We don't own any of these guys. Rysher, Pet Fly, UPN and a bunch of other people who make a lot more money than we do get to claim them. Please don't pick on us, it's all in good fun.

Attention: This is an ALTERNATIVE UNIVERSE. In reality, or as close to reality as Zen&nancy can get, Jim would never act this way. We love Jim!!!

This is a crossover. We're not sure where it came from, nancy doesn't even like crossovers. Zen kept pushing this outline for a Blair/Duncan piece and this monster of an ongoing work in progress is what happened. It doesn't seem to have an end in site. At first we weren't even going to post it, but now Zen really wants to share. We'd really appreciate some feedback here, so by all means, do tell us what you think. However, we really need you to read this one with the words 'alternate universe' firmly fixed in your mind. We don't think we've committed any character assassination (except that Jim isn't really a bigot), but if you do, let us know. We're tougher than we look.

That said, this story takes place somewhere roughly around the beginning of the yet to be fourth season of the Sentinel, and the never to happen seventh season of Highlander. BTW, Zen&nancy are in complete denial of the Archangel stuff and, so far, the entire sixth (crappy) season. So, none of that really matters here. :)

Story title and lyrics borrowed without permission from Bob Marley (r.i.p.)

Three Little Birds

Part 3

By Zen&nancy

Duncan exhaled slowly through pursed lips, lifting the bar for the last time. There was noise and activity all around him. He hadn't been able to get a space on the mats, so he settled for a corner with a little room to move and the free weights. Weight lifting was usually the part of his workouts that he liked least, it was monotonous and didn't engage his brain at all. Today pumping iron felt good. He had a lot of excess energy to work off.

Counting reps didn't distract him from thinking about Blair at all, it was something so automatic he did it without thinking. He thought about everything Blair had told him about himself, and all the things he wanted to know. He couldn't pinpoint exactly what it was about the young professor that made him feel such an immediate attachment to him. Maybe it was because it was so painfully obvious that Blair needed someone. He had the sweetest, bluest eyes. They reminded Duncan of Debra Campbell's, they were almost exactly the same shade of deep, pure blue. Duncan couldn't imagine anyone wanting to hurt Blair, or treat him harshly.

His thoughts wound their way back to the cop, Detective Ellison. A Sentinel. Duncan had heard of people with such gifts before, even before he had met Sir Richard Burton and learned about his work. There had been tales about a Clan leader with such gifts when he was a boy. He had never met one though... Duncan decided it must give one a huge advantage in a fight, in almost any situation for that matter. It might be the fairest fight he could have with a mortal. Where had that come from? He wasn't going to clash with Jim Ellison, it was very unlikely that he would ever meet him.

The twelve to fifteen year old boys, who made up the five p.m. karate class were filtering in, adding their higher pitched voices to the din of the dojo. Sneaking in one last set, Duncan stacked the weights against the wall and picked up his towel and water bottle. Weaving his way through the gathering of excited adolescents, he decided to take the stairs. Just in case Blair was sleeping, he didn't want the banging of the elevator to wake him.

"I'm back." Duncan called out, pulling his key from the lock and shutting the door.

It was obvious that Blair hadn't heard him, but Duncan swallowed his second attempt to get Blair's attention just before he spoke. Blair was sitting cross legged on the couch, papers strewn around him, and his knapsack next to him on the cushion. He was rocking forward and back, his eyes open but unfocused. His hands sat limply on his knees, each index finger was busy ripping the skin all around his thumbnails. A thin trickle of blood had stained his jeans in the same spot on each knee.

Duncan went to him quietly, taking up Blair's hands lightly in his own. "Blair. Blair honey, come back to me. Come on, buddy, it's okay."

Blair's dilated pupils focused on Duncan's lips, and then on his hands. He had scratched off his cuticles completely, and torn the skin all around the nails of both thumbs. He clenched his hands into fists, hiding his thumbs under his fingers. He was shaking. How long had he been sitting here like this? Shit, that was bad, Guides weren't supposed to zone out, then he remembered that he wasn't a Guide anymore.

Duncan was still holding his hands, his much larger palms closed lightly around Blair's fists. Total mortification seeped into every pore. Oh God, what's he going to think of me now... as if last night wasn't bad enough.

"I'm sorry," he blurted out, wishing he could just disappear.

"Hey, it's okay, you don't have to be sorry. Are you alright?" Duncan's voice was very gentle.

"Yeah." Blair sneaked a look up into the concerned brown eyes. "No. I'm not. I'm sorry."

Duncan released the small, tightly closed fists, ignoring the smear of blood on his hand. He moved to sit next to Blair on the couch, wrapping his arm around his shoulders. "It's okay, you're safe here, you don't have to be sorry, or scared. Everything's going to be alright."

Duncan's voice was soothing. Even if it was the furthest thing from the truth, it was so comforting to have someone tell him 'everything's gonna be alright'.

"Do you like Bob Marley?"

"Who?" Duncan was confused, Blair's voice was shaky and his breath was coming is soft gasps, but he was smiling.

"You don't know who Bob Marley is? How is that possible? You just reminded me of this song. I used to play it over and over again when I was upset, and it would calm me down every time. It's really wonderful, Bob just tells you over and over again that everything is gonna be alright."

"It is, I promise. Do you want to talk about it?" Duncan's arm curled protectively around the hunched shoulders, his thumb stroking the curve of Blair's right shoulder unconsciously.

Blair leaned into the reassuring arm a little, shrugging. "There's not much to tell, I'm scrawny and I look like a wimp, so I got jumped, and I'm no good at fighting so they beat the shit out of me. I'd probably have brain damage and be a vegetable right now if you hadn't come along."

Duncan spoke very quietly, keeping his voice calm and even. He was angry at himself for leaving Blair alone. Of course he wasn't okay, he'd been attacked for being the person he was, and hurt badly.

"Blair, listen to me, the motivation for the attack didn't have anything to do with your size, or your ability to fight, it was purely in response to your sexual preference, and because of that, it's called a hate crime, an act of fascism."

None of Blair's face was visible under the hair, he had his chin buried in his chest. "I guess I'm just not used to thinking that way. I put the pride flag on my bumper because..." Blair's voice trailed off, and his face twisted up, as if he were in pain. He was, because he was trying really, really, hard not to cry in front of Duncan, and that hurt like hell.

"Because..." Duncan prompted gently.

"It was like, independence, I guess. I sort of felt like I should, too. I mean, if I was going to take the fall I might as well at least wave the flag, right?" Blair's voice was bitter. "I guess I just didn't think it was gonna be that big a deal," he added, sounding tired.

Duncan absorbed the bits of information he'd been given, trying to understand. He was sure it made sense to Blair, he was too serious for it not to. Independence? From Jim? Maybe, but the rest left him a little confused.

"Blair, may I ask you a personal question?"

Blair finally raised his head, to look at Duncan. They were only a few inches apart, Duncan's arm was still around his shoulders, holding him gently. "Sure, I mean, I don't think we can talk about anything more personal, can we?"

"Was Jim your lover?"

"No." Blair bit his lip. "But I wanted him to be."

"Ah." Duncan swore that he could feel the hurt in those six words, instead of just hearing it. "I'm sorry Blair."

"Me too."

"It's going to be okay, kiddo, I promise."

"Thanks. Honestly right now I wish I could just crawl into a nice dark hole and hide. Real macho, huh?"

Duncan's hand moved from Blair's shoulder to stroke his silky hair for a moment, then he smiled. "Well, it's getting pretty cold to be digging in the park, but we could probably build a pretty good fort downstairs in the dojo."

Blair smiled, touched and somewhat bewildered by Duncan's willingness to indulge him. "You must think I'm a real head case."

"No, I think you're a very interesting, intelligent, handsome man, who's had a very bad few months, and a terrible Friday night."

Duncan moved away from Blair a little on the couch, just in case he had misread Blair's appreciative stare earlier. The last thing he wanted to do was make the young man feel trapped.

"You do?" Blair was looking at him with those heart melting, hopeful eyes. They were round as saucers.

"Yes, I most definitely do."

"Wow. That's amazing."

"Is it?"

"Totally, because you are like..." Blair blushed, shaking his head. "I won't go there, I'll just embarrass myself."

"You seem to be pretty good at that." Duncan teased him gently.

"Yeah, I sure am." Blair started to laugh, but it got cut off with a groan of pain. "Man, that is the worst. I mean, not being able to have sex, I'll live, but not being able to laugh? I'm gonna kill myself."

Duncan did laugh, then he mussed the hair on the top of Blair's head and rose from the couch. "I'm going to shower and change, then maybe we'll think about dinner, okay?"

"Okay." Blair smiled at him shyly.

Duncan went to his dresser, pulling out jeans, underwear and a sweater. Blair was re-sorting the stacks of papers that had disorganized themselves on the couch around him.

When he returned from his shower, Blair was curled up with his side against the arm of the couch, wearing a pair of reading glasses. He was grading at mach speed, red pen flashing across the pages his other hand methodically turned over from the stack in his lap.

"Can you really read at that speed?"

"No, it's not reading, it's only multiple choice, piece of cake." Blair answered without looking up.

Duncan watched him for another minute, standing behind the couch. "Want some help?"

"Are you serious?"


"Man, where have you been all my life? I've got seventy more of these to go, here's the answer sheet."

Duncan sat at the other end of the couch, taking the piles of paper Blair was pushing at him.

"That's great! I might actually get caught up before Monday now."

Duncan looked at the four other thick folders stuffed with student's papers in the backpack. "Blair, how many courses are you teaching?"

"Six. Only four of them are really mine though, I only have the other two 'til Professor Rodman gets back from Australia."

"Six, that's crazy. They let you do that?"

"I'm one of those hyper, workaholic types."

"You know, I never would have guessed," Duncan told him, smiling. "You have to finish all of these by Monday?"

"Yep. I know it looks bad, but it's possible, believe me."

"If you do nothing but grade papers for the next thirty-six hours."

"That's what weekends are for, man."

"As soon as you're up to it, I'm going to do my very best to change your mind about that."

Blair grinned, bending over his own stack of papers. Duncan finished the multiple choice papers Blair had been working on, then inherited a new stack.

"These are a scored a little differently, here's the answer sheet for them. I really appreciate you helping me with these, I got seriously behind schedule."

"Blair, this is an insane work load, don't you have an assistant to dump some of it on?"

"Well, yeah, they assigned me one, but I don't think he likes me very much, he's never around."

"Talk to the head of your department, get someone you can work with."

"Oh man, I don't want to do that, make him look bad and all, he's just kinda stiff, ya know? I don't think I meet his standards for what a professor should act like. He's real young, he'll figure it out eventually."

Duncan shook his head, thinking that it was obvious that Blair put everyone else's needs before his own, even people he barely knew. "You, my friend, could use some assertiveness training."

Blair's smile faded."Oh, I'm assertive, believe me. I have this really intense tendency to say the thing that will piss people off the most, at the worst times." He was thinking of all the times he had pissed Jim off, putting in his two cents when it wasn't his place to do so. It had gotten them in trouble more than once.

"You want to know what I think? I think you are way too hard on yourself. You can't hold yourself accountable for other people's actions, Blair, believe me."

Blair looked up from the test he was marking to meet Duncan's eyes across the couch.

"That sounds like learned wisdom."

Duncan just smiled, and Blair thought that his eyes looked sad. He had the most expressive eyes. It was such a strong face, complicated. There was a great deal to Duncan MacLeod, Blair decided. He was what Naomi would call an 'old soul'. Blair thought that the description really fit very well. There was an underlying melancholy to Duncan, not sadness, but something more subtle. As if he had carried his feelings, whatever they were, around with him for a very long time, and was resigned to the burden. For all that, he was still a very high energy person, Blair thought. He radiated confidence and positive expectations.

Blair was always drawn to people who maintained steady eye contact, but with Duncan, he didn't seem to be able to look away. He would glance up every few questions, to find Duncan looking at him, and get caught in those complicated eyes.

"Am I making you uncomfortable?" Duncan asked quietly, his expression open and relaxed, prepared to accept any answer Blair gave him.

It took a minute for Blair to find his voice. "No, you're not making me uncomfortable." It came out rather breathless.

"Good," Duncan told him decisively. "But I am distracting you, and that's no good. At this rate you'll be grading those into next week. I'm going to order us some dinner, and then I'll go downstairs and help Spence close up. By the time I get back the food will be here and I'll make you take a break.

"Sounds wonderful." Blair felt a rush of pure adrenaline go through him when Duncan reached over to brush back a lock of curls that had fallen forward into his eyes.

"How are you feeling?" The tenderness in the warm voice turned Blair's brain to mush.

"Wonderful," he replied dreamily, then he blushed, realizing how presumptive that sounded. "I mean fine," he added quickly. "My ribs don't really hurt, as long as I don't move."

"I'm glad." Duncan smiled. "But I liked wonderful better," he drawled, getting up from the couch to find the take out menus.

Blair blushed, ducking his head. Telling himself resolutely to get back to work, he stared at the paper in his lap, but it was several seconds before his brain began to comprehend the words on the paper before him.

"What would you like?" Duncan called from the kitchen, spreading the menus out on the counter.

"Anything but pizza. I've eaten enough pizza in the past four years to cover my acceptable cholesterol intake for the rest of my life."

Duncan chuckled. "Okay, no pizza. How about Chinese? Let's see, what else have we got here? Pizza, Pizza, Italian, more pizza, Vietnamese, Ethiopian, Indian..."

"Indian?" Blair asked hopefully.

"I could do tandori, what do you like?"

"Everything! How about Lamb sag and tandori chicken and some cheese naan?"

"Sounds great, I'll put the order in now and ask them to hold it half an hour or so. Will you be hungry by then?"

"Yeah, that'll be great, I should be done with these by then, and then I can get the anthro 101's over with after dinner. They're the worst this week, five hundred word compositions. Sixty of them, all freshman, pure torture. Wait a minute, an Indian restaurant that delivers? They never deliver. You always have to go pick it up, if you can even find a place that's willing to do take out."

"Yeah, well, they don't, really, but the owner likes me. They're right down the street, he'll send his nephew over with it."

The realization dawned on Blair that Duncan was a wealthy man. It shouldn't be that much of a surprise, it was in the way he carried himself, and in the polite way he spoke. He was the kind of person people used the phrase 'well bred' to describe. It was more than class, although that was obvious from the antiques that complemented each other so well throughout the loft, and the books on the shelves, more than half of which were in foreign languages. It was the kind of grace that people who wanted to give the impression of generations of wealth tried so hard to affect, and never could. Blair told himself not to be impressed, but he was anyway.

It wasn't the money itself, he mused, it was the exposure to higher culture that it bought, that he envied. Blair tried to imagine what it would be like to have season tickets to the symphony and drive a T-bird that cost more than every car he had ever owned put together.

Duncan broke into his thoughts. "You'll be okay? It should only take about half an hour. I want to check the schedule for next week, see if we can manage to sneak in a few hours for a guy to come in and give me an estimate for a little remodeling I want to do. I went over the books last night and it looks like we're going to be able to go ahead and put in the separate weight room I've been wanting. There is just not enough room the way it's set up now to accommodate the number of people on the floor on the weekends."

"Hey, that's great, man. I mean, it's crowded, that means business is good, right?"

"Yeah, it's been picking up pretty steadily for the past few months. Spence has done a lot for the place. He has a real head for advertising."

"Your old manager wasn't good at his job?"

"No, he was the best, but he died, four years ago. His name was Charlie DeSalvo, and he was a good friend. That's why the place is still called De Salvo's."

"I'm sorry," Blair murmured sincerely.

"No, don't be. He's gone, and I miss him, but Charlie wasn't the kind of man who would have wanted anyone to waste time mourning. He would be real proud of the dojo now, though, we weren't even making enough to cover the lights and water when I bought it. He was there before I bought the place, and I think I would have lost every single one of the customers we did have if I'd brought in someone to replace him. It's always been Charlie's place, maybe that's why I kept it after he died. I knew he would have wanted me to stick with it."

"Sounds like you've been successful."

"Yeah, I try not to measure success with money, but the way that place eats up dollars, it's hard not to."

Blair didn't know what to say to that, he figured Duncan's expense account for his business was probably more than double what he made in a month.

"Well, I'd better get down there. Just call if you need anything." Duncan picked up the phone, placing their order in perfectly accented Punjab.

Blair was gaping at him when he hung up the phone. Not being impressed by Duncan MacLeod was a losing battle.

Duncan looked embarrassed. "Raji doesn't speak any English."

"Where did you learn Punjab?"

"In India. How did you know which dialect it was?" Duncan asked curiously.

"I'm an anthropologist, remember? And I have a really good ear for languages."

Duncan nodded, thinking that he was either going to have to tell Blair the truth, or he was going to have to be very careful. The boy was too clever.

"Okay then, do you need anything before I go? Something to drink?"

Blair shook his head. "No, I'm fine." When Duncan hesitated, standing next to the couch, he added more seriously, "I promise, I'll be okay. Go, get your work done."

"Okay, no dark thoughts, I'll be back soon," Duncan told him softly, bending down to drop a light kiss on the top of Blair's head.

Blair stayed very still, savoring the wonderful, protected feeling until the elevator gate closed, ringing out loudly in the quiet room. He turned back to his stack of papers, conscious of the wide smile on his face.

Duncan met up with Raji's teenage nephew on his way back up the stairs.

"Hey Maliek, how's it going? Here, I'll take that."

"Hey, Mr. MacLeod, how are you?" Maliek handed over the paper bag.

"Good thanks, here you go." Duncan paid for their food, handing the boy an extra ten. "Here, hide that from your father."

The boy's face split into a wide grin. "Thanks Mr. MacLeod!" Maliek stuffed the bill into the oversized pocket of his ridiculously baggy jeans. They hung down far enough on his hips for Duncan to see the waistband of his plaid boxers. He supposed that was the point.

"Have a good night Maliek."

"Hey, you too Mr. MacLeod." Maliek disappeared down the stairs.

Blair didn't look up from the paper he was speed reading, the tip of his pen following rapidly across the lines, guiding his eyes. "Hi. One minute, almost done." He mumbled, the pen slowing down only slightly.

"No problem." Duncan took the paper bag that held their dinner into the kitchen, setting it on the counter and pulling out plates and utensils.

"Not bad, Madeline, but you're going to have to convince me that you did more than spend a Sunday at the museum next time." Blair scrawled in the margin, tossing the paper onto the stack next to him with a small sigh of relief. "That's it, the last of the anth and arch, only sixty more to go."

"That's crazy," Duncan told him, dishing their meal out of the white cartons and onto plates.

"I know, man. I can't seem to say 'no' where classes are concerned. I'm always afraid if I do they'll get some sub who knows nothing about the material, just teaches straight from the book. I hate to see the kids get gypped like that."

"And what about Blair?" Duncan asked mildly from the counter. "Isn't he getting gypped?"

"Nah, if I had any kind of social life, then maybe, but honestly, working is better than staring at the walls."

"Well, we're just going to have to do something about that." Duncan carried their plates to the living room. "I put water on for tea, is that okay? Otherwise all I have is beer, and I don't think you should drink on the muscle relaxers."

"Tea's fine. I haven't taken any since this afternoon, though, I needed to have a brain to deal with these." He waved his hand at the stacks of papers. "But I'll probably want one when I'm done."

"How is it without them, are you in a lot of pain?" Duncan asked, concerned that Blair was pushing himself to hard.

"Not bad at all. Unless I move around, then it sucks," he admitted.

"Well then we'll just have to make sure you stay put," Duncan told him, picking up their plates and coming over to the couch to sit down beside Blair and his pile of paper.

"Here, let me get all this out of the way." Blair began stuffing papers into folders, and then the folders back into his pack. When there was room on the coffee table, Duncan set down Blair's plate.

"Oh man, that smells incredible, I haven't had Indian in ages. Jim wouldn't eat it, it was too spicy." Blair stopped, looking embarrassed. "I'm sorry. I keep talking about him."

"You miss him," Duncan replied gently, making it a statement rather than a question. "It's perfectly okay. I'd like you to tell me about him, and about your work in Cascade, I'm interested." Blair nodded, and Duncan added quietly. "And he's obviously very important to you. That makes it important to me."

"Wow, thanks," Blair answered, reaching carefully for his plate. When he looked up, he realized that Duncan was waiting, patiently, but expectantly.

"I guess there's not really that much to tell, that I haven't told you already. He's a cop, a really good one. I helped him with cases and stuff, did all the paperwork. Mostly it felt like I was only there to call for backup, he was always telling me to stay in the truck. What he really needed me for though, was to keep him from zoning out, and to help him learn how to use his senses and be able to control them. He has them pretty under control now, he hadn't had a zone out for months when I left. I worry about that a lot though, who's going to pull him out if he zones now?" Blair asked, self recrimination obvious in his voice.

"What's a zone out?" Duncan asked, his tone gentle.

"It's like, he gets so deep into concentrating on one sense, all the others go offline. It can be really dangerous, especially in the middle of a shootout or something."

"Yeah, but he's still the one making the choice to put himself in that situation, right, to do the job?"

"Well yeah, I mean, Jim's a cop, that's just what he is. I can't even imagine him doing anything else."

Blair wasn't seeing his point. "What I mean is that it's not your responsibility to keep him from zoning out, that he chooses to put himself in danger, because it's what he wants to do."

"Not anymore it isn't," Blair mumbled, pushing his fork through the remains of the lamb sag on his plate.

Duncan chastised himself for reminding Blair of what he obviously considered his failure. Still, he wanted to know, and he had a feeling Blair needed to talk about it. He probably hadn't talked to anyone about himself personally since he left Cascade. It didn't sound as if he'd made any friends here yet at all.

"Why is that?" Duncan asked, as gently as he could.

Blair looked up from his plate, meeting Duncan's warm, brown eyes. "I did something that made him seriously angry, and he decided that he didn't want me to be a part of his life anymore."

"What did you do, Blair?"

Blair blushed. "I kissed him."

That was what Duncan had expected to hear, or something like it, but the pain and regret in the words made them seem new.

"What did he do when you kissed him?"

"He punched me in the mouth, and I went flying across the room. I said I was sorry, that it would never happen again, but by that time, he was like, way past the reasonable point."

Duncan worked on unclenching his jaw. Again, from the things Blair had said last night, it was what he had expected, but the feelings of rage and protectiveness that swelled inside him weren't. He wanted to go find this Jim Ellison and teach him to fight with people his own size.

"He had absolutely no right to hit you, even if he was upset by your advances, you know that, right?"

"Yeah, I guess so. He probably wouldn't have, I mean, he never did before, no matter how bad I screwed up, but we were both pretty drunk, and I..." Blair stopped, trying to get over his embarrassment. Duncan didn't look either embarrassed or surprised by anything he'd said. "I sort of jumped on him."

Duncan waited patiently, and after a moment of silence, where Blair toyed with his food, he continued. "It's just that he was sending out all these really intense signals, or at least I thought he was. I guess I was wrong."

"Maybe not," Duncan interrupted, unable to listen to Blair put any more blame on himself. "Maybe you were right, and he was sending you these signals, but wasn't doing it consciously, or admitting it to himself. What kinds of things did he do that made you think it was sexual attraction?"

Blair thought about it for a moment. "Well, he was always touching me, you know, in conversation and stuff, but that doesn't really count, cause he's just like that, even with people who send out 'don't touch, I hate touchy-feely people' vibes, like the Captain. Jim uses touch to communicate, he's not real good at talking about emotional stuff. There were other things though, he called me a bunch of silly nicknames, all the time." Blair ran down, a hurt in his eyes that Duncan longed to replace.

"What did he call you?" he prompted gently.

"Chief, Darwin, Guppy..."

"Guppy?" Duncan asked, losing his picture of a tough, hard as nails cop.

"He took me fishing. I'd never been fishing before."

"Did you do other things together, I mean socially?"

"Oh yeah, we were together just about twenty-four seven. He took me camping, we went to the movies together almost every weekend, we even went on vacation together. I took him to this monastery I spent a summer at when I was kid."

"So he was pretty dependent on you? For the Sentinel stuff I mean?" Duncan asked, taking Blair's empty plate from his lap and setting it on the coffee table.

"Well, yeah, at first, definitely. He handles it really well now, like I said, he hadn't zoned in ages."

"Maybe that scared him, needing someone."

"Jim is not afraid of anything."

The absolute certainty in his voice made Duncan smile. Jim must have some good qualities, if Blair idolized him this much.

"Everybody's afraid of something, Blair."

"Not Jim. He is like, Mr. Take Charge. I've lived with him for four years, and I've never seen him in a situation he couldn't handle. Here..." he reached for his backpack, digging in the side pocket. "That's Jim." He handed Duncan a picture of Blair, standing next to a much taller, well built man, with clear blue eyes and a military buzz cut. He had his arm around Blair's waist, they were both wearing Tuxedo's and smiling. If Duncan didn't know better, he would have assumed that they were a couple.

Duncan studied the man carefully. He was in his late thirties or early forties, about Duncan's height. His smile was confident, the arm around Blair's waist casual. "He looks like a nice guy."

"He is. He's just not real accepting. Everything is black or white with Jim, right or wrong, and what I did was wrong."

"You lived with him for four years, right? What made you..." Duncan faltered, trying to find the right words.

"Pounce? It was definitely a pounce."

Duncan chuckled. "Yeah, what made you decide to pounce?"

Duncan formed a mental picture of what a pouncing Blair would look like, and his body temperature rose.

Blair shrugged, squinting his eyes, something Duncan realized he did when he was thinking hard. "I dunno, we went to a party, it was a retirement party for a guy at the station. Jim doesn't usually drink, it fucks up his senses. But we'd just nailed this incredibly heavy case, this psychopath... Anyway, we were both drunk. It was something he said, at the party. He said 'Sandburg, you are the best partner I could ask for. Don't you ever leave me." Blair felt his eyes fill up with tears, and closed them quickly. "I guess he didn't mean it," Blair finished quietly, forcing the words past the lump in his throat.

Duncan's eyes were full of compassion. "I'm so sorry, Blair. For what it's worth, I think Jim Ellison made a very big mistake."

"It's worth a lot," Blair whispered, trying desperately to get his emotions under control.

"I'm glad." Duncan's hand rested on Blair's forearm, for a moment, squeezing gently. Then he got up, carrying their plates to the sink. When he returned, Blair had pulled another folder out of his backpack, and was starting in on his last batch of papers. Duncan went back to him, kicking off his shoes and putting his feet up on the edge of the table. "Can I help?"

"No, thanks, really, but these are compositions, I'm going to have to actually read them."

Duncan peered over Blair's shoulder to look at the chicken scrawl penmanship, written in purple ink. "Good luck."

"Yeah, thanks." Blair started to laugh, but it quickly turned into a groan, his hand clutching his taped ribs. "Man that sucks!" He gasped, hissing air between his clenched teeth.

"Try to relax, breath evenly."

"Isn't that my line?"


"Nothing, it's just what I would always say to Jim when I was trying to get him to use his senses."

"Oh, well, do it anyway, okay?"

"Yeah, it's better now."

"Good. I'll do my best not to make you laugh."

"Oh man, that is like, a loaded line."

"Okay, smart alec, that's enough."

Duncan smiled, enjoying watching Blair with a mischievous grin on his face. Blair's smiles were rare, and radiant. He got up, going to the bookshelf to find something to read while Blair was grading his papers. Choosing his collection of Sarte's plays, he returned to the couch, careful not to sit down too heavily and jostle Blair and his pile of paper.

Two hours later, Blair's finished pile was finally starting to look bigger than the pile of papers yet to grade. Duncan looked up from his book to check on him, and realized that Blair had scooted closer to him on the couch. He must have moved a little bit at a time, Duncan thought, or he would have noticed. Putting his arm around Blair's waist, he pulled him carefully against his side, closing the small distance left between them. Moving his arm to Blair's shoulders, he bent his head near the young man's ear to ask quietly. "Is this alright?"

"Mmm," Blair responded, leaning a little closer, without ever pausing in his pens path across the page.

"I'll take that as a yes." Duncan told him, his voice deepening slightly.


It was a very small word, Duncan almost missed it.

Blair finished the paper he was working on and reached for the next one from the stack on his right, settling back against Duncan's side. Duncan's arm curved around his shoulder, two fingers absentmindedly twirling a curl while he read.

This feels too good to be real, Blair thought. His side ached fiercely, and the bruise on his hip throbbed, but he was completely content. Duncan MacLeod was the kind of man that it had gotten hard to believe existed anymore, seeing the worst of the world everyday with Jim. There was something about him that reminded Blair of a more civilized, graceful age. Maybe it was only that he was European. Blair had detected the slight accent from the first moment Duncan spoke to him, but try as he might, he couldn't place it. He finally decided that he must have moved around a great deal in his formative years.

Unable to keep his attention on the loose, sloppy thinking of his student, he turned to look at Duncan over his reading glasses. "Where are you from?"

"My family is from Scotland, but I've moved around a lot."

"Scotland, really? Did you grow up there?"

Adorable dog with a bone, Duncan thought wryly to himself. "Yeah, I did, I left home fairly young, and I didn't go back."

"Did your family disown you or something?"

Oh, he's a quick one, Duncan thought. How am I going to deceive him? I'm not even sure I want to.

"Something like that. It was a very long time ago."

Blair was about to argue that it couldn't have been that long ago, Duncan wasn't that old. He was younger than Jim, surely. Blair thought he was probably only three or four of years older than he was. It was the finality in Duncan's voice that stopped him. His words were short, as if he were trying to say them and be done with them as quickly as possible. Something Jim had said once came to him, that people always talk faster when they aren't telling the truth. Blair decided that if Duncan didn't talk easily about his childhood, that was no reason to be suspicious, and that four years with Jim had made him cynical.

"You know Blair, I'm so sorry about what happened to you, and I'm so glad that I was there."

"Oh man, me too. You were like, like an immortal warrior, man, like Belatucadrus, coming down from the sky to battle the unjust."

Duncan decided this was a really good time to shut Blair up, before he got any closer to the truth. So he kissed him. Blair's small mouth moved softly under his, his full lips returning the kiss sweetly. His hand drifted up to rest at the center of Duncan's chest.

Releasing the soft lips, Duncan pulled back a little. Blair was staring at him with wide, dreamy eyes. "Who's Belatucadrus?" He asked, brushing Blair's full lower lip with the pad of his thumb.

"He was, um, a Celtic war god, but later the Greeks stole him and associated him with Mars." Blair smiled at him shyly. "Belatucadrus means 'fair shining one'."

"And I thought I was the history teacher," Duncan murmured, smiling. Will this beautiful boy teach me my own history, too? Duncan mused to himself, lost for a moment in the deep ocean blue of Blair's eyes.

"I'm really glad you were there, you saved my life. Another five minutes and my brains would have been smeared all over the sole of a combat boot."

The image that evoked was so upsetting, Duncan pulled Blair into his arms, wrapping him in a gentle embrace. "I don't even want to think about it," he told Blair, trying not to squeeze the beautiful, injured creature in his lap too hard.

"Me either," Blair mumbled, burying his face in the hard, broad chest. His arms wrapped around Duncan's ribs, holding himself as close to the warm, wonderfully big body as he could. "This feels so good, so safe," Blair whispered, pressing his cheek against Duncan's chest. He could hear Duncan's heart, steady and strong, beating under his cheek.

"You are very safe, I promise. I won't let anything bad happen to you. Only good things."

"Mmm, I like that idea." Blair snuggled into Duncan's arms, finding a comfortable position on his lap.

"Me too," Duncan whispered, kissing the top of Blair's head.

Blair fell asleep like that, and Duncan sat for hours, holding him, unable to make himself release his precious burden. He watched Blair's face, listened to his breath. He thought that asleep, with that halo of hair and a sweet smile on his lips, Blair looked exactly like an angel. A heavy angel, his legs had fallen asleep, but Duncan didn't care. Holding this beautiful creature felt better than anything had in a long, long time.

End Part 3

Part 4

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