The Falcon and the Breeze

Blair yawned and glanced at the clock. 4:15. But was it morning or afternoon? Sometimes having no windows in his office really sucked. He laughed and decided to head upstairs. If the main office was open, it was likely afternoon. He yawned again and stretched.

"You know, I've warned you about that sort of thing."

Blair's head whipped up at the familiar voice. He grinned, seeing the man leaning against the doorframe. "Of all the gin-joints in the world...." He stood up and headed over, meeting his friend halfway. "Adam!" The two men embraced enthusiastically. "My god, I can't believe it's you. What are you doing here? I thought you were stuck in a library somewhere in Montreal. Did you finally find an exit sign?"

"No, you impudent whelp." Adam gave him a friendly glare. "I am here visiting your fine University, in hopes that your scatter-brained librarians are lying when they say they can't find some manuscripts I'm looking for."

"I wouldn't go around insulting librarians, if I were you."

Adam let his gaze drop, raking over Blair's body. "If you were me you'd dress better." He reached out and fingered the beaded necklace Blair was wearing. "Where'd you get this? It isn't real, is it?"

"As if I'd wear a real one. I've got a bunch of replicas in a drawer at home. After the first one got smashed, I decided this was safer."

"Smashed?"

"Long story." Blair glanced back at the paper on his desk. It could wait. "Why don't we get some coffee and I can tell you all about it."

"I've a better idea. Why don't we go back to that hideous warehouse you call a home where I can crash for a few days and *you* can make us some tea?"

Laughing, Blair shook his head. "You're not gonna believe this, Adam..." He walked out, giving his friend a tug on the sleeve, pulling him along behind.


Blair opened the door and stepped aside, letting Adam enter first. The other man went inside and stopped, looking around. Blair watched with some measure of pride -- the last time Adam had visited, he'd spent the entire three weeks complaining about the Neo-Urban Industrial decor. Finally Adam faced Blair and nodded. "It'll do."

"It'll do? That's it?" Blair let the door swing shut, locking it behind him -- paranoia that living with Jim had instilled in him.

With a shrug, Adam added, "I'm waiting until I hear your story, before I make any judgements about the ostentation of your new home."

Blair shook his head with a grin. "Sometimes I wonder about you, man. You want a beer?" He headed for the kitchen.

Adam followed, perching on a barstool. "I thought you were bringing me here for some of your delicacy tea -- Sharshung or Mendaii."

"Oh, right. Let me just pop out and visit the local 'ancient civilisation grocery store'. You can have any of these." He opened the cabinet where he stored his teas. Some were store-bought, others home mixed, but all the jars were clearly labeled. Jim had insisted on that.

"Ah. Peach and cranberry, please."

Blair began getting their tea together. Adam said nothing, until the water was set to boil. Then he asked, "So how, pray tell, did you end up here? I know you're dying to tell me all about it."

"I thought you'd never ask."

"You'd only tell me anyway."

"You remember my project, the ancient Sentinels? Last time I talked with you, I was in the process of gathering evidence of present-day Sentinel abilities. You know, people with one or two heightened senses."

"I remember."

"Well, I was checking into some local possibilities, hoping for someone to interview, and I got caught up in a police investigation -- this girl was setting bombs all over the place, trying to get revenge for her father's death. Anyway, I helped the detective in charge solve the case. We kinda became friends, and when my warehouse blew up, he let me move in here."

When Blair stopped talking, Adam simply looked at him. After a moment when it became clear Blair wasn't going to say more, Adam asked, "That's it?" Blair shrugged apologetically. "So why all the--"

They both turned, as the front door was unlocked and opened. Blair felt himself break into a wide smile as he saw Jim walk in. Jim set his keys on the table beside the front door and walked over, giving his partner a return smile. He looked at Adam expectantly.

Adam looked from Jim, to Blair, and back to Jim. He nodded. "I see."

Blair shook himself and looked at Adam. "See what? Adam, this is Jim Ellison, the detective I was telling you about. Jim, this is an old friend of mine -- Adam Pierson. He's a grad student at McGee Uiversity."

Jim reached a hand out; Adam took it and they shook hands. "Nice to meet you."

Adam smiled. "Likewise." He glanced over at Blair. "Well done, Blair." There was an odd tone in his voice.

Blair blushed. "What are you talking about--"

"You're *not* sleeping with him?" Adam feigned surprise.

Jim laughed; Blair threw a kitchen towel at Adam. "For that you can fix your own tea."

"Don't be that way. Go get the teapot before it boils dry while I interrogate your newest conquest." Adam stood up, and nodded towards the living room.

"Adam, stay away from him." Blair warned.

Jim had been heading for the living room; at Blair's words he stopped, and went back. He placed one hand on his partner's cheek. "Worried?" He leaned down and gave his lover a long, slow kiss.

Blair said nothing as Jim stepped away and continued toward the living room. Blair watched him go, unable to see anything else for the moment. He blinked, and saw Adam looking at him with a slight frown. Then Adam turned and made himself comfortable in a chair. Both Jim and Blair said nothing -- watching the man sprawl. Then Jim subtly shook himself and asked how long Adam would be in town.

Blair stepped backwards, towards the stove. Tea. He was making tea. As he removed the boiling water he reminded himself how happily in love he already was. Sprawl.


"So are you in town for business or pleasure?" Jim asked, once Blair had brought the tea, and a beer for him.

Adam gave Blair a leer, and shook his head. "I'd been hoping for both. But I value my head too much to challenge you for a quick week of fun."

Blair was blushing again; Jim smiled. "Perceptive." He tipped his beer to Adam.

"I'm here visiting the university's library. I'm researching the old Minoan culture and they are supposed to have some documents I need. They can't seem to find them, though, so I've come to take a look for myself."

"Adam has an inherent distrust of librarians." Blair settled himself on the couch next to Jim, tucking his feet under him after kicking his shoes off. Jim reached over and began idly playing with Blair's hair. Again Blair saw Adam give him a slight frown, but then he simply grinned.

"After what they did at Alexandria, who's to blame me?"

"Alexandria?" Jim looked up, confused.

"The ancient library in Alexandria was a--"

"I've heard of it, Chief." Jim interrupted patiently. "I was wondering what that has to do with Adam."

"Oh."

Adam answered, smiling at his friend's owlish expression. "All I meant was the way the librarians behaved when the library was burning. I mean, any librarian worth his salt should have risked his life to rescue whatever scrolls he could. Instead, most of them stood back and let it burn."

Jim just stared at him, as if not sure what to say. Suddenly Adam grinned. "It's just an excuse. I enjoy traveling, and if all the books I needed were shipped to me, I would never go anywhere."

The conversation continued along that same vein before it was interrupted by the ringing of Jim's cell phone. "Ellison." He pulled his hand away from Blair, so he could concentrate on the call. "Hey, Simon, what's up?"

Blair and Adam waited; Jim's side of the conversation told them little, other than his tone telling them it was police business.

"Yeah, ok."

"They what?"

"Where?"

"I'm on my way."

When he hung up, he found Blair and Adam watching him. He looked at Blair. "I've got a case. Sounds like a strange one." He was getting up, and collecting his jacket and holster.

Blair followed. "You want me to--?"

Jim shook his head. "Nah. I'll call later, when I know when I'll be home."

"Okay." Blair didn't sound very pleased, but he made no move to follow Jim out. "If you need anything, call me."

"I will." Jim leaned over and gave Blair a quick kiss. "Might not be anything -- an isolated incident. Just some guy missing a head."


After the door closed behind Jim, Blair waited. Adam gave him a look and opened his mouth; Blair shook his head sharply. Patiently, Adam waited silently until they heard the engine of Jim's truck spark to life, then roar. As the roar drifted into the distance, Blair spoke. "Who was it?"

Looking affronted, Adam waved at him with his mug of tea. "Me? What makes you think it was me? Why'd you make me wait until -- oh, god, Blair. Sentinel hearing?"

"Yeah -- all five, actually. He's the real thing."

Now intrigued, Adam leaned forward, elbows on knees, cup balanced in both hands. "Really? So that's how you met him. All that nonsense about 'meeting some detective' was for his benefit? You didn't want him to hear you telling someone about him?" Blair nodded; he'd heard Jim's truck arriving soon after they had gotten home. "Let me guess -- you're guiding him, aren't you?"

"And you're changing the subject. Who got decapitated?"

"I don't know why you think I know anything about it."

Blair gave him a look of disbelief. "Right. I'm supposed to believe that you show up and some guy gets his head chopped off, and it's just a coincidence?"

Adam shrugged, hands spread wide. "Believe what you like. I know nothing. Where's your bathroom?"

"Through there. You have any bags?"

"Not at the moment," Adam called back, as he headed down the hall.

"Then you're going to regret what you said about my clothes, aren't you?"

The bathroom door drowned out the response, but Blair laughed anyway, knowing his friend well enough to imagine the answer.


"One body, no head. Cause of death -- fairly obvious." Simon looked up from his notebook. "There were no witnesses. The body was found by a lady out walking her dog. Actually, I suppose the dog found it."

Jim looked around the small alley. The body had been found underneath some toppled-over crates. He could still detect the scent of decaying corpse; he'd turned his sense of smell down before being overwhelmed. "So... you think he was murdered?"

Simon gave him a 'don't mess with me' glare. "No, I think he hefted a two foot sword and sliced his own head off."

"Sword?"

"One of the first cops on the scene found a sword, tucked underneath the body. Forensics is checking the prints now. But they're not very clear; the pommel and edge of the sword are covered in what looks like carbon scoring. We probably won't get anything useful."

"Do we know who he was?"

"Far as we can tell, from the condition of the body and the clothes he was wearing, he was probably a street person. No license, no ID, no keys. Nothing."

"No motive?"

"Not so far." Simon pulled out a cigar. "Where's your sidekick?"

"Oh, a friend of his is visiting from out of town. For some reason, I get the impression Sandburg doesn't want him to know he's working with me as a Police Observer." Jim walked through the area slowly, alternating between senses, looking for clues. So far nothing.

"Maybe he just wanted to entertain his friend, instead of going to work." He glanced over and saw Jim's jaw clenching. "You're not worried, are you? Is he cute?"

"If I weren't already serious about Blair... I'd've jumped him the second I saw him." Simon laughed; Jim gave him a sly smile. Then he shook his head. "Nah, I'm not worried."

"Spoken like a man... who is truly worried. Look, Jim--"

"When will Forensics have a report on those prints?"

Simon said nothing for a moment, then replied, "They said call at five."

"Which means about eight o'clock."

"You said it, I didn't."

Jim shook his head in frustration. "There's nothing here, Simon. Nothing that doesn't belong here."

"You sure?"

"Yeah, I'm sure." Jim frowned. "It's like someone just walked up, cut this guy's head off, and left his sword behind."

"We knew that already."

"You've got men canvassing the area? Looking for witnesses?"

"Yes, Captain."

"No need to be sarcastic, Simon. I suppose there's nothing more to be done until we find out who this guy is, and whose prints are on the sword."

"Looks that way. I'll see you back at the station." Simon tossed his cigar onto the sidewalk, far away from the crime scene. Jim nodded absently, mulling things over.

He started towards his truck, calling out to Simon, "I'm going to see what I can dig up on the sword. Maybe we'll get lucky and it's a one of a kind antique."

"Good luck."


Jim flipped through the phone book, glancing again at the photo of the sword he'd obtained from Forensics. So far he'd called all the antiques dealers with no luck. Of the few who dealt in weaponry, none had ever sold an unmarked broadsword. Now he was searching the yellow pages for inspiration. You couldn't just look up 'Armourers' anymore. Sighing, he decided to ask for a little guidance.

"Hey there."

"'Hey there'? Is that any way to answer the phone?"

"Sorry, dad. Sandburg residence, how may I direct your call?"

"Cute."

"Thanks. You're the one who put caller ID on the phone. No one but you ever calls from your desk," Blair explained.

"I'd forgotten about that."

"So what's up, Big Guy?"

"Look, I'm trying to track down a sword and I was wondering if you had any ideas."

"If this is about my not cleaning the bathroom...."

"No." Jim couldn't help smiling. "We've got a sword as a murder weapon. I'm trying to find out if there's any way to track the owner. I've tried the antique dealers, but no luck."

"Is it an antique?"

"How would I know?"

"Why don't you call Santelli's? They make fencing equipment, they might know something."

"It's not a fencing sword. It's a broadsword."

"Yeah, well, they sell replicas, too, Jim. You could also try down at Eric's Games. He's SCA; he'd know if there were any smiths in town who might be able to identify it for you."

"SC what?"

"You want me to meet you at Santelli's?"

"Umm... don't you and Adam have plans?"

"Nah, I can lose him at the library for days on end." Jim heard a laugh in the background. "Seriously, let me meet you at Santelli's. Sounds like it's a real interesting case." After a brief moment to think things over, Jim agreed. He listened as Blair relayed the news to Adam, and could hear the other man's concurrence that he would be fine wandering the stacks. Then, after a brief call to Forensics to discover that no, they didn't have any information, he left to meet Blair.


"So what happened?" Blair was standing outside the fencing club, bouncing on the balls of his feet.

Jim looked up at the sign over the door. "It says 'Fusilli's."

With a shrug, Blair replied, "Yeah, well, it used to be a restaurant. Is that the sword?" He held his hand out for the photo. Jim let him take it. For a moment Blair simply looked at it, saying nothing. Then he handed it back. "Jose should know something. Come on." He led Jim, who was muttering 'Jose?', inside.

As Blair led them into the club and back towards an office, he asked for all the details. Jim filled him in as best he could, with what little they had to go on. He finished with, "Since the prints are taking so long to identify, I figured I'd try for something on the sword. Might luck out."

"It looks like a fairly common broadsword -- as far as broadswords go, anyway. But you're right, we might luck out. Hey, Jose! Venga aqui, man!"

A short, extremely oriental man came out of the office. "Venga yourself, Blair. You owe me fifteen dollars."

Blair moved back. "Me? You're the one who agreed to the bet. I just said I liked the green ones."

Jim was feeling as if he'd stepped into the Twilight Zone. He let Blair do the talking, though, long familiar with his lover's success at getting information from people.

Jose was shaking his head. "You don't eat no green ones. You pawn them off and leave me stuck watching "Westworld" four times."

"Could have been "The Cars That Ate Paris", man."

"For that I might have killed you." Jose pointed a finger at Blair's heart and made an epee thrust. "So what do you want, Alisande? Why are you here keeping me from my business?" Blair held out the photo of the sword. Jose took it and looked it over, then handed it back. "So?"

"Do you recognise it?"

"It's a 14th century broadsword, probably from France. Why?"

Blair rolled his eyes. "We *know* that. We're wondering if you know who this one belongs to."

Jim started to speak up, then stopped. The antagonism between these two was obviously just friendly sparring but his impatience was growing. Blair glanced at him and gave a small shake of his head; Jim knew it meant 'chill out, man, I've got it covered.' Blair turned back to Jose, as the shorter man inspected the photo again. "The maker's mark is clear enough -- if I knew it, I could tell you. But I don't know it. Sorry."

Blair gave him a brilliant grin. "Thanks, man. You owe me one."

Jose laughed and reached for a nearby sabre; Blair danced behind Jim who was still trying to follow the conversation. Jim held up his hands at the threat of the sabre, though, and grabbed Blair's arm. "Thanks, Jose. We appreciate it."

"Anytime, man." Jose gave him a nod, and returned to his office.

Jim shook his head. "Now what? Eric's?"

"Looks that way."

Jim glanced at Blair, as they headed out. "How in the world did you meet someone like Jose?" With a casual shrug, Blair began to answer. Jim cut him off. "Tell me the truth."

Blair said nothing for a moment, an expression of shock on his face. Then he smiled. "Jim! I always tell you the truth. I just don't always tell the *entire* truth. I met Jose at a bar." He left it at that as he continued to the truck and got in.

"See what I mean?" Jim grinned as he headed for the driver's side door. As he slid behind the wheel he asked, "Which bar? What were you doing? How long have you known him? How well do you -- did you -- know him?"

"Jim, Jim, this isn't like you -- protective, jealous, possessive -- oh, well okay it *is* like you." Blair dodged the outstretched hand which made to grab him. Jim gave him a friendly growl and pulled the truck into traffic. With a shrug he became serious again. "I've known him for a long time and we've never been more than friends -- we compete a lot at silly things, for fun." He looked at Jim. "Is that what you wanted to know?"

Jim sat silently for a moment. Then, as he concentrated on the cars and wandering pedestrians around him, he answered, "Yeah, it is."

After another moment Blair asked, "Do you want to ask those questions about Adam? Or was Jose a safe subject because you knew I've never slept with him?" Jim didn't reply. Softly, Blair continued. "Jim, I love you. I will stay by your side until you tell me to leave. What I have or have not done, who I have or have not done it with doesn't make a bit of difference. What I feel for you so far overshadows everything else I feel it's as if no one but you and I can exist as more than temporary objects. You are my real world and everyone else is just make-believe. I love you. Never doubt that."

The traffic broke around them, and Jim took the chance to pull into a parking spot. He turned the engine off and looked at his lover. His voice nearly a whisper, he said, "I don't doubt you, Chief. I don't need to know those things about Adam, or anyone else." Blair's smile blossomed into a grin. Jim smiled in return. "I'm not worried about what might have happened. I love you -- you're my world, too, Blair. You're what makes everything real. What makes everything important. I want to see you every day of my life and I want to tell you I love you every minute of my life."

"Then what's the problem, Big Guy?"

Jim shifted in his seat. "I think Adam was disappointed to find out you're with someone."

"What do you mean?" Blair's tone was neutral.

"I mean, he seemed to be... hoping for something." He sighed. "He seemed to be hoping to get to sleep with you and was regretting that you're involved. Except...."

"Except what?"

"It was more than that. Like he wasn't hoping for sex, but that he was hoping for something else and sex was just a way of getting it." He shook his head, frustrated at not being able to explain what he meant.

Blair's eyes widened. "You could tell that?"

"Not really."

"Huh?"

Jim gave him a careful stare. "I was reading you -- how you were treating him. You seemed to be.. apologising to him, trying to... I don't know. Make him feel better? I just got this feeling that you wished things were different so you could be free to do as you -- and he -- pleased. But you were sorry for his sake. Not yours."

Blair looked amazed and Jim wanted to grin. He realised that reading people's emotional states was *not* one of his better skills. But somewhere along the line -- about a day after he'd met the young man -- he'd learned to read Blair Sandburg like a comic book. Most of the story came from the pictures, the words just nudged you along. At first he'd used that unconscious ability in his working relationship, then friendship with the younger man. Blair was an excellent judge of people, and Jim was content to let his partner's skill make up for his own lack. Then he'd realised he could indirectly read other people, by reading Blair.

He hadn't noticed he'd become so good at it, until now. He'd swear up and down that Adam and Blair had been lovers, still cared deeply for one another, and that Jim was the only thing stopping Blair from taking Adam to bed as a first step in addressing whatever problems had brought Adam here.

Blair was shaking his head, slowly. "You got all that from me?"

"You want to explain it to me?"

Blair sighed. "I don't know what the problem is. We haven't talked about it. But he... misses what we used to have. We were always..." Jim watched as Blair searched for a way to explain which wouldn't cause 'jealous lover' misunderstandings. He was about to reiterate that he *wasn't* jealous, when Blair continued. "We've been lovers for a long time. Off and on. We get together, then go our separate ways... but we've always stayed friends. And when either of us has needed the other, the other's always been there for him.

"Adam is having trouble -- I don't know what sort. But he came here, hoping for...." He trailed off again.

"Hoping for the comfort of an established friendship, where everything goes, no questions asked?"

Again that amazed look. Blair nodded. "Yeah. Comfort is what he's looking for. And I can't give it to him this time."

Jim heard only statement of fact. No regret, no pain, no fond wishing. Just 'can't be done this time'. That made his next thought easier to say. He looked Blair directly in the eye. "Blair... you love me, right?"

"Of course! Jim, I said I wouldn't--"

"Let me finish. I know you love me. I know you want to spend the rest of our lives together." He saw but didn't mention Blair's fleeting change of expression. "Whatever Adam needs, it isn't you -- on a permanent basis. He's only in town for a few days -- whatever he needs from you, it isn't a huge chunk of your time. I..." Now it was Jim's turn to struggle for the right words. "It's all right with me if you want to help him."

He almost laughed at the dumbfounded jaw-drop his lover faced him with. Instead he waited, some muted voice in his head gibbering that he'd said it, that he meant it. Finally Blair stammered, "Jim did you just say...?"

"Yes, Blair. I'm not saying "do it". I'm saying that you shouldn't not offer because of me, because you don't want to hurt me. I'm not jealous -- god, I'd like to jump him, myself -- but that's not why I'm saying it, either." He gave Blair a quick look. "I'm saying it because he's your friend, he means a great deal to you, he's hurting, and you can help him. I love the way you care about other people, Blair. The fact that caring sometimes takes sexual expression doesn't threaten our relationship."

Blair was slowly shaking his head. "Man, sometimes I think I've got you all figured out... then I fall in love with you and my life changes because of just *knowing* you. Then I realise that you're perfect and everything's going great. Now you do something like this. Jim, you can't improve on perfection. How do you do it?" Blair grinned at Jim's obvious unease. "Relax, Brave man. I know you're not perfect. But it feels that way."

"Remember that next time you complain about one of my house rules."

"*One*?"

Jim just shook his head and switched the ignition back on. After a moment, he glanced over at Blair and asked, "'Alisande'?"

"Oh god," Blair breathed, then laughed. "I was hoping you'd missed that."

"Not a chance, my Guide. Confess."

"Well," Blair squirmed a bit, then shook his head. "It was nothing really."

"Then you don't mind telling me." Jim gave him a wide smile.

With a shrug, Blair said, "The first time we met, that's how we introduced ourselves."

"And?" Jim prompted.

"And we never bothered calling each other by our real names."

"That's not the "and" I meant." Jim watched out of the corner of his eye, as his lover shifted in his seat. He knew Blair was simply trying to see how far he could go, before actually telling Jim how it had occurred. "I suppose I could just ask Adam," he added, thoughtfully.

Blair's head spun around, eyes wide. "Oh god, he'd *tell* you, too! It's just... that's how we were dressed, when we met. He was... done up as a mexican bandito and I--"

"You were in drag?" There was no hint in his tone of the glee Jim felt. Yet.

"Yes, Jim, I was in drag. Okay -- spill it."

"Spill what?" Jim turned his head briefly, scanned his lover up and down. "I bet you were gorgeous," he teased.

"I was," Blair agreed. "But if you--"

"Wait'll I tell Simon." Jim grinned.

Blair rested his head against the back window. "Someday, Ellison, I am going to get something on you. And then you'll regret this."

"Can I help it if I'm perfect?"


They pulled into the parking lot behind Eric's Games. Jim took out his cell phone and called Simon, to find out if any progress had been made and to report the lack of his own. Simon could only tell him that the victim's name was Roger Huston, and he had been released by a mental institution eleven years previously. They hadn't been able to discover the reason he'd been there -- as the man was dead, and obviously not by his own hand, Simon hadn't felt the need to open the medical files.

"There is one interesting thing, though."

"What's that, Simon?" Jim scanned the area around them, absently. It wasn't a neighborhood he often found himself in -- it catered to upper-class yuppies and college students pretending to be.

"The wound was cauterised."

"It what?"

"Cauterised."

"Like somebody waved a blow torch over it after slicing his head off?"

"That's what's weird... according to forensics it wasn't from a flame -- it's an electrical burn."

Jim shook his head. "That doesn't make any sense. Why would somebody electrocute a decapitation?" He saw Blair start, suddenly.

"You find the guy who did it and we'll ask him. Anything on the sword, yet?"

"Nothing yet. We've still got a contact to check, though. I'll call you after we've talked to him."

"We? Blair's with you?"

"Yeah, he is."

Simon chuckled. "And you said you weren't worried. Keep me informed, Jim."

"Right." Jim closed the phone. Blair was waiting, obviously not very patiently. "This case is getting weirder by the minute."

"What was that about the body being electrocuted?"

"Apparently it was. Maybe if we can find the owner, we can ask him why he bothered." Jim glanced at his partner, who was saying nothing and looking slightly worried. "Let's go find Eric."


The Gameshop owner was, Jim was relieved to discover, relatively normal. He gave them the names and addresses of three local smiths who might know something. Blair knew two of them by reputation and suggested Jim visit one first, alone. He explained that Derrick wouldn't mind answering a cop's questions, but that another of the three would. If Blair visited and asked questions "posing as an anthropology student or something" he added with a smirk, the guy would be more likely to offer information.

Jim agreed reluctantly. He dropped Blair off at the apartment building near campus where the guy supposedly lived, with strict instructions not to do anything stupid and to call if he did. Blair just waved as Jim drove off to find Derrick.


Knowing Jim was keeping an eye and ear on him for as long as he could, Blair headed into the building. Melvin Daleen was in apartment 704. Blair gave the elevator a suspicious glance, then headed for the stairwell. He'd been getting a lot of exercise since he'd been trapped in that elevator -- not particularly phobic about them, but indulging in a little healthy paranoia from time to time kept him... healthy.

He reached the seventh floor quickly and headed for Melvin's door. Jim would be long gone by now, out of hearing range even for him, but he continued. He was here, he might as well go through the motions even though he suspected the man could tell him nothing useful.

A sharp knock on the door brought no response. He pounded again, thinking about the things he'd heard -- antisocial, rude, rebellious, pot smoker -- somewhat unusual for the local SCA clan. But he was an excellent blacksmith, and so people put up with him. Blair wondered how he'd get a conversation out of him.

Finally the door opened a crack and a small, bleary-eyed young student peered out. "Yeahwhawn?"

"Uh.. is Melvin home?"

"Nahyano." The guy looked totally spaced. Or dead tired -- it *was* nearing finals week.

Blair guessed that meant "No". "You know where he is?"

"Physahab."

"Physics lab?" A nod. "Studying?"

This earned a smirk and a head shake. "Meissa."

Melissa. Blair smiled. "Any suggestions on when I could talk to him?" Another head shake. Blair knew he'd gained everything he could from the young man and decided to send him back to whichever dreamland he'd been in. "Thanks, man. Have a great day."

The kid gave him a wide smile, then closed the door. Blair turned and headed for the stairs. Okay, head to the physics lab and hunt down this guy -- whom Blair was sure knew nothing -- or head to the library and hunt *Adam* down? One would be heavily engrossed in exploring a female body, the other engrossed in dusty tomes. Who would be more likely to ignore him? The choice was simple.


"How's it going?"

Blair shook his head. Adam set the book on the carpet next to him; Blair lowered himself to sit on the floor opposite his friend. They were on the fourth floor of the Old Stacks, where no one but desperate grad students and janitors went. Adam was obviously enjoying himself -- a dozen books were neatly piled beside him, and he'd been carefully thumbing through one when Blair found him.

"What's wrong?"

"Tell me honestly. Did you have anything to do with Roger Huston's death?"

Adam met his stare and spoke clearly. "No, I did not. I neither had anything to do with it, nor do I know anything about it."

Blair sighed. "Okay. That makes this more difficult, though."

"You're sure it was one of us?"

"Decapitation, missing head, cauterised wound by electricity -- what do *you* think?"

Adam gave him a thoughtful look. "It certainly sounds familiar. But I haven't heard anything."

"Maybe Jim will find something."

"You'd better keep a close eye on him. If it *was* an Immortal, he could be in danger."

"I know. But he's better able than most to take care of himself."

"I hope you're right."

Blair heard that odd tone again, and this time he decided not to ignore it. "What's wrong?" he asked gently. "I haven't seen you in a long time."

With a sigh, his friend leaned back against the stone wall behind him. "I've been travelling about, as usual. Back and forth from Paris to Seacouver, mostly."

"Any particular reason?" Blair suspected he knew.

"Yes, one particular reason."

Blair waited, then asked, "You want to tell me about it?" He didn't have to ask the name of the reason, but he had always respected his friend's privacy. Realms of things they never told each other had never made a difference in their close friendship. Sometimes Blair thought it was because of that privacy that they were able to be so close.

Not surprisingly, Adam shook his head. "I just needed to get away for a few days. Before I do something I regret. Need to clear my head so I can think straight."

"Must not be too bad, if you only need a few days." Blair said carefully. He knew Adam wouldn't take offense.

Adam sighed. "No, it's just that I don't want to be gone for longer."

"Oh, man. You've got trouble, don't you?"

Adam gave him a sad smile. "Unlike you... you seem very happy."

He couldn't help smiling. "Yeah, I am. I still can't believe it, you know? Feeling this way. It's extraordinary."

"You never get used to it, do you?"

"I hope not."

Adam gave him a serious look. "Are you going to tell him?" Blair chewed on his lower lip and didn't answer right away. Adam shook his head. "If you plan on staying with him for more than five more years, you'll have to."

"I know," Blair whispered. "But... If I lose him, I want to do it five years from now. Not any sooner than I have to."

"You might not lose him." He heard the sympathy in his friend's tone.

"I can't not lose him. Whether it's today, in five years, or in fifty years. I'll lose him. You know that."

"And so did you, when you fell in love."

Blair gave him a half-smile. "Couldn't not fall in love, man. Can't be done."

"You're preaching to the choir." Methos shook his head again, and tilted his head back to stare through the wire mesh of the ceiling. "At least the object of my affections is Immortal. I have time..." he paused, "although I don't know if that's better or worse."

"You haven't told him."

"No. But, as I say, I have time. You don't." He suddenly pulled his feet under him and stood up. "Which is why, young Blaisandre, you should be out with him tracking down this mysterious murderer instead of in this dusty old building with me."

Blair stood up. "There's one more thing." He didn't try to hide his grin.

"What's that?"

"He said he didn't mind if I took you to bed. To cheer you up."

Blair nearly laughed at his friend's expression. "He what?" Methos shook his head. "That was generous of him."

"He said he understood that what happens between us doesn't threaten him, or *our* relationship." Blair grinned. "Besides, he'd like a chance at you himself."

"Would he now." Methos stood up with a thoughtful smile, then he gave Blair an accusing stare. "You're not putting me on?"

"You are my oldest friend, Methos. I would do anything for you which does not hurt the man I love. According to him, this won't hurt him. Would you like me to make love to you this evening, sleep with you tonight, and make love again when the sun is rising?" He was quoting lines which had been translated from a poem both men -- and few others living -- knew.

"You don't have to."

"Are you afraid of what it might mean to... someone else?"

"No." Blair couldn't tell if that was bitterness in his tone, or resignation. "If you're sure...?" Blair nodded. "Then I would very much like to share your company for a day."


Blair left Methos at the library, with plans to meet back at the loft later. He went outside and called Jim on his cell phone.

"Hey, Chief, find anything?"

"Sure, but nothing that'll help us." He smiled. God, would he *ever* not get this reaction just from hearing the man's voice? He closed his eyes, briefly, and felt the sun on his face. I love you, Jim Ellison. "How about you?"

"We might be in luck. Derrick says he's heard some rumours which might be connected with the killing. But the guy we need to talk can't be found. I checked his house, the pizza place where he works, and nothing. I've got an APB out on him. Hopefully someone will spot him."

"Sounds like a lead. What'll we do now?"

"Dinner, Chief. Eat while we can -- we might end up hunting this guy all night."

"What do you mean 'we' white man?"

Jim laughed, and Blair felt that familiar thrill run through his body. "I have to swing by the station, fill Simon in and sign some paperwork. How about I meet you at Guiso's? About seven?"

"Umm..." Blair thought it over. "Jim, if you're gonna be at the station for a few hours, would it be all right if I take Adam home?"

"Love, I already told you it would be."

"Yeah, but saying something in principle and seeing it happen are two different things."

"Seeing it? I can watch?"

Blair laughed at his lover's eager, teasing tone. "Only if you bring Thai food and more beer."

"I don't know if that's worth it... maybe for Korean food...."

Laughing again, Blair wondered how he'd managed this -- finding someone like Jim, falling in love, getting him to somehow fall in love, too.... He shoved the next thought -- and how soon will you lose him? -- out of his mind. Sobered, he asked again. "Then it's okay?"

"Yes, Blair. It's okay. But don't do it if you think it isn't okay."

"Okay." Blair grinned at his lover's laughing sigh of exasperation.

"I'll be home at seven, love. With take-out."

"And beer."

"Yes, dear."

Blair stuck his tongue out at the phone. "I love you. You know that?"

"I know, Blair. I love you too. More than Thai food."

With that, there was nothing else to do but hang up. Blair put the phone back in his backpack and looked up at the library.


Methos had driven Blair to Santelli's, all the while complaining about having a convertible above the 45th latitude. Blair noted, when the two of them left the library parking garage, that that hadn't prevented the elder man from putting the top down.

"Well it's summer, isn't it? Besides, aren't you the one who's always complaining about being cold?"

Blair shrugged. "Gets me snuggled under blankets and brought hot cocoa. I wouldn't knock it."

They drove in silence for a bit, then Methos looked over at Blair. "You don't have to do this."

"Why do people keep telling me that?"

"Because, Blair, everyone who knows you knows that you can be extremely foolhardy. You act without thinking, and more often than not your instincts lead you--"

"Into the arms and legs of beautiful men?"

"I won't even dignify that with a response."

Blair laughed. "If it works, man, go for it. That's what I always say."

"Yes, and do you remember the last time you 'went for it' and nearly got beheaded?" The scolding sounded serious.

"Man, the French Revolution was *so* not my idea of a good time."

"I was thinking of 1961."

Blair gave his friend a glare. "I was nowhere near him at the time. Besides, Austin couldn't handle a sword if they taped it to his wrist."

"Blair, Blair," Methos shook his head sadly, as he guided the Corvair, Jr, into its parking spot at the loft. "What have you learned in two thousand years if not when to fuck and when to...."

"To what?"

"It occurs to me that if I talk you out of behaving impulsively, *I* might lose out on a very enjoyable evening."

"Uh-huh," Blair gave him a knowing look, and got out of the car. "See there? I'm good for something."

Halfway to the door Methos took his arm. "You're good for a great deal more, my friend, than 'something'. A great deal. It doesn't matter to me whether we spend the next three hours having sex, talking, or playing go."

"I know, Methos. That's why I'm here." Blair grinned suddenly. "If we do this right, we can do all three." He turned and ran, hearing Methos right behind him. He beat the other man to the door, but fishing his keys from tight pockets slowed him down. Just as he had the door unlocked, hands grabbed him around the waist.

They wrestled as they made their way inside, with Blair trying to close the door and pin Methos down at the same time. They were soon laughing too hard to do much of anything. Finally, gasping for air, Blair let Methos' arms free and flopped to the floor. "I give... you win..."

"Fine." Methos was lying on the floor beside him, breathing just as hard and making no move to stand up. "I will." They lay silently for a few moments, then Methos propped himself up on one elbow. "Tell me something."

"Okay." The ceiling needed to be painted, he hadn't noticed that before. But then, wrestling with Jim usually didn't end up with him looking around at the decor.

"Why aren't you going to tell Jim? You're throwing away the chance to spend his entire life with him. That could be decades."

Breathing deeply, Blair considered the question. He'd been faced with it before with other lovers and friends, in varying degrees of desperation and result. Methos knew about some of them -- about all of the more important ones. With a slow shake of his head, he answered, "I don't think he'll believe me. I mean, sure he'll have to believe *something* when I don't age. Maybe it won't be five years. Maybe it'll be ten. But eventually he'd notice, he'd ask, and then... if I tell him it'll be over."

"You sound so certain. Is he that close-minded?"

"No, not at all." Blair shook his head, feeling the swirls in his stomach beginning. Thinking about losing Jim always did that to him. "But if I tell him, he'll want to know why I didn't tell him before. He'll realise I didn't trust him with the truth, and he'll... leave. He won't trust *me* anymore. He couldn't stay with me after that."

"So *why* not tell him *now*?"

"I can't! He won't believe me, and he'll think I've gone nuts. How am I supposed to explain a temporary loss of sanity and put things back to normal?"

"What if he does believe you? Why not prove it to him?"

Over the centuries Blair had learned to love, appreciate, and despise his friend's calm rationalising. He could only shake his head, unable to explain the certainty that he felt. "I can't. It'd change too much."

"Then you'll lose him for sure, in only a few years."

"Yes, but it's better than losing him now."

Methos sighed. "Blair--"

He looked over. "Please, don't. I know all the arguments. I know all the reasons. Please... let's not talk about it anymore."

"All right." Methos gave him a long look, which Blair knew meant he agreed to stop arguing about it for now, but still thought it a bad idea. "Then may I," his voice suddenly softened, "remind you that when you *do* lose him, be it tomorrow or ten years or sixty, I will be there for you. Call me, let me know. I'll be here."

Blair swallowed, and rolled onto his side to lie closer to Methos. "Thank you."

Methos leaned down, and placed a gentle kiss on his forehead. "You have done the same for me."

Blair didn't reply. Instead he reached up and pulled Methos down to him, and kissed him softly.

Methos returned the kiss, then leaned away. "A bed?"

With a grin, Blair pushed himself to his feet. He took Methos' hand and pulled, letting the other man's body slam into his own before he could regain his balance. Methos grabbed him around the waist, and held him close. Blair waited to be kissed, but his friend just smiled. "I am not making love on the floor nor am I going to do it standing up. I want to be lying on a bed where I can take my pleasure in *comfort*."

Blair shook his head, but started for the stairs. "You've become so *picky* in your dotage." A strong pinch landed on his left buttock; Blair jumped and ran up the stairs. He had time to turn around and remove his shirt before Methos arrived at a more composed pace. Blair bounced on the balls of his feet. "What are we waiting for?"

"Aren't you *ever* going to calm down? You've been hyper-active for 20 centuries...." He stopped speaking as Blair kissed him. Methos laid his hands on Blair's back, holding him somewhat still; Blair left his head in one place while he began opening Methos' clothing, pushed one knee between Methos' legs, and swayed slowly in his arms. Blair broke off the kiss long enough to pull off Methos' shirt; Methos took the opportunity to rid Blair of the rest of his own clothing. He pushed Blair back until he was against the bed; Blair crawled backwards onto it and lay, waiting.

Methos stared down at him, looking him over. He smiled. "Perhaps I should try to wear you out." He moved to lie on top of Blair.

Blair grinned. "Can't be done, man. Better men than you have... oh...!" He arched his back as Methos bit his neck. He writhed, trying to get away and slow things down -- they had three hours, there was no reason to get this over with *now*. But Methos apparently had other plans. He was biting his way down Blair's neck, along the collarbone, and down the top of his shoulder. Blair whimpered. One thing about an old familiar lover was that they knew *all* your erogenous zones and they weren't afraid to use them....

Methos continued down his arm, licking now, until he reached Blair's hand. Blair remained still, letting Methos do as he wished. He trembled as a tongue swirled around the palm of his hand. Blair suddenly realised he could feel demin pressed against his legs and decided that needed to change. With his free hand he tried to get at Methos' buttons.

"Stop that." A gentle swat to his hand scolded him.

"Then slow *down*, Methos. I want to--"

"I don't." Methos captured Blair's hand again in his mouth. He began sucking on the fingers, and Blair moaned, discarding his plans for maintaining any control of the evening. He said nothing more as Methos made his way back up his arm, across his chest and down the other arm, nibbling and licking at all the right places. For just a moment Blair thought about how comfortable it was to be in bed with someone who knew you so well; he could just relax and Methos would do everything perfectly.

He thought of Jim, then, and desire shot through him. Perfection could come in different forms; love did a hell of a lot to make up for centuries of knowledge. Grinning to himself, he closed his eyes and imagined Jim was the one pressing his tongue in just the right patterns, just the right places, touching him briefly here, then there, with both a finger and with denim-clad legs. He found himself hurling towards the brink much sooner than either man expected; he felt more than heard Methos' moan, then a hot, wet mouth descended on him. Blair orgasmed with a ferocity that took him by surprise.

When he finally opened his eyes, he was cradled in Methos' arms, head resting against a smooth chest and bare legs entwined with bare legs. Bare? He looked down. "When did you do that?"

"Hm? Oh, a moment ago. You seemed preoccupied with being at one with the universe." Methos grinned. "Or something."

"I was *unconscious*, man. That was...." He gave Methos a suspicious look. "Why'd you do that?"

"Do what?"

"Go so fast."

"Me? I got the impression it wasn't entirely my fault. I haven't gone by the name 'James' in four hundred years."

Blair grinned, remembering having called out his lover's name. "Well, okay." He took a deep breath and felt himself shake, a residual tremor escaping his body. "Oh, man! You wouldn't believe... yes, you would. You started it, though."

Methos didn't answer. He ran one hand down Blair's side, slowly, and Blair felt himself shiver. He knew why Methos had done it -- the teasing was just for fun. He tilted his head up and kissed his lover. With one first, explosive orgasm out of the way, Blair could take the time to give Methos the slow, gentle kind of loving he wanted.

Slow, gentle -- mind-blowing in a completely different way. He drove Methos to distraction inch by inch, nudging him closer and closer to forgetting the frustrations and pains that had brought him here. He knew all the things which turned the man on and approached them as if warily -- almost touching the right spots, touching in almost the right way, not giving Methos the caress he wanted until right before the tease became too much. It was, he knew, a heavy responsibilty to be entrusted with another's soul -- reaching through the body to the spirit within -- and the weight slowed him down even more. As wonderful as it was to give and receive such pleasure, it brought with it the pressure of having to be just right.

He had the experience to make it right, fortunately. Soon he proved it, and then Methos was lying in his arms, exhausted and floating.

"Thank you." The words were whispered, accompanied by a small smile.

"Anytime." Blair whispered back. He reached down for a blanket and tugged it over them; he found himself wishing it were Jim in his arms, and knew that Methos was wishing he were someone else, as well. He closed his eyes and let himself dream.


The front door's closing woke them; Blair felt Methos tense in his arms, then relax as they heard Jim's voice.

"Are you two awake?" His voice was loud enough to catch their attention if awake, not loud enough to waken them if sleeping. Blair grinned.

"No," he called down. Then he smelled the food. "What'd you bring?" He gave Methos a push, and got out of bed.

He heard Jim laugh, and found himself relaxing -- hadn't realised he was tense -- as he realised his lover sounded perfectly normal. Not nervous, not self-conscious... but not bearing Thai food, either. He headed down the stairs. When he saw Jim standing there he found himself grinning. He bounced down the rest of the stairs and into his lover's arms.

Jim embraced him and gave him a deep kiss. "You look happy."

"I love you." Blair smiled.

"I love you, too. Is Adam upstairs?"

"Yeah. He's giving us some privacy to avoid any awkward 'hey you've been fucking my lover' encounters." Jim sighed, and began to shake his head. Blair traced his partner's lip with a finger. "I think we should go upstairs and let him know it's all right."

"That's okay, Blair." Methos' voice came from behind him. Blair turned and saw Methos standing there, dressed. "If it *weren't* all right I'd already be dead."

"Nah, I'd give you a running start." Jim told him.

"Then you're a fool... I run *very* fast."

Blair laughed, and the other two joined in. He let go of Jim and headed for the kitchen, where the bags of food were waiting. A hand grabbed his arm and he looked at Jim inquiringly.

"Not so fast, Chief. Put some clothes on first."

"Why? You've both seen me naked--"

"So we can concentrate on our food."

Blair grinned. Then he went upstairs and got dressed. From downstairs he heard Jim and Methos begin talking -- about him. Blair left them alone as Methos thanked Jim, and Jim told him it wasn't necessary. When he heard Jim ask, "Has he always--" he bolted back down the stairs, shorts on and jeans in hand.

"Comparing notes was *not* part of the deal!"

Jim and Methos briefly looked up from the kitchen table where they sat, eating from cartons of Korean food, then went back to their discussion. Blair went back upstairs for his shirt, muttering loudly, "One of these days I'm *going* to have something on each of you...."


At one a.m. Simon called. The APB had located one Gerris Richter, gamemaster for a small group of role-playing gamers. Richter in turn told them about one of his players who had been taking his game a little too seriously -- and whose game character was in charge of ridding the city of demons who could only be killed by slicing off their heads and electrocuting the wound. Jim and Blair met Simon at a quiet suburban house in a middle-class neighborhood.

The murderer turned out to be fifteen years old; he admitted rather proudly what he'd done, to the shock of his parents. The police department turned the kid over to Hale Children's Hospital for evaluation before trial. The sword had been stolen from one of the other players, an SCA fighter. He was making arrangements to get it returned sometime in the next year after it was no longer needed for evidence.

All in all, a bit weird but not extraordinary.


Blair spent the next two days alternating between following Jim around as they worked on other cases, and sitting in the loft playing go with Methos. When they talked they invariably ended up arguing -- amiably but aggravatingly -- about whether Blair should talk to Jim, so after a few hours they agreed not to talk. They sat quietly and played, occasionally making faces at each other.

On the morning of the fourth day of Methos' visit he broached the subject a final time. They were sitting on the balcony, hunched over the small wooden go board. Blair was staring at the pieces; Methos was staring at him. Methos cleared his throat and Blair glanced up.

"You won't see reason, will you?"

Blair frowned. He had known he wouldn't be able to escape arguing about this for long, but he'd hoped for more than a few hours' respite. He shook his head. "I am *not* discussing this any further with you."

"You're determined to lose him?" Methos' voice dropped, as if apologising for the words.

"It isn't my choice." Blair tried to remember where he'd been about to place a piece.

"No, it isn't. Blair... you remember the last time you told the man you loved who you were?"

"Of course I do." Blair looked up, shifting in his seat uncomfortably. "He said he loved me and stayed by my side for the rest of his life. Happily ever after and all that storybook stuff." He gave Methos a fierce glare. "That was 1400 years ago."

"Yes." His friend nodded. "Don't you think it's time to trust someone again?"

"I have... I've told people since then. They always left. Sooner or later, they always left. They couldn't deal with it."

"Yes, but it was always just friends, people who cared for you but not in the way Cragen did. Not in the way Jim does. Don't you owe it to yourself -- to *Jim* -- to give yourself a chance at being happy again? For as long as you can?"

"Don't you?"

Methos stared at him for a moment, then looked away. "That's not the same. I can make a mistake and correct it a hundred years later. If you lose him... by the time you change your mind he'll be dead of old age. How is that fair to either of you?"

This time Blair was the one to look away. Finally he said, "Give me a year. Let me think about it for a year. Then, maybe...." He faced Methos. "You can't ask for more than that."

Methos inclined his head in agreement, but said, "I'm not the one asking."


Finally Methos was ready to return home. He was no closer to finding an answer to his own problem of the heart, but couldn't stay away any longer. Blair teased him at first, then repeated the offer Methos had made.

"If you ever need me, I'm here. Call me, show up on the doorstep, whatever, man. I'm here."

The three men stood at Gate 19, waiting for Methos' flight to be announced. The older man gave Blair a hopeful smile. "Perhaps someday I shall show up on your doorstep with an invitation to a wedding, hm?"

Returning the smile, Blair agreed. "Only if we get to arrange the bachelor's party." Beside him, Jim laughed.

"You're on." Methos nodded, grinning.

The announcement for Methos' flight was made. Leaning forward, Blair gave his oldest friend a kiss. "Take care, Adam."

"You too, Blair."

He saw the look in Methos' eyes, and shook his head. With nothing more to be said, he let Methos go. Jim and Methos exchanged a quick hug, with Jim repeating Blair's earlier offer that he was welcome anytime. Then Blair watched until the other man boarded the plane, waited until the tingle of a nearby Immortal faded away. A hand slipped into his.

"Ready, Chief?"

Blair looked up, feeling a few tears in his eyes and knowing Jim would mistake their reason. He smiled. "Yeah, I'm ready. Let's go home."


The Falcon and the Breeze

Said the falcon to the breeze
     "Beneath my wings,
no matter how
     strong or soft flight
you allow. Always
     below me you stay."

Said the breeze to the falcon
     "On my back
you rise and float,
     in my grasp your wings
take hold. Without
     me here, you fall."

Said the falcon to the breeze,
     "Invisible to the eyes
below, they cannot
     see you spin and blow
only me can they watch
     my beauty, yours, they know."

Said the breeze to the falcon,
     "It is because of me
to flight your wings
     can take. And for you
my dancing seen--
     so we both the other make."

Said the falcon to the breeze,
     "I fly because you carry me
your sturdy hands allow
     Invisible yet glory be
because of me they know
     You need me and I need thee
Come let us fly anow."

Said the breeze to the falcon.
     "When you are with
me in flight
     I live to see the day
when I am with
     the sun alone
I dance with glories none."

Singing falcon to the breeze,
     "Fear not my
love'd, dearest friend,
     each day I will climb
and you shall shine
     together we will go
until the sunlight end."