The Lone Ranger - CJ and Patt

Jim sat behind his big desk waiting for the phone to ring. Rubbing his temples, he sighed and buzzed his assistant. "Carol, still no word from Simon Banks?"

"No, sir. Not yet. Would you like me to place another call to his office?"

"No, I'll try running by the precinct later and see if I can catch him. Thanks." Jim put his head back in his hands again to try to stop the headache that had been bothering him off and on all day. Carol knocked at his door, "Mr. Ellison, could I talk to you please?"

"Come on in."

Carol poked her head through the doorway, a strand of blond hair falling across her forehead. Her warm brown eyes focused sympathetically on her boss. I was right. Headache time, again.

"Mr. Ellison, I'm wondering why you have so many cases from the police department. Is there something I should know? " Carol smiled, stepping further into the office.

"How many times have I asked you to call me Jim, Carol?"

"Carol is your middle name? Wow, what are the chances of that?" Carol said, laughing.

"Smart ass. In answer to your question, Simon Banks and I are old friends. He knows I don't want to be a cop and answer to the brass. He also knows that I can do the job if given the chance, so that's what I do. Unsolved cases are my specialty."

"Thanks for telling me. I was wondering what the deal was. Oh, before I leave today, did you find a new assistant to take over for me while I'm gone?"

"Oh shit, I forgot. Don't worry, I'll take care of it." Jim was angry with himself for forgetting again. Those damn headaches.

"Jim, you told me you had it covered or I would have helped. I have a friend who's looking for extra work if you can work around his hours. He's great with computers and he has the patience of a saint. Want me to call him?"

"Who is he?"

"He's a student/TA at Rainier. He also works at the bar across the street."

"You're kidding. I stop in there all the time. Maybe I know him."

"Jim, I don't think you would have noticed him. He's so 'not' cop or Private Investigator."

"Wait a minute. Carol, are you saying I would snub him because he's not just like me?"

"Well, maybe not. But let's just say he's not your every day bartender or office assistant."

"Call him. Tell him what I pay and offer him a little more if he'll give up the bar job." Carol crossed her arms and raised an eyebrow. "Oh, stop giving me that look. I'll give you a bonus."

"I'll call him now." She smiled. "Would you please sign all of those papers that are sitting on your desk before I leave?"

"Yes, Mom, I'll do it immediately." Jim said, laughing, as he sat down to sign away his life to Carol.

About an hour later, Carol knocked and walked in again. "Okay, boss. You have an assistant who will start in three days. He'll give up his bar job then. His name's Blair Sandburg and this is his home address and phone numbers at home, at Rainier, and at the bar."

"Thank you so much, Carol. You're a lifesaver. What am I going to do without you for a month?"

"Well, I'll probably be replaced with Blair when I get back. He's good, Jim. You'll like him. He's really smart, too, so if you want to work something out, use him as your sounding board."

"Thanks again, Carol." He hesitated, "I'll see you in the morning, right?"

"Yes, Jim. I'm not leaving quite yet." Carol laughed as she left his office. Jim was a wonderful PI, but a terrible office manager. Blair would do a great job; she could see him bossing Jim around now. This made her smile and feel less guilty about leaving in the middle of an important case. Her family had to come first right now. Her dad was ill and needed her. Maybe when dad gets back on his feet I'll finally be able to talk him into moving to Cascade. It was worrying to have her father so far away with his health deteriorating the way it was.

Jim forced himself to remain at his desk until his paperwork was finished. At least the painkillers he took were starting to help. His headache wasn't so bad. He heard Carol leave and get into her car. Maybe it would be a good idea to check out this new assistant of mine. He put all of his papers in his desk for tomorrow and locked up his office. Once he saw that everything was in order, he slipped on his jacket, locked the main office door behind him and ran across the street through the rain.

***

Walking into Clancy's Bar, Jim expected a lot of smoke, but was pleasantly surprised. No one seemed to be smoking that evening. He looked at the bar area and saw two men working behind the counter. One was tall and skinny, 40 years old and didn't remind Jim of a student at all. The other man was younger. That must be Sandburg. He was not only younger, but looked like a college student with his longer curly hair. Jim couldn't decide what color it really was. The light above the bar caught the highlights, each strand shimmering from dark brown to auburn chestnut. As the man looked up, Jim stared straight into deep blue eyes. A shiver ran up Jim's spine. He could see the specks of lighter blue surrounding the pupil, drawing his gaze deep into the black...

"What the hell...." Jim shook himself. Looking away, swaying slightly, a bit dizzy, Jim checked to see if anyone had noticed him staring. He sat down at a table. Jim was still shaken by the response he felt when watching the other man. He'd never been that affected by another male before. Taking a deep breath he forced himself to relax and waited for someone to come take his order.

"Hi. What can I get you?"

Sandburg. Jim's mind went blank. Dammit, think of something. He stared back at the younger man. Jim found himself sniffing. Something smelled fantastic. Compelling, spicy but... He leaned forward.

"Sir?"

Jim froze, his head merely inches from the other man's crotch. What the hell am I doing? Embarrassed Jim blurted out the first thing he could think of. "Michelob, dark." Oh, god, I'm finally losing it.

Jim got his beer, not sure whether to be disappointed or relieved that it was a waitress who delivered it, and listened to the blues singer. She was excellent. Jim used that as the excuse for not wanting to leave. Time after time he found his attention drawn to Sandburg. Watching the slim, compact body as it wove its way through the tables; the deft fingers at work behind the bar mixing drinks. Sandburg seemed to be popular, but even though he smiled and bantered with the customers, there was something detached about him. A sadness. After about four beers, Jim stood up and fell back into his chair.

"Can I help you get home? I'll call you a cab."

Jim looked up and tried to focus. Things were a bit blurry. Sandburg. "I have my keys if you want to drive me. You could spend the night." Jim couldn't believe those words came out of his mouth. He couldn't believe Sandburg was actually going to do it when he grabbed up Jim's keys and told everyone goodnight and they walked out to the truck through the rain.

"Fancy truck. I'm glad you're not driving it home and wrapping it around a pole or something." Sandburg helped Jim into the truck and entered the driver's side.

"Thanks." Jim said and then slid up against the man's shoulder, nuzzling the jacket and sucking part of the collar into his mouth. He smells so good. Jim fell asleep.

Blair couldn't believe the man would be so relaxed with a total stranger. He couldn't believe himself, wondering again what he was doing taking this man home instead of calling a cab. Glancing down at the head laid so trustingly against him, Blair felt his answer in the sudden pang of tenderness that clenched at his heart. The same feeling that overcame him the first time he looked up at the strong, handsome man and into those lost, lonely, blue eyes. It had startled him enough he almost forgot to go and take the man's order.

Blair recognized that look. He saw it every time he looked in a mirror. Staring out the truck windshield, keys in hand, Blair felt a surge of pain dripping down his soul like the rain down the glass. It had been raining when they called about his mom. Even now he could hardly believe she was gone. Naomi traveled a lot and they didn't see each other often, but they kept in touch either by e-mail or phone. He had always known she was there and had never felt really alone. It was still hard to think of her as dead. She'd been so vibrant and alive. The photo albums and various objects she had left behind when she visited were poor substitutes for the forceful, free spirited personality that had been his mom. God, he missed her so much. Dammit, Blair. Get a grip.

Address. He needed an address. Careful not to disturb the sleeping man, although he wasn't sure if that was possible due to the man's condition, Blair slid the wallet out of the back pocket he had seen it tucked away in, fingers trembling slightly at the warmth of the firm muscle under his hand. You could spend the night. Blair was amazed when it didn't surprise him that he was actually considering it. There was just something about the other man that tugged at his emotions. Maybe the opportunity to take away some of the loneliness in the other man's eyes would help ease the ache in his own heart.

Opening up the stranger's wallet, Blair looked for the address, too lost in thought to take notice of the name. Once he had the address, he tucked the wallet into the man's jacket pocket and started the truck. The squeak of the windshield wipers and streaks of rain were almost hypnotizing. Blair tried not to think of what he knew was going to happen. It was cold in the truck but he didn't bother with the heater. He had felt cold since the phone call. Now the body heat of the man pressed against his side began to seep through him, warming him from the inside out. Blair shivered at the thought of that heat pressed against him, naked skin to naked skin. Stop thinking about it, it hasn't happened yet. Maybe the man won't even remember offering. Shaking his head Blair realized they had arrived. Great. A parking spot. Relieved that he wouldn't have to drag the big man very far through the rain, Blair turned and woke Jim up.

The shock of cold rain dripping down his spine cut through the drunken haze fogging Jim's mind. He stumbled along, one arm over Blair's shoulder for balance. Beneath the jacket layer Jim could feel the warmth of heated skin. Concentrating on the feel and scent of the man under his arm, Jim barely noticed when they arrived at his apartment door. The shifting flex of muscles Jim felt as Blair reached out with the keys sent a pulse of longing through him. When Blair opened the door, Jim kissed him hard, pouring all his desire and need into it. From the frantic response he got in return, Jim could tell Blair needed him just as badly.

They made their way to the bedroom upstairs. Blair looked around and could see that Jim must have just moved in. His place looked stark and bare, not lived in. Once upstairs, Jim undressed Blair quickly, and himself at the same time. Naked, they slid into the bed.

"I've never been with a man before," Jim whispered softly. He kissed Blair again, sucking in the full, lower lip, nibbling gently, obsessed with its firm softness. He slid as much of his body against Blair's as he could, palms sliding up Blair's spine as he pulled him closer.

"My name's Blair." Sandburg managed to blurt out between kisses. He was finding it hard to think clearly. He felt as though he were being devoured.

"Jim." His mouth nuzzled at Blair's neck. He licked, enjoying the salty texture of skin. "Blair, I need you. I want you to fuck me so bad." Nose pressed against his neck now, he breathed deep. Blair smells so good

"Jim, maybe we should wait until you're sober. You said you'd never done this before." Blair was nervous.

"Hey, Chief, if you don't want to fuck me, I can get anyone to do it." Jim started to get up out of his bed.

"No!" Blair pulled him back down "No. I'll make love with you if that's what you really want." Blair couldn't stand the thought of Jim going to someone else. Someone who might hurt him. And if he were honest with himself, the idea of taking the bigger man was intoxicating.

"For some reason, I'm totally relaxed with you. I don't know why." Jim said.

Blair had only gone in the back way with a woman once, so he really wasn't too keen on doing this right now. He'd prefer to have Jim sober. Nevertheless, he could tell that Jim needed someone right then, and Blair needed to be needed. There was no way he could say no to the look on that face. There was an ache there that matched his own. Blair felt an overwhelming protective urge to take care of the man in his arms, to make him feel good.

"You have any lube and condoms?" Blair whispered.

"Yeah, in the drawer in the night stand." Jim said just as softly. Blair began to kiss Jim, overwhelmed by the fevered response. Jim was so sensitive to every stroke of his tongue and hands. He couldn't understand why Jim was so turned on if he'd never been with a guy before. As Jim's hard cock started sliding along his own, Blair he realized he didn't much care, either. Blair was going to make it good for both of them.

"Jim, I'm going to loosen you up first. It'll feel weird at first but it gets better. If at anytime you want to stop, just tell me, okay?"

"Just do it, Chief." Jim growled.

"No, we have to do it right or I'll leave right now." Blair's mouth started working its way down Jim's body. He leaned his hands and weight against Jim. The man was thrashing around frenziedly.

"Chief, if you keep this up, I'm going to come before we even get started."

"That might not be a bad idea, Jim. I want you to come for me and then you can relax a little bit. You'll be hard again in no time, I promise." Blair gave Jim a moment to calm as he retrieved the lube and a couple of condoms from the drawer.

Jim could barely remain still long enough for Blair to slide a condom onto him. Once he had it on, he engulfed Jim's cock with his warm mouth. Jim made an odd sound and tried to push up, but Blair was holding his hips down. Blair had some lube on his finger so he started playing around the puckered opening. Jim was moaning louder by the time Blair slid a finger into him and Jim about came off the bed. "Oh god, oh god, oh god." Blair took in as much of Jim as he could, pushing his finger all the way into Jim. Once in, he searched for the spot that he'd heard guys at the bar talk about. Blair found the prostate, rubbing against it with his finger as Jim came with no warning at all. He sucked hard, letting Jim gradually soften before sliding his mouth away and tossing the used condom in the bedside trash container.

Blair rested against Jim, waiting for the panting man to get his breath back and enjoying the hot, sweaty smoothness of skin against his cheek and body. Glancing up at Jim and smiling into the stunned, soft gaze staring back at him, Blair felt warm for the first time that spring. He was so hard he was hurting, but he wanted them both to come together the next time. After Jim had rested, Blair started caressing him. Hands sliding over the firm, hard ass, he ran his fingers gently around Jim's hole again, barely touching the skin, and enjoying Jim's spasmodic shiver and moans. If nothing else, Jim was the most responsive person Blair had ever been with. Blair leaned up over Jim and slid his tongue around the open, panting mouth. "On your hands and knees."

There was no argument. Jim got up and had his ass in the air and his head down on two pillows, trying to calm down. Blair ran a finger down the curved spine, touched by the trust and vulnerability in the other man. He's so beautiful. Blair's heart ached as he reached for the other condom and lube. He hissed, trying not to come as he eased the condom over his erection. He filled his hands with lube and enclosed Jim's thick, hard penis in one slick hand and with the other he slid a fingertip into the grasping hole. Jim was more relaxed there and not too tight. He slid the finger all the way in. Jim shuddered, squirming beneath him and Blair had to fight to control himself. He could feel how hard Jim was again; feel the heated throbbing. I'm doing this to him. Blair was surprised by the amount of possessiveness filling him as he continued to prepare Jim.

Once Jim was nice and loose and outspoken about his preparedness, Blair didn't wait any longer. "Jim, I'm going to start to push in. If it's too much you tell me and we'll stop. Right?"

"Just fuck me," Jim growled. His jaw clenched in frustration. "I'm ready, already." He moved restlessly against the hands clutching his hips, trying to force himself back onto Blair.

Blair pushed into Jim, not too far, just enough to get Jim's attention. Jim started to soften, and was breathing shallow. "Jim, are you all right?"

"I'm fine. Just fuck me, please?" The second part of this plea was said so softly that Blair almost didn't hear it. He started pushing further into Jim. He slid in almost all the way, and Jim started to harden again. Things were looking up.

Carefully, despite Jim's best efforts to speed things up, Blair began to move deeper until he was in as far as he could get. It was taking a major effort to control the urge to thrust, to move in hard and fast. Reaching down Blair took a firm grip on Jim's cock. Jim groaned loudly and shoved back against Blair, begging Blair to move, do something. Blair started pounding into Jim when he realized that Jim could take it. He tried to thrust against the prostate as often as he could. Jim was ecstatic, bucking helplessly beneath him, crying out, and moaning incoherently. Before long Blair was telling Jim he couldn't hold on for too much longer. Knowing he was the one making Jim so crazy with desire was almost too much for Blair. Jim pushed his ass back harder onto Blair's cock. Blair hit his prostate again and Jim came screaming Blair's name, collapsing onto the bed and shuddering convulsively. Blair followed suit not long after.

Between the beer and the sex, Jim was out cold. Blair rested. He spent the time enjoying the look and feel of Jim in his arms. Blair knew he should be worried about the strong emotions he was feeling for someone he just met, but he couldn't think about that right now. He was tired of being alone. Tired of feeling depressed. This man had made him feel more alive than he'd felt since finding out about his mom. What if he doesn't want this to go any further? What if one night is all you get? No! Blair wasn't going to think about this. The thought of losing the warmth he'd felt with the other man was too much. He didn't want to feel cold anymore. What he had felt with Jim was worth fighting for. Even as Blair tried to reassure himself he couldn't stop the sliver of cold growing in the pit of his stomach. Did he want to get attached and take the risk of losing someone else? It had hurt so much with Naomi. Could he do this? Looking for a distraction, he went downstairs to where he'd seen a bathroom and got some cloths to clean himself and a now awake, but drowsy, Jim with and then curled into Jim's arms and tried to sleep. Before he could fall asleep, Jim spoke, "I'll never be with you again like this, will I?" It was asked with such a note of sadness that Blair wanted to turn on a light and tell him he was wrong. He didn't. Blair just wasn't sure if this was something he was ready for yet, so he said the only thing he could. "I'd like to see you again some time. Do you mind if I sleep here tonight?"

"No, I'd like it if you slept here. It's been a long time since I've been with someone. This was great. Thank you very much." Jim kissed Blair on the forehead and fell asleep. It about broke Blair's heart. He snuggled in closer to this big man who was a lot more sensitive than he appeared. That was the last thing he remembered.

When Blair awoke the next morning he freaked finding himself still in Jim's bed. What in the hell had he been thinking? Sleeping with an intoxicated man who was emotionally vulnerable and probably had no idea what he was doing. Who had said he'd never been with a man before. This could be bad. What if Jim couldn't handle knowing he'd had sex with a man, that a man actually had fucked him? Blair didn't think he could handle it if Jim got upset. He was already feeling more attached to the man than he was comfortable with, he didn't think he could deal with the other man's anger as well. Not yet. Feeling like he'd taken advantage of Jim's inability to think straight because of the drinking, he got out of bed, found his clothing, dressed quietly, and got out of Jim's apartment as fast as he could. Blair wanted to see Jim again, but he wanted it to be Jim's decision, not his. Blair slipped a paper underneath the closed door once he was in the hallway giving his phone number and name, asking Jim to call him if he wanted to see him again.

Jim woke to a dull ache in his ass and couldn't imagine what in the hell he'd done to cause that. Then his memory slammed into gear and it was Jim's turn to freak out. Oh, Jesus, Ellison. What in the fuck did you do now? You picked up a stranger in a bar. A man. Oh, god. Sandburg. Blair. You have to work with this man. How the hell was he going to face Blair now? Jim had practically thrown himself at the other man. Hell, he had thrown himself at the other man. Vague flashes of himself begging and demanding to be taken ran through his mind. Jim groaned, face buried in his pillow, still wondering what the hell had come over him. Mmmm. His pillow smelled good, very good. Jim felt himself hardening, his hips pressing down into the mattress. He breathed deeply. Smells like...Jim's head shot up...Blair. What the hell is wrong with me? He could smell the scent all over now. All over the sheets, all over him. Jim got up, got in the shower, and scrubbed himself until he was almost raw. Damn...

***

Arriving at the office, Carol had everything ready for his day and coffee made. "Oh, someone didn't sleep last night. Is that a hickey on your neck? Did you get lucky?" She joked.

"Why do you say that?" Jim stiffened in his chair. He twisted trying to get comfortable, not used to the ache in his ass. He was still trying to adjust to what had happened with Blair and felt like 'I had sex with a man' was written across his forehead.

Carol's grin faded. "I was joking, Jim. Calm down. You have an appointment with Mr. Sandburg in a little while. Are you ready for me to leave?"

"Never, Carol, but everything will be fine. I don't want you to worry about anything."

"Okay, well just rest up, read the paperwork I have on your desk for today, and I'll buzz you when Mr. Sandburg gets here."

"Thank you, Carol." Jim took his coffee into his office and sat down at his desk. Oh god, what am I supposed to do now? You let a man fuck you, Ellison. But Blair wasn't just any man. Jim had truly felt something special for him, had been drawn to him in more than just a physical way. He trusted Blair and felt closer to him than anyone in a long time. Even with Simon, he had never dared to be so vulnerable and Simon was his best friend. He just didn't know why he was attracted so quickly or how Blair felt about things. Blair must have regretted what happened between them or he wouldn't have run off like that...but he did leave his phone number and request for Jim to call him...but that was before he knew Jim was going to be his boss. Jim didn't know what to think. He knew what he wanted; the only question was what Blair wanted. How were they supposed to work together with everything that had gone on between them? Did he even want to complicate his life like this? First his senses go crazy on him, then the headaches, and last night he just found out he liked men. Or one man in particular. I must be out of my mind.

Carol buzzed Jim's phone and said, "Jim, Mr. Sandburg is here for his 9:00 appointment. Should I send him in?"

"Yes, please do. Thank you, Carol." Jim found his hands were shaking. He put his coffee down before he spilled it.

The door opened and Sandburg walked in. He stopped short, staring at Jim in shock. "Sit down, Mr. Sandburg." Jim managed to choke out before his throat felt like it was closing. His heart pounded in his chest. He wanted to reach out, to touch Blair and know everything was going to work out. Blair walked over and sat down and just looked at Jim and didn't know what to say.

As Carol shut the door, Jim turned to Blair and said, "I'm sorry for what happened last night. I don't normally get drunk. In fact, I don't drink much at all. I can't hold my liquor and now you know why."

Oh, god. He's sorry it happened. Blair bent his head focusing on his shoes, trying not to let the other man know how upset the words made him. Tears threatened to fall and he swallowed them back. The hopes he'd had of working out any relationship with Jim faded. He felt suddenly cold again, and alone.

"Hey, it shouldn't interfere with our work here. I'm good at running an office and I can start tomorrow. If you still want me to," Blair said, still not looking at Jim.

"Look, Blair. Let's start over." Jim stood in front of Blair and said, "Hi, I'm Jim Ellison. It's nice to meet you." He stuck his hand out for Blair to shake and smiled. Blair shook it.

"It's very nice to meet you, Jim. I'm Blair, Blair Sandburg." His answering smile was a little shaky at the edges as he peered up at Jim, blue eyes wide and slightly sad.

Jim stared back; he blushed slightly as he realized he hadn't let go of Blair's hand. He let go and stepped back. "I really would like you to start tomorrow. Carol could show you the ropes and we could start over again." The warmth of Blair's grip still lingered on Jim's palm. He rubbed his hands together. "Again, I apologize for last night."

"Jim, stop saying you're sorry. That makes me feel worse. It's not like I didn't enjoy it."

Totally ignoring his remark, Jim said, "Did Carol tell you how much you'll be making here?"

"Yeah, she told me about the pay. Did she tell you that I have to have some time off for school?"

"Yes, she said you're a teaching assistant. What are you majoring in?" Jim asked trying to get them as far away from sex as he could take them.

"I'm an anthropology student. Some day, when we have more time, I'll tell you about what I've been studying."

"Okay, Sandburg, I think that's it for now. I'll see you in the morning then." Jim got up and started walking towards the door. He turned around and saw Blair writing. "What are you doing?"

"Jim, I don't know about you, but I really enjoyed last night and if you'd like to see me again, I'd like that. This is my address and my work number at the university. Call me sometime when we aren't working, okay?" Blair had decided not to give up on Jim without a fight. Jim was probably just scared; last night was his first time with another man. Maybe all Jim needed was a little reassurance and time.

"Sure," Jim said offhandedly. Blair looked sadly at Jim when he realized he was being blown off.

"I've never been with a man before, either. I just thought I'd tell you that. I'm a little confused right now, too." Blair said as he walked out the door.

Jim watched him walk to the parking lot. His thoughts were chaotic as he tried to make up his mind. When Blair got to his car, Jim found himself rushing to the parking lot. "Sandburg, want to have dinner tonight at my place?"

"Jim, I can tell you don't want to do this. It's okay." Blair started to get into his car.

Jim reached out a hand to grab Blair's arm and stop him. "I really want you to...I asked if you'd like to have dinner. I didn't say we were going to fuck."

"Okay, I'll be there at 7:00." Blair's eyes shone up at Jim. A smile spread wide across his face as he started his car. Jim loved that smile.

"I'll see you tonight." Jim called out as Blair drove out of the parking lot.

Carol had been surprised to see Jim dash outside after Blair. Watching them through the office window she began to think.

Jim walked back into the office to an assistant waiting with questions.

Carol looked at him strangely and he said, "What?"

"Jim? Last night...You were with Blair? You fucked him?" Carol asked crudely, stunned.

"What the hell are you talking about, Carol? I'm not into guys. I can honestly say I didn't fuck him."

"Oh my god, Blair fucked him." Carol whispered to herself except that Jim heard it.

He turned around and said, "Why would you think that?"

"Why would I think what, Jim?"

"Why would you think he fucked me?"

"Jim, how could you hear that? I barely heard it myself. It wasn't even a whisper." Carol said almost in a panic.

"Calm down, Carol, and answer me. Why do you think that?"

"Because you looked at him differently than you look at anyone else. You looked at him like you would if there were a gorgeous woman in the room. Not to mention the fact that you ran after him out to the parking lot. You had sex last night and knowing you, you went to the bar to check out your new assistant. Also you've been moving a little, uh, carefully. Nothing I would have really noticed if I hadn't known to look, so don't panic. I'd be willing to bet money that you just asked him out for dinner, didn't you?"

"Yes, I did. And I did sleep with him last night. I have no idea why. I'm not into guys, but boy, that blows that theory. I really don't even want to go there right now," Jim said, confused. "I just don't know why it happened."

Patting Jim on the back, Carol said, "Don't worry, Jim. Things will get better. You'll figure it out and realize that you might have found a new love."

"Carol, I have no time for love, especially not with a guy. That would be too difficult to explain to the few friends I have.

"Jim, aren't you tired of being The Lone Ranger?"

"So I choose a semi-short, brainy man?"

"Why not? If you like him and he likes you, why not?"

"I do like him. I really don't want to get serious about anyone, but he might be fun."

"Ellison, don't even think about just using him, do you understand?" Carol's normally affectionate brown eyes sparked angrily.

"Carol, I was talking about having a friend to do fun things with, not sleep with." Jim defended himself. "I would never do anything to hurt Blair."

Carol relented before the hurt look on Jim's face. "I know, Jim," she reassured him. "Oh, before I forget, Simon Banks is coming over and taking you to lunch today. He has some things to tell you about the latest case."

"Good, we're getting nowhere on that. I hate it when I can't figure things out."

"Well, I'll leave you to your work. There are some notes on your desk so please don't ignore them." Carol said sternly as she walked to her desk.

"Thanks, Carol," Jim called out.

"You're very welcome."

Jim saw a pile of little post-its from Carol's desk. The first one had Jim's dad's number on it and his name. "Call Dad for birthday. Don't forget." Thank god, Carol remembered everything. Jim felt guilty that he'd needed to be reminded. Picking up the phone, Jim dialed his Dad's number.

"Ellison."

"Happy Birthday, Dad. What do you have planned for tonight?"

"Nothing, Jimmy. I was hoping that my sons might want to take me out or something."

"Well, you're in luck. I'll call and make reservations at the Italian restaurant that you love so much. Will that be all right, Dad?"

"That would be great, Jimmy. Thank you, son." His father sounded pleased.

"I have to get back to work. I'll pick you up about 7:00. Goodbye, Dad." Jim waited for his father to reply then hung up the phone and started calling and answering the phone messages that were piled on his desk. Once he was finished he forced himself to start in on the paperwork. Jim was relieved that for the first time in days it didn't give him a headache. Still it was hard to concentrate on the mundane day-to-day tasks when all he wanted was to go over the latest case file before Simon arrived. Hopefully the new information Simon had would turn out to be important. This was one case everybody involved with wanted solved as soon as possible. Jim did manage to go over it again, but got no new hunches or ideas from studying it. By the time Simon got there, Jim was frustrated and ready for a break.

"Hey, Simon. Where are we going for lunch?" He stood up as the taller, broad, dark-skinned man entered his office.

"I'm thinking something light because I have a date tonight." Simon seemed tense as he waited for Jim to give Carol some last minute instructions.

Jim remembered he had a date with Sandburg, so he needed to call him when he got back to the office. He had gotten so wrapped up in Blair he'd forgotten when he made the date that it was his dad's birthday. Hopefully, Blair wouldn't be too upset when Jim called and cancelled. It was disappointing that he had to put off seeing the other man. Jim had really been looking forward to spending more time with Blair. Right now he and Simon needed to concentrate on solving their latest case; he'd have to call later.

"Sounds good to me, Simon. We really need to figure out something about this case. It's pissing me off." They walked out to Simon's car.

"Tell me about it. We have everyone working on it and no one can come up with a thing." Simon jerked his door open angrily. They both got in the car, both of them thinking of the parents and missing children.

"Would you mind if I went to the crime scenes?" Jim thought if he could manage to control his heightened senses for even a minute or two, maybe he would get lucky and find something. The headache afterwards would be more than worth it considering what was at stake. Usually the pain involved after concentrating on his abilities was bad enough that he just tried to shut it all down. Most of the time it wasn't worth the effort.

"No. I'm sure the parents of the children would be happy to see anything new being done." Simon started the car and pulled out of the parking lot.

"How many are missing now?" Jim asked while fastening his seat belt.

"Ten. Not one lead, not one clue as to where we should even start looking."

"I'm going to have someone new working with me tomorrow. I'd like to bring him so he can get the feel of what I do."

"What happened to Carol?" Simon asked.

"She's got a month off to help her dad. He's not doing so well right now."

"I hope that he's going to be all right. Remind me when we get back to give her my best, if she's still there anyhow. She's great, Jim."

"Yeah, I totally agree."

They continued discussing the case over lunch and were getting nowhere. By the time they got back to the office, it was after 5:30. Simon left and Jim made sure that Carol had locked everything up tight. On his way home he called the restaurant and made the reservations. They took them late only because Jim was such a good customer. Once home, he got in the shower and washed away the day and dressed in one of his nicer suits for his dad's birthday.

As he walked out of the loft he wondered what he was forgetting. Looking at his watch, he realized he was late, so whatever he was forgetting would have to wait. When he finally drove up in front of his father's house, his dad was ready and walked out to the truck. "Happy Birthday, Dad. You look great."

"Thanks, Jimmy. I can't wait to get there. I tried to call Steven but I don't know if he got my message."

"Well, I don't know about you but I'm starving." Jim said as he drove off in the direction of the restaurant. He was glad that he and his dad had reconciled their differences and were back in each other's lives. It had taken some effort and pain but their relationship was better than it had ever been. Letting go of all the bitterness left over from his childhood had made Jim feel like he'd been set free of a heavy burden. He wished that Steven would do more with the two of them. Hopefully, that might come in time.

When they pulled up they saw Steven waiting outside. Jim smiled, relieved to see him, but William beamed. He would have both his sons with him on his birthday and was thrilled. Maybe he would get the chance to make amends for the wrong choices he made raising them.

***

As Jim drove home from his dad's house, he was tired but felt good about the evening. They had all had a great time at dinner. Steven had seemed to enjoy himself as much as his father had. Maybe that meant they would see more of him. The rain was coming down hard again; this was one of the coldest, wettest springs Jim could remember in years. He slowed down, as he really didn't want to end the evening by running into someone and he wasn't quite sure he'd waited long enough before driving after the few drinks he'd had. He used to be able to handle drinking better, not that he used to drink more than the occasional beer after work, but since his senses went into overdrive Jim had found that liquor had more of an effect on him. The beers that had led to that unforgettable--although he was trying--night with Sandburg would never have had such a profound effect on his self-control before. Sandburg. Driving up to the loft, Jim realized that he had forgotten to call Blair and tell him that he wouldn't be home. Fuck... Ellison, you can be such a dick. Jim was too mellow to worry about it now, he'd just apologize to Blair in the morning. Blair would understand. It was Jim's dad's birthday, after all. Damn it, Ellison, why didn't you call him before you left? Now he's going to think you're a heel.

When Jim drove up he saw someone sitting on the ground in front of the entrance to his building. Jim had never seen a street person taking shelter in this area before. He'd call it in when he got inside. He started walking up and as he got nearer he could hear soft crying; the kind of crying that broke your heart. Jim sighed resignedly. It looked like his evening wasn't going to end so well after all, but he couldn't leave someone out in this weather and in who knew what kind of trouble. As Jim got closer, he leaned down, "Hey, buddy can I help you?"

When the man lifted his head up Jim almost fell over in shock. "Sandburg, what the hell's going on? Why are you sitting out here in the rain?"

Jim noticed that Blair was trembling and shivering. Jim leaned over, helped Blair up and said, "Come on. We'll get you upstairs to warm up and get clean." Jim had to almost carry Blair into the building. The young man was so cold, and apparently in shock as well. What the hell had happened? Now didn't seem like a good time to ask. Blair needed a warm shower and hot drink, not an interrogation. He'd ask in the morning when they were both rested and Blair had a chance to calm down.

Snuggling up to Jim he said, "You weren't here. I didn't have anywhere else to go. My place blew up tonight and it even got my car. The cops brought me. I told them I had a friend that lived here. I thought we were going to meet for dinner and I was hoping that you'd let me clean myself up before I had to go back out on the street."

When they got into the elevator Blair leaned into Jim, hiding his face in Jim's chest, his wet hair soaking through Jim's already drenched jacket and into Jim's shirt. "Man, I'm so sorry." Blair struggled desperately to stop the hiccupping sobs that made it hard to speak. "I didn't have anywhere else to go." God, Jim's going to think I'm pathetic. He tried to step back and stand on his own.

"Nothing to be sorry about Sandburg." Jim wrapped his arms tighter around Blair, holding him securely in his arms. "You needed somewhere to go, might as well have been here. Sorry I wasn't here to help you. It was my Dad's birthday. I meant to call but I forgot." The thought of how long Blair must have been sitting there alone in the rain made him feel ashamed.

"If I had stayed home I'd have been killed. The only reason I'm alive is because I was leaving to come over here." Blair tried to swallow the tears that threatened to fall. Thank God all his research papers, books, and important artifacts were kept at his office on campus. He hadn't trusted leaving them in his warehouse. Not in that neighborhood. Only he'd been worried about theft, not fire. He still couldn't believe everything else was gone. All that he possessed, all he had of his mother disappeared in flames. Blair thought he had come to terms with his mother's death, but the loss of the few remnants he'd had to remind him of her was devastating. It felt like she had died again. This time though he had someone to go to, someone who had warmed his heart and made him feel that at least there was someone who cared, who warded off the loneliness and the cold he'd felt all spring. Finding out that Jim was not home had undermined his remaining self-control. He hadn't been able to keep the tears back and ended up bawling like a baby, grieving, as he hadn't been able to do since he got the phone call explaining his mother's death.

"Well, I'm glad you're all right. You are all right?" Jim asked looking down at the very wet and smelly sniffling man. Blair straightened, looked up with huge teary apologetic eyes, and sniffled out something that sounded like he was fine. Jim had the overwhelming urge to kiss away the tears, and wrap himself around the other man like a blanket. He leaned his forehead against the top of Blair's head instead; still not sure what behavior was appropriate between them but unable to resist offering comfort.

When they stepped off the elevator Blair pulled away from Jim as if he was afraid of what someone would think or say. Jim pulled Blair back into the safe haven of his arms, walked to his door and opened it. Blair was shivering badly and Jim knew he needed to get him warmed up. As soon as they walked into the loft, Jim started pulling Blair's clothing off. They smelled of smoke and bomb residue. Ellison, you have a lot to make up for here. "Come on, Chief. Let's get you into the shower and warmed up. I've got some sweats you can wear until tomorrow."

"Do you think I could soak in a hot tub instead? I'm so cold, Jim."

"Yeah, a bath would be good, too. Come on, let's get you in there." Jim led Blair into the bathroom and got the water going so it could fill up while he helped Blair undress. Stripping Blair of his clothing wasn't a turn on for either of them. Blair was too upset to think about the fact that he was naked in front of the man he'd only spent one night with and Jim was too upset seeing Blair so miserable. Blair sank gratefully into the water after Jim checked to be sure it wouldn't be too hot for him.

"I'm really sorry, Jim. I'll be out of here as soon as I warm up." Blair said, trying to keep from crying again. What would the man be thinking of him?

"Chief, would you like some coffee? Hot chocolate? What can I bring you? Have you eaten anything?"

"Thanks. Do you have decaf? I'd love some coffee but I don't think I could eat anything." Blair slid into the warm water, Jim's concern and thoughtfulness almost undoing his hard won self-control.

"I'll be right back, Chief, with some coffee and some dry clothes."

While he was upstairs getting the clothing for Blair, Jim heard him start talking so softly Jim barely understood him through the intermittent sobs.

"Man, I'm such a loser. I finally find someone I really like...someone I think I'm falling in love with, and I cry all over him. I'm sure that impressed the hell out of him. He'll never want me around him again. I'm going to lose him just like I've lost everything...everyone...else. Mom. Oh God, I don't know what to do."

Jim felt his heart physically ache as he listened; he would do anything to stop Blair from hurting, he just wasn't sure what to do. Halfway to the stairs it finally sank into Jim's head that Blair had confessed that he was falling in love with him. Suddenly weak, Jim sank down onto the bed. Memories of Blair in his office, of that night they spent together, of the way Blair made him feel, the desire to hold, protect, to comfort, flooded through Jim's mind. He couldn't stand listening to Blair cry; it tore him apart inside. I love him. Jim didn't understand how this could have happened so fast but he couldn't deny his emotions. They were real. The thought of being so vulnerable to another person scared him. His track record with relationships sucked. Each time he lost someone it felt like they took a piece of his soul with him. In the end, he'd decided he was better off alone. He had kept to himself so much that Carol kidded him, calling him the Lone Ranger. Now it was too late. Blair meant too much to him to be able to step away.

Blair had managed some semblance of control again by the time he heard the knock on the bathroom door. "It's your bathroom, man. You don't have to knock."

"Yeah, I do. It might be my bathroom, but you're my guest and I'm not that rude.” Jim handed Blair a cup of coffee and threw the sweats and underwear over the toilet seat. “Now, drink your coffee so I can help you get your hair shampooed and get you into bed."

"Jim, that's okay. I can do it myself and with the clothes I'm borrowing I could go to a hotel or something." Blair didn't want to be such an imposition on Jim that the man started having second thoughts about them having a relationship.

"You going to drink up or do you like your coffee with shampoo in it?" Jim asked, ignoring Blair.

Blair sipped gratefully at his coffee, letting the heat of the bathwater and hot liquid seep through to his bones. None of it warmed him quite as much as the care and concern Jim was showing him.

Sitting up, Blair allowed Jim to wash his hair, the tender hands massaging and soothing. Every now and then Jim could feel the hitches in Blair's breathing. It was a disappointment to Blair when his hair was finally done and he had to get out and dry off. After dressing and letting Jim towel dry and comb through his hair, Blair asked if Jim had a coat he could borrow.

"No, you're staying here. Don't argue. I hate to argue before bed. It pisses me off and then I can't sleep."

"The sofa looks pretty comfy. Could I get a blanket?"

"Get your ass upstairs, Sandburg. You know I want you up there, so just go," Jim said, smiling. Blair didn't argue, but he wasn't exactly running up the stairs either. Jim watched to make sure he went all the way up to the bedroom. "I'll be up in a minute."

Jim secured the loft for the night and took his own shower, grabbing the robe hanging off the back of the bathroom door. He paused in front of the mirror. It was funny that he looked the same; he hardly felt like he knew himself anymore. So much had changed in the last few months; most of it in the last few days, but none of the changes were reflected back at him in the mirror. I suddenly developed hyperactive senses. Now I'm thinking about having a relationship with another man. If he were honest with himself, it wasn't something he had to think about. Whatever was between Blair and him, despite his personal doubts and fears, was already established. It was too late to back out now. He cared too much and that's what scared him the most. Jim smiled wryly at his reflection and with nervous anticipation went to join Blair.

Jim had that same smile on his face when he found Blair curled up in a ball on one side of the bed, as if he were trying to take up as little room as possible. Or maybe he was just trying to disappear. He slid off the robe, climbed under the covers and reached out, pulling Blair back and into his arms. He ignored the moisture he felt against his shoulder. "Relax, sleep. We'll figure all this out tomorrow." His breath sighed across Blair's forehead, one hand slid soothingly down Blair's back as the younger man's body finally relaxed against his. "Everything's going to be okay."

Jim felt tears slide wetly down his neck; he lifted Blair's face and kissed them gently away.

Blair struggled for control, Jim's affection overwhelming his defenses. "Man, why are you doing this? You don't even really know me."

"I know what I need to know, so hush. I'd rather kiss than argue. How about you?"

Jim grabbed a tissue and had Blair wipe his eyes and his nose. This time when Jim kissed him, Blair kissed him back. Then Jim got busy removing Blair's sweats. He didn't know why he'd even bothered having Blair put them on. It was warm enough in bed with the two of them. He started kissing Blair everywhere. God, the man smelled so good, felt so good. He moaned, licking across the squirming man's nipple Mmmm, tastes so good. Jim sucked at the tiny bud, growling noises escaping from deep in his throat as he lost himself in the salty, slick heat of the other man's skin.

"Jim?" Blair was getting concerned. "Jim? Hey, Jim?" He pushed against Jim's shoulders, shaking him. The dazed look on the other's face scared him. Jim ignored him, still making those little noises, blindly snuffling and licking his way over Blair's chest. Jim began biting softly at his skin and sucking wetly. "Jim!" Blair grabbed Jim's face firmly between his palms, holding his head up and still. Jim tried to pull back, that dazed look still in his eyes. "Hey, big guy. You're scaring me here. Come on, Jim. Listen to me." He watched with relief as Jim eyes gradually focused on his face.

"Blair?" Jim's expression was confused and a bit scared. "I'm sorry, I..."

"It's okay big guy. You just kind of took off without me." Blair looked intently up at him. "Jim, we should think about this. I'm not sure you're thinking straight right now. Maybe you're just feeling sorry for me."

Jim shook his head impatiently, took Blair's hand, put it over his hard cock and said, "Does this feel like I'm feeling sorry for you? I don't think so." He arched restlessly against Blair. "I know you need this; don't try to deny it." He ran his own hand over Blair's answering hardness. "I need this...I don't see the problem here."

"Oh, God." Blair gasped as Jim tightened his grip, sliding his palm up Blair's shaft. He surrendered. "No, no problem here." He admitted to himself that he did need Jim. The fear that Jim was doing this out of pity and that out of desperation and emotional neediness Blair was subconsciously compelling Jim's response was gone. Jim obviously knew what he wanted. Blair moaned loudly as Jim stroked him again.

He grabbed Jim's hips, thrusting up against the other man, loving the grunting cry as Jim thrust back down into him. Jim arched his head back as Blair slid his heated cock alongside his own. "Blair..."

"Yes," Blair said quickly. He put his hand on Jim's ass and pushed so that there was more friction. Then he started stroking Jim's crevice until Jim was moaning as loudly as Blair had been.

"Blair," Jim moaned again, "may I make love to you?"

A shiver ran all the way down Blair's spine as he realized what Jim was asking. He remembered the look of ecstasy on Jim's face as he'd been taken, the begging, pleading cries. "Oh yeah." Blair flipped over on his stomach. His heart swelled with hope as he thought about how Jim had asked. "I'd love you to make love to me." Maybe this wasn't as one-sided as Blair had feared. Jim got the lube out and a condom and took care to prepare Blair the same way he'd done with Jim the night before. Anticipation danced through Jim. Blair is letting me do this. He felt full of pride and tenderness, loving the man who was so open and vulnerable before him. Had anyone ever trusted him this much? He had only to ask and Blair was his. A feeling of protectiveness swelled within him. He vowed to take great care. Nothing was going to hurt Blair again.

Blair was beginning to sincerely regret teasing Jim so much the other night. Jim was in his opinion being excessively careful. "C'mon, Jim! I'm ready already."

He twisted squirming, hopefully seductively, against the other man. He gave a great sigh of relief as Jim removed his fingers and he felt a hotter, larger pressure pushing into him. He arched his spine shoving backwards.

"Take me, Jim." Blair screamed out and Jim almost pushed all the way in before he caught himself and slowed down. "Don't do that, Chief." Jim tried hard to remain focused. He didn't want to get lost in the physical sensations like he had before and cause Blair harm. "You're pushing me to do something that might hurt you. I don't ever want to hurt you."

They began a rhythm between the two of them that was like music. Not only beautiful to hear, but to feel. The moaning grew until Jim knew that Blair was extremely close and he started hitting Blair's prostate repeatedly. He felt Blair's orgasm before Blair did. He wondered if he'd ever be able to tell Blair this or about his senses. Everything seemed weird; he tasted, felt, experienced so much at once it was dizzying. As Blair came he screamed out Jim's name. Jim was caught up in his emotion, following soon after. "Blair."

Once things calmed down, Jim pulled out slowly, not wanting to, but needing to clean them up. He nuzzled against the nape of Blair's sweat damp neck and forced himself up and out of bed. While he was fetching washcloths from the bathroom he reminded himself to drop by the store sometime the next day to pick up some disposable wipes. He wanted to make a habit of needing them. Both nights he'd spent with Blair were something he wanted to experience repeatedly. He couldn't remember feeling this good in years.

Blair lay still, exhausted, while Jim wiped him clean. Jim resisted the urge his fingers had to linger over the warm soft skin. He didn't resist the urge to lie close and pull the other man back into his arms. He kissed Blair gently, whispering, "I love you, Chief. I know it's kind of soon for me to be telling you this but I feel something for you that I've never felt for anyone."

Blair looked up at him sadly, still half-asleep and feeling the loss of his mother and everyone else he'd ever cared for. "It'll pass, Jim."

Jim stayed awake hours after Blair had fallen asleep. Finally, tired of his thoughts going in circles and getting nowhere, he decided to think about Blair's words in the morning. He'd give Blair as much time as he needed to see that what Jim felt was real. He'd discuss whatever they needed to in the morning; meanwhile if he was going to get up early and get Blair some clothes, he needed to sleep. Carol could take over the office for a short time before she left.

Jim woke early and was careful not to wake Blair when he got up. There was a large department store that was not too far away and opened early. Blair didn't seem like the type that would care about where his clothes were purchased. Jim wrote a quick note to let Blair know where he was. He glanced at Blair's jeans, shirt, underwear, socks and his shoes for an idea of what to buy and then stuffed them into a garbage bag. The reek of smoke had been giving him a headache. He downed a couple of painkillers on his way to the phone. He hoped the headache was going to be just temporary and not one of his all day migraines.

Jim pulled his cell phone off the table and called his secretary at home. It was late enough for her to be up, but too early for her to have left the apartment.

"Carol, it's me. I'm going to be a little late today. Could you call Simon Banks when you get to the office and tell him that I won't be able to make it as planned? I'll call him when I get to the office. Blair's building and car blew up last night so he's had a tough night."

"Oh my God. Is he all right, Jim?"

"Yeah, he'll be fine. I'll bring him in later today so you can show him the ropes."

"Jim, did you let him stay at your place last night?" Carol said with a smile in her voice. Jim heard it.

"Yes, if you must know," Jim said with a smile on his face.

"Man, you're hooked, aren't you?"

"Yeah, I am. We'll see you later. Thanks Carol."

Hanging up the phone Jim grinned happily and then quietly checked on Blair again.

As he drove down the road Jim started humming to the music on the radio. He never did that. Ellison, you have it bad.

Jim had a lot of thinking to do while he was shopping. The main thing he wondered about was why would he fall for a man now. He was a little old to be changing his lifestyle. Not that he was complaining. Jim pushed the cart down the aisles, putting things in the cart right and left. He found all sorts of things for Blair. However, he also found things for them together, like condoms and lube. They needed a lot of them both. He bought two new sets of sheets. He found a new comforter that seemed more like Blair. The big bed needed some extra pillows. He picked out everything they would need for the bathroom, too. Jim had never been one for shopping before but this wasn't too bad. It was quiet. There were few people in the store other than the stockers and one clerk.

He went into the men's department and found clothing that would get Blair through the next couple of days until Blair could choose some for himself. He then picked up a pair of Nike's. Okay, they weren't real Nike's, but they would do until Jim could get him the real thing. He picked out a nice comfortable jacket that would keep two men warm so it would be perfect for Blair. Jim found himself grinning as he shopped. There was no doubt about it. He was out of his mind, and loving it.

When Jim was done, the cart was completely filled with things for the loft and for Blair. Jim was very proud of himself. He even bought Blair a toothbrush, hairbrush and those types of things. The girl looked at him oddly while checking him out. When she got to the condoms and the lube, she stared at Jim. Jim had the decency to turn red. After all, he had bought ten boxes of condoms and ten tubes of lube. Shit... What was I thinking? Well, I was thinking of fucking like bunnies! Jim paid with his VISA and loaded everything in the truck. He was excited about having Blair living with him. He'd have to see what Blair thought of that, but he'd ask. That was the first step.

When Jim got home he had to make four trips down to the truck for everything. He was afraid that he'd wake Blair up but he needn't have worried. Blair slept through it all. Jim decided to wash all of the clothes so they wouldn't be so stiff and new. Finally, finishing up at about 11:00 with Blair still asleep, Jim decided to join him. Wrapped comfortably around his lover, it didn't take Jim long to fall asleep, too.

When Jim awoke the next time he could hear Blair downstairs talking to himself in the bathroom. "Okay, Blair, he must have gotten up extremely early to get all this? Why? I can't believe I mean enough for him to have shopped for hours this morning while I was sleeping." Looking in the mirror, he said, "Don't you dare fall for him. Yes, you. You know you'll only fuck it up. He's feeling sorry because you were acting pathetic last night. It's too soon for him to be feeling this way. He's obviously still confused over a major change in lifestyle."

Blair was preoccupied the entire time it took him to shower, shave and dress in the clothing Jim had bought for him. He had that sick feeling in the pit of his stomach that comes when something wondrous happens that seems much too good to be true and usually turns out that way. Even after telling himself repeatedly to be careful, that Jim might be confused about his feelings or mistaken, it was impossible for him to stop hoping that Jim's feelings were real.

Blair's thoughts were still mixed when Jim came down the stairs while Blair was finishing cooking breakfast.

Jim looked at him with his new clothes on and said, "You look great." He pulled Blair into his arms and kissed him soundly. Blair just stood there with a goofy look on his face as Jim walked off to the bathroom for a shower and to get ready for work.

All through breakfast Blair found Jim staring curiously at him. It was making him nervous trying to figure out what Jim was thinking about. Had he made a total fool of himself last night? Jim had really seemed to enjoy himself. It couldn't be that bad.

Jim finally spoke. "I have some questions to ask you and I don't want to push you, but at the same time, I think you need to think about them."

"All right, I'm ready." Blair said sounding almost scared.

"I was wondering if you'd like to move in with me. We could take things slower if that would make you happier. I don't want to force you into doing something you're not ready for but I really like having you here with me."

"You want me to stay here in this loft with you?" Blair asked with a shocked look on his face. Oh my God! He really must care about me.

Jim began to panic and said, "I know, I'm probably pushing you. I'm sorry. I have that small room down here that you could use if you need to. I'd rather have you in my bed, but either way, I just like having you here."

Blair couldn't move for a moment he was so stunned by the warmth and joy filling him as he watched Jim's awkward nervous behavior. It touched him that he had this much effect on the other man. He surprised Jim when he stood up and, moving around the table, leaned down to kiss his mouth gently and thoroughly. He looked down at Jim and smiled. "I'd love to move in with you. I love you, too."

Jim found himself grinning like an idiot again. He slid his hand around Blair's neck and pulled him back down into another longer, deeper, kiss that ended with Blair sprawled across his lap and both men breathless. "We really need to get to the office but I want to pick this up where we left off when we come home." Jim said smiling once again.

"That sounds good to me, hot stuff." Blair said relieved.

They walked down to the car and Jim gave Blair a loft key and a set of keys for his truck. "We'll go and get you some things later this week. I have plenty of money, so don't worry about that."

"Why would you have plenty of money? Most PI's don't have a lot of money. They usually live from one client to another."

"I got a huge settlement from the government when I left the military. I invested wisely and I've made quite a bit from that. The loft is mine. I own it."

"You'll have to fill me in on all that some day. All right? I want to know more about you."

"Yeah, I'll tell you about me as we spend more time together. I'm afraid that you won't like who I am most of the time, but don't let me scare you off, okay? I'm a grouch in the morning. I hate mornings usually, but my bark's worse than my bite." Jim explained.

"Hey, Jim. I don't know if you noticed this yet but I'm wild about you. You don't have to sell yourself to me, man. I already love you."

"Thanks, Chief. I love you, too." When they pulled into Jim's parking spot, he leaned over, kissed Blair and said, "I hate that I can't do that all day long."

"Who says we can't?" Blair said jumping out of the truck and almost skipping into the office.

"Morning, Carol." Blair called out as he walked through the door. Carol grabbed Blair and hugged him. "God, I was so scared when Jim said your place and car blew up. What happened, darlin’?"

"My neighbors were drug dealers. Go figure. So when something got too hot it exploded, I guess. I'm not sure myself. I bet Jim knows."

This was the first Jim had heard about this. He just stood there with his mouth hanging open. "Drug dealers, Chief?"

"Jim, it's not like I knew what they did for a living. I was trying to get out of that neighborhood for awhile but it's hard when you're a student."

"Carol, why don't you show Blair all that he'll need to know for the rest of the day? I need to call Simon Banks and see what time he has open for us." Jim made his way into his office. Closing the door Jim took a deep breath. It had suddenly hit Jim that Blair could have been killed.

Jim sat down at his desk and called Simon.

Simon answered. "Banks."

"Hey, Simon, sorry about this morning."

"What happened, Jim? I knew that something must have happened if you called that off."

"My new roommate and office assistant's place blew up last night. He lost everything. We had to get him some things before he came into work. Do the parents still want to see us?"

"Yeah, they want to see you. They're dying for someone to find something new that might turn out to be the break we need to solve this mess." Simon sighed. "When can you make it to station?"

"In about an hour?" Jim asked.

"An hour would be great. Thanks again, Jim. I sure hope you can find something. No one else has been able to." Simon said tiredly.

Jim buzzed his intercom for Carol and Blair. Blair answered and said, "What can I get you, Mr. Ellison?"

Jim started laughing. "Smart ass. I need you to come in so I can fill you in on where we're going today."

"On my way, boss man." Blair said chuckling.

He knocked and walked in and Jim glared at him. It didn't faze Blair a bit. Jim knew he was going to be in trouble. Today was the first day of their working together and Jim had already lost control.

"We're going to the police station to help a friend of mine with a case that no one's making any headway on. I need to tell you some things before we go."

"I'm listening, Mr. Ellison." Blair smirked.

Jim got solemn. "Chief, quit fooling around. This is very serious."

"Sorry. Go ahead, man, I'm listening." Blair focused intently; whatever this was, it was important to Jim.

"Have you heard about those missing children?"

"Well, of course, who hasn't? It's terrible. You're being called in on that? Why?"

Jim flushed nervously. He was worried Blair was going to think he was crazy and change his mind about staying at the loft but this was something the other man needed to know. Blair deserved to think about who he was getting involved with. Jim took a deep breath.

"I can sense things that no one else can. So sometimes I'm able to smell, see, or hear what other people don't even notice. That's one of the things I wanted to warn you about me. When I do concentrate too hard or focus too much on what I'm sensing, I lose my grip on everything around me and get lost in my senses.

"Like a zone of sorts?" Blair was excited. "Like last night when we were together and I couldn't get your attention, you were totally gone for a minute there."

"Yeah, I guess. I don't know." Jim was confused. Blair was taking this entirely too well. Where was the skepticism, the disbelief? Simon had had to have proof before he even considered believing what was going on with Jim.

Blair sat down with a thump. It was finally sinking in. He was sitting in front of a real, live, sentinel. He took a deep breath and began to talk. "I found a book written by Richard Burton. The explorer, not the actor. In it he talks about ancient tribal guardians, or watchmen. He called them sentinels. They were unique in that their senses were developed far beyond the range of normal humans. Ever since I read that book I've been fascinated. In fact, I made it my specific area of study. I'm writing my dissertation on sentinels. I've found people with enhanced senses of smell or taste; some who worked in perfume laboratories or cordon-bleu chefs but never anyone who had all five senses. You could be the real thing!" Maybe they had been destined to find one another. "Our meeting each other. It's like fate or something. You have the enhanced senses and I'm the one who has the knowledge to assist."

"You think I could be one of these Sentinels?"

"Yes, Jim. I do." Blair was so excited he could hardly remain in his seat. "We'll try some experiments out in the field today. We'll see how good your senses work while I'm there with you. Sometimes that helps. Sentinel's need a guide to help them focus without getting lost in what they are sensing; from zoning out."

"It would help explain the reason I'm able to find a lot of things that no one else has found on the cases that Simon gives to me." Looking at Blair's exuberant face Jim tried to tell himself there was nothing to be nervous about. He still couldn't keep from wondering what exactly Blair meant by experiments.

"Jim, it's not just being a sentinel. It's also being a really good detective. I think you had that to start with."

"We're supposed to meet Simon at the station in about 30 minutes. You ready to go?" Jim still couldn't believe how easy this disclosure went with Blair.

"Jim, I'm as ready as I get." Blair's eyes literally sparkled as he laughed.

The office door was shut and Jim couldn't resist pulling the man into his arms. Now that Blair knew, Jim felt free to indulge his senses, burying his head into the crook of Blair's shoulder shamelessly, breathing in that intoxicating scent, licking at the salty smooth warmth of skin. He nibbled, bit, his way up Blair's neck to his mouth, hanging on tightly as Blair started to squirm and twist.

"No, Jim. Not here. We have to keep it professional here. Okay?"

"Okay. Let's get out of here so I can kiss you in the truck then." Jim was true to his word. He kissed Blair as soon as they were in the truck. Jim's cell phone rang, pulling them apart. "Ellison."

"Geeze, you two, get a room." Carol said, laughing and hung up.

Jim began laughing as he started the truck. Looking sideways at his lover he felt like he could do anything. For the first time in days, Jim felt optimistic about the case. They were going to find something today. He knew it.

After going to the station, they followed Simon's directions to the first missing child's home. Blair tried to brace himself for what was waiting inside. The pain of losing his mom gave him a sense of empathy with the parents. He could imagine how much more painful it would be to lose a child. For a moment he felt a chill in his bones and reached out to place a hand on Jim's back. The chill ebbed away when he met the concerned, caring gaze Jim gave him before turning to face the door as it opened.

"Detective Ellison?" The man at the door looked haggard. "Captain Banks told us you were coming. You're a private detective, right?" Mr. Bachman asked. "I hope you can help us, sir."

"Yes, I'm Jim Ellison and this is my assistant, Blair Sandburg. We're going to do our best."

"Nice to meet both of you." Mr. Bachman said as he shook their hands. He stood back for them to enter and led them to the living room to meet his wife. She looked as if she barely had enough energy to lift herself off the couch. She stood and reached out to Jim, taking his hands in hers. "I've heard that you have a wonderful gift. Thank you for using it to help us."

"Ma'am, I need you to know that it's not really a gift I can count on. Sometimes it's there and sometimes it's not. I'll try my best but I can't promise anything. Please, don't get your hopes up."

"Anything would be better than nothing, Mr. Ellison." She turned and walked towards the stairs. "Anna's room is," she stopped, catching her breath, "up there."

Her husband led Jim and Blair to the sparkling clean room. "Mr. Bachman, could we please be alone? I can concentrate better with no distractions."

"Of course. I'll be downstairs if you need me." He left with a backward look of fear and hope.

"Jim, the first thing you need to do is be able to concentrate on a person's heart beats, to see if the rate changes suddenly while you're talking or asking questions. You can sometimes tell if a person is lying that way. It could help give you an idea of who might be a good person to focus more attention on.

"Okay, Chief, I did notice that. Both of the Bachman's were upset but not suspiciously so. I don't think we need to worry about them. What's next?"

"Next, we need to take some things that belonged to the little girl. What's her name?"

"Anna Bachman." Jim said picking up her pillow from her bed. He put the pillow up to his face and said, "I can smell her scent on the pillow.

"Good, Jim. Now feel for anything that looks or smells out of place."

Jim wandered around the room. When he got to her closet, he smelled something that shouldn't have been there. He smelled urine. Why would there be urine there? It didn't smell anything like Anna's scent. And it didn't seem like it was very old. "Blair, ask Mrs. Bachman if anyone's been staying in Anna's room." He kept on with his inspection.

Blair came walking back into the room, "Jim, no one has been in this room but the cops and feds. That's it."

"Chief, I smell urine right here." Jim pointed to the closet.

"See if you can pick up anything else that no one noticed."

"No, nothing, Chief." Jim picked up his phone and dialed Simon's line.

"Banks."

"Simon, we're upstairs at the Bachman's. I need you to bring back a team. I smelled some urine on the closet floor. I'm still checking but they have no pets, right?"

Jim held on while Blair went to ask about pets. He came back and shook his head at Jim. "No, Simon, no pets."

"Good work, Jim. I'll call for the unit right now. Keep looking."

Jim kept looking but was unable to find anything else. "Dammit!" Frustrated, he turned his attention back to the closet.

Blair stepped up beside him. "Relax Jim. Take a couple of deep breaths. You're trying too hard."

Jim complied, closing his eyes and breathing in deep and slow. "Chief, now I'm picking up two different odors here. One could be the little girl, but the other smells different, maybe an adult. That scent is stronger."

When the forensic unit got there, they found both places where he sensed the urine but couldn't confirm Jim's theory. They'd have to wait for the tests to come back to be sure.

Jim had been leaning against the wall while the forensic team worked, trying to hone his sense of smell, using Blair's breathing technique to focus deeper. He choked, coughed, and shook slightly, pushing himself back onto his feet.

Blair walked up. "What is it, big guy? What's wrong?"

Jim whispered, "She's dead, Chief. I smell it."

Blair looked up into Jim's tear-filled eyes and whispered back, "Okay, Jim, how do you know that? We have to give them something to go on."

"I don't know, Chief." Jim said sadly. "It just smells like death."

"Come on, Jim, concentrate. There must be something tangible."

Jim walked out of the room and straight out of the house. Mrs. Bachman followed him out and grabbed onto his arm. "You think she's dead, don't you?" Her eyes pleaded with him to answer truthfully.

"I think so, yes." Jim couldn't lie, nor could he hide the glistening evidence of held back tears, "but let's not give up hope yet. We don't actually know."

Mrs. Bachman started crying and Jim held her in his arms, wishing there was something, anything he could do. "I could feel it when I was in her room," she sobbed. "I don't know why. I've always had a sense of where she is and what she's doing but not this time."

"I'm so sorry, Mrs. Bachman." Jim rubbed her back as she cried. He could see Mr. Bachman's face through the living room window. Jim could see the tears running down his face as he watched his wife and must have guessed the truth.

Blair came out his eyes sad and concerned, "Mrs. Bachman, your husband would like to talk to you and I need to talk to my partner for a moment."

"Partner?" Jim asked.

"Jim, I know you're upset but you have to stay centered now. I need you to go back in there and tell me if you smell anything else out of the ordinary, something that would not normally be found in her room. I need you to catalog anything you can find and I'll write them all down and we'll try to work this out. We can't leave it like it is." Blair grasped Jim's shoulder, staring up at him earnestly.

"Okay, Chief." Jim turned away from that look. "You're right. We'll go back in and try to get more to go on."

When they got back upstairs, Blair had Simon chase everyone else from the room, explaining that Jim needed to concentrate with no distractions.

Jim went through the room, cataloging all the scents he could come up with. The only thing that seemed really out of place was a slight odor of coffee beans. Not coffee, but the beans themselves. "I think this person sucks on coffee beans." Jim said quietly. "We're not telling anyone besides Simon so far, though. Chief, we really need to check all of the other children's room's as soon as we can. This might be something." He stopped to look closely at Blair, only now noticing the signs of distress. This was not something the other man was used to dealing with. Jim sighed and ran his hand over Blair's head ruffling his hair. "I've never been able to catalog scents like that before. And this is the first time I've been able to use my senses without developing a headache or migraine." He hugged Blair close for a second. "Thank you."

Blair looked relieved. He tightened his arms around Jim squeezing hard then letting go. "You're very welcome. We'll get something, Jim. I just know it. Maybe we'll be able to help some of the children."

When they told Simon about the coffee beans he asked, "Jim, do you feel up to visiting any of the other homes today?"

"Yeah, that's our plan. Simon, the person who was in this room probably sucks on coffee beans. It wasn't her parents; I smelled their breath and there was nothing on either of them. I didn't smell it any anywhere else in the house. We now have something small to go on."

"Thank you, Jim. That will help. I don't know how, yet, but it will."

They left the Bachman's home that day with heavy hearts. Jim knew that Anna was dead. It saddened him and gave him a feeling of futility that was hard to overcome.

"Chief, you ready for the next house?" Jim asked hoping this experience wasn't scaring the hell out of Blair.

"No, but we'll go anyhow. You did very well, Jim. I'm really proud of you. You kept your cool, too."

"Let's just get over there so we can get this over with." Jim said sadly. The Turner's were the next family he needed to see.

When Jim and Blair arrived at the Turner's house, they no sooner got out of the truck than Jim picked up the scent of coffee beans. He stood in place, moving his head around trying to feel where it was coming from.

"Chief, I can smell the coffee beans out here."

"That's good, Jim. Now walk around; see if you can tell where the smell is strongest." Blair leaned against the truck door watching the other man as he wandered haltingly over the end of the driveway and part of the yard. Jim kept taking a few steps and then pausing, shaking his head and moving restlessly.

"Chief, this isn't working." He paced alongside the truck, irritated. "There's too much stuff out here, grass, mulch, damp mold, I keep losing the trail." He felt the beginnings of a headache lingering at the edges of his skull.

"You need to relax again. You're getting too tense. Take a couple of slow deep breaths and try to filter out everything except the coffee beans."

Jim breathed, closing his eyes and letting the soft sound of Blair's voice calm him. His forehead smoothed out as the tension eased. He breathed again, sifting through the different aromas, trying to concentrate only on the familiar scent of coffee. This time it worked and opening his eyes he pinpointed the area it seemed to be coming from. Jim moved.

Blair followed when Jim started striding towards a wooded area. It was almost like a private little forest. The home and land around it were gorgeous. Blair wondered if this child hadn't been taken for money. They got to the middle of the stand of trees when Jim suddenly started retching. "Jim, what's wrong? What do you smell?"

"Oh, man. I thought Simon said the dogs had been out here. I smell something rotting. God, Blair. It's a body."

Blair turned around wildly and looked as close as he could in the area that Jim was staring, "How do you know? I don't see anything."

Jim tried desperately to close down his sense of smell; he couldn't get the awful taste out of the back of his throat. Oh, god.

"I can smell it. We need to call Simon right now." Having said all of this, Jim leaned over and vomited. Blair was shocked to see the tough-looking stoic man succumb to nausea. With Jim's background, he should have been used to dealing with dead bodies. Blair shuddered. This must be pretty bad.

Blair grabbed Jim's cell phone and called Simon. "Hello, Captain Banks? Jim said to tell you to bring everyone out here. He thinks he found a body."

"What do you mean he thinks he did? He either did or didn't."

Jim pulled the phone away from Blair and said, "Simon, I know a dead body when I smell one. I think that this one was sexually assaulted before or after death. I'm picking up the odor of semen. Get a forensics' team out here."

"Okay, Jim. We're on our way. Can you tell if it's more than one body?"

"How would I know that, Simon?" Jim said angrily.

Jim paced before the row of trees that he could smell the odor coming from. He was dying to get in there and see if there was anything he could pick up, anything that would help lead him to the monster that could do this, but he knew he couldn't. There might be footprints or other evidence that needed to be preserved for the forensic team. Shit...He wanted to move now. He could hear time ticking away in the back of his head as he thought of the missing children. Were any of them still alive?

When Simon finally drove up, he was followed by a forensics' van, he had about six other officers with him as he joined Jim. When Jim silently turned and walked away everyone followed; no one asked how he knew. They just followed. All of the men had the same look of dread on their faces.

As they got closer, Jim was having difficulty breathing. "Simon." Jim turned to his friend and pointed out the approximate area he felt the odor coming from. "It's in that group of trees there. If you don't mind, I'll join you after forensics has been over it. I can tell you exactly where the body is." He stopped, bending over and gagging uncontrollably. Simon gripped his shoulder for a second as he walked past with his men.

"Chief, I can't make it stop." Jim looked desperately at Blair, his breathing ragged and rapid. "I can taste it in my throat, on my tongue..." He sounded panicked. "It's making me sick." He doubled over, dry-heaving.

"It's okay, big guy." Blair reached out, smoothing and massaging Jim's back, and whispered, "Try to picture dials in your mind for each of your senses. Then turn the one for your sense of smell down to the point where you can handle the odor."

Jim closed his eyes for a second and struggled to do what Blair asked. Concentrating on Blair's touch and voice helped him relax but it was still impossible to block out the entire odor. "Blair, I think that there's more than one body here. There's no way that one little girl made that much of a stench. It's the worst thing I've ever smelled."

Jim stood back up and started slowly walking towards the area that the scent was coming from. He didn't want to go there. It was filling him with dread. Jim Ellison wasn't easily frightened, but he was now. Jim caught up to Simon, "Didn't you tell me that the dogs came out and did a routine sweep of this place? How could they have missed this?"

"That was about four weeks ago, Jim. These little girls have been missing for a long time. Maybe the killer came back later to bury them."

Jim tapped the lead detective on the shoulder and led him over to a depressed area in the ground. "I think you'll find a body here." Jim hurried back to Simon as though he was afraid something was going to reach out from the ground and drag him under.

"Jim," Blair came up beside him. He'd been watching Jim get edgier with each passing moment. "What's wrong? You're starting to freak out a little." Blair was beginning to worry about his lover. Maybe this was too much for Jim to handle. It had to be hard to deal with without bringing Jim's senses into it as well. Not only finding out that some of the children were dead, but being forced to endure the smell and taste of that death firsthand was horrifying. Blair was suddenly not as envious of Jim's abilities as he had been.

"I feel a presence here, Chief. Like someone's watching me" Jim shivered, looking around. "But I don't see anyone out there. It's bugging the hell out of me. I keep thinking... maybe it's one of the dead children."

"Jim, I know you feel like you should have been able to do something before any of these kids died but you're not superman. I think you're letting unwarranted guilt get to you." Blair grabbed Jim's face, forcing the restless man to meet his gaze. He looked Jim straight in the eyes. "Jim, it is not your fault. Finding the body or bodies, is a good thing. Maybe it will lead to something that will help those kids that are still alive."

"Jim, you okay?" Simon was concerned.

Blair let go of Jim's face. "He feels like someone's watching him." He explained to Simon. "Jim, I want you to try to expand your vision. There may be someone watching who is too far away for an ordinary person to see. Glance around slowly, Jim. Try to focus your eyes and see if anyone is watching."

Jim stood and slowly turned around and focused until he saw someone in a blue pickup. "Simon, there's a blue pickup down the road. Did you see it when you drove up here?"

"No, there was no one on the road, Jim. Why? You see something?"

"It's too far away to tell for sure what the person's doing." Blair placed his hand on Jim's back again. "Jim, focus. You'll be able to see the face if you try. Turn the dial up and see if that helps."

Jim listened to Blair and tried again and this time he was able to see the face of a man in the truck. Then he saw the man watching him with binoculars. They were staring each other straight in the eyes. The other man looked surprised and upset. "Simon, this might be guy we're looking for. Get someone over there right now."

Simon called it in but Jim saw the truck take off. "Shit... Simon, he's driving away. Dammit! I can't see the license plate, there are too many bushes in the way." He slammed his hand angrily against the nearest tree.

Simon grabbed his hand before Jim could pound it against the tree again. "Jim, calm down. You can't let this get to you."

"He's just on overload right now. Can you imagine? It must be terrible to be able to sense things as intimately as Jim does." Blair started to massage Jim's shoulders. "Some things a person just doesn't need to experience close-up."

"Chief, rubbing my back isn't going to help a fucking thing. And I don't need you talking about me." Jim growled.

Blair let go and backed away from him. "Sorry, man."

"No. I'm sorry, Chief. I shouldn't take this out on you. I just... " Jim leaned back on the tree trunk rubbing his hands across his face and sighing.

"We can take care of things here, Jim," Simon stated worriedly. He looked at his friend. There was no reason for Jim to have to stay and see the bodies dug up. "You've done enough for now. I think you should go home."

"I can't go home. Those parents are still looking for their babies." Jim said with tears in his eyes. He got closer to Blair. "There are more than a few bodies here, Chief. This is going to be bad."

Jim glanced across the yard and saw a woman and man walking towards them. "Simon, the parents are coming. I think it would be a very bad idea to let them anywhere near here."

Simon grumbled as he made his way over to the parents but the man got away from Simon and started running for the burial ground. Jim managed to catch him. "Mr. Turner? I'm Jim Ellison. Let's go back to your house and as soon as they find anything, they'll fill us in. Come with me." Jim said softly as he pulled the man's arm. Mr. Turner was on the verge of falling apart. Jim really didn't want to be there when it happened, but he also didn't want that poor man to see those dead children.

When they got back to their house, the Turners sat down in the living room, filled with such dread and fear that they couldn't even face each other, afraid of what they would see in the other's eyes. Finally, Mr. Turner spoke, "They checked the woods, why would they check it again? Did someone call about it?"

Simon stood up. "Mr. Ellison has a special gift and he's helping on this case. He came out to talk to the two of you but he sensed something in the woods. Then he called us and we're checking it out. Nothing's certain yet."

"I really need to see your daughter's room." Jim asked quietly. "Could you show it to me? What's your daughter's name?"

"Marnie." Mrs. Turner said sadly. "She's been gone for about five weeks now."

Mr. Turner spoke up. "If you'll come this way, Mr. Ellison, we'll show you her room." Jim stood up and followed them up the stairs to the little girl's room. Blair and Simon exchanged glances and moved after them.

Jim entered the bedroom. "Has anyone besides the police been in here since she was taken?"

"No...no one but the police and the FBI. Is something wrong?" Mr. Turner's arm tightened around his wife's shoulders.

"Do you mind if I just hold some of her things? It sometimes helps."

"Please. Anything that could help in finding our little girl." Mrs. Turner looked on the verge of tears.

Jim picked up her pillow, held it to his face, and got a strong scent of the little girl. He smiled and so did her parents. Looking at them, he said, "I just had a very sweet thought of your little girl."

"She's an angel, Mr. Ellison." Mrs. Turner said.

"Excuse me. Could we possibly be alone while he does this?" Blair smiled reassuringly at the couple.

"Why don't we go downstairs and make coffee?" Simon suggested as the Turners left the room.

Blair glanced over at his partner and saw the tears in Jim's eyes, "What's wrong?"

"There's nothing wrong. It just smells so good in here, Chief. She was a happy child. I don't smell any fear in the room; there's no odor of urine. Nothing like the other girl's room."

What do you think of the parents, Jim?" Blair asked.

"I listened to their heartbeats while we talked to them. They seem lost without their little girl and I believe them. I really can't see them being in on this. Maybe it's someone they know."

"Jim, do you smell anything in this room that shouldn't be?" Blair asked.

Jim concentrated on his sense of smell, "Coffee beans. I smell them in here, too. The man was here but Marnie must have known this person. She wasn't scared." Jim said.

Jim, can you see out into the woods?" Blair asked.

"Yeah, why?" Jim answered with a question.

"Because I wondered if they found any bodies. Some of the cops out there thought you were crazy. They might not be looking very hard or in the right place."

Jim looked out the window and saw them bringing bodies out. He turned to Blair. "So far there are four. I don't see them bringing any more out yet." Jim felt sick to his stomach and angry. He was helpless and determined to catch this man before more children had to die. His senses had to be good for something besides giving him a headache.

"Oh shit..." Blair said softly.

Jim walked downstairs with Blair following behind. He glanced absentmindedly into the Turner's master bedroom as they passed and his attention was snagged by a series of photos on a bookshelf, vision automatically focused for a clearer view. His footsteps faltered as he tried to decide how this new discovery he'd made affected the case. Once he got to the kitchen he asked, "Mr. Turner, would there be anyone that comes around the house that your little girl wouldn't be afraid of? A man. I'm sensing a man in her room and there's no fear like there was in the other little girl's room. Do you know anyone who chews coffee beans?

Mr. Turner's response was interrupted by two cops knocking at the door for Simon. Simon walked out and said, "Keep them here please, Jim."

As Simon took off across the driveway, Mr. Turner begged, "Please let me go and see if my baby's there."

Jim held him back. "You don't want to see those bodies, sir. I don't think your daughter is there. I can feel it." Mr. Turner sat down hard, put his face into his hands, and cried. His wife was at his side immediately. "Maybe he's right, honey. Maybe she's alive and we'll find her."

"Mr. and Mrs. Turner, I plan to continue to look. Don't worry about me forgetting about her. I won't."

"Thank you, Mr. Ellison." Mrs. Turner said.

Jim faced Blair, "Could you stay with them while I go and see if there's anything I can do?"

"Go. Do what you have to."

Jim caught up to Simon and saw the little bodies that they had dug out of the ground. It was obvious they hadn't been buried very deep. The four little body bags aligned in a row looked obscene.

"There are more cops and Crime Scene Investigators on the way." Simon informed Jim, "We're hoping that we can find all of them now. Do you think you can help, Jim?"

Jim closed his eyes and tried to relax and breath, picturing the dials in his head. It helped to imagine Blair's voice and presence. "There's one more over there."

The detectives went where Jim was pointing and started digging. In a few minutes they found the body of another little girl. Jim heard one of the cops talking. "I think he had something to do with it. How else would he know this shit?"

"Nah, he's really good at this. He's psychic or something." another detective answered.

"Simon, the killer has something to do with the Turner's. I think they know whoever is doing this. I don't think they are directly involved but I do think the girl knew and wasn't afraid of the person who kidnapped her."

"You think it was a friend or relative?" Simon said frowning.

"I think it was someone they knew." Jim stated as they headed back to the house. When they got there, Blair looked worn out from the tension and relieved to see them. Jim felt bad putting him through this his first day on the job. He'd have to tell Blair how much his presence had meant to him. Having him there had helped, was still helping.

When they were sitting there, Mr. Turner opened up a glass jar and took out a coffee bean and started sucking it. Simon, Jim, and Blair froze in place and looked at each other. Jim spoke up, "Does anyone else suck on those things besides you?"

Both Mr. and Mrs. Turner exchanged glances. The husband asked, "You think it's someone we know? Someone that also likes coffee beans?"

"I sensed coffee beans in the room upstairs and at the other house that we went to today." Jim said.

Mr. Turner sat back down at the table. "My whole family sucks on coffee beans but no one would hurt our Marnie. No one."

Simon asked, "Mr. Turner, would anyone besides the two of you get money if something happened to her?"

"No. But... " Mr. Turner hesitated for a second. His wife reached out and held his hand. "There's something we should tell you."

"What is it, Mr. Turner?"

"I'm sterile, so we used a distant cousin's sperm for our daughter. We've been fighting with this person about his parental rights lately."

"Do you see him hurting her in any way?" Jim asked.

"No, and even more, I can't see him hurting any other child. He's one of the kindest human beings in the world."

Jim turned to Mrs. Turner. "You were okay with carrying a child for the two men?" Simon and Blair just stared at Jim when he asked that.

"How did you know?" Mr. Turner asked. "My partner and I don't want people to know so we've said he's my wife's cousin for years."

"I saw the photos in your bedroom of the two of you with another man and of you alone with this same man. It was easy to see by the acts depicted what your relationship with each other is and I couldn't help noticing Marnie's resemblance to this man."

"In answer to your question, Mr. Ellison, I loved carrying the baby for them. I'm not only Marnie's Mom but also his wife. They're my best friends and will continue to be."

"Where would we find this man? We need his name and address." Simon asked.

"He lives here. He should be home in about ten minutes." Mr. Turner said.

"But you've been fighting about telling Marnie that he's her father?" Jim asked.

"Yes, he wanted her to know and we didn't think it would be a good idea. She's going on five and she's always known him as Uncle David. I'm telling you he had nothing to do with it. You'll see."

Ten minutes later, a man came flying through the front door with a look of horror on his face. "What's going on outside? What's happened to Marnie?"

Jim watched him go into Mr. Turner's arms and be comforted as he sobbed against the taller man's shoulder. Jim thought Mr. Turner was right. He didn't think the man was capable of harming anyone. All three of them were now sharing a group hug. For a moment Jim was envious of their closeness. There was a downside to keeping people at a distance. Then Blair looked up at him, smiling, and Jim was almost dizzy with the sudden warmth that surged throughout his body. Despite all he'd experienced that day, Jim felt an answering smile on his face. He was a lucky, lucky man.

Simon stepped up to the trio. He faced the newcomer. "Are you David?"

"Yes, I'm David. David Sanders. I'm the cousin. What's going on?"

"It's okay, David. They know about us." Mr. Turner said. David was speechless.

"Never mind that, Mr. Sanders. We need some information that might help us locate Marnie." Jim was too wound up to wait for Mr. Turner to explain things. "Can you think of anyone that likes coffee beans besides yourself and Mr. Turner?"

"Well, of course I can, but what has that to do with anything?"

"Who, David?" Mr. Turner asked.

"Your dad, of course. He's always sucking on the damn things. He's worse than you."

Mrs. Turner said, "Honey, do you think he knows about you and David? He might do something crazy."

"Wait a minute! This is my dad we're talking about. He'd never hurt Marnie or any other child."

Mr. Turner watched in shock as Simon called in for a search warrant for the grandfather's house and ordered some policemen to stay with the Turners and David Sanders while he left with Jim and Blair to question the senior Mr. Turner. "I can't believe that my father would do something like this."

"Sir, I think there's something else going on. I don't think he cares about the little girl at all." Jim spoke as Simon was getting into his car.

Simon rolled down his window. "Well, what's the motive for the other children being killed?"

"Perhaps he wanted the attention to come back on his son and his friend. The way those bodies were buried; they were meant to be found." Jim opened the truck door. "Everyone would wonder why all of the bodies were buried there and the resulting investigation would reveal the true relationships in the house."

"Because they're gay? You think this man murdered five little girls and has the other one with him because he didn't want her raised by gay parents?"

"It's a possibility, sir." Jim said sadly as he got into the truck with Blair.

When they arrived at Mr. Turner Sr.'s, detectives with the search warrant were waiting for them. They had just reached the porch when they heard a gun go off. Jim wrenched the door open and expanded his senses, heading for the rapid pounding heartbeats. He could smell blood and hear gasping cries. No! Please, no. Not another dead child.

The body was in the kitchen. The little girl, Marnie, was tied to a chair. Lying next to her was her grandfather...dead from a gunshot to the head. Jim untied the hysterical little girl who was screaming for her momma and held her gently in his arms. "It's alright, sweetheart. It's okay. I'm going to take you to your Momma in just a few minutes."

"You swear?" Marnie sobbed, wiping her nose on her hand. Her big teary eyes stared up into Jim's.

Jim felt an actual pain twist at his heart when he looked into those eyes. "I swear." Jim said trying not to crush her in his arms as he hugged her.

"There are some little kids in the basement that he was getting ready to send away." Marnie whispered. She had burrowed her head into the crook of Jim's neck and refused to look at anyone. Her arms and legs clung tightly to Jim's body.

Simon and one of the detectives headed for the basement while the other two spread out to search the rest of the house. Simon had to break the lock on the basement door. They could hear whimpers and soft cries coming from inside the room. Please, God. Let them be all right.

With one hard kick, Simon managed to get the latch to give completely, knocking the door wide open. He caught it with one arm as it bounced back off the inside wall. The rest of the missing girls were there; dirty, hungry and scared, but alive. Simon felt tears of relief prick at the corners of his eyes. For once he didn't care about keeping up appearances in front of his men. They were alive.

Once the ambulances had arrived to take the girls to the hospital where the parents had been notified of their expected arrival, Jim tried to set Marnie down so the medic could examine her. She wouldn't have anything to do with the idea.

Marnie pleaded, "Please don't put me down."

"Okay, I won't. You stay with me and then we'll go and see your Mom and Dad." Jim said as calmly as he could. He gave a look to Simon as if to say, "She needs to be checked out for sexual abuse, too."

Blair was looking sick. He had tried to keep out of the way as much as possible. Dead bodies weren't something he was used to running across and he'd seen more than he wanted to for the rest of his life. Seeing the little girls that had been imprisoned and abused, rescued and sent off to the hospital to join their parents, brought home exactly what those lumps in tiny body bags were that had been lined up under the trees. It just hadn't really hit him until now that they had been living breathing children who were never going home. Those parents would never get their children back. They were gone. And he knew how that felt, too. "Couldn't we take her to her parents first? It's not that far away and they could go with her to the hospital. I know she needs to be examined but she's been through so much already. Would it hurt to wait until she gets home?"

Simon thought of the ordeal that the children and parents were still facing. This is going to be a nightmare.

Since the other children were headed for the hospital and the forensics' van had arrived, Simon felt things were under control. "Let's take this little girl home."

Jim had to let Blair take the truck keys out of his pocket, as he couldn't reach them with Marnie clinging to him like a limpet. She still refused to let anyone else hold her and tended to scream when she thought he was going to let go. Blair drove the truck.

As they got out of the truck with Marnie, and Simon drove up, the parents came running out of the house. "Jim, keep Marnie for a moment," Simon asked. "I'd like to talk to them alone, first."

Jim and Blair walked around the side of the house so that she wouldn't see her parents until Simon wanted her to. Marnie peeked around Jim at Blair. "Are you going to stay with us, too? My Grampa said that all you men are fags."

"Well, he was wrong. Marnie, that's a terrible thing to say so don't say it again. It'll hurt people. You don't want to hurt anyone, do you?" Jim asked.

"No," she said sniffling. "I want my Mommy, Daddy and Uncle David. Could I see them now?"

"We can head over there now. How does that sound?"

When Marnie saw her parents she wiggled out of Jim's arms and ran for her parents outstretched arms. They held on to her for dear life.

David Sanders, in tears, walked up to Jim and Blair. "Thank you so much for finding our little girl."

Jim turned to him and spoke quietly. "It doesn't matter who fathered her, or raises her. She doesn't care. She loves all three of you. Don't force her to choose who her daddy will be."

"I'll rethink the entire thing. Suddenly, it doesn't seem all that important."

Jim watched him walk away. He turned and stumbled. "Whoa." His ears were ringing and he felt light-headed and dizzy. "Blair."

Blair grabbed on until Jim had regained his balance. "Jim, what's wrong?" Damn, I was afraid this was going to happen.

"I don't know. I just got tired and dizzy suddenly."

"You've been using your senses a lot today, and with the emotional impact this case has had on you... I think everything just built up and hit you all at once." Blair steered Jim towards the truck.

"I think you've done enough, Jim. It's time to go home. You relax in the truck and I'll go tell Simon we're leaving. If he needs to he can call you at the office or home." Blair ignored the half-hearted protest and simply pushed his exhausted lover over to the vehicle and waited until Jim was seated on the passenger side and buckled in.

Blair hunted Simon down. "Simon, I'm taking Jim home. If you need him for anything, please don't call him until tomorrow."

Simon studied Blair's earnest, tense face. The man had handled everything surprisingly well that day. "Okay, Blair. Thank Ellison. He did well today. You both did well." Simon stated as Blair headed back to the truck.

The drive home was very quiet. Blair didn't know what to say. This was all still very new to him and he didn't know what to do with his feelings or how to help Jim deal with his. He decided to just try and take care of Jim the way Jim had taken care of him last night. Blair still had euphoric memories of Jim washing his hair. He could have soaked in the tub forever with those talented hands massaging his scalp. But then, maybe not. Not if it meant missing out on the way Jim had made love to him afterwards. Blair had been able to deal with his grief and loss because Jim had shown him he wasn't alone. Now it was his turn to show Jim that he no longer had to deal with his pain alone.

When they finally pulled into the parking lot of the loft they just sat there. Jim was trying to just calm down and work up the energy to get out of the truck when Blair turned to him. "Man, I'm so proud to be your friend. You're a good man, Jim. I saw how much you cared about the children and their families. If I hadn't fallen in love with you already, I would have after watching you with that little girl today."

It was exactly what Jim needed. "I don't know how I could have handled this without you, Chief. You really helped me and I mean with more than focusing my senses. You did well. This one was rough."

Blair smiled at his exhausted lover. "C'mon, Jim. Let's get you upstairs and into a shower."

"Shower," Jim moaned. "I'm so sick of smelling death and blood."

"Then once we're clean, I'll make us something to eat and then I'll hold you in my arms all night long while you sleep." Blair steered the other man into the building, holding Jim's hand while in the elevator.

Jim pulled him close and kissed him softly. Not passionately. Just letting him know how much he appreciated him. Blair always seemed to know just what he needed. He nuzzled into Blair's hair, letting that addictive Blair aroma overpower the moldy, decaying scent of death of which Jim had been afraid he would never be rid. He still had that awful taste lingering in the back of his throat.

Blair felt Jim shudder and knew that tonight was going to be tough. He wrapped his arms tighter around his lover and whispered against his chest. "It's going to be okay, Jim. I'm going to take care of you tonight. Once we get you clean and fed and in bed you'll feel much better"

"Chief, I like the shower and bed idea, especially with you in it, but I just don't think I could eat." Even the thought of food made Jim sick.

"Wait until after your shower, Jim, and then we'll see."

Blair babied and coaxed Jim out of his clothes and into the shower where Blair joined him. It gave Jim an awkward feeling of vulnerability to passively allow Blair to take care of him. But he was so tired and it was so difficult to keep up the defensive wall he used to keep from getting hurt. Blair was so gentle as he washed the death and pain from Jim's body; love and care were in every stroke of the hand and cloth against his skin. All the emotions he had been repressing were pushing at his self-control. He was embarrassed and ashamed to find himself starting to shake.

Blair stopped what he was doing and pulled Jim into his arms. Blair just held on and let Jim cry.

"Chief, he killed all of those children because he was sick and because he thought we were sick. How in the hell could he possibly think he was better than us?"

"He was insane, Jim. There's nothing anyone can do about that now. Come on, I think we need to get you into bed. You won't have to worry about bad dreams; I'm going to hold you all night long. We're safe with each other, Jim. I'm not going to let anything hurt you, either."

Jim looked down at Blair's face and knew that however frightening and risky it was to let himself love Blair, it was worth it. Here was a man who had lost everything the night before, yet was there every moment for Jim while he tried to work his way through this case; who was even now putting aside his own fears and concerns so that he could concentrate on easing Jim's.

Jim didn't fight. He let Blair dry them both off and tuck them into bed. Blair was true to his word. He held Jim all night long, stroking and soothing him to sleep whenever Jim was disturbed by bad memories or dreams.

Things would be better. They'd take it one day at a time, together.

He wasn't the Lone Ranger anymore.

The end...Lone Ranger 2 in the works.

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Patt's Acknowledgments: I would like to thank CJ for the wonderful job of co-writing this story. We had a blast doing it. Thank you to Suse and CJ for the artwork. Many thanks to Mary, Sue and CJ for the beta work. You all had your work cut out for you. Lisa, what can I say? I love you and love this ezine business. Thank you for putting up with all of us and giving us a place to play and have fun.

CJ's Acknowledgments: Thanks to Patt, my favorite cheerleader, for her belief that I could do this, and to the other list members on MME who are also encouraging and supportive. CJ