When I am With You - Tinnean

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Notes: This is based on the movie, Secret Admirer. It first appeared in Come to Your Senses 24. I don't think there's a record store called the Spinning Disk, but if there is, this isn't it. For any who might be interested, 'anatra' is Italian for duck. :) The following songs have all been sung by Johnny Mathis and were used in this story: It's Not for Me to Say, Chances Are, But Beautiful, It Could Happen to You, Warm, and of course, When I Am With You. Do listen to them if you have the opportunity.

~~~~~

Part 1

What do you do when you've been in love with your roommate for what seems like forever, but he has no clue how you feel?

You get desperate, man. You do dumb things. But the first time it happened, it was purely by accident. I swear it!

I was teaching full time at the university now, doing the ride-along cop thing only on occasion. Jim had pretty good control over his senses, and no way was I going to give up academia for a gun.

It had been a tough day at Rainier. My second semester students were pissing and moaning about a written assignment that was due that day, and half of them were pleading for an extension.

"C'mon, man!" I bitched back at them. "I'm in my office every freaking morning! You could have seen me anytime these last three weeks and asked for extra time! I probably wouldn't have given it to you, but hey, you could have asked!"

The ones who had completed the assignment sneered at those who hadn't with smug, self-satisfied expressions. Bits of chalk and erasers were thrown at them.

"Hey, hey, hey! Who's staying behind to clean this up?" That cleared out the hall, as I had rather suspected it would.

"Excuse me. Professor Sandburg?" The voice was soft and breathless.

"Yes?" I looked around and my jaw dropped open. Drop dead gorgeous, and about my height. Hair black and shiny as a raven's wing. Eyes that were as green as emeralds. And a body...!

He wore a muscle shirt, one of those sweatshirts cut off at the shoulders, revealing tanned, firmly toned arms. His jeans were black Levis 501s, the ones with the button fly? I just knew those buttons were happy campers! The jeans molded his thighs as if they had been spray-painted on him, and I wondered if they looked as good walking away. I snapped my mouth shut. "Uh, yeah. I'm Sandburg."

"I'm Donald Anatra." His eyes dropped to the scruffy Nikes I was wearing and rose slowly over my body, blatantly peeling the layers of flannel from me. "I'm sorry, I've been out the last few weeks and I don't have my paper, but I do have a note from my doctor." His hand came up to toy with what had to be a solid carat diamond in his left ear. He smiled, parting lush lips that would look nice wrapped around a cock.

"Thanks. I thought you looked familiar." He didn't really, but it never hurt to be polite. "You're feeling better?" I scanned the note, and started chewing on my lower lip. The doctor's name was nagging at me.

"Oh, yes, thank you. It was just a bad reaction to a vaccination." He made a production of letting his tongue peek out, wetting his lips, drawing attention to that fuckable mouth of his. "I was supposed to be going on that field trip to Irian Jaya, but that's out of the question now."

There was no field trip scheduled to Irian Jaya. What was he trying to pull? I studiously ignored his attempt at seduction. "That's a real bummer, man. I enjoyed my time there with the Kombai. At least I did once I tripped over my feet and they realized I wasn't a Lilejo. Before that they were about to use me for target practice! A Lilejo's an evil spirit disguised as a white man," I clarified, then realized, "But if you were going there, you'd know that. Sorry."

He was looking a little dazed. "You've been there?"

"Oh, sure!" I gathered up my books and the assignments that had been turned in and stuffed them into my backpack. "So, Donald, what will your paper be on, and when can I expect it?"

"Um, the Mombatu tribe in Kenya have a pretty potent cure for the cold, and I was going to research that." His mouth became sulky when he saw I was already familiar with the esoteric tribes that he named. Familiar with, and had actually lived with them.

"Way cool, man! I tried to get my roommate to take that when he was sick, but no such luck." And I was really glad that I was hung up on Jim Ellison. It had been a long time since I'd gotten laid, but I could live without the hassle of a spoiled pretty boy who was my student to boot.

"Your...your roommate? You're living with someone?"

"Yeah." I didn't think it was any of his business to know I was a part-time observer with the Cascade PD, and that while I was living with my partner, I wasn't living with him, if you follow me.

"And you know about the Mombatu?" Why did that seem to disturb him?

"I'm an anthropologist," I shrugged. "It's my job to know stuff like that."

His smile turned a little sickly, and I thought that maybe he was about to suffer a relapse. "Well, um, I thought I could get it together in a couple of weeks?"

"Excellent!" I gestured for him to lead the way out of the lecture hall. Oh, yeah, that ass was choice!

I sighed. Too bad it wasn't the ass I wanted in my bed.

****

There was a message from Jim on the answering machine when I got home to the loft. "Hi, Chief. It's me. It's..." I could almost see him checking his watch. "...six twenty-five. P.M." And he was not happy about that! I grinned. "I'm stuck here booking this little shit of a perp, so I'm going to be running late. Don't hold dinner for me. I'll stop at Bobby H's and grab a steak sandwich." There was a pause, and for a second I thought he was about to say something... what, romantic? Like, 'I missed you today, Blair'? The machine shut off before he could even say good-bye.

Well, that was about par for the course.

I'd been sharing an apartment with Detective Jim Ellison for three years. We'd been through a lot together. He was the Sentinel of the Great City, and I was his Guide. We were friends and partners.

And somewhere along the line, I had fallen in love with him.

Oh, I'd had male as well as female partners in the years since I'd learned there was more to a dick than pissing. We'd pleasured each other, enjoyed each other, and when we'd gone our separate ways it had been with mutual expressions of friendship. But that was then, this was now, and I found I didn't want anyone else in my bed.

Well, witness Donald Anatra. For whatever reason, and I was pretty sure I knew what that reason might be, I could have had him, could have fucked that tight ass of his. And I let the opportunity pass me by.

I wouldn't let my female students ace the course in exchange for sexual favors. I wasn't about to change that policy for a spoiled young man who didn't want to take the time to show up for class.

A couple of times, hoping my fondest dreams would come, I'd said things that could be taken at face value, or at a deeper level, if Jim so chose. But they either went right over his head, or he just wasn't interested.

So I decided to try celibacy for a while. Do you think he noticed? Nope. Still ragged me about chasing anything with a double X chromosome. He never once imagined I could go for an XY, which was probably just as well. I wouldn't have been surprised to find myself out on the street if he realized I really, truly wanted his bod.

No, that isn't exactly true. He wouldn't have thrown me out, but he would have been different around me. No more hugs, no more fingers ruffling my hair, no more hands squeezing my arm or my leg, whichever happened to be nearest. My heart would have been broken, and I'd have had to leave anyway.

I dropped my backpack on the floor by the table and went to check the contents of the refrigerator. Then I shut the door and looked at it. The grocery list was still there, held by a magnetized wolf's head, and I swore. It had been my turn to go food shopping, and I just hadn't had the time. The cupboard was bare!

I rummaged around in the fridge and found an apple that didn't look too bruised. After I washed it off, being careful so I wouldn't add more bruises to it, I turned the radio on to an easy listening station. They were doing a Johnny Mathis tribute, and I knew that music wouldn't disrupt my train of thought.

And I liked Johnny Mathis. Someone I had dated in my teens had turned me on to the best make out music of all time!

One day I'd have to do a study of how many girls had actually gotten pregnant to Chances Are, or It's Not for Me to Say. And how many guys had lost their cherry to it.

I know I did.

It would be pleasant background music. I dropped into a chair, pulled the assignments out of my backpack, and started reading them.

I kept switching the apple from my right hand to my left so I could make my notes in the margin, and finally I just left the pen in my left hand, propped my chin in my hand and wrote. There was a scratch pad to the side, and occasionally I'd jot something on that.

I was humming along to one of my favorites, scrawling away absently when I heard the key in the lock and my head jerked up. I could feel a flush heat my cheeks. Deep breaths, Chief, deep breaths!

Shit! Now he had me referring to myself the same way he did!

But by the time the door opened, and he walked into the room and tossed his keys in the bowl, my heart rate was almost under control, and my breathing was something like normal. I leaned on my chin and grinned up at him.

"Hi, Jim. 'dja get your sandwich?"

My roommate gave me a strange look, and I wondered uneasily if my body was shedding pheromones. He glanced idly at the assignments that were scattered all over the table, then walked over to me and rested his hand casually on my shoulder. I felt my pulse start to rhumba.

"You okay, Chief?"

"Um, sure. Why wouldn't I be?"

"I don't know, you seem... What's this?" Jim picked up a piece of paper and studied it. He held it out toward me.

"Huh?" I couldn't read it too clearly at that distance, but before I could take it from him, his fingers tightened, and he yanked it back up to read it again. "Oh, that. It's just a note from one of my students."

"Well, she seems quite smitten with you." Was my roommate being snide? "Don't let your dick get you into trouble, Chief. Chancellor Edwards wouldn't be too thrilled if you had an affair with one of your students."

"That's from one of my male students, Jim. You want to give it back to me?" I'd need to keep that with Donald Anatra's paper when he turned it in.

"Oh?" For a single word, that sentence packed one fucking big wallop. Hostility, curiosity, apprehension, resentment... Something else I couldn't quite name?

He held the note out to me, but when I took it between my fingers, he didn't immediately release it. I cocked an eyebrow at him. "Uh, Jim? You want to give it to me?"

Abruptly he let it go, and turned to stalk to the refrigerator. "Well, it's kind of sappy, if you ask me!"

What the hell was going on? I stared down at Anatra's note. My eyes widened, and a grin started to kick up the corner of my mouth.

This wasn't the note from Donald Anatra's doctor excusing him for a three weeks' absence.

This was something I had been unconsciously doodling. Scraps of song lyrics that were vintage Johnny Mathis:

I press your lips to mine, and dream that love will last. Perhaps the glow of love will grow with every passing day...

Jim thought one of my students had written this to me? One of my male students? And it bothered him?

I chewed on the pen that was in my... left hand. Ah. So that was why he didn't recognize my writing.

That was how I got the idea, and that was how it started.

Part 2

Before Blair Sandburg, he of the blue eyes and curly brown hair, moved in with me, I would have sworn I was straight as a flagpole. Sworn, hell! I was straight!

I mean, sure there was that experience when I was just a randy kid, but that was hormones, experimentation, you know?

And...uh...all right, a couple of times when I was in the army. But that was just finding whatever relief came to hand.

After I got back to the States, I didn't even look at a man. Nope, not once. Never scoped out a guy's butt, or checked out his package.

I was very happily heterosexual, thank you very much.

And then Sandburg strolled into my life, playing doctor. Said his name was McKay. The nametag on his lab coat said McCoy. Couldn't even get the freaking name right! But he wouldn't leave, not even after I pressed him up against the wall in his cubby hole of an office at Rainier and called him a neo-hippy, witch-doctor punk.

God, he smelled good, a hint of some spicy aftershave, and underneath it something that was him. He'd been sucking on a piece of cinnamon candy, and I breathed that in. I wanted to plaster myself up against him and lose myself in that mouth of his.

I couldn't believe I'd thought about kissing another guy! Even as a horny kid, I had never kissed a guy! I'd licked my lips and tuned back in to what Sandburg was saying.

He told me I was an honest to God Sentinel, that someone as authoritative as Sir Richard Burton, the explorer, not the actor, had actually mentioned sentinels in a monograph. They were members of the tribe with enhanced senses.

Enhanced senses. I had thought I was going fucking nuts. To know there was a logical reason... I went after him and asked him to help.

I hadn't known him a week, and his apartment burned down. I didn't think he had anything to do with that.

So there he was, with nowhere to live. What's a decent, 90s kind of guy to do? "Move in with me, Chief," I offered. "At least until you find another place."

There was a spare room in my loft. It was only big enough to hold a futon and a chest of drawers. Didn't even have a door, just an old blanket strung across it to afford him some privacy. It wasn't much, but neither of us thought it would be for long.

He obtained permission from the Cascade PD to become an observer, and where I went, Sandburg went. That was three years ago.

****

My love life was shot to shit.

And it was all my roommate's fault.

Ever since I read that fucking note! I could have lived with it if it had been from one of those vapid babes he was in the habit of dating. But to find out it was from a guy, and that he hadn't chucked it in disgust!

Well, I rationalized, Blair Sandburg is a sweetheart of a human being. He doesn't like to hurt anyone. I was sure if some gay guy came on to him, Blair would just smile absently, thank him for the offer, and continue with whatever he was doing.

But why would he keep the note? Was it possible my roommate was... Could he be...um, inclined to swing that way?

I was shocked to find my dick rock hard at the thought. My skin was so sensitive that I could feel each tooth of my zipper pressing against my cock through the cotton of my boxers! I breathed shallowly and dialed down my senses the way he had showed me.

Oh, fuck. There were a couple of times when my roommate had said something, and I'd been almost sure he was coming on to me. But I wouldn't let myself act on it. I wasn't certain he meant what he said the way it sounded. And if it wasn't, I didn't want to chance pissing him off and having him move out.

Ugh. I'd given myself a headache.

But that note... I mean, come on. 'Perhaps the glow of love will grow with every passing day'? That sounded like something a 50s ballad singer would sing!

He hadn't thrown it out though. I'd been watching. He'd folded it in half, and then in half again, and tucked it away in his shirt pocket, and gone back to reading those fucking assignments until it was time to go to bed.

"Hey, big guy," he'd called from his bedroom. I turned up my hearing just a bit, and I listened as he stripped off his jeans and the numerous shirts he wore. "I forgot to go grocery shopping. I'll pick up breakfast tomorrow morning, then go afterwards, okay?"

"Fine, Chief," I said. I cleared my throat. "I'll...uh...I'll go with you."

"Nah, that's okay, Jim. You don't have to do that."

He always jumped at the chance for us to do things together. Why was he turning me down now? And then I felt as if I'd been kicked in the chest. Of course! He was going to meet that student! "Fine." I was ashamed to hear the pettish tone in my voice.

I pulled off my clothes and flung myself on my bed. My hearing was still turned up. "Come on," I heard his soft whisper, and I dialed up my other senses. "You know how I like it!" I realized I was listening to him pleasure himself. I could smell the intoxicating scent of arousal. I closed my eyes and slid my own hand into my boxers.

"Yes!" And now I could hear the sound of flesh on flesh as his fist enclosed his cock and began a pumping rhythm. His breathing became harsh.

Behind my eyes, I could picture him lying on his bed, his legs spread wide. I wondered if he'd play with his nipples. A sudden image came to me of him wetting a finger and teasing his hole with it, of him pulling his legs back to his chest and finger-fucking himself while he jerked off.

Abruptly the image changed to him doing that to me, sinking a couple of fingers into my ass, stretching me, driving them in so deep they hit my prostate and sent me to a place where I had never been before, not in all the times I'd zoned.

With a silent moan I came, and realized the moan echoed in my head was Blair's, that he'd come at the same time.

I groaned, and used my boxers to mop up my semen. I removed my damp shorts and threw them toward the hamper. I didn't need to wonder what was going on. I'd come, thinking of Blair. Blair had come thinking of... who?

****

Sandburg was barely home at all the next day, which was Saturday, stopping in only long enough to put the groceries away. "I've got some research to do up at Rainier, big guy." Oh, yeah? Research? Is that what they were calling it these days? "I'll make dinner, okay?"

"No need to bother, Chief. I've got a date." It felt good to see the brief flare of hurt in his eyes. Would he tell me, not fucking likely, I was staying home with him?

"All right, Jim. I'll...uh...I'll just pick something up then. Have a good time."

He was gone before I could say, "Forget it, Chief, I'd rather have dinner with you any day." I banged my head against the wall. "You're a real stupid shit, you know that Ellison? Real stupid!"

I picked up the phone and dialed Dan Wolf, Cascade's Medical Examiner. "Dan? You still have that phone number?"

"Uh, who is this?" he asked cautiously.

I laughed shortly. "Sorry, Dan. It's Jim Ellison. I'm a little distracted right now. You still want to set me up with that blonde?"

"Ah! Ellison, my man! I knew you were in dire need of getting laid! You got it. She's a real babe! Not too bright, but hey, you're not dating her for her brains. And this is a sure thing! Bambi's the kind of gal, who if you buy her dinner, she reciprocates by being dessert!"

Bambi? I winced, but scribbled down the number and thanked Dan. He'd been trying to set me up with this woman for ages. I wondered what was in it for him.

The phone sat there, staring at me. 'I can't make this call by myself,' it seemed to be taunting me.

"All right, all right!" I groused at it, and dialed, hoping no one would answer.

Of course, she did. There are some days when nothing fucking goes right.

That's how I wound up with a hot date, the sizzling, smoking kind of hot date. A sure thing, wink, wink, nudge, nudge. Know what I mean? And she was just the way I used to like 'em: statuesque, blonde and busty! Busty? She had a double D rack like you wouldn't believe!

We were meeting for dinner at The Andies Cafe. She was already waiting for me, toying with a glass of wine when I crossed the tiled patio to join her.

"Bambi? Hi, I'm Jim."

She smiled. "Hi!" Her teeth were so blindingly white I nearly zoned on them. "I've never eaten Chilean food before."

I asked the waiter for a glass of white wine and sat down opposite her. "I think you'll enjoy it. Would you like me to order for you?"

"Sure."

I looked through the menu to see if anything new had been added, then decided on my old standby. When the waiter brought my wine, I ordered crispy Chilean seabass with artichokes, shiitake mushrooms and foie gras.

"Oh, no! I can't eat foie gras!"

I shrugged and told the waiter to hold the foie gras. "Do you have a problem with goose liver, Bambi?"

She wrinkled her nose. "Ever since I saw how they make it, force-feeding those poor geese until their liver is all swollen!"

Ah, a source of conversation! Maybe she watched National Geographic, or something. "Where did you see that, Bambi?"

"Oh, in this really funny movie. Um, what was it? Oh, I remember! Who's Killing the Great Chefs of Europe?"

"Just a second. You won't eat something because of a movie?"

She nodded, and the evening went downhill from there.

****

I pulled the pick-up into a parking spot across from 852 Prospect.

The light of the street lamp reflected off my watch as if it was mocking me. Nine fucking thirty! I turned off the engine with a vicious twist. Too fucking early for a successful first date; too fucking late for a date that had gone south from the moment the blonde opened her mouth to tell me why she wouldn't eat foie gras.

I sighed and got out of the pickup. I was too old for this shit. Here I was...well, my age, and all I had to show for all the years I'd been dating was one failed marriage and more first dates than you could shake a stick at.

Although my roommate would say that age was simply mind over matter: if you didn't mind, it didn't matter.

Only problem was, it mattered like hell to me.

I fumbled for the door key and let myself in. The only light in the loft was the moonlight that filtered in through the balcony doors, splashing over the hardwood floor.

"Hi, honey, I'm home!" I called softly, but I knew the apartment was empty. I couldn't resist dialing up my sense of smell, wondering if I'd catch a trace of Blair's climax from the night before.

I walked into the kitchen and pulled a beer out of the fridge, then crossed to the TV and turned it on. The last quarter of a Jags game was on, and I sat down on the couch to watch it. There was something under my butt, and I rolled onto a hip to fish it out.

It was a piece of paper, with some words scrawled on it, in the same handwriting as the note I had read the day before. Blair had touched it; I could scent him on it.

The message was for him, I shouldn't read it. I really shouldn't...

I switched on the lamp and glanced at the words written on it.

In the magic of moonlight I sigh, 'Hold me close, babe.' And the stars that fill the sky are in your eyes.

I groaned. Geez! It was worse than the one before!

Part 3

Well, Jim's date was a bust, you should pardon the pun.

Oh, yeah, I knew all about Bambi. Dan Wolf owed me a big favor, and he was willing to pay it off by fixing my roommate up with a friend of his, who wasn't as dumb as she pretended. "Not a problem, Sandburg, but how come?" he asked.

"Do you know how many times Jim's said I'd hump anything, even a table leg? You might say this is just a little payback."

"Wow. Remind me never to piss you off!" He reached for the phone to call his friend.

The date from hell! I really felt bad about what I was reduced to doing. I really did. For about two seconds.

Why couldn't he see me?

****

"Hey, Jim, you on for the Jags game tonight?" I stepped out of the bathroom, a towel draped over my shoulder. One cheek was still covered in shaving lather, and the razor in my hand suspended before me as I spoke to him. He was reading the note I'd 'accidentally' left on the island in the kitchen.

I wasn't sure if this ploy was working, so I'd decided to up the ante; I was shirtless. The silver hoop that pierced my left nipple peeked through the mat of hair that covered my chest. The sworls met in the center of my body and arrowed down in a slim line to disappear behind my fly. Only the bottom two buttons of my 501s were fastened, leaving the material to gape... just a tad.

Hey, no need to go overboard, you know. I didn't want to bang him over the head with my desirability. I did have to wonder, however, if he was aware that a single, really deep breath on my part would see my jeans around my knees.

Jim had turned bright red. His eyes were riveted to my groin, and he seemed fascinated with the fact that I obviously wore no shorts that day. As if he had been caught doing something naughty, he dropped the note onto the counter.

"It was...er...um...on the floor, Chief."

Sure it was. I strolled over and picked it up, then glanced at it. This was the one that said, I'm thinking if I had the chance I'd never let you go! 'But Beautiful'. A lot of singers had covered it, but none like John. I smiled, touched the paper to my lips, and tucked it in a pocket. "Thanks, Jim."

"Uh...you don't find that a little sappy, Sandburg?" His color was still high.

"Y'know, if they were for anyone else I think maybe I might, but... someone wants me, big guy, so badly he's actually willing to put in writing how he feels about me!" I grinned, adding a touch of smugness to my expression. "It's freaking romantic!"

"That's important, isn't it?"

And suddenly it wasn't just part of a plan to get my roommate to fall in love with me. I really liked those lines that I'd chosen. I kind of wished someone had sent them to me for real. My grin died.

"I didn't... uh...didn't know you liked guys, Chief."

"Is that going to be a problem, Jim? I haven't changed. I'm still the same Blair Sandburg who guides you back when you zone. I'm still your friend, that hasn't changed! I still..." want you more than my next breath of air! I bit down hard on my lip.

"No. I just... find that kind of interesting, is all." He grabbed up his keys. "I'll be home for dinner. Want me to pick up something?"

Kind of interesting? I started back for the bathroom to finish shaving, 'kind' of disgruntled. "Sure, big guy."

"Chinese?"

"Sounds good."

"Mexican?"

"Fine."

"How about pizza?"

"Jim! Jesus, I don't fucking care!"

"Chill, Chief. It's no big deal!"

I slammed the bathroom door shut. James Joseph Ellison's elevator definitely was not going to the top floor!

I wasn't ready to give up yet, though.

That night when he got home, he dropped the pizza box on the table. "I just want to get out of these clothes, Chief."

I was standing in front of the pantry, and I looked over at him and bit my lip to prevent myself from laughing. "What'd you do, fall in a mud puddle, James?"

"You don't have to sound so happy about it! It was a foot chase, and just so you know, I caught the son of a bitch!" He was looking at me strangely.

"What?"

"Why are you so happy? This morning you were ready to bite my head off."

"The prospect of getting fed. Lack of food makes me cranky, Jim. Go get changed. I'll get some paper plates and have the pizza on the table by the time you come back down. You want a beer?"

"Yeah." He crossed the floor to head up to his room. I held my breath; I didn't need sentinel senses to know exactly when he spotted it. Just as his foot hit the first stair. "Hey, Chief!"

Quickly I turned my back to him and got busy in the pantry. "Yeah?"

"I think this is yours."

I saw the paper he had dangling between his thumb and forefinger and made a production of patting down my pockets, as if searching for something. "I guess it is." My smile was soft, and I took my time approaching him. I wanted him to read it.

All I did was wonder how your arms would feel...

His face darkened. "He's getting a little..."

"He is," I confirmed. "Thanks, Jim. I don't know how I came to drop it. Hurry and get changed, the pizza'll get cold!" My heart was pounding, but I was sure he would think it was because of my secret admirer, and not because I was watching the bunch and flow of his ass as he stalked up the stairs.

I crossed my fingers and opened my bottle of beer. Would this be the night Jim would make a move?

****

Well, that had been a less than successful evening. I managed to swallow down that pie of death, but did Jim appreciate my sacrifice? Not hardly likely! He spent the night at the other end of the couch, his eyes glued to the television screen as if it held the secrets of the universe, while he tipped that fucking bottle of beer infrequently to his lips.

But I wasn't going to let that deter me! I'd just find another line from a song that would express what I'd really want someone to say to me. I needed something romantic. But obscure.

After class, I headed to beautiful, downtown Cascade to the Spinning Disk.

The record store was a throw back to the 40s, when there used to be booths in which you could listen to the records. But high tech had caught up even with Cascade, Washington. There was a display screen that enabled the viewer to see the various types of albums available, and a keypad where I could punch in letters and numbers to pull them up and hear any of the cuts included on each CD

Fortunately, the clientele was largely eclectic, and so the store offered quite a bit of what I was looking for: early Johnny Mathis.

I had earphones on, which is why I didn't hear him come up behind me.

A large hand settled on my shoulder, and I jumped sky high and whipped around.

"Geez, Jim! Give a guy a heart attack, why don't you?"

The corner of his mouth curled in a grin. "Sorry, Chief." He didn't look sorry. "Who are you listening to?"

"Huh? Oh...uh...Easy listening." Fortunately my voice didn't squeak. It has a tendency to do that when I get nervous around my roommate.

He glanced at the display on the little screen before I could block it. "Johnny Mathis? A little before your time, isn't he, Chief?"

I shrugged and pulled the earphones off. "What are you doing here, Jim?"

He leaned against the side of the booth I was in, and although his posture was relaxed, the tension fairly vibrated off him. "I can't spend some time with my Guide?"

"Oh, yeah. Sure." The words came out more acerbic than I had intended. What did he have in mind? Going to bed with me? My dick got hard, and I slapped that notion down fast. If I started shedding pheromones, Jim was going to want to know why. "Why did you track me down?"

"Actually..."

Ah, hell! Here it came, he wouldn't be home for dinner because he was going out with another woman.

Maybe I should just give up. Surrender. Wave the white flag. Break the sword over my knee.

Wait a minute! Naomi Sandburg didn't raise her son to be a quitter! Jim wasn't going to make the first move? Fine. I would!

"Actually, what, big guy?" I bent over to pick up my backpack, and when I straightened and turned, it was to find I was flush against him. Man, he could move fast!

"Actually, I found this on the counter in the kitchen. I nearly used it to make a shopping list." He held the piece of blue paper in front of my eyes.

It was so close my eyes almost crossed. "Yeah, so?" I backed up a step and took it from him. All my life I walked in the cold until I found your warm arms!

"So? I am getting fucking sick and tired of finding these fucking notes all over the fucking loft!"

Whoa! What had set him off? I hadn't sprinkled that much Drakkar Noir over the notepaper that I bought and kept secreted in my office at Rainier.

He shoved me back against the wall of the booth, and I opened my mouth to protest, but before a word could come out he had his broad palm pressing down on my lips.

"I'm not going to let you get tangled up with some little prick who's just using you to get an easy grade!

I pushed at his hand, and he moved it enough so I could speak. "What are you talking about, Jim? What little prick?"

"Donald Anatra." He looked embarrassed. "I did some investigating. He's a spoiled, rich kid, whose father is head of a large conglomerate on the Rim. The old man wants his son to get a degree. The little prick would rather be playing with his little friends. He sleeps with his professors to get the grades he needs to pass the course."

"And you thought I was stupid enough to fall for something like that?" I couldn't keep the hurt out of my voice. "Thanks a lot, Ellison. It's nice to know how you rate my intelligence."

"Chief..."

"For your information, James, I realized what he was trying that first day, when he handed me the doctor's note. I told him I expected his paper to be turned in within two weeks."

"Wait a second. That was a doctor's note Anatra gave you?"

"Um... yes?" Oh, shit. Foot in mouth strikes again.

"I thought all this time it was that dickweed who was sending you notes!"

"Um... no?"

"Well, I don't fucking care, any more!" Jim was leaning against me, leaning against me, and I could feel him along every inch of my body. Unless I missed my guess, he was really happy to be where he was. His dick was like an iron bar nudging my hip, and I gave an almost soundless moan.

He heard. He grinned and dipped his head to nuzzle the spot where my neck and shoulder joined, and when he sighed, the warmth of his breath tickled my ear, and I shuddered.

"I'm too old for this shit, Sandburg. What do you say we go home and you take me to bed?"

"You mean it, Jim? You'll let me make love to you?"

His smile was a little crooked. "Yeah."

While I was getting my stuff together, he went out into the store and glanced at the racks of CDs. Like I said, this store had a really eclectic selection. I imagined he was looking for Santana.

He was paying for it when I reached him. "What'd you get, Jim?"

"Hmm?" He put his wallet away and picked up the bag with his purchase. "Oh, just someone I've been meaning to listen to. You have everything?"

I looked into his cool blue eyes and licked my lips. "I think I do now."

Part 4

It was not knowing who this person was that was driving me fucking nuts.

If Blair had been dating another one of the endless stream of girls he seemed to attract, it wouldn't have bothered me, because I knew that sooner or later he'd get dumped on his ass. That was the pattern.

I had wondered about that. And after I found that note from his student I asked myself: did my roommate always select partners who were guaranteed to fizzle because what he really wanted was a man in his bed? Maybe even...me?

Only, now that it finally seemed I had a ticket for the clue bus, Sandburg was majorly involved, as he would put it, with someone else.

As far as I could tell, Blair's relationship with whoever was sending him the notes had not yet become physical. Each evening when I returned to the loft, I'd find an excuse to get close to him, not that that was strictly necessary; I could itemize every odor that clung to him from out in the hall. If he had already showered, I'd filch one of his tee shirts from the hamper and sniff it. All right, I didn't just sniff it, I'd bury my face in it, almost zoning from the lingering warmth, and the faint tang of his sweat.

The only other person I could scent on him was me.

It was a day when I knew Blair wouldn't be on campus because Simon had him playing catch up with my paperwork in Major Crimes. I drove up to Rainier and did a little recon on this student of his. And the more I learned, the more worried I grew.

Donald Anatra, age twenty-two. Black hair, green eyes, and a string of conquests behind him that would shame Casanova. Dabbled in drugs and alcohol, ran with a really wild crowd, and had a father who threatened to cut off his allowance if he didn't make the Dean's list. So each semester the little prick slept with his instructors, and was given the grades he would need to appease his old man.

Love notes didn't seem the usual way he set about seducing his professors, but maybe that was a new wrinkle. I had never seen Blair so happy, and I'd cut off my right arm before I let someone hurt him, even me. Especially me.

If the little prick really cared for Sandburg, I wouldn't get involved, I promised myself. I wouldn't!

I'd just keep an unobtrusive eye on the whole affair.

****

Okay, I had stayed out of it. But ...

This was the last, fucking straw!

I looked down at the note in my hand. The little prick had graduated to Drakkar Noir-scented, blue paper. Paper the exact color of my roommate's eyes!

Why hadn't I thought of something like that?

It was the words scrawled across it that ate at me, and never mind who wrote them.

All of my life I walked in the cold...

That was how it had been for me, growing up in William Ellison's household. My life had been so cold.

When I joined the army I finally found some friends, only to lose them all when my team had been wiped out in Peru.

There was comfort with the Chopecs, but Incacha, the Shaman, knew I wouldn't stay with them long.

I returned to the States, joined the Cascade PD, and they became my family. Women were in and out of my bed like there was a revolving door in my bedroom, but something was always missing. And then Blair Jacob Sandburg barreled into my life like a runaway freight train.

...until I found your warm arms!

And some little prick young enough to be my...well, my younger brother, was going to take him away from me? Not likely!

Not. Fucking. Likely!

When I called Sandburg's office, all I got was his voice mail, so I dialed the Anthro department.

"This is Detective James Ellison. I need to reach Blair Sandburg." All of Rainier had been abuzz when a recently tenured professor had become an observer for the Cascade PD.

"Oh, yes, Detective Ellison. How can I help you?" The department secretary was willing to bend over backwards to assist me.

It's good to be a cop.

"I need to find Professor Sandburg. Police business. He's not in his office. Did he leave word with you where he would be?"

"No, I'm afraid not. Oh, just a second, here's his secretary now." She turned to speak with someone who was passing her cubicle, and I extended my sentinel hearing so I could overhear that conversation. "Trish, I have an important call for Sandy. Have you seen him?"

"Yes, he left after his last class. Said something about going down to the Spinning Disk. Is that call for him? Damn! Don't you just know it? You step out for just a second to go to the ladies room, and that's when the phone starts ringing!"

"Ain't that the truth!" There was a smile in her words. "Thanks, Trish." Her voice lowered and became muffled as if she covered the mouthpiece, but I had no trouble hearing what she said next. "We still on for tonight, sweetie?"

"You bet, angel eyes!" The response was so laden with promise that my cock twitched. I wanted a promise like that leveled toward me.

"Detective Ellison... Are you still there? Oh, good. Professor Sandburg's classes are finished for the day and he's gone off campus. Are you familiar with the Spinning Disk, the music store downtown?" She gave me directions, and I thanked her and hung up.

I should have wondered why Blair had gone to a music store in the middle of a day when he would normally be grading papers or seeing students, or doing other professor-type stuff, but I figured as long as he wasn't meeting the little prick, it was unimportant.

We were going to have this out once and for all. If he wanted someone to fuck, he could fuck someone who loved him.

He could fuck me!

****

He was in a booth, earphones covering his head, and he had no idea I was there watching him. His fingers tapped the keypad, he would listen for a beat, take notes, and then they would move again to make another selection.

All I meant to do was touch his shoulder. Instead my hand cupped the warm flesh, and I started to zone. But Sandburg almost jumped out of his clothes, which I wouldn't have objected to seeing, and spun around, to glare when he realized it was me.

"Geez, Jim! Give a guy a heart attack, why don't you?"

The corner of my mouth kicked into a grin. "Sorry, Chief. Who are you listening to?"

"Huh? Oh...uh...Easy listening."

I was able to see the album cover on the display before he could hide it. That intrigued me: why would my roommate not want me to see the artist he had selected? "Johnny Mathis? A little before your time, isn't he, Chief?"

He shrugged and removed the earphones, hanging them on a hook placed there for that purpose. "What are you doing here, Jim?"

Although relaxed was the last thing I was, I leaned casually back against a wall. Sandburg didn't have sentinel senses, and I didn't expect him to pick up on my tension. "I can't spend some time with my Guide?"

"Oh, yeah. Sure." He didn't sound too happy that I was there, though. "Why did you track me down?"

"Actually..." I stopped when I saw the expressions that flashed over his face. Loss, sadness, resignation, abruptly succeeded by determination. What was going through his mind?

"Actually, what, big guy?" He bent to retrieve his backpack, and when he turned, I was right there, in his personal space. In his personal space, hell! Any closer and I would have been in his clothes!

"Actually, I found this on the counter in the kitchen. I nearly used it to make a shopping list." I shoved the blue paper right in front of his face.

He backed up and held it far enough away so that he could read it. All of my life I walked in the cold until I found your warm arms! "Yeah, so?"

"So? I am getting fucking sick and tired of finding these fucking notes all over the fucking loft!" I was grinding my teeth so hard I was surprised I didn't crack one. I pushed him into the recess of the booth, where no one would be able to see us. He opened his mouth, to plead, to protest, to call me every vile name in the book? I didn't know, and I didn't care. My hand was over his mouth, and the small movements of his lips caressed the skin of my palm.

I couldn't believe how good that felt, but I refused to let myself become distracted. "I'm not going to let you get tangled up with some little prick who's just using you to get an easy grade!

His tongue slipped out to moisten his lips, but because my hand was there, he tasted the flesh of my palm. I freed his mouth. "What are you talking about, Jim? What little prick?"

"Donald Anatra." Now that I started talking, I wished I had never started this. How was Sandburg going to feel when he learned I was rummaging around in his love life? "I did some investigating," I confessed. "He's a spoiled, rich kid, whose father is head of a large conglomerate on the Rim. The old man wants his son to get a degree. The little prick would rather be playing with his little friends. He sleeps with his professors to get the grades he needs to pass the course."

"And you thought I was stupid enough to fall for something like that?" The hurt in his voice made me feel about two inches tall. "Thanks a lot, Ellison. It's nice to know how you rate my intelligence."

"Chief..."

"For your information, James, I realized what he was trying that first day, when he handed me the doctor's note. I told him I expected his paper to be turned in within two weeks."

"Wait a second. That was a doctor's note Anatra gave you?"

"Um... yes?" He refused to meet my eyes.

"I thought all this time it was that dickweed who was sending you notes!"

"Um... no?" A warm blush that started at his throat went all the way to his curly, curly hair.

"Well, I don't fucking care, any more!" I pressed him up against that wall and made sure he could feel me against him. His moan was just an exhalation of breath, but I had no trouble hearing it. I grinned hungrily and began to explore where his shoulder and neck joined, the earlobe that bore a stud and three hoops, and then I blew softly into his ear. He shivered. "I'm too old for this shit, Sandburg. What do you say we go home and you take me to bed?"

"You mean it, Jim? You'll let me make love to you?"

I'd never been fucked, but I wanted that with Blair. "Yeah."

While he got his stuff together, I went out into the store, wandering up and down the aisles. I came across a stack that drew my interest, and began thumbing through the CDs.

There was something about the songs of one in particular... I took it to the front counter and paid for it.

"What'd you get, Jim?"

"Hmm? Oh, just someone I've been meaning to listen to. You have everything?"

His gaze was sultry as he looked into my eyes, and I had to shift to ease the tightness in my jeans. "I think I do now."

****

We took my pickup, deciding to leave Blair's Volvo in the parking lot.

He turned sideways on the bench seat and rested his hand on my thigh. "It'll be okay, big guy. I promise!" he said softly. He leaned as close as the seatbelt would allow, and ran his lips over the column of my throat. I angled my head in silent invitation, and his laugh was a whisper over my skin. "Just get us home soon, Jim. I haven't come in my pants since I was sixteen!" He took my hand and pressed it to the hard-on that was straining against the front of his sweats.

I wanted to make him come. I wanted to make him howl. And I wanted him buried in my body when he did.

I rubbed. He groaned. I moaned.

I only got us lost once on the ride home.

There was a spot across from 852 Prospect, the same one I had parked in after that date from hell, as Sandburg took such pleasure in calling it.

I slid the pickup easily into that spot. Good thing I didn't need to parallel park, because I didn't think my higher thought processes were working too well at that point.

We didn't bother with the elevator; it was faster to take the stairs to the third floor. Once we got into the apartment I dropped my bag from the Spinning Disk, Blair dropped his backpack, and he swarmed all over me.

I staggered back, then braced myself against the wall. His legs were scissored around my waist, our groins pressed together, and I had a double handful of Sandburg butt. My fingers clenched, squeezing the firm muscles, and I rocked up against him.

Openmouthed kisses traveled from the base of my throat, nipping up over my jaw, across my cheek. They ghosted over my lips in a teasing movement, then moved on to nibble my earlobe. His tongue dipped in. The quiet of the loft was disturbed only by our harsh breathing, and the whimpers and moans that came from ...my mouth!

The feather touches of his tongue were driving me crazy. I didn't know if I wanted to lean in and have that tongue map the interior of my ear, or turn my head so it would map the interior of my mouth.

I could smell Blair's arousal, mingling with mine. "Chief," I groaned, "if we don't get naked and horizontal soon, I'm going to come in my jeans. I haven't done something like that since I was sixteen, either!"

His laugh was soft as he turned his face into my neck. The next thing I knew, his lips and teeth were fastened over my pulse, and he bit down, sucking strongly at the same time.

My hips bucked up, desperate for a friction that would bring relief. I swung around and shoved my roommate... my lover against the wall, and humped mindlessly against him, and all the while his mouth worked its magic on a spot I would never have thought was hot-wired directly to my dick.

With a massive shudder, I came, gasping my lover's name.

Blair licked the patch of skin he had been working, while I braced my arms against the wall and struggled to catch my breath.

"Jesus, Chief, that was..." I tried not to crumple into a puddle of satisfied goo onto the floor. "I feel like I could sleep for a million years!"

"Let me down, big guy, and we'll get you up to bed."

I didn't want to let him go just yet. Keeping my hold on him, I turned and staggered in the general direction of the stairs. My legs felt boneless, and I wound up sitting in the middle of the floor with a lapful of my guide.

Like iron filings to a magnet, my hand went to his groin. "Fuck, Chief, you're hard enough to hammer nails!"

His blue eyes were hot. "Want to take care of that for your Shaman, oh, Blessed Protector?"

I don't know what he was expecting me to do, but it obviously wasn't what I did. I fisted my hands in the waistband of his sweats and eased them down over his hips to free his dick. "Oh, Chief, you'll be the death of me!" He had no shorts on! He had gone commando. "If I'd known this was what you weren't wearing when you left the loft this morning, I think I would have been tempted to jump your bones right then!"

His cock was hard and oozing precome, and I lowered my head to lap at the slit, tasting him for the first time. I had to dial down my sense of taste quickly, or I would have zoned, and I didn't want to waste any time away from that bar of flesh that called to me like a siren's lure.

I ran my tongue along the shaft to the head that was dusky with arousal. Blair had his fingers around the base, squeezing to delay his orgasm. "None of that, Chief." I laced my fingers with his, and took him into my mouth.

On the first downward stroke he cried out, and his hips thrust up shallowly, careful not to choke me. My head moved faster and I sucked him voraciously. His head dropped back to the floor with a thump, but if it hurt, he didn't notice. Blair's eyes were screwed shut, and his face was flushed. His fingers tightened on mine.

"Jim! Let me go!"

I growled, and the vibration pushed him closer to the edge.

"Jim, I'm gonna come, man!"

This time I hummed my approval, and with a hoarse cry he began spilling himself into my mouth.

As he lay sprawled on the floor, I licked him clean, then peeled off his clothes.

"I want you to fuck me, babe," I told him.

My lover pulled me down to him, curling into me. "I have every intention of wearing out your ass, Detective Ellison. Just give me a couple of minutes to regroup, okay?" He slid into an easy doze, and I lay there watching him.

I knew why I had never taken that final step before. I'd been waiting for Blair Sandburg.

****

By the time he woke up, I had him on my bed, and everything was ready, condoms, lube... me.

Music was wafting up from the stereo below.

I sat on the edge of the bed, half hard, and toed off my shoes. As I pulled my tee shirt up over my head, warm lips traced the knobs of my spine, and I leaned into the caress.

My lover kneeled up behind me, his arms looped around my shoulders, and he pressed himself against my back. He rubbed against me gently, teasing my skin with the soft hair that covered his chest. The heat of his desire flowed off him in waves, and I drowned in all the varied sensations.

The music that was playing suddenly got through the fog of Blair's lust. "Jim, what the...?"

"Well, Chief, you said Johnny Mathis was the best music to lose your cherry to."

Blair dragged me back onto the bed and batted my hands away from the fastening of my jeans. His fingers replaced mine, and he efficiently yanked my pants and shorts off my legs. "It beats hell out of doing it to Santana, big guy!"

With a last, quick kiss, my lover told me, "All right, Jim. Roll over. I want to make sure you're not sorry you waited for me."

"Babe, I'd never be sorry it's you!" I got onto my stomach and slid a pillow under my hips. Blair stroked my lower back, dragging his fingernails lightly over the curve of my ass, petting the join of ass and thigh. My cock filled, and I got my knees under me and spread my legs further apart, wanting to give him better access.

"That's it, big guy!" His warm breath washed over my crack, and his fingers parted my cheeks. I almost shot off the bed when I felt something warm and moist caress my puckered opening. "Relax, Jim. Haven't you ever been rimmed?"

Is that what he was doing to me? His tongue dipped into me, teasing the nerve endings there, and I couldn't answer him, so focused on what he was making me feel that the Cascade Philharmonic could have been set up in the living room below us, playing the 1812 Overture, and I wouldn't have noticed.

He removed that educated tongue of his, and I moaned in protest. Then something cool and slick was being applied to my hole, and before I could tense up, Blair had a finger in me, curling to find my prostate. Oh, I liked that! I backed onto his finger, hoping he would do it again, but it was gone.

"Blair..."

"Shhh. Easy, babe. I want to take good care of you!"

"Fuck good...Ahhh!" He had two fingers in me now, and I relaxed into their rhythm. I lay my head on my folded arms and rocked my hips backward.

The next time he removed his fingers, I felt empty, but I didn't complain because I knew whatever came next would be even better. There was the sound of tearing foil, and I glanced over my shoulder. My lover was panting as he rolled the condom over his weeping dick. I bit my lips to keep from begging him to hurry. I needed him to fill me so badly.

I watched with avid eyes as he coated his shaft with lube, then kneeled up behind me, and I knew this was the big moment. Blair ran a gentle hand over my back as the blunt head of his cock nudged my hole, and the steady pressure caused the tight ring to yield.

"Chief!" It was starting to hurt. This baseball bat in my ass was nothing like Blair's fingers.

"Breathe, Jim! Relax!" His hands stroked over my torso, and while one toyed with my nipples, squeezing and scraping them, the other reached down for my cock and began pumping it. At the same time he altered the angle of penetration and nailed my prostate.

The electricity that flashed through my body caught me by surprise. What Blair's fingers had done was nothing compared to this. It felt as if the top of my head would explode, my brains would fall out and roll around on the pillow, and I would die, a very happy man, with my lover's dick buried in my ass.

Blair pulled out a bit, and I thrust back, not wanting to lose the connection with him, but he wasn't going anywhere except forward. He slammed all the way into me, and my legs gave out. I flattened onto the bed, howling as my prostate was given a thorough workout.

Meanwhile, Blair repositioned me just a bit on my side so he could still get to my cock, which was extremely thrilled with the way my lover was handling him. One more stroke in my ass, one more jerk on my dick, and I was coming, harder than I'd ever come in all my fort...in all my life.

"That's it, big guy!" Blair was gasping in my ear. "Come for me!"

The rippling of my inner muscles as I climaxed milked his orgasm from him, and he bit down on my shoulder, muffling his shout.

Carefully he eased out of my body, which was just starting to catalogue all its pleasant aches. "No, Chief! I want you to stay in me until you're too soft to stay any longer!"

Blair kissed the bruise he'd placed on my shoulder. "I have to get rid of the condom, big guy." He clambered over me and groaned. "Next time I get the outside!"

I propped open an eye and admired the scenery. Blair Sandburg naked, one of the natural wonders of the world.

His curly head disappeared as he went down the stairs, and I settled on my stomach, then flinched and grimaced. I'd just landed in the wet spot, which was cooling rapidly. I shifted over and closed my eyes.

The music on the stereo swelled to a crescendo, and the sweet voice soared over the high notes. "And I'm thinking if I had the chance I'd never let you go...."

I sat up, swearing steadily. The little prick wasn't even original! He'd stolen the line from a Johnny Mathis song!

Wary blue eyes peered over the top of the stairs. "What's wrong, Jim?" he asked cautiously.

"That little pissant cocksucker! You'd think if he cared enough about you, he'd at least try to come up with something... I don't know, novel? Unique?"

"Huh?"

"The little prick who's been sending you love notes, Chief! He's cribbed them off a Johnny Mathis record! Listen!"

"In the magic of moonlight, when I sigh, 'Hold me close, dear,' Chances are you believe the stars that fill the skies are in my eyes."

"That's the very first thing he wrote to you!"

Blair shrugged and walked to the bed, pushing me back so he could remove the semen from my chest with the warm washcloth he'd brought with him. "Doesn't really matter, does it, Jim? Roll over, I want to make sure I didn't tear you."

I obeyed, but refused to let it go. "It should matter! Doesn't it piss you off that he didn't care enough to write his own words?"

My lover was carefully pressing the cloth to my hole, and it felt so good I wriggled my hips, wanting him to be inside me again. The ache in my bowels was a pleasurable reminder of what we had done.

"Why do you think he didn't care, Jim? It's what he would have said if someone else hadn't come up with the words first."

"Why are you defending him?" I demanded suspiciously. "Do you care about him?"

He stretched out on my back, a living, breathing blanket, and dropped a kiss under my ear. "Jim," he said softly, "if I cared about him, I would not be here doing this with you. Forget about the kid, he never meant anything to me, beyond the fact that he's a student."

"But you kept his notes."

"Yeah, I did, didn't I?" There was laughter in his voice. "Made you kind of jealous, didn't it?"

I flipped over, dumping him on his back, and glared at him. "You did that on purpose? You let me think you wanted that little prick?"

"Well, but Jim, you weren't putting the moves on me, even when I gave you the broadest hints that I wouldn't be adverse to having exclusive rights to your ass."

"Is that what you were doing, Chief?"

He nodded, a happy grin on his face. I brushed the hair out of his eyes, then fisted my hands in the thick mass and leaned down to brush a kiss over his lips. "Well, I guess it worked! I...uh... I'm not good with words, babe, but..."

His hand cupped my cheek. "I know, Jim. Me, too."

****

It was the last day of the semester, and Blair had been hoping to finish classes early. He promised that if he were able to, he'd get home early and throw together something to celebrate our first six months together.

He was in the kitchen, putting together a simple meal. No, I didn't need sentinel senses to hear him turning on the blender, Please God, not another algae shake!, or to sniff the heavenly fragrances that were emanating from the wok on the stove.

The truth was, his Volvo was parked in the spot next to the one where I left my pickup. My heart rate speeded up, and it was a good thing Blair didn't have enhanced senses. He'd know for sure something was up.

I opened the door to the apartment and walked in. "Hi, honey, I'm home!" I smiled as he crossed his eyes and pulled a face at me. "How'd it go today?"

"About as you'd expect, big guy." He was looking a little worn. "It surprised the hell out of the little prick that he passed the course without spending any time in my bed. He really is quite intelligent, you know."

"Well, as long as he's smart enough to keep his grubby mitts off my guide. Do I have time to grab a shower before dinner?"

"Sure, Jim. I only just got in a little while before you did."

"Did you check the mail?" I slid an envelope under the stack while his back was turned, then pretended to rifle through it.

"Mostly junk mail. A couple of bills."

"Oh? Looks like you missed something, Chief. This is addressed to you."

"That's funny." He wiped his hands on the dishtowel that dangled from one of the belt loops of his jeans and reached for it. "I don't remember seeing a letter for me."

I shrugged and handed it to him. "Maybe it was inside one of these catalogues."

Blair took it and turned it over a couple of times cautiously, then ripped open the envelope. His eyes were wary as they rose to search mine. I smiled innocently and leaned over the kitchen counter to grab a stalk of celery. The page he held in his hand was blue, and the faint scent of Drakkar Noir clung to it.

"Jim?"

"I'm a detective, babe. I detect. It took me a while, but I put two and two together, and came up with you writing those notes. The last one, when I had time to think about it, that was in your handwriting."

"Jim, I'm so sorry, man!"

"No." I cut short his apology. That wasn't what I wanted from my lover. "Thinking someone cared enough about you to be willing to write those words, thinking there was a very real possibility I could lose you... that was a real wake up call, Chief. I'm sorry it took me so long."

His lip quivered, and he dropped his eyes to the paper.

"I've never been able to tell you how I feel. But you deserve to know." I lifted his chin with a finger and spoke the words I had written, never freeing his gaze, not needing to see them to say them.

"When I am with you, I am everything I ever wished I could be, and more. It's not just for what you are, yourself, that I love you. But for what I am, when I am with you."

"John does have a way with words, doesn't he?" And then he was in my arms.

~End~

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Acknowledgments: Many thanks to Gail, who is the world's best beta. And thank you to K-9 for her lovely cover and interior artwork.