"We finally did it."
"Was there any doubt?"
"Not from the moment I saw you."
"You mean even in the hospital?"
"Well, maybe not from the exact moment I saw you. But when I asked you to move in..."
"I didn't know then."
"That you wanted me?"
"That you wanted me. I did know in the hospital."
"Oh. Then why did it take us four years?"
A shrug. "Fear, stubbornness, various criminal elements wreaking hell with scheduled seductions."
"Damn. A capital offense if I ever heard one. Good thing they were either killed or put into jail."
"But think of all the fun we'll have making up for lost time."
Covers shifted. Flesh met. "Will you hate me if I say I want to keep this between us? It's not that I'm ashamed of what you mean to me, but--"
"It will just add to the danger we constantly face as is. I understand, love. I don't want you hurt trying to defend our relationship either. Outside this loft we will be who we were. But here, we will be who we are, the two people created in this bed tonight. Deal?"
"Deal. Seal it with a kiss?"
"You never have to ask, love. But there's something else, isn't there?"
"I think a certain someone should be told."
"Because he's held on to all our other secrets. Because in a way it will affect him as well."
"But what if he can't handle it? I don't want him rejecting you because of me... And he may feel it necessary to separate us."
"I know it's a risk, but..."
"You feel very strongly about this, don't you?"
"Yes, but I don't know why."
"Then we'll tell him."
"No. Not 'we'. I don't want you there if he takes it badly."
"You think he may get physical?"
"There's a chance."
"Then you're damn well not facing him by yourself!"
"Please, baby. If something goes down between me and him, it will be between friends and there's a chance the relationship can be salvaged. If you're there... it will be different, more shattering. Do you understand?"
"If I'm there, he will be hurting someone you love; if I'm not, he'll just be hurting you."
"Exactly. I can forgive a person for hurting me, but you are a different story."
"You are a complicated individual."
"You knew that when you fell in love with me."
"How true. Do what you must, but know this; hurting you will make him my enemy."
"Baby Bear has claws?"
"Baby Bear has big claws. Want me to show them to you?"
"Thought you'd never offer."
Detective Jim Ellison tapped on the glass door and entered when he heard a confirming grunt. "Is this a bad time, sir?" he asked Captain Simon Banks politely.
"Nah. Come on in, Jim. What's up? Shouldn't you be on your way home?" He looked pointedly at the rows of empty desks in the Major Crimes bullpen. A light crimeload had everyone working regular hours for a change.
"I wanted to discuss something personal with you, and I thought it best I wait until everyone else had left."
"Something going on with your senses?" Simon knew Jim was a sentinel. He had five heightened senses. That's why his best detective was paired with an anthropology grad student/police observer. Blair Sandburg was the sentinel's guide, his partner.
"No, sir. It's just that Blair and I have been up-front with you so far, I thought it only fair that we inform you of the latest change."
"We're lovers, sir."
"Oh." The captain fell silent, then adjusted his glasses. "Is this a formal 'coming out'?"
"No. I'm telling you this as a friend, Simon. I just thought you should know...that someone should know in case... This is a dangerous job, sir."
"You want Sandburg taken care of if something ever happens to you. You want someone to be with him who will understand," the larger man filled in.
"Yes. You're the only person I trust to take care of him for me, Simon."
"You didn't have to do this, you know. I have always looked out for him, have always been there for him when you get into trouble."
"You've always been there for both of us. I love you for that."
"But you're 'in love' with him." The captain winced as he realized how bitter that sounded.
"If you make me say it, Jim, then it will be out there and it can't be taken back," Simon warned wearily. This was not the way he had expected the day to end. Sometimes he wondered why he bothered with expectations anymore. Ever since the sentinel/guide pair had entered into his life, nothing ever went the way it should.
Blue eyes regarded him steadily. "Maybe I need to hear it anyway, sir."
"I love you, Jim. I am in love with you." There. Now can we ignore the big pink elephant sitting in the corner of the room? I'm game if you are, Ellison.
"For how long?"
The captain shrugged. "I don't know. Long before Sandburg was in the picture."
Jim took a deep breath, then another. "Why am I just hearing about this?"
"Because there were obstacles I knew we couldn't overcome: Joan, Carolyn, the fact that I'm your boss."
"Carolyn and Joan are out of the picture and quite frankly, you being my boss wouldn't have swayed me one way or the other. I'm not a man who is dazzled by authority."
Simon laughed. "You don't have to tell me that, Jim. I don't think I have a less dazzled man on my staff."
"I didn't say I wasn't dazzled by you, Simon. It's just that it's not your title which turned me on."
A gasp, followed by a sad smile. "Sandburg is good for you. He's your guide, your roommate, your best friend. You couldn't ask for a better lover. I'm happy for you, Jim. How long have you two been together like this?"
"Last night was our first time."
"Then you should be at home, tossing rose petals onto the bed or something. Go home to Sandburg, man. I'll see you both in the morning, right?"
"Yeah, he'll be around the whole day tomorrow." Jim stood and sent his senses out to check for passing personnel before clamping his hand over Simon's. "You should have said something, my friend. It would have made a difference."
Simon brushed his thumb across the back of the sentinel's hand. "As the song goes, 'Regrets, I've had a few...' Don't go pitying me, Jim. I'll be okay."
"Pity isn't even on the list of the things I feel for you, Simon," Jim said softly. "Good night, captain."
"Good night, Jim."
"So the honeymoon is over already?" Blair asked as he plopped down on the sofa beside Jim, somewhat mollified as Jim's arm automatically wrapped around him and pulled him onto his lap. The sentinel had been strangely reticent throughout dinner. Sure, Jim wasn't the talkative type, but his silences always said a lot: "I'm content"; "I'm angry"; "I've had a bad day." This silence said nothing at all that Blair could interpret.
"What does that hard lump beneath you tell you?" Jim said as he bent to capture his lover's mouth with his.
"So the physical desire is still there, but what's missing, love?" Blair asked, refusing to be distracted by the kisses Jim was raining on his neck.
Jim sighed and sat back, pulling Blair with him. "I told Simon today."
Blair studied him closely. "No black eye or bruised jaw. Did he hit you somewhere else?"
"Where?" Blair demanded, reaching for Jim's shirttail.
"What?" his partner asked in confusion.
"He said something to me that I can't forget, Chief, and it hurt."
Blair stroked his cheek. "He call you a name?"
He captured the caressing fingers with his mouth, suckling gently as he listened to the heart of the man he loved. Then he took the hand and matched it to his own. "He told me he loved me. No, he told me he was *in* love with me. Had been for quite some time."
Blair stared into the sky blue eyes he knew better than his own, then started to ease off Jim's lap. "I see," he said carefully.
"Please don't leave me, baby," the cop pleaded. "This has nothing to do with the love I feel for you. You are the best thing that has ever happened to me and I love you. I am *in* love with you. That will never change. I swear that to you."
Blair searched the eyes again and saw the truth of Jim's words reflected in them. But he also saw something else. "You're in love with both of us?"
"No!" Jim said quickly. Then he shook his head, knowing he had just lied. "I don't know, Chief. Maybe I'm just confused, off-balance. I know that I love you. That's really the only thing I'm sure of at the moment. You believe me?"
The grad student nodded and gently dropped a kiss on his love's face. "How long have you felt something for Simon?"
Jim laughed. "That's the funny thing. If you'd asked me that yesterday, I would have told you all I've ever felt for Simon has been friendship."
"But when he said the words today, I... Oh, God... I didn't think I was capable of feeling love like everyone else, Chief. I certainly didn't feel it like I should have with Carolyn. I thought it was me, the way I was raised, the lack of a mother-figure... Freud would have a field day with me, huh?" he said, chuckling dryly. "Then you came into my life and ding, I suddenly knew what love was. And then last night, I knew I had finally found what I had been searching for all my life. The sins of my childhood had been forgiven, wiped clear. I was-- am-- whole with you, my love. It's just..." It was just what? That at Simon's words his heart had just grown three sizes that day, like the Grinch's? But the Grinch's love was for mankind; his was just for two men, two men who completed him. Great, Ellison. Quoting children's books and romance films. Man, you are thoroughly and completely fucked up.
He felt Blair's muscles come to the ready, so when his partner moved to get off his lap, he was already letting go. He couldn't blame the man. He had claimed him as his one and only last night and less than twenty-four hours later, he was mooning over someone else. That's putting the 'f' in fickle, James, my boy. But he really wasn't being fickle. He loved Blair as much, if not more, at this very moment, as he had last night. He moaned and clutched his stomach. He'd lost Blair and he suspected he could never be with Simon without remembering what he'd done to Blair, so that was pretty much a bust....
"Come on, sweetheart. You'll feel better upstairs," Blair said, holding out his hand.
"Why are you still here?" Jim asked sadly, blinking at Blair through tear-glazed eyes.
"Because I meant it too, when I said I love you." He grabbed his hand and pulled his partner up. "Loving you from afar was never easy, Jim. I really didn't expect things to improve just because the distance was shorter."
"But you should have expected more than you've gotten."
"Simon's declaration blindsided you, Jim. I don't expect you to just brush it aside. You wouldn't be the man I love if you did that."
"But it has to hurt," Jim insisted as Blair led him up the stairs.
"Yes, it hurts. But that's the risk in loving someone. I knew that going in." He smiled brittlely at the confused look in Jim's eyes. "My pain I can handle. It's yours that's just about to break me, love."
Jim collapsed onto the bed, shutting his eyes as the battle to hold back the tears was lost. Blair lay beside him, kissing the streak-lined face. "Let me love you, Jim. I know your heart is still wondering what to do about Simon, but he's not here tonight, man. I am. Let me show you just how much your Baby Bear loves you."
A hand reached out to pull him closer. "You never have to ask, Baby Bear. Never."
Simon watched Jim leave to go over to the D.A.'s office for a deposition, then waited five minutes before going to the door and calling Blair into his office. The observer came without hesitation, but to Simon there was a certain tension about him, a tension that had been there since he and Jim arrived that morning. "We got a problem, Sandburg?" he asked directly.
"Do we, captain?"
Simon sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. "Jim told you."
"Of course he told me. He loves me," Blair said, challenging Simon to deny that.
"I know he loves you, Sandburg. I told Jim I was happy for him and now I'm going to tell you the same thing. You two belong together. I know that. I'm sorry if--"
"No." Blair held up his hand. "Never apologize for loving him or admitting to it. Heaven knows, I kept it a secret too long myself."
"But even you have to agree my timing sucks," Simon said wryly.
"Not really. You could have said it before I did... and where would that have left me?"
"Still with Jim. He needs you, man, in ways I can never fill. You are the guide to his sentinel, the lost part of his soul. Everyone can see it. Everyone knows that your presence has healed whatever was damaged in him. You are his other half, the missing part. I could have never competed with that. I'm just an old man with foolish dreams."
"No wonder you and Jim attracted to each other-- you're just alike," Blair fumed. "You know I could take Carolyn and Joan and all the other men and women who have passed through your lives and beat them with a stick. You, Simon, could compete with anyone. The power, the authority you exude is like an aphrodisiac. Combine that with your looks, and you are an attractive package, Captain."
"I don't need your pity, Sandburg, or your partner's. I'm sure you both had a good laugh last night."
"Another you have in common with Jim-- you're both dense as hell," Blair muttered. "You have no idea, do you, how your words affected him yesterday?"
"What are you saying?"
"He loves you, you idiot!" Blair glanced around quickly to make sure he hadn't spoken too loudly, but there were no faces turned in their direction or any stunned looks, so he turned back toward Simon and continued much softer. "He didn't know it, until you said the words, Simon. I guess they triggered some deep-seated emotion in him that he had repressed. You know he's really good with the repression thing."
"Damn. I didn't know, Blair. I didn't think... He loves you. You must know that. This thing he feels for me..." Simon sputtered.
"It's love, Simon. I know Jim. I know his feelings sometimes even better than he does," Blair said sadly.
Simon was completely baffled. "I never...He needs you, Blair. Talk him out of this nonsense. Fuck him out of it."
"Tried that last night, but he still loved you this morning, man."
"I'm sorry. I never wanted... Hell, what do you want me to do, Sandburg? Whatever it is, to make this right between the two of you, I'll do it, okay? If you walk out on him, you'll destroy him. He's been abandoned enough in one lifetime. Don't hurt him anymore because of a stupid crush on his boss. He'll get over it. I can put in for a transfer, move to--"
"And continue the pattern of abandonment that you just warned me against?"
"I don't matter. You do."
"You do matter, Simon. To him... to me," Blair realized. "You've always been there for us, man. Through thick and thin. He tried to tell me that... I didn't want to tell you that we were lovers, but he insisted, and he was right. You are as much a part of this sentinel thing as I am. You are as much a part of Jim as I am. I am not half of Jim; I am merely a third. That's why I 'completed' Jim when I arrived. Because he had already found you."
"Sandburg, you are truly nuts," Simon said, regaining his outward composure, although inside his emotions were churning at an alarming rate. "Forget the rest of the paperwork and go home, okay? Go home and prepare some fabulous meal, put on some tight pants, and have your way with your partner until he comes to his senses. And I mean that in every sense of every word. Understand?"
Blair didn't move. Instead, he leaned over the desk and regarded Simon with a penetrating stare. "Do you love him, Simon? I really need to know that."
"Why? So you can do something foolish like leave him for his own good, or send him away to evaluate what he feels for me? No way."
"Do you love him?" Blair asked again, and Simon knew that the anthropologist would not budge until he answered the question.
"Yes, Blair. With my heart and soul, I love him."
Blair sat back in the chair, closing his eyes for a moment, then he sprang to his feet. "Guess I need to do some shopping. Probably a good idea to get that done before I put on the tight pants, huh?" he asked with a smile.
Simon smiled too, picturing the cute ass all duded up for his partner. "I guess we wouldn't want you starting a riot. Get on out of here. I'll explain to Jim that you cut out early, with my permission."
"Eight o'clock on the dot, captain. And don't you dare be late."
"What?" Simon knew Jim was quite fluid in Blairspeak, but he still had trouble following. "Late for what?"
"Don't be late," Blair reiterated, and quickly opened the door to the bullpen, knowing Simon couldn't protest anymore without alerting the other detectives. The muttered curse reached his ears only, and he merely ignored it and headed out of the precinct.
At seven fifty-nine and forty-seven seconds, Simon's fist made contact with the loft's door. At precisely eight o'clock, Blair flung open the door and ushered him inside. "I like a man who's prompt," he said. He twirled around. "You like the pants?"
The well-worn jeans fit like a second skin. "Uh, yeah," Simon said uncomfortably. "Where's Jim?"
"I sent him across town on an errand."
Blair handed the captain a beer. "Have a seat on the sofa. We need to talk."
Simon did as he was asked, surprised when Blair plopped down beside him, even more surprised when the observer leaned forward and kissed him. Open-mouthed. For a long time. When he could breath again, the captain looked at Jim's "partner" sternly. "What the hell was that?" he demanded.
"You liked that. I can tell," Blair said, pointing staring at Simon's crotch which was straining considerably. "That's good. That's a start. Because it definitely had potential for me too." He cupped his own enlarged genitals.
"What the hell are you doing, Sandburg? Arranging for my murder? If Jim--"
"I'm doing this for Jim, Simon," Blair said calmly. "It's really very simple. Jim loves me and I love him. You love Jim and he loves you. So the only problem seems to be you and me. And I don't think that--" he kissed him again, and felt desire sing in his blood-- "that's going to be a problem at all."
"Sandburg--" Simon began.
"Blair," he corrected. "Actually Jim prefers 'Baby Bear' when we're intimate. It seemed odd, but I kind of like it."
Blair licked his earlobe. "You two are so alike it's scary. What's the odds on you both saying it in the exact timbre that causes me to shiver?"
"This is weird," Simon muttered as his hands combed through Blair's long brown curls. "So soft." He sighed. "This won't work, you know."
"Why not?" Blair asked, removing Simon's tie.
"Triangles never do. Haven't you ever watched soap operas?"
"That's because they are always forcing someone to make a choice." Blair stopped unbuttoning the crisp maroon shirt, and stared into warm chocolate eyes. "I love him enough not to make him choose. How much do you love him, Simon? Do you love him enough to give this a try?"
"I honestly don't know, Blair. I was taught that a relationship consisted of two people."
"Yeah: a man and a woman. I think you've already broken the rule, my man."
"Are you always this ruthlessly logical?"
"When I want something. And I want this, Simon. For Jim."
Simon leaned his forehead against Blair's. "For him, I will try."
Nimble fingers undid the rest of the buttons. "I'll try to make it worth your while."
"The sacrifices I make for my men," Simon moaned as an agile tongue found a nipple and adroitly toyed with it.
"That's right, sir. We are your men," Blair said meaningfully as his lips sought the hollows and planes that were Simon.
The captain's hands crept up beneath his companion's sweater, pushing the fabric up and exposing the surprisingly defined, but hairy, chest. "You been working out, Sandburg?"
"Jim's helping me improve my upper body strength. He says he's tired of rescuing me from the bad guys. It's time I learned to do it myself."
"Bullshit. He'll always rescue you."
"I know. But this way I can kick ass while I'm waiting for him."
"Lift your arms." The sweater sailed over his head. "Even this hair is soft," Simon murmured as he stroked Blair's pecs. "I had no idea I had a hair fetish until now."
"I think you're going to find a lot of things you had no idea about before the night's over, man." He smiled as their lips found each other.
"Well, I half-expected you two to be at each other's throats when I came in, but I have to admit this is a surprise," Jim said dryly as he stood a few feet away. The occupants of the sofa had been so busy, they had failed to hear him come through the door, close it, then set down the box of chocolate truffles that Blair had demanded he go get from one of the department stores at the mall. The two separated slowly, and he fought to control his jealousy.
"Didn't hear you come in, man," Blair said, without even a hint of guilt.
"You were busy. With Simon," Jim spat out.
"Jealous?" The man refused to answer. "Over which one of us, Jim? Which one of us do you want to toss out, and which one of us do you want to toss over your shoulder, carry up to your bed, and proceed to fuck until he never looks at another man again?"
"You're making my head hurt," Jim said and sat on the loveseat before his legs gave out. "No word games. Just tell me what's going on, okay?"
"We love you, Jim."
"I know. I mean I shouldn't know, considering the way you two were draped over each other when I walked in, but I know it, Chief. What I don't know is why the two of you were sucking each other's tonsils."
"Patience, my love. When you saw the two of us, what else did you feel, besides the jealousy? Were you repulsed? Excited? Curious? What?"
Jim frowned. "This is not helping my headache."
"Hang in there a little longer, big guy. It's all going to be clear in a minute," Blair promised. "What did you feel when you saw us?"
"You mean before the shock set in?"
Jim shrugged. "Like I was watching a dirty movie."
"What kind of dirty movie?"
"The kind you watch when you feel lonely."
"So it turned you on?"
"This some kind of strange sensory test, Sandburg?" Jim asked wearily. He wasn't kidding about the headache; and the heartache wasn't helping either. "Or have you two decided that since I can't make a choice, you'll just choose each other and leave me to make other arrangements? If that's the case, take it to a motel, okay? I will not have you rubbing it in my nose on a sofa I bought and paid for."
"What about in your bed?" Simon asked softly.
"I'll go to a motel then," he replied weakly. He desperately wished he could find those infamous Ellison emotional barriers that had served him so well in the past, but it had been so long since he'd used them, and after baring everything to Blair the other night, he had padlocked them into a back corner of his mind. It would take a period of intense concentration to find the key.
"What if no one goes to a motel, Jim? What if all three of us went up to your bed?"
"What?" Jim figured his connection to, and therefore his comprehension of, Blair had been painfully severed. So, he turned to the other. ""Explain, Simon. Please."
Simon got up from the sofa to sit beside Jim on the loveseat. "Blair loves you, Jim. I love you."
"This is about me making a choice?"
Simon pulled his friend closer, until Jim's head dropped against his shoulder. "This is about you not having to make a choice. This is about you getting to have your cake and eat it too. You've had to make too many painful choices in your life, sweet boy. This one you don't have to make if you don't want to."
Simon's fingers were drawing circles on his temple. So comforting. "I still don't understand."
"Yes, you do," Blair answered, kneeling before him. "We're offering to make this work, Jim. We both love you and it's been established that we, Simon and I, are, uh, compatible. We are willing to share you, love."
"The three of us?"
"When have we ever conformed to convention, big guy? When you moved me in here? When I became your partner? When I've been listed as a police observer for four years?" Blair smiled and lay his head in Jim's lap. "We are a team on the street. You rush in, I follow, and Simon swoops in to save us both. We are a team off the street. I fall apart, you hold me together, and Simon holds you. In bed, it should be no different."
"Are you both sure?" he asked, focusing his senses so he could discern truth from lies. This was important; he couldn't go into this with the knowledge that one of them was less than resolute in this proposal.
"I'm certain," Blair said quickly.
"Simon?" The man's blood ran beneath his ear, the heartbeat echoing his own, the low voice rumbling through his entire body, making it tingle in assorted ways. Yes, he could picture himself with this man in his bed along with Blair.
"I had my doubts in the beginning, Jim, just like you. In fact, Sandburg declares the two of us are just alike. I don't know why that doesn't frighten him, the fact that the two of us will be ganging up on him."
"Maybe because he knows he can easily manipulate you to his way of thinking, thereby gaining an ally against me," Jim pointed out. "That's been the case more often than not. So, if anyone should be shaking, it's me."
Blair laughed. "Do we scare you, love?"
"Every day. You were saying about your doubts, Simon?"
"That I don't have any, Jim. Somehow it just feels right. This is all foreign to me, so I just have to go on instinct. You know what I mean?"
Jim nodded. He knew the sensation all too well. "We'll have to take it slow. This is a new trail we're forging. We're bound to stumble a time or two."
"Is he always this anal?" Simon asked.
Blair snorted. "In the right circumstances, anal can be good, Simon."
"Really? And what would be the right circumstances?"
"A firm surface and lots of lube."
"I'm not sure if I agree with your assessment, Sandburg. I'm a practical man. I need firsthand experience."
Blair opened his eyes and was greeted with the sight of Jim's arousal. "I think that can be arranged, captain."
Many active hours later, Simon was awakened by Jim scrambling out from between him and Blair. "Something wrong?" he asked sleepily.
"Nah," Blair answered, shifting closer to the older man for warmth. "He has to check the loft out every night before he can sleep."
"Maybe I should go before he has to do it all over again when I leave."
"You can still move, man? Damn, you must not be as old as you claim," Blair chuckled without bothering to open his eyes. Wouldn't have done any good anyway. Jim never turned on the lights when he made his nightly patrol. "Might as well stay the rest of the night. Mr. Human Alarm Clock will wake you at the proper hour. Isn't that right, Jim?"
"Sure, Chief," he called from the living room as he checked the balcony doors. "What time do you need to be up, Simon?"
"Okay." He bounded back up the stairs and sort of leapt over Blair to settle in the middle of the bed.
Simon had prepared himself for the shock of Jim's cold skin against his, but the man was just as warm as he had been before leaving the bed. He stuck an arm out from under the covers experimentally, then tucked it back in as the chill of the loft registered. "Why aren't you cold?"
"It's a Sentinel thing," Blair answered, snuggling up to his personal "heater". "Why do you think I always stand so close to him when we're out in the field, especially when its cold or raining?"
"I figured you were trying to cop a feel."
"Or feel a cop? Yeah, there was that too."
"Can we get back to sleep?" Jim, knowing it was going to be damn hard to keep his hands to himself the next time his partner crowded close on a stakeout, and any other place for that matter.
"Sure, in a minute, Jim," Blair said and propped his elbow up on the solid surface of Jim's chest. "So, Simon, was everything good for you, man? I mean, none of this sucked, right?"
"On the contrary," the captain's voice boomed next to Jim's ear. "It sucked a lot. Quite expertly, I may add."
Blair laughed and kicked his feet up. "Yeah, that's another one of those Sentinel perks."
"Good thing he has us to keep amused," Simon mused. "Would be a damn shame to let lovely talents like that go to waste on saving lives and stopping criminals."
"Mmm. You have a point."
Jim cleared his throat. "That's it, guys. To sleep. Both of you." With his Sentinel vision, he saw the tongue Blair stuck out in his direction. If he hadn't been so tired, he may have acted on such a delectable invitation, but he knew from earlier in the night, that once the three of them got started, time passed rather rapidly.
"Good night, Baby Bear," Simon said obediently.
"Good night, Papa Bear," Blair mimicked.
"Hey, wait a minute," Jim said, realizing who was left.
"Good night, Mama Bear," his partners chorused.
Refusing to be baited into an argument that would probably lead to a totally sleepless night, Jim let the remark pass and a few minutes later was rewarded with a sleeping Blair on his chest and an equally somnolent Simon breathing into his ear.
With a quick auditory scan of the loft, Mama Bear brushed his hands across his mates and fell asleep in the knowledge that all he loved was safe and within his grasp.