Choices by Ice Bear

Choices - Ice Bear

Blair Sandburg stood frozen in place outside the private hospital room. The sound of the heart monitor screaming its flat line rhythm had him rooted to the floor. A faint voice ordering the leads to be removed broke him out of his mini zone, and he turned and fled; tears racing down his face getting lost in four days growth of beard.

Blair, the man, struggled to come to terms with the loss of his best friend, while Blair, the guide, screamed in pain as one half of his soul was ripped away. He had no idea how he managed to traverse the Cascade streets safely but he found himself parked outside the loft. Resting his head on the steering wheel, he gathered the tattered remnants of his heart and headed for the loft. He packed quickly – only a few essentials. Coming out of his room he hesitantly climbed the stairs to the big bedroom. Reaching the top, he stared at the unmade bed – Jim had been called out at 3:15 A.M. five days ago.

“Oh god,” he whispered, “I’m so sorry I wasn’t there, man. If…I’m so sorry.” Turning to leave, he hesitated as his eyes focused on a framed photo on the bureau. He picked it up and ran a shaking finger reverently across the smiling face of his roommate, his partner, his Blessed Protector, his Sentinel, his Jim. The photo, taken at the last department picnic, had caught the two just after his partner had given him a playful noogie for drooling over the Chief’s college age daughter. Cradling the photo to his chest he fled the room, grabbed his bag, and disappeared out the door.

^^^^^

“What do you mean; you don’t know where he is?” The man in the hospital bed asked again, his voice a hoarse whisper.

“His car’s gone, he’s not at the loft, no one’s seen him at the University, and he’s not answering his cell phone.”

“He was here?”

Simon Banks rolled his eyes at the stupid question. “Yes, he was here. Where else would he have been? He was here when the ambulance brought you in. One of the nurses saw him leaving on Tuesday afternoon just before they took you off the ventilator. She said it looked like he’d been crying.”

“Flat line,” Jim whispered as he cast his senses back over his hospital stay, wincing at the memory of the screaming machine. “The machine monitoring my heart – it thought I flat lined when they accidently loosened two of the leads on my chest.” He looked at the doctor for confirmation.

The gray haired man smiled. “Amazing. I thought you were unconscious when that happened. The leads got jostled while we were removing the tube from your lungs. You’d been stable for two days so I just had them take it off.”

“If Blair heard that…I need to find him,” he said struggling to push up off the pillow.

“Oh, no you don’t,” the doctor scolded easily pushing the bruised frame back down. “That fall from the catwalk almost killed you, Detective. The fact that you’re breathing is a major miracle in my book. But your body needs time to heal – some serious time. You’ll be our guest here for at least two weeks – and that’s assuming everything goes well.”

Jim nodded his defeat and closed his eyes until the doctor left the room. Opening them, his blue gaze bore into Simon Banks. “I need to find him, Simon. He’ll…if he thinks I’m gone, he’s going to follow me.”

“Jim, cut the mystic bullshit for once, would you? Sandburg is no more likely to take his own life then I am.”

“Over anything else, you’d be right. But this isn’t about Sandburg, this is about the Guide. Just as a Sentinel can’t survive without his guide, a guide can’t survive without his Sentinel.”

“That’s enough!” Banks roared. “I’ve put up with all the crystal ball crap about Sentinels and Guides that I’m going to. Face it, the kid’s probably pouring out his sorrows to some lovely young thing. He’ll get laid a couple of times, and then he’ll come back.”

Jim struggled to sit up, carefully removing the IV from his left arm. “Regardless of what you think, sir, I’m going after him.” He managed to swing his legs over the side of the bed and sat there, his arms shaking as he had to lean on them in order to remain upright.

“Ellison, you get your ass back in that bed! If you don’t, I’ll have the doc shoot you so full of sedatives you’ll sleep for a week. And I’ll request a psych evaluation if you fight me on this. I’m fed up to here with all the Sentinel mumbo jumbo. Sandburg will be back when he’s done feeling sorry for himself.”

“It doesn’t matter what you believe – you’ve never given any credence to the truth behind the Sentinel and Guide – oh it’s damn convenient when it works for you but otherwise it’s just some part of my vivid imagination. But like I said it doesn’t matter. I need to find Blair, because if he dies, so will I.” He was standing by this time, blue eyes icy with fury. Before Banks could protest again, he held up a hand. “If you’re not going to help, get the hell out of my way.”

The tense standoff between the two alpha males was broken when Joel Taggart stepped into the room. He’d heard enough of the argument to know what was going on. “Simon, the Chief wants you at his 2:30 meeting with the Citizens Advisory Group.” He shrugged off the glare he received as the Captain of Major Crimes strode angrily out of the room. “Jim, sit down before you fall down, my friend,” he offered as soon as the door closed.

“Joel…”

“I heard. Let me get your things. I know Blair brought your clothes in. Once you’re dressed, we’ll go back to the loft. I’m guessing that’s the place to start?” Confusion warred with pain on the handsome face. Joel smiled. “I’ve always known you and Blair were…well, special. And if you think you need to find him, than you do. Let me help, Jim. You can explain it all to me later – or not as you choose.”

“Thank you.”

At the loft, Jim sat gingerly on the couch and took a deep breath. He asked Joel to get the meditation candles from Blair’s room and once they were lit, he leaned back and closed his eyes. “I’m going to try and find him. If I’m not awake in 30 minutes, you need to do whatever it takes to get me to speak to you – slug me if you have to. Regardless of anything you hear or see for the first 30 minutes- don’t interrupt me – no matter what.” Joel nodded and took a seat in the chair, prepared to wait.

The drugs in his system made it hard to concentrate but he finally made it to the blue/green jungle he so hated to visit. Focusing all his senses, he nodded to the black jaguar that appeared at his side, and the big cat immediately moved deeper into the jungle. He followed, seeking the slightest hint of his guide. It seemed they had traveled for miles before the cat turned and growled softly at him. Understanding the signal, he moved ahead, stepping into a clearing that looked vaguely familiar; in the middle sat his guide, cross legged, one hand buried in the thick fur of the large gray wolf lying at his side.

“Chief, please…”

“You’re here,” Blair whispered. “Good, it must be time. I’ve been waiting.”

“No! No, I’m here to ask you to wait a little longer. I’m coming to get you and bring you home.”

“I know, but you left without me.” A hint of salt carried in the air, and the Sentinel realized his guide was crying.

“No, Blair, I’m alive, and I need you to stay that way. I’ll find you. We will be together again. My word.”

“Don’t know if I can wait.”

“You have to. I’ll leave the jaguar to watch over you,” he begged; slipping to his knees in front of the younger man. “Please, Blair. I need you.” He cupped the gaunt face in his hands. “I won’t…I can’t do this without you. The Sentinel needs his Guide, just as the Guide needs his Sentinel. Just hold on a little longer. I’m coming for you, Chief. Promise me!” He ended with an order.

“Hurry, my Sentinel.” The words had barely been spoken before Jim opened his eyes to find a very concerned Joel Taggart staring at him.

“There’s a ridge about 35 minutes outside the city. I like to go there to clear my head. I think that’s where he is.”

“I’ll drive,” Joel said carefully helping the Sentinel off the couch and steadying him as he swayed once he reached his feet.

Joel pulled the sedan to a stop in a small dirt parking area next to Blair’s Volvo. “I…I need you to help me up to the clearing. Once I’m there, you have to leave. I’ll need the duffel you put in the trunk…”

“Come on, Jim. Let’s not keep Blair waiting.” Joel pulled the detective to his feet and slipped his arm under a broad shoulder to help keep the younger man upright. “Let’s go.”

It wasn’t a steep climb, but the bomb squad captain would always wonder how the badly injured man made it to the top. He could see the opening in the trees and knew they had arrived when Jim stopped. Reaching for the bag, Jim turned to face his friend. “Joel, I… I can never thank you enough…I…I need you to leave and come back tomorrow morning. This is something only Blair and I can do. Whatever happens, both of us thank you for being such a good friend.”

“Jim, are you sure?” Joel looked carefully at the man before him. Why Jim was still standing was a mystery. He’d been knocked off a catwalk during a fight with a felon and had suffered broken ribs, a collapsed lung, a severe concussion, and was badly bruised from head to toe.

“It’s too complicated to explain – hell, I’m not sure that I understand it. But he and I…this is something between Sentinel and Guide. Please go, and if everything works out, we’ll see you in the morning.” Waiting until the bomb squad captain disappeared around a bend in the trail, he turned in the direction of his guide.

As he cleared the trees, he was joined by the jaguar, and he slid a shaking hand over the soft fur on his head before moving to join his guide. “Blair? Blair, it’s me. I’m here, Chief.” He knelt, just as he had in his vision, and took the gaunt face into his hands. “I’m here.”

“Oh, god. Jim!” A shaking hand came up and grasped his arm tightly.

“It’s alright now, Blair. I’m here, and we’ll fix everything. I promise.” He used his free hand to pull a blanket out of the duffel and wrapped it around the younger man.

“You’re here. I can go now.”

“No! No!” He shook his guide gently. “No, Blair. I need you to stay with me, please. Please don’t leave me.”

“Silly Sentinel,” Blair chuffed. “I’m not leaving you. I’m coming to join you. Need to be with you, Jim.”

“I know. And you will be, if you stay here with me. Please.” His plea was lost on the universe as the younger man collapsed in his arms. “No, no, no.”

“Enqueri, why are you so sad?”

Tear stained eyes looked up to find the Chopec Shaman standing over them. “Incacha! He’s gone; my guide is gone.”

“No, not yet. But soon.”

“Incacha, please, save him. Please!” He begged.

“You have the power to save him. You have always had the power to bind him to your side, yet you refused.”

“This isn’t the jungle, Incacha. Things are more…more complicated, here.”

“Yet, the solution is simple.”

“He’ll hate me.”

“Surely you do not believe that, Sentinel.”

“No one has ever loved me. Why should he be any different?” Jim barked back, as one hand gently caressed the still body in his arms.

“It is written that he is your guide, and you are his Sentinel. He belongs to you just as you belong to him. Are you truly so blind you cannot see that he gave you his heart long ago?”

“Incacha!” A plea.

“You have the power, Enqueri. Only you. Your guide will live if you so choose.”

Jim hung his head for a moment, his forehead resting on his guide’s. When he looked up again, they were alone in the clearing. “Please forgive me, Blair,” he whispered before lowering him onto the blanket. He removed the guide’s clothes and then his own. Reaching into the duffel, he pulled out a bottle of lube.

He blanketed the still body with his own, placing a gentle kiss on nearly blue lips. The taste of his guide sang through his body, and he slipped his tongue inside the lax lips for a more thorough exploration. He did not notice that some color had returned to the beloved face as he moved slowly down the compliant body, using his hands and tongue to touch and taste every centimeter. When his fingers found the infamous nipple ring, he moaned and quickly replaced his fingers with his mouth.

As his tongue circled the navel, he tasted salt and realized it was from his own tears. Shaking his head, he continued the mapping of his guide. Using first his fingers, he memorized the size and shape of the cock, his nose buried in the crinkly hair just above it. But he needed to taste to fully know this part of his guide, and his tongue took over the job. He was so lost in his exploration that he failed to realize that the cock was growing under his ministrations. Placing a soft kiss on the tip he settled on his knees and pulled the lax body up on his thighs. “Forgive me, Blair,” he whispered before he put a slippery finger carefully into the small rosebud. As he felt the opening relax, he slipped in two fingers and continued his work, eyes closed to allow him to take full advantage of his sense of touch. When his third finger slipped in easily, he pulled out and applied lube to his own aching cock. “I love you, Blair. Please understand that is why I’m doing this.” He slowly entered his guide’s most private place.

It was so tight, so hot he was afraid he would zone as the final inch slipped in and his balls slapped softly against his guide. He began to move, slowly at first but then faster as he felt the pull of the bond as it began to sizzle through his body. He gently pulled Blair up into his arms. Holding him tight, he whispered words of love and need as he continued to pound into the smaller man.

He didn’t realize, at first, what was happening. Then he felt it again, a splash of heat along his chest as arms tightened around his back. “Jim!” The hoarse cry made him come harder than he ever had in his life.

He opened his eyes 15 minutes later to find his guide, clear eyed, gazing at him. “Blair?”

“Easy, man. You just stay still.” He tried to roll to his side so he couldn’t see the condemnation in those eyes, but the guide’s hands were surprisingly strong as they held him in place.

“Blair, I’m sorry, but you need to…I need you to…”

“I have to take you to complete the bond.” Jim nodded. “Well, I will admit this is not quite how I pictured it happening.”

“You…you knew?”

A short bark of laughter. “Yeah, I mean I am the one who does all the research after all. A fully bonded Sentinel and Guide have the ability to know the physical and mental well being of the other. They can also help heal the other. If we’d been bonded, I would have known you weren’t dead.”

“I never…I would never force you, but…”

“But I would have died if you hadn’t.” A sturdy hand caressed his cheek. “I always thought we’d get around to it, just never figured you’d make the first move.” He laughed again, softly, as he bent over and kissed the man he loved. “It’s alright, Jim. I love you…have forever it seems. I just thought…”

“I didn’t know. I thought you wouldn’t want…that if I asked it would drive you away.”

“Some pair we are.” And the young man kissed him again, sighing as the mouth below his opened to allow his exploration. Afraid he’d pass out from lack of oxygen he finally pulled back. “Easy, love. We need to complete the bond, and then I vote for going home and christening that big bed of yours. What do you say?”

“Please.”

Smiling the younger man proceeded to map his new territory, exploring every inch of the body he had coveted for nearly four years. He made note of the places that made his lover shiver and twitch and smiled to himself before taking the weeping cock into his mouth. He used every trick he’d ever heard or read about and was pleased that he could make the Sentinel come with just his mouth. He crawled up and kissed the older man before urging him onto his knees. He took a deep breath as his tongue slid down the crack and found the small opening. The shudder that wrenched the body beneath him was reward enough, and he quickly replaced his tongue with one and then two fingers. Slicking lube on his refreshed shaft he carefully inserted it, moving slowly until he felt his balls settle against Jim’s ass.

“Man, I think maybe I’ve died and gone to heaven. If so, I don’t ever want to leave,” he whispered as he slowly pulled out, only to plunge back in. He could feel the sizzle of the bond as it whipped through both bodies and it urged him to go faster, to push harder. Seconds after Jim cried out his name, he came. Somewhat regretfully, he pulled out and moved to lie beside his Sentinel, his lover.

“I love you, Blair,” Jim whispered before pulling the smaller man into his arms and pulling the blanket around them.

“Love you, too, Jim. Always will.”

Joel Taggart almost ran the sedan into a tree when he pulled into the parking lot just before sunrise as Jim and Blair waved to him from a bench at the base of the trail. “Blair! Jim?” He shouted as he bolted from the car.

“Morning, Joel,” Jim said with a smile.

“Hey man, thank you. Jim told me what you did. I owe you big time,” Blair said throwing his arms around the bigger man.

“We both owe you,” Jim finished, clamping a hand on his shoulder. “And after we’ve had a few days to recover, we’ll tell you whatever you want to know.”

“We’ll worry about that later. Right now let’s get you back to the loft. I brought some hot coffee and donuts. Thought you might be hungry.”

At the loft they showered together, Jim almost zoning on the feel of the long wet strands of Blair’s hair as he shampooed it for the first time. As he headed up to the bedroom, he stopped as Blair, instead of following, entered the room under the stairs. “Chief?” He called out, the hesitation clear in his voice.

“Be right up, just need to get a few things.” Sighing with relief, Jim disappeared into his room.

Blair appeared at the top of the stairs a few minutes later lugging two pillows, a book, a journal, his glasses and robe. He smiled before settling onto the bed. “You sure you’re okay with this, Jim?”

“What? You don’t want…No, of course you don’t. You don’t have to.” Panicked blue eyes searched his face.

“Whoa, whoa. I’m asking if it’s okay because you weren’t given any choice in that clearing. I want you, I want sex. Hell, I want it all. But if you don’t…”

“Christ, Sandburg, I need... I want you. But you were the one not given any choice.”

“Not true,” Blair responded with a smile. “I chose you a long time ago, man. It just took you a while to get with the program.”

“Then I guess I have a lot of catching up to do. Come here,” he finished pulling his bedmate into his arms.

Three days later, Blair answered the knock at the door, thinking his partner had simply forgotten his key. He took a step back when he found Simon Banks looming over him. “Jim’s not here.”

“I know. I’m here to talk to you. Your observer’s pass has been revoked. I’m here to pick it up, along with anything else you might have ‘collected’ that belongs to the Cascade Police Department.”

Stepping out the truck, Ellison frowned as he heard his guide’s heart beat racing. It wasn’t something he normally tuned into unless he wanted to know the younger man’s whereabouts, but since the event in the clearing, he’d realized he was keeping track of his mate unconsciously. He took the stairs two at the time, stopping in front of the door only to identify the smell – Banks’ cigars. “Chief?” He called out as entered their home.

“Jim! Man, Simon….” Slipping an arm around the bigger man’s waist, Blair leaned against him for a moment.

“What’s wrong?”

“The Captain dropped by to let me know I’d lost my observer status. He came to get my I.D.”

“Then you’d better take my badge and gun while you’re at it. I’ll come in this afternoon and clean out my desk.” He responded, icy blue eyes focused on the police captain.

“This has nothing to do with you, Ellison.”

“I’ve explained to you before, Captain, we’re a package deal.”

“I’ve had enough,” Banks roared, moving into his detective’s personal space. “You were a damn good cop before this…this flower child showed up. I don’t know what he did to convince you that you couldn’t walk down the street without him there to hold your hand, but I’ve had enough. I’ll expect you back at work tomorrow morning. You’ll ride a desk until the doctor clears you for the field.”

“No,” Jim replied. “Chief, would you go upstairs and get my badge - it’s on top of the night table.” He smiled to punctuate his request and stepped around the seething police captain and moved to a drawer in the kitchen, pulling out the lock box where he kept his service revolver.

“Jim, you don’t have to do this,” Blair whispered, looking down from the bedroom. “You love being a cop.” He received a soft smile and a ‘so what’ shrug in return before checking to make sure the weapon wasn’t loaded.

Opening the front door, Jim held out the gun in his palm, his blue eyes almost black with anger. “Goodbye, sir.”

“Ellison…we’ll talk about this in the morning, 8 A.M., my office.”

“Nothing to talk about, sir.” Jim shut the door: the sound serving to punctuate his statement. Turning, he found himself with an arm full of guide.

“Jim, man, I won’t…I can’t let you do this. You – you were born to be a cop. I know it, you know. Hell, even Banks knows it.”

“There are a lot of ways to be a protector, Darwin. But I’m not going to subject either of us to Banks again. He’s fine as long as I’m solving cases, but that’s all he thinks I am - a machine. Once you came along and helped me control my senses, I became his favorite trick pony. He pulled me out for matinees and wished I didn’t exist the rest of the time.

“I love being a cop, but I can be a cop in a lot of places. Besides, we’ve spent the last four years focused on my career, and I was thinking we ought to spend the next four focused on yours.”

“Jim, I…I, oh man. I don’t know what to say.”

“Always wondered if that was possible.”

“What?”

“Blair Sandburg speechless…” Blair launched himself as his partner started laughing and the two rolled hopelessly on the floor, arms wrapped tightly around each other.

At 8:25 the next morning, Jim and Blair walked into the Major Crimes bullpen. Blair took a seat at his partner’s desk and began to sort through the files. The detective knocked on the Captain’s door, flashing his partner a smile before entering.

“Blair, I didn’t expect you two back for at least another week. Is everything alright?” Joel Taggart asked as he stopped in front of the desk.

Placing three folders in a box marked ‘Records’ Blair smiled up at the bomb squad captain. “Hey Joel, Jim’s in with Banks, resigning. Simon pulled my observer status yesterday.”

“What? Why?”

“He’s mad at Jim, but I can’t figure out why. Pulling my I.D. was his way of punishing him, near as I can figure.”

“Jim has always been a good cop, Blair. Since you started working with him, he’s become a great cop. And I know for a fact he credits you with the change. Simon’s must just be yanking his chain. Jim’s the best cop in the department.”

“No. Banks is really angry with him. I tried to talk Jim out of it, Joel, but he’s made up his mind.”

Taggart started to respond but the angry bellow of Simon Banks filled the room and cut him off. Every head in the bullpen turned to look at the closed door. “Blair, don’t,” Joel said softly as the young man stood, “Jim can handle himself.”

“I know, but…”

“Ellison, I wouldn’t trust you with crossing guard duty,” Simon Banks yelled loud enough to be heard all the way out by the elevator.

“Understood, sir. And you have my resignation so you won’t have to worry about trusting me with anything. I’ll just finish clearing out my desk and be on my way.”

“I have no intention of accepting your resignation.”

“I don’t recall giving you an option, sir.”

“Dump the kid, go back into uniform for a few months, and then I’ll let you back in my bullpen.”

“Not going to happen. I’ll finish clearing out my desk, if that’s all, sir.”

“I’m not done, Ellison.”

“I am, Captain.” Jim pivoted and left the room, Banks following him to the door.

“Anything I need to look at, Chief?” Jim asked ignoring the glare Banks was sending his way.

“I don’t think so – open cases in here; files to go back to Records here, and your personal stuff here. I’ve double checked the drawers.”

“Then I’d say we’re good to go. Let’s drop the box at Records on our way out. Thanks, Chief.”

“Jim, I…”

“Not here,” he responded quietly. “Everything is going to be fine, my word on it.”

Once they were in the hallway, Blair tried again. “I don’t want you hating me down the road because…” He wasn’t allowed to continue as Jim pulled him so they were facing each other.

“I could never hate you, Blair. And the only thing I would regret was picking my job over you. So please, don’t go looking for guilt here because there is none to be found. Alright?”

Looking up into warm blue eyes, Blair smiled. “Alright. I don’t know about you but I’m hungry. After we drop off the files, how ‘bout we drive through Wonderburger on our way home? I’m buying.”

“Wonderburger? And you’re buying? My day is really looking up.”

As they entered the garage one last time, Jim was listening to his partner as his noise picked up Banks’ cigars. Wanting to avoid another confrontation with the man, he lengthened his stride. Steps from the truck the former detective stumbled, hands gripping his ears in pain. “Jim? Jim! What’s wrong, what is it?” Blair begged as he caught the bigger man before he completed his slide to the cold cement floor. Easing him down, he clutched the trembling body. “Jim, what is it?” Looking around, he saw Simon Banks pocket a dog whistle before disappearing into the elevator.

“Oh my god,” he whispered. “Easy, Jim, easy. I need you to open those blue eyes and look at me, please. Come on, man. You’re not going to let him take you out this easy. I know you.” He held the pale face firmly and reached down to plant a soft kiss on his partner’s lips; slipping his tongue briefly inside, hoping to kick start the Sentinel’s sense of taste.

“Blair! What happened?” Taggart asked, kneeling beside them. “Should I call an ambulance?”

“It was Banks…An ambulance isn’t going to help. I need to get him home.”

“Let me help,” Joel said, and the two men managed to get the unconscious form into the truck.

Once at the loft, Blair covered his partner with a blanket and moved into the kitchen to make some tea, hoping the smell would reach his mate.

“Tell me what happened, Blair.” Joel said, startling the younger man out of his thoughts. “You said Simon was in the garage. Did he do this to Jim?”

“I don’t know how much Jim explained to you last week when you helped us. The short version is that Jim’s a Sentinel which means all his senses are enhanced beyond anything you or I can conceive. It has to do with his genetic makeup – how he was made. Banks has known this for quite a while. He also knows that certain sounds and smells can hurt Jim…today he used a dog whistle. It’s the equivalent of …well, imagine if you were standing right next to a fog horn when it went off. It becomes so overwhelming that he gets lost in it – it’s called a zone out. I need to stimulate his other senses to bring him back.”

“If you can’t?”

“He’ll die.” Blair moved to the couch and sat beside his partner, picking up his hand and running an ice cube in circles on the palm.

“And you’re the one who helped him gain control.”

Looking up, the young man smiled weakly. “Yeah. I’m the Guide, Jim’s guide. My job is to help him find and maintain control.”

“And that’s why his performance on the job kept improving after you started working with him.”

“Jim has always been the best at what he did.”

“I know, Blair, but you made him even better. It explains a lot,” Joel finished, looking thoughtfully at the pair.

“It doesn’t explain what Simon hoped to gain by hurting him.” The angry tirade was cut off as the hand clenched around the ice cube. “That’s right, man, I know you’re in there, and if you want me to stop with the ice cube, I need you to open your eyes and talk to me.”

“Hurts,” Jim whispered, his eyes still closed.

“I know…I need you to find the dials and turn the one for sound down – try three. Can you do that for me?”

Jim was sitting up, leaning heavily against his guide by the time Joel finished making tea. He handed mugs to both men and took a seat in the chair. “How you feeling, Jim?”

“Better. Thank you.”

“Do you remember what happened?”

“Banks, could smell his cigars, knew he was in the garage. He had a whistle – a dog whistle. He knows I can’t guard against them. What I don’t understand is why?” A pounding knock on the door interrupted.

When Joel opened the door, Simon Banks breezed in, a video tape in one hand. Slipping it into the VCR and turning it on, he turned to face the couch. “Here’s what’s going to happen, Ellison. You will withdraw your resignation and come back to work. You will work alone. If you refuse, then I show this tape of today’s ‘incident’ in the garage to the Chief, the Commissioner, the Mayor…hell, I’ll play it on the 5 o’clock news to prove you’re not fit to be on the street. I have documentation on a number of such ‘episodes’. My guess is you’ll be a guest at Conover before the week is out.”

“Why?” Jim asked quietly, one hand gripping his partner’s arm tightly to keep him on the couch.

“Why?” Banks laughed. “You make me look good. And a few more years of the highest case closure rate in the Department, and I’ll end up as Chief.”

“You can’t seriously believe he’ll go along with this,” Blair sputtered.

“He will unless you want to visit him at Conover. I’ve got half a file drawer full of his ‘episodes’; his delusions, and his flights of fancy. The docs up there won’t even know where to start. And I can only imagine all the tests they’ll come up with to run on him and all the ‘cures’ they’ll try. It’ll be his private hell.”

“Once you make Chief?” Jim asked.

“I’ll help you clean out your desk.”

“Jim, you can’t!”

“He won’t have to,” Joel said, stepping to stand beside his friends. “I can’t pretend to understand why you’d do this, and I don’t want to. But I do know that you’ll never end up in the Chief’s office, whether Jim stays with the department or not. IA is looking into your trip to Peru a couple of years back - seems there’s been a number of large, unexplained deposits into Daryl’s bank account that started shortly after you got back.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Banks growled. Jim heard his heart rate accelerate.

“Oh, I think you do, Captain,” Joel said, with special emphasis on the title. “You bought that house two years ago, paid cash, despite the fact you’ve been claiming poverty since your divorce. IA’s about to drop the hammer on you, my friend. And threatening a man under your command will simply put another nail in your coffin.”

“You wouldn’t!”

“Oh, I would,” Joel said with a smile, pulling a small tape recorder from his pocket. “Get out, now. Your time would be better spent finding a damn good lawyer. You’re going to need one.”

“You’re not serious. You’re just spinning a tale to protect this…these two.”

“Oh, he’s very serious,” Jim said with a slight smile. “I can’t detect any signs that he’s being anything but truthful.”

“This isn’t the end.” Banks said backing up toward the door.

“It had better be.” Joel answered. “You’ve got enough trouble on your plate already. Leave Ellison and Sandburg alone.”

Silence settled over the loft after the door closed. Jim followed Banks with his hearing out to his car and smiled at his companions, “He’s taking your advice. He’s on the phone with his lawyer.”

“Good. Nothing I hate more than a dirty cop. Oh, I know he didn’t start out that way, but he made his choice, and IA has him dead to rights. They’re at his house now, waiting to arrest him. That’s why I followed you to the garage; I wanted to let you know you didn’t have to resign.” He pulled Blair’s observer pass from one pocket and Jim’s gold shield from another. “I’m heading up Major Crimes now. And I want you on my team – both of you. I’ve been talking with the Chief about the possibility of hiring a couple of civilians to help with victim outreach. The paperwork hiring Blair will be on the Chief’s desk before the end of today.”

“A paycheck?”

“A paycheck, a parking space, your own desk, and an official police department I.D.”

“Jim?” Blair looked at his partner.

“And my senses…they won’t be a problem?”

“No,” Joel laughed softly, “not at all. It’s like Blair said – they’re simply part of who you are. You’re a good cop with or without them. You’ll just have to let me know when and if you’re having problems so we can make adjustments.”

“You sure, Joel?”

The older man smiled. “I’m sure, Jim. You two think about it. Give me a call in a couple of days and we’ll iron out the details.”

“Thank you. That’s another one we owe you,” Jim said, rising awkwardly from the couch, and offering his hand.

“I’m not keeping track, Ellison. You and Blair have helped me out of some pretty tight spots. I’d like to think this simply makes us even.”

Twenty minutes later, after a quick shower, the two men climbed into bed. “You gonna be alright, Jim?”

He felt as well as heard the sigh that left the bigger man. “I think so, Chief. What about you?”

“Let’s see, I’m lying here in our comfortable bed, I just got offered a job, and I have the next few days free to explore your amazing body…I’d say I’m doing just fine.” Before Jim could respond, Blair leaned over to begin his exploration – starting with his Sentinel’s mouth.

The end

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Acknowledgements: Patt, as always, you are so good for my ego. Mary, you have the sharpest eye I know, and always give me sound advice. And Lyn - the artwork is just as I see them - absolutely perfect for this story - thank you. Y'all are the best.