Learning to Cope By Voracity

Blair looked over the mass of paperwork that their lawyer, James Sythcon, had handed him and sighed. "How bad is it this time?"

The older man laughed. "Not much different. Same thing, different person and bequests. Same old judge."

Jim smiled and ruffled the top of Blair's hair as he came in. "Sorry I'm late, I had to give a deposition in the cult case." He leaned over and whispered, "We found most of the rest of the people on their list already. Only four are still missing," in the younger man's ear.

Blair nodded and smiled. "I'm glad. Most of the parents only wanted to know what happened and to see justice done." He signed another document and handed it back over. "Anything else for me to sign today?"

The lawyer handed over a file folder, one of those with the top that tied down. "These were Chris' and he wanted you both to have them. Said you would understand." He checked over the papers to make sure all the proper places were signed and reached a hand across the desk. "I'm sorry you had to lose him so soon, Blair, I know you wanted him around for a much longer time."

Blair smiled and shook the man's hand. "Yeah, I did, but he couldn't come back." He stood and grabbed his jacket, letting Jim hold the folder while he put it on. "Thank you. If you need to get in touch with me before the date, just call. I'm going to try to spend a lot of time at the store, it being just before finals and all; I won't get much chance for the next week or so."

The lawyer nodded and shook Jim's hand, handing over a piece of paper with the court date written on it. "I'll see you both then," he said.

Jim nodded, handing back the folder to Blair, and placed a guiding hand on the younger man's back. They walked out of the office, going to the truck. "I'm sorry," Jim said. "I just couldn't get away from the District Attorney or the Assistant Attorney General." Blair nodded and buckled his seat belt. "So, store or home?"

"Home please," Blair said quietly. "I've closed the store for the next few days to deal with this and out of respect." He opened the folder and pulled out the papers inside. And broke down.

Jim pulled off to side of the street, unbuckled their seat belts and pulled Blair over to let him cry on his shoulder. "It was for the best," he said softly. "Chris is with your dad and he's happy and not suffering anymore."

Blair nodded and sniffled. "I know, but I wasn't ready." His crying picked back up.

Jim sat there and held him, letting him get all his grief out now, safely, where he was comfortable. He turned at the knock on the window and rolled it down. "Yes, Officer?"

"You've got to move. This is a no parking zone." He looked over at Blair and sneered. "Right now," short pause, "sir."

Jim held up a hand and pulled out his badge. "That's Detective and this man has just lost his step-father."

The officer nodded and stepped back, removing his hand from his holster. "All right, move as soon as you can then." He walked back to his car and got in, pulling back into traffic.

Jim looked down at his friend and smiled. "See, even those cold and hard people downstairs understand," he joked quietly.

Blair started to laugh and sat back up, wiping his eyes with the side of his hands. "Thanks, man," he said, wiping off the wet spot on Jim's jacket. "I ... that meant a lot to me."

Jim nodded, buckled back up, and started the truck. He waited until Blair was rehitched before pulling carefully back out into traffic. "Any time, you know that. Anytime."


Simon opened the door to the bookstore and looked around, whistling. From the upstairs banister hung a black bow, the ends reaching the floor, and a picture of both Chris and someone that had to be Blair's father, embraced and so obviously in love. He walked in farther, getting out of the way of a mother and teen that wanted to leave.

Jim came out from behind the counter and led him over to a grouping of overstuffed comfortable chairs. "Simon, what's wrong?"

Simon shook his head and took off his jacket before sitting. "Nothing, I just wanted to see the store, I've never been in here." He looked around at the lush plant growths covering alcoves for quiet reading and the easy, comfortable atmosphere the store exuded. "I like it though."

Blair came over and handed him a cookie. "Thanks, I've not changed anything really. Just moved a few chairs around." He sat down beside Jim. "So, what's the real reason you're here?"

Simon laughed around the chocolate and butterscotch chip cookie. "I wanted to see how you were holding up," he said once he swallowed. "We're all worried about you at the station."

Blair nodded and shifted slightly. "Thanks man, it means a lot to me that you guys care." He nodded at Jim. "Now if only I could get him to quit hovering for awhile."

Simon laughed and started to choke, Jim patting him lightly on the back. "Thanks," he said hoarsely, taking the cup of water Blair was offering him. "Thanks," he said again when he could do so normally. "So, how are things here?"

Blair sighed and sat back. "Jim's a life saver," he said finally. "He's been doing the books and looking over my order sheets to make sure I don't just get books that I would want to read." He smiled over at his partner. "He's been an angel all through this." He patted Jim's hand. "So, why else are you here?"

Simon looked up at the picture above them and nodded. "Joel intercepted a call for you two, specifically you Blair, today. A threat to be exact."

Blair frowned and Jim's face turned purple. "So, now we're getting the death threats from the bigots, huh?" Simon nodded. "Well, I kinda suspected that we would. My father and step father were both very active in the community here. Most everyone knew them." He laughed a little. "Hell, I've never seen so many politicians in one place at one time as there were at Chris' funeral."

Jim shook his head. "Do you know who did it?"

"Seems we missed a few members of that cult and they've gotten to one of our esteemed local hate groups and set them off." Simon shrugged. "I thought you would want to be warned." He finished off the water and put the cup onto the side table. "If we get anything more concrete we'll send someone over to watch over the store and you two." He looked at Jim. "You're still listed as being on leave and will stay that way until Sandburg goes back to school."

Blair shook his head. "That's going to become a problem then. I'm taking this semester off to get the store to where it can run on it's own most of the time and I'm not so pulled. The President was actually quite generous and gracious when I asked; she saw me and hugged me and gave me good coffee before asking if I wanted to take some time off. She immediately offered me the whole semester instead of just an extra month after break when I asked."

Jim nodded. "I'll still be working here part time next semester too. Apparently I'm the only one of us who ever took an accounting class." He grinned at his boss and other best friend. "It's good to know that my college degree and minor *do* have a purpose."

Simon groaned and put a hand over his eyes. "That's so mean, you know I didn't have any control over that case." He shook his head. "Okay, I'll see what I can't do to get you on part time then, but I reserve the right to call you anytime we need you."

"Anytime," Jim agreed.

"Anytime," Blair said.

Simon nodded and walked back into the history section to go look for something to read since he was in there.

Jim looked over at Blair and smiled. "Well, Chief, it looks like everything's going to be all right after all."

Blair nodded and headed for the register, seeing someone waiting.

Jim watched his partner and friend go, not caring who saw him watching. Until Simon leaned over next to his ear and said, "Be careful who sees you do that."

He looked up and smiled. "Oh, if I must."

Simon just shook his head and handed over a book. "Do you think Darryl will like this one?"

Jim frowned at the cover and got up to get his friend another one.

Blair just watched from his seat on the counter, grinning at how his world was finally starting to pull back together.


Jim opened the loft's door when someone knocked. His colorful use of language brought Blair from the bathroom to start swearing on his own. His mother was standing in the doorway.

"Naomi," he said coldly and walked into the kitchen to grab a beer.

"Blair, test tomorrow, you can't have that, remember," Jim said, taking the bottle from his hand and putting it back. He replaced it with a tea bag and a mug. "Tea. Good for your blood pressure."

Blair nodded and went for the bottled water in the fridge, pulling it and a pan out to make some tea.

Jim turned and took his best friend's mother's coat. "Naomi, what brings you this way?" The 'this time' was left unspoken.

"My son, Jim," she said, turning to where Blair was fussing in the kitchen. "Blair, sweetie, can we talk?"

Blair slammed the pan down extra hard after pouring the water into his mug. He left the room quietly and quickly, locking himself in his bedroom.

"Jim, he's still mad, isn't he?"

Jim nodded and grabbed a glass of water for her. "Yes and I think mad is a minor word to describe what he is." He poured a glass of iced tea and headed for the couch. "But what else did you expect? Flowers and hearts?"

Naomi's shoulders slumped and she trudge out to sit on the other couch. "I'm sorry about that, I really am. That's why I'm here now, to make amends." She leaned back.

Jim sensed something different about her and turned up his hearing to find it. He could hear the normal body rhythms he had grown accustomed to on her last visit, but there was still something different. He cycled through his senses, ending up on his sense of smell. He took a deep sniff of the air, looking for what could be wrong. He smelled incense, candles, herbs, all the normal smells he associated with her, and something he couldn't put his finger on. "So, how are you?" he asked, still trying to figure it out.

"Fine, almost good really. I just came down from a mountain retreat where I thought over my actions regarding Blair's father."

They were interrupted by the sound of breaking coffee mug being thrown against a wall. Jim smiled and walked over to the french doors, knocking gently before going in. "Are you all right, Chief?" he asked.

Blair looked up from his place on the floor. "Just peachy and perfect," he snarled. "Let's find her a motel. A dirty, falling down, flea bag of an establishment where she'll have to listen to the twenty dollar hookers faking it all night."

Jim laughed and walked in, shutting the doors behind him so Naomi wouldn't hear him. "Chief, that's harsh, even for what she did. Let me get her a decent room at a semi-nice motel with the fifty dollar hookers."

Blair started to laugh. "Jim, believe it or not, I'm more than capable of feeling anger toward her for what she kept from me." He waved at the papers he had spread around the room. "That file folder had Chris' diary from the early days of their marriage in it, right up until almost two years ago." He picked up a paper and waved it at his roommate. "Do you know that my father searched for me, had been searching for me every time we moved? Huh, did you? Or how 'bout this one," he said, picking up another paper and waving it at Jim. "This one is a detailed account of my mother taking money from someone and running so he *couldn't* get to me."

Jim scrubbed a hand over his face. "I know this is hard for you. It'd be hard for anyone faced with such a challenge right now, but she is your family. You can't just ignore her." He leaned against the door frame. "Trust me on this, it comes back to haunt you."

Blair looked up and smiled. "Maybe for you. I'm not going to regret it for a while."

Jim shook his head and joined Blair on the floor. "Listen to me. I'm sensing something strange from her, about her. You may not have a later."

Blair looked up, eyes huge and whites showing mostly. All the color had drained from his face. "Can you tell what?" he asked quietly?

Jim shook his head and got comfortable. "No, I can't. There's a smell and a feeling. I couldn't hear or see anything unusual."

Blair nodded and took one of Jim's hands. "Focus on her, weed out everything but her and I." Jim closed his eyes and started to go for his dials. "Let's try hearing again, okay?" Jim nodded and concentrated, bringing his hearing levels up to almost his top range. "Okay, focus on her, hear her body. You remember what she sounded like the last time she was here, so use that as a benchmark now."

Jim concentrated, weeding out each bodily noise as he matched it as normal. Soon, it was down to this almost heard sound that he couldn't quite pick up. "I can't get it, it's too soft."

"Soft like a heart murmur or soft like something extra that's still real small?"

Jim concentrated some more and frowned. "The latter. It's something I should know too." He tired harder, walking along the thin edge of concentration/zone out. "Damn," he said finally. He opened his eyes and turned his hearing back down to normal. "I'm hearing extras, extra blood rushing, extra interior movement."

Blair bit his lip. "Jim, is it possible that Naomi "I don't believe birth control is necessary - it's harmful to the body" Sandburg is pregnant?"

Jim closed his eyes and thought back to what limited training he had. "Yeah, that sounds about right for what I'm hearing."

Blair bit deeper into his lip, drawing a little bead of blood. "I'll see her in hell before she does that to them," he said, getting up. "Stay," he told his Sentinel and took off for the living room.

Jim just shook his head and followed. "Not a chance, I'm not cleaning up the blood," he muttered, catching the younger man easily and pulling him around by his collar. "Don't do something foolish," he warned quietly. "She may leave and you'll never see either one of them again."

Blair nodded and took a deep, calming breath. "I am calm," he said through his gritted teeth. "Really, really calm."

Jim let him go, staying very close by. Just in case.

Blair walked out and sat on the couch opposite his mother. "Mother, is there something you would like to tell me?"

"I'm sorry," she said, patting his hand. "I was just trying to do what I thought was right for all of us."

Blair shook his head. "I'm not talking about that."

She looked surprised. "But... how did you know?" She covered her stomach and looked down at it. "I've only had the test results back now for two days." She looked over at her son, then at Jim. "How does he know?"

"Mother, repeat after me. Shaman."

"Shaman." Her mouth opened and hung open, her eyes got very large. "Oh, oh my." She shook her head. "I'm sorry, I never realized that Jim was a member of a tribe." She turned to him. "Which one? Native American or that one in Peru you were part of?"

"Him," Jim said, pointing at Blair. "And yes, my tribe in Peru recognize him as one."

Naomi laughed. "Jim, that's ridiculous. My son's never even shown an attraction to the spiritual side of things." She reached over and ruffled a few curls. "Seriously now, how did you know?"

Blair sighed and got up, going over to the new bookshelves, and pulled down a book. He dropped it on the table in front of Naomi and walked back to his room. "Come and get me when she figures it out," he whispered only loud enough for Jim to hear.

Jim nodded his head slightly to tell Blair that he had been heard. "Naomi, believe it or not, your son is a recognized Shaman. I'm recognized as his protector and that's why he helps me with things."

She shook her head and looked down at the book. "Jim, that's impossible. He's not from a native tribe, has no connection to one."

Jim sighed and stood up, going over to the fridge. "Where do you think the original humans came from? Paris?"

Naomi just sat there with her mouth open, looking from the book to Jim and back to the book.


Blair unlocked the door and was stopped by a hand on his arm. "Chief, wait." Jim turned up his hearing, searching for the click he had just heard. He checked around the door frame and grimaced, handing over his cell phone. "Call Simon, tell him I just found a trigger."

Blair swallowed and nodded, quickly dialing the station and their boss. "Simon, man, it's Blair. Jim just found a trigger on the door to the book store. We could use some help now." There was a little yelling, just barely audible through the phone, and a short pause before Blair hung up. "Two minutes," he told Jim.

Jim nodded and looked over the set up. "Very professional, no exposed wires, no visible components of the bomb." He shaded his eyes with his hand to cut out the early morning glare on the glass of the main window. "Bomb's in the window seat."

Blair nodded and pulled Jim back. "I want both of us to live for a while longer."

Jim smiled and they retreated back to the truck to wait for the people who knew how to come and fix it.

It was almost an hour later when Joel came over and told them they could go inside. The two men followed the older Detective. "Here's the owners," Joel told the new head of the bomb squad. "Detective Ellison and his partner, Sandburg, observer to Major Crimes."

The Captain looked up from her paperwork. "So, who have you two pissed off. Lately," she added after remembering who she was dealing with.

Blair smiled. "Let's see. There's that cult thing, my mother, anyone who's mad that I got the shop when my father and step-father passed away."

Jim shook his head. "Captain Malanis, would you like a list?"

She looked Jim over and nodded. "Please. That bomb was just a little too well made to be anything but professional."

Blair pulled her aside and took out the picture he had gotten off of Chris of his father. "This was my father," he said, showing her the picture. "He used to be in ... government service."

Captain Malanis 'hmm'ed and looked at the picture. "I remember him. Good man. How long did you know him?"

"I didn't get a chance to, my mother kept us apart, but I would say it either had to do with them, him and his husband Chris, or with the cult. Simon said something about a few threats being thrown around."

She made a note on her paper and smiled. "Thank you, I needed a good place to start and both of those are excellent. Now I see why Simon keeps you around." She patted his arm and walked over to where Simon was standing, pulling him aside to have a quiet conversation with him.

Joel came over and pointed at the big bow and picture. "Which one's your dad?"

"The blond one," Blair said. He pointed up. "The other was my step-father Chris. They were great men and I only wish I had more of a chance to know them."

Joel patted Blair's arm. "Anytime you want to talk about it, just come and get me. From what I've heard around the station, both were very good and kind men."

Blair nodded and gave him an impromptu hug, whispering, "Thanks" before letting go.

Joel nodded and left, going back to the questioning of the other store owners who had gotten there earlier.

Jim turned and looked around, seeing their usual UPS guy coming up to the door. "Delivery," he told Blair. "I'll go get it."

Blair nodded and went to start the coffee machine and the little toaster oven.

Jim walked out the door and signed for the two boxes of books that had been ordered. "Thanks."

"So, what happened?"

"Bomb threat," Jim said. He smiled. "Nothing major, something some of us deal with daily."

The man shook his head. "Glad I'm not a detective then." He saluted and left, pulling back out into traffic and heading for his next stop.

Jim was relieved of the boxes once he got back inside, the bomb squad Captain having ordered her men to look them over. "They're books," he said. "We were expecting them."

She nodded and walked away with them anyway.

Blair smiled and handed Jim his cup of coffee. "Book delivery?" Jim nodded and took a sip. "Okay, we'll get them back soon." He handed a cookie over to Captain Malanis. "Try this, I'm trying out a new recipe."

She delicately bit into it and smiled. "That's good. What's in it?" she asked around the mouthful.

"Um, butterscotch chips and dried cherries that have been soaked in non-alcoholic rum." He shrugged. "All natural and no processed sugar. Even the chips come from a small family run company that uses non-processed white sugar."

She smiled and put an arm around his shoulder. "There's not a chance I can talk you out of that recipe, can I? My daughter's bake sale for her class is soon and I'm looking for something to make the other mothers shut up."

Blair laughed and walked her over to the counter, taking out his binder of recipes and handing it over. "Try these."

She leaned on the counter and flipped through them eagerly while Blair went back to Jim, bringing the coffee pot with him. He was instantly surrounded by every officer he knew that was in the store, all begging for some.


Naomi looked in through the large glass window at the front of the store and frowned. "All those cops have to be there for some reason," she said, covering her mouth to yawn. "I've got to find a better motel tonight. Some of those people at the other one were just too loud. Kept me up all night trying to keep up with them." She yawned again and started to walk in the door, only to be stopped by a female officer. "Excuse me, ma'am."

"Captain," she corrected, "and there are no civilians allowed in at this time."

"I'm Blair's mother," she said, holding out a hand. "I'm sure he'd say it's all right."

"I'm sure he would too, but you're not involved in this scene and we can't have people not involved in the investigation running around in here right now."

"But that's my son in there," Naomi pointed out reasonably. "If he's involved then so am I."

"Sorry, Mrs. Sandburg, but I still can't allow you inside."

"May I please speak to my son or to Captain Banks? And it's Ms."

"Simon, visitor," Captain Malanis called.

Simon looked up and walked over. "Naomi, long time no see. How are you?" he said, giving her a hug, being careful to keep her outside.

"I'm all right, but what happened? Is Blair in some sort of trouble?"

Simon shook his head. "You know I can't tell you, but you don't have to worry, we've got it under control."

"I'm sure you do, but I still would like to see my son and make sure he's all right for myself." She put her hands on her hips and switched over to her belligerent personality. "Right now, if possible."

Simon nodded at the other Captain to go find Blair while he kept her there. "She'll go find him. He's doing a once over with the detectives in charge to see how they got in."

"Oh, good, just a robbery then." She sighed. "I thought it might have been something important, bombs or drugs or something."

Simon nodded. "I can understand that."

Captain Malanis came back to the door. "He's a little on the busy side right now, they just walked into the office and it's been ransacked. He said he'd call you later tonight, though." She smiled to take some sting out of it.

"I'm sorry too, but that's not good enough," Naomi said, trying to force her way through both the Captains. "Let me in please."

Captain Malanis decided that she had had enough of this and called one of her senior officers over to escort Naomi down to the station.

Jim looked out in time to see Naomi put into a squad car by force. He turned to look at his partner. "So, your mom's just been arrested." Blair grunted and started to sort the piles of papers from his seat on the floor. "Should I go rescue her?"

Blair shook his head and handed a paper over. "What's this?"

Jim looked at it. "Quarterly earnings report." He handed it back. "It tells you how much you brought in vs. how much you spent." Blair nodded and dropped it into a pile. "Did you see something wrong with it? I know it's been a while since I did one, but I followed the book I got up at the University library to refresh myself."

Blair looked up and smiled. "No, nothing wrong, I just didn't have a clue what it was and what it should be filed under."

Jim nodded and let out a sigh of relief. "So, now what?"

"Now we find what they were looking for in here and why they were trying to cover it up with a bomb."

Jim nodded and sat down on the floor too. "Okay, so this pile is office paperwork and..."


Simon looked up at the knock on his door. "Hey Sandburg," he said, waving the young man in. "So, did you ever figure out what was missing?"

Blair smiled and sat down. "Yeah, actually I did. Chris' address book was missing. All my father's papers were there and most of his. Just his velvet covered address book." He shrugged. "And if I was betting on why, I'd say it had something to do with my father's former profession."

Simon smiled and leaned back. "I've heard all sorts of stories about what he used to do. Was he really a spy?"

Blair's smile got wider and brighter. "During the early Eighties, yeah. He was one of those unpredictable ones that used to send the people that planned things batty."

Simon laughed. "So *that's* where you got it from." Blair nodded and started to laugh. When they had finally both settled down, Simon looked over at his young observer. "So, what's up with your mom."

"Bitch," Blair said under his breath. "She kept me from him."

"I'm sure she thought is was for your own good," Simon reasoned.

"Simon, she kept his name from me, who he was, never let me see him or him me. I've never known someone who was part of me, even after I left her care. For the past fourteen years I could have known him if she hadn't made him not see me." He cleared his throat. "Seems my mom had something of his that was damaging and she held it over him so he wouldn't come see me. Ever."

Simon nodded. "Yeah, that sounds a bit out of whack, as the son would say. So, now what?"

"Now, I find out where the address book is, who had it and why, and then stop my mother from raising another child."

Simon swallowed. "She's pregnant?" Blair nodded. "Hmm, that's interesting, how far along?"

Blair shook his head and let it fall forward, catching it in his hands. "Please tell me you're not the father, man."

Henry stuck his head around the door. "Jim just called and said to warn Blair that his mother's on the way up."

Blair got up and pointed a finger at Simon. "We'll discuss this later," he said and dashed out, going down the stairs to the garage.

Both the men watched him run out and turned to smile at each other. "What did you do now?" Henry asked him. Simon just shook his head and waved him out of his office with his cigar.

When Naomi and Jim made it into his office, Simon had Jim close the door and go get a danish for him. "So, what's this I hear that you needed to tell me something?"

Naomi blushed, but didn't stop looking directly at him. "I'm not sure if it's yours," she admitted.

Simon just nodded and leaned across his desk so he could look her in the eyes. "If it is, I want to know and I will fight you to see him or her," he said in his most menacing tone.

Naomi swallowed and nodded. "I'm sure you will," she said.


Blair started supper and was bending over to check on something in the oven when Jim walked in. He lifted an arm to look under it and see why Jim was just standing there. When Jim still just stood there, he stood up and walked over to his partner, slowly and carefully just in case, calling his name the whole way. "Jim? Jiiimmm. Come on Jim, back to reality time." He was standing right in front of the older man when he shook himself and came back to the here and now. "Back?" Jim nodded and sat down at the table. "So, what did you zone on?"

"You," was the quiet reply.

Blair raised an eyebrow and sat down beside Jim, putting a gentle hand on his arm. "Me?" Jim nodded. "What about me made you zone?"

"Wasn't a zone, I was just thinking." He shrugged and started to get up. "What's for supper, Chief?"

"That casserole you liked last month and that's still not an answer. What were you thinking about so deeply?"

Jim sat back down and put his elbows on the table, propping up his now aching head. "I was just thinking about us."

"Us?" Blair smiled. "As in the us that happened when I hit you on the chest that night?" Jim nodded, slightly flushed. "So, what were you thinking? I mean, we haven't talked about it yet and I'm not a blushing virgin exactly in this area, so what? Give man." He took one of Jim's hands in his. "Was it this sort of thing?"

Jim shook his head. "No, I was just watching the play of light over the back of your legs and thinking about why, suddenly, I was wondering just how hairy your back was and things." He shrugged. "Nothing earth shattering."

"Unless this is all a revelation for you," Blair said quietly, leaning closer. "You know, the first time I thought about something like that, I spent days trying to figure out what the point was." He smiled, remembering. "That guy was great. He sat me down and talked to me and helped me to figure it out. Of course he was straighter than most wood you find in a lumber store, but still, it was nice to know why I was thinking that." He looked over at Jim and smiled. "You promised me that we would talk about this, would you like to do that after supper? Or even while we eat?"

Jim flushed a little more and nodded. "I'm just so .. so"

"Confused? Unsure of why you're feeling that way? What it means?"

"Yeah, that last one." He nodded. "Go check the casserole," he said quietly.

Blair grinned and bounded up to run over to the stove to turn it down. "Yeah, we don't want to burn dinner, that would be bad."

Jim started to laugh and got up to get the plates. "You're so silly some times," he told the younger man.


Blair handed Jim a glass of iced tea, the new drink since beer was all but outlawed while drug tests were still random, and sat down beside him on the couch. He grinned and leaned over to kiss Jim's cheek, gently stroking his lips across the lightly stubbled surface. "Ready to talk now?"

Jim sighed and moved closer, letting his arm touch that of Blair's. "Yeah, you?"

Blair smiled. "Me? Talk?"

Jim started to laugh and all the tension eased right away.

"I was reading my, Chris', journal today. My dad fell in love with him as a person first, then as a man."

"What does that mean?" Jim asked, taking a drink, then making a face. "You put no sugar in it again. Too much lemon too."

Blair smiled. "That's the way it's made by the real people in the South, lemony and not a whole lot of sugar so you can customize it. Or at least that's how I was taught." He handed over the sugar bowl. "But I brought you this anyway."

Jim smiled and poured a spoonful of sugar into his glass, stirring it. "You're special, you know that right?"

Blair laughed and put down the bowl where Jim could reach it. "Yeah, I know. I'm not sure why some days but I do know that I am." He drank some of his tea and smiled. "So, we were talking..."

"I know how your dad felt," Jim said. "That's the same thing that happened to me. I fell in love with you as a person and then as a man." He took a big gulp of the cold liquid. "And now I'm not sure of the whys and hows."

"The hows are worked out between us. The whys are as personal as your genes."

Jim turned and looked at his roommate. "That's deep, where'd you get it?"

"One of my father's stories. He had a character saying it to the love they just found out they had." Blair took a large drink of his tea, finishing off the glass. "More?"

Jim laid a hand on the smaller man's arm. "How many... Have you been through this before? This whole new thing."

Blair smiled and shifted so he could face Jim. "Yeah, once like I told you before. He was kind and gentle and considerate and just right for what I needed at the time. We used to sit and talk for hours on end about anything and everything. You probably could say he was my first love."

"What happened to him?" Jim asked quietly, afraid of the answer.

"He had a calling that was more important than our love was." He shrugged. "He was at Seminary while I was a year away from my undergrad."

"Do you still talk?"

Blair nodded. "We write. Right now he's in Italy working on a restoration project."

"So, do you love him still?"

"Yeah, I do and probably always will." He leaned over enough to kiss Jim's lips, barely brushing his against the others. "But even if he showed up today, he couldn't compete with you."

Jim's smile was one of the most beautiful Blair had ever seen, so easy and relaxed and full of emotion. "I'm glad." He pulled Blair over to give him a real kiss, his closed mouth against the other man's. When he pulled back, he stood up, setting his glass on the table. "I'm going to go think, if that's okay."

Blair smiled. "Good idea. I'll get these glasses put up and make some more tea for tomorrow before I go soak in the tub to do the same."

Jim ruffled the rampant curls and smiled. "Just don't fall asleep this time. As much as I liked rubbing that knot out, we won't have time in the morning."

Blair slapped himself in the forehead. "Inventory," he groaned. He tipped his head back and frowned. "Thank you for reminding me. I've still got to pull out those old jeans."

"Me too. I was actually thinking of the truck coming in with that large order. It's a good thing one of us remembered."

Blair grinned up. "Maybe we should get one of those planners. They say the memory is the first to go."

Jim just shook his head and walked up to his bedroom. "Even with one, you'd still forget what time it was and keep working."

"Not funny, I'm just dedicated."


"Really not funny Jim."

"Night Sandburg."

Blair shook his head and got up to wash the glasses and make some more tea before looking for his work clothes.


Blair looked up from his stack of orders and frowned. Jim was supposed to have been at the store over an hour earlier. He dialed Jim's desk, then Simon's office, then Simon's cell phone. "Where's Jim?" he asked once Simon had answered.

#Sandburg, we're in the middle of a situation here. He'll be there as soon as he can.#

"Simon, please tell me you didn't send Jim out alone." He stood up and grabbed his jacket. "Tell me where."

#No, just stay there.# Simon hung up.

Blair snorted. "Sure I am." He walked out of the office and waved at the cashier. "Jim needs me, we'll be back soon. If it takes longer, just leave the stuff in the office and lock the door when you go." She nodded and blew another bubble.

Blair climbed into his car and started it, turning in the radio to the news station. Within five minutes he knew where he was headed and why he was going to kick Simon Banks' ass for sending Jim into a hostage situation when someone had asked for him.


Jim stared down the gun that was being held on him. "Come on, you know this is stupid. Nothing you could do will allow you to walk out of here." The woman looked around nervously. "No, I'm alone like I promised, but you can't do this."

"Bet me," she said, cocking the gun. "You just bet me that I can't."

"I wouldn't do that and you know it. I learned very early on to never tell a woman she can't do something because she'll prove me wrong every time. But you still can't shoot me." The woman nodded and started to lower the hammer, turning the gun off to the side so she could give it to him.

Then the unusual happened. The hammer's lowering set off the gun, the old revolver fired. Jim grabbed his shoulder and went down. The woman started to scream and dropped the gun, falling to her knees.

It all happened in slow motion for Blair, who was outside watching from a safe distance through binoculars. He started to run forward only to be grabbed by Henry Brown. "No! I have to get to him!" He fought off the older man and rushed inside, sliding down beside Jim's unconscious body. He checked the injury, pushing a paramedic aside to get to his fallen friend. He struggled as he was lifted away, carried and held back so he wasn't in the way.

Jim was quickly loaded into the ambulance, Blair allowed to follow after he bit Simon to get away and rushed the doors before they could close. They headed off to the hospital, Blair praying to every god he had ever known that this wasn't a fatal wound this time either.


Jim walked out to the truck, leaning heavily on Blair. His shoulder injury hadn't been serious, just painful, thankfully.

He started to climb into the passenger side, when he felt Blair's body heave. He turned in time to catch him as he started to throw up, all the fear and the pain coming back up now. "Shh, it's all right, I'm all right. Shh, Blair," he said calmly, holding the younger man up and steady, pulling his hair back with his injured arm.

Simon started to swear and came over to help, catching Blair's body when it started to slip from Jim's weakening grasp. He got both the men into his car and drove them home, knowing neither was fit to be alone, let alone drive right now.


Blair sat down again on the hood of his car, knowing Simon wouldn't let him get any closer, and watched the drama unfold in front of him.

Jim had his hands up and was saying something to the woman with the gun and the two hostages. She nodded and was starting to relax, from her body language, when Jim started to turn.

The next thing Blair saw was Jim falling, bright red blood flowing from his shoulder. He jumped off the hood of the car and ran inside the building, knocking down the cops that tried to get in his way.

Blair sat up screaming, panting from the force and images of the nightmare. He held himself, wrapping his shaking arms around his chest to hold off anymore chills.

Jim knocked on the door and walked in, his brace still on. "Are you all right?" Blair nodded and made room on the bed for him to sit down. "Nightmare?"

"Yeah," Blair said quietly, leaning against the solid wall that was Jim. "I know it happened two days ago, but I'm still seeing it."

Jim wrapped his good arm around his friend and pulled him closer. "I know. Seeing me shot was a scary thing. It's normal to have nightmares." He stroked Blair's back to soothe him. "Would it help if I sat up with you for a while?"

Blair shook his head and shifted some. "You need your rest to get better."

"Chief, it's three weeks before Christmas, we both need our rest." He dropped a kiss on the top of Blair's hair. "Would it help if you slept upstairs tonight? That way you could tell I was alive and still here, not bleeding to death under your hands." He held his breath while Blair thought it over and nodded. "Okay, come on and crawl into my bed and we'll sleep." He stood up and walked out, leading the younger man by the hand he held.

They walked up the stairs together, side by side, and stood looking at the bed. "Maybe this isn't such a good idea," Blair said. "I could just sleep on the floor next to you or something."

Jim looked down at him and frowned. "I'm not going to do anything that you don't want."

"It's not that. What if I bump into your arm or kick you or something. I'm an active sleeper and I move all night. You wouldn't get any rest at all."

Jim turned, sitting on the edge of the bed, and pulled Blair into his lap. "You won't keep me up. You won't kick me because you know that'll hurt me. I don't care if you're active and you wiggle all night just as long as you don't steal the blankets." He let Blair get back up. "Now, get under the covers before you freeze."

Blair nodded and got into the bed, practically hanging off the edge. Jim shook his head and got in, gripping Blair with his good arm and pulling him into the center. "I don't bite, remember?"

Blair started to laugh and rolled over to hold his friend, partner, and love. "Yeah, I know you won't, but I can't promise the same thing." He closed his eyes and fell asleep; safe, comfortable, and warm in Jim's embrace.

End, Fairytale 3, for now.