Title: Push and Pull
Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Series/Sequel: sequel to Pushing Through the Demons, fourth story in the Push series
Disclaimers: PetFly still owns the boys, I'm just borrowing them for a little while. I'll give 'em back.... eventually. <g> No money made, for entertainment purposes only, yadda, yadda, yadda
Notes: This has nothing to do with Sentinel, Too! This story is the fourth in my "Push" series, and, while I believe it can stand alone, it is a direct continuation of Pushing Through the Demons and readers might want to at least read that one (if not all three previous stories) beforehand. All three stories are archived both at 852 Prospect and at Owlet's page (thanks buddy!). Thanks to Gila, Cen, and Maigret for betaing and to Heidi, Strawberries and others who listened on IRC when I wrote this. As always this story is dedicated to my twin, cheerleader, blessed protector, she-with-whom-I-share-one-brain, Maigret. Thanks babe!
Summary: A change in status highlights some of Jim's insecurities and helps Blair realize the give and take involved in their relationship
Blair woke from an extremely pleasant dream to an even more pleasant reality.
He was lying on his back, loose-limbed and sprawled, and his lover was lying between his legs, doing his level best to devour Blair's cock. And his best was very good indeed.
With a low moan, Blair tried to thrust deeper into the moist heat that engulfed him, only to have his hips grabbed and held down, restraining his movement. He moaned again, this time in frustration as his partner's mouth left his cock and instead began licking and nipping at his inner thighs. He shifted his legs wider and wriggled as much as he could trying to coax that mouth back to where he wanted it.
A low chuckle sounded and then a warm tongue was thoroughly bathing his balls. Blair gasped as his lover sucked first one then the other into his talented mouth. By the time the older man turned his attention back to his partner's cock, Blair was trembling and panting for breath.
He was so primed that it didn't take long for him to topple over the edge with a cry. His lover's mouth continued to work him through his climax, not stopping until he went limp.
Finally releasing Blair's softening cock, Jim crawled up his lover's body and kissed him deeply, letting Blair taste himself.
"'Morning," Jim said as he pulled back a little.
"'Morning," Blair replied, feeling his lips curl into a smile. "Man, you beat the alarm clock any day!"
Jim gave another of those low chuckles. "You slept through the alarm clock, Chief."
"Well there's no way I'd ever sleep through that!" Blair shifted slightly feeling something hard and hot pressed against his thigh. "Or through this either," he added, as he reached down and wrapped his hand around Jim's cock, stroking it with a light touch.
Jim groaned and thrust himself further into Blair's hand. The younger man continued the caress for a moment then reached out and grabbed the small tube on the nightstand and put it into his lover's hand. "Inside me," he whispered sentinel-soft which inspired another heartfelt groan from his partner.
Rolling over, Blair drew himself up onto his knees as Jim fumbled with the lube. After a few seconds Blair felt a slick finger gently probe his opening. He pushed back, gasping as he felt it slip inside.
Despite the level of arousal that Jim must have been feeling by now, he took his time in preparing Blair. He teased him with just the one finger for quite a while before adding another digit, brushing against his prostate repeatedly until Blair was panting, dizzy with arousal, his cock hard and ready again.
Then the fingers were removed and Jim's cock was slowly pushing inside him, going deeper with each tiny thrust. Blair rocked his hips backwards, aiding in bringing the welcome invader deeper until at last he could feel his lover's balls rest against him.
They were still for a moment and Blair savored the delicious sensation of being filled, the awe of having his soulmate inside him. Then the moment passed and Jim started moving, withdrawing slowly and thrusting back in quickly, driving everything from Blair's mind but the fire of arousal. Little grunts of pleasure slipped from his lips every time that Jim thrust home. He pushed his hips back, encouraging the sentinel to speed up the tempo.
A hand snaking around and beginning to pump his cock in counter rhythm was all that it took for Blair to lose it. Tossing his head back he howled as he climaxed a second time. He fell forward as Jim continued thrusting frantically for a few seconds then froze and came with a low moan.
Still entangled, they collapsed on the bed. They lay there like that for a few minutes, just being close and feeling their connection. It was these moments that Blair treasured most, relishing the feelings of loving and being loved. He would stay like this forever if he could; when Jim was wrapped around him all his doubts and insecurities melted away like ice in the jungle.
But reality, as always, intruded, this time in the form of growing discomfort from the drying semen on his stomach. With a small sigh of regret he pulled away from his lover, turning around and kissing him. "Much as I'd love to stay here, I really need a shower," he said, glancing down at himself, lips twitching slightly in amusement. "That is if my legs haven't turned to spaghetti. That was like, so mind-blowing man!"
Jim chuckled as he sat up, running his hands through his bed-tousled hair. "It was pretty amazing Chief. It always is."
Blair felt his heart skip a beat at those words and the affection in the voice that delivered them. 'How did I get this lucky?' he thought as he looked at his lover with what he was sure was an extremely sappy expression.
Jim just grinned at him and reached out a hand to caress his curls fondly. "Go take your shower Chief. I'll get breakfast."
Blair nodded mutely as he got out of bed, still a bit overwhelmed by his feelings. By the time he reached the top of the stairs however his natural exuberance had reasserted itself and he threw a wicked grin back over his shoulder as he started down. "I'll even try and leave you some hot water."
Jim's "Try hard!" floated down the stairs after him and he laughed.
Stepping under the shower immediately brought to Blair's mind the shower he'd shared with Jim the night before. The memory sent a flash of heat through his body as well as stirring up deeper emotion that warmed his heart.
Blair sighed and closed his eyes as he leaned back under the water's spray. 'Man, how did I get so lucky?' he thought again. To have someone like Jim not only love him but believe in him was beyond his wildest dreams.
'Only it's not a dream. It's real. He looked at me and said I was the most important thing in the world to him. He told me I'm not a screw-up. He practically ordered me to stop putting myself down. I've never had anyone believe in me like he does, not even my mom.'
Thoughts of Naomi and their relationship floated through his brain as he shampooed his hair. 'She always loved me but there was always this fear in her eyes when I tried something new, this doubt that I'd screw up and get hurt. And it's not just her. Everyone has always looked at me and doubted. I've always been too young, too short, too brainy, too impulsive.' Rinsing the suds from his hair, he sighed and tried to stop the negative litany before it turned into a downward spiral.
'I've had some success in life,' he reminded himself. 'Quite a bit of it actually. Still… even though I know I've accomplished a lot, I've never really felt like I've fit anywhere. But I fit here. With Jim. For the first time in my life I feel like I belong. And I've been terrified of screwing up and losing that. But I don't need to be, do I? Jim accepts me warts and all. I don't need to keep proving myself to him. He's not watching me, waiting for me to fail, and he never has been. I'm not sure there's another person I can say that about.'
An awed smile touched his lips. 'No wonder I love him. And if he doesn't think I'm a screw-up, then maybe, maybe I'm not.'
Blair's ruminations left him filled with a new sense of well being and contentment as he finished his shower and other morning rituals.
The sound of the blender assaulted Blair as he stepped out of the bathroom washed, shaved, and wrapped in his ratty but comfortable bathrobe. He was treated to the sight of his partner, looking altogether delectable in nothing but his boxers, preparing an algae shake and valiantly trying to keep the distaste off his face.
Laughing but touched at the gesture, Blair quickly came forward and tried to take over the preparation. "You didn't have to do that man. I know how much you loathe them."
Jim batted the younger man's hands away and poured the noxious looking bright green mixture into a glass himself. "I've got it Chief. You just go sit down."
Blair shrugged and did as he was told, watching his lover bustle around the kitchen with a smile. It felt slightly weird to just sit and watch Jim do all the things that he normally did every morning but at the same time he recognized it as just another way Jim showed his feelings. The phrase "courtship rituals" ran through his head as he remembered the first time he had cooked breakfast for Jim and the older man's reaction to it. Blair might not have meant it that way at the time but it was obvious that Jim did now. The thought made Blair feel even more loved and treasured and he couldn't keep the smile off of his face.
Jim brought over Blair's algae shake along with a plate of toast. Setting them on the table he grinned back at his roommate. "What? Do I have algae on my nose or something?"
Blair shook his head. "Just remembering the first time we had breakfast together. The day after Larry trashed the loft."
Jim's smile became reminiscent. "I remember. You were trying to guilt me into not kicking your sorry butt out of here." He turned back and grabbed two cups of coffee, handing one to his partner.
"Hey it must've worked since I'm still here three years later," Blair retorted in kind as he watched Jim dish up two omelets and carry them to the table.
"Three years," Jim repeated, shaking his head musingly as he sat down and handed one plate to Blair. "Seems like a lifetime ago."
"Sometimes," Blair agreed. "And sometimes it seems like only yesterday." He reached over and lightly clasped Jim's hand. "I don't know if I ever said it but thanks for letting me stay." 'Thanks for wanting me,' he added silently.
Somehow seeming to sense what Blair had left unspoken Jim's eyes darkened and he squeezed the younger man's hand tightly. "You're welcome Chief," he said softly in a slightly huskier than normal voice.
They stayed like that for a moment, falling into each other's eyes in what was quickly becoming a familiar pattern. 'Mutual zone-out,' some part of Blair's brain that was still able to think labeled it.
Finally Jim broke the connection, pulling back slightly and releasing Blair's hand with a final squeeze. "Better eat up before it gets cold."
Blair nodded and picked up his fork. After a few minutes of eating in silence he shook off his daze and asked in a reasonable facsimile of his normal voice, "So what are we doing today?"
"Paperwork," Jim answered around a mouthful of food.
"Oh man," Blair said with a heartfelt groan. "I thought you'd have taken care of that yesterday."
The older man chuckled. "Didn't want to deprive you of the pleasure Chief." He paused taking a sip of his coffee. "Besides," he added casually, "there's some of it you've got to fill out yourself anyway."
Blair frowned in puzzlement. "Since when? Do you mean about the research I did? Wasn't the summary I gave Simon good enough?"
"Far as I know it was fine. Helped us catch the bad guys after all. Nah, the paperwork I'm talking about isn't for Simon. It's for personnel."
"Personnel?" his Guide echoed, even more confused. "What do they want? The last time I had to fill something out for them was when I moved in here and that was just a change of address."
"Yeah, well you need to go in and fill out the works again Chief. The sooner the better." Jim still seemed remarkably unconcerned by the unusual request he was relaying as he continued eating.
"Why?" Blair asked, frustration starting to mix with the puzzlement. "Oh man, they didn't lose my records did they?"
"As far as I know they've still got them. But they don't apply anymore." Jim shrugged. "And they claim they can't transfer the information over themselves, that you have to go and re-enter it. So there you have it."
"There I have what?!" Blair asked exasperated. "Jim I have no idea what you're talking about. And you accuse me of not getting to the point sometimes. Man, is that the pot calling the kettle or what?"
"Oh didn't I tell you?" Jim asked with feigned innocence. "You've been offered a position as a paid consultant. Word came down yesterday afternoon."
Blair stared. "Paid consultant?" he repeated faintly.
The Sentinel nodded with a smile. "That's what I said Chief."
"Paid consultant?" he repeated again. "As in an actual job? With an actual paycheck? As in I can't have my clearance revoked without warning anymore?"
"As in exactly that."
Blair blinked as it sank in. 'An actual official position. That means I can finish my dissertation without the department forcing me to leave. I'm officially part of the team. I don't have to worry about losing my place at Jim's side. I can stay!' One of his greatest fears had just been nullified. He felt his mouth widen into a smile as a wave of pure joy bubbled up inside of him.
"This is great man! Absolutely great! I mean it's just... great."
Seemingly unable to express his feelings in words, Blair launched himself at his lover, wrapping his arms tightly around him, trying to convey his jubilation and excitement through body contact.
Jim laughed softly and returned the embrace, pulling the younger man even closer, one arm resting on the small of Blair's back, the other tangling itself in his curls. "Long overdue buddy," he said, the smile audible in his voice.
Blair drew back a bit to look at Jim. "Did you have anything to do with this?" he demanded.
"You know how well I get along with the brass, Chief. What do you think? Simon's the one who's been pushing for you."
"And you didn't put him up to it?" Blair asked with narrowed eyes.
"No I didn't," Jim replied, then shifted slightly under his partner's continued scrutiny. "Well, I might have mentioned what Finkleman tried to do but that's all."
"Ahhh, I knew you were behind this somehow," the younger man gloated fondly, voice rich with satisfaction. He looked at his partner, his expression turning tender. Trying to express all of his joy and love and gratitude, Blair leaned in and kissed him. "Thanks man," he whispered softly when he finally pulled back.
Jim just sat there looking dazed.
"Jim? Come on man don't ruin a perfect moment by zoning! Stay with me here..."
The young man watched as his Sentinel seemed to shake off the momentary distraction, then he gasped as he was grabbed by the back of the head and pulled in for another deep kiss.
"You're welcome," Jim growled when their lips finally parted.
Blair was breathing hard and more than a little aroused by this time. A large part of him wanted nothing more than to take his partner upstairs and make love to him until both their bones turned to Jell-O but he knew now wasn't the time.
'Work Sandburg,' he reminded himself sternly. 'You remember, promotion, paperwork... Once that's done you can bring Jim home and nail him to the mattress. And vice versa. But you've got to take care of business first. Work now, sex later.'
Repeating that over and over to himself like a mantra, Blair slowly untangled himself from Jim's arms and stood, absently tucking his hair back behind his ears. "We better get dressed if we're not going to be late." He turned and headed for the stairs to finish getting ready.
Jim sighed and then headed for the bathroom. "Just remember Chief," he tossed back over his shoulder as he got to the door, "to be a little less enthusiastic when thanking Simon. I don't think he could handle your unrestrained gratitude."
Blair laughed. "Don't worry, man," he replied as he started up the stairs. "I only get that unrestrained for you."
Blair headed to Personnel as soon as they arrived at the station telling Jim he'd meet him up in Major Crime when he was done. He smiled when his partner teased him about his sudden eagerness to fill out paperwork but the truth was he simply wanted to make his new position official just in case it was a mistake and the offer was revoked.
'You are so paranoid,' he thought, laughing a little at himself. Still, he didn't change his direction. 'Might as well fill them out now anyway. Get it over with.'
Walking into the office he couldn't help but think back to when he'd applied for his observer status and just how much had changed since then. Not just his relationship with Jim, though that was probably the most significant change, but the way he handled himself and the way others interacted with him. He was more capable now, more confident; he now knew what he was doing when so often in those first few months he'd been making it up as he went along. Not that he still didn't do a fair amount of improvising but it was different somehow now. Maybe it was because he wasn't flying into a blind panic in every crisis situation like he used to. Perhaps it was because he'd survive so many crises in the past he had confidence he could do so again.
That confidence had given him the courage to stand up for himself when he knew he was right and others had responded to it. Took what he said seriously, treated him with respect where before they had seen him as a weird hippie flake who would only get into trouble, or at best, as some type of mascot. Cute and friendly but not someone to be taken seriously.
To a certain extent he realized he had seen himself that way as well. A case of becoming what you saw reflected back at you. He wasn't sure when that had started to change but somewhere along the line it had, so slowly that he hadn't even realized it was happening.
Startled out of his thoughts --'Man, I have got to stop the woolgathering!' -- Blair smiled at the speaker. "Hi Vera. I heard you had some papers for me to fill out -- for the paid consultant position?"
Vera smiled back. "Yes I do," she said as she turned and started gathering up the appropriate forms. "Congratulations by the way."
"Thanks. It's still sinking in. I certainly wasn't expecting anything like this."
"Well you may have been the only one who wasn't," she confided as she handed him a small stack of forms. "Word has it that the support staff even had a pool riding on when the brass would wise up and start paying you."
Blair stared. "You're kidding. Really?" Vera nodded with a smile. "Wow. Who won?"
Vera snorted. "The Chief's secretary but what can you expect? She has the inside track on all that sort of information." She handed him another stack of forms. "Okay, that's all of them."
Looking at the rather formidable pile Blair tried to keep from frowning. "Uh, there's an awful lot of them isn't there? I mean I don't remember filling out this many last time."
"You didn't. This time there's things like insurance benefits and payroll forms as well. And uh... one more thing." She handed him a small sealed cup. "We need a urine sample for drug testing. It's standard procedure for all new employees," she said apologetically.
Blair took the cup with a grin. "I know the drill. At least I'll probably won't have to worry about being attacked by crazed militia this time."
"You did have rather the eventful first day here didn't you? Well hopefully the most you'll have to worry about this time is getting a paper cut."
"Or writer's cramp," Blair replied in kind. "Thanks Vera. I'll get these back to you as soon as I can."
"Just keep in mind as motivation the sooner I get those back the sooner you start collecting your paycheck."
Blair laughed. "I will. Thanks."
After a brief stop at the restroom to provide his sample, which he dropped off with Vera, Blair headed up to Major Crimes.
He'd barely gotten off the elevator when he was surrounded.
"That's some wad of paper you've got there Sandburg," Brown commented. "How many trees had to die for that pile?"
"Looks like a good sized forest to me, Henri," Rafe replied. "Maybe we should arrest him for multiple tree homicide."
Brown seemed to think about it for a minute than shook his head. "Nah, not worth it. Too much paperwork."
The two detectives laughed. "Ha ha, very funny," Blair said, trying to brush by them. "Can I get to my desk now before I drop these?"
"Here let us help you with those," Rafe said. As one the two detectives swooped in and relieved Blair of the stack of forms and headed for the bullpen.
Blair chased after them. "Come on guys, I need... those.... forms...." As he entered the bullpen his voice trailed off and he came to a stop.
A grinning Brown and Rafe had laid the papers on a desk positioned kitty corner to Jim's. It hadn't been there two days ago. Neither had the sign attached to it, in lieu of a nameplate, which read "Blair Sandburg, consultant."
Jim sat on the corner of his desk grinning at his speechless partner. "Congratulations Chief," he said, quickly echoed by the other detectives.
"Wow!" Blair exclaimed when he finally found his voice. "How--"
"Simon signed the requisition forms, the guys and I wrestled it up here," Jim replied.
"Now that you're official we couldn't have you without a desk," Rafe said. "How would that look?"
"Besides, you're going to need the extra room with all that paperwork to do," Brown added.
Blair joined in the laughter from that comment. "Thanks guys," he said, heartfelt, as he sat down. "I really appreciate it."
"Just don't embarrass us, Hairboy," Brown said jokingly, clapping him on the shoulder.
"Embarrass? Considering some of the stunts you've pulled I don't think Sandburg's the one we need to worry about embarrassing us," Jim shot back.
The round of shared laughter that ensued was interrupted by the appearance of the head of Forensics who started talking as soon as she cleared the door. "Rafe I've got those results back and it looks like I was rig--" Looking up, she stopped when she saw the detectives gathered around Blair at his new desk. "What's all this about?"
"Haven't you heard Wells?" Jim asked. "I thought you prided yourself in knowing everything that's going on around here."
"Obviously I've missed something," she replied. "Heard what?"
"Our man Sandburg here broke the ritual murder case and got himself a paying job as a result," Rafe said, resting a hand on Blair's shoulder as he spoke.
For a moment Cassie stood there speechless. "You- " she began, staring at Blair. "They hired you?"
Blair felt himself flush at the disbelief and derision he heard in her voice. For a brief moment his insecurities flared to life and he found himself wondering again if this was all a mistake.
Then he felt Rafe squeeze his shoulder and Brown move to his other side, flanking his chair. "Sure did," Brown said. "Bout time the brass did something right I say."
Cassie again seemed to be struck speechless.
Jim looked at her and raised an eyebrow. "You've got a problem with that?" he asked her, his tone meek but the challenge underneath clear to them all.
"No," Cassie replied, glancing sideways at Jim. "No problem." She turned back to Blair. "Congratulations Blair. I'm sure you'll do a great job."
"Thanks Cassie," he replied quietly, his insecurities once again fading under the support from Jim and the other detectives. He couldn’t help but feel slightly sorry for the woman standing rather forlornly in front of him, but he knew that anything he tried to do to help her at this point would only make things worse. So he curbed his natural instinct to reach out and try to fix things.
Cassie nodded once then turned to go. "I'll uhh.. leave the test results on your desk Rafe." She dropped the folder onto the detective's desk and all but ran from the place.
There was an awkward silence for a moment after she left. Brown finally sighed and looked at his partner. "Let's take a look at what she thinks she's found now."
Rafe nodded. "Besides, we're keeping Sandburg from getting started on that pile there."
"Yeah," Brown replied. "Better hurry, Hairboy," he advised. "I hear if you let them sit too long they start breeding."
"That wouldn't surprise me a bit," Blair said, putting his glasses on and picking up a pen. He flashed a quick smile at the two detectives as they moved away. "Thanks again guys."
Jim leaned forward towards Blair. "Don't let Nancy Drew there get to you Chief. She's just jealous."
"I know. I won't. Just caught me off-guard for a second there." He smiled up at his partner. "Thanks for the backup."
"That's what partners are for, Chief," Jim replied, squeezing his shoulder before standing. "I'll let you get to work now."
"Oh joy," Blair mumbled as he started filling out the forms. "I just love paperwork."
Love it or not, he worked diligently at completing the forms. When Jim finally asked him if he wanted to take a break and go grab some coffee in the breakroom he found to his surprise that he had completed a little over three quarters of the pile.
'Not bad,' he thought. 'If I keep this speed up, I'll be done by lunchtime.'
Blair turned to see Captain Banks standing in the open doorway to his office. "Oh hey Simon," he said, changing his direction in mid-stride and heading towards the office.
"If you've got a minute, I've something to give you."
"Uhh, sure," Blair said, looking over his shoulder at Jim disappearing down the hall towards the breakroom.
He followed the captain into his office and perched on the edge of the conference table, as was his habit.
"Simon, I just wanted to thank you for all this--" He gestured towards his new desk and the paperwork he'd been filling out "--the job, everything. It really means a lot to me and I want you to know I really appreciate it."
"You earned it all Blair," Simon replied gruffly as he pulled out a cigar and snipped the end.
"No really I mean it," Blair persisted. "This is the last thing I expected. I can't tell you how grateful I am."
The Captain shifted uncomfortably. "I didn't do anything except make the brass aware of what you've done for this department and I should've done that a while ago. If you want to thank someone thank your partner for pointing that out to me."
Blair grinned wickedly. "Oh I intend to Simon, believe you me." He let the images of exactly what he had in mind as a thank you run through his mind briefly, then brought himself back to the moment. "You said you had something to give me?"
Simon picked up something and tossed it to Blair. "Catch."
Blair caught the small leather wallet and opened it to see his face staring back at him from an id photo underneath a gold badge.
"Your new credentials," Simon said, as Blair ran his hands lightly over the badge. "Try not to lose it -- replacement costs come out of your pocket."
"I won't," Blair answered quietly, still staring at the badge. This, more than anything else, made the whole thing seem real.
Shaking off the bemusement he looked up with a beaming smile. "Thanks Simon."
"Yeah, yeah, you're welcome." Simon waved him towards the door. "Go on. That paperwork has got to be in by the end of the day."
Blair hopped off the table and headed out. "I'll have it done by noon. After all the grants I've applied for I've got filling out forms down to a fine art."
Simon smiled evilly at that. "I'll remember that the next time I have forms to fill out Sandburg."
Blair returned the smile a little uneasily and headed back to his desk. Jim was already there, hip perched on the corner, idly going through the forms Blair had already completed. He gestured to the full mug sitting beside Blair's work. "Got you some coffee."
"Thanks, man," Blair replied as he flopped down into his chair. He casually laid his new id on the desk as he picked up the mug.
Jim picked it up. "New badge, huh?"
"Yep." Blair's smile was incandescent. "Guess I'm official now."
Jim smiled back. Leaning forward he whispered, "We'll celebrate when we get home."
"My thoughts exactly!"
Grinning, Jim cuffed him gently and went back to reading over the forms.
Blair watched him for a long moment. "Jim?" he asked finally.
"Yeah Chief?" his partner replied absently.
"Why are you reading those?"
Jim looked up and flushed slightly. "No reason. I was just curious, that's all."
"You're curious about my paperwork," Blair repeated.
"Yeah. I just wanted to see what you'd written, that's all. Is that all right?" Jim asked becoming defensive.
"Sure man, it's fine," Blair soothed, holding up his hands in a calming gesture. "So did you find anything interesting in there?"
"Well..." Jim sorted through the papers he had been reading. "Did you read this part here?"
"What part?" Blair took the paper from Jim and read over the paragraph. "That other departments can request my services as needed? Yeah I read it. So?"
"So you can be called in by other departments whenever they want. Are you okay with that?"
"Well yeah Jim. I'm being paid to consult, to try and help. If I can help another department I'll do it. But I doubt that it's something we really have to worry about. I mean other than the guys in Major Crimes, who are used to me poking my nose into everything, how many cops are going to think of consulting an anthropologist?"
Three weeks later he ate his words.
Blair had been incredibly busy, not only with his work with Jim, but with requests from other detectives and other departments. Word had spread beyond major crimes about the grad student's abilities, how his insights could often help break a case that much sooner. Blair had been pleasantly shocked when detectives outside of those he knew personally started asking for his input.
And, as he was again and again able to provide information that helped, he found his confidence growing. No longer did he think that his new status was a mistake or something that Simon may have forced through. Now he knew he had gotten the job because he deserved it and it was something he was good at. And though Jim and their cases were and would always be his first priority, he discovered he liked being able to help out other cops. He now had his own standing and place within the department independent of Jim's and he was more proud of that than he could put into words.
So caught up was he in the whirlwind of his new position that at first he didn't notice the differences in Jim's actions.
Looking back later, Blair could see that all the signs were there but he had just been too busy to notice them. As he spent more and more of his time in other departments and consequently less and less time with his partner, Jim had grown progressively quieter and more withdrawn.
The few times that he had noticed something and asked about it Jim had vehemently denied that anything was wrong and, swamped as he was, Blair didn't probe as hard as he might have otherwise, instead taking Jim at his word.
It was a decision he later would regret.
Things came to a head late one Friday afternoon three weeks after Blair's promotion. Jim caught up with him as he was heading for another consult.
"Hey Chief, Simon just found out he has a meeting with the mayor tonight so he won't be able to use his Jags tickets and he gave them to us. I thought we could knock off a bit early, go grab a bite to eat before the game. What do you say?"
Blair turned to look at his partner. "I'd love to Jim but I can't. I've got a consult with Narcotics, and it sounds like it might take a while. Maybe even all night."
"Narcotics," Jim repeated, the muscle in his jaw beginning to jump.
"Yeah. Apparently they've stumbled onto info that there's like this major drug smuggling ring in operation that's using replicas of old artifacts as a cover. They think they may have found out where the next shipment is going to come in and they want me to take a look at some of the artifacts and see if they're real or not." Blair grinned. "Can't have them smashing the real thing looking for drug-filled fakes after all."
"So they're taking you on the raid," Jim said, his tone almost too neutral.
"Well yeah, sort of. I'm not charging in with guns blazing or anything but they do want me to look at the stuff as soon as possible. I'll be going in as soon as the site is secure."
The muscle in Jim's jaw began to twitch more rapidly. "I don't like it."
Blair stopped and looked at Jim in surprise. "Excuse me?" he asked puzzled.
"You going along on a major drug raid. It's too dangerous."
"Hey I've been on raids before. I know enough to stay back and keep my head down until the bullets stop flying."
"Chief, you never stay back. You never follow orders. Every time we get into a sticky situation, I turn around and there you are in the thick of it."
"That's because you're always in the thick of it," Blair pointed out, trying to ignore the creeping unease in his gut at the turn the conversation was taking. "I'm your partner. That's where I'm supposed to be."
"I'm trained for that sort of thing," Jim shot back, pointing a finger at his lover's chest. "You're not. I've had to save your butt how many times? One of these days Sandburg you're going to screw up once too often and your Blessed Protector won't be able to fix it."
Blair could actually feel his face pale at Jim's words as he shook his head in automatic denial. He felt like he'd just been punched in the gut. To have his insecurities thrown back in his face hurt; to have Jim the one doing the throwing made the pain indescribable.
But Blair's reaction wasn't what he would have expected it to be in this situation. He reacted with a white-hot rage.
Reaching out, he pushed the larger man away from him. "I can't believe you just said that. Man, you can be a real shit sometimes! Well if that's how you feel then you can just give up the blessed protector gig right now. I wouldn't want to put you to any inconvenience. " He paced away a few steps then spun around to face Jim again. "What happened to 'That's what partners are supposed to do'? Did you ever really believe that line you fed me? Well for your information, I was looking after myself just fine before you came along and I can handle myself just fine without you now. Frankly if that's your attitude I'm better off without you! Now if you'll excuse me I have a raid to get ready for."
Blair stalked off, brushing by Jim without ever looking at his face, so he never saw the devastation in the Sentinel's expression.
The rest of the day passed without incident; the raid went smoothly and Blair was able to confirm that the artifacts were indeed fakes and not very good ones at that. But only part of his concentration was on what he was doing. The rest of his mind was busy replaying the confrontation with Jim over and over and trying to figure out what was behind it.
Once he had calmed down enough to look at the situation somewhat objectively he realized that he had been missing some pretty large Ellison warning signs. Normally Jim would never say anything so hurtful to anyone, and especially not to him. He knew the only time Jim lashed out like that was when he felt threatened. It was his way of keeping others at a safe distance, so he wouldn't get hurt.
'But why is he seeing me as a threat?' Blair wondered, turning the thought over in his brain. He tried to think back to exactly when Jim started withdrawing. 'It's not me,' he realized, 'it's my consulting work. But why would he be threatened by that? It's not like I'm going to be gunning for his job or anything.'
He continued to worry at the problem but didn't come up with any answers. 'I'll just have to get him to tell me what's wrong. Which isn't going to be easy. Getting him to talk when he's like this is worse than pulling teeth.'
With a course of action, however difficult, decided upon, Blair was able to turn his full attention back to what he was doing and quickly finished up his paperwork. Then he headed home.
He briefly thought about picking up some takeout on the way but quickly discarded the idea. He didn't want any distractions when he confronted Jim.
Jim's truck was in its usual parking spot when he got home but, looking up, he couldn't see any lights on in the loft, which puzzled him.
'Well Jim's a Sentinel,' he thought with a shrug. 'He doesn't really need the lights to see.'
Full of nervous energy as he anticipated the confrontation, Blair took the stairs instead of the elevator. He let himself into the darkened apartment, automatically reaching for the light switch.
Blair jumped and spun around in the direction of the voice. As his eyes adjusted he could make out his lover's form sitting on the couch.
"Okay," he answered softly. He took off his coat and leaned against the door, all the time observing Jim. "Mind telling me why you're sitting in the dark?"
He saw Jim shrug. "I was just thinking."
"About what?" Blair asked, walking over to the couch.
Jim didn't answer. "Come on partner talk to me," Blair entreated as he sat next to the brooding man.
The sentinel turned his head to look at him. "Are we?" he asked in a voice raw with pain.
The younger man shook his head in confusion. "Are we what Jim?"
"Are we still partners?"
"Of course we are," Blair answered vehemently. Then a thought chilled him. "Unless you don't want us to be...?"
"No!" Jim protested, with a quickness that was extremely heartening. "That's not what I meant. But with what you said earlier… You made your feelings pretty clear."
Blair sighed and ran a hand through his hair. "I was angry Jim. You'd said some pretty hurtful things after all."
"I know." The words were barely louder than a whisper. "I'm sorry for that, it wasn't true and you didn't deserve it. You were right -- I can be a shit at times."
"Well yeah, but you're my shit," Blair answered reaching out and laying his hand on Jim's arm. He could feel the older man tremble at his touch. "Come on Jim, tell me what's going on here."
Jim was silent for a long moment, obviously fighting with himself. "What you said earlier, it's true. You do fine without me -- hell, your life would probably be a lot better without me in it. The best thing I could do for you is to let you go." He turned his head to look at the younger man and continued in a barely audible whisper. "But I can't."
He stood and walked over to the window, then continued to speak without turning around. "I need you Blair. Whatever you can give me is fine. Just... don't leave."
Blair sat where he was for a moment, totally stunned. Jim thought he was going to leave? That he, Blair, was better off without him? The whole notion was just totally inconceivable. He stared at his lover who was standing with his arms wrapped around himself, looking out into the night and waiting for Blair's response.
It struck him suddenly that he wasn't the only one in this relationship who felt insecure, unworthy and afraid. Jim was just usually better at hiding it. But he knew it was there now and he could – and would -- help his lover deal with it.
Getting up, he walked over to Jim and wrapped his arms around him tightly from behind. The trembling he had noted earlier was even more pronounced and he heard the older man give a soft gasp as he embraced him.
"You are an idiot," he told his lover fondly, rubbing his face against the broad back. "Leave you? My life would be better without you in it? Jim, in case you hadn't noticed, you are my life. Everything, from our relationship to my Sentinel research to working at the station, it's all centered around you. You need me? Well I think I could get along without oxygen before I could live without you anymore."
For a long moment there was no reaction from the Sentinel. Then Blair felt the tension in the body he held slowly ease as the older man let out a long sigh. Jim turned in his arms and hugged him back tightly, burying his face in his Guide's long curls.
They stood like that for a long time, Blair letting their closeness and his mate's obvious need of him soothe the lingering aches in his heart. But eventually the need for answers overwhelmed the need for comfort. Blair pulled back just enough to look up into Jim's face.
"We need to talk, Jim," he said quietly.
Jim sighed and nodded, avoiding his partner's eyes. "Yeah we do."
Disentangling himself from their embrace, Blair took the older man's hand and led him back over to the couch. He pushed him down and then crawled into his lap, wrapping his arms around the other's waist again.
"So talk," he said, once he had gotten comfortable. "What brought this on?"
After a few seconds' hesitation Jim replied, "Your new job."
Frowning, Blair shook his head. "You're going to have to be more specific, man. I don't want any more misunderstandings here. What about my job?"
Jim sighed again and absently toyed with Blair's curls. "I watch you at the station now, bouncing from department to department, working with all these other officers and all I can think of is that you don't need me anymore. Don't get me wrong Chief, I'm glad you've finally got the respect you deserve and I'm damned proud of all you've accomplished but you're my partner. All the time you spend helping out on all of these other cases is time you're not working with me. And I miss that. I miss you."
Blair was silent for a minute absorbing that. It certainly explained the way Jim had been acting the last few weeks. "Why didn't you say something sooner?"
"Anyone could see that you loved what you were doing and I didn't want to interfere with that." He shrugged. "I figured I could handle it, that eventually it would all balance out or that at least I'd get used to it."
"So instead you held it all inside and let it build until it blew up in both our faces." Blair shook his head in exasperation. "Man, when are you going to learn to talk to me about what's bothering you before it reaches the exploding point?"
"What could you have done Chief? It was my problem. I wanted to deal with it on my own."
"Just like me beating myself up over that murder case was my problem? Jim, we're connected. You know that. What affects me affects you, that part you've seemed to have gotten. But you're still having problems with the concept that what affects you affects me as well."
"I guess I'm still not used to having someone that close."
"Well you better get used to it man," Blair ordered, "because I'm not going anywhere. Got it?"
Jim's mouth quirked into a half smile. "Got it."
"Good." He snuggled closer. "Now we can deal with the actual problem."
Jim shook his head. "I still don't see what you can do about it."
"Simple. We work out a compromise. It's not such a surprising reaction on your part if you think about it -- I mean what with you being a Sentinel and so territorial and all. I kind of like it that you see me as part of your territory," Blair said with a lopsided grin.
"What kind of compromise?" Jim asked, ignoring the rest of Blair's speech with the ease of long practice.
His partner thought for a long moment. "I'll talk to Simon, see about getting myself assigned officially to Major Crimes. That should cut back on the requests from other departments. I'll still probably end up helping the other guys in our department but that's something I've kinda been doing all along anyway." He looked into Jim's eyes, expression serious. "For your part I want you to promise me that next time you start feeling like I'm neglecting you, you tell me, even if you do think you're being overly jealous or selfish. Don't let it get to the exploding point again. Deal?"
Jim held his gaze and nodded slowly. "Deal."
Blair smiled at him. "Good. And since we seem to be well beyond the handshake stage, I've got a better way to seal the bargain." He leaned over and caught Jim's mouth in a slow lingering heated kiss.
Jim responded immediately, wrapping his hands in his Guide's hair and pulling him even closer. Blair went willingly, shifting around until he was straddling the older man's lap with never breaking off the kiss.
Running his fingers lightly over his partner's chest, Blair slowly started undoing Jim's shirt. He finally relinquished his sentinel's mouth and started trailing kisses down over the newly exposed skin. He nipped at the juncture of Jim's neck and shoulder and was rewarded with a sharp gasp. Smiling he redoubled his efforts nipping and sucking the same spot over and over.
"Blair..." Jim gasped.
"Quiet," Blair shot back, nipping a bit harder. "I'm marking my territory."
Jim groaned loudly at that and tilted his head to the side offering Blair better access.
After long moments, the grad student finally moved on, hands sliding under the sides of his lover's open shirt and pushing it off his shoulders. His mouth moved over the front of Jim's throat and down onto his muscular chest. One hand slid up to tweak a nipple while he swooped down and devoured the other one. Jim moaned again, even louder and arched up into the touch. His hands slid restlessly up and down Blair's back, cupping his buttocks and pulling him closer as he thrust his hips up against him.
Blair let out a strangled gasp as his lover ground his hardness against his own. It felt so good despite the layers of cloth that separated their two cocks. He grabbed onto Jim's shoulders for leverage and thrust back.
They moved together for several minutes, driving each other closer and closer to the edge. Blair finally pulled back, scrabbling after control. Lost in the throes of passion Jim moaned in protest and tried to pull the younger man back down to finish.
"Shh," Blair whispered, leaning down and kissing Jim hard. "Not yet. I've got more planned for you than coming in our pants like a couple of randy teenagers."
Jim opened passion filled eyes and stared up at him. The lust and the love apparent in that gaze almost made Blair forget his plans. He swooped in for another feverish kiss.
"Don't worry," he said as he pulled back trying to still his own trembling. "Believe you me I'll make it worth the wait."
"Just get the hell on with it," Jim growled.
The sound went straight to Blair's groin and he had to suppress a moan. Again he leaned over and kissed Jim hard. "I'll be right back," he promised then dashed upstairs, grabbed the small tube from the nightstand and ran back down again. He stood in front of his lover and quickly stripped off all of his clothes, feeling the other man's heated gaze on him the whole time.
Kneeling, he ran his hands up the inside of Jim's legs, pushing them further apart. He leaned forward and ran his face over the cloth-covered hardness there, bringing another strangled moan from above him. With slow, deliberate care, Blair undid the button and then pulled the zipper down with his teeth.
A sound suspiciously like a whimper made him grin. "Lift up," he ordered and when Jim complied, he pulled both pants and boxers over his hips and off.
Tossing the clothing aside, Blair turned back and found himself at eye level with his lover's hard and leaking cock. Licking his lips he leaned forward, and making eye contact with his partner clearly stated one word. "Mine." Then he swooped in and devoured half of Jim's length.
Jim let out a strangled shout that sounded like his lover's name and thrust deeper into Blair's mouth. The sentinel's hands came down and tangled in his lover's curls, not holding him in place so much as just making contact.
Blair continued to work Jim with his mouth, until the older man was on the edge of climax. Then he pulled away, ignoring the cry of loss from his partner. Retrieving the lube, he straddled Jim's lap again.
He squirted some of the slippery coolness on his fingers and proceeded to stretch himself as quickly as possible. His other hand grabbed onto Jim's shoulder to help him maintain his balance as he leaned over and caught his partner's mouth in another fiery kiss.
Judging himself ready, or at least not willing to wait any longer, Blair rubbed more of the lube over Jim's cock then shifted position until it was pressing against his entrance. Then he slowly lowered his body, impaling himself on the delicious hardness.
Both men moaned as Jim slid inside inch by inch until he was buried to the hilt. They went still for a moment then, each relishing the feeling of being so intimately connected. A hand gently touched the side of Blair's head; he looked up and met his partner's gaze filled with lust, joy, awe and love.
He leaned in and captured Jim's lips again then pulled back slightly and whispered, "Mine." Bracing his hands on Jim's shoulders he began to move.
Blair had wanted to drag this out, make it last for as long as possible, but they were both too close to the edge. Jim wrapped a hand around Blair's cock and started pumping him in a counter rhythm, their movements speeding up almost immediately. It wasn't long before first one man than the other toppled over the edge, so close together that neither could say who had climaxed first.
Panting for breath, Blair collapsed against his lover's chest. He felt strong arms encircle him and he snuggled closer with a contented sigh. They lay like that for long moments, just regaining breath and thought. Just being together.
A timeless time later, Jim chuckled and kissed the top of Blair's head. "I like the way you seal a deal Chief."
Blair grinned. "Beats the hell out of a handshake doesn't it?"
"It sure does. Only do me a favor and--"
"-- don't try it with Simon, I know. Man Jim, you've got to get some new material."
"Best I can do with my brain melted. Besides I'm a sentinel, not a comedian."
"My sentinel," Blair said hugging him tighter.
"Yours," Jim repeated softly. He slid a finger under his lover's chin and tilted his face up. "Thanks for reminding me."
"Any time." Blair tried to let all of his feelings show in his eyes. "I love you," he whispered.
Jim smiled softly. "Love you too Chief."