Manhunter - Patt

The hunter and the hunted are the same.
The hunter can't give up until he gets his prey.
The prey is trying, but knows he hasn't a chance.
He gives in to the hunter, and hopes for the best.
When did this hunter start to collect men?
He'll be called Manhunter for the rest of his days.
His target finally gives up, letting the man win.
But what did he accomplish?
What did he lose?
He'll always be the Manhunter, isolated and alone.
Leaving us to wonder who is the real victim.
--Patt

Blair Sandburg stood next to the hotel bed, packing up his belongings. He had all the tools of his trade in his suitcase. Because of the weapons he wasn't able to fly, so he ended up taking long trips in his truck, a red Dodge Durango. It looked and ran perfectly. Putting the last few things in his bag, he looked around the room to make sure he wasn't forgetting anything.

God, he was tired. * When was the last time he'd slept with a woman? Shit, when was the last time he'd even done anything himself? Business was always first, so it would have to wait. When would he see his apartment next? Better yet, why did he even bother having one? *

Blair Sandburg was a Bounty Hunter. Not a very glamorous job but one that paid very well. Blair had been able to make a name in the business of always getting his man-or his woman-if the case called for it.

The man he worked for was one Simon Banks, Bail Bondsman. He and Simon ran the business alone. That's why Blair was so tired. He needed a break, and so did Simon. When he got back, he planned to talk to Simon about taking on a partner of sorts.

Loading his suitcase into the trunk of his car, he got in, started it up and pulled out of the motel parking lot. Once on the interstate, he pulled out his cell phone and dialed up Simon's number.

"Banks," came the loud booming voice from the other end of the line.

"Hey, Simon. I dropped Keegan off at the local authorities and got my signed slip for you. So you won't be losing any money on that one," Blair said, smiling at the memory of how surprised Keegan had been to have someone like Blair Sandburg overtake him and get the cuffs on him.

At 5' 7" tall and weighing in at 163 pounds, he didn't automatically scare the bad guys. He always took them by surprise with his speed, his cunning-and dammit, his fighting ability. He might be small, but he was wiry.

"Thank god, I was beginning to worry there. When are you going to be back? I have a high profile case right now. I would lose so much money on this one, it wouldn't even be funny, " Simon said sounding desperate.

"Shit, Simon, I need a break," Blair complained.

"We all need breaks, kid, but I'm going to lose big money if you don't help me out here," Simon pleaded.

"Tell you what, Simon. I'll be home in four days. I'm taking a short vacation. I need a break. Nothing's going to happen in four days, right?" Blair asked, hoping that he'd talk Simon into this.

"Sandburg, I have to talk to you about this. We're talking big money. I'll lose everything. I need you to fly here," Simon said, again sounding desperate.

"Fine, Simon, I'll leave now and be there in the morning," Blair said, resigned to the fact that he was never going to have time off in his life.

"I'll see you first thing in the morning. I'll have everything waiting for you," Simon said before he hung up the phone.

Simon was going to head over to Blair's place because he knew his friend well. He'd make it here tonight. And Simon was going to be there waiting for him. Things were indeed desperate enough.

Blair plugged his cell phone in and continued driving down the road. He put his radar detector on the windshield and began his fast trip home. With any luck, he'd make it there by tonight. * Damn, I might get to sleep in my own bed. *

He didn't stop for anything but gas and drove into Cascade at just after ten that night. Looking at his watch, he thought to himself that this must be some type of record. When he drove up to his apartment building, Simon was sitting in his car waiting.

Getting out of the Durango, Blair didn't say a word as he and Simon grabbed his things to take upstairs. "Simon, why can't I at least sleep in my bed?" Blair asked.

"You can, but I brought this over so we could discuss it," Simon said as he walked into Blair's apartment. Blair handed Simon the receipt for the last skip and they continued up to the apartment.

"Wow, you watered the plants this time. Thanks. It's nice to find something alive when I get here," Blair said with a grumpiness that was brought on by lack of sleep. "So tell me, who's the skip? And don't forget to give me a receipt for what I just gave you."

"His name's James Joseph Ellison," Simon said, picking up the folder to show Blair.

"J.J. Ellison, from Ellison, Unlimited?" Blair asked incredulously. Blair knew of this man. He was one of the richest men in Cascade. Hell, probably one of the richest in the country. Blair had heard that he'd just as soon slit your throat as do business the right way.

"The very same. He was arrested two days ago for attempted murder. The person he hurt was in a coma. He was able to post bail because he has money. The judge made him post bail with a bondsman. That's where I came in. He said he was innocent and it would be proven. I believed him. The man in ICU, his partner, died this morning. So now he's being sought on murder charges. He said all along that he didn't do it, but you never know. I just want him back for the hearing," Simon said, starting to pace. He knew this would be a hard one.

Blair opened up the folder and said, "He's got no wife, no children, no best friends other than the man that died? Shit, Simon, there's not a fucking thing to go on."

"Yeah, he doesn't have any friends. He told me that he was home alone all night long. He has no alibi. No one knows where he is. You know darn well that you'll find some way to figure out where he is. You always get your man, " Simon said, trying to sound hopeful.

"Simon, calm down. I just got the jacket. Let me look through it and I'll see what I can do, okay?" Blair said getting up to get a beer. "Want a beer?"

"No, I need to leave you alone so you can figure out if you have any ideas on how to save my ass," he said, getting up and walking to the front door.

"I'll see you at the office first thing in the morning unless I come across something that jumps out and grabs my attention," Blair said, holding the door for Simon.

"Well, I hope you can find something or we'll both be out of work in two weeks."

"Go. Let me do my thing," Blair said with his first smile since he'd been home. He wouldn't admit it but Simon was like the father he never had and he really loved the man. He wouldn't let anyone hurt Simon, especially this rich, spoiled dick. No way! Blair was determined to find him.

He read the file at the kitchen table while he cleaned his Glock, Beretta and his favorite, Heckler and Kock Model P7. He assembled his tools and cleaning utensils getting ready to clean his pistols. Blair only used a quality gun cleaning kit. He pulled the cleaning rod, patches, and lubricant, closer to his guns and began his work. Blair was so anal about his guns that he had a special pad on which to set the pistols as he cleaned and disassembled them.

As he picked up the first handgun, he checked to be sure that the gun is loaded. On the Glock, he removed the magazine, then pulled the slide back and ejected the round from the chamber. He glanced into the chamber to ensure that there wasn't a round inside. He then released the slide, and, with the pistol pointed down towards the floor, pull the trigger. Empty, just the way he wanted it. He then did the very same thing with all of the rest of them.

He began by using a small brush to gently clean inside the barrel and slide area, followed by the recoil spring assembly, the receiver then and the magazine. Blair was so gentle with his guns; people would probably think he was weird while watching him almost caress the weapons. Blair felt like if you treat your weapons well, they'd be there for you every single time you needed them. Slack off and you might not have another chance to clean them again.

Adding a few drops of cleaning fluid onto the ends of a small gun patch, he attached the wadding onto the end of a cleaning rod, then ran the rod through the barrel piece and back through again. Blair wasn't leaving any debris inside the barrel. Blair then started putting them back together, in the reverse order from which they were taken apart.

Once this was all done and he felt that nothing more was needed, he wiped all of the pistols down with a soft chamois. Smiling the entire time he did this, he wondered if other people did normal things in their spare time.

Blair got out his gun cases and put the cleaned guns inside of them. Everything was ready. He then got ready for the trip. He opened up his bag with all of his gun cleaning supplies in it, making sure he had enough supplies, ammo and anything else he'd need. In this same bag, were his shoulder holsters for the different weapons. He had six sets of handcuffs and a case for them, too. One pair was always on his belt. Next to his handcuffs and case was another leather case with Pepper spray in it. Then he made sure that he had all he needed for his M18L Laser Taser. This was really one of Blair's favorite things to use when you don't want to put a bullet in someone but know you have to stop them. This duffle bag had only weapons and weapon cleaning supplies in it. He had two other duffle bags with his other essentials. He always kept his ammo separate. It was almost like an omen, type thing. He felt like they should never be kept in the same bag.

The phone rang and Blair picked it up and said, "Sandburg."

"Yeah, I have that item you ordered for your truck," the voice said.

"Can you deliver it tonight?" Blair asked.

"Yes, but it'll be $100 extra for that."

"Fine, bring it now. I need it first thing in the morning," Blair answered.

"I'll meet you down in the parking lot, Sandburg, and I'll show you how it works," the voice continued.

"Sure thing. See you in 20 minutes," Blair said as he hung up the phone.

To anyone in the parking lot, it might've seemed a little odd when the man drove up, got out of his truck, and pulled out a car seat. Blair had seen a movie where the BH had used a car seat to hide his weapons, plus it would help his vehicle to look like a mommy car. Blair had called this man who made it up for him. It would hold a small arsenal. Blair wouldn't be left without his equipment again. That had happened once and Blair was shot and left for dead. He wasn't wild about bullet wounds. The man put it all in and Blair pulled out his bag with his newly cleaned guns and put them in there. It all fit perfectly. Blair handed him the bills and the man counted them as if Blair was in the habit of cheating him all the time. "Bill, do you honestly think after all these years, I would choose today to cheat you? You wound me."

"Sorry, Sandburg. I get used to most of the people I deal with and they aren't trustworthy like you are. Sorry," Bill said. Thanks, man. Nice doing business with you." He said starting to walk off and turned to climb back into his truck.

"Hey, wait. I was gone the last few days when J.J. Ellison was arrested. Do you know anything about this guy?" Blair asked.

"Man, you know if I knew anything I would tell you, right?"

"Bill, calm down, it's not a big thing. I just know you have your ear to the ground all the time and wanted to know if you'd heard anything."

"Well, since you're being so nice, I guess I could tell you one thing," Bill started.

Blair pulled his wallet out when he noticed the pause in Bill's telling him what he needed to know. "How much, Bill?" Blair asked.

"Another $100," Bill answered.

"I'll pay you after you tell me something worth paying for."

"Okay, that sounds fair. I heard that he couldn't count on his dad or his brother to help him, so he had to go to his grandmother," Bill said, beaming with pride at knowing something that no one else did.

"Bill, tell me, how the hell did you know that?"

"I was sitting in the booth next to him in a diner when he called his dad. I recognized him from the papers. I knew it might come in handy. He called his dad. He called his brother and then he called his grandmother."

"Did you get any names?" Blair asked holding a notebook and pen ready to write.

"Yes, I did. William Ellison was the first call he made. He asked for him by that name but when the man answered, he called him Dad," Bill began.

"That makes sense, that he would call his family," Blair said.

"Too bad his family didn't seem that concerned about him," Bill replied.

"Okay, who was next?"

"He called someone named Steven Ellison and called him, bro, very sarcastically.

So I take it he didn't want to help him either," Bill said helpfully.

"And the third call?"

"Well, it was really weird, Sandburg. It was an odd name. He called her Drammy. I've never heard anyone call their Gramma that before."

"It might have been a code name. Did you hear what he said to the person?" Blair asked again, hoping Bill would have more than just this.

"Yup, this is your lucky day, Sandburg. He said he'd meet this Drammy person at the cabin."

Blair pulled out three one hundred dollar bills and handed them over to Bill. "Thanks a lot, Bill. This might help me a great deal."

When Bill left, Blair made sure everything was inside the car seat and then he locked his truck and set the alarm. Now to head upstairs and get things checked over for another trip.

Once inside his apartment, he pulled out two more duffle bags and started taking inventory and packing. In the first one, he put all of his camping supplies. A butane stove, butane heater, first aid kit, 2 sleeping bags, a two-man tent, freeze dried food, bottled water and a fire extinguisher.

He unpacked his dirty clothes and replaced them with enough clean ones to last for a ten-day trip.

Blair was exhausted when he was finished; it was getting very late, but even so he sat down at the computer and started searching for anything that would have to do with Drammy. Drammie, or Dramma. He knew that somewhere there was something he had to find to get to JJ Ellison. Blair pulled up Ellison's personal files on the computer and then started looking for things. He found something that made him smile. He had a friend in college whose name was Rick Drammer. Blair had found Ellison's Drammy. Could it be that simple? He doubted it. Now he just had to find out where Drammy had a cabin. Looking up information on Rick Drammer, he found out that he owned a cabin about two hours from Cascade. Blair logged off, intending to sleep for about two hours and then he was going to head out to find James Ellison.

Blair pulled his garments off and climbed into bed but found that sleep eluded him. He kept seeing Ellison's picture in the file. He looked confused and almost scared. Why would Ellison look scared in those pictures? What was Blair missing? Blair got out of bed, wrenched the file out of the last bag and took it over to his bed. He was just going to read a few more details before he went to sleep.

As he flipped through the pages, he found out one thing that bothered him. The man had never asked for a lawyer. He said he was innocent and would prove it. He said he knew who did it; he only had to prove it. Why would Ellison do that? And if he did indeed know who the killer was, why not tell the police? Blair glanced over at the clock and groaned loudly. He knew that he needed some sleep or he wouldn't be worth anything tomorrow.

He laid the file on his chest and closed his eyes for a few minutes to think and that was the last thing he remembered. The next thing he knew he was sound asleep. In his dream state, he saw a beautiful man. He was faceless, but his body was gorgeous. Blair knew that this man was meant to be someone in his life. Now he just had to remember it when he woke up in the morning.

He woke up when the alarm went off at 4:00 in the morning. Blair dragged his butt out of bed and took a cold shower to wake up. He loaded up his Durango with his fresh gear and then was on his way, stopping only at the gas station to fill up with gas and get some hot coffee. That was one of Blair's weaknesses. He loved coffee. So much so that he found it hard to concentrate when he didn't have it in his system. Taking a sip of the piping hot beverage, he couldn't believe how good it was. It was the flavored brand that he particularly loved.

The drive was a little boring so he put a CD in. He'd picked one up that was a CD talking about Anthropology. He'd been studying like this for about two years now. He knew more than most people did with little schooling; he loved learning. Right now, the man telling the story about Sentinels was talking about the legends of watchmen and guardians for the tribes. Blair liked this idea. He found it almost a romantic thought. * Sandburg, you're a romantic at heart. Need to get these notions out of your head before you go soft. *

The rest of the drive was quiet and problem free. When he got to the small town, he got his map out and found out how to get to Drammy's cabin. He wasn't going to ask for directions and let Ellison know he was in town. He needed to keep this very quiet. He wasn't in a hurry so he decided to check into a hotel first. Looking up and down the streets of the small town, Blair realized that he'd never find a hotel here. Motel, maybe, but never a hotel.

He checked into a nice clean little motel and took his personal bag into his room. The rest stayed in the Durango. Setting the alarm, he got settled in the room and turned on the television to pass some time until he could check out the diner for dinner. Sometimes you found out more by hanging around a diner than by watching non-stop for a week. The exhausted skip tracer had his fingers crossed.

Two hours later, Blair found himself in a clean diner, in his own booth, where he could watch anyone and everyone that came into the place. Blair always liked watching with his back to the wall. The waitress took his order and he sat back drinking more coffee. Just watching people come in and out of the place was interesting. While he was watching, the door opened and in walked James Ellison. Big as day. The owner greeted him and then a waitress took him to his own booth across the room from where Blair was.

Blair wasn't going to make any move now. He hated altercations in crowded places. He just sat back to watch Ellison.

He wasn't at all what Blair was expecting. Ellison was smiling, joking and talking with the owner and the waitress. He was relaxed and a very gentle looking person-not at all what Blair had expected when he finally met up with him. * Sandburg, just keep in mind that many serial killers' neighbors say later, "He was such a nice fellow." So, stop worrying about that and watch your skip. *

The other waitress brought Blair's dinner. It was like being in heaven. Everything was cooked with very little fat and tasted like nothing he'd ever had. Blair realized that he hadn't eaten dinner in almost two days. No wonder he was attacking his dinner with such gusto. He looked up and saw Ellison staring at him with an odd look on his face. Blair couldn't help it, he smiled sheepishly. No doubt Ellison thought he was some kind of pig, or perhaps, a starving person finally getting enough money for a meal.

Blair continued eating like there was no tomorrow and found Ellison heading over to his booth. Ellison stood and looked at him and said, "Why did you have to come? They would've followed you. Now they'll know where I am."

Blair calmly wondered to himself, * How did Ellison know who I was? *

"Sit down, Mr. Ellison, and we'll talk," Blair said casually.

"I'm leaving. If you want to chase me, fine. But I'm not going in without a fight," Ellison said leaving the diner.

As Blair started to get up, the waitress and the owner stood in front of the booth. Blair said, "I need to leave, right now. Have you ever heard of obstruction of justice?"

"Yeah," the owner said, "we've heard of it. We've also heard of letting someone live their life as well as they can. He's not hurt anyone. He's one of the most gentle people we know."

"Then let me take him in so we can prove that he's innocent," Blair asked.

Just then, a customer flew through the door and said, "Someone has Jim in the alley and they're killing him! Does anyone have a gun? They're going to kill him for sure!"

Blair stood up quickly and said, "I'm armed. You know I can help him."

The owner said, "Please don't hurt him. He's a good man."

"I won't hurt him. Now can I get out there and help him?" Blair asked.

They all stood back and wondered what the hell Sandburg could possibly do to help. He didn't have the size or strength to help Jim Ellison. The owner said, "Would you like me to help?"

"No, I want you all to stay inside no matter what. Do you understand?" Blair asked.

"Yes, but please don't hurt Mr. Ellison. He's a good man," the youngest waitress pleaded.

"I promise I won't hurt him," Blair said and ran out the door. He stopped at his Durango and pulled up the lock for the car seat, pulled out another gun and his Laser Taser. Grabbing a few sets of the one-time use cuffs, he started running for the alley. He clicked his alarm on over his shoulder. When he got close enough to hear the men with Ellison, he slowed down.

A woman walked up to him and said, "I'm Sheriff Taylor. I'm here to help you. I don't want you to take them on alone."

Blair was actually grateful for that.

They inched their way down the alley. The first voice said, "Hurry it up! Kill the son-of-a-bitch. We can't have anyone left to finger us."

A second voice said, "Don't you think we should find out what the hell he said to that bounty hunter?"

"Even if he said something, we'll take care of the bounty hunter when we run into him," a third voice said.

They dropped Ellison on the ground when a voice said, "Well, it's time to discuss it with me because you've run into me."

"Mr. Bounty Hunter, if you know what's good for you, you'll get out of here and fast. This isn't your business," the largest man was saying.

Sheriff Taylor said, "I don't want to have to hurt you, gentlemen. Please put your guns down and no one will get hurt."

The men stared at each other with big smiles on their faces. They must have thought Sandburg and Taylor weren't a force to be reckoned with.

Blair had his arms behind him so that he looked relaxed, but he wasn't. He had guns in both hands. He was hoping he wouldn't have to shoot his way out of this. Didn't look like he was going to get his wish, though.

There was a loud moan from Ellison on the ground and the four men who had attacked him went into action. All pulling their guns, they took aim to fire on Sandburg, but he already had his guns out and shot two of them without a thought. It wasn't that he liked shooting anyone, but these men left him no choice. Blair hadn't just shot them; he had aimed to hurt them badly or worse.

Sheriff Taylor had shot the other two men and they were all lying on the ground moaning.

Men came running from the diner. Someone said, "You promised you wouldn't hurt him."

"I didn't hurt Ellison. They were trying to kill him. I had to shoot them." Blair said as calmly as he could.

Blair leaned down, checked for pulses and found them. Three men were going to live to go to trial. One of the men that Sheriff Taylor shot was not so lucky.

Before dealing with Ellison, Blair helped get the men cuffed and ready to go to the hospital.

Blair then slid his handcuffs out of the leather case on his belt and put them on Ellison because he knew he'd be coming to soon.

Blair knew that he might have to fight this town to get Ellison out of here. He really didn't want to do it, but also knew that it was his job. Sheriff Taylor started asking the men questions and found out the one that was dead was the leader. He was also the only one that knew who hired the men.

Blair shook his head and said, "Well, do you need me to sign some papers or something?"

"No, Mr. Sandburg. We need you to take our Jim and hide him until it's safe again. He'll tell you when that is." Sheriff Taylor then motioned for the men close by to pick Jim up and carry him to Blair's truck.

"I have to take him back or my boss will lose his business," Blair said, trying to explain himself, not really knowing why.

"Jim would never let your boss lose his business. It's not his way. He just needs more time, that's all. So take him up to the woods and stay where no one knows who you are. Don't come back for some time." Sheriff Taylor said.

Blair watched the men carry Jim over to his Durango and Blair hit his switch to unlock the vehicle. They were very careful putting him in the front seat. The largest and older man said, "Do you have anything to fix him up with? Bandages and so on?"

"Yes, I have a first aid kit. I'll take care of him; don't you worry, " Blair said as he got into the driver's side. "I took extra classes in first aid, so please don't give us another thought."

He had his window down and heard someone yell, "Someone's coming up the road really fast, Sheriff. Better get that young man out of here."

The Sheriff leaned into Blair's window, kissed his cheek and said, "Take good care of our Jim. He's one in a million."

"I'll do my best, ma'am," Blair said starting the Durango and pulling out of the parking lot and taking off. * Blair wondered why he was so willing to fall in with the townsfolks' wish to keep Ellison safe. With any luck, he wouldn't have to worry about this town for a while anyhow. *

His passenger said weakly, "I have a cabin that no one knows about. No one. Go straight until you reach the tree that's split down the middle and turn left. Go five miles and that's my cabin. The name on the security gate says Miller. The code for the alarm system is 31152."

Blair took off for this place like a bat out of hell. Ellison looked bad. Blair found himself shaking. He'd never seen anyone beat up quite this badly. He needed to get the man somewhere and figure out what was wrong with him. * Sandburg, what do you think you'll do with him once you get there? It's not like passing a first aid course makes you a fucking doctor. *

His passenger said quietly, "Hey, Chief, I'm going to be all right. I used to be a medic in the service. I just need to stay low and get better. I might have some broken ribs, my shoulder and maybe my leg. But other than that I'm doing pretty well."

Blair didn't even ask him how he knew this shit. He just believed him although he fucking looked half dead. * Jesus, why'd you have to say that, you idiot, now he'll probably die on you? *

"Calm down, Chief. You have to slow your breathing and your heart rate or you're going to pass out," Ellison said sounding surprisingly calm.

Blair looked over at him as if he had grown a second head. "How in the fuck do you know if my heart's going too fast? And I'm not breathing fast."

"I'm sorry I said anything. The turn's up here, Chief. Turn left," Ellison said weakly.

"Man, don't pass out. You're too fucking big for me to carry," Blair said, trying to lighten the mood. However, it was too late, he had passed out. * What the hell was that business about hearing my heart beat? Is this man insane on top of everything else? *

After driving around a while, Blair finally found the security gate that said Miller on it. Pulling up, he punched in the security code and waited for the gates to open. Driving up the road, he saw one of the most beautiful cabins he'd ever seen, and damn if Ellison didn't have a three car garage, too.

When Blair parked and shut the truck off, he tried to wake the unconscious man. He was unable to get any type of response. Ellison was barely breathing, from what Blair could tell by looking at him. Under the dome light, he could see the blue lips. * Shit... *

Blair got out, ran and opened the cabin with keys he found in his passenger's front pocket. Running back, he opened the Durango and tried to rouse the man enough to give him some help but he was completely out. Blair knew this was going to be hard but he was determined to get this man in a bed where he could fix what he could. Blair did the only thing he could think of. The fireman's carry was the best way of getting him into the house. * Back, don't fail me now. * As he lifted Ellison onto his back, he groaned and said, "Holy fucking shit...*

He went as fast as he could because Ellison weighed more than he thought. Once inside, he laid him down on the bed in the first bedroom. He rushed back out to the car and grabbed all of his gear. He had to make three trips before he was able to get it all in. He closed the front door and locked the deadbolt. Then he turned on the security system. Ellison, or the builder, was thinking when he had this cabin built. It was set up for any type of emergency. There were even backup generators. Blair found the button that said electric gate and turned it on. He didn't want anyone up here without his knowledge. .. Now Blair felt like he could concentrate on one James Ellison. Blair had a feeling that Ellison was going to take a lot of nursing back to health.

Blair brought in a pan of clean water and cloths to clean Ellison with. * They must've used fucking baseball bats on him. Jesus...* As he started cleaning him up, his patient woke up. Moaning, he turned to Blair and said, "You have to set my leg. The pain's beyond belief. I can't stand it."

Blair could hear the desperation in Ellison's voice and knew that he had to do something for him...and soon.

First thing he had to do was strip him of all of his bloody clothing. Ellison didn't fight him on this. He seemed to understand that Blair was only trying to help.

Looking into Ellison's eyes, Blair compared pupil sizes. They weren't unequal and seemed to be reacting normally to light. This was all good news. It meant that Ellison didn't have a concussion. * And where did you get your medical degree, Sandburg? Just keep watching him. * Blair knew that he'd still have to check the man's vitals and his pupil reaction every hour for a while.

Blair ran his hands firmly over the man's cheekbones; checking for broken bones. He ran his fingers from in front of Ellison's ears to the man's chin. There seemed to be no fracture on his face at all, which again was really good news. Blair knew, though, he would have to continue watching him until he was better.

Blair worried about Ellison puncturing a lung due to a fractured rib. He listened to hear if his breathing was too fast but he didn't hear any labored breathing at all. Maybe his patient was very lucky.

Blair knew that he needed to get Ellison into a half-sitting position. Getting the larger man moved was going to prove much harder than Blair had anticipated.

He cleaned up the blood from Jim's face and told him to try not to breathe so hard. Ellison really needed to relax a little. He told him to concentrate on something else. To think of nothing else but that one thing and see if that would help things. Immediately Jim's breathing slowed down and he seemed to calm quite a bit. Blair would have to ask him how he did that so quickly. Right now, he had better things to do.

Blair then checked to see if Ellison had any noticable shortening of a leg or unusual positioning. Running his hands down the large man's thighs, he felt above the knee caps, the knees themselves and just below for swelling, which would indicate fracture of the lower end of the femur. He looked for damage to the knee joint or to the kneecap, and fracture to the upper end of the tibia, respectively. Unrelenting, Blair moved down each lower leg to the ankle, feeling the bony prominences on either side. He checked inside Ellison's boots for blood. Finding none, he was pleased about that, too. It wasn't as bad as Blair had first thought. It looked as if he had a sprain, not a fracture. Blair had expected Jim's bone to come popping out of his leg or something.

Using small sofa pillows, Blair put plenty of padding between Ellison's legs, moving the uninjured towards the injured leg, and tied the legs together firmly with broad bandages, starting with a figure-of-eight bandage around the ankles, but avoiding a bandage on top of the swollen area. Blair knew that the injured man needed to rest more than anything, to help himself heal, but would need to get him comfortable first. He applied heat to the swollen area and put two pillows underneath his legs to keep them elevated. But he still had to keep Ellison's upper body from lying flat.

Blair got more ice for Ellison's face. It was pretty swollen but Blair was almost sure that there was nothing broken. If nothing else, Ellison was sleeping quietly and apparently comfortably. Blair was surprised at that. Getting up, he got some juice and some Tylenol. When he came back Ellison was lying there looking at him. For some reason, this scared Blair. He said, "Ellison, are you all right?"

"Yeah. I feel a little better. Thanks," the injured man whispered.

Blair was never so happy to hear someone's voice in his life. For a brief moment he'd thought Jim Ellison was lying dead on the bed with his eyes open. For some unexplained reason, this scared the shit out of him. * Well, Sandburg, you have plenty of time to think that over while you're stuck up here taking care of him. * Mentally berating himself for being such an asshole, he went into the kitchen to see what types of food they had to work with.

Going through the cupboards, Blair found a lot of soup. * Good, because he's not going to be able to eat anything major for a while. * He found canned milk, coffee and some canned juices. Blair made a pot of coffee and put the canned milk in the fridge, along with the canned juice. He needed to be sure that Ellison got plenty of liquids.

After the sick man had slept for about two hours, Blair made up a small bowl of soup and got him a large glass of juice. He walked over to the bed and sat down on the chair next to it. Ellison opened his eyes and said, "I can't eat right now. I don't feel like it."

"Well, Ellison, you're either going to eat now or I'll call an ambulance and have them take you to Cascade General. Do you understand?" Blair asked sternly.

"Fine, but if I puke you're the one that has to clean it up," Ellison muttered.

"Well, I'll deal with it, Ellison. Now I'm going to feed you. Your shoulder isn't broken as far as I can tell. So I just have it wrapped because it's probably sore. Same with your leg - I think it's just twisted. And I don't want you to use your arms yet. Are you doing okay?"

"What do you think, Chief?"

"Right, dumb question. Sorry. Now open up and eat like a good boy," Blair said, laughing as Jim Ellison crossed his eyes at him.

Ellison found out that he was hungry and Blair had been right. He'd feel better if he rested and ate something. He also drank an entire glass of juice with Blair's help. Then he leaned into Blair's arm and fell asleep. Blair looked down at the sleeping man and wondered how he had ended up like this.

The next two days went by the same as that first one. Blair helped Ellison with bathroom breaks. He had made a sort of bed pan and a urinal of sorts. In addition, Blair gave him sponge baths every day so nothing would get infected.

Ellison was healing really well. Blair was quite impressed, if he had to say so himself. Finally, that day, after two long days (that seemed like twenty) of taking care of Ellison, Blair was surprised to hear him say, "Chief, call me Jim, okay?"

"Okay, Jim." Blair said and wondered why that seemed so important to this man.

"I could never thank you enough for this. You've saved my life, literally." Jim said, getting tired again.

"Well, you'll be giving me plenty of money when we get home if we don't make it to the next court date. Your lawyer was able to extend it before I left Cascade. He also said he'd talk to the police about things for the time being. If we don't make it back, Simon will lose his business and his home. So you'll pay all right."

Jim watched as Blair sat at the kitchen table and cleaned his weapons. He did this daily and Jim had come to feel very protected and safe when he knew how much this man cared for his guns. Blair looked over at Jim once and saw him watching him and smiled shyly. Jim turned his head and looked out the window by the bed. He tried to think of other things. Nothing helped. For some reason, he really liked this man. Jim had been with men before but he could tell that Blair Sandburg hadn't been with anyone of the same sex. He always knew; his instincts had never once been wrong. * Why do you always do this? Fall for someone that isn't straight for a change. *

Blair was almost done cleaning, shining and polishing his weapons and kept looking over at Jim's bed. For some reason, Jim was watching him more today. Well, they'd been up here for awhile; and again he was probably just horny. Laughing to himself, he continued his work and looked over at Jim to see him watching him again.

* Shit, Sandburg, he does have a thing for you. Now what are you going to do? Sandburg, you're the one that's horny. *

Blair finished his work and cleaned up the kitchen. He walked in and sat down next to the bed and said, "You feel like talking?"

"Sure. What do you need to know?" Jim asked.

"I need to know what the fuck's going on. Who were those men in that alley and why were they trying to kill you? Who are all of those people in town? Why do they like you so much? And last, but not least, if you didn't kill your friend, who did?" Blair said finally taking a breath.

Jim just stared at him and said, "Okay, one thing at a time. Those men were hired by my friend's killer. They didn't want me to get back to Cascade and let it out about who I think really did it."

"Did you recognize any of them, Jim?"

"No, none of them. I don't think so anyhow. Next question's easy. Those people in town are like my family. I bought this town some time ago. No one knows but them. I keep their little town alive and all I ask is for no special treatment when I'm up here in my cabin. None of them know where it is. I help pay their salaries to keep the town going. It's a nice little town."

"Well, now it makes sense. They all acted like you were some sort of god or something," Blair said, smiling.

"As far as who killed my friend, I think it was his wife. I overheard her last month talking about some of the money she'd taken out of the bank account. He wasn't just my partner; he was also my investor. His wife did the books. I think that she was skimming and was fucking both of us in the process."

"Wouldn't the police look at her as a suspect?" Blair asked.

"I'm sure they are looking at her as a suspect but she has an alibi. She was with her lover," Jim said flatly.

*She... was fucking both of us...* Did that mean... "Oh, shit. She was sleeping with you?"

"No, Chief, I went by to have him sign something and I could hear her in the house with another man. Believe me, the sounds I heard couldn't be misconstrued. I wanted to tell him but I didn't want to hurt him. I knew that would," Jim said breathing hard.

"Man, you were sleeping with him? Weren't you?" Blair asked, shocked.

"Yes. He was with me that night. He insisted on going home. I didn't want him to but he said he was going to break it off with her. That was the last time I heard from him. Later that night, she called and said he hadn't been home. The next thing I knew he was in ICU and his wife told police that I had tried to hurt her husband before."

Blair started pacing back and forth across the living room until Jim finally called out and asked him to stop. "Chief, it shouldn't matter if the papers find out I'm gay. I have money invested wisely. I don't have to worry about making more. The only thing I do worry about is my family."

"Jim, those men I shot were sent to kill you. Someone has to be behind this besides the wife. What's her name, anyway?"

"Rita. I think it was the man she was sleeping with the day I went there."

"This is a strange question, man. But how did you hear what was going on in Rita's house if you weren't in there?" Blair asked.

"Chief, you don't even want to know."

"Why not? What could it hurt?"

"Well, first of all, it lays ground for an insanity plea," Jim said sadly.

"Just tell me. It'll never leave this room," Blair said, trying to get Jim to trust him.

"I don't know why, but for some reason I have heightened senses."

"You mean, you can hear really well?" Blair asked.

"I could hear Rita from my truck and she was inside the house, in her bedroom."

"No shit? Do you have any other senses that are affected?" Blair wondered aloud.

"All of them. All five." Jim said looking defeated and exhausted.

"Hey, man, you better rest for awhile. We'll talk about this when you're up to it. Rest, Jim. Try not to worry," Blair said, touching Jim's arm and rubbing it gently.

Jim was asleep within moments. Blair was humming with excitement. * God, what were the chances of ever finding someone like he had heard about on his CD? A watchman or guardian, isn't that what the man called them? Shit, Jim Ellison might be a full blown Sentinel. * Blair walked out to the garage and got into his car and got the CDs on the Sentinel project. He knew he needed to study up on it. When he got back into the cabin, he once again locked himself and Jim in, safe from the world for the time being. He put the CD into the portable player, attached it to his belt and listened while he made some dinner. As he worked, he was fasinated by what the man had to say. He didn't even notice that Jim had wakened and was watching him as he paced in the kitchen. When he looked over he saw Jim's lips moving and snatched the earphones off and said, "I'm sorry, Jim. I didn't want to wake you up. I had to listen to something. What were you asking?"

"I just wanted to let you know that what you're listening to isn't always true. I can tell you what's true and what isn't."

"Shit, Jim. You could hear it from across the room with the earphones on?" Blair asked in amazement.

For the next two hours, Jim told him everything he'd need to know about the senses he had. Then Jim told him about times when he would lose track of time.

"This Professor said those episodes are called zone outs. You're focusing too hard on one thing. You need to use two senses to be on the safe side. We can work on it. I'll listen to the rest of it and we'll try some things."

"Chief, you're enjoying this, aren't you?" Jim asked smiling.

"Actually, yeah. I love learning. And then to have something like this happen while I'm studying about it makes me think it was meant to be; like fate, karma, or kismet. Whatever. What? Stop laughing," Blair said, swatting at Jim but missing him on purpose.

"Sorry, Chief. You just reminded me of a hippie for a second there," Jim said trying not to laugh and hurt his ribs.

"Okay, sleep for a while and when you get up, you can have dinner and we'll talk some more," Blair ordered.

"Yes, Master," Jim said, but did close his eyes and fall asleep quickly.

Blair looked over at him and smiled. Jim was a nice looking man. Even with the bruises, he could tell how nice he must look when healed. It seemed like forever since he saw him for those few moments at the diner. Blair found himself wanting to see him when he was fully healed, and not to sponge bathe him or nurse him back to health. Unless he really wanted a sponge bath.

Blair hooked up his laptop to the telephone and got online. He and Simon had opened up accounts for emergencies. That way no one would trace either of them.

Subj: Boss man, I have news.
Date: 3/22/01 5:09:54 PM US Mountain
Standard Time From: Skippy2@Tracer.com
To: Skippy1@Tracer.com

Hi, Simon. I just wanted to let you know that everything's going well. Let me give you a run down of what's happening and you can email me and ask questions.

1. The Skip has a cracked or bruised rib, healing quite nicely right now. I thought his leg was broken, but now think it might have either been sprained or just twisted. It's healing well, also. His other injuries are all superficial. We hope to make it back in time for the court date but I'm not sure if we'll be able to make it. Will keep you posted.

2. The Skip has been filling me in on a few things. First of all, he overheard his friend's wife sleeping with another man. She was stealing money from their business. I might as well tell you up front, the Skip was sleeping with said friend. Not the wife, the friend. Could you please check out who hangs around that woman?

3. There were four men in a small town two hours from Cascade, won't tell you where, but they attacked our skip and tried to kill him. I had to defend our skip and in the process had to shoot two of the four men. The other two were shot by the sheriff, and one of them died from his wound. They told Skip that they were hired by a woman, so Skip figures it was wife of friend. We really need to check and see who she hangs out with. That would help a great deal.

4. Simon, there isn't a chance that we'll get out of here before the two weeks are up. Do you think you could let Skip's lawyer know that he's doing okay but he needs to mend before we come in? I have to keep him alive and I don't think I could do that if he was in Cascade. These people are very serious. I'm keeping him resting and safe here. Don't worry. I'm going to send you some money for the business. It's in a bank account in Mexico. I'll give you all of the numbers so you're able to get to it. I'm sorry for not being there to help you, Simon. I think this man's innocent and I really think he needs our help. You'll forgive me, right?

Talk to you later on. Write and let me know what's going on. I'm a little stir crazy here.

Best wishes,
Little Skip.

Blair sent off the email, checked his mailbox and found six notes from Simon. All of them asked if he was all right. He knew that Simon would be worried to death. At least he got that email sent off to make his boss feel better. Smiling as he answered all of them, he signed off and went to check on Jim again.

Jim was in the middle of having a nightmare. He started to get agitated but Blair stopped him from moving around too much. Jim opened his eyes and said, "What are you doing, Chief?"

"You looked like you were going to come off the bed, man. I really don't want to have to start all over again."

"Do you ever sleep?" Jim asked looking at the tired man.

"Well, I sleep every night. You know that."

"You call that sleeping? In the chair next to the bed?"

"Well, it's better than not sleeping at all, man. I take what I can get," Blair said, smiling.

"Well, from now on, we'll share this bed, it's big enough. I'm not going to attack you or anything. No need to worry," Jim said seriously.

"I wasn't worried. The thought never occurred to me."

"Oh," Jim said, reddening slightly.

"Well, that came out wrong. Sorry," Blair said, matching Jim's blush and raising it to really blushing.

"It's okay, Chief. Really," Jim said, moving slightly. "Hey, I just moved a little and I can breathe easier. I think I'm on the road to recovery."

"Good news. We need to get you in shape so we can get to trial," Blair said, thinking of Simon more than anyone.

"Sandburg, I'm not going back there without a fight. Do you understand? They'll kill me and then you'll have nothing," Jim said sadly.

"Jim, I promise I won't let them hurt you," Blair said.

Deciding to change the subject, Jim asked, "So what's for dinner tonight?"

"I'm making something and I'm not telling you what. You'll be surprised. Unless, of course, you can tell me what it is from the smell alone while I'm cooking it."

"You're on," Jim agreed, smiling.

Blair jumped up and started dinner with Jim lying there waiting to start guessing. He didn't want to burst Blair's bubble but he already knew what he was making. He could smell the hamburger while it was thawing and now he could smell the green peppers, red peppers, onions, tomatoes, eggs and salt and pepper. Jim smiled when he realized that he was making a meatloaf. When Blair bent over to get the bowl for the loaf Jim called out, "Meatloaf."

"All right, how in the hell could you know that? I haven't even started yet," Blair complained.

Jim explained how he could smell all of those things and when he started smelling them. Blair was so impressed that he almost flew over and jumped on the bed. Damn, he wished that Jim was in better shape.

* Sandburg, get your damn mind out of the gutter. *

Once he was finished making it and shaping it, he put it in the oven with two baked potatoes. He put the oven on 350 degrees and set the timer for one hour. He felt better about Jim having a real meal for the first time in days.

He walked into the bedroom and turned on the television so Jim could watch some news. Blair got his laptop and sat down on the bed next to Jim. He powered it up, hooked up the line and checked to see if Simon had answered him back yet. Sure enough, there was an answer from Simon.

As Blair went to check his mail, he looked down and Jim was sound asleep on his arm. It was so damned sweet realising that he was trusted that much..* Sandburg, you're getting soft. Get you mind back on business and stop thinking about him as anything more than a skip. *

Subj: Boss man, My ass.
Date: 3/22/01 7:09:54 PM US Mountain Standard
Time From: Skippy1@Tracer.com
To: Skippy2@Tracer.com

Sandburg, what the fuck are you doing? Have you lost the little bit of sense you had left? I want you back here on the double. I know that you want to believe skip. Hell, I want to believe skip. But it still boils down to the fact we have no proof and we need him here in seven days or I'll lose everything. You'll be aiding and abetting. Just try to think about that for a moment.

I checked on the wife of Skip's friend and she's got some interesting friends. I'll tell you about them when I talk to you. She's been living pretty high on the hog since Skip has been out of the picture so I figure that she has some of his money. That's if he's as innocent as we believe he is. Sure wish this Skip would remember who he heard or saw at the house that day with his friend's wife. See if you can help him remember anything. Okay?

I guess I could ask you if you're all right but you would tell me that you're fine, no matter what, wouldn't you? I hope that you'll stay safe. I think about you as my second son. Take care of yourself and come back safe and sound. Talk to you soon.

Big Skip

Blair decided that he'd ask Jim about the person's voice. He might be able to get him to relax and try to have voice recollection from a zone. * Jim seemed to be at a loss about that time so maybe it's someone he knows and he zoned. That would make some sort of sense. I'll talk to him when he wakes up. *

Blair answered Simon's email and told him not to worry so much. He explained that Ellison had told him not to worry and he'd pay for everything. Hopefully, that would make Simon feel more secure. When he finished he started making notes about the case. Who killed Roger Marshall? Why? Did Jim know who the killer was? Did he hear him or see him? Did the wife know about the two men? How long had the affair been going on between Marshall and Ellison? Did anyone else know that Ellison was gay? Would this really not bother Jim to have people into his private matters? Could Jim have killed his friend and lover? Would Jim allow him, Blair, to help him to relax and meditate until he had some memory of what had happened?

These were all good questions and Blair intended on asking Jim all of them. The timer went off on the stove and Jim woke up and said, "Smells good, Chief."

"I'm glad it does. I'd feel horrible if you said, 'Yuck, that smells bad.'"

Jim couldn't help laughing quietly. He was warming up to this young man. He seemed to be one of the nicest men Jim had ever met-as long as Jim remembered that they were only in this for business. Sometimes Jim had to tell himself this. He had miserable luck with lovers.

Blair got everything ready and brought the food over to the bed. He helped Jim sit up a little more. The younger man noticed that Jim was moving a lot easier tonight. That was good. He put the lap tray across Jim and helped him eat. They both ate off the same tray. Blair found it easier to have it there for both of them.

"This is delicious, Blair," Jim said, smiling.

"That's the first time you've ever called me by my name. I was ready to look over my shoulder and see if there was someone else in the room."

"Very funny. Actually, I like calling you Chief. You're the boss and all," Jim said as he started to laugh.

"Laugh it up, funny man, but remember who has to help clean you up after you go to the bathroom," Blair said evilly.

"Low blow, Chief, low blow."

They finished their dinner in silence. Blair finished cleaning up afterwards and did the nightly routine of bringing out the wash basin, cloths and towels. Blair noticed that Jim seemed to be having problems tonight. "Jim, is something wrong?"

"No, other than I'm just tired of being dependant on you to be clean and everything else."

"I'm sorry things are going slow but I think you're really making a quick recovery. Your injuries looked much worse than they are. I'm thinking in a day or two we might try walking just a little bit."

"Thank god for that." Jim muttered. As Blair ran the cloths over Jim's body, Jim had to think of awful things to keep from popping a boner while Blair was doing this. Thank god it seemed to be working. Once Blair was done, he wrapped the leg and ribs again and then put clean sheets over him to keep him warmer.

Jim was so grateful that he was done that he sighed.

"That bad or that good?" Blair asked smiling.

"Just tired of it. I feel like I've been here for a month."

"Tell me about it, Jim. I'm not used to being cooped up either. I can't wait to get this thing over with so we can get back to our lives."

Soon after that, Blair said, "Jim, I'm leaving my gun here while I jump into the shower. Then when I'm done, if you're not too tired, I have some questions."

"Okay. I'll nap while you're in the shower."

"Jim, I need you to stay awake while I'm in the shower," Blair said seriously.

"Okay. Don't worry so much," Jim said smiling as Blair got up and walked into the bathroom.

Blair got under the hot water and felt some of the soreness and stiffness leave. * God, I'm so fucking sick of being indoors. I'm bored, tired and horny. Life goes on, Sandburg. *

When he finally came out, Jim was asleep. Blair was angry but knew that the other man was tired, so he let it go this time. Next time, he'd wait until Jim had napped before he left him alone again. Blair covered Jim with a quilt and then he climbed into bed himself. After about ten minutes, he felt Jim curl up behind his body and Blair felt so good that he fell asleep.

Jim woke the next morning curled up behind Blair Sandburg and wondered if anyone had ever told him how wonderful he smelled. * Like something exotic. He looked, smelled and acted like something or someone exotic. * If Jim had more nerve he'd tell him that. Right now, Jim needed to move because his cock was digging into Sandburg's ass. Not a good thing with the skip tracer who saved your life and is still trying to save your ass.

He was finally able to move away from Blair and he heard a moan come from the man next to him. "Hey, man, you took away my blanket."

Jim laughed then realizing that Blair was probably one of the most open people he'd ever met.

Blair did what he always did when he woke up. He relieved himself and then came and took care of Jim. Blair found it harder and harder to just keep it clinical. * Man, he has a nice cock. Jesus, Sandburg, get a grip. Oh no, not that kind of grip. *

"Want to share what's so funny, Chief?" Jim asked with his voice full of humor.

"No, I sure don't!" Blair said as he got up, took care of things, cleaned them up and then started breakfast.

* Man, what a long fucking day. *

The Beast Inside

I watch, with crude bodily pleasures.
Becoming a slave to my lower carnal desires.
I hunt for one thing and one thing alone.
My intellect tries to push the lustful feeling aside.
My male in me, has ruined it for us both.
I continue to watch him; he is a sensual beast.
My sexual appetite has no boundaries.
The quest is on; the search begins.
I'm the pursuer, while he remains the pursued.
Hounding him until he can no longer give chase.
I've become a hunter.
He's become the hunted.
I'm a Manhunter.
--Patt

After Jim's afternoon nap and a little bit of exercise on his leg, Blair decided to question Jim and see what would happen.

"Jim, who do you think killed Roger Marshall?"

"Shit, Sandburg, why not just come right out and ask things you want to know?" Jim said, almost stuttering.

"You wanna answer my question?"

"I think that Rita Marshall had him killed. I really can't see her doing it."

"Do you know why she would have had him killed?" Blair asked.

"Well, my guess would be that she might have found out about us. She was big on how things looked. She wouldn't like him being a fag one bit. Or maybe it was something as simple as Roger found out about her taking money from the company and she had to silence him," Jim said calmly, yet sadly.

"Jim, do you think that you might have seen or heard something at the Marshall house that day you were there? Do you feel like you might have zoned on something that was said?"

"I don't think so, Sandburg," Jim said, losing patience.

"So you think she knew about you and Roger? How long had you been sleeping together?"

"What the fuck has this got to do with anything?" Jim asked angrily.

"Well, it could mean something, Jim. Why not answer it and find out?"

"Fine, you want to know. It was the first fucking time we slept together."

"Why didn't you want to tell me that, Jim?" Blair asked with a slightly confused look on his face.

"Because... I just didn't want you to know," Jim said, his face turning more red by the moment.

"Holy shit, it was your first time? Oh, fuck. That changes things, Jim."

"No, it doesn't change a fucking thing. I had feelings for him for a long time. I was just afraid to do anything about them."

"So you were in love with him?" Blair asked.

"No, not in love. In lust," Jim answered.

"So, she couldn't have known about you and Roger, right?" Blair asked.

"Well, she might have because Roger hated her. He was going to dump her. That was before he slept with me. He liked men. He never liked women and just married her for looks."

"You think that he told her how he felt about you?"

"He might have," Jim said quietly.

"All right, what am I missing here? Did she know or didn't she?"

"She knew. She called me and told me to stay the fuck away from him."

"Or what?" Blair asked.

"Or she would tell my family and his family and ruin him."

"Do you believe she would?" Blair continued.

"Yeah, that's why Roger came over to my house that night. He wanted to calm me down. I told him I didn't want everyone to know about us."

"So, that was the second time you slept with him then?"

"No, we didn't sleep together that time. We talked, we argued and then he left," Jim said, looking away from Blair.

"What did you argue about, Jim?"

"He said he didn't want to get serious. He had other fish to fry," Jim said, embarrassed.

"So he was dumping you?" Blair asked.

Jim looked away again and answered, "Yes."

"Jesus, Jim. This will come out and it won't look good," Blair said trying not to panic at the thought of him helping a man who might have killed someone. * Oh, shit. *

"Well, we'll cover that when we need to. Jim, I'm sorry that we're having to cover things that are upsetting to you," Blair said, realizing that he meant every word. "Jim, how many people knew about you and Roger?"

"No one besides Rita. Well, that I know of anyhow."

"Do you know if anyone else knew about Roger being gay?"

"Sandburg, have you been listening to me? He wanted to sleep around. Of course there were others that knew!" Jim said, with such pain in his voice that Blair felt like wrapping his arms around the bigger man.

"Okay, only a few more questions Jim and then you can rest, all right? "

"Whatever, Chief. I can tell you think I did it now. So what difference does it make?"

"That is so not true, man. I was a little worried for a few minutes but then I realized you aren't the type to kill someone."

"Oh, you would be surprised, Chief. They'll find out I was a Ranger and they'll know I wouldn't think twice about killing someone."

"Jim, there's a big difference between the service and your friend." Blair heard something come out of Jim's mouth, but didn't understand it. "What did you just say? I'm not a Sentinel, Jim. I couldn't hear you."

"I said I wanted to kill him. He fucking used me," Jim said. There were tears in his eyes. Then just as quickly his face went back to the cold, dark and angry Ellison look.

"Now that I can understand," Blair said touching Jim's hand lightly.

Jim looked at Blair and said, "I don't need your pity."

"It wasn't pity. I like you. I'm glad we're here discussing all this and working things out."

"That's because you're weird," Jim said, trying to make a joke but failing miserably.

"We'll get this all figured out, Jim. I promise," Blair said, and found that he really meant it. He knew that Jim wouldn't kill anyone especially someone that he might have thought he loved.

"Jim, would you care if anyone else knew about you and Roger?"

"Well, I told myself I didn't care but when Rita called and threatened to tell my family, I panicked. I felt like my world would never be the same."

"How you doing here? Up for something else or do you want to sleep for awhile?" Blair asked concerned at the gray look that had come over Jim's face.

"I'm okay, I'd rather have it done with and then we can move on to whatever else you want to do," Jim said despondently.

"Jim, do you mind if we try something here?"

"No, what's up, Chief?"

"I want you to lie back and relax, close your eyes and listen to my voice. I want you to meditate and try to remember what you saw and heard the day you went to the Marshall home."

"Chief, I really don't want to think about it," Jim said stubbornly.

"Tough. Now relax, take deep breaths and do what I say."

"Fine, but I don't remember a thing." Jim sounded nervous.

Blair had him relaxed and talked him through memory tasks but nothing seemed to work.

"Jim, I think you're too tired to do this right. So why don't we do this tomorrow."

"Okay. I'm tired. I might just sleep for a little while," Jim said as he turned on his side and acted like he was sleeping.

Blair moved up behind him and curled his body around Jim's. Jim tensed up but Blair refused to give in. Before long, Jim relaxed and let himself be held by Blair and fell asleep.

As they lay there, Blair realized that he was falling for this man. It's wasn't as if being with a man was anything new. Blair had slept with a man in college, once. However, it didn't take. He felt like this one might. While he was thinking, he realized that he needed to give Jim some breathing room. Then he'd be able to remember plenty. So for the next four days, Blair was going to do everything he could to make Jim's recovery faster and more comfortable. Blair smiled to himself when he thought about what he'd really like to do. * Take a nap Sandburg; you're excessively horny. *

Each day as Jim got stronger, Blair found it harder and harder to stop touching the man. He was like a magnet for him. He was drawn to him. It was almost as if Jim could tell and used this against Blair. * Don't be silly; he isn't even aware of what he's doing. *

They started a slow recovery program of Jim trying to walk daily. He'd take a few steps and he would exercise his body so he didn't lose all of his muscle mass. On the fifth day, Jim walked to the bathroom for the first time unassisted. He was very pleased with himself. Blair was pleased, too, but now he'd have to watch him like a hawk. Blair knew that Jim would try to make a run for it as soon as he was stronger.

Jim asked Blair, "Do you think I could take a bath? I'm dying to soak in that hot tub."

"Sure, let me help you get in, okay?"

Blair started helping Jim off with his clothing and noticed that Jim seemed tense this time. "Something wrong, man?"

"No, I'm just tired and want to soak in the tub," Jim said as he started to get into the barely filled tub.

As Jim lay back in the tub letting the warm water loosen his muscles, he started to relax until Blair started washing his body. "Chief, don't."

Blair looked down and could see Jim growing harder as he rubbed the cloth over his chest and belly. "It's okay, Jim. It'll be all right."

"No, it won't," Jim said sadly.

"I'm sorry. I thought maybe you wanted me," Blair said, pulling away from Jim.

Jim grabbed his wrist and said, "I do, and that's the problem."

"I'm not so sure I like being called a problem," Blair said, smiling sexily at Jim, knowing that it would work.

"Chief, I'm so fucking scared of this."

"We'll work on it, Jim." Blair got out of his clothing and got in the hot tub. They began kissing and Blair knew instantly that this man was going to have to be his. Jim's kisses were like breathing; he knew he'd never be the same without them again. * God, how corny does it sound to say I think I found the other half of my soul? Nevertheless, I think I have. Who am I kidding? I know I have. *

Blair knew that he had to take things easy so he said, "Jim, lie back and enjoy the ride. We'll get crazy when you're feeling up to it. Tonight, I just want to make you feel good." Blair started kissing him again and stroked slowly up and down Jim's cock. Jim was moaning into Blair's mouth making the younger man almost lose it before they'd done anything. He decided he'd better speed things up or he'd come without Jim. The bigger man slid his legs open as an invitation. Blair took him up on that invitation and moved in between them, taking great care not to hurt him. He started stroking him harder now and playing with his balls until Jim was moaning loudly. Blair moved his finger down to Jim's hole and said, "Do you want me to, Jim?"

"Oh god, yes!" Jim answered, panting hard into Blair's face. Blair pulled back again and then went to town giving Jim the best blowjob he'd ever had in his life. When Blair's finger entered Jim's center, Jim came in Blair's mouth with a loud scream. * Ellison, you slut, you just screamed. *

Blair got up and while still between Jim's legs, started pumping his own cock while Jim watched in fascination. Blair kept pumping it until he was close, when he said, "Jim, touch me." Jim reached down and slid his finger into Blair's hole and Blair came all over Jim's belly and groin.

Jim was hard again; Blair couldn't believe his recuperative powers. He sucked him dry again and this time Jim sounded close to exhaustion. Blair smiled up at him and said, "Time for a nap?"

"Yeah, if you don't mind. Jesus, that was fantastic," Jim said, smiling at his new love.

"Yeah?" Blair asked, uncertainly.

"Yeah," Jim said, pulling him into a hug. "It was great, Chief, thank you."

"Let's get out of here, man. You're tired and cold," Blair said, getting up and out of the tub. He dried off and got dressed quickly and went to get some things for Jim to wear. As he helped the man out of the tub, Jim kept kissing him. "You're a fucking romantic, aren't you?" Blair asked, smiling like a loon.

"Yeah, sue me," Jim answered as he let Blair lead him to the bed for nothing but much needed sleep.

As they fell into a deep sleep, Blair dreamed that things were always good, and life was always fair. He was kidding himself, but it was his dream-he could think whatever he wanted to.

In the next four days, Jim got stronger and stronger each day. Blair knew that he'd have to face taking him back soon. He didn't know how to mention that he wanted to try the meditation thing again. They would have to discuss it. Jim was in the shower. He wanted to take a shower by himself to show Blair that he could manage it.

Blair sat down at the table and signed in on his laptop. He needed to see what was going on with Simon. As expected, there was an email from Simon. Blair didn't like the subject line so he knew he'd like the email even less.

Subj: Where the fuck are you???????
Date: 3/30/01 10:35:12 PM US Mountain Standard Time
From: Skippy1@Tracer.com
To: Skippy2@Tracer.com

Little Skip,

I'm going to fucking kick your ass when I see you the next time. Jim's lawyer talked to the DA and the Judge today. I went to him with everything we've uncovered and then the attorney got a postponement. They both agreed to a postponement but only for ten days. You have ten fucking days to get him back here or I lose everything. Do you hear me? I want to hear that you'll be back and soon. What's going on anyhow? Did you get answers to any of the questions?

Little Skip, I know that I'm not always the best boss, partner, or friend, but I'm telling you, I'll never talk to you again if you don't write and let me know you're all right. Please?

Big Skip.

Subj: I'm fine, Big Skip.
Date: 3/30/01 11:03:24 PM US Mountain Standard Time
From: Skippy2@Tracer.com
To: Skippy1@Tracer.com

Big Skip,

I'm sorry that I haven't written in the last couple of days. I've been busy.. I'm getting Skip 3 ready for the trip. He's almost ready. So don't worry, we'll be there. OK? I miss you too, Big Skip. Don't worry so much. I'll be there soon. Things will be just fine.

Little Skip.

As he sent it off, he heard Jim coming out of the bathroom. "Jim, I need to talk to you about something."

Jim walked over to the table, slowly, but in pretty good shape considering. He leaned down and kissed Blair and said, "Hey, I could use a kiss before you get all serious on me."

Blair kissed him long and hard and ultimately pulled away. "Jim, I want to try the meditation thing again. We might be able to find something out."

Kissing Blair once more, he sat down and leaned back against him and closed his eyes. Blair was shocked at how easily Jim had given in. Suddenly, Blair realized that Jim loved him. * Holy fucking shit... *

"Jim, do you love me?" Blair asked out of the blue. Jim looked up at him, tilting his head back against his chest more and said, "Yeah, I do. You okay with that?"

"Oh yeah. I'm fine with that," Blair said, smiling.

"Okay, Chief, let's get this show on the road. Then we'll head back to Cascade and we can save your friend's business and all of that," Jim said anxiously.

Blair talked Jim through the relaxation exercise and before long Jim was breathing just like Blair did when he meditated. "Think back to that day, Jim. Think about how many voices you heard."

"I heard two," Jim said.

"Did you recognize them?" Blair asked.

"Yes, I knew who they were. One was Rita Marshall and the other was..." Jim sat up quickly and said, "Chief, I need to get back to Cascade, right now."

"Okay, that's fine. Want to tell me who it was?" Blair asked somewhat confused.

"Shit, Chief, it was me."

"It was not! Who was it, Jim?" Blair asked knowing damn well that Jim was lying.

"It was me, now take me and turn me in," Jim said and walked outside to the Durango.

Blair said, "I'll be out in a second." Picking up the phone, he dialed Simon's number and said, "Check and see what you can find out about Steven Ellison. Something happened when I tried to have him remember things and now suddenly he wants to turn himself in and he says he did it. So I know it has to be his brother. He has no other friends, right?"

"Not that we know of, kid. Man, you think he'd give up his life for his brother?"

"Oh yeah, I know he would. He's a great guy, Simon," Blair said all dreamily.

"Shit, you went and fell in love, didn't you?" Simon asked knowing the answer.

"Yeah, Simon, I did. And he's great. Wait until you meet him," Blair said getting all soft inside.

"Blair, I don't know how to say this, but what if he did kill the guy?"

"I know he didn't, Simon. Please believe me. Make sure that his attorney's the best that money can buy. Jim wouldn't have cared really, but I do."

Blair locked up the cabin with a sadness coming over him. He knew that he'd never have this quiet love again. He wasn't even sure if he and Jim would even be in love after they left here. But he, at least, had this to fall back on and remember. God, how he loved that man.

He climbed into the Durango and they pulled away from the cabin and he saw Jim looking at the cabin the same way he had. "Think we'll ever come up this way again, Jim?"

"I don't think so, Blair."

Having Jim use his given name scared the shit out of Sandburg. He knew that there was trouble then."

"Jim, talk to me, please?" Blair pleaded. "I don't want us to end this way."

"Chief, it's something I have to do. It's just something I have to do," Jim said with such sadness in his voice that Blair had tears roll down his face. Silent, damaging tears. Ones that didn't do a thing for his broken heart. He had finally found his other half and now he was going to lose him.

As they neared Cascade, Blair pleaded one more time, "Jim, please?"

"Chief, it's something I have to do."

Blair drove up to the police station, turned Jim into the department and got his slip and left. He drove over to their office and walked in the front door. He took one look at Simon and went into his arms and started to cry softly. Simon held him in a strong, close embrace. "Wanna talk about it, Blair?"

"No. I can't believe I lost him just as quickly as I found him."

"I have some things to tell you. I talked to Jim's lawyer and he said he'll try and talk Jim into being reasonable. Try not to worry, kid," Simon said, trying to calm him down.

"Simon, I love him so much and I never thought I'd fall in love," Blair said.

"Kid, I hate to do this but cops are looking for you for a statement. I'm surprised they didn't contact you while you were there today. They need a statement about shooting the two men."

"And? Maybe I can go to prison with Jim, eh?" Blair asked laughing with pain in every word spoken. Simon wondered if Blair would ever recover from this.

"Simon, there's got to be something we can do," Blair said.

"Well, I'm checking out Steven Ellison but as far as we can tell he was out of town that night. I don't think it can be him."

"What about any other family or friends?" Blair asked.

"Well, we did find out that he was dating someone named Carolyn Plummer. She seemed quite upset about him being missing. We might have to question her, too. She seemed to think that her Jim would never hurt a fly."

"We'll check her out, right?" Blair asked.

"Already started it," Simon said.

"Simon, I can't lose him. I can't lose the only person I've ever been in love with."

"And you won't. Stop worrying. We'll let the lawyers do the worrying. Now, go home and just rest."

"No, I need to do something to keep me busy. I have to help clear his name."

"It's good to have you back, kid," Simon said as he squeezed Blair's shoulder.

Blair started making phone calls and knew he was getting nowhere but he felt as if it was important enough to take care of personally.

Blair was getting nowhere with his phone calls. He was frustrated already and he had just started.

"Sandburg, can you do me a favor?" Simon asked.

"Sure, Simon, what's up?" Blair asked, looking up from his notes.

"I have a skip that needs to be picked up. It's a good one. A lot of money for both of us," Simon said.

"Man, you know, normally I would but I have to do this for Jim right now," Blair said as he drank his fifth cup of coffee of the day. If he kept this up, he'd be on the ceiling in another hour.

"That's okay, kid, I'll do it," Simon said, walking away from Blair's desk.

"Shit," Blair said, getting up. "I'll do it, Simon. Who is it? And how long's this going to take me?"

"Well, probably not that long. Here's his jacket. He's armed and dangerous, so be careful. While you're doing that I'm going to find out more about Steven Ellison and Carolyn Plummer."

"Thanks, Simon. I knew I could count on you," Blair said opening up the file. The man was one Lester Fry. Blair couldn't help it. He started laughing. Simon walked over and said, "You all right, kid?"

"Yeah, his name cracked me up."

Simon looked down at the name and said, "You think Lester's a funny name?"

"It sounds like Let Stir Fry," Blair said, yawning, and starting to put his jacket on.

Simon pushed him into the bathroom and said, "Okay, wash up, throw cold water on your face and get to work."

When Blair came out of the bathroom, he had no shirt on under his duster and Simon said, "Going for a new look, Sandburg?" Simon thought that not everyone could pull this look off but Sandburg did it with ease.

"No, just have to run home and get a clean shirt - and it's too damn cold to go without my jacket."

"Be careful with Lester Fry, Blair, okay?" Simon asked, concerned.

"Yes, Dad," Blair said, laughing, as he walked out the door.

Getting into his Durango, he thought of how great Jim would look sitting next to him working here. Side by side, tough guys. Blair smiled to himself and thought, *geeze, get a grip, Sandburg *.

Blair stopped home and got a clean shirt, checked his holsters and his guns and went back to the truck to find Lester Fry. The jacket said that he hung out with a man who ran a little diner downtown. So Blair figured he'd try that spot first. He walked into the diner and everyone watched him. Blair knew that he looked good. He wasn't tall, so he made sure that he accented what he did have. He had a great ass, shoulders and hair. He wasn't trying to be smug or conceited; he just knew what he had and what he didn't. The duster accented all of the above. It gave him an air of pure sex appeal. Smiling, he went in and took a seat. He left his jacket on because he was wearing his guns.

He ordered another cup of coffee. It was so strong it nearly knocked his duster right off of his body. * Holy shit - I'm going to be up for a week. *

He then ordered breakfast and while eating it, his skip walked in, plain as day. He looked over at Blair and Blair did the only thing he did really well in this situation. He smiled at him coyly.

The skip walked over and said, "What ya looking at, pretty boy?"

"You," Blair answered as he continued to eat.

"Pretty boy, I don't like getting looks from the likes of you," Lester said.

Blair started to get up and Lester said, "Sit back down, you little faggot."

Blair shoved Lester, fast, hard and unexpectedly and Lester found himself on the floor looking up at Blair. He got up and started to swing at Blair but Blair was way too fast. He took him down with two hits to Lester's jaw. Pulling out his handcuffs, Blair put them on Lester and then in a fireman's hold, carried him out to his Durango.

Three people from the diner tried to help Lester so Blair pulled his gun out and said, "Unless you want to join us at the police station, you'd best step back." Knowing that he meant it from the sound in his voice, they went back into the diner and Blair drove off.

* All right, Sandburg, this is the second fireman's lift you've had to do in the last ten days. Holy shit, you must think you're Arnold. Well, you're not. A man has got to know his limitations. I think my fucking back has hit my limitations.*

As Blair pulled into the parking lot of the Police Department, Lester woke up and started cussing up a storm. Blair got him inside and got his receipt and left to go to the station where they were keeping Jim.

While driving to lock up, his cell phone rang. "Sandburg." Blair answered, coldly. He was still in his cold and unfeeling mood.

"Cool it, this is me you're talking to," Simon said, laughing. "Any luck with that guy?"

"Yup, I got him signed, sealed and delivered. He called me a little faggot. Can you imagine?" Blair asked chuckling.

"Well, at least you've got a sense of humor about it," Simon said. "Got time for another one?"

"I don't have a sense of humor, Simon. I basically am," Blair said, laughing harder now.

"You're warped. You do know that, right?" Simon asked.

"Simon, I really want to see Jim," Blair said.

"First this and then visit Jim," Simon ordered.

"Fine, what the hell is it?" Blair muttered .

"Her name's Brenda Spread. She's an easy one but we still have to get her in here today. I'm sending the fax to you right now."

Blair started howling and Simon said, "What?"

"Nothing. I'm just a little slap happy today and all I could see when you said Brenda Spread was, bend and spread," Blair said, laughing all over again..

"Geeze, you're going to be like this until you get this all finished, aren't you?"

"Yes, Simon, I am. It's my job to be annoying until you help me get Jim out of there," Blair said with nothing but love in his voice. After all, he really did love the older man. He was his best friend.

"Well, I'm working on it, kid. Just go and pick this one up and we'll be caught up for a few days."

"Okay, talk to you later, Simon."

Blair pulled over and waited for the fax to get through and he read all about Brenda. Once he found out where he could find her, he headed in that direction, with one thing in mind. * When I'm done here I get to go and see Jim. *

While Blair was out doing his job, Jim was left to his thoughts in his cell. He paced, not liking the idea of being locked up at all. However, he had brought this on himself. He realized that the second voice he heard was his brother's. Steven was discussing what they could do with Jim and Roger's money. Pain throbbed in his head, making him see double. He finally had to sit down. Betrayed by his brother. Jim couldn't believe that Steven would use him like this.

God, what had he ever done to him to make him so hateful? Steven worked for Jim and William and made a lot of money. He hadn't gone as far as Jim had but only because he didn't have the passion for the work. Steven had his father's love though. Didn't he at least know that? Would Steven be capable of killing Roger? Oh having him killed? Worse, would he have Jim killed?

As Jim thought about all of this, he was growing more depressed. He would take the rap for this because he couldn't turn his brother in. He just couldn't. He sat and thought about things and suddenly remembered that he heard more than Steven in the house. Steven was with Rita. He hadn't been on the phone. It had been someone else. * Oh my god. It's all my fault. All my fault. * That was the last thing Jim remembered as he slipped into a zone..

Blair found Brenda Spread in record time, took her to the station to get his receipt, and went back to the office. "Any news on anything?"

"Not yet, kid. But don't give up hope yet. I have found out that Steven Ellison was here the better part of the day, so he wasn't gone all day as he had said earlier," Simon said.

"Good, because I'm sure that Jim's covering for him."

"Why don't you go and check on him?" Simon suggested as Blair almost flew out the door.

"See ya later, Simon."

Blair arrived at the station and they informed him that they had to call 911 and the paramedics were down there right now. They escorted Blair to the holding room where they were working on Jim.

Blair walked over, touched Jim's arm and hand and rubbed them as he said, "Come on, Jim. Come on back to me, tough guy."

The first EMT tech said, "We've been working on him for about 15 minutes and he's still not coming around. We're getting ready to transport."

"No, not yet," Blair said, "give me a few more minutes. He'll come out of it any moment now." Blair continued to rub on Jim's arm and said, "Come on, Jim. They're going to take you to the hospital. We don't want to go to the hospital. Do we?"

"What's this we shit?" Jim asked, grinning at Blair.

The techs started making a fuss over him, turned to Blair, and said, "What did you do?"

"Nothing. I just talked to him. The man's been charged with a murder he didn't commit, wouldn't you freak out, too?" Blair said as if this explained it. And the funny thing was, they bought it. Jim was in awe of being in the presence of a world-class bullshitter.

The cops came and took him back to his cell but the EMT's talked the cops into letting Blair go down to lock up with them. "You might want to stay with him for a while," the officer on duty said.

They put Jim back into the cell and brought a chair for Blair to sit on outside the cell. The officer said, "We don't normally do this but that scared the shit out of us."

"I imagine it did. He was just stressed out," Blair said, trying to sound calm.

"Well, murder does that to a person," the officer said, walking away.

Whispering, Jim said, "Chief, what the fuck are you doing here? I told you I didn't want you involved with this. I'm pleading guilty."

"Like hell you are. God, you can be such an asshole when you want to be. You're so arrogant. Are you being gallant for someone, Jim? Did you ever think about how I felt about this?" Blair asked with the hurt evident in his voice.

"Chief, you're not listening. I can't do anything else. I asked for this and I've got to take care of it."

Blair leaned into the bars and softly said, "Do you love me, Jim?"

"You know I do." Jim answered.

"If you did, you wouldn't be doing this. You'd be fighting for your life. You'd want to spend the rest of your days with me, not with some guy named Bubba in prison."

"Bubba?" Jim said, smiling at Blair.

"It's not fucking funny. You'll be someone's bitch. Don't you watch those shows? I watch Oz," Blair said, pacing and working himself up into a panic attack.

"Blair, calm down. I'm not going to be anyone's bitch," Jim said, touching Blair's hand as he walked by.

Blair pulled his hand away from Jim and said, "You don't get to touch me ever again. You don't deserve to. You fucking used me. I hate you!" Blair started to storm off but Jim's voice stopped him.

"Chief, please don't leave me like this. Please?"

Blair turned around and said, "I'm going to think about all of this but you've got to think about things, too. I won't visit you in prison."

"I'll do some hard thinking, Blair. I promise," Jim said sadly as he sat down and watched the love of his life leave the room.

All the way back to the office, Blair cried silent tears and wiped them with his sleeve, thinking, * gross. Toughen up, Sandburg. Real men do cry and then they wipe it on their sleeves. *

Jim lay down on his cot in the cell, closed his eyes, and felt the loss of someone he loved so much that it hurt. He knew he'd never be able to be with him again and that made him so sad he could hardly bear it. Why couldn't things have worked out better for both of them? * Why did you have to fuck up both of your lives? *

When Blair and Simon met two officers at the pub that night, Blair didn't know what to expect.

Simon shook both of their hands and said, "Mason and Mitchell, this is my partner, Blair Sandburg."

Both men shook Blair's hand and Mitchell said, "It's nice to finally meet you. You're quite the legend."

"Simon, why are we here again?" Blair asked rudely.

"Well, it's because these nice detective's are trying to figure out why your friend has lied and said he killed his partner when he didn't," Simon said, smiling at Blair.

"You guys think that Jim's innocent?" Blair asked with the first ray of hope he'd had all day.

Detective Mason said, "Well, we checked out his brother and he left town before Roger Marshall was killed. So then we started looking for other things."

"What other things?" Simon asked.

Mitchell said, "Well, for one, Ellison told us the reason he killed him's because they were lovers and he had dumped him. Well, we know this isn't true. Ellison had been dating Carolyn Plummer for about six months. I think she would've known."

"We're not saying that you always know if your lover's fucking someone else but I think she would have known if he wasn't into women," Mason said, "and Carolyn Plummer said that Jim had been with her that night. He just didn't want to ruin her reputation."

"This is like fucking Peyton Place," Simon said. "Anything else that we should know?"

"What's Fucking Peyton Place?" Blair asked, honestly puzzled.

"Oh shut up. I'll explain later," Simon said totally disgusted that Blair was so young he couldn't remember such a well-known show.

"We're investigating Ellison's father right now. He might have been behind Rita Marshall and Steven. But we're just guessing right now. We're taking our time on it," Mitchell said.

"If you need anything, please call me on my cell, home or business phones," Blair said handing them both a business card, "and thank you for believing in him."

When they left, Blair walked to his truck and said, "Simon, I have to go and see Jim and tell him we're still working the case."

"Okay, I'll talk to you tonight. Want to go out to eat? Daryl's in town." Simon asked.

"Yeah, that would be great. Why don't we meet at Antonopolous's. Daryl loves Greek food," Blair said.

"Okay, you're on. We'll meet you there at 7:00. Do I need to get reservations?"

"Wouldn't hurt, Simon. Tell Daryl I can't wait to see him," Blair said, climbing into his vehicle.

"Okay, we'll see you tonight and you tell Jim that we're standing behind him no matter what," Simon said, smiling at his partner and friend.

"Thanks, Simon," Blair said starting his truck and taking off. He was going to tell Jim exactly how he felt and see if that might help.

He filled out the paper work when he arrived at the station and they took him into a room where he could sit and wait to talk to Jim. Blair was waiting for one of those glass walls with the telephones but this would be much better. He was in a nice clean room with a table that had a clip on it to lock the cuffs. Blair hated to hear about Jim having cuffs on. When the officer walked into the room leading Jim Ellison, Blair was heartbroken to see what jail was doing to him. Gone was the proud, strong man he'd seen that night at the diner. Instead, he was replaced by a sad, uncaring man. His posture told you everything you would need to know about his feelings. Blair knew that one of the main reasons for his posture was the fact that he'd told him he hated him. He couldn't let him think this for very long. He didn't hate him. In fact, he had never loved anyone like he did Jim Ellison. Blair intended on making things right for both of them.

The officer locked Jim's cuffs to the bolt on the table and said, "If you need us you know where we are. I'll be right outside the door."

"Thank you," Blair said and never took his eyes off his love.

Jim still had not raised his head to look at Blair. Finally breaking the silence, Blair said, "Jim, could you look at me? I have something to say to you."

When Jim did look up, Blair saw the red-rimmed eyes of his lover and felt even worse than he did before. "Jim, I love you. I've never hated you and I shouldn't have said that to you. I'm sorry. Can you forgive me?"

"Yeah, baby, I can forgive you, but I can't give you what you want," Jim said sadly.

"What is it that I want, Jim?"

"You want me to give them names and go on with my life. Well, I ruined three people's lives and someone has to pay for it."

"So it has to be you? Why you, Jim? Why can't you let the one who killed him take the rap? Why?" Blair asked softly, knowing he would get no answer and probably only distress the sad man.

"Baby, please don't be angry,” Jim pleaded with Blair, but at hearing the endearment, Blair only got angrier.

"Blair, sit down and let me talk to you," Jim said with a shaky voice.

"Jim, are you going to go to prison?" Blair asked just as shakily.

"Probably so. I'm sorry, Chief. I'm truly sorry. I fucked up so bad. I thought I knew what I wanted and I hurt three people. I have to stand up to the punishment."

"I understand, Jim. I'll still come and see you every day, okay?" Blair said looking at Jim and smiled for the first time since he'd come into this room.

"Blair, I would love if you came to see me each day. It'll be the only thing to live for." Jim said sadly.

The door opened and the officer walked in and said, "Times up, guys. Sorry."

"Thanks for letting us talk this long," Blair said to the man.

"See you tomorrow, Chief," Jim said and the look on his face was one of pure grief. Blair's heart was breaking in two. He vowed right then and there that something would have to be done.

Blair went home and got ready for dinner with Simon and Daryl. He hoped that one of them would have some ideas. Blair was out of his league. If you needed to find a skip, Blair was your man, but left to matters of the heart, Blair didn't know much about them. All he did know was his was breaking. * The look on Jim's face said the very same thing, Sandburg. Do you wonder if he could die of a broken heart? I believe he is, right now. He's doing it slowly. *

Blair realized he'd have to figure out something, and soon. With this in mind, he left to go to the restaurant. * Please god; help us. *

Antonopolous's was a busy Greek Restaurant. It was one of Daryl's favorite places. Unbelievably, Blair had his taste buds set for lamb. He wasn't that big on meat, but sometimes if it was cooked right, he loved it and he always ordered stuffed grape leaves for himself for later on.

Walking in, he saw Simon and Daryl already sitting down in a booth. Daryl saw him coming and got out to give Blair a hug. "Hey, Blair, how's it going?"

"Great, Daryl. How's school?" Blair asked him.

Simon gave Daryl a look that said, * mind your own business. *

They all ordered drinks and dinner and then sat and discussed school with Daryl. It was nice to have a normal night after what they'd been going through. Finally, Daryl couldn't stand it anymore, and said, "So why's Ellison taking the blame for someone?"

"Simon, I don't believe you told him that," Blair said with a look of shock on his face.

"I didn't say a word. He came and asked me what was going on."

"Daryl, why would you want to know about it then? " Blair asked.

"Well, contrary to what my teachers think, sometimes I actually pay attention to current events. I know all about JJ Ellison and his problems. We all do. Did you know that he's paying my scholarship?"

"Daryl, you don't know that for sure. So don't start saying that," Simon said.

"Well, I mean, my dad and I are paying most of it but there's a fund set up by him for college kids that don't have enough. It comes out of that."

"That's wonderful," Blair said.

Under the table, Simon kicked Daryl. "So Daryl, what's new at school?"

"Oh, I see. We're going to pretend that Blair isn't in love with this man? Okay, I can do that," Daryl said and started eating some bread sticks.

"How do you know about us?" Blair asked.

"Blair, you've got that just fallen in love look and my dad happened to mention the other night that it was a guy. He didn't say who. I put two and two together. I figured one of these days you'd fall in love with one of your skips."

"Well, you're right. As long as it's out in the open, can I ask a few questions? Maybe if I say them out loud, they'll make more sense," Blair said.

So, for the next two hours, they ate, drank and talked Jim and Blair. Finally, Daryl said, "Now tell me again, who are the players?"

Simon smiled at this and said, "William Ellison, Carolyn Plummer, Steven Ellison and Rita Marshall."

"Okay, let's figure this out the old fashioned way. It isn't William Ellison because no matter what, he couldn't have his son killed. If he were that ruthless, he'd have killed him long ago. I don't think he has anything to do with it."

"I guess that makes some sort of sense," Blair agreed.

"We'll see," Simon said.

"Next would be Steven Ellison. He's screwing his brother financially. If Jim's in prison, he won't be able to take his money like he is now."

"Daryl, I believe it to be the opposite. Wouldn't you think that it would be easier for him to take the money with Jim out of the way?" Blair asked.

"No, Blair, it wouldn't. First of all, he can't skim off something that isn't being made any longer. I think that Jim's the smarter of the two and knows how to make the business grow," Daryl said knowingly.

"Simon, your son's really smart," Blair said, smiling finally. "I never thought of that."

"That seemed really obvious to me. Rita Marshall's in the same boat. She's used to living off the money she's been skimming all of these years and she knows that she'll miss that. So I know it's not her either," Daryl stated.

"Okay, for the same reason, right? She wants Jim to make the money so they can skim it?" Blair asked.

"Blair, this is only my opinion. I'm sure that you'll have FBI, IRS and other agencies going through all of this and find out that it wouldn't have mattered one way or another. Either way, they were going to screw both of the Ellisons. And I don't mean Steven," Daryl said coldly.

"Daryl, I'm not sure I believe that of Rita and Steven. I think that they had planned on setting Jim up from day one," Blair said sadly.

"Well, I guess we'll have to do some checking on our own, won't we?" Daryl replied.

"But Daryl, that only leaves Carolyn Plummer and she said she's Jim's alibi for that night." Blair said.

"Exactly. Why would Jim say he did it if he had an alibi?" Daryl asked looking from his dad to Blair and back again.

"Holy shit, you think it's Carolyn Plummer?" Simon asked Blair.

"I don't know what I think now, Simon."

"Next thing that will bring it around to Carolyn is how messy it is. Jim wouldn't want to drag his dad or his brother into this fiasco because of him being gay. I bet they don't know. Or didn't."

"I don't think they do know, Daryl, but what difference would that make?" Blair asked.

Simon perked up and said, "What if poor Jim Ellison hasn't been attracted to women for a long time and he just dated her for looks. What if she thought it was more. Then what would happen if she found out he slept with Roger Marshall?"

"Simon, do you believe that Jim didn't know about her being a little off balanced, if it is her?" Blair asked.

"Blair, I truly believe that Jim felt so guilty that he would have done almost anything for her, " Simon answered.

"Do you think we could find more out about Carolyn?" Blair asked, hope rising in his voice.

"Yeah, I would say we missed something major. I'm sure it's there. Unless, of course, it's one of those things where everyone says, 'My god, she seemed so normal'," Simon replied.

"Oh god, this is beginning to make some sense now," Blair said.

"Okay, now you two have to help me with this," Daryl started. "Why would Ellison take the blame for Carolyn?"

"All right, my take would be he feels guilty for using her as we decided before," Blair said.

Simon said, "No, he can't be just feeling guilty. God, he's giving up his life. He's giving up you. It's got to be something more."

"Do you think we have enough to go to the police with, Simon?" Blair asked.

"Not yet. We really don't have anything yet, Blair. Let's go and talk to his father and brother first. I think we should get them together for this. What do you think of that?"

"Sounds good to me. Wanna come, Daryl?" Blair asked.

"Oh man, can I take notes?"

"No, you can't take notes. And Blair, he shouldn't be around something like this," Simon said, trying to stay stern but not quite making it.

"Dad, I'm a grown man. I can do what I want," Daryl said defiantly.

"Yeah? Well, you still can't buy beer so you're not all grown up," Simon said, laughing.

They paid the bill and left the restaurant with new hope. Blair called William Ellison and said, "Mr. Ellison, this is the Skip Tracer who nursed your son back to health. I wanted to know if we could come over tonight to talk to you about something very important. We need to see you and Steven both."

"Well, you're in luck," William said, "Steven's here. Come on over and we'll have a nice long chat."

"Thank you, Mr. Ellison. We'll see you in about ten minutes. Thank you." Blair hung the phone up with a huge smile on his face.

"Well, we get to see Steven tonight, too. He's at his dad's house."

Steven sat at his dad's house wondering why his father had called him over. He knew something was up because his father never asked him to just stop by. Steven sat in the living room, nervously twitching his feet to and fro. His father saw the nervous actions and began to think he might have the right ideas about his younger son after all.

Finally William said, "You might think you're smart, Steven, but you're not smarter than your old man."

"Dad, what are you talking about?"

"I'll give you some time to think on all the things you might need to tell me. Then when you're ready to talk to me, let me know. We'll sit here all night if we have to."

"Dad, what do you want me to say? Something that will get Jimmy off? Well, I didn't kill Marshall. So I can't help you," Steven said defiantly.

"Like I said, I've got all night long to wait. So think on it a while." Steven didn't like the look his dad was giving him. Somehow, his father had found out and his ass was going to be in a sling. * Shit... *

Getting into the car, Daryl said, "This is going to be good."

Simon called a friend of his at the Police Department. "Hi Cole, how're you doing?"

"Fine, Simon, how're you? How's Daryl?"

"He's fine. Look, I need to ask a huge favor. I'm doing some checking up on the Roger Marshall murder. The older Ellison son has been arrested for it. You know Jim Ellison's fiancé? Carolyn Plummer? Do you know anything about her that would help in our investigation?"

"I have a few things," Cole said, "but, of course, it's strictly off the record, right?"

"Totally off the record, Cole," Simon said very seriously.

"She was Jim Ellison's fiancé for years and then he went missing on the mission in Peru. She was in a mental institution about ten years ago after she heard the news."

"So she lost it?" Simon asked.

"Yes. Her parents had her put away for her own safety. The doctors all said it was just depression. But there might be something else," Cole said.

"Something else, Cole?" Simon asked as he was writing down every single thing that Cole told him. Blair glanced over from where he was trying to drive to read the notes. He stopped trying when he almost ran into a parked car.

"Well, this might be nothing, but we're wondering why this man won't let his girlfriend be his alibi. We've checked up on her, and from what we've been told, she regressed to childhood - got hold of a doll, nursed it like a baby... But after a while she lost interest in it, seemed to recover, and went home. Then Ellison came back, but they still didn't marry. Now she says he was with her the night Marshall was killed, and he's indicating he wasn't. One of them has to be lying, and we're wondering why."

"Is that it, Cole?" Simon asked.

"Yeah, that's it for now, Simon. The rest is even more speculation than this was. So, try and find out something and bring it to us and we'll help," Cole said.

Simon hung up his phone and turned to Blair and Daryl and filled them in on what he'd just learned. They all knew that this wasn't something they could look into without causing trouble. Doctors' records were impossible to get and Ms. Plummer wasn't likely to give them anything to go on. They were all left to their own thoughts.

The rest of the drive was quiet; they were all making mental notes of what to ask. Finally, Blair said, "Daryl, maybe we should take notes. It might help. Do you have a tablet?"

"Of course I have a tablet. I'm majoring in criminal psychology, I have to take notes all the time."

When they arrived, Blair was really nervous but Simon said, "Sandburg, let me take over now. I'll start it going and we'll see how it goes. He doesn't need to know about you and Ellison."

"Simon, I'm not embarrassed about me and Jim," Blair said as he glared at his boss and friend.

"I know that, Blair. I just don't want this man upsetting you until we find out how he feels about it." Simon put his arm around Blair and hugged him quickly as they got up to the door.

Simon knocked and when William opened the door, Simon showed him his ID and introduced Blair and Daryl to him. William asked everyone in and they all went into the living room.

"Please sit down," William said and introduced his son, Steven, when he walked back into the living room. "This is my youngest son, Steven, who also works for us."

The three men stood up and shook hands with the man and then sat back down. "So what's new with Jimmy's defense? Do you know anything yet?" William asked.

"Well, as a matter of fact, we've come across a few things and we need to find out from you if they're true. Then we can move on," Simon said. "The police are still working on the case. They don't believe your son did it."

"Well, that's good to know because Jimmy's being an idiot. Anyone who knows him knows he didn't do it. Do you know why he's doing this?" William asked.

Simon started off with, "Sir, did you know that your son, Jim, is gay?"

Blair almost choked and Steven stood up and said, "Bullshit. Stop the lies. Dad, they don't know anything."

Daryl sat and watched the younger Ellison and wondered why he would put up such a fight about Jim being gay. I mean, this was the 90's. It wasn't the dark ages. But yet, he was agitated, nervous and totally freaking out. Yes, there was something here that they needed to be looked into.

Daryl speculated about how a younger brother might feel about hearing his brother was gay. Would it affect his life? Would this be enough to change things in Jim's life? All things that the three of them would have to think about.

"So for some reason you think my son's gay?" William asked looking from one man to the next waiting for an answer.

"Yes, sir, we do," Simon answered. "He doesn't want to ruin your name so he's taking the heat on this. He slept with the victim."

"Bullshit!" Steven said. "Dad, this is total bullshit."

Again, Daryl watched Steven Ellison jump up, pace and behave irrationally. It was too much of a coincidence for Daryl to just ignore. Daryl made some notes to himself to ask questions when this was all over with.

"Shut up, Steven," William said, turning his attention back to Simon. Now do you want to tell me what makes you think this is true? How do you know he slept with that man if that man's dead?"

Blair said, "Because I'm his lover."

William looked confused and asked, "You were the victim's lover?"

"No, sir, I'm Jim's lover," Blair said with a shaky voice.

"You stupid fag! Get your ass out of our home and stop spreading lies about Jimmy!" Steven shouted as he went for Blair.

"Stay away from him," Daryl said, standing up in Steven's way. "Why don't you tell your father why you feel so adamant about hiding your brother's love life? While you're at it, why not tell him everything you know."

Ignoring Daryl, Steven said, "They're sent here to ruin us, Dad. You know that Jimmy isn't a fag."

Simon stopped him and said, "Mr. Sandburg doesn't lie about such things."

William walked towards Blair and said, "So why's he in jail now? What's this that my younger son's supposedly going to tell me before the night's over?"

"Jim said he hurt three people and someone had to pay. It might as well be him," Blair said. "The rest has to come from Steven. It can't come from us, unless he refuses to help his brother."

William sat down next to Blair and said, "I wasn't aware of my older son's lifestyle, but I'm not that surprised. He was so lonely and sad. Always trying to make us happy but never quite doing it for himself. I hope that you and I will have time to talk about the two of you later on."

"That would be fine, sir," Blair said, "once we get things taken care of for Jim."

"Of course," William said. "And please - call me William."

"William, I think the best thing to do would be to start at the top," Blair said.

"Makes sense to me. Start at the top and fill us all in."

So that's just what Blair did. He told William everything that was going on with Jim. From his skipping bail to when those four tried to kill him. Blair told him how Jim knew who else was in the house. He had heard what they said and that's what he was keeping quiet. While Blair was telling William all of this, Steven got up and started pacing.

Daryl almost smiled when he saw this. He knew that Steven Ellison was on the verge of cracking.

William looked up at his son and said, "Steven, what do you know about this?"

"Fine, so now it's out. We didn't want you to know. He's such a fucking loser, Dad. Yet you always gave him more power at the office then me. Now you know the truth. No one will have a thing to do with our company when this comes out."

Daryl heard what he said but it made no sense to him at all. You don't disown your blood just because he's gay. Well, okay, maybe some do, but William Ellison didn't seem the type. Daryl finally thought he would say something. "Steven, is this the real reason you're upset or do you have other problems with your father, your brother and the company?"

"Well, now that you've made such a big deal out of it; he'll take our company down with him. He's a fag. Not worth even worrying over. But, of course, my father will probably suddenly think there's nothing wrong with fags!" Steven snarled.

"Steven, shut your mouth," William said. "You think they'll have more to do with us if he's in prison for killing someone? His partner, no less?

"Mr. Sandburg," William went on, "what role does my youngest son play in this?"

"Well, I'd rather have him tell you," Blair said, acting as if he knew exactly what happened.

William looked at his son and said, "Do you want to tell me now?"

"Sure. What's the big deal, Dad? I was sleeping with Rita."

"It is a big deal, Steven. For some reason, Jim thinks he needs to protect you so you must have done more than that. What did you do, Steven?"

Steven suddenly collapsed. Hanging his head, he said softly, "It was Rita's idea. She wanted to teach Roger and Jim a lesson. We were skimming money off the top while she did the books. It wasn't just us. Carolyn came up with the idea. She wanted to teach him a lesson, too. Dad, she said they were going to get married and then he wouldn't sleep with her. What was she supposed to do?"

Daryl could not stay quiet any longer. "Sir, I wonder if I could put in my two cents?"

"Of course, young man," William answered.

"Well, first of all," Daryl started, "things are a lot more complicated than that. They had to have been skimming large amounts of money off your accounts for some time. Now, we all know that you are audited at least once a year, so now they need a scapegoat. Who could that be? Well, it had to be either Jim or Roger."

"Continue, Daryl. We're all listening, aren't we, Steven?" William asked quietly.

"We all know that Carolyn wasn't playing with a full deck. Everyone knows this. She wanted Jim. But more than anything, she wanted his money and his lifestyle. Finding out about Marshall and Jim blew that all out of the water. What would happen if Jim admitted to you that he and Marshall were lovers? Or worse yet, if he discovered the skimming and threatened to tell you about it?" Daryl said seriously."

"You're just grasping at straws, kid!" Steven exclaimed.

"Shut up, Steven. Please continue, Daryl."

"Well, Rita knew that her share of the business would be hers if her husband died. Steven knew that he might be able to take over Jim's business end if Jim was blamed for the death of his partner and friend. Carolyn sat in the background telling them what to do."

"But why did she give Jimmy an alibi when she went to the police?" William asked.

"I truly believe that she's in a make believe world where she thinks if she's good to him, he'll love her and give her the life she deserves," Daryl said.

"Oh fuck," William Ellison said as he looked at his youngest son. "Mr. Banks, could you please call the police and tell them they need to come here for questioning and to make an arrest?"

"Dad, come on. It wasn't that big a deal. Jimmy's the one who made the mistake, not me," Steven whined.

"Shut up, Steven. I'll call a lawyer for you now but it won't help if you keep 'running off at the mouth.'"

Steven sat down with an air of defeat and turned to William and said, "Dad, I can't go to prison."

"But Jimmy could?"

"You always loved him more," Steven said.

"Steven, get a grip, you're way too old to keep doing this," William said.

They were all very quiet until the police arrived. They talked to William Ellison and the other three men, too. Then William said goodbye to Steven as they arrested him. William would pay good money to have his son represented but in no way would he stand by for his son not paying for his wrong-doing.

Once he was gone, William turned to Blair and said, "Could you stay and tell me about you and my son?"

"I think he should tell you, sir," Blair replied more out of respect for Jim's feelings than anything else.

"All right. Young man, I don't hate you and you don't have to be afraid of me. I had a feeling he wasn't straight. He just wouldn't open up to us. Jimmy never did. I'm going to go to the police station and get my son and bring him home. Maybe we could go together. Would you mind?"

"William, do I have your word that you won't treat Jim badly when you see him?" Blair asked.

"I wouldn't hurt him, Blair. I really wouldn't. But you know what, better yet, you go and pick him up and then I'll wait here to see him. I want to see him tonight."

"That would work out perfectly, William. You certain you're okay with us being together?" Blair asked.

"I'm not going to lie to you, Blair. I'm not all that comfortable with my son being with a man. I don't want him being stared at. Didn't like it when he was younger for any reason and it doesn't change when they get older. But I'll get over it. I love him. He'll always be my son. Make sure and tell him that for me, all right?" William asked.

"Okay, William, I'll go and pick him up then and we'll come here first so you can talk to him."

"Yes, that would be fine. Tell him that I'm glad he's coming home." William walked into the kitchen, a very tired man. He could not help thinking that he'd made too many mistakes in raising his boys. He would do his best to keep Steven from having to serve any time in prison only because he knew that Steven couldn't handle it. Then he was going to get Steven into therapy. But if he had to do time, that would be something Steven would have to handle himself. He brought it on himself. As William's father used to say to his sons, 'Don't do the crime, if you can't do the time'.

As they drove to the police station, Blair said, "Don't you think he took it surprisingly well?"

"Yeah, a little too well. He wouldn't hurt Jim, would he?" Daryl asked.

"I think what he was doing was trying to keep a hold on reality because I'm sure he's feeling like he's lost something," Simon said, knowing how he would feel if Daryl would tell him he was gay.

"Dad, you'd be upset if I told you I was gay?" Daryl said, knowing what his father meant by that.

"No, I wouldn't be upset with you but I'd be frightened for you, just as I'm frightened for Blair. It's a scary thing to be gay," Simon stated and then stayed quiet all the way to the station. All three men were left to their own thoughts once again.

Blair decided that when things settled down, he was going to have to have a talk with Simon about all of this. He didn't want Simon worrying about him. He was a big boy. He could handle things himself.

Daryl decided that he needed to spend more time with Blair, since his father seemed worried, then he could tell him things were all right. Daryl hated to see his dad upset.

By the time they reached the station, the police had brought Carolyn in and she was screaming her head off saying she was framed. "What did they say? They're lying. You can't trust them!" Carolyn said savagely.

The detective asked, "Ms. Plummer, do you want to get your lawyer here?"

"I don't need a fucking lawyer. I was just protecting my property. Isn't there some kind of law that says if you are going to get married that person should be only with you?" Carolyn ranted.

"Ma'am, it's something I don't know anything about. Why don't you wait for your lawyer?" he said.

"He was mine. Don't you understand? He was mine," Carolyn said over and over again.

Then Carolyn turned to Simon and Blair and said, "You're the ones who have done this to Jimmy, aren't you? You talked him into telling the police he did something he didn't do. He promised he'd marry me. He fucking lied to me from the start."

"Carolyn, he couldn't help it. He was confused. He didn't know what to do with his feelings," Blair said, trying to help her.

"He didn't give a fuck about me. He wouldn't sleep with me. Can you imagine what that made me feel like?" Carolyn asked.

"Well, he didn't love you, Carolyn," Blair said, trying not to be cruel, but he was losing all patience.

"Oh, fuck you - you're probably all sucking his cock"

"Carolyn, he tried. It just wasn't him. At least he didn't kill someone because of it," Blair said with as much patience as he could muster.

"That little cocksucker Roger was going to tell Jim's father. We'd all be ruined," she said.

"Carolyn, you don't kill people because they slept with the man you wanted to marry," Blair said.

"I wanted his child. He said he had to think about it. God, he must've been laughing about me from the start," Carolyn said, crying.

"I'm sure he wasn't laughing. Please try and understand that Jim was willing to take the rap for you. He must love you."

"If he had loved me, we'd be married and I'd be having this child right now," Carolyn said.

Blair looked at Simon and whispered sadly, "There is a god."

Simon couldn't help smiling. The kid always seemed to keep a good sense of humor, even when things looked their darkest.

A man walked into the room and said, "Carolyn, please tell me you've not said anything to the police."

Blair looked at Simon and whispered, "The attorney?"

"Yup," Simon said and moved away from hurricane Carolyn, who seemed to be getting her second wind.

"I'm Mr. Stan Baker, Carolyn Plummer's attorney. I hope you haven't been asking her questions without me."

The officer in charge said, "She wouldn't shut up. We haven't asked her one thing but she's given us more than enough to hold her for a long time."

"First things first," Baker said. "We'll have her examined by a doctor. Something isn't right here. She has some background history with mental health issues."

Blair turned to Simon and said, "I'm so surprised."

Simon realized what Blair was saying - they shouldn't let Baker know they already knew of her problems - but he smacked him on the back of his head anyway and said, "Be serious."

"I am," Blair answered. Looking up, he saw the officers from downstairs bringing Jim up to sign out.

Jim came walking down the hallway and she saw him and went after him but Blair stopped her and held her back in spite of her struggles for he knew Jim would have let her hurt him. Finally, the cops got her off Blair and then he turned to Jim and said, "Welcome back to the land of the living, as chaotic as it is."

Blair tried to figure out how Jim was but saw nothing in the look on his face. No hatred. No love, nothing. In fact, the look was so cold that it scared Blair.

Jim didn't smile; he didn't do anything. He walked up to the desk, signed the paper and then walked out of the building. Blair turned to Simon and said, "Did I miss something?"

"Don't ask me. He's your boyfriend." Simon couldn't help laughing as Blair stuck his tongue out and crossed his eyes at him.

"Simon, I'm serious here. Something's wrong and I've got to figure it out and then help Jim do the same."

"Did you ever think that maybe he needs some time to himself?" Simon asked.

"No, and I'm not giving it to him. I'm going to deal with him now," Blair said taking off after Jim, with Simon and Daryl close behind him.

When they got outside, Blair could see Jim walking down the street all by himself as if he didn't have a friend in the world. "Simon, I'll take it from here."

"Blair, you're supposed to take him to his dad's house. Let's deliver him there and then you can do whatever you want," Simon said, hauling him into the car as Daryl scrambled in, too.

They pulled up beside Jim and Blair said, "Jim, come on, get in."

Jim kept his head down and walked faster and faster, trying to get away from Blair and his problems.

Blair jumped out of the moving car as Simon slammed on the brakes. "Fuck you, Ellison. What's your problem? You'd rather stay in prison all your life than have a life with me? What's up with that?"

"Don't you see? They'll all know now. I can't go back to my business; I'll ruin my dad. So, where do I go now?"

"You're ashamed of us? Our love?" Blair asked choked up suddenly.

"I'm not ashamed, Blair. I just don't know if I can do this. But that's all out of my hands now, anyhow. Everyone will know. People will never look at me the same way."

"Excuse me, Ellison, but that's called ashamed in my book. I think you and I have two different versions."

"Blair, I like my life very private. I don't want anyone to know. Suddenly everyone knows and Carolyn will see to it that it's worse than that," Jim said sadly.

"Jim, what could be worse than this?" Blair asked, genuinely curious.

"She'll tell everyone that she tried to get me into bed one night and I couldn't get it up. She laughed at me. It was the worst night of my life," Jim said, head hanging low.

Blair pulled Jim's head up and said, "Stop it right now. You're a man, in love with a man. So? Big deal. Move on. I couldn't have gotten it up for her, either. I don't know how to tell you this, Jim, but she isn't a nice person."

Jim stopped hanging his head and just looked into Blair's eyes sadly. "I don't know what to do."

"Jim, first we have to go and see your dad. He's taking us being a couple fairly well. He told me to tell you to come over so you two could talk," Blair said, smiling, looking through his damp eyelashes. He hadn't even noticed that he'd begun to cry. Jim pulled emotions from him that he didn't even know he had.

"Chief, you talked to my dad about us? He knows? " Jim asked incredulously.

"Yeah, and he's doing pretty well with the news. He wants to see you, Jim."

"I guess we should go and talk to him then. Shit, why am I so scared?" Jim asked, head hanging down again.

Grabbing Jim's head, Blair pulled it up to meet his eyes and said, "Jim, there's no reason for you ever to feel anything but love for me, never shame. And your dad seems to be all right with this news. So let's not complain."

"I'll try, Chief. I'll try."

Blair got Jim into the back seat and they just sat quietly and held hands.

"Jim, this is Simon Banks, my good friend and boss. And the young, good looking one, is his son Daryl."

"Hey, I resemble that remark." Simon said with humor in his voice.

"Nice to meet you both." Jim said quietly.

"Jim, why don't you come and work with us? We've been looking for another Skip Tracer. The pay's pretty good, ask Blair," Simon said as he drove them to William's house.

"You don't even know me, Banks. You don't know what kind of person I am. Why would you do this?" Jim asked, wanting the truth.

"Because if Blair loves you, that's good enough for me. I've known this guy since he was a kid and I know he has good taste," Simon answered truthfully.

Jim's head was looking at the floor of the car again. Blair slipped his arms around Jim's waist and he leaned against the smaller man. Jim wanted to absorb every single feeling he could from Blair. * God, Ellison, this is what you needed. This is what you wanted. This is what you have to have. *

Blair smiled into Jim's eyes as he realized that Jim was scenting him. * Well, this is a new one. *

"Chief, I missed you so much. Your scent helps ground me. I kept losing track of time when you weren't there."

"Well, you don't have to worry about it any more, Jim. You're going to go and see your dad and then you'll come home with me," Blair ordered.

"Yes, sir," Jim said smiling for the first time since this all happened.

"I'm feeling kind of frisky. Are you up to it yet?" Blair asked him smiling.

"You're a demon, Chief. I'm always up for you," Jim said as he put Blair's hand on his filling cock. Blair smiled immediately.

"We're still here," Simon said clearing his throat.

"Sorry," Jim said, "sometimes we get a little carried away."

"We'll pick this up at my place. I love you, Jim," Blair said, knowing they had a lot to talk about but also knowing that if they had love, they had almost everything they'd need.

"I love you, back, Chief. You're mine forever. No one else's. I need to stake that claim."

Blair smiled up at him and said, "As soon as we finish talking to your dad, we'll get home and you can stake all the claims you want.

"Sounds good to me," Jim said, with a shy smile on his face.

As they drove up to William Ellison's home, Simon said, "Okay, take the next few days off, Blair, but then I want you both in for the next cases. We have a lot of work."

"Thanks for the job, Simon. Now I just have to tell my father." Jim said as he got out of the car.

"See you in three days, Simon," Blair said, following his life, his love, 'to the Ellison home.

Jim rang the door bell with shaking fingers. His father opened the door and pulled Jim into his arms. He was holding Jim so tight, that he could hardly breathe. He wasn't going to complain. This was the first time his father ever held him... that he could remember, anyway.

Blair pushed both men back and said, "Let's get into the house, gentlemen, the neighbors will wonder if something happened."

William pulled away from Jim and said, "Come on in, Jimmy and Blair. Let's talk about what's going to happen from this day on. Jimmy, I really don't want you to leave the office. I would be lost without you."

"Dad, if I told you I really hated it and wasn't happy, would you be totally angry with me?" Jim asked, not looking into his dad's eyes.

"Jimmy, look at me." William said and when Jim finally looked at his dad, William continued , "I want you to be happy, son. You do what you want to make it so."

"Thanks, Dad. I've been offered a job with Simon Banks. It's a decent job. I might take it," Jim said hurrying with his little speech.

"Jimmy, if that'll make you happy, then by all means, go for it. I'll be here for you no matter what," William said. "Now, can I get you men something to drink?"

"No, thank you, Dad. We've got to be getting back to Blair's house," Jim answered truthfully. "Blair, want to call a cab?"

"Don't be silly, Jimmy. Take one of the cars in the garage. Here are the keys for the Jimmy."

"Thanks, Dad." Jim said.

Blair stood up and handed a card to William and said, "These are our work and home phone numbers. On the back, I wrote down the address. Please feel free to visit us any time you want to."

"Blair, it was nice meeting you," William said holding out his hand to shake. Blair took William's hand in his and shook it strong, hard and long. Blair wanted to let him know that he would be strong enough to take care of his son. * Sandburg, you're such a romantic. *

"It was great meeting you, too, sir. Remember that you're always welcome at our home," Blair said, and realized what he had said. "William, I haven't even asked Jim yet and here I am telling you about him living with me."

Jim smiled and said, "Yes." Blair's smile back to him would melt anyone's heart. He was so in love that it was mind boggling.

William grabbed Blair's hand again and said, "You take good care of him, you hear?"

"I hear it loud and clear. I'll see that he never hurts or wants for anything," Blair said, smiling, on their way to the front door.

Jim turned and went into his dad's arms again. Hugging him hard, he said, "I love you, Dad. I really do."

"I know you do, Jimmy. I love you too. Too bad we waited until now to let each other know how we feel about each other," William said sadly.

"It's never too late, Dad," Jim said.

William kissed his son's cheek and said, "Take care, Jimmy."

"Dad, I'll come by tomorrow and we'll go together to see Steven, okay?" Jim asked.

"Jimmy, you are such a good man. I did okay. I sometimes wondered if I did anything right. But you're a fine man," William said, suddenly proud of his oldest son.

"I'll be by at about noon. Will that be all right with you?" Jim asked.

"Noon's fine, Jimmy. See you then. Blair, you're part of the family, you're welcome to come along if you can stand Steven," William said.

"Sir, thank you, but I think it's something you should do with just Jim," Blair said walking, towards the garage.

"Bye, Dad," Jim said as he followed Blair out into the garage and unlocked the doors to the GMC Jimmy. It was black, with the limo tint windows. William had had it done for Jim after his older son complained that the bright sun hurt his eyes. Jim realized that his dad probably did a lot more for him than he actually gave him credit for.

William stood in the doorway and waved as Jim drove out of the garage. William saw Jim lift his hand up and brush Blair's cheek softly. William felt that he had just seen something that Jim would usually never have shared. * William, I think your son's boyfriend is good for him. *

All three men knew that tomorrow was going to be a hard day for all of them. But for right now, all three men felt good for tonight.

Blair cuddled up to Jim all the way to his place and couldn't wait to get Jim into his bed. Both men knew that this was the beginning of something new, but for some reason, they both also knew that it was right. It was good.

"I've always said that I always get my man," Blair said. "Well, this is one time I really mean it and you're not going back anywhere."

"Chief, this could get messy. You sure you're up to this?" Jim asked just to give him an out.

"Yeah, I'm sure. I love you."

"In that case, your Manhunter days are over," Jim said, kissing him as they climbed out of the GMC Jimmy to start their new life.

The End.

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Acknowledgements: Thanks to Mary and Bluewolf for beta'ing this baby. I had a blast writing it. Thanks to Lisa for asking me to be part of the project once again. I've had more fun doing this, than I ever thought I would. Thanks to each and every writer that I've been working with. It's been a pleasure working with each and every one of you. Can't wait to work with you all again.