Slash.  Rated PG.  Blair is eager to work with a respected professor.  Takes place late in the second season and makes an AU turn.  

Most heartfelt thanks to Sandy for betaing.  I was the last one to read the final version, so any mistakes are mine.


(c) Mar 2006 by Charlotte Frost


"The secret of happiness is to admire without desiring. And that is not happiness."  -- F.H. Bradley




As Blair moved along the sidewalk, destined for the PD, he was aware of something blocking his path.


He looked up from the latest issue of Rainier University's quarterly anthropological journal, and found himself looking into the face of a shaggily dressed man with a long red beard, streaked with grey.


The man's eyes narrowed at him.


"Excuse me," Blair said, moving around the man, who then went back to digging through the trash receptacle.


Maybe he should have offered the man money. Not many beggars on the street make eye contact. But there was something about the man that made him uncomfortable....


He put it out of his mind and went back to the journal. He kept it open as he entered the PD and went up to the seventh floor.  He was pleased to see Jim sitting at his desk as he briskly entered Major Crime.


"Ta da!" Blair announced, dropping the magazine in front of Jim, where it was turned back to the most important page.


"What's this?" Jim said.


"Read the title.” Blair took off his coat and hung it up.


"Police Departments and South American Tribes: Tribal culture is alive and well in America's most modern cities.” Jim glanced up. "So?"


Blair smacked him on the shoulder and sat down. "Look at the byline."


"by Blair Sandburg."


"Yep," Blair beamed. "I finally got published in an official journal. Talking to Suzy Wong about her experiences at the Tacoma PD gave me the rest of the research that I needed."


"Congratulations," Jim said. "Do you get money for it?"


Blair tried not to feel offended. "Of course not. It's the prestige factor. The pride. Seeing my name in print."


"I guess I never realized that you haven't been published before, with all the papers you've written."


"A paper is just a paper. Your name in print - in a journal read by thousands of readers across the country - now that's something I can put on a resume."


Jim turned to the next page. "So, is this something that I'm going to find interesting, or am I going to be offended that the department I work for is being compared to a tribal culture?"


Blair snorted. "There's nothing in there that would be news to you. You're intelligent enough to know that the similarity exists.”


"Thank you for validating my intelligence."


Blair carefully took the magazine from him. "Hey, that's my only copy. No reading it in the john or getting oil from your fingers on the pages. If you'd like to read it, I'll give you a copy. I'm having a whole bunch run off for all my friends and relatives."


"Can't wait," Jim muttered while turning back to the file on his desk.


Blair carefully put the journal in his backpack, then pulled out his glasses. "What are you working on?"



The fist slammed into his face and Blair went down. How could someone who looked so old and pathetic be so strong?


He only had enough awareness to scramble to his feet.


He wondered why he'd done that when the fist hit his other cheek and he went down again.


He could hear Naomi screaming and wondered why she didn't run to safety.



Jim heard Blair moving around as he poured himself a cup of coffee. He poured a cup for Blair too, and wondered if he should bother getting dressed on this Sunday when he had nothing planned except watching ESPN.


Blair emerged into the kitchen, wearing sweats, looking more tired than when he went to bed.


"What's up with you?" Jim asked as he handed him the cup.


"What do you mean?” Blair blew into the mug, and then took a cautious sip.


"You were restless last night. I could hear you."


Blair's brow furrowed. "Was I saying anything?"


"No, but I could hear you moving around in the bed."


Blair's eyes squinted. "Jim, just what else do you hear from my room at night?"


Jim quickly held up a hand, knowing where this was leading. "I don't tune in deliberately. It's just when there's something out of the ordinary...," he hoped Blair knew that masturbation fell under Ordinary, "my hearing naturally makes note of it. Believe me, Chief, I don't need to hear whatever other noises you might be making.” Besides, Jim often liked to indulge his own fantasies, once settled in bed. Firmly, he said, "Don't change the subject."


The firmness worked. Blair's cheeks billowed as he blew out a breath. "I had this really intense dream from when I was a kid. It seemed so vivid."


"Bad dream?" Jim asked conversationally, moving to the refrigerator for a bagel.


"Yeah, it was like I was being slugged."


Jim furrowed his brow. "When you were a kid?” He indicated the sack of bagels and Blair nodded.


"Yeah," Blair said with a distant expression. He then shifted restlessly. "It's really weird, but yesterday when I was walking to the station, I almost bumped into this homeless guy. He looked me right in the eye."


"And..." Jim prompted, having placed four bagel halves into their new four-slot toaster.


Blair looked up suddenly. "I don't know. I just remembered it seemed strange how he looked at me."


"I mean, what did that have to do with your dream?"


Blair expelled a self-conscious laugh. "I don't know. I don't think it has anything to do with it.” He sipped his coffee a long moment. "That dream was really strange though."


"And made you think of the homeless guy you almost bumped into."


Blair slowly rubbed at his whiskers. "Yeah. I guess so.” He looked up, shrugging elaborately. "Though I can't imagine how one has anything to do with the other."


"Something about the homeless guy must have triggered a subconscious memory."


"Now you sound like me."


"Don't get insulting.” Jim hovered over the toaster.


"Besides, it was a dream, not a memory.” Snort. "I mean, I'd remember if an adult had slugged me when I was a kid."


Jim glanced at him. "You dreamt an adult slugged you when you were a little kid?” What had child Blair - even dream-child-Blair - done to deserve something like that?


"Yeah. Weird, huh?"


Jim placed freshly-toasted bagels on a saucer. "Like I said, you were pretty restless. You must have dreamed that for some reason.  Maybe your subconscious feels guilty about something you did as a child, and you always thought you should be punished for it."


Hesitant chuckle. "Dr. Ellison-Freud. Come on, Jim, if I felt I needed to be punished for something... well, the punishment wouldn't have been getting slugged by a grown man. Maybe standing in the corner for twenty minutes. My mom wasn't into heavy discipline."


"No kidding."


Having smeared his halves with cream cheese, Jim moved to sit at the table so Blair could prepare his own bagel.


"I'm going to call my mom to tell her about being published," Blair said. "I’ll ask her if there's any reason why I would have dreamt about being slugged as a child."



Jim had to make an effort to hold his anger at bay.


The Cascade baseball team was on the tube, but Jim had lost interest. Instead, he was listening to Blair talk to Naomi on the phone in his room. As he babbled about getting published "in a real magazine", Naomi oohed and aahed.


Hence, Jim needed to keep reminding himself that it was a lovely thing that Naomi was so enthusiastic about Blair's accomplishment. Just because he himself had never gotten one iota of interest in his accomplishments from either parent was no reason to begrudge Blair's being so outwardly gushed over by his mother.


"Hey, Mom," Blair voice became subdued, "there's something I want to ask you about."


As Blair explained about his dream, Jim found his ears tuning in to Naomi's side of the conversation.


"Blair, honey, you don't remember?" she said in a worried voice.


"Uh-uh. Is there something I'm supposed to remember?"


"I guess you were too young. I'm sorry it's come back to you."


"What has?"


"When we lived with Raymond Hicks. He was a friend of your cousin Lester in San Antonio? We had that house in Tacoma and he lived with us for a while, because he was looking for a job at the docks. He drank a lot, honey. He'd get violent. He went on a rampage one night and hit you in the face - twice. I was so afraid that he'd injured you. I had to call the police. I wouldn't bail him out and I never let him back in the house."


So. Blair had been slugged by a grown man when just a little tyke. As he sat on the sofa, Jim felt his hand curl into a fist - preparing to retaliate.


"Whatever happened to him, Mom?"


"I don't know. I never tried to stay in touch. I don't think Lester stayed friends with him, after hearing what he did."


"Mom, did he hurt you?"


"He tried to. But you were trying to intervene. You were only four and you put yourself between him and me. He hit you before I could get to you. You went down but got right up again. I was screaming, I was so afraid he was going to hurt you. I knew the best thing to do was get the police out there. They were just up the street, where they'd responded to another call, so they came fast. But no, he didn't actually hurt me - other than scaring the living daylights out of me that he'd seriously injured you and I was having fantasies of castrating him.” She made a shuddering noise over the phone. "Even now, I feel like I want to rip his balls off for hurting my little Blair."


"I'm okay, Mom," Blair said with a grin in his voice.


They moved on to other subjects.


Raymond Hicks. Jim intended to look up the name first thing tomorrow morning.



The next afternoon, they were driving to the home of a witness in one of their current cases, Sam Hallow. Jim said, "I looked up Raymond Hicks on the computer this morning.”


Blair hesitated, then,  "Oh, that guy that Naomi was telling me about?"


"Yeah. He was charged for assault and battery a few times. Served some prison time but was never in for very long. He died a few years ago of liver problems."


"I'm not surprised.” Pause. "How come you looked him up?"


Jim shrugged. "Was just curious.” He hoped Blair wasn't going to make a big deal out of the fact that he'd taken an interest.


Just as Blair opened his mouth to speak, Jim braked and studied the address on the row of houses to the left. "Here it is."


They got out and knocked but no one was there. A neighbor told them that Hallow usually didn't arrive home until after seven at night.


When they got back in the truck, Jim said, "We'll come back then and wait for him."


"You're on your own then. I've got an appointment."


"An appointment? Not a date?"


"Not a date," Blair said with a sigh. "I have to see Professor Rosenthal tonight. We're meeting at his place to discuss a joint article we're thinking of doing."


"Oh," Jim said with a grin, though he'd never heard Blair mention that particular professor. "He was impressed with your piece, huh? And wants to ride on your coat tails?"


"I doubt it. He's, like, seventy years old and has been published up the wazoo. He hardly needs to ride on anyone's coat tails."


"That's quite a compliment to you, then, that he wants to pair up with you."


"Maybe.” Blair was looking out the window.


Jim furrowed his brow. "You aren't flattered?"


Blair shifted with discomfort. "I would be if I knew for certain he thought I was a brilliant anthropologist."


Jim waited but no other words were forthcoming. He gestured with a beckoning hand. "And so if he doesn't think you're brilliant, he wants to co-author with you because...."


Blair's jaw firmed and he crossed his arms defensively. "He likes men. Young men."


"Oh.” Still, Blair had always seemed fairly liberal-minded about that kind of thing. "What? You think he's going to come on to you and you aren't going to be able to fight him off?"


"Jim," Blair protested, uncrossing his arms. "Of course, I could fight him off. But, you know, why should I have to?"


"Then why are you agreeing to do this project with him?"


"It's not a for-sure yet. We're just going to discuss it.” Blair shrugged sheepishly. "You know, maybe he really does think I'm a brilliant anthropologist - and writer. I want to believe that. It's just hard to know what he's really after."


"So, that's what you're going to find out?"


"I guess. I mean, I at least owe him an initial meeting, just for the sake of mutual academic respect."


Jim felt a slow grin spread across his face. "That's what it's called if he shows an interest in your ass? Mutual academic respect?"


Blair crossed his arms again. "Jim!"



Blair emerged from the bathroom smelling of cologne, and wore an old dress jacket over new jeans and polished boots.


"You know, Chief," Jim said, straining to keep a straight face, "I think maybe you should give me Professor Rosenthal's address. When I'm done talking to the witness, I can go by there and listen in. If I hear you saying, 'No'...."


Blair waved him off with an unimpressed grimace, and then began rummaging through his backpack.


"Of course," Jim said thoughtfully, "me busting in there could be a really awkward situation if, when you said 'no', you really meant 'yes'."


Blair fastened the main pocket of the backpack. "You are so not funny, Jim."


"This guy could be a real education, Sandburg. I wouldn't dismiss the idea totally, just because he's seventy. An old guy could know a lot of moves. If he has a thing for young men, he's got to have some pretty crafty techniques to get them interested at all."


Blair straightened and hoisted his backpack over his shoulder. "You know something, Jim? You have sex on the brain. Maybe, when you're done questioning the witness, you should go and try to get laid - instead of worrying about what I'm up to."


Blair was always so funny when he was annoyed.  "I'm just looking out for your virtue, Chief.” After all, Blair was the one who had been subdued when telling Jim about tonight's appointment, as though he were somewhat worried about it.


"My virtue is my business.” Blair moved to the door, grabbed his keys from the basket, and walked out, giving the door a mild slam.


Gee.  Tease the guy a little and he gets all huffy.


What the hell. He'd make it up to Blair by not asking for details afterwards.


In the meantime, he had a witness to see.



Jim waited half an hour before Hallow showed up. Then it turned out he had nothing important to add to details already known about the case.


As Jim pulled away from the curb, he found himself thinking about Blair's meeting with Rosenthal. He wasn't that far from campus. But then, he didn't know the professor's address. He could spend some time cruising the streets until spotting Blair's Volvo. Of course, with parking being such a problem around campus, it wouldn't necessarily be parked directly in front of Rosenthal's house. For that matter, the professor might live in an apartment complex.


Why was he even worried about it? The worst that could happen was that Rosenthal came on to Blair, and Blair turned him down and left. That wasn't even a likely scenario. Surely, Rosenthal wasn't pushy about what he wanted; few young men would put up with that. No, he surely had to go more the charmer route to make young guys like him.


Or maybe he had money. Or offered to arrange for a passing grade for some of his students, or former students. Or maybe....


What the hell. It wasn't his business.


Jim went home.



It was over an hour later before Blair walked in the door.


He was beaming. "Man, this is going to be great!" he said as he pulled off his coat.


"What is?"


"Co-authoring an article with Professor Rosenthal."


Delicately, Jim said, "So, he really is interested in your academic skills?"


Blair looked puzzled a moment. Then he brightened and waved a hand. "I was so off base with that other stuff. No, this was completely on the level. He really, really liked my article. Gave me some tips and stuff on how I could have presented the material more effectively. He's even better than the editors of the magazine!  It was really nice of him to take the time to do that."


Oh. Jim wondered if he should have been more enthusiastic when Blair had shown him the article.


He put away dishes from the strainer. "So, you and he are going to be working together?"


"Yeah. We intend to meet one to two hours every Tuesday and Friday nights while we work on the article. He's already talked to the publisher of Anthropology - which is, like, the major magazine for anthropologists worldwide - and the article is going to be in three different parts.  It's going to examine tribal behavior in various aspects of modern society. You know, court rooms, hospitals, places like that. We've both already done a lot of the groundwork research over the years. It's a matter of pulling it all together and deciding what to focus on."


"Sounds like it's going to be quite a feather in your cap."


"For sure!” Blair quieted as he came into the kitchen. "But Jim, really, if you need me for a particular case or anything - or for your senses - I can always cancel any given night with Rosenthal. The deadline for the first part is four months away."


"I'll do that," Jim said, having to work at keeping his voice level while he put away the last dish.


His days of being the center of Blair's attention were over. At least for the time being.


He tried to feel relieved about that.


Instead, as he climbed the stairs to bed, he felt lonely.



Rosenthal, Rosenthal, Rosenthal.


Frederick J. Rosenthal, Jr.


Nothing in the police database. A regular icon of virtue.


Going on the web produced just surface information about his teaching tenures at various universities. He had come to Rainier four years ago.


Jim called the Rainier anthropology department, acting as a parent of a potential attendee, and asked to be faxed extensive information on the upper level staff. The material on Rosenthal went on for pages and pages - various positions he'd held, memberships, and the many, many publications he had authored and edited. Some of the magazine articles were co-authorships - all the co-authors being different people. All male.


He likes to get around, Jim thought.


Still, nothing the least bit controversial or negative. But then, Jim wouldn't have expected to find anything of that nature here.


It was good, then, that Blair had fallen into a project with him. Surely, it could only be good for Blair's career.



"Where's your shadow?” Simon stood over Jim's desk a couple of weeks later. "Haven't seen him much lately."


"He's got a big project going on at the university. It's taking a lot of his evenings, so he's more crunched for time during the day."


"You okay with that?"


Jim looked up and shrugged. "Sure. He's got a right to a life outside of our project," he said in a low voice.


Simon sat on the edge of Jim's desk. "You know, I admit, for a long time I was waiting for you to cut him loose. But now that he's not around much... it worries me. I mean, how his absence could affect you."


"This was never meant to be a permanent deal," Jim protested quietly. "Besides, I'm fine. I've learned a lot from him about how to control this."


"Good to hear it. Still, I admit I miss the kid, as annoying as he can be.” Simon shook a finger a Jim. "And don't you dare tell him I said that."


"My lips are sealed," Jim vowed as Simon moved off to his office.





Blair looked up from papers spread about the dining table where he and Rosenthal always worked. "Uh, just half a glass, thanks."


Rosenthal poured it. He had white hair that still held streaks of grey. He was tall and slender, his face a gentle one, with creases from a lifetime of smiling.


"Thanks," Blair said, relieved that it was indeed only half a glass. That was one of the things he really liked about Rosenthal. The professor was gracious and considerate and didn't try to force his own agenda.


He'd been coming here for a month. The routine was starting to get a bit tiring, and Blair kept hoping that he'd be able to write more independently. But, between them, he and Rosenthal had so much data to go through, that they were still spending most of their time discussing how to organize their three-part article, rather than actually writing anything.


Rosenthal poured his own glass while sitting in a chair next to Blair. "You've been spending a lot of evenings here. I hope you aren't keeping a young lady waiting impatiently."


Blair grinned bashfully while leafing through a stack of papers. "No, not me. I've never been one to have long-term relationships. I tend to get around.” He chuckled self-consciously, wondering if he sounded like he was working too hard at proving how heterosexual he was.


"You've lived with that policeman for a while now."


Blair glanced up, but could only see natural curiosity on the professor's face. Jim's name had come up a few times in their casual conversations. "Yeah, about two years now. But we've always had our own lives outside my research at the Department. It's just a roommate thing.” He felt an instinct to protect Jim from Rosenthal's curiosity.


He focused on looking for a paper where he'd scribbled notes about an upcoming interview with the secretary for a law firm.


"You're a good-looking young man, Blair. I'd think that the ladies - and some of the men - would be interested in spending as much time as possible with you."


Where was that damn piece of paper? "Yeah, well... for starters, I am awfully busy, considering all the research I do at the PD. I always feel like women aren't that interested in me; but maybe it's because I haven't been trying hard enough lately.” Was he sounding defensive? "I don't seem to hang onto to any one person for very long.” He heard himself laugh nervously. "I've been accused of having Attention Deficit Disorder.” He shrugged. "Really, I think it's just because I'm a Gemini.” He leafed through the stack of papers again. "We're known for a rambling mental process."


"Why don't you take a break and enjoy your wine?"


Blair sat back, feeling it was always the polite thing to defer to the professor's wishes. He reached for his glass and sipped.


Rosenthal sipped from his own glass. "How do you feel when men come on to you?"


"It doesn't happen very often. I turn them down as politely as possible."


"You've never been interested?"


Blair felt his stomach twist. "No.” Okay, that definitely sounded defensive. He sipped his wine. "I mean, I have the same curiosity that anybody else would. But it's not the kind of thing I've ever wanted to pursue.”


Blair wanted to nip this in the bud. The wine helped. "Look, Professor Rosenthal, I've heard things here and there about your preferences. I'm not into anything like that. I've greatly enjoyed working with you and want to continue, but I'm not interested in anything beyond this project."


Rosenthal's set smile faded only slightly. "I was only making conversation, my boy. Rest assured that one has nothing to do with the other.” His smiled widened. "You can't blame an old professor for trying."


Blair relaxed. "No, no I can't.” He emptied the glass. "Let's finish talking about what we want to do with this section, and then I need to split so I can get to bed early and catch up on my sleep."


Rosenthal put on his glasses and pulled some pages closer. "Very well."



It was three o’clock in the morning when Jim got home from a lengthy interrogation. At least it had ended with a confession.


When he entered the loft, Blair was sitting at the dining table, in sweats, sipping tea.


"You're up?" Jim greeted.


Blair nodded. "I had that dream again."


"What dream?"


"Where that old guy decked me a couple of times when I was four."


Jim sat down across from Blair and rubbed at his eyes. "I wonder why that came up again?"


Blair shrugged. "Why are you in so late?"


"We nailed Stovers and he confessed. Took a long time though."


"That the guy who killed those two women?"


"No. This is the guy who hung an informant on a meat hook, when he peeped to the cops about the arms shipment."




Blair seemed sorry to be missing out on what was happening in Jim’s world. Jim asked, "How's it going with Rosenthal?"




Blair didn't sound enthused. Of course, it was the middle of the night. "Just okay?"


Blair released a heavy sigh. "It's getting old, going over to his place so often. I want to try cutting back some.” He smiled at Jim. "Go back to working more with you."


Jim nodded. That made him feel good. "Simon misses you. Just don't tell him I said so."


Blair grinned, but it faded quickly when he sipped more tea.


Trying to sound casual, Jim asked, "What took the bloom off the professor's rose?"


Blair lowered his hands to his side and his gaze was on the table. "He's been a real gentleman, easy to work with. And, you  know, we get to talking about personal things sometimes. Tonight," he glanced up at Jim, "he started asking me about my love life and stuff. You know, trying to see what my interest might be."


"With him?"


Blair nodded. "I told him straight out I wasn't interested and he seemed to accept it. Still...."


"It made you uncomfortable?"


"Yeah, I guess.” Blair presented a forced smile. "I feel like it shouldn't. He's just inquiring. Can't blame a guy for that."


"Watch yourself."


Blair snorted. "Jim, it's not like he can do anything that I don't want. He's seventy. Slender guy. If he tried to pull anything, I'd just leave."


"I don't know, Chief. An old guy can still slip a date-rape drug into your drink. Or have a gun around."


Blair shook his head, grinning. "You're so paranoid to think of things like that."


Seriously, Jim said, "There's a reason why you were feeling uncomfortable. A reason why you had that dream again tonight."


Blair blinked. Then he said, "No, that's coincidence. Getting smacked around as a child couldn't have had anything to do with Rosenthal."


Jim let it go. "Anyway," he said, standing, "it would be nice to have you back at the Department on a regular basis. It would make Simon happy."


He turned away to the stairs.



 Blair took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes.


"You all right, Blair?"


Blair looked up at Rosenthal's concerned face. "Yeah. But we need to rap this up early tonight. Look, Professor, I think we should cut back to meeting once a week, and maybe that won't even be necessary. We're rolling now on the text, so I feel I could write my sections on my own, and email my progress to you and then we can discuss it."


Rosenthal nodded. "All right then. I didn't realize this was getting to be such a strain on your schedule. I'm sorry about that."


"I just have a lot going on.”  Blair felt guilty that, more than anything, he was tired of the Professor's company. He started gathering his papers. "I'm sorry to be rushing off like this, but I don't feel I can stay focused much longer. "


Rosenthal nodded at Blair's wine glass. "At least, finish your wine."


"Actually," Blair said, standing, "wine is the last thing I need before the drive home.” He nodded toward the hall. "But what I do need before starting out is the restroom."



Jim turned onto Prospect Street. It was past ten and this had been a very unsatisfying evening for staking out a perp. He hadn't shown before Jim was replaced by Rafe and Brown.


His cell phone rang and he picked it up. "Ellison."


"Mr. Ellison?" a hesitant voice said.




"I'm Professor Rosenthal. I'm calling you about Blair."


Jim's heart raced. "What about Blair?"


"He's - he's at my house and he's not doing very well. He seems rather out of his head. He wasn't feeling well. I'm not sure if he needs an ambulance. I thought it best to call you first."


"Where are you?" Jim nearly shouted.


"115 Forester Street. It's near Campbell and Rainier Boulevard."


"Right. I'm on my way."


Jim gunned the SUV forward. Out of it? Not feeling well?


Could it be exhaustion? Blair had said he hoped to cut back the meetings with Rosenthal, because he didn't feel they were that productive anymore, and the whole project was taking a major bite out of his time.


If Rosenthal knew to call Jim, then did that mean Blair was conscious enough to give him the number? Or had the professor gone through Blair's things to find an emergency contact?


Rosenthal was at the door as Jim ran up the sidewalk. He appeared a much more complacent person than Jim had imagined.


"He's here, in my bedroom," Rosenthal said. "I was able to get him to walk in here and lie down."


Blair lay on the bed, his pants unfastened and unzipped, his eyes dazed.


"Chief, Sandburg," Jim called, rushing to his side. "Can you hear me, buddy?"


Blair's eyes drifted toward him. He made a noise that might have been "Jim".


"Do you hurt anywhere?" Jim asked gently.


Blair didn't reply, but glanced away with glassy eyes.


Jim put his hand near Blair's lower abdomen, where his pants were undone. "You feel nauseated? Huh?"


No reaction. Blair looked dazed and miserable.


Rosenthal cleared his throat and stepped forward. "I-I dressed him. He was in the john when I heard him collapse. I tried to pull his pants back up."


Oh. That's why Blair looked disheveled. He'd passed out in the john... maybe from intestinal cramps?


In any case, he didn't seem capable of answering questions. Jim looked at Rosenthal. "What else can you tell me?"


"He seemed rushed when he arrived here. He was yawning and rubbing his eyes and said he wanted to leave early and cut back on our meetings. I agreed. Then he said he wanted to use the restroom before leaving. A few minutes later, I heard him collapse."


"Has he eaten or drank anything?” Jim placed his hand on Blair's brow in a soothing gesture.


"He brought his own bottled water. He didn't touch the wine I'd poured. I sometimes have mixed nuts sitting out, but I didn't have time for that tonight.” Rosenthal shifted. "Has anything like this happened before?"


Jim shook his head. "I'm going to take him to the hospital in my vehicle."


"Would it be better to call an ambulance? I almost did before I called you."


"I don't want to stress him any more than necessary. It's a good thing you called.” Jim gathered Blair up, knowing this was going to be a challenge. "Chief, try to take it easy. I'm going to take you out of here.” He lifted, feeling the enormous strain on his back, and hurried with Blair down the hall.


Rosenthal moved ahead of them and opened the door to the house, and then rushed out to open the door to the SUV.


Jim placed Blair in the front seat and buckled him in. Blair leaned against the restraints, toward the door, and groaned.


"Easy, Chief. I'll be right back.” Jim turned to Rosenthal. "I need to get his things."


They went back in the house. Jim gathered up the papers that Rosenthal indicated were Blair's and shoved them into

Blair's backpack.  The laptop followed.  He grabbed the water bottle on the table and also shoved it into an opening.


Jim straightened. "Where's his wine glass?"


Rosenthal looked surprised and gestured to the kitchen. "I poured the wine back in the bottle and rinsed the glass out."


"I'd like to take the bottle, please."


Rosenthal reached to the counter for the bottle, but protested, "He didn't drink any of it tonight."


"But he has before?"


"Yes. I always offer him a glass. Usually, he asks for just half a glass."


"I want to take the bottle, anyway, and test it, just in case."


Rosenthal's eyes narrowed. "You think he's been drugged? The bottle has been in my possession since I bought it a few weeks ago."


"Anything is possible," Jim said. "I have to get back to him.” He took the bottle and turned toward the door.


"Please phone me later and tell me how he is," Rosenthal called after him.



"You can come in and see him now."


Jim followed the nurse. Blair's doctor had stopped only to give him the brief assessment that Blair appeared to have been drugged. They would have to wait for the tests to come back, but they had ruled out any kind of injury or ailment to cause his symptoms, as well as eliminating alcohol. He had been on an IV and could go home to sleep off the rest of the affects.


"Hey, Chief," Jim greeted with a smile.


Blair's baggy eyes lethargically moved to Jim.


"How you feeling?"


"Lousy. Like a hangover. What the hell happened?"


Jim moved a stool beside the bed and sat down. "We're still trying to figure that out. What's the last thing you remember?"


"Going to Professor Rosenthal's house. Does he know I'm here?"


Jim nodded. "He's the one who called me. Said you weren't feeling well and then passed out. When I got there, you were conscious but you seemed pretty out of it. The doctor thinks you were drugged."


"Yeah, she told me. But I don't see how - "


"Settle down," Jim said softly, holding up his hand. "Let's take it one step at a time.” He put his hand on Blair's arm, which was bare beneath the smock. "Do you remember arriving at Rosenthal's house?"


Blair looked away for a long moment. "I think so. It's just images. I guess I can't be sure if they're really from tonight."


"That's okay. You might remember more after you sleep it off.” He gave Blair a moment, and then asked, "Do you remember feeling bad at all today? Nauseated?"


It was another moment before Blair replied. "No. I've been tired lately. I remember I wanted to talk to him about not meeting as often."


"He told me that you mentioned that and he agreed. He told me that you seemed pretty worn out."


Blair looked at Jim. "Then what happened?"


"He said you went into the bathroom. He heard you collapse."




"He found you. Said he was able to get you to move to the bedroom. Then he called me. When I came and got you, you were lying on his bed, out of it."


"I don't remember any of that."


"Chief, you don't remember having any kind of stomach or intestinal problems?"


Blair furrowed his brow. "No. Why?"


Jim shifted, not sure how to say this without distressing Blair. "When I came and got you, your pants were undone. Rosenthal said he pulled them back up after finding you in the bathroom."


Blair's respiration increased. "How could that be? I would have used his bathroom to piss. If I'd had to take a dump, I would have waited until I got home."


Yes. That's what Jim had been afraid of.


"God," Blair said with grit teeth, looking away. "Just the idea of him messing with me like that...."


Jim squeezed Blair's arm and gently said, "Let's not get ahead of ourselves. He's the one who called me. He seemed concerned about you."


"But if I was drugged, who would have - "


"I don't know. But I'm going to interview him again tomorrow. I took a wine bottle from his place for testing. If it comes up positive, he's going to have a heck of a time coming up with an alibi."


Looking straight ahead, Blair said, "I wasn't assaulted. The doctor told me that. Still....” He looked away again. Then, after taking a deep breath, "I can't imagine what he had in mind. Even if he did have the worst of intentions, it's not like he's strong enough to lift me or maneuver me around.” He squeezed his eyes shut. "Damn, just the thought of it feels so violating...."


"Easy, easy," Jim said, rising and cupping the side of Blair's face. "Easy does it, Chief. Let's not jump to conclusions. Let's get you home and into your own bed. We'll discuss it some more when your memory is clearer."


"I know about these drugs, Jim. My memory might never return."


Yes. But, "Then again, it might. You ready to get up and get dressed?” Blair was going to need help. "Want me to get the nurse?"


Blair hesitated a long moment. "Maybe I can just do it.” He rose up.


Jim held onto Blair's arm as he slipped off the gurney. With his other hand, Jim reached beneath the gurney and grabbed Blair's jeans.


"I don't care about underwear," Blair said, taking the jeans. He spent a moment figuring out the mechanics, and then awkwardly slipped a leg through while Jim moved closer and tightened his steadying grip.


Once having pulled the jeans up his hips, beneath the gown, Jim handed him the shirt, and then began untying the straps at the back.


When the gown was loose, Blair pulled it off. He waited while Jim arranged the t-shirt so that his arms could reach the sleeves. As soon as he pulled it down, Jim handed him the heavy pullover sweater, and Blair seemed more alert as he maneuvered into it without assistance.


Jim bent one more time. "Here's your coat."


Blair tucked it under his arm. He took a step toward Jim, leaning against him as though to steady himself.


Then he gripped Jim's side.


"Hey," Jim whispered, realizing the motion hadn't been accidental. He wrapped his arms around Blair and pulled him close. "It's all right. I'm here."


Blair laid his head against the top of Jim's shoulder and took a deep, steadying breath.


Jim rubbed his back. "It's going to be all right, Chief."


"Thanks for coming for me."


"Of course, I came for you. What are friends for, huh?"


Blair's hand squeezed him extra hard, and then he pulled back.


Jim kept a hand on his arm as they made their way out of the hospital and to the parking lot.


Once they were buckled in the SUV, Jim started the motor and headed out to the street.


"Feeling any better?" he asked conversationally.


"A little more alert. I'm not sure that qualifies as 'better'."


Indeed, Blair's body was tense as he stared out the windshield. Then he said in a sorrowful tone, "You were right about him."


"What do you mean?"


"You even said that he might try to drug me."


Gently, Jim said, "If I'd really thought he would do something like that, I would have tried to talk you out of the project. Besides, we don't know that for sure."


Blair's teeth grit. "I hate that about myself. I hate the way I turn into the worst sort of slut the minute somebody pays me a compliment. Lie on my back and spread my legs and say, 'Come take what you want.'"


Whoa. Firmly, Jim said, "Everyone is like that, Chief. Everyone. I can't speak for women, but men want approval from the men they admire. That's how we know we've crossed into a manhood - when a man who means a lot to us recognizes us as an equal. You don't have a monopoly on those feelings. All right?” He looked over at Blair for an extended moment.


Blair continued to stare ahead.


Jim softened his voice. "If it turns out that the worst happened, it wasn't anything you did, Chief. He wouldn't have had to drug you if you'd been agreeable."


Blair took a deep breath. Then, "When I was a young student my first couple of years in college? I went to a few parties. Did some drugs. You know, trying to fit in. I took roofies a few times, just for the high.” Choked, he said, "Coming down from them, it felt just like I feel now. He gave me roofies. I know it."


That's what Jim had suspected too. It was the "date rape" drug that was the most popular in Cascade. "The tests on the bottle of wine will confirm that."


"What if he just put it in my glass and not in the bottle? He always drank wine, too."


Jim sighed. "He'd already rinsed the glass out.” Still, Jim felt compelled to say, "There might be another explanation, Chief. Let's not think the worst just yet."


Distressed, Blair said, "He told you that he pulled my pants up, right? He volunteered that information. That actually happened, even if nothing else did."


Jim held up a soothing hand. "It's possible that you may have come down with a weird illness all of a sudden, Chief. Something unusual that the doctors didn't check for. Maybe you were using the toilet and passed out, and don't remember. Hopefully the blood and urine tests will tell us something conclusively.” He tried to relax. "Besides, why would he have volunteered so much information?"


"To turn suspicions away from him."


Jim spent a long moment in thought. "Chief? Are you remembering something? That makes you certain he would have tried something?"


Blair shook his head. "It's just something I-I know. Inside. A feeling I have."


"You've been uneasy about him from the start, no matter how flattered you were by his interest in your academics. I wonder why. I mean, like you kept telling me, it's not like he could force anything from you."


Blair tried to turn his back to Jim, which he could only partially accomplish while restricted by the seat belt. He muttered, "It wasn't him I wanted the flattery from."


Jim blinked.


And blinked.


Aw, shit.


Was Blair talking about the article with his name?


Or was he talking about something broader than that?


Had Jim not praised him enough? Not complimented him enough?


He had complimented Blair sometimes. He was sure of it. "I'll make a cop out of you yet.” "You're learning, Chief."


Of course, that was cop stuff. He'd never complimented Blair for his academics. For the sentinel stuff.


And here he'd been, lecturing Blair about how approval from men one admires was the rite of passage from boyhood into manhood.


Jesus Christ.


He felt like an ass.


He glanced over at Blair, who was curled toward door.


Blair probably felt even worse.


The Rohypnol had lowered his inhibitions, making it relatively easy to confess something that Blair otherwise would never confess. I want your approval. I want you to see me as an equal. I want you to think I'm really something.  I want you to tell me that out loud.


Ah, damn. Jim reached over and placed his hand on Blair's back. He was grateful that Blair didn't flinch or otherwise try to pull away. "It's all right."


How was he going to fix this?



"You're off the case. You're the off the case. You're off the case."


Jim clenched his jaw as he stood before Simon's desk. "You can't do that."


"Watch me: you're off the case. Rafe and Brown can question Professor Rosenthal and proceed from there."


Jim bent to place his hands on the desk. "Sir, I want this."


"Tough. You aren't getting it."


Jim straightened and looked toward the ceiling, wondering how to retain his temper.


"Look, Jim, has it not occurred to you that if it turns out Sandburg was molested by this guy, what he needs most right now is to have a caring friend around to talk to?"


Jim pounced on that. "The best way I can help Sandburg is to find out the truth about what happened last night."


"Rafe and Brown are quite capable of uncovering the truth. Take a day off and go home. When I call you later to update you, you'd better damn well be there. Now get the hell the out of my office and go take care of the kid."


Jim left, slamming the door behind him.



He closed the door very gently when he arrived at the loft.


He hung up his coat and stepped quietly toward Blair's room.  One of the French doors was slightly ajar - as it usually was, since Blair didn't like the feeling of locking Jim out - and Jim peeked through the opening.


Blair was curled in bed beneath the covers, facing the wall.






Jim entered. "How are you?"


Blair rolled onto his back and shifted the covers over himself so that he was still well beneath them. "The fuzzy feeling is gone. Now I just feel worn out. Not sure it's all physical though."


Jim nodded and sat down on the floor, resting against the bed.


"Did you talk to Rosenthal?" Blair asked.


"Simon took me off the case. I told Rafe and Brown everything I knew and that you'd said, so they're going to question him."


"You're mad," Blair said quietly.


"Of course, I am. It's hard sitting around waiting for information, when I could be helping to gather it."


"Simon didn't put you on another case?"


Jim turned his head to look at Blair. "He thought you'd probably need somebody around. He really cares, you know."


Blair nodded with a half smile. "I know.” He rested his arm behind his head, revealing new-smelling, plush sweats. "Whenever you bring up how much I'm cared about, you always mention Simon."


Jim shrugged. He supposed it did sound a little ridiculous.


With a hint of humor, Blair said, "It's okay, Jim. Your own feelings are the one thing you can't bring yourself to be very direct about."


Jim wanted to change the subject, so he didn't feel so exposed. "Are you remembering anything else?"


"Little bit.” Blair was thoughtful. "You mentioned testing the wine bottle?"


"Yes. We should have the results later today."


"I remember telling Rosenthal that I didn't want any wine. He'd poured me half a glass but I don't remember touching the glass.” He shrugged. "Doesn't mean I didn't, I guess."


"Hmm. He mentioned that to me too. I asked if you'd eaten or drank anything, and he said he'd tried to serve you wine and you didn't want any.” Jim followed the train of thought. "He was surprised I wanted to take the bottle for testing, but he didn't try to stop me.” He slowly shook his head. "If it comes up negative, I'm not sure what it'll mean.” He glanced back at Blair. "You remember any rumors at school about him that would hint at him having ever tried anything like that before?"


"No. It just seemed to be general knowledge that he was a homosexual, though he didn't flaunt it. The campus was quite a hunting ground to find young men interested in sex, even if they otherwise wouldn't be interested in doing it with an older guy."


"He must have some kind of appeal, something to draw guys in."


"He's a nice man, Jim. A respected professor. An appealing charm, in a sense.” Blair shook his head and his voice was unsteady. "I hope, so much, that he didn't do anything. But I know that he did."


Jim turned to face Blair. "How can you be so certain if you don't have any memory of anything?” His voice hardened. "Did he try something with you before?"


"No. He'd just asked me some questions about my personal life - I've already told you about that. That's all."


Jim furrowed his brow. "Then why are you so sure?"


"I can't explain it."


"You remember that first night you were going to see him? I was teasing you about his interest in men. You didn't think it was funny. You were annoyed with me."


Blair lowered his gaze and shrugged.


Jim pressed, "That wasn't like you. What I'm getting at is that, even before you talked to him extensively that first time, you had a bad feeling about it. What I want to know is where that bad feeling comes from. There has to be a reason you had bad vibes from the start."


Blair gazed at the covers for a long moment. Then, without raising his eyes, he said, "I was annoyed because you were so focused on the sex. I really wanted to believe that he wanted to collaborate with me because he thought I was a great researcher, a great anthropologist, a great writer.” Blair frowned heavily as his eyes darted to the wall. "What a joke."


Remembering what Blair had revealed last night on the way home from the hospital, Jim gently said, "Maybe it isn't. Maybe he really does think all those things about you. Any sexual interest on his part could be completely different from that."


"I don't want him to think good thoughts about me - on any level. It nauseates me that he thinks anything about me at all.” The hand behind Blair's head clenched into a tight fist. "Even though the doctors didn't find anything, he could have been... doing stuff to me. Playing with my nuts, my cock... fingering my asshole."


Jim rose to his knees, wanting so much to help. But how? He squelched the temptation to remind Blair that nothing may have happened. Blair was so certain something had that Jim realized he believed him.


He placed his hand on the covers. "Is there anything I can do?"


Blair closed his eyes and shook his head. Then his other hand found its way out from beneath the covers and took Jim's hand and squeezed it. "Thanks for being here."


So it was a good thing Simon had sent him home, after all.


"Hey," Jim said, reaching for him, feelings from the past weeks rearing up in full force.


Blair glanced at him hesitantly, but only for a brief moment. He moved to put his arms around Jim and pulled tight.


Jim rubbed up and down Blair's back. "I'm sorry all this has happened."


"Not your doing.” Then, with a self-conscious chuckle, "We have to stop meeting like this."


Jim wished Blair wouldn't keep saying things that made him feel so vulnerable. He decided to turn the tables. "Chief, um, you know, I realize I'm not the kind of guy who is as forthright as you'd liked sometimes. But all the help you've given me.... you know, it means a lot.” Shit, he still felt vulnerable. "I'm amazed at all the things you help with - both for me and for the Department."


Abruptly, Blair was out of his arms and lay heavily back against the pillows. "Don't you think I'm a little old to be seeking approval from a Daddy figure?” His mouth was set in a hard frown.


Jim's heart raced as a lifetime of memories rose up. He struggled to keep his tone light. "I didn't realize there was an age limit."


Blair studied him a moment. "What's wrong? What do you mean?"


Jim snorted at the idea he actually had to explain it. "You think I don't wish, every goddamned day, that my father - my flesh-and-blood biological father - would have, just once, looked at me with approval? Let alone said anything to validate it?”


He felt the urge to move and was on his feet. He turned to face Blair, forcing his voice to soften. "I'll never have that. Never. Even if he were to make a point of saying something now, it would only be because he knew I wanted it.” He lowered his head. "It would be far too little, too late.” Soft snort. "Doesn't keep me from wanting it though."


Funny, how it didn't bother him as much to share these particular feelings. Hell, he decided, they were worthy of pity.


Besides, Blair would understand.


He looked at Blair now.


Blair gazed at him, his mouth open. Then he said, "But... being in the army and stuff, being a decorated soldier... didn't that help your sense of manhood?"


"Yeah," Jim said, eager now to share more positive memories. "There were various superiors in the army who meant a lot to me. Coaches in school. I got what I needed from them. Still, it doesn't change the fact that I'll always want that approval, first and foremost, from my old man.” He looked away.


Blair, for once, seemed at a loss for words, and Jim was sorry to have made this conversation more about himself than about Blair.


Jim knelt back to the bed. "Chief, don't beat yourself up any more for wanting Professor Rosenthal or anyone else to think the world of you. You're not any the lesser for it.” He was about to add, "You're the victim here", but that wasn't an established fact.


Blair's expression had softened, even as his gaze went to the wall. "Thanks, Jim," he said dismissively.


Jim turned away, leaving Blair to his privacy.



Later that afternoon, Blair was on the sofa, working on school notes on his laptop. Jim was feeling restless to know how the case was going.


The phone rang.




Simon said, "I've got good news and bad news. The good news is that the wine bottle came back clean. The bad news is that Blair's tests shows that he was drugged with Rohypnol."


Jim sighed, aware of Blair watching him. "Damn. Rosenthal said that he poured Blair's untouched wine back into the bottle and rinsed out the glass. But that doesn't mean he didn't simply pour it into the sink."


"Right. You need to ask Blair if there's anyone else he came into contact with that night, any other possible explanation as to how he could have been slipped roofies, if it wasn't Rosenthal."


"Yeah," Jim said, "keeping in mind that his memory isn't going to be reliable."


"Yeah," Simon said with a sigh of his own.


Jim hung up.


"What's the verdict?" Blair asked.


"The wine wasn't drugged. But you were.”


Blair looked resigned.


Jim moved to the coffee table, pushing Blair's work aside so he could sit down, facing Blair. "Let's work this through. Do you have any recollection of leaving the loft last night?"


Blair thought. Then, "Yeah, actually. I'd gone to the grocery store earlier in the day, and had thought I'd leave the sack in the car because I bought mostly bottled water. But then I remembered that I'd also bought cheese and it had been sitting in the car. I got the cheese out and put it in the refrigerator.” He nodded, "Yeah, I remember that. I know it seems like a long time ago, but it had to be last night."


Jim was relieved to nod in return. "Yes, the new cheese is still in the refrigerator, unopened.” He furrowed his brow. "The bottled water... it's still in your car?"


"I guess. It was all in a plastic sack."


"You took one in with you to Rosenthal's house, right?"


Puzzled, Blair shook his head. "I don't remember that.” Then he brightened. "No, it wasn't a new bottle. I'd had a bottle I'd already been drinking still in my car. I took that with me into Rosenthal's house."


"When I asked him if you'd eaten or drank anything, he said that you'd declined to drink the wine, but you'd brought water with you.” Now Jim brightened. "It's still in my truck, with your other stuff. We'll need to test it.”


Jim eagerly leaned forward with this new hope. "Chief, is there any chance that you stopped somewhere else between here and Rosenthal's house? Talked to anybody?"


Blair slowly shook his head. "No. I don't remember anything like that. I'm sure I went straight from the loft to his house. After coming back up to put the cheese away, I was running a little late."


"You didn't stop for gas?"


"No. I'd filled up earlier in the day. That's where I bought the bottled water that was still in my car, and that I took in with me."


Jim stood and began pacing. "Then, if no one else drugged you and it was Rosenthal, how did he get the drugs into your system? You and he both said you didn't drink the wine."


"Maybe he put it in my bottled water?" Blair said thoughtfully. His eyes squinted in thought. Then he said, "I don't think I was ever without the water though. I don't know when he would have had the chance."


"What about when you went to the restroom?"


"If I supposedly collapsed in the restroom, then he would have had to slip the roofies in my water prior to that. But we were sitting at his table the whole time, like we always do. When could he have done that?"


Jim sat back down on the coffee table. "Are you sure you were sitting at his table the whole time?"


"It's kind of fuzzy," Blair relented, thoughtful. "But I remember wisps of our conversation about me not wanting to meet as often. I was relieved that he seemed agreeable and didn't want to argue about it."


"He told me that you were tired, yawning a lot."


Blair shrugged. "I guess. Going over to his place so much was getting old.” He glanced at Jim with a sheepish smile. "I was looking forward to going back to spending more time with you."


Jim didn't want to stray from the subject. "You don't think there was any time when your back was turned and he could have slipped something in your water?"


Blair started to shake his head. Then his eyes widened and his head suddenly bowed. He covered his face with his hands. "Oh, God."


Jim placed a gentle hand on Blair's stiff shoulder. "What?" he asked softly, squeezing.


Blair raised his head but his eyes were closed. "His laptop was in its case, sitting by the stereo. He said he had a little arthritis in his arm, and he asked me to pick it up and set it on the table. I just had my back turned for a few seconds, but it would have been enough to...."


"You sure?" Jim said levelly.


Blair nodded, keeping his eyes closed. "My memory of everything leading up to me needing to leave is coming back. It's what happened after that that I don't remember."


Because the roofies had kicked in. Keeping his voice calm, Jim asked, "Do you remember saying you needed to use the restroom?"


"I - I just remember walking down the hall to go to the restroom. I was thinking how glad I was to be leaving and that we wouldn't be needing to meet much more."


"Do you remember how you felt at the time? Maybe a little woozy?"


Blair opened his eyes and gazed at the ceiling. "Not really. Just kind of tired. Not necessarily physically tried, but just sort of tired of the whole project. Tired of him. Glad it was going to be over with soon.” He looked at Jim. "But I can't say I felt 'funny' or intoxicated in any way."


"Do you remember actually being in the restroom?"


Blair looked away for a long time. "No. I remember starting down the hall and all those things going through my mind.” He slowly shook his head. "After that, everything blanks out until I woke up in the hospital."


"Do you remember me arriving at Rosenthal's and being in the bedroom with you?"


Slowly, thoughtfully, Blair said, "I have images of you hovering over me. But I don't know if that was at Rosenthal's or the hospital."


Worried what it might trigger, Jim carefully asked, "Do you have fuzzy memories of anything else?"


"You mean of Rosenthal messing with me? No.” His mouth hardened into a frown.


"What about a timeline?" Jim asked. "What time were you supposed to be at Rosenthal's?"


"We always meet a seven. I got there maybe ten minutes later."


"How long do you think you were there before you blacked out?"


"Not even two hours. I was in a hurry to get done and get gone."


"It was a little after nine when he called me. So, we aren't missing much time. It helped that you didn't take wine, because alcohol would have enhanced the high. The high would have lasted longer, in any case, except we got you to the hospital and they got you on an IV to dilute the effects.” Jim shook his head, the pieces of the puzzle still not fitting. "The reason we got to you so fast was because Rosenthal called me. He seemed genuinely concerned. That doesn't fit with him deliberately trying to drug you."


"Except to cover his own tracks."


"Yeah," Jim said with a sigh, rising. "We're going to have to find roofies at his house to have any chance of convicting him. Even then, it's probably going to take a confession.”  He moved toward the door. "We need to get that bottle of water tested, to see if there's any traces left.” He reached for his coat. "You feel up to coming along?"


Blair nodded, getting to his feet. "Yep."



When they returned, the light on the answering machine was blinking.


It was Rosenthal's hesitant voice. "I'm calling to check on Blair. I'm worried. If he doesn't feel up to calling me, then please, Detective Ellison, let me know how he's doing. 555-6749."


Blair visibly shuddered. "I can't even stand to hear his voice."


To Jim, Rosenthal simply sounded like a worried old man. He and Blair had both read his statement, taken by Rafe and Brown, and Rosenthal had described hearing a noise in the bathroom. When Blair hadn't answered his call, he'd opened the door, which hadn't been locked, and found Blair next to the commode, his pants partly down his hips. Blair had seemed dazed but, with much prompting, was able to make his way to the bedroom to lie down. Rosenthal had found Jim's number in Blair's address book, and had tried to pull Blair's pants all the way up, out of concern for Blair's modesty, while waiting for Jim to arrive.


Everything seemed above board. Except that Blair had Rohypnol in his system.


Jim released a sigh. Subdued, he said, "Chief, even if the water bottle comes up positive, we're going to have trouble coming up with enough probable cause for a search warrant. This man is a respected professor without any priors. The chances of convicting him are practically nil."


Blair nodded. Then, "What are you thinking?"


"I want to talk to him face-to-face."


"You're not on the case. Simon has made that clear."


A smile appeared at the corner of Jim's mouth. "As a detective, I'm not. But as your roommate, I've just been asked by the good professor to let him know how you are. I think we should arrange a meeting. Just he and I."


"I'm coming, Jim."


"I need to do this alone, Chief. So I can focus on his reaction to my questions, not on your reaction to him."


"Right, I understand. I'm just saying I want to come along."


Jim picked up the phone and dialed the professor's number.



They had arranged to meet at Rosenthal's house after his last class ended at 7:20 pm. Blair told him the location of the class, and Jim decided to catch the professor off guard.


He waited until most of the evening students had filed out of the building, and then Rosenthal was spotted, carrying his satchel with his books. He had parked in a lot opposite the students, where there was reserved parking.


Jim walked over to him in the darkness. "Professor Rosenthal?"


Rosenthal stopped and looked up. "You're... Jim Ellison, is it? I thought we were meeting at my home."


"My last appointment ended early and I was in the area, so thought I'd stop by."


"How is Blair? You didn't seem to want to tell me much over the phone."


"As you know, he was drugged with Rohypnol."


"Yes, I don't understand how that could be. He must have taken a spiked drink before coming to my house. It would explain why he seemed so tired and distracted. Please, how is he?"


Jim wasn't sure of the best way to play this. "Pretty upset at what happened, as I'm sure you can imagine. It's not easy for a person to have lost time in a blackout - and not know how they came to be drugged in the first place."


Surprised, Rosenthal said, "Surely, he doesn't think I drugged him. Why would I do such a thing?"


"He turned down your advances."


The professor's expression hardened. "I would hardly call them 'advances'. I wasn't aware that simply asking common questions about relationships was considered such."


"Come on, Professor, your preferences are well known around campus."


Rosenthal straightened.  "What do you want, Ellison? I agreed to meet with you because I thought we were going to talk about Blair's health. Are you here as a detective? I've already told the police everything I know."


Jim shook his head. "Not as a detective. As Blair's roommate. And friend. And wanting to hear your explanation for myself, to see how Blair ended up drugged in your home."


A grim smile formed at the professor's mouth. "You protect him, as he does you. He's always so careful when he speaks of you, Mr. Ellison. Always makes sure he doesn't say too much, and only speaks of you in the most glowing of terms.” A moment of hesitation then, "Forgive me, if I'm a bit envious of that. At my age, the days of young students looking up to me are long gone."


Jim mocked, "Self-pity from the reputable professor? According to my research, you've gotten around. Co-written lots of articles with young students."


"I see your department does its research. Yes, I like to help superior students get a leg up in the publishing world. That's what I wanted to do for Blair. He's quite brilliant and a fine writer in his own right."


Jim's hearing had caught the sound of careful footsteps, and he knew Blair had left the truck and was hiding in nearby trees. He was glad Blair had heard the professor make that statement.


"He was excited about co-authoring with you," Jim said. "Surely, you didn't think trying to force someone into a sexual liaison by drugging them was going to increase his admiration for you."


"Please.” Rosenthal looked distressed. "I had no such intention. I've never forced anything on anyone in my life."


"But you did drug him," Jim said in his most confident voice.


"Please.” The professor's eyes widened. "You're wearing a wire, aren't you?"


Jim shook his head. "No. That would be entrapment and never make it past a preliminary hearing. Just tell me the truth, Professor. Get it off your chest."


"I've never done anything like that before.” Rosenthal was distressed again. "I wasn't trying to force anything from him. I'm not physically strong enough to coerce anything from even a drugged body."


Jim firmed his jaw. "Then why the roofies?"


"I... I .. know someone at campus who sells them. I bought them more as a joke between us. I never intended to use them. But I was curious, and Blair was so determined to show how uninterested he was. I just put them in his water as an experiment, when his back was turned. I just wanted to see if, under the influence, he might be more agreeable. Even if he had been, I wouldn't have tried anything with him in that state. I was only curious... if he might change his mind.”


The professor spread his hands, his voice sincere, "Please forgive an old man's fantasies. Nothing was to come of it. I feel terrible that he ended up feeling as bad as he did to the point that I had to have you come and get him. My friend had said the dosage wasn't that strong, and I had intended to enhance it with alcohol, but Blair wouldn't drink any."


Jim remained unmoved. "What happened in the bathroom?"


The professor looked like he didn't want to answer, but then said, in a tone of defeat, "I heard a noise. When he didn't answer my knock, I went in. He was kneeling, like he could hardly stand, and then collapsed on his side.” He hesitated again. "I-I considered taking advantage and unfastened his pants."


Jim felt sick inside.


The professor hurriedly said, "But I didn't even have them pulled down before I realized I didn't want to go through with it. So, I got him to walk to the bed and pulled them back up.” Then, sadly, "Nothing happened. I swear it."


Blair suddenly emerged, standing between Jim and the professor. "You think that makes it okay?" he demanded.


"Blair," Rosenthal said in surprise. "Are you all right, my boy?"


"Don't call me that. I'm not 'your boy'. I admired you. Now you sicken me."


Rosenthal lowered his gaze but seemed to give up on defending himself. Then he said, "I'll finish our article, but I'll make sure you get co-credit, like we agreed."


Blair took a step toward him. "I don't want credit. I don't want to dirty my name by having it next to yours. Understand?"


"Blair, please, I understand your anger. But having an article co-authored with me will be good for your career. Please let me do this for you."


"I don't want anything from you. Nothing in my career is worth being associated with you. I'm ashamed to have known you. If you try to have my name next to yours, I'll deny I had anything to do with the article.” He abruptly turned his back.


Rosenthal swallowed loudly. "For what it's worth, I'm sorry. I've never done anything like that before, and certainly never will again.” Then, after a long moment, he asked Jim, "Am I under arrest?"


Yes, Jim wanted to say. But he already knew how this was going to play out. The professor said nothing had happened, the timeline supported that, and since Blair had no memory, Rosenthal would get short-term probation or community service. He believed Rosenthal's sincerity that he'd never pull anything like that again. A judge was likely to believe it too.


"Blair?" Jim said.


Blair turned around, his focus on Jim. "I don't need an arrest. Not if he gives us the name of the person who sold him the roofies.” He looked at Rosenthal. "And not if you never mention my name in association with any of your work. Got that?"


Rosenthal's eyes remained lowered. "Yes."


Blair came within a few feet of him. "If I dare get even a wisp of something like this happening to someone else, I won't hesitate for a moment to open all this back up again and tell what Jim and I heard tonight.” Blair turned on his heel. "Get the name and let's go."


Jim pulled out his notebook and cheerfully said to the professor, "Who is the dealer that sold you the roofies?"



"Are you sure about this?" Jim asked when they were driving away from campus. "I'd hate for you to later wish I'd arrested him."


"Jim, we know how this is going to go.” Blair released a breath. "The thing is, I believe him, that nothing happened. There wasn't enough missing time. Still, to doesn't mean that it doesn't make me crazy that he touched me at all. But trying to drag this through the courts isn't going to solve anything.” He made a point of relaxing in his seat. "I'm ready to say good riddance and let this go. Him seeing how his actions affected how I feel about him was better punishment than an impersonal trial."


"All right. Hopefully, we can make some progress with this drug dealer, so he can't sell the stuff to other kids who won't hesitate to take advantage of its power."


Blair didn't reply and watched out the windshield.


Jim reached over and nudged him. "You up to maybe getting some dinner?"


Blair nodded. "Yeah, that sounds good.” He was silent a moment, then, "Jim? Thanks for sticking through this with me and caring so much. I really appreciate it."


Jim shrugged. But he remembered the professor's words. "You protect him the same way he protects you. He's always so careful when he speaks of you."


He wasn't sure how he felt about that. Good, he supposed. The words suggested a reverence on Blair's part - a reverence the professor had been envious of.


A reverence that was mutual.



When they were eating, Jim said, "Are you sure you aren't going to regret not having your name on that article? It's an important magazine, right?"


"Next to his?" Blair said, indignant. Then he quieted. "I can't believe that my whole career is going to come down to co-authoring an article with him. I've already been published on my own. If I can't get published again, without his 'assistance', well, that doesn't say much about my abilities, does it?"


Jim was heartened by how positive Blair was trying to be. "Good point."


Blair focused on his meal a moment. After sipping his water, he said, "I'm really okay about everything, Jim. It's just," he shuddered, "the idea that he was touching me at all below the waist. You know what I bet happened? He wanted to try something, and then realized he wasn't strong enough to do anything with me - you know, turn me into any kind of position."


Yes, thoughts like that were something that a person could obsess over. "I thought you believed him."


"I do. I just think he's convinced himself that he really didn't intend to try anything."


Jim waited until Blair looked up again so he could meet his eye. "You going to see somebody about this?" he asked gently.


"You mean like a therapist?"


Jim nodded.


"Nah. I'm okay, Jim. Really. I just need to be allowed to have a little anger."


Jim shrugged. "You can have a lot of anger, if you want. Just know that if you break anything at the loft, you're the one who's going to pay to replace it."


"I have to admit," Blair said with a sigh, "the thought of kicking in the TV screen gives me a good feeling right now."


Jim reached for his napkin. "Great. I've been hoping to get a new one."



But Jim had decided on a better idea by the time they arrived home. After bringing the SUV to a halt in the parking lot, he deftly reached to the floorboard and grabbed Blair's backpack.


"What are you doing?"


Jim didn't answer and started marching across the lot to the neighborhood park.


Blair was out of the truck. "Where are you going?" he called after Jim.


Jim began walking backwards, holding up the bag. "Come and get it."




"Come and get it. You want it? Come get it."


Blair started moving toward him. "Stop playing around."


"You want it?" Jim taunted, still walking backwards.


"Yes," Blair replied forcefully.


"Come get it!” Jim turned and started running.


"Jim!" Blair protested. But he started after him.


Jim made his strides long and fast, using his enhanced sight to pick his way through the darkness. When he came to a row of shrubs surrounding a large flower garden, he slowed and turned around.


Blair was coming toward him. He, too, started to slow and Jim threw the backpack over the row of shrubs.


"Jim!  What did you do that for?” Blair was angry now.


"Because I felt like it."


"Go get it."


"No. You go get it."


Blair was walking faster. "You threw it, you get it."


"Make me."


"What?" Blair asked in disbelief.


Jim held out his hands in an instinctive gesture to show he was unarmed. "Make me.” Dammit, he had hoped he wouldn't have to work this hard. He made a beckoning gesture with his fingers. "Come on. Make me."


Blair's hands balled into fists and he charged at Jim.


Jim braced himself as Blair lowered his head to ram the full force of his body into him....


...except Jim timed it to step out of the way, so that Blair barely grazed his torso.


"Shithead," Blair said angrily, turning and not even pausing before lunging at Jim again. He slammed into Jim, pushing him into the shrubbery with his upraised hands.


Jim pushed Blair aside, and they struggled as they moved away from the shrubs. Blair gripped Jim to steady himself while focusing on trying to intertwine his leg with Jim's in order to trip him.


Jim strained to hold his ground, while trying to push Blair away.


They grunted and gasped, bracing against each other.


Finally, Jim managed to get the upper hand and he flung Blair to one side.


Blair staggered to one knee, then launched himself at Jim full force.


Jim thought he was braced for the impact, but Blair hit him more to the left, and Jim lost his balance. He grabbed onto Blair in an effort to stop his fall.


They both went down.


Jim landed on damp grass with a sharp grunt. Blair landed on top of him.


They wrestled, rolling around as they each tried to claim the dominant position.


Jim had greater strength, but Blair had youth on his side. They both stopped at the same time, gasping for breath, Blair on top of Jim.


"You did that on purpose," Blair said between breaths.


Jim relaxed against the moist grass. "Uh-huh.” He took another breath. "Feel better?"


"Don't know. Too tired.” Still panting, Blair rested his body against Jim's, his head on Jim's chest.


Jim reached for Blair with his hands, and realized his right was on Blair's hip. He intended to dart it away, and then thought what the hell. He let it rest there, his other arm embracing Blair's upper torso.


"We keep meeting like this," Blair murmured.


Uh-huh. "This grass is cold."


"It's your own fault."


Yep, and so was the fact that his clothes now probably had permanent grass stains. And, damn, he was going to be bruised for a while after all that wrestling around.


A hot shower sounded real nice right now. Jim let his arms drop. "Get up."


They helped each other stagger to their feet. Jim zeroed in his sight over the shrubbery. "It's over there," he pointed, as Blair was already looking for an opening in the row of hedges.


A few moments later, Blair came up next to Jim, holding the backpack. "I'm not sure there was anything important enough in this to be worth beating the crap out of you."


"Dream on. You didn't come anywhere near beating the crap out of me."


"Yes, I did."


They started back toward the parking lot, Blair leading.


"Hey," Jim said.


Blair paused and turned.


"You feel better?"


Blair grinned in the darkness. He nodded.


Then he frowned.


Jim took a few steps to close the gap between them. "What's wrong?"


Blair bowed his head. "Sometimes...."




"When I went over to Rosenthal's house," Blair mumbled, "it seemed like it would make more sense that I lived with someone like him - another academic. And sometimes... I'd fantasize that I would visit your place, to work on my sentinel project.” Pause.


Jim waited.


Blair swallowed thickly, his gaze still lowered. "And I would fantasize that you would start asking me questions about my love life, about how I would feel if a guy came onto me.” Deep breath. "And then I'd feel guilty, because I'd think that's something you shouldn't be to me. That you're too special to bring it down to that level.” Blair turned away, with a barely audible, "Gonna take a walk.” He dropped the backpack at Jim's feet and started moving along the edge of the park, hands stuffed in his pockets.


Dear God.


Mechanically, Jim picked up the backpack and began walking toward 852 Prospect.


Point A. Blair loved him. That was a fact.


Point B. Blair looked up to him and wanted his approval. Like a father/son thing. Big brother/little brother. Mentor/Mentee.


Point C. Blair was sometimes a tremendous help at the Cascade PD. Frankly, despite a complete lack of experience and training, he was the best partner Jim had ever had.


Point D. Blair was the only known living person on earth who knew about and understood the sentinel thing. That was something that a price couldn't be put on.


Which lead to Point E. This was all one big fucking mess.


Shit, it was his own fault. Cuddling Blair like that. Caring about him so much. Being envious that Blair had decided to spend so much time with Rosenthal.


Of course Blair was going to pick up on all those vibes, on some level. He'd outright mentioned the touchy-feely stuff.


Why had Jim kept doing it?


He bypassed the elevator and began the march up the stairs to the third floor.


Dammit, he cared about Blair. He wouldn't have the guy living with him if he didn't give a shit.


Now those lines of relating to each other in various ways were getting crossed, getting confused.


Blair fantasized about Jim asking him about his love life. About how he felt about men coming onto him.


And that meant...?


Blair was waiting for Jim to come on to him. To make a move, verbal or otherwise.


And then Blair had felt guilty about thinking those thoughts. Probably because of Points B, C, D, and E. Those points would be dirtied by stooping to something so crass.


Which left only Point A.


Jim unlocked the door to the loft and then rubbed at his forehead.


Yes, he decided as he hung up his jacket, his light brown pants had grass stains and wet spots. There was a small tear at one knee.


Shit, if he hadn't provoked Blair into wrestling with him, Blair probably wouldn't have spoken so openly. His exhaustion had weakened him.


Just as the roofies last night had allowed Blair to speak of his shame in yearning to have men he admired think the world of him.


Jim reached for a beer and twisted off the cap.


Weird, how Blair's drugging seemed like it had happened a long time ago. In truth, it had just been twenty-four hours. They didn't even have the tests back on the water bottle, though it was a moot point now.


He and Blair had hugged three times since then.




He took a long swig of beer.


Now what?


Avoid hugging each other? Keep a careful, oh-so-macho distance?


Dammit, he'd liked hugging Blair. Showing him that he cared about him.


But it's not like he wanted to fuck him or anything.


Did Blair really want that?


Or was he in some sort of boyhood/manhood confusion where he was romanticizing the idea of a man he admired - the one man he wanted - sweeping him off his feet and cuddling him, but just leaving it at that? Some kind of misplaced, arrested Daddy complex thing?


Would this be happening if Blair had had a father figure in his life?


Would this be happening if the situation with Rosenthal hadn't happened?


The phone rang.


Jim sipped his beer, letting the machine answer.


"Um, Jim? If you're there, will you pick up?"


Jim picked up the phone. "I'm here," he said, deliberately soft.


"Listen, I've been thinking and... you know... if you think it might be best for me to move out, I understand."


"That's not necessary. Not from my standpoint," Jim quickly amended, realizing that Blair might find it unbearable to have him so close, when he couldn't have him.


"I feel like we should talk," Blair's subdued voice continued, "but I know you don't like doing the talking thing. And I know that these are my feelings, my problem. I don't want you to think that it's up to you to 'fix' it or anything like that."


"Come home, Chief. It'll be all right.” It seemed as though he'd been saying the latter a lot lately, in his need to reassure.


Soft amusement. "Isn't this the part when you're supposed to tell me how much Simon cares about me?"


Okay, he deserved that. "Simon will be very happy to know that everything is fine and you're back home at the loft."


Brief chuckle.


"Hang up and come home."


"'Kay.” The line went dead.


Five minutes later, Blair walked through the door, still looking disheveled from their wrestling. "Are you mad at me? For saying what was probably better left unsaid?"


"No," Jim said firmly. "But I think you've had a lot thrown at you recently and it's no wonder that it's all getting mixed up.” He stepped closer, laying his hand on Blair's shoulder to prove to himself that he wasn't afraid of contact like that. "Chief, I-I can't even begin to consider having a discussion with you about any of this, until your life has gotten back to some sense of normalcy. Maybe you'll feel different then. Give yourself a chance."


Blair nodded. "Thanks for, you know, understanding and everything.” He moved passed Jim. "I'm going to take a hot shower."


Oh. Jim had meant to do that first.


Oh, well. Blair was home, safe and sound now. He could have the first shower.


If Blair took Jim's advice, and let life settle back into a familiar routine, Jim wondered how he would feel about him.


He shied away from wondering what he hoped Blair would feel.


For that matter, why hadn't he simply told Blair that he had no chance with him?


He shied away from wondering about that too.


He sat on the sofa and clicked on the TV, eager to know the day's basketball scores.



Blair was contemplative at the breakfast table, as they both ate bagels. "I had that dream again last night."


Jim sipped his coffee. "The one where you were a little tyke and that guy slugged you?"




"Not surprising, I guess. You always seem to have that dream when Rosenthal upsets you."


Blair was thoughtful, then shook his head. "Not the first time. The first time I had the dream was when I saw some homeless guy on the street. Something about the way he looked at me. I guess it reminded my subconscious of Raymond."


Jim carefully said, "Don't you feel there could be a connection between Raymond and Rosenthal?"


"What do you mean?"


He didn't want to be the one to say it. "Maybe, you know, Raymond molested you when you were little, or tried to. Maybe you were too young to remember, or deliberately blocked it out. Maybe Naomi never knew."


Blair slowly stirred his coffee. "I suppose it's possible.” Harsh snort. "I feel I must be wearing some kind of sign that says 'molest me'.” He picked up his cup in both hands.


"Not that I've seen."


After Blair sipped, he said, "I guess, even if something happened when I was little, there's nothing I can do about now. Raymond is dead."


"Hopefully, when the situation with Rosenthal is behind you, your dream will go away. If not, maybe you could try hypnosis or something along that line to unlock the memory."


Blair glanced shyly at Jim. "Never thought I'd see the day when you would recommend hypnosis.”


"It's worked with me when you've directed me regarding my senses."


"I consider that meditation, not hypnosis."


"Anyway, it's just a thought. Aren't you curious about why you keep having the dream?"


"Sort of. But I guess another part of me doesn't want to know. It can't be anything pleasant."


Jim got up and went to rinse out his coffee cup. He was eager to change the subject. "So, you going to be able to come to the PD after classes and join me on the Thompson stakeout?"


Blair smiled - a genuine full-blown smile. "Yeah, I'll be there for the stakeout."



"What's her name?"


Jim turned to find Simon standing by his car in the parking garage. His senses hadn't even heard him.


Simon chuckled. "You were whistling, Jim. Whistling."


Oh. He had been doing that, hadn't he? He usually didn't whistle, except on occasional fishing trips, and only when he was alone.


"Her name," Simon pressed with a gleeful smile, as he and Jim started walking toward the elevator.


"Can't a guy be happy to have his partner back?"


"Partner? You mean Sandburg?"


"Yep. He's done with the Rosenthal project and will be joining me on the stakeout tonight. By the way, he doesn't want Rosenthal arrested and doesn't want to press charges, even though Rosenthal confessed."


"Confessed? Confessed to what?"


Jim filled him in as they rode up the elevator.


When they stepped off on their floor, Simon said, "You sure that Blair is okay about this and he isn't just trying to put on a brave face? He might be sorry down the line, when he stops and thinks about it."


"He's already gotten revenge, in a manner of speaking. He feels Rosenthal has been hurt enough."


"Hmph. So, I guess it doesn't matter if the bottle of water comes back positive. Even if it had, I don't think we would have had enough cause for a search warrant."


"Exactly. Blair had already thought all that through. He got the confession he wanted, and to sever any and all ties with Rosenthal permanently. Oh and," Jim held up a piece of paper, "I got the name of the dealer who sold Rosenthal the roofies."


"Fantastic. Let's get Vice involved."


Jim moved to his desk as they entered the bull pen. "Thank you, sir."



That weekend, Jim sat watching a violent movie on HBO that took place in a prison. One guy had a knife and was yelling at another, "You think you're going to put your cock up my ass? Nobody puts their cock up my ass!  Only my cock goes up asses. Not the other way around."


Jim sipped his beer. Funny to have tuned into this movie, of all things.


Is that what Blair wanted? To put his cock up Jim's ass? Or did he want Jim to put his cock up his ass? Or did he fantasize about them trading off?


He seemed to want Jim to make the first move. But did that mean he wanted Jim on top?


This is where Jim's mind always hit a brick wall. He could hold Blair, cuddle and love him. That he was certain of.


He thought he could orally pleasure him, once he got used to the idea. And, of course, being pleasured in return was a no-brainer.


Manual stimulation didn't seem like it would be too difficult either.


But actual sodomy... that would hurt, wouldn't it? It seemed so... harsh. And yet, on another level, he couldn't imagine even attempting to do anything like that without bursting into laughter. It seemed so ludicrous.


And if Blair had been molested, at least twice in his life, perhaps, would anything they did in the name of intimacy bring those memories back? Cause Blair's subconscious to react in some way that would make it difficult for him to participate?


Jim remembered at the park, when he had let his hand rest on Blair's rear. Blair hadn't minded at all.


Of course, it wasn't like he'd gotten an erection either.


Maybe he just wanted the cuddle. Maybe it was a paternal thing.


Of course, it had been cold, being on the damp ground.


The door rattled and in walked Blair. He glanced at the TV. "What's this?"


A prison riot was in the making. "Some violent prison movie. I think I'm ready for Bambi."


Blair grinned as he moved to the kitchen. "Hard to imagine you watching Bambi."


"I did," Jim announced. "When I was five.” Oh crap, why was he remembering this? "I went with a friend and I cried. When his mother dropped me back at home, my father sent me to my room until I could get control of myself."


Blair abruptly turned. "When you were five? That's criminal!"


Jim shrugged. "In my generation, boys who showed emotion didn't get very far in life."


Blair shook his head. "It's a good thing I wasn't born in your generation. My mom hugged me and made me cookies after Bambi.” He paused thoughtfully. "And then we had a family meditation - the two of us - and sent prayers to Bambi's mother. I thought Bambi was real."


"This from the man who still wants to believe in Santa Claus.” Jim didn't even know when Blair had said that; he'd just knew Blair had once. And had sounded very serious.


Blair studied Jim a moment. "Do you think it was wrong that your generation was raised that way? To not show emotion?"


"It's not something I can see as right or wrong. It just was."


Blair thought about that. Then, hesitantly, he said, "Do you wish my generation would have been like yours? Unemotional?"


God, was that ever a loaded question.


Jim repeated, "It just is. Why apply a right or wrong to it?"


Blair presented a small, shy grin. "Then you're okay with the fact that I wear my heart on my sleeve?"


Jim blinked. Then he said, "I'm not sure that you're as open as you think you are. You still surprise me sometimes."


Blair gave that some thought. Then he said, challenging, "If there's anything you've ever wondered about me, you can ask. I don't have any secrets from you."


Jim mentally furrowed his brow. What was Blair wanting him to ask? What is it that Blair needed an excuse to tell him?


He turned his head to the TV, watching the prison riot.


Blair said, clearly as a taunt, "I guess I'm not interesting enough for you to need to know anything else about me."


Jim shrugged, eyes on the television. "You've told me anything I've wanted to know. So, there's nothing left to ask.” After all, he even knew that Blair was in love with him.


Blair continued to watch him.


Jim watched the prison burn. Then he lowered his gaze, realizing he did indeed have a question. "Do you think, with what happened with Rosenthal, that you'll have trouble enjoying sex?"


"I doubt it," Blair answered in a quiet tone. "I think it would depend on who the sex was with. If it was with someone I'd only recently met - someone I had no reason to trust - I might have some subconscious issues; as opposed to being with someone I've known for a while and my conscious self and subconscious self trust completely."


The cops were coming into the prison, dressed in riot gear.


"Would gender matter?" Jim asked, staring at the TV.


Blair slowly shook his head. "Not if it was someone I trusted completely."


He wanted to ask Blair if there was anything he wanted to ask him. But then he reminded himself that Blair was waiting for him to make the first move.


Jim watched the cops go after their target - the prisoner who had refused the idea of anyone's cock going up his ass. They had to take great care with the various fires burning as they stalked their prey.


Jim swallowed as the men went from room to room, and down various hallways.


"What do you want most of all?" Jim asked as one of the men saw the prisoner around a corner and carefully drew his gun.




Through the corner of his eye, Jim saw Blair's own eyes grow larger, as they studied him.


Blair moved toward him.


The cop took aim while the prisoner was blocked by fire burning around him. He held a knife as he turned to face the cop.


Blair sat down beside Jim.


The cop fired and the prisoner's body jerked in reaction.


The cop slowly lowered his rifle. He pushed up the faceplate on his helmet. The expression on his face was satisfied... and sad.


The camera drew back, the prison burning. And then the credits began to roll.


Jim slowly drew his arm across Blair's shoulders. His fingers massaged the opposite arm, while he considered that Blair had yet to answer his question.


Blair shifted just enough to allow his weight to rest against Jim.


The credits were now on the gaffers - whoever they were.


"What do you want?" Jim whispered.


Blair rested his cheek on the top of Jim's shoulder. "I want to be close to you - in every way that word can mean."


Finally, the screen said, "The End". HBO went to promotional commercials.


Jim's fingers stopped massaging. He brought his hand up and pressed Blair's head closer against his own.


He closed his eyes.


"I love you," Blair said softly, his breath drifting along the skin of Jim's face.


Jim's fingers began a light motion of rubbing against Blair's scalp.


He wanted someone to tell him that this was okay, what they were doing. But he didn't know who was supposed to grant that permission.


The air around them was full of expectation.


Jim kept his eyes closed as he turned his head, mouth open. The edge of his lips felt Blair's. They tasted of coffee latte. Were moist with saliva.


Jim laid his hand against the side of Blair's face and pressed....


His belly fluttered. His lips were no longer his own as they joined with Blair's.


His heart thundered with the realization that a line was being crossed - a line that Blair once referred to as set at a low level, as though crass.


He pulled back just enough to separate them, sealing his lips shut. It was a moment before he was brave enough to open his eyes.


Blair's head moved from his shoulder to the sofa back, where his cheek rested. His eyes were soft and warm as he whispered, "That felt so good."


This wasn't crass. Blair didn't seem to think so, and Jim was sure he must have misunderstood the context of the prior statement.


But how far did Blair want this to go?


"You're thinking," Blair said, with a levelness that sounded forced. He swallowed, then, "You're thinking of reasons to be afraid, aren't you?"


Jim lowered his gaze. "I-I'm not sure what you want."


"Anything and everything I can have from you.” Blair reached up, the pad of a fingertip drifting across Jim's cheek. "Maybe you're not sure what you want."


Of course, he wasn't. He had refused to consider that aspect. And now he had started this, without understanding what his own intent was.


Blair seemed resigned to that. He straightened, and then leaned forward, his elbows on his knees. "I guess we need to talk before this goes any further.” He didn't sound optimistic.


Jim wondered why that was - why it was assumed he would automatically reach a conclusion that would be disappointing.


His determination to prove otherwise prompted him to speak. "I'm not sure what you mean by 'everything and anything'. I-I had wondered if, maybe, you just wanted the closeness.” He couldn't bring himself to be more specific and call the closeness 'cuddling'.


Blair presented a tiny smile while keeping his gaze lowered. "I'm an adult male, Jim. 'Closeness' to me inevitably means violating personal space.” He shrugged hesitantly, then, in a lower voice, "Being invasive with one another."


Yeah, okay, this was out there on the table then. Invasive.


A surge of blood went through his groin.


Now Blair looked up at him, his voice just shy of scolding. "Did you really think I might just want to pet-and-cuddle and leave it at that?"


The question made him feel foolish. He kept his voice soft, even as he sought to defend himself. "I wasn't sure. You've talked about admiring me, wanting my approval. I wasn't sure if that was wanting something different from this."


Blair was still as he thought about that. Then he looked up at Jim again. "You mean you thought that maybe I wanted you as a kind of father figure?"


Jim nodded, wondering if it made him seem arrogant. "Or older brother, or something."


Blair gazed at the coffee table a moment. Then, "I'm sorry I've confused you. We relate to each other in a lot of different ways. I didn't think one precluded another. I mean," incredulous snort, "it's not like we're committing some kind of incest here."


No, they weren't. But still...


Very soft, for he was afraid of what it would bring, Jim reminded, "You said something about bringing us down to this level."


Blair looked sharply at him, his expression troubled. "I'm sorry. I just meant that I admire you so much.... I could see how it would seem like stooping for you to... to be with me. And, you know, that it could ruin our friendship."


Jim realized there was one thing he wanted more than anything else. Evenly, he said, "Don't admire me too much."


Blair's expression softened as he gazed at Jim. Then his mouth tried a smile. "I'll try not to.” He said it as though it would be a difficult task.


And then he was launching himself at Jim, throwing his arms around him, as they sat on the sofa.


Jim's arms went around Blair, and he was reminded all over again how good it felt to be close like this.


"Anything and everything," Blair repeated in a whisper against Jim's ear. "Any limits have to be set by you.” He wriggled, as though snuggling closer. "I don't have any."


Jim had an erection. As gently as possible, he maneuvered Blair away from him. "Chief..."


"Okay," Blair said quietly, "you still need to work on this. That's okay. I'll just make myself irresistible in the meantime."


Jim managed a smile as he rose to his feet. He wondered why he was denying himself what promised to be so good. Blair was already irresistible.


But it's not like he could tell him that.


Yes, let him work at it. That could be fun.


For both of them.





"I had that dream again last night," Blair said the next morning.


Jim turned to the table, coffee pot in hand. He was surprised that Blair looked cheerful as he spoke. "Yeah?" he said, while filling Blair's cup, wondering how long the dream was going to haunt Blair.


"Yeah," Blair said, "but it didn't go like the others. Raymond knocked me down. Then I got up and started beating him with my fists. Even though I was just a little kid, he started moving backwards - shocked, you know, that I was so strong.” He gazed at his coffee a moment. "I felt so powerful, when I realized I was making him move backwards and stop hitting me and my mom.” He shrugged. "Then the dream ended."


Jim sat down. "Like you took your control back in a situation where you had previously felt powerless."


Blair considered that, and then nodded. "Guess so.” He slowly sipped his coffee. Then he said, "Jim? If you're worried about... you know, me having hang-ups about having been molested as a child and then," he lowered his gaze with embarrassment, "recently.... Well, you know," he looked up, "I don't think you should be concerned about that. I don't feel I have hang-ups about it."


Jim nodded, wishing he'd fixed some food to give himself something to do. Instead, he reached back to the kitchen counter and grabbed a stack of mail. "Did you ever see this yesterday? I haven't separated it out yet."


He handed the stack to Blair and Blair leafed through it and pulled out the pieces with his name on it.


"Oh, hey," he brightened, as he tore open an envelope, "here's something from an editor of a South American history magazine.”


He unfolded the single page and read silently, his eyes growing wider. Then he looked up at Jim with a huge smile. "All right!  They've accepted my query about doing a piece on the Incas. I've got plenty of time, too. The deadline is six months away."


"Hmm," Jim said with admiration. "You wrote them after canceling the piece with Rosenthal?” That seemed like a quick turnaround for a reply.


Blair shook his head. "No, I'd sent this query before the Rosenthal thing."


"That's great, Chief. I guess you were right. You didn't need to be co-published with him to give your credentials a boost."


Blair was still grinning. "No, this is all on my own."


Jim decided to keep the good news coming. After sipping his coffee, he said, "I forgot to tell you that the dealer who sold Rosenthal the roofies was busted yesterday by Vice."


Blair put the letter aside. "That's great."


"Yeah, it was a nice, neat little undercover job that took place in a single afternoon."


"Glad to hear it."


They went quiet after that, self-consciously sipping their coffee.


Once in bed last night, Jim had considered how nice it would be to have Blair sleeping beside him. Yet, he still had felt an urge to deny what he was quickly realizing was something he outright wanted.


He could check off excuses in his mind:  Blair being through so much recently; adding this particular brand of intimacy ruining a great friendship; the natural insecurity that they wouldn't remain together; the fear that he was ruining something precious because Blair looked up to him.


One by one, those excuses were falling by the wayside. He wondered if he had any more left.


He glanced up at Blair and Blair was already looking at him. He gave Jim a bashful grin and then lowered his eyes.


Jim got up and squeezed Blair firmly on the shoulder, and then took his cup to the sink. "You going to be done with classes in time to join me on the stakeout for that Phillips guy?” He was suspected of numerous diamond heists.


"Yep. I should be there by one."


Jim nodded and moved toward the door. "See you then.” He grabbed his coat and left.


It was a bit of a hurried exit, but he'd make it up to Blair later.


No more excuses.


That still didn't mean he'd sweep Blair off his feet tonight. He was enjoying the idea of seeing how long they could dance around each other, before making his move.


That was a big part of the fun - knowing it was all up to him. The ball was in his court.


Jim whistled as he moved to the truck.






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