A slash sequel to "Screaming".  Rated NC-17.  Jim tries to help Blair recover.

Most heartfelt thanks to my betas, Trish and Sandy.  I was the last one to read the final version, so any mistakes are mine.


(c) June 2005  by Charlotte Frost


Blair picked up the butcher knife and poised it over his extra thick sandwich.


He watched his hands shake.


That was nothing new.  His whole body had been shaking, in varying degrees, ever since the events in Utah three months ago.  He could take medication to help with the tremors, but since it wouldn’t eliminate them completely – and had side effects – he chose not to.  He’d prefer to get better 


He wasn’t sure the latter was going to happen.  Now, as sometimes occurred, his hands began to shake more fiercely.  Simply cutting the sandwich in half seemed like an impossibility.


He wanted to slam the knife down in anger.  He wanted to cry at his helplessness, however brief these moments were.  He wanted to tell anyone who would listen what had happened to him at the hands of the Glassed Ones… and have them understand. 


He wanted Jim to come home and cut the sandwich for him.


That would be the easiest thing.  Jim wouldn’t feel sorry for him, wouldn’t give him an ineffective pep talk.  Jim wouldn’t simply cut the sandwich in half and proceed as though things were normal.  In fact, this is what had become normal for them.


He had a choice as to how he dealt with his situation.  Anger wasn’t going to help.  Neither was self-pity or indignation. 


He wanted to have a sense of humor about his lack of control.  You hear about the guy who was such a basket case that when he went to cut a sandwich, his hand was shaking so hard that he dropped the knife and accidentally cut off his dick?


His dick may as well be cut off.  It certainly hadn’t been much use to him lately.


The new semester had started two weeks ago and he was back teaching.  On the first day, he explained to his students that his shaking hands were due to a nervous condition, the source of which he didn’t elaborate upon.  He hoped having a sense of humor about it would transmit to his students.  It some ways, it seemed to work.  Other times, when his hands shook particularly badly, he could hear them whispering to each other, and he couldn’t help but think they wished the shaking would just stop.


As though Blair didn’t wish that more than anyone. 


The only person his tremors didn’t seem to bother was Jim.  Blair kept waiting for Jim to show signs of being fed up with the constant reminder of the damage that had been done to him.  But all he’d ever gotten from Jim was acceptance.


The door opened.


Blair didn’t waste any time.  “Jim, can you cut this?”


Jim came into the kitchen.  “I have a stakeout tonight.  Did you want to come?”  He took the knife from Blair. 


Blair placed his hand on the small of Jim’s back while he cut the sandwich.  It was a gesture of both gratitude and a desire to hold onto Jim whenever possible, for the tremors always seemed to lessen then.


“What kind of stakeout?”  Blair picked up the first half and shoved part of it into his mouth.


Jim reached into the refrigerator.  “You didn’t make one for me?”


Blair snorted.  “I didn’t know you’d be home.”  Besides, he engulfed many more calories than Jim these days, since the tremors burned off so many.


As Jim retrieved the sandwich ingredients, his voice gentled.  “I was at the therapist.”


“Oh, right.”  Blair wasn’t sure how he was supposed to keep track of the appointments.  Jim kept moving them around.  His doctor was a man from the list

provided by the PD’s HMO.  Blair’s was a woman funded by the Victim’s Assistance Program.


Jim quickly put a sandwich together.  “I don’t think I’m going back, Chief.” 


“Yeah?”  Blair felt his heart race.  It was part of their agreement that if Blair went, Jim had to go too.  Though Blair was the only one who had been physically tortured, he knew the mental anguish for Jim – listening to Blair’s screams for days – had to be at least as traumatizing.


Jim leaned back against the counter and ate his sandwich.  “I don’t see much point anymore.  It’s like we’re going around in circles.  Do I feel guilty?  Yes.”


Blair swallowed thickly.


“Do I know there’s no reason to feel guilty?  Yes.  Do I feel guilty anyway?  Yes.  Do I realize that guilt doesn’t accomplish anything?  Yes.  Does knowing that help me to stop feeling guilty?  No.  Do I let my guilt affect my relationship with you?  No.  I think you’d tell me if I did.”


Blair wasn’t sure that he was deserving of Jim’s confidence.


“Do I let my guilt affect my working relationship with others?  Sometimes.”  Jim shrugged.  “I don’t need to sit there in his office for an hour every week to go through this over and over again.  It helped a little, at first.  But it really doesn’t anymore.  We both know this stuff just takes time.”


Blair nodded, finishing the second half of his sandwich.


Jim looked directly at him.  “You okay with that?”  He was obviously aware of backing out of his part of their agreement.


Blair nodded again, feeling certain that Jim had laid it out as honestly as possible.  “Yeah.  But I’m going to keep going.”


“Good.”  Jim squeezed his shoulder.  “If you ever want me to go with you, I will.”


Blair felt warm inside.  “Thanks.  But I don’t think that’ll be necessary.”


Jim brushed his hand along the side of Blair’s face and then started putting the sandwich ingredients away.  “So, what about the stakeout?”


If nothing else, it would be time with Jim.  “Yeah, I want to come.”


When Jim walked into Simon’s office the following afternoon, he reported, “Last night’s stakeout confirmed Reuben’s pattern for purchasing the drugs.”  He then elaborated on the details.


Simon puffed his cigar.  “Great, we can set up a sting for next week.  Good work, Jim.”  He moved files around his desk.  “What about the Laughton case?  What’s next there?”


“I need to take a drive out to Cold Creek and interview a witness who overheard the deal going down to hire the hit men.”


A smile developed on Simon’s face.  “Hmm.  Cold Creek has a great tackle shop.  I’m tempted to join you and Sandburg for the drive.”


“Blair’s teaching today.”


Simon stood and reached for his jacket.  “Guess it’s my lucky day then.”


They made small talk until they were out of the city. Simon shifted in the passenger seat of Jim’s truck.  “How’s Sandburg doing?”


The question made Jim bristle, though he knew it shouldn’t. It was natural for Simon to ask.   “He’s doing great, everything considered.  He has more resilience than anyone I’ve ever known, and I’ve known a lot of good people in my time.”


Simon nodded.  “How are you doing?”


That was the question that made Jim’s stomach churn.  He could give a brief grunt of an answer and have to ward off more questions.  Or he could tell Simon the truth.  After all, Simon was the one who had rescued them when he and Blair hadn’t had anywhere safe to go.


Jim pulled off to the side of the road.  The sun was shining through the trees.  He got out and started walking.  Simon followed.


Jim stopped when he came to the edge of a creek.  He stood on a boulder looking down into the flowing water.


He waited until Simon stopped behind him.  Then he said, “I’ve fallen in love with him.”  There.  It was out.


“With Blair?”


“Yes.”  Jim squinted up at the sun.  “He’s everything.  All there is.”


Simon took a step closer.  “When you say ‘fallen in love’…”


“That’s exactly what I mean.” Jim could understand how absurd it sounded, which made him all the more determined to give as much detail as he was capable.  “I want to be there for him, all the time.  I want to help him heal.  I want to love him.”


Ever so rationally, Simon said, “You’re doing all those things, anyway, aren’t you?”  He came up beside Jim.  “He needs you and you’re taking care of him.  You two have been so intimate since… what happened… that don’t you think it’s rather normal to be feeling particularly fond of him right now?”


Jim snorted at Simon’s attempt to apply reason.  “I’ve always been particularly fond of him.  Since day one, even when he was thoroughly exasperating.  This is something else.  Something I know deep in my bones.  I don’t need to figure it out.  It just is.”


“Have you told him?”


Jim looked directly at his boss.  “No.  But I have to.”  He formed a fist.  “The trust between us is so raw right now, so pure.”  He let the fist drop, knowing that it couldn’t be that simple.  “What if he thinks what you did just now?  That I love him because he needs me?  Then he won’t let himself believe that it’s from the heart.”


Simon delicately replied, “Maybe he would be right, in that it is because he needs you.”  He shifted impatiently.  “Are you still seeing that therapist?  Maybe he could help you sort out –“


Jim shook his head.  “No.  I’m not going back.  He’s agreed to release me from therapy.  I’ve worked out all there is to work out about my end of what happened.  This thing with Blair is completely separate from that.”


“Is it?” Simon pressed.


Jim released a breath, suspecting that denials would only dig him in a deeper hole.  “Even if the feelings originated from the aftermath of what happened, what difference does it make now?  The feelings are real.”  He turned away from Simon’s piercing gaze.  “I want everything good and wonderful for Blair that he can possibly have.  We’re so close right now.”  He heard the wonder in his own voice.  “Why not let that closeness play out in a natural way?”


Simon shifted and exhaled heavily.  Then he drew a breath.  “Without even getting into the moral dilemma of what’s ‘natural’ and what isn’t, do you think Blair’s going to consider what you want to do to be the next ‘natural’ step?”


“I’ll have to find that out, won’t I?  It’s lying to him to keep it to myself.”


“Somehow, I doubt he’ll reject you, in any way, shape or form.  He doesn’t have it in him -- before or after what happened in Utah.”


Jim didn’t like the way that sounded.  “You think I’m taking advantage when he’s most vulnerable?”


Simon eyed him sternly.  “You said it, not me.”  He pulled out a cigar.  “He’s been blatantly in love with you from day one.  Ever since he made the comment, when he was first in my office asking for his observer’s pass, about you being the best on the force.”  Chuckling, he said, “It was obvious from that moment on that he only wanted to think the very best of you.”  He placed the unlit cigar in his mouth.  “His feelings toward you border on unconditional worship.  So, yes, I think it’s taking advantage.  But it would be taking advantage regardless of what happened in Utah.”


Jim didn’t know whether to feel better or worse.  He took comfort in the fact that, if Blair’s feelings toward him had been so consistent for a few years now, they obviously weren’t a passing fad on his part.  And while it irritated him at times that Blair seemed so focused on the sentinel stuff, he had long known that Blair cared deeply for him beyond his special abilities.


“Let’s go,” Jim said, striding back toward the truck.


When they were buckled in and Jim had started the motor, Simon laid a hand on his arm.  “Look, Jim.  Whatever you decide to do, I hope it works out for the best for both of you.”


The words were good to hear, but it was obvious that Simon didn’t expect things to work out.


Blair was sitting on the sofa, studying a textbook, when Jim arrived home.  Blair took off his glasses and sat back.  “Hey, how was Cold Creek?”  When Jim had check in with him by phone during the trip, he had freely admitted his envy that Simon got to go instead.


Jim dropped his keys in the basket, then hung up his jacket.  “The interview with the witness was productive.  He gave us some good descriptions to pass around town.”


“Great.”  Blair watched Jim approach him with a deliberate motion and sit on the coffee table in front of him.  “What’s wrong?”


“I need to tell you something.”  Jim’s voice was strained.  “In the name of total honesty.”  He put his head in his hands.


Blair wanted to reach out and soothe Jim’s discomfort.  He held back, wondering what could be so wrong that Jim would be so hesitant.  Ever since Utah, there had been a lot of mundane things that happened, but nothing that was “bad”.  Nothing could compare to the horror of what they had suffered there.


“What is it?” Blair prompted, when Jim remained silent.


Jim looked up, meeting his gaze.  “I’m in love with you, buddy.  Hopelessly, completely, thoroughly in love with you.”


Blair felt his heart race as he studied Jim’s expression, which was so sincere.  So naked.  So vulnerable.


It was so incomprehensible, the way Jim laid it out like that, that Blair expected –wanted – Jim to suddenly break into a big smile and say, “Just kidding” and cuff him on the back of the head.


Jim ducked his head and meekly said, “I hope you can be a little bit happy about it.”


Blair waited some more, realizing his mouth was hanging open.


It wasn’t a joke.  Too many moments had passed.  Jim was waiting, his eyes on Blair’s feet, as though he was bracing to hear what his sentence would be.


A sentence that only Blair could deliver.


“H-Happy?” Blair choked out.  Jim’s words were true.  In love.  Hopelessly.  Thoroughly.  Completely. 


Jim glanced at him before darting his eyes away again.  He clasped his hands between his knees.  “With everything that’s happened, I realize how it might seem like I’m taking advantage of you, when you most need me right now.”


Blair felt a giddiness wash over him.  “Take advantage?  Jim, there’s nothing more wonderful on earth I can imagine than you taking advantage of me.  Yes.  Please.  Take advantage of me!”  He held out his arms.


A wry grin formed at Jim’s mouth.  A watery glint lit his eye.  And then he was crossing to the sofa, gathering Blair up, and cradling him in an awkward hug.


Blair closed his eyes, returning the strength of Jim’s arms, and just… breathed.


They were still for a long time.  When Blair could think again, he realized that how they were now wasn’t that different from how they’d been since Utah.  Except the embraces hadn’t been this intense.  Instead, there had been a lot of little touches, reassuring smiles, and sheer attentiveness that hadn’t existed at this level prior to Utah.


“Chief?” Jim said softly.


Blair waited, loving the tenderness in Jim’s voice… in his arms.  In the hand that was now rubbing his back.


“I don’t need anything from you.  All I want is - is to give to you anything I can that will make you feel better.  Make you feel good.”


Questions filled Blair’s mind, even as he decided that every word Jim spoke was sacred.


He drew back and looked at Jim’s face, which still held such a loving expression.  “How long have you been keeping this inside?”


“Not long.  It’s been coming on gradually.  We’re so close right now and I couldn’t keep it to myself.”


“I’m glad you’ve told me.  I’d hate to think of you carrying around a burden, because of me.”


Jim smiled sweetly as he shook his head.  “There hasn’t been anything burdensome about it.  I’ve been enjoying it, this feeling.”  He snorted. “If we’re not careful, I might burst into song.”


Blair grinned.  Yes, Jim seemed so happy.  And was so open to him right now.  Blair silently vowed to never betray that trust, to never cause Jim to pull back from him.


Jim laid his head on Blair’s shoulder.  “Will you sleep in my bed?”


“Yes.”.  Blair missed the times they’d slept together before, albeit chastely, those first few days after their escape from the mansion on the hill.  It was so comforting, both for his own mental well-being, and his need to provide comfort to Jim.  It was only in the past couple of weeks that Jim had become less tense.  Before, Jim had always seemed so worried about everything, especially things concerning Blair.


Blair imagined them in bed together, seeking each other’s closeness.  “Can we be completely naked?”


“Yes.  We can be anything you want.”


Blair wondered if it would always be like this, Jim being so kind to him.  “Let’s go up now.”


They held on to each other as they ascended the stairs.  Then they undressed, watching each other, neither bashful nor eager.


They got into bed at the same time and came together in the middle.  Jim leaned over Blair and trailed his fingers through his hair.


Now that they were here, everything feeling better than it had in a long time, Blair’s mind became active.  He waited until Jim’s fingers paused.  “I have questions.”


“Then ask them,” Jim responded softly, his fingertips brushing across Blair’s lips.


“When I’m better, will you still love me this much?”  He almost cringed at the wounded sound of his own voice.


Jim’s tender expression didn’t change. “I’ll always love you this much.”


Blair wanted to believe that, but…  “You can’t predict the future.  You can’t know how you’ll feel next week or next month or next year.”


“As much as I’m capable of knowing anything ahead of time, I know that I’ll always love you this much.”


Blair swallowed, emotion filling him.


Jim’s hand rubbed along his chest and then moved down to his belly.


The closer Jim was, the better it was. “Will you get on top of me?”


Jim moved on top of Blair, letting his forearms take his weight.


Blair closed his eyes, relishing Jim’s nearness.  But he opened them a moment later, having already grown addicted to the love that shone in Jim’s tender orbs.


“What else do you want?” Jim asked.


Blair swallowed again.  “To touch you.”  Already, the heavy genitals were firming where they rested against him.


Jim kissed the tip of his nose, then each cheek.  Then he rose up.  “Go ahead.”


Blair brought his hand up and watched it tremble. 


He closed his eyes, hating his condition, and felt the bitterness well up.


Jim’s nose nudged his fingers open, and then kisses were rained inside his hand.


Blair was afraid that if he didn’t hold onto his anger, he would fall apart.  He didn’t want to fall apart.  Not tonight.


He opened his eyes but looked away from Jim.  “I want to hurt him for what he did to me.”  Two scientists that had tortured him, but Jim had killed one with his

bare hands.  The other was serving life in prison, having avoided the death penalty for confessing and cooperating with authorities.


“I know.”


Blair brought both hands up now and curled his trembling fingers.  “I want to scratch his eyes out.  Make him hurt.”  His jaw clenched as his voice hardened.  “I could electrocute him and watch him scream in pain and it wouldn’t bother me a bit.”


He managed to roll onto his side, still despising the part of himself that felt this, irrespective of the assurances from the therapist.


Jim placed his hand on Blair’s head.  After a long moment, he said, “I love the part of you that hates as much as I love the rest of you.”


When Blair closed his eyes this time, he didn’t fight the tear that ran down his face.  He didn’t want Jim to love that part.


Jim’s hand moved down to his neck and massaged it.


“I want to get better.”


“You will.”  Jim lowered to the mattress and spooned behind Blair, his arm circling him and pulling snug.  “You’re already better than you were.  You’re back teaching, contributing to society.  I know you have some difficult moments, but if you had to get by on your own, you could.  You’re hurt but you’re not incapacitated.”


That assurance did make Blair feel better.  Keeping his back to Jim, he said, “I’m sorry to ask this, but I’d like to know:  Why have you fallen in love with me now?”


Jim answered immediately, as though he’d already thought it through.  “I think it’s because I’ve seen so much of you since it happened.  All your raw emotions – I’m in awe of them.”  He pressed his cheek against Blair’s back.  “Seeing all that rawness… it also makes me want to put a bubble of protection around you and make sure you aren’t hurt any further by being so open.”


“And when I’m better….,” Blair pressed, wondering if he ever would be.


“I’ll still feel that I know you intimately.”  Then, more matter-of-fact, “Haven’t you felt the closeness between us since it happened?”


“Yes.  I don’t want to lose that.  Ever.”  Yet, Blair was skeptical that his wish could be reality.


Jim kissed his shoulder.  “Neither do I.  Ever.  So let’s don’t.”


Blair rolled to face Jim, while rising up and putting his arms around his neck.


They settled back against the headboard, holding each other.


Blair ran his fingertips along Jim’s arm.  So beautiful and magnificent, that arm was.  “Even when you were on top of me, I wasn’t getting hard.”  He met Jim’s eyes,

feeling as open as he ever had before.  “It doesn’t change the fact that I love you so much.”  His voice quavered.


Jim embraced him fully.  “Don’t ever think that I doubt that.  As for the other… I sort of assumed….  I thought you wanted me on top of you to get closer.”


“You understand me,” Blair said, wondering if voicing it would take that understanding away.


“It’s because you give so much,” Jim said, stroking Blair’s back with an open hand.  “That’s what I meant before, about the raw emotion.  I feel I know your soul, because you let me see it.”


The cliché crossed Blair’s mind, however true, that some good came from all bad things.  Yet, he wanted to clamp down on that thought and refuse to believe it. 

How could it ever be okay that he was tortured for days, screaming until his throat was raw; dehydrated, cold and hurting, and not knowing where Jim was?


Blair swallowed, his throat making a watery sound.  “When you came and got me, I was so glad.  You’ll never know how glad.  And yet, it’s like I didn’t trust that it was really you.  I thought it was some sort of happy hallucination I was having.  I wanted to stay there, in the hallucination.”


“I know.  There’s nothing wrong with that.”


“I just don’t want you to think that I wasn’t happy to see you.  I don’t think I reacted much.”  His memory of those hours following his rescue was sketchy.


“You were exhausted.  I don’t think you had an ounce of strength left.”  Then, with a smile in his voice, Jim added, “I know you were happy to see me, buddy.”


Blair rubbed his cheek against Jim’s shoulder.


“I love you,” Jim said, picking up Blair’s trembling hand.  “I love this.  All of you.  I’d love for you to touch me.”  He shifted in a way that would accommodate.


Blair also shifted, his hand finding its way between Jim’s legs.  He hesitantly took hold of the flesh there.


Jim nuzzled his hair.  “Mmm.”


Blair tightened his grip, feeling it swell within his trembling fingers.  He stroked experimentally and Jim drew in a breath with a sharp hissing sound.  Blair stroked again, realizing that the motion took energy away from his tremors, so they weren’t so bad.


He focused on creating a rhythm.  When he had, he tilted his face up and buried it in Jim’s neck.  Jim continued to make noises of pleasure and mouthed wetly at Blair’s hair and forehead.


An urge settled in the center of Blair’s body.  He longed to stroke himself but didn’t want to disrupt the pleasure he was creating.


He felt hope that he could be a man again.


That hope increased as Jim’s verbal encouragement became gruff pleas, begging, “Don’t stop”. 


Jim tensed as his fingers gripped the back of Blair’s hair.


An ecstatic moan filled the space between them, and then wet stickiness filled Blair’s hand.


Jim gasped sharply and Blair stopped the motion.


“Dear God,” Jim murmured, his lax mouth leaving a trail of saliva along the side of Blair’s face.


Blair let Jim rest against him and took his own cock in hand.  He stroked it.


Jim groaned and collapsed back on the bed.


Yes, he was a man again because he could give pleasure to another.


That realization increased Blair’s own rate of swelling.  He straddled Jim and undulated his hardness against his belly.


Jim’s eyes opened.


Blair tried to grin, but he suspected his expression was more of a plea.


Jim looked as though he wanted to say something, but instead he reverently took Blair in both his hands.


Blair closed his eyes and nodded.


His buttocks brushed Jim’s thighs as he moved back and forth in the tunnel created by Jim’s hands.


The sensation built in the most wonderful way.   Blair felt a scream of delight coming on and quickly clamped down on it.


Screaming wasn’t for joy.


He thrust harder, defying the remembered pain in recent months whenever he’d wanted to cry out. 


He shuddered, realizing he was holding Jim’s upper arms in a harsh grip.


He shuddered again.  And then there was only pleasure.


When Jim became fully aware, they were lying side by side, Blair facing him with his eyes closed.  Occasionally, a satisfied noise emerged. 


 Jim’s eyes drifted to the hand that was lax against his thigh.  He gazed at it for a long time.


 It wasn’t trembling.


 He didn’t dare hope that it was a permanent state.  Surely, all of Blair’s nerves had been re-directed for the sake of sexual release.


 He didn’t have the heart to mention it to Blair.


 He made sure he was smiling when Blair’s lazy lids finally opened. 


 Blair smiled back.  “It feels so good to feel good again.”


“I love you.”  Jim leaned to kiss him in the middle of his forehead.  It tasted salty.


Blair tapped his own lips.  “Is there a particular reason you’ve been avoiding these?”


He hadn’t been avoiding them, though he realized they’d made love without that particular act.  “There’s so much more of you I’ve been enjoying.”  His grin broadened.  “Let’s add that one to the list.”


He had no idea what it would be like but gave himself no chance to hesitate.


Blair’s lips were soft, plush… brusque hairs outlined his upper lip, his breath tasting distantly of the chicken he’d had earlier today. 


Jim pressed harder and began to straddle Blair.


Blair’s arms went around him.


Jim lost himself in the sensations.  Until Blair froze.


Jim pulled back.  Blair was looking past him, over his shoulder.


Jim realized that only one hand was now on his back.  Obviously, Blair was staring at the other.


“The shaking has stopped,” Blair said.


Jim settled onto the mattress beside Blair and rubbed his hand up and down his front.  “Probably because you’re so relaxed right now.”


Blair put his hand down and drew a deep, relaxing breath.  “Guess it’ll wear off with the afterglow.”  There was an edge to his voice.


Jim propped his head in his hand, his motion along Blair slow and soothing.  “I wish it didn’t bother you so much.  It doesn’t bother me.” 


“It’s a constant reminder that I’m not the same person.” 


“You’re doing fantastic, Chief.”  Jim lowered his voice.  “I admire you so much.”


Blair gazed at him for a long time.  Then he said, “Do you think, sometime soon, we can…  will you… you know?  What men do?”


Jim’s hand paused and a knot formed in his gut.  Firmly he said, “I won’t hurt you.  That’s the last thing I’d ever knowingly do.  We can’t do that without it hurting.”

Blair looked away, a hard glint in his eye.  Jim realized that it was the first time since Utah that he’d rejected something that Blair wanted from him.


“Guys have been doing it since the beginning of time.  It can’t be that bad.”


Jim moved closer, hovering over Blair.  “I won’t hurt you,” he said, hearing the desperation in his own voice.  “I had my fill of that in Utah, listening to you screaming almost non-stop for three days.  Don’t ever ask that of me.”


Blair nodded, as though he understood, but he was still looking away.


Jim released a breath.  More gently, he said, “I don’t think that having our bodies share a few inches of flesh is going to make us feel closer.”


Blair nodded again.


Almost apologetic, Jim said, “That’s going to have to come from within.”


“I know.”  But Blair wouldn’t look at Jim.  In fact, he turned on his side, his back a wall between them.


But then he reached behind him, took Jim’s hand, and squeezed it.


Jim blinked away a tear.  Blair’s hand was shaking.


He awoke while being accosted.


Blair was on top of him, hard-on bobbing against him, Blair’s mouth claiming his.


Though surprised, his only wish was to go with the sensations.


They ended up doing a leisurely sixty-nine, experimenting with each other.


After it was over and they drifted lazily, Jim noticed that Blair’s eyes never left his own lax hands.


Jim got up, not wanting to witness Blair’s disappointment when his hands started shaking again. 




Jim looked up to see Simon standing at the doorway of his office.  He got up and approached.


“Where are we on the Laughton case?” Simon asked, closing the door behind them.


Jim relayed the file’s status, thinking it wasn’t a discussion that required privacy.


“Very good,” Simon said, moving around behind his desk.  Then his voice lowered.  “How’s Sandburg?”


Blair hadn’t been around the station much.  In fact, yesterday he’d talked Jim into stopping by the loft during his lunch hour.  Predictably, he’d attacked Jim upon arrival… while being completely naked.


The attacks were becoming routine.  If they were both at the loft, sex was on the agenda… unless it had been less than a couple of hours since the last time.  Blair was always the aggressor, since Jim never had a chance to take the initiative.


Their lovemaking was warm and sensual.  Jim had never had it so often in his life.  He enjoyed the sated feeling.


Yet… there was also the unease in suspecting that Blair pursued it so frequently because he wanted the tremors to stop, however temporarily.


As if my cock could cure him.  That was an intriguing thought… that his cock could cure.  But it was an illusion that evaporated once the afterglow wore off.

“That bad, huh?”


Jim realized he was gazing out the window.  He turned to face Simon.  “No, it’s not bad at all.  He continues to heal.” 


“He doesn’t seem to show up here much.”


“It’s hard for him, knowing everyone can see him shaking.”


“Everyone knows what happened to him.  There’s nothing but compassion here.”


“I know that.  He does too.  Still, he doesn’t like being perceived as the weak one among all the macho cops.”  Jim snorted.  “He’s got balls like no one I’ve ever known, to be able to stand up in front of a classroom and give a lecture, when he knows they can see him shaking all over.”


Simon lowered his voice.  “This conversation is off the record.  What about that… situation you told me about?”


“Situation?” Jim repeated to give himself a moment, and then replied, “It’s been resolved to our mutual satisfaction.”


Simon seemed to make a point of not reacting.  “Does that mean I don’t want to ask any questions, for fear of putting myself in a difficult position?”


“Yes.”  Jim wasn’t sure of the legal ramifications of he and Blair “fraternizing”, even if Blair wasn’t officially an employee of the CPD.  But Simon seemed to want the easy way out and Jim was happy to provide it.


Simon released a sigh.  “I just hope you both know what you’re doing.”


“If we don’t, who would?”


“You’ve made your point.”  Simon grabbed a file on his desk.  “Here’s a new case I’m putting you on.  Read up on the file and we’ll discuss it.”


Jim accepted the folder and the dismissal. 


Jim hummed as he drove to the loft.


He and Blair were going on a date.  He’d obtained tickets to see a popular comedian who was in town, and he was looking forward to a break from his and Blair’s routine, to say nothing of having an excuse to laugh.


Maybe it was the expectation of laughing a lot that made Blair sound dubious when Jim had told him about the tickets.  Still, Blair had rallied and sounded appropriately enthusiastic when Jim had made it obvious he thought it was a good idea.  Dinner at a nice restaurant before the show would make the evening even better.


As he walked off the elevator at the third floor, Jim realized how much he was looking forward to entering the loft and not being attacked by a naked Blair; but, instead, by a spiffed-up Blair eager for a date.


He put his key in the lock and turned the knob.


“Surprise!”  Naked Blair held out his arms widely for a moment, then circled them around Jim as he attempted to shut the door.


Jim tried not to let his disappointment show as he managed to briefly disentangle an arm from around his waist.  “We don’t have time for this if we’re going to have dinner before the show.”


Blair’s hand rubbed down the front of Jim’s trousers.  “We can eat here,” he purred.  “The show will be more fun anyway with an afterglow-glow.”


Jim took Blair’s hand and held it away.  “I don’t want to do this right now,” he said firmly, trying to tell himself he wasn’t angry.  Obviously, an “afterglow-glow” meant Blair wouldn’t be shaking.  “Come on, get dressed.”


Blair’s hand was at Jim’s fly.  “I’ll make it great and you’ll love it.”


Jim grabbed Blair’s hand and flung it away.  “No!”  He took advantage of Blair’s startled expression to move away from him.  “I don’t want to have sex just to

make you stop shaking, like I’m worthless to you, except for my cock, which you use at your whim.” 


He took the tickets from his shirt pocket and tossed them to the table, no longer interested. 


The depression that descended upon him as he moved to the refrigerator was crushing.   But of course, this was destined to be.  He’d been giddily in love with Blair.  It was the natural balance of things that, one day, he would come crashing down with the harsh realties of life.


He longed for the life he’d had of even keel, where nothing was exhilarating and nothing was too painful.  Where he made love to the person he loved because they were in love with each other.


Beer in hand, Jim took an aggressive swig, and then turned around.


Blair was staring at him with his mouth open, eyes glistening.


Jim hated seeing him like that.  He pulled the bottle from his lips.  “I love you so much, Chief.”  Despite softening his voice, it sounded flat to his own ears.  He lowered his gaze.  “I’d hoped you could love me, too.”  He was being pitiful.  But he didn’t care.


“I do love you,” Blair said with an unsteady breath.


“I know.  But you don’t want to make love to me because of that.  You want me to help you stop shaking.”  The truth was out.  He could never again pretend that his feelings for Blair were thoroughly selfless.  He’d wanted something in return.


Blair stumbled to the sofa, kneeling as he began pounding it with his fists.  “I hate what they did to me!  I hate it!  I hate them!”


Jim moved to pull the afghan off the back of the couch.  He started to put it around Blair’s bare shoulders, but it was flung away.


“Don’t pamper me!” Blair shouted, still pounding the sofa, but now with less force.  “I thought I was a man again.”  He folded his arms and buried his face in them, his chest heaving with deep breaths.


Jim knelt beside him, resisting the urge to put his hand on Blair’s back, to “pamper” him. 


“What?” he asked softly, wanting to feel hope that there was a reason – and a solution – for Blair’s behavior that wasn’t all about the tremors.


Blair raised his head while staring at the sofa.  With defeat, he said, “I’d thought I was a man again.  Because I could pleasure you.  I wanted to feel like a man.  Again and again.”  His voice broke, but he kept on.  “Instead of being a lab rat lying on a slab where they jolted me over and over and over.  And they didn’t care.”  He fell back on his bare haunches, crying now.  “They didn’t care.  They stared down at me and they cared only that I hurt.  They didn’t even hate me.”  His cries became more low and choked.  “Because I was an impotent nothing.”


Dear God.


“Blair,” Jim whispered, reaching for him and relieved when Blair didn’t resist.  He enclosed him in an embrace, gladly taking his weight.  “Is that what this has been

all about?  To pleasure me?”  He hadn’t considered that there could be another explanation for Blair’s behavior.  “I thought it was because it helped you to stop shaking.”


“I liked that too.”  Without looking up, Blair added, “You felt I was just using you?”


“It had started to seem like that.”  Jim felt silly about it now.


“I guess it is,” Blair said flatly.  “Whether I’m using you to stop shaking, or using you to feel like a man, it’s still using you.”


Now Jim felt low and unforgivably selfish.  “I-I know you love me.  That wasn’t the problem.  You just seemed so… insatiable.  Like the sex was all there was to us.  I liked it,” he quickly assured.  “I liked it a lot.  But not how it seemed to have become everything to you.”


Blair took Jim’s hand in a hesitant grip.  “I guess it has become everything.  I’ve gotten addicted to the good feelings that come from it.  All good things.  Nothing bad.”  He finally looked at up Jim, the corner of his mouth quivering.  “Except it’s made you think I don’t love you just for you.”


Jim focused on the other problem and met Blair’s eyes.  “Chief, there’s other ways to pleasure me than just with sex, if that’s what you’re after.  Giving me the pleasure of your company, for one thing.  That’s why I wanted to go tonight – to share an evening with you.”  He grinned bashfully.  “Sort of like a date.”


Blair wearily pushed his hair back.  “I’ve messed everything up.”


“Nothing that can’t be repaired,” Jim assured, inwardly determined to make it true.  He couldn’t afford to wallow in his own self-pity; and was relieved that he didn’t really want to.


Jim hesitated a moment, wondering if he was about to tread on a subject best left to Blair and his therapist.  “When you were in the lab,” he said hoarsely, “going through all that pain, it’s not you who was lacking in manhood.  They were the ones less than human.”  He rested the side of his face against Blair’s.  “You survived.”


“Only because you rescued me.”  Blair reached up with both hands and turned so that he could wrap his arms around Jim’s neck.  “You’re my hero.”


Jim wanted to protest, then decided he didn’t want to take that appreciation away from Blair.  He embraced him and pressed Blair’s head against his shoulder.

After a full minute, Jim said, “This is what I’d like sometimes.  For us to be just like this.  Close.  But not feeling it has to be consummated sexually.”


Blair eventually sat back.  Then he smiled and said, “Let’s go to the show.  You’re right:  it would be good to do something different.”  Then, apologetically, “I guess we don’t have time for dinner.”


Jim gazed at Blair a moment to be sure of his sincerity.  Feeling much more light-hearted, he helped Blair to his feet.  “Not at a fancy restaurant, but we do have time for something casual.”


Jim was relieved that the harsh words they’d said to each other had opened a door to further communication, rather than closing it.  They had dinner at an Applebees and then indulged in a couple of drinks after arriving at the show.  It took getting past the warm-up, but eventually they were both laughing along with the audience when the star comedian began his act.


As they drove home, Jim felt happier than he had in a long time, and he was certain Blair felt likewise.  He decided that he would make plans for them to get out more.


For the first time, they went to sleep without making love.  In the morning, nothing happened until Jim took the initiative.  And then Blair responded eagerly and warmly.  Jim realized later that Blair was relieved to have the responsibility out of his hands.


Two weeks later, Jim sat at his desk, scrolling through possible suspects in the computer database.  When his desk phone rang, he answered it without taking his eyes off screen.  “Ellison.”


“Jim Ellison?  This is Dr. Cheryl Watson, Blair’s therapist.”


“Yes?” he prompted, wondering if Blair hadn’t shown up for his appointment.  Still, she would have called Blair and not breached confidentiality by calling his roommate, even if said roommate was a significant other.


“Blair’s here with me and, first, I want to assure you that he’s fine.  However, he did have a rather intense session this afternoon and he’s pretty wiped out emotionally.  I talked him into letting me call you to give him a ride home.  I don’t think he should be driving.”


Jim stood, grabbing his coat.  “ I’ll be right down.”  He slammed the phone down and headed for the door.


As he drove, he felt his insecurities kick in, as he wondered what had been so intense about the session.  Surely, Blair had told his therapist about their relationship.  Was there something so wrong with it that it would have caused Blair to have an “intense” session? 


Since the harsh words two weeks ago, Jim had thought their relationship was more balanced.  Yet, even as he grew happier with their love life – with the sense of desperation now absent – he thought, on another level, there had been an increased tension.  Still, the symptoms were so elusive he’d convinced himself that he’d imagined it.


Jim deliberately released a breath and relaxed into the contours of the seat.  This was silly.  It probably had nothing to do with him at all, but instead had to do with what happened in Utah.


Still, that puzzled him even more.  Surely, the events of those few, horrible days were growing more distant for Blair, rather than more intense.  He’d thought the therapy was helping Blair.


Blair was getting better all the time.  That was a fact.


It was a long ride up to the eleventh floor of the medical building.  When he reached the therapist’s office, the receptionist there guessed, “Mr. Ellison?”


Jim nodded.


“You can go right in.”  She moved to a door, knocked in warning, and then opened it for Jim. 


Jim entered the office, where Blair lay on a couch, covered by a blanket, while a woman sat next to him with her hand on his shoulder.


Blair’s hand had been covering his face, but now he looked up – sheepishly, Jim thought – and barely managed a semblance of a smile.


The woman stood and held out her hand.  “Jim?  Nice to meet you.  I’m Cheryl Watson.”


Jim nodded, first at her and then at Blair. 


Blair looked bone weary.  If he’d been crying, there had been time for his eyes to dry, though the lids looked puffy.


Cheryl moved to her desk and gestured to a chair.  “Please, have a seat.  We can let Blair rest another minute while I talk to you.”


Jim sat, the corner of his eye watching Blair’s still form.  He’d put his hand back over his face.  Jim noticed that his sleeve was pushed up, and then his eyes darted to the blood pressure equipment on the wall.


Cheryl folded her hands on her desk and leaned toward him.  “As I said on the phone, Blair has had a very intense session this afternoon.  He’s had a breakthrough of sorts and it was very distressing for him.  Of course, I can’t discuss that with you.  I know he wants to tell you about it, but he will in his own time.”  Her voice firmed, even as it softened.  “Please don’t badger him about what he’s talked about with me today.”


“Of course not,” Jim said.  In their years together, he and Blair had both been in therapy for various reasons – Jim usually because it was ordered by the PD.  If one wanted to share with the other what was said, he did.  Otherwise, they never questioned each other about what was discussed.


“His vitals were high for a brief time and that had me concerned.  But I’ve let him rest a while and have been giving him water.  Except for a headache, which I’ve given him aspirin for, he’s doing okay physically now.  I’d recommend his resting the remainder of today and most of tomorrow.  He’s had a lot taken out of him.”  She handed Jim a slip of paper.  “Here’s his excuse from work.”


She glanced over at Blair and then back at Jim.  “I’d give him a prescription to help him sleep but he says he doesn’t want it.”  Another glance at Blair.  “I think he’s exhausted enough that he won’t have any trouble.”


When she paused, Jim asked, “Can I take him home now?”


“Yes.”  She hesitated again, then, “After he tells you what he has to say, I think you should join us for a session.  But we’ll talk about that later, when he’s ready.” 


She smiled reassuringly at Jim.


Jim stood and went over to Blair, kneeling by the sofa.  “Hey, Chief.”  He put his hand on his blanketed chest.  “You ready to go home?”


“Yeah,” Blair said quietly.  He slowly pushed the blanket back and started to sit up.


“Easy, Blair,” Cheryl cautioned from beside the couch. 


Jim took his shoulders and helped him sit up.  He noticed that Blair wouldn’t meet his eye.  In fact, his head and shoulders drooped as he sat on the sofa.


It told of how physically exhausted he was that he wasn’t trembling.


Blair started to stand and Jim helped him again.  He made sure his charge was able to at least shuffle along before releasing him completely.


“Call me when you feel up to it,” Cheryl said as they slowly moved to the door.


Blair barely looked at her.  “Thanks,” he said in a low whisper.


When they were moving down the hall, Blair’s stride a little stronger, he said, “Calling you was overkill.  I didn’t want her to.”


“Better safe than sorry,” Jim said as they entered an elevator.  He was more concerned as to what had caused such a “breakthrough” – and what breakthroughs were even left to be had – but he had no intention of asking.


Blair was silent and stared out the window on the drive home.


When they entered the loft, Jim asked, “What would you like?  Sit on the sofa and put your feet up?  Do you want some food?  You’re under doctor’s orders to call in sick tomorrow and I will too.”


Blair shuffled a few steps away.  “I’m just going to sleep for a while,” he said in a low voice, not meeting Jim’s eye.  Unsteadily, he added, “In my own room.” 


Oh.  Jim felt his stomach twist.


Blair turned toward him and placed his hand on Jim’s shirt.  “I have to be alone a while.”  He looked in the direction of Jim’s face.  “It has nothing to do with you.”


“All right,” Jim said, knowing there was no other possible response.


The French doors closed behind Blair.


Jim moved to the sofa and sat down.  He hunched over, rubbing his face, and then sat back.


He was so tired of all of this.  So tired of what had happened in Utah affecting so much of their lives.  So tired of always needing to be concerned about how Blair was feeling.


Everyone had scars, some more physical – more noticeable – than others.  One couldn’t push a “reset” button and pretend those scars, and the events that created them, had never happened.  They were part of living.


Still, that didn’t change the fact that he was weary of the constant reminder of the event that had so profoundly affected his and Blair’s lives.


Jim smiled wryly.  Not all those effects had been bad.


Unless what was bothering Blair so much had nothing to do with Utah at all, but instead had to do with their relationship.


He remembered how Simon had spoken so confidently of Jim “taking advantage” of Blair.


Jim’s smile changed into a frown.


Blair emerged late the next morning, dressed in sweats, and still moving with a hunched-over shuffle.


He didn’t appear any more rested, though Jim knew he had fallen asleep almost immediately the night before.


Blair carried a box of Kleenex and a half-finished glass of orange juice in shaking hands.  He moved to the easy chair and sat down, placing his supplies on an end table.  He looked toward Jim.


From where he sat on the sofa, Jim took his cue and muted the TV.


Blair drew his feet up.  In a quiet, exhausted voice, he said, “There’s something awful I have to tell you, Jim.  I don’t want to, but I know I have to.”  His eyes were focused on the floor.


Jim nodded, braced for something not yet defined.  Something so terrible that he couldn’t even begin to imagine what it was.


Blair now looked toward the ceiling, “When I was lying there on that slab,” his voice was choked and strained, “and they were doing all those things to me… I-I didn’t know where you were.  I didn’t know if you’d escaped, or if you were dead….”


So, this was about what had happened in Utah.


Blair swallowed thickly, while briefly closing his eyes.  “If you’d escaped, you would rescue me.  But the pain just went on and on.  I kept trying to scream louder and louder, because that seemed to be what they wanted.”  He grabbed a tissue and dabbed at his eye, but kept his gaze on the ceiling.  “It wouldn’t stop.  They wouldn’t stop.”  His voice tightened.  “I hated you so much for not coming and rescuing me.”


Jim didn’t dare move.  Hated?


Blair dabbed at his eyes a long moment.  He sniffed, then, “And then I was thinking that you were dead.  And I hated you so much for being dead and leaving me behind to suffer through all of that.”


He bowed his head and pressed more tissues to his eyes.


Jim didn’t dare speak.  His mind was racing ahead.  Okay.  Hate.  He could see that.  Relentless physical pain was something that broke people.  Eventually.  Always. 


Blair seemed to give up on the tissues and he was looking toward the ceiling again as tears streamed from his eyes.  “And then, one day, you were there.  And you took me away.  And it felt so good that I let myself believe it, though I didn’t really believe it.  And then I did believe it and you were my hero.”


Hero.  That word gave Jim a good feeling.


Blair was silent a moment.  Then, distantly, “I couldn’t hate my hero.  My savior.  The person I loved more than anything.  I couldn’t reconcile those two extremes.  So the hate got buried.”  He drew a breath.  “Cheryl says that it’s transference – transferring my feelings of hate toward the scientists, whom I was dependent upon for survival, even though they were torturing me, to you.  And then when I was dependent upon you for survival, I switched my hate back to the one remaining scientist.  But now he’s in prison and I can’t make him pay for what he did to me.  And I loved you, so I buried my hate and tried to tell myself it wasn’t there.”


Jim was puzzled by the sense of relief that descended upon him.


Blair took another moment to blow his nose.  Then, “All that need I had for sex, I think a big part of it was that I was trying to prove to myself how much I loved you, because those feelings of hate I had were still trapped and wanting to come out.  The last thing in the world I wanted to do was face them.”

Jim quietly asked, “When did you?”


Blair settled back on the chair, still avoiding eye contact.  “Yesterday, I was telling Cheryl how happy I was about our relationship and how it was going.  I was naming off all the things that were so wonderful about you and us together.  The next thing I knew, I was lying on that slab and shouting how much I hated you for leaving me there to get tortured like that.  I couldn’t bear feeling how strong the hate was.  I guess I sort of freaked out.  For a while there, I had no idea where I was.  I guess it took Cheryl a while to calm me down.”  He grabbed more tissues and pressed them to his eyes.


Yes, relief.  That was the emotion Jim was feeling.  And empathy for all that pain he’d heard from Blair’s screams.


Blair curled farther into the chair.  “The hate is in the past tense.  But because I wouldn’t let myself face that I’d felt that way, it came out in the present.  Now that it’s out, it’s gone.”  Finally, his eyes darted to Jim.  “But I don’t expect that to matter.  I know I’ve hurt you, by telling you this, more deeply than I can ever imagine.”  He let new tears fall and his gaze shifted to the balcony.


When he was certain Blair was done speaking, Jim leaned forward on the sofa and clasped his hands together.  “You know that I’ve had guilt about not getting to you faster.  I wasted precious time, trying to get those bastards to speak to me.  And then wasted more time trying to figure out how to get out of the cell, before it occurred to me to use the steel from my boots.”  Jim drew a breath.  “You’ve validated my guilt.  That it was legitimate.”  He released the breath.  “Now maybe I can move past it.”


Blair looked at him in surprise.


“Chief,” Jim said softly, hoping Blair wouldn’t look away again, “there’s only so much the human body can endure.  There’s a reason why physical pain is used so frequently for torture.  It works.  If you had grasped onto hope that I would rescue you, and it didn’t happen soon enough to stop it from getting worse and worse…,” he shrugged, helpless for a more profound explanation, “I can understand that.  Maybe it was even healthy in a sense that your hate gave you something to focus on – allowed you to keep feeling.”


Skeptically, almost angrily, Blair said, “You’re going to forgive me, just like that?”


Jim withheld a snort.  “You know damn well it’s not me that you need forgiveness from.”


They were silent a long moment.  Then, still looking out at the balcony, Blair said, “The key to our survival is that I was the one they tortured.”


Jim furrowed his brow.  “How do you figure?”


“If it had been you, with your senses, you would have hurt even more than me.  And if I’d been the one in the cell, I may have figured out a way to get free, but I couldn’t have killed that one guy with my bare hands – no matter how much I may have wanted to – and even if I could have found a way to knock him out, or something, there’s no way I could have been strong enough to carry you out of there.  We would have been doomed.”  Long pause.  “I had to be the one they tortured.”


Jim could understand why Blair needed to rationalize his pain that way.  Maybe there was even some truth to what he speculated.


He moved to Blair and knelt before the chair, feeling hurt now at the way Blair was so determined to keep looking out the window.  “What happened, happened, Chief.  There’s no changing it.  Whatever scars we’re each going to carry, we’re going to carry.  But that doesn’t mean we can’t keep living life.”  He settled back on his haunches.  “I want to spend mine with you, if you’ll have me.”


Blair closed his eyes a moment and let more tears fall.  When he opened them, he pressed his cheek more firmly into the chair.  “Why don’t you think about it a while before making ultimatums like that?  Maybe I’ve hurt you a lot more deeply than you’re admitting and it’ll take you a while to realize it.”


Jim was about to protest, then deflated.  If Blair saw his feelings of hatred in Utah as such an unforgivable sin, then of course he wasn’t going to be open to Jim’s easy acceptance of those feelings.  “Why don’t we make an appointment for us both to see Cheryl, like she suggested?  Then we can discuss it and you can judge then how sincere you think I’m being.”


Blair wiped at his cheek with the back of his hand.  “I’ve cried more the past two days than I have in my entire life put together, including when I was an infant.”

Jim furrowed his brow.  “You remember when you were an infant?”


“No, but Naomi said I never cried much.” 


Before Jim could interject a comment, Blair tossed the balled-up tissues onto the end table.  “It’s a wonder I even have any snot left.”


Maybe it was a sorry attempt to add humor.  But there was only one thing Jim wanted at this moment and humor wasn’t it.  “Blair, will you look at me?”


Blair slowly turned his head in Jim’s direction, but he wouldn’t raise his eyes.




“I can’t,” Blair said in a bare whisper.  “I’m so ashamed.”  His eyes were moist all over again, and he pressed his cheek back against the chair. 


Jim found his hope disintegrating.


“You were so kind to me,” Blair said now. “I remember a room.  Simon was there.  You gave me a bath.  You wrapped each of my fingers and toes, one by one.  Because they were burned?”


The memory was a warm one for Jim.  “Yes.”


“You washed my hair.  I felt so much better after that.  I remember being wrapped in blankets and lying in front of a fire.  It was like nirvana.”  Pause.  “Telling you I’d hated you isn’t how I wanted to repay your kindness.”


Jim felt he had an opening.  “We’ve gone far past kindness, Chief.  To passion.  We’ve expressed love and hate.”  Gently, he asked, “What else is there to be afraid of?”


Blair did look at him then, through the corner of his eye.  “You aren’t afraid?”


“No.  I love you.  That’s sure.  That’s solid.  That’s fact.  I feel your love for me, even though I know you’re mixed up about a lot of things right now.  You wouldn’t be this upset if you didn’t care so damn much.”


Jim rose up on his knees and put his hands on Blair’s legs.  “If you like the memory of that time in the hotel, we can repeat it,” he said hopefully. “ At least the bath part.”  He lowered his voice. “I can dry you off, wrap you in blankets, put you in front of the fire.  Snuggle with you until you fall asleep.”  He squeezed the flesh beneath his hands.  “Everything will feel better in the morning.”  Then, more firmly, “We’re going to make it through this, buddy.”


When Jim’s arms moved higher, Blair shifted to meet them, and then they were embracing. 


Jim held Blair and rubbed his back.  “It’s going to be fine, Chief.”


Blair’s eyes kept drifting to his hands as he tore the edge of a bag of trail mix in the otherwise empty break room of the PD.


His hands were steady 


The shaking hadn’t returned in a major way since his catharsis ten days ago.  At first, he’d thought it was merely because of physical exhaustion.  But as his strength returned, the tremors didn’t.  It was only on a rare occasion, such as when he was holding a book or paper in front of the classroom while lecturing his students, that he could detect a slight quaver in his hands.


Compared to how strong the trembling used to be, these occasional small tremors seemed inconsequential.  That fact gave him something else to be happy about and was a tremendous boost to his self-confidence.


Another boost was realizing that Jim did truly love him, without condition.  After Jim explained his side of things in Cheryl’s office, Blair could understand why Jim’s hurt was only mild at Blair’s confession; why the validation of his own guilt was actually a positive development.


With that truth, Blair was able to let go of his guilt for having such strong feelings of hate in the first place 


His personal goal now concerned their bedroom activities.  He had brought up again to Jim about them doing “what men do”, and Jim had again firmly refused. 

Then Jim had surprised Blair by offering to bottom.  But Blair couldn’t imagine doing that, since even mild pain would be heightened by Jim’s senses. 


In a way, they were even.


Yet, Blair still intended to work on convincing Jim that a little pain in the short run for a more intense kind of lovemaking in the long run, wasn’t something that they needed to avoid. 


Having popped a handful of trail mix into his mouth, he moved into Major Crime.  Jim should be returning soon, having spent the morning out on a call while Blair was teaching classes. 


“Sandburg,” Simon greeted from his office door.


“Hey, Simon,” Blair answered as he approached.


Simon stepped back to allow Blair in.  “What brings you down this way?”  He closed the door behind them. 


“I’m helping Jim build a database from the files confiscated from one of his cases.”


Simon looked him up and down.  “You’re looking great.”


“Thanks.  I’m feeling great.”  He popped more trail mix into his mouth.


Simon lowered his voice.  “Look, Sandburg, whatever is going on between you and Jim these days, keep it off the premises.” 


“We never intended otherwise,” Blair said, acting overly-innocent to annoy Simon.  “Besides, we get plenty at home.” 


Simon held up a hand.  “Too much information.”  But he was grinning as he went to his desk.  “So, you going to be hanging around more often, like you used to?”


Blair nodded.  “I think so.”


Simon shook his head in amazement.  “Damn, it’s good to see you looking so good.”


More subdued, Blair said, “It’s been a long road, Simon.”


“Not that long.  Been less than five months, hasn’t it?”


“Something like that.”


“You’re recovery has been remarkable.”


Seriously, Blair said, “Jim helped a lot.  I couldn’t have done it without all his acceptance for the crazy stuff I went through.”


“You were a victim, Blair.  None of it was your fault.”


Jim stuck his head in the door.  “Did I hear my name?”


“Yeah,” Blair deadpanned, “we were talking about ‘faults’.”


Jim slapped him on top of the head with a file folder.  “If you want to be helpful, get busy on this.”


Blair chuckled and took the folder and his cue to exit.


He knew Jim and Simon were going to talk about him.  He wasn’t worried about what they might say.


He sat at Jim’s desk and clicked on the spreadsheet program. 


Yes, as Simon had said, he was a victim.  Was being the operative word.  He’d had the choice not to continue to be one.  He’d lapped up Jim’s tender loving care, but now he was looking forward to being more caring than needy.  He still saw Cheryl but their appointments were going to be reduced to twice a month. 


He had occasional moments of being startled, when he saw himself back on the lab table; moments when he felt intense hatred and anger; moments when he questioned his self-worth, since other human beings had thought so little of him that it meant nothing to them to torture him. 


Sometimes he and Jim argued, but it with an honesty that Blair found comforting.  And it was usually over nothing terribly important.


And then there was the making up afterwards.


He wondered how he and Jim had previously lived together so long without making love to each other.


Blair smiled at the memory of this morning’s session.  How warm, loving, and natural it had been.


He was a victim no more.




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