stopped another fading out session. "There she is now."

James followed Blair's gesture and was astonished to see a pale woman with bright red hair. "That is your mother?" Blair laughed and James flushed in embarrassment when he realized how that had sounded. "I mean, you look nothing like her."

"I know," Blair went back to his grinding, unperturbed by the direction the conversation had gone in.

Ellis looked back and forth between Blair and his mother thoughtfully. There seemed to be something very familiar about this situation, but he couldn't quite figure it out. The constable searched his memory, culling out the information that didn't fit the situation. Whatever it was that was teasing his memory wasn't something that he remembered from his tenure as constable, nor was it from when he was a young man living in the town, so whatever it was came from the years that he lived away from here. Then it hit him. "Naomi Sandelson and her son!"

Blair glanced up and smiled. "Yes, that is us." He looked back down and missed the look of horror on his new friend's face. Blair wouldn't have understood what James was feeling anyway.

James gasped and recited the facts from his memory. "Naomi Sandelson and her son disappeared sixteen years ago. Everyone assumes that they were taken by the Indians." Ellis stopped in confusion; the people he had been watching for the last few days did not seem the type to kidnap anybody.

"Taken?!" Blair's mouth fell open in astonishment. "We were not taken by anyone. I was only three summers old at the time, but I definitely remember Naomi going freely with Tall Leaf." Blair shook his head and James was entranced by the soft wooshing sound his hair made against his back.

"That is good to hear," Ellis stated without thinking; he was too entranced. James watched the sunlight glinting off the red highlights in the younger man's hair. Ah, he thought, I can see some of Naomi in him now. "Wait a minute." He shook his head to clear it and looked over at the woman with the red hair again. "She ran off to live with one of the natives?" He was shocked to the core of his being at the wanton behavior he was hearing about. Good women did not behave like that. Not even some of the loose and very wild women that James had known in his time traveling around would have considered acting that way.

"Natives?" Blair's eyes narrowed and he began to tap the rock in his hand against the stone in irritation. "Please bear in mind that I am one of those natives that you are speaking of. True, I was not born to one of my brethren, but they have always welcomed me at their hearths." Blair glared at James. He looked up at a young brave that smiled and waved. Bay-lair forced himself to smile and wave back to his friend, as if he weren't infuriated, then he looked back at James.

"Yes, Naomi ran off with Tall Leaf, because she could not stand the confining life she was being forced to lead. The colonies were supposed to be about freedom, but my mother found them even more constrictive than England had been."

James raised a conciliatory hand. "I apologize. I meant no disrespect to your mother or the people of this tribe. It is just that," he struggled with the right words, "I have never heard of such a thing before." Ellis waited to see if his new friend would forgive him.

Blair smiled and nodded; his loving nature forgiving the older man easily. "Hmmm, well, I suppose I can understand that. Naomi is rather free with her love."

Ellis relaxed when Blair forgave him and went back to his grinding. James watched as Naomi wandered in and around several men of all different ages. The constable decided to risk his new friend's ire once more, because he was curious about the other man's mother. "So tell me, Chief, which one is Tall Leaf?" He couldn't be sure, because the woman didn't seem to favor any of them.

The Indian man snorted, not at all surprised by the question. "Oh, Tall Leaf is not one of those men; he has long since been gone. Naomi only stayed with him one season before she got restless and decided we should move on. He is not even part of this village." Blair waved a free hand at the dark skinned people who were wandering around. "I am not certain who she is with now." The younger man looked up and contemplated the men surrounding his mother. "There is really no telling." He shrugged and went back to his work.

James' mouth hung open in shock. Even though Ellis could barely remember his own dead mother, he did have some memories of her and could not fathom what seeing his mother go from man to man would be like. "Uh, I see." He blinked for a while, trying to process this astounding information. Ellis looked at Blair in amazement when one more important fact penetrated his addled brain. "You are only nineteen years old!"

Blair was startled by the intensity he heard in James' voice. "Yes, I have lived nineteen summers. Is something wrong?" The younger man placed a strong hand on Ellis' arm.

"N-no, I just did not realize you were that young." James looked away sadly. He was far too old to be with this child. Ellis was 32 years old, world weary and plagued with many problems. He heard voices that others didn't and saw things that were too far away to be true. James knew that he was probably losing his mind and it wouldn't be fair to saddle this beautiful young man with such a burden.

"Jim?" Blair inquired.

"It is nothing." James smiled wanly and carefully stood up; he still had to move slowly because of an irritating tendency to tilt to one side. He braced himself and glanced down at Blair who was looking up at him with a confused look on his face. Inwardly, Ellis groaned. A confused Blair was even more attractive than any of the other versions of Blair that he had seen so far. "I am tired. I think I will go rest for a while now."

"All right," Blair even sounded confused and walking away from him was the hardest thing James had ever done.

"Damnation,' James thought, I have to go home now.

^^^^^

"Spirits!" Bay-lair thought vehemently. "I thought he realized how old I am." The young man slumped and watched as the blanket covering the opening to his wigwam settled back down after James' painfully slow entry. "I am too old for him," Bay-lair acknowledged sadly. He knew that most of his friends had bonded long before they were his age, many of them by the time they were sixteen summers old. Bay-lair had resisted any and all unions, because he wanted to wait for love before he joined his soul together with someone.

Now I have found that love and it is too late, Blair thought sadly.

He carefully scraped the ground root onto a cleaned leaf and then poured the yellow, powdery substance into one of the pouches on his belt. Bay-lair resigned himself to living alone, just like he always had, because he didn't want to roam from person to person, the way his mother did.

Bay-lair realized that Jim was going to leave soon; he knew the signs. The young man had seen them enough in his lifetime. Naomi would get twitchy and decide it was time to move on and off they would go to seek out a new tribe to live with. Either that, or the man in her life would get that look in his eyes and go off to find game in a new spot and just never come back.

Standing, Bay-lair gathered his grinding bowl and looked around. The chieftain had been making noises about the tribe moving farther in state, away from the ocean and its extremely cold winter. Looking up at the cloudy sky, Bay-lair could sense that true winter was not very far away, a few weeks at most. They already suffered with the much colder air and many mornings the ground was frozen.

Moving day would probably be less than a week away. The young man wasn't sure if he wanted to go with the tribe or strike out on his own. Before he found Jim, hurt and so alone, Bay-lair wouldn't have hesitated to go off, but now he wanted to stay close to the white man.

He glanced over at the wigwam and Bay-lair acknowledged to himself that it probably didn't make a difference. The look on Jim's face had been telling. With a sigh, Bay-lair pushed aside the blanket and walked into his home. Jim gave a quick look as he came in, but just as fast, he turned away.

Bay-lair wanted to cry out. It wasn't fair that his first love was so quickly over. "I will fix us some food," he said quietly and turned away from Jim's leaving eyes.

^^^^^

James watched as Blair's shoulders drooped and heard his dispirited voice. "I will fix us some food," the younger man said dispassionately. He wondered what had happened to upset Blair so.

"That sounds great, Chief."

Blair smiled sadly before turning away. He pulled out some food from a few covered bowls. The bowls were simple in design, but had some beautiful drawings on the sides. 'What is that, a deer or a horse?" James focused on the picture, his eyes seeing each stroke of the paint and down to the pores on the clay...

"Jim! JIM!"

Ellis jumped in surprise and sucked in a shuddering breath. "You do not have to shout, Chief." James tried not to sound irritated, but the yell had made his head hurt. "I am right here."

"You are now, but I do not know where you were just a moment ago." Blair frowned and James could see the worry in the younger man's face. "Has this happened before?"

Ellis sighed and leaned back against the wall of the wigwam. "A few times, especially when I was in the Army. I had not been bothered with it for a long time, not until after the bear attack."

"What kind of problems have you had?" Blair sat down on the floor in front of James and the constable's mouth turned dry at how beautiful the man was.

"I can see things that I have no right to and I can hear people talking from far away." He tilted his head for a moment and listened. "Someone named Moon Dream is chastising your little friend about chasing you." James grinned. "She is really mad at the young woman."

"What is in the medicine bag that I sent to her?" Blair asked quietly. "See if you can smell it from here."

"Willow bark, garlic, mustard seed and some other kind of seed, I'm not sure what," James stated assuredly and without a moment's hesitation. The distance between him and the Chieftain's wife, not to mention the wigwams that were between them, wasn't a hindrance to the older man.

Blair flopped down on floor beside James and stared at him in wondered amazement. "Sight, smell, hearing." He ran a featherlight finger touch down the inside of Jim's wrist and the older man shivered. "Touch," Blair stated unequivocally. He scrubbed his hand clean with some water and a cloth and then dipped a fingertip into an empty bowl and rubbed it against the inside. Blair stuck his finger into James' face; the constable licked the digit without being asked.

"Honey," James said breathlessly. "Honey and," he wrinkled up his nose as he considered, "corn?" James looked down at Blair, who was grinning wildly.

"Yes! I had corncakes and honey for breakfast. That was many hours ago and that bowl has been empty since then. No one else would have been able to even detect that anything had been in there recently, let alone taste it. All five senses are augmented." Blair looked up in wonderment, "you are a Guardian," he whispered.

"A what?" James frowned at Blair. He was still trying to get over the sensation of tasting the younger man. When James had licked Blair's finger, the essence of the Indian had exploded over his tongue like wild berries and sunshine. The feeling still had him reeling and was making it difficult to follow the conversation. Blair had no idea of James' difficulties and was happily sharing the good news.

"A Guardian." Blair jumped up and started gesticulating wildly with his expressive hands. "That is like a protector. He usually protects the tribe or even several tribes." Blair shook his head and looked at James in awe. "There has not been Guardian in over three generations."

"What the devil are you talking about?" Unease made James lash out. His voice was filled with irritation when he spoke to Blair. "Make sense."

Blair smiled and bounced up and down, not letting James' bad mood affect him. "A Guardian has all five of his senses, taste, touch, smell, hearing and sight, enhanced by nature. With these gifts he is able to guard against enemies and help his people to survive."

The dark haired man started to walk around inside his little home, he zigged to avoid his sleeping platform and he zagged to miss the low, simmering fire that still had a pot of water boiling on it. The near misses with the fire set James' nerves even further on edge and made his temper flare.

The younger man was still talking, describing other Guardians and the wonders they had seen and done in their times. His bright blue eyes were shining, the light from his glowing eyes almost seemed to envelope Blair. That worried James, he had never been that important to anyone before and he was afraid that he wouldn't live up to it…so he made sure he didn't.

"Chief, I do not know what you are talking about. True, I can hear and see things a little better than anyone else, but I am not that special." Seeing that Blair was about to argue, James interrupted. "Besides, this," his arm swept out, indicating the world outside the tent, "is not my home and you all are definitely not my people."

The happy look on Blair's face vanished in a second and James could see the pain he had wrought before Blair looked away. The other man looked down and concentrated on the leg of his pants. After several long moments, Blair brushed a patch of dirt off and looked back up; he wouldn't meet James' eyes though, concentrating on the mud that filled the cracks in between the saplings that made up the walls of Blair's home.

"Of course not, how stupid of me. I do not know what I was thinking." James winced at the cold, impersonal tone. "If you will excuse me, I must check on the Chieftain's wife."

Blair began to walk away; James couldn't stand the strain and reached out a preventive hand. "Chief, wait. I…" Blair looked back then and the devastation in his sapphire blue eyes stopped whatever James had been about to say. The younger man waited for James to finish what he wanted to say, but the constable couldn't find the words to apologize. Men in his family just didn't do that kind of thing and James had been trained well.

Blair watched and when it was obvious that James wasn't going to continue, he nodded understandingly and patted Ellis on the arm. "Excuse me."

James watched as Blair left and wondered why the wigwam felt so desperately cold all of a sudden.

^^^^^

Bay-lair felt like a fool; a stupid, hopeless fool. Jim had no reason to want to stay with him or accept his help. Why would the white man believe anything of what he said anyway?

After his visit with Moon Dream, Bay-lair wandered around the woods for a while, ostentatiously looking for more medicinal herbs for his larder. Truthfully, he couldn't bear the thought of being near the man who had so quickly stolen his heart.

Stole it and did not want it, Bay-lair thought sadly.

It was almost dark by the time Bay-lair returned to his home. Jim was pacing around the outside of the doorframe. Bay-lair's wolf was lying on his back and was watching, its head turned so that the animal was looking at Jim from an upside down position, watching the frantic motions of the newly appointed Guardian.

"Where in the devil have you been?!" Jim burst out as soon as he saw the smaller man. Bay-lair just stared at him. That only made the constable madder. "It has been hours since you left…I-I was worried."

Bay-lair's heart warmed for a moment when Jim expressed his worry, but he deliberately closed himself off to that feeling. He could tell that the Guardian would not accept his gifts and would be leaving soon and Bay-lair knew how much that leaving would devastate him.

"I needed to gather more supplies," Bay-lair held up several pouches that were now bulging with different herbs and pieces of bark. The younger man saw the wince on Jim's face when the myriad of smells reached his oversensitive nose and hurried in to the wigwam to get them out of Jim's way.

"…and you just had to pick them all now?" Jim's tirade hadn't slowed down any.

Bay-lair pulled out some dried grains and dropped them in the pot with the slowly steaming water. He stacked a few smaller sticks around the pot, over the remains of the older fire. Bay-lair poked at the embers with a sharp stick and was satisfied when the new wood caught fire.

"Yes, I did need to do it now. There has been talk of moving on to some place that will not be so cold this winter. If the village does move on and I decide to go with them, I may not have access to some of the things that grow naturally around here."

"I…see." Jim turned away and faced the far wall. "Is there some doubt as to whether or not you will join them?" Jim asked quietly; almost too quietly and Bay-lair had to walk closer to hear him.

"Yes. Recently I have considered going out on my own or possibly even staying here alone." Bay-lair frowned when Jim stiffened at his words. "What is wrong?" He laid a hand on Jim's arm and was not at all prepared when the older man spun around and wrapped his arms around him.

"This is what is wrong." Jim pulled Bay-lair close and hugged him tight.

^^^^^

James couldn't believe it! It had been over three hours by his reckoning since Blair had left to check on the Chieftain's wife. Naturally, James saw through that ploy; the younger man had been hurt by what James had said and needed time to himself. But three hours!

The constable heard a whine and looked over at the wolf cub. It was giving him a very sad and very disappointed look. "I know I hurt him," James said as he continued to fret. "I had to." The wolf raised its head from the resting place on its paws and stared. "Yes, I did!" James continued with an emphatic chop of his hand. "I cannot stay here; there would be all sorts of trouble if I did. It is a wonder that Father has not led a hunting party in here before now." Ellis looked around at the peaceful village, full of happy and nice people; he didn't want to see them injured. "I do not know what else to do."

The wolf whined and then rolled onto his back. He began to twist back and forth in the dirt, scratching some wolfly itch that only it could feel and reach. When he was finished, the wolf just lay there, his tongue lolling out and watched James from an upside down position.

James snorted at the humorous antics and started to pace again. It was getting dark; the sun was fast setting on the horizon. Before long it would be too dark to see your hand before your face. What if Blair was injured? They wouldn't be able to look for him before morning and there was no telling what the wild animals, not to mention the cold temperatures, would do to the smaller man.

"Where is he?!'

A tantalizing scent wafted past his head and the constable stopped, inhaled deeply and smiled as his body relaxed. He had no idea what the smell was, but it was warm and soothing.

With crystal clarity, James heard the crackle of a fire on one of the hearths. The smell of someone's baby, fresh and clean, made him smile. At the center of all this input was an unusual thudding sound. It was getting closer and interspaced with the slight snap of small branches crunching underfoot.

Ellis turned in realization and saw Blair finally coming towards him out of the late dusk of the evening. In spite of the murky quality of the light, James could clearly see Blair and how tired and sad he looked.

"Where in the devil have you been?" The question, and the anger accompanying it, burst out before James could stop himself. Unconsciously he knew that he was saying other things and that Blair was answering back, but he couldn't for the life of him understand what was going on. He had never needed anyone like this before and the intensity of that feeling frightened him. No one ever stayed with him and if Blair were to realize how old James was, he would disappear into the woods, like a puff of smoke.

The constable followed the smaller man into the wigwam and listened as Blair talked about moving on. That brought him back to reality and before he really knew what he was doing, instinct took over and James had Blair in his arms, holding him tight.

And it was wonderful, the fulfillment of every hope he'd ever had and more than James had ever dreamed possible. Blair whimpered and clutched at the back of Ellis' shirt, obviously feeling what James was.

James realized what he was doing and, more importantly, the age of the young man he was doing it with and pushed Blair away. The other man stumbled back and fell against the sleeping cot. He was looking up at James in stunned amazement and really, Ellis couldn't blame him.

The constable wanted to grab Blair up and wipe that confused and hurt look off his face, but he knew it wasn't safe. If he got any closer to the medicine man he wouldn't be able to leave and that just wasn't acceptable. He had to leave for both of their sake's.

"I-I am sorry, but I can not…" He waved a hand around, indicating anything and everything. "I need to go back to my people."

"I understand," Blair stood up abruptly and turned his back on James. "I will lead you back at first light."

Blair headed for the far end of the wigwam and sank down on a pile of furs that were being cured. The wolf gave James a disappointed look and went to lay beside his master. Ellis tried to apologize, but any time he got near the makeshift bed, the wolf would raise his head and growl at the Guardian.

James laid down on the only bed and curled up into a pained ball. By turning Blair away at every turn, he had destroyed the closeness between himself and Blair as surely as if he had taken an ax to it.

^^^^^

"James!"

Ellis jumped and turned to see Simon hurrying towards him. "Simon!" The two men grabbed each other by the arms in a welcoming embrace.

"Are you all right?" Simon looked his friend over carefully. He looked behind the constable and his dark eyes widened in surprise when he saw Blair. "What happened?" The large man tensed up and stepped away, ready to defend himself and James from any and all threats.

"Yes, I am fine, my friend. I was attacked by a bear and had a head injury; that is why I have been gone for so long." Seeing the suspicious look that Simon was giving Blair, the Guardian decided he had better give a more detailed explanation. "This is Blair," James pulled the smaller man forward. "If it were not for him, the bear would have killed me. Blair took care of my injuries. He saved my life."

Simon relaxed when he saw how small the Indian was, not really considering Blair to be much of a threat. He further relaxed as he listened to James' explanation. Yes, he thought, 'I can see him as a doctor, but I really do not see him hurting anyone.'

"It is nice to meet you," Simon said as he nodded a greeting.

"Blair doesn't speak English, Simon," James explained when Blair opened his mouth to speak. "He only speaks Algonquin."

There was a loud yell and a lot of noise as several people came crashing through the woods and onto the path. Muskets were pointed at Blair and the men tried to pull James away from the "heathen threat". Once again, Ellis told about his attack and how Blair had nursed him back to health. By the end of the explanation, the muskets had been lowered, but the looks in the men's eyes showed how disgusted they were at the thought of Blair touching James that way.

Ellis took hold of Blair's arm when the younger man would have returned to the forest. The other men, minus Simon, who they ignored, relaxed. It was apparent to them that the Indian was really a criminal of some sort and their constable was going to put him in jail.

^^^^^

Bay-lair walked in among the hostile men and wondered if he had made a mistake in leading Jim back to his people. 'They are all so big!' the smaller man thought with a grimace as he looked around from his position between Jim who was much taller than Bay-lair, to Jim's friend Si-mon, who was even taller and simply a much bigger man all over.

The hostility was pouring off the other men; Blair could feel it battering him in waves. Jim apparently could too, because he kept pulling Bay-lair closer to his side. Si-mon moved closer to Bay-lair's other side every time Jim moved, so it wasn't very long until the Indian man was being squashed between them.

He tried not to get too close to either man. Jim had shown how much it bothered him to be that near to Bay-lair and the other, darker skinned man only seemed to tolerate Bay-lair because Jim did.

The medicine man watched the by-play between the men he was walking beside. Simon wasn't liked by the townspeople either, but he in turn, looked down on Bay-lair. It saddened the young Indian to realize that even among the outcast in their society, he was considered a pariah.

^^^^^

"It seems that I owe you a debt of gratitude for saving my son's life," William said with jaw clenched and very little gratefulness evident. "And, I suppose, for taking care of him while he was injured." The older man's nostrils flared in disdain as he looked down his nose at Blair's long hair.

The senior Ellis hadn't reacted very well to the story of James' rescue by Blair. He didn't actually laugh outright at the suggestion that his son owed his life to the much smaller and very young man, but the disbelief fairly dripped off of him.

"Dad, I told you already that Blair does not speak English," James' patience was wearing thin at the way Blair was being treated.

"Oh, yes." William shook his head and James could tell that he thought anyone who didn't speak English was beneath his notice. "Well then, son," the elder Ellis smiled at James, "you can translate for me. Tell this person how thankful I am and offer to give him a new life as a reward. It is apparent that he is not a real Indian, so he can be retrained and civilized." William picked up a Bible and waved it at Blair. "I can arrange to have you taught proper English. I am fairly certain that with a lot of effort you could be taught to read and learn the good Lord's word."

James' mouth fell open. That was a flat out insult to the sensitive young man and James flat out refused to tell him about his father's magnanimous offer. In the end, it didn't matter.

"Merci bien pour cette offre gentille, monsieur, mais je découperais mon propre coeur que vivant près de vous," Blair said with a perfect French accent. ("Thank you so much for that kind offer, sir, but I would rather cut out my own heart than live near you.")

"What? What the devil was that?" The senior Ellis looked around in confusion. "What did he say?"

"That was French, Mister Ellison," Blair said in English. "My people, the uneducated heathen ones, speak Algonquin, French and English." Blair turned to look at James and the Guardian could see the hurt in his eyes. "I never said I could not speak English." He turned back to the father, dismissing the son. "As for this," Blair plucked the worn Bible from William's hand. "I have no need for your generosity, I have a copy of my own." Again, he looked at James. "Naomi may have decided to leave this life behind, but she took her books with her."

Blair looked the older man straight in the eye. "Personally, I think that the Song of Solomon is a bit too risqué to be in the Bible, but that is only my opinion." The younger man handed the book back to James' father. "And to answer your earlier question, I said 'no thank you' to your offer to civilize me. If narrow minded bigotry is the best I can hope for in your little world, then I respectfully decline."

"As for your gratitude, you may keep it. I saved Jim from the bear and tended his wounds because it was the civilized thing to do. I did not do it in the anticipation of a reward, or even your thanks." Blair took a careful step away from his friend. "I am glad that you are happy to have your son back though; no one should suffer that loss."

James was speechless, as were Simon and William. Blair inclined his head at Simon and then William. "Good bye." James looked into Blair's disappointed eyes and realized that he hadn't stood up for the medicine man at all.

Blair whistled and his wolf came bounding out of the woods and took up his stance beside the Indian. He wasn't threatening the other men, but the animal wasn't approachable either…not even to James. "Come, Lupus, we must be on our way."

James was startled, he hadn't even realized that the wolf had a name; it hadn't occurred to him to ask Blair. Blair noticed the confusion and nodded, as if he hadn't expected anything different from the man. "Yes, his name is Lupus; as in Greek for wolf. I named him after the constellation." Blair gave Jim's father a derisive look. "You know, those shiny lights in the sky." His tone was as condescending as William's had been.

"Live long and be happy, Jim," Blair said quietly and then he walked away.

The Guardian stood there and watched the man he loved leave. Yes, he realized he loved Blair, but it felt wrong to act on such feelings. He watched until, even with his newly enhanced vision, he couldn't see Blair's shining hair any more. James came back to himself to find that he and Simon were alone.

"James, are you all right?" Simon seemed frantic and James wondered if he had suffered another 'fading away' episode.

"No, I am not." Already his life felt cold and empty. James couldn't imagine feeling this way for the rest of his life.

"Let's go inside where it is warm," Simon urged as he pulled James towards his home where Simon's son, Daryl was waiting. James let himself be pulled and wondered if he had just made the biggest mistake of his life.

^^^^^

Bay-lair walked slowly back to his village. He wished that he hadn't needed to take Jim back. He wished that Jim's friends and family hadn't treated him so badly. In one small corner of his mind, Bay-lair wished he had never met the Guardian.

It was almost sunset when the young man finally got home. His back was bent with the weight of the world and he slumped into his bed, not bothering with food or a fire.

Lupus whimpered and licked at Bay-lair's hand, the one that was hanging limply over the side of the bed. The medicine man looked at his faithful companion and tried to smile.

"Come on up boy," he encouraged and the wolf hopped up on the platform beside him. "We're alone again," Bay-lair told the animal. Lupus raised up a gray head and whined quietly. He licked the trail of tears off the side of his master's face and then laid his head down on the bed. The wolf too, missed having a companion and longed to find a mate for himself.

^^^^^

James sat at his father's dining table and seethed. He should have known the invitation was too good to be true. This had all been a set up! A cheap setup at that, which made him all the madder that he had fallen for it.

The Guardian had been asked, no begged, by his father to come to the house for a family dinner. Against his better judgment, James agreed. When he arrived, however, it wasn't just his father and brother and his family there, it was also Brother Brandford and his niece Cassandra as well. Ellis was too polite and stayed for dinner anyway, when he should have just walked back out again.

In the two weeks since Blair led the way back to the settlement, James had been miserable. The townspeople either looked at him askance because he had lived with those people for a few days or they went out of their way to treat him carefully because of his trying ordeal.

Simon and his young son, Daryl, were the lone exceptions. Daryl thought it sounded wonderful, to live in the same house as a wolf and talk to the Indians. Simon thought the freedom, true freedom, would be a nice change. The older man had admitted to James that he felt badly over the way he had treated Blair. He had been shunned for the color of his skin too many times and should have known better.

For his part, James berated himself day and night. What was I thinking? he asked himself as he looked around the dinning room table. So what if Blair is a lot younger than I am, so is Cassandra and no one would think twice of my marrying her. As for loving another man, well, I've done that for years. I would still be with Edward if he hadn't died that winter.

All through dinner the red haired woman tried her best to snare James. Her web was as big as the town and now even James' own father was trying to force him into matrimony. Ellis eyed his brother Stephen, critically. No, from the disappointed look on his sibling's face, Stephen hadn't known about his father's machinations either. That helped James a little, to know that at least his brother wasn't conspiring against him.

Ellis looked up, towards the head of the table where his father was watching the mating dance avidly. James raised his glass in a toast. Just as the senior Ellis was raising his glass in what he assumed was triumph, James sat his goblet back down on the table. It was a deliberate display. There would be no more warnings and James had just let his father know that any more invitations would be ignored. The elder Ellis sat there with his glass in his hand, shocked at James' attitude.

As soon as dinner was over, James excused himself and left his father's home for what would undoubtedly be the last time. Wandering through the town, the constable realized that it wasn't his home any more. Without Blair here, it was just a bunch of empty streets full of narrow minded people.

With that in mind, James headed towards his house. Not home, he thought and nodded to himself in agreement. Home is where Blair is.

James packed the small number of belongings that he wanted to take with him; a few mementoes and as many of his clothes as he could carry. He was a little sad. This had been his home for most of his life and James knew he would, in all probability, never be here again.

Ellis realized that he was setting himself up for a big fall. He and Blair hadn't parted on the best of terms, added to which he wasn't sure if the two of them could ever be lovers, like he so desperately wanted. However, to James the risk was worth it. Even if he and Blair only stayed friends, it would be worth it to be around the loving young man.

Sitting down at his table that was so much more modest than his father's, James composed a letter. He apologized to his brother, who he did really love, and said a restrained goodbye to his father. Another letter had him resigning his post as constable. Ellis hoped they could find another who was willing to take on the thankless task. In one final gesture, James signed over his house and whatever other property that he wasn't taking with him to his brother, Stephen.

Walking out the door, James crossed to Simon's home and knocked on the door. Daryl answered the knock and invited Ellis in.

"James, what is the matter?" Simon came out of the home's other room and stood in front of his friend.

"Simon, I'm going away. I do not like living here any more and I want to be with Blair." James took a fortifying breath and continued. "I hate to leave you like this; I know the others do not treat you or Daryl like they should. But I cannot think of any other way to…"

"We're coming with you."

"…make this work out…What?" James looked stunned. Simon smiled knowingly and Daryl, hiding behind his father, outright snickered.

"I figured you would go after Blair. I admit that I am ashamed of the way that I treated him myself." Simon hung his head and frowned. "I have no desire to stay in this town. What treatment I will tolerate for myself, is not acceptable for my son."

James smiled at his friend and that man's son, who seemed to have grown from a boy into almost a man over night. "How do you want to handle this? I am leaving right now."

"What a coincidence," Simon smirked, pulling up a soft sided bag. "We are ready to go, right now."

James laughed, not really surprised that his good friend knew him so well. "Let us be off then."

^^^^^

James looked around the village apprehensively. Many of the wigwams were stripped; the outer layer of willow bark had been taken off the inner walls of the homes. He knew, from listening to some of the women talk, that this rare wood was taken down and carried from site to site and used to build the new wigwams. The inner shell was left behind and could be used again when someone came back to this area.

So, the village was moving on. "I wonder if Blair is still here," James wondered anxiously. "Or has he left already." James hurried towards the end of the encampment where Blair's healer wigwam was set up, afraid that he was too late and had lost the one he loved.

"You can always catch up with him if he has," Simon said as he and Daryl hurried to follow the agitated Sentinel.

"I don't know," James puffed. "Blair was not certain he would go with them to the next area. He talked about venturing out on his own."

"Damn," Simon said quietly. He knew that if the young Indian could not be found, then Simon would be looking for a new best friend, because James would give up.

At the end of the village stood a lone wigwam that had yet to be taken down; a small curl of smoke rose up from the roof. This evidence of habitation gave the Guardian a little hope.

"Blair?"

There was a rustle behind the blanketed door and after a moment Lupus came warily out. The wolf stared at the small group for a moment and they seemed to pass muster, so he sat down by the door and waited for his master.

Blair backed out of the wigwam, carrying a tied bundle in his arms. His hair was totally free, no braids at all, and flowed down his back in lustrous curls. Blair turned to look at his wolf and a breeze caught his hair, making it ripple and glint in the sunlight.

James felt his heart stir. He had closed that part of his body off years ago, around the time that his mother died and his father turned into a bitter, resentful man. Now, he could feel the icy cold grip he'd always kept on his emotions, thaw and start to burn.

Blair straightened suddenly, as if he sensed the change in James, and turned to look at his visitors. The medicine man stood there for the longest of moments and gave the Guardian qualms. Have I waited too long? Ellis thought fearfully.

The young man started walking towards him and began to smile. James dropped the bag he was carrying and met Blair halfway. They stood in front of each other for a few seconds and then James reached out and took Blair's hand.

"Welcome, Jim," Blair said with a quiet smile.

"My love," Jim answered back.

Jim leaned forward, barely touching his lips to Blair's. The kiss was tentative and innocent, but a beginning…

^^^^^

"Chief? Chief. Come on, sleepyhead, it's time to get up," Jim's voice pulled the Guide from the past.

"Uhngh."

"Blair, are you alright?" Jim's voice had a tinge of panic in it now.

Blair opened his eyes and smiled at how close Jim was. The Sentinel was leaning against Blair, almost laying on his hip actually. "I'm fine, Jim." Blair yawned and scrubbed his eyes with the palms of his hands. Ellison sighed and leaned back against the back of the couch in relief.

"I was getting kind of worried there, Chief," Jim admitted.

"I'm sorry." Blair sat up and rubbed a hand across Jim's cheek. He looked around at the empty loft. "Where is everybody?"

"Simon and Joel left about ten minutes ago." His censorious tone told Blair just how many of those minutes Ellison had been trying to rouse his Guide.

"Really? I'm surprised I didn't hear them."

"Me too." Jim frowned. "You were out like a light. Like a…"

"…out like a gay man on Sunset Boulevard."* Blair piped up cheekily.

Jim snorted at the joke. "That is so tacky."

"Thanks," Blair said with a grin and then he laughed. Soon, Ellison joined him. "I had the strangest dream," Blair said after a few moments.

"Oh." Jim looked only slightly worried. That was understandable and perfectly reasonable, because usually when one of them had a dream, it turned out to be an omen and only rarely meant good things for either of them.

"Yeah," Blair remained as casual as possible; he didn't want Jim to worry unnecessarily. "We were back in the settler days. You were a Pilgrim and I was an Indian. There was this seriously uptight leader type of guy who wanted you to get married."

"You were an Indian?" Jim eyed Blair's hair skeptically.

"Yeah. And Simon was there and Daryl and…" Blair trailed off as he tried to remember more of the dream that was already fading. "It seemed so real."

"Hmmm," Jim wondered if this was something he should worry about. He looked at Blair's calm visage and listened to the steady lub-dub of his heart and decided all was well. "So, what happened to these other us'? Did they live happily ever after?"

Blair pulled Jim in for a kiss and the two men lay back down on the couch. After he got his breath back, Blair looked up at his lover and smiled. "I don't know. I guess that'll be another dream."

Jim pulled Blair's bottom lip into his mouth for a second. "Well, let me see if I can wear you out. Then you'll sleep some more and find out the rest of the story."

Grinning at his love, Blair said, "works for me, Big Guy."

^^^^^

Standing by the balcony windows, the ghost of Bay-lair and James watched as their descendants started to make love. Turning to his lover, James pulled the young Indian into a warm embrace. "I think they have the right idea, Blair."

Bay-lair smiled up at Jim. "I agree."

Standing beside them, the wolf looked back and forth between the sets of lovers and grinned. The three ghosts faded away and left the Sentinel and his Guide behind.

The End.

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Author's Notes: Thanks to Tony Lawrence for the quote. Thanks to Bobbie Turnbeaugh and Vivian for the betaing.