Shore Love - Kaitelyn

1998

"Oh man, I can't believe we're actually doing this. Just smell that salt air," Blair said excitedly as he took a deep breath, enjoying the smell of the ocean just a few miles away. "This is like so cool, Jim. Thanks for suggesting it."

"Hey, no problem. It's not like it isn't something that I won't be enjoying, too," Jim replied, smiling at the look that graced his Guide's features. To Jim, Blair looked like a little kid at Christmas that had just seen all the presents Santa had left him. He congratulated himself on his idea to help Blair relive a bit of his childhood with Naomi.

"Oh, check it out, you can see the Ferris wheel over on the boards, even without that good ole Sentinel sight," Blair stated, pointing over towards the island to the left of the Atlantic City Expressway that was taking them to their final destination.

"We so have to go into Wildwood, Jim. There's this place there that has some of the best candy. That sweet tooth of yours will think it died and went to heaven. They have these molasses pops that are so good, man. And this almond butter crunch that will knock your socks off."

"Wait a minute, here, Chief. Are you telling me that Blair 'health food junkie' Sandburg, is actually going to let me indulge in my sugar fix," Jim joked. "Quick, someone write the date down. It's a miracle." Blair punched Jim's arm playfully, grinning at the older man. No matter what Jim said, nothing was going to dampen Blair's enthusiasm. Blair was on his way to one of his favorite vacation spots with the man that he loved, even if Jim didn't know about it.

Blair had long ago admitted to himself that he was in love with his roommate and partner. He couldn't pinpoint exactly when it happened or how. He had never even thought of a guy that way, and now he couldn't even think about what his life would be like without Jim by his side. Blair had spent many a night picturing him and Jim growing old together, their family and friends around them, only to wake to the harsh reality that was his life. He had never even imagined that Jim could possibly feel that same way towards him, but if this trip was any indication, maybe he was wrong. Taking your friend on a vacation on the other side of the country to a place that held most of his favorite childhood memories wasn't something one did if they didn't love the other. Now all Blair had to do was make Jim finally admit those feelings and then Blair Sandburg's life would be as close to perfect as it could get.

"So, Jim, we're almost there. Can't you tell me what hotel we're staying at yet?" Blair begged, using his best puppy dog eyes in his arsenal, knowing that they had yet to fail in getting him what he wanted. Jim glanced over quickly as he waited for the light at the end of the expressway to change and had to use all of his own self-control to not simply give in and ruin the surprise, but he managed.

"Sorry, Chief. It's a surprise." Jim chuckled at the pout that had appeared on his Guide's face.

"Awwww, come on, Jim. How about a hint?"

"Nope." The light finally changed and Jim made the left turn that would take the pair into Cape May. Blair looked around, taking in the sights, already anticipating all of the things that he and Jim could do over the next three weeks, especially the fishing. The sight of the big boats that took out the tourists for deep-sea fishing and whale watching caught his immediate attention. 'This is going to be the best vacation ever,' he thought excitedly. Jim made a few more turns, ending on Pittsburgh and, even after all the years since he had been there, Blair still recognized the way they were going as being the main route to the beaches. He tried to think of the various hotels that lined Beach Ave. and the historic area of the Victorian Shore Town.

"Oh man, the Dry Dock. Damn, I remember that place. Naomi used to take me there every night for ice cream. I always got their hot fudge with chocolate/vanilla twist soft serve. Naomi couldn't believe I was so predictable when it came to my ice cream. Especially with all of the choices there." Jim could hear the fondness in Blair's voice for his childhood and was glad that not all of the memories the younger man held for his youth were of moving around. No matter how much Blair liked to say otherwise, Jim knew how much it had hurt Blair always having to move around and never able to settle in one place. It was one of the reasons he wanted to make this vacation special for the man that had stolen his heart. He and Blair had already been together for three years and Jim was afraid that Blair would soon be feeling the need to move on. This was the longest amount of time that Blair had ever stayed in one place and Jim wanted to take advantage of that as long as he could.

Blair looked over at Jim in surprise as the older man pulled into the parking lot of a Century 21. "Ummm, Jim, what are we doing at a Realtor?" Jim grinned over at Blair, a sly grin on his face.

"You'll see." Jim opened the door and got out of the car. Before he shut the door, he leaned back into the car. "Stay here. I shouldn't be too long." Before Blair could say anything else, he shut the door and headed into the building, leaving Blair behind to shake his head and wonder what else his partner had planned for this trip.

Blair contented himself with reading the book he had brought with him for the plane trip into Philadelphia and thought about all of the things that Jim had already done for him in regards to their vacation. As if the trip itself wasn't enough, Jim had even paid for everything; it was the thought that had gone into it. After they had landed at Philly International and picked up their rental car, Jim had taken him into Center City to do a bit of shopping in the Italian Market and then the Reading Terminal. It had explained why they had taken such an early flight when they couldn't even check in until the afternoon. Blair could still taste the cannolis they had gotten at Termini Brothers and was quite happy that they shipped. And now it appeared that the surprises were still coming.

Thirty minutes later, Jim reappeared, holding a bunch of documents. He got into the car, handing them to Blair, who looked at his partner, still confused. "Jim?"

"Just wait and see." The Sentinel started the car and pulled out of the Realtor's parking lot, heading towards the beach again. They turned off at New Jersey Ave. and headed towards the center of town. After they had gone about four blocks, Blair was surprised to see Jim pull into the driveway of a cute, two-story home. Jim turned the engine off and the two men sat there.

"What is this, Jim?"

"This is our new home. Well, at least for the next three weeks." Blair gaped at Jim, unable to believe what he had just heard.

"Okay, can you repeat that because I'm pretty sure I didn't hear what I thought I just heard?"

ďI said, that this is our home for the next three weeks." Jim chuckled at the stunned expression that remained on his best friend's face. He tousled the long curls, opening the car door. "Come on, Chief. Let's get everything unpacked. We've got a lot of meat and stuff that we better get in the freezer. Not to mention, we have to find a store to get some food into the house." Before Jim could get out of the car, he found his lap full of excited Guide.

"Thank you, thank you, thank you. This is so great. I can't believe you did this. This is fantastic. I can't believe you did this for me." Blair was bouncing up and down as much as he could in the car. Jim couldn't help but smile at the joy on his friend's face. It was the main reason he wanted to do his. Jim still could remember the feel of Blair's cold mouth under his after he had pulled him out of the fountain. It was the worst thing he had ever felt, but it had made him finally admit how much the young grad student meant to him. And that admittance had him noticing the looks that Blair was sending him and gave him the courage to finally try and do something about the love he felt for him.

Jim and Blair spent the next hour unloading their car, Blair finally realizing why Jim had insisted on so many boxes. He didn't even want to think about how much money the detective had to spend to get the packages on board the plane. Not to mention all of the food that Jim had bought on their little shopping spree through South Philly. Blair couldn't wait to get at some of it, especially some of the specialty sausage they picked up at the Terminal and the goodies they bought from the Amish there.

The two men explored the house and Blair couldn't believe how much room there was in it. There were four bedrooms, two with queen size beds, the others with two twins each. Two full baths. The kitchen was small, but was fully equipped. There was even a washer/dryer in a closet off to the side of it. There was a big dining room to one side of the kitchen and a nice size living room on the other. To finish the look of a great vacation home were the two porches, one in the front and the other in the back, complete with outdoor shower.

Jim unpacked one of the suitcases and Blair was surprised to see the linens that usually resided in the hall linen closet at the loft. The only things missing were pillows but it appeared that the owner of the home had provided them. The two men picked out the rooms that they were planning on using and went about making the beds. Finally, once they had completed getting unpacked, they decided to go and explore a bit of the shore town and pick some groceries for their temporary home.

Jim couldn't stop smiling as he and Blair made their way through the local Acme store to pick up some essentials that they needed for the house. He had spent what he considered to be his best day ever watching his Guide act more and more like the small school boy that he heard stories about from Naomi. Blair's eyes nearly glowed as they took in the sights that were in town and he had made Jim promise that, for once, he wouldn't act like the anal, badass cop that everyone associated with Detective James Joseph Ellison, instead just be Jim, the man who enjoyed life. Jim had no problem agreeing with that, even if it meant promising to play miniature golf and going to the arcade.

"Oh man, Jim. Look at these strawberries." Blair held up the red fruit in question, sniffing them as he did so. "Gods, why can't the ones we get back home smell like this?"

"I've been told Jersey berries are some of the best," Jim informed him. "Same with the corn, especially the Silver Queen."

"We're gonna have to go exploring and see if we can find a vegetable stand or something. That's probably where we'll get the best stuff and we'll be here long enough for it," Blair suggested.

"Works for me, but not tonight," Jim agreed. "Maybe within the next few days. First, I want to just unwind. I think we're gonna need a few days just to get over the Henshaw case." Blair shivered as he remembered the case that involved a man killing his family, all so that he could move on with his much younger mistress.

"I hear you there, big guy," Blair agreed. "How about we grill up a couple of those garlic sausages we picked up for sandwiches? Maybe do up some corn and I can make a salad."

"Sounds like a plan, Chief." The two men finished their shopping, oblivious to the appreciative glances that were being sent their way from some of the women in the store. They headed over to the liquor store across the street, picking up some beer and wine. Once they were done, the two went back to the house that was going to be their home.

Jim and Blair spent their first two days in Cape May just relaxing and getting into the shore mood. The days were spent on the beach; finally getting the color that had been denied them because of the heavy workload the criminals of Cascade had given him. Jim also spent them watching as his friend fended off advance after advance from numerous young women who wanted to make his stay more adventuresome. Jim had grown accustomed to the sight of his friend being hit upon but, this time, Blair was turning them all down, even the woman who looked as if she just stepped off of the cover for Sports Illustrated's swimsuit edition casually glancing over at Jim as he did so. Jim felt a burning in the pit of his stomach at the desire he saw there and decided that it was definitely time to finally end their little courting dance and start in with the honeymoon.

"So, Chief, what do you want to do tonight?" Jim asked, as he set the potato salad on the dining room table. It had been a warmer than they're used to day so the two men had decided to just eat some cold sandwiches and some salad. Blair joined Jim, carrying some fresh fruit that he had just cut up and the two men sat down to their dinner.

"Well, now that the weekend crowd is gone, maybe we could head over to the mall. Check out the Ugly Mug," Blair suggested. "I heard it's a pretty popular place to go." Jim made a pretense of thinking about that suggestion, although he had already decided to do whatever his Guide wanted.

"Sounds good to me, but remember that we're going out fishing tomorrow,"

"I remember. What time do we have to be there?"

"The boat leaves at 7:30, so I think it would smart if we took off around ten after. We can stop at the WaWa to pick up some drinks for the trip."

"Cool. I can't wait. Man, it's been like forever since I've gone deep-sea fishing. Hey, do you think we could go crabbing some time?"

"No problem. Maybe later in the week. We can go over to Wildwood. I heard someone mention that there was a place that rents out boats and crabbing equipment."

Jim and Blair finished their dinner in companionable silence, enjoying the other man's company. Afterwards, they cleaned up the tiny kitchen and went to sit out on the front porch to read a bit in the fading afternoon sun. Around nine they walked towards the mall, foregoing the rental car, not wanting to worry about drinking and driving. Jim's senses focused in on the younger man, cataloging everything that they could, from the way that the full moon bathed the man in white light, to the salt air that combined with his own essence. It made Jim want to take Blair's hand in his own, letting the world know that he was his.

"Dial it down, man," Blair said softly, as the two neared the arcade that lined the small boardwalk area. Around them were laughing families and couples, all out enjoying the warm July evening. Jim heard Blair sigh and looked over at his Guide, catching the look of wishfulness on his face.

"What's up, Chief?" Blair looked up at Jim and smiled at the look of concern that crossed Jim's face.

"Nothing." At Jim's disbelieving look, Blair capitulated. "Look, man, it's just that we're having such a good time and all. I don't want to bring it down any." Now Jim was really worried. It wasn't like Blair to keep things in. It was always Jim who was reluctant to talk about his feelings.

"Come on, Chief. Out with it."

"Don't get me wrong, Jim. I'm having a great time here and I can't believe you did all of this. I don't even want to think about how much this trip is costing you."

"But?"

"But, it's just seeing all of the families and couples. It makes me think about what's missing in my life." Jim pulled Blair over towards one of the benches that lined the boardwalk. He didn't like how quiet his partner was and wanted to do everything he could to help him get out of the funk he seemed to be in.

"I mean, don't get me wrong, Jim. I love my mom and I know she did the best that she could being a single mom and all, but sometimes I wish I had a normal childhood. That we didn't always move around as much as we did. That we could have stayed someplace long enough that I could have actually had real friends. I think that's my main problem with my relationships. I'm so used to leaving that I'm not willing to get too serious just in case something happens."

"But you and I have been together for over three years, Chief," Jim pointed out. "That should tell you something." Jim moved closer to Blair, putting his arm around the younger man. He listened and heard Blair's heart speed up at the familiar, yet intimate, touch. Blair looked up at Jim, love apparent in his blue eyes.

"Maybe it does," he quietly answered. Blair turned a bit to look out at the dark expanse of ocean. "You're the best friend that I've always wanted. You've given me something I never thought I would have. Stability. A home. Even with all that crap that went down with Alex, there was still a part of you that protected me and I don't know how I can ever thank you for that."

"Thank me for what? Kicking you out of your home? Getting you killed? Why in the world would you thank me for any of that?" Blair turned to face Jim again, taking the hand that was resting in the older man's lap in his own.

"Jim, man, we've been through all of this before and I told you already that I understand what happened," Blair patiently explained. "It wasn't your fault. What happened with Alex had to do with some sort of genetic thing with Sentinels. Your senses were going crazy. I remember what the loft looked like when Megan and I showed up. It was even worse than when I first moved in. You were feeling threatened and you lashed out. Damn, Jim, I've lived with you for over three years. Don't you think I've gotten to understand you a little?" Blair leaned in closer to Jim, closing any remaining personal space there was. "Trust me, Jim, no matter what, I know you didn't mean to hurt me and I forgive you."

"How did I get so lucky to have you as a friend?" Blair grinned at his Sentinel.

"Must have been a great guy in a previous life."

"Must be it." Jim grew serious, squeezing Blair's hand. "Chief, I have something I need to tell you, but I'm not exactly sure how you'll react to it." Blair grew concerned at Jim's pensiveness. "It's something I've been meaning to tell you for a while but I've never had the nerve to."

"Just spit it out, Jim." Jim took a deep breath, gathering all the strength he could to do what he promised himself he would.

"I wanted to tell you that I love you." Blair stared at Jim, unable to believe that he heard the words that he wanted to hear for years.

"Jim?"

"I don't know how or when it happened. All I know is that one-day, I discovered that I couldn't live my life without you. You are the other half of my soul. You make me complete and I want to spend the rest of my life trying to make you happy." Blue eyes met and Jim could see the unshed tears in Blair's. "Chief?"

"That's the nicest thing I've ever had someone tell me." Blair wrapped his arms around Jim, pulling the other man into an embrace. "And just so you know," he whispered, "I love you, too."

Jim pulled back a bit, allowing himself the luxury of looking at Blair and suddenly having lost the desire to spend the evening in a smoky bar. "Let's go home, Blair."

"Yeah, I like that." Jim stood, offering his hand to Blair, who took it willingly, and that's how they walked back to the house that suddenly was going to find only one bedroom in use.

***

Blair couldn't believe the way his and Jim's vacation was turning out. When the Sentinel had first mentioned the trip to the Jersey Shore, Blair had figured it would just be as two friends, but now, a week after they had arrived, he and Jim were now, officially, a couple and all of the anthropologist's dreams were coming true.

Damn, how did I get so lucky? he mused as he sat in the Saturday traffic. Blair was making his way back onto the island, having gone to a fruit stand he and Jim had discovered their fourth day there. He had wanted to pick up some fresh picked corn and berries. I never thought that Jim could ever really love me. I was so content with what I had. Leave it to Jim to turn my world on its ear.

Finally, Blair made the turn that would lead him back to the house and left behind the weekend traffic that made Cape May's population explode during the summer month's. A few minutes later, he pulled the car into the driveway, surprised to find another one already there. Blair wondered whom it belonged to as he gathered up his purchases and made his way into the house. His question was answered as soon as he opened the back door. Their captain's booming voice was heard ribbing his partner.

"So, Ellison, have you decided to stay and become the beach bum that we know you want to be," Simon joked, not noticing Blair's arrival. The young man put down the bags he was carrying and went to join the others in the living room.

"It's tempting, Simon, but I don't think I would be able to talk Sandburg into it. What do you think, Chief?" Jim didn't even look up as Blair entered the room, having already sensed that his Guide had arrived home.

"Nah, why would we want to live here when that would mean that we'd be missing out on all of the homicidal excitement that is Cascade? Hey, Simon, what are you doing here?" Blair automatically went over to sit by Jim, who placed his arm around Blair's shoulders, pulling him closer. Blair tensed, wondering what Simon was going to say at the obvious change in the relationship between Guide and Sentinel.

"Jim mentioned how much room there was in this place, so I thought that it would be a nice change of pace for me and Darryl," the police captain answered, not saying a word about how close the two men that he considered friends were sitting. About damn time the two of them finally admitted their feelings.

"Darryl's here, too. Cool."

"Yeah and he's already made his way to the beach," Jim commented. "Couldn't wait to check out all the girls in their bathing suits." Jim, Blair and Simon all laughed, knowing exactly what the youngest member of their group was hoping for.

"So, Sandburg," Simon started, "seems more than relaxing has been going on between you two." Blair immediately stiffened at Jim's side, but Jim gave him a comforting squeeze.

"Jim told you," Blair stated.

"Didn't have much of a choice there, Chief," Jim explained. "Had to tell them something about why three of the bedrooms here weren't being used." Blair blushed at that comment. He and Jim had taken to sharing the front bedroom the same night that they had finally admitted their love for each other, although they hadn't gone any further than cuddling, necking, even going as far as mutual hand jobs. Neither man had ever even considered being with another man and they didn't want to risk hurting the other because they didn't know what they were doing. Blair looked over at his boss and tried to gauge his reaction to the news of their relationship. Simon saw the worry and doubt in the younger man's eyes and took pity on him.

"Don't worry, Sandburg," he assured Blair. "Like I told Jim. As long as you keep it out of the bullpen, I don't have a problem with it. As a matter of fact, you're going to make Rafe a very happy man."

"Rafe? Why?"

"It seems as if there's been a pool as to when we would finally admit that we're in love," Jim answered. "Rafe had it as being within a week of our being here. Seems that's another reason why Simon showed up."

"Hey, I needed to see who my money was going to," Simon replied, indignantly.

"So, you're telling us that everyone was waiting for Jim and I to get together?"

"Actually, there were quite a few people who thought the two of you were already a couple and just didn't want to tell anybody," Simon corrected. "They never said anything because they respected your right to privacy." Blair took in the information he was being given, stunned to hear that their friends had already believed they had been a couple. 'Go figure, although I will get them for that whole pool deal.'

"This is, like, too much. Damn, how could we have missed this?"

"Don't know, Chief. And here I thought I was a detective," Jim quipped. Blair shook his head again at the same time as his stomach decided to make its presence known.

"Seems there's my clue to start thinking about lunch." Blair made to stand up and was stopped by Jim, who pulled him towards himself, dropping a quick kiss on his lips. "What was that for?"

"No reason," Jim smiled, Blair returned it with one of his own. "Just wanted to."

"Good enough for me." Blair jumped to his feet and stopped dead when he saw Simon. He had completely forgotten about the other man. Simon just grinned at the couple. "Ummm..."

"Relax, Sandburg. I already told you I'm okay with you two being together," Simon reminded Blair. Blair smiled over at Simon and then headed into the kitchen.

"Anyone else hungry?" Blair called out.

"I could go for some food, Chief," Jim replied.

"Simon?"

"If you're offering, I'm accepting," the captain of Major Crimes answered. Jim and Simon listened as Blair made noises in the kitchen, preparing lunch for everyone. After a few minutes, Simon turned to his friend. "Jim, I hope you know what a lucky bastard you are. He's definitely a keeper."

"I know, Simon and I'm just grateful that he's in my life. After what happened with Carolyn, I had basically given up on the idea that I could be happy with anyone. I mean, hell, you know how our marriage was."

"True," Simon chuckled, "the two of you made better friends than you ever did as spouses. I never did understand why you actually got married to her. Nothing against you or Carolyn, but I could have told the two of you that it wasn't going to work out."

"I wish you had," Jim said. "It probably would have saved us both a lot of heartache. But, like I was saying, after my marriage ended, I figured that I just wasn't the commitment kind of guy. That I simply wasn't able to give someone that part of myself, but then, along came Blair and all that's changed. Hell, I knew the kid for a few weeks and he was moving in with me. I should have known something was up right there when one week turned into three years. That's longer than Carolyn and I were even together."

"Look, Jim, I'm about to say something that, three years ago, I would never have admitted." Simon paused, making sure he had his detective's attention. "You know how I felt when you first brought Sandburg to the station and presented him as your cousin. I saw this neo-hippie and listened to you talk about him being a ride along and I seriously started to question your sanity. Then, a few weeks later, I began to notice the changes in you. I'm not afraid to say it, Jim, but before Sandburg became your partner, you were a mean bastard. You not wanting a partner after Jack disappeared wasn't really a big deal. Nobody wanted to be partnered with you anyway. You scared the hell out of them and we aren't talking about a bunch of sissies. Then the kid shows up and it's like he had this calming effect on you. I can still remember the worry in your voice when Kincaid had taken over the station. And then, a few weeks later, he had been taken by Lash. I was waiting for you to take out Carolyn when she was reluctant to help. No matter what you might say, you're feelings for him have been there almost from the beginning and I think the same can be said for his."

Jim thought about what Simon was saying and had to admit it was true. There was something about Blair that had called to him, even in the hospital. It was why he ended up going to see the grad student, even knowing about the deception at the hospital. Blair gave Jim something that he didn't even know he needed any more. A sense of family.

"Lunch is ready guys," Blair called from the dining room. "Come and get it."

"I think we're being paged, Simon," Jim joked as he stood up from the couch. Simon went to join him. "And you're right. I've always loved him and I don't deserve him but I'm going to do my damnedest to make sure that he's happy. He deserves that much and more."

"That's all anyone can ask, Jim."

***

The next few days were spent showing Simon around the island. The three men had given up on automatically including Darryl in any of their plans when the teenager had brought home a girl that he had met on the beach that first day. When it turned out that she was spending the summer there at her parent's place down the street, Darryl had taken to spending as much time as possible with her. Simon had even gotten his ex-wife to agree to allow Darryl to stay with Jim and Blair an extra week as a pre-school present.

Simon watched his friends closely, trying to see how the change in status to their relationship had affected the way they interacted in public and hadn't seen any change. Jim and Blair had always been touchy feely before, and that still remained the same. The captain was glad to see that, knowing that things wouldn't be easy for them back at the station if word got out. The detectives in Major Crimes might be accepting of them being a couple, but Simon wasn't naÔve enough to think that others might be so understanding.

"Hey, Simon, can you bring me out that corn and I'll toss it on the grill," Jim called from the back porch. It was late afternoon and the men had spent the day crabbing out in the bay. They had actually been quite successful, having caught about four dozen, making sure to throw back the smaller ones. Once they had returned to the house, Blair threw them into a pot with some Old Bay, while Simon made a salad and Jim fired up the grill for some steaks and corn.

"Here you go," Simon said, handing Jim the ears of freshly picked corn. "Damn, those steaks smell good. Where did you say you picked them up?"

"From this butcher shop in Philadelphia; Blair and I stopped in before we got here," Jim replied, taking the corn from his boss and placing it on the grill. "We may have to stop there before we leave and get a cooler full of food for back in Cascade."

"Well, let me know and I might have you pick me up some, too." Their conversation was interrupted by an unexpected voice coming from the front yard.

"Hello, where is everyone?" Jim looked over at Blair, who raised his eyebrows at his partner.

"Don't look at me, Chief. I didn't know she was coming." Blair stood up and went into the house to greet the new arrival.

"Naomi, what are you doing here?" Blair asked his mother, going over and giving his mother a hug. "I didn't know you were going to be here."

"Well, I was in the neighborhood and Jim had told me he was planning on bringing you here," she explained. "And he gave me the address in case I needed it, so I just thought that I would stop in and see how my favorite son was doing."

"Mom, unless you've been holding out on me, I'm your only son."

"Ahhh, but all the more reason for you to be my favorite son," she pointed out, as if it made the most sense in the world.

"Naomi, what a surprise," Jim stated, giving Naomi a kiss as a greeting. "Why didn't you tell me you were planning on visiting?"

"It was a last minute decision," she replied. "Hello, Captain Banks," Naomi greeted Simon, who had entered the house behind Jim.

"Ms. Sandburg. It's a pleasure to see you as usual. You're looking as lovely as always."

"Thank you." Naomi wrapped her arm around Blair's shoulder. "So, honey, where can your mother put her things?"

"You're staying here?" Blair gulped, looking over at Jim.

"Of course," she answered. "Where else would I want to stay? Besides, itís been so long since you and I have been able to spend any time together, I figured this would be the perfect opportunity. I'm sure Jim wouldn't mind having some alone time."

"Mom, Jim and I have kind of made plans with Simon for the rest of this week."

"Blair, this is a vacation. There are no plans that can't be changed," she reasoned. "Trust me, Jim won't mind if you and I spend time together, would you Jim?"

"Of course not, Naomi," Jim told her, lying through his teeth. He had hoped to spend as much time as possible with his Guide and he hated the thought of as much as an hour passing without Blair at his side. "So, how long are you planning on staying?"

"Well, I don't have to be anywhere in the immediate future, so I figured I could stay until it was time for you two to head back to Cascade, if that's all right." Naomi smiled at her son, knowing how pleased he would be at the prospect of having Naomi with him for that length of time. She knew how much Blair hated the fact that she wasn't around as much as he would like and hoped that this would go a way to rectifying those feelings.

"That'd be great, Mom," Blair gulped. "Why don't I take your bags and I can show you were you can sleep. Are you hungry? We were just about to eat. Jim can throw on an extra ear of corn for you and we have fresh crabs. I'd offer you steak, but I know how you feel about red meat."

"Blair, breathe," Naomi chided. "You're babbling, Sweetie." Naomi grabbed one of her bags while Blair took the other. "Why don't you show me my room and we can get caught up." The two Sandburgs made their way upstairs while Jim and Simon went back out to the back deck.

"Well, I have to say, things have just gotten more interesting," Simon commented.

"Tell me about it," Jim agreed, looking up towards the room that his partner's mother would be using.

"What are you going to do now?" At Jim's confused look, Simon elaborated. "About you and Sandburg. The two of you have been sharing the same room and, while Darryl and I haven't minded, how do you think Naomi will react to her baby boy being involved with a pig?"

"She's pretty much accepted me as a part of Blair's life."

"Yeah, but that was just when she thought the two of you were friends. It might be different now that you two are a couple," Simon pointed out. "Not to mention the whole male/male thing."

"Naomi always taught Blair that it isn't the wrapping that counts, only what's inside," Jim replied. "I'm sure Naomi won't have a problem with Blair being in a relationship with another man and she and I have ironed out our differences. It should be fine."

"I hope you're right," Simon told his friend, all the while both knowing that there was a good chance it would be anything but okay.

Later that night, Blair and Naomi were heading back to the house after a walk along the beach. They had spent an enjoyable evening catching up, with Naomi doing most of the talking. Even growing up with Naomi as a mother, he was still surprised at how nomadic her life truly was, especially after having spent the past three years settled down with Jim. Blair couldn't even fathom having that kind of life again.

"So, Blair, Sweetie, tell me something."

"What do you want to know, Mom?" Blair asked wearily. There was something in Naomi's voice that Blair didn't trust.

"Well, we've spent most of the day talking about my life and you haven't really told me anything about what's been going on with you. How's school going? Are you getting any closer to finishing your dissertation? Is there a special someone in your life?"

"School is going okay. Classes start a week after we get back to Cascade. My diss is going fine. I'm still collecting data for it. I just have to actually get writing it. And as for someone special in my life, the answer to that is yes." Naomi turned excitedly to her son.

"Really. Oh, honey, that's fantastic. You have to tell me all about her. How did you meet? What's she like? How serious are you about her?" Naomi failed to notice how Blair began to fidget.

"Mom, it's kind of complicated."

"All relationships are, sweetie. Let's start with the easy questions. How long have you known her?"

"We met a little over three years ago. We started off as friends and it's progressed from there. We just recently admitted our feelings for each other."

"Really? Those are the best kind of relationships. The ones that start off as friends, but how does she feel about you being gone? I mean, if the two of you just got together, it must not have been easy to leave her for three weeks." Blair took a deep breath as the house came into view. He could see Jim and Simon on the front porch talking.

"Well, see, Mom, that's the thing. This other person isn't a she, it's a he. It's Jim." Naomi stopped dead in her tracks, staring at Blair as if he had just grown a third head. "Mom?"

"Jim?" Blair nodded his head. "You're involved with Jim?" She looked over towards the house and then back at her son, who could see tears forming in her eyes. "Oh, baby, how could you?"

"Mom?"

"How could you fall for a pig? And a male one at that. I swear, if I wasn't so against violence I would kill him for seducing you. First he gets you involved in his police work and now this. That bastard."

"But I thought you liked Jim," Blair said, shocked at his mother's outburst. Her voice must have carried because he saw Jim looking over towards them, rising from his seat. Blair signaled him to stay where he was and to let him deal with his mother.

"That was when I thought you were only dealing with him for your thesis, but now this. Oh Blair, that's it, you have to move. I have this friend who owns a resort in Sedona and I'm sure she would love for you to come for a visit. That's perfect. Wouldn't you like that? Just the two of us just like the old days. You can put off teaching for a semester or two, just until you get over this foolishness of yours."

Blair sighed as he recognized the signs of a true Naomi Sandburg rant. "It's only a phase here. Trust me, you aren't the first person to go through something like this. It's perfectly naturally to think you're in love with Jim. He's your best friend. It's just that I know it isn't how you really feel and if you think about it, you'll realize I'm right. You've just been spending too much time with the police. What you need is to get away and spend time in nature and with others like yourself. People who have the same interests as you. People who don't want you to be something that you aren't."

"Mom, I don't need to go anywhere," Blair patiently tried to explain. "I'm right where I want to be. Where I belong. With Jim. I love him and he loves me."

"Blair, you don't know what you're talking about," Naomi protested. "You can't. If you did, then you would know how wrong it is for you to even think of being involved with Jim Ellison."

"Mom, there is nothing wrong with my being involved with Jim," Blair tried to argue, having a feeling that he was fighting for a lost cause. "Jim makes me happy. Sure, things haven't always been wine and roses, but no relationship is perfect. Actually, I think it's our faults that make Jim and I perfect together. We compliment each other and I really can't see myself being with anyone else."

"Blair Jacob Sandburg, I refuse to allow you to involve yourself any further with Jim," Naomi ordered, her voice becoming harsh. "In fact, I think it would be for the best if we just go back to the house, pack your things and leave tonight. There's no need for you to stay here any longer. We can get the rest of your things from the loft later."

Blair stared at his mother in shock. He couldn't believe what he was hearing. Naomi was literally telling him what he was to do, not asking. She had never been like that, not even when he was a child. Sure, she might not have liked some of his decisions and would try to get him to change his mind, but she never flat out ordered him to do something and now he was torn. He loved his mother and didn't want to do anything to hurt her but, at the same time, he loved Jim and wanted to spend the rest of his life with the Sentinel. Jim had been the first person to give him a true home. Even though Naomi had done her best raising him, it was Jim that had made him feel truly safe and loved and that made Blair's decision easier.

"I'm sorry, Naomi, but you already know how I feel about people giving me ultimatums," came Blair's reply. "Don't do it unless you're willing to be on the losing side of it." Naomi looked at her son in shock.

"Blair, you can't possibly be willing to tell me that you would choose being with Jim over what I want for you."

"That's exactly what I'm telling you, Naomi," Blair said, no trace of his normal good nature in his voice. "If you make me choose, you will be the one left alone, not Jim." Naomi looked at her son, trying to discern how serious the threat was and saw that he was indeed choosing Jim over her. She felt a rush of sadness over the loss of her son's innocence and conceded that maybe it was time to let him go, whether she wanted to or not.

"Are you sure about that, Blair?" Blair nodded curtly at his mother; sorry that he was hurting her but he refused to allow her to ruin what he considered to be the best thing in his life. Naomi leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. "Then, have it your way. Be with Jim. But I want you to know, no matter what, that I'll always love you and that, when the time comes that you have finally seen that I was right, you'll know how to get in touch with me."

Blair watched as Naomi made her way back to the house, ignoring Jim when she finally reached the porch. Blair followed at a more sedate pace, upset at the thought that his love for Jim might have cost him his mother's love for him. He hoped that, in time, Naomi would realize that he and Jim did belong together and accept them as a couple, just as she had accepted them as friends and partners.

Jim watched as his lover made his way towards him and went to join him on the sidewalk. Blair walked into Jim's open arms, not a word needing to be said. Jim had heard the whole conversation from the patio and knew how much his mother's rejection must have been hurting Blair. While Jim was glad that Blair had chosen to remain by his side, he couldn't help but wonder if Blair resented him for having to choose between the two. As if reading his mind, Blair answered that question.

"I don't regret it, Jim," Blair told him. "I love you with all of my heart and, as much as I love my mother, if she can't accept us being together, then I don't want her around. We've both been through so much that it's not fair that we have to deal with whatever prejudices she might be holding towards you."

"Are you sure, Blair?" Jim questioned, not loosening his hold on the younger man. He placed a kiss on the unruly curls that adorned Blair's head, wanting to comfort the other man. Blair looked up at the Sentinel and he could see the love in the ice blue orbs that stared at him.

"Positive, Jim. I love you. I always have and I always will." Jim smiled gently as he leaned forward and took Blair's lips with his, showing him just how much he loved him. While in the back of his mind, Jim still questioned the decision to choose him over Naomi, he was glad to have his Guide in his arms.

***

Two weeks later, Jim was looking around the small house that had come to mean so much to him. Blair was going through the upstairs, making sure that everything was locked up and that they hadn't forgotten anything. Darryl was out front, saying his final good byes to his new girlfriend, promising to keep in touch, no matter the distance. The Sentinel actually found himself regretting that it was time to go and it was for more than the usual, vacation's over mood. This was the place that he had finally gotten everything he had ever wanted. Blair Sandburg as his lover and mate. For that one reason alone, Cape May had found a place in his heart and he knew that even if he never returned here, it would always be the place that meant the most to him.

"Hey, Chief, time to get a move on or we're gonna miss our plane," Jim called to his lover, who was already making his way down the stairs.

"Oh please, Jim. Like you didn't leave us enough time to get in some last minute shopping at the Terminal," Blair chided his lover, coming over to kiss him. The two men held each other closely, relishing the last few minutes of their vacation. "You know, I'm gonna miss this place."

"Yeah, so am I."

"Do you think we might come back here someday?"

"That's always a possibility," Jim admitted. "Maybe for our anniversary." Blair looked up at Jim, his happiness radiating in his eyes.

"I would like that Jim. This will always be our special place."

"That it will be, Chief. That it will be." And with one final look around, the two men went out, locking the house up behind them. They didn't know what would happen when they returned to Cascade and to the grind that was their real lives, but they knew that they would be able to handle anything because they would be together.

***

1999

"Tabatha Anne, get back here," Jim called out to the young girl that had instantly jumped from the rental car and started running across the street.

"But Daddy Jim, I want to go check out the boats," the ten year old whined. Her face held the pout that she had learned usually got her whatever she wanted from her fathers.

"You'll have plenty of time to look at the boats. We're going to be here for three weeks," Blair pointed out, unpacking the boxes that were loading down the car. "Right now, though, why don't you help us unpack the car, or do you like the idea of not having any sheets on your bed."

"Fine, I'll help unpack." The small blonde haired girl looked back once more at the boats that were making their way into the bay that faced the house that would be the unconventional family's home for the next three weeks and went to where her fathers were unpacking their things.

Jim had decided that for their first anniversary, he would take Blair to another shore town that held special memories for the man that he loved, Ship Bottom on Long Beach Island, New Jersey. They were renting a two bedroom, two-bath home that was across the street from the Barnegat Bay and three blocks from the Atlantic Ocean. It was the perfect place for the two men to spend their first true vacation with their adopted daughter, Tabatha.

Tabatha's entrance into their lives was the biggest hurdle they had faced over the past year. She had come to them from Jim's brother Stephen about four months into their relationship. Her mother had died, leaving Tabbi, as she preferred being called, in the care of Stephen, who hadn't even seen his daughter since the day she had been born. Stephen had quickly decided that he wasn't fit to be a father, preferring his lifestyle of travel and women to the responsibilities inherent with parenthood. He had been prepared to leave Tabbi in the care of either his father or social services, but Jim had taken one look at the blue eyed creature and was instantly smitten. He had discussed it with Blair and the next thing they knew, Blair's old room was being turned into the new home of a ten year old girl, who quickly had both men firmly wrapped around her little finger, along with most of Jim's co-workers in Major Crimes and the secretaries at Hargrove Hall, Tabatha became one spoiled little girl.

Jim picked the little girl up, swinging her around, causing her to giggle. "Daddy Jim, put me down," she laughed. Jim did as she asked, bending down to kiss her cheek.

"Love you, kitten."

"Love you, too." Tabbi grabbed the bag that contained her books and music and headed into the house. Blair walked over and wrapped his arms around his husband, looking towards the door that their daughter had just disappeared into.

"What about me, Daddy Jim?" Blair asked, laughter in his voice. "Do you love me, too?" Jim returned the embrace, dropping a kiss on Blair's lips.

"Do you even have to ask that question?" Blair quirked his eyebrows, causing Jim to sigh at the familiar gesture. He kissed Blair again, this time allowing the love and passion he felt for the younger man to show through it. "Blair, I love you with everything that I am. Until you came into my life, I had no idea that what I feel towards you was even possible. You make my life worth living and I am thankful everyday that you found me."

Blair stared, awestruck, at his Sentinel. Damn, just when I think that Jim can't surprise, he manages to do just that. He hugged the bigger man closer to him, digging into the warmth that he had come to crave and reveling in the love that he was being offered.

"I love you, too, Jim. So damn much." The two men just stood there for a few more minutes, just holding each other, content in the other's presence.

"Goddess, can't the two of you keep your hands off each other," came a teasing voice. Jim and Blair turned to face their daughter who was smiling at them from the front door. "The two of you are like two horny teenagers. All that touching and hugging and kissing. It's enough to make a girl sick." Jim and Blair looked at each other and then back at their daughter, smiling at Tabbi.

"Yeah, well, if you're that sick, I guess that means you'll have to stay inside for the next couple of days instead of hanging at the beach and doing the whole vacation thing," Blair threw back at her.

"Hey, I never said I was sick, just that it was enough for the possibility to come out," she retorted. She walked over to her fathers, who quickly engulfed her in their arms. "I love you both."

"We love you, too, kitten," Blair replied, finally tearing himself away from his family. "Now what say we unpack that car and start this whole family vacation thing?"

"Works for me," Sentinel and daughter answered together, grinning at each other. "Jinx." Blair smiled at his family, feeling true contentment at finally finding his place.

Finally finding his home.

Later that evening, after settling in and putting Tabbi to bed, the two men snuggled together on the couch, the baseball game on the television, volume turned down low. They had spent the day unpacking the things they had brought with them and unwinding from the airplane trip and dealing with making sure that everything had arrived safely. Unlike the year before, when Jim had brought everything with them on the plane, this year they had made arrangements with their realtor to ship what they needed ahead of time, only bringing with them their clothes and any last minute items they had forgotten. But, like the year before, the family had stopped in Philadelphia to pick up some of the meats and treats that Jim and Blair had quickly gotten addicted to.

After they had unpacked, the family had walked the three blocks to the beach, enjoying the late afternoon sun and a dip in the sun warmed Atlantic. Jim and Blair relaxed, enjoying the first bit of quiet time they had had since Tabbi had some into their lives. While they cherished their daughter and would fight tooth and nail to keep her, the timing of the addition to the Sentinel household had been awkward. Blair was still trying to reconcile the fact that Naomi had stood by her decision to stay out of his life as long as he was involved with Jim, not even acknowledging his email telling her that she was now a grandmother.

Then, one of Jim's old lovers had come to town, hoping to rekindle their relationship, which in turn had put a strain on his own with Blair. When it turned out that she had been trying to use him in a plan to murder her husband, another old friend of Jim's, the Sentinel had taken it hard. The discovery that another old lover of the Sentinel's was an assassin for hire had almost led him to believe that he was truly not lovable, or that only those that had cruel intentions could be attracted to him. It had taken all of Blair's love and affection, along with the newly discovered Tabatha, to convince Jim that he was truly worthy of their love. It had been a close call but they had overcome it and had become stronger.

Things hadn't gotten much easier for Blair, either. Having decided that he had put it off long enough, Blair had finally decided to finish his dissertation. Knowing that if he turned in his original paper on Sentinels, there would be more than a good chance that Jim's identity would be found out no matter what he did to try and hide it, Blair had decided to go ahead with the closed societies study he did on the police force. Jim had been so touched at the obvious love in Blair's gesture that he had taken the young man to Hawaii so that they could get married, their new daughter looking on. Then, immediately afterwards, Simon had surprised the couple by announcing that Blair was going to be a paid consultant to the police force. While that meant that he would occasionally have to help out detectives in other departments, Blair was still constantly seen by Jim's side. But now, finally, things had settled down for them all and Jim and Blair were happy to have a chance to themselves.

"I think Tabbi likes it here," Blair stated, breaking the comfortable silence that had fallen between them.

"I think so, too. She's already met some kids her own age and I think it's safe enough for her to go out on her own," Jim told his mate. "I know she liked the idea of having a little bit of freedom." Blair chuckled at that.

"I bet. Having a Sentinel police detective as a father can be a bit on the intimidating side. I can't wait until she starts dating and brings home her first boyfriend."

"Never gonna happen, Chief," Jim firmly said. "I've already decided that Tabbi can't date until she's at least thirty-five." Blair's chuckles turned into all out guffaws at Jim's announcement. Jim watched, patiently, as his partner tried to rein in his laughter.

"Somehow, hun, I don't think that's exactly gonna be an option," he told him. "You're just going to have to swallow your pride and admit that out beautiful little girl will one day be a major heartbreaker with kids lined up around the block." Jim sighed, knowing that Blair was right.

"I know but that doesn't mean I have to like it." Blair leaned up and kissed Jim deeply.

"I know, sweetheart. But at least it isn't something we're going to have to worry about for a little while." Any other serious talking was still as the two men lost themselves in their love for each other.

"Knock on wood," Jim commented, doing exactly that to the table in front of them. Blair snuggled closer into his husband's embrace. No matter how often they sat like this, he could never get enough of Jim's arms around him.

"Have I told you that I love you lately?"

"Oh, not for at least ten or twenty minutes," Jim pouted. "I'm beginning to think you're just using me for the sex."

"Oh I am," Blair shot back. "I mean, hey, it is unbelievably fantastic. It's your best talent."

"But you're biased," Jim pecked Blair's nose with a kiss.

"That might be, but that doesn't mean it isn't true," the anthropologist pointed out. "Just because I love you so much that I don't think I would be able to survive it if something happened to you, doesn't mean that I can't spot your flaws from a mile away."

"Flaws? What flaws?" Jim growled, but the smile on his face took away any menace that might have been in it. Blair turned in his husband's arms, wrapping his own arms around his neck and his legs around Jim's waist.

"Let's see. First there's the color coded Tupperware," Blair punctuated that one while suckling Jim's neck.

"Mmmmhmmmm."

"Then there's the no clothes on the floor." Blair moved his attention to Jim's throat, nipping at the Adam's apple there and causing Jim's grip to tighten around him.

"I got rid of that rule along time ago," the Sentinel reminded his mate.

"True. I think it disappeared around the same time as the no sex in the loft one."

"Seemed counter-productive to what I wanted.." Blair's only reply was a bruising kiss. The two men stayed that way, exchanging kisses and caresses until they were both panting and hard. Finally, they pulled apart.

"Damn, the day I get tired of this will be the day they bury me," Jim whispered to his love.

"I love you, too." Blair's eyes met the matching blue ones of his husband's. "Bedroom?" Jim nodded his agreement and the two men made their way into the room they would be sharing while on vacation, eager to start the loving that they enjoyed and grateful that their daughter now slept the entire night through and knew enough to knock on the door to their room before entering.

***

The following week found the unconventional family of three touring the island. They visited everything, from the lighthouse in Barnegat to the bird reservation in Beach Haven. Jim had even kept his word and allowed Tabbi time to herself. They had arranged to rent bikes for them all and their daughter would often go out riding with the friends she had made on the beach. While Tabbi was out with the other children, Jim and Blair took advantage of their being alone to renew their bond. Whether it was sitting on the upper deck of the house to watch the boats and jet-skis across the bay, or making love in the afternoon, the two men continued to strengthen their bond.

"When do Simon and Megan arrive?" Blair asked, sated and warm from the loving that he and Jim had just shared.

"Their plane landed sometime around three, so I figured they would be here after seven, giving them plenty of time to get here and check into their hotel," Jim answered.

"Man, I still can't believe those two got together," Blair shook his head, which rested against his husband's chest, his hair brushing against sensitized nipples and causing Jim to shiver. "Talk about a surprise."

"I know. Simon and I have been friends for awhile, but I never saw that one coming," Jim agreed. "I don't think anyone else did, either." Jim and Blair had been two of the first people told of the relationship between the police captain and the exchange officer from Australia. When the two of them had announced that they were getting married, the two men had been happy for their friends. They had even helped Simon break the news to Darryl, who at first thought that his dad getting remarried would mean that he wouldn't see Simon as much. Eventually Darryl came around, seeing how much happier his father was now that he had someone to love, and stood up for Simon at the wedding. The new couple hadn't been able to go on a honeymoon; an assassin by the name of Zoeller had prevented that by putting both of them in the hospital, so they were going to use this vacation as one.

Blair looked over at the clock that was situated by the bed and noticed the time. "Damn, it's already five. Tabbi should be back soon," he stated. "I told her to come home early so that she could get a shower and change."

"I swear, that girl brings home half the beach with her," James muttered, slowly sitting up and separating from his lover's arms. "It's a good thing we have an outdoor shower here or we'd be finding sand in the house for days."

"Hate to break the news to you, big guy, but you bring back more with you when you go surfing," Blair grinned, also getting up and grabbing the robe that was by the bed. "I'm still finding sand around the loft from the last time you went surfing and that was two months ago." Jim didn't say anything to that, instead pulling the younger man closer to him and kissing him passionately. Blair returned the kiss with an equal fervor before reluctantly pulling away.

"If we start this now, there's no way we'll be presentable when Simon and Megan get here."

"Tabbi can entertain them," Jim said, even as he began to stand. "They prefer her company to ours anyway."

"Only because we can never keep our hands of each other," Blair noted. "Or so they say. I don't know what gave them that idea." Blair grinned as Jim took him in his arms, pulling him close to him once more.

"Neither do I, Chief," Jim leaned down and kissed the smiling man in his arms. "Why don't you go take the first shower while I go start making the salads."

"Thanks." Blair was off, heading towards the bathroom while Jim went into the kitchen and started pulling out the fruit that they had bought earlier that day at the farmer's market a few blocks away. Soon, apples, oranges, pineapple and kiwi dotted the counter along with a variety of fresh picked Jersey fruit like strawberries, blueberries and peaches. Jim listened to his lover as he took a shower, enjoying the coziness of the moment. He finally had everything he wanted and he couldn't be happier.

"Hey, Dad, I'm home," Tabbi said as she pulled her bike into the driveway, her voice no more than a whisper because she knew that at least one of her fathers would hear her. Jim looked out the kitchen window to see the ten-year-old joined by another child, a boy who looked to be about twelve or thirteen. Tabbi saw her father in the window and continued to whisper. "Dad, help. He won't leave me alone. I've tried everything." So engrossed with whatever he was saying, the boy hadn't noticed that he didn't have Tabatha's attention.

"Tabatha, I'm glad you're home," Jim shouted from the front door. "I want you to go take a shower and then help Blair with dinner. Simon and Megan are going to be here soon and you know they're going to want to see you"

"Where is Daddy Blair?" the young girl asked, knowing that the term would probably throw off her potential suitor. "He promised that I would be able to make the hamburgers."

"He's getting out the shower," Jim answered, knowing exactly why his daughter said what she did. He listened as the young man made some excuse and left. Tabbi came over and kissed her father on his cheek.

"Thanks, Dad. You're a lifesaver. Man, that guy was annoying."

"Where did you meet up with him? He doesn't look like one of your friends from the beach," he observed as he ushered his daughter to the outdoor shower in the back.

"He's Steph's older brother," she explained. "He met up with us when we had gone to Stutz and I couldn't dodge him."

"Where did you get money for Stutz?"

"Ummm," Tabbi didn't meet Jim's eyes. "Daddy Blair gave it to me."

"Oh he did, did he?" Jim growled. "I think me and your Daddy Blair are going to have to have a little talk about your sugar intake."

"Come on, Dad," Tabatha whined. "You know he doesn't usually let me have a lot of candy. But this is supposed to be a vacation and besides, he gave me enough to get you those Swedish fish you like." Jim smiled down at his daughter, who was doing her best to keep her other father out of trouble.

"You're forgiven, so I guess I should forgive Blair, too, since there are Swedish fish involved." Tabbi smiled at her father. "Now get into that shower. I'll go grab you a towel and some clothes to change into."

"Can I wear the blue dress that Uncle Simon and Aunt Megan gave me? That way I don't have to change to go out tonight."

"And where do you think you're going? I thought you were going to stay here with us. We barely get to see you anymore."

"Dad," Tabbi pouted, reminding Jim of Blair. "I'm meeting Stephie and some of the others over at Joe Pop's. It's teen night, remember? Come on, you already said I could go."

"Well, then, I guess I should keep my promise." Tabbi's smile lit up her face and she jumped and gave Jim a big hug. He wrapped his arms around the young girl, returning the hug. "Now hurry up and don't use all the hot water. I still have to take my shower and between you and Blair, I'm lucky to get ten minutes of lukewarm water."

"No prob."

***

Later that night, two couples were relaxing after a filling dinner. Blair was sitting in an armchair, Jim perched on the arm, while Simon and Megan were sitting side by side on the couch. Tabbi had left to go meet her friends after having been given some extra spending money by the adults. The four friends were enjoying the cool breeze that was making its way through the open windows from the bay.

"I don't know how you manage it, Ellison, but even on the other side of the country, you manage to find yourself a nice place," Simon observed. Jim looked around the small house that was his temporary home.

"It helps to find a realtor you can trust," he answered. "Not to mention the fact that a lot of these places are listed online." Blair looked up at his husband.

"So that's what you were doing on my laptop," he scolded. "And here I actually bought it when you said you were trying to better yourself." Jim placed a kiss on the top of Blair's head.

"I was. Anything that makes you and Tabbi happy, makes me a better person." Gagging noises came from the area of the new Mrs. Banks. "Problems, Connor?"

"No, mate," Megan grinned. "Just wondering when it got so thick in here with the sugar."

"Are you calling me sweet?" Jim asked, quirking his eyebrow and using his best Ďtell the truth or I will kill youí voice which didn't work on anyone who actually knew him.

"Me, call you sweet, nevah," she drawled, doing a rather good impression of a Southern belle. "I would never do something like that, now would I?"

"Yes," all three men answered at once, laughing together as they realized what they had done.

"Fine, I can just feel the love in the room," the Aussie declared. Simon leaned over and kissed his wife, who smiled lovingly at him. "Ummmmm, much better."

"And now, who's being all sickeningly sweet?" Jim smiled.

"But we're on our honeymoon," Simon pointed out. "It's our prerogative to be sweet."

"Hey, we're on our honeymoon, too," Blair protested.

"Yes, but you're here with your daughter, while Darryl is with his mother," Simon said, again causing laughter among the two couples. "Speaking of Tabbi, how are things going with her?" Jim and Blair both shrugged.

"Pretty good, considering," Jim answered. "She's settling in pretty nicely and she's even made some friends here. Stephen stopped in for a few days our first week here on his way to Europe for some business thing."

"That must have been fun," Megan commented, dryly. The Aussie had little regard for the younger Ellison male, especially since he had so easily given up custody of his daughter. She couldn't understand how someone could have so little regard for their child.

"Like getting a tooth pulled," Blair snickered, barely loud enough for Jim to hear. The Sentinel took Blair's hand in his, squeezing gently and letting him know that he didn't mind the semi-disparaging remark about his brother.

"Things couldn't have gone better," Jim remarked. "As much as Stephen says he doesn't want to be a dad, I could tell he didn't like the fact that Tabbi was only treating him like he was her uncle instead of her father."

"But he gave up his rights to being her dad," Megan commented. "He's not going to try and regain custody, is he?" Jim and Blair sighed together, proving to the other couple, once more, how truly in sync with each other they were.

"He says he isn't," Jim replied. "And I really don't think he wants custody of Tabbi."

"We think it's more the fact that Tabbi calls him Stephen and us Dad," Blair added. "I don't think Stephen realized that letting us raise Tabbi truly meant that we would be her fathers. Sure, he's heard her call us Dad the few times he's come over to the loft but hearing her friends call us her fathers really made him understand what he had done."

"I love my brother, I really do," Jim finished. "It's just that he's always thought of himself. He wants the status that being a family man will give him without any of the actual responsibility and I won't let him hurt Tabbi that way. She's too special to be forced to be involved with any games that he wants to play."

"Well, then, I would say you two are doing the best thing for her," Simon stated. "You're letting her know that she's loved and that the two of you will be there for her no matter what. That's what parenting is all about."

"Thanks, Simon." After that, the evening came to an end with promises of getting together the next day.

***

The next week and a half were spent the same way the first week had been. The family of three had done things both together and separately. Activities had included crabbing, deep sea fishing and going to the local amusement park and arcade. Tabbi spent a lot of time with her friends, enjoying the freedom that being in the small shore town had allowed her to have. Jim and Blair enjoyed having time to themselves, also, finally getting the honeymoon that police work and schoolwork had prevented them from getting when they had first made their commitment to each other. Finally, when the time came for them to return home, it was as a family that had truly come together.

***

2000

"Oh man, is it me, are or we bringing more and more things every year on these trips?" Blair moaned, collapsing on the bed he would be sharing with his husband.

"I don't think it's you," Jim agreed, joining Blair on the bed. The younger man instinctively snuggled against the bigger body in bed, who's arms wrapped around Blair, holding him close. "Tabbi and Mike in their room?"

"Of course not," Blair huffed. "You should know better than to expect two pre-teen girls to stay indoors on such a beautiful day. Especially when the beach is just down the back steps to the porch."

"Ahhhhh, then let me take a guess. They've gone to investigate just what exactly the scenery consists of," Jim laughed, thinking of how much their daughter had grown up in the past year. Suddenly, at the ripe young age of eleven, Tabbi had discovered that boys weren't as ewww as she had thought. Jim hadn't been happy with that development, but with Blair's help, he had been able to come to terms with it. The two men sat their daughter down and explained to her what she was going through in terms of her body or what she was feeling, with Blair doing the majority of the talking. Not for the first time, the way Naomi had raised her only son had been a blessing. They made sure that Tabbi understood that she didn't have to go along with everyone else and could say no. What Jim didn't say was that he would be much happier if his little girl would say no until she had a ring on her finger, but he knew better than to expect that. But, he trusted his daughter, hoping that the way her mother and then he and Blair, had raised her would be enough to make sure that she stayed out of trouble.

"It's times like this when I wish we got Tabbi when she was still a baby," Blair sighed. "Give us more time to enjoy her before she grows up." Jim kissed the top of Blair's head.

"That just makes whatever time we have with her all the more special." Jim stood up, reluctantly separating himself from his lover and reached down a hand to help him up. "Come on, babe. Let's go get this unpacking done since it appears that our daughter won't be any help."

The two men began to unpack the things that they had brought, making the shore house their temporary home. Jim even did Tabbi's room for her and her friend, knowing that if he left it to the two girls, it would never get done. This year's vacation was being spent in Ocean City, New Jersey. It was more of a family town, complete with boardwalk which was within biking distance of their house. Wanting to spend some more alone time with his husband this year, and not wanting Tabbi to feel lonely just in case she didn't meet anyone, Jim had arranged for her friend, Mike, short for Michelle, to join them. The smile they had received from their daughter when she heard that made any additional expense worth it.

When the two men finished, they grabbed a couple of beers and walked out onto the back deck which overlooked the ocean. They had already run all of the errands they needed to, including a trip to the mainland for beer and wine since Ocean City was a dry town, something done to encourage families to vacation there, and were content to watch the late afternoon swimmers playing in the surf. Jim used his Sentinel sight to locate the two girls that had disappeared a few hours before, not surprised at all to see them in a circle of children that appeared to be the same age as them. Blair smiled, knowing exactly what his husband was doing.

"You know, it isn't exactly fair to use your senses to spy on your child," he chastised the detective. "She does need some form of privacy." Jim blushed, realizing that he had been caught.

"It's just I worry sometimes," he admitted. "Especially being in a new place so far from home. Not to mention how much convincing it took before Mike's parents agreed to let her come with us."

"Jim, sweet, I know how hard it is for you to let your protective instincts go, but Tabbi is a big girl. She knows how to take care of herself."

"I know," the Sentinel protested, all the while never removing his eyes from the pre-teen, "but she's still our little girl." Blair chuckled, thinking back to all of the trouble he had always managed to get into as a child. "What's so funny?"

"I was just thinking of how much Naomi would probably get a kick out of seeing us now with Tabbi," Blair answered, then sobered up some at the thought of his mother. Jim wrapped his arms around his husband, knowing how much Naomi's silence hurt Blair. He silently cursed the red head for hurting Blair the way she had. He didn't understand how a parent could deny their child their love because they didn't live up to their expectations. Jim thanked god that his family not only accepted the fact that Blair and he were involved, William and Stephen Ellison had whole heartedly welcomed him into the fold. "Jim, promise me something."

"Anything, love, you know that."

"Promise that, no matter what Tabbi does, we'll always support her," Blair asked quietly. Jim hugged Blair closer to him.

"Of course we will, Chief," Jim kissed the top of Blair's head, finally turning away from the beach. "She's our daughter and we've learned from the best on what not to do." Blair grinned at the not-so-obvious slight to their parents. Jim was glad to see the smile that graced his lover's face. Blair pulled Jim's head down, allowing their mouths to meet in a kiss that conveyed everything that he felt. Love. Passion. Warmth. Happiness. Contentment.

"Hey, Jim, you know there is one good thing about the fact that Tabbi makes friends so easily."

"Oh, really?" Jim arched his eyebrow, wondering what Blair had on his mind. "What's that?"

"Just think of how much alone time it leaves us."

"Hmmmmm," Jim moved back a bit from Blair, a thoughtful expression on his face. "Whatever can we do with that free time?"

"Not sure. Monopoly?"

"Too long."

"Scrabble?"

"That doctorate of yours beats me every time."

"Diablo?"

"Only one computer."

"Naked Twister?"

"Oh yeah, that one has definite possibilities." Laughing and holding each other, the two men went into their home to enjoy the freedom that having an independent daughter would give them. Jim and Blair refused to think about the relationships that had been lost to them because of their relationship, including the one that had hurt the most, Naomi.

***

A week later, Simon and Jim were on the back deck, enjoying a cool drink and watching their children on the beach. Darryl was scheduled to start Rainier in the fall and he was enjoying what he considered to be his last summer of childhood. Mike and Tabbi were following the older boy around, a true case of hero worship. And Darryl let them, feeling like their big brother and watching out for them.

"Darryl's really great with the girls," Jim commented. "He's got so much patience with them. Hell, he makes me feel like they're safe enough to not have to keep an eye on them as much."

"He likes being able to play big brother to them," Simon replied. "Likes the feeling it gives him, not to mention the fact that the girls love the idea of him being responsible like that." Jim chuckled, having noticed how Darryl had received his share of attention from the opposite sex when they noticed his care towards the younger girls.

"Then I guess this is good practice for him." Simon turned to stare at his best detective.

"What are you talking about?"

"Please, Simon, I'm a Sentinel. Did you forget that I can hear someone's heartbeat. Or two, as the case may be. Congratulations." Jim smiled at his old friend, glad to see the discomfort on the other man's face. He also saw a hint of fear and uncertainty in his face. "Simon, this is something that you want right? You are happy about this?"

"Of course I'm happy," Simon stated hotly.

"But?"

"But, I don't know," Simon admitted. With Jim's continued silence, Simon took a few minutes to compose what he wanted to say. "Don't get me wrong, Jim. I'm excited as hell that Megan is pregnant. I love her so damn much, it's scary and I know how much she wants to be a mother."

"Okay, hate to be repetitive, but?"

"But, what if I'm too old to be a father again? I'm almost fifty. Darryl's ready to go to college. Hell, by the time this child is ready for college, I'll be retiring. There's no way I'll be able to do things with him, or her, that I did with Darryl. What do I have to offer a child?" Finally, Simon admitted his fears and Jim nodded, listening carefully to each and every one of them.

"I've always thought the offer of a father's unconditional love would be all that was needed to make a child happy," Jim answered quietly. Simon realizing that the Sentinel was talking about his own childhood and the way that his father had raised him. "Look, Simon, I know you have more experience at this whole fatherhood thing than I do, but Blair and I did learn a few things growing up the way we did. We learned that a parent has to be there for their child. Support them. Love them. Help with their algebra when they're stuck on a problem. Basically, the same things you did with Darryl as he was growing up."

"As simple as that, huh?"

"Pretty much." Jim lightly hit Simon's shoulder. "Isn't that what you told me when Blair and I were trying to decide what to do about Tabbi? It was damn good advice then, and it's still good advice now."

"I just don't want to screw it up." Simon turned his gaze upon his son again. "I made so many mistakes with Darryl. I don't want to do that again."

"Simon, you're human. Of course you're going to make mistakes. It's what we do." Jim paused, making sure that he had his friend's attention. "It's your job to make sure that you learn from them."

"When did you get so smart?" Simon asked, half in jest, causing Jim to chuckle.

"Blair asks me that same question quite often," Jim responded. "And I'll tell you the same thing I tell him. I've always been smart, I just don't want to show it off and make the rest of you poor slobs feel inferior."

"Bite me, Ellison," Simon growled.

"Sorry, Sir. I only do that with Blair."

"Too much information, Detective. Way too much, as my son would say."

***

"So, Megan, now that we are three hours away from our respective husbands. Not to mention the fact that we have both put a serious dent in our wallets, what was so important that you didn't want to talk about it at the house?" Blair asked as he and Megan were shown to their table. They had decided to take a day to themselves and head to New Hope, Pennsylvania, planning on doing some antiquing and browsing the various craft stores that were located in the quaint town. For a break, they were at the Landing Restaurant and being seated at a table that overlooked the Delaware River.

"What makes you think I had some ulterior motive to get you out here, Sandy?" Megan asked, trying to be the picture of innocence and failing miserably. Blair gave her a look that told her how believable she was being. Megan sighed as she realized that the time had indeed come to tell her friend what was bothering her. "I'm pregnant," she blurted out.

"Hey, congratulations," Blair grinned, getting up and giving her a hug. When Megan didn't immediately return the hug, he pulled back and looked over at the Aussie. "Megan, this is good news, right? You are happy about this, aren't you?"

"I'm not sure," she admitted. At Blair's continued silence, Megan continued. "Yes, I want this baby. You know how much I've always wanted a family. It's the one thing in my life I've always been totally sure of."

"But?" Blair asked.

"But, I don't know anymore," she sighed. "There's so much going on in my life now. My career is finally settling down, for the first time since I've moved here. I have a husband that I adore. A stepson that I care about and that actually likes me."

"Then what's the problem?"

"I'm not sure." The two people stopped talking when their waitress brought them their drinks. They placed their order, Blair deciding to try the Lump Crab Cake Sandwich with Chili Rubbed Corn on the Cob in a Whisky Remoulade Sauce while Megan went with a salad made with Alaskan King Crab Legs, Fresh Papaya, Navel Oranges, Bell Peppers, and Watercress, with a Champagne Vinaigrette.

"Well, obviously you want to talk about it, so talk," Blair gently ordered once the waitress had left.

"It's Simon," Megan finally stated.

"What about him? Doesn't Simon want the baby?"

"No. Yes. Oh, I don't know." Megan fell quiet as she tried to figure out exactly what it was she wanted to say. "Simon says he's excited about the prospect of having another baby, but I can tell that he isn't sure. Maybe he doesn't want to have a child this late in his life. I'm sure he never even considered it to be a possibility. He's almost sixty now. Darryl's finally going away to college. It's a time in a man's life when he should be thinking about retiring and stuff, not having to start another college fund. What if he's only saying he wants the baby because he thinks it's what I want?"

"Have you asked him?" Megan shook her head in the negative.

"Of course not. I couldn't do that."

"Why not? You're his wife. You're carrying his child. If that doesn't give you the right to ask him the truth of how he's feeling, I don't know what does."

"But what if I'm right? What if he doesn't want this baby?"

"Then I guess you have some decisions to make," Blair told her. "But I don't think that's really going to be an issue. I'm sure that Simon is excited about the baby."

"What makes you so sure, when I'm not?"

"Because I'm not his wife and the one that's pregnant," Blair answered. He took Megan's hand over the table, giving it a gentle, reassuring squeeze. "Look, Megan, of course Simon is having doubts. So are you. But they don't matter. What's important is that the two of you talk about them. I'm sure once you do, things will clear up, you'll see. I've watched you with Simon. He will open up to you about whatever it is that you think is bothering him, especially if he knows that you have your own doubts. Hell, Jim and I always have our doubts about stuff and you know what a bitch it is to get him to talk about anything." This elicited a small chuckle from Megan.

"You're right, Sandy." The waitress brought over their food, along with a refill of the wine they were drinking. "I'll talk to Simon when we get back."

"That's good. Nothing like a moonlit stroll along the beach for a serious discussion. Jim and I do our best talking like that."

"Oh talking? Is that what they're calling it now?" Blair smiled, tossing his napkin at Megan, hitting her in the face and they burst into laughter, the mood lightening quickly as they enjoyed their meal.

***

"So, do you think Megan and Simon will be okay?" Blair asked later that evening as he lay in bed with Jim. It had been late when Blair and Megan had returned from New Hope, and Blair had wanted nothing more than to snuggle with his husband while Megan did exactly as Blair had suggested. Blair had told Jim about the conversation with Megan at the restaurant while Jim told Blair about the one he had with Simon on the deck.

"I'm sure they will be," Jim answered. "They're both concerned with the same things. Once they get everything out on the table, they should be able to work everything out. I think it helps that they both have the same fears."

"I still can't believe that Simon thinks he's too old to have a child. I mean... that makes no sense."

"I can see his point, Chief," Jim observed. "Hell, I had some of the same reservations when we decided to take in Tabbi, and she was ten at the time. With Simon, it's even worse. He'll be retiring age when his child is ready to graduate high school. That's a pretty scary thing." Blair lifted his head from Jim's chest, looking into the pale blue eyes that he loved.

"What about you, Jim?"

"What about me?"

"Well, we've had Tabbi for over a year and I think that we've been doing pretty good. What would you think if you became a father again?"

"Blair, is there something you're trying to tell me?" Blair shook his head at his husband's confusion.

"No. I was just wondering what you thought about maybe having another child. You know, one of our own?"

"Blair, I don't know if you've noticed or not, but we can't have our own child. We don't have the right equipment." Jim grasped Blair's cock in his hand, emphasizing his point. Blair squirmed in Jim's grip, becoming hard at the touch.

"I know that," he moaned as Jim stroked the hot flesh in his hand. "Oh God, yeah...I was just thinking, you know, ahhhhhhhh, there are other options." Jim nipped Blair's chin with his teeth, nibbling at the skin there.

"MMmmmm."

"Ahhh, Jim, come on man. I'm trying to have a conversation here."

"I'm listening, Chief. Really." His grip tightened around Blair's hardened member. "Now, how exactly were you planning on having this child?"

"I don't know." Blair squirmed, trying to get more friction where he needed it and his hip bumped up against Jim's erection. "It was just a thought."

"Well, how about I promise to think about it some other time?" Jim asked, plundering Blair's mouth with his and then all discussion of children was lost in a haze of love and lust.

***

2001

"Okay, Dads, Mike and I are heading to the boards now," Tabbi called from the doorway.

"Be careful," came Jim's response from the back porch. "And remember, don't go spending all your money at once. We're going to be here for two and a half more weeks and once you spend everything on your card, there won't be anymore."

"Whatever," Tabbi and Mike rolled their eyes at the oft used phrase and then headed out, joining the crowds that were converging on the boardwalk of Wildwood for an evening of family fun.

"I don't know why you even bother with that threat anymore," Blair chuckled. "It hasn't worked since we got custody of Tabbi. She knows that once she's almost reached her limit, you'll only arrange to have more money put on that card of hers. You have thoroughly spoiled our daughter."

"Like I'm the only one that's done that," Jim asked, pulling Blair down so that the younger man was sitting in his lap. "You had nothing to do with it, I suppose."

"Me?" Blair pointed at his chest. "Never. I would never even think of spoiling a child of ours."

"That's what I thought." Jim placed a small, but passionate, kiss on Blair's lips. "Have I told you lately how much I love you?"

"Oh, not in the last thirty minutes or so."

"Really. How remiss of me. I guess I have to make up for it then." Jim wrapped his arms around his husband, holding Blair close to him and looking into the blue eyes that he loved. "I love you, Blair Jacob Sandburg, with everything that I am. You are the other half of my soul and what makes me complete and I am grateful to every God in the universe that you have deemed me worthy of your love." Blair stared at Jim, the love he felt for him obvious on his face.

"Oh man, when you decide to tell someone you love them, you don't kid around, do you?"

"Only with you, Chief. Never anyone else."

"Not even Carolyn?"

"Especially not Carolyn," Jim replied, not even phased by the mention of his ex-wife. Jim knew that Blair had made peace with Jim's past, including the relationship he had with his ex. Carolyn, on the other hand, had gone ballistic when she had found out about Jim and Blair's marriage, accusing Jim of just using her as a way to seem normal. Jim hadn't even bothered to try and dissuade her.

"You know, as much as I dislike that woman, I should send her flowers or something." Jim looked at his husband, shock apparent on his face.

"Why in hell would you want to do something like that?"

"Because, if she hadn't of left you, and then proceeded to treat you the way she did, you and I would probably not have ever met and that is one thing I don't even want to consider." Jim smiled sweetly at Blair, the two sharing sweet kisses to the accompanying sounds of happy families enjoying the night on the boardwalk. The two of them blocked out the noise, cocooning themselves in the love they held for one another. Finally they pulled apart, albeit reluctantly, and the sounds of the boards came back to them.

"Jim."

"Hmmmmm?"

"What made you decide on this house? I mean, being this close to the boardwalk, I would have figured it to be too loud for you, and yet, you seem completely comfortable being here." Blair suddenly looked at the Sentinel suspiciously. "Jim, what level do you have the dials on?"

"Relax, Sandburg," Jim answered, using the name he always did when regarding Blair as his Guide and not his mate. "They're all set to normal, around level four or five, depending." Jim went quiet for a minute, waiting to see if Blair would accept his answer. Then, once it became apparent that Blair believed him, Jim continued. "As for why I chose this house, I did it for you and Tabbi."

"Why?"

"Because, I figured that this way we were close enough to everything that we wouldn't have to shuttle Tabbi everywhere. And we haven't yet. She and Mike can just walk up to the boards and they're old enough where we don't have to go with them. Which means, you and I have more time for ourselves."

"You said the same thing last week when Tabbi went over to Alexis' last weekend for that slumber party," Blair pointed out. "And before when she went away to camp for the week."

"What can I say," Jim shrugged. "As much as I love our daughter, and I do love her, I can never get enough alone time with you." Blair smiled as he snuggled into the arms that held him tight.

"Oh man, who ever thought you were such a softie?"

"Softie?" Jim scoffed, mocking his partner. "Who are you calling a softie?"

"You, my love," Blair responded, his finger going to Jim's chest. "You are one, grade A, certifiable softie and," Blair placed a kiss on Jim's nose. "I wouldn't have you any other way. I love you, James Ellison. I love you so much, you can't possibly have any idea."

"Oh, probably almost as much as I love you." Jim and Blair continued to sit quietly on the back deck, enjoying the warm, August evening. While the lights of the boards made it impossible to enjoy the stars that should have been apparent in the clear sky, it didn't hamper their ability to take in the full moon. The two men relaxed, enjoying their time alone, knowing how precious it was considering Tabbi. It was why they brought her friend with them again this year. If Tabbi had been by herself, there would have been no way that Jim and Blair would have allowed her to go to the boardwalk by herself, but as long as she was with Mike, they didn't worry as much. Both girls knew how to take care of themselves, having already earned their brown belts in karate. The cop and anthropologist actually pitied any idiot that even thought of taking on the two girls, knowing that, in all likelihood, they wouldn't have a chance in hell.

"Is your friend still coming up?" Blair asked, breaking the comfortable silence between them. He felt Jim nod his head above him.

"Yeah," he answered. "Cam said he would be up sometime next Wednesday. Tricia has a doctor's appointment on Tuesday that they didn't want to reschedule."

"Nothing wrong I hope."

"Not unless you consider her being pregnant a bad thing?" Blair turned in Jim's lap, a smile spreading on his face.

"Really?" Jim nodded again. "Oh man, I bet they're excited. Especially Cameron, considering he wasn't around when she was pregnant with Casey."

"Yeah, that's what he said, too. He's even excited about the mood swings and the cravings that Tricia keeps warning him about. He figures that since he wasn't around for Casey, he has to make up for it with this one. He doesn't want to miss a thing."

"I'm happy for them, Jim. I mean, sure I haven't met them or anything, but I have talked to Cam a few times when he's called and you've been out. I'm glad that the two of you got back in touch."

"I still can't believe that he thought I was dead," Jim sighed. "I just assumed that he didn't want anything to do with me because he blamed me for what happened, like a lot of others that I had thought were my friends. And then to find out that he was in jail for killing someone and hadn't known." Jim shook his head in amazement at the circumstances that had transpired to keep the two friends apart.

"But that's all in the past, man. You both have a second chance to renew your friendship and that's all that's important."

"You're right, babe. As usual."

"Well, at least you finally admit it." Blair and Jim chuckled before settling back down and enjoying the evening.

***

The following week found Jim and Blair on the front porch, out of the rain that had descended upon the Jersey coast, relaxing and reading a book. Tabbi and Mike had gone to the boards to see a movie, leaving the two men alone again. They looked up as a car pulled in front of the home, a parking space available due to the inclement weather. Blair watched as a smile took over Jim's face and the older man stood up.

A man with short blond hair got out of the car. The way he looked around and held himself reminded him of Jim, and Blair realized that this was Cameron. The man walked around to the passenger side of the car and opened it, revealing a lovely young woman with blond hair also. Lastly, he let out a young girl who appeared to be about ten or so.

"Lieutenant, what are you doing out of uniform?" Jim thundered in, what Blair called, his Ranger voice. He watched as the newcomer went rigid and saluted Jim.

"I'm officially a civilian now, Captain, in more ways than one. And it's Captain, also."

"So you told me before." Jim and the other man smiled and, much to Blair's surprise, hugged, patting the other man on the back. "Damn, it's good to see you."

"Not as good as it is to see you, Jim." The blonde pulled back. "When I heard what happened in Peru, with the chopper going down and everyone being MIA, I didn't know what to think. All I could think was that I should have been there, too. That I was supposed to go on the mission with you and I didn't."

"Hey, I'm glad that you weren't there. I don't think I was ever so happy because someone had broken their leg." Jim turned his attention to the woman. "Tricia."

"Hello, Jim," Tricia smiled, giving Jim and hug and a quick kiss on his cheek. "I'm so glad that you're okay. You have no idea how many tears I cried thinking we had lost you. And knowing that if it hadn't've been for some incompetent non-com, Cam would have been with you. Then, when we got your call after Cam got out." All through her speech, Tricia never let go of the older man, her eyes watering as she remembered the past.

"Hey, it's okay, Trish. I'm fine. Really." Cameron took his wife from Jim, smiling at his friend. Jim then looked down at the little girl that was with them. "Don't tell me this is little Casey." The little girl in question hid behind her mother.

"Yup, this is my little girl," Cameron answered. "Casey, honey, I want you to meet a very good friend of mine. Jim Ellison." Cameron looked behind Jim, finally spotting Blair, who was content to just stand back and observe the reunion. "And I believe you're Blair." Jim turned to his mate, a blush forming on his face as he realized he hadn't introduced Blair to his friends.

"Oh God, Chief, I'm sorry." Jim held out his hand for Blair to join him. "Guys, this is my life partner, Blair Sandburg. Blair, I'd like you to meet one of the only men, other than you and Simon, I would have no qualms about trusting with my life, or yours and Tabbi's for that matter. Cameron Poe. And his wife, Tricia, and daughter, Casey."

"It's a pleasure to finally meet you," Blair greeted the couple, shaking first Cameron's and then Tricia's hands. "Jim's told me a lot about your time in the Rangers together. Well, once he realized that you weren't mad at him or anything." Cameron turned to his friend, shocked.

"Mad? Why would I be mad at you, Ellison?"

"For surviving." Cameron looked at his friend and saw the sadness and pain that he still felt for the loss of his men and wondered, yet again, what exactly had been the feeling when Jim had returned from Peru.

"Captain, what happened in Peru wasn't your fault. It was Oliver's. He's the one who set you up. He's the reason those seven men are dead. There's nothing to be mad about." Jim's smile returned at his friend's assurances. Cameron was glad to see his friend's features relax again. "Now, I don't know about anyone else, but I could use a cold drink."

"Well, then, come on in and we can show you guys where you're sleeping." Jim and Blair led the small family into their home, getting them settled. After everyone had unpacked, and Casey was put down for a nap to recover from the long trip, the four adults gathered in the kitchen to have some fruit and cheese and get reacquainted with each other. The two couples had talked quite a few times over the phone in the year since Jim had first contacted the Poes, but they had only glanced over what had happened in the past, instead focusing on getting to know each other and the changes that have happened in their lives. Jim told Cameron and Tricia about his life since being rescued and how he and Blair had gotten together while Cameron told them about what had occurred right after he had left the service.

"I can't believe the judge said that," Blair commented after listening to Cameron describe the court hearing and the judge's decision to give him the maximum sentence of seven to ten years, because of his Ranger training. The anthropologist couldn't understand how someone could be punished for defending his wife, especially when the odds were against him. "That's just so wrong."

"It might have been wrong, but there was nothing I could do about it and it is in the past," Poe told him. "As much as we might hate it, it is what this country is based on. And I did use my time learning things. The only thing that I truly regret is that I missed watching Casey grow up. Those are years I can never get back."

"But he's here now and that's what's important," Tricia added, earning herself a smile from her husband. "And considering how close I came to losing him on that damned plane..."

"I told you that's what led me to finally try and contact you guys," Jim reminded them. "Until then, I had no idea that you were in jail. And then to hear that you had stop Grissom and the others from escaping. Damn, I thought only Sandburg could get into that much trouble without even trying."

"Hey, that is like so unfair, man. I don't get into that much trouble," Blair pouted, all the while grinning at Jim.

"Blair, my love," Jim rested his arm on Blair's shoulder, "only you could go to pick up a good luck totem and get stuck in an elevator with a ticking bomb."

"Okay, so there've been a few minor incidences that have happened to me."

"A few?" Jim quirked his eyebrows.

"Fine, more than a few. Happy now?"

"As long as you're with me." Jim placed a chaste kiss on Blair's lips, and then turned to face his two friends, only to find them smiling at him.

"I never thought I'd see the day that you'd be that happy, Jim," Cameron said. "You deserve it."

"So do you, Cam."

"Cameron, can I ask you something?" Blair questioned, tentatively. At Cameron's nod, he continued. "Well, I'm sure you've told your story a hundred times and I'll completely understand if you tell me to butt out, but what happened up there. I mean, we've heard the official version, but there had to be another story there."

"Not much difference between the two stories." At Blair and Jim's disbelieving looks, Cameron sighed. "I guess the biggest mistake commonly made is the belief that all of the convicts on board were somehow behind what had happened."

"They weren't?"

"Hell, no! Other than the few that Grissom told, none of us knew what was going on until they had taken the plane. The rest of us were completely in the dark," Cameron began to explain, reliving the day he was paroled and the flight from hell. "Baby-O, a friend of mine, almost died on that plane because he couldn't get his insulin. And then, when he tried to protect me, Grissom shot him."

"What was he like?" Blair inquired, his curiosity getting the better of him.

"Who?"

"Cyrus the Virus." Cameron searched for the word that would best described the criminal that had masterminded the takeover of a US Marshall's plane.

"Insane would be the one word that I would use. He had a twisted sense of logic," Poe went on. "While he had no problem murdering anyone, and showed no remorse for the death of one of those that he was leading, he would not allow another prisoner to rape the female guard. The same guard that he had been holding hostage when that DEA agent was threatening him."

"I heard he was a contradiction," Jim observed. "They use him as a case study at the academy so that the new cadets can get an idea of just how dangerous and brilliant some of the perps they'll come against truly are."

"That's one way of describing him. The others on the plane, them I could handle. They were just straight out violent bastards, but Grissom and Greene, they were unique."

"Garland Greene, you mean?"

"Yeah."

"He's still on the loose, isn't he?" Blair asked.

"Last I heard. Word had it that he was in a casino just down the street from where the plane crashed. Made about five hundred thousand before he took off. No one's seen or heard from him since."

"Do you think he might come after you or your family?"

"No. If I haven't heard from him yet, I'm willing to bet that I won't, although the Marshall service is hoping otherwise."

"Well, all I can say is that, after what you did for them, they should be more than willing to make sure that you three are well protected," Jim stated. "Just think what would have happened if that plane had managed to get away."

"That's something I don't even want to think about."

A little later that evening, Jim and Blair were talking while lying in bed. They had spent the evening talking and drinking with Cameron and Tricia while the girls had gone to the boards, Tabbi and Mike having no problem with Casey joining them. It seemed to the adults as if they were enjoying the idea of the little girl following them. Cameron and Jim relived their days in the Rangers, regaling Tricia and Blair with stories that they had never heard before, and the two spouses commiserated over what it was like to be the mate of an army man.

Cameron told Blair and Jim about how his family had been put in protective custody for the first few months after the episode on the plane, the government wanting to make sure that nothing happened to the family. And now, the family was on their own again, unsure of what they were going to do next. Tricia had gone back to her waitressing job, but Cameron had been unable to find employment. Many in their small town didn't want a convicted criminal, even one that had been touted as a reluctant hero, for an employee.

"I'm glad that you and Cameron are friends, Jim," Blair whispered as Jim spooned up against him. " I think it's something that the two of you both need."

"I just wish there was something I could do for him," Jim sighed. "I mean, it can't be easy for a man like him to have his wife supporting him."

"Well, maybe they need to move. Get away from Alabama and their part," the Guide suggested. "What about them coming up to Cascade?" Jim got up, leaning on his elbow and looking down at his husband.

"What's going on in that brain of yours, Blair Sandburg?"

"Nothing," he shrugged. "I was just thinking of how nice it would be if you had someone near you who understood something about your past and I think you and Cam have a lot in common."

"But even if he wanted to move to Cascade, what could he do?"

"I was thinking about that. Tricia and I were talking and she was telling me about some of the things that Cam taught himself while in prison," Blair explained, excitement tainting his voice. "He already has a college degree and it would only take a few more classes if he was interested."

"Interested in what?"

"Teaching. I was thinking maybe a course on criminal law or something. He has the experience for it and I think he would be able to offer the students something that other teachers wouldn't."

"It's an interesting idea," Jim admitted.

"And Tricia admitted that she wouldn't mind getting out of Alabama. I think the stress of everything has taken a bigger toll on her than she really wants to admit."

"Well, let's give it a few days and we can run it by them, okay?"

"Really?"

"Yes, babe, really. Now how about we get some sleep. We want to get out there nice and early if we hope to catch enough crabs for dinner."

"Have I told you how much I love you?"

"I love you, too, babe. Night."

"Night."

***

2002

"Man, I can't believe itís your parents' fifth anniversary. Nowadays, that's saying something," Mike observed as she and Tabbi made their way along the small boardwalk.

"I know, and I swear, those two are more in love now than they were then," Tabbi commented.

"How would you know? You weren't even around then," Mike teased her friend.

"Yeah but it was only a few months before I went to live with them so I think that gives me the right to say it." A group of teenage boys walked past the two thirteen year old girls, who couldn't help but look at them. "Oh man, sweet."

"Which one?"

"You mean, I have to choose?"

"Nope, just thought I would give you the option." Tabbi and Mike laughed as they went over to the ice cream parlor to get something sweet. "So, how much free time do you think your folks will be giving us this year?"

"Probably a whole lot," Tabbi answered. "I mean, I think this vacation means a lot more to them this year because of the anniversary. That's why Dad Jim brought us here. The house we're in is the same one that he had rented for Daddy Blair that first year."

"Your dad certainly has good taste. Both of them."

"Hey, they love me, that's proof enough of what kind of taste they have."

"Girl, you are bad."

"Yup, and you wouldn't have me any other way, would you?"

"Nope." The two girls continued along the boards, the cloudy day making it so that they weren't going to spend any time on the beach, but they didn't mind. Cape May had quite a few attractions for the two girls, who loved looking around at the old buildings and shopping in the mall. Suddenly, just as they were leaving one of the stores that sold the type of things that only tourists would purchase, Tabbi grabbed Mike's arm.

"Hey, what's up?" Mike said, indignant. She pulled her arm out of Tabbi's grasp and looked to see what had her friend's attention. All she saw was an older woman, with red hair, who was staring at something in one of the stores. "Tabbi, what's wrong?"

"I recognize her," Tabbi whispered, almost as if she was afraid of being overheard.

"From where? Who is she?"

"I think she's my grandmother."

"WHAT?" Mike shouted, drawing glares from the people near them. She blushed and lowered her voice. "What do you mean she's your grandmother? I didn't even think you had grandparents other than Jim's father."

"Well, he's the only one I've met, but Daddy Blair's mom is still alive," Tabbi explained, grabbing Mike's arm as she followed the red haired woman down the sidewalk.

"Oh-kay," Mike drawled. "If she's alive, why haven't you ever met her?"

"Daddy Jim and Blair never actually told me, but I overheard them talking about it one time. Apparently she didn't like the idea of them being together and told Daddy Blair that until he saw some sense and realized that Daddy Jim wasn't right for him, she didn't want anything to do with him," Tabbi explained.

"Man, that is like, way harsh," Mike stated. "I can't believe a mother could be that cruel."

"Yeah, that was my thought, too. Bitch of it is, she did it right after they got together. Here, if you can believe it."

"How can someone be so cruel to their child? I'm telling ya, when I have kids, I'm going to support whatever decisions they make for their lives."

"Same here." Tabbi was quiet for a moment as she watched the woman. She seemed to come to a decision and Mike watched as she straightened her back, almost as if she was expecting a battle. When Mike saw where they we're headed, she tried to pull her arm away.

"Tabbi, what are you doing?" She hissed.

"Excuse me," Tabbi greeted the older woman, who turned around to look at who had just joined her.

"Yes?" She replied, a smile reaching her face. Tabbi finally let go of Mike's arm to pay full attention to the woman. "Can I help you?"

"Yeah. I was wondering if you were Naomi Sandburg?" The woman looked at the young girl in surprise.

"Yes, I am. Do I know you?"

"No, but I know who you are." The anger in Tabbi's voice was easy to hear and Naomi wondered about the teen. "I'm your granddaughter."

"You're my what?" Naomi asked, shocked. "I'm sorry, did you just say you're my granddaughter?" Tabbi nodded her head. "But how? I mean, Blair's never mentioned having a daughter."

"Well, gee, maybe if you hadn't've decided to cut him out of your life, he would have been able to tell you." Naomi visibly paled at the retort.

"I....I.....I don't understand."

"Well, let me see if I can explain it to you," Tabbi stepped up to Naomi, standing as much in her face as her thirteen year old form could. "Daddy Blair and Daddy Jim adopted me because my real father didn't want me after my mom died. They've become my parents and I couldn't have asked for any better, but I guess you wouldn't understand anything about that since you decided to turn your back on your own son."

"You don't understand," Naomi stammered. "I love my son."

"You call what you did love? If you loved him so much, you wouldn't have made him choose between you and Daddy Jim. That's not love, at least, not any love I've ever heard of." Naomi was silent, unsure of how to answer the young girl. The things that Tabbi was saying to her were the same things that Naomi had been telling herself for the past four years. The former hippie knew that the way she had reacted to Blair and Jim's relationship had been wrong but her pride had refused to allow her to contact her son and try to make amends. She missed Blair and had tried to keep up to date with what was going on with his life. She knew that he had received his doctorate, had even had a party at the retreat she had been staying at when she had found out, and that he was now a paid consultant to the police department. Even though she still didn't like the idea of her son being involved with the pigs, she knew that she had no right to tell him what to do. And here was this young girl, standing up to her and telling her that she had missed even more of her son's life than she had originally thought.

"What's your name?"

"Tabatha Sandburg-Ellison," she answered, proudly. She knew that some people had a problem with the fact that her parents were two men, but Tabbi didn't care. She loved her fathers and they loved her and, as far as Tabbi was concerned, that's all that mattered. "My friends call me Tabbi."

"Hello Tabbi."

"I said my friends," she emphasized the word friends, "call me Tabbi." Naomi was taken aback by the harsh tone but nodded.

"I'm sorry. Tabatha." All three women were silent. Naomi because she didn't know what to say to the young girl who claimed to be her granddaughter, Tabbi because she was trying to keep control of her temper, which both of her fathers said could get her in trouble, and Mike because she didn't want to get any more involved with whatever was going on than she already was. Finally, when the silence became too overwhelming, Naomi said something. "So, Tabatha, are your parents here?"

"They're back at the house," she answered.

"Really? And they don't mind you and your friend being out alone?"

"They know Mike and I can take care of ourselves," Tabbi replied proudly, finally giving Naomi a name for the other girl. "They trust us. And it gives them some alone time."

"And where are you all staying?"

"Daddy Jim decided to rent the same house he had when he and Daddy Blair had first gotten together," Tabbi informed Naomi. "He thought it would be the perfect way to spend their anniversary." Naomi nodded, although her mind was going about a mile a minute. She couldn't believe it. Her son, and the man that he loved, were back in Cape May. It was what Naomi had hoped for. The reason she had returned to the shore town every year, but now she was unsure as to what to do.

"Excuse me, Mrs. Sandburg..."

"Miss," Naomi corrected Mike.

"Miss Sandburg, can I ask you a question?" Naomi nodded her permission. "Why did you do what you did? I mean, I don't understand. Why did you make Blair decide between you and Jim?"

"What did they tell you?" Naomi was curious as to what the two men had told the young girls about what had happened five years ago.

"Nothing," Tabbi answered. "They never actually told me what happened. I had overheard them talking about it a couple of weeks after I had moved into the loft with them. All they've ever told me was that you traveled a lot and that it made it difficult to get in touch with you or see you. I guess they didn't want me to think badly about you."

"That sounds like them," Naomi sighed, signaling for the girls to take a seat at the bench nearby. Naomi joined them, trying to decide how to explain what had happened and why she had done the things she had. "I want you to understand something, Tabatha," Naomi was careful to use Tabbi's full name, "I have nothing against Jim. I think he's a wonderful man who had been through quite a bit. My only real problem with him is that he is a cop. And, because of my son's involvement with him, Blair was dragged into that lifestyle also and that's something I never wanted to happen to my son. Then, when Blair told me that he and Jim were officially a couple, that made me think that Jim had corrupted my son to the point of no return."

"Daddy Jim would never do anything to hurt Daddy Blair," Tabbi protested, defending her fathers. "He loves him."

"I know that," Naomi tried to placate the girl. "And, I think, a small part of me knew that then, too. I just didn't want to accept that the little boy that I had raised to be a peaceful man had grown into someone that willingly followed the police. It isn't what I wanted for Blair."

"So, instead you decided to cut him from your life. Yeah, that makes sense. NOT."

"I know I can't justify my actions to you. I have a feeling I shouldn't even bother trying."

"Got that right," Tabbi muttered, so low that only Mike heard her. Naomi turned to face her granddaughter.

"But I want you to know that I do regret what I did. It took me awhile, and a lot of processing, but I do know that I love my son, no matter what. I've always wanted Blair to be happy. To know the kind of love that I never had, but for some reason, once he found it, I couldn't accept it. I realized that it wasn't because your Dad was a cop or because they were both men; it was because I was jealous."

"Jealous?" Naomi nodded.

"Jealous," she continued. "Because my son had done something that I had never been able to." At Tabbi and Mike's confused looks, Naomi went on. "Has Blair ever told you how he was raised?"

"Sure," Mike answered for the two. "He's always telling us stories about the places he went to as a child. Some of the things that he got to see and do as a kid sound really cool."

"Yeah, Dad said that you were never one to settle down any place," Tabbi added. "It was one of the reasons he became interested in anthropology. You had gotten him into so many different cultures that it only seemed natural to him to study them when he got older." Naomi smiled at that.

"That sounds like my Blair," she said, wistfully. "But I don't think Blair ever understood why I was always moving him around. Why I never seemed able to settle down anywhere or with anybody." Naomi took a deep breath, centering herself. "I was always looking for something that seemed to elude me. Some inner peace and, when I saw that Blair had found it in Jim, I became jealous. Blair had found someone in Jim that offered him everything that he had wanted in life and more. Jim was someone who accepted Blair for who he was. He didn't try and contain Blair's enthusiasm for life and what it had to offer. He didn't try and cage him and I envied my son for that."

"So because Daddy Blair was happy, you were angry," Tabbi summarized. "And now?"

"Now I know I was wrong and I wish there was something I could do to make up for the things that I had said," the red head admitted. "It's why I'm here. I've come to Cape May every year since then, hoping that I would see them and that I would be able to apologize."

"Why not just call?" Naomi shrugged her shoulders.

"I don't expect you to understand, but I couldn't. I didn't want to take the chance that Blair would hang up on me."

"He loves you. He might not have said anything to me, but I know he misses you," Tabbi informed her grandmother. Naomi stayed silent. "If you had a chance to talk to my dads, what would you say?"

"I'd tell them both how sorry I was for how I reacted and that I hope that they find all of the happiness that they both deserved, even if it meant them being together," the older woman answered without even thinking. Tabbi took that in and then came to a decision.

"Well, then, I guess we'll have to give you that chance."

***

Later that evening, Tabbi and Mike were setting the dinner table, an extra place being put next to Blair's spot. Tabbi had told her fathers that she had invited a friend over for dinner and they had agreed that it would be fine. They were used to Tabbi inviting people over, and other people inviting the young girl to their homes, too. It was one of the things that made Tabbi so special. Her ability to make friends easily, no matter where she was.

"So, Tabbi, tell us about your new friend," Blair prompted.

"She's really neat, Dad. She's been a lot of places and is full of all these great stories," Tabbi told him. "I think you and Dad Jim will really like her. At least, I hope you do."

"I'm sure we will, Sweetie."

"Well, the steaks are almost done," Jim announced as he came inside. "And I think I just heard your friend pull up."

"Cool." Tabbi and Mike ran to the front porch to greet their guest, leaving Jim and Blair behind. Just as they were going to join their daughter, Blair felt Jim tense up at his side.

"Jim?"

"It's Naomi, Chief." Blair paled at the mention of his mother. He looked at his husband, a silent question in his eyes. "I'm sure. Even after all this time, I recognize her scent."

"What's she doing here?" Jim pulled Blair closer to him, letting the love he felt for the other man out as a reassurance to Blair.

"I don't know Chief, but from what I can hear, she's the friend that Tabbi was expecting."

"Damn." Suddenly the house was full of laughing, giggling females as Tabbi and Mike led Naomi in. The three of them stopped as soon as the saw the shell shocked looks on Blair and Jim's faces. Tabbi had the sudden urge to apologize to her father's, especially Blair, when she saw how pale he was. And then Blair was gone, leaving the same way that Jim had just entered. Jim extended his hearing, wanting to make sure his husband was okay and was glad when he realized that Blair was still there, on the back porch. He turned his attention to his mother-in-law.

"Hello, Naomi," he greeted her stiffly.

"Jim. You're looking good." The two adults fell into silence again and Tabbi looked between them, worried that she might have screwed up.

"Dad," she began, only to be cut off.

"Tabbi, why don't you and Mike go upstairs and play until you're called for dinner." When Tabbi went to protest, Jim put up his hand. "Now, Tabatha."

"Yes, sir." Both girls slowly made their way out of the room, leaving Jim and Naomi alone. Naomi fidgeted under the intense glare that the man that was her son-in-law was giving her, while Jim was doing his best to fight the urge to hurt the woman that had turned her back on Blair. Finally, when the silence began to overwhelm them, he decided to say something to her.

"It's a surprise to see you here, Naomi," Jim began, hoping to keep his voice somewhat civil. "You weren't exactly who we were expecting when Tabbi told us that she had invited a friend over."

"I hope it's okay that she did that," Naomi answered. "She's a wonderful girl, Jim. You and Blair have done a terrific job of raising her."

"Thank you. We've done the best that we could."

"Well, you've succeeded. Both of those girls seem to think that you walk on water." Silence descended between the two again, this time being broken by Naomi. "How has he been, Jim? Really?"

"About as well as can be expected. He was hurt, badly, when you refused to talk to him. He threw himself into his work, both at school and at the station. I wasn't sure if he would be able to handle it, but then Tabbi came along and that changed. She brought him out of his shell because we needed to be there for her." Jim seemed to wrestle with himself over something but went on. "He misses you, Naomi. Even now. He still talks about you."

"Tabbi told me that. She said that you told him that I was traveling and that was why I haven't been there to meet her yet."

"We didn't want her to think there was anything wrong with the way we lived," Jim explained. "And, you are her grandmother, for better or worse, and we didn't want her thinking the worst of you because of what happened five years ago."

"I've missed so much," Naomi said, sadly. "There's so much that I can never get back."

"That was your decision," Jim stated. "And it's too late to do anything about it. The only thing I want to know is why are you here now?"

"I want to make things right between us," she answered. "I want to be a part of your lives again. That is, if you'll let me."

"That isn't my decision, Naomi. That's up to Blair." Jim looked back towards the door that separated him from his husband. Jim listened to the fast heartbeat that was his anchor, listened as Blair muttered to himself about his life and Jim wanted nothing more than to go out there and make everything right for him. Naomi brought his attention back to her.

"Do you think he'll ever forgive me?"

"I don't know. He's hurting now. Seeing you again has brought back all of those memories. I don't need to ask him that to know how he feels." Naomi made a move to go outside but Jim's hand on her arm stopped her cold, as did the harsh look in his blue eyes.

"Naomi, I think the two of you need to make things right between you again, but I want you to know something." Jim's voice became cold and distant. "Hurt him again and nothing will stop me from coming after you." Naomi visibly flinched, gulping as she saw the covert ops soldier that Jim had once been in his eyes, realizing that he would have no problem killing her if she hurt Blair again. Then it was gone, and Jim released her arm.

"I won't. I promise." Jim nodded and Naomi went over to the back door. She could see Blair, standing by the grill, and she took a deep breath, preparing herself to go to him. She turned once more to look at Jim, only to find him gone. Then it was too late, as she pushed open the screen door and went out to talk to the son that she hadn't seen in five years.

"Blair?"

"What are you doing here, Naomi?" Naomi winced as she heard the hard tone in her beautiful son's voice, knowing she was responsible for putting it there. "Why have you come here?"

"I came to see you. To talk to you."

"I thought you said everything that you wanted to say five years ago. You made it clear what you thought of Jim and I being together."

"I know and that's what I wanted to talk about." Blair finally looked over at his mother, and Naomi could see the wetness on his cheeks, showing the tracks of the tears that had fallen and her heart broke. All of the pride that had kept her from contacting her son fell by the wayside as she wished to reach over and pull him to her in a hug, but knowing that she couldn't. "Oh, baby, I'm so sorry. I wish there was something I could do to make you believe me when I tell you how much I wish I could take back what I said, but I know I can't. All I can do is try and make it better. I've missed so much of your life, Blair, please let me try and be a part of it."

'Why now, Naomi? Even if I were to believe you, why now? What's changed so suddenly that made you want to be a part of my life?" Then Blair remembered who had originally invited Naomi to their house. "Tabbi. You want to be a part of my life because of Tabbi."

"No, baby, not because of Tabbi," the red head cried. "I've wanted to talk to you so many times over the past five years, but my pride never let me contact you. It wasn't until Tabbi told me who she was, and told me off for being so cold to you, that made me realize that my pride wasn't worth losing you." Naomi finally dared to take a step towards her son. "Blair, you are my son. My baby boy. You are the reason that I keep getting up in the morning and, as much as I hate it, if you decide that you never want anything to do with me, I'll go. I might not be happy, but I will leave."

"Tabbi needs her grandmother," Blair surprised Naomi by saying. "And, whether I like it or not, you are the only one she has."

"She's a wonderful child, Blair. You and Jim are great parents. Better than I ever was."

"What can I say? We already knew what mistakes not to make." Blair smiled slightly as he looked up as Naomi. "You said you were wrong. Does that mean that you've accepted that Jim and I are together? That we are a couple?"

"I accept it. Believe it or not, I accepted it back then, too."

"Then why were you so angry?"

"Because I was jealous." Naomi took the final steps that separated her from Blair, taking his hand in hers. "Blair, you found what every mother wants for her child. Someone to accept them for who they are and who doesn't try and limit them. It was also something that I have been searching for my entire life. When I found out that you had it, I don't know, I guess I just couldn't deal with it. At least, not right then.

"Blair, until Jim came along, it was always just you and me. I always knew there was a chance that you would meet that special someone but I didn't want to think about it. Then you told me that you and Jim were in love and it hit me that I was losing you to him. That you were no longer mine alone. That I had to share you and I couldn't deal with that."

"Naomi, you were never going to lose me," Blair told her. "All my loving Jim meant was that you were gaining another son. Someone else to love you."

"I know that now." Naomi looked at the young man that stood in front of her, seeing her baby boy. "Blair, give me another chance. Please. Let me be a part of your family's life." She watched the emotions as they flickered across Blair's face as he tried to decide what to do, hoping that she would have a chance to make up for the mistakes of the past. "Blair?"

"It hurt, Naomi. When you left. I don't know if I can take it if you do it again."

"I won't. I promise." Blair squeezed Naomi's hand, giving her hope.

"I can't make any guarantees, Naomi, but I think it would be a good idea if you and I try again." His blue eyes met hers. "But I won't let you hurt Jim or Tabbi. Ever. They are the most important things in my life. If you do just one thing to make either of them upset, that's it." Tears escaped Naomi's eyes and she took her son in her arms.

"I promise, baby," she whispered into his hair. "I love you so much."

"Me, too, mom. Me, too." Blair looked over at the back door to see Jim watching the two of them. Blair smiled at his husband, letting Jim know that everything was going to be okay, mouthing I love you to him. Jim returned the smile and words, then went back into the house to give the mother and son some more alone time.

***

"So, Chief, should we be scared at the fact that Naomi volunteered to baby-sit Tabbi and Mike tonight?" Jim asked, as he lay in bed next to Blair. Blair leaned over and kissed Jim deeply before settling done in his arms.

"I think this was Naomi's way of saying that she accepts the two of us together," he answered. "That, and she wanted to spend some time spoiling the hell out of her granddaughter." Blair was silent for a few minutes, soaking in the love that his husband gave him. "I'm glad that Naomi wants to be a part of our lives. Tabbi needs a female in her life."

"I'll make sure to tell Connor that." Blair playfully smacked Jim's chest.

"You know what I mean. Tabbi needs a grandmother, especially with us as parents."

"I don't know. I think we've done pretty good so far."

"That we have." Jim nudged Blair off of him, reaching towards the end table. He pulled out what appeared to be a jeweler's box and handed it to Blair.

"What's this?" Blair asked, sitting up in bed, allowing the sheet to pool around his waist.

"Happy Anniversary, love." Jim answered, kissing Blair. Blair looked at him, confused.

"I thought the trip to Hawaii was my present."

"It was. This is something else," Jim explained. "Now are you going to open it or what?"

"Oh yeah." Blair opened the small box, looking up at Jim with tears in his eyes. "It's beautiful, Jim." Jim pulled the ring out from its placing, taking Blair's hand in his and placing it on his finger.

"I know we always said that we didn't need rings to show others that we belonged to each other, but when I saw this, I just knew I had to get it." Blair looked at the ring which was made of white gold and had the engraving of a panther with a small sapphire as an eye. Jim removed another box from the nightstand, opening it to reveal its contents to Blair. "Now, there won't be any question as to who has my heart." Jim placed his ring, which was identical to Blair's but had the engraving of a wolf.

"Nor who has mine." Blair wrapped his arms around Jim. "I love you, James Joseph Ellison, and I will be proud to wear your ring and let everyone know exactly to whom I belong. You have my heart. My mind. My body. You've given me everything that I ever wanted, even if I didn't know that I wanted it and I thank that Gods every day that they brought you into my life." Jim smiled as Blair repeated the words that he had said when the two of them had committed themselves to each other all those years before.

"And I love you, Blair Jacob Sandburg. You have my heart. My mind. My body. You've given me all that I could have ever hoped for and never dared to think I deserved. You gave me my sanity when I thought I was going crazy and there is nothing that I can do that can ever repay you for that. You are my everything and I thank whoever is in charge that you are a part of my life." The two men kissed, sealing their vows and, to the sounds of the pounding surf two blocks away, they showed each other just how much they loved each other.

The End.

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Authorís Acknowledgements: Thanks to Mary for the beta job, and Kylia and Kitti for everything. I wish to thank elegy for loan of her beautiful manipulation, which is the last piece of art in this story. And last but not least, thanks to everyone in the MME art department for all of your hard work.