A Pack of Hate by Travelin

A Pack of Hate - Travelin

There’s rain or clouds here over seventy-five percent of the month. So, on the one day it’s sunny, I don’t have my sunglasses in the car, Blair grumbled to himself as he drove to the police station. Must have left them on my desk at school, he surmised silently. Blair pulled into a parking spot at the police station. He grabbed his backpack from the passenger seat then exited his vehicle. After taking the stairs he pushed open the door for the sixth floor and the Major Crimes Unit.

"Chief," Detective Jim Ellison called to him. Ellison grinned, crossed his arms and sat on the front of his desk as he watched his partner enter the room. "You look beat, Chief. Too many students during your office hours today asking the usual inane freshman questions?" he teased.

Blair walked behind the desk, dropped his backpack then returned to the front of the desk. "No, man. Just bad timing on Cascade’s part," Blair retorted.

Jim looked skeptically at his friend. "You are blaming the City of Cascade for your appearance. Is that right?" Ellison placed his palm on the shorter man’s shoulder. "You would never win that case in court!"

Playfully, the tired teaching fellow knocked the hand from his shoulder. "No, I’m not blaming the city! Geeze man, I mean the weather. We hardly ever get sunny weather, so on the one day out of four that we do, I left my sunglasses on my desk at the university. It's so bright out there! I had to squint the whole way here! I’m just glad to be out of the sun for awhile!" Blair paused, shocked. "Can’t believe I actually said that!" He took a breath, prepared to continue his rant.

Ellison raised his hand up to stop any further venting. "Sandburg, Simon has an assignment for us. He’s been waiting for you to show up to give us the case file. C’mon," he motioned for Blair to precede him to the office. He placed his left hand just below the younger man’s shoulder blades as Blair knocked on the door.

"That better be Ellison and Sandburg at my door!" Simon Banks bellowed. Banks recalled Ellison had previously informed him that his partner would arrive at the station in five minutes. That was over an hour ago! He was as patient as the next person…

The door opened to reveal the grinning faces of the Ellison-Sandburg team, which interrupted his wandering thoughts. "Hey Simon," Blair uttered as his partner almost pushed him into the office to allow them both into the room. Jim shut the door then positioned himself in front of his captain’s desk; Blair stood next to him.

"Sorry to be so late, but Sandburg was having an issue with the weather," Ellison snickered as he gently placed his hand in the middle of his partner’s back.

"Lay off me, man," Blair jokingly rejoined. Addressing the Captain of Major Crimes, he continued, "I left my sunglasses back at on my desk at school and…"

"Sandburg," Banks interrupted, "I don’t think I really need to hear this, do I? Weather and sunglasses not withstanding, I do have a department to run. Is that alright with you?"

"Sure, Simon. I mean it is your department. It shouldn’t matter to you that I have a bear of a headache from driving without …"

"Enough, Sandburg," Simon growled. "I have more to do than just give the two of you an assignment, you know. Now, with your permission," he stressed as he stared at Blair for his assertion. The now taciturn younger man nodded his consent for Banks to carry on. "Anyway, I need you two to check this out. We’ve been receiving harassment complaints from the manager of The Toy Box down on Western Avenue. You know the place?" Simon inquired.

Ellison and Sandburg casually turned their heads to look at each other, a smile creeping onto Blair’s face. "Well, we’ve driven in the area at some point, but haven’t patronized the place if that’s what you’re asking, Simon," Jim assured as he turned back to face his Captain. "Do you have any information from the manager, some leads on who is doing the…"

The large, police Captain extended his hand that held the folder. "Here’s everything we have. Go, talk to the guy. He’s pretty sure the verbal harassment is going to escalate. I want this stopped before it gets started. Do I make myself clear, gentlemen?"

"Crystal, sir," Jim remarked as he grabbed the folder from the outstretched arm of his friend and boss. "We’ll head over there now for a statement. Check the security status of the place. You know the drill, sir."

Blair and Jim headed for the door as Simon offered one piece of advice. "I know the drill - and the area. Grew up down there. Don’t look for trouble, it will find you."

"Simon," Blair implored as he blocked the doorway, "just once could you not imply we are trouble magnets, just once? A little faith would be nice once in awhile."

Rising from his chair and walking up to the immovable observer, Banks retorted, "Right, Sandburg. I have faith, that’s why I offered the advice. Take care, gentlemen." Banks closed the door after Ellison cleared the doorway.

*************

The detective and his partner walked to the blue and white truck. Blair walked around the front of the truck to enter the cab on the passenger side while Ellison entered on the driver’s side. He started the truck as the younger man closed the passenger door.

"Chief," Ellison breathed. He checked his mirrors and listened for anyone in the vicinity of the truck. Certain no one would surprise them, Jim placed his hand on his partner’s thigh and rubbed his thumb casually up and down the covered flesh. "Ah, Blair," Jim exhaled, "I’m glad Simon gave us this assignment. Needed to touch you so bad."

"James," Blair softly replied. "You were touching me in Simon’s office, but this is so much better." Blair scooted over on the bench seat to sit next to his partner and placed his hand on the his lover’s thigh, mirroring the touch he was receiving. "I'm addicted to your touch. Never can get enough."

Jim started to move his hand up when he heard a voice entering the garage area. He quickly removed his hand. Blair understood that Jim must have heard someone nearby. Fluidly he moved back to the passenger seat, grabbed the seat belt and clicked the ends together. "Tonight, man, we will finish tonight," Blair affirmed mellifluously.

Swallowing, Jim nodded. He needed his lover like he needed air to breathe, but they separated so quickly he did not want his partner to think he was not desired. "Blair?" he asked quietly. He put the truck in gear, looked for other traffic then exited the garage. "Blair, love?" he asked again, his words hesitant. "You know I love you, right?" He placed his right hand on the seat.

Blair saw the hand and immediately grasped it with his left hand. He turned his head to see his lover as he confirmed, "Yeah, I know, James. Love you too, so very much. I understand why we can’t come out at the station." They have had that conversation many times, the conclusion never changing. For the detective’s safety, they agreed they could not tell anyone at the station of their relationship. It had only been six weeks since they finally caught a clue and realized how they both felt about each other. Blair smiled as he remembered that night. Life started anew that evening. He would not change anything from his past because his future was now with the man of his dreams.

Blair realized he casually stroked Jim’s hand while his memory was doing its version This is Your Life, Blair Sandburg. They loved each other, everything else was icing on the cake. Someday they will come out to their friends, if they had not already figured it out on their own, he mused. His life with Jim made him feel complete for the first time.

"…curious, why did you grin in Simon’s office?"

"Huh, what did you say?"

"I think you were zoning there, Chief. I’ve asked you the same question a couple of times." Leaning slightly, he tussled the curly locks. Blair grabbed at the hand in his hair then held and rested the joined hands on the seat.

"James, c’mon. You’re driving here," he lightly scolded. "But yeah, I was definitely zoning, man - on you. You fill me up, love. My thoughts always seem to return to you."

"Me too, Sweetheart. Love you too. But right now, I’m trying to get myself back into detective mode. So, I was asking about that smile you attempted to hide when Simon inquired if we knew of The Toy Box."

Blair turned his head towards the window then bowed his head shyly. "Well, I, um…"

"Unbelievable! Blair Sandburg is speechless! Need to write this down," Ellison joshed.

"Hey, I went there for us. When we were just getting together I went there for some of our, ya know, supplies." Blair’s face changed to a bright red shade during his explanation.

"Oh, you bought the scented spray…"

"Yeah," Blair interrupted. "I went to that store to get some necessities. It's not like the lube fairy just showed up one day and put the stuff in the nightstand drawer, ya know. I needed to keep your sentinel sensitivities in mind during the selection process. So I worked up some nerve and talked with clerk there. He was very helpful and not judgmental or anything. Actually I got better service there than I do at most of the other stores I go to! Anyway, I left there with the strawberry mist spray lube that you like."

Ellison shook his head. His partner never ceased to amaze him. "You take such good care of me, Love." Ellison backed the truck into a parallel parking spot, just east of the storefront. The detective gently caressed the silken locks of his partner. "Chief, love you so much. I would love to tell the world, but…"

Blair placed two fingers over his partner’s lips. "…but first you want to tell our friends. I know. I also know you love me, that’s enough for me. Love you too, ya big lug." Blair grinned as he gently punched Jim in the arm.

"We better get out there before we get cited for loitering!" Ellison muttered.

The partners reluctantly exited the vehicle and walked to the entrance of the store. Ellison held the door open for his partner, and then followed him. As the detective looked around the store he noticed that they catered to a wide variety of clientele, from fun items for a bachelorette party to leather play. A young man effortlessly walked out from behind the counter, an easy grin gracing his face. He stopped in front of the pair, looked them up and down, his trim body leaning on the counter.

"Can I help you, gentlemen?" The young man’s green eyes sparkled like polished emeralds. The short, wavy, dark auburn hair accentuated his long, thin face.

Ellison stood momentarily mute in front of the clerk until Sandburg nudged him none too gently in his side. "Um, yeah, you can. I’m Detective Ellison, this is my partner, Blair Sandburg. We’re looking for the manager. We came by to do a follow up on some complaints lodged by him. Is he here?"

The young man stood up straight, extended his hand as he replied, "I’m the manager, Mike O’Neil. I can’t believe someone is actually acting on my complaints. Even as I was calling in I thought I was wasting my breath, but I figured, what the hell, give it a try, right? See if the system works…and now look, here you are! Damn, shocked the hell out of me, I gotta tell ya!" he finished earnestly.

"Gee Chief, I thought you were the only one that could talk that fast." Ellison did not have to look at his partner to know Sandburg was being tolerant of that remark. He knew he would get an earful on the trip back to the station. Facing O’Neil Ellison continued, "Mr. O’Neil…"

"Call me Mike. Mr. O’Neil was my dad and I don’t care to be reminded of him, thank you very much," Mike interrupted.

"Ok. Mike. I don’t know where you came from, but here in Cascade, we do act upon our citizen’s complaints. Your report is especially serious since you’ve already been harassed and expect an escalation. Can you tell us anything about the people that have been hassling you? Description of their car? Anything for us to work with?"

"No, I don’t them by name, but I recognize the type. I’ve seen it before. They’re homophobic, narrow minded as-, I mean, idiots that can’t see their bigotry. As long as there are people like that out there," he pointed out the door, then gestured in an inclusive, arching movement, "then gays like me won’t be safe. I have to admit, I thought they wouldn’t be so bold as to actually enter the store, but…"

"These people," Blair practically spit out, "could you recognize them? Or, do you have security tapes that…"

"I don’t have them," Mike interjected, "but the security company said they already sent them to the police station. Don’t you show that on your reports?"

Ellison opened the folder to review the contents. He flipped the pages then closed it again. "No, it doesn’t show. Could you ask for a copy to be sent to the main station and have it sent to the attention of the Major Crimes Unit? Glad to know you do have security here though. I was going to ask you about that."

"Oh yeah, in this neighborhood, that goes without saying. Need to have the security, know what I mean?" Mike edged closer to the tall detective. "I can show you the set up we have in the back. It’s a little close in there, like a closet, plus you need to keep the door closed to really see the monitors. So," as he edged closer, Ellison tried to surreptitiously keep Mike from entering his ‘space,’ "you interested, Jim?" he practically whispered in Ellison’s ear.

Blair huffed at the last comment. That guy was coming onto his man! His thoughts must have been heard by his partner, as Jim moved closer to Blair at the same time. "Mr. O’Neil," Blair paused as he sensed the beginning of a protest from the manager, "Mike. We want to help you, of course, but I think this can be done in a …"

"Hey, I remember you!" Mike blurted out as he recalled the memory. "Weren’t you here a few weeks ago?" He tapped his index finger against the counter repeatedly trying to bring the memory forward. "Yeah, lots of questions…Wait, um…Strawberry Spray, right?" Blair scarcely nodded. "I thought so. Never forget a customer or their, ah, needs, if you know what I mean?" Mike continued without waiting for Blair’s response. "I like to help my clients find what they need so…"

Mike gazed appraisingly at the well-built detective as he observed the way he stood so close to the shorter man, the way the two men practically melded together, without any apparent forethought. Mike suddenly grasped that Blair had purchased the supplies for himself and his police partner. He never suspected that they, one even a cop, were partners in the best and truest sense of the word. "Sorry. I didn’t know you guys were together." Mike stepped back from Jim and Blair as realization struck that he was coming on to a committed partner. "Hey, sorry, really. I just realized who you bought the supplies for! I, ah, I’m not usually this forward, but – anyway, I get it now. Are we all cool?"

Blair looked at Jim for confirmation. "Yeah, we’re cool, man. But, ah, hey, you got more of that strawberry stuff?"

"Sandburg?!" Jim barked. "We are here on business, remember? Do your shopping on your time, not the department’s."

"Geeze, Jim. This store is way on the other side of town. I’m just trying to save the gas and time, okay?" Blair flashed his puppy dog eyes at Jim.

"I’m not going to win this, am I?" He watched as Blair slowly shook his head. "Didn’t think so. Ok, Mike show me your security set up, let me check out the rest of the store for any other security measures that may be missing and then my partner and I will let you get back to work."

"Great, follow me." Mike locked the front door then led the two on a tour of the building.

*******************

"Man, I had no idea a store like this had such a large inventory!" Blair shook hands with Mike after they exited the store. He raised his other hand that held a brown bag. "Thanks for the supplies too! This stuff is so great. Really helps…"

"Sandburg!" Jim growled. "I think he knows the benefits of the items he sells." Jim extended his hand to the manager. "Thanks for the tour. Looks like you have everything under control here. I’ll look for the tape from your security company. We should have it tomorrow since they said they will deliver directly to the station."

"Yeah, thanks for talking to the security company. If I had asked for delivery, I would have heard laughter on the other end of the line. But when you asked, well, they couldn’t say no. I loved the part when you told them that they were obstructing an active case!" Mike noticed that the detective was ignoring him. Ellison made no sound to indicate he had listened to the young man. Instead his head was tilted, eyes misleadingly unfocused skyward.

Blair noticed his partner, the stance. Jim was in sentinel mode and something was coming. Blair surveyed his surroundings. The neighborhood was not one he would like to get lost in during the night, but-

He was halfway to the truck when the world seemed to flip into a slow motion mode. He heard his partner yell ‘Down!’ almost at the same time he felt Jim pushing him forward to the ground beside the truck. He heard the rapid fire of bullets, the breaking glass, and squeal of tires on the cement before he heard a soft, almost breathy, "Blair?"

"Jim? Jim?" he repeated hesitantly as he slowly turned around to look what had occurred. Aghast, he saw his partner lying on his side in the street next to the curb, a red puddle forming next to his chest. Blair rushed to his fallen lover; as he reached out with shaking hands he carefully laid them on the injured man. "Oh God! Jim?" He carefully rolled Ellison to his back, which revealed the gaping wound in the detective’s chest. Blair knelt next to him and applied pressure to the wound. "Don’t you leave me, lover! I love you so much." Blair pleaded.

Blair looked around from his position on the street, "Mike? You okay?" he yelled frantically.

Mike ran out of the store. "Yeah, I’m good. I called the police and an ambulance!" He approached the pair cautiously. "How’s he doing? Man!" he emphasized. "I really believed that something was brewing with those homophobic, dim-witted dirtbags but I never thought it would…that they would…" He looked intently at Ellison as Sandburg leaned over the injured man; Blair’s lips moved with unheard words.

Blair glanced over his shoulder. His eyes were filled with unshed tears. "Thanks for calling…" Blair felt movement from under his almost numb hands. "James," he whispered as if a prayer.

Jim reached out with a shaking left hand and held onto the wrist of his lover. Blair continued to push with his right hand but the left hand he gently used to palm the cheek of his lover. "I’m here, James. I’m here."

Ellison struggled to form the words he needed to say. He wanted to tell him how much he loved him, how much he needed him. He wanted to tell him that his life was made whole when he became a part of it. He wanted to tell him how sorry he was to leave him. He wanted to tell him how much he would miss him. They were just beginning…and now, too late. Jim felt his lover touch his cheek, slowly rubbing his thumb along his lips. He knew, somehow, that Blair already knew everything he was thinking. There were times he felt that Blair was a telepath; maybe it was a guide – sentinel thing. Still, he wanted to say it all aloud, especially if this was the last time.

"B…Blair," Jim murmured. His mouth was so dry; the words were so difficult to form. "Love you…m..miss you."

"Don’t you even think of leaving me! You hang in there!" Blair demanded. "I need you in my life. I love you so much!"

Mike flinched away from the scene in front of him. I didn’t think anyone could love like that. It’s so… He did not finish his thought as the siren from the onslaught of law enforcement vehicles and the ambulance descended on them. "Over here," he shouted to the tall, black man that was quickly moving in their direction.

"This way, move it!" Banks yelled at the emergency techs. He stepped aside as they ran past him to his injured detective. Banks noticed Blair move away from his friend in order to allow the two techs to work on him. He wanted to talk to Sandburg, see what information he could glean from him, but knew that Sandburg was totally focused on the man lying in the street.

Mike stepped up to the man who appeared to be in charge of the police. "Are you in charge here?" he demanded sharply.

Banks nodded affirmation. "Captain Banks. Who are you?"

"I saw the whole thing," he blurted. "I wrote down the license plate number when I went to call for police and the ambulance. I’m the manager of The Toy Box, the one that’s been making all the complaints of harassment from some homophobic idiots. I’m sure that’s who did this. They were after people that patronize this store, you know? They left flyers around that stated that they’re going to rid the world of all the fags, even if they have to do it one at a time!" By this time, Mike was ranting, pacing up and down the cracked sidewalk. "They had no idea they were shooting at cops, man! They saw two guys exiting the store and…and…" He stopped the pacing and spoke directly to Banks. "They were aiming for Blair as he walked to their truck, but Jim pushed him and –"

Banks placed a hand on the young man’s shoulder. "You did good, um-"

"Mike."

"-Mike. You did real well. I’m Ellison’s captain at Major Crimes. We’ll need you to make a statement at the station. Will you do that for us?"

Both men watched the gurney move by them briskly, Blair on the side while the techs were in the front and back of the stretcher.

"Um, yeah, sure. Will someone let me know what happens? I know we just met, but I like them."

Banks nodded. "Yes, we’ll keep you in the loop. Your quick thinking to make the appropriate calls and write down the plate number will really help. Glad you kept calm enough to handle all that."

"I’ve had an interesting life. Sometimes I feel that I attract the weird and unusual. You’d be amazed, but, anyway, just let me know, ok?" the young man quietly remarked, eyes downcast.

They heard the ambulance pull away with a life in the balance. Mike wished the couple a long life together, but knew from experience, wishes do not always, if ever, come true.

**************************

Banks wearily entered the waiting area. He had been in communication with the hospital all day tracking his detective’s status. Blair saw him enter the small waiting area but could not gather the strength to stand and greet the man. "Blair, how you holding up?"

Blair looked up, his bloodshot eyes evidence that tears had been shed. He started to speak, but pinched his lips together until they were a straight line. He shrugged his shoulders then returned to staring at the floor.

"I heard he came through the surgery without complications. Has something happened?"

Blair continued his intensive observation of the floor as he spoke. "They brought him here to ICU about an hour or so ago. The surgery was difficult, they told me." An unseen smile briefly graced his face before he returned to his narrative. "They told me I saved his life by keeping the pressure on the wound. Man, if they only knew the amount of practice I’ve had… Anyway," he went on, "he was holding his own, but now, here where he should be healing from the operation, he's developed what they call inadvertent hypothermia. They said his core temperature during the operation wasn't maintained as well as they would have hoped. Now…" Blair sucked in a breath and slowly released it. He wanted to stay calm, needed to stay calm. It was crucial for him to keep his emotions in check until Jim was truly on his way to a full recovery. "Now, they have to warm him up slowly. They are warming his IV's as well as heating the bed. They tell me this happens a lot, but it's never happened to Jim before Simon…never!" Blair seemed to deflate as he finished speaking; his account of the day physically drained the younger man.

Simon sat in the hard, orange chair next to the police observer. He placed a hand on the spent man's shoulder. "Blair, don't worry. You know if this hypothermia happens a lot, and they know how to bring him out of it, then…"

"…then don't worry about that, right?" Blair jerked away from the consoling hand, stood up and began to pace with all the energy he could dredge up. "He shouldn't even be here, do you know that? Those, those people," he sputtered, "that shot him, were aiming for me! They were aiming for me…they were aiming for…for …me!" Blair took a brief look directly at Banks, pleading for understanding, pleading for forgiveness. "It's almost like I put him here. I noticed he was listening to something, he was so intent. But I was just ignoring the obvious sign that something was going down. Next thing I know, I hear Jim shout for me to get down. I feel him push me behind the truck. I hear glass breaking, tires squealing, then it is deathly quiet. I call out for him, but all I heard was him whisper my name, just whisper."

"Blair." The Captain spoke softly to try not to upset Sandburg more than he already had become. "Sit down, Blair." Banks tapped the chair next to him. Blair reluctantly stumbled to the chair and sat. Banks replaced his hand on the young man's shoulder and continued. "We both know Jim would have pushed you or me or Rafe… anyone to get them out of harm's way, right?" Blair grudgingly nodded. "Right. So stop blaming yourself. He's here because he thought saving you was the right thing to do. If the tables were turned you would have done the same thing, am I right?" Blair again nodded without looking at the man addressing him.

The sound of a throat being cleared caused Banks to look up. A man in a white lab coat stood there. "Doctor?"

"Are you both here for Mr. Ellison?"

Blair immediately stood up. "Yes, we are. I'm Blair Sandburg. I'm Detective Ellison's partner."

"Relax, Mr. Sandburg," the doctor encouraged softly. "Your partner's core temperature is normal now. He's no longer hypothermic. He's not out of the woods, but he did come through the surgery as well as expected, as you were told earlier. We have him still listed in critical condition, but we have a great deal of confidence that he will make a full recovery."

Blair thought he felt his legs turn to jello, as he could no longer stand up. He slowly folded into the chair directly behind him. "He's going to recover." It was a statement, not a question. Any other result was not acceptable to Blair. A world without Jim in it…he could not begin to think that way. The doctor said he would recover…

"Mr. Sandburg?" The doctor interrupted Blair's thoughts.

Blair shook his head to clear his mind's wanderings. "Um, sorry, Doctor. I was just thinking about the hopeful news you gave us."

The doctor had seen this before. The loved ones of those in intensive care would very often be lost in thought, worry and fear about the possible outcomes regarding the one lying in the small, glass enclosed room. In fact, the doctor believed, the young man in front of him displayed more fear and compassion for the patient than just a police partner. He knew that Sandburg had power of attorney for Ellison, something not casually given away. The doctor reasoned that it could mean his patient had someone in his life, someone that wanted him to live. "Mr. Sandburg," he asserted, "you need to go home. Get some rest." He held up his palm to stop any opposition he could see building in the younger man. "You need to be strong when he does wake up. You wouldn't want him to worry about you, would you?"

Banks smiled as the doctor spoke to Sandburg. Yes, telling Blair he had to take care of himself so Ellison, in his weakened condition, would not worry about him was the perfect course to take to encourage Sandburg to go home. This doctor must have seen other couples in the same situation…couples?

"Sandburg, listen to the doctor," Banks interjected. "I can give you ride home or you could stay at my house."

Blair knew both men were correct. He could not let himself become exhausted, that would not help Jim at all.

"Okay, you both win. I'll leave, right after I say goodbye to Jim. Is that okay, Doctor?"

The doctor nodded. Blair walked past him and into the cubicle, which supported the man that held the other half of his heart.

"James," Blair murmured, "they're sending me home, but I'll be back in a few hours. Just need a nap and a shower. Okay, Love? I think the doctor knows we're more than partners in the police department. But he was cool. Didn't say anything that would give Simon a clue. Okay, I'm rambling here. Love you, so much." The machines in the background, making their life giving noises, were the only reply Blair received.

************************

It was agreed that Simon would take Blair to the loft and pick him up again at 8:30am. They rode in silence, Blair's adrenaline depleted; the fatigued body was slowly being lulled to relax.

Noticing the reclined man in the passenger seat, Banks quietly determined this would be the best opportunity to pose the question. "He loves you, right?"

Shaken from his drowsiness by the soft words, Blair tried to formulate a reasonable answer. His mind muddled, "Yeah, Simon, we're best friends, you know that." He tried not to show the panic that was running rampant in his mind. Stay calm he reminded himself.

"Sandburg, I think you know what I'm talking about. You two love each other. A couple. A pair. Committed."

Blair shot a glance at Simon. Banks' eyes never left the road as he continued to drive. Blair returned to stare out the car's windshield. Quiet ruled again in the vehicle until Blair softly broke it.

"Simon, sure you want the answer?"

"You just gave it to me and yeah, I did want the answer. Everyone back at Major Crimes figured you two were more than platonic roommates for awhile now. Why the secrecy?"

"It's still new, Simon. We just wanted to be comfortable before we told anyone. Plus, with Jim being a cop and all, we agreed it's not the best place to be openly gay." Blair turned in his seat to face Banks as he parked the car in front Blair's building. "We were going to tell our friends soon, but…"

"Your secret is safe with me, son. However, you need to believe me when I tell you that your friends at the precinct already believed you guys were together, and they are happy for you!"

Blair's disbelief was clearly written on his face.

"Don't worry. I won't tell the others what you told me today. It's your secret to tell," Banks confirmed as he placed his hand on the young man's shoulder.

Relieved, Blair sighed, "Thanks, Simon. Please don't tell Jim you know until I get him home, okay? Wait until he is strong enough to deal with the way others may treat us."

"I'm going to treat you both the same way, Sandburg. I'm pretty confident that when you do tell the others, they'll treat you the same way too. About the only thing we may tease Ellison about is how long it took him to wake up and admit his feelings for you!"

Blair exited the car and remarked before he shut the door. "You're a good man, my friend, a good man." He shut the door before Banks could make a comment.

Banks waited outside the building until he saw his friend enter the building safely. "You are too, my friend, you are too."

************************

Five days later, the same argument was heard. The same one that expressed the degree of desire the recovering patient wanted to finish his recovery at home. Blair was slightly more apprehensive this time. He was concerned with a post-operative infection flaring up, or anything that could endanger his lover, but his partner was adamant about leaving the hospital.

"Blair, you can watch over me. I can tell you if I'm getting an infection, and for the rest, well, the doctors are pretty sure I'm healing just fine. Besides, we have the ambulance service on speed dial at home and 9-1-1 is pretty easy to dial too, Sweetheart. C'mon, I need to go home, reconnect with you."

"Hold it right there, mister!" Blair held his palm up facing Ellison. "There will be no 'reconnecting' until the doctor gives us an 'all clear' for physical activity!"

Ellison beamed. "Blair, I didn't mean that. Just need to touch and hold you. Please?"

Sandburg returned the grin. "Well, I could use a little cuddling and it's been real lonely back at the loft. Guess it would be nice to have you home."

"Settled! We're blowing this pop stand!" Ellison reached up for the call button to get started on the paper work.

Blair placed his hand on top the outstretched hand. "Yeah, let's get out of here, James."

********************************

Blair arranged his partner on the couch with pillows placed behind his back and under his legs. The patchwork quilt covered the reclining detective. Ellison had been right. There were no medical emergencies since their return home. It had been three days of just the two of them, holding and caressing. However, the university called this morning. Blair was asked to go into the department's office and review his lesson plans with the teaching fellow that would be covering his classes that week. He knew he needed to go to the university, but he was reluctant to leave his partner behind.

"Blair, I'm fine. Go. I have the television remote, a good book and I can go to the bathroom on my own. It's only a few hours. Go, okay?" Ellison appealed. He turned his head toward the front door. "Someone's here. Not sure who…"

Blair walked over and looked through the peephole. He opened the door to reveal Mike O'Neil. Mike patted the shoulder of the short, curly haired man, "I hope you don't mind I stopped by. I asked Captain Banks for your address…Anyway," he carried on, "with all the excitement from the shooting and all, you left the bag of supplies behind." Mike placed the brown bag on the kitchen table. "So, I thought I'd deliver them personally once you were home and settled. Is this a bad time?" He glanced over at Ellison stretched out on the couch. "Hey Jim," he waved.

"Actually, this is great timing. I have to go to the university. I'd feel so much better if someone was here with Jim while I was gone. Would you mind?" Blair inquired as they both walked toward the couch.

"I am sitting right here, Sandburg," Ellison groused. It never ceased to amaze him how his lover could be so protective. "Still, I wouldn't mind the company."

Blair realized that Jim was willing to compromise and jumped at the opportunity. "Great. Mike, there's beer in fridge and chips in the cabinet over the stove. Don't let Jim talk you into giving him a beer, he's still on his medications."

"Yes, Mother," Mike joked. "I'll take good care of my little charge here. Why don't you get moving? When you get back, we can order a pizza or something..." He quickly looked at the two men for some sign of agreement before pressing on. "…if that's okay."

"Sounds good to me," Ellison piped in.

"Me too. Okay, I'm out of here." Blair leaned over his lover and gently kissed him before he realized he was being watched. He became self-conscious suddenly, his cheeks blushing.

Mike noticed Blair's shy mannerism. Hoping to ease his discomfort, he assured. "You guys are so beautiful together. Someday, I hope to be half as happy as you two are right now."

"Thanks," he replied warmly. "I'll be back in about an hour." Pointing to the wall between the kitchen and the front door, he resumed. "There's the phone. Speed dial one is the ambulance service…"

Mike was amused at the list of contacts being rattled off by Blair. Who in the world has an ambulance service as their first speed dial, and the pizza place as the second one?

"…ok, you got it all?"

Entertained by the situation, Mike smiled, stood tall and saluted. "Sir, yes, Sir! Ready to take over the care of the patient, Sir!" He then relaxed his stance as he finished. "Seriously, Blair, go ahead. I think I can handle an hour alone with this guy."

"Okay, okay. I'm leaving." After another short buss, Sandburg grabbed the ever-present backpack by the door and left.

"So, whatcha wanna do, Jim? I could regale you with stories from my past that would make you blush, or…"

"I think I'd just like to watch the game. There's an afternoon game on today. I have ten dollars riding on the Jags."

"Sounds good to me. Um…do you mind if I check text messages while you watch the beginning of the game. I'm hoping to hear from a guy I met yesterday at the store. I thought we hit it off…But you don't really care about that, do you?" Mike apologized.

"Go ahead. In fact, if you want some privacy go into the study there," Ellison stated as he pointed to the doorway beyond the kitchen.

"Thanks. If you need anything, just give me a shout." Mike's long strides had him the study in just a few steps.

Jim settled in to watch the game as he heard a commotion in the hallway. He hoped whomever it was would annoy one of his neighbors and leave him alone. He just wanted to watch the game. Just as the noise level in the hall reduced, there was a loud pounding on his door before it was forced open by two men with a police style battering ram.

The intruders entered the loft before Ellison had a chance to move. His gun was safely locked away in the kitchen so it could not be used against him, but also now left him without any protection. He could not fight the men in his condition. He hoped that Mike had the presence of mind to hide, or better yet, leave via the fire escape from the study.

"So, there's the fag. We didn't finish you or your little buddy off a couple of weeks ago, so we thought we'd take care of that detail today," the blond intruder sarcastically commented.

"Where's that queer from the store? We followed him here," asked the scraggly man in the blue denim overalls. He pulled a handgun from his large pocket, pointed it at the still seated detective. "Duke, go look around."

Duke smiled, his yellow stained teeth showing, as he pulled a knife from the sheath that was attached to the leather belt around his waste. "Not a problem, Harvey. I'd be pleased to introduce my blade to that gay blade anytime," he smirked.

Ellison continued to hope Mike escaped to call for help. At least he knew he had his cell phone on him. The detective watched Duke climb the steps to the bedroom. He could tell from the squeak of the floorboards where the intruder walked.

"Nothing up here. Coming down now." He walked threateningly toward Ellison, the knife being quickly passed between his hands. "I'll find him. When I do…well, he won't be much of man when I'm done with him; not that a fag ever is a man. Funny, you don't look like a typical fag. Still," Duke placed the tip of the blade under Ellison's chin; pricking it enough that a slow stream of blood flowed down the front of his throat. Ellison continued to sit still. He knew men like this, a pack mentality. Individually they were pests, but together, they found the courage to attack others that they decided they could overcome. The blade at his throat was to dissuade any conversation except their own. It forced their prey to listen to the ramblings in order to understand why he was targeted. "At least you bleed the right color," was Duke's only comment.

Duke removed the knife from under the Ellison's chin only to lower it closer to center of the throat. "Hey, store fag. We saw you come in here. You better come out," he laughed at his own pun. "Yeah, you better come out if you don’t wanna see this big fag bleed a lot more." Both intruders turned their heads when they heard a noise come from the study.

Ellison resolved it was time to make his move. He grabbed and twisted the wrist of hand holding the blade until the blade was released from the hand. Duke cried out in pain as he fell to his knees.

"Shoot the bastard, Harvey! I think he broke my wrist!!"

Harvey turned the weapon as he took the few steps to place the gun against Ellison's temple. "Say good-bye, fag!"

As Jim prepared for the shot, glad that Blair would not witness his death, he felt a light breeze as a chair went flying by his face. He pushed the gun straight up as it exploded close to his ear while Harvey's limp body fell against Ellison.

Jim's ears were ringing. He could see Duke struggle to leave the loft, now that his companion was incapacitated. Jim pushed the unconscious Harvey off him, pointed the gun at Duke and shouted, "Hold it, dirtbag. Cascade Police, you're under arrest."

Duke looked incongruously at the man now holding the gun on him. As he fell back to his knees, he voiced his disbelief. "You're a cop!?"

Mike stood up from behind the kitchen counter. "You okay, man? You did a great job distracting them, so I could distract them! That was, wow! Do you do this all the time? Creeps and guys with guns everyday?"

Ellison's ears were still ringing from the gunshot so close to his ears. He hoped Blair would be home soon to help him. The pain from the ringing had him close to a zone. He pointed to his ears then spoke, not certain how loud he voiced the words. "Can't hear you, Mike. Gun shot close to my ear."

"Ok," he said as he gave the detective a 'thumbs up' sign. "Gotcha. I called the police," he said trying sign a badge on his shirt. 'Police', he mouthed.

Ellison nodded in understanding, wishing he had not moved his head so much. Blair, he needed Blair.

The tableau of the Duke and Harvey, one held under the threat of being shot, the other still unconscious was how the detectives from Major Crimes found them.

Simon walked over to Jim to take the gun away from him, while Rafe cuffed Duke and took him away. Harvey was also cuffed and taken away to the waiting squad cars. Jim startled as Simon removed the gun from the stiff hand.

"Whoa, Jim, its just me."

"He can't hear you. Gunshot close to his ear blew away his hearing," Mike supplied. "Wow, what a scene here, man. Jim kept them busy. I was in the other room," he went on as he pointed to the study under the steps, "when they burst in. I stayed quiet, and called 9-1-1. Then held tight for the troops. But those bastards were threatening Jim so I had to do something. One guy poked him with his knife, so I made a noise to distract them. Well, they turned and Jim just grabs that blonde's wrist and twisted it like a soda cap! Anyway then the older guy puts the gun to Jim's head. So I snuck out of the study, picked up the kitchen chair and hit the guy over the head with it. Jim managed to push the gun up before it went off and here were are!" Mike finally took a breath.

"Did it occur to you that Jim might have been shot when you clobbered that man?"

"Ah, no, well, yes, but I figured he could handle it like he did with the knife guy. He…" Mike gazed over at the man on the couch. His eyes closed, blood dripping down his throat, was the picture of a man in pain. "Hey Jim," he said softly as he knelt in front of the detective, holding his hands. "The police called Blair, he will be here real soon, man." Mike did not think Jim could hear him, but he knew he could feel the gentle touch on his hands. He hoped that would reassure the man.

"Blair," Ellison whispered as his lover entered the loft, his scent preceding him.

All movement stopped as Blair entered the disheveled apartment. The detectives stopped their movements as Blair almost ran to his partner. As he touched the drying blood on Jim's throat, he was relieved that the wound was not as serious as he feared.

Jim touched his ears. "H-hurts. H-help."

As Mike relinquished his spot in front of Ellison in order for Blair to assume it, he quickly told him about the gun that fired close to his ears.

"Thanks for taking care of him for me until I could get here. You saved his life."

Mike patted him on the shoulder. "You're welcome. I think I need to get back to the store. This was exciting, but just more than I need." Blair waved as Mike left the apartment. He promised Detective Brown to give his statement at the station.

Blair now focused all his attention on his partner as he gently reached up and touched each ear as soft words escaped Blair's lips. As all the detectives from Major Crimes observed the scene unfold in front of them, they knew. The genuine fear that was etched on Blair's face as he entered the room, this caring, those touches. Blair and Jim were oblivious of the astute conclusions being drawn around them.

Simon looked around the room. "Gentlemen? Now would be the time to tell me if any of you have a problem."

Almost as a unit they looked back and forth between each other, shrugged their shoulders and continued their work to document the crime that had occurred that day, in the home of their friend and colleague.

They were happy to finally know that the two men were true partners, both at the station and home. How could there be a problem when love was involved?

The end

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Acknowledgments: Thank you to Mary for the beta and to Patt for the artwork.