Season Ticket - Krisser

The autumn air was clear and brisk, the leaves rustling beneath feet as people passed on the street. The Sentinel could hear their crunch as he headed for his destination. Ever so slightly cooler than the previous week, the temperature hinted at the slowly approaching winter

Jim Ellison pulled his ‘69 pick-up into the Cascade Arena parking lot. He locked the door before heading toward the employee entrance. The security guard there recognized him and ushered him in. He searched out and located Orvelle Wallace easily. The basketball player smiled and crossed the court to meet him. Jim knew Blair would be disappointed to miss an opportunity to see Orvelle, but he was testifying in court, so Jim had come solo.

"Jim, good to see you. Where's your sidekick?" The tall athletic man asked.

Jim shook the extended hand and answered, "In court."

"Thanks for coming down here. A couple of season tickets came up for grabs and being new in management, they were offered to me. I want to give them to you guys."

"Ah, hey, don't you want to give them to your niece or something?" Jim was touched at the offer.

The black man smiled and his white teeth glistened as he shook his head. "No, you and Blair were there for me. I owe you. First, you cleared me, and then made sure there was still a team to work for. You earned these."

"Thanks, Orvelle, this is great." Jim accepted the envelope.

"Just remember that one of those is for Blair," Wallace laughed as he watched the detective leave.

Jim answered without thought, "Who else would I go with?" Not really listening to what he said as he waved bye.

***

Blair was bouncing, he was so excited to be the possessor of season tickets to his favorite basketball team. He was also beyond pleased that his partner was to be his season ticket companion. There was never better time spent than in the company of his best friend and secret beloved one.

Sandburg was already missing the summer heat, the fall air making him drag out the extra flannels and sweaters. He and Jim had discussed how they would juggle their schedules. They would give up some gym time and walk to the game from the waterfront.

Today they had Cuban take-out and ate as they watched the southern migration of the Orca whale.

"They hope to follow the Gray whale, weed out the older or infirmed." Blair shared as they watched a spy-hopping maneuver.

"And here I thought it was the whale calf McNuggets they were really going after," Jim joked with his partner.

Blair nudged Jim as he tried to hold in his laugh. Finally, failing miserably, he joined in with the infectious sound that Jim was bestowing on the surprised guide.

They talked companionably as they walked the six blocks to the sports arena. It was the opening home game and both police detectives were as excited as little kids on Christmas morning. The fourth row seats were close to the home bench and they were rubbing elbows with some of the city's elite. A few movie and TV stars were in attendance, but Jim and Blair only had eyes for the home team. Although, Blair would steal glances at his Sentinel. Just to make sure he wasn't zoning was the excuse he used on himself.

Half-time garnered them a wave from Orvelle and the attention of those seated around. Jim listened in and smiled as he shared some of the crazy guesses made on their identities.

Not since before Alex had Blair felt the strong camaraderie between them like this. Another reason to be grateful to Orvelle.

***

By week three, Blair could tell that Simon was jealous and he decided that he'd put out some feelers to score a few extra tickets throughout the season. In the meantime, as he and Jim had a stake-out, Blair offered their tickets to that night's game to Simon and his son Daryl.

Simon seemed in a better mood for the rest of the week and even let them trade shifts with Brown and Rafe so they wouldn't miss the Saturday game.

***

The temperature had reached the high eighties and that had much of the city complaining about the heat. Last week’s mutterings regarding the nearing winter dominated water cooler discussion, today the same folk complained about the heat.

Blair smiled as his partner became one of the complainers.

"Indian summer is what they call it," Blair told his partner as they walked from Compos Burritos, with their Mexican take-out. They headed across the street to the stadium.

"Heat wave is what I call it, Darwin," Jim quipped in return.

"I like it. Not often I can go without a jacket," Blair told Jim earnestly.

The detective looked at his partner and noted that he only had one shirt on. Actually, it looked like one of his shirts. He was about to tease his roommate when he realized that he liked the idea of Sandburg wearing his clothes. Kind of implied that they were close friends. More than just roommates.

"Oh, in that case, I can live with it," Jim said aloud.

"Not like you have much of a choice," Blair laughed.

Jim grinned in agreement.

***

The announcer paused amid the cheers for the home team. Jim knew that Blair would hate missing this part, he just loved cheering for the players he knew personally. He had gone to get the popcorn, having lost the bet on how many consecutive games the same hot dog vendor had served his food.

Knowing that his guide was close, Jim turned and looked up to spot Sandburg at the top of the steps, hands loaded with two buckets of popcorn. One with butter, "Ah, Chief," he sighed to himself with a smile.

Blair looked in his direction and smiled that great smile of his. Jim looked all around him to see who the kid was smiling at and realized that there was only him. Wow, that sweet smile was for him, a warm feeling filled Jim and he didn't know why.

The half time started with the winner of the Cascade High School essay contest shooting baskets for his college fund. After winning fifty thousand, the Jags announced that the team would match the funds. Trying not to cry, the youth spoke of his hopes and dreams for the future.

Ever curious about his partner and friend, Blair asked of Jim, "When you were a kid, what were your dreams?"

Jim looked around as though he expected someone to be listening in, "I thought about being a doctor, but after the Country Club Strangler murders, I thought about catching bad guys." Jim grinned, then sobered, "I also wished for the super senses to go away."

"You did repress them successfully for eighteen years. Even without them, you were still protecting the tribe."

Jim shrugged, embarrassed at the admiration in Sandburg's eyes.

Then quietly, but needing to know, Blair asked, "How do you actually feel about the sentinel thing now? Still wish you could really get rid of them?"

"NO!" was answered quick and without hesitation.

"Really?" Blair was surprised at how definite his partner sounded.

"As long as I have you as my guide." Jim smiled genuinely at his partner. "You taught me control and how to fine tune them to make them work. Somehow, each time I was faced with their permanent loss, I chose to get them back. I may have been afraid of the extra responsibility, but with you ........ well..........And you made me finally realize that they're many more people alive today because of them, lots of whom would have died if I hadn't. I'm okay with being the Sentinel of the Great City."

Blair smiled, "I'm okay with being your guide." Jim felt unreasonably pleased.

The roar of the crowd impeded any further conversation, but Blair sat there with a warm feeling. Jim had come a long way and finally accepted a part of who he was.

The noise level was intense straight through to the half. The din level dropped to a conversation tolerant as the floor keepers cleaned off the court.

Jim found that he wanted to return to their earlier conversation topic, Blair hadn't answered yet. "You're not getting off the hook that easily, what did you dream of?" Jim retaliated when they could hear themselves.

"To find a Sentinel." Blair answered succinctly.

"You did that." Jim acknowledged softly.

With a smile, "Yeah, I did."

Seeing an opportunity to have his curiosity assuaged, Jim pressed on, "Why? Why that, of all the kid things open to you, why was that your dream?"

For a moment, Blair felt like a pinned bug, but then realized that Jim was really the only one he was willing to open up to. "Moving from place to place.....there weren't always kids to be with, so I read a lot. The book on sentinels opened up my imagination, it just ran wild from there. The more I read the more I understood about them and knew that I had to find one."

"How old were you?"

"Nine."

"Did you miss playing normal games?"

"What's normal man?" Blair shrugged easily. "Nah, not really, remember I really was a science nerd."

"With that hair, I doubt you were automatically labeled nerd?" Jim asked searchingly.

A half smile played on Sandburg's lips as he answered sincerely, "Didn't have long hair then. First two years of college were the pits."

Jim smiled knowingly, "Well, you were sixteen.............."

With a big grin, "Yeah, the girls wouldn't give me the time of day. So, I applied for expeditions. The lack of amenities took its toll on some......but I grew up in so many weird places, the lack wasn't that different." Blair shrugged again as he watched the players warm up, "My hair grew and after it got long, I got looks from others. Being young and horny, I went with it."

Nodding, "The females finally took notice."

Coughing slightly to clear his throat, Blair clarified, "A couple were all male expeditions. Not all cultures have those particular hang-ups. Like I said I was young and horny."

Jim's popcorn stuck in his throat and he coughed and gasped trying to clear his throat.

"Ah, sorry, man. I didn't mean to shock you. I've been with strictly females since we met. Did not want to offend you in any way." Blair was half afraid that now it was out, Jim would be disgusted.

"I'm not shocked, Chief. Guess just a little surprised and curious why you never mentioned this before?" Jim tried to keep both the excitement and hurt out of his voice.

"You were a cop, so it became a non issue. I only mentioned it now cause we were being honest, sharing childhood dreams." Sandburg thought to himself that he was glad they were at the game, Jim would put his erratic heartbeat down to all that. He was doubly glad he couldn't read thoughts, Blair knew exactly why he mentioned his alternative leanings, and now after seeing his partner's reaction, he was hoping that Jim was looking that direction himself. Really hoping.

***

The heat wave was chased away by polar easterlies that rapidly cooled off the warmth that Blair enjoyed so much. It was back to layering his clothes.

They hit the gym when the Jags played out of town. This morning they were running late and Jim pulled a shirt from the top of the dirty clothes pile. He just planned on sweating in it. As he pulled it over his head he was assailed with Sandburg's scent. He found himself pressing the cloth close to his skin. He was going to keep it on, he felt a higher level of comfort with the Blair scent this close. Jim didn't let himself dwell on the why, he just groused for Sandburg and started their day.

***

"Jim, it's your turn for poker night," Brown reminded him as he entered the bullpen. Simon also reminded him later in the day.

"Okay, but not on a home game night." Jim smiled at his friend.

Simon rolled his eyes, "Oh, yeah, season tickets."

"Yeah, like you forgot." Jim responded with mock disbelief.

"You like your seats?" Banks grinned knowingly.

"Great seats. Hell, it's a great season." Jim stood there grinning a fool happy grin.

Shocked, Simon couldn't help the sarcasm, "Jim, they're barely holding at fifty percent."

Jim kept grinning, not understanding Simon's point, "All the home games have been great."

"Great?" Simon said sardonically.

Jim nodded his head enthusiastically as he reached for the phone that interrupted their conversation.

As Jim listened to the caller, he missed Simon's mutterings to himself, "He needs to jump on the clue bus. A great season? He watching the same team I am?"

***

All traces of summer were gone and winter felt closer than ever. But with added clothes, Blair was able to withstand the chill air after the game on the walk back to the truck.

"Kenderson gave me some tickets for Simon and Daryl. Think that will stop those pitiful looks he throws at us?" Blair explained as they crossed the highway.

"Well, at least until those tickets are used up." Jim laughed as he realized that Simon had been disappointed earlier in the day that the Sandburg-Ellison team had been caught up on all their paperwork.

"Yeah, I had put the word about the team that Simon was hoping to come more often. Sloman and Kenderson said no problem. They're grateful all the way around. They thought that Daryl was awesome, too."

Jim nodded, remembering, "That experience let the kid know first hand about police work. I guess it helped him make his decision." Jim knew that Daryl still planned to go to the academy.

"He and his dad compromised. College first, then the academy. Better chance for advancement. Simon was okay with it after that." Blair grinned at his partner.

Jim shook his head ruefully, "I can remember when Simon was worried about his relationship with his son. Especially after the divorce. He must be proud now." Jim unlocked the truck for Blair then himself. He cranked up the heater as soon as he started the engine to starve off the Sandburg shivers.

Blair smiled at Jim's consideration.

***

Jim helped Blair with his overcoat before they exited the Chinese eatery prior to heading to the Cascade Arena. Jim stopped outside and tilted his head at an angle. He sniffed the aired just before closing his eyes.

After he opened them, he turned to his partner, "Won't be much longer before the snow gets here. The easy part of winter is just about over. Sorry, buddy."

"Well, damn," but Blair smiled, he was elated, Jim had just used his senses without thinking about them. It pleased Blair each time Jim demonstrated that using his senses had became second nature. He bounced as he walked along side his partner.

They entered through the side entrance closest to their seating. Blair waved to the recognized employees as Jim chatted with the hot dog vendor. Half way through the season, missing very few games, they were greeted each time with familiarity. They took their seats and caught up with the news of their seat mates, both men comfortable with the friendships developed over basketball.

***

The last thirty seconds of the game took closer to ten minutes to get through. The ball left the Jags player's hand a tick before the final buzzer sounded. The silent crowd watched as the orange orb sailed across from half court, arcing its way to the basket. Jim and Blair both held their breath as they waited for the outcome. A basket would tie the game, pushing it into overtime.

Noise reigned as the ball slipped through the hoop, all net.

The home crowd exploded and the noise was deafening after the silent seconds prior and the Sentinel was unprepared for the sudden eruption of sound. A quiet, "Dial it down," guided Jim as he stepped closer to the soothing voice. Then with thigh and shoulder touching, the Sentinel seemed calmed and instantly relaxed.

The stadium crowd remained standing, cheering their team as they waited for the overtime play to begin. Jim stepped away from his guide and was once again assailed by the turbulent waves of sound. He leaned back against his guide and was calm once more.

The crowd furor settled down as the Jags took the court and play began. Jim kept his thigh in contact with Blair's for the rest of the game.

The Jags win was just an added bonus to the discovery of the calming connection of his guide's physical touch.

Now he had both the voice and the touch. He wasn't sure he wanted to tell Sandburg, 'cause he'd want to test the hell out the response. So he decided to keep this new aspect to himself. He'd always seemed to touch Blair more than others, but its effect had never been so extraordinary before.

Jim kept brushing against his guide as they walked outside into the night air. They made their way to the parking lot with the throng of other Jag fans.

Blair smiled to himself. Jim seemed to handle the additional information from their dreams discussion okay, better than okay, really. Jim was touching him more. After Alex, Jim had almost stopped completely and had only been slowly working his way back to their usual physical contact.

Blair had missed it so much. At first he had to get used to it, then it became second nature. When it was gone it was like losing an important part of their friendship. And Blair had thought that lost. So this last month and a half had been so welcome that he wanted to throw himself into his partner's arms.

Now it seemed like the tickets had been the start of a courtship ritual, or was he just projecting. Blair wasn't sure, just more hopeful than he'd been in almost a year.

***

The heavy rain had the pair of detectives parking close. Jumping over puddles, Blair hadn't lost his bounce. Like a kid, he would threaten Jim with splashes, only to caught in a headlock with Jim doing his own threatening. Like letting Sandburg's hair get wet. Laughs and giggles lead their way.

The downpour kept the crowd light and made conversation easy. Blair wanted to dig deeper into Jim's past. He was getting to know a Jim rarely seen and Blair was eating it up.

"What's one of your favorite childhood memories?" the younger man asked seriously.

Jim turned and studied his guide's face and found an open, honest expression. He shared, "Sometimes, on weekends, Steven and I would sneak down the stairs in the middle of the night and raid the cookie jar. We'd have to push a chair to the counter and I'd climb up to open the cupboard door to get the bag of cookies. Every time, when we'd get back to the table, a cup of hot chocolate was waiting for us." Jim smiled at the memory. "I knew it was mom, I could smell her. Steven doesn't remember that or her, but I do."

Blair had big eyes as he listened to Jim and watched his face go soft in memory.

Jim then raised his eyebrow expectantly. Blair took the hint. "Even though it was just Naomi and me growing up, I really had to share her a lot. But usually, on my birthday, I would get her all to myself. My favorite one was the birthday in Washington DC. She was there to protest something or another, but on that one day, just she and I went to the Smithsonian and ...wow. I ran from room to room, dragging her along. Either reading the signs aloud or explaining the exhibit in more detail than the museum had. She'd focused all her attention on me. I would feel so lucky."

Well, I know he comes by that trait honestly, Jim thought to himself. Aloud, he asked, "You follow much sports as a kid?"

"Well, I told you that a couple of Naomi's friends took me to a World Series and a Super Bowl but nothing on any regular basis. Radio was the way I followed both baseball and basketball." He bumped Jim in the arm, "I really did play basketball in high school, ya know."

Jim put up his hands in an ‘okay, okay’ gesture and that settled his partner, who then looked expectantly for a return answer.

"Bud took me to a few games. Sally had okayed them. My dad was outta town most of the time. It was fun. Bud and I really had a good time together."

"You missed him a lot, growing up?" Sandburg asked.

Reluctance equal with the need to share, Jim found himself answering, "Yeah..... there were times when I wished that Bud was my dad. He sure seemed to care more. Liked me as I was. Never called me a freak."

"He knew quality." Blair said quietly. Then shared, "There were a few of Naomi's friends I'da had as a father. We just never stayed any one place long enough."

"I don't know that I don't sometimes envy you, not knowing at all.....there'd never be that disappointment of how I let the old man down again."

"Used to bother me as a kid, Father's Day, sporting events, always being different..." Blair shared even more, "Was called a bastard quite a few times, it was hard to refute it when it was true."

Jim cursed Naomi once again. Did she have any clue what her unwillingness to name a father did to her son. It was hard for the Blessed Protector to see the pain displayed that was usually hid deep inside.

"My dad didn't go to any of my games, not even the championships. He said he was busy working, but........" Jim's voice faded out.

"Always hard for the kid to understand those work obligations. Even when they were true." Blair turned his head and make eye contact with his friend.

Jim realized that his friend and guide really did understand. This sharing hadn't diminished him or Blair. Still didn't make it easy, but a different connection was forged, one that would allow him to share some inner piece again in the future.

***

Blair wanted sun. The rain had ended several days ago, but somehow the sun got lost. Fog and gloom. That meant bundles of clothes just to stay warm. He was looking forward to the game, the stadium was always just the right temperature.

Jim was amazed at all the clothing that his partner peeled off. How did he move with so much on. Finally just a shirt and undershirt were left along with a well worn pair of jeans.

Jim watched as his partner made his way past the people to the throughway. Waving and chatting as he went. He never attempted the lines at half-time, instead he'd go at the start of the second quarter.

Jim was surprised to find himself watching Blair's ass. When did that start? He thought on it to himself and couldn't pinpoint an exact time frame. Just that his guide moved in such a way that one couldn't help directing their eyes there.

The gym had firmed up an already good looking body and Jim froze his thoughts there. When had he started thinking about how firm Blair's body was? He let his mind drift, to see what it would do. He imagined his hands fanning the muscular chest and was further shocked by his own body's physical response. Jim was already half hard with the one image. Did he desire his guide in that way?

The Sentinel looked around at the varied people in attendance. He searched out the males with similar body types to those of his guide. He zeroed in on their asses, or chests and......nothing. No stirrings, no nothing. He searched out females that he had always been particular to and where mentally he appreciated their beauty, his body didn't react.

He then concentrated on a mental image of Blair. Hair down, laughing, clothes on and his body reacted. He continued on and peeled those clothes off with his mind and he had to shift in his seat to accommodate the full erection he was now sporting. He was lusting after Sandburg.

He could hear Blair approaching, his heartbeat was getting closer. Jim pulled the program over his lap to hide the evidence of his thoughts.

Jack and Marla returned right in front of Blair, causing Jim to half stand to let them pass. They had the seats on the other side of him. Jim seated himself quickly, hoping with the multitude of bodies all about them that the condition of his would go unnoticed.

Blair squeezed past Brett and John, the season ticket holders on his side. He handed over the two mustard dogs they had requested before turning to Jim and delivering his dogs, pretzels and popcorn. Blair smiled at the enthusiastic thanks from his partner.

Jim basked in the warmth generated by the Blair smile.

John and Brett pulled out the money they owed Blair and chatted on with him.

Jim found himself watching the two men. Like themselves, the two always came together and seemed to share a close friendship. Were they lovers? Could he tell? Could others tell he was lusting after his partner? Was he gay? Were John and Brett? Jim felt confusion swamp his mind and was ready for the crowd to suck him into the chanting as the Jags closed the gap, about to take over the lead for the first time this game. He'd think on this another time. He wasn't Mr. Repression for nothing.

***

A week of snow flurries heralded in the basketball winter break. Time for the All-Star game. The game was being played in Cascade and Blair was excited.

The season ticket holders had to pay for their tickets, but they got first option. Marla and Jack were unable to attend and let Jim have the option on them, so he and Blair had given them to Simon as a Christmas present.

The four men came together. After a dinner on Simon the group headed to the arena.

They all bought the special event program and appropriate souvenirs. It was difficult to tell whom was more excited, Simon or Daryl.

The opening ceremonies were spectacular and the thrill of seeing so many excellent ball players in one place had all the sport fans reverent. Not only were the fans rooting for the East or West, they were rooting their own personal heroes.

Despite the snow, the stadium was filled to capacity. The cheering could be heard outside. Jim's senses stayed level by sitting thigh to thigh. Blair noticed the constant contact and attributed it to Jim's increasing affection. Hoping against hope that he was right, he placed his hand on top of the thigh touching his and squeezed gently. He gained a quick smile from his partner and for now that was enough encouragement.

Different from other games, today Blair was willing to get snacks at half-time. He didn't want to miss any of the play. Jim left with him, taking the orders from Simon, Daryl, Brett and John.

Brett leaned over to Daryl, "Your friends, Jim and Blair, are good people."

Daryl smiled his agreement and Simon chimed in. "Two of the best, but if I hear you told them I said that, we may need to look into parking tickets."

Brett laughed as he held up his hands, "No, no, not that. Mums the word here."

They chatted together until their food arrived.

As Daryl munched on his hot pretzel he asked aloud, "How is it we had dinner before we got here and yet we still eat these munchies?"

"Tradition," Blair confided. "Jim and I didn't munch the first couple of games and they lost. As soon as we got munchies, they started winning."

Jim added, "We do what we must for the team."

Simon just rolled his eyes at his two detectives.

The crowd cheered dunks and booed when Shaq fouled out. They cheered Kobe's air dunk and Sloman's half court shot. The different styles of shooting were better than the actual game.

The snow had fallen heavily during the game and folks had to practically dig out their vehicles before heading home.

Jim looked to Simon as he teased, "It's the youngin's duty to clear the truck out."

Blair looked at Daryl, looked at the snow, then back at his future conspirator. Daryl nodded his understanding and the two quickly gabbed a handful of snow and threw at the old farts. The snow was removed from about the truck only because the four used it to throw at each other.

In the truck, Blair sat next to Jim, then Daryl, with Simon squished by the door. After dropping off the father and son, Blair moved a tiny bit away, but kept their knees touching.

***

Attendance dropped again after the All-Star game as the weather problems increased. Short of a full blizzard, Jim and Blair planned on attending all the games their job would allow.

At the start of the second quarter, Blair headed for snacks and the restroom. Jim watched him leave, jeans hugging his ass, showing all the contours and his body reacted. Big time. He had to shift in his seat to hide his now rapidly filling cock.

Blair exited the men's room only to find himself shoved up against a wall. A hard male body pressed up against him.

"Hey, pretty boy. I'm sure you know how to make a real man feel good." The voice oozed menace.

Inside, his heart beat triple time, but outwardly, Blair remained calm. "Possibly a real man, but I see none here."

That garnered him a forceful shove against the wall and a knee pressed against the back of his balls.

"Well see about that, pretty boy." The voice sneered

Back in his seat, the Sentinel heard Blair's heartbeat spike and thunder furiously. He was out of his seat and on the way to his guide. He broadened his hearing radius and caught the bully's taunt.

"In one minute, he'll still be pretty, but you won't." Jim's voice answered his guide's attacker's jeer.

The man startled at the voice coming from behind him, and that was all that Blair needed to change positions with his attacker. The bully's two onlookers rushed to his aid only to find themselves waylaid by Jim.

Blair smiled back at his partner, "Nice timing." The detective took out his handcuffs from his back pocket and said to the thug as he snapped them on, "For assault on a police officer, you have the right to remain silent......"

Jim smiled at his partner's back, pride swelling his chest. Jim couldn't help how he felt every time Sandburg made a collar, proud, real proud. He pulled out his cell and called for a black and white.

***

My guide, my friend, my love, was threatened. No one threatens what's mine. The very fierceness of that thought surprised Jim. What was even more surprising was his easy acknowledgment that he was in love with Sandburg.

It had gone way past lusting. It had morphed into old fashioned, death do us part kind of love. Jim wasn't nearly as surprised as he thought he should be about loving his very male partner. But there it was, he did. Finally admitting it out loud felt right. More right than anything had in a long time.

How did Sandburg feel? He knew that the friendship thing went deep. He was more loyal than even the members of his ops team. And the ladies man had admitted to relationships with men in the past. Maybe ....... maybe he had a chance. He'd have to put out feelers and test the waters before plunging in.

***

As the snow fell, melting as it hit the hood of the pick-up, Blair thought back to the first time he realized that his feelings for his partner were more than friendship. Colonel Oliver had taken Jim and tried to kill him. He could remember with startling clarity the fear that Jim was dead. When he had seen Jim alive on the roof, shear joy had flooded his system. Blair knew it was time to confront his feelings.

Blair could obfuscate to all others, but it was pretty damn pointless to do it to himself. Jim had become his life. Not the Sentinel, but the man himself.

Sandburg stole a look at his love, driving, intent on getting to the game safely. He could remember feeling hopeful before and he had been wrong then. When Finkelman had temporarily commanded the department, she had attempted to separate the Ellison-Sandburg team. Jim had fought her on it, tooth and nail. Blair remembered feeling so full of hope for a closer future relationship, but that was laid to ruin by the dissertation.

Then Alex. Hope flared once again at the merge, but again those hopes were dashed at Jim's rejection. Then the damn dissertation reared its ugly head again and Blair dealt with it irrevocably.

The road back to friendship had been filled with guilt, recriminations and fears. But nine months later they had a strong working partnership and their personal friendship had mended. Blair was feeling that traitorous hope again. What could it mean?

***

The worst of the winter storms seem to happen when the Jags were on the road. So the rain, hail and snow didn't keep the season ticket pair away from their pastime.

They'd get take-out and drive over early and park as close as they could get, then eat in the truck. Yup, Jim had suspended the no-eating-in-truck rule for the basketball season. Jim couldn't believe all the clothes Blair would pull on before braving the winter weather.

The Jags were holding at a fifty percent season, so the extra cold nights had a low attendance. The cheerleaders were easier to see when the floor wasn't so crowded.

Jim decided to test the waters. "Say, Chief, one of those cheerleaders has been eyeballing you for most of the season......why don't go down and talk to her?" Jim wasn't sure what he expected, but was sitting on pins and needles for the answer.

"Nah...I don't think so," Blair answered, never taking his eyes off the game.

Curious, Jim persisted, "No kidding, Chief, the short blonde has had her eye on you. We could get Orvelle to introduce you."

Blair turned to look at Jim for a full second before answering, "Not interested, my friend." He turned his attention immediately back to the game.

"How come?"

Distracted, "How come what, Jim?" Blair asked.

Trying to pretend he was being patient, Jim sighed and repeated his question, "How come you're not interested in that blonde cheerleader?"

Blair smiled contentedly, "My heart's already taken."

Jim froze in his seat. Already taken? Already taken!!? Who? When had Sandburg found the time to see someone else? He hadn't smelled any female or male for that matter on his guide.

The roar of the crowd broke into Jim's reverie and he was forced to look at the court. He had to stand to see it. With just seconds left on the clock, the Jags had possession and Sloman had the ball. He took the last shot of the game and the crowd watched as the ball arced through the air, bounced off the backboard, hit the rim and slid into the waiting hoop.

The crowd went wild and Blair right with them. Jim, on the other hand, was stunned, not at the outcome of the game but at the revelation of his guide's words. His heart was taken. There was no hope for Jim. The joy of the evening was gone and Jim sat, deflated.

***

The murders of two young women kept Major Crimes busy for the next couple of weeks. Long hours of stake-outs, searching out profiles, and hunting out witnesses, kept the partners focused on the job.

Despite the stress of the case, Blair was convinced that Jim was mad at him. All he could figure, tracing back their time together, it had to be when he had rejected the idea of the cheerleader.

The shaman side of Blair wanted to wait it out and let Jim discuss it when he was ready. The detective wanted to ferret out the reason the man was stand-offish. The lover wanted to roll in the hope carpet and the man felt pain, let down, betrayed.

Jim had given the signals of a courtship. The looks, the condensing of personal space, the touches. Oh how he loved the touches. Then anger because he wouldn't date a cheerleader.

Blair then swallowed hard, maybe it was because he turned down a female. Maybe Jim wasn't as okay with his bi-ness as he claimed. Then what the hell was all the touching about.

Blair wondered why he bothered to hope at all.

***

On Friday, Blair spent the day in court and Jim suggested that they go to the game in separate vehicles. That depressed Blair. That would be the first time all season that they attended the game separately. He looked out the waiting room window and was one with the bleak weather outside.

A snow flurry started at commute time and the traffic was thick. Jim was crawling in the throng of cars on the way out of town. He finally pulled into the parking lot. He looked around for Blair's vehicle, but it wasn't there. He felt empty, going to the game without Blair at his side, but it was getting harder and harder to be with him and stay silent.

Early as he was, he waited in line and got the pretzels the way his guide liked them. He kept an ear out, hoping to pick up the signature beat. He began fretting that Blair was a no show when finally the signature ping registered. Jim tried to relax, not wanting to let on that he was worried about his partner. He watched Blair with his enhanced vision. His partner searched the stands until he located their seats and relaxed as he saw Jim there.

Jim was grateful for that. Then he pissed himself off in the next minute. Looking at that fine body, wanting that fine body and damn if somebody else wasn't getting it. He looked away as Blair sat down, not wanting to give away his thoughts.

Blair had been held up in court and then had to push through the thick traffic, pass pile ups and just barely made to the arena in time. He had to park at the far end of the lot and walk through the cold air. Shivering, he waited in line and finally made it inside. He searched the area of their seats to see if Jim really came. The relief he felt was almost palatable. So the rebuff as he sat down hurt double time.

Jim had eaten the pretzel he had gotten for his guide so he kept silent when Blair did his usual run for munchies. Only Brett, John, Marla and Jack kept the conversation going. Jim hardly participated as he kept track of Blair the entire time. His guide seemed down tonight, but Jim didn't want to ask, afraid that he would have to hear about Sandburg's new love.

Blair returned with the usual stuff and gave Jim his snacks without the customary heart attack warnings. He sat down and tried to get into the game to take his mind off Jim's behavior, but he just couldn't seem to. The joy was gone.

***

Both men were subdued at work for the next week. The caseloads were light and that allowed them time to catch up on back paper work.

The Jags got back into town and Blair was concerned that Jim didn't even want to go to the game. They hadn't discussed it at all. As the work day drew to a close, Blair decided to brave it and get an answer.

"Well, Jim, are we going to the game tonight?"

Jim didn't turn around to answer, "Figured you'd want to go with somebody else."

"You can be such a dickhead. There is nobody else I'd wanna go to the game with." Blair told the stiff back.

Jim whipped around quickly at those words and he brightened considerably, "Okay, let's get Cuban. I really like that place."

***

At half-time, the seat holders on both sides of them left and Blair took the opportunity to question Jim. He'd had enough of this blow hot and cold stuff, he was getting dizzy and sick.

"You wanna tell me what's pissed you off?"

"Nothing."

"Ahh, man, after all these years, you think I don't know when you're pissed at me? You've barely talked to me the last few weeks, giving me the cold shoulder. What's up?"

"S'not's you."

Blair snorted and shook his head. He knew he'd have to try and dig it out of him. "Back tracking, I think this has something to do with the cheerleader. Did you need to set me up with her to win a bet or somethin’?"

The smallest of negative head shakes was the only answer.

"Well, for some reason I can't fathom, you wanted me to ask her out and got pissed cause I didn't want to."

Jim knew that his guide would be relentless in his questioning now that he had broached the subject. So he knew that he had to answer, maybe he didn't remember what he had said that day. "The reason."

"The reason what?" Blair repeated, perplexed.

"The reason you didn't...."

Remembering, Blair asked anyway, "And what was my reason?"

Looking down, Jim answered, "You said that your heart was already taken."

"Yes, Jim, it is."

Jim looked up at the tone of Blair's voice and he then saw something in his blue eyes....... It occurred to Jim that there was something missing. Obfuscation. There were no walls, no shields. There was Blair, exposed completely to him. Honest as he always was with him. And he finally recognized what was there.

"Oh. Me. It's me."

"Yes, Jim, it is. It's always been you." Blair smiled that special smile that was just for Jim. He could see love cross his sentinel's face.

Jim stood silently, dazed. For the first time, the future looked good. He could see himself beside Blair each day and all of a sudden, it all made sense. Blair would always be there. He couldn't lose now.

Blair stood as he felt the fear resurface as Jim froze before him. Then he watched in wonder as Jim's emotions played across his face. Happiness. Joy. Love.

The fear left and was replaced by a happiness of his own. He leaned toward Jim as Jim leaned toward him unaware until a cough brought them back to the here and now. Both men smiled shy-like at Brett.

Brett smiled a knowing smile as a joy danced in his eyes. John stepped up behind him, smiling too. Blair motioned for Jim to follow and Jim followed without hesitation. Brett and John watched the men depart and high-fived each other.

"Yeah, finally!"

***

Jim pulled up along side his guide with a question in his eyes.

"I know a place." Blair led his partner to the storage room he and Daryl had used when Kincaid had tried to take over the team and building.

The guide turned on one of the three banks of lights in the room.

They stood toe to toe, looking into each other's eyes. Then, together their lips moved to meet in the middle. A kiss that shared. A kiss that seared their souls together. A kiss that allowed them to show the hunger that each had kept hid.

Passion exploded, feelings long kept secret surfaced. Hands touched, lips touched, body's touched, pressed close, hiding nothing.

Jim poured his longing for Blair into their mouth merging. He drank in the taste of his guide, memorized the texture of his tongue, his teeth, the roof of his mouth. All committed to sense memory.

The desire to learn all of the tastes of his guide consumed him. He tasted behind the ears, the nape of Blair's neck. The Sentinel's tongue grazed over the facial bristles and reveled in the difference from all the females. This was new, special and his alone.

His hands pushed up under Blair's shirts, hands palming the chest and sides. His guide's guttural moan spurred him on to taste what the hands held. Jim pushed the shirt up and off as his mouth replaced his fingers in the exploration of the furry chest.

Blair was panting, his breaths short at the exquisite sensations his Sentinel was extracting from his body. Never before had his skin felt so alive. His nipples hardened, peaking up, begging for more Sentinel touches.

Jim's tongue laved one nipple as his fingers teased the other. Blair pressed his body closer, seemingly as if to crawl inside Jim himself.

The Sentinel let his sense of touch reign; he enveloped Blair, sharing what his guide felt. Fingers deftly undid the zipper and lowered the jeans and boxers. Fingers exploring the scented treasures, his mouth followed. The taste of the ejaculate pooling at the slit shot through him. Breathing in slow and deep, savoring the scent and taste of Blair.

Suddenly impatient for more, the focused Sentinel enveloped his guide's entire shaft into his mouth. His partner's bucking a minor reaction to what he felt throughout.

He sucked and explored the dark pink shaft, committing to sense memory the taste, smell, feel and sight. As he sucked on it more intently, he focused his hearing to piggyback his touch. He could feel and hear the fluids fill the testicles. The Sentinel could follow the progress of the final thickening of Blair's cock until its only option was to seek release. His touch/hearing followed the path, was one with the path and as Blair bellowed Jim's name as he came harder than ever before, Jim too, came. His body matching what his guide experienced, so in tune to his guide was he.

They collapsed together, sinking to the floor. Blair's zipper open and flaccid cock exposed. Jim's shaft still fully sheathed in his pants with the wet stain evidence of his passion fulfilled.

A few minutes of harsh breathing eventually changed into more calm, relaxed breaths. The lovers pulled back far enough to see the other's face.

Shit-eating grins adorned the face of both men. Then turned to shy, delightful smiles as each knew the other was okay.

"It is me," the wonder of it still new within Jim.

"Yes, always you," Blair answered simply.

Jim brushed the long curls behind the recently bitten ears, fingers staying entrapped.

Staring intently, Jim told Blair, "I've fallen in love with you."

"I hope so after that. I don't fall into strange closets with just anyone." Blair quipped, gripped by the intensity of the declaration.

"The 'til death do us part kind, Blair." Jim stated, but the question was there, lurking.

"Forever and always, Jim. That's me, too. I love you completely."

Jim sighed, content, happy. He enfolded his love into a snuggly hold. He rested his cheek on the sienna curls, "You'll move upstairs? Your stuff and all?"

"Yup, no place I'd rather be."

Jim delivered shyly, "I should warn you..........I like to snuggle."

"Just so happens..............so do I." Blair said into his Sentinel's warm neck.

They kissed gently.

Finally, Blair broke the serene silence, "Let's go back, finish the game and then head home to our home."

"You got it," Jim said with a nod.

The two detectives were so bemused in each other, they couldn't tell anyone who won the game. They headed together out to the parking lot.

Beneath their feet the snow melted as they walked, shoulders touching all the way to the truck. Blair humming, "Spring Is In The Air."

The End.

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Author’s Acknowledgements: Thanks to betas Sihn and Mary. Any errors found are mine not theirs. For me a comma implies the author wants a pause, so take them that way :) Post TSbBS; references: Finkelman's Folly, Night Shift, Sentoo 1&2, 3 Point Shot, 4 Point Shot.