The beat up 4X4 pulled into the parking lot with a squeal of tires, its driver throwing himself from the seat with a burst of reckless enthusiasm.
"JIM!" after practically flying across the parking lot, Dr.Blair Sandburg backpeddled, arms windmilling, as he sought to slow his momentum and not crash into his erstwhile partner.
"Whoa there, Chief!" a strong arm snaked out and snagged him, pulling him into a tight hug. Returning it for a long minute, Blair stepped away at last and looked back at the truck.
"Hey, Francis, sorry! I'll get that, sweetheart!"
Ducking out of the backseat with their small son in her arms, tucked up tightly in his hand-woven Mmbari blanket, his partner of two years shook her head. She was frowning.
"He cried the entire flight." Blair sighed, then looked up again at Jim, allowing his happiness at seeing him shine through again. "I didn't expect you to be here to meet us."
"I called the airport, they said your flight arrived on time. Then I checked and found out you picked up your truck, so I knew almost exactly when you would get here." with a smug grin Jim stepped around Blair and went to relieve Francis of the diaper bag. "Hello, gorgeous." he gave her a kiss on the cheek and she smiled reluctantly. "How's my little buddy?"
"He's fine now, but I know you never made that much noise in your life." shifting the baby, she tugged at her loose, flowing shirt, which she wore over a pair of ragged jeans.
"I've been waiting a long time to meet you, Joey." taking the baby from her with her smile as his blessing, Jim held the five-week-old form to his face and scented him deeply. Quizzical eyes, very dark brown, almost black, opened and studied him, and a small fist found it's way into the toothless mouth for gnawing.
"Alex expects you all to dinner tonight."
"Not cooking will be a treat." she smiled with relief now.
Standing at Jim's side, Blair watched as his best friend got acquainted with his godson. Although Joseph -- Joey -- Rainmaker Sandburg hadn't been christened in the biblical sense, that was the role Jim would play in his life.
"So, what do you think?" he bumped Jim with his elbow, grinning. "We did good, huh?"
"He's amazing, Chief. But I'm sure that's all due to your lady here." Jim teased and they laughed. Jim handed the baby back to Francis, then he and Blair grabbed their things from the truck and hauled it upstairs.
"Only four bags, Sandburg? How do you do it?"
"You know how it works with the tribe, Jim. We only keep as much as we can carry. Now that the rainy season is over we'll be traveling even more, trying to keep up with the waterholes. I only hope it won't be as bad as last year...the drought is threatening already..."
Listening to Blair's story, although he'd heard most of it before, Jim followed Francis into the loft.
It was clean and aired out, Jim had taken care of that last weekend, when Blair called to say they were coming. Fresh sheets on the bed, the pillows that dotted the floor piled neatly by the wall....it certainly didn't look the way it had when it was Jim's.
"Whew." flopping on the california-king sized mattress that took up most of the living room floor, Francis unbuttoned her shirt and put the squirming baby to her breast, then lay back on the bolster and closed her eyes.
"You gonna take a nap?" dropping to his knees beside her, Blair was the picture of soliticious.
"Mmhm. You and Jim go upstairs and talk, 'kay?" she smiled up at him without opening her eyes.
"I'll get everything sorted out and the clothes in the wash." he promised, leaning to kiss her deeply, his mouth opening hers with tender strength. She made a quiet appreciative noise and Jim snorted, shaking his head.
"That damn rule is going to kill me." she said softly when he pulled away.
"One more week. But just think how much you're going to want me when the time is up." pulling away, he dropped another kiss to her forehead. "Rest up, Mom."
He covered both of them with the light afghan that was spread over the back of the small sofa, pushed to the wall beside the large, extravagant entertainment center that took up the rest of the space there.
Jim wandered around the loft while Blair started the laundry and made out a shopping list, taking in the changes.
When Sandburg had met Francis WhiteMoon the summer after he finished his dissertation, she'd followed him home and moved herself in. Bemused, Blair had sat back and let her join his life. Although they had never married, the two of them were happier together than many legalized couples Jim knew.
The offer of the African study had been their big chance, and they'd all known it. Two years after his dissertation, after watching Jim court and marry Alexandra Weslon, he and Francis both had accepted it, all of them knowing it was a long-term commitment.
One day Blair and Francis would be the defining experts on the African Mmbari, a little-known nomadic tribe with surprisingly zen attitudes and a great respect for nature and mother earth. Living with them was, in Blair's words, "Heaven without beer and TV."
Francis's decision to stay with the tribe, to carry and deliver their child in their customs, had caused a battle between the two of them and their sponsors, but in the end she had insisted, and Joey had been born in a temporary tribal hut while Blair was away on a hunt, with only the tribe's shaman and medicine woman in attendance.
When he'd gotten around to calling -- the cellphone was paid for out of his pocket, not the budget -- Blair had told Jim how scared he'd been when he came back and found it all over.
"I could have come back and found her dead, Jim. Dead and gone and the baby too and I wouldn't have known a thing!"
"But it didn't happen, Chief." Jim had consoled, still amazed at the clarity of the satellite link. "She's fine, you're fine, and you have a healthy baby boy."
Jim had repeated the words a dozen times before his friend really heard them.
The little bedroom was now a library, while the upstairs was their combined office. Jim knew they had no plans to put Joey out of their bed, all the tribe children slept in the same tent as their parents, in the same bed until they were ready to leave.
The walls were covered with masks and hangings and blankets and carvings and all the esoteric bits collected by a pair of well-traveled up-and-coming anthropologists. The bed that dominated the living room had coffee tables on either side of it, and the dining table that stood in the same place it always had was the same one that had always been there.
"So, Hollywood called yet?" Jim teased when Blair finished his chores and came over to rest a hand on the broad shoulder, leaning to see what Jim was looking at.
It was their latest scrapbook, Blair had dropped it on the table when he was dumping the biggest duffel bag to get to the laundry.
"When we get the Pullizter Hollywood will call." Blair insisted. "And then you'll have to call me Mr. Sandburg."
"You'll always be Chief to me." with his grin in place Jim let Blair lead him upstairs, where they could relax on the old sofa and talk guy-talk.
That night found them eating lasagna at Jim and Alex's house. Alex's seventeen-year-old daughter Jasmine had latched onto Joey and monopolized him since they got there and her mother commented on that as dinner was finishing up.
"I don't see how you can manage living rough like that with a new baby." she smiled as she gathered dishes and Francis helped her carry them into the kitchen. "No diapers, no swing, no playpen...how are you going to do that?"
"Babies aren't let down much before they're walking." the indian woman explained. Blair watched them, thinking about what a contrast they were. Both were tall, Alex actually close to six foot. Francis was slightly rounder and softer, despite their diet of the last two years, which was sometimes sparse. But the most striking differences were in coloring and personality. Blessed with cool blond good looks, Alex could have been a fashion model - in fact, that what Jasmine was. "Too much chance they'll eat something unhealthy or get into trouble."
"So you carry him all the time?" the shock of a modern woman.
With her typically dark skin and eyes and broad face, there were many who would say that Francis wasn't beautiful, certainly not in a traditional european sense. Her black eyes flashed with sometimes frightening intelligence and her long black hair was slightly coarse. She wore it in a thick heavy braid that reached her butt, tied with a leather thong.
"Carry him? Not hardly!" Francis laughed boldly. "There are almost twenty girls and young unmarried women in the tribe and they all want a turn with him - he's the first new baby to arrive in over a year. I hand him off to one and don't see him again until he's hungry four hours later...and then he's gone again. I have to shoo them away to spend time with him."
A 911 dispatcher with a liberal arts degree, Alex wouldn't be caught dead in public without her makeup on.
A doctor of anthropology with a building reputation, Francis hadn't worn makeup since they left for Africa almost two years before.
"So, what are your plans for this visit?" Jim asked companionably. Francis accepted Joey back from Jasmine and settled on the couch to nurse him while Alex went to check on her mother. One of the reasons he had moved in with her and they hadn't bought another house was her presence. At 73 Momti, as she was called by Jim and Jas, wasn't able to get around by herself anymore and needed someone in the house and someone to make sure she ate, etc. Jim truly didn't mind. She loved him like a son and sometimes he felt like he'd found what he'd lost when his own mother disappeared.
"The usual." they got two two-week breaks during the year.
It was spring now, Jim was kindof hoping they would come for Christmas on the next one. Blair leaned back in his chair and sipped his single beer slowly. "Shopping - clothes, supplies.
More this year, 'cause of the rugrat. Doctor appointments. She's finally agreed to get the birth control implant, I convinced her that we aren't going to be able to do Joey justice if she has another one right away."
"You don't want another one." Jim guessed, knowing the look in his friend's eyes.
"It's too scary, man. I was an only child, it didn't hurt me. But she wants a girl and I can understand that...I told her I'd decide after the review next year. If we get the three-year extension, then, yeah, we'll have another one. But not until then. Until I know where we're gonna be."
He raised an eyebrow at Jim's muffled chuckle.
"For such a modern, enlightened male, you can really be neanderthal, can't you?"
"Shit." Blair grinned back. "She's the boss. We both know that...but I decide what I'm going to do with my dick!"
The loud words made Jim laugh harder and he snorted beer up his nose and then coughed and choked while Blair howled with mirth, not the least bit sympathetic.
"So, are we on for tomorrow night?" seeing that Francis was making getting-ready-to-leave-motions, Jim asked it quietly.
"Boys night out." Blair grinned, but his eyes were just as serious. "I wouldn't miss it for the world, Jim. Francis in taking Joey to see her friend Shelly for the day, so I'm all yours."
He withstood the long look Jim gave him with ease.
"We won't be back tonight, 'Lex. Bye!" Jim called to his wife as he opened the door. She hurried into the room, moving gracefully, and stopped him with a hand on his shoulder.
"Not until you kiss me." her eyes were bright with mischief.
Jim rolled his eyes and submitted with exaggerated suffering. It soon became apparent to the younger man watching that this was going to take a while, so he ducked out, with a grin for Jasmine, who watched ruefully, and climbed into Jim's newest truck, a big GMC Jimmy. After a few years without totalling out a vehicle the older man had been able to buy something he really wanted again.
The raise he'd gotten for making Detective II hadn't hurt either.
"What was that for?" holding his wife gently, Jim asked, teasing.
"Just a taste of things to come. These nights out with Sandburg always seem to put you into the mood, once you recover from the hangover. Last time I swear it lasted a month."
"The horniness or the hangover?" he dropped a quick kiss on her lips before she could answer. "I gotta go -- he'll change the radio station if I don't stop him."
"You two are worse than an old married couple." she chuckled and released him.
"Worse than us, you mean?" his tease brought a groan.
"Have a good time. Take the cell, though, just in case. Please?"
"Of course. I don't want you to worry."
Without exchanging any other words, he left. Climbing into the cab, he caught Blair fiddling with the radio. Glancing up with a guilty look, it softened and the younger man shrugged and turned it up so that Jim could listen.
"Oldies?" Jim asked as he started the vehicle.
"Everything's old to you now." Blair teased.
Bringing his closed fist to Jim's eye level, Blair opened it, revealing a plastic keycard.
"Continuity, Chief?" Jim raised an eyebrow.
"More like tradition, man." pretending to look hurt, Blair settled back in his seat and sang quietly along with the song while Jim drove.
Forty-five minutes later found them on the outskirts of town at a mid-price hotel. They had stopped at a drugstore on the way and it was all they carried in with them. Blair had already checked in, so there was no encounter with the front desk clerk or any of the unpleasantness they had been exposed to once or twice before.
"Ahhh...." stretching out on one side of the king-sized bed, Blair closed his eyes and took a deep breath. "Hey!" he exclaimed happily. "I can smell you."
"Not as well as I can smell you." falling to his knees beside the bed, Jim leaned over and pressed his face into the curly hair, worn longer now, a few errant strands of gray running through it. His hands gently kneaded the soft comforter that covered the sheets.
Rolling to his side, Blair shifted down until his face was even with Jim's.
Their eyes met and they stared for long moments.
It was Blair who finally broke the growing silence.
Jim smiled, a small, tender smile filled with relief.
"It's good to be back."
"It's good to have you back."
Sliding across the bed, Blair's hand -- strong, square, small -- stroked Jim's chest without hesitation.
"I've missed you."
"Not as much as I've missed you." catching the hand with one of his own, Jim brought it to his lips. Tenderly he kissed each fingertip, and then turned it over to nuzzle the palm. Blair sighed and closed his eyes, but then opened them again.
"I love you." the words always came. Sometimes sooner, like tonight, and sometimes later. They didn't need to be said, they were there in the room, but they spilled out anyhow.
"Love you too." crawling onto the bed, Jim pushed Blair over onto his back and straddled him, bending to kiss him more deeply, hands fisted in his hair, pulling his head up.
"Mmmm." letting him take control without objection, Blair began to move, rubbing their groins together. Frustration built quickly, their layers of denim suddenly miles thick, and they broke apart to undress.
Jim watched Blair, noting changes in his body. Still too thin, by Jim's standard, but that was because of their diet. Blair refused to eat camp rations, although he insisted that Francis do, while she was pregnant and now while she was nursing.
He was living native, he said, and so should eat only what the tribe ate. This meant that he hunted and worked alongside the men as well. The tribe divided work along sexual lines, as so many did, which allowed him to concentrate on studying the men while Francis studied the women.
"That's new." he brushed a finger over a bright pink scar that laced up Blair's torso. It was almost a foot long, and very thin.
"Rope burn. Dragging a wildebeest carcass. I had it wrapped around my waist the way I was shown, but I must have done something wrong, because it ate right through the skin. The Chief was pretty impressed when I got back to camp, blood running down my chest, with that damn animal right behind me."
"Must have hurt." leaning, Jim traced the scar with his tongue.
"Like a sonnofabitch." Blair agreed, his breath catching. "But we needed the meat, and I did kill it. There was nobody else to bring it back and if I'd left it to get someone the hyenas would have stolen it."
His hands closed on Jim's head and tugged the older man up so he could look him over.
"You never change." he sighed.
"I'm getting old, Chief." Jim shook his head, rejecting Blair's statement.
"Always beautiful, always strong...everything okay with you?"
Knowing that it was his Guide speaking those last words, Jim smiled and pulled his head free, taking Blair's hand.
"Everything is fine, Sandburg. Everything works great. You know I haven't zoned in years."
"Just checkin', man." with a grin Blair allowed himself to be tugged in the direction of the bathroom.
"Let's get cleaned up and get to know each other again." Jim said, more softly than was his wont.
"yeah." his dark blue eyes gleaming, Blair followed Jim into the bathroom.
They washed each other gently, taking turns under the hot water. Every inch of each body was investigated, soaped and scrubbed, then rinsed with gentle hands. Although there may have been some lingering over the genitals, both cocks tall and full, there was nothing that could be called foreplay. The shower was a ritual as much as the room was, for cleansing, to prepare them, help them make that jump from who they were in the real world to who they were here.
Guide and Sentinel.
Sentinel and Guide.
They had finally realized that their connection was deeper than anything either of them could achieve with a woman or, god forbid, another man. That acceptance had taken a couple of years and caused much anguish. The compromise they had settled on was risky, sometimes awkward, occasionally even uncomfortable...but always worth it.
Jim had a wife and family, people for him to take care of, people to take care of him when Blair wasn't there to fill either role.
Blair had his work, his studies, Francis beside him and now Joey was his future. These were the things he had wanted out of life both before and after he met Jim.
They were happy. Guilt came and went, but when they were together it didn't dare show it's face.
Lying back on the bed, the covers pulled down, Jim pulled Blair over on top of him, wrapping his arms around the smaller man. With a sigh Blair nuzzled beneath his chin and closed his eyes, pressing a tiny kiss there.
"Tell me about your day." whispering, Jim relaxed into the sensation of being whole.
"Nothing exciting. Ordered our supplies. They'll be shipped over next week, should be waiting for us when we get back. Got a big box of that never-melts chocolate for Francis. Tomorrow we'll shop for clothes, although we don't need much. It's funny, the way she's adopted tribal customs, going topless most of the time, and she still feels she has to wear underpants."
"Must be a childhood thing." Jim mused.
"Alex looks good." offering the words casually.
"She's great. Momti hasn't been too good this year, but the warm weather has helped. She's dead set on going to Disneyland with us this fall...I may end up carrying her the whole time." a fond smile crossed his face.
"Decided not to have a kid finally?"
"It would just be too strange. With Jas being seventeen already and almost out of the house....we both work so much. I know she would try if I really wanted one, but I've never had the same driving desire to reproduce that you have, Chief."
"My desire for children is quelled, man." shifting, Blair rose over Jim so that he could kiss him softly. "But my desire for you...it never passes."
"Its a living thing, isn't it." Jim agreed. "As much a part of you, a part of us, as being alive."
"Exactly, man." tracing the contours of Jim's slightly parted lips with the tip of his tongue, Blair repeated it almost silently. "Exactly."
Kisses were accomplished in midair, tongues dueling and then twining as a pct was made and the battle ended. This was the point where this became real. More real than the lives outside these borrowed walls.
"You taste so good." Jim groaned, rearing up and turning them over. "Let me taste all of you."
"Anything you want, Jim, you know that." Blair sighed and then groaned with rough pleasure as Jim flipped him to his stomach and began nibbling at his ass. His hands gripped the headboard above him and he spread his legs in eager anticipation.
"That's wonderful, Jim, don't stop." he panted as the older man stroked up and down between the mounds of his ass, big hands kneading the soft flesh, as brown as the rest of him after years of living in the simple belt the Mmbari used as clothing in the summer. Progress, such as it was, in the form of modern clothes and attitudes, hadn't come to them yet and Blair was fighting tooth and nail to make sure that it never did.
"Mmhm." answering with a little purr, Jim went lower, his tongue seeking and finding the vulnerable opening. Teasing, he licked over it several times while Blair panted, and then blew a stream of air across it.
"Ohhhh...." Blair writhed impotently, encouraging Jim to hurry. Watching the movement with hot eyes, Jim relented and licked briskly at the opening itself. Soon he was working the tip of his tongue into Blair's ass and the younger man was moaning and thrashing helplessly, Jim's strength keeping his ass still, his weight across Blair's legs keeping them from kicking.
"Want more?" pulling away, Jim rubbed warmly while he waited for the question to seep into Blair's overheated brain.
"N-No! I'm ready, Jim. I want you inside me."
"You sure?" he was reaching for the bag on the nightstand even as he asked, dumping the contents -- a large tube of KY and another of analgesic antibiotic salve -- onto the bed.
"We can - pant - take our time later. Let's just do it."
"Romance is dead." Jim teased, greasing his fingers. "Turn over, Chief."
With a quick movement Blair did, splaying his legs wide. One hand brushed down his chest, stopping to rub over tight, hard nipples, and closed over his own cock, pumping slowly.
"Wait for me." Jim cautioned.
"Then hurry up, man." Blair's smile was dreamy. His hips lifted off the bed with tiny movements in time with his hand.
Settling onto his knees between the sturdy legs, Jim sank a single finger seep into the flushed ass offered to him.
"You're so tight..." he groaned, his cock twitching with the words.
"You should know, Jim. You're the only one who's ever been in there."
"This may not last long." gritting his teeth, Jim added another finger, feeling it when Blair tensed up. "Relax, Chief. Let me in."
"I'm trying." the blue eyes, pupils enlarged dramatically, were even wider as the pressure of three fingers filled him. "Oh, wow."
"Is it going to hurt?"
"It always hurts at first." the younger man said roughly. "Let's get to the good part."
"Quick as I can." Leaning to kiss him, his tongue actually touching Blair's tonsils, Jim lifted the younger man's legs over his shoulders and his ass onto his lap. With another, louder moan when Jim pulled away, Blair stretched himself, both hands going over his head to grab onto the headboard.
"Do it." he said softly, with love. "I love you."
"I love you, Chief." with those words Jim slid in.
He felt the pop as the ring of muscle snapped around him and heard Blair's grunt of pain. He waited for a minute, until Blair released the breath he was holding, and then slid further, stopping when the younger man tightened up again.
It was always like this. So tight, so hot that he thought he would explode before he even got to move. But then they would do this, just lay here -- feeling his balls settles against Blair's ass, Jim leaned over and lay as much of himself across Blair's chest as he could -- and breathe each other in, reveling in the connection between them. They were complete people when they were separate, but like this they were whole in ways they couldn't even name. It was just so much more than sex, or love or even life...
"kismet, man." Blair's whisper floated over his ear. "fate, destiny, providence. it doesn't matter, Jim."
Pushing himself up on his elbows, Jim kissed Blair, opening the smaller man's mouth wider and wider as he tried to climb inside him and share his skin.
"This is what matters." when Jim allowed him to speak again Blair wriggled and a grin lit his face. "God you feel good."
"It'll feel better." Jim promised with a smile. He was always happy when the pain passed.
Pumping into his best friend's body, his part-time lover, Jim watched his Guide as Blair watched him.
Using the leverage of the headboard Blair arched his back off the bed, meeting Jim's thrusts. The impacts grew in strength until it was almost ferocious, their bodies slamming together with enough force to shake the bed. Both were silent, only grunts and short harsh groans escaping them as they poured all of their energy and attention into their lovemaking.
At last the time came when Blair arched up and stayed that way, his weight divided between his shoulders and Jim's.
Struggling to maintain eye contact, he loosed a short scream as the new angle and depth brought Jim's dick pounding on his prostate. The muscles in his arms bulged as he twisted, no longer thrusting, opening himself to Jim as far as he could, taking Jim as deep as he could.
Eyes shuttered, hands gripping Blair's thighs brutally tight, Jim forced himself to slow down. He pulled out, paused, breathed, and then slammed home, the sound of skin slapping very loud in the rapidly-warming room.
Blair howled and gained control of his body, stilling it with an amazing effort.
Jim pulled out, paused, breathed, and slammed.
Drawing Jim in with his eyes, Blair opened his mouth wider and wailed.
As they drowned in each other's eyes Jim kept the new rhythm. The closer he felt Blair getting, the longer he waited until pounding back in. Each stroke was rewarded with that beautiful half-animal noise, echoed by Jim's deep grunt of satisfaction.
They reached the pinnacle. The next stroke would drag them both over. Balls tight, bodies quivering with unbearable tension, both arched as tight as bowstrings...Jim pulled all the way to the tip, paused, smiled down at his Guide...a smile twisted by need and desire and lust and something deeper and more powerful than all of them put together...and slid home slowly. Almost gently.
His cock barely brushed the small gland and then Blair was screaming, a new burst of sound for each pulse of semen that sprayed from his enraged cock. Jim held his position, losing himself in their bodies as long as he could, and then collapsed on top of Blair.
"Hey. Jim. Sweetheart, baby, honey, sugar, lover. I can't breathe."
The litany of pet names did more to bring Jim from his post- coital doze than anything else might have, which was, of course, why Blair had done it.
"Sorry." he offered, rolling to his back, taking the smaller man with him, draping the slender form over his own. Blair reached down and pulled the covers over them.
"S'okay." snuggling close, Blair held Jim as tightly as the larger man held him.
There was silence. They didn't need to talk about it anymore. That had stopped after the first two or three times. Talking about it sullied it, tarnished it. Made it seem less wondrous than it was.
Outside of these walls, this didn't exist. But in here it was safe, it was strong, and it kept them sane.
Jim dozed, one hand playing with Blair's hair. They would sleep for a while, and then do it again, the slow, sensuous lovemaking that brought yet another level to this connection.
Made it magical.
Then they would shower and go home. When they left the room Blair would stop him and give him one last soft, lingering kiss and whisper in his ear;
"Same time next year?"
And Jim would hold him and kiss him back and promise to be waiting.
~~ end ~~