Be My Baby by PB

Be My Baby - PB

“Hang on a second!” Blair yelled to the person knocking on the door to the loft. “I’m coming!”

Detective Blair Sandburg hadn’t had a day off in three weeks due to a particularly heavy caseload he and his partner had been contending with recently. In the six months since he had completed firearms training and started working as Jim Ellison’s official, permanent partner in the Cascade PD’s Major Crimes division – a thought that still gave him goose bumps that Jim had wanted him after the dissertation fiasco – the case solution rate for their department had risen a whole ten percent, and that was above and beyond the thirty percent it had gone up in the four years Blair had been an unofficial observer there. The higher ups had realized, albeit grudgingly, that this Sandburg character really did have a knack for investigation. Hence the extra cases being piled on to an already heavy load. Jim hadn’t even complained (much), when the chief of police told him they would be assigning some cases that other departments hadn’t been able to crack, since he alluded to the aforementioned increase in success statistics due to Blair’s presence in the department. Jim also knew he and Simon Banks owed the man for allowing Blair to become Jim’s partner in the first place. Jim was so proud to see Sandburg’s face light up at the recognition of his abilities by the chief, that he had taken the news about the increase in cases with a minimum of grumbling. However, it had recently left both partners with very little time off, even if they did have a sense of satisfaction at having solved some cases that the other departments hadn’t been able to close. Now, on Blair’s first day off in weeks, someone had decided it was time to pay a social call on the harried guide/cop.

As he extricated himself from his comfy position on the sofa, where he had been indulging in a little nap before Jim got home with the groceries, Blair tried to put a pleasant expression on his face for whoever was at the door. It wasn’t their fault he was overworked, after all.

“Chloe!” he exclaimed, surprised at seeing the young woman he had been involved with a little over a year ago. Blair smiled warmly, and stepped back waving an arm of invitation to the petite brunette. “Wow, it’s been a while,” he said, stepping forward to give her a gentle hug, which she reciprocated.

“Yeah, I know,” she replied after stepping back out of his arms. “I’m sorry I disappeared like that without saying goodbye.” Her eyes were downcast in obvious apology.

“Hey, don’t worry about it,” the young man replied genially, “Things happen, you know.” He shrugged, accepting her statement while simultaneously dismissing the need for explanation. He gestured for her to sit down on the loveseat next to them. “Why don’t you sit here, and we’ll chat a bit.” Suddenly remembering his manners, he started, “Would you like something to drink – tea or a soft drink maybe? Or how about a beer?”

“No, thanks, Blair,” she began, clearly uncomfortable, “I think I just need to tell you why I’m here. You may not feel very hospitable toward me once you’ve heard what I have to say.” She clasped her hands in her lap as a determined look came over her face.

“Okay,” Blair said with a concerned sigh. ‘Please tell me this isn’t gonna be another one of my old friends or colleagues telling me how disappointed they are in me for the fraudulent dissertation,’ he thought. ‘I’d hoped I’d seen the last of these little visits.’ With a frown, he continued aloud, “If you’ve got something to say about my dissertation, out with it, now. I don’t have all day, and I guarantee you aren’t the first of my former friends to let me know how you feel about me.”

Chloe looked honestly shocked for a moment, but recovered quickly. “Oh, Blair, no,” she began hastily, “I’m not here for that, I promise.” She saw the man visibly relax. “After what I’ve done, I wouldn’t dream of condemning anyone else.” As a tear made its way down her cheek, Blair’s hand came over to rest on both of hers.

“Hey, whatever it is, it’s okay,” he soothed. “I’ll help if I can.” She wrenched her hands away and stood up, then moved to the other sofa sitting at right angles to the loveseat. Blair was perplexed, but remained silent, only nodding his acquiescence to the young woman’s desire to maintain physical distance from him.

“I’m sorry, Blair, but I can’t have you comfort me when I know you’re going to regret it when you hear what I’ve done to you.” She looked pained, but resolute, so Blair just listened as she began to explain what she meant by her cryptic comment. Soon he understood all too well.

~~o)0O0(o~~

Jim Ellison was in a terrific mood as he got the grocery bags out of the passenger seat of his pick-up truck, parked in its usual spot in front of 852 Prospect. He had gone to shop for the makings of one of his roommate’s famous casseroles, and was already having visions of eating the wonderful treat that evening. He and Blair hadn’t had a day off in weeks, and neither had felt like cooking recently with that kind of work load. He was so fed up with fast food and take out cuisine that he didn’t think he’d want another Wonderburger for the rest of his life (well, maybe not quite that long, but he was getting pretty tired of them, and he knew his partner was tiring of their grilled chicken and veggie burger alternatives). Suffice it to say he was ready for a home cooked meal after a day off relaxing, so by mutual agreement, he had gone shopping for the ingredients, and Blair would do the cooking (he was better at it anyway, and Jim had a little more money since the former anthropologist now had student loans to pay back and only a beginning detective’s salary to do it).

As he was walking toward the building with his arms full of grocery store bags, he noticed a young woman leaving with tears streaming down her pretty face. He approached her and spoke, hesitantly, “Ma’am, are you alright? Is there anything I can do to help?”

She looked startled, not having seen his approach. “Oh, no, I’m fine,” she sniffled.

He chuckled lightly, “Pardon me, but you don’t look ‘fine’.” She really looked terrible, but he didn’t think she’d appreciate his observation, so he kept it to himself.

“Thank you for the understatement,” she smiled through sniffled and random tears. “Oh my, you’re Jim, aren’t you?”

‘Uh-oh,’ he thought. ‘Now I get it. This is one of Sandburg’s girlfriends who just got the brush-off. Damn, he usually handles them better than this. Ordinarily he does the breaking up thing so well they leave thinking it was their idea, and not his. Obviously, he’s losing his touch.’ Aloud, he replied, “Yes, that’s me. Are you a friend of Blair’s?” He inquired, knowing the answer.

Chloe hesitated only slightly, “I was, but probably never will be again.” She shuffled from foot to foot and let out a choked sob.

‘Oh crap,’ the sentinel thought, ‘I was right – jilted lover – and me with my hands full so I can’t even hug the poor thing. I always have sympathy for his exes, but at least they got to have for a little while what I’ll never have,’ his brain silently lamented.

The girl began speaking again, “If you’re a good friend, you need to go to him now. Right this minute he probably looks worse than I do after what I’ve done to him, although no one could feel worse.” Another sob followed, but Jim was unmoved this time. He had clearly misread the situation. Sandburg hadn’t broken up with this woman, but she had done something bad to him. Someone had hurt his guide so badly that he might be in tears. Suddenly he wasn’t sorry for this creature at all, and he wanted answers if he had to drop the groceries and throttle her to get them.

“What exactly did you do to him?” he began menacingly. She actually winced and backed up a step. ‘Good,’ he thought. ‘She knows she’s in a bit of a pickle, now.’ Just to make his point, he took two steps toward her, invading her personal space, and pulled himself up to his full height, towering over her. She actually began to tremble, and the sentinel was perversely pleased with himself. Normally, he wouldn’t deliberately try to intimidate a woman, especially a tiny woman like this, but she had confessed to seriously upsetting his guide, and he wanted answers.

“Please, Detective Ellison,” Chloe felt that she shouldn’t use his first name now that she had obviously angered the large man in front of her. “I didn’t really do anything to him, I just told him something that I did that he didn’t know about. I’m afraid it upset him. I betrayed his trust a while back, and he didn’t know.” She began crying again in earnest and Jim backed off a bit. “Please, just go to him. You’re obviously a very good friend since you got so upset about this, but I can’t talk to you about it.” She was practically sobbing now, her whole body shaking, and Jim began to feel sympathy in spite of what she may have done to hurt his friend. She was clearly contrite about her actions. “Please, just go see about him, and make sure he’s okay.” With that, she began to run then walk quickly toward a waiting car in the parking lot.

“Wait!” he called to her. “Are you okay to drive?” He began to walk after her.

She waved him off. “I’ll just sit in the car for a minute or two, and then I’ll be fine,” she choked out over her shoulder. “Please just go to Blair.” She approached the driver’s side door and opened it, getting in behind the wheel and collecting her wits. Jim nodded to himself, and then hurried inside to assess the damage to his wounded guide.

~~o)0O0(o~~

The sentinel extended his hearing as soon as he entered the loft apartment, seeking out the most important person in his life. His efforts were dubiously rewarded with the sound of soft crying behind a pair of closed French doors. That was not good. Sandburg didn’t cry over nothing. He wasn’t all caught up in the macho bullshit of it not being manly to cry, he just didn’t seem to give in to the urge all that often. He had more intestinal fortitude than most, and he always seemed to look at the hurts he suffered as opportunities for learning something. In short, he didn’t believe in wallowing in distress, but in using his pain to make himself even stronger. If he was crying, this was big. Not stopping to do more than put the grocery bags on the counter, Jim walked quietly to his friend’s room and tapped lightly on a pane of glass.

“Come in,” came the resigned voice, followed by a sniffle. Jim did so.

“Hey, Chief,” he began softly, taking the few steps necessary to bring him to his guide’s bedside and proceeding to sit down next to the dejected man. “Saw your friend downstairs, and she said you might need to talk.” He ignored the little snort Blair made at the word ‘friend.’ “I guess she was right about that. Wanna tell me what’s up?” He smiled encouragingly and patted the younger man’s knee.

“Well, first off, I wouldn’t call her my ‘friend,’ Jim,” Blair began, somewhat heatedly. “No, ‘friends’ don’t just waltz in and destroy each other’s lives on a whim.” Jim’s thoughts were in turmoil. What could this woman have done to his partner that would so bad Blair would categorize it as destroying his life. He didn’t speak, though, fearing his voice would crack and betray his unease. He wanted to be strong for his friend, who obviously needed that strength now.

When no remark from Jim was forthcoming, Blair continued, his voice low and pained. “I can’t believe she did this to me, Jim. I was always so careful about my sex life.” He glanced at his partner and saw the wide eyed expression and misinterpreted it as judgmental. The younger detective shot to his feet and began to pace in front of his friend in the small confines of the room. “Yeah, yeah, I know you think I’d ‘hump a table leg,’ Jim, but I wouldn’t even go after that table leg without a condom!” He was practically yelling now, and Jim winced at the volume.

“Easy, Chief, I didn’t say anything, and I guarantee you I’m not thinking whatever derogatory thing you think I am.” He extended his hands in a placating gesture, and his guide resumed his seat on the bed next to the cop.

“Sorry, man. My whole world just got knocked out from under me, and I’m not processing it fast enough,” he gave a small mirthless chuckle. His voice took on the low, pain-filled tone again. “Chloe seemed so nice and straightforward. She’s the last person I’d expect this from.” He gave a resigned sigh.

Jim’s head had started to pound. This talk of condoms and ex-girlfriends, and worlds crashing down had made him assume the worst. He was feeling severely nauseated, as well, believing his guide was about to inform him that he’d contracted a dreaded disease from this awful young woman. He knew if anything happened to Blair, he would take care of him as best he could, but if the young man died, the sentinel would soon follow. Somehow he needed to convey to his guide and loved one that he would always be there for him with whatever help was required.

“Blair, I know there are a lot of new treatments out there,” he began, his voice much steadier than he thought possible given his physically ill state. “I’ll be with you every step of the way, and we’ll deal with this together. I’ll take whatever time off we need, and you can research the best places to go, and I’ll foot the bill for anything you need and can’t get for yourself.” At Blair’s perplexed expression, he continued. “I’ve got money saved up, Chief. I’m a single man with a good salary, not to mention some inheritance money from my grandparents that I’ve never even touched.” On a roll now, he continued. “It’s been tied up in investments, but I can liquidate it without much of a penalty. It should be more than enough to take care of you and get you the best medical care money can buy; and if it’s not, then I’ll borrow more. I’ll mortgage the loft if I have to,” he finished with a warm smile. The smile died when he noticed renewed tears flowing freely down his guide’s beautiful face. “Blair, I….”

Blair put a hand out to silence his dearest friend and secret love. “No, Jim, you don’t understand.” He realized almost immediately the erroneous conclusion to which the sentinel had leapt, but was so stunned at the vehemence of Jim’s words and the compassion at the thoughts behind them he hadn’t been able to speak, only to cry. Now he had to put an end to his friend’s confusion and pain.

“Jim, Chloe didn’t come here to tell me she had HIV or something like that; she came to tell me she had a baby – mine, she says.” Jim audibly gasped.

“Yeah, man, she told me she had wanted to get pregnant, and she just picked me out like she was at the mall, searching for the perfect father. I’m some kind of unwilling semen donor!” He gave a vicious, clearly non-amused biting laugh. “I will never again trust a woman who tells me to use the condoms she brought because she likes the way they feel better.” Blair calmed, momentarily, and seemed to re-evaluate his former statement. “No, that’s not fair,” he began absentmindedly. “I can’t imagine there are too many women out there who would be this underhanded. God, it’s like a soap opera!”

He looked at Jim pointedly when he saw the expression of slightly confused thoughtfulness, and he realized he hadn’t really explained about the prophylactic issue. “She poked holes in the damned rubbers, Jim – right through the packaging, so she could open them in front of me and I’d never know! Can you believe it?!” He was gesturing wildly with his hands now, and jumped up off the bed again to rotate around like a whirling dervish. “This woman just up and decides she wants a baby, picks me out of a crowd without bothering to ask my lowly feelings on the matter, sabotages the protection she brings to the table, then takes off as soon as she finds out the deed is done, again without asking how I feel about it, and has her baby without bothering to tell me anything!” Jim didn’t think Blair had taken a breath during his whole tirade, and it showed as the younger man was now panting and red-faced with anger.

“What does she want, Chief?” Jim asked, his rage at the woman’s treachery masked by the icy façade he put in place at times like these. “Is it money? I know a junior grade detective’s salary isn’t much, but it’s more than you had with that stipend as a teaching fellow.” He waited patiently for an answer as he watched his guide deflate visibly.

“That’s what’s so awful about it, Jim,” he replied dejectedly. “She has to have a surgery that has a seventy-five percent mortality rate.” He paused to let his words sink in for his friend. “She has no family, and if she dies, the baby becomes a ward of the state … unless I take her.” He paused again and sat back down, completely defeated in his posture.

“So you see, Jim, I can either let my daughter be raised by strangers, never knowing where or how she is, or I can suddenly become a father without a moment’s worth of planning on my part. How’s that for a choice?”

Jim sat pensively for a moment, “Look, I don’t want to intrude on your decision, but since you’re telling me about this, I’m assuming it’s okay for me to give an opinion – as a friend.” He waited for the response he expected would come. His guide was a pretty private person, for all his talking, he rarely gave out much personal information; he just did a lot of misdirection to make people think he was allowing them access to his inner thoughts and feelings. However, Jim felt that he was reaching out for advice and assistance on this most private of affairs, and he wasn’t wrong.

“Yeah, man, please,” Blair replied, relief evident in his voice and countenance. “I could really use some of your logic now, to balance out my panic attack.” He grinned ruefully, but finally with a tinge of true amusement.

Jim smiled back briefly, then turned serious again. “This obviously isn’t the most trustworthy woman you’ve ever met, Sandburg,” at Blair’s inelegant snort and nod, the larger man pursued his thought to its logical conclusion. “Maybe she’s lying, and this baby isn’t yours at all. Has she said anything about getting a paternity test? Have you?”

“Actually, she had a lab result from the hospital showing the baby’s blood type as AB negative, which you already know is mine, and you know it’s rare, but that’s all the proof she had with her. She said she’d be happy to submit Sarah -- that’s the baby’s name -- for a DNA test if I want, but not unless I’m considering taking her. She said she didn’t want to put the kid through a blood test if I was already sure I had no interest in keeping her regardless of the result, which I totally understand – I mean, we’re talking about a four month old child here.” Jim nodded and stood.

“Look, Chief, how about we head out to the kitchen to continue this?” He moved toward the doors to the bedroom and Blair rose to follow. “It’s getting late, and I left the groceries on the counter when I came in here. Some of that stuff needs to be refrigerated, and we need to call for take-out.” He put up a hand to ward off the guilty objection he knew would be forthcoming. “I know you said you’d cook tonight, but you don’t need to have to do that with all this life stuff going on right now,” he said with a finality that brooked no argument.

Blair chuckled, resignedly, “Yes, sir, Mr. Blessed Protector, sir. He adroitly side stepped the swat to the head the big cop tried to give him. With a serious expression, he touched Jim’s shoulder and said, quietly, “Thanks, Jim.” Then with as much sincerity as he could muster without actually crying again, he continued, “And not just for the dinner thing … man, I can’t believe what you said in there when you thought Chloe had given me some STD or something. You really would’ve done all that stuff, wouldn’t you? The money, even getting a loan, taking time off for me, all that stuff?” he asked incredulously.

Slightly pink-faced, Jim bit the bullet and responded to the earnest question in his guide’s eyes with an equally earnest answer. “Yeah, Chief, I would have.” He sighed deeply. “I know I don’t show it – hell, I can barely even say it, but … you mean the world to me, Blair. I’d do just about anything for you.” The last part came out so hushed one almost had to have sentinel hearing to catch it, but catch it Blair did. He quietly moved into the bigger man’s personal space and clasped his arms around the cop’s waist, burrowing his head into Jim’s shoulder. Jim sighed again and laid his cheek against the top of Blair’s head, carding his fingers through the curly hair that he’d been so happy his guide hadn’t had to cut for his stint at the police academy. The ringing phone brought them out of their comfortable embrace and back to a less than enviable present.

Jim got to the instrument first. “Ellison,” he quipped. After listening only a moment, “Yes, he is.” His tone was so cold ice wouldn’t have melted in his mouth, and Blair turned to look at him, surprised at the sound. The stoic faced cop handed over the phone, having already recognized the voice on the other end as belonging to Chloe. “It’s her, Chief,” he said with clear annoyance that this woman was continuing to disturb his young friend, especially since her call had interrupted one of the few moments when he could take in the full sensory experience of holding this man in his arms and playing with his hair.

Blair gasped, “Oh man, I forgot!” He looked abashed, but held the phone to his face and said, “Hang on a minute; I still have to talk to Jim about this.” At the older man’s quizzical expression, Blair explained, “She’s going in for some pre-op tests tonight and in the morning, and she asked if I wanted to get to know the baby by maybe keeping her overnight.” At Jim’s wide-eyed look, he quickly continued. “Uh, sorry, Jim, but I actually thought it might be a good idea. You know, to kind of give me a chance to see what taking care of her might be like.” He hastily added, with a contrite expression, “But if you don’t think so, it’s fine, Chloe’s got people she can leave her with, so ….”

Jim cut him off, sufficiently satisfied that Blair wanted this and it wasn’t just the woman’s idea of fobbing off her kid on a free babysitter, which had been his first impression. “I’m fine with it, as long as it’s what you want and not just a convenience for her,” he said, letting his guide know what the disapproving look on his face had been about.

Blair relaxed considerably. “Yeah, it is. Thanks, man.” He turned his attention back toward the phone, the receiver of which had been cupped in his palm during the exchange with his roommate. “Okay, Chloe, bring her over. I’ll watch her tonight, and you can pick her up when you get finished with the tests tomorrow.” He listened. “Fine, see you in a bit. Bye.” He hung up the phone, and Jim picked it up again to call for Chinese take-out.

~~o)0O0(o~~

The infant was asleep when her mother brought her into the loft, and Chloe was glad of that. Even at four months, her little girl was very perceptive about the moods of those around her, especially her mother’s. Little Sarah tended to be quite loud in her protests if her mother got too upset about anything, and the way that Detective James Ellison was looking at her was definitely upsetting.

He had started shooting daggers at her with those intense blue eyes the moment she had stepped into the apartment to ask for help in unloading the crib and other things from her SUV. Gone was the kind man who had inquired as to her well being when he’d seen her crying earlier. He had been replaced by a cold, heartless being intent on intimidating the hell out of the young mother. For her part, Chloe understood it. He was Blair’s closest friend, and she had betrayed Blair in the most intimate way possible.

She truly never intended for the young man to know, but events had transpired in a way no one could have predicted. Truthfully, she would never have done what she had if she’d realized how uncertain her future was going to be. She had only wanted a child of her own, and had thought Blair Sandburg the perfect man to father that child. Now she hated herself for her own selfish actions, knowing they were probably going to cause both his life and the life of her beautiful daughter to be forever changed in a way that could be catastrophic for both. However, no matter how much she hated herself, she could see that Jim Ellison hated her more. If looks could kill, she wouldn’t have to worry about whether or not this surgery she was facing would be fatal. She only hoped his attitude didn’t extend to the tiny bundle in the baby carrier she had brought with her. Logically, she knew that he was a police officer, and was sworn to protect – she also knew that Blair was a kind man and would see to it no harm came to the child he believed and Chloe knew to be his – but Ellison just looked so damned dangerous she was almost worried to leave the baby in his presence.

She was seriously considering calling this whole thing off and taking Sarah back to her friends’ house when the big detective moved to stand over the baby who was asleep in her carrier on the dining table. As he regarded the sleeping child, his expression suddenly softened, and he cocked his head to the side as if listening to something Chloe couldn’t hear, and then inhaled deeply through his nose. The man blinked once, and then erupted with the most beatific smile she had ever seen. As he stared at her napping baby, he looked as though he’d known the child forever, and loved her even longer. His hands seemed to move of their own volition as he reached to pick her up, miraculously doing so without waking her. He held little Sarah in his arms and closed his eyes, rubbing his cheek ever so lightly against her tiny head. Then he began walking around the room with her in a rocking, swaying motion designed to keep her asleep and content in his arms.

As Chloe and Blair were both transfixed by this uncharacteristic performance, the young mother decided that she hadn’t made a mistake in bringing her child here, and she turned to the baby’s father to give last minute instructions and a quick farewell. “Well, Blair,” she began quietly, conscious of the sleeping child. “Everything you need is in the bag, including the number for Terrell and Bonnie if you should run into any problems with her. They said they’d be happy to come get her if you need them to, since they were going to keep her for me anyway. Be sure and put the formula in the fridge right away, then heat it per the instructions on the paper in the bag. Her schedule is in there, too.” She hesitated for a moment, and Blair jumped in.

“We’ll be okay, Chloe,” he smiled, though his eyes contained a certain sadness. “Really. I’ll read over everything in the bag and I’ll call Bonnie for any questions.” He paused, and then continued, “I can do this, and apparently Jim is a natural.” He snickered warmly as he looked at his entranced friend.

She just smiled somewhat sadly at him. “I know, Blair. It’s just a mother’s prerogative to worry.” She sighed heavily. “Well, let me get out of here before I start bawling like a kid.” She didn’t reach out for the hug she wanted, and he didn’t offer. The hurt of what she had done was still too fresh for that.

She walked out the door, and Blair closed it behind her. Turning to Jim, still astonished at the paternal display he was witnessing after seeing the way the cop had looked at Chloe, he said, sentinel-soft, for he knew the man would hear it, “Jim, what’s up with you? You’d think that was your baby by the way you’re acting.”

Ellison looked up with a sad smile. “Not mine, Chief, but she is yours.” Blair stopped dead in his tracks as he was walking toward his sentinel.

“Oh,” he said, stunned. “So I guess that blood test would be a moot point, huh?” Jim nodded. “Mind if I ask how you know?” He had known Jim was using his senses on the child earlier, but hadn’t understood why until now.

“Well, her facial structure is very similar, and, oddly, her heartbeat is very much like yours, but the real kicker is her scent.” At Blair’s nod and curious expression, he continued. “See, immediate family members share a certain common scent that seems to be unique to them. This little one, here,” he grinned and gestured toward the baby with a slight inclination of his head, “Has your scent all over her, just like you have Naomi’s. It’s not exactly the same – you still have your own unique scent, just like she does, but she also has yours mixed in with hers. It’s hard to explain, but it’s as plain as day to me.” He shrugged, not sure he had explained it as well as he should have. Blair, his brilliant scientific mind not dulled even though separated from the world of academia for several months, understood completely.

“So it looks like you’ve saved my little girl a needle stick. Thanks.” At that moment the ‘little girl’ in question opened her eyes and the sentinel got his first look at the next generation of Sandburg blue. He was enthralled. He was enraptured. He was hopelessly in love with this little baby. As if knowing this, she cooed at him, lovingly. The man was totally whipped and wrapped around her tiny little finger like a bow. Blair smiled beatifically at the look of utter devotion on his partner’s face. Then he looked into the little blue eyes and was just as lost as his friend. The rest of their evening was spent feeding, burping, changing, fighting over, playing with, and otherwise worshipping at the tiny little feet of the child they now called “Princess.” The sentinel wasn’t even upset at some rather toxic diapers they had to endure.

~~o)0O0(o~~

The next morning brought a call from Chloe informing them that her vital signs had gone a bit wonky during one of the x-ray procedures, and the doctor’s had decided to keep her an extra night for additional observation. They were also making noises about moving up the date of her surgery, afraid she was taking a turn for the worse and wouldn’t be stable enough if they waited the week that they were planning on. Nothing had been decided yet on that front, though, so she was still unsure about the length of her hospital stay.

After a very short discussion, Blair told her that he and Jim would like very much to have Sarah stay nights with them. Bonnie and Terrell, Chloe’s other friends, could pick the baby up at the station in the mornings and keep her during the day for as long as Chloe had to remain hospitalized. That’s how it came to pass that all the members of the Major Crime team got to meet Princess Sarah.

After a bit of explaining to the group about the baby’s parentage, leaving out the deliberate and unseemly nature of her conception, choosing instead to have it be considered a simple accident, Sarah was presented to each and every member of the squad. She won them all over with her charm (in as much as a four month old has charms), and good looks (she truly was her father’s daughter, after all), in addition to those impossibly blue eyes. Megan and Rafe both put in to hold her first, and nearly came to blows, but that was quickly stifled when Simon stepped in and unceremoniously pulled rank, taking the child straight out of the baby carrier and into his arms with a smirk at the battling detectives. Connor pouted and Rafe bristled a bit, but no one put up an argument, for the captain’s word was law. Jim and Blair just smiled knowingly, already familiar with their little lady’s appeal.

Later, after everyone had had a chance to hold their new mascot, and Joel Taggert had claimed that she was obviously well ahead of the developmental curve for her age (he insisted Blair check into gifted programs for infants as she was certainly going to need one), Bonnie arrived to take her home for the day, and agreed to bring her back to the loft when Blair called to say they were done for the day. He thanked her profusely for being kind enough to help take care of the child, and she replied that she was happy to do it since she wasn’t currently employed. Of course, Jim already knew this, having run a full background check on her and her husband Terrell as soon as he got to his computer that morning (with Simon’s approval and encouragement; the child was a Sandburg, after all – one simply couldn’t take chances). The couple came back clean as the proverbial whistle, and Jim, Blair, Simon, and the rest of Major Crime relaxed. So Cascade’s own version of the dynamic duo loosed themselves on the city’s criminal population, looking forward to that afternoon when they could clock out and go home to their new little bundle.

~~o)0O0(o~~

When the phone rang at 2:00 a.m. neither man was expecting it to be the Publisher’s Clearing House announcing their winnings, but they didn’t expect it to be this bad. Jim grabbed up the receiver, assuming Simon was calling them out on a case, and wondering what they would do with Sarah if they both had to respond.

“Ellison,” he began, brusquely. His face began to twist in mute horror at what the person on the phone had to say. He answered quietly and thanked the disembodied voice, and wrote the necessary information down on a pad stationed atop his bedside table. Then he got up, suddenly much wearier than when he went to bed, and padded down the steps to the door of Sandburg’s room. It was going to be difficult, he knew, but he had to tell his young friend.

“Chief,” he began, a moment after stepping in the room. He hadn’t knocked on the partially open doors because he knew his guide had awakened with the ringing phone and was awaiting his visit. “I’ve got some bad news.”

Blair sat up in bed, trying to figure out what could be so bad about whatever the case was that would make Jim look like this. “Okay, Jim,” he said, sitting up in bed, the covers pooling at his waist. “What’s up, man?” Concern was etched across his brow.

Jim stepped to the side of the bed and sat down, facing Blair, but not touching. “That was Bonnie,” he looked at the blanket on the bed, unable to meet Blair’s eyes as he continued. “The hospital just called to let her know … Chloe took a turn for the worse tonight, Chief.” He paused long enough for that to sink in, and then let the other shoe drop. “She’s dead, Blair.” The younger detective hissed in a sharp gasp. “I’m so sorry, buddy.” Then he looked up at his friend, and what he saw made his heart want to break. The pain in Blair’s eyes was so deep, and the tears welling up were just about to start falling down his suddenly pale cheeks.

~~o)0O0(o~~

The funeral was a bleak affair. Chloe had planned it out and made all the arrangements, not expecting to survive her upcoming surgery, but still not expecting to die before she even had the procedure. The doctors said her condition was simply more dire than they had at first diagnosed, and her body wasn’t able to wait even one additional day for the proposed operation.

Blair met with Chloe’s attorney after the services, and was told that, as Sarah’s biological father, Chloe had requested he be given the right to decide her custody arrangements. He could either keep her or allow her to be adopted. Chloe had no savings, and since her condition had been diagnosed while she was still pregnant with the baby, she had been unable to obtain life insurance after the child’s birth. Therefore, Sarah was completely penniless. Blair informed the lawyer that he wouldn’t require any time to contemplate the matter of custody. The child was his, and he was not giving her to strangers to raise, no matter what the financial hardship to himself. His mother had managed quite nicely as a single parent on a limited income, and so could he.

Now all he had to do was figure out how she did it all. Right.

~~o)0O0(o~~

“Oh, God, Jim, what am I gonna do?” Blair asked, somewhat rhetorically, as he laid the sleeping little bundle in her crib between the back of the sofa and the stereo system. He ran his hands through his hair and continued. “I can’t give her up. I knew that the minute you said for sure she was mine.” His hands began moving faster and more frantically, as did his speech. “I just don’t know how I’m gonna manage it all. I know the station has really great day care for working cop parents, but that’s only during regular working hours. There’s nothing regular about the schedule I keep.”

“True,” Jim began.

“Plus, now I’ve got to find a new place to live, which means first and last month’s rent, and a security deposit,” Blair plowed on without even noticing Jim’s attempt at joining the conversation or his sudden expression of shock at his roommate’s intention to move out. “That means searching for someone I trust to take care of my child, (a next to impossible task unto itself), who is willing to work odd hours and be on call whenever I am, while trying to find new digs in a safe neighborhood that won’t bankrupt me. All that, while working full-time, learning to take care of a baby, and paying off student loans out the wahzoo, is gonna kill me.” He sat on the loveseat, with his back to the kitchen and Jim, and put his head in his hands, which were resting on his knees. He looked quite the forlorn sight.

“Chief, can I talk, now?” Jim began quietly.

Blair looked up and replied somewhat sheepishly, “Yeah, man, I’m sorry – just a little overwhelmed is all. Any ideas you have, just spill ‘em.” He grinned a little sadly.

“Okay,” Jim said, tackling his own most upsetting problem first. “Tell me why you think you have to move out?” He held up a hand as Blair started to launch into a long lecture. “Do it as briefly as possible, Chief, and then stop to let me answer, okay?” There was a little more levity behind the younger man’s grin this time.

“Jim, I really appreciate that you’re so willing to let me stay here that you’d even ask that question, but this is just no situation for an infant.” At the sentinel’s look of confusion, he explained. “She can’t stay in the living room forever. She’s going to need her own room, eventually, but even if she weren’t, I’m a thirty-year-old single father, who needs more than just a room under the stairs. Besides, when she gets older, there’s not gonna be a lot of privacy for you with an open bedroom like that.” He gestured pointedly toward the loft, and the bed, visible from any point in the living room.

“Okay, I get your point,” he sighed, resigned. “Man, I never thought I’d see the day when I’d be selling this loft.” He shook his head, thoughtfully, then stood and started pacing while talking. “But, you’re absolutely right, Sandburg. This is no place to try and raise a child. She needs her own room, and maybe a yard to play in … hey, what do you think about a house instead of an apartment?”

He looked to Blair’s astounded face and promptly misread the confusion. “Well, don’t you think that would be better than an apartment? Plus, we wouldn’t have to worry about all that ‘deposit’ stuff you were talking about. It wouldn’t just be my house, either. Your name would be on the lease, just like it is on this place.” He was still looking at his partner’s dazed expression and still getting the wrong idea about what it meant. “Oh, don’t worry about the money. I’ll get plenty out the sale of the loft. Hell, I get offers on it all the time; I just always say, ‘no thanks.’” He chuckled. “Won’t some of those folks be surprised to see it go on the market? Maybe I’ll even have a bidding war over it. I might even make a tidy profit.” With that, he reached over and playfully slapped Blair’s knee, effectively bringing him out of the trance he’d fallen into at Jim’s words.

“Jim, what are you talking about? Why would you move? This is your home, and Sarah’s not your responsibility.” It seemed as though Blair’s questions had ended until one of the points Jim had glossed over reverberated in his head again. “What do you mean my name is on the lease?!” he nearly yelled, pulling back the volume at the last minute, in deference to the sleeping baby. Ellison’s eyes widened in response, suddenly realizing what he had let slip in his excitement. Oops … a cat the size of his spirit animal just leapt out of its bag, meow!

“Uh, yeah, Chief, I, uh,” he faltered around saying the words. Then, in a rush of breath, “I put your name on the lease right after we got back from Sierra Verde – after Alex.” Jim focused on his shoes, waiting for his guide’s vocal response, whether anger or acceptance. He had to wait several moments, but his gaze never lifted until Blair requested it.

“Jim, look at me,” the voice wasn’t angry, but it shook ever so slightly. The older man did as requested and saw tears welling in the blue depths of his partner’s gentle eyes. Blair had moved to stand only a few inches from him, and when he spoke, Jim dialed up his sense of touch so he could feel the gusts of breath on his face from the younger man’s speech. “I can’t believe you did that for me,” he sighed, smiling sweetly. “Why didn’t you ever tell me?”

“I never seemed to be able to find the right words, which is really stupid because the whole reason for doing it was so you’d know you always had a home here, and even I couldn’t take that away again. I wanted it so that no matter what kind of crazy sentinel fugue state I got into, I couldn’t make you leave because I knew I’d get over it eventually, and I was afraid you wouldn’t come back if I did it again.” Jim looked so sad and weary when he finished, all Blair could do was step forward and put his arms around the other man’s waist in a hug. Jim held him greedily, like a man embracing a waterfall after six days in the dessert. He drank the younger man in and allowed him to wash over his body in a cleansing flow. This would be Heaven if not for some of his guide’s earlier words nagging at his conscious mind. Those words -- and the need to answer them -- more than anything else, were responsible for the end of their embrace.

“Blair, do you not want me to move with you and Sarah?” He hated to be so blunt and needy sounding, but he just had to know. Though they were no longer pressed against each other, Jim hands still rested on Blair’s biceps, and they were still very much in each other’s personal space.

“Jim, of course I want you to come with me, but that just wouldn’t be fair to you.” That wasn’t completely true, and Blair knew it. However, he also knew that the reason he couldn’t let his partner come with him was something he could never share with the other man. While he would dearly love having a little family with Jim, the day would come when it would inevitably end, and after sharing that level of intimacy, (even without sex) Blair knew it would be his undoing when it was over. Leaving him now would be excruciating, but having Jim leave him for a family of his own after sharing his life and his child with the man would be more than he could bear. The young detective had to figure out a way to do this without hurting his best friend and unrequited love.

“Shouldn’t I be the one to decide what’s fair to me?” Jim’s tone was beginning to take on a whine that he hated. He didn’t want to beg for this, but he’d swallow his pride if he had to do it to get this spot in Sandburg’s life. He couldn’t let it slip away.

Blair moved away, out of Jim’s grasp and space. He began to pace and gesture, as if lecturing a bright but confused student on a particularly complex topic. “I know how much you want to help me, and nobody could miss how attached you’ve become to Sarah, and believe me, it means so much to me, I can’t even express it.” He began to get a bit choked up on that and had to breathe deeply for a moment to settle his emotions.

“There’s gonna come a time pretty soon, when you’re going to meet the ‘right one,’ and you’ll want to start a family with her.” At Jim’s snort of disbelief, he continued, with a placating gesture. “I know, I know, your luck with women has run a lot like mine in the last few years.” Blair’s voice became wistful, “But you’re too great a catch for a really great woman not to find you and fall for you eventually. You have everything anyone could want in a friend, lover, and husband.” He was starting to get too emotional again. This was just hitting too close to his own feelings for the big cop.

“Somebody’s going to notice your amazing potential before too long, and you don’t need the baggage of me and my baby hanging off your shoulder when that happens.” As Jim started to object, he played what he thought would be his trump card. “Besides, I know what it’s like to get close to someone in a fatherly role, then have him leave, and I don’t want my daughter to have to go through that. It hurts, Jim, more than I like to let on with people.” His voice cracked on the last sentence because, as much as this was a ploy to keep Jim from insisting on moving with him, it was also the cold, hard truth.

James Ellison was watching his whole future spread out in front of him, and it was the most horrible thing he could imagine. He saw the years stretching out, his time divided between the job, the gym, and eating take out or microwave meals at home. There would be brief periods of joy, tempered by the sadness of knowing they were only transitory, when he would visit his beautiful Blair and Sarah. However, those times would become fewer and farther between as soon as his Blair became someone else’s. How ironic that everything his partner had spouted about Jim being the perfect catch applied so perfectly to his guide, and women did love men with little kids. Jim guessed it was the knowing that those men already had the family-guy gene in place that was the attraction. It didn’t matter; whatever it was, it meant Sandburg would have a lovely mother for little Sarah very soon, and Uncle Jim would fade to the background as soon as she pointed out that police work was too dangerous a job for a young husband and father.

Maybe Blair would take some police administrative job, after all, he had a master’s degree (Rainier couldn’t take that away when they canned his doctorate). Loyalty to Jim could only keep Blair with him for just so long under that kind of pressure. Blair had said to him once, on that case where he was under cover with Jim and Megan trying to save that mother and her child who had been compromised in the witness protection program, that when you had children, they had to come first. That’s how he would feel about Sarah, and his wife would convince him to leave Jim’s side for the child’s best interests. Then one day, Ellison would just let himself succumb to a zone during a dangerous situation, and it would all be over. Blair would be deeply saddened, but he’d get over it for the sake of, and with the help of his little family. Their lives would go on and be happy. They’d also be fairly well-off. In addition to putting Blair’s name on the lease to the loft, he’d also made his young partner his sole beneficiary -- life insurance, assets, property, the works. Oh yes, the Sandburg family would do fine without him.

Jim felt himself becoming more and more maudlin as his thoughts progressed, so he dealt with them the only way he knew how. He amputated his emotions and proceeded to cauterize the wound with a burning cold rather than heat. He froze out Blair Sandburg. “Fine by me, Sandburg, whatever you want,” he intoned, lowering the temperature in the room with his voice alone. With that, he stalked toward, then up, the stairs to his bedroom, with mental mortar and trowel, to begin rebuilding all the walls it had taken Blair nearly six years to tear down.

~~o)0O0(o~~

Blair hadn’t realized that day exactly how much damage had been done to Jim’s psyche, but in the days following the icy dismissal of their moving discussion, he found out the scope of it. He also knew that if he didn’t do something soon to rectify the problem, their partnership, hell, even their very relationship as friends would be forever compromised. Jim was a changed man the last few days. Gone was the strong yet gentle man who had slowly emerged in the wake of hurricane Blair’s inclusion in his ordered existence. The new Jim was an even more grim and soulless caricature of the one who had previously inhabited Ellison’s body. Everyone noticed. They were all coming to Blair asking him what had caused the transformation, and how the young detective was going to fix it. He hadn’t the slightest idea. He only knew that he had to do whatever it took. That was what brought him to the foot of the stairs leading to the sentinel’s bedroom fully two weeks after the ‘bad Jim’ had come forth.

Sandburg was scared of his course of determined action, that was a given, but he had decided things were bad enough to get desperate and go with the truth. He was going to certainly lose his partner and friend if he didn’t end this. Since that had been the fear that had caused his unwillingness to be honest about his feelings for Jim in the first place, he’d finally figured he’d be no worse off for telling the truth if the worst came to pass. However, at least if his friend decided to end their relationship because of what he was about to say to him, then it would end because of the truth, and not some clever obfuscation on his part. He would let Jim know what he was feeling about him and why it would never work for him to live with the big detective any more. Maybe Jim would be okay with his partner being in love with him, and would simply let go of his anger, and they would be okay again. After all, Jim did put his name on the lease to the loft. Surely that meant he had some pretty deep feelings for Blair. Maybe he could even feel something akin to what Sandburg, himself, felt. ‘Yeah, right,’ Blair thought with a snort. Well, at least with Sarah in the picture, he wouldn’t kick the younger man out in the street until he found an acceptable new apartment.

He’d been looking for new accommodations, but nothing in his price range had nearly enough security or cleanliness. He’d actually thought of calling the housing authority on a couple of the places because they were so substandard for the rent expected. However, he had only grimaced at the conditions and moved on quickly. He just couldn’t seem to find a place where he would be willing to raise his daughter. Hell, maybe Jim would help him look once he made his desires known. Not that the motivation for the sentinel’s help (revulsion at having to live with a partner who lusted after him) would be something Blair would relish. Still, at least it would all be out in the open, and he wouldn’t have to lie or pretend any longer about why he couldn’t play family with the older man. Decision firmly made, he began his trek up the stairs into what had recently become enemy territory.

At the encroaching footfalls, the sentinel snarled, “Sandburg, I told you when I got home I wanted to be left alone! What the hell are you doing up here?”

Not the least bit deterred by the hostile words or tone, Blair persisted in his travels, until he was seated on the foot of the bed, facing the angry man who had uttered them. His head down, not able to meet the eyes of the man who meant so much to him, and who was about to have every reason to hate him, Blair Sandburg began speaking the words that would lead to the most unexpected consequences of his life. “Jim, I need to talk to you about something, and I’m not going away until I have.”

“The hell you say!” Ellison exclaimed sharply. “This is my home, and my room, and I’ll be damned if you’re going to dictate to me what you will and will not do inside it!” His fury was explosive, but he still hadn’t moved from his position, sitting at the head of the bed. It was as though he had to put up at least a token show of resistant rage at the invasion of his space even though his soul wanted Blair to stay and make him listen in spite of himself and his carefully reconstructed walls.

“I thought it was my home, too,” Blair’s quiet words deflated the older man immediately. “That’s what you said the other day, at least.” His eyes flicked up for a glance, seeing that the words had hit home, and dropped to contemplate the mysteries of the comforter again. “Don’t worry, Jim. I don’t intend on holding you to any promises you made, but I do want to have this discussion with you. After that, I’ll leave as soon as I can find someplace decent for me and Sarah. Hell, after what I’m going to say, you’ll probably pack my stuff yourself … again.” He hadn’t meant to say that last part with such incredible sadness. He knew Jim still hated himself for packing up all of Blair’s things when he threw him out before Alex decided to give him that swimming lesson in the fountain.

“Blair, I …” Jim began, all malice absent from his voice.

“No, Jim, it’s okay,” Blair cut him off, smiling gently, but not daring to look him in the eye. “I need you to know the real reason I can’t have you move with me and Sarah.” At Jim’s stunned gasp that there was some reason other than what he’d been told, and that the reason had been deliberately concealed from him, Blair braved onward. “All of what I said was true,” he held up a hand. “But it wasn’t the whole truth.” He took a deep cleansing breath and continued, never glancing at Jim. “I knew that one day you’d find someone to marry and have a family of your own with, and that’s great, but I couldn’t get that close to you only to lose you that way. See, Jim, I just couldn’t live in my little fantasy, pretending to be the perfect family with you, me and Sarah, then just let it go without looking back once you found something better. It would just hurt too much, and I couldn’t handle it. You see, I’m…,” Blair faltered, momentarily, knowing he’d have to get this last part out for Jim to really understand, but also knowing this was the part that could lose him everything he’d already lost so much to get. “Oh, God, why is this so hard to say?” he asked rhetorically.

Jim, who’d been holding his breath, hoping against hope, but not really daring to believe he was hearing what he thought he was hearing, let the air slowly and silently flow from his strained lungs. He inhaled again just as quietly, eyes intent on the curtain of hair now surrounding his partner’s downcast head. He waited … and listened.

“I’m in love with you, Jim, and before Sarah came, I could handle it, but now it’s all different. I can’t be so close to having everything I want in life and just lose it like that. Of course, now I’ve lost you anyway because you know, and you’ll hate me, so …” he gave a brittle little laugh that sounded like sandpaper on gravel, but pressed on, babbling hurriedly now. “Anyway, if you’re going to hate me and ask for a new partner, and all, I figured it might as well be for the truth and not some stupid lie or half-truth. I promise I’ll be gone as soon as I can, and I’ll respect whatever decision you come to about the job. I just needed you to know it all now.” Running out of steam and on the verge of tears, he figured it was time to beat a hasty retreat. The young guide gracefully rose from the mattress and very ungracefully stumbled over his own feet as he started to walk away from the bed. “Damn!” came the voice from the heap on the floor.

Fortunately, his pratfall gave a completely stunned Jim a chance to move before his beloved could get very far. With speed and grace that would have made his panther proud, James Ellison rose from his bed and grasped the arm of his fallen comrade. As he helped Blair to his feet, the younger man still couldn’t bring himself to look at the elder. It wasn’t until Jim spoke the words he’d wanted to say for years that those perfect blue eyes were able to meet his in an astonished gaze. “I love you, too, Chief,” he intoned with a shy smile. “That’s why I wanted to badly to stay with you and Sarah.” He stopped for a moment at Sandburg’s look of total surprise.

Jim brought his hand up to trace his fingers along his guide’s cheek, then down to the full lips that beckoned to him so beguilingly. As his feather light stroke moved across pink flesh, a tongue slipped out to tease the questing fingertips. Blair closed his eyes and tasted Jim’s fingers, bringing them in and sucking on them, one by one, until his sentinel moved the hand that had been on his arm since helping him up, and thrust it into soft curls. Jim fisted the chestnut tresses and pulled his guide’s head back slightly. Beautiful cerulean pools opened and looked up into the face of the man who had withdrawn his fingers to replace them with his own lips and tongue.

The kiss was slow and tender, an exploration of each other and a promise of passion to come. As they parted each man looked into the eyes of the other and suddenly came to the realization that they had everything they could ever want. They were finally and truly a family.

The End

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Acknowledgements: Thanks so much to Mary for the beta and Patt for giving me the honor of contributing to Moonridge by contributing to this e-zine. You guys are really wonderful! This story is dedicated to Alyjude, whose writing continues to inspire me.