Thief of Hearts - Morgana

"Blair Sandburg?" The Dean looked in genuine sympathy at the youngster that had just settled into living on campus. Blair was one of the youngest students ever to start his undergraduate program here. "I'm really sorry, but I've got to tell you that..." His voice failed as he looked at Blair. Barely sixteen years old, many of his colleagues had already labeled Blair Sandburg a prodigy. Blair promised to be a delightful and challenging student.

Blair's fingernails dug deeper into the wood of the armrest. When the Dean had asked him to come to his office immediately, Blair had known there was trouble. However, he couldn't think of anything he'd done wrong. He'd only been at Seattle University for two months and was still trying to fit in. Studying had always been easy for him and the Law and Anthropology courses he was taking didn't present much of a challenge. So, what was wrong?

"Blair, I don't know how to say this." Dean Hendricks pulled up a chair and sat down beside Blair. This was possibly the hardest conversation he'd ever had during his time here as Dean. "We just received a phone call from an Ashram in India. Did you know your mother was staying there?" He'd only met Naomi once and she'd made quite an impression on him. Oh, he hated to be the bringer of such bad news.

"Yes, I know Naomi is in India." Blair decided to wait and see what was troubling the Dean. He liked the elderly man, but didn't trust easy. A few of Naomi's boyfriends had beaten his ability to trust out of him. "Is something wrong with her?" Suddenly, he noticed the expression of dread in the Dean's eyes. This was bad.

"Blair, there has been an accident," the Dean started, trying to sound compassionate. "She was killed in a car crash."

"No... No!" Blair yelped in disbelief. Naomi was all he had left! Naomi had told him countless times that they'd fled their home because of his father. He'd started to drink after losing his job and had become violent. They'd left the trailer in the middle of the night and she'd been determined to never return. What Blair remembered of his early childhood wasn't pretty. His father had been abusive and Naomi had jumped in more than once trying to protect him.

"She can't be dead!" Blair whimpered. He was only sixteen years old! He needed his mother! Tears started trickling down his face and he quickly wiped them away. "It must have been someone else in that car crash. Naomi's still alive. I'll call her and..." His voice faltered as the horrible truth hit him. Dean Hendricks had certainly checked this information before calling him here. "Please, tell me that this isn't true."

"I'm sorry, Blair," Dean Hendricks said sincerely. "I can't even begin to comprehend how hard this is for you. Is there anything I can do to help?"

"No." Blair got to his feet, his movements mechanical. "I need to be on my own right now." Blair rushed out of the room, slammed the door behind him and ran. He didn't know where he was headed and he didn't care. He'd just lost his mother.

///

Blair tried to attend Naomi's memorial service but things were a mess in India. Apparently, five people had been killed in the car crash and the ashes had been released near the Ganges. So there wouldn't a funeral and the service had taken place before he had been able to make arrangements to fly to India. It left him in limbo, feeling lost, exhausted, and totally alone.

He spent most of his time in his room. The few friends he'd managed to make during his brief time at Seattle University seemed uncomfortable with the idea of offering comfort. The friendships were still too new and fragile, so he'd retreated from classes and social life. He needed time to mourn Naomi's death. Part of him still couldn't believe she'd really died in that car crash. It seemed so unfair. Not that he believed that the universe was fair in general, but Blair never expected to lose Naomi like this. Although she hadn't been around as much as he'd wanted her to be, she'd been a great mother and friend.

Sitting in his room, he wrapped his arms around himself and hid beneath the blankets. Almost everyone else was attending classes and he was alone. He wanted to be alone, wanted no one around. His shaky hand stole out from beneath the covers and pulled his journal closer. It had been Naomi's parting gift. Blair opened it and his eyes caressed the elegant handwriting on the first page.

To Blair, my son and treasure. I'll always be with you, Blair, no matter where we are. Naomi.

Even more tears trickled down his cheeks. He didn't know how to live without her. Naomi had always been a phone call away, and now.... He felt lonely and cold. Naomi had been the one only who had known how to soothe him, how to make him feel at peace with the world. What was he going to do now? He could probably stay here since he'd been awarded a grant, but Naomi had been helping him when he was short on money. What about a will? Had she made one?

Although his hand was shaky, he managed to put the tip of the pen onto the paper. He'd discovered a long time ago that writing down his feelings made them less powerful, less scary.

It's been four days since Dean Hendricks told me that Naomi died and I feel helpless. I want to scream, kick and punch someone. She was so young, so vital. Why did it have to be her? I still need her. Naomi always wanted me to be strong and self reliant, but... how does a sixteen year old cope with the world? I'm on my own now. Dean Hendricks assured me that I could talk to him if I wanted to, but... I hardly know the man. I want Naomi.

Looking at his writing his stomach cramped. The dry heaves were about to start again. He used to have panic attacks when he'd been little, but they had stopped after Naomi had left his father. But now they were back.

"Not again..." Blair placed the journal onto the bed and raced into the bathroom to throw up. He made it inside and wrapped his arms around the ceramic bowl. He almost felt Naomi's hands on his skin, pushing back his long hair. But she wasn't here and he struggled not to choke as he continued to throw up.

After emptying his stomach, he brushed his teeth and dragged himself back to his room. He crawled back into bed and stared at his writing. "I'm such a baby," he said, self-loathing apparent in his tone. He hated to admit it but he doubted he could make it on his own.

"Blair? Can I come in?" Dean Hendricks waited near the doorway, unwilling to intrude on the mourning youngster. "I want to talk to you."

Blair composed himself and nodded his head once. He clutched the journal to his chest, holding onto Naomi's last gift. "I'll be fine. I just need time." He felt the need to apologize for his weakness. Why, he didn't know. Had he suddenly become an adult now that Naomi had died? He still didn't feel like one, but the child within him was dying.

"You have a visitor, Blair," the Dean said softly. He felt incredibly concerned about this youngster.

"A visitor?" Blair raised a puzzled eyebrow. Except for Naomi, hardly anyone knew where he was. She'd always been moving about and he'd been pulled along, whether he'd wanted to or not.

Dean Hendricks wanted to tell Blair who was visiting, but didn't get the chance. In shock, he stared at Blair, whose eyes were growing big and unfocused at the sight of his visitor.

"No..." Blair whimpered in dread, as he stared at the tall man who was now slowly approaching. The elderly man was wearing a grey suit. He had short auburn hair and blue eyes, which seemed vaguely familiar. Blair shivered fiercely. He knew this man, he realized in dread. He'd seen him before. But where and when had that been? And why was the man here now? His stomach clenched with inexplicable fear.

"Hello, Blair. You probably don't remember me."

The voice woke a distant memory and the shivers turned into violent tremors that rocked Blair's body. That voice...? "Do I know you?" he whispered eventually. Suddenly, he wanted to run, wanted to put as much distance as possible between them. This man scared him. It wasn't like him to react like this. The man was only a visitor for crying out loud!

"I'm your father, Blair."

"No!" Blair yelped the word in despair. The ominous apprehension had been there since the man had entered his room. On the verge of panicking, Blair forced himself to meet the man's eyes, blue eyes that mirrored his own. Blair hugged the comforter tighter.

"You're not my father!" As he denied that possibility, he hung onto the journal. Blair hadn't seen his father in over thirteen years and this was a terrible shock. Something about this man scared Blair to death. He realized it was those eyes, those blue eyes that were bereft of all compassion.

"I've got the papers to prove it, son."

Blair cringed hearing that last word and looked pleadingly at Dean Hendricks. "Is that the truth?"

"Yes," the Dean said, confused. He'd hoped that a familiar presence would relax Blair, but all he saw was... what was it that he saw? Fear? Panic? Maybe he should have talked to Blair first.

"I'm Marc Moyet. I guess your mother never told you about me?"

Blair heard the angry tone and cringed. Naomi had run away because the bastard had been abusive and now he was showing up here? How did he dare? Enraged, Blair looked into his eyes. "I don't want you here. I want you to leave."

"Blair," Marc said in a sharp tone, "that's not your decision to make. Now that Naomi's dead, I'm your legal guardian. You're only sixteen." He placed his briefcase on the desk and opened it. After uncovering an envelope, he handed it to Blair. "This is Naomi's will. She wanted me to take care of you."

Blair stared at the papers, grabbed them and started to scan them. My God, it was true. This was Naomi's handwriting. Marc Moyet was now his legal guardian! Why had Naomi done this? She'd known from first hand experience what Marc was truly like! She'd had to sneak out of the house to escape his anger!

"Blair, pack your things. We're leaving," Marc ordered, as he retook possession of Naomi's will. He placed the envelope back into the briefcase and locked it. "In the meantime, I'll discuss the details of your departure with Dean Hendricks. I expect you to be ready to leave in 30 minutes."

"We're leaving?" Marc couldn't take him away from here. "I just started the graduate program! I can't leave like this!" Despair deepened his tone. He wanted to become a lawyer to help defend the innocent and put the guilty behind bars. He had worked his ass off to get this grant. Seattle University was the only stable factor left in his life. Marc Moyet couldn't take that away from him.

Marc waited until the Dean had stepped outside into the corridor and then addressed his son. "You'll be ready in 30 minutes. Don't make me drag you out kicking and screaming. You'll regret that, son."

Blair backed away when an evil grin surfaced on Marc's face. Oh man, he would recognize that grin anywhere! He'd seen it too many times as a kid! Marc would make him obey. Remembering some forms of punishment from his early childhood, he turned away and started packing. However, he would try to get away from Marc Moyet the first opportunity he had.

///

One hour later, Blair sat in the back seat of Marc's Mercedes. His dislike of the man was still growing. Blair had felt like this after Naomi had managed to get them away from Marc. Every night had held terrors for him back then. He'd been scared to sleep alone so he'd crawled into Naomi's bed. In his defense, he could add that he'd only been three years old at that time. Naomi had always cradled him in her arms, holding him close and telling him that his father didn't know where they were and that she planned on keeping it that way. Blair sighed soundlessly, remembering how good it had felt when Naomi had wrapped her arms around him. But this time Naomi couldn't save him. He had to look out for himself.

Looking over his shoulder, Blair still managed to catch a glimpse of the huge building. Seattle University was a dream that was now part of the past. He would never go to law school or become an attorney. Naomi had shared that dream with him, had supported him every step of the way. And now... now he was falling hard into a deep darkness that threatened to consume him. What lay ahead of him? What plans did Marc have for him? Marc didn't have his best interest at heart. Taking him away from the University had clearly illustrated that. Blair had tried to protest, had tried to talk Marc out of it, but his father hadn't given in. He didn't even know where they were headed and he was hesitant to ask. Marc's eyes possessed a predatory quality.

"Listen up, kid. You're Blair Moyet from now on. Naomi always wanted you to have her name, but that's ridiculous. You're my son and legally, your last name's Moyet." Marc glanced at Blair. He didn't like the defiance that shone from Blair's eyes.

Blair almost told Marc off, but he held back just in time, remembering how easily Marc had turned violent in the past. Blair stayed quiet, but that was also the wrong thing to do because Marc stared hard at him.

"That's 'yes sir'," Marc told him. "Say it, kid." He didn't want any misunderstandings between them. Blair needed to know who was in charge! The kid was annoying and defied authority. Looked like nothing had changed. Blair had always been like that. It had irritated him thirteen years ago and it still did. "Loud and clear, son."

Blair was torn. His instincts were telling him to play along, but that meant betraying Naomi, betraying everything they'd had as mother and son. "Yes, sir," he choked out eventually. Angering Marc now was not a good idea. First, he had to find out if Marc was still as violent as he had been in the past. He had to act cautiously if he wanted to survive.

Contentedly, Marc nodded his head. The boy could be taught! This was his first victory and many would follow.

///

Blair raised an eyebrow when they arrived at a deserted trailer park. Nothing much had changed. Marc still tried to radiate importance and leadership, but deep down inside he was still a mean bastard. Blair sighed softly as Marc parked the car. Marc gestured for him to get out as well and Blair obeyed. He peeked at his surroundings, trying to find an escape route in case he needed one. Almost half of the trailers were abandoned.

Hesitantly, Blair picked up his two bags and followed Marc inside. Foul and pungent odors assaulted Blair once Marc had closed the door behind him. The place was a mess. Leftovers from several TV dinners emanated a sickening smell and Blair quickly covered his nose. It was obvious that Marc had neglected his home for several weeks.

//I can't live like this!// Horrified, he stared at the rat that ran over the food leftovers, quickly grabbing a morsel and disappearing again beneath a pile of dirty clothes.

"Make yourself useful, kid." Marc dropped onto the couch after shoving last night's dinner onto the floor. "Clean the place up."

Blair stared at Marc in disbelief. "I'm not your maid!" The words left his lips unintentionally. He realized that he should have kept quiet when Marc's eyes flashed dangerously. Old instincts, aimed at self-preservation, kicked in when he remembered that glare from childhood. Man, this was bad! At that moment, he realized that Marc hadn't changed at all. Evil stared back at him and Blair ducked too late. A fist connected with his jaw and knocked him onto the floor.

"Don't contradict me! You'll do as you're told! Naomi was much too lenient with you. You need a firm hand, Blair." Marc glared at the younger man still huddled on the floor. "Now get back on your feet and start cleaning!" Marc stalked into the bedroom to lie down.

Blair hoped that he would get a chance to sneak away, but Marc monitored his every move. Resigned, Blair started to throw away the leftovers. Naomi had saved him from this hell thirteen years ago and now his personal nemesis was back to make his life miserable.

///

Four weeks later.

"I need you to come with me tonight, Blair." Marc leaned deeper into the comfort of his chair. Blair sat opposite him, eyes downcast and he was fidgeting with the cloth of his worn out sweater. The kid had learned to adjust to his new life. Marc had seen to that. It had taken him some time to break Blair's fierce will, but he'd always known he would win the battle. Blair had no place to go, no money to support himself and no one would hire a seventeen year old who didn't have any papers. They were in Marc's possession now.

Blair didn't ask for an explanation. He'd quickly learned not to ask for any information. It only annoyed and angered Marc. The first time he'd pushed for an answer, Marc had almost broken his wrist. It had happened on his birthday. For some absurd reason, he'd hoped Marc would loosen up a little because he was turning seventeen, but his father had ignored his fucking birthday. With Naomi, celebrating his birthday had been special.

These last four weeks had been hell. Blair had forgotten how bad living with his father had been. Years ago, he'd suffered at Marc's hands and now he was living it again. Rationally, he realized that Marc had taken all his security away, leaving him stripped and vulnerable. The bastard had even burned the journal Naomi had given him after taunting him and calling Naomi names.

Had they ever loved each other? Blair had wondered, stunned, when Marc had raved about Naomi's infidelity. But Naomi had never cheated on Marc and Blair guessed it had been the other way around. Marc had probably cheated on Naomi.

"I want you to dress nicely. You have an important dinner date tonight." Marc waited for Blair's reaction.

"Dinner date?" he repeated stunned. He'd learned to be quiet and rarely spoke. There was only Marc to talk to and his father hated it when he babbled.

"You're going to have car trouble and a man will offer you his assistance. You'll go along, telling him that you're hungry. He'll take you out for dinner." Marc eyed Blair closely. Blair had been freeloading for the past four weeks and it was about time that he earned his money.

"But I don't even have a driver's permit... or a car! And how do you know that..." His voice trailed off when Marc's angry eyes pierced his soul. This sounded bad and his alarms kicked in. Why was Marc going to arrange this 'car trouble'? And who was this 'man' that would help him?

"Shut up," Marc roared angrily. "Just do as you're told. Now, change your clothes and brush that hair! Don't tie it back."

Blair rose to his feet and walked into the small bathroom they had to share. He washed his face, cringing as he stared into his own scared eyes. How had it come to this? When had Marc gained this power over him? He barely dared to breathe, speak or move about in his father's presence. Old fears had returned and he felt like a helpless toddler again. If only he had someone to turn to! He'd tried to call Dean Hendricks on the phone once, but his father had stormed inside. Marc had snatched the phone from his hands and punched him. The bruised rib still ached.

After changing into his best clothes, jeans and a blue shirt, he returned to the living area. His heart was beating wildly in his chest, wondering what Marc was up to. It would be the first time that he left the trailer park in over four weeks. Marc had forbidden him to go outside.

"Now, listen carefully," Marc started as he threw Blair his coat, "you're going to be on your best behavior tonight." He opened the door and pushed Blair outside. "We're going to drive to a small place called Patton. We'll stage a car breakdown and you're going to stay close to the Mercedes. A man called Martin Bradshaw will pass by within the hour." He'd done his research. Bradshaw was a rich bastard with too much money for his own good. "He likes them young and you're just what he fancies."

Blair froze in his tracks. What the hell was Marc talking about? He hesitated to ask, but as Marc shoved him into the car he said, "Man, what's going on?"

Marc glared at him. The kid still had the audacity to question him. Well, after tonight, Blair would have no place to go, even if the kid should try to run. "Just play your part. When Bradshaw offers to help, you say yes."

"But why?" Blair trembled; feeling trapped. There was no way out.

"Bradshaw's gay," Marc continued ruthlessly. "I want you to keep him busy until midnight. Make sure he doesn't head home until after midnight!" Marc had planned this carefully. While Blair distracted Bradshaw, he would break into the rich bastard's home and steal some valuables. He already had some buyers for certain pieces of jewelry and paintings. By keeping Bradshaw busy, Blair would become accessory to the burglary. He grinned. It wouldn't take him long to train Blair as a thief. The boy was intelligent and agile.

"I still don't understand," Blair protested weakly. Marc was playing with him!

"You don't have to. Just give the man a good time!" Marc observed Blair closely and caught the shiver. "Don't tell me you've never been fucked, kid. With those looks...." Well, maybe, just maybe, he had a virgin on his hands. The boy didn't know how seductive he was and Bradshaw wouldn't pass up such delightful toy. Marc didn't really care how far Bradshaw would want to take this. If Blair managed to keep the guy at a distance, it was fine with him. "Just make sure he doesn't leave until midnight," he repeated and grinned.

Blair couldn't control his shaky hands when Marc pulled over and pushed him out of the car. Did Marc really think he was going to prostitute himself because his father wanted that? No way!

"And don't even consider running off, Blair. I tracked you down once before and I'll find you again." Marc took the car keys and walked over to the Dodge he'd parked there the day before. "The police will bring you back home, son." The last word possessed a venomous tone.

Stunned, Blair watched as Marc returned to sabotage the engine of the Mercedes. He couldn't believe Marc was capable of this criminal behavior. This man couldn't be his father! But as Marc drove off, he realized he was on his own. He could run, yes, but where could he go? Despair and resignation crept up on him and he sat down in the car, leaving the door open. Maybe Martin Bradshaw was just a figment of Marc's twisted imagination? And where was his father headed? Why leave him alone?

Minutes passed by quickly and Blair started when a firm voice addressed him. Looking up, he realized that a second car had pulled up next to the Mercedes. The man who was watching him was middle aged. Long blond hair had been tied back and the green eyes sparkled with confidence. Blair's heart thundered, realizing this had to be Martin Bradshaw. The man didn't look menacing and maybe... what if he told Bradshaw what was going on? That his father had sort of kidnapped him? Would Bradshaw believe him?

Martin Bradshaw, millionaire and notorious playboy, let his eyes wander down the boy's body. He had to stop himself from licking his lips. "Car trouble?"

Blair's throat constricted seeing the hungry expression in Bradshaw's eyes. This man was just as dangerous as Marc. "Yeah, battery went dead," he lied.

"Want a lift? I'm heading back home." Bradshaw was already planning his seduction. He wanted this delightful boytoy in his bed. "Or are you hungry? Looks like you've been out here for some time." The boy's blue lips seemed to demand to be kissed, but he held back.

"I'm kinda hungry," Blair admitted. Marc didn't believe in regular meals.

"Let's have dinner then? I know this great restaurant..." Bradshaw gestured for the boy to follow him. Watching the kid's ass, he gave in and licked his lips. //Gonna get me some tonight!//

///

"Get into the car!" Marc hissed. After the burglary he'd driven to Bradshaw's favorite restaurant to pick up Blair. It had been ten minutes past midnight when the kid had stormed outside.

Blair quickly hopped into the car and swallowed hard. Bradshaw hadn't had the chance to touch him, but the creep had undressed him with his eyes. "Man, let's get out of here." He felt nauseous and the role he'd been forced to play revolted him.

"You're a quick study," Marc stated, "you'll learn how to play them."

"What are you talking about?" Blair was on the verge of a panic attack.

"I just stole his collection of Vermeers and some very rare jewelry. I already sold the stuff. We made some good money tonight... thanks to you." Marc enjoyed knocking Blair down a few pegs. The kid better get used to his new life.

"What?" Blair gasped and stared at Marc. "You did what?"

Marc pulled over and shut off the engine. "I'm a professional thief, son."

"You're kidding me!" Blair didn't know where he found the courage to continue, but he said angrily, "You made me your accomplice!"

"Quick study all right," Marc said sarcastically. "I need a partner and you're it, kid. You got the looks to distract them and I can break into their homes while you chat them up. Don't worry, I'll teach you the trade."

Blair shook his head. "You're lying!" The thought of being Marc's accomplice sickened him.

"I'm telling the truth, kid. Try to leave me and I'll tell the cops what you did. The inmates will love your sweet ass." Marc was ready to add the finishing touch. "I've been in jail for 3 years, kid. Trust me, you would find yourself married to some monster within the hour." Blair's big eyes told him he'd succeeded in scaring the boy. Good, Blair would be a lot more cooperative now.

Blair couldn't believe that this was really happening! Only a month ago he'd been a graduate student with a promising future and now he'd been reduced to a partner in crime? Marc wanted to use him to distract the victim so his father could clean out their homes? And did Marc really intend to turn him into a thief as well? Hot tears stung his eyes but he refused to cry. He was going to survive. He had to.

///

4 years later

Blair methodically searched the bookshop for first editions. He'd already acquired a pile of study books, but now he was hunting for a first edition of War and Peace. As he studied the book covers, he mused about the turn his life had taken. He still wasn't thrilled to work with his father, but he'd resigned himself to it a long time ago. As long as Marc had evidence of him participating in the burglaries, Marc controlled him.

Oh yes, he'd tried to run once, but Marc had tracked him down. To prove his point, Marc had sent the police after him and they'd dropped him off at his father's doorstep. It had become pretty clear to Blair that he had no place to run. After that incident, he'd stopped to fight his father. Marc continued to use him to distract his victims, something that Blair hated. While Blair was talking to their chosen victim, Marc was cleaning out their home. A lot of their targets had been sexual predators, like Bradshaw, and Blair had quickly learned how to use his charm on them. Most of the time he got away untouched, but some had been determined to get him into bed. Until now, he'd always found a way out. Sweet talk or going down on them usually got him off the hook.

Disappointed because he couldn't find a first edition, he returned to the salesman and handed him his credit card to pay for the selected books. Money was no longer a problem. They made a lot of profit in selling the stolen goods. He now had his own credit card and a few collectibles he'd always craved owning. But he still lived with his father. Marc refused to let him out of his sight for too long and Blair realized he would never get rid of his father.

It had also taken him time to discover a few things. Blair had been surprised to find that Marc was a rich man. The neglected trailer they'd lived in had only been a decoy. They now lived in hotel rooms, always the best and the most expensive. Another thing he'd discovered about Marc was that his father only got violent when he'd been drinking. So sometimes Blair hid or locked away the liquor and then Marc was almost friendly.

This certainly wasn't the life he would have chosen for himself, but after living it for four years, he'd made his peace with it. Blair still hoped to get away from his father one day and maybe to go back to the University, although life on campus almost scared him after everything he'd been through. Marc kept him isolated and Blair missed having friends.

The salesman handed him back his credit card and Blair picked up his books. His eyes lovingly caressed the leather covers. He'd found a few law books that he'd also been using during his stay at Seattle University and even an anthropology book that fascinated him. Blair started for the exit when someone bumped into him. His books were sent flying over the floor.

"Sorry."

"No harm done. Don't worry about it," Blair quickly whispered and sat on his heels to pick up his books. //Sorry//, the word still vibrated through his bones. When was the last time someone had apologized to him? Marc certainly never did. His father expected him to obey every command and loathed being contradicted.

Feeling curious, Blair looked up at the man who had bumped into him. His breath caught as he stared into haunting blue eyes. The man's brush cut emphasized his strong features. The stranger wore a suit and a long black coat. Blair cocked his head, wondering why the man was wearing such formal clothes. Jeans and a shirt would look much better on him!

"Let me help."

Blair accepted the man's offer to gather his books and he got back to his feet. Oh man, he loved the sound of that sensual voice and his cock jumped to attention. Blair sighed heavily. He'd discovered some time ago that he was attracted to men and women. But he preferred men and this man in particular. Marc had made sure that he didn't develop any relationships, as his father was too concerned that someone would find out the truth about them. But the conditioning stood no chance against this attraction. "Thanks, man. I never saw you coming."

"Do you come here often? I haven't seen you here before."

"No, just passing through." Blair's heart pounded madly and he lost himself in those entrancing blue eyes. "I'm Blair," he introduced himself, forgetting Marc's warning.

"I'm Jim." Ellison studied the young man, whose face was quickly flushing a bright red. He didn't come here too often, but the owner of the bookshop had told him by phone that he'd acquired a rare note by Sir Richard Burton. The note was about Sentinels, which was why he wanted to buy it.

Jim Ellison had spent nearly two years finding out what was going on with him when he'd suddenly started to hear, see, smell, taste and feel things no one else could. After reading the Monograph he'd realized what he was, a Sentinel. It had taken him another two years to learn how to control his hyperactive senses, but he could control and use them now.

As he looked into Blair's eyes he picked up a number of oddities. The younger man's clothes were dirty, soiled with mud. The long auburn curls were a mess and the blue eyes seemed reluctant to meet his. A fading bruise on Blair's throat implied that someone had held him in a chokehold. He also smelled another man on Blair and that scent set off his inner alarms. Hell, what was going on here? Why was he reacting like this? This kid was a stranger. //But a cute one...//

Feeling shy, Blair forced himself to return Jim's stare. The man looked like a sculpted Greek god and he wished he could stay a little longer, but Marc was waiting for him in the car. Marc had created an illusion of freedom for him and Blair found himself clinging to it.

"I better get going," Blair stuttered shyly and headed towards the door. If Marc found out that he was interested in someone they would move to another city. As long as they stayed here he could dream of bumping into this Jim again. It took him a while to identify the feeling that was running through him. He'd only felt like this once before, several years ago. He was falling in love.

"Hey," Jim called out. For some reason he wanted to get to know this younger man. "If you've got time we could go for some coffee? My treat." He studied his feelings and realized he was worried about Blair. //It's the bruise. Someone tried to strangle him!// His cop instincts kicked in. He'd seen too many battered victims.

"I..." Blair regretted telling Jim no. He wanted so badly to escape Marc for a moment, but Marc would come barging in if he didn't show up at the agreed time. "Sorry, no. I can't do that."

Jim read Blair's unease. The younger man kept stealing glances outside, his eyes focused on a grey Mercedes parked in front of the bookstore. Jim acted on impulse as he uncovered one of his cards and presented it to Blair. "Call me when you've got the time."

Blair accepted the card with obvious hesitance. He would have to hide it from Marc or answer all kind of questions should his father find it. "I don't think that I..."

Jim cut him short. "Just think about it, okay?" Not wanting to pressure the young man, Jim marched over to the owner to inquire about the note. He only had ten minutes before he had to head back to the station.

Blair walked outside, his knees wobbly and panting softly. //Talk about attraction...// No one had ever affected him like that! Brutal reality crashed in on him when Marc snarled at him. Sitting down on the passenger seat he quietly listened to his father's lecture.

"Ten minutes! I said ten minutes and you were gone for almost half an hour! I was about to go inside and search for you. When I say ten minutes I mean ten minutes. Don't pull these tricks on me, kid, or I'll send all the incriminating evidence I've got to the police. They'll throw that sweet little ass of yours into jail after getting a taste of it themselves first! How many times do I have to tell you that?"

Blair released a deep sigh. "Sorry, dad. I lost track of time when I was searching for a first edition of War and Peace." Marc loved it when he called the bastard dad and hearing it always relaxed Marc. "I even bought you a book on Rembrandt." His father was always trying to find information on valuable paintings, which he could steal. "I didn't do it on purpose." Using his soothing voice he managed to calm his father down.

"Don't do it again, Blair," Marc chided him. "And we've got to work tonight."

Blair so did not want to hear this. They'd only broken into a house yesterday. Marc had found out that the owners were on holiday in Italy and they'd gone in together. Although he hated to admit it, Blair realized that Marc felt proud of him.

"What role do you want me to play tonight? Do I have to seduce someone?" Blair hoped it would be a woman. Men always tried to sweet talk him into bed. Women tended to be more interested in his mind, his opinions. His fingers lovingly moved over the old books, already looking forward to unlocking their secrets.

"You're going to steal a book, Blair. I'm getting too old for these stunts. I'll keep my eye on our victim and I'll call you when he's heading home. You're going in alone tonight."

Alone? Blair didn't like the sound of that. Yes, he'd worked previously on his own a few times, but had hated it. With Marc present, he could always make himself believe that he was doing this because Marc was forcing him to do it. But when he was working alone he couldn't blame anyone else. Contradicting Marc would only anger his father. "What am I looking for?"

"An old book by Sir Richard Burton. The cover says 'The Sentinels of Paraguay'. I've found a buyer who wants it really bad and is willing to pay an absurd price for it." Marc observed Blair. After all these years the boy was still trying to fight him. "I'll be near the PD to make sure that the owner won't surprise you by showing up at home unexpectedly."

Blair's heart missed a beat. The PD? "Please don't tell me that this guy's a cop!" This was way too dangerous! No, this was plain stupid!

"He's a captain. Head of Narcotics." Marc grinned smugly. "Guess he won't be expecting this one! Can you imagine his face when he has to report the burglary?"

"Dad," Blair started, using every trick in the book he knew to convince his father, "this is insane. If the man 's a cop, a captain... he won't rest until he's arrested us!"

"We'll leave Cascade first thing in the morning. Don't panic, boy. You've faced more difficult situations. With the man gone, it'll be a piece of cake!"

But Blair shivered. Marc was getting too cocky. Until now they'd managed to stay one step ahead of the police, but this would change things. This captain was going to take this personally and hunt them down. After all, the cop's reputation would be at stake. "Please reconsider."

"No," Marc said firmly. "We're heading back to the hotel and I'll drop you off at his place at 2300. He won't be home until 0600 because he's participating in an important stakeout."

Again, Marc's detailed knowledge surprised him. Marc had never told Blair how he collected this kind of information. Objecting would get him nowhere. Blair had been reminded of that a few days ago when he'd screwed up during his 'date' with a victim. The young man had left the restaurant early and Marc had almost been caught in the act. Blair still remembered the tight chokehold Marc had put him in.

Resigned, he gave in. "Okay, I'll do it."

///

Captain Jim Ellison's concentration was gone. There was a stack of files and reports he was supposed to study, but he kept thinking back to the young man he'd met at the bookstore. It didn't really surprise him that he still felt attracted to Blair. Those big eyes had found a way into his heart. He couldn't shake the feeling that something was wrong, really wrong with Blair.

Although he'd planned on joining Brown and Taggart from Major Crime on a stakeout, he was having second thoughts. They hoped to bust a drug cartel tonight and he had to be present, but he wouldn't be much good to anyone in his current state. Maybe he should call Banks and tell the man that something urgent had come up. He considered doing that, but then changed his mind. His men expected him to be there and this was the first time Major Crime and Narcotics worked so closely together.

Jim got up from behind his desk and pulled on his long coat. It promised to be a chilly night.

///

Marc followed the police cars from a distance. He stayed behind when they pulled up to an abandoned warehouse. Using his binoculars, he monitored Ellison. It still puzzled him why this cop possessed such a unique and valuable book, but then dismissed the thought. If everything was going according to plan Blair was breaking into the loft right now.

///

Blair cursed loudly. He didn't want to do this! Although Ellison had tried to secure the loft, Blair had had no trouble getting inside. He'd overridden the system and now stood in the living room.

"You've got good taste," Blair mumbled, as he cocked his head to study the book titles that lined the shelves. He was wearing gloves and couldn't resist checking out the copy of War and Peace on the shelf.

"A first edition, you lucky bastard!" Grinning for no particular reason, he carefully put it back. What was the title of that book Marc wanted? Something about Sentinels? What the hell was a Sentinel anyway?

Moving through the loft he found himself in the man's bedroom. Fascinated, he stared at the little jade jaguar with bared teeth standing on the nightstand. It was a beautiful piece of art. If Marc had been here with him, his father would have taken it along. But Marc wasn't here and after admiring it, Blair set it back. "Better find that book and get out of here."

He made his way back to the living area and felt envious of the man that lived here. The cop actually had a place to come home to after work. Blair hated spending his life in hotel rooms and run down apartments in order to outwit the police.

Methodically, he searched the living room, but he didn't find the book. However, he did find some photo albums, which he left closed, cookies and some free tickets to a Jags game. He placed those back, too.

Nervous, he moved on to the study situated next to the kitchen. Maybe he would get lucky here. A pile of papers covered the wooden desk and he sat down behind it. He wasn't going to stick his nose into the cop's personal affairs. The book was all he wanted. As his eyes scanned the desk they came to rest on a framed picture, which showed a dark skinned man who was smoking a cigar and proudly showing off a giant trout. Next to the man was...

"Jim?" he whispered as he recognized the man he had bumped in to earlier. Oh man, what were his chances that he would break into this man's home? Wait! Hold on! Hadn't Marc told him that the man was a cop? Jim was a captain with Cascade PD? Oh shit... he'd liked the guy!

Suddenly, the book no longer was a priority. He scrambled to his feet and was about to leave the study when his arm bumped against a pile of books. One fell onto the floor revealing its title, 'The Sentinels of Paraguay'. Blair's brow grew knitted. He didn't want to steal from Jim, but Marc would be mad as hell if he returned empty handed! Fighting inwardly, he reached down and picked up the book. It looked antique, rare and certainly valuable. The book opened revealing a picture of a tribal warrior. Fascinated, Blair sat down again and started to read.

He was so caught up in reading that he almost didn't hear the phone ringing. Shaking his head, he tried to get rid of images of tribal warriors guarding the border. The content of the book was fascinating and he understood why someone would want it so badly. His instincts told him that this might be the only copy in existence. It was priceless.

"The phone!" he berated himself. It could be Marc warning him that Jim was on his way home. He didn't want to run into the cop. Blair already felt bad for breaking into the loft. He would die if Jim caught him. That Jim was a cop didn't really scare him, but he liked the man and he thought the feelings might have been mutual. Jim's card was still in his pocket, and although he didn't plan on ever getting in to touch with him, he kept it. Kept holding on to it.

Blair sucked in his breath as the front door opened. Firm footfalls announced the owner's return and panic overwhelmed Blair. Damn! What if it was Jim? He wished the floor would open and swallow him. Quickly, he placed the book back onto the desk and turned to the open window. He didn't really have a choice. Looking down, he realized he could land on the rooftops and make his way down. It would be dangerous, but it would keep his ass out of jail.

Captain Jim Ellison tensed up as he entered the loft. He knew he wasn't alone. Someone was in the study and the man's heart was beating madly. A burglar! Jim went for his gun and took off the safety. Sneaking closer, he shook his head. The burglar hadn't done his homework. The man had to be stupid to break into a police captain's home. He was about to identify himself to the intruder when he took in the man's scent. His nose twitched; he inhaled again. Wait, he knew that scent, had smelled it before! But where and when?

Jim used his heightened sense of sight to peek into the study. The burglar, dressed in black, was fleeing through the window. //What a dumb thing to do,// Jim thought. The rooftops were slippery from the rain that had fallen this evening and the intruder would probably break his neck.

The scent! Suddenly, Jim remembered the bookstore... the handsome young man he'd bumped into... Blair. It was Blair! A sudden panic washed through him as he put the gun back into the holster. What was the kid doing breaking into his home and...

"Look out! It's slippery!" Jim called out. But the warning caught Blair off guard and Jim cringed when the younger man lost his footing and started to slip.

"Great thing to do," Jim chided himself, "scaring the kid like that!" He didn't stop to wonder why it no longer bothered him that Blair had broken into his home. The younger man's safety had priority! Jim crept out on the rooftops himself and almost immediately lost his balance. Slippery was an understatement. Blair had to be remarkably agile to have maintained his equilibrium for so long! But where was the kid now?

Blair's fingers tried to dig into the metal. He couldn't lose his hold now. Blair looked over his shoulder and his heart missed a beat. Jim was coming after him! Shit! His left foot slipped away and he hit the lower roof hard. He managed to break his fall by landing on his left hand, but the wrist snapped back. Blair choked back a moan of pain and continued to make his way down. He was only a few feet away from making contact with the street when he recognized the grey Mercedes.

Blair jumped onto the ground, panting hard. His right hand steadied his left wrist. The pain was getting worse and he tried to move his wrist. He succeeded; thankfully, it wasn't broken... yet. Marc would be furious because he'd returned without the book and Blair flinched, knowing how terrible Marc's anger could be.

"Get your butt over here!" Marc called out from the car and gestured Blair to hurry up. His eyes quickly scanned Blair and Marc realized that Blair didn't have the book. Cursing heavily, he was about to get out of the car when he caught the shadow moving in closer. "Get into the car, you little shit! You fucked up! Man, you're in trouble!"

Torn, Blair first stared at Marc and then at the shadow that had almost covered the distance between them. What was worse? Facing Marc's wrath or going to jail? If he went to jail and did his time he might have a chance to start anew one day. But... Marc's words came back and frightened him. He would never survive prison! "Marc, I want..." What did he want? He felt lost and confused.

"Don't move," Jim said steadfastly as he landed on his feet behind Blair. He smelled the fear on the younger man and it had only started when this 'Marc' character had shown up. His heightened sense of hearing had picked up the name. During his escape over the rooftops, Blair's heart had thumped madly, but Jim hadn't smelled the fear. Ergo, the kid was afraid of the man in the Mercedes.

Blair lowered his eyes, unable to decide what to do. Then he noticed that Jim's gun wasn't aimed at him, but at Marc. But why Marc? Marc hadn't broken into the loft!

Marc didn't want to take any risks and fired up the engine, driving off full throttle. The kid wouldn't betray him. Right now he was Blair's only chance to stay out of jail. He would pay Blair's bail and then quickly leave Cascade. The book was lost to him now and he cursed because the profit he'd wanted to make had gone down the drain.

Blair watched as the grey car disappeared into the darkness of the night. Marc's reaction came as no surprise. Deep down, Marc was nothing but a coward. Blair extended his hands expecting Jim to handcuff him. He didn't want to meet the cop's eyes, as he felt way too ashamed.

After holstering his gun, Jim cocked his head trying to catch the elusive expression in Blair's eyes. He didn't know what to say and simply put an arm round Blair's shoulders. The kid looked lost and ready to faint. "Come on, let's go back and talk." Blair intrigued him. Yes, the kid had broken into his home, but why?

Blair wondered if he'd misheard. "Hmm, what?" he whispered at a loss. Jim's reaction puzzled him. "Aren't you going to arrest me?"

"You know I'm a cop?" Jim guided him back inside and pulled him along as they climbed the stairs. He had to admit that Blair had done an outstanding job overriding the alarm system.

"You're a captain," Blair whispered weakly and found himself standing in the loft once more. Jim led him into the kitchen and Blair remained motionless as Jim started the coffee maker.

"Sit down," Jim instructed and pointed at the kitchen table.

Blair obeyed immediately. After living with Marc for the past four years he longer questioned orders. "Am I going to jail?"

Jim caught the terror in Blair's voice. He had to calm the kid down and get him to tell the entire story. "Here, drink this." He handed Blair a mug filled with hot coffee. Then he slipped out of his coat and sat down next to Blair. "What were you doing in the loft, Blair?"

"I'm sorry," Blair said hesitantly. He wasn't sure what to say or if he should mention Marc. Jim was a cop and Blair wanted him to take the lead.

"Why did you break into the loft? Tell me no lies, Blair. I want the truth." His Sentinel abilities would tell him when Blair was lying. Looking at Blair, Jim's heart missed a beat. Blair looked even younger, more vulnerable, than the first time they had met. Did Blair know how handsome he was? His own thoughts startled Jim as he wondered how Blair's lips would feel against his.

"The book. Marc wanted the book," Blair whispered, shocked that he'd actually spoken those words out loud. He should keep Marc out of this. Marc was the only one who would try to get him out of jail! The hot mug warmed his hands and he wondered why Jim was so friendly. Didn't the cop have to report the burglary and take him to the station to be booked? Instead, they were sitting here drinking coffee?

"What book?" Jim had reached some conclusions. One, Blair hadn't broken into his home voluntarily. The few lines Marc had spoken to Blair indicated that the man had some kind of hold on Blair. Secondly, Blair was scared shitless. The kid didn't strike him as a criminal and his instincts always came through.

"The book on Sentinels," Blair whispered in a guilty tone. "I didn't want to take it, but..."

Jim nodded his head. He had to be really careful now. "Do you know what a Sentinel is?"

"I read the first few pages of the book," Blair admitted. "Some kind of watchman?"

"Yeah." Jim leaned back in his chair. It looked like his secret was still safe. Blair had no idea that he was a Sentinel.

"Am I going to jail now?" Defeated, Blair raised his head and locked eyes with Jim. His hands shook as he tried to sip from the mug of coffee.

Jim noticed the shivering and realized why Blair was scared. Jail. He'd been in jail during one of his undercover assignments and he knew only too well that the inmates would instantly hit on the younger man. Maybe he could use that fear as a means to extract the rest of the story from Blair. "Who's Marc?"

"My father... I think," Blair admitted in a strangled tone.

"You think?" Jim didn't like the sound of this. "You aren't sure?"

"My mother left him when I was three. I don't remember him. Four years ago my mother died and..." he swallowed hard. Naomi had passed away four years ago on this very day. "And she made him my legal guardian."

Jim nodded his head, hoping to hear more. He had already made up his mind. He wouldn't report the burglary and he would look into this matter himself.

"I had just started the graduate program at Seattle University when Marc took me with him. He... he's been using me to pull off his burglaries."

The self-loathing in Blair's voice was obvious and Jim asked, "How old were you when your mother died?"

"Sixteen. I'm twenty-one now," Blair fidgeted nervously with his sleeve. "You still haven't answered my question."

"I'm thinking it over, Chief... " Jim knew Blair wasn't telling him the entire story and pushed. "How did you get those bruises?" he asked, pointing at Blair's throat. Old bruises were already fading, but new ones had appeared. He suspected it had to do with Marc, but he wanted to hear Blair say it.

"Marc gets angry when I fuck up."

"What did you do?" Jim's hands clenched into fists, his anger at Marc building.

Blair's hand went to his throat to cover the ugly bruise. "I got this one because I stayed too long at the bookstore. At first, Marc wasn't mad at me, but later he drank some vodka and... he gets abusive when he drinks."

//I'm going to kill this guy... really slowly.// Jim got to his feet. He needed to do something that would take his mind off Marc. "Are you hungry, Blair?"

"Yes," Blair answered without thinking. "But why...?" Since when did cops take care of burglars?

Jim fixed them some sandwiches and handed Blair his share. "Eat," he ordered and watched Blair, trying to make up his mind. "Do you want to go back to your father?" //Father,// Jim thought disgusted. //The man's a sick bastard to treat his son like that!//

"No, not really," Blair said between two bites. "But he has proof that I... helped him, you know? He'll tell the police and..." Then he realized the police already knew because Jim knew. "I guess that no longer matters..." Wringing his hands, he waited for Jim to speak up. He tried to ignore the stinging pain in his wrist and bit hard on his lower lip.

"What's wrong?" Jim had been monitoring Blair's vitals and realized the younger man was in pain.

"It's my wrist..." Blair admitted shyly. "It'll get better."

But Jim didn't dismiss it that easily. "Let me have a look at it." Again he encountered old bruises. "It's not broken," he sighed and got to his feet to retrieve the first aid kit. "But it'll cause you a lot of discomfort." He bandaged the wrist and noticed how Blair immediately cradled it against his chest, using his other hand to support it.

"You're going to stay here tonight. You can sleep on the couch, which is fairly comfortable." Jim gathered their empty plates and leaned against the wall, admiring the beautiful young man sitting at his kitchen table. He'd been attracted to men before, but Blair... Blair was different. He could love Blair... wanted to love him. Blair looked like he needed to be loved badly. "We'll discuss this further in the morning,"

Blair stared at the cop in disbelief. "What?" he stammered.

"You'll sleep on the couch, Chief. Tomorrow we'll figure out what to do. I'll get you some blankets and a pillow... if you want to use the bathroom, go ahead." Jim climbed the stairs to his bedroom to retrieve the items. Blair's heartbeat hadn't picked up speed, which proved that the kid wasn't lying. It looked like Blair really wanted to get away from Marc and that was why Jim was helping him. This could be Blair's second chance... if he wanted it.

Blair's eyes traveled to the front door. Why wasn't he trying to escape? Instead, he was sitting here waiting for Jim to return. This was madness! Mechanically, he walked into the bathroom and splashed some cold water onto his face, fully expecting to wake up any second now. When that didn't happen he knew that he wasn't dreaming. Jim was giving him a chance to prove himself to the cop! He quickly relieved himself and washed his hands. He ran his fingers through his tangled hair and wondered what the hell he was doing staying here. Marc would kill him!

"Chief?" Jim peeked inside. Blair hadn't locked the door. The blue eyes that stared back at him were filled with panic. "It's almost 4 o'clock in the morning. Let's try to get some sleep?" He had to be back at the station at noon. "Come on and sit down on the sofa."

Blair did as he was told, wondering how a dream could be this vivid.

"Take off your shoes, Chief." Jim placed the pillow on the sofa and picked up Blair's feet. "Lie down, Blair, and close your eyes."

Blair started to tremble, knowing with uncanny certainty that Jim was worried about him. About a thief! "What if I run off?"

"You won't," Jim stated. "You're safe here."

And yes, God help him, Blair felt safe as the cop loomed over him. He curled up and allowed Jim to cover him with warm blankets. "Why are you doing this? You're a cop. Shouldn't you turn me in?"

"I've got my reasons," Jim said evasively. "Are you comfortable?"

"Yeah, but..." Letting go of his fears Blair gave into exhaustion. Facing Jim and not knowing what would happen to him had drained him. At least he would be safe tonight. He closed his eyes and as his body shut down, he fell instantly asleep.

Jim sat down and caressed a tangled lock. The kid was quickly growing on him and he was falling hard for Blair. It had been a while since he had loved, really loved, someone and he wondered if he had a chance to win Blair's heart.

As he made his way to the upstairs bedroom, he tuned in to Blair's heartbeat. That way he would know if Blair was awake, moving about or sneaking out of the loft.

Something that Blair had told him had set off his alarm bells and it had to do with Marc, but he couldn't label it. Tomorrow, he was going to investigate Blair and Marc's past.

///

Opening his eyes, Blair had no idea where he was. The last thing he remembered was... was Jim. Jim had come after him and Marc had driven away. Had Jim really taken him home? He remembered sipping coffee and telling Jim his history, but... Yes, this was the loft and he was hidden beneath warm blankets. Sitting upright, he wondered where Jim was. A glance at the clock told him that it was 10 AM and he couldn't remember the last time he'd had this many hours of peaceful sleep.

He decided to stay put a little longer, uncertain how to act. But 30 minutes later he started to wonder. Carefully, he slid the blankets off his body. He was still wearing his clothes and he tiptoed into the kitchen to get a drink of water.

Where was Jim? Was the cop still here or had Jim reported the burglary and was he bringing back some uniformed officers? Blair considered walking out that door and never looking back, but realized that Marc would track him down.

Finally, he reached a decision and he walked over to the staircase, remembering that Jim's bedroom was upstairs. Should he call out or stay quiet? "Jim?" he said hesitantly, scared to disrupt Jim's sleep. "Jim?" This time he called out louder and climbed the first 3 steps. "Jim? Can I come upstairs? I need to talk to you, man."

He didn't get an answer and proceeded carefully. Once he had climbed the stairs he found Jim still in bed. The cop lay face down, asleep on his stomach. Blair's breath caught. The sheet had slipped down revealing the magnificently built body. Jim was only wearing some silk shorts and they didn't hide his perfect ass.

"Oh, man." Blair breathed the words, willing his arousal to die. Looking at Jim had made him hard within seconds.

But shouldn't Jim be waking up now? Weren't cops trained to be light sleepers and wake up at the first sight of danger? "Jim?" he tried again. Maybe Jim didn't think he was dangerous? After gathering his courage, he sat down on the side of the bed. "Jim?" But the cop remained motionless and Blair started to get scared. He checked Jim's breathing, which was normal. "What's going on, Jim?"

But Jim didn't answer him and Blair fought down his panic. He rolled Jim onto his back and gasped at the sight of the cop's open eyes, which stared blankly at the ceiling. "Jim? You're scaring me here," he admitted, shaking Jim gently. "I don't know what to do, Jim." He continued to talk, asking, and then begging, Jim to talk to him, to acknowledge his presence. Finally, Jim's eyes blinked.

"Shit," Jim cursed. It had been a while since he'd last zoned out. He'd been 31 at that time and had believed he'd mastered his senses. This time, however, it felt like he'd been zoning for hours, but on what?

"Jim? Are you all right?"

That voice. That voice had brought him back. Focusing his eyes, he looked at Blair who was obviously frightened and almost panicking. "It's okay," he said reassuringly and allowed himself a moment to take in Blair's beauty. The kid could have left during the night, but had stayed. //He's got a good heart.//

"You scared me," Blair admitted, and realized that his fingers were soothingly caressing Jim's brow. He wanted to pull back, but Jim took hold of his hand. "What?" Blair stuttered confused. What was he reading in Jim's eyes?

"Don't go. Stay." Jim struggled inwardly. He was falling in love with Blair and it wasn't fair to Blair to keep him in the dark. //But then again, Blair's so young!// The age difference made him uncomfortable. Blair was 21 and he had just turned 32.

"I..." Blair's voice trailed off. "What happened?"

Jim decided to trust Blair right then and there. "I zoned out."

"You did what?" Blair's brow grew furrowed, but then he remembered something he had read in the Monograph Marc had wanted him to steal. "You must be kidding me! You can't be a... What did Burton call it? A Sentinel?"

"I'm a Sentinel," Jim clarified, "and I zoned out." But why had he zoned out?

Blair decided not to contradict him, uncertain of Jim's reaction. "Sure, if you say so."

And then Jim realized what he had zoned out on was Blair's scent. The kid was sending out pheromones! He could smell the arousal that clung to Blair and... hope stirred in his soul. Could it be that Blair was attracted to him as well? This development was going to complicate everything! He raised his right hand, cupped the back of Blair's head and pulled him in for a kiss.

Stunned, Blair felt how Jim's lips took possession of his. Jim traced the inside of his lips and Blair moaned his desire. He parted his teeth and allowed Jim's tongue to slip inside. This had to be a dream. That was it. He was still asleep in his bed in the hotel and would wake up any moment now. Jim's fingers tangled in his hair and Blair quivered as Jim suckled his tongue. Blair's cock throbbed painfully and he felt helpless... at Jim's mercy.

Jim ended the kiss as abruptly as he had started it, and searched Blair's eyes. The smell of pheromones on Blair was even stronger now and Jim had his answer. "Is there something you want to tell me, Chief?"

Blair started at the sound of Jim's voice. Had they really kissed? Had Jim really pulled him in for a kiss? He'd dreamed about kissing Jim when he'd been asleep last night and now it had really happened.

"Just be honest with me, Chief."

"I think I'm... I think I'm... Blair choked up and closed his eyes. "I think I'm falling in love with you," he confessed embarrassed.

"I'm in love with you too, Chief," Jim replied warmly, relieved that the feeling was mutual. "Blair, I need you to be honest with me now."

Blair nodded his head, unable to lie to Jim. "What do you want to know?"

"What's Marc's last name?"

"Moyet, why?"

Jim filed the name away. He would run it through the computer later. "Do you know for sure that he's your father?"

Blair shifted uncomfortably on the bed. "Naomi named him my guardian. I remember him from when I was little..."

"Did you ever run a DNA test to make sure?" Jim pushed. This would be a lot easier if Marc wasn't Blair's father.

"No," Blair replied after a moment's thought. "What has this got to do with..."

"Us?" Jim supplied. "Listen, I need to check on some things at the station. Don't leave the loft."

"What if Marc comes back?"

"Don't open the door." Jim was even considering placing a guard at the front door. Blair had told him that Marc was abusive and he couldn't take the risk that Marc had gotten loaded after the heist had failed. Jim took a deep breath and dialed down his sense of smell. Blair's scent was too intoxicating. "You'll stay here until I get back from the station, do you hear?" Blair looked miserable and Jim put his arms around him. "Hey, you're no longer alone, Chief."

"I don't get it," Blair admitted in a tiny tone. "I'm a stranger! You hardly know me."

//But I know your soul, Blair,// Jim thought, suddenly realizing that absolute truth. He released Blair and got to his feet. "I'm going to take a quick shower. Maybe you can start breakfast?" He watched as Blair descended the stairs, depression evident in each step. //Just hold on, Blair.//

///

"I knew it!" Jim exclaimed with excitement. He'd checked Marc Moyet's file and the bastard had never been married nor did he have any registered children. The man was a fraud. He had to return to the loft to tell Blair the good news. His men were already searching for Moyet and when they arrested the bastard Jim planned on carrying out a DNA test to make sure. Moyet would probably agree to a test if that meant the judge would go easy on him.

Jim ignored the looks he got as he hurried back to the parking lot. He marveled at the effect Blair had on him. They had only met 48 hours ago and he'd fallen head over heels in love with him. Blair would stay with him because the younger man loved him and he would make everything up to Blair, even encourage him to go back to the University. Maybe Blair could enroll at Rainier?

///

He parked the car and then froze. In front of the loft was a grey Mercedes. "Shit, Moyet's here!" He ran up the stairs dialing up his sense of hearing. Blair's heart was pounding wildly and he also picked up Moyet's angry voice.

"What the hell are you doing here, Blair? The man's a cop! A police captain! Of course he'll report the burglary and arrest you! He just wants your ass first!"

Jim growled infuriated. Moyet was a dead man; he just didn't know it yet.

"No, Marc. Jim seems to genuinely care about me and I want to... to stay."

Blair sounded scared and confused. Jim kicked open the front door to get to the men. Two pair of blue eyes fastened on him and Jim grew even angrier when he saw fresh bruises on Blair's face. "Moyet, you're under arrest."

Blair flinched. His last name was Moyet as well.

"Marc Moyet, you're under arrest," Jim added, sensing Blair's fear. He grabbed his gun and aimed it at Moyet. With his other hand he hit redial on his cell phone and called for back up. After his men confirmed that they were on their way, Jim tried to handcuff Moyet, but the desperate man made an evasive maneuver and Jim landed flat on his back. Moyet punched him, but Jim quickly got to his feet again. He smelled the fear on Blair and wondered how Marc's abusive behavior would affect Blair in the long run.

"This is for telling Blair lies!" Jim backhanded Moyet and used the man's momentary disorientation to put the cuffs on him. "Tell him the truth. Blair deserves that!" He dragged Moyet closer to Blair and made him look up. "Tell him!"

Blair trembled violently. What the hell was happening? What was Jim talking about?

"Tell him who he is and who you are!" Jim ordered, increasing the pressure on Moyet's wrists.

"I'm not your father!" Moyet spat eventually. "I was a close friend of your father's and Naomi hated my guts! I forged the will!"

Blair leaned heavily against the wall, his hands clenching and unclenching spasmodically. "You're not...?"

Moyet stayed quiet. Jim would have loved to put the pressure on just a little more, but two uniformed cops stormed into the loft to help him. "Take him away and book him," Jim instructed and glared at Moyet. "And don't forget to read him his rights!" Pleased, Jim watched as Moyet was dragged from the loft. After closing the door he turned to Blair, who was shaking his head.

"I believed him! Four fucking years!" After his anger cooled down a little, he grew scared again. "He'll tell them, Jim. Tell them I helped him."

"He forced you to cooperate. That's something completely different, Chief. Don't worry about it. If necessary, I'll get us the best lawyer money can buy."

"Us," Blair whispered, taken aback by the fierce love in Jim's eyes. "You can't want me, Jim. I'm a thief!"

Affectionately, Jim folded his arms around Blair. "Yes, you're a thief, all right. You stole my heart, Chief."

Blair blushed hearing those words. "Man, you're really sure about this, aren't you?" Determination shone from Jim's eyes. "Why?"

"Chief," Jim led him to the couch and sat him down. "I've been married before and it didn't work out. I'm not even sure I was in love with her. But the things that I feel when holding you are... beyond words. I never considered myself a romantic, but this is love at first sight... at least for me, it is."

Shyly, Blair allowed Jim to hold his hand. "You know... I can't believe this is really happening. Marc's gone and... I'm glad the bastard isn't my father. But why did he forge Naomi's will?" Blair considered his own question and realized Marc had answered that one. "He wanted a partner he could control."

Jim leaned back and pulled Blair into an embrace. Although this was happening fast, he didn't feel awkward holding Blair. //The things love does to you,// he mused. "Are you going to stay with me? Here?"

"If you'll let me... I'd love to." Blair finally met Jim's eyes. He still had some questions left, but didn't feel comfortable asking them.

"What is it?" Jim sensed the quickening of Blair's heartbeat. He dialed down his sense of smell to prevent a zone out. //The pheromones!//

"This Sentinel thing," Blair said hesitantly. "You've got..." he tried to remember the exact words the Monograph had used, "heightened senses?"

"Yeah, I was 27 when they kicked back in. I remember having them as a little boy, but I think I repressed them so successfully that they went offline."

"How did you find out? I mean, it must have been pretty scary when they came back online..." Blair held Jim's stare and wondered about the tenderness in the man's gestures, something he'd never expected. Jim was stroking his curls and it felt good, amazingly good! He'd hungered all these years for a little affection and Marc had never tried to be his friend.

"Luck," Jim replied. Now that Blair knew he was a Sentinel he better tell the younger man everything. "A consultant to the PD told me. Her name was Selena and she worked mostly with Major Crime, but when she heard that I was behaving oddly she wanted to talk to me. She was a psychologist turned Profiler and had an interest in anthropology. That's how I found out. She owned the Monograph and left it to me after she died."

"She died?" Blair had seen the affection in Jim's eyes when he talked about Selena.

"Yeah, she died in an explosion. Some madman tried to blow up the PD. She was a good woman."

"I'm sorry about that," Blair offered sincerely. "But why are you telling me this? Why trust me? I mean, I could still steal that Monograph and disappear tomorrow."

"But you won't. You're not like that, Chief."

The trust in Jim's eyes took Blair aback. "I've never met anyone like you," he admitted. Feeling a little more confident, he added, "What's going to happen next? With us, you know?" This was frighteningly new to him. What were Jim's intentions? Was Blair just a fling or did Jim want a committed relationship? And how to ask these questions?

Jim's stomach growled fiercely at that exact moment and they both laughed. "Let's eat out," Jim suggested. "I'm too beat to cook."

"I cook," Blair offered weakly.

Jim's laugh changed into a grin. "You can cook some other time. I want to show off my new lover." He realized how insecure Blair had to feel right now and wanted to reassure him. "You can pick the restaurant."

But Blair hated restaurants. The only time he ever visited them was when Marc had wanted him to keep their victims busy. "I want to go to WonderBurger."

Jim was surprised, but gave in quickly. "I'm overdressed then. Give me a moment to change."

"Uhm, Jim?" Blair stared down at his black outfit. "I need clothes, man." He had slept in these clothes and they were starting to smell.

"All right, we'll go shopping later... after dinner." Jim got to his feet and pulled Blair along. "What?"

"Maybe we can pick up some of my stuff from the hotel where I was staying?"

"I'm afraid we can't do that. Police is searching that place for evidence," Jim said honestly. "But we'll buy the things you need, all right?"

Blair disappeared into the bathroom and tied back his hair, which was a mess. He needed to wash, condition and brush it. //I want to show off my new lover,// Blair mentally repeated Jim's words. Did that mean Jim really wanted him to stick around? Blair hated feeling this insecure.

"Come on, Chief, or my stomach's going to implode!" Jim said jokingly, as he descended the stairs after changing into jeans and a shirt. He had never before been this intensely in love and it slightly frightened him. Determined to take this slow, he glanced into the bathroom and found Blair staring at his reflection. "Let's get going, Blair."

"Sure," Blair replied quickly. He'd been lost in thought.

"Before we go," Jim tossed Blair the spare set of keys to the loft. "It's your home now too." Blair's face was an open book and so many different emotions washed over those features.

"I haven't had a home since Naomi died," he confessed in a shaky tone. The metal keys pressed deeper into the palm of his hand and he cherished Jim's trust. He wouldn't betray it.

///

It was almost 11 PM when they returned home and Jim nudged Blair ahead to open the door. //And I need to update my security system. Maybe I can ask Blair to test it? If he's still able to break into the loft at that point, I need to buy a new security system.//

He watched as Blair fumbled with the keys. Blair had been remarkably subdued during dinner. When he'd asked what was wrong, Blair had shrugged his shoulders. Then Blair had hesitantly admitted that he was used to Marc being around keeping an eye on him. Freedom was a new concept to Blair, but Jim felt confident that it would quickly grow on the younger man.

"Man, I'm beat," Blair whispered as he dropped onto the couch. Jim's concern and love were almost palpable and Blair sighed. Except for Naomi, no one had ever loved him like this. He cradled his bruised wrist against his chest. In spite of resting it, the wrist still throbbed. Peeking at Jim, he realized how easy it was to trust the cop. A cop! Marc and he'd been running from the cops for over four years. "Can I read the Monograph?" Blair asked eventually.

"Sure, you know where to find it." Jim stretched his body, feeling tired. He walked over to Blair and looked down at him. "Where do you want to sleep tonight? The couch or our bed?" He hoped Blair would pick the bed. The entire evening he'd been fantasizing about holding Blair in his sleep.

Blair lowered his eyes, uncertain what answer Jim wanted to hear. It felt odd, making a decision and knowing that no retribution would follow. With Marc, he'd never been sure of the man's reaction. "The bed?" he said weakly and sought out Jim's eyes. The smile on Jim's face assured him that he'd made the right decision. He yearned to be held, to be cherished.

Pleased, Jim nodded his head and dropped off the bags with clothes and personal items he'd bought Blair. "I'll take a quick shower. Make yourself comfortable upstairs."

Blair released his breath as Jim disappeared into the bathroom. What had he gotten himself into now? Had he unknowingly made a mistake? What did Jim expect would happen once they were in bed? Nervously, he uncovered the sweats they had bought and changed into them. He didn't feel like taking a shower now and would do that in the morning.

His nervousness increased as he started to climb the stairs. Although some of his dates/ victims had tried to get him into their beds he'd always found a way to get away in time. Did he have to tell Jim that he had never really dated before?

Yeah, he'd had a girlfriend before he had left for Seattle University but they'd never gone beyond the point of kissing and caressing. They'd been too young and he'd wanted to make sure that his first time would be with someone he really loved.

And Jim was the real thing...

"Hey, Chief, did you already make yourself comfortable?" Jim smiled, finding Blair seated on the side of the bed. Usually, Jim slept in the nude, but now he was wearing boxers and a tee shirt. He wanted Blair to feel comfortable. There was so much they still needed to talk about, but he wanted Blair to feel safe first.

"I don't know what side of the bed you want," Blair said evasively.

"Why don't you take the side closest to the wall?" Jim suggested and made himself comfortable in bed. He watched Blair hesitantly lie down and slip beneath the comforter. "Can I hold you?"

Blair swallowed hard. He'd been afraid to ask that very thing and now Jim offered it? "Yes... please," he whispered, and moved a little closer. Turning onto his side, he moved into Jim's open arms. He rested his head on Jim's chest and his body started to relax. His tense muscles finally loosened up. "I like this."

"So do I," Jim admitted and inhaled Blair's scent. "You're comfortable like this?"

"It's nice," Blair whispered softly. "Can I ask you a question?" Now that they were this close he felt more confident. It was obvious that Jim wanted him to be part of his life, but... "Do you trust me?"

"Yes," Jim said firmly. "I can't explain it, but I feel like I've known you my entire life."

"I feel like that too," Blair admitted shyly. "I can't believe how good this feels. We only met a few days ago." He snuggled up to Jim. "Naomi used to hold me too."

"Naomi's your mother?" Jim was still trying to put all the pieces of this puzzle together.

"Yes, and I still miss her. I was at Seattle University when I got the message that she'd been killed in a car crash."

"I went to Seattle University for one year," Jim said thoughtfully. "What was your major?"

"Law. Can you imagine that? I wanted to be a lawyer!"

"And then Marc showed up," Jim realized and held him tight. Tremors rocked Blair's body.

"Yeah and he turned me into a thief. I hated myself for giving in to him." Blair tried to control the tremors, but failed. He'd kept this inside for too long. "I kept the victims busy while he cleaned out their homes. He always threatened to call the cops on me if I ran."

"You'll have to make a statement, maybe even testify when he goes to trial, but you're not going to prison. I promise." Relieved, Jim noticed that the tremors lessened in intensity. "Would you like to go back to the University? Maybe Rainier?" he suggested.

"I don't know. That's not me any longer, man." Blair felt lost and wrapped his arms around Jim's waist. "You know, I never had time to mourn Naomi's death. Marc burned the journal she gave me the last time I saw her."

"Marc's a bastard," Jim spat, as his anger returned. "Things will be different from now on."

Blair was stunned by how easy it was to open up to Jim and he said, "Three weeks after Naomi died, I turned seventeen. Naomi always tried to call me on my birthday or she gave me a small present, but Marc... I thought he was my father, you know? I hoped he would remember."

"When is your birthday, Blair?" Jim asked mischievously.

"In three weeks," Blair said puzzled. "Why do you want to know?"

But Jim didn't reply, he just gave Blair a beaming smile. "What date, Darwin?"

"The twentieth, why?" Blair looked Jim in the eyes. No way... Jim couldn't be planning something!

"The twentieth?" Jim repeated wickedly. "Want to get some sleep now? I don't know about you, but I'm tired." He concentrated on the warm and pliant body in his arms and considered himself fortunate that Blair had broken into his home. Blair's gasp of relief didn't escape his attention. "I love to cuddle," Jim said reassuringly. "We'll take this slowly, Blair."

"Thanks, man," Blair whispered reassured. It was time for his big confession and embarrassed he said, "You should know that... I've never been with anyone before... Marc didn't like it when I got too close to people so..."

This time it was Jim's turn to swallow hard. "Are you telling me that I'm your first lover?"

"Well, yeah." Embarrassed, Blair cleared his throat.

"I hope I can live up to your expectations, Chief," Jim said affectionately.

"I'm sure you will." Blair closed his eyes, marveling at how great it felt to talk to Jim, to be held by him.

A moment later, Jim listened to Blair's steady breathing. He tightened his hold on his new lover and pressed a gentle kiss on Blair's brow. He'd caught this thief of hearts and planned on holding on to him as long as they lived.

///

October 20th

"Uhm, Jim? You need to make some serious alterations to your security system," Blair called out teasingly. Jim had asked him to test the new and improved system, but it still presented no real challenge to him.

In mock despair, Jim clutched his face between his hands. He loved seeing the sparkle in Blair's eyes. "Why don't you make those improvements? You know a lot about this stuff." Jim remembered the first time he'd suggested that Blair test their security system. A hurt expression had appeared in Blair's eyes and Jim had mentally kicked himself for reminding Blair of his troubled past. But after explaining his reasons for asking, Blair had agreed. He wanted to feel safe at the loft as well.

Jim leaned back into the comfort of the sofa and patted the space next to him. "Come here, lover," he said softly. It still amazed him that Blair tended to blush whenever he used that little term of endearment. Blair moved into his arms and Jim sighed contentedly. So many things had changed since the night Blair had broken into his home. For four weeks now they'd slept in the same bed and Jim's heart always woke up with a loud thump when he found Blair in his arms. They hadn't moved past the kissing stage yet and that was okay with him. Blair needed time to get his life back together.

A few days ago a uniformed cop had dropped off some of Blair's personal belongings, which had been left behind at the hotel. Blair's face had lit up when he'd carried his things upstairs.

Marc Moyet eventually pled guilty. After hearing Blair's testimony, the judge had sentenced Moyet to fifteen years in prison. Blair had gotten off fairly easy because he'd supplied the evidence and information, which had put Moyet behind bars.

Blair had also changed his last name and was now registered as Blair Sandburg again. Jim had even found some brochures from Rainier in the living room. Blair was getting his life together again and that was a good sign.

"Jim?" Blair whispered against Jim's chest. "These last four weeks have been the best of my life." It had taken him some time to adjust to the changes in his life. Jim wasn't a controlling individual as Marc had been and Blair had had a hard time getting used to having his freedom back.

One of the first decisions he'd made was to visit India next year. Jim was going to accompany him. He wanted to see the spot where Naomi had died and maybe even visit the Ganges where they'd released her ashes.

Today was his birthday and Blair was careful not to bring it up. He didn't want Jim to feel like they had to celebrate it. Blair was content to let the day pass by in silence. Resting in Jim's arms, he stared at his lover's hands that were stroking his skin through the fabric of his shirt. "I love you, Jim," he said softly.

Jim grinned madly and kissed Blair's hair. "I love you too, Chief and... happy birthday, Blair."

"Man, I hoped you'd forgotten about that!" But secretly he was thrilled that Jim had remembered. Looking up at his lover, he pressed a hesitant kiss on Jim's lips. The love Jim gave him healed his wounds. His hands rested on Jim's shoulders and he pulled his lover closer.

"Damn, I thought you'd be curious about your presents, Chief," Jim said teasingly. Seeing the surprise in Blair's eyes he felt his own water. Marc had destroyed part of Blair and Jim was determined to resurrect it. His fingers snuck inside Blair's shirt and he stroked the smooth skin beneath the fabric.

"You've already given me your love, Jim. That's all I want." Blair fought his own tears. "I don't need material things."

"You wait here for me," Jim ordered and released Blair from his embrace. He hurried into the study and retrieved one large, gift-wrapped box. "Open it, Blair."

Blair swallowed the lump that had formed in his throat. "You didn't have to do this, Jim."

"I wanted to." Jim laughed warmly as Blair cautiously removed the paper. He'd assumed Blair would tear it off, ripping it to shreds, but Blair's fingers moved almost reverently.

Blair nervously licked his lips as he picked up the first item he uncovered. It was a leather bound journal. "Oh man," he whispered emotionally.

"Open it. I wrote something on the first page." Jim waited patiently for Blair to compose himself. He placed his right hand on Blair's to reassure him.

Blair opened the journal and read the words aloud. "Blair, you told me that you lost the journal that Naomi gave you. I want you to have this one instead. Hopefully, it'll always remind you of my love, Jim."

"Oh," escaped Blair and he quickly wiped away the tear that was sliding down his face. "This is the sweetest thing anyone has ever done for me. Thanks, Jim." He leaned in to capture Jim's lips and kissed his lover passionately.

Jim pulled back reluctantly. "There's more," he hinted, hoping the other gifts wouldn't overwhelm Blair.

"What's this?" Blair examined the credit cards with both their names on them. After Marc had been arrested his account had been closed and Blair had been penniless. Next, he uncovered a set of car keys. "Jim?"

"I know you've got a driver's license." Blair had told him that he'd driven Marc's car on occasion, but Marc had never let him own a car. "I saw this old Ford... it's nothing fancy, but dependable." He wanted Blair to be mobile. It would help Blair to regain his self-confidence.

"It's too much, man. I can't accept this," Blair stuttered.

"I want to do this for you, baby." Jim reached inside the box and uncovered his last present. He handed Blair the envelope. "And I want you to have this as well."

Apprehensively, Blair opened the envelope. It was a check and the amount of money written on it startled him. "What's this?"

"I want you to use it in case you're going back to the University. You'll need to buy books and stuff. I do hope you'll continue to live here with me though." Jim had seen the expression of longing in Blair's eyes whenever he'd read a brochure about Rainier.

It was obvious that Blair was itching to get back to school and that pleased Jim. He wanted Blair to fulfill his dreams. If Blair wanted to be a lawyer, he would support his lover. "Please don't think that I'm trying to buy your love, Chief. The truth is that my family's quite rich and I never knew what to do with the money."

"I'm not sure I can accept all this," Blair repeated. "I know you're not trying to buy me, but... It's too much, man."

"I understand that, baby," Jim assured him and claimed Blair's lips again. This time his lover parted his lips and Jim's tongue slipped inside. Blair suddenly moved and now straddled his hips. Lost for words, Jim simply continued the kiss. Holding Blair close, he sighed blissfully.

"Thanks, Jim... for everything..." Blair whispered after releasing Jim's lips.

Jim nodded his head and his index finger traced Blair's lips. "No, thank you for stealing my heart, Blair. I finally feel alive again. I now know what it means to love, truly love." He cradled Blair in his arms and whispered, "You'll always be my very own thief of hearts, baby."

Blair relaxed completely in Jim's arms and accepted this love, this passion. "I'm glad you caught me, Jim. Don't ever let me go again..." He was right where he wanted to be; in Jim's arms.

The end

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Acknowledgements: Thanks for inviting me in and letting me write this sweet little story.