Hot For Teacher - Roxanne

Blair Sandburg sighed at the stack of papers in front of him. He'd read over each of them once just to determine how much his class had absorbed from his lectures and to compare subjects and writing styles. Now all that was left to do was grade them. Well, grade most of them. He lifted the top paper and scanned through the text one more time. He'd been tempted to mark it up with bright red comments ... comebacks to the accusations rather than annotations of his thoughts on the inappropriateness of the text on the page. But then wouldn't that just make him as immature as the author?

He'd never read anything quite like the paper before. It was littered with both profanity and hatred, mostly directed at him. Blair considered himself pretty much a man of the world, but some of the words used were new to him ... at least in the context they'd been used. And he was pretty sure that several of the suggestions were just physically impossible. Blair pulled his glasses off and rubbed at his eyes, suddenly feeling very tired.

Six years as a high school sociology teacher had done little to dampen his natural exuberance. Blair knew he was a popular teacher ... closer in age to his students than any of the rest of the faculty. He could still relate to teenage hormones and youthful idealism and never feeling like you fit in anywhere and that made him a buddy to some and a mentor to others. That's one reason why this paper was such a slap in the face. Could this be Blair's wake-up call that now he was old enough to be considered the enemy?

General education classes at Rainier couldn't have prepared him for the ordeal ahead, but growing up as Naomi's hippie son should have. He was used to talking to people who didn't like him ... who took one look at him and made their prejudices known. Tagging along behind his flighty mother, following her right into arguments with Moslems about the Ayatollah and Cuban exiles about Fidel. Blair wasn't afraid of a clash of opinions, but angry parents were always more about emotion than logic.

But Blair had chosen to be a teacher and this was just one more aspect of the job that he had to face in a few short minutes ... another angry parent of another troubled kid. That still didn't mean he had to look forward to it. Blair put his glasses back on and glanced down at the page, eyes focusing on the profanity scattered throughout the essay. A simple assignment on patriarchal societies in Central America had turned into an obscene diatribe on Blair's own questionable parentage. Now he got to explain to the dad that yes, his wonderful son would likely get kicked off the school basketball team if Blair turned in a failing grade for the semester.

Will Ellison was 17-years-old, 6'3", thin but muscular with sandy blond hair and icy blue eyes. He was drop dead gorgeous with chiseled features and perfect skin, a star athlete and one of the most disturbed kids that Blair had ever had in a class. He wasn't disruptive ... that might have been easier to deal with. Blair had experience with class clowns, kids with anger issues and those so hyperactive that they were in a constant state of motion. But no, Will was quiet to the point of unresponsiveness. He never talked in class, didn't seem to have any friends and was openly hostile to all figures of authority. He'd turned in a few assignments so Blair could tell he was intelligent, but he never talked in class and spent the biggest part of his time staring out the window.

Blair had tried to get copies of his past records to figure out what the deal was on the kid, but they had been lost in the morass of bureaucracy that ruled Lincoln High School. The principal had made some remark about "troubles" and "isn't it sad", but when pressed for details, she always had something better to do. Will had transferred to the school on Cascade's industrial west side in November which, frankly, was an odd time of year for a move. All Blair knew was that he'd come from Hazel Crest, an extremely wealthy suburb of Cascade late in the semester, had been an honor student there and had immediately been recruited for Lincoln's basketball team. It was the only thing that seemed to hold the boy's interest.

Blair had seen him on the basketball court. Will had a grace and agility that made the other players look like a team of computer nerds. He could run. He could shoot. He was an intense competitor ... intuitive and ruthless. Coach O'Neal loved him. The fans loved him. The other players hated him.

The sound of a man clearing his throat interrupted Blair's thoughts. He immediately stood and turned to face Will's dad with his hand extended. His first glimpse of the man took his breath away ... his first touch was electric. Blair knew right away where the boy got his good looks. His dad was stunning ... tall and muscular with darker hair but the same piercing blue eyes. His elegant bone structure could have made him a pretty boy, but the set of his jaw and the faint lines of age just made him extraordinarily handsome. Ellison wore a gray overcoat over a charcoal gray business suit. All that gray just seemed to make his blue eyes more intense.

"I'm Jim Ellison," the man said. "Will's uncle. I understand there's a problem."

Blair blinked at the introduction. Will's uncle? Why in God's name was his uncle here when the note had specified a meeting with one of Will's parents. Blair had assumed the father would come ... fathers always came when athletic sons were involved in trouble. If the kid was just your average nobody, the mother would show up. But if the kid had a shot at the big league, Dad was on the job.

Maybe this was the cause of some of Will's problems. Maybe his parents didn't even care enough to meet with his teachers. Or maybe he'd been such a problem to them that he'd been shipped off to live with his strict uncle. Blair could certainly relate to that. His mom had dumped him at a few "uncles'" houses when the precocious brat got on her nerves once too often.

"I'm Blair Sandburg," he began in his most professional manner. "I think there must be some kind of misunderstanding. I can't really discuss this matter with anyone other than one of Will's parents."

Ellison dropped his hand and said, "Please, let me explain."

Blair wondered why they'd been holding each other's hand the whole time. Maybe it hadn't really been that long ... just a fleeting moment ... a connection made, then severed.

The older man looked uncomfortable as his eyes darted around the shabby classroom. Blair suddenly wished to god he looked more grown up. His curly hair was pulled back in a loose ponytail, but he could feel the wispy strands that had come free over the course of the day and were now hanging in ringlets around his face. Blair was wearing his oldest jeans, a black and white flannel shirt over a red Henley and beat-up sneakers on his feet. He was lucky that he could dress comfortably at his job. The thought of wearing a suit to work each day made him cringe.

The older Ellison didn't seem to notice Blair's unease. He was far too busy scrutinizing the classroom. Blair was immediately embarrassed by his surroundings. Will obviously came from money. How he'd ended up in this rundown part of town, Blair didn't know. Blair had been to a union meeting once at Will's former high school. It was this huge state-of-the-art techno-complex with computers for every student and Xerox machines that actually worked ... a far cry from Lincoln High School. Lincoln was the kind of place where you could spend the entire day looking for a bathroom with a door that shut right.

The school building had been erected in the 20s and Blair's classroom had probably only been painted once or twice since then. Large cracks spidered up the tan walls and posters from around the world did little to cover the peeling paint. An ancient computer sat in the back corner. Blair had brought it from home and paid for the Internet connection himself. Three broken desks were piled in the opposite corner. Those that remained intact were heavily marred and arranged in a circle from his last class's discussion period.

Blair gestured for Ellison to take a seat in the largest of the student desks and he moved to the one next to it. He sat down and rested his elbows on the desk top while Ellison removed his overcoat and laid it neatly across an empty chair before sitting down. Once seated, Ellison crossed his arms in front of him. His body language screamed impatience, but his face showed only concern.

"I'm Will's guardian, Mr. Sandburg. I thought you knew. Will's parents are both deceased. They were killed last fall. He came to live with me after their murder. That information should have all been in the paperwork that was sent over from his last school."

There was an edge of impatience in the man's quiet voice. He was obviously a man that didn't tolerate screw-ups well.

"I'm really sorry, Mr. Ellison," Blair said quickly. "I've never been able to review any of that material. I was told by the principal that Will's records were lost and she did not give me any other information about him ... just that he was a transfer student and a hell of a basketball player. Had I known that was the situation, I certainly would have taken it into consideration before calling you in."

"Call me Jim. And no ... no, I need to know what's happening with him. Will's my responsibility now," Jim responded. He brushed off the apology with a flick of his hand.

"Perhaps you could give me some background on Will before I start then. What kind of kid was he before this happened with his parents? He seems very troubled now ... which is entirely understandable, but I can't get him to open up at all."

Jim face clouded with sadness and the broad shoulders sagged slightly. He was silent for several moments, studying the names and obscenities carved into the oak desktop, before he began to tell Blair his story.

"I was never particularly close to my brother. I left home when he was in high school and hadn't seen him since. Our mom left when he was little and our dad ... well ... there were problems. Apparently, Stephen had Will when he was 17. He married the girl and they both put themselves through college without any help from either set of parents. Stephen became a stockbroker. Alison was a dentist. They were doing really well ... house in the suburbs, members of the country club, great stock portfolio. You know, living the American dream. From all accounts, they seemed like the perfect family.

"Then last Halloween, some kids broke into their house while Will was at some friends. The kids were strung out on something and were looking for cash, guns, you name it. It's hard to piece together exactly what happened, but they ended up beating Stephen and Alison to death. Will came home the next morning and found his parents. Needless to say, he's had a pretty rough time since then."

Jim stood up and walked over to look out the third story window. The classroom had an uninterrupted view of the harbor. It was one of the best features of the school. He stood with his hands in his trouser pockets and gazed out the window for several moments before resuming his story.

"I think my dad wanted to take him ... wanted to become his guardian, but Stephen obviously didn't want him to get his hands on Will. Alison's parents were gone and she was an only child so all that left was Dad and me. I didn't even know that Stephen had left provisions in his will for me to become guardian if I would agree. The lawyer told me that right before the funeral. I don't think Will was that happy about coming to live with me, but I just couldn't let my old man get his hands on another kid ..."

Blair looked across the room at Jim and the picture he saw broke his heart. With that unfinished sentence, Blair could only imagine what a horrific childhood this guy had suffered. He silently cursed the father that would be so terrible that both his sons would reject him so. What he must have put Jim through didn't bear thinking. Now Jim had been thrust into looking after a kid he'd never met after tragedy had claimed his only brother. Blair could tell by Jim's whole demeanor that he was a man who met his responsibilities head on. It didn't matter that Jim hadn't even known his nephew existed before the murder. It only mattered that the boy needed him now.

Blair brought a hand up to his mouth as he watched Jim regain his composure. Slowly, Jim squared his shoulders, then once again crossed his arms in front of him.

"I'm so sorry, Jim. I had no idea that was Will. I remember reading about the case at the time but I didn't make the connection. That explains a lot about his behavior. The kid is obviously still grieving for his parents. Plus, he's been pulled from his own school and away from all his friends. It has to have been a real upheaval. It's no wonder he's as troubled as he is. Do you and your wife have any other children?"

Jim turned and blinked at the question, then shook his head. His eyes were bright as he fought back his tears.

"I'm divorced. Carolyn and I ... we never had any. Marriage didn't last that long."

Blair jumped up and moved quickly to his desk. He pulled a ragged folder from the lap drawer and returned to his seat with it. Jim had already come back to his desk but he continued to stare out the window.

"I've managed to compile quite a list of resources in my time here. I have some information that might help you and Will out. There are a number of agencies that offer support for troubled teens. Plus, here's the name of a really great counselor. If Will's not already in counseling, I'd really recommend it."

Blair held out an ivory business card with black embossed writing. Jim's fingers brushed his as he took the card. Once again a strange tingle rushed through Blair's body. Jim's eyes darted up and Blair gasped at the look that crossed Jim's face. It was gone in an instant, but a desire so strong it astonished Blair had been clearly evident in those pale blue eyes. He wondered if his own eyes reflected that same level of need.

"Yeah, I know he should be. I'll see what he says. Thanks. Now was there something in particular that you needed to talk to me about?"

Blair was taken aback by Jim's brusque question. The man seemed to be able to turn his emotions on and off like a faucet. Blair got up again and went back to his desk. When he returned, he had the essay in his hand. He set it down in front of Jim, then retook his seat in the small desk.

"As you can see, Will went a little ... off topic ... with this essay. It was a shock, to say the least. He's obviously a very bright kid but a paper like this could be used as cause for removal from the basketball team. I wanted to discuss it with his fa ... you before I took any action. Now that I understand his situation better, I'll deal with it differently. If you would talk to him about it this evening, I'll probably just ask him to redo it. If he agrees to counseling and shows improvement, this shouldn't be any problem. I certainly don't want to heap any more misery on the guy at a time like this."

Jim studied the page in front of him, then brought a hand up to rub at his eyes. The gesture was that of a very tired man.

"Thank you, Mr. Sandburg," Jim said through spread fingers. "I'm pretty much in over my head with the kid as you can probably tell. I was hoping things were going better in your class than his others. I guess this just shoots that theory to hell. Yours is the only class he ever talks about so I thought he was doing okay in this one at least."

Blair placed a comforting hand on Jim's arm.

"Anything I can do to help, please let me know. I can tell that underneath it all Will's a bright kid with a lot of potential. He's suffered a horrible trauma at a time in his life where every emotion is amplified anyhow. It's going to take a lot of time and a lot of work to get back to anything resembling normal for him."

"Would you ..." Jim looked at the hand on his arm and laid his own on top of it. His eyes returned to meet Blair's as he began hesitantly. "Would you like to maybe get together for a drink later so we could talk some more? I mean, you've obviously got a lot more experience dealing with kids than I do. I can use all the help I can get."

"Sure," Blair responded eagerly. "That would be great. How about O'Malley's at about 8 o'clock?"

Jim glanced at his watch, then back at Blair.

"Eight's fine. Or would you ...?"

Blair looked at Jim and waited for him to finish the question. Jim softly stroked the back of Blair's hand, sending goosebumps up his entire arm.

"Would you, maybe, like to meet for dinner?" Jim asked, his voice so soft it was almost inaudible.

Blair hesitated a moment ... only from the shock of the gesture. It was so gentle and innocent and so incongruous with the man himself. Jim must have mistaken Blair's hesitation as rejection because his posture instantly returned to ramrod straight and he was now staring over Blair's shoulder at a picture of an Inuit hut on the far wall.

Blair scooted in the desk a little to block Jim's view. With a broad smile on his face, Blair said, "I'd like that very much. How about O'Malley's at seven then?"

"Great," Jim exhaled. He looked at Blair a moment longer ... his eyes now dark and mysterious, then stood up and moved towards the door. He pulled on his coat as he walked.

"Thanks so much for your help with Will. I think he's a pretty good kid ... just really taking his parents' death hard."

Blair held out a page of the service agencies he'd mentioned to Jim. Jim took the paper with one hand and reached to shake Blair's with the other.

"See you tonight then."

A glimmer of a smile traveled across Jim's handsome face, then he turned and was gone.

Blair walked back to his desk and sat down in his chair with a thud. He gazed down at his hands and noticed them shaking.

@~~ @~~@~~@~~@~~@~~@

Blair sat in his car and engaged himself in debate. The radio was tuned to the college station and Lou Reed was singing about the joys of heroin addiction as he once again went over his options. He thought he knew what he'd seen in Jim's eyes earlier that day, but not knowing the man at all, how could he be sure it had been lust? Was it just because lust was what Blair had wanted to see? Or maybe it was because it was what Blair had known was in his own eyes?

He'd liked Ellison immediately. That much he was sure of. There was such a quiet strength in the man that Blair couldn't help but admire him. The fact that he looked like a Greek god didn't hurt matters at all. But that wasn't enough to jump to some pretty major conclusions with. And hadn't the guy said he'd been married? No, it wasn't a sure sign that he didn't swing both ways, but it sure didn't mean he did.

Blair, on the other hand, had never kept his sexual preferences a big secret but he'd never broadcast them either. Neither was a good idea when in the teaching profession. He'd talked to the union steward when he was first hired and was confident that he'd have their support if accusations of inappropriate behavior were made but Blair was always careful. He didn't cruise the bars or hang out near the swing sets in the park. He usually met guys in safe places like bookstores and night school.

Yeah, it had been a while since he'd had someone to hold ... to share his nights with ... to love. But Blair Sandburg was used to loneliness. His mother's lifestyle had never leant itself to forming long lasting friendships. As a child, he'd left more places than he could remember. Whenever the spirit moved her, she'd pack up her small child and embark on another trip to some godforsaken place in search of further enlightenment, great sex, or better drugs.

Blair had been lucky to get into college on a GED since he couldn't get enough credits to graduate from eighth grade, let alone high school. Once he got settled at Rainier though, he'd found a home he could settle into. He made friends, dated the same person more than once and grew comfortable in his surroundings. It was a first for the son of Naomi Sandburg.

But college ended and his friends moved away to take jobs in warmer, dryer places. Blair started teaching right away and while he loved it and the kids, he knew he had to be more discreet than ever before. He was friends with a couple other faculty members, but they were both married and he never fit in with their weekend plans. He'd met a couple of guys that were hot in bed, but it had been a long time since he'd had what he considered a date. Of course, dating a parent was almost a bigger taboo that hitting on a student when you were a teacher. The fact that Jim was Will's guardian didn't really make it better.

But tonight, Blair decided, he didn't care about being cautious or careful. He didn't care that he was skating on very thin ice. He wanted Jim and for the most part he was pretty sure that Jim wanted him. Of course, he could have it all wrong. Jim may not even consider this a date. Maybe Blair had read all the signals wrong. Maybe he did just want to talk about Will. He'd said it, hadn't he? He was in over his head. He wanted someone to help he deal with the kid. Then what was that with the hand? And the eyes? And the sensation that ripped through Blair's body each time they'd touched?

Blair shut off the car and pulled his gloves on before braving the harsh February wind. It was ridiculous to just sit in the parking lot and speculate. Better to just go in and put up or shut up. The worst that could happen was that he'd have a nice dinner with a gorgeous man. If Blair had misread Jim's signals, there'd be no harm done. It wasn't like he was going to jump the guy the second he saw him, was it?

The temperature had dropped drastically in the late afternoon and the thermometer was now hovering around zero. Blair stepped out of his Volvo and hurried across the restaurant parking lot, cursing the cold in muttering tones. His hair was loose and whipped against his face in damp lashes.

The lot was pretty empty, but a quick glance at the cars there let him know that there were already several patrons inside. He wondered if one was Jim's or if he'd be stood up by a man with second thoughts. Blair wished he knew what kind of car Jim drove. At least then he'd have a hint of what to expect. He imagined Ellison in something sturdy and reliable. Maybe that late model SUV with the chrome trim. No, there was nothing flashy or trendy about Jim. He was more like that old pickup ... built for endurance. Blair grinned at the implications as he opened the door and entered the restaurant.

O'Malley's was a yuppie's vision of an Irish pub with oak paneling on the walls and brass horse tacks over the bar. Fiddle music played in the background and the television over the bar was tuned to a soccer game. Blair had suggested the place because it was usually quiet, moderately priced and smoke-free. The food was decent, mostly ordinary American fare, so Jim could get a steak ... yeah, he looked like a steak and potato kind of guy ... and Blair could have something healthy.

Jim was already seated at a table in the corner by the fireplace. He had a half empty stein of beer in front of him. Two thick menus lay stacked in the center of the table. He was looking directly at Blair as he made his way over, like he'd sensed him even before coming through the door. A small smile played at Jim's lips but his eyes looked dark and serious. Blair couldn't help but grin back.

While Blair had dressed up for the evening, Jim had apparently dressed down. Blair could see a tight black t-shirt that outlined well-developed chest and shoulder muscles, black jeans and a black boot on a leg that stretched out from the table. Suddenly, Blair felt like a high school dweeb next to the most popular guy in school. He couldn't believe he had decided to wear his tweed suit with the suede patches on the elbows but it was a little late to run out and change clothes now.

"Evening, Mr. Sandburg," Jim said softly, rising from his seat to greet him.

"Blair, please!"

Blair shook hands with Jim and once again felt the energy charge between them. Before he could grab a chair, Jim leaned over and pulled out the one next to him, ensuring that Blair would take it and not the one across the table. He sat first, then shrugged his coat off and laid it over another chair. As Blair got situated, Jim called the waiter over.

"Something to drink, sir?"

Blair looked up at the waiter and smiled. He was one of Blair's former students - a tall, geeky brunette with bad skin and an overbite. Jeff Cheltenham had been one of Blair's best students a couple of years ago and Blair had just written a letter of recommendation for him recently. Jeff was the youngest of six kids from a single-parent family and was the first of his siblings to graduate from high school, let alone make it into college. He was on a full academic scholarship to Rainier but still struggling to make ends meet.

"Hey, Mr. Sandburg! What can I get you?"

"I'll have a draft beer, Jeff. How's college going?"

"Great! The double major in sociology and poli sci's pretty tough but I'm hanging in there. And I just found out that I got a legislative internship this next summer thanks to your help."

"Congratulations. Keep up the good work."

Jeff turned and headed towards the bar. Jim just sipped his beer during the conversation and watched the two with a bemused expression. Blair could feel him watching the exchange but Jim never said a word. As Jeff left, Jim put the beer down and turned in his seat so he was facing Blair.

"You must be a helluva good teacher. Will likes you and that guy sure seemed to. I didn't even remember my teacher's names once I got out of high school, let alone have any contact with them."

Just as Blair started to explain that two satisfied students did not a good teacher make, Jeff returned with his drink.

"This one's on me," Jeff said as he dropped a cocktail napkin onto the table. He set the frosty stein down on top of it, smiled at Blair's thanks and left the two men alone again to study their menus. Blair scooted one of them towards himself but didn't pick it up. He was more interested in studying Jim than deciding what to eat.

"Like I said," Jim grinned and touched Blair's glass with his.

"Thanks. I enjoy it most of the time. Jeff's a good kid and a real hard worker. He comes from a pretty poor family, so I was happy to help him out. But I'm surprised you'd say that about Will though. I didn't think he paid much attention to me or anything else in class. Do you know if he has any physical problems that would cause lapses in attention? He seems to just kind of zone out sometimes."

Jim drained his glass, then pushed it aside.

"Yeah, well, Will's got some special problems. I'm not sure yet how much of it's physical and how much is just from what happened to his parents. But he does seem to enjoy your class from what I can tell. He's told me several stories about things you've talked about in class. As a matter of fact, that's about all he talks about when it comes to school ... that and basketball. Mostly, he just tells me how much he hates the place and everybody in it.

"I'm really sorry about that paper. I don't think he's ever done anything like that before. I talked to him about it when I got home. He seemed real sorry. He said he'd do it over and apologize to you tomorrow. I'm not making excuses, but I think the subject matter just kind of got to him. He never talks about his parents, but I'm sure he misses them a lot."

"I can understand that," Blair said. He was watching Jim's body language as he talked and thought he could see where Will got his guardedness ... along with his looks. Although he was smiling, Jim was rigid in his chair. He held his hands clasped on the table and his feet firmly planted on the floor. A small muscle in the chiseled jaw jumped and Blair could practically hear Jim grind his teeth. Time to make his companion feel a little more comfortable.

"What do you do for a living, Jim?"

"I'm a cop ... a detective in the Major Crimes division of the PD."

Blair could see the pride well up in Jim as he spoke.

"Cool. That must be fascinating work. How long have you been a detective?"

"Going on six years now. Came to it after the service. Seemed to be a natural move."

"Really?" Blair responded, his eyes bright with interest. "How so?"

"I did a lot of ... special missions ... work with other agencies ... that sort of thing."

"Sounds like you've had a really interesting life. Are you from Cascade originally?"

Jim brought his hands up to steeple his fingers, then dropped his eyes to stare at a spot on the table.

"Yeah, born and raised here. I don't know why I stay. There's nothing to hold me here ... except for Will now."

The sadness that seemed permanently associated with any talk of Jim's family floated onto them like a veil. It obscured, but did little to conceal, the pain.

Blair gave Jim a moment, then spoke again.

"Jim, were you involved in catching Will's parents' murderers?"

Jim ran a finger down the outside of his empty glass and followed it's progress with his eyes.

"No. My captain kept me informed, but I was pretty busy getting Will situated and dealing with family stuff. Besides, a rookie could've caught those guys. They left a trail of clues a mile wide."

"Do you like being a cop?" Blair asked more to keep Jim talking than anything else.

"Yeah. I'm pretty good at it, I guess. I've worked in Vice and Burglary and been on patrol, but Major Crimes is the most interesting. Lots of different kinds of criminals to catch. I work alone a lot, but my arrest rate's pretty good."

"I'll bet you work some pretty long hours," Blair commented. "Does Will spend a lot of time at home alone?"

Jim picked up the cocktail napkin in front of him and began to shred the dry corners.

"Yeah. It never mattered before ... when I was on my own. I've always been kind of a loner. Even when I was married. Carolyn hated ... But now ... it's not fair to the kid. But I'm not sure that me being home is what he wants either. I just don't know what to do for the kid."

Blair reached over and laid a hand on Jim's. It wasn't something he normally did to comfort a parent, but the hurt in Jim's voice was clear and regardless of where the evening was headed, all Blair could think about was consoling the man. Jim looked up at Blair as he turned his hand to twine their fingers together. They stayed that way for a long moment.

"You guys ready to order?"

Jeff had appeared at the table without either man realizing he was approaching. Blair snatched his hand back and grabbed up a menu. He started scanning the entrees as Jim cleared his throat and without looking ordered a steak, medium rare. Blair ordered the salmon, then turned the menu over to Jeff.

"I'll be right back with your salads."

"I don't mean to pry, Jim. But you said today that your father wanted to take Will in. Does he have a close relationship with Will?"

Jim barked out a bitter laugh. It was not a happy sound.

"William Ellison doesn't have a close relationship with anybody. He doesn't believe in friendship unless it can do you some good. He thinks needing people makes you weak ... less of a man. No, I think he just was hoping he could take Will and turn him into a young version of himself. At least then one Ellison male wouldn't turn out to be a disappointment."

"I can't imagine why he'd be disappointed in you, Jim," Blair said gently.

"Maybe I'll tell you someday."

Blair frowned at the curt response, but nothing else was forthcoming. He started to open his mouth to inquire further, but Jim just stared down at the table refusing to meet Blair's eyes. For several moments, the only sounds he heard were the clanking of dishes in the nearby kitchen.

Jeff finally arrived with a tray full of salads, bottles of dressing and a loaf of warm bread. There were tubs of honey butter and plain butter and a huge knife to cut through the loaf. Jim finally looked up at Blair, composed and confident again. Blair used the break in tension to start a new conversation, this time about something safer.

"You a Jags fan, Jim?"

"Yeah," Jim responded as he sliced off the crust of the small loaf and offered it to Blair. "I met Orvelle Wallace on a case once. Helluva nice guy."

"Orvelle Wallace? Cool! He's like my all time favorite player. I've got a card he autographed for me when I was a kid."

That seemed to give the two men a harmless topic to discuss as they dug into their meals with hearty appetites. Conversation drifted from the Jags' latest season to Rainier University's varsity basketball team to Blair's original field of study. Blair found that he did most of the talking, but Jim seemed to enjoy listening and offered some pretty interesting insights along the way. They finished their meals, then moved on to coffee. They'd just finished their second cup when Blair noticed that the restaurant was almost completely empty and Jeff was staring at them from the bar.

"Hey, I think we're wearing out our welcome," Blair laughed.

Jim looked around the empty restaurant then began to blush. The red reached the tips of his ears and he looked totally chagrined. It was hardly the reaction that Blair had anticipated. Jim had seemed so self-assured only moments before. But Blair was learning quickly that Jim Ellison was a man of many contradictions.

"Yeah, I think we'd better head out," Jim agreed hastily. He leaned forward and pulled his wallet out of his back pocket.

Jeff spotted the movement and rushed over to collect the check. Blair reached for his wallet in his coat pocket but Jim pushed his hand back from the check.

"It's on me."

"Thanks."

As Jim counted out the tip, Blair pulled on his coat. He waited until Jim was ready, then they headed to the door. The hostess wished them a good night as they stepped out into the cold air. The parking lot was as empty as the restaurant. Blair grinned as he noticed the only two vehicles were his Volvo and the old blue pickup. Jim must have realized which car was his because he walked with Blair towards the Volvo.

As they reached his car, Blair turned to say goodnight. He stopped short as he saw the look of hunger in Jim's eyes. It was the same look Blair has seen for that split second earlier in the day. Now it was broadcast across Jim's handsome face. This time there was no doubt ... no question of what Jim wanted. And Blair wanted it too ... with all his heart.

Blair felt himself nod quickly then with one swift move, Jim pushed him against the car and captured his mouth with his own. His hands wove through Blair's curls and one knee pressed between Blair's thighs, easily prying them apart. Blair could feel the heat of Jim's erection pressing against his leg.

The kiss was the most deeply sensual experience of Blair's life. Jim's mouth claimed him and Blair surrendered willingly. An insistent tongue pushed at his lips and he opened them eagerly to suck it in. Jim tasted wonderful, smelled wonderful, felt wonderful. He was everywhere at once, sucking, licking and nipping at tender flesh. Blair felt like he was being consumed by the man and he loved it.

Blair gripped Jim's shoulders to keep from sliding down the side of the car as the onslaught of kisses continued. Jim rubbed his hard body against Blair's as he eventually released Blair's mouth and began to plant small kisses over his jaw and down his throat.

"Oh god, I want you so bad," Jim growled as he moved to suck on Blair's Adamís apple.

All Blair could think to ask was "where?"

Jim pulled free and took Blair by the hand, practically dragging him towards the pickup. Jim fumbled with the keys, dropped them once, got the door unlocked, slid in and reached over to open the passenger door. Once Blair was inside the roomy cab, Jim started the motor so that the heater could run. Blair sat motionless while Jim turned and placed his hand over Blair's heart. It was beating so hard that Blair was sure Jim could feel it through the layers of wool and leather.

The steady rhythm seemed to mesmerize Jim for a moment. Then he shook his head and slowly slid his hand down Blair's body until he reached his crotch. Jim popped the button and unzipped his trousers, all the while staring into Blair's eyes. Blair's dick was already hard, but when Jim bent over and mouthed the erection through his jockey shorts, he thought he'd come on the spot.

"Oh my god! Oh god, Jim," Blair moaned, his breath now coming in short pants.

Jim took Blair's dick in his hand and began to stroke it roughly as he raised up to kiss Blair some more. The kisses were hard and demanding, full of tongue and teeth fighting for dominance. Jim's hand quickened as the kisses grew more and more intense, Jim's tongue fucking his mouth in hard, relentless strokes. It didn't take much before Blair came thrusting hard into Jim's hand.

Blair's eyes grew huge and round as he watched Jim wipe his hand on his own t-shirt. The smear of semen on the black fabric glittered eerily in the dim streetlight. Without saying another word, Jim unzipped his jeans and pulled his own cock free. Blair lay sprawled against the passenger door and stared into Jim's eyes as with a few rough strokes he came all over Blair's legs.

"Oh my god!," Blair gasped before hurtling himself forward onto Jim's lap.

He was soon lost in more hot kisses, jerky thrusts and clumsy groping. They both came a second time with only small spurts of semen hot and sticky against their exposed stomachs. Totally exhausted, Blair lay against Jim's chest, the older man carding his fingers through Blair's hair in gentle movements.

"Jim?" Blair whispered in the darkness.

"Shhhh, baby," Jim said as he continued to stroke Blair's hair.

A knock at the window startled both men. Blair jumped back to his side of the truck and hastily tucked himself into his jeans. Jim just pulled his coat over his lap, glanced over to make sure Blair was covered and rolled down the fogged up window. Jeff's confused face appeared in the opening.

"You guys alright in here?"

Blair blessed the darkness and managed to wheeze out a curt "fine". Jim just nodded and rolled the window back up. The smell of sex permeated the interior of the truck and Blair knew that there was no way Jeff could not know what had gone on in there. He could see the outline of Jeff as he stood staring into the dark cab for a moment. When realization dawned, the former student beat a hasty retreat to his car.

"Well, there goes my career," Blair speculated as he tried to right his clothing.

"I won't let anything happen to you," Jim said softly. "I'll take care of you."

Blair looked up at the profile of the man he'd just had the hottest sex of his life with. He didn't think he'd ever seen such strength or resolve on such a handsome face before. It was easy to believe that Jim Ellison could make everything wrong in Blair's life right again just because he wanted it that way.

@~~@~~@~~@~~@~~@

Blair glanced at the clock for about the hundredth time since his last class. It was finally 4:15 and Will Ellison was due to arrive to discuss "the paper" at any minute. Blair had been looking forward to and dreading this time since he walked into his classroom that morning. Now there was no turning back. Basketball practice would be over by now. Will would've had plenty of time to shower and change and make his way from the gym to the third floor sociology room. If he was coming, he'd be here any minute.

Blair had asked him to come by after practice to talk about the essay. He'd been mentally preparing himself for the chat since then. This was going to be a tricky situation, made a thousand times worse by what had happened with Jim the previous night. Dealing with a kid who'd been through something as horrific as Will had was never easy. Dealing with a kid who's guardian you'd fucked in a restaurant parking lot the night before was unimaginable.

If Jim had gone home and told his nephew what the two men had gotten up to and Will reported him, his career as a teacher was over. Blair knew that the instant he'd offered himself up for that first kiss. What had happened afterwards had been fantastic but Blair wasn't sure yet that Jim was worth giving up his livelihood for. And he was damned sure that no reputable school would hire him with that kind of offense on his record.

Of course, there was another possibility that Blair hadn't let himself thing about until just then. If Jim had told Will ... if Will was homophobic ... he could just as easily come into Blair's classroom and beat the shit out of him.

"Mr. Sandburg?"

Blair looked up and pushed his glasses up his nose. Will stood in the doorway, his arms full of books, coat and a basketball. He wore the same tan turtleneck sweater, black jeans and Nike running shoes he'd had on in class, only now there were obvious sweat stains under the arms of the sweater. It was amazing that Blair had never noticed how amazing looking the boy was before. The young Ellison looked so much like his uncle it was uncanny. While he still had a litheness that could only be achieved with youth, he was every bit as tall and handsome as Jim Ellison. Blair still preferred the uncle. The faint age lines and body to die for made the older man damned near irresistible.

"Come on in, Will."

Blair stood and gestured for Will to take a seat. The student hesitated at the door, then seemed to rethink a show of attitude. He dropped his armload on Blair's desk and the basketball rolled off onto the floor. Both men glanced at the ball but neither made a move to pick it up. Will kind of shrugged, then chose the same desk that his uncle had sat in the day before. This time though, Blair shoved his hands into the pockets of his corduroy pants and leaned back to sit on the edge of his own desk.

"Will, I spoke to your uncle last night. He told me what happened to your parents. I'm really sorry. I had no idea that was your family."

"I don't want your pity."

Will spoke the words softly but with a definite edge of bitterness. They were further muffled by Will's hand in front of his mouth. His eyes were icy as he stared out the nearest window, much like his uncle had the day before.

"I don't pity you, Will. I'm just saying that had I realized what had happened, I'd have tried to talk to you sooner to see if there was anything I could do to help. I won't pretend to know how you feel but I can help you ... if you'll let me."

There was a moment of cold silence. Blair let the boy have time to formulate his response. He was surprised not by the words but by the change in tone of voice.

"What could you do?"

The question wasn't asked with any sarcasm or rancor. It sounded more like plea for help from a very frightened child.

"I could talk to you about what you're feeling right now. I could listen to whatever you wanted to talk about and let you know that you're not alone. I could help you find a counselor that would help you deal with the grieving process. I could be your friend, Will, if you'd let me."

Will looked up and gave Blair a snort that the teacher knew really meant "yeah, right". Perhaps he hadn't worded that as well as he could have. How many times had Blair heard that line as a student? His reaction had always been the same, too.

"I don't mean that I want to be your buddy and hang out together. I meant that if you want someone to listen to what you're afraid of, what frustrates you, what you hate, I'll be here for you. You've been through a lot of changes in the last few months, Will. No one expects you to go through that alone.

"Jim ... your uncle ... said that you two didn't know each other before this happened. That has to be pretty strange ... moving and all. Jim seems like a pretty good guy though. Are things going okay there?"

Blair thought he saw a softening of the stony expression on Will's face. Then the ice in his eyes suddenly melted into tears. They rolled down the handsome face in salty rivers of grief. Blair hopped up and closed the door to the classroom, then went to his desk for some tissues. He laid a stack of them on the desk in front of Will, then returned to his spot on the edge of his own desk.

Will grabbed a tissue and blew his nose into it, tossed the wadded up paper into the trash can by Blair, then slammed his hand down on the desk.

"It's just so damned unfair," he shouted. "They never hurt anybody. Why'd it have to be them?"

Blair lay a hand on Will's shoulder and said, "I don't know, Will. I don't think anybody does. It's just the way life is. I wish I could tell you they died for a reason but there isn't any. From what Jim told me, it was just a random act of violence in a violent world."

Blair squatted down next to Will's chair. The angle put him at a lower level than the student. He looked up into Will's eyes, his own face filled with compassion.

"Will, would you do me a favor? Would you think about seeing a therapist? If you're uncomfortable with it, I'd be happy to go with you to the first few sessions. If you want, I'll talk to Jim about going, too ... whatever you're comfortable with. You don't have to go through this alone."

"Yeah ... maybe. Can I think about it, Mr. Sandburg?" Will said as he wiped his eyes with the back of his hand.

"Of course. You just let me know, okay?"

Blair stood up and stepped away from the boy. He knew from experience that he couldn't crowd a kid like Will, either physically or mentally. He had to come to the hard decisions on his own. It was the only way. Blair stepped over to the window and looked out on the gray harbor. It had rained all day and now the dark, menacing clouds hung over the water, refusing to go away.

"Mr. Sandburg?"

Blair turned and faced Will. The boy had stood up and was now standing next to Blair, staring at the sky.

"Yes?"

"My uncle and I had a pretty long talk last night after he came home. He told me about how he liked guys instead of girls."

Blair held his breath waiting for the other shoe to fall. He didn't have to wait long.

"He said that it was important that I understood that if I was going to stay living there. Then he said that if I didn't want to ... stay with him, I mean ... he'd let me go live with my granddad."

"How'd you feel about that, Will?"

Blair watched Will's face carefully but the student just kept staring out the window.

"I was kind of freaked out about it at first but he said you were the same way. And well ... you seem pretty cool and you've never, like, come on to me or any of the other guys so I guess that's okay."

"I'd never do that Will," Blair said, measuring the words carefully as he spoke.

"I know. Anyhow, he wanted to know if it would bother me if you and he became friends. He seemed real concerned that I be okay with it but I could tell he really likes you. So I guess I just want you to know that I don't mind. I don't really understand it. I mean neither of you seems like ... you know. But I don't mind."

"Thank you, Will," Blair said, relieved beyond measure. "He's a nice man. I'd like the chance to get to know him."

"Yeah, he's seemed pretty sad since I moved in. I don't know if it's 'cause of me or what happened to my mom and dad or if he's always been that way. Last night though, he was really happy ... joking and laughing and stuff. He said it was because of you. He said you made him happy."

Blair smiled at the thought of a happy Jim Ellison. It was something he thought he could really get used to. But they were really treading on dangerous ground here and he so did not want to discuss his sex life with a student.

"I hope you know that I'd never do anything that would be inappropriate, Will."

Inappropriate? God, Sandburg, you had sex with his uncle ... a man you'd just met ... in a restaurant parking lot! How much more inappropriate could you get?

Will seemed to sense Blair's discomfort and turned and smiled at his teacher. It was the same smile Jim had given him when he'd told Blair what a good teacher he was. Once again, Blair was taken aback by the similarities in the boy and the man.

Out loud, he said, "If this begins to be a problem, you be sure and let me know."

Will nodded, then turned and started to gather up his belongings.

"I will Mr. Sandburg. And thanks. I'll do that essay over tonight. I'm real sorry about what I wrote before. I didn't mean anything by it."

"I know, Will, and that'll be fine. Have it in by class tomorrow and I won't take off any points for being late. And Will, give some thought to what I said about the therapist, okay?"

@~~@~~@~~@~~@~~@

Blair stumbled into his house with his arms full of groceries. He kicked the door shut with his foot, then hurried in to set the bags down on the counter before they tore apart. He shook out his arms and then walked over to the answering machine that sat on the divider between the kitchen and living room. The red light blinked insistently. Blair pressed the play button and the smooth sound of Jim's voice filled the small kitchen.

"Blair? Jim. Can we get together tonight? I really want to see you, Blair. Call me at 648-4484."

Blair recognized the exchange as one usually used for cell phones. He picked up the extension in the kitchen and quickly dialed the number. Propping the phone between his ear and shoulder, he set to work stowing the groceries in the fridge.

"Ellison."

"Hi, Jim. This is Blair."

"Hi, Blair," Jim's voice softened with the greeting. "How you doing today?"

Okay, Blair could do polite conversation. He could just picture Jim sitting at some old metal desk in the middle of a police squad room ... maybe wearing a shoulder holster over his tight t-shirt ... maybe even a Kevlar vest. Oh yeah, those cop fantasies were going to be fun.

"Good. You?"

"Well, except for this boner that I've been walking around with every time I've thought about you ... which is pretty much all day, by the way ... I'm just fine."

Okay, so Jim was obviously not in the middle of a squad room. Blair grinned at the new thoughts his mind so obligingly conjured up.

"Where are you, Jim?"

Blair heard a little chuckle.

"I'm parked around the corner from your house. I've been waiting here for about an hour. I think the neighbors are getting suspicious. Where've you been? I didn't think you'd ever get home. I was just getting ready to put out an APB on you."

Laughing with delight, Blair answered, "Jim Ellison! Did you run a background check on me? I don't recall giving you my address or my phone number for that matter! As I remember it, we were way too busy last night to exchange too much personal info."

"Not too busy to exchange a few body fluids though," Jim practically growled into the phone. "And I'm thinking I'm going to lose a few here just listening to your voice if you don't watch it!"

Blair gulped down the lump that had suddenly developed in his throat and pushed his hair out of his face with his free hand.

"Oh god, Jim. Get your ass and that boner over here as fast as that old heap you drive'll get you here!"

He'd no sooner finished the sentence when he heard a horn sound in his driveway. At the same moment Jim said, "I'm here."

Blair twirled around and hung up the phone then rushed to the front door just as the bell rang. He opened it and stepped back, letting Jim come striding in. Jim had a huge grin on his handsome face and was indeed wearing a tight t-shirt, tighter jeans and a shoulder holster, to boot. With no preamble, he pushed Blair against the living room wall and kissed him soundly.

"Oh god, I wanna fuck you so bad," Jim whispered as he came up for air. "It's all I've thought about since last night. I wanna stick my dick in your mouth and then I'm gonna fuck your sweet little ass so hard you won't be won't be able to sit for a week. I'll bet your ass is real tight and real hot, too. God, you make me cream just thinking about it."

Jim punctuated the litany of filthy words with tiny kisses all over Blair's face. To emphasize his desire, Jim brought a hand down to roughly rub at Blair's crotch. That reduced the usually erudite teacher to spouting porn movie phrases like, "yeah, do me ... do me hard" and "oh god, fuck me".

Jim chuckled again at Blair's response, then grabbed the front of his flannel shirt and ripped it open. Buttons flew in every direction as Jim pushed the torn cloth aside and grabbed at one nipple to squeeze it. Blair moaned as Jim expertly worked the reddened flesh, twisting and pinching until Blair thought he would scream. Jim's mouth was latched onto his neck and his other hand was busy playing with Blair's hair. Just when Blair thought he couldn't take any more stimulation, Jim slid his hand down the front of Blair's pants. There was plenty of room in the baggy front for Jim's hand and the serious hardon that was growing larger by the second.

"God, you're such a little slut, aren't you, Blair," Jim growled as he palmed the swollen dick. "I just knew you'd be like this ... so responsive ... so easy to fuck. I could smell it on you the minute I met you. You wanted me then, didn't you? You were hot for me the minute I walked into that classroom, just like I was hot for you. I could have turned you over that rickety desk and fucked you into next week right then and there. I still might do that some day. Would you like that, Blair? Wanna take it up the ass at school? Maybe do it right in front of all snot-nosed kids?"

"Jiiiiim!!!"

Blair came hard, semen soaking his trousers. Jim's strong arms were the only thing that kept him upright as his body jerked and swayed and then finally grew lax. He leaned against the broad chest gripping Jim's biceps as he tried to catch his breath. Jim stole that away in an amazingly tender kiss. When they broke apart, Blair felt the dampness of Jim's own orgasm pressing against him.

"I think I could fall in love with you, Blair Sandburg," Jim murmured into his ear before he went back to kissing Blair some more.

After cleaning up, fixing dinner, doing a load of laundry with Jim's jeans in it, eating dinner and fucking each other senseless in the kitchen, laundry room and bathroom, Jim and Blair finally made it to bed. Blair was surprised when Jim crawled into his arms and lay his head on Blair's chest but it was nice surprise. He stroked the short, silky strands of brown hair and enjoyed the warmth Jim's body provided.

"I love listening to your heart," Jim said after a while. "It makes me feel safe ... secure. I could hear it last night when you laid against me in the truck. It felt so good ... like we fit together, you know?"

Blair couldn't believe how Jim's words affected him. Listening to Jim talk about Blair's heartbeat gave him goosebumps. Jim was such a walking contradiction. Here was this big, tough cop who probably knew how to kill a man with just a paperclip and he was about the biggest romantic Blair had ever met. He was quiet and seemed shy when Blair first met him, but on the phone today, he'd thrilled Blair with his amazing command of dirty talk. And it didn't seem to matter that he was built, gorgeous and smart, he still had his insecurities.

"I can't believe you told Will about us already," Blair said quietly.

He could feel Jim's mouth curve into a smile.

"I figured the kid deserved to know what he was living with. Cause right now, if it came to you or him, it'd be you I'd want to be with."

"Oh god, Jim," Blair moaned as he pulled Jim up for another hungry kiss.

Suddenly, an ugly and upsetting thought broke through Blair's lust-induced haze. He broke the kiss, gently pushed Jim away and sat up, letting the covers fall back onto the bed. Jim blinked up at him, waiting for the question that was certainly coming.

"What did you mean ... what he was living with Jim? Are you ashamed of wanting me? Do you think it makes you some kind of freak?"

Jim turned to take Blair in his arms. Blair cuddled close against Jim's chest, loving the feeling of being with this man. He knew that whatever explanation Jim gave for his statement would have to do. There wasn't much he could ever say that would be worth give all this up for.

"Oh god, no, Blair. I'd never be ashamed of you. No, it's me. I've always been ... different ... never what people thought I should be. My dad, my brother, Carolyn ... they never really knew the real me. I always felt like that had to be hidden. I guess that's always stayed with me. No, baby, you're the first one that makes me feel real."

Jim traced Blair's lips with his finger before lowering his head to bestow another kiss. Blair met it eagerly.

"Hey, Jim? About what you said earlier?"

Blair hesitated a second, then blundered on, looking Jim in the eyes as he spoke.

"I know we've only known each other a day and maybe what I'm feeling here is just due to one pretty incredible afterglow, but I think I've fallen in love with you, Jim Ellison."

Jim captured Blair's hand and kissed each finger lightly.

"I love you, too, Blair Sandburg."

They slept for a while after that, wrapped in each other's arms, but Jim had to get up and go at about midnight. It wouldn't have been an issue but he didn't want to leave Will alone for the whole night just yet. Blair got up and retrieved Jim's jeans from the dryer, then stood back and watched him dress.

"What about tomorrow?" Blair finally drew up the nerve to ask as Jim collected his socks from the bookcase. They'd landed there after Blair had pulled them off to suck at his toes.

"We'll see, babe," Jim said as he tied up his boots.

"I may have to work. I'll call, okay?"

Blair nodded, strangely sad that the evening was ending the way it was. Jim seemed to have switched gears again and the thought that he would give such a noncommittal answer made Blair's blood run cold. Jim seemed to sense his apprehension and rose up and pulled Blair to him.

"Hey," Jim said as he used a finger to lift Blair's chin. "We'll be together. This isn't a two-night stand, baby. I want to see a whole lot more of you. I want you in my life, Blair. I just can't guarantee that I won't be working tomorrow night, okay? I'm a cop. My schedule's not exactly nine to five."

He kissed Blair on the lips very gently.

"I love you, baby. I mean that."

Blair threw his arms around Jim's neck and hugged his tightly.

"I love you, too, Jim."

Maybe Jim Ellison was a guy that Blair would be willing to give it all up for, he thought as he headed back to bed.

@~~@~~@~~@~~@~~@

Three weeks later, Will Ellison appeared at Blair's school room door just as the teacher was grabbing his coat to leave. He had a union meeting to go to, then a date with Jim later. Blair was planning on cooking a romantic dinner for the two of them and he still needed to stop by the store.

"Mr. Sandburg," he began hesitantly. "Can ... can we talk a minute?"

"Sure, Will. What'd ya need?"

Blair set his coat back down and stepped aside for Will to pass. Regardless of his plans for the night, he really couldn't afford to blow the boy off. Will had made some minor progress over the last few weeks, actually participating in class discussions a couple of times, but he was still extremely withdrawn. Blair had taken special care to draw him out and had even coaxed him into joining a study group he led that met a couple nights a week. But there was still a wariness about Will that seemed to be a permanent part of his nature.

This day he just seemed like a nervous wreck. His eyes darted at Blair, then to survey the empty room. His shoulders were hunched forward and there was a light sheen of sweat on his forehead. Everything about him screamed tension. As he walked past Blair, Will brought his hand to his mouth to chew down a nail but every finger was already red and jagged. Blair walked over and pulled the door shut then came back to talk to the kid.

"What's wrong, Will? Are things okay at home?"

They'd never discussed his burgeoning relationship with Jim and it remained a source of concern for the teacher. He had rapidly fallen in love with Jim and was certain that Jim felt the same way about him. But Blair's responsibilities as a school teacher still came first as did Jim's duties as Will's guardian. They'd never really talked about how their affair affected Will, except to be careful to never to rub the boy's nose in it. Will had more than enough problems without dealing with his uncle's relationship with his sociology teacher.

Will glanced up at Blair, then returned to studying his inflamed fingers.

"No ... no, everything's cool with Jim. We're getting along fine. No, it's something different ... something kind of personal and I didn't know who else to talk to. Is it okay to talk to you? I mean ... you said I could talk to you any time. Did you mean that?"

"Of course, Will. Now just take a deep breath and tell me what's the problem."

"This is going to sound stupid."

Blair let Will contemplate his next statement without responding. In the past three weeks, he'd gotten to know quite a bit about the inner workings of the Ellison mind. If Will was anything at all like his uncle, he'd have to think things through completely before he'd ever open his mouth. Blair just let Will take his time. The kid had come this far. He'd get to where he needed to be on his own.

"Do you think ... I mean ... would it seem like I didn't care enough about my parents if I went on a date?"

Blair smiled warmly at the boy. He should have known. Teenage hormones could apparently conquer all, including devastating grief.

"No, Will. I don't think any such thing. As a matter of fact, I think your parents would be really happy if you found someone you enjoy being with."

"Like you and Jim?" Will asked quietly.

"Yeah, Will. Like Jim and I. Is there someone in particular that you're interested in?"

Will kicked a clot of dirt off one sneaker with the other, then studied his tormented cuticles some more.

"Elise Cohen asked me out. She wants me to go to this poetry reading with her on Friday. I don't care much about poetry but I think I'd like to go ... to just be with her. She's cute, you know? And nice. Does that make me a bad person?"

"Will," Blair began. "You can still love your parents and miss them terribly and love others, too. It doesn't mean that you don't care about them anymore. It means that they did a good job of raising a normal, well-adjusted boy. I think you should go with Elise. I know her. She's a really nice girl and I think you'd have a good time. You're allowed to do that, you know?"

Will gave what Blair had now come to think of as the Ellison chuckle but still looked worried. He picked at a loose piece of skin oh his index finger, then cleared his throat.

"Do you think she'll ... expect much of me?"

"I think Elise is a very perceptive young woman. I think she'll just expect you to be yourself. Give her a chance, Will. And give yourself a chance to get to know her. Even if nothing else develops, I think you'll enjoy yourself."

"Okay."

Will stood and grabbed up his jacket. He started to step towards the door, then stopped and faced Blair again.

"One more thing, Mr. Sandburg. I made an appointment with that counselor you recommended. It's this Thursday at five o'clock. Did you mean what you said about maybe coming with me?"

Moving to face the young man, Blair looked up into his eyes and said as reassuringly as possible, "Of course, Will. I'd be happy to come along."

Will let out a deep breath.

"Thanks, Mr. Sandburg. Jim said he thought you would. He said that if he can get off work, he's gonna come too. Hey, Mr. Sandburg, could I ask you one more thing? It's kind of personal."

"Sure, Will. What is it?"

"Does it bother you that I don't ... you know ... like guys?"

Blair smiled up at his student with a twinkle in his eyes.

"No, Will. That just leaves more for me."

Will grinned broadly, then said, "I'm telling Jim you said that!"

He ducked out the door before Blair could think of a comeback.

@~~@~~@~~@~~@~~@

Friday night, Jim and Blair met at Jim's loft for dinner while Will went on his date. Jim made spinach lasagna from scratch. It probably would have been a really good meal if they hadn't let it burn while they made love on the couch.

"You should never cook in leather pants," Blair said between kisses to Jim's nipples. "Gives new meaning to the word hot."

Draped over his lover's body like a wonderfully furry blanket, Blair continued his travels over the expanse of chest before him.

"You should have that hair patented as a sex aid," Jim moaned. "I could come just from you dragging it over me. Have you ever given any thought to the benefits of spunk as an aid to the natural curl?"

Blair couldn't keep himself from busting out laughing at Jim's outrageous suggestion.

"As a what? Are you completely insane, Jim Ellison?"

"Well, I'm nuts about you," Jim replied, rolling the two off the couch and onto the floor with a thud.

Miraculously, they landed in pretty much the same position they'd started in. When Blair quit laughing he reached up and grabbed a blanket to drape over them.

"Will's appointment with Dr. Jagger went really well, don't you think? I think they really connected."

"I guess so."

Jim's response was blandly noncommittal.

Blair propped himself up on one elbow and lightly caressed Jim's face.

"What's the matter, Jim? Don't you want Will to see Bruce?"

"It's not that, Chief. I just don't know how much good all this'll do. Will's a lot like me. He's ... oh shit! He's back!"

Blair sat up and caught his jeans as Jim scrambled up from the floor and started throwing clothes at him.

"Jim, Will's out for a couple more hours at least."

Jim leaned down and gave Blair's arm a yank, pulling him up and shoving a shirt in his hands.

"Trust me, Chief. The date's over. Now, I'd suggest you get your ass dressed or you're going to have some explaining to do in about five seconds."

Blair was just tucking himself in when the front door opened and Will stepped into the apartment.

"Oh god," Will breathed as he took in the sight of two half-dressed men staring at him from across the living room.

"What happened, Will?" Blair asked, recovering from his confusion about what had just taken place. He finished buttoning up his shirt as he walked toward the boy.

"Elise got sick and had to cancel. Hey, I didn't mean to interrupt you guys. Did you know something's burning?"

Making a quick turn into the kitchen, Will ducked past his uncle and headed to the oven.

"Was this supposed to be dinner?" he asked with barely concealed mirth.

"Give me that, smart-ass," Jim growled as he edged Will away from the oven.

Blair watched the exchange in amazement. Maybe Jim didn't think Will was making progress but he sure did. He also had a strange idea that he knew what Jim and Will's special problem might be.

Jim talked Blair into staying the night. Blair thought it was too early and too chancy with Will being there but Jim actually pouted when he said no. A Jim Ellison pout was pretty near impossible to refuse, so Blair finally relented and agreed to stay. Jim was thrilled and Will didn't seem to mind the suggestion either.

They'd scraped the black parts off the lasagna and the three men had enjoyed a pleasant, albeit blackened, dinner before Will excused himself to go to his room. Once safely ensconced behind the French doors, Jim had resumed his seduction of Blair. They'd managed to keep the majority of their activity confined to the stairs up to Jim's bedroom but there was a touchy moment when Blair had a mouthful of Jim's cock and Will darted out to the bathroom.

"Not looking!" he yelled as he ran from his room with his hand shielding his eyes.

They finally made it to bed but neither man was sleepy.

"Jim?"

"Yeah, babe?"

"How'd you know Will was home before he'd even gotten on the elevator?"

"Oh god, Chief. I knew that one was coming."

Blair was snuggled up against Jim, an arm draped around his lover's waist. He pinched the closest flesh at Jim's sound of disgust.

"Hey, man. Spill!"

"Okay, but it's no big deal. It's just that sometimes I can kind of hear things other people can't. Like I said, it's no big deal. It just happens. There! Happy?"

"Extremely. Jim, did I ever tell you what the subject of my doctorate is?"

@~~@~~@~~@~~@~~@

It was June 6th and school was finally over for the year. Will had graduated the night before and all Blair had left to do was go in and turn in his grades for the semester and then he was ready to being his year-long sabbatical. He was excited to finally be able to finish his doctorate. He'd started it three years ago and his advisor at Rainier was getting antsy about him getting it completed. Blair had originally planned on going down to Peru, to join an expedition with his old anthro instructor and write on the field work, but now he had better plans.

"Morning, gorgeous. You know, you're gonna to be late if you don't get that cute little ass of yours in gear."

Jim slid past Blair in the hall on his way from the bathroom. Blair grabbed at Jim's t-shirt and pulled him back for a kiss.

"Well, if someone hadn't demanded a blowjob first thing this morning, it wouldn't be a problem, would it, tough guy?"

Jim lightly caressed Blair's face, running a thumb over his full lips.

"Who can blame me, babe? When I see that mouth of yours all I can think about is my dick sliding in and out of it."

"God, I love it when you talk dirty."

Blair 's moan was lost in a hungry kiss.

"Will you two break it up!"

Both heads turned to glare as Will Ellison stumbled out of his bedroom. He wore plaid boxers and a sleeveless t-shirt. His light hair stood up in a hundred different directions and his face was still blotchy from sleep.

"I'm a fucking minor here. I shouldn't have to witness that shit this early in the morning."

Jim started to respond but Blair just smiled and put a finger over Jim's lips to silence him. He recognized the signs immediately.

"Not a morning person," Blair laughed as Will plodded past them and into the bathroom.

"You got that right," Jim growled as he turned to head in the kitchen. "You really think the three of us can live here without killing each other, Chief?"

Blair came up behind Jim and wrapped his arms around his waist.

"I think it's worth a try. Besides Jim, who you going to kick out? Me or the kid?"

Turning in his lover's embrace, Jim pulled Blair close so that his head rested against Jim's chest.

"Well ... Stephen's estate pays me to keep the kid, so I guess it's you!"

Blair gazed up into Jim's blue eyes and promptly kneed him lightly in the groin.

"You think so, buddy? Well you get this straight. You're stuck with me ... for a whole year at the very least! I've rented out my house so I've got nowhere else to go!"

Jim bent down and kissed Blair, brushing the wild curls away from his beautiful face.

"Make that the rest of our lives and you've got a deal."

The two men resumed their necking only to be interrupted a second time.

"Do you two ever stop?" Will grumbled as he stomped back to his bedroom.

"Ooh, somebody's jealous," Jim teased. "Just cause you don't have a cute little guy of your own, doesn't mean you've got to take it out on everybody else. Man, there's nobody as grouchy as a horny teenager! "

"Funny, ha ha!" Will deadpanned as he took a swipe at his uncle.

Jim caught Will's arm and pulled the kid into a three-way hug.

"Oh god, now I feel just like I'm one of the Waltons," Will laughed as he pulled free. "You guys are going to be unbearable this next year, aren't you?"

"Just 'til the honeymoon wears off," Blair called as he headed up to the bedroom.

When he came back down, he was dressed and ready to go. Blair slung his backpack over his shoulder and stopped to give Jim one last kiss goodbye.

"Okay, Chief. Now you're meeting me at eleven, right? We'll go talk to Simon first, then I'll take you to lunch. Just remember, I've got him convinced that you're my cousin's kid. He's not happy about this ride-along thing, even if it is for your dissertation. So just sit there and let me do the talking. And whatever you do, don't bring up that 'thin blue line' crap."

"Yes, Jim," Blair smirked obediently. "I can't believe I get to work with you all day and sleep with you all night, too. I must have had some very good karma left over from my last life to deserve this."

"Just remember, when we're out there, you do as I say, when I say it. I like to give the illusion that I have a little control over my life so others won't know how much you've got me whipped."

Blair grabbed the stretched out t-shirt again and whispered, "Let's save that for later."

With that he kissed Jim, waved to Will and headed out to begin his new life as police observer to Detective Jim Ellison of the Cascade Police Department.

END

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Acknowledgements: Thanks to Patt for inviting me, Mary for the great beta job and my sister for always being encouraging.