Dear, sweet, Wolfpup pointed out that I left a few dangling loose ends behind in 'It Could Happen to You', I know. It was kind of intentional. Got the lovely news tonight that UPN has already killed its first new show. Too bad, so sad. Now, I guess, we'll all have to start up calling and emailing UPN and asking 'When are you bringing back The Sentinel?'
As I may have stated before, I don't write graphic sex, nor do I write slash. I do not condemn those who read or write slash, some of the folks who are kind enough to write to me are slash writers. This story is in no way meant to offend those who like that particular genre. However, this is sort of my take on how our heroes might react to the idea of them being an, um, 'item', shall we say. Just remember, this is only for entertainment, it's not serious. Real life is serious enough without getting upset over fiction. OK? I'm not even sure why I'm apologizing, but, there you are.
We are all familiar, by now (I hope), with the disclaimers. They aren't mine and I don't make any money, so please don't sue me.
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"Hi, Ronnie. It's me. Cassie."
"I recognized your voice, sis. What's up?"
"Well, you know your 'boyfriend'?"
"I hope so. What about him?"
"I just heard..."
Ronnie had to struggle not to laugh. The rumor her sister called her with was patently the most ludicrous thing she'd ever heard. Good thing that Jim had warned her about the rumor mill at the department. How it had linked him and his partner romantically. Now, her own sister was joining in the nasty habit. Obviously trying to break them up. She listened to Cassie tell her all about what was going on, made the proper shocked responses, and got off the phone as quickly as she could. It was all together too funny for words. She wondered if anyone had taken pictures...
"I'm tellin' you man! They're eating it up like candy. I've never seen anything like it." Henri Brown insisted. "You'd think it was news or something." Laughing.
"Well, having been listening to the rumors for the past three years, I can tell you that it's about time something was done about it. I just hope that no one gets hurt." Brian Rafe replied. "Some of the things they're saying are really horrible. I'd be embarrassed to repeat them, let alone believe them."
"Yeah. I'm glad they warned us, though." Joel added. "I would not like to have seen what they're doing and jumped to any wrong conclusions." Serious.
"That's enough, people." Captain Banks called out. When one of his men started to explain, he held up one hand. "Talk to the hand, I do not want to hear any more rumors. I got a call from the Mayor. She has heard the same rumors and was asking questions. I did my best, but I don't think she quite believed me. So, I do not want to hear another single word on the subject. By the way, where are they?" Looking around and failing to find the subject of most of the departmental gossip.
"Uh, hiding in a closet somewhere?" Brown suggested, stifling his laughter.
"Not funny, Brown. Just for that, you may have the honor of tracking them down and escorting them to my office." The captain gave them a tight grin and turned back to his office.
"Anyway, Dad said that they're still waiting on the tracing of the facility's owners through all the dummy corporations. He's hoping to hear something soon."
"I'll rest easier once we find out and get all the loose ends tied up. I don't like the idea that the people behind it are still running around loose, somewhere."
"Oh, man; I'm with you on that." Blair agreed, looking worriedly up at his partner. "Did you talk to the Wolf clan yesterday?"
Jim smiled. "Yeah. No one's been to the site, yet. But they're keeping a close watch on it, just in case." He opened and held the door for his partner, as they entered the police station. Noticing the surreptitious glances cast their way, he also placed his free hand on his partner's shoulder in a faintly possessive manner as they crossed the stained linoleum past the front desk. Both men having to smother gleeful smiles as they noted who reacted to their actions. Noting names for future reference.
Having recently learned of the rumors being told about them and being highly incensed over it, they had decided to play into the rumor monger's nasty little game and add fuel to the fire.
Jim had always been a rather physical kind of man. Frequently touching the people he worked with, on the shoulder, the back, the arm. It didn't really mean anything, just one of his subconscious ways of reassuring himself of those around him, those he entrusted with his life. His friends and colleagues.
Like most police officers, most of his friends were the people he worked most closely with. He was lucky. All of the people with whom he was in closest contact were also friends. The kind of friends he could tell his secrets to, the kind of friends who protected those secrets. The kind who smiled and joined in with feeding the rumor mill, setting it up for what would hopefully be the demise of the nasty, mean-spirited gossip-mongering.
The kind of friends who accepted the fact of his enhanced senses in stride and simply treated him as they always had; well, at least since his senses had re-emerged and Blair Sandburg had come into his life. He simply wasn't the same as he had been before the long-haired anthropologist had started to study him. He was looser, friendlier, more open. More human. No longer the cold, hard, unfeeling man he had been. They were all better for the presence of the highly energetic man who managed to help them all with his differing point of view.
"Hey, Jim, Sandy. You guys just getting back from lunch?" Inspector Megan Conner, exchange officer from Sydney, Australia, joined them as they waited for the elevator. She had decided that Jim was psychic and, so far, had not been let in on the real secret. She was, however, deeply involved with the setting up of the rumor mill.
"Yeah. Jim took me to this really nice French restaurant, over on Fourth? That new one, Francois'? It is really nice. Great food, nice and quiet, kinda dark. You know, intimate?" Pitching his voice to carry.
"Ooh, I've been hearing about that place. How's the food?"
"Wonderful, I'd just about kill for their recipe for poulet en vin. It was absolutely fabulous." Waving his hands about as he talked. Pretending to be unaware of being the center of attention for every officer within sight.
Fortunately, the elevator opened just then, allowing them to escape the scrutiny of the mostly uniformed officers nearby. As soon as the elevator started moving, all three of them burst out in laughter.
"I don't think I've ever heard the WonderBurger chicken sandwich described like that before." Jim guffawed.
"Do you think I overdid the hand waving?" Blair asked, giggling.
"Oh, no. It was perfect, Sandy. Absolutely perfect. I can't wait until they find out the truth." Megan was laughing just as hard as the men were.
"I'm not sure how long I'm going to be able to keep this up." Jim admitted. "I'm having a really hard time keeping a straight face, already."
"Well, I wouldn't worry too much about trying to appear straight just now, if you know what I mean." Laughing even harder at the double-entendre.
"Oh, please. No more. I'm with Jim. I'm not sure I can keep it up until Thanksgiving, let alone Christmas." Blair tried hard to control his laughter.
The minute they stepped off the elevator on their floor, Detective Brown accosted them. "Simon's been looking for you guys. I guess the Mayor's been hearing the rumors. He's not very happy right now."
"Well, I guess we'd better go see what he wants." Jim said, placing a hand on Blair's shoulder to steer him toward their superior's office.
"What am I supposed to tell the mayor? I know you have every reason to be doing this, but it could have some pretty serious repercussions. Give me some help, here, men." Simon pleaded.
"Um, maybe we could go and talk to her?" Blair suggested. Simon stared at the younger man.
"You're kidding, right?"
"No. I think it might be a good idea. Let her in on everything about the rumors. Explain it to her. I'm sure she's seen what the 'grapevine' can do."
Jim and Simon gaped at each other. Then Jim shrugged. "Hell, why not, Sir? It just might work."
Simon nodded. "Why not? Go for it."
Fortunately, the Mayor had an hour free that afternoon. Jim and Blair were precisely eight minutes early. They were not kept waiting.
"Gentlemen." The mayor acknowledged them. "Please, come in, have a seat." She didn't offer to shake hands. "What can I do for you?" Somewhat aloof.
Jim and Blair exchanged a look. Turning back to the mayor, Blair began.
"Well, we understand that you've been hearing some rumors about us." The mayor nodded. "Well, we heard about some of them a couple of weeks ago. We were a little upset. We know who are behind some of the rumors, but, apparently, there are quite a few more out there than we were at first aware of. The ones we were told about were pretty shocking. You know that Jim and I are partners? That we also live together?"
"Yes. I was aware of that." Finding herself interested in what the earnest, long-haired man had to say.
"Well, we didn't know about the rumors. Which is pretty surprising, considering how the grapevine in the department is usually so good at spreading news. We've tracked some of the stories to their sources, and it seems that we've maybe made a few enemies within the department. One of the originators is a woman who has been wanting to date Jim; another one was a guy Jim used to work with."
"Who are they? I can have their superiors reprimand them..." The mayor began.
"Oh, no. You don't understand. We talked it over, with our Captain, Simon Banks? He agreed to let us try and squelch it on our own. We figured that we'd feed them some real juicy gossip and then, when they're going to act on it, we're going to put paid to the rumors, once and for all."
"How do you propose to do that?" Curious, now.
Blair glanced at his partner, "Well, Jim's always been kind of physical, anyway, So we're feeding them what they want to believe, only we have a really nice comeuppance at the end of everything."
"What might that be?"
"Well, we figured we'd introduce our girlfriends at the Christmas party." Jim responded.
"You see, Jim and I are both pretty seriously involved with a couple of wonderful ladies. We've talked all this over with them, and they think it's a great idea and are willing to play along with it."
"Your girlfriends agreed to all of this?"
"Well, like Blair said, they are pretty wonderful." Jim smiled, remembering how Ronnie had laughed at their plan and wished she could be here to see the whole thing.
"And my lady's dad works with us, and he's aware of what's going on. I guess he's been trying for a really long time to squelch the rumors, but the more he denies them, the worse they seem to get." Blair added.
"So, the two of you aren't really..."
"Lovers? No." Blair asked, grinning. "Best friends, yes. Roommates, yes. Partners at work, yes. Life partners, no. Gay, no. Sexually involved, not with each other. Thoroughly pissed off over this whole thing, absolutely."
The mayor looked at the earnest men seated before her...and believed them. She nodded. "All right. I can accept that. Good luck in pulling this off, is all I can say. I must admit that your ladies are most gracious to allow you to do this."
"Well, the biggest problem we've been having is in trying to keep a straight face." Jim grinned.
"I can imagine." The mayor stood up. "Thank you, gentlemen, for coming and explaining everything to me." She circled back around her desk and offered to shake their hands. Smiling, both men did so.
"That was easy." Blair said, bouncing a little as they rode down in the elevator.
"Yeah, it was. I didn't think she'd be quite so, well, so supportive." Jim replied.
"Hey, she's in politics, I'm sure she's been a rumor mill victim herself. I can hardly wait for the holidays, man. I am so looking forward to the looks on the faces of the rumor mongers..."
"Yeah. I know what you mean. Oh, I got an e-mail from Ronnie this morning. Seems that Cassie called her with the latest gossip last night. I'm sure glad we told the ladies about what we were doing in advance. The rumors seem to be growing astronomically with each telling."
"Well, isn't that what we expected?"
"Yeah, I suppose so. What are your plans to step up the campaign? Remember, we still need backup on the scene, so we don't want to do too much and get fragged for our trouble."
"Fragged?" Casting a puzzled glance up at his partner.
"Yeah. Where you 'accidentally' get shot in the back by your backup. Comes from 'fragmentation round', back in 'Nam. It happened to a lot of unpopular officers. We have to be careful, Chief. We don't want to have anyone fail to back us up because of the rumors. OK?"
"Right. I hadn't thought about that, man. Maybe we should back down for a while?"
"Maybe. Let's just see how long it takes the uniforms to react to our next call for backup and go from there, OK?"
"Works for me, man."
Fortunately for the department's favorite rumor subjects, their reputation for exceptional police work kept the majority of officers accepting working with them, in spite of the suspicions about them. There were a few minor incidents, primarily involving those behind the rumors, but nothing overt, as the pair were quite popular, not only within the department, but with the public, as well. Most of the rumors were ignored. Most officers were too busy with their own work to worry about what anyone was saying about someone else.
"I'm about ready to start 'phase two'." Blair mentioned in the semi-weekly staff meeting in Simon's office.
"Oh, what is that going to be, Hair-boy?" Henry Brown asked, anticipating the possibilities.
"Well, Jim's already pretty physical, I thought I'd just start being a little more physical, too." Smirking.
"Physical in what way, Chief?" Jim asked, curious.
"Oh, I don't know. I haven't quite decided, yet. Just play along with whatever I do, OK?" Jim reluctantly agreed.
"Cascade PD, You are under arrest!" Jim grabbed the suspect and spun him around to face the car, pushing him until the suspect had to use his hands to brace himself against the hood.
Blair came up beside his partner and placed a hand on the man's back, holding him in place while he used one foot to nudge the suspect's feet back. "You do know the drill, I'm sure. Feet back and spread them." The suspect complied. "Thank you." Blair murmured, patting him down for weapons. Finding a knife in the man's boot, and a gun tucked into his belt. Removing the weapons and placing them in evidence bags and then in his coat pockets. "OK, Jim." Blair said, moving to place the handcuffs on their prisoner. When he had finished, he backed away.
Jim smiled at his partner as he holstered his gun. "Good work, Chief." He pulled the prisoner toward the patrol car, nearby. "You have the right to remain silent, anything you say may be used against you in a court of law. You have the right..."
Blair saw the expressions on the uniformed patrolman's face, the one who looked disgustedly at him. Raising an eyebrow in inquiry, he saw the word the man spoke under his breath. He didn't need his partner's enhanced hearing to know what the word was, it was pretty obvious. His grin tightened as he glanced at the patrolman's partner, who had heard what his partner had said and was glancing at Blair, blushing. Jim's jaw was clenched. He'd heard the word, as well. He gently pushed his prisoner into the back seat of the patrol car and turned back to his partner.
Blair reached out and touched his friend's arm, trying to soothe away the anger. "It's OK, Jim. He's just a jerk, man." Jim looked down at his best friend, cast a quick glance at their audience, and bent down and gave his smaller partner a quick hug...right out there on the street where anyone could see. There was a disgusted noise from one of the uniforms, but the other just smiled at them and gave them a 'thumbs up' before he turned to get in the patrol car to transport the prisoner.
"Do you think that was smart, Jim?" Blair asked, once they were back in the truck.
"Probably not, but I noticed that Harris and Piccolo seem to be rather at odds over our 'status'. It's got to be hell working with a partner who doesn't agree with your view on things."
"Yeah. Well, I've noticed that the only people who believe the rumors seem to be the ones who aren't very good cops to begin with. The ones who aren't happy with what they're doing, the hateful ones; the ones who get their kicks in putting other people down to raise themselves up."
"Yeah. I've noticed that, as well. So, just what was your plan?"
"My plan? Oh, on escalation? I've kind of changed my mind on that."
"Well, I thought that I'd get a little more physical? You know, like the hug you just gave me? Only I realized that that might just turn off some of the people who still like us. You know?"
"Yeah. I do. So, what now?"
"Now? I wish the ladies were here. I want to put an end to this already."
"Yeah. I know."
"They've been seen kissing in public!"
"Cassie, this is getting ridiculous."
"No, I was talking to officer Harris. He said they busted this guy on a warrant? After they put him in the patrol car, Jim kissed Blair. He saw them. Right out on the street."
Ronnie was becoming annoyed with her sister. "Cassie," She paused to take a calming breath. "Cassie, get a life." And hung up on her sister. She waited a few minutes and called Jim at home. The phone was answered on the second ring.
"Hi, Blair. Cassie just called. That girl needs to get a life. Did you really kiss Jim in front of officer Harris?"
"WHAT?!" Bursting out laughing. "No way! Not to say I hadn't thought about it, but decided it was too dangerous. Jim just gave me a hug. Nothing much even." He looked up at his partner who had heard his half of the conversation. "Here." Handing the phone to Jim. Still chuckling as he walked away.
"Hey, Sweetheart. Nice to hear your voice. What did you say to make Blair laugh so hard?"
"I told him what Cassie just called to pass on. Something about Officer Harris saying you and Blair were kissing in public, right after a bust?"
"Didn't happen. Harris, huh? That's another name to add to the list. I suspected as much when I overheard him saying something derogatory when I was putting the guy we arrested in the patrol car. His partner, Piccolo seemed a little embarrassed by him. Anyway, I heard what Harris said and when I got back to Blair, I gave him a hug. Nothing especially overt. Just reached around him to grab his far shoulder and pulled him close for a second."
"Well, Harris, with my sister's help, is embellishing it quite a bit."
"Yeah. I wish you were here. You and Cecilia. I'd like to put an end to this now." Jim replied, wistfully.
"Me, too. I miss you."
"I miss you, too. I wish one of us could just up and move, but that's not going to happen, is it?" sadly.
"Hang in there. I'll be up for Thanksgiving. That's just a few weeks away. We can talk then, OK?"
"Yeah. OK. Like we have much choice?"
"Jim, don't give up on us. You promised. Give it a chance, OK?"
"Yeah. I just don't know how much more I'm going to be able to take of this." He sounded dispirited.
"Hey, know what?"
"I'm falling in love with this really great guy, problem is, he doesn't quite believe it's possible. Got any ideas on how I can convince him?"
"Find some way to be with him?" A small smile forming involuntarily.
"We're working on that. I just want to take things really, really slow, let it build and follow it where it leads."
"Yeah. OK." Jim sighed. "Sorry. I'll try to be a little more positive."
"Good. See you for Thanksgiving?"
"Yes. What about Cassie?"
"She's going to the parent's. Kissing up to the old man. I'd rather enjoy my holiday. Are we cooking?"
"No. We've all been invited to a genuinely traditional Thanksgiving party. Dan Wolf's family has invited all of us to join them. You haven't met any of them, yet. But you'll know most of the guys from the station. They're a great bunch."
"Well, I know the people who know you; although, I still don't know your secret. You're not psychic, you said, but there's something..."
"I know. I'll find out when the time is right. It's OK." She reassured him. "I miss you."
"I miss you, too."
"Well, it's getting late. I'd better go."
"Yeah. Good night."
"Good night, Jim." They hung up simultaneously.
Jim walked over and slumped down on the couch.
"So, Jim. What do you think we should do, now?"
Jim rubbed his face with both palms, feeling the tension turning into a headache. Just what he needed to try and sleep on. "I honestly don't know. It's three weeks until Thanksgiving. What say we put the kibosh on the stupid rumor mill sooner, instead of later? I'm just afraid that something bad's going to happen if we let it go on much longer. I don't want anyone to get hurt...least of all, us."
"Yeah. The way Harris was glaring at us, I have to agree. If Piccolo hadn't been there, it could have gotten ugly." Blair looked at his friend, recognizing the signs of a stress headache. "You OK?"
"Yeah. Just a headache." Pressing his palms firmly against his eyes.
"Here. Let me." Blair got up and circled around behind his roommate and began massaging his temples, speaking a soft litany of calming words, which worked with the physical touch to calm and soothe his troubled friend. Wishing he could do more to help.
"We want to squash the rumors over Thanksgiving, Simon." Jim informed his colleagues in their next staff meeting. "It's starting to get really ugly. I gave Blair a little hug, which is now making the rounds as a tonsil-diving expedition on the streets of Cascade." Unable to disguise the bitterness and anger.
"Yeah. We heard." Rafe replied. "It's going to be pretty hard to do over Thanksgiving, don't you think? There are an awful lot of people taking time off for the holiday."
"Well, there is the annual prayer breakfast a couple of days before. The media will be out in force. If we could just get your ladies to come up a little early?" Simon suggested.
They all looked at each other. Smiles slowly spreading across every face. Perfect. The media could do the work for them...The mayor would be right up front...
"So, are you ready to go pick up your ladies?" Simon asked, smirking as he noticed the nervous agitation of his best team.
"Yeah. As ready as we're going to be." Blair answered for his partner. "I wish Joel was going to go with us, though. I mean, after all, both ladies will be staying with them." Bouncing nervously from one foot to the other.
"Well, just be grateful that the rumor mill is going to be smashed to smithereens by this time tomorrow. I talked to the mayor, and she talked to the chief, your biggest detractors have been assigned duty for tomorrow. I can hardly wait to see their faces. Hopefully, Rhonda will be able to arrange to get it all on tape..."
Simon's phone chose that moment to ring. Holding up a hand to indicate they wait, he picked up the handset.
"Banks." Glancing away from his men, focusing on the voice at the other end of the line. Both Jim and Blair watched their superior closely, as the big man's body stiffened and his muscles tightened. "Where?" He turned and glanced at his team, "I'll send someone immediately." He sighed as he hung up the phone.
"Sorry, Jim. I need you on this one. Why don't you go and pick up your ladies, Blair?" His expression giving nothing away. Blair hesitated for a moment, looking hard at the captain, then nodded and left, giving his partner a warning glance.
"What is it, Sir?"
"A real mess. Seems we may have just had a bunch of missing person's cases solved.." He removed his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose, squinching his eyes closed. "Looks like we have a Dahmer wannabe..."
Cecilia had flown to Sacramento the evening before, to meet up and travel the rest of the way with Ronnie. They had a great time together, comparing notes on their gentlemen, life in general, and their long-distance problems in particular. When they arrived at SEA-TAC, they looked anxiously for their guys. Bursting into matching smiles as they spotted Blair, making their way toward him. Ronnie looking beyond, hoping to see Jim.
"Hi, ladies." Blair smiled. Reaching out to take each by a hand. "Sorry, Jim got a case, just as we were about to come and get you. Simon sends his apologies. I've got Joel's car, at the moment, 'cause he's working with Jim on this case."
"Serious?" Ronnie asked, concerned.
"I think so. Simon shooed me out before telling Jim about it. Probably something really messy." There wasn't much to say, after that. They went and collected their luggage and Blair drove them to the Taggart home, where Cecilia's mother, Mable was waiting for them.
Jim and Joel didn't make it home for dinner. The meal was somewhat subdued, due to that fact. After dinner, Cecilia offered to take Blair home. Besides getting him , it also offered them a chance to be alone together. They were quiet on the trip over, but once they had parked, Blair turned to his lady and took her into his arms.
"I've missed you so much." Kissing her. His hands running up and down her back, cuddling her close.
"Me, too." She murmured, combing his curls with one hand, while the other rubbed his shoulder. They talked about what had been happening in their lives since they had last seen one another. Comparing notes, telling amusing anecdotes, laughing and sharing their lives with each other. After a while, Blair sighed.
"I guess I'd better let you go. Your dad's going to worry if you aren't there when Jim drops him off. I just hope your mom makes him eat."
"I know. I'll see you tomorrow, OK?"
"You better believe it. Early, too. I've never been to a prayer breakfast, before. But I'm really looking forward to this one." He climbed out. "Drive safely, and call me when you get home, OK?"
"Getting a little overprotective?" Smiling; enjoying the concern.
"Well, let's just say I have a terrific role model for it." Grinning as he bent down to kiss her goodbye. "You'd better get going, or we'll both be in trouble."
It was after midnight when Jim finally dragged in. Blair looked up from his laptop when he heard the door open. "Did you eat?" Seeing how exhausted and worn his partner was.
"Yes. Mable forced us to have something. All I want now is a shower and bed." Seeing Blair about to ask a question, "You don't want to know, Chief. I-I-I'm glad you weren't there. It was bad. The only good news is that we've got the perp." Without another word, he tossed his keys in the basket, hung his jacket on the hook and headed for the bathroom.
Blair watched, worried. It wasn't like Jim to not take his gun off and put it away in his room immediately, it must have been really bad. He debated trying to get his friend to talk to him, but decided to give him a little space and time to come to grips on his own; however, he was determined to be there for him, when and if he was needed.
The shower helped. The steaming water, the force of the spray, helped to soothe his aching muscles, but did nothing for his horrified psyche. The water was nearly cold before he finally turned it off and toweled off. He picked up his belt, holster, gun and wallet and carried them out and headed upstairs to bed. Once in the safety of his bedroom, he carefully put his gun away, set his other accouterments on the dresser, dropped his towel to the floor, pulled on a clean pair of boxers and crawled into bed.
He tried to push down the events of the day. Trying to shove them into the little closet in the back recesses of his mind where he hid his greatest fears and horrors. Unfortunately, since Blair had come into his life, he had lost the key to his repression closet and he had a hard time getting anything into the little compartment; not to mention how much kept escaping. He managed to fall asleep, but was almost immediately bombarded by the memories and nightmares of his day...
Blair wondered what had awakened him. It was quiet. He rolled over, punched his pillow and tried to burrow back down in, to sleep. It was dark, but suddenly, he noticed that there was a shadow that didn't belong. Then, he realized that there was an unusual sound, as well...
Swallowing, hard, he looked up, toward the French doors leading to the rest of the apartment. Recognizing the man-shape he saw, he sat up, worried.
"Jim? What's wrong?"
"Blair?" A barely audible whisper.
"Jim? What is it? What's wrong?" A feeling of panic starting to set in.
"Please. H-h-help me?"
Blair could see that his friend was shivering. He threw back his covers and jumped up, taking Jim by the arm and pulling him in. "What's wrong? Are you hurt? Please, man. Talk to me, here."
"I-I-I-...please..." trembling violently. Blair could see his friend had his eyes tightly closed, shaking. Blair carefully reached his arms around the obviously distressed man.
"Shhh. It's OK, Jim. I'm right here. Come on. Sit down." Pulling him down on the edge of his bed. Rubbing his hands up and down Jim's back. "It's OK, Jim. You're safe. Nothing can get to you here." Wondering what his partner had seen at the earlier crime scene that was affecting him so horribly. Shocked as Jim dropped his head on Blair's shoulder, reaching his arms around him to cling to him, the sounds of muffled sobs, great shuddering gasps of air as he tried to breathe through his tears...
Not knowing what was wrong, Blair simply held on tight. Trying desperately to reassure his friend, his Sentinel. Wishing, now, he had made him talk earlier. As Jim's sobbing subsided, Blair gently urged him to lie down and lifted his friend's feet to the bed. Sitting beside him, gently stroking his cheek, soothingly. He was startled by a knock at the front door. Looking at Jim, who appeared to be almost zoned out, he quickly went to see who it could possibly be.
"Who is it?" He whispered, not wanting to disturb Jim.
"It's Ronnie. Is Jim all right?"
Blair immediately opened the door, allowing his friend's lady to enter. "Not really. Do you know what happened earlier? He came home, obviously upset, but didn't want to talk about it. He just took a shower and went to bed. He woke up a little while ago, I guess. He's acting really weird."
"Joel woke up with nightmares, too. Neither of them would talk about it, at dinner. They didn't eat much, either. I borrowed Joel's car to come and check on Jim." She looked around the loft, wondering where Jim might be.
"He...He..." Blair sighed, shaking his head. "He was pretty upset." He looked at Ronnie, "He cried."
"Can I see him?" Pleading.
"Of course. I just got him to relax a little. He's in my room..." Leading the way. They found Jim curled into a fetal position, arms hugging one of Blair's pillows tightly to him, trembling still. Ronnie went to him and knelt on the floor beside the bed. Gently reaching out to him. She started to murmur reassurances to him. Blair watched them for a minute, then grabbed a couple of pillows and blankets and retreated to the living room to spend the rest of the night on the couch, just in case they needed anything.
"Shh. Jim. It's OK. It's me, Ronnie. I'm here, baby. May I hold you? Please?" Gently tugging at the pillow. When he loosened his grip on it, she put it aside and started to stretch out beside him, but immediately changed her mind. Still murmuring to the distressed man, she stood back up and went to the door.
"Blair? Do you have a tee-shirt I could borrow?" Blair looked up from the cocoon he'd just made on the couch.
"Sure. Um, top right hand drawer." Seeing the gleam of the light reflecting from her smile. He smiled back, then settled back down to sleep.
Ronnie pulled open the indicated drawer and took the top tee-shirt out. Swiftly, she undressed down to her panties, pulling the borrowed tee-shirt over her head. Then she stretched out beside Jim. Taking him into her arms and holding him close.
He whimpered, his arms snaking around her and holding her tightly; burying his face against her, crying. She held him. Pressing his face against her breast and murmuring soothingly to him, rocking him, rubbing his back, stroking his head and face, as a mother comforts a child. Her soft reassurances finally soothed him to sleep. She stroked his face for a while longer, then drifted off to sleep as well.
He was warm, comfortable. The scent of his roommate combined with the scent of the woman in his arms a comforting fragrance. He smiled, nuzzling at the soft, cotton covered breast his cheek was pressed against. Smiling, still half asleep. His hand finding its way beneath the soft cotton to gently stroke the silky skin beneath. His body responding to the warm proximity of his lady, he unconsciously shifted against her, gently thrusting his hips against her. His hand stroking a little harder, nibbling at the breast through the cotton material. Still more asleep than awake.
Then, the memories returned and he froze. The horrors of what he had seen in the previous day's investigation. His body instantly lost interest in the warm, enticing woman beside him.
"Are you all right, Jim?" She asked softly. Her left hand stroking his back while her right hand smoothed back his short hair.
"Sorry." He moved to sit up, but she tightened her grip on him.
"Huh uh. Talk. Joel was having nightmares, too. That's why I came over. Talk to me, Jim. Please?" Her hands continuing their gentle stroking. He didn't raise his head to look at her. "Remember, I've seen some really bad stuff. I'm pretty tough, please?"
"It was a Dahmer wannabe. He had parts from about..." He choked. His throat closing down, he had to swallow back the bile that rose. "He'd been at this for quite a while. He hunted people like other people hunt deer. I-I-I-I think he's been doing this for a long time. He had just taken his latest victim..." Burying his face against her, trembling. She tightened her grip on him, bending her face down to press her cheek against the top of his head. "H-h-he would rape them, before killing them. We were lucky. One of his neighbors saw him take his latest victim into his house and called us. He was caught in the act of-of ... It was a ten year old boy..." He started sobbing again. Clinging desperately to her. She held on tight.
"OK. I understand. Oh, sweetheart. It's OK. I'm here. I won't go anywhere." Holding his face against her breast. Pressing herself tightly against him. "I'm here. I'm here for you. I won't leave you alone. I promise."
They clung together for a time. Seeking and taking comfort from one another. Falling asleep again, the pain and fear easing with the knowledge that they were not alone, that they didn't have to face the realities of the evil they might encounter by themselves.
Blair awoke when the phone rang at seven-thirty. He looked puzzled for just a moment, until the memories of the previous night's happenings came back. He jumped up and snatched the phone from it's charger. "Hello?" Still not quite awake.
"Hey, Blair. It's Joel. How's Jim?" The voice of his friend indicated that he hadn't had a very good night, either.
"He's still asleep. It was pretty bad. What happened, yesterday, anyway?"
"You really do not want to know, son. It was one of the worst cases I've ever seen."
"Worse that the Rune murders?"
"Well, in some ways, yes. That was evil, this was sick. I doubt that the guy will even make it to trial. Which scares me even more."
"Ouch. That bad? What was it, some kind of cannibal?" Trying a weak joke.
"Uh, yeah." Surprised.
"Oh, man. That is so not what I needed to know. I'm sorry. No wonder Jim didn't want to talk about it."
"Well, how's Ronnie?"
"Still asleep, too."
Well, since Mable and Cecilia are going, too, why don't the three of you use my car? That way..." Joel stopped speaking. Blair could hear the sound of Mable's voice in the background, but not the words. "Oh, I guess Ronnie will have to come back here to dress. Well, since the brunch is at nine-thirty, you might want to wake them up."
"Yeah. OK. I'll get the coffee started and then wake them. We'll see you there, OK?"
"Count on it." They said their good-byes, and hung up. Joel turned to his beloved wife and smiled a little wanly. "He'll get them up and started on their way. I hope this works."
Mable smiled at him. "Of course it will work. Those boys won't be paying attention to anything but their ladies. Everyone will know the truth. And if they still try and tell those awful tales, well, there will have been enough witnesses to today's festivities that no one will believe them." Taking her husband's hand in hers and holding it tight. "Have I mentioned lately just how much I love you?" Pleased with the way her words caused her husband to relax and smile at her. The smile that never failed to make her heart flutter.
"As a matter of fact..."
Blair rose and started the coffee. Then, he went to the French doors and gently knocked. When there was no answer, he spoke softly. "Jim. Jim, it's seven-forty. The prayer breakfast is at nine-thirty, man. We need to get going, soon. Jim?"
He felt warm, safe, loved. The woman he was snuggled up against reassured him, as did the scent of his guide. He heard Blair's voice, soft and distant. The voice rising and falling like gentle waves on the ocean. He took a deep breath and gently awoke. Listening for a moment, he smiled, then carefully stretched. Ronnie opened her eyes to gaze into his smiling eyes. She could barely make out Blair's voice from the other side of the doors. She smiled as she tilted her head to meet Jim's lips in a 'good morning' kiss.
"I could get used to this." She murmured.
"It's quarter to eight and we need to get going. Joel called to give us a wake up." Jim said, arms holding her tightly in a hug.
She frowned, puzzled. "How do you know that?"
"Blair. That's what woke me up. Blair calling us to wake up, that it's getting late. We have less than two hours to get ready and get there, and you still have to drive back to Joel's house to get ready." He kissed her again, then reluctantly released her. She sat up and swung her legs off the bed and stood. Jim smiled at the sight of her in one of his Cascade PD tee shirts, then recognized it as one Blair had usurped long ago. He chuckled. "I like the shirt."
"Me, too. Blair loaned it to me." Confused when he laughed, then sinuously slid out of bed and stood.
"Well, let me get out of here, so you can get dressed. I'm going to head for the shower. See you at the prayer breakfast?"
"You can count on it." She reached up to give him a final kiss before watching him turn and leave the room, admiring the view. When he had closed the door behind him, she sighed and turned to dress.
It was a good thing that Ronnie had decided to keep things simple. Once she got back to the Taggart's, she rushed in, calling out her good mornings and thank yous as she headed upstairs to her room, then to the bathroom, where she showered and dressed in a simple, flowing, knee-length white dress with a contrasting teal jacket and matching pumps. The longest time was spent blow-drying and fixing her hair, even her makeup was kept simple. At Nine o'clock, she returned downstairs to the others.
"Wow." Joel smiled at her. "Very nice." Unable to avoid looking her over. "Simple, yet elegant." Taking his wife's hand in his.
"Thank you, sir. I guess I clean up OK? As opposed to the usual jeans and shirt?" Returning the smiles.
"You look just lovely, dear. I must admit that I'm really looking forward to this." Smiling.
"Well, we have half an hour to get there, so, shall we?" Joel asked.
Mable drove, her van being her best transportation. Cecilia asked how Blair had looked this morning, and Ronnie chuckled as she replied. "Well, he sleeps in a cocoon of blankets, sweatpants and a tee shirt. His hair gets all snarled when he sleeps, and I don't think he does anything with it until he washes it and breaks out the 'No More Tangles'. He looks like a little boy, when he's just woken up."
"Oh, I'd like to see that." Cecilia laughed.
"You'd better not." Her father warned, smiling and not really meaning it.
"Well, maybe some day..." Was Cecilia's wistful reply.
They all met outside the convention center. Simon, the Taggart's, Ronnie, Jim, and Blair. Brown and Rafe had already gone in and staked out a table with Rhonda. They couldn't have planned it better if they'd tried. The tables sat ten, and they filled one, all by themselves. They were close to the front, where everyone and anyone could see them. The mayor spotted them the moment she arrived at the head table. Seeing them, she smiled, knowing she had a front row seat to the real festivities.
"I thought Ellison and Sandburg were the item?" "Who's the redhead?" "Wow, she's somethin'." "Hey, isn't that Taggart's daughter that Sandburg's got a lip-lock on?" "But, I'd heard..." "Well, so much for those rumors."
"Harris? I thought you said that you'd seen Jim and Blair kissing." Cassie hissed to her escort.
"Well, not exactly..." He stammered in reply. He was just as shocked as she was at the ladies the two rumor subjects were showering their attention on. In fact, it looked like Ellison was unaware of anything but the statuesque redhead sitting beside him. Hell, he was even feeding her!
Cassie was mortified. She'd spread the rumors with abandon. Wild abandon. She caught glares from several people who had been eating the malicious gossip like candy from her. It was obvious that she had screwed up royally. She found herself unable to eat, unable to speak, unable to face all the glares and stares aimed in her direction. Finally, unable to take any more, she stood up, gathered her things and made a fast escape; face scarlet with shame. She had planned to leave for her parents this afternoon, take a couple of extra days off. Now, she wondered if she'd have a job when she came back.
"Did you hear all the whispering?" Simon chortled, when they reconvened back in the bullpen after the breakfast. "Oh, man. I'd have loved to hear some of those, those idiots trying to back-pedal."
"Well, there was one who insisted that the ladies were just for show, until someone else elbowed him and told him to take a look and face the facts...uh..." Blushing suddenly at what he was repeating.
"Uh, what, Jim?" Brown asked, mildly. Hiding just how much he wanted to know.
"Well, uh, words to the effect that I had obviously gotten lucky, 'cause of the way I was acting." Meeting Ronnie's puzzled eyes and blushing even darker, if that was possible.
"You mean how you couldn't take your eyes off of Ronnie? How you fed her from your plate? The way you kept touching her?" Simon teased.
"Well, I thought it was lovely." Mable insisted. "And I noticed that Blair was almost as attentive to Cecilia." Smiling benignly at the couple who were on the outskirts of the group, talking and kissing. Oblivious to what was happening around them. Mable reached out to take her husband's hand, pleased with the two couples.
"Um, I have a question." Ronnie said, softly, a serious look on her face as she gazed into Jim's eyes.
"Hey, how was the Breakfast, guys?" Megan Connor asked as she entered the office. She had drawn the onerous pleasure of handling any and all calls while the rest had gone to the breakfast.
"Oh, Babe, you really missed out. The food was lousy, the speaker was dull and boring, but the entertainment was first rate." Brown laughed.
"So, it worked?"
"Well, if it didn't, it sure wasn't from any lack on our part. Hell, Jim was hand-feeding Ronnie." Henry couldn't seem to stop chuckling about the whole thing.
"Jim and Blair were very attentive to their ladies. It was obvious to anyone with eyes how they feel about them." Rafe added, smiling.
"Well, I'm glad. So, were the ringleaders suitably depressed?" Megan asked, wishing she had been able to go, as well.
"Oh, yeah. Cassie even left early. I guess she just couldn't handle the truth...Oh, sorry, Ronnie. I forgot. She is your sister, after all." Brown turned to apologize, only to find Jim and Ronnie cuddling and kissing. "Well, maybe she's not too upset, after all." Grinning at the others.
It turned out to be a pretty quiet day at the office, with lots of laughter over the collapse of the rumor brigade. The ladies had decided to stick around, Mable found herself making coffee and ordering in a late lunch, when she wasn't helping Rhonda or visiting with her husband or Simon. Ronnie found herself helping Brown and Rafe with their reports, as she had a wonderful way with words. Cecilia and Blair weren't much help, but then, Jim didn't really want any when it came to working on the reports from the case from the previous day.
As the afternoon waned, Blair finally realized that Jim was stressing out over the case, the hideousness of the crime, and how long it had been going on. Unfortunately, Dan Wolf was still working on trying to figure out the identities of the victims from all the various body parts, while forensics was still digging up the grounds around the house looking for remains.
"Jim?" Blair asked, placing one hand on his friend's shoulder, finding the muscles rock hard. He looked at the clenched jaw and realized that his partner had zoned out on his report. He looked at the open folder on the desk and nearly gagged at the photograph he saw there. "Oh, God..." He whispered, nauseated by what was in the picture. Ronnie chose that moment to look up and immediately came over.
"What's wrong? Blair?" She looked at where he was staring and paled. She glanced around and reached for a piece of paper to cover the picture. She frowned as she realized that Jim hadn't moved. She placed a hand on the shoulder Blair wasn't gripping, and realized just how stiff and hard Jim's muscles were. "Jim? Jim?" Her voice rising a bit when Jim failed to respond. She cast a concerned glance at Blair, who had started rubbing Jim's other shoulder and started talking...
"Jim. Come on, man. Come on back. It's OK, Please, Jim. You're doing a pretty good job of freaking me out here, man. Not to mention Ronnie. Jim? Oh, man. Please don't be doing this. Jim?" He cupped Jim's face with his other hand and patted the clenched muscles. Jim had tightened up so much, that Blair couldn't get him to turn his head.
"Blair? He's catatonic." Ronnie whispered, trying to not attract attention, knowing that such things could end Jim's career. She tried shaking Jim's shoulder, but there was no reaction.
"Kiss him." Blair hissed.
"What?!" Hissing back in shock.
"Kiss him. He's zoned out. Just do it, please?" They stared at one another for a moment.
"Does this have anything to do with his being able to hear all the whispers at the breakfast?" Cautiously glancing around to see if anyone else had noticed. Blair's eyes, already large, just got bigger.
"Please, Ronnie. Just do what I ask? Please?" Giving her his most earnest look.
"Does it? Is there more than 'super' hearing?" Her eyes glazed over a bit as she thought about it. "He's not psychic, but he knows things...he hears...smells..." She glanced down and followed Jim's line of sight to... "Oh, my God. That's it, isn't it? His senses, they're, they're what? Enhanced?" She looked at the resigned expression on Blair's face. "That's it, isn't it? All five?" Blair nodded, anxious about his friend.
"Ronnie, please. Just kiss him." She stared from one to the other, the synapses firing violently as she processed the information. Shaking herself, she cast one last worried glance around the room, ending with Blair's own worried countenance, then leaned forward and kissed Jim. She came up for air and went in for another kiss, her tongue brushing against his lips, seeking a connection. She felt him take a deep breath and his mouth opened against hers as he returned her kiss. When they pulled apart a moment later, she watched him as he blinked, confused, his eyes darting around, taking in his surroundings, her, Blair.
"What?" Still a little lost.
"Man. You zoned. Big time. I couldn't reach you, man. Ronnie brought you back." Smiling shakily at the calm woman who had backed off a bit and was leaning on Jim's desk, arms folded, contemplating the pair.
"That's the secret. No wonder you found that wallet. No wonder you found the formaldehyde at the dig. No wonder you overheard those gossips at the breakfast." She shifted her gaze to Blair. "Your job is to keep him grounded, try and prevent what just happened here, right?" She didn't let him answer, just nodded in understanding. "What, were you afraid I'd run away? That I'd call the newspapers? Television? The Pentagon? Who else knows?" Hurt and angry that they hadn't told her.
"Please, Ronnie..." Jim pleaded, still trying to recover from the zone out.
"Wait a minute." Blair pulled Jim back, chair and all and placed himself between them. "He doesn't tell anyone. Simon had to be told, to explain why he needed me around. Besides, Simon knew something was up. That was three years ago. No one, and I mean NO one, even guessed until early this year when Joel figured it out. Well, he overheard us trying to find him when a building blew up around him. Then we told Mable, because it wasn't fair to make Joel keep a secret from his wife. Then, Rafe decided to read some stuff I'd written and asked, at which time we also told Brown. These are the guys we work with. The people who most often back us up. The people we have to depend on. Not one of them was simply told about it. If you weren't as serious about Jim as he is about you, you could get him turned into a lab rat...it's been tried, before. We recently had another attempt made to take him, only this time, we got lucky. You know Jim. You know that he doesn't trust easily. How can he? How..."
"Chief. Blair. It's OK. I know Ronnie was ready to ask this morning, when Megan came in. We got side-tracked. It's OK." Jim gently moved Blair out of the way. He looked up at Ronnie, speculative. "Am I right?" She nodded. She wasn't really angry, just that his zone out had frightened her and she had lashed out in reaction. Jim smiled and stood up. "Call a meeting, Chief. It's time, to add another member to the team." Tilting his head with a questioning expression on his face. Ronnie stepped over to him and reached her arms around him.
"Yes. It is time." They hugged and Jim tilted her chin up for a kiss. The rest of the detectives had figured out what had been going on, Cecilia and Megan just happened to be out of the office at the ladies room at that particular moment. Such a serendipitous occurrence, keeping the secret from spreading too far, too fast.
When they broke apart, Jim whispered for only her to hear, "Now, if we can only figure out some way to move you here..."
eg**Yep. I know. I'm an evil, wicked, mean, and nasty person for ending it here. However, the next part will take place two days later, Thanksgiving, at the wilderness hideaway of the Black Wolf clan. Just to be even meaner, I'll let you in on a little secret...Atlan has been surrounded by all the shape-shifters that Meadowlark Black Wolf has been able to gather. And they're all female. Black Wolf isn't interested in finding a new mate, although he knows that if they are to survive as a species, he should. Atlan, on the other hand, has been bombarded by tail-swishing she-wolves hoping to become his mate. Just remember, wolves mate for life, and he's not used to being the center of attention...
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