Disclaimer: The Sentinel and its characters are copyrighted by Pet Fly Productions. I don't own the guys, they'd never be let out of my sight if I did. Thanks to TAE for all of her patience and advice. BTW, for all of you people who cringe at the thought of Blair and Cassie together - consider yourselves warned! Well, I hope you enjoy the story and I'd love to hear your comments - whether they are good or bad, (good I hope though!).


FULL CIRCLE



Tara






"Dinner was pretty good, Chief." Jim said happily as the two men sat at the table drinking coffee. "Do you want some help cleaning up?" As he stood up from the table his smile faded quickly. A piercing pain burned through his abdomen and he had to grab the table for support. Blair was at his side instantly, easing him back into the chair.

Sandburg grabbed his friend's hand, a worried expression on his face, "Jim," his voice was low, "I'm taking you to the hospital."

Jim grimaced slightly, "That might be best, Chief." he said, his voice raspy. The anthropologist breathed a sigh of relief, he'd expected Jim to fight him on this. Blair slid his arm around the sentinel's waist and gently helped him to his feet. Sliding his own arm around the anthropologist's neck Jim let Blair support him as they walked slowly out of the loft and into the elevator. Holding his friend with one hand, Blair opened the passenger door of the truck with the other and gently lifted his friend inside. Sprinting to the other side of the truck he buckled himself in quickly.

"How are you doing?" Blair asked his friend as he drove. The sentinel's head was leaning against the window, his eyes were closed.

Jim exhaled painfully, "Hurts."

"I can see that," Sandburg said as he pulled the truck into the parking lot of County General, "we're going to get some answers pretty soon, Jim." Blair helped his friend out of the truck and into the hospital. "Could someone help us here." he yelled out, and a young doctor ran over to them.

"Bring a wheelchair over here." he barked at an orderly. Blair carefully helped his partner sit down. "Let's bring him to examination room three." the orderly started to wheel him away but Jim grabbed his guide's hand.

"Promise me you'll be here when I get out, Chief." he pleaded.

"There's no where else I'd rather be," Blair soothed, "I'll call Simon. Don't worry, Jim." Hesitantly Jim let go of his hand. Blair found the nearest pay phone and punched in Simon's desk number. "Simon, it's Blair," he blurted into the phone, "I'm at County General, could you come down here, please?"

"Calm down, Sandburg," Simon said gently, "are you okay, why are you at the hospital?"

"I'm fine Simon," Blair said shakily, "it's Jim, something's wrong. Simon I've never seen him like this."

Shocked, Simon jumped out of his chair. "I'm on my way, Blair, I can be there in ten minutes." Grabbing his jacket he bolted out of his office and down to the parking garage, softly praying that his friend would be alright.

A bright light was shining into his eyes as Jim was lifted onto the examination table. "Mr. Ellison," a voice said, "I'm going to apply some light pressure to different areas, let me know when you feel any discomfort." Jim felt the doctor's hands start at his chest and move downward slowly. As they reached a point just above his abdomen, Jim suddenly yelped with pain. The doctor nodded, "Okay, that's good." gently he palpitated the surrounding area while Jim whimpered gently.


"Blair," Sandburg turned to see Simon rushing towards him, "any news?"

Blair shook his head, "No, nothing. They're still examining him." Simon was suddenly aware that the anthropologist was shaking, gently he pulled the younger man into a hug. "God Simon, what is taking so long? Why haven't we heard anything?"

Simon bit his lip, from Blair's distress he could tell his detective was in trouble. "I'm sure we'll hear something soon, Blair." he soothed, brushing away the hair from Blair's face. Blair hugged Simon a little tighter.


The pain had faded to a dull ache as Jim pulled himself into a sitting position on the bed. The doctor finished writing something down in his chart and then looked at him. "I'm going to schedule a few more tests, but you appear to have a mass in your stomach."

Jim shook his head, "Mass, what does that mean?"

Jim's world came crashing down at the doctor's next words, "There is the possibility of malignancy, but hopefully we've caught it in time."

What if you haven't caught it in time? Jim wondered.

"We'll need to do a biopsy as soon as possible, Jim," the doctor told him, "find out exactly what we're dealing with here."

Jim felt helpless, "When?" he said quietly.

"One day from now." The doctor told him, "Tomorrow I want you to get some rest..." Jim nodded blearily as the doctor rambled on, praying for some kind of release from his fear. It was time to call on the famous Ellison reserve before he lost it completely. "...Prior to your surgery tomorrow you also can't have anything by mouth after six p.m. Mr. Ellison are you listening to me?"

Jim blinked, "Yeah, I'm listening. Rest, no food ... so when do I have to be back here?" he flinched, was that whining sound really his voice?

"Wednesday morning, seven o'clock a.m., come back then and we'll do the biopsy."

Sheer determination kept him standing as he walked back out to the lobby. Blair rushed over to meet him. He was pale, cold and obviously upset. "Whatever it is, Jim," Blair told him quietly, "I'll be here for you, every step of the way."

"We both will, Jim." Simon told him gently squeezing the sentinel's shoulder.

"I ... I have to come back Wednesday morning ... for a biopsy. The doctor think's I might have cancer." his voice was practically a whisper.

Blair threw his arms around the sentinel's shoulders and held him, "I know you, man," he said quietly, "you're a fighter."

Jim wrapped his own arms around his guide, soaking in the warmth of the touch, "I'm glad you're here, Chief," his voice trembled, "you too, Simon."

Simon bit his lower lip, "If you need anything, anything at all, Jim - you let me know."

"I will, Simon. And ... thanks." He looked to his guide, "Can we please get the hell out of here, Chief?"

"My thoughts exactly." Blair said as he placed his arm around the man's waist again. Simon solemnly walked beside them to the truck.

"Simon," Jim's voice was low, "for now, can we keep this just between the three of us?"

"If that's what you want, Jim," Simon told him, "but remember this, you have a lot of friends at the station who care about you."

"I know," Jim said quietly, "just let me find out what I'm dealing with here first, okay?"

Simon gently touched his shoulder, "Okay, Jim." Jim opened the door to the truck and slowly slid inside. Simon walked Blair around to the other side of the car. "Make sure he takes it easy, Sandburg." Simon told him quietly. Blair nodded as he got into the truck himself, then he pulled out of the parking lot, Simon gently cursed under his breath then got into his own car.

"Jim," Blair's voice was soothing, "please talk to me." the sentinel had been staring out of the car window for the past ten minutes.

"I was just thinking, Chief ... you know with my senses I can take on just about anything, but cancer?"

Blair reached over to rub his back, "You don't know that it's cancer," he told him in his best guide voice, "it's just a possibility."

"But I can't deny that it's a possibility, Chief," Jim said angrily, "that test tomorrow could determine whether or not my career gets flushed down the toilet. I won't be of much use to anyone."

"You can be such a hard ass, Jim," Blair told him firmly, "and by the way, you have the right to be less than perfect for once in your life." They were home now and Blair parked the truck. Reaching over he pulled the older man into a hug, "You will never be useless, Jim." he whispered.

Jim held his guide closely, "Thanks, Chief."


Blair's eye's flew open, but the loft was surprisingly quiet. Then he heard it again, Jim was screaming at the top of his lungs, "NO!" Throwing back the covers he ran out of his room and up the stairs into Jim's bedroom. Lightly he touched the man's arm, Jim opened his eyes.

"Chief," he breathed, "you are here."

Blair sat down on the bed, "Of course I'm here," he soothed, "you were only dreaming, Jim."

Jim looked at the clock, "Did I wake you?" he mumbled.

"Yeah, screaming at early morning hours does tend to have that effect, man." Blair chuckled.

Jim wiped at the sweat dripping down his forehead, "Chief, could you..." he trailed off lamely, "... well could you just stay with me, just for tonight?"

Blair smiled, "I think I can handle that." he stretched out beside his sentinel, gently rubbing the man's back.

"You know, Chief," Jim yawned, "I don't think I've ever needed anyone quite as much as I need you." He felt Blair shift a little, uncomfortably, "Not like that, Chief," he chuckled softly, "you're my support, you keep me in control. You're my guide, and my best friend."

Blair hugged the sentinel tightly, "And you're my best friend," he said quietly, "no matter what, that will never change. I will always be here for you, you know that don't you?"

Jim smiled, "Yeah, I know, Chief. I just need to hear you say it sometimes." As he drifted back to sleep he listened to his guide's steady, calm heartbeat.


Blair felt as though he were suffocating, Jim had his arms around the anthropologist's waist and was mumbling incoherently, and he kept squeezing tighter. His lungs were ready to explode, "Jim," he murmured, lightly touching the man's arm, "ease up a little, man. I'm not going anywhere."

Blair's touch was electric, Jim marvelled at the warmth he felt from it. "What is it, Chief?" he said quietly.

Blair winced, "You're kind of cutting off my circulation, Jim." he said sheepishly. Not until Sandburg had said something did Jim realize how closely he was holding his guide. Embarrassed, Jim let go. Blair smiled and propped himself up on one elbow, "Are you okay, man?"

Jim tucked his hands under his pillow, as he lay starring up at the ceiling, "No." he said quietly, and honestly. Blair looked at his sentinel, it hurt him to see the pain in those eyes.

"Can I do anything?"

Jim closed his eyes briefly, "Just be here." he finally said softly.

Blair wrapped his arms around his friend, Jim returned the embrace. "Definitely, man," he whispered, "I'm with you all the way." Jim held him closely for a couple of long minutes, and then pulled away.

Jim smiled, "Do you want the shower first?"

Blair grinned back, "Nah, you can go first." Jim tossed the comforter aside and started downstairs. "Just leave me some hot water!" Blair's voice drifted down the stairs and Jim chuckled.

Stepping out of the shower, Jim sniffed the air. The tantalizing aroma of scrambled eggs wafted into his nose. "Smells great, Chief." Jim said, smiling as he stepped into the kitchen.

Blair grinned, "Glad you think so." as he spoke he piled the eggs onto two plates. "Breakfast is served." he said, with what he hoped was a decent English accent.

Jim rolled his eyes, "Cute, Chief. Really, cute." Blair laughed.

After breakfast, Blair hopped into the shower. Slipping into his jeans and a t-shirt he then padded back out into the living room. Jim had a file folder out on the table and was studying it intensely. "Oh, you have got to be kidding me!" Blair yanked the folder away from him, "No work, not today."

Jim attempted to grab the folder but Blair kept it out of his reach, "Well, I have to do something," Jim grumbled, annoyed, "I'm practically under house arrest here."

"How about a game of cards?" Blair offered.

Jim grinned, "Okay, and this time I'll go easy on you."

Blair's eyes widened with amusement as he laughed, "I don't need your charity."

Jim sported a Cheshire cat grin, "Is that so," he chuckled, "we'll just see about that, Chief, won't we." Muttering to himself Blair darted into his room and fished out a pack of cards from his dresser. Returning to the living room he sat down opposite Jim at the table.

"What's the game?"

Jim grinned confidently, leaning back in his chair, "You pick." He laughed as Blair continued to mutter under his breath. "I heard that, Chief." he taunted, ignoring the vile look Blair shot him.

"Do you know how to play 21?"

"I think I played it once or twice ... with my grandma."

Blair stood up from the table, "That does it!" he laughed. Grabbing a pillow off of the couch he stalked towards his sentinel.

Jim grinned devilishly, "You wouldn't dare, Chief."

Blair returned the grin, "Oh, yes I would," Blair teased, "and I'll enjoy it too." Jim suddenly bent over and held his side, moaning a bit. Blair rushed towards him, "Are you okay, Jim?"

"Oh, you are so easy!" he laughed, grabbing the pillow from Blair, pelting him with quick blows.

"That just wasn't funny, man." Blair said raspily, dodging the pillow. However, his own laughter told a different story. Lunging for the couch, Blair snagged another pillow. The battle went back and forth until both men collapsed onto the couch in exhaustion.

Jim looked at his friend's dishevelled appearance and chuckled, "Thanks, Chief," he grinned, "that was kind of fun."

Blair stretched lazily, grinning sheepishly, "Yeah, it was." His muscles a little sore, Jim put a hand up to try and massage the tension he felt away. "Want some help?"

Jim shook his head, jerking his hand away from his shoulder, "It's nothing, really."

Blair rolled his eyes, "Sure it is, Jim." he said quietly, shifting his position on the couch. Gently he began to massage his sentinel's shoulders, Jim moaned softly, Blair froze. "I'm not hurting you, am I?" he said, worried.

Jim shook his head, "No, that feels pretty good." Blair resumed the massage, listening to his friend's easy breathing. Jim chuckled softly, "Ever do this for Cassie?"

Blair smiled slightly, "Once, I don't think she'll let me do it again though."

A laugh escaped Jim's lips, "How carried away did you get, Sandburg?" he asked, curious.

Blair shook his head, "We both got carried away," he said softly, "she just felt so good in my arms, I ..."

"I thought the two of you were taking things slowly." Jim said, curious.

Blair started to work on the back muscles, "We didn't sleep together, Jim, everything else maybe - but not that."

Jim chuckled a bit, this was the first time his partner had opened up to him about Cassie since they had started dating without being prodded. "What stopped you?"

"She's still getting over Micheal," Blair sighed, "I just don't want to rush her." Jim closed his eyes, he could still remember the day that Cassie had shown up at the loft. It had been obvious to anyone with eyes that she had been beaten. Blair had stayed with her while he had gone out to arrest her so-called boyfriend.

"Chief, doesn't she trust you?"

Blair sighed, "Yes, but she trusted Micheal too."

Jim suddenly whirled around to face the anthropologist, "Chief, you are nothing like that sick, son of a bitch."

Blair looked away from the sentinel's determined gaze, "She knows that," Jim raised an eyebrow, "honestly, she does. I just don't want to push her into anything too fast, Jim. She's not ready for a sexual commitment right now. Can we talk about something else, please?"

Jim glanced at his watch, they had been talking for a couple hours now. Softly he touched Blair's hand, "Sorry, Chief." he said quietly.

Blair smiled, "Don't be," he said softly, "now how about that game of cards?"

Jim laughed slightly, "Let's do it." he grinned.


Blair was gently shaking him as he opened his eyes the next morning, "It's almost seven, Jim," he said quietly, "we should get going."

Jim sat up slowly, "Do I have time for a shower?" he murmured.

Blair chuckled, "You've got five minutes, Ellison. Geez, how many times have I heard those words from you?" Jim gently cuffed him in the back of the head as he padded down to the shower. Ten minutes later he emerged from the bathroom, towelling his hair dry.

"Hey, Chief," he said quietly, "about last night ... thanks."

Blair grinned, "Anytime, man. How are you feeling today?"

Taking a deep breath Jim slipped into his coat, "Confused, angry, terrified," he exhaled, "pick one, Chief."

"Hmmm, I don't really like any of those options. What about something... oh I don't know... more, what's the word ... positive?"

Jim couldn't help but return the guide's crooked grin, "I'll try, Chief."

"Oh, you're very trying, Jim." Blair kidded as they left the loft. Jim laughed softly.


Jim lay on the operating table listening to the doctor ramble on about the procedure. "... We'll be inserting a small scope inside of your abdomen and removing the tumour."

"How long is this going to take?"

"Not long. The procedure itself will only take about half an hour. After that you'll be moved into a recovery room." The doctor paused for a moment, "Are you ready?" Jim nodded and took a deep breath as the anesthesia was administered.


Simon watched Blair pace the waiting room floor, he was starting to get dizzy. "Sandburg, for crying out loud, sit down already."

Blair looked sheepishly at him, "Sorry, I'm just a little wound up right now." Blair took a seat next to Simon.

Simon sighed and put a hand on the younger man's shoulder, "Are you holding up okay, Blair?"

"Yeah," Blair said wearily, "I just hate feeling so helpless. Jim's always managed to keep me safe, and God knows I don't make that easy for him. I just wish there was something I could do." his voice trailed off, trembling. "I don't want to lose him, Simon." the anthropologist put his head into his hands and cried softly.

Simon gently rubbed the guide's back, "Blair, you are doing something for him. Lately the only time I've even seen Jim smile is when you've been around." Blair sniffled a bit and took a deep breath.

"... Thanks, Simon."


"Hey, Jim." Blair said softly, as the sentinel groggily opened his eyes. Blair was sitting in a chair near his bed, Simon was standing beside him.

"Everything go okay?" Jim mumbled drowsily.

"It went fine, we removed the tumour without a hitch." the doctor said as he walked into the room, "How are you feeling Mr. Ellison?"

"I'm ... sore." Jim said.

"Well that's to be expected," the doctor said, "you've just had surgery. You're going to have to take it easy for a few weeks, and watch what you eat." He paused briefly as his pager went off, "Well, I have other duties to attend to, if you have any questions ..."

"There is one thing," Jim mumbled, "how long until I know what I'm dealing with?"

"We've sent the tissue we removed to the lab, results of this type typically take two or three days to come back." He paused briefly, "If there's anything else you need, just have a nurse page me." Jim nodded and the doctor left his room.

"Days." Jim grumbled as he sat up cautiously. Immediately regretting the movement as the pain in his abdomen intensified.

"Hey, what happened to being positive?" Blair teased as he took the sentinel's hand.

Jim smiled lightly, "Sorry, Chief." Yawning he added, "You know, those were some interesting drugs they pumped into me, I'm still feeling a little tired."

Blair helped him lay back down, "You just relax, Jim," he whispered softly, "Simon and I will be here when you wake up."

"Okay, Chief." Jim yawned as he drifted back to sleep.

Simon put his hand on Sandburg's shoulder, "I'm going to grab some coffee from the cafeteria, and check in with the station, do you want anything?"

"Coffee would be great."

"Okay, I'll be back in a bit." Simon said as he left the room.

Jim mumbled something incoherent as he twisted slightly in his dreams, Blair gently rubbed his arm, "Shhh, it's okay." he soothed. Please let that be true, Blair thought as Jim calmed down, I couldn't handle the emptiness if I lost him. Softly he rested his head on Jim's chest and closed his eyes.

"Got the coffee," Simon said as he walked back into the room, "you didn't say if you wanted milk, or..." the kid was sound asleep, he didn't have the heart to wake him. Carefully he picked up a blanket from a nearby chair and draped it across the anthropologist's shoulders. Smiling he quietly left the room.


One hour later

What had awakened him? Jim sat staring at the ceiling for a moment, just listening - there is was again, Sandburg was crying. "Chief," his voice was low, "Sandburg, what's wrong?"

Embarrassed, Blair wiped quickly at his eyes, "I," his voice trailed off lamely.

"Chief," Jim said gently, "you can tell me."

Blair rubbed at his neck, "I just had some off the wall nightmare, Jim, it was just a little too real."

Jim reached out for his guide's hand, "What was it about?"

Blair looked like a bunny-caught-in-the-headlights of a car, "The doctor's wouldn't help you," he said quietly, "there was so much blood..." he trailed off again, sniffling. Jim could hear his heartbeat going off the scale.

"Chief," Jim soothed, "take some deep breaths, calm down." he gently rubbed his partner's hand.

"Sorry," Blair muttered as he wiped his eyes again, "this is the last thing you need to deal with. If you want me to leave..."

"No." Jim interrupted.

"No?"

"No, Chief," Jim said quietly, "I don't want you to leave, not now - not ever." Blair had a grin plastered across his face, he hugged his partner, as hard as he could without hurting him.

A few moments later a perky nurse walked into the room carrying a tray, "Lunch time." she announced happily. She set the tray down on the little swinging table attached to his bed and moved it over his lap. "Enjoy!" she said, flashing a brilliant smile, then left the room.

Jim bristled at the thought of hospital food, "Do I even want to know what they are calling food here?" Painfully he pushed himself into a sitting position, tucking the bed comforter under his arms.

Blair chuckled to himself as he lifted the lid to the tray, the mixture in the bowl was a greyish-white colour, "Oh, it's soup... I think."

"Chief, either it's soup, or it's not." Jim argued.

"Put me down for, 'or not'." Simon said as he walked into the room, getting an eyeful of the tray.

Jim sighed, "Well, it can't possibly taste as bad as it looks," he said hopefully, shakily swallowing a spoonful, his face contorting in disgust as he grabbed for the glass of juice on the tray.

"That good, hunh?" Blair joked as Jim downed the juice in one gulp.

"Guess it's a good thing I brought donuts then." Simon said smiling.

Blair donned a concerned look, "Whoa, the doctor told you to watch what you eat, Jim."

Jim shot him a vile look, "Try the soup, Sandburg," he said, "then say that." he reached out and took a donut from Simon. "Mmmm, much better." Jim sighed happily. Blair shook his head.

Blair glanced at his watch, "Oh, man," he said, a look of annoyance on his face, "I've got to get back to the university ... maybe I can get someone to cover for me."

Jim laughed slightly, "Chief, you don't have to stay here all of the time, go teach your class."

Blair didn't look convinced, "Are you sure?"

Jim gently cuffed his friend in the back of the head, "Yes, Sandburg. I'm sure." Blair started to pull his jacket on. Gently he hugged his friend before leaving the room. Jim looked over at Simon to see him pulling a pack of cards out of his pocket.

"Blackjack - you want to play?" Simon grinned.

Jim raised an eyebrow, "Why, so I can kick your butt again?"

Simon grinned, "You may be surprised, Jim." Carefully Simon moved Jim's lunch tray off of the table, and placed the cards down.

"Bring it on, Simon." Jim grinned as Simon started to deal the cards. Both were engrossed in the game when an orderly came into the room with another patient. "Looks, like I have a roommate." Jim said softly as he played.

"Hey, the name's Simon, this is Jim. Who are you?" The man gave him a vile look and stretched out on his bed, turning his back to them.

"Moody," Jim whispered, smacking Simon slightly, "hey, it's your turn." Simon returned his attention to the game.


The lecture had not gone well, so Blair had dismissed it early. He couldn't get his friend off his mind. His concentration was shot. "I can't sleep, can't eat, can't think - oh, you're in great shape, Sandburg." he grumbled to himself as he walked down the hall towards his lab. A quick look at his watch told him that visiting hours were over at the hospital, but he needed to talk to his friend. Reaching his lab he slumped into the chair and picked up the phone.

"County General."

"Hi, could you please connect me with detective Ellison in room 25?" Blair asked, it only took a minute for the transfer.

"Ellison." Blair smiled at the sound of his friend's voice.

"Hey, Jim, it's me," Blair said wearily, "I just wanted to check in. How are you feeling?"

Jim yawned, "Not bad, actually. They gave me some mighty fine drugs for the pain an hour ago, so I'm feeling pretty good. Are you still at the university?"

"Yeah, the lecture bombed. Maybe it's for the best though, I had way too much marking to catch up on."

He was getting pretty drowsy, "You're coming in tomorrow, Chief, aren't you?" he yawned.

"I have a class in the morning, but I'm yours for the entire afternoon." Blair assured him.

Jim noticed his roommate shooting him evil looks, "Uh, Chief," he said softly, "it's getting pretty late, we can talk tomorrow."

Blair said his goodbyes and hung up the phone, actually contemplating sleeping in his office, rather than go home to the emptiness of the loft. He couldn't shake the fear, "Jim's a cop, it's his passion - what he loves." Blair muttered to himself. If this was cancer, he'd be forced to give it all up -- "NO!" Blair told himself forcefully, "This is not cancer, stop thinking like this, Sandburg." Rubbing gently at his eyes he flipped off the light switch and grabbed his jacket. Pausing at the door to the loft, Blair took a deep breath and stepped through the door. Silently he tossed his backpack onto the table and plunked himself down on the couch. Then there was a knock on the door, Cassie stood on the other side. "Cassie, is everything okay?" Blair asked as he let her into the loft.

A gentle laugh escaped her lips, "Funny, I was going to ask you the same question, Blair." she eyed him suspiciously, "Is there some reason you and Jim haven't been at the station lately?"

Blair sighed, "Look, Cassie. I can't talk about this, okay."

Cassie's muscles tensed, "Because I'm not a detective - is that it. Only Jim would understand?"

"NO!" Blair suddenly yelled, "Does everything have to be a damn contest to you?" Cassie couldn't get a word in edgewise as Blair continued his tirade, "You don't have to worry, Cassie," Blair spat, "Jim's just taking some time off, he's not working on a case."

Cassie gently reached out and touched his arm, "Blair, I'm sorry," she said softly, "I didn't come here to upset you."

The anthropologist took a deep breath, "Then why did you come over?"

Cassie blushed, and pointed to the bag she had brought inside, "Dinner," she said quietly, "you cooked last time, it's my turn."

Blair let out a pent up breath, "I'm sorry about losing it, ... I probably won't be good company tonight."

Cassie laid a gentle kiss on each corner of Blair's mouth, "It's okay," she whispered, "but if you ever do want to talk about it, I'm here." She kissed him again.

Blair moaned softly and pulled her closer, encouraging her. "So, what are we having?" he asked, nibbling lightly on her earlobe.

Cassie sighed happily, "Rainbow trout, asparagus and salad," then she giggled softly, "but that's only if you don't stop kissing me like this!"

Blair's blue eyes sparkled, as he released Cassie. "Sound's wonderful," he smiled, "when do we eat?"

Cassie chewed noisily on a celery stalk, "About forty minutes, you have time to unwind."

Blair rubbed the back of his neck, "Okay, well I'm going to jump in the shower then. If you need any help, just yell."

"Okay." Cassie said softly as she watched the anthropologist's retreating form. Laughing to herself she started to prepare dinner.

Towelling his hair dry, Blair emerged a little while later, sniffing the air, "Mmmm, dinner smells incredible." he said happily, then he slid his arms around her slender waist as she chopped vegetables on the counter, "You smell incredible too." he whispered as he planted several soft kisses down her neck.

Cassie moaned happily, "God, you are incorrigible," she laughed, "dinner's almost ready - why don't you set the table."

"I can handle that." Blair grinned as he grabbed some dishes from the cupboards.

"So, Blair," Cassie said, chewing thoughtfully on a piece of fish, "how did he do it?"

Blair shot her a confusing look, "Do what?"

"Jim, how did he find that second syringe? You're his partner, you must know."

Blair barely stopped himself from choking on his food, nervously he took a sip of water, "He was just doing his job, Cassie."

Cassie laughed, "Do you honestly expect me to buy that, Blair?" she shook her head, "A whole forensic team couldn't find that thing."

Blair shifted uncomfortably in his chair, "Maybe he eats a lot of carrots, Cassie." he said slowly. Oh, that was lame, Sandburg. Blair told himself as he starred right at Cassie. Reaching across the table he softly caressed Cassie's hand, "Why the interest in Jim all of a sudden," he asked impishly, "am I being replaced?"

Cassie kicked him playfully under the table, "Not on your life."she teased. Taking a sip of water she paused, "This won't get back to Jim, will it." she asked quietly.

"You have my word." Blair said, grinning.

"Well, the truth is I envy you two."

A look of total confusion passed over Blair's face, "Why?"

"You have a friendship that goes beyond mere words. You're partners too." She shrugged. "I don't understand it. You aren't even a cop, but everyone in Major Crimes acts like you are. No matter what I do, Jim won't take me seriously. It drives me nuts."

He smiled, "I know, it's strange really. When Jim and I first met he couldn't stand me tagging along with him. He was so cold. So distant... then something just clicked between us. Jim's given me a stability that I never knew I was missing. This is my home now, and I wouldn't trade it for anything."

She stared at him, in awe. She'd never heard anyone so passionate about a friend before. She shook her head in amazement, "I'm still envious," she muttered, "the way you two take care of each other is beyond my comprehension. You're both lucky guys, Blair."

Blair laughed gently, "Yeah, I know that." Having finished his dinner Blair stood up and walked over to the stereo, turning it to a low volume he faced Cassie again. "How about a dance?"

Cassie smiled warmly at the invitation and got up slowly. She liked the way the anthropologist's eyes drifted over her body as she moved towards him, sliding her arms around his neck. "Just don't step on my toes, this time." she purred.

Blair chuckled lightly, "Hey, I make no promises." Softly he gathered Cassie up into his arms as they danced together. As the song ended he kissed her, it was a deep, passion-filled kiss that practically made her knees give out on her.

She moaned softly, "Blair, don't do this to me," she whispered as he caressed her face, "I'm not ready..."

"Shh," Blair soothed as he kissed her again, "I told you I wouldn't push you, and that's a promise I intend to keep." Cassie snuggled closer to him as they swayed together.

"Blair," she murmured against his chest, "it's getting pretty late, I need to get home."

Reluctantly, Blair released her from the warm cocoon of his arms, I want you to stay, but you're definitely worth waiting for, Cass. he told himself as he smiled, "I'll walk you down to your car." Cassie slipped easily into her coat and grabbed her purse, rummaging through it to find her car keys. He kissed her one final time as she got into her car and then returned to the loft for the night.


The next morning Jim woke to an obnoxious clicking noise. His roommate was typing furiously on a laptop computer. "Be calm." he told himself. "Hey, pal," he grumbled, "it's kind of hard to sleep with that noise."

"I'm not your pal," the man sneered, "and ask me if I give a damn about your sleep."

"Just what is your problem," Jim grumbled as he sat up painfully,h olding his head as the clicking continued, "you have five seconds to shut that damn thing off before I do it for you." he growled.

"You wouldn't dare." the man hissed.

"Try me." Jim said flatly, smiling inwardly when he heard the lid to the laptop snap shut. "You've still got it, Ellison." he told himself as he drifted back to sleep, ignoring the glares he was receiving from the other side of the room.


Sheer determination kept a smile on his face as Blair finished his lecture. "Any questions?" he asked. Surprisingly no one raised their hand. Swiftly Blair threw his notes into his backpack, "Okay," he said quietly, "we're done for today then." Stopping by his lab on the way out of the building, he grabbed his jacket and a cup of coffee before heading over to the hospital.

"Hey, Chief." Jim said, gingerly sitting up as his friend walked into the room. Blair smiled back and then noticed that the second bed in the room was now occupied. "Hi," he said holding out his had, "I'm Blair Sandburg." Glaring at him, the man turned away. Blair shook his head and took a seat next to Jim's bed, "What did I say?" he muttered.

"Ignore him, Chief," Jim said, an amused expression on his face, "so how did your class go?"

Blair grinned sheepishly, "I actually got through the lecture today, if that's what you mean." Blair coughed slightly, "It's kind of stuffy in here, isn't it?" he walked over towards the window and opened it. Out of the blue, Jim's roommate slammed it back down again, nearly catching Blair's fingers in the process. Then he roughly grabbed the anthropologist and shoved him against the wall, causing Blair's head to smack the window sill.

"... Sandburg ... you're Jewish aren't you?" the man snarled with hate.

Blair moaned softly as Jim painfully pushed himself out of bed, "Chief, are you okay?" he breathed while glaring at his roommate.

"Yeah, I'm fine," he said softly, "just a little dizzy." using the wall to support himself, Blair got up from the floor.

Jim turned to his roommate, an icy expression on his face, "Give me one good reason why I shouldn't rip your head off." he snarled. Blair quickly put himself in between his sentinel and the other man.

"I'll give you one," he whispered, "those stitches in your gut." Reluctantly Jim let his friend help him back over to his bed. Blair grabbed a wheelchair from the corner of the room, "Why don't we go for a walk or something?" Walking over to Jim's small nightstand, Blair snagged a loose fitting jogging suit and tossed it over to his friend.


"Jim," Blair said as he wheeled his friend out of the hospital, "it's over, man. Forget about it."

"Forget about it?" Jim said angrily, "that racist son of a bitch attacked you because you were Jewish, and you want me to forget it happened?" He couldn't do it. No - he wouldn't do it. Blair was his friend, his best friend.

Blair laughed softly, "I've had worse done to me, Jim." the sentinel's muscles tensed. Blair could tell he was really aggravated, "Jim, he had two minutes of our lives," he said softly, "I'm not going to waste any more of my time on him - are you?"

Jim sighed, "So where are we going, Chief?"

Blair stopped pushing the wheelchair, "I have noooo idea." he said laughing.

Jim rolled his eyes, "What about Bayside Park?" he offered.

The anthropologist smiled warmly, "Sounds great, but why don't we grab some lunch first?"

Jim grinned, "Now, you're talking, Sandburg. Where do you want to go?"

"There's this new cafe down the street, they make killer veggie pitas." Jim laughed gently, and Blair smiled at his friend's aversion to healthy food. "I'm just watching out for you," he teased, "even your doctor told you to watch what you eat for a while."

"Alright," Jim said submissively, "but I'm telling you, Chief - they better have egg salad!" Blair smiled brightly and resumed pushing the wheelchair. Taking their lunch to go, they headed to the park to eat. Blair pointed out a nice shady spot near a picnic table.

"Well?" Blair asked, as Jim took a first tentative bit of his pita.

"Not bad," Jim said grinning wickedly, "it's not great, though."

Blair dismissed him with a wave of his hand as he tore into his own lunch, "Well, I'll admit it doesn't hold a candle to that yummy hospital food, but it's enjoyable." he laughed. After they finished eating, Blair crumpled the garbage and tossed it into a nearby bin.

"So are you going to tell me why you've had that grin plastered across your face all day?" Jim asked, curious. Blair blushed, "Let me guess," Jim teased, "Cassie. Just what have you two been up to?" he asked, curious.

Blair continued to blush, Jim took great pleasure in teasing him about his feelings for Cassie. "She came over last night after I got home," Blair said slowly, "we had dinner together."

Jim chuckled softly, "And afterwards I suppose you went dancing." the anthropologist was very red now, "Sandburg!" Jim shook his head, He loves her, and she's never hurt him, that's good enough for now. he told himself. "So, do you want to head back now, lover boy?" Jim grinned.

Blair flared his arms, grinning, "Can I help it if women love me?" he laughed, getting up from the table.

Jim couldn't help but return the grin, "Table leg, Chief." he chuckled as Blair continued to laugh.


Jim' s roommate looked up in fear as his assailant dangled the knife over his body. "Now, where to start." the man sneered, raising the knife.


Jim groaned softly as Blair pushed his wheelchair down the hall of the hospital. The pain in his side was a little more intense then he would have liked. "Jim, what is it, what's wrong?" Sandburg's blue eyes radiated concern as he spoke.

Jim chuckled a bit, "Nothing a few pain killers wouldn't fix, Chief." he smiled.

As they neared the room, Jim gagged slightly. The smell of blood was assaulting his nose. "Jim?"

Jim shook his head, "I smell blood."

Blair grinned sheepishly, and held out a bandaged finger, "I cut myself slicing an apple this morning."

Jim chuckled, "Your coordination is almost as harmful to your health as your love life is." Blair softly cuffed him in the back of the head as they entered the room, and froze.

Startled the attacker whirled around, the knife in his hand glistened with fresh blood. He stalked towards Jim. A guide's role is to guide and protect his sentinel. Blair repeated to himself as he lunged towards the man.

"Sandburg," Jim yelled, "what the hell are you doing?" Raising his hands to protect his face, Blair felt the blade of the knife slicing through his arm. Yelping with pain he planted a firm kick into the man's abdomen. As the man fell backwards he grabbed hold of Blair pulling him down to the ground as well. Blair tried to get up but strong arms pushed him roughly back onto the floor. The anthropologist jammed his knee into the man's stomach, causing him to drop the knife. Backhanding the man across the face, Blair scrambled off of the floor, grabbing the knife.

"Don't even consider it!" Blair yelled as his attacker tried to get up off of the floor. Jim let out a pent up breath.

"Chief," Jim said, grimacing with pain, "do you still have your cell phone on you?" Blair fished it out of his pocket and handed it to his friend.

Jim dialed. "Simon, it's Jim," he breathed, "I need you to get someone down to the hospital."

Blair kept one eye on his attacker as he approached Jim's roommate's bed. "Are you okay?" blood was streaming from his chest. Carefully he touched the man's chest.

The roommate lashed out at Blair, catching him in the face, "Get your hands off of me." he growled.

"Ooooh, very threatening," Blair said flatly, "now shut up, and let me get you some help." The man glared at him, but said nothing more.

"Simon's on his way, Chief." Jim stated quite matter-of-factly. He paused for a moment, "You okay?"

Blair tentatively rubbed his arm, "I'll live," he said softly, then he looked at Jim's roommate, "I think you will too, this gash doesn't seem to be too bad." the man continued to stare icily at Blair.

"Don't bother to thank him for saving your life or anything." Jim growled. His roommate shot him a vile look.


"Everybody okay?" Simon queried as he rushed into the room.

"Oh, we're just peachy, Simon." Jim said dryly as the attacker was led away in handcuffs. A nurse was bandaging Blair's arm as Jim wheeled himself over.

"That was pretty stupid, Sandburg." he growled.

"What would you have me do, Jim," Blair muttered, "just let him stab you?" The nurse finished wrapping his arm and moved away. "Jim, if it meant protecting you, I'd do it all over again - no matter what."

Jim sighed, and patted his guide's knee, "Thanks, Chief." He smiled, "But, if you ever scare me like that again, I will kick your butt!" Blair grinned.

Simon stalked towards the two men as Jim's roommate was being wheeled out of the room, he did not look happy. "Don't say it," Blair groaned, "I'm a magnet for trouble." Jim laughed, ignoring the vile look Simon was giving him.

"That's not funny, Sandburg," he growled, "are you okay?"

Blair smiled at the concern in Simon's voice, "I'm fine, Simon," he assured the man, "just a little sore."

"Yeah, well you'll be more than a little sore if you ever do something stupid like that again, do you understand me?" Simon grumbled as he slumped into a chair next to the anthropologist.

Blair saluted the man, a smile plastered across his face, "Yes, sir!" Simon couldn't help but return the crooked grin.


The next morning

Blair sat straight up in bed as his alarm clock went off. "Jim's test results are supposed to be back today." he said to himself as he vaulted out of bed and hurried into the shower. Quickly throwing on a pair of jeans and a faded blue shirt, he padded into the kitchen and grabbed an apple out of the fridge. Chewing noisily he snagged his keys from the basket on the table and rushed out of the door. He wasn't surprised to see Simon waiting for him at the hospital.

"Are you as nervous as I am?" Simon whispered as the pair made their way down the hall towards Jim's room. Blair nodded. Jim smiled as his friends came into the room, "Has the doctor been in yet?" Simon asked, curious.

Jim shook his head, laughing nervously, "Not yet." Blair sat down next to his bed and squeezed his sentinel's hand. Jim squeezed back, hard. All three men looked up as the doctor came into the room, and to the papers in his hand. Jim took a deep breath, "Well?"

A grin spread across the doctor's face, "It's not cancer." A collective sigh went up around the room. "The mass aggravated your stomach ulcer, that's what caused the pain."

Jim smiled, "So, when can I get out of here?"

The doctor chuckled softly, "A little anxious, are we?" He grinned, "I'll tell you what, those stitches in your side come out tomorrow. As long as you have someone around to help you out for a while, you should be able to go home after that."

The thought of being coddled, irritated him, "When can I go back to work?"

The doctor shook his head, "You'll need a few weeks, minimum, before you get all of your strength back."

Jim started to protest but Simon silenced him with a glare, "You've got something like ninety sick days coming to you, it's about time you use them." Jim sighed and the doctor laughed cheerfully as he left the room.

Blair threw his arms around his sentinel, hugging him tightly. "Chief," Jim grinned, "take it easy, you're cutting off my circulation!" Blair grinned sheepishly and loosened his grip. Simon put a hand on both men's shoulder's.

"I need to check in with the station," he said happily, "by the way, if your name should happen to come up ..."

Jim rolled his eyes, "Subtle, Simon." he grinned. Simon flashed a smile before going out into the hallway to place the call.

Ellison looked down at his guide, still attached to his chest. Gently he rubbed the man's back. It scared him knowing how much he cared about his young friend, how much he needed him to be there. "Chief." his voice was soft.

"Hmmm." Blair murmured against his chest.

"Do you have any idea what you mean to me?"

Blair looked up into the sentinel's warm eyes, "I'm your guide."

Jim smiled, "It's more than that, Chief," he paused, trying to formulate an explanation, "when I was growing up, Steven and I were never close, we never had the relationship that you and I share. I think, in some ways, that you've taken the place of Steven." The anthropologist was silent, "Chief?"

"I'm listening," Blair said softly, "it goes both ways you know Jim. Until you came along I never had a real male role model in my life. You fill that role for me. I wouldn't change what I've found with you for anything. Not even the frequent visits to the hospital. I mean, I would love to never have to go to another hospital, but if it meant having to give up what I have, having to give up you ... I'd never trade. It's just not worth it."

"I wouldn't trade it either, Chief," Jim said, his voice trembling a bit, "...thanks."

Simon stared at the two men in awe. He'd never heard anyone so, passionate about a friend, before. And realized that he probably never would.


Epilogue

The police station was oddly quiet as Jim Ellison walked inside, "What, doesn't anyone work around here?" he joked.

"SURPRISE!!" Everyone in Major Crimes was standing on their feet, grinning like idiots.

Jim glanced over at his partner, "You knew about this, Chief, didn't you?"

Blair grinned impishly, "Cake?" He stepped back to reveal a huge 2 layer chocolate fudge cake with 'Welcome back Jim' scrawled in white icing on the top.

Jim chuckled softly, "Love some, but ... you first." he smiled at his guide's dislike of fatty foods. Blair's eyes darted over the cake, mentally trying to calculate how many calories were in each bite as Cassie handed him a piece. "Chief, if you stare at it any longer you'll burn a hole in it." Jim was through waiting, devilishly he came up beside Blair, promptly smashing his plate into his face.

"Oh, you are sooo going to pay for that, Jim," Blair laughed, "I have cake up my nose!" Jim laughed as his friend wiped the icing from his face.

"Yeah, but how does it taste?" Jim grinned. Blair nailed him in the cheek with a wad of icing.

"You tell me." he laughed. Jim wiped the icing from his face, and tasted it.

"That is not bad, not bad at all." he said, his eyes dancing.

Simon grinned, "It's good to have you back, Jim."

The End


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