by VampyrAlex


Rating: NC-17
Pairings: Jim/Blair
Category: Drama/Romance
Notes: Thanks to my betas DarkCherry, Helen, Monica, and Sherri for the excellent work. Extra thanks to Helen for making that beautiful page for my stories, and to Bine for the gorgeous slash portrait of Jim and Blair for the page, I don't know how to thank you two enough.
Summary: A man is murdered and it's up to the boys to find out why.



Another cold and rainy night, Jeff thought, as he crossed the deserted street. Just a few more blocks and he would be on Prospect. He shook his head. What a coincidence that Blair had ended up in the same corner of the world as he did, and working with the police, at that. He could hardly believe his eyes when watching the news two nights before, he had heard how Detective James Ellison from Major Crimes had managed to arrest a dangerous criminal, with the help of police consultant Blair Sandburg.

It had been so easy to watch the station the day before, follow Blair to the University or home, always without being noticed. He knew he might need to go to the police, and being Blair's friend would make things much easier.

This had been a mistake from the beginning. The money was good, he sure could use more of it, but the idea of committing a crime... He should've known his conscience wouldn't let him go through with it. The problem was that his partner was starting to notice his agitation. Jeff could see the watchful eyes on him, and it was making him even more nervous.

Blair was his last chance. With his help, he would tell the cops the whole plan, and maybe he could get out of this mess alive. He had no doubt whatsoever that his life was in danger, his partner was dangerous, and if he knew Jeff was planning to quit, and go to the cops, he'd kill him in a heartbeat. Thank God he'd managed to send a letter to Blair earlier. That way, if something happened to him, he knew the crime would be investigated.

A strong arm grabbed him from behind suddenly, pinning his arms to his body, and he was dragged to a dark alley, and pushed against a wall.

"What --?"

"Been watching you for a while now, Jeff, my boy. Saw you hovering around a police station yesterday. Having second thoughts, are we?"

"Look, it's not... I..." Jeff stammered.

"Shhh, shhh, it's okay, buddy! I understand, really. But see, the plan is finished, all that is left to do is the actual job, so I don't need you anymore. Unfortunately, I can't take the chance of you going to the cops, so I'm going to have to kill you!"

"No!" With a force he didn't knew he possessed, Jeff kicked the man in front of him, and managed to free himself. He started to run, heart beating out of control, panicking when he heard the footsteps close behind. A hot, fiery pain pierced his back, and he felt the blood trickling down to his waist. "Too late," he whispered, before his legs let him down, and he fell. "Too damn late..."



It had been one of those days. First the Volvo wouldn't start, then after having to call a cab to go to Rainier, it had started to rain, and he'd gotten completely soaked before he could reach the anthro building. It got worse and worse from then on, the notes for a lecture forgotten at the loft, students with the attention span of a minute, office hours that wouldn't end, and a faculty meeting from hell. All in all, after a long, and dreadful day, all that Blair Sandburg wanted was to get home, have a nice hot shower, a good meal, and a cuddle session with his lover.

Opening the door to the loft, and dropping his backpack, he suddenly remembered Jim was going to be late. He was out celebrating with the rest of Major Crimes on the closure of a particularly long case, involving bombs, hostages, and God knew what else. Sighing unhappily at the turn of events in his life, he closed the door and decided to go with the first part of his plan, a hot shower.

It felt great to feel the warm water relaxing his muscles, soothing his aches, and a little of the day's frustrations left his body, leaving him feeling lighter. Getting dressed in a comfortable pair of jeans, and a t-shirt, Blair left the bathroom, deciding to start preparing dinner, when a knock on the door stopped him. Blair frowned. He wasn't expecting anyone, it was too early to be Jim, and he had the key anyway.

He opened the door, coming face to face with a young man about his age. "Yes?" Blair asked.

The man took a few awkward steps towards Blair, and instinctively the police observer pulled back.

"Blair," the stranger croaked, raising his hand to touch him.

Before Blair could say or do anything, the man swayed dangerously, and fell to the floor on his stomach, making the knife buried deep in his back visible.

"Oh My God! Oh shit! Okay, okay. I'm calm, I'm calm." Releasing a big breath, Blair touched the stranger's neck, feeling no pulse. "Damn, he's dead. I've got to call Jim. Man, why do this things always happen to me?"



"...anyway, Mason cuts the wrong wire, freaks out when the timer speeds up the countdown, and starts running around like a crazy chicken screaming ' It's going to blow, it's going to blow!'. Everyone gets out as fast as possible, but when the timer hit zero nothing happened. I decided to take a chance, go near the bomb, and see why it didn't go off. Man, it was a fake, and you could tell if you just took a good look at it. That's what you get for sending the new guy to disarm it. My guess is that he had to go home and change pants after that!"

Everyone laughed at Taggart's joke, just enjoying each other's company, and the relaxed feeling that came with the closure of a difficult case. Jim's cell phone chose that moment to ring.

"Excuse me. Ellison."

"Hey, Jim! It's me."

"What's up, Junior?"

"Uh, well, I need you guys here."

Jim frowned, causing the others to stop talking. "Why? What's wrong?"

"Well, I went to answer the door, and there's this guy, and he just walked in and, well..."

"And what, Sandburg?"

"He dropped dead, man."

"What? Are you okay?"

"Yeah, he didn't do anything. But he was killed, and I would really appreciate it if you'd hurry up and get here before the killer decides to check in on his work."

"Okay, Chief. We're on our way."

They paid for the drinks and on the way out, Jim told them what was going on. Henri shook his head. "Man, Hairboy sure knows how to find them!"

With the sirens on, it took them a little over ten minutes to get to the loft. It wasn't really necessary for all of them to go, but this was Blair after all, and over the years they'd become attached to the kid. The elevator was out of order so they climbed the stairs, finding the door to the apartment open, and Sandburg on the couch waiting for them. He got up as soon as he saw them.


"Hey, Sandy! You okay?" Megan asked.


Making sure they had their gloves on, Jim and Rafe searched the body.

"No ID," stated Rafe. "You know him, Jim?"

The detective took a good look at the guy's face. "Nope, never seen him. Chief?"

Blair shook his head. "No, don't think I know him either. But --"

The cops turned to him, noting the pale face.

"But what, Chief?" Jim asked, looking worried.

"Well, just before he died, he said my name." He looked down at the body. "I think he was here to see me."



It took what felt like hours before all the detectives, the forensics team, and the coroner left, but finally Jim and Blair were alone.

"How are you doing?"

"Okay. Nervous, but okay. You think the killer will come after me?"

"I don't know, Chief. Without at least knowing who the dead man is, it will be hard to make any guesses, but I'm going to stay close to you for a while."

A sexy smile curled Blair's lips. "How close will that be?"

Jim moved towards him, standing inches away. He lowered his head and brushed his lips on Blair's. "This close," he whispered.

"Humm. I can live with that."

"You better! Now, what do you want for dinner?"

"Man, talk about a mood killer!"

"A man's gotta eat, Junior. Besides, the way you burn those calories off me every night, I need all the nutrition I can get!"

Blair snorted. "You're getting old, big guy." he said grinning.

"I'll show you old in a minute, Sandburg!" Jim growled. "You'll regret saying those words!"

"Yeah, yeah! Promises, promises!"

They ate a few sandwiches, being too late for a big meal, and afterwards, while Jim locked the door and turned off the lights, Blair got ready for bed. He undressed, and laid down in the big bed, while Jim took his turn in the bathroom.

The grad student let his mind wonder on his life, and how much it had changed in just a few years. Not five years ago, the thought of seeing a dead body would have left him a nervous wreck, now it was an ordinary thing, a day to day event, easier to face every time. Being on the streets with Jim, and witnessing all he did, wasn't always easy, but he found himself enjoying helping, hell, loving it, the idea that he could make a little difference out there, that maybe sometimes the bad guys didn't always win, and that he was a part of that.

In reality, his life was really good at the moment, so good he was almost afraid to say it out loud, or things might change. His work with the Major Crimes unit was exciting, and despite the occasional scare, it filled something inside him. The work at the University couldn't be better. Soon he would be Dr. Sandburg, and the Dean had already told him she wanted him to stay as a teacher, which was a dream come true. And then there was Jim. Jim, his Sentinel, his best friend, and now his lover.

Just a few days after they came back from Sierra Verde, after they finally caught Alex Barnes, Jim had sat him down, and the two of them had talked about all the things that had happened and how they felt. Blair decided to take a chance and declare his love for the strong, silent man, feeling his heart was going to burst when Jim smiled that beautiful secretive smile of his, and kissed him lightly in return. And so, since that day, a little over a month ago, they were lovers above everything else.

He must have dozed off, because next the thing he knew Jim was pulling him close, and kissing his head.


"Hey, yourself." Jim responded, with a smile.

"Would you mind holding onto me for a minute?" Blair asked, softly.

"Thought you'd never ask," Jim replied with a smile. "Come here, Chief."

They put their arms around each other, and Jim ran his hands over the younger man's hair lovingly. "Chief, you know I wouldn't let anything happen to you, don't you?"

"Yes. I trust you with my life, man, I know you'll keep me safe. But you know, I've been thinking and maybe I'm jumping to conclusions here. I mean, if the killer wanted to kill me too, he would have done it when he went for that guy, right? It would be much easier to just kill the two of us at the same time."

"Yeah, I guess. But it's also possible he stabbed the victim somewhere near here, left him for dead, and doesn't know he managed to get here. If he finds out, he might think that guy told you something before he died."

"Damn! I hadn't thought of that!"

"It's okay, like you said, we may be jumping to conclusions. In any case, like I said, I'll keep close for the next few days, or make sure someone is near if need be. Which reminds me, I'm getting old, huh?!"

In a swift move, Jim pinned Blair to the bed, covering him with his body, nuzzling behind one ear. He nibbled the young man's neck, just above the collarbone, leaving a love mark, making Blair arch off the bed and twist the covers in ecstasy. Jim started to move against him then, sliding their cocks together in delicious friction.

"Oh God," Blair moaned.

He started to thrust up against Jim, faster and faster, nearing them closer to the edge. The sweat from their bodies made their skin slide easier, and soon it was too much, and both men were coming, shouting their completion.

"I love you," the young man whispered.

"Me too, Chief."

Kissing Blair's curl covered head, Jim spooned behind him, and not long after, they were sleeping peacefully.



The next morning didn't leave them time for much, only a quick shower together and an even quicker breakfast. After that, Jim insisted in taking Blair to Rainier, paying no attention to the young man's protests. They parted ways with a passionate kiss inside the truck, and then Jim was on his way to the station.

The hours sped away for Blair, with classes and student counseling, followed by a quick lunch, and it was past three when he finally settled down in his office. He was about to review some notes for his dissertation, when there was a knock on the door.

"Come in."

"Hey, Hairboy!"

"Rafe! What are you doing here?"

"Jim sent me for you. Can you come down to the station?"

"Yeah, I guess. Why?"

"We got the ID on the guy from last night, and Simon wants you there. Since there's a chance the killer may be after you, I became the designated driver."

"Okay, let's go then."

The drive didn't take long, and soon Blair found himself in Simon's office with Jim, Rafe and Henri. He looked at the Captain. "So, what's up? Rafe said you have the guy's identity. Who is he?"

"His name is Jeffrey Halloran, thirty years old, born and raised in Boston, geologist," answered Henri. "We checked and he has no record."

Blair frowned. "Jeffrey Halloran..."

"You know him?" Jim asked.

"I'm not -- Wait! Oh, shit! Jeff!"

"You do know him."

Blair looked at Henri and shrugged. "I haven't seen him in over fifteen years, didn't recognize him. Naomi and I spent a few months in Boston when I was a kid, and I met Jeff there, he was our neighbor. We became really good friends during that time, we went everywhere together, talked about saving the world, making a difference, all that stuff kids dream about. Mom and I moved out soon after that, and I never saw, or heard from him again, can't imagine what he might have wanted with me."

"Well, whatever it was, it was big enough for someone to kill him. Rafe, Henri, try to find out who he worked with, who might have a grudge against him, you know what to look for," Simon ordered.

"Yes, sir."

The two detectives left, passing Taggart on the way. "Simon, Halloran was staying at the Central hotel, been living there for over a month," Taggart informed.

"Jim, you and Sandburg go check the hotel room. Maybe there's some sort of clue as to what or who got him killed," Simon said.

"Okay, sir."

"There's one more thing, Sandburg. A letter was delivered here this morning for you, it's from Halloran."

"From Jeff ? How did he know I worked here?"

"Probably the same way he knew where you lived. Maybe he followed you around or something, but what I really would like to know, was how he knew you were living in Cascade," Jim said.

He opened the letter and started to read out loud. "'Hey, Tiger! How have you been? It's been a while since we talked about saving the world together, uh? I'm going to get in touch with you soon, but in case I don't make it, look up the name Jean Baptist Tavernier. You'll know what I mean shortly. Take care, my friend. Jeff Halloran.'"

"Well?" Simon asked. "You know anything about that guy, Tavernier?"

"Yeah, but I don't understand."

"What don't you understand?"

"What he has to do with Jeff 's death. I mean, Tavernier has a very interesting story, but he's been dead for centuries now."


"Yes," Blair started, going into professor mode. "He was a French traveler, born in Paris in 1605, pioneer of trade with India. Did you know that when he was sixteen he had already visited England, and Germany, among other countries? It is said that at the age of eighty four he took to the road again, dying en-route to India in 1689."

"Sandburg, I didn't ask for a lecture!" Simon barked. "Do you know the connection between this Tavernier and Halloran?"

"Uh... No, Simon."

"Fine. Then get out of here, and go check that hotel room."

"Yes, sir. Come on, Chief."

The two of them left the office.

"Man, Simon needs to learn how to relax or he'll get an ulcer. Geez!"

Jim chuckled. "Well, you lecturing him didn't help, Darwin."

"Hey, having a little culture never did any harm, big guy. I was only trying to help."

"Well, the next time I have insomnia, I'll ask for one of your lectures, that will be help enough."

"You're such an asshole, Ellison!" the young man said with a grin.

They got in the truck and left for Central hotel.



The guy at the front desk of the hotel gave them Halloran's room number, and they climbed the stairs to the second floor. Blair was going to make a comment about how crappy the place was when Jim whispered in his ear, making him shudder.

"Romantic place, isn't it?"

Blair snorted. "For the rats maybe!"

They walked in, and Jim searched the room, but there was nothing out of the ordinary, or that the Sentinel senses could pick up, so they went back to the station.

Simon looked at them. "Anything?"

"The room was clean." Jim answered, shaking his head. "Nothing we can use. All his clothes were there, money, personal items. Nothing unusual."

"Okay. It's almost dinner time, so let's go home, people. We'll start off first thing in the morning."

"Yes, sir."

"Thanks, Captain."

A few minutes later they were leaving the building, when Jim turned to Simon and accidentally collided with someone. "Oh, sorry," he started to apologize, but smiled suddenly, looking at the man he bumped into. "Mark?! Mark Royce?!"

The man looked surprised. "Ellison?! Man, I can't believe this! How the hell are you?!" he laughed, and pulled Jim into a bear hug. "I haven't seen you in ages! What are you doing here?"

"I work here, I'm a cop."

"No shit?! You traded the army for the police, huh?! You've got to be crazy, man!" he joked, looking at the others.

"Oh, sorry," Jim said, introducing his friends. "Guys, this is Mark Royce, we were in the army together."

"I'll say! We fought side by side for a lot of years, went through some serious shit! Say, you want to go grab a beer or something?" Mark asked.

"I don't know," Jim answered, looking at Blair.

The younger man smiled. "It's okay, Jim. Go with your friend, have a good time. I can catch a taxi, no problem."

Mark looked him over. "You know, I'd never have pictured you as a cop."

"That's because I'm not," Blair replied, trying not to feel offended. "I'm a special consultant, an observer, working with Major Crimes."

"Oh, okay. Jim, coming?"

"Chief, you sure you don't mind?"

"Yeah, go on."

"Okay. See you later, then. See ya tomorrow, guys."

"Bye, Jim."

They watched the army buddies go, and Simon turned to Blair. "Come on, Sandburg, I'll give you a ride to the loft."




Jim looked at Mark and shook his head. "I still can't believe we ran into each other like that."

"Yeah, life sure is full of surprises! What have you been doing, besides becoming a cop, I mean? I haven't seen you since those months after you came back from Peru."

"Nothing much. I left the army and joined the force almost immediately. Listen, Mark... I don't think I ever thanked you enough for what you did for me back then. I mean, I think I would have gone mad, if it hadn't been for you, man."

"Come on, Ellison! I think you're exaggerating a bit here. So I listened to you and helped you get your bearings after a year and a half in the jungle. Man, we were friends, are friends, and in my book friends help each other."

"You know you did more than that. I would have killed Colonel Oliver if it hadn't been for you, if you hadn't talked me out of it. I could be stuck in jail for the rest of my life."

"Hey, I'd love to see that bastard dead, but not if it meant ruining your life, man. The scumbag wasn't worth it. Wonder what happened to him?"

Jim grinned. "He's dead."

"You're kidding?!"

"Nope. I was the one that killed him. It's a long story, I'll tell you about it sometime. I got a call from Sam Holland one night, went to meet him, and all hell broke lose. Sam died, I got captured by Oliver's men, and later ended up killing him."

"Wow, I'm speechless! Talk about poetic justice, man! And Sam, dead. Poor guy. He was a good soldier." Royce stated.

"Yes, he was. So, anyway, you know I'm a cop, but what about you? What are you doing now?" Jim asked.

"I work for a security company, you know, alarms, safes, that kind of thing. It's a good job, no major hassles. Nothing as exciting as being a cop." Royce replied.

He motioned the bartender for another round. "James 'Fucking' Ellison! Man, this is too weird, after all this time."


They drank and talked throughout most of the evening, both glad to be together again, remembering war stories, learning new things about each other, losing track of the present.



What a great way to wake up, Blair thought, feeling hands caress his body and a tongue laving at his opening.

"Jim," he moaned.

A body covered his back, and a voice whispered close to his ear. "Shhh! Mark is sleeping downstairs on the couch."

"What?!" Blair hissed. "Are you crazy?!"

"Look, we got caught up in our conversation. When I looked at the watch it was two in the morning, and we were too drunk to do anything. The loft was closer, so I invited him to stay. It's okay, he'll leave first thing tomorrow."

"Does he know about us, Jim?"

"Uh, no. Only that we're roommates."

"Great, just great! What am I suppose to do tomorrow? I have a class to teach at eight."

"When he goes to the bathroom, you can sneak to your old room. It will work out, you'll see. Relax." Jim whispered, raining tiny kisses on his shoulder blades and back.

Blair tried to stay angry, but was losing the battle quickly to pleasure. The detective continued to kiss his back until he reached his buttocks. There, Jim paid special attention to a cheek, nibbling, kissing, laving, until Blair was moaning continuously, before going to the other one, and giving it the same treatment.

Getting the lube, Jim coated his fingers, and began preparing his lover. First one finger, then a second one, and finally a third, stretching the muscles, teasing him, making sure the young man was ready for him.

"Jim, I'm dying here! Hurry up, I'm more than ready!"

Ellison chuckled. "Okay, okay! On your hands and knees, baby."

Blair obeyed and Jim grabbed his hips, guiding his cock to the younger man's opening. He waited for his lover's signal before starting to thrust against that delicious heat.

"Move, Jim..."

Biting his lip to stop himself from moaning out loud, or making too much noise, Blair thrust back, increasing the pace, giving everything to their lovemaking, losing himself in the pleasure, in Jim. It couldn't last forever, Jim thrust deeply one last time into his willing body, spilling his seed inside, the feeling making Blair surrender to the hand stroking him, both coming together.

"I love you, Jim."

"Me too, Junior."

After Jim's soft cock slipped from Blair, the detective rolled over and was asleep almost immediately, but the young man couldn't find the peace of mind to follow his lover. The truth was that although their relationship was better than ever, he felt something was missing. Jim seemed to keep a part of himself from their love, away from him, and that hurt. Not once since they were together had the detective told him he loved him, only said "me too" or something to that affect when Blair said the words. He knew Jim wasn't a man of too many words, but just for once it would be nice to hear it, to hear him say "I love you, Blair."

And the obsession Jim had about not telling anyone about them was driving him crazy. Although he didn't enjoy the idea of having to act like a thief in his own home, he understood why they wouldn't tell Mark. But their friends, the guys at the station, Simon, Megan, Taggart, and even H. and Rafe, they should be told. They were good friends, worked closely with them everyday, and should know, but Jim had refused completely to even discuss the matter, let alone talk to them. Not wanting to fight and ruin a relationship so new, Blair had dropped the subject, but still felt uncomfortable each time they were together with their friends, and he had to keep his distance from his lover.

Finally exhaustion took over his mind, and he snuggled with the warm body next to him, falling asleep in the arms of the man he loved more than life.



Everything turned out like Jim said it would the next morning. The partners woke up early, and waited until Mark went to the bathroom. Then Blair went to his old room, got a few clothes he still had there, got dressed, and when he came out, both Mark and Jim, were in the kitchen having breakfast.

The young man was also eating breakfast when the phone rung.


"Jim, it's Simon. Sorry to call this early."

"Sure, what's up?"

"That snitch of yours, Sneaks, he's here. Says he's got some information on the Rolland case for us, but will only talk to you."

"Okay, I'm on my way." he stated and hung up.

Turning to Mark and Blair, Jim said. "Guys, I have to go, Simon needs me at the station. We took a cab last night, so I still have to go get the truck. Mark, you can stay and finish your breakfast, Blair will keep you company. Call me! We still have a lot to catch up."

"Sure thing, man. See ya!"

"Bye, Jim."

"See you later, Chief."

Grabbing the coat, he was out the door in a second.

"Is he always like this?" Mark asked.

Blair smiled. "When it comes to police work, yeah, most of the time. He loves it."

Mark looked at the young man. "So, how long have you been working with him?"

"About four years."

"And how long have you been in his bed?"

Blair paled. "Excuse me?"

"I couldn't imagine for the life of me how someone like you, a hippie geek, could be partners with a bad motherfucker like Ellison."

"He's not like that anymore, he changed."

"Kid, guys like us never change. But like I was saying, I couldn't imagine you two as partners, at least until I heard you last night!" he remarked with a leer. "You kept it down, but still it was hard to miss the noise coming from upstairs. Now I understand."

"Understand what?" Blair asked, feeling suddenly sick.

"Why he lets you stay around. You're a good fuck, aren't you little boy? I bet even Simon uses you once in a while."

The young man got up and faced Royce. "Listen asshole! I do share a bed with Jim, but that's because we love each other. I'm not a whore to be used by cops, and I never slept with Simon or any of the others. As for working with them, I've proved my worth time and time again, helping solving cases. I do *not* need to sleep around to be able to be Jim's partner!"

"Hey, easy, easy! No need to get upset, little boy! All I wanted to say is that I wouldn't mind sharing the wealth, so to speak."

"What the hell do you mean by that?" Blair hissed.

"You're a very good looking kid. I know I could make you feel good, maybe better than Ellison. I'm sure he's too repressed to actually be good in bed." Mark replied, laughing. He got closer to the younger man, and caressed his hair. "What do you say? You and I could be great together." He leaned forward, his lips almost touching Blair's, but a sudden a knee hitting him between the legs made him howl and fall back.

"Get out of here, Royce! Now!"

The man rose from the floor and looked at him. "I will be back, kid. This isn't over, you'll see. We'll be seeing each other soon, really soon." He left and Blair locked the door, sighing with relief.

"What the hell am I going to do now?"

Grabbing his backpack and coat he left for the University. On the way, he tried to decide what to do, should he tell Jim that his friend had made a pass at him, or should he just forget it and try not to cross paths with Royce again?



Blair's classes took most of the day, so it was mid-afternoon when he finally arrived at the bullpen. The day had been a torture to endure, his mind going in circles around his problem. Jim was finishing the paperwork on the Rolland case, two gruesome murders taking precedent over Halloran's case, but looked up when he heard his partner approach.

"Hey, Chief!"


Jim frowned. "What's up?"

"I need to talk to you, it's important."

"Okay. What is it?"

"Not here. We'll talk tonight, at home."

"Fine by me. Mark left okay this morning?"

Simon's door burst open, stopping Blair's reply. "Ellison, Sandburg, my office!" he ordered.

The two partners joined the Captain in his office, seeing H., Rafe, Taggart, and Megan already there.

"What's up, Captain?" H asked.

"Just got a call from the Mayor. He's very happy with the fact that we nailed the bastard that killed his friend, Jack Rolland and his wife. Jim, thank Sneaks for his information, will you? It helped us break the case."

"I already did. He's walking with a new pair of sneakers as we speak." Jim answered, making everyone chuckle.

"Anyway, you all did a great job solving this case, so you have the rest of the day off. Tomorrow, I want you to pick up where you left off on the Halloran case. Now go!"

"Yes, sir!"



"God, what a day!" Jim stated, practically dropping on the couch.

Blair went to the kitchen and got them both a beer. "Here, this will make you feel better."

"Thanks, Chief. So, what did you want to talk about?"

The young man sat on the other end of the couch. "Well, it's -- Damn, this is hard! Look, Jim, after you left this morning..."


"Uh, I... Uh... Mark made a pass at me." he finally let out.

Jim got up and looked down at him. "Excuse me? Did you just say that Mark hit on you?" he asked roughly.

"Yes, that's what I'm saying."

"Look, Chief, maybe you made a mistake, maybe you heard wrong or something. Mark would never do something like that!"

Blair got up as well. "Jim, I didn't hear wrong or make any mistakes. He said he heard us last night, accused me of sleeping with you and Simon to be able to be your partner, and said he wanted to share the wealth! He even tried to kiss me, for God's sake!"

"Why are you making this up, Blair?" Jim asked suddenly, in a soft voice.

"What? I'm not making anything up!"

"Why?" Jim repeated, as if he hadn't heard the young man.

Blair grabbed Jim by the arms and shook him. "Listen to me, damnit! I wasn't the one that did something wrong, he was! He knew we were together and still wanted to take me to bed!"

Ellison seemed to wake from his lethargy and freed himself. "I don't believe you. Mark and I went through some serious shit together in the army and covert-ops, he was the one that kept me from going down when I came back from Peru. We're friends, he wouldn't do something like that or say those things!"

"So what are you saying? That I'm not your friend? That you believe in a man you haven't seen in over ten years, but not me? What am I, nothing? You said I saved your life as well, saved you from being locked up in a padded cell, doesn't that mean anything now? The fact that I love you, doesn't it matter at all?" He looked at Jim. "Is he right, Ellison? Am I just in your bed so we can be partners, so you have someone always there to help with your senses? Is that it?"


"No?" Blair snapped. "Then why don't you ever say you love me? Why don't we ever go out together? Why don't you tell our friends about us? Why, Jim? Why?"

"Because I don't think you'll be here long enough!" Jim snapped. "You fucked half the population of Cascade. Am I suppose to think you'll stay with me forever, that you'll commit to our relationship?"

"God, you really don't know me, do you?" Blair said, softly. "Yes, I dated a lot of women, and yes, I slept with some of them, but mostly I just dated. And that was because I thought you were off limits. I've been in love with you from almost the beginning of our partnership. I gave my heart and my soul to you, man. How could you think I'd make up a thing like that? And what for?"

The young man let out a deep breath. "Damnit, Jim! You never really learned to trust me, did you? That's why you don't believe me. You trust Mark, but not me." He looked at the man in front of him. "Look, maybe it's better if I leave for a couple of days. We obviously need some time apart to think."

He grabbed his backpack, went to their room, filled it with a few clothes and came down again. "I'm going to Megan's place. She has a room to rent, so I'll stay there. If you need me or change your mind and want to talk, you know where to find me," he finished, grimacing when he remembered he'd said those same words before Alex Barnes drowned him in that damn fountain.



Hours later, no anger left in him, Jim looked at the empty bed and sighed. Amazing how one minute your life could be fantastic, and the next a bloody nightmare. He laid down and thought about what had happened. Could Blair be telling the truth? Did Mark really hit on his lover?

Maybe his reaction had been a bit off, but all he could think and remember was Mark fighting by his side, saving his life, letting him punch the walls and telling him it was alright to be angry. Those memories stay with you forever, become part of your life. Could he be wrong? And if he recognized he was wrong about Mark, he had to consider he might be wrong about Blair as well. It was just so hard to understand why a beautiful, intelligent, young man would want to be with him, an older, repressed man, afraid to show his feelings, and with a job that took it's toll on the soul.

That's why he didn't want to tell his friends, because sooner or later, he thought the young man would walk away, would get tired of this boring cop, and he wouldn't be able to stand the pity in everyone's eyes, it would be too much, it would kill him. And so he kept a part of himself away, closed up, so he could survive that moment. But... Maybe he was wrong, maybe Blair was in this forever, like he was. Maybe they could make it work. God, he'd been a fool! He should've believed in Blair, he wouldn't lie about something like that, and now the young man was gone.

His heart started to beat faster at the thought of living without Blair, without the only person that really understood and supported him. He was going to find him and have a talk with him, a real talk, a heart to heart confrontation.

He'd just finished getting dressed when the phone ringing startled him. Looking at the watch he saw it was only four thirty in the morning. "Son of a bitch! Better be important." he snarled. "Ellison!"

"You sound like my neighbour's dog when we try to take his bone."

"Funny, Simon, very funny! What's up?"

"There was a robbery at the Museum of Natural History. Meet me there."


Not long after, he was facing Simon at the entrance of the museum.

"What's the story?" Jim asked.

"Not sure yet. I called you as soon as we got the warning about the robbery. Only talked with the guard doing the nightshift so far. He said he hadn't noticed or heard anything unusual. He only knew there had been a robbery because one of the glass cases was empty. Whoever did this knew the alarm and security devices very well and bypassed them all."

"Inside job?"

"Most likely. We have to run a check of all the people working here first thing in the morning. This is too damn early!"

"Tell me about it, Simon! So, what time was the robbery?"

"The guard I talked to said he made his rounds about 1:00 a.m., and everything was in place. Half an hour later he reported the robbery."

A car stopped near them, and Megan and Blair got out.

"I thought we might need some help, so I called Connor." Simon explained. "But what is Sandburg doing with her?"

"Long story, sir."

Megan and Blair joined them, and the Inspector smiled at the two men. An awkward silence between the two partners made Conner and Simon realize they needed to talk, so they walked inside.

"Jim --" Blair started, looking down.

"It's okay," Jim soothed, putting a finger under the young man's chin, and making him face him. "I was a fool, I'm sorry for the way I behaved. I do believe you."

Blair's beautiful eyes got brighter. "You do?"

Without caring if anyone saw them or not, Jim hugged his lover. "We will need to have a long conversation after this case is over, get everything out in the open, but for now... I love you, Blair Sandburg."

"I love you too, James Ellison." Blair replied with a mega-watt smile.

"Come home tonight?"

"Yeah. As soon as we're done, I'll go get my stuff at Megan's and go back to the loft."

"Good. Now, let's go back to work."



It was the museum's curator that welcomed them. "Captain Banks, I can't thank you enough for answering our call so fast. Come this way, I'll show you to the room that was robbed. This is a very serious matter, most of these pieces are here as a loan from the Smithsonian Institute. It will be a scandal when the word is out that one of the most famous stones they own is missing." He took them to a huge room where several beautiful stones where displayed. "I'll leave you alone. If you need anything, I'll be near the entrance. I'm going to get a list of all our employees for you."

"Thank you."

They walked around, trying to find signs of the break-in, searching for anything that could help them.

"I don't get it," Megan said, looking at some of the stones in exhibit. "Some of these pieces are really valuable. This one is the Bismark Sapphire, one of the biggest in the world from what is said here, and priceless, over there is the crown Napoleon gave Marie Louise that has a ton of diamonds and emeralds. Why just take one thing?"

Blair got closer to the empty glass case. "What was taken, anyhow?" he asked.

"The Hope diamond." Simon replied.

The young man took a step back shocked. "What? Oh God! That's it!"

The others looked at him.

"What are you talking about?" Jim asked.

"The Jean Baptiste Tavernier that Jeff mentioned in his letter was the first known owner of the Hope diamond, man!"

"Are you saying that Halloran was in on the robbery?"

"What else? It's too much of a coincidence, Megan! Either he was in on it, and got greedy, or changed his mind, or maybe he just found out about it and got killed. I mean, think about it! He was a geologist, was living in Cascade at the time of this exhibit, and sent me a note with the name of the first owner of a diamond that gets stolen a few days after he died!"

"Damn! It makes perfect sense!" Simon stated. "Okay, I'm going to call a team to sweep this place for evidence. Connor, call H., Rafe, and Taggart, and tell them to start digging up everything on Halloran. Let's go to the station."



Two hours later the Major Crimes unit was seated in the conference table.

"Okay, people, what do you have?" Simon asked.

"Well, we found out that Halloran spent half his life travelling around the world," Rafe started. "He was working with several museums until two or three years ago. He was asked by the Smithsonian Institute to go work with them, so he moved to Washington."

"Yeah, and as for friends, he didn't have many. Everyone we talked to said he was very quiet, and kept pretty much to himself. Had no enemies as far as we can tell, and no one seemed to have any grudges against him. No one seemed to know if he was involved in anything out of the ordinary, but an ex-girlfriend said he was really excited lately. Kept saying he was going to be a millionaire." Henri said.

"And as we know now, Cascade's Museum of Natural History is having a big exhibit on gems and minerals, and some of the pieces are from the Smithsonian." Megan replied. "Halloran was the one responsible for them and for the organization of the event. He was the link between the two museums. The guy I talked to from the Smithsonian was very upset with Halloran's death, said they had no one that could replace him on such short notice."

"I don't get it though," Rafe stated. "With so many valuable pieces in the museum, why only take one?"

"Most of those stones are too famous, they'd be too hot to make a good sell on the black market, too big a risk. On the other hand, if you have a private collector with enough money, and a special interest in one of the gems," Blair said.

"You know, that's a good point. We could get a list of the known stone and gem collectors, especially ones that might have shown any interest in the Hope diamond." H offered.

"Do it. Good work, people. Now we need to find out Halloran's exact connection with the robbery, and who the hell has the diamond."

"I hope the damn curse gets them!" Blair mumbled.

"Curse? What are you talking about?" Taggart asked.

"Well, it's a long story, but bottom line is that most people believe that the Hope diamond is cursed. I once read an article that blamed it for the Vietnam war and Kennedy's death."

"You're kidding?" H laughed.

"Nope. Some people really believe that. Remember the guy I said was the first known owner of the diamond? Well, he was the first diamond merchant in Europe and Asia, and soon after selling the Hope to the French King Louis XIV, he lost all his fortune and his estate. He decided to go back to India, and legend said he was killed in a desert by a pack of wild dogs. His body was never found though."

"Wow! What happened to the diamond after that?" Rafe asked.

"Well, while in the possession of the Hope, King Louis XIV died a slow and painful death, and his grandson, King Louis XVI, and his wife, Marie Antoinette who was said to wear the diamond a lot, were both killed in the guillotine, during the French Revolution. After that, the Hope disappeared for about twenty years."

"Bugger!" Megan exclaimed. "So, what happened when it showed up again?"

"That was one of the mysteries around the diamond. When Tavernier found Hope, it had 112 carats, this time, when it turned up, it had less than 46 carats. Nobody knows why it was cut, by whom, or where it stayed all those years. It was found in a jewelry store and sold to a British aristocrat, Henry Philip Hope, thus the name Hope diamond."

"Did he suffer the influence of the so called curse?" Simon asked, not able to pretend he wasn't interested in Blair's 'lecture'.

"Yes. He died alone, no direct heirs. The diamond and his fortune went to a nephew that died suddenly with no apparent cause. A relative, Lord Francis Hope, was the next heir. He married an American singer and offered her the diamond as a wedding present. A year after that he was broke and she ended up leaving him."

"Who kept the Hope?"

"Lord Francis. He sold it though. But his wife got the worst part of the 'curse'. She opened a hotel, called it "The Blue Diamond", but a few months after the inauguration, a fire burned it to the ground. Both died penniless."

"Man!" H whispered. "I'm starting to be afraid of seeing the damn thing!"

"So, who did Hope sell the diamond to?" Jim asked.

"Don't know, but it showed up again in the beginning of this century at Cartier's, the famous jewel maker. He sold it to an American called Evalyn Mclean, during her honeymoon in Europe. Needless to say her life was one tragedy after another. Her nine year old son died in a car accident, her twenty five year old daughter committed suicide with an overdose of pills, and her husband became a drunk and died in a mental asylum. After Evalyn died, her heirs sold the diamond to a jeweler, who later donated it to the Smithsonian."

"Boy, that sure is one hell of a story," Rafe remarked. "But why the curse, anyone know why it started?"

Blair shook his head. "Only rumours. A legend says that the Hope was mined in India, and that was cursed because a priest stole the diamond from the eye of a statue of the Hindu goddess Sita."

"You believe in the curse, Hairboy?"

Blair looked at H. "Let's just say that if I was asked if I wanted the diamond for a birthday present... My answer would be no."

There was a strange silence in the room and then Simon got up. "Okay, let's keep the ball rolling. I want to know how the robber got in that museum, who he is, and what's the connection with Halloran. Oh, and I want it for yesterday."



The rest of the day was spent chasing leads that went nowhere. All the museum employees had alibis for the time of the robbery, no records whatsoever, and didn't even match the profile needed to carry out such a plan.

H had compiled a list of all the private collectors that had shown an interest in the Hope, but that was rapidly turning into a dead end as well. Both he and Rafe had spent the whole day checking names and so far nothing suspicious had been brought up to their attention.

Blair and Jim were seated at the detective's desk when the young man yawned.

"Tired, Chief?"

"Yeah, it's been a long day."

"Why don't you go home? I'll ask H or Rafe to drive you to Megan's house to get your things and then to the loft."

"What about you?"

"I'll stay a bit more, have a few more things to check. I can't help thinking I'm missing something here."

"Okay, I'm going then. I can make some dinner too. Want something special?"

"Only you." Jim replied grinning, enjoying Blair's blush. "Whatever you feel like doing, it's okay by me."

An hour later, Blair was waving goodbye to H outside the loft. The elevator was working for a change so it only took him a minute to reach their floor. He opened the door, got in, and dropped his backpack to the floor. He never got a chance to turn around. Something hard and painful connected with his skull and then everything went black.



Jim rubbed his eyes, feeling tired.

"Go home, Jim." Simon said. "You look beat."

"I am. But I won't be able to rest until I solve this case. There's something wrong here, Simon, I can feel it."

"Like what?"

"I don't know. I don't believe that Halloran was going to get in on the robbery itself, I think he was just needed for information. He was a geologist, didn't have the physical training necessary to pull this job, but he knew the inside of the museum. He knew where the stone would be, what time the guards changed shifts, when they did the rounds. And he must have had a key to the museum to come and go while preparing the exhibit, right? There was no break-in, and there was no other way the thief could have walked in. No backdoor, no skylights..."

"So you're saying that Halloran was used for information. And maybe he chickened out, and his accomplice or accomplices found out and killed him."

"Makes sense, doesn't it? But even Halloran didn't have access to the security."

"Exactly. So, how did the robber managed to override the system?"

Jim raised his head all of a sudden. "That's it! It's so simple I can't believe we didn't see it!"

"What is?" H asked, joining them.

"What if the security system wasn't overridden as we've been thinking? What if someone knew how to disable it? Didn't the curator say it was a new system, with a code that shut everything down? What if someone knew that code?"

Simon shook his head. "Impossible. I talked with the curator and he told me he is the only one that has the code. And he memorized it, so there's no chance someone might have found a paper with the code either."

"There's someone else that knows it." Jim replied, grinning.


"The person that installed it!"

"Shit! When the system is installed, the firm responsible is given a copy for emergencies. Obviously, no one would think the thief was from the company hired to secure the place. Damn! H, Rafe, call the curator, ask which company does the security at the museum, then find out which employees worked with the museum." Simon ordered.

"Yes, sir."

A little over half an hour later, Rafe walked in Simon's office with H behind, both looking uncomfortable.

"Well?" Simon demanded.

"The security company is called Protectus, we have the list of the employees that worked with the museum." H cleared his throat. "But I don't think Jim is going to like it."

"Why?" Jim asked, frowning.

Rafe gave him the list of names. "See for yourself."

Jim checked the names and all of a sudden his world fell apart. "Mark Royce!"

"Isn't that your --?" Simon started.

"Yes. I have to go to Blair, he's in danger."

Simon picked up his coat. "Let's go!"



The first thing Blair felt waking up was an awful headache. He moaned and tried to touch his head with his hands, only to find they were tied up behind his back. The young man tried to decipher where he was. He was pretty sure he was still in the loft, somehow the atmosphere seemed familiar, and he was laying on a couch. Opening his eyes slowly, he moaned again at the pain and nausea, but managed to keep himself together.

"I was starting to believe you were never going to wake up!" someone said from behind him.

He couldn't see who it was, but recognized the voice immediately. "Royce? What's going on?" he asked, hoping he sounded defiant.

Royce walked around the couch and stood in front of him. "I told you we'd see each other again, didn't I? You should have believed me."

"You're insane. Jim will be here any minute."

"I don't plan on staying too long. I just came to say goodbye."

"What do you want? Why are you here?"

"I'm pretty sure that Halloran didn't tell you anything, but I can't take a chance," Royce said, ignoring Blair's questions.

"Wha -- You killed Halloran!"

Royce smirked. "Yep. He was starting to get scared and I knew he would screw up, so I decided to follow him. Imagine my surprise when I found out he was spending his time following you!" the man stated, pointing his gun at Blair.


"I don't know if it was because you worked with the cops or just because he was hoping to get lucky," he said with a leer." But I couldn't risk it so I killed him. I already had the information I wanted, anyway."

"You stole the diamond, didn't you?"

"Yes. Piece of cake. I work for the security company that installed the system at the museum, I was the one responsible for it and knew the code. That's what got me the idea in the first place, you see? I would be able to get in and out and no one would know. I did a little research, found out about the gems exhibit and checked which one was the most valuable. After that it was easy to find a private collector crazy enough to buy it from me."

"How did you get in the museum? I mean, the security system had to be deactivated from the inside. And there was another alarm, the one connected to the front door, that could only be deactivated with a special key."

"Quite right. But everyone working with the museum had such a key and Halloran gave me his."

"Jesus. And that 'accidental' meeting with Jim?"

Royce laughed. "Not so accidental. See, the robbery was supposed to go down the night I killed Halloran, but when I saw him following you, saw you with Ellison and saw you in and out of the police station, I knew one or both of you had to be cops. I waited a while, when no one came to knock on my door I figured it was safe, but I wanted to be sure. I staged the meeting and when he didn't arrest me and even looked so happy to see me again, I knew it was safe. But you... You should have said yes, my boy. I would have left you alone, you know? I really don't like when people say no to me." The man sat on the coffee table, his knees touching Blair's. "It's really a shame, I could have shown you what a real man feels like. We could have had a really good time together." While he talked, his hand started to caress the young man's leg, moving to the inside of his thigh, feeling Blair's cock through his jeans.

Blair tried to move away, but two arms around his waist brought him closer to the man. "You know," Royce whispered close to his lips." Maybe I'll take you with me after all..."

The door burst open and Jim walked in with Simon at his heels, both with their guns raised and targeting the thief.

"I don't think so, Royce. Let him go!"

"Ellison." Royce grabbed Blair and used him as a shield. "Get out of my way or I'll kill him!"

"You know I can't do that, Mark! Put the gun down and let him go. Now!"

"Not on your lifetime!"

Royce turned his gun on Blair, but both Jim and Simon were faster and shot him, one bullet catching him in the shoulder, the other in the hand. With a yell of pain, he freed the young man, and while Simon kept an eye on the thief, Jim called for back-up and an ambulance.



It was close to dawn when Jim and Blair finally were alone in the loft. Jim hugged his lover and kissed the curly head. "I'm sorry. I should have believed you when you told me about him."

"It's okay, I understand. We never want to hear that a friend did something wrong or could be something different from what we believe. When you two went through the things you did, it just makes it harder." He sighed. "Jim?"


"I want you to know that I'm in this relationship for the long haul, man. Forever. You know what I mean?"

Jim smiled. "Yeah, I know. Now I know. And so am I, Chief. We'll make this work, you'll see, I promise. Come on, let's go upstairs." They climbed the stairs hand and hand, stopping close to the bed, and sitting down. "You okay?" Jim asked, rubbing Blair's back with his hand, in a soothing massage.

"Yeah. Thanks for saving my life. Again!"

The Sentinel laughed. "No problem, Chief." His hand started to move from the young man's back to his thigh, his fingers seductively caressing him.

Jim leaned forward and gently kissed Blair on the lips, caressing his cheek with one hand, while the other tangled in his hair. The young man moaned softly as the detective's tongue claimed his mouth, their tongues fighting for dominance, both shivering with delight.

Blair finally pulled away, smiling, his breath coming in short pants. Jim placed a finger to the young man's lips, tracing them with the finger. Blair kissed the finger, and licked it, drawing it into his mouth, sucking on it gently, toying with it with his tongue, causing Jim to moan in pleasure.

"God, I love you!"

"I love you too, Jim."

They undressed and laid down on the bed, twined around each other, touching one another, knowing all the right places to bring pleasure. Jim kissed Blair again, while his hand played with the young man's left nipple. He teased it to arousal, rolling it between his thumb and index finger, dragging a breathy moan from his lover's lips.

The young man ran his hands over Jim's tightly muscled arms and shoulders, and was rewarded with a pleasured sigh and his name murmured against his neck, as the detective trailed kisses along his throat. Jim continued to kiss his way down Blair's hairy chest, pausing to lick a nipple gently, sucking it into his mouth, and then biting it lightly. He sucked on the nipple for a bit longer, and then moved to its twin. While he was doing this, his hand rubbed the young man's cock, causing him to moan and whimper continuously.

Jim's hand closed around Blair's hard cock. At first he just held it, and then he began to stroke it slowly up and down the shaft. When the young man's hips started to meet each stroke, the detective stopped immediately. Blair groaned in frustration.


Jim chuckled, but didn't reply. His lips closed around Blair's cock head and his tongue danced over the tip, as he gently sucked. His mouth moved further down on the shaft and his tongue laved the underside of Blair's cock. Jim started sucking a little harder as Blair moved in and out of his mouth as if fucking it. The young man felt his orgasm starting to build when his lover pulled away.

"Jim, I swear to God, if you don't finish this," he started, panting hard. "I'll kill you when you're not looking!"

He let out a strangled whimper as Jim slipped a lubed finger inside him and then two, scissoring them, preparing him to be possessed. The young man was tossing his head from side to side, fingers digging into the sheets at the unbelievable sensations he was feeling.


The detective moved between his lover's parted legs and Blair thrust his hips up to his, inviting him to take what was his. With a look of deep concentration Jim slowly entered his lover, sighing as he settled fully into him, bodies fitting perfectly.

Jim covered Blair's lips with his again, and began to thrust carefully into his lover, running his hands all over him, just as Blair was doing to him. He was beginning to pump harder now, the young man meeting him thrust for thrust.

Blair felt Jim's hand encircle his cock once again, stroking him fast, driving him over the edge. He couldn't hold on and came, shouting his lover's name. His climax triggered Jim's, and suddenly he stiffened, thrust hard one last time into the young man, burying himself deeply again, and began to convulse inside his lover.

They both fell asleep in each other's arms, still joined, sated, exhausted, happy.



During the next few days, Jim tried in vain to get Royce to tell them what happened to the diamond. The thief 's house had been searched top to bottom, and no sign of the stone, or any clue that might lead them to find it. All they knew was it was the newest addition to someone's private collection.

It was a Wednesday. Jim and Blair had just arrived from lunch when Simon called them.

"Ellison, Sandburg, my office."

"What's up, Captain?"

"Senator Thorton was found dead in his home. The maid made the call, after she found him in the bathtub. I want you on this, go to his house and see what happened. He was a personal friend of the Commissioner and the heat will be on as soon as the news is out."

"Okay, we're on our way."



Senator Thorton had been taking a bath when he died. He usually didn't take longer than twenty minutes, so when an hour passed and he still hadn't come down, his maid went to check on him. She found him dead in the bathtub, a small radio fallen in the water.

Blair looked at the body and shivered.

"Death by electrocution. God, what an awful way to go! Think he was murdered? That someone threw the radio into the tub while it was on?"

Jim had been looking around for more than half an hour, his senses doing a full sweep of the place. He sighed and shook his head. "No, I think it was an accident. From the position of the body, I'd say he was trying to reach a towel. Maybe he had shampoo in his eyes, his hair has traces of it. While getting the towel, he must have knocked the radio in the water. The maid said he liked to listen to the news while washing, and that he always put the radio on the edge of the tub. Unfortunately, accidents like this are a dime a dozen. People aren't careful and pay for their carelessness," he shook his head again."I'm going to call Simon and let him know."


While the detective went to call the Captain, Blair walked around the house. It was a beautiful place, luxuriously decorated with paintings and statues from famous artists. The young man walked along a corridor, pausing to pick through the occasional door, always finding a new room with more priceless artwork.

Passing another door, he looked inside and his heart stopped. "Oh, wow!"

He walked in the room, finding himself surrounded by dozens of glass cases with several types of minerals, gems, and jewelry pieces. And there, right in the middle of the room, was Hope, the lost diamond.

Blair heard steps behind him, but didn't turn around, he kept watching the breathtaking gem. "Isn't it beautiful? Did you know that the ancient Greeks believed that diamonds were splinters of stars fallen to earth, and even that they might be the tears of gods? And that Cupid's arrows were said to be tipped with diamonds, and had a magic that nothing else could equal. The very word 'diamond' comes from the Greek 'adamas' meaning unconquerable, suggesting the eternity of love. Looking at it, isn't so hard to believe, is it? How can a simple stone be so magnificent?"

The detective hugged him from behind and licked his ear. "Yeah, and also deadly. I'm starting to believe all that curse stuff you told us. It's pretty obvious that it was Thorton that bought Hope from Royce. Look what happened to him!"

"James Ellison! Are you trying to say that you, the skeptic of the century, believe in a curse?"

"Well, I'm not saying I do, and I'm not saying I don't, but..."


"I wouldn't want that diamond for my birthday either!" he finished with a grin.



Taggart looked at Jim. "You want to tell us why you invited us all for dinner?"

H grinned. "Yeah, not that we didn't enjoy the invitation, mind you! But you got that look on your face that says you're trying to find a way to tell us something, and are having a hard time."

"Man, am I that transparent?" Jim asked and got a chorus of "yes" from his friends.

"Uh, okay. Well, yeah, I have something to tell you all. It's... Well..."

Simon sighed dramatically. "Jim, get it over with. This is getting really old, really fast!"

The detective fidgeted from foot to foot, and looked at the floor uncomfortable. Megan felt sorry for him and asked. "Is this about you and Sandy?"

Jim looked at her. "How --?"

She sighed. "Jim, we all know. It was hard not to notice the changes after we returned from Sierra Verde, you know? You've been more open, much more relaxed. And Sandy, he's positively glowing!"

Rafe nodded. "Yeah, and give us some credit, man! We *are* detectives, after all!"

"So, you're okay with this?" Jim wanted to know.

"We're your friends." Taggart replied. "I don't pretend to understand the crazy relationship you two have, but it works and that's what matters."

"Yeah," Megan continued. "We love you both and want to see you happy. Personally, I think you make a beautiful couple."

Jim blushed and the others laughed. "Thanks, guys, this means a lot to us."

"No problem. Now, where's your better half? I could eat one of those weird, delicious meals he makes!" Taggart stated.

"He should be here any minute. But he doesn't --"

Just then, the door opened and Blair walked inside. "Hey, guys! What are you doing here?" He dropped his backpack, and joined them.

Simon frowned. "Jim didn't tell you he invited us for dinner?"

Blair shook his head. "What's going on, Jim?" he asked, looking at his lover.

"Well, remember when you wanted to tell our friends about us and I said no? I thought about it, and you were right about that. If we want to make this relationship work, we have to include our friends. So, I told them."

Blair stood silent a moment, digesting the information, then he looked at the others. "So, you're okay with this?"

Rafe grinned. "Well, we already answered that question, but since you're late, I guess we're going to have to repeat ourselves!"

"You're *so* not funny, man!" Blair said, grinning back at Rafe. "So?"

"We're okay with it. We wish you guys the best. Now, how about one of those famous exotic meals of yours?"

"Slave drivers! I just arrived, and you guys already want me slaving by the stove!"

"That's because we recognize your culinary virtues." H stated, trying to keep a straight face.

Blair snorted. "Yeah, right! You'll get Thai take out and consider yourselves lucky!"

"If that's how you treat all your guests, no wonder you don't have more people visiting, man!"

The young man ordered the food and returned to the couch, sitting near Jim. His lover immediately grabbed his hand and laced their fingers together.

"Awww! Ain't that sweet?" H grinned.

"Keep that up and you'll be having dinner on the stairs!" Blair threatened.

"Oh, yeah? And who'll make me?"

Blair smiled sweetly and rested his head in Jim's shoulder. "My boyfriend here." he said softly and all laughed.

Simon looked at him. "So, you're in this for the duration, Sandburg?"

The young man looked at his lover. "Oh yeah! Like I told him, for the long haul. At least --"

"What?" Jim asked, worried.

"At least, I Hope!" Blair finished and started to laugh. When none of the others laughed, he said. "Hope, get it? The diamond? I Hope?"

A chorus of groans was heard.

"What?! It wasn't that bad! Come on, admit it, it was a good joke!"

More groans.


There was a knock at the door and Blair went to get the food. James Ellison took a deep breath and relaxed in his seat. Another case had ended and life was returning to normal, as normal as possible with him and Sandburg, anyway. But they were in love and would face life together. Sentinel and Guide against the world. And they would win.


Author's note: The Hope diamond, the Bismark Sapphire, and the Crown Napoleon gave Marie Louise do exist, and are part of the Smithsonian Institute gems and minerals collection, shown in the Museum of Natural History. I don't know if Hope is really cursed. :-) I'll leave that to everyone's beliefs and imagination, but everything related about its owners did happen. What Blair says while looking at the diamond, near the end of the story, about what the ancient Greeks believed diamonds to be, is also true. You can see the diamond at this URL: http://hopediamondcurse.com/stone.htm


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