Chip Off The Old Block
Reasonably certain that he wasn't being subjected to the infamous ancient Chinese water torture procedure, Jim Ellison sleepily batted one hand at the steady drip-drip-drip of water droplets currently hitting his face. "Go 'way, I'm sleepin' here."
His half-awake protest caused his torturer to give a throaty chuckle. "Wakey, wakey, Jim. It's your turn for the shower." A quick kiss on the nose brought his lover into closer proximity, the clean scent of freshly washed Brian Rafe a more effective wake-up call than a pot of freshly brewed coffee. In spite the catchy TV commercial jingle, Mrs. Folgers was far from being the best part of waking up. No, in the humble opinion of Cascade's Sentinel, the best part of waking up was opening your eyes to feast upon the sight of your towel-clad lover smiling down at you
Even if it was entirely too early in the morning.
"I'm awake." For the first time in his life, Jim was in a relationship with someone who was an even earlier riser than himself. Predictably, the Sentinel was not handling it well.
"What's the matter?" Rafe asked, running a hand down Ellison's bare chest. "Don't tell me you didn't sleep well last night, I know better." Brian was still damp from his own shower and the contrast of the dewy moistness of his lover's skin against his own sleep-warm body made the older detective shiver. Noticing the shudder, Rafe's expression went from amused to concerned. "Hey, you're not coming down with something, are you?"
Used to his lover's early morning surliness, Brian was appeased by the short answer. Turning away from the other man, he braced himself to get up. "Ah, just your usual Mr. Crankypants morning routine."
A growl was the only warning he got. A big hand grabbed the back of his towel and, before he knew what hit him, the young detective was flat on his back with a wide-awake Sentinel crouched over him.
"I've got a crank in my pants to show you, little boy," Ellison purred.
Rafe looked at the predatory gleam in his lover's eyes and decided it was not a good time to remind the Sentinel that he was not a boy anymore. "Ummm... Jim...you don't have any pants on..."
The bigger man gave him a feral grin. "How convenient..."
And then the Sentinel proceeded to show his lover just how tantalizing a wake up call could be.
"Yo, H.W.! Wait up, man."
Brian Rafe turned around at his partner's call and waited for Henry Brown to catch up to him. He was in such a good mood from his early morning assignation with Jim that he didn't even give his customary eye-roll to Brown's pet nickname for him.
If Blair Sandburg was Major Crime's mascot, then Henry Brown was their court jester. Everyone that the affable detective liked was gifted with one of his nickname creations, much to the amusement or chagrin of his co-workers. And because Henry was being Henry, all of the names started with the letter H. Thus, Blair was Hair Boy because of his protectiveness of his curly locks. Joel Taggart was Handyman, due to his fingers' skill in diffusing bombs. Because he was the boss, Simon Banks was His Highness - but never, ever to his face. Brian Rafe had been dubbed Hollywood, or H.W. for short, for both his good looks and his dapper dressing habits. Brian hadn't minded, although he fussed publically. The newest detective in the department, getting the nickname meant he'd been accepted by his colleagues, that he was truly a part of the Major Crimes team.
Besides, it could have been worse. Jim's nickname was Hard Ass.
Brown caught up to him and slapped Rafe on the back as the two men stepped onto the elevator. "Man, that must have been some meal last night. I'm proud of you, old son!"
Rafe's forehead wrinkled in confusion. He'd told H, one of the few people privy to his relationship with Ellison, to pass the word to Jim about who'd be having dinner with. "What do you mean?"
Brian had felt sorry for William Ellison, being kidnaped by a serial killer out to get even with his son. When Jim had been unable to look after his father that evening, Rafe had volunteered, hoping to get to know the elder Ellison better. He had even dared to have hopes that maybe someday they would be able to tell Jim's dad about their relationship. A good plan, but it had backfired. It turned out that William was attracted to Brian and had made a clumsy pass at the younger man. To make matters worse, he wouldn't take no for an answer and Rafe had ended up walking out on him. Jim had been understanding about the whole incident, surprised but relieved to find out about his father's sexual preferences, but Rafe had a lingering bad feeling about the whole thing...
"That was inspired," Brown answered, not noticing his partner's uneasiness at mentioning last night's dinner appointment. "Letting on that you were having dinner with Jim's old man, supporting one of you brothers in blue, when all the time you were just blowing smoke for what you two were really up to. And here everyone felt sorry for Jimbo 'cause he had to do paperwork" Henry shook his bald head in appreciation. "Paperwork, my ass! I knew you guys have to sneak around, but I didn't know you could be so devious..."
By this time, the elevator had arrived at Major Crimes' floor. The doors opened up to a busy hallway, the presence of so many potential eavesdroppers preventing Rafe from asking just what the hell his partner was talking about. Laughing, Henry brandished the report his was carrying, using it to salute the confused detective before heading down the hallway.
Rafe was still staring after him in puzzlement when Simon's assistant, Rhonda, walked by.
"Looks like somebody was a good boy last night," she teased, tweaking his suit lapel as she passed. "Whoever she is, she's a keeper." Giggling at his perplexed expression, she gently pushed him towards the squad room. "Go on, you're late enough as it is. But I guess we all know why..." He couldn't help but notice the witnesses to the strange encounter were grinning at him.
"Nuts, the lot of them," Rafe muttered under his breath, finally entering the squad room and realizing what all of the fuss was about.
His desk, assuming it was still there under the fragrant sea of red, was covered with vase upon vase of red roses. Brian didn't even want to guess how many dozens were there. Only a very rich or a very obsessed man could afford such an ostentatious display. Jim would never take that kind of risk at the station, which meant....
You've never been teased until you've been teased by a cop. Or, in Rafe's case, a whole precinct full of cops.
Outsiders couldn't understand what it was to be a police officer. Didn't know the pressure of being a moving target every time you went to work. That tension had to be relieved in some way and jokes were often a harmless enough method of releasing some pressure before it built up too much. Intellectually, it made sense.
Unless you were on the receiving end. Or, worse yet, someone you loved was.
Jim Ellison watched the good-natured grin plastered on his lover's face become more and more forced. By the time the Sentinel arrived, having been told by Simon to take a little time to recover from the previous day's events, the sport of Brian-bating had been in full swing. Rafe had been asked, repeatedly, if he was going to recreate the infamous rose petal/bed scene from "American Beauty;" been cited for running a flower stand without a license; and had half the people on the floor talking to him with an Eliza Doolittle accent. At the moment, the crew from the forensics lab were just finishing up serenading him with the theme song from "The Rose."
As they took their bows, Brian insisted that each singer take a rose as a token of his appreciation. He'd been working hard all morning at giving the offending flowers away but with twelve dozen to start with, he'd had yet to make a discernable dent in their numbers.
Jim had been working hard all morning at not exploding. Rafe was putting up a good front, but the Sentinel could tell how much it was costing his lover to be nonchalant about the whole thing. Brian's heart was beating just a little too fast. His voice was just a shade too loud. Rafe was just a little too eager to laugh at his own expense. Ellison knew the teasing wasn't malicious, but he longed to be able to comfort the younger man, to pull him into his arms and....
... throw him down on the floor and mount him right there in the middle of the squad room, making it clear to the whole damn Cascade PD just who Brian Rafe belonged to...
Jim shook himself, forcing his eyes to stop watching Rafe's every movement and get back to where they belonged, studying the report in front of him. He'd already put a call in to Blair at the university. He needed his Guide to help him get this jealousy under control. Another call had gone to William Ellison, arranging for his father to meet him at the loft for dinner that evening. Brian had tried to tell him last night that his dad might be a problem, but like a fool, he hadn't listened. Well, in this case, flowers spoke louder than words and now Jim had a bulletin of his own to deliver.
Brian Rafe was off the market. Period. And, father or no, the old man had better get the message this time.
"Major Crimes, Detective Rafe speaking." Reaching across his blessedly clear desk for a file, Rafe answered the phone almost absently.
"Last night, I thought you looked too young to be a bonafide detective, but you answer so professionally, I'm going to have to revise my opinion - although, I still think you're too attractive to be hiding behind a badge."
The first thing Brian thought of when he heard William's smug voice was that it was a good thing for the elder Ellison that his son was absent from the squad room at the moment. Rafe's unlikely rescue from being teased to death had been Blair Sandburg. The grad student, having been warned by Jim about the mound of roses that had been delivered to Rafe, had arrived at Major Crimes prepared with a list of nursing homes. He and Jim were currently out delivering roses on their lunch break. Brian only hoped that Blair's breezy charm would offset his lover's scowl. There were times when Jim Ellison's glare could be too effective. It would negate the charitable action of donating the flowers if the Sentinel scared one of the nursing home residents into an early grave.
"Brian? Are you still there, sweetheart? I hope you liked the flowers. I wanted something beautiful but classic, just like you."
Brian's hand clenched on the telephone receiver. "I am not your sweetheart," he grated out between clenched teeth, careful to keep his voice down. The last thing he needed was to give his co-workers new fodder for their gossip.
The soft chuckle coming out of the telephone further put his nerves to the test. "Ah, playing hard to get, are we?"
Rafe had just enough presence of mind to do a quick scan of nearby desks. Since the squad room was relatively empty at the moment, he let more of his exasperation leak into his voice. "Listen to me and listen to me good. I am not playing hard to get because there is nothing for you to get. I told you last night and I'm telling you again - I'm in a relationship. I'm not interested. Not now. Not next week. Not ever. Got that?" He ended the conversation by slamming the receiver down, giving the phone a final glare before turning back to his work.
He allowed himself one last muttered, "prick" before forcing his attention to the case he and Brown had been assigned that morning. William Ellison was not worth his time and, besides, Jim would straighten it all out that evening.
If he said it to himself often enough, the young detective might even start to believe it.
Across town, William Ellison jerked the phone away from his ear, but not quick enough to avoid the loud click that accompanied Brian's termination of their conversation. Carefully, the older man placed the telephone back in its cradle, his fingers stroking over its hard plastic in lieu of the soft flesh that he longed to caress.
"I don't know what the younger generation is coming to," he mourned to the empty room. "Nowadays it's all 'wham, bam, thank you ma'am.' What ever happened to an old fashioned courtship?"
Sighing, William levered himself up from his leather chair. It was a good thing he'd already hired that private detective. Soon he would have all the details he needed about Brian Rafe in order to woo the young man properly.
As for Rafe's objections, they were likely just a token resistence and easily overcome. The young man obviously had never been courted by someone of quality before and was unsure of how to react. His inexperience was quite charming, actually.
William Ellison had a lot he could teach him....
Funny thing was, Brian didn't even like beer.
The young detective grimaced as he took another long pull from the frosty bottle. He kept beer in the refrigerator for Jim's sake. Rafe himself had never cultivated a taste for alcohol or for any other mind altering substances. He knew too well how devastating their affects could be and usually didn't want to chance the loss of control, even with something as relatively benign as beer.
There were, however, exceptions and this evening was a big one.
After the work day he'd just endured, Brian had felt a craving for alcohol. He didn't like the beer's bitter flavor but at least it replaced the acrid taste in his mouth left from William Ellison's grandiose flower statement. And the man had the gall just the night before to claim that he could be discreet? If having twelve dozen roses delivered to the squad room was his idea of discretion, then Ellison must have gotten lessons in subtly from Barnum and Bailey, that's all Rafe could say. Lord knew a public gesture that extravagant had turned Major Crimes into a three-ring circus.
Brian's reveries were interrupted by the distant slam of a car door shutting. His ears weren't as good as the Sentinel's, but he'd be willing to bet money that it had been a truck door slamming, not a car door. Which meant that Jim would soon be arriving and he'd have to look the older man in the face, knowing that his lover's father had just made a very public, very blatant play for him. It was no matter that the rest of the precinct didn't know it was Jim's father that was responsible for the roses. Rafe knew and Jim knew. That was more than sufficient.
A symphony of "if onlys" reverberated through his mind. If only William Ellison hadn't been attracted to him... If only Jim had believed him last night when he'd tried to warn him that his father's interest might be a problem... If only Rafe were the type of guy that could say "no" and be believed... No matter the self recriminations, though, he wouldn't ask himself what would have been if only he and Jim weren't in love. That was a scenario that he didn't want to contemplate, not even in the silence of his own heart.
Thankfully, before his thoughts could get any grimmer, the door to the kitchen opened and the Sentinel was there. Brian gulped as he saw the Need etched clearly across the hard planes of the older man's face.
"Hey, babe," he tried for a casual tone, but broke off when the bigger man stalked across the room.
When Jim reached Brian, the bigger man ever so gently reached for the beer bottle, rescuing it from his lover's rapidly faltering grip and carefully placing it on the kitchen counter. That operation successfully completed, Ellison made use of every bit of his two inch height advantage to pin his lover to the counter.
Nuzzling behind Rafe's ear, Jim's voice was trembling with longing. "Brian... I've got to... I need to..."
Rafe didn't require further explanation. It was enough to know his lover needed something and that, apparently, it was aid that he could give. Raising his hands in surrender, he crooned encouragement. "Whatever you need, whenever you need it. I'm all yours."
"Mine," the Sentinel growled in agreement, Brian's submission giving him the freedom to capitulate to the compulsion that had wracked him all afternoon.
Ellison started behind Rafe's ear, nuzzling him and drinking in the rich scent of the younger man. That area successfully mapped, he trailed down Brian's neck, subtly tasting the skin along the exposed and vulnerable neck. The other man's shirt was a momentary barrier, but an abrupt yank divested him of it, the buttons making a soft pinging noise as they scattered all over the kitchen. The t-shirt underneath was simply shoved up and out of the way, bunching up to reveal the hardened chest underneath. The Sentinel lingered there for several moments, enjoying the sensation of muscles rippling underneath soft skin. His tongue then dipped playfully into Rafe's navel, his strong hands keeping his lover in place, despite the younger man's squirms of pleasure.
Time, not to mention Rafe's breathing, seemed to stop when the Sentinel unbuttoned Rafe's pants. Jim undid the top button and slid the zipper down just enough to slip his hands inside both the trousers and the briefs underneath. Instead of releasing Brian's cock to the open air, however, Ellison knelt. Once on his knees, the older man buried his face into his lover's exposed pubic hair, breathing deep of his mate's scent at the spot where it was at its most powerful.
The tableau held for several heartbeats, then the Sentinel lifted his face a bit, resting his head against his lover's bare stomach. For the first time since he'd entered the squad room and realized that another had tried to stake a claim to his lover with those damn roses, Jim Ellison seemed a peace.
Rafe let the older man rest against him, gently carding his fingers through the short brown hair. Blair had warned him that Jim would be a bit more territorial than an average lover. Brian snorted faintly at the recollection. "Territorial" seemed inadequate to describe what had just happened, just as "average" was woefully deficient in describing Jim Ellison.
Even the quiet sound he'd made had disturbed his lover and Brian watched with some disappointment as Jim stirred. Blue eyes, softer now that his claim had been reaffirmed, raised to meet his. Sensing that Ellison was about to say something, he beat the older man to the punch.
Jim nodded, then rose smoothly to his feet. "Yeah. Thanks, babe."
There was something decadent to standing in your kitchen, pants undone and t-shirt bunched up around your nipples but Ellison's arms around him made it restful rather than risque.
Soft lips bestowed a kiss to the younger man's temple. "You tried to tell me, but I wouldn't pay attention. I'm sorry about that. Pop's coming over to the loft for dinner tonight. I'll put a stop to it then."
Neither man needed a definition of what was meant by "it."
"Don't beat yourself up," Brian reassured his lover. "Next time, you'll listen."
That provoked a reaction. "Next time?"
Rafe ignored the suggestion of a growl in his lover's tone of voice. Jim Ellison might possess him, but only because Brian allowed it. "Yeah, next time one of your relatives gets the hots for me, you'll hearken to my warning."
The smaller man's attempt at humor was rewarded with another chaste kiss. "I wish I could stay here tonight."
Ellison looked at Brian in question. His Sentinel instincts might be urging Jim to set his father straight post haste, but Rafe had been every bit as insistent. He was surprised to see his lover backing off on the subject.
"I mean, after you have dinner with your dad." The younger man blushed, abashed at being too eager. "If you want to, that is..."
The kiss was bestowed on the mouth this time and it wasn't at all chaste. "I'll always want to, you know that."
"I know," Brian said. "It's just that, it's your father."
"You say that like it's something sacred."
Rafe leaned back, almost right out of Jim's arms. "He's your father, Jim," the younger detective repeated, a frown marring his face. "That is sacred."
Jim chuckled without humor. "That just goes to show that you don't know my old man. He's not exactly something out of 'Father Knows Best.'"
"Yeah, but his still your dad." Rafe insisted.
Ellison looked at his lover carefully. He and Rafe had been together for several months but he'd been unable to coax much from the younger man about his family. Truth be known, he had a few skeletons in his own closet and hadn't tried too hard. Now, something in Brian's attitude made him wish he'd been more persistent.
"I tell you what, I'll make you a deal. You promise to let me worry about Papa Ellison and I promise to come over after he leaves. How's that?"
"Sounds like a plan to me."
Through the open window, they could hear the bells of the nearby cathedral chime the hour. "Damn, I've got to go," Ellison said, looking at his own watch in disbelief. "He's going to be there in about 90 minutes, I've got to get hopping."
"Good luck," Rafe said, planting a quick kiss on Ellison's lips before wiggling out of his arms. "Wouldn't do for your dad to arrive early and only have Sandburg to 'entertain' him."
Ellison shuddered, a gesture that was only partially feigned, at the thought. "Don't even tempt fate, Bri. Sandburg is safely on his way to his lady friend's for the evening, or so he promised me."
The Sentinel had been making his reluctant way to the door, but mention of the anthropologist had reminded him of something. "Ummm.... Blair did have a suggestion that might help me with this territorial thing." His face turned red as it was the older detective's turn to be bashful.
"What?" Rafe prompted when his lover was reluctant to finish the thought. "Don't keep me in suspense here. If it's Sandburg's idea, it's bound to be good. Wacky as hell, but good."
"He suggested that I get something that smells like you to have handy. Said it should act as an 'olfactory reminder of my mate.'"
Jim Ellison didn't often look cute. Daunting? Yes. Attractive? On a daily basis. Too sexy for his own damn good? Most of the time. But cute wasn't his usual trademark. Brian took in the sight of the older man blushing to the tips of his ears, eyes downcast, scuffling his feet around in nonexistent dirt and took pity on him.
Quickly stripping off his t-shirt, he threw it to the older man. "Will this do?"
Ellison caught the thrown garment and immediately buried his face in it. "Perfect."
Then, brandishing the Rafe-scented underwear, the Sentinel went off to do battle with his father, his step jaunty with confidence in the outcome.
Brian, left behind to wonder and worry, didn't have as much faith in William Ellison. He'd had prior experience, after all, in parents' reactions to finding out about their son's preference for male lovers. If William accepted Jim's life choice, if the elder Ellison accepted that his son was involved with a man he himself desired, if Brian didn't lose Jim over this whole shitty mess...
If... if... if.
"If" only consisted of two little letters, but still managed to be the meanest damn word in the whole human language.
"Want some more spaghetti, Pop?"
William Ellison leaned back from his son's table, hands contentedly folded over a full stomach. "No thanks, Jimmy. The spirit's willing but the body....Where'd you learn to cook like that, anyway?"
"Self preservation, Pop, from back when I was married. Carolyn is an intelligent woman with an amazing eye for forensic detail, but she can't cook to save her own life."
The detective picked up his wine glass and gestured for his father to do the same, leading the older man to the living room area in order to watch the sunset. Jim had steered clear of volatile subjects til now, wanting his dad to be at ease for their true conversation.
"I wondered about Carolyn," William said after a moment. "I never met her, of course, but she seemed like a good match for you."
Neither man mentioned that the reason that William Ellison had never been introduced to his daughter-in-law was that his son hadn't invited him to the wedding. Or any other part of his life, for that matter. Until now.
The younger Ellison sat down, placing his wine glass on the coffee table. Enough small talk, it was time to get to the point.
"I wasn't exactly what she wanted, Dad," he started out, watching his father's back as the older man remained at the window, gazing out at the city. "I wasn't attentive enough. Didn't kiss her deeply enough." The tone of his voice hardened. "Didn't send her dozens of roses at work."
As the two men's eyes met in the window's reflection, the loft became silent enough to hear the moist plopping sound of the kitchen faucet dripping. Idly, Jim berated himself for not giving the spigot the last hard twist necessary to keep it from dribbling.
"He told you." William didn't turn from the window, his voice brittle enough to break glass.
"Yeah, he told me, Pop."
The older Ellison finally turned to face his son, heedless of the wine spilling from his forgotten glass. "There used to be a code of honor among men, back when silence literally meant life or death. I thought Brian would be more of a gentleman than that."
Jim snorted. "Brian told you last night he had a lover. You chose not to believe him. He had to tell me, Dad."
William Ellison looked at his son, his amazement at Jim's attitude showing on his face. "You're more angry about that than you are about ... me." Even knowing that his oldest son now knew his deepest secret, William couldn't say the words "I'm gay" out loud. Too many years of hiding with too much at stake.
"Brian had to tell me, Pop," Jim repeated. "because I'm his lover."
Silence reigned again. As if in slow motion, William backed up, sitting down abruptly as his knees connected with the sofa behind.
"Yeah," his son affirmed, quickly adding, "So are you."
William leaned forward and went to put his head in his hands, almost smacking himself with the long-forgotten wine glass. Looking at it as if in wonderment at its sudden appearance in his hand, he hastily put the neglected goblet down on a nearby table. Elbows on his knees, his grizzled head hung down as the older man fought to integrate the life-altering news he'd just heard.
Jim gave his father his mental space, but monitored his physical condition. A rapid heartbeat was to be expected, given what William had just been given to mentally digest, but he wanted to make sure he hadn't sent his old man into cardiac arrest.
Without lifting his head, the older Ellison addressed his son. "So, you're a queer as well as a freak."
The Sentinel's eyes widened in surprise. "Excuse me?"
Angry blue eyes lifted to meet his own. Jim Ellison's colleagues would have recognized that glare, a mirror image of the detective's.
"Don't give me that crap, Jimmy. With those mutant ears of yours, you heard me just fine."
Jim's surprise had passed, allowing him to meet anger with anger. "Well, maybe you had just better repeat yourself anyway."
"Oh, for Christ's sake!" William got up and started pacing. "I don't believe you! A queer! Do you have any idea of the plans you just ruined?"
The Sentinel got up, putting himself in his father's path. "What the hell are you talking about? I just admitted to you that I'm gay, that I know you are too. Of all people in the world, I thought you'd understand."
The older Ellison stopped just shy of his son, not afraid to get nose to nose with the powerfully built man. "Understand? What? That you just reinforced every misbegotten cliche about gay men that homophobes hold near and dear to their hearts? That any son raised by a gay man will automatically turn out to be gay too?" Sickened, William turned away. "You were my proof, Jimmy. You and Stephen both. That's why I pushed you so hard. That's why you had to be perfect. I thought, if I ever did go public about being gay, that at least everyone would see that I raised my kids right. That I didn't corrupt them."
"You didn't corrupt me, Pop. I don't know why I'm wired this way, I just am." Jim reached out a hand to clasp his father's shoulder, but the other man shrugged it off.
William's thoughts were running circles. Gay... Jim... male lovers... Brian.... As thoughts of Rafe crossed his mind, he couldn't help but think of the attractive young man clasped in his son's naked arms...
"You know," William turned back to the Sentinel, as the mental image provoked a different train of thought, "Brian Rafe is a sweet piece of ass." The evening's multiple emotional shocks were making the older man cruder than he'd normally be. "He tempted me and I haven't seen a tail I liked well enough to chase in a long time. You don't suppose that Brian is just a phase you're going through?"
Jim clenched his hands at his side, keeping the fists there by sheer strength of will. "Brian is not a phase, he's a man. One I happen to care about a lot. You're just going to have to accept that."
The picture in William Ellison's mind shifted. Now, instead of being cradled in his Jim's arms, Brian Rafe was writhing in his own embrace, moaning at how much better a lover he was than his son.
"No," the older Ellison said. "I don't think I can accept that."
Jim couldn't quite fathom the glassy look in his father's eyes but the tangy scent of the other man's arousal was clear to his heightened senses. "Brian's off limits, Dad. I mean it."
"I think," his father responded, rather loftily, "that's up to Brian."
Blue eyes met, neither man willing to back down.
"I think you better go, Pop."
Without a word, his father gathered his coat and headed for the door. With his hand on the knob, he stopped to utter a final "I don't have any gay sons," before heading out of the loft.
As the sound of his father's steps receded, Jim murmured, "No, Pop, I don't suppose you do."
The detective scrubbed his hands over his face before heading into the kitchen and opening up the drawer where he'd stashed Rafe's t-shirt. Taking out the soft undergarment, he buried his face in it. He wanted desperately to leave, to bury the pain of this whole messed up night in his lover's warms arms. But even more than that, he wanted to eradicate the stench of his father from his living space.
Sighing, the Sentinel put the shirt back and headed for the closet that held the cleaning supplies. Luckily the loft was small enough that it wouldn't take too long.
Then he could get back into Brian's arms where he belonged.
Brian woke as the mattress dipped underneath his lover's weight. "Jim?" He asked, still more than half asleep. He'd tried to wait up for Ellison, but the day's tensions had caught up with him.
"Yeah, babe, it's me."
The older man's defeated tone brought him to complete wakefulness. Half sitting up, he caressed the nearest bare shoulder. "What's the matter?"
Jim hadn't turned the light on. Rafe knew that the Sentinel didn't need the light to see, but all he himself could make out in the dim illumination was the bigger man's form spread out on the mattress, flat on his back. Rafe chose to leave the lamp off anyway. If his lover needed the comfort that darkness afforded him, then that's what he would have.
"You were right. It wasn't all sweetness and light."
Brian waited for a little more explanation but none was forthcoming. "I'm sorry." There didn't really didn't seem like there was anything else to say.
Jim blew his breath out in an explosive sigh, then turned to wrap his arms around his lover, nestling the younger man against him. Brian allowed himself to be used like a live teddy bear, offering the Sentinel the tactile comfort the other man seemed to crave.
"You know what the worst part was?" Came a muffled question.
"It was all about him. He was upset, but more because my sexuality reflected poorly on him. Not because it's hard to be gay in our society, or about the risk of AIDS, or even how dangerous it is being a gay cop. The only thing that mattered to him was that my sexual preference made him look bad."
Brian wrapped himself around his larger lover, trying to physically squeeze comfort into the hurting man. The silence of the bedroom combined with the warm support of his lover's arms slowly soothed Jim and eventually the older man drifted off into uneasy dreams.
Settling back against the bed's headboard, Rafe curled around the Sentinel, determined to protect the other man from any nightmares that might come. He didn't doubt that they would happen, it was just a matter of when. He knew this particular pain, the anguish a parent's rejection could cause.
Damn, but if he didn't know it all too well.
"Well, Bill, for a man of your age, you're in remarkably good health."
William Ellison paused while buttoning his shirt long just enough to lift one eyebrow sardonically. "'My age,' Greg? We were in the same class at Yale, if memory serves me right."
The other man laughed, as much old friend as physician to this patient. "Nothing wrong with your mind, that's for certain." Dr. Linder put his clipboard aside and became more serious. "Now you're sure about this?"
"Hell, yes." Ellison was emphatic. "I'm relieved to know I'm in good shape for my age, but my lover is much younger. I need to be able to keep up."
"At our age," both men smiled at the emphasis the doctor put on 'our' this time, "there's no reason to expect that you'll be able to perform the way you did when you were younger. That's perfectly normal."
William finished buttoning his shirt and tucked it in. "Ah, but you haven't seen this one, Greg. Brown hair, gorgeous smile, a body that just won't quit. The last thing I want is to have this beautiful creature be disappointed and regretting hooking up with an old man."
Dr. Greg Linder looked long and hard at his old acquaintance. He'd been William Ellison's physician for over thirty years and had a good idea what the other man's love like had been like of late: non-existent. "Sounds like a real looker. Hard to satisfy?"
"You have no idea."
"Okay, can't have you wearing yourself to the bone trying to keep her satisfied." Linder gave in to the inevitable. Besides, he was honest enough to admit his hesitancy had more to do with jealousy that the businessman had snagged a young honey than it did for medical reasons. "I'll give you a choice. I can write you a prescription for Viagra... or you can participate in a test program for a new potency drug, Vytal. Early reports are that it makes Viagra look as potent as a sugar pill."
Ellison didn't hesitate. After a long drought, Brian was like a drink fresh water and William had every intention of slaking his thirst. If that meant a drug to make sure his body was up to the task, so be it.
"I'll try the Vytal." He winked at his doctor. "Don't want to take any chances on this one getting away. Can I get it now or do I have to wait?"
Greg laughed. "My, she must be something special if you're this impatient. Now, normally, you'd have to go through a prescreening to be chosen to participate in the trial. But I think I'm familiar enough with your medical history to sneak you in." Writing quickly on a tablet, the physician filled out a prescription. "Take this to the pharmacy in this clinic, they'll be the only ones around that have Vytal. And make sure you read the directions and follow them to the letter."
William accepted the prescription, only half listening to the warning. He was one step closer to getting Brian Rafe in his bed. Thanks to Dr. Linder's assistance, now once he got Rafe there, he'd be sure to fully enjoy the experience.
"Thanks, Greg," William said, reaching out to shake the other man's hand. "You have no idea how much I appreciate this."
"Well, since you pulled me in on my day off to give you this impromptu physical, how about we play some golf this afternoon? I haven't seen you at the club lately. As your doctor, I'd advise the exercise."
"Maybe some other time," Ellison said. "But with these-" he held up the prescription,"I assure you that I'll soon be getting all the 'exercise' I can handle."
The next day, the roses were gone, but not forgotten. Rafe had been half afraid of what he'd find when he came in to the squad room that morning; cops with a good joke were like dogs with a meaty bone. To his relief, however, his co-workers had taken it pretty easy on him. The only teasing had consisted of some good-natured razzing and a vase of wilted weeds that adorned his desk.
It was a relief to have Major Crimes back to normal. Or, at least, what passed for normality in their precinct.
Brian was grateful. Not so much for his own sake, but for Jim's. The heckling the day before had gotten on his lover's nerves even more than his own; the Sentinel had a protective streak a mile wide and had chafed when he couldn't respond on Rafe's behalf. Add that to the territorial urge brought on by another man making a move on his mate, mix in his father's rejection, and you had a combination sure to upset the most stoic of personalities.
Rafe nudged his partner on the shoulder as he made for his desk, having spent his lunch hour taking food out to Jim and Blair, who were stuck in the warehouse district on a stakeout. "Hey, H, did I miss anything earth shattering?"
"Nah, bro," his partner responded in his typical easy manner. "We managed to get by without you. Still waitin' for our report from Forensics, though."
"Figures," Rafe said, settling in to his desk chair. His eye was caught by the closed door to Simon Banks' office. Normally that only happened when someone was getting reamed out, but the squad room was deceptively quiet. His interest piqued, the young detective looked closer. Upon inspection, he could tell that Simon wasn't alone in his office, shadows of at least two other people could be discerned.
"H, who's in with the captain?"
Brown stopped frowning at his computer and looked up. "Dunno. They were in there when I got back from lunch. Rhonda says it's the Chief of Police, the Deputy Mayor and some sort of VP guest."
Rafe bit his lip. Although Jim and his anthropologist sidekick had the best solve rate in the precinct, they also had the biggest talent for getting into trouble.
Henry saw the worried look and tried to reassure his friend. "Don't look like that. Ol' Hard Ass hasn't busted up any department vehicles lately, has he? Hell, it's probably just some grand high poobah that the Chief wants to impress, so he's parading him through, making all the captains kiss his butt."
Brian was saved from answering by the sound of Simon's door opening. Immediately both detectives bent their heads over the computer terminals, looking like school boys caught scheming against the substitute teacher.
"As you can see, gentlemen, most of my team are out on the streets right now, but I'd like to introduce you to two of my finest..."
Rafe obediently looked up, secretly amused to referred to as one of Simon's finest. Usually that accolade was reserved for the Ellison/Sandburg team. Standing up, he shook the Chief of Police's hand, he'd met the man at the ceremony that had made him a detective, although he didn't expect to be remembered. The Deputy Mayor was a familiar face, from television and the newspapers if not from personal experience. He didn't get a look at the third person in the group until the Deputy Mayor moved on to greet Henry.
"You might recollect Detective Rafe from the other day, Mr. Ellison," Simon said to Jim's father. "He was one of the backup personnel on the Foster case."
"Oh, I have an eye for quality, Captain Banks," William said, clasping Brian's hand. "Rest assured, I remember Detective Rafe very well."
Rafe didn't know what to do. He'd extended his hand automatically, before he'd gotten a good look at just who he was being introduced to. After yesterday's stunt with the flowers, William Ellison was the last person he wanted to touch, but there was no way to retrieve his hand without appearing rude.
"Chief McGinty is an old college chum of mine," Ellison went on to explain to the two detectives as he released Brian's hand. "and Deputy Mayor Grindberg and I are on the board of the Luna Foundation together. After the officers of your department saved my life, I wanted to come down and give them a personal report on what a fine job Major Crimes does."
Rafe surreptitiously wiped his hand on his pants leg as the other VP's chimed in their appreciation of the MC staff's work. Despite the smokescreen William was blowing at the others, he knew full well why the man was here. Name dropping was the name of Ellison's game; letting Brian Rafe know just how well connected he was.
"I'm sorry that Jim's not here right now," Simon apologized. "I'm sure that he'd love to give you a tour of the precinct."
"Surely that could still be arranged," Chief McGinty said, giving the captain a look that clearly indicated that Banks was expected to come through. "After all, Mr. Ellison came all the way downtown just to pay his regards to Major Crimes. The least we can do is show him a little Cascade P.D. hospitality."
"Captain Banks, I don't mean to intrude on your valuable time," William said congenially. "I image that a police captain has more important things to do than schlepping me around. Perhaps one of your men would be able to shepherd me through the highlights?"
Banks considered his options. William Ellison was pleasant enough, certainly a cut above Sandburg's flaky mother, but giving him a guided tour would eat up time better spent elsewhere. His choices of substitute hosts, though, currently consisted of Henry Brown or Brian Rafe. Not only were they the only detectives present while people trickled back in after the lunch hour, but they also had time available as they were waited for a Forensics report.
Normally his choice would be Rafe, hands down, but Simon was another one of the few aware of the young detective's true relationship with the Sentinel. He hated to put Brian in the awkward spot of ushering his lover's father through a visit of Major Crimes. His other choice, however, was Henry Brown, a good detective but a notorious goof. Considering William Ellison's connections, Simon gave Rafe a silent apology as his duty as a captain won out over his duty as a friend.
"That's very understanding of you Mr. Ellison. Since you and Detective Rafe are already acquainted, perhaps you wouldn't mind if he showed you around?"
Rafe felt his face blanch as William smiled at the captain. "No, I wouldn't mind at all. In fact, it would be absolutely delightful."
Jim Ellison looked at his partner, surprised to hear the anthropologist's voice after nearly an hour of silence. "So, what?"
"You gonna tell me what's wrong or are you going to stare a hole in the windshield?"
The detective shifted in his seat, not having been aware that he'd been so wrapped up in his thoughts. "Sandburg, we're stuck in the middle of the industrial district, waiting for the bad guys to show up. Until they arrive, there's nothing really to talk about."
Blair sighed. As usual, Jim's jaw was speaking louder than his mouth, its clenching a sure sign that his friend was stewing over something. "What's there to talk about? Oh, maybe that you just found out your dad is gay. Or maybe that your dad made a pass at your lover. Or, for variety, how about the fact that your father didn't like hearing that you're gay too?"
Jim turned his head to give his Guide an unwavering stare. "How about a different subject."
"C'mon, Jim! You were happy to see Brian when he dropped off lunch, but since then you've been sour. "
Ellison tapped his thumbs against the steering wheel. He didn't want to talk about this. Shouldn't, really, except with Brian. But, not only was Sandburg as persistent as a case of the crabs, he also was a good observer about people. Giving in to the inevitable, Jim tried to explain.
"This thing with my dad... it's really getting to Brian. More than it should. I mean, it's my father, I don't know why it's bothering him more than me."
Blair tilted his head to the side, eyes narrowed as he thought about it. "So, which do you think is bothering him more? The fact that it's your dad or the fact that a guy persisted after Brian turned him down. Man, those roses! He'll be living that down forever."
As usual, Sandburg had seen right to the crux of his problem.
"Hell, I don't know, Chief." Ellison shifted in his seat again. "You remember when I told you about letting Brian in on the Sentinel stuff?" When Blair nodded, Jim continued. "Well, I said he took it pretty evenly, wasn't upset that I'd been keeping a secret. What I didn't tell you was that Brian had something he wanted to tell me that night, a secret of his own."
When the older man stopped, Blair prodded him. "Well, what was it? Can you tell me?"
Jim gave a short bark of laughter. "Can't tell you what I don't know, Chief. I stopped him from revealing it to me."
"You what? Why?"
Rubbing his chin, Ellison tried to put his reasoning into words. "It wasn't 'show and tell,' Sandburg. I didn't want him to think it was a case of 'I'll show you mine if you'll show me yours.' I wanted Brian to open up to me when he was truly ready, not just because he thought he had to reciprocate." Softly, almost to himself, he summed it up. "I wanted him to feel safe."
"Yeah," Jim blushed, a little embarrassed that anyone, even Blair, was hearing him talk so tenderly. "Brian puts up a good front, but he's not as happy-go-lucky as he wants everyone to think. I'm pretty sure there are scars he keeps hidden. I only hope I didn't put him off, make him think I didn't ever want to hear what he had to tell me. I just wanted him to wait until he was ready."
"Jim," Blair said, putting his hand on his friend's arm. "Trust me, 'safe' is something you do really, really well. When he feels secure enough, he'll open up to you."
"You think so?"
"Yeah, I do." Blair grinned suddenly. "Believe me, on the subject of getting reluctant people to open up and talk, I'm the expert."
"Really? They teach you that in those psych classes?"
The younger man snorted. "Not hardly, man. I got my all my experience at it just by being your roommate."
"I don't know why you'd want to go in here, Mr. Ellison," Rafe said as he opened the door in question. "It's just the break room."
"Brian, please, not so formal. I've asked you three times already to call me William." The elder Ellison looked around in satisfaction as they entered the room. It was crowded with vending machines but empty otherwise. "And I think you under appreciate its charms. This is where the 'boys in blue' gather to commiserate with their fellow urban warriors, the one place where you can let down your guard."
For the first time, Rafe found himself glad that Brown hadn't been tapped for this chore. There was no way that H could have listened to that pile of crap with a straight face.
"Can I buy you a cup of coffee?" Brian forced himself to be polite. It didn't matter that William Ellison was on this tour as a pretense, Simon had trusted him to represent the department and he was determined to be a good host.
"That's very thoughtful of you, Brian. Thanks, I'd love one."
The younger man turned towards the coffee machine, fervently hoping that William didn't think this was a "coffee, tea, or me" scenario. So far during the tour, his unwanted suitor had been a perfect gentleman, but Rafe had no illusions that it would continue that way.
"Do you take cream or sugar?"
"Just sugar, thanks."
Brian looked, but although the creamer was full, they were out of sugar packets. He started digging through the cabinet looking for the elusive sweetener, bending over in order to get to the very back. Anxious to find what he needed to get Ellison his coffee and vacate this too-secluded room, he lost track of the other man. Before he knew it, William had moved in close, too close, and was standing so that his pelvis was pushed against Rafe's ass.
From the feel of things, William's pelvis was pretty happy to be there too.
"What the hell are you doing?" Brian hissed, not moving for fear of drawing attention from outside. The last thing he needed was for someone to see this.
"I'm a firm believer in couples supporting one another. You saw earlier today, I have a lot of contacts that can help you, Brian. With your looks and my connections, you'd soon have a captaincy of your own."
Rafe didn't know what made him angrier. The fact that William was taking such liberties with his body, the risk he took doing it when and where another officer could walk in at any moment, or the assumption that Brian would sleep with someone in order to get ahead in the department.
Standing up, Brian turned around so that he and Ellison were - literally - nose to nose. "I'm not interested in your connections. I'm not interested in how you can further my career. And I'm sure as hell not interested in you. Now, I suggest you take your coffee now, because I guarantee you, that's the only thing you'll be getting from me."
He held out the cup of coffee, still sans sugar, to William. The older man hesitated for a moment, seeming to consider saying something, but eventually he just accepted the offered beverage. Brian watched while his lover's father sipped it, totally unsympathetic when Ellison winced. Without sugar, it was no doubt bitter. God, he hoped it was.
"Well," William finally broke the tense silence. "I suppose the tour is over."
It was tempting to take the opening and end this uncomfortable encounter, but...
Rafe considered the areas of the precinct he hadn't shown the other man yet and then mentally grinned. This was going to be as petty as hell, but would be worth it.
"No, we're not quite through yet," he said, feigning disappointment that he couldn't be rid of his unwanted guest. "We've got one more area to see. It's not a section we show to everyone, but I think we can make an exception in your case."
"Splendid, Brian. Absolutely splendid."
Putting the slightest bit of a wiggle in his walk, Rafe made sure he had William's undivided attention as he led the unsuspecting man down the corridor and through the doors marked "morgue."
If the honorable William Ellison wanted to see Major Crimes, then Brian was determined to give the old prick an eyeful he wouldn't soon forget.
As Jim pulled up in front of Rafe's townhouse that evening, he didn't have to wonder where his lover was. The garage door was wide open while Brian worked inside. The younger man had been talking for weeks about tearing down the old shelving, put up years ago by the previous owner and in serious need of replacement. Ellison was surprised to see the task underway - he thought that the project was supposed to be one that the two of them would work on together.
Walking up the driveway, Ellison winced as a board was tossed from inside the garage, narrowly missing his head. "My hair's thin enough up there as it is," he teased as he approached the other man, "I don't need you using airborne lumber to shave even more off."
Brian looked up when he heard the Sentinel's voice, his gaze moving from Jim to where the plank had landed, eyes widening as he mentally plotted the board's trajectory and realized how close he'd come to hitting the other man. "God, Jim, I'm sorry! I didn't see you there."
"Yeah, babe, that was obvious. What's all this?" Jim used his chin to point at the shambles in the garage, all that was left of the old, rickety shelving. "I thought you were going to let me help you with this?"
It was the wrong question to ask or, maybe, it was just the wrong time to ask it.
"I do not need your help," Rafe carefully enunciated, eyes uncharacteristically full of angry fire. "I'm perfectly capable of taking care of myself, I have been since I was fifteen. I made detective on my own work, I bought this house on my own and if I want to tear down the freaking shelves on my own, I can do that too."
Ellison held up his hands to show that he was harmless. "Hey, babe, I don't doubt that. You know me, I just look forward to getting all hot and sweaty with you, any way I can get it."
Rafe looked at him woodenly, all of his anger draining out at the understanding in the Sentinel's eyes. He dropped the board he'd been holding and walked over to the taller man, reaching up to cup his hand around Ellison's face. Even with the leather gloves he was wearing for protection, the tenderness of the gesture came through. "What did I ever do to deserve you?"
Jim shifted slightly to plant a kiss on a gloved palm. "I dunno, turned in all of your library books on time? Left all the law labels on your pillows and mattresses? Flossed after every meal?"
His quips had the desired effect. The pain in Rafe's eyes drained away and the younger man smiled grudgingly. "Hey, what happened here?" Brian asked. "You're usually the snarky one and I'm usually the clown."
Ellison's own smile faded. "You've got reason to snark, babe. Brown told me that my dad came down for a visit."
Brian let his hand drop and turned back to the debris that had formerly been shelves. "Yeah, well, I think Daddy Ellison got more than he bargained for."
"Yeah, I heard about the morgue. Blair'll be relieved."
Rafe turned back around, eyes full of question marks. "Blair? Why would he be relieved?"
Jim took a couple of steps closer to his lover. "I hear my old man beat Sandburg's regurgitating record, both for quick release and distance hurled."
"Yeah," Rafe chuckled, remembering. "It was a beautiful thing."
Ellison finally dared to lay a hand on Rafe's shoulder. "You know, you don't have to be so careful with my dad. He comes after you, take the gloves off and treat him like any other asshole that sniffs around where he's not wanted."
Brian shrugged, but carefully, so as to not dislodge Jim's hand. "I dunno. He's your father, I hate to come between you."
Ellison reached out one arm and pressed the garage door opener button, pulling Rafe into his embrace as the door shut enough to shield them from view. "Babe, any distance between me and my dad is his fault, not yours, trust me on this one. Okay?"
Rafe bit his lip in indecision, but finally nodded. "Okay."
"All right then." Satisfied, the Sentinel guided his lover towards the door into the house. "Now, how about you make up for getting hot and sweaty without me?"
"Easy, babe," Jim explained as he took Brian's hand and led him inside, glad to see the desire back in the younger man's eyes. "By taking a shower with me and then getting hot and sweaty all over again."
Sally tsked at him reproachfully as she cleared away William's nearly untouched plate. She knew that her employer had gone to the doctor that morning and hadn't returned until much later in the afternoon, decidedly green about the gills. Ellison wasn't about to tell her that he'd puked his guts out at the sight of an autopsy being performed. Sally'd worked for him for decades and had the notion that her employer was invincible. He'd worked hard to foster that impression and had no intention of ruining it over the little prank that Brian had pulled on him. Never mind that the chicken breast she'd served him for dinner made him think of the cadaver's chest from that afternoon, cracked open for coroner to examine.
Let her think he was sick.
When the Asian woman finally left him in peace, William took the prescription drug bottle out of his pocket. He'd been surprised when his body had reacted to the sight of Brian's upturned ass that afternoon. Even without having taken the drug yet, he felt the blood start to flow to areas of his body that hadn't stirred in years.
Even the unfortunate incident in the morgue couldn't dull the flush of excitement that view of Rafe had caused.
Thumbing the bottle open, Ellison popped two of the pills after giving the directions only a cursory glance. He had to be ready for Brian, and soon.
Then, picking up the phone, he dialed the number of his private investigator. Brian showed more spirit this afternoon than he'd expected. He'd better just make sure that his private dick was finding the information he'd need to make the young detective a little more tractable.
And then Rafe would see who got the last laugh.
Continued in Part 2
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