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PART ONE

"Christ, Chief--what've you got in here? Rocks?" Jim Ellison grunted and let the cardboard box fall onto the kitchen table with a loud thump!

"Books," Blair Sandburg replied, dropping another box onto the floor. "Not rocks. " He straightened up and looked around at the mess of boxes and crates and bags crowding the living room. "Though I can see that to you they might be the same thing..."

"Yeah, well, they might as well be--they weigh the fucking same," Jim said, shaking out his abused arms. "Is that everything?"

Blair looked around once more, brow furrowed in concentration. "Yeah. I think that's everything--that was the last of it."

"Good," Jim said with relief. "All right--so let's get your stuff in there." He gestured over at the small storage room under his own bedroom.

Blair wandered to the doorway and looked around at the space, nodding his head in approval. "Great. This works. This works fine."

"Let's just pile my shit in the corner for now," Jim said, coming up behind him. "And then we'll get your futon set up--"

"Right, great," Blair repeated, and together they set about stacking Jim's stuff up in one corner.

"Does this leave enough room for you?" Jim asked when they were done.

"Yeah, yeah--it's fine, really," Blair assured him. "I just need my bed, and some clothes--"

"There's a closet," Jim pointed out. "It's got some stuff in it but I think there's room."

"Really, don't worry about it," Blair said; a strand of hair had escaped his ponytail and he absently tucked it back behind his ear. "Let's just get the futon set up--"

"No, wait--let me mop first," Jim said, turning and going into the kitchen. "That floor's gross."

Blair drifted after him, protesting, "You don't have to. It doesn't look gross to me."

"Well, you ain't got the Sentinel senses," Jim said, yanking the mop out of the kitchen broom closet.

"Lucky me, I guess," Blair said with a grin.

Jim mopped the floor quickly, twice, with wood soap, disgusted by the dusty black water that he squeezed out of the mop. Man, there was definitely a downside to the whole senses thing--the loft had never looked dirtier to him. He'd have to give the whole fucking place a good hard cleaning when he got the chance.

"Let's get that futon," Jim said when the floor had dried.

"Wait, wait--I've got a rug," Blair said, searching among the stuff and finding it. "Help me lay this down first."

"Right, okay," Jim said, and they spread the Indian carpet down on the floor. Nice pattern, Jim thought, staring down at it. Complicated without being repetitive, exotic without being pretentious, just really pleasant curving shapes, green and brown and blue and orange, like vines, twisting and turning and...

"Jim? Earth to Jim," he heard Blair say, and snapped back to attention. Blair was looking at him curiously. "I can see we're really gonna have to work on this zone-out thing..."

"Only between 9 and 5, Sandburg," Jim retorted, shaking his head a bit to clear it. "Just cause I'm letting you stay here doesn't mean I want to work twenty-four hours a day, you got me?"

"I got you," Blair said, instantly, raising his palms in surrender. "I got you, I hear that. 9 to 5--I'll put a time-clock by the door if you like, and punch in and out."

"Good," Jim muttered, going to one side of the wooden futon frame.

"Except, of course, that works both ways." Blair moved to the opposite side, grabbed the other wooden arm. "So don't zone out after 5:00, okay? Not unless you want to pay me overtime."

Jim looked up sharply, annoyed, and saw that Sandburg was grinning at him, eyes twinkling. Hell, the kid was just baiting him. "All right, all right," he grumbled, anger fading. "I guess we'll just see how it goes, okay?"

"Okay," Blair agreed. "We'll just see how it goes," and together they heaved the futon frame up and carried it into the storage room.

The whole thing took longer than Jim expected--all in all it took hours to get Sandburg set up properly. But finally they had put together what seemed like a workable arrangement--futon, small desk, small chest of drawers. Blair's other stuff, still in boxes, was piled up on the same wall as Jim's stuff. The place looked bare, un-lived-in, provisional--but at least Sandburg had all the necessities.

Except one, Jim realized as he turned.

"I'll, uh--set up some kind of curtain or something," Jim muttered, waving at the bare doorframe. "Get you at least a little privacy, okay?"

"Thanks," Blair said gratefully, not protesting this time. "That would be great. Why don't you go take a hot shower--I'll make dinner."

Jim turned to him with a frown. "You don't have to."

"I want to," Blair insisted. "Least I can do."

"I don't know what's in the house," Jim muttered, running an absent hand over his head. "I don't know what I've got in the fridge, if anything--"

"Don't worry about it," Blair said, shooing him away, toward the bathroom. "I'll figure something out--I'm a very inventive chef. You just hit the shower before you get all stiff and sore."

"Okay, okay." He gave in and hit the shower.

And it was weird, he thought, standing under the warm spray, having someone else there in the house. Way weird. Weirder still now that he had these damn senses--he could actually hear Blair Sandburg moving around in his kitchen, opening drawers, opening cabinets, sneakers squeaking against the linoleum floor. He heard it as clearly as if he were standing right there. In a way, it was the worst possible combination--Hyperactive Roommate plus Hyperactive Senses was bound to equal Trouble.

Still, though, there was no use moaning about it. This was the deal: he had to have the roommate precisely because he had the senses--it was simple cause and effect. And truth be told, the kid had really turned out to be a help. He'd been plenty skeptical at first--Sentinels, tribes, zone-outs, someone to watch your back--but he wasn't stupid after all, and the fact was that he'd never have caught Sariss or Kincaid or Juno without the senses or Sandburg.

The senses and Sandburg. Cause and effect, effect and cause.

Jim worked up a lather in his hands and scrubbed at his face.

Could he hear the kid now? Yeah--yeah, he could. The kid was sauting something--he could hear the hiss of it in the frying pan. Smelled like--what? Garlic, for sure. Butter. Ketchup? Smelled like garlic and ketchup out there--sheesh, what the hell was the kid doing?

Jim leaned forward and washed the soap off his face, and then idly rubbed his hands over his body, wanting to make sure he was entirely rinsed off. To his delight, his body tingled, responding to his own hands--and hell, that was another plus of this whole thing. Not like he'd been dead before--exactly--but he'd definitely decided that he was way on the wrong side of the whole sexual prime thing. He'd been forcing himself to get used to the idea, trying to convince himself that sex wasn't everything to a mature man like himself--but lo and behold here comes Sandburg and the senses, and damn if his sex drive hadn't decided to suddenly sit up and shake hands.

Sensitivity was clearly a good thing, Jim decided. He grinned helplessly to himself and slid a hand down over his nipples (which perked--and hello to you, too!), down over his abdomen, and right down to his newly assertive cock. He caressed himself with his soapy fist, thinking of blue and red and green boxes of condoms. Sensitive, Extra-Sensitive, Super-Extra-Sensitive.

Well, he felt Maxi-Ultra-Super-Extra-Sensitive, goddammit! and the guys at Trojans could read it and weep.

So there were pluses and minuses, minuses and pluses. Sensitivity and Sandburg--okay, so he'd have to have a roommate for a while, and he'd have to be more aware of said roommate than he'd have liked to be in a perfect world. But he'd get to catch a lot of criminals and he could once again jerk-off on command. Which wasn't nothing. Pretty much a decent deal, really, especially if Sandburg decided to throw in the occasional meal and wasn't too much of a slob. And Sandburg seemed like an okay guy, all in all--interesting enough to talk to, rooted for the right teams, willing to go with the flow. All to the good.

He rubbed gently, slowly, behind his cockhead, delighted with the rush of sensation, delighted at how his body responded to him. Like being twenty again--yeah, this was a pretty decent deal. The ironies were part of the package, he supposed--he had to have Sandburg there because of the senses, but the senses made him oversensitive to Sandburg. Similarly, he was gonna lose some of his privacy--but he hadn't really been using much of his privacy before this whole thing started. Now that his libido had done its Lazarus act, he supposed he was gonna regret giving away his privacy--but he wouldn't have had the libido if it weren't for the senses, and he wouldn't have the senses working if it weren't for Sandburg, so...

The whole thing made his brain hurt. Fuck thinking, he thought abruptly. Fuck thinking and just feel. Enjoy the fact you can feel. Feel your hands; feel the way they slide over you; feel the blood rushing through your body, into your dick. Feel how hard you are. Feel your heart pounding. Hell, his heart was pounding--and how long had it been since his heart had pounded out of lust instead of fear or adrenaline?

Too fucking long.

Senses and Sandburg and Sensitivity, all wrapped up together, all intertwined like the snake-like shapes on Sandburg's Indian carpet. He rubbed himself slowly at first, then closed his eyes and speeded up slightly, conscious of every drop of water flowing down his body, a thousand trails of wetness, a thousand small caresses. Let yourself feel, let yourself fantasize--and what the hell did he need with privacy, anyway? He had privacy here, and he didn't need to bring people home for sex. And certainly Sandburg didn't--he'd have to make sure that Sandburg understood that the loft was to be a boink-free zone. He wasn't gonna come home and find Sandburg sucking some woman's breasts on the couch, that was for sure. A couple of rules--a couple of house rules--ought to do it. No leaving dirty dishes in the sink. No loud music after ten. And no sex in the loft. For either of them. Unless, of course--

Hero-worship, he thought abruptly. He'd definitely seen a little hero-worship in Sandburg's eyes, hadn't he? He hadn't just imagined it, right? I mean, it made sense that there'd be a little hero-worship there, especially if what Sandburg said was true and he was the living embodiment of Sandburg's thesis. And he'd given Blair Sandburg a place to live--points there, right? Right. And he let himself wonder how far he'd need to go to push Blair Sandburg's hero-worship thing somewhere else. Like, maybe Sandburg would blow him, or something, if he asked. If he asked nicely. God knows Sandburg had the mouth for it. If he ever really applied himself to giving head--well, hell, it could be him on the couch, Sandburg between his legs, using that fucking incredible mouth to-- to--

He groaned and came, bracing himself against the front of the shower with one splayed palm.

God, that was good. Viva sensitivity. Ya-hoo.

He took a couple of gasping breaths, then straightened up and stood under the shower spray to rinse the come off. Okay, that was fun--now what was it he had to remember? Put up a curtain for Sandburg. Make some house rules--because god knows he was gonna come home some evening and find Sandburg boinking some girl on the sofa. So an ounce of prevention.

And maybe, possibly, he should have the sofa Scotchgarded. Just in case.

He grabbed his towel off the hook, dried himself brusquely, then tied the towel around his waist.

He realized, once his hand was on the door, that he'd either have to parade past Sandburg in his towel, or he'd have to put his old, sweaty clothes back on. He hesitated for a moment, then yanked the door open. Fuck it.

Sandburg was standing over a number of pots on the stove, including a steaming frying pan. "Hey," he said, looking up. "Can you watch this for a second while I shower?"

"Yeah, sure," Jim said, heading for the steps. "Just let me get dressed."

"Okay," Blair agreed, using the spatula to turn some--well, some pink grainy thing. "Just hurry up--I'm knocking myself out with my own stink over here."

Jim shook his head and laughed as he climbed the steps. He realized, as quickly pulled on jeans and a t-shirt, that he was looking forward to dinner. Who cared what Sandburg was making? Food always tasted better when you weren't the one who cooked it, and there'd be conversation and a few laughs.

All right, so that was a plus too.

He slid his bare feet into some loafers and came down the stairs, crossed into the kitchen. "Okay," he said, rubbing his hands together. "What have I got here and what do you need me to do?"

"Okay-- that's rice," Blair said, pointing the spatula at the grainy pink stuff. "You need to keep sauting that in the butter so it doesn't burn."

"It's pink," Jim noted skeptically. "Never seen pink rice before."

"It's ketchup, actually," Blair admitted. "Ketchup, garlic, butter, some other stuff--its sort of a fast and easy rip-off of this Korean dish. But trust me. It's good."

"Okay, so stir that?" Jim asked, taking the spatula from Blair' hand.

"Stir that, yeah. Throw in some more butter if the mood hits you. The other thing is beef--it's sort of marinating in there, so just leave it alone unless it looks like it's going to boil over or catch fire."

"Gotcha," Jim said, nodding.

Blair took a step toward the storage room, then stopped, as if to ascertain that Jim was in control. "Okay," he said, apparently deciding that Jim was. "Gonna shower, be back in five."

And he noticed that Sandburg went into the bathroom better prepared than he had been; Sandburg was carrying towels, shaving kit, and a change of clothes. Then again, Sandburg was the guest--he probably figured he didn't have the option of parading around in a towel.

Jim chewed his lip and stirred the pink rice, allowing himself a brief moment to wallow in his disappointment.

Oh well, he thought, after that moment. Just get over it--no biggie.

Bad idea to fuck with the anthropologist anyway.


PART TWO

A week later, Jim came home early from stakeout. He slid his key into the lock, turned the knob--and jolted his arm as he shoved the door forward, because the fucking chain was on.

What the--? he thought, feeling profoundly annoyed. He opened his mouth to yell and--

--suddenly looked, really looked, through the crack in the door. The woman was straining upwards, straining, and square hands were cupping her small breasts, thumbs gently stroking across her tiny nipples. Straining upwards, face contorted with the effort--and Jim blinked, once, slowly, because everything was moving in slow motion, and saw his roommate lying flat on his back on the sofa, with the slim woman lying on top of him, straining, her back covered by an afghan.

He blinked again, faster this time, and yanked the door back shut with a bang. Then he raised his fist and began pounding. "Sandburg!" he shouted, annoyance giving way to fury. "Open this fucking door! Now!"

He heard the woman's surprised squeal, heard Sandburg's low groan, heard the shuffling of bodies and the rustling of clothes and hiss of whispered conversation.

"I thought you said you lived alone."

"No. I said we'd be alone. He was supposed to be working tonight--"

"I think we should just call this a night."

"Come on, Chris, you said... Please. Let me explain...".

Now, now, Jim thought with grim pleasure as he crossed his arms, it's not nice to whine, boyo.

"I'll call you, okay?"

And Jim had heard that tone before, too. I'll call you. Yeah, right. Don't hold your breath, Chief.

He heard the rapid, soft footsteps approach the door, heard the chain slide off and took a quick step back. Sandburg's young lady was quite pretty, really, when her face wasn't contorted in woman's epic quest for orgasm.

"Evening," Jim offered, smiling thinly.

She glared at him. "Fuck off," she said, and headed down the hallway toward the elevator.

He shrugged genially and stepped into the loft, closing the door behind him. Petty though it might be, he found himself in a much better mood now that he saw exactly how thoroughly he'd ruined Sandburg's evening. Well, Sandburg had broken House Rule Number One. Retribution had been exacted. And now he felt--well, rather jolly, really.

He found his sudden good mood ratcheting up yet another couple of notches once he got a good look at his roommate. Sandburg was sitting on the couch behind a rather romantic array of lit candles. He was barechested, wearing boxers, hair flying every which way--and he looked thoroughly fucking disgusted. Literally speaking.

"Well, thanks a lot." Blair snorted and shoved his unruly hair back away from his face with both hands. "You're the King Of Good Timing. Asshole."

"Hey," Jim protested. "I'm not used to knocking at my own front door."

"Well, I'm not used to this degree of coitus interruptus," Blair retorted, crossing his arms. "Live and learn, right?"

"I told you the rules. I told you there was to be no sex in this loft."

"You weren't supposed to be in this loft," Blair said irritably. "I mean, if you weren't here, then there wouldn't have been a problem, right?"

"No, no, no--obviously, I didn't explain myself," Jim said with mock sweetness. "The point of the rule is that there's no sex in this loft whether I'm here or not."

Blair looked up at him sourly. "If a tree falls in the forest, does it make a sound?"

"Yes," Jim said firmly. "I'm a Sentinel. I know."

Blair stared at him for a moment, trying to maintain his stony expression, but he was clearly having difficulties--that line had got him. Jim put on his blankest expression and watched as Sandburg's lips twitched, as he bit them to stop laughing, as he finally gave up and laughed anyway. "All right, all right," Blair said merrily, letting his head fall back against the sofa and grinning wildly at the ceiling. "You win. It makes a sound. Can I put that in my dissertation?"

"No," Jim said, just to be contrary, and went into the fridge to get a beer.

"Aw, come on. That's big news. Major headline stuff--'Ancient Question Answered. Film at Eleven.'"

All in all, Jim thought, popping the top off his beer, Sandburg was handling this situation better than he would have. Poor kid, he thought, turning around. Sitting there amidst the ruins of his date--afghan, lit candles, coitus interruptus--

--and hard, he realized, running his eyes over Sandburg's body. The poor kid was still hard.

As if Blair had heard what he was thinking, he leaned forward over the coffee table and blew out the candles one by one. Jim watched, mesmerized, as Blair pursed his lips and blew...pursed his lips and blew...

"Well, that was a disaster." Thin wisps of expired candle-smoke were circling in the air between them, giving Blair an odd, dreamy look. "She isn't gonna call me, is she?"

"No," Jim answered honestly. "I don't think so."

Blair nodded slowly at this, reaching up to scratch a spot just above his left eye. "Well, who cares," Blair said, finally. "Was probably a mistake anyway." He shifted uncomfortably against the sofa cushions, which drew Jim's attention back to the still-tented flannel boxers.

Keep your mouth shut, he told himself viciously. Keep your mouth shut. Keep your fucking mouth shut--don't fuck with the anthropologist! "Do you want me to take care of that?" he heard himself saying--shit, fuck, goddamm!

Blair's head jerked up, and his eyes widened--well, at least he'd really gotten to see the kid thrown off-balance for once. "Why?" Blair asked after a moment, and damn if that tone wasn't just chock-a-block-full of sultry come-on. "Do you want to?"

"That depends," Jim said, managing to sound calm despite the argument raging in his head. Shut up! Go for it! Shut the fuck up! You shut up--go go go!! For god's sake--don't fuck with the anthropologist! Are you stupid?! "Are you the kind of guy who reciprocates?" he asked, and his mouth was dry.

Blair settled deeper into the sofa cushions, eyebrows lifting; he seemed to be thinking seriously about the question. "Yeah," he said, finally, looking up. "I'd reciprocate."

His body was thrumming with tension. This was a dangerous situation--an a stupid one. Totally fucking stupid. But at least his heart was pounding, again--pounding with lust and not exertion. That was something, he thought with sudden optimism. That was a lot.

He knew that Sandburg was saying something, because he could see that Sandburg's lips were moving. Lush lips. Lovely lips. Going to reciprocate...

And then Sandburg's lips stopped moving; now he was spreading his legs wider and pulling his smooth, pink cock out through the slit in his boxers. Jim swallowed hard, took the few steps toward Blair, and knelt between his legs. He closed his eyes and leaned forward, gripping Blair's silky-hard erection tightly in his right hand--and he heard Blair say, "oh," in a small voice at the precise moment that his mouth touched Blair's cock.

Jim worked Blair's erection with lips and tongue while caressing and fondling the heavy balls through the soft boxers. Sweet, he thought dimly to himself, pausing to lick along the thick underside vein. Don't think, just feel. His hands are in your hair. Feel them. Taste and feel. And listen, he added to himself after a moment. Because he's making noise for you, and he wasn't making any noise before. He didn't make any noise for her. Taste and listen and feel.

And suddenly Blair's moans were jagged-edged, and the heavy balls were tightening in his hand. Here it comes, Jim thought wildly. Here it comes--god, hit me, hit me with it!--and above him Blair inhaled sharply and shuddered, flooding his mouth with come, and even that was different now, tasted different, tasted more. He was breathing it in, and the scent overwhelmed him, enveloped him; he felt like he was swimming in the sharp musky smell.

Fucking exciting, Jim thought to himself dimly, listening to the sound of his own pounding heart. He'd never felt so fucking excited in his whole entire life.

He pulled back and kissed Blair's slick, softening cock, then buried his face in Blair's groin. Soft thick root, the scratch of public hair, the rich, sweet smell of sweat and come--god, he'd never felt so drenched in sex, never experienced this sort of sensory feast before. A guy could get addicted to this shit, oh boy--and he hoped that Sandburg was okay with all this, was gonna be fucking normal about it, because he was gonna be in big fucking trouble if he were hooked on his senses and had alienated the anthropologist.

Jim lifted his head to look at Blair, just to see if Blair was gonna be normal about this. Blair was breathing hard, and seemed to take Jim's gesture as a sign that they were moving on.

"Come on up," Blair said between one gasping breath and another. "Sit down--I'll do you."

And if he thought that his heart was pounding before--well, hell. Because this was it, now, this was the fucking moment. No fantasy--just 100% XXX Live! He straightened up and tossed himself down onto the seat beside Sandburg, hands obsessively rubbing the rough canvas of the sofa. Because they were shaking. He was sure they were shaking. Hell, he thought, watching Sandburg shift sideways in his seat towards him.

Hell. I should have got the sofa Scotchgarded after all.

Blair leaned over him, reached for his zipper, pulled it down. Jim shifted slightly in his seat to help Blair get the access he needed--and the first touch of those dry, square hands on his dick was absolutely fucking thrilling. He had a moment of sudden fear as Sandburg fisted his erection, idly stroking him with his thumb. What if he couldn't handle it? He hadn't had sex since the senses had emerged--what if the sensation was too much? What if he just fucking exploded?

Because that thumb, that one steadily stroking thumb, was already causing a blaze of red pleasure behind his eyelids. God, it was too much--this was a downside he hadn't anticipated--he'd never fuck properly again because his gun was primed to blow at the slightest touch, goddammit--

"Dial down," Blair murmured. "Dial down, guy--just like we talked about. Dial right the fuck down... " and Jim squeezed his eyes shut and pictured the dials they'd talked about. Ten. Nine. E-eight. "Riiiight..." Blair encouraged softly. "Yeah... Good... Keep going..."

When the dials were at five he felt better--pleasantly horny but not ready to come at a touch. He opened his eyes and nodded at Blair, who nodded back and bent his head down. The first wet touch of Blair's tongue to his cockhead sent the needle jolting right back up to eight! (god, he was so fucking exciting, so fucking fucking excited) but he quickly composed himself and wrenched that puppy right back down to normal levels by force of will.

He took a deep breath and looked down, looked at the cloud of dark curly hair in his lap. Good, so good--but not everything. Not all he wanted, not by a long shot.

He slid his hand over Sandburg's hair, caressing it, and then yanked gently. Blair jerked and then raised his head inquiringly. "Tie your hair back," Jim said breathlessly. "Tie your hair back--I want to see you."

Blair hesitated for a second and then nodded, straightening up. He glanced among the extinguished candles on the coffee table, came up with a hairtie, pulled his hair back. "Better?"

"Yeah," Jim muttered, feeling flushed. "Yeah, thanks."

Blair seemed to accept this in good grace and bent over him again--and this was it, this was perfect, because he could see Blair's face now, see those lush lips working, see the long lashes flutter and the beauty of Blair's blissed-out expression.

Sandburg had the mouth, all right--boy, did he ever. And he obviously had applied himself to giving head, because this was no amateur blow-job, here--this fucking rocked. He'd have to re-evaluate the kid, Jim realized through his haze of pleasure. He'd have to re-evaluate this whole fucking situation when he could--when he could think clearly...

He couldn't hold onto his dials--just couldn't--not with the way Blair was working him, not while watching Blair work him. Such a beautiful mouth, the most fuckable mouth he'd ever seen, and he'd got it, he had it now, he was actually fucking it--and those lips were wrapped around his cock and doing amazingly wonderful things...

Some desperate instinct told him he'd last longer, this would last longer, if he closed his eyes--but he couldn't not look, couldn't tear his eyes away from the sight of his dick sliding in and out between those beautiful--

The room jolted and grew fuzzy as the orgasm smashed into him, as the frenzied feel of Sandburg's tongue rapidly lapping at his cockhead suddenly grew overwhelming. He sucked in desperate, gasping breaths, luxuriating in the meltdown, watching as Blair sat up slowly, his ponytail slightly off-center, and wiped at his mouth with the back of his hand. God, that mouth, Jim thought with tender fondness. He could love a mouth like that--and as he watched, Blair's lush lips drew into a smile.

"You like my mouth, right?"

Damn--the kid really was a mindreader. "Yeah," Jim confessed.

Sandburg began to make funny shapes with his mouth, pursing his lips, stretching them in weird directions. Jim began to laugh. "That's what they all say," Sandburg said with a shrug. "I don't see it myself."

"Well, you don't give yourself head, either," Jim pointed out.

To his surprise, Blair sighed wistfully and sank back against the sofa cushions. "No--but wouldn't that be great? That's would be true self-sufficiency, right there. You'd never have to..." He trailed off, seeming lost in thought.

Jim frowned. "You'd never have to what?"

Blair turned to stare at him blankly. "Huh?"

"You were saying?" Jim pressed.

"I don't know," Blair said, looking amused. "I forgot already. You're gonna have to learn to disregard at least half of what I say. Do you kiss?"

Jim blinked at the unexpected question. "Uh. Yeah. I do."

Blair nodded and then leaned forward across the couch and kissed him, briefly, with just a teasing hint of tongue. "Thanks," he said, pulling back and hauling himself up off the sofa. "I really liked that--that was fun."

"Well, thank you," Jim replied, and Blair smiled and waved vaguely at him before wandering off to take a shower.

Jim found himself with a lot to think about that night--despite the fulfillment of the most seductive of his various sexual fantasies, he couldn't manage to fall asleep. Instead, he stared up at the skylight, thinking about all the various things he'd learned about Blair Sandburg tonight, and all the things he still didn't know. It was weird, really, that he'd let the kid move into his house while knowing so little about him--but then again, the whole Sentinel thing was pretty weird period, so wildly weird that it had tended to sweep all other minor weirdnesses right under the proverbial rug.

He let his mind wander, and thought about the first time he saw Sandburg, wearing a white doctor's coat at the hospital. And then there had been that whole wild scene in Blair's office, with Blair confessing, shamelessly, that he'd stolen Jim's medical records from that nurse he'd been, uh--tutoring. The possibility suddenly occurred to him that it might have been a male nurse, and he laughed out loud, helplessly, and then clamped his mouth shut and snuffled silently in the darkness.

And then it occurred to him that Sandburg probably had some personal records out there somewhere, and that turnabout was definitely fair play.


PART THREE

"I'm sorry," the thin woman said, shaking her head, "but student records are confidential."

"Aw, come on." Jim put on his warmest, most charming smile. "You sure we can't make an exception, here?"

"No exceptions," the woman said firmly.

Jim sighed, folded up his badge, and tucked it back into his breast pocket. "Gee, well, that's too bad. Because now I gotta go get me a subpoena. And I might have to request a whole bunch of records--maybe, say, all graduates from 1988 to 1992, just to be sure..."

He stifled a grin at the woman's horrified expression.

"And of course," he added as the coup de grace, "we'll need copies. You'll probably be photocopying from here to doomsday." He glanced over her shoulder at the battered old Xerox machine, which looked like it was being held together with duct tape. "I hope your machine holds out."

The woman closed her eyes slowly, and took a deep breath.

"On the other hand," Jim proposed breezily, "you could just give me an hour or so with Blair Sandburg's file. No copies, I'll just read it here. And no one needs to know...it can be our little secret."

He leaned against the counter and waited, trying to look like he had all the time in the world. Finally, the woman sighed softly, and Jim knew he had won.

"All right, all right," she whispered, and lifted up a section of the wooden counter to let Jim pass in. "Just an hour, okay?--and you don't tell?"

"I don't tell," Jim assured her, passing through.

"I'll put you in one of the empty offices," she said quietly, leading the way. "For one hour."

"One hour," Jim repeated, nodding.

She stopped at a door and opened it; inside was a small, bare office containing only a large metal desk and chair. "Sit down," she said, waving him in. "I'll get you the file you want." Jim nodded and stepped inside, and she departed, shutting the door behind her, apparently anxious that he not be seen.

A couple of minutes she returned bearing a battered manila file folder--it was unexpectedly thick, and Jim frowned. "One hour," she repeated firmly, handing it over to him.

"Uh, yeah, okay," Jim said, taking it and sitting down at the metal desk.

The woman glanced at her watch, and then at him, letting him know she was marking the time.

"Okay, okay," Jim said irritably. "Get out of here and let me work, okay?"

She left. Jim looked down at the file, which looked like it was on the verge of falling apart. On the flap was a typed sticker saying: SANDBURG, BLAIR J. 087-45-1990. Three different hands wielding three different pens had scrawled under it: BA, 1989; M.A. 1992; M.Phil 1995.

Right, so that explained something, Jim thought. Sandburg had been at Rainier for a damn long time.

He flipped the file open and sighed--the file was jammed with papers of notably different ages, and nothing seemed to be in any particular order. A transcript from 1989. A pink carbon copy of a form checking off the requirements for the M.Phil. A letter from the Dean of Students dated March 3, 1986. He glanced at that, and then stopped, read more carefully.


Margaret Addison
Dean of Students, Rainier College of Arts and Sciences
Rainier University
Cascade, Washington 98765-1200

Ms. Naomi Sandburg
1889 Rivera Drive
La Jolla, California 92037

March 3, 1986

Dear Ms. Sandburg:

I don't know whether you are in possession of my previous letters, but I am hoping that this one reaches you. I regret to inform you that your son Blair is continuing to have adjustment problems here at Rainier, and I urge you to contact us so that we might discuss this matter. We have found that we are most successful in developing strategies to help our students when we have the active participation of parents.

We have switched Blair's housing assignment twice since my last letter, though unfortunately we have not yet managed a successful result. Blair's first roommate, John Chew '89, requested and was granted a transfer in the fall of 1985; his second, Ali Muhawwa '89, and he parted by mutual consent a month later. Blair has now requested a transfer away from his current roommate, Mark Tyler '89. Said application is currently pending. I've attached copies of all three transfer requests. We do hope to help Blair find a housing situation that suits him, but we think it would be helpful if you got involved in this process.

Additionally, we have been informed that Blair has been having trouble in his Intro to Western History class. While Blair's grades in his first term have been exceptionally good, the professor, Dr. Paul Smithson, has reported Blair to our offices for disruptive behavior. There is apparently a personality conflict of some sort, and I am personally looking into the matter. Again, your input would be considered extremely helpful.

Please contact me or my secretary, Kelly Brosnahan, at the earliest possible opportunity.

Yours sincerely,

Margaret Addison
Dean of Students, Rainier College


Hmm. Jim pulled out a notebook, and jotted down the names: Naomi Sandburg (mother), Mary Addison (Dean), Paul Smithson (History) and then continued through the folder. More transcripts--1988, 1993, 1994. Grades-- mostly As, some A minuses. At least the kid was genuinely bright. Ah-hah--a B in Chemistry in 1986. Bright but not perfect, Jim thought with some relief. 1986, he thought again, and scanned the transcript in front of him.

INTRO TO WESTERN CIV Smithson, Paul 202-100-01 A

Huh. Whatever personality conflict had happened there, the kid had aced the course anyway.

He began to flip quickly through the pages, looking for some resolution to the conflict.

Ah. Right here:


Margaret Addison
Dean of Students, Rainier College of Arts and Sciences
Rainier University
Cascade, Washington 98765-1200

Ms. Naomi Sandburg
Flat 4, Rue de St. Juste
Paris, France FR1101

April 18, 1986

Dear Ms. Sandburg:

Your son informs me that you are often traveling and that your mail cannot be relied upon to reach you. However, I do feel obligated to inform you of the current state of Blair's situation here at Rainier.

First, I regret to inform you that there has been an unexpected development in your son's housing situation. On April 1, Campus Safety was called to your son's room in East Quad. Mark Tyler '89 filed a report claiming that your son assaulted him, and indeed the Campus safety officers reported that Tyler was in fact sporting a black eye on the evening in question.

An attempt to contact you by telephone having failed, a hearing of the Social Justice Board was convened. I remind you that it is your right to be present at such a hearing, and note for the record that every attempt was made to reach you in due time.

In any case, the faculty members of the Social Justice board concluded that your son had been reasonably provoked to violence, and that no further action should be taken. Three student witnesses at the hearing testified that your son had been subjected to repeated threats and harassment by Tyler, which culminated in what Tyler referred to as "prank" on the night of April 1st. The board concluded that, in fact, your son had the right to press charges against Tyler, but he has as of this writing declined to do so. Obviously, the two boys have been separated, and we are in the process of assigning Blair a new roommate.

Secondly, I was compelled to call Blair into my office to speak to him about his behavior in Dr. Smithson's class. Apparently, your son has sincere ideological differences with Dr. Smithson about the course material, and he was attempting to make his discontent known. I explained to Blair that while it is valid to have an intellectual argument with one's professor, differences must be expressed with some maturity, while his position had been expressed in a very immature and disruptive fashion. Blair did seem to understand the distinction that I was making, and appeared rather abashed.

As I have gotten to know Blair over the course of this year, I have become more and more convinced that while his intellect is first rate, he has quite a long way to go in terms of his personal maturity and his ability to work well with others. I understand that his is a particular situation, as he is exceptionally young for a freshman, but nonetheless he must learn to act more like an adult. Again, your involvement and input in this situation would be greatly appreciated and most helpful.

I enclose, for your information, an excerpt of Blair's poetry which Dr. Smithson confiscated and submitted to this office as evidence of Blair's disruptiveness. We have encouraged Blair to become involved with The Muse, Rainier's literary magazine, but he seems disinclined to do so. Still, we must help him find more acceptable outlets for his intellect and energy.

Very truly yours,

Margaret Addison
Dean of Students, Rainier College


Curious, Jim flipped to the attachment, which was a photocopy of a piece of torn-out loose-leaf.


Wave: A Song-Cycle of Haiku
by Blair Jacob Sandburg

Soul-killing boredom
Flows over me like a wave
Here in Room Three-Ten.

The longest lecture
Time has come to a standstill
And me yet so young.

Please help me, oh God
There are still two more hours.
Doctor Smithson bites.

Please save me from this
ethnocentric view of life
before it corrupts

History Intro, but
Only ancient views on show.
A Blast from the Past.

I can't understand
How Smithson got a job here.
Did he bribe the Dean?

Rainier promised
Diversity and knowledge.
Can we say "bullshit"?


Jim laughed and shook his head. Hell, the kid was a piece of work. He'd seen kids like Blair Sandburg when he was in college, but he'd never hung out with any of them. He had a moment of guilt, reflecting on the fact that he was much more likely to have been friends with someone like Tyler. It was embarrassing, but he could see it in his mind, if he was honest with himself--he'd probably have taken Tyler out for beer, told him that Sandburg's punch was just a lucky shot, and that the freak probably never got laid anyway.

Though apparently the last part of that equation was wrong, based on Sandburg's spectacular sofa successes. Which now included him, he supposed.

He flipped through some more pages and stopped at a memo which was half-typewritten, half handwritten:


M E M O R A N D U M

TO: Margaret Addison, Dean of Students
FROM: Dr. Samuel Steinberg, Department of English
RE: Blair Sandburg
DATE: May 12, 1986

This is to inform you that I am dropping the plagiarism charges that I brought against Blair Sandburg (SS: 087-45-1990), a student in Section 02 of my American Poetry class, on 5/2/86. After a conversation with Mr. Sandburg, I have become convinced that he did in fact write the paper in question. Please let this Memorandum serve as my official notification of the withdrawn charges.

Yours,

Samuel Steinberg
Assistant Professor, Department of English, Rainier University

[Unofficially, Maggie--the kid is a hoot. I asked him a few simple questions about the genesis of the paper and he talked my ear off for an hour and a half. I can see why his high school let him graduate at 15--clearly they wanted to get rid of him. Which frankly isn't a bad idea. The strategy I'd pursue is to get Sandburg through the B.A. as quickly as possible. Petition APC and let the kid do an overload--he can handle the work and the sooner he graduates the better. There's a place for freaks like him--it's called graduate school. He'll be great at it, presuming he survives his undergraduate years, which he might not--word on the street is that the Alpha Tao Delts have it in for him for wanting to start a student Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Queer and Transgender student organization on campus. If I were you, I'd put Campus Safety on alert to patrol his building, and notify his R.A. to keep his/her eyes peeled. Side note: I mentioned to him that his Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Queer and Transgender group would have the not very attractive abbreviation of GLBQT. He says he doesn't care. He says he won't let his life be ruled by acronyms. You should hear Smithson rail against this kid in the faculty lounge--B.S. (apropos, no?) has gotten under his skin pretty badly. Of course, Smithson hasn't revised his lecture notes since the invention of the steam engine, so the kid has a point. You might want to call BS in for another talk though--I don't think your first one really sunk in. The bad news is that he's still immortalizing Smithson in poetry. The good news, I suppose, is that he's now experimenting with the sonnet form.

A sample is attached--note the slant rhyme in the efef section. Who says we don't give a hell of an education? He's a lousy poet, but an apt critic-- and you just might want to drop a word to the wise to Tim Markson. The kid's now talking about majoring in Anthropology.

Sam

Grief
by Blair Jacob Sandburg

Alas, our human knowledge goes awry
Truistic thought spreads darkness and not light.
Restricting for all time our hope to fly
Beyond the facile borders of our sight.
Indeed, the aim of education true
Intends to question all assumptions dear.
Not simple repetition, me to you.
Alas, that's not the pedagogy here.
Smithson, helas! you of the yellowed notes
and stiff affect; you grieve me, sir. Hallowed
texts and cultures in your hands fall to rote
While students' brains and hearts and minds corrode.
With soft seductive steps we become sheep.
At least I can here catch up on my sleep.


M E M O R A N D U M

TO: Margaret Addison, Dean of Students
FROM: Patrick Reilly, Office Of Student Housing
RE: Blair Sandburg
DATE: May 12, 1987

Frankly speaking, my only suggestion for dealing with Blair Sandburg's continual and perpetual housing difficulties is to suggest that he heads the list of rising Juniors who will be denied on-campus housing for the 1987-1988 academic year. As you know, the University simply cannot accommodate all students who request housing, and in the Junior year housing is assigned to roughly 70 percent of the students by lottery, while the other 30 percent must find their housing off campus. I think that Mr. Sandburg really would be better off making his home off campus, as our demand for rooms prevents us from continuing to offer him a double as a single. We simply haven't got the resources to continue that arrangement, though I understand that it was necessitated by a) Mr. Sandburg's unusual status as a legal minor and b) his politically charged position on campus. However, according to the Registrar, Mr. Sandburg will turn 18 later this month, and so there are no longer any liability issues for the University.

Please let me know if you are amenable to this suggestion.

VTY,

Pat Kelly


Jim heard a bang! from outside the door to his office, and his head jerked up. He threw out his hearing and heard the Assistant Registrar berating a work-study for dropping an armful of files. Sighing, he glanced at his watch--shit, 45 minutes gone already! He quickly turned his attention back to Sandburg's file, and started flipping quickly through documents.

Sandburg's dissertation proposal on Sentinels--well, hell, he recognized a lot of this language. He'd heard practically the entire thing at one point or another, nearly word for word. Kid must have it memorized.

Declaration of Undergraduate Major: Anthropology.

Application to Rainier Graduate School of Arts and Science.

Letters of recommendation.

A last letter to Naomi Sandburg, terse and to the point:


Margaret Addison
Dean of Students, Rainier College of Arts and Sciences
Rainier University
Cascade, Washington 98765-1200

Ms. Naomi Sandburg
Route 2
Latticeberg, IN 33908

May 30, 1987

Dear Ms. Sandburg:

As you know, your son Blair Sandburg had his eighteenth birthday a few days ago. This letter is to inform you that now that your son is of legal age, his academic and personal records are now confidential pursuant to the Privacy Act of 1981. Accordingly, this is the last progress report I will be sending to you as his parent and legal guardian.

I would still very much enjoy meeting you some day, Ms. Sandburg. I have come to know Blair very well over the last two years, and have become fond of him. He has contributed to the life of the College in a very unique way.

Please do not hesitate to get in touch if you ever find yourself in the Cascade area.

Very truly yours,

Margaret Addison
Dean of Students, Rainier College


"That's it, Detective Ellison. Your hour is up."

Jim looked up quickly at the thin, plaid-skirted woman, triumphant in her renewed authority. "Can't I have another couple of minutes?"

She cocked her head to one side and smirked. "A deal's a deal, right?"

Jim sighed, took a last longing look at the folder, and closed it, neatly aligning the papers in it by tapping it on the desk. "A deal's a deal," he admitted.

And in the truck, on the way home, he found himself thinking about what he had read. What exactly had he learned? He supposed, rather grimly, that research wasn't enough, exactly--he needed a context within which to process the information, a lens he could use to prioritize the facts he'd discovered. Normally, he had such a lens--he was looking for a clue to a crime. Maybe that model applied here; maybe research wasn't so different.

But what was the clue? What was the crime?

He smiled to himself and shook his head. Sandburg. Sandburg would know. He could ask Sandburg.

Though that sort of defeated the purpose.


PART FOUR

"So," Jim said, looking over from his position sprawled out on the sofa to where Blair was puttering in the kitchen, making a sandwich. "You'll never believe who I met today."

Blair glanced over at him as he pulled open the fridge door, looking for something or other. "I might believe you. I'm pretty credible, all in all."

"I ran into an old friend of yours," Jim ventured, watching Blair closely for his reaction.

Blair's head jerked up, and he looked back over his shoulder at Jim, one hand grasping the fridge door. "Oh yeah? Who?"

"Not really a friend," Jim amended. "Just somebody who knew you. Margaret Addison, one of the deans at Rainier." He waited, wondering whether or not this line would fly.

Blair shut the fridge without getting whatever it was he had wanted, his expression curious. "Oh yeah?" he asked, picking up his plate and bringing it into the living room. "You ran into Dean Addison?"

"Yeah," Jim lied. "She came into the station to report some drug activity on her block. We got to talking, played the name game, and found out that we both knew you."

"Wow," Blair said, slouching down onto the sofa with his sandwich. "That's pretty incredible."

"Yeah--small world, isn't it?"

"No." Blair shook his head. "Huge world. Because Dean Addison's been dead for nearly two years," he said and burst out laughing. "Wow, man--you must have powers beyond my wildest imaginings!..."

Jim felt his face growing hot. Okay, okay--he should have checked to see that the woman was at least alive.

"...because I could swear that I went to Maggie's funeral two years ago. It was an awful fucking thing--breast cancer." Blair took a bite out of his sandwich and continued talking with his mouth full. "Came on sudden, which was a crying shame. She was a great lady--I loved her and I miss her."

"I'm sorry to hear that," Jim muttered.

"Yeah, I bet you are," Blair said, grinning and swallowing. "So. Is there anything you want to tell me, you dirty rotten filthy stinking liar?" He sat back and waited expectantly.

Jim sighed and resigned himself to telling the truth. "I pulled your student file from Rainier."

Blair's eyebrows shot up, but he didn't look angry, merely interested. "You did? Why?"

"That's the funny thing, really," Jim admitted. "I don't even know. Just seemed the thing to do--actually, I think it was some kind of revenge for you having stolen my medical records."

Blair took another bite of sandwich and considered this while he chewed. "Yeah, well, I guess that makes some sort of sense. I invade your privacy, you invade mine. Tit for tat, all's fair blah blah blah. I take it that Maggie's name was all over the place?"

"Yeah. It seemed like you were her pet project."

"Oh yeah?" Blair seemed surprised to hear this. "I didn't know that--I've never seen my file."

"You haven't?" Jim asked incredulously.

"No. Why would I?"

Jim scratched idly behind his neck. "Guess you wouldn't."

"So what did it say?" Blair asked, taking another bite of sandwich. "I assume there were transcripts, applications, recommendations, that sort of thing."

"Yeah, that stuff was there. I didn't have enough time to look at everything. Did you actually start a Gay and Lesbian group?" Jim asked.

Blair grinned and nodded. "Yeah," he said, setting his plate down onto the coffee table. "The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Queer and Transgender group. I wanted to add the phrase--'And Assorted Freaks', which is where I thought I fit in--but I was voted down and had to respect the democratic process." He frowned at Jim, his eyes narrowing. "Is that what this is about? My sexual preferences?"

"No," Jim said, surprised to find out that that was the truth. "It wasn't about anything, really. I was just trying to figure out who you are."

"I don't know who I am," Blair mused. "Do you know who you are?"

"No, I don't think so," Jim admitted.

"Well, there you go," Blair said, getting up. "Both of us--spectacularly clueless about the basics. But if you find out who I am, please let me know--I'd be interested." He crossed into the kitchen and put his plate into the sink.

"Well--ditto," Jim said.

"Hey, I'm actively working on you!" Blair declared. "You want a beer?"

"Yeah, okay." Blair took two out of the fridge, crossed back to the sofa and handed him a cold bottle. "Thanks," Jim said.

"Don't mention it," Blair said, grinning down at him. "After all--it's your beer."

"How true," Jim grumbled good-naturedly.

"You wanna watch the game?" Blair asked, turning toward the TV screen. "It starts in a couple of minutes, I think. Jags vs. Bulls--"

"Do you fuck?" Jim asked suddenly.

Blair slowly turned back around. "Do I fuck? Or do I want to fuck?"

"Do you want to fuck?" Jim asked, amending the question.

"No," Blair said, wrinkling his forehead. "Not really." His face cleared suddenly. "But if you want, I'll give you a handjob before the game. How does that sound?"

Jim found himself nodding happily. "That sounds perfect."

Blair bounced a couple of steps closer to the couch and then stopped. "You're the kind of guy who reciprocates, right?" His voice was severe, but his eyes were full of amusement.

"Absolutely. Abso-fucking-lutely. Reciprocation city--right here," Jim said, pointing downward at his groin with both hands.

Blair laughed and sat down on the sofa next to him, then moved closer, sliding one hand along the waistband of Jim's jeans. "Now just you relax," he murmured, smiling. "Just leave everything to Dr. Feelgood..."

Jim closed his eyes and sank deeper into the sofa cushions. "Fuck you, Sandburg. Now I've got that stupid song in my head."

"Shut up and enjoy this," Blair said, and he felt Blair's hand unzipping his jeans and sliding inside his boxers. He took a deep breath as Blair's hand closed around his erection. "Very good," Blair murmured, doing that neat little stroking thing with his thumb, "Nice deep breaths, nice and slow..."

He felt Blair's lips (such lush lips; he could picture them) brush his cheek, then felt Blair's warm breath on his ear. And then Blair took Jim's earlobe into his mouth and began to worry it gently but persistently with his teeth as he began to stroke Jim's cock harder, faster, in earnest--

"Oh," Jim moaned, squeezing his eyes shut. "Oh, fuck. That's good. That's good, Sandburg--more." And bless his young heart, Blair gave him more--and Blair was clearly a candidate for carpal tunnel syndrome between all the fucking typing and the superb wrist action on show right here. Biting and stroking, biting and stroking--and then Blair darted a wet tongue into his ear canal just as he suddenly squeezed Jim's cockhead in the tight circle of finger and thumb and Jim cried out--"Christ!"--and came.

"Oh, yuck, man," Blair muttered, and Jim opened his eyes and started laughing--he'd shot a great wad of come right onto the front of Blair's gray polo shirt. "Very funny," Blair said glumly, reaching out to swipe a paper napkin off the coffee table. "I like this shirt."

"Well," Jim said rather breathlessly, "it'll come out in the wash."

Blair scrubbed for another moment or so with the paper napkin, frowning as bits of wet paper broke off and got caught in the fabric. "Oh, hell--you got some on the sofa, too," he said and started rubbing the napkin against that.

"That's okay. I had it Scotchgarded."

"Oh, well, that's all right, then," Blair said, balling up the napkin and tossing it onto the table. "I guess it will all come out in the wash." He settled back into the sofa, and Jim raised one arm and slung it around Blair's shoulders. "How was that for you?" Blair asked, tilting his head up to look at him.

"The sex?"

"Yeah."

"It was great," Jim replied honestly.

"Better since the senses?" Blair asked.

"That's a pretty personal question you're asking, Chief."

"Oh, yeah," Blair snorted. "This from the guy who just admitted to snooping through my confidential records."

"What if it ends up in your dissertation?" Jim asked.

"Well, what if it does?"

Jim stared at him incredulously and shoved him away. "You gonna put this in your dissertation?"

"I might," Blair said, shrugging. "Maybe. Can I?"

"Hell, no!" Jim exploded.

"Why not?" Blair asked in all apparent innocence. "It's relevant information. Sex being an important part of life and all."

"Because I'll break both your arms, that's why not!"

"I wouldn't make it pornographic or anything," Blair insisted.

"I should hope not!" Jim said, glaring at him. "What kind of book is this you're writing, anyway?" Blair opened his mouth to answer but Jim cut him off with a vicious swipe of his hand. "Let me ask you this, Mr. Relevant Information. Are you going to reveal the circumstances of the collecting of this data?"

Blair frowned. "Huh?"

"You know. 'While I was boinking my research subject on the sofa before the Jags game, I decided to ask him a few pertinent questions about how he experienced orgasm.'"

"Ah," Blair said after a moment. "I begin to take your point."

"Well, if you forget my point, at least remember the part where I threatened to break your arms."

"Okay," Blair said, cracking a smile. "So all right, all right--strictly off the record, then--how's sex as a Sentinel? Better?"

"A million fucking times better," Jim replied and grinned hugely. "I'm a little quick out of the gate, but I'm essentially ready to go at all times. Which at my age..."

"Coooool," Blair said, nodding appreciatively.

"Speaking of which, are you ready for reciprocation?" Jim asked.

Blair leaned forward across the couch and gave Jim a brief kiss, gently swiping Jim's lower lip with his tongue. "Wait until after the second quarter," he suggested, reaching out for the remote control. "Should I make popcorn?"

"Yeah," Jim said, getting up to go clean off his dick. "Popcorn would be great."


PART FIVE

It was a few weeks later, the night after a particularly nasty case which culminated in a massive high-speed chase involving a garbage truck, two stolen army tanks, fourteen police cars and a modified lawnmower. He'd nearly zoned on the smell of the garbage, but Sandburg had reached across the cab of the tank and grabbed his head, shaking him and rubbing his cheeks roughly and yelling like a maniac until he'd finally snapped out of it, just missing that telephone pole.

Still, the whole day had left him pretty fucking exhausted, which was probably why he didn't wake up until Blair was nearly at the top of the stairs.

"Hey," Jim whispered, propping himself up on his elbows and dialing his sight up.

Blair was hovering at the landing wearing a tank top, shorts, and a slightly nervous expression. "Hey yourself."

"What's up?"

"Nothing," Blair replied, fidgeting nervously. "Just that I couldn't sleep, and wondered--you know, if you wanted to do it."

He knew exactly what Blair meant, or at least his heart and cock did, because the former was suddenly pumping huge quantities of blood straight into the latter. "Do what?" he asked, just to annoy Blair.

Blair rolled his eyes and shook his head: a portrait of saintly patience. "You know. Fuck. Do you want to?"

Jim sat up, switched on his bedside light, and pretended to think about it. "Yeah, okay," he said, finally, shoving aside his covers and standing up in his boxers. "Why not?"

"Can I top?" Blair asked, taking a few steps forward to cross the unofficial but well-understood line between "the staircase" and "the bedroom."

Jim had crossed to his dresser drawers and was rummaging for condoms and lube. "Sure, if you want."

"Cool," Blair said, pulling his tank top off over his head.

"How do you want to do it?" Jim asked, turning and handing three condoms and a tube of lube to Blair. "You want me to bend over at the foot of the bed?"

Blair laughed and made a face. "Yeah, right. Not unless you've got a box for me stand on. And the insurance policy to cover such acrobatics." He looked pointedly up and down Jim's body, emphasizing their height difference.

"Hands and knees, then?" Jim asked, skimming off his boxers.

"Yeah, that'll work," Blair said, following suit.

Jim sat down on the edge of the bed and watched as Blair tore into one of the foil packets and slicked a condom onto his bobbing erection.

"You know," Jim commented, leaning forward and bracing his hands on his knees, "I've been meaning to tell you. You're hung like a horse, Sandburg."

Blair's face blossomed into a warm smile. "Awwww," he said fondly. "You say the sweetest things. Now bend over."

Jim laughed and nodded, turning to crawl on all fours to the head of the bed. Blair followed him.

"Hold tight onto the railing," Blair directed. "I don't want you to bump your head."

Jim rolled his eyes and looked back at Blair over his shoulder. "I won't bump my head."

"Okay, but it's metal. Just be careful."

"It's my bed, Sandburg. I won't bump my head."

"And here," Blair added. "Pile up these pillows just in case you want to rest your head on something."

"Christ, you're really a top, aren't you? Jim rolled his eyes but piled up the pillows nonetheless.

"Okay, good--good," Blair said, approvingly. "Ready?"

"I'll need some stretching," Jim said, grabbing the iron railing in his fists and settling himself comfortably. "It's been a while."

"Gotcha. Ten-four, Roger," Blair said, waving the tube of lube at him and then unscrewing the top.

"God, I hate this part," Jim confessed, bracing himself. "It's so cold and--gloppy."

"Hang in there," Blair said. "Warm and solid coming right up...just hang on."

"It's probably gonna be colder and gloppier now that I'm a Sentinel," Jim muttered, disgruntled. "That's gonna suck."

"Can I put that in my dissertation?" Blair asked, sounding highly amused.

"No." He took a deep breath as he felt Blair's fingers skim over his hole, and then shuddered as he felt the expected cold glop of lube. "Uccck."

"Hang on," Blair murmured. "Just hang in there..." and the pressure of Blair's fingers were at least warming the stuff, and spreading it around, which was better. Jim closed his eyes and let his head rest on the huge pile of pillows in front of him--okay, Sandburg was right, that had been a pretty good idea.

He took deep steady breaths, deep steady breaths, and Blair circled the muscle and circled the muscle and then began to probe him with one hard, slick finger. Okay, so the lube thing was worse, but this was better. Way better. He was already goosepimpled with pleasure, and this was just one finger.

Viva sensitivity! Ya-hoo!

Blair fucked him slowly, in and out, and then circled his finger, stretching him. His other hand ran reassuringly up and down Jim's back. "How's this? This okay?"

"That's...g-great," Jim hissed, already unexpectedly breathless. "T-that's terrific..."

"Okay, good..." Blair said soothingly, still rubbing, still circling. "Good... You just let me know when you're ready..."

"I'm ready," Jim said instantly.

"Give it another minute," Blair suggested.

"You asked me if I was ready," Jim said irritably. "I'm telling you that I'm ready. I'm ready, Sandburg."

"Just one more minute."

"I'm ready!" Jim insisted.

"Okay, okay! Sheesh, you're a pain," Blair said, and withdrew his finger. He reached for the tube of lube again and slicked up his cock. "Okay. Are you--"

"You ask me if I'm ready, I'm gonna fuckin' kill you," Jim said dangerously.

"Right," Blair said instantly. "I don't care if you're ready!" he declared. "Here I come!"

Jim closed his eyes and tightened his fists on the iron railing as he felt the blunt, latex-covered head of Blair's erection pressing at his opening. He had a moment's pause about whether the latex would bother him, but that fear passed as Blair slowly slid into him and he discovered that here, too, increased sensitivity was a very good thing. His muscles were sending wonderful messages up his spinal column to his brain, where they sparkled brightly and exploded like fireworks--god, the sensation of fullness was fucking brilliant, and whether it was the senses or not, Sandburg's cock felt like a fucking magic wand.

He inhaled raggedly as Blair finally shoved all the way in, and suddenly became conscious that Blair was panting harshly against his back. "...god...god, this is good..."

"Yeah," Jim grunted.

"Okay, here goes," Blair muttered. "Here goes nothing," and then Blair was gripping his hips tightly, and pulling backwards, and shoving forwards, and the formal fucking had begun.

It had never felt so good to have a cock in him--he'd never felt so much, never enjoyed it so much. He opened his mouth to say so, but then Blair shifted slightly and brushed his prostate and the words died on his lips.

Wouldn't make it. He wasn't going to make it. Senses and sensitivity and Sandburg--one more stroke like that and--god!

He bowed his head, stiffened, and came hard, head and cock throbbing.

"...you okay?" Blair was muttering behind him. "You okay, Jim? Gimme a sign, here."

"I'm fine, I'm good, keep going," Jim managed, and Blair nodded and began thrusting again.

In a way, this was better, because now that the threat of incipient orgasm had passed, he could relax and just enjoy being fucked. Each time Blair's cock pounded his prostate he got a most satisfying jolt of pleasure, and his aching muscles strained and flexed around Blair's hardness, sending electrical impulses shooting up and down his nervous system.

"God, you have the sweetest ass, Ellison," Blair groaned.

"Thanks," Jim ground out. "It was a graduation present."

"I mean it." Blair was panting openly now as he thrust. "You're incredibly tight--it's fucking fantastic."

"I haven't--been fucked since the senses," Jim confessed, gasping. "I haven't--been fucked--a lot--anyway. Just--you..."

"Oh god," Blair moaned.

"...and a--couple--dozen servicemen... "

"Oh, god," Blair moaned.

"...of--assorted--ranks..." Jim finished, and grinned to himself.

"...oh hell..." Blair said in a small voice, and shuddered and came.

Jim started to laugh as Blair collapsed on top of him, and then rolled off and fell flat onto the bed beside him, arms flopping out, staring up at him in shocky exhaustion. "You bastard," Blair managed.

"You like that, huh?" Jim let go of the railing and sat back on his haunches. "It turns you on to think of me in the army? Fucking?"

Blair took a couple of deep, deep breaths. "Oh yeah," he said finally. "Did you?"

"Did I what?" Jim asked innocently, turning over and tucking a pillow underneath his head.

"Fuck in the army." Blair rolled onto his side to stare at him. "With servicemen of assorted ranks."

"I did," Jim confessed, stretching out and making himself comfortable. "I had my first fuck there. Actually on base, with a company clerk who had his own office. Even now," he added, with a grin, "certain office supplies do wonderful things for me." Blair laughed and Jim nudged Blair's foot with his own. "What about you? Where was your first fuck?"

"At Rainier," Blair answered promptly, and Jim nodded encouragingly. "With a professor." Jim's eyebrows flew up questioningly, but Blair just made a face and shook his head. "He was a dickwad," Blair explained, "but I didn't know that at the time."

"What happened?" Jim asked.

Blair shrugged and averted his gaze, and Jim decided that the truth was in the eyes and not the shoulder blades. "It was one term. Four months. The guy was a Visiting Anthro Professor, a bigshot. We used to have these long talks in his office. Then he invited me to lunch. Then dinner. Then drinks. And then he took me to a hotel." Blair sighed, rolled onto his back, and stared up at the ceiling. "I hadn't done it before, but he kept pushing--so finally I let him. It was okay."

"Then what?" Jim asked.

"Then nothing," Blair said with another shrug. "I was the fall-term fuck. The spring-term fuck was a blond pre-med who played varsity hockey," Blair said, cracking a smile. "The guy scheduled his sex life according to the university calendar. I think he took the summers off for research."

"Gee, I'm sorry," Jim said sincerely.

"S'okay. I took it like a man." Blair's smile widened into a grin, and Jim grinned back, waiting for it. "And I've been taking it like a man ever since," Blair concluded, and they both burst out laughing.

"Okay," Blair sighed, once the hilarity had died down. "Time for cleanup and then bed." He stretched his arms over his head and yawned hugely.

"Yeah. Sounds like a plan," Jim agreed. "S'gonna be a long day tomorrow--"

Blair groaned and raised a hand to signal stop. "Please. Don't remind me."

"--what with all the paperwork we'll have to fill out and explaining how we stole that tank and everything," Jim finished.

Blair sat up and stared narrowly at him. "How we stole the tank? Who's we, kimosabe?"

"We--you and me," Jim explained.

"Well, that ain't the way I remember it," Blair said, shaking his head.

"Maybe not," Jim admitted, "but then again it's your word against mine, isn't it?"

"Maybe so," Blair replied, poking him in the chest, "but then again--I'm just an observer, right? I mean, you're responsible for my actions, anyway."

"Right," Jim said glumly, crossing his arms; that observer card was actually a pretty good one. "Still, though--you'll help me write the report, right? You lie better than I do."

"Really, man," Blair said, leaning forward and giving him a brief, teasing kiss with a bit of tongue, that kiss that Jim had come to identify as the 'we're done, here' kiss, "you say the sweetest things."

Jim laughed again as Blair got out of bed, scooped his t-shirt and boxers off the floor, and headed down the stairs. He raised his hand and waved Blair off, and Blair waved back and disappeared.


PART SIX

"So, you know, your mother's pretty nice," Jim said, shutting and locking the door.

Blair leaned against the doorframe to his room and beamed. "She is, right? And really--I sort of like the sofa over there..."

Jim laughed and shook his head slowly. "Well, I don't. So get over here and help me move it back."

"Okay, okay," Blair sighed, detaching himself from the wall and ambling over. He went to stand on one end of the sofa and waited for Jim's signal. "Really, Jim, she means well."

"I'm sure," Jim said, then nodded brusquely and together they lifted the sofa and turned it back to its proper angle. "You know, your mom is younger than I thought she'd be." He stepped back, regarded the sofa, and nodded approvingly. "Much better," he muttered.

"She's forty-seven," Blair said pointedly. "Plus she's my mom," he added, glaring.

Jim laughed and sat down on the sofa. "You think I want to fuck your mom?"

"People fuck sheep, Jim," Blair objected.

"I'm sure your mother would be very flattered," Jim said with a grin.

Blair groaned and rolled his eyes. "That's not what I meant. I was trying to say that people do all sorts of things. Who knows what people do?"

"You do," Jim pointed out. "You're an anthropologist."

"And you're an asshole," Blair retorted.

"Relax, chill out, okay?" Jim slouched back and laced his hands over his stomach. "Don't worry--your mom is safe with me."

"Ehh--I don't even know why I care," Blair said, flinging a hand at him and turning to go back into his room.

"I know why you care."

Blair stopped, turned. "You do?"

"Yeah. Of course. She's your mom and you love her. Plus," Jim added, ticking the points off on his fingers, "you don't have a dad, plus you're an only child, and plus you're a boy child--you're probably half-jealous, half-overprotective. Somewhere, deep down, you've gotta have some kind of 'man of the family' issue..."

Blair raised his eyebrow and crossed his arms. "I do not have any 'man of the family' issues, Jim, I promise you!"

"Okay," Jim relented, raising his palms. "If you say so."

"It wasn't like that!" Blair protested.

"Okay. It wasn't like that," Jim repeated.

But Blair started to pace outside his room; it was like he wasn't even listening. "Believe me--Naomi can take care of herself! She doesn't need me to protect her. Hell, I barely even saw her."

Jim frowned. "I thought you guys were close."

"We were close!" Blair said, wheeling on him. "We are close! You don't have to be nearby to be close!"

"Uh," Jim said, trying to process that.

"Look, Naomi's always been there for me!" Blair insisted. "She just wasn't always here for me. You don't have to be here to be there for someone. She was there for me from somewhere else, you dig?"

"Uh," Jim said, thinking hard about that. "Well, I guess," he said finally. "I mean--I can see that. After all, my father was here, but he's never been there."

"Exactly!" Blair said triumphantly. "Quality not proximity--I rest my case."

"Well," Jim said, getting up. "I award you damages in the amount of one cold beer. Case dismissed. You wanna go camping?"

"Camping?" Blair asked, sounding interested. "Yeah. When?"

"Now," Jim said, handing him a cold bottle. "Go out somewhere and get the stink of diesel fuel out of our noses. We closed the stupid case, we've got the time off--"

"Yeah, okay. Twist my arm, man," Blair said, and they clinked bottles.

"We just need to pack and go," Jim said, then took a swig. "Pack light, okay?"

"Hey, I'm not the Army Ranger," Blair protested. "Who goes camping prepared for a national emergency?"

"Who goes prepared to start a small village school?" Jim countered.

"Who brought a sub-zero sleeping bag in July?" Blair said, staring significantly.

"Who brought Volume One of the fucking Oxford English Dictionary and forgot to bring the matches?" Jim topped.

"Who put the bomp in the bomp-she-bomp-she-bomp?" Blair asked with a grin.

Jim raised his hand. "I'm going to bitchslap you, be warned."

Blair skittered backward, laughing. "Okay, okay. Matches."

"Matches," Jim confirmed. "Sleeping bag. Tent. Flashlight. Mess kit. Extra socks. And that's it, Sandburg, okay?"

"Okay, okay."

"I'm not lugging your books or any of your archaic anthropological equipment. Leave that shit at home."

"Hey--who brought the climbing rope?"

"Get cracking," Jim said, raising his hand to again signify the potential of imminent bitch-slapping. "Get packing."

He went upstairs to the closet, pulled out his dufflebag, and prepared to pack his own extra socks. He thought about taking his longjohns, just in case, but then decided not to--it wasn't worth the teasing. He listened, only half paying attention, as Sandburg rustled around in the room beneath him--and then he had a thought.

"Hey! Sandburg!"

"What?"

"What about Rainier?" He crossed to the railing and leaned over it.

"What about it?" Blair called from his room.

"You can get away from there for a couple days, right?" Jim asked.

Blair stepped out and tilted his head up to look at him. "Yeah, I think so. I mean, hell, I'm never there anymore anyway. It seems to me that I can continue to not be there for a few more days for a good cause like this."

Jim grinned down at him. "Cool."

"Cool." Blair wandered back into his room, and Jim returned to his packing. Sweatpants and sweatshirt. Extra underwear. Hairbrush and towel. He fumbled through his top bureau drawer, saw the condoms and lube, thought 'what the hell' and packed them, too.

Then unpacked them.

"Sandburg!" he shouted.

"Yeah?" Blair called back.

He stared at the condoms and lube in his hand, and suddenly changed his mind. "Nothing, forget it!"

Blair called up again. "What?"

Jim repacked the condoms and the lube and zipped his bag. "Nothing! It's not important!"

"Okay!"

Jim grabbed his bag by the handles and took it down to the living room, threw it onto the sofa. "We've gotta leave by five at the latest," he said, glancing at his watch.

Blair came out of his room and threw his dufflebag next to Jim's. "We gotta get the stuff out of the basement."

"Right," Jim said, nodding briskly. "So let's--"

He turned, and to his surprise, Blair grabbed him roughly and kissed him, hand fisting his shirt.

"Hey," Jim said breathlessly, when Blair had pulled back.

"I just thought, you know..." Blair shrugged casually, but his eyes were shining with excitement. "You know, that we could--before we left--?"

"Yeah. I mean--sure. Yeah." Jim blinked, suddenly, and then glanced again at his watch. "Except we have to leave before five at the latest."

"We're young. We're healthy. We got an hour."

"We've got to the get the stuff out of the basement."

"Half an hour, then," Blair said, resting his hands on Jim's biceps. Jim groaned, reached around him, and yanked him close, then started kneading Blair's ass with his hands. "Oh yeah," Blair murmured, stretching up to run the tip of his tongue along Jim's jaw. "I can do that..."

"Your room or mine?" Jim muttered.

"Mine."

"Right." He brushed two fingers along the seam in Blair's jeans.

Blair squirmed. "Jim?"

"Yeah?"

"Now."

"Right, okay," Jim said, and propelled Blair backwards. Blair laughed and stumbled backwards until his legs hit the futon. "Get undressed," Jim commanded. "Chop-chop--we've got a schedule here."

"Half an hour and counting," Blair agreed, yanking his shirt up over his head and throwing it onto the floor.

Jim moved to Blair's bedside table and yanked it open, looking for Blair's condoms and lube. But the drawer was oddly devoid of such items, and behind him, Blair coughed discreetly.

"I, uh, packed 'em," Blair confessed. "Hang on--" he said, and rushed back into the living room.

Jim laughed, sat down on the futon, and pulled his shoes off. He reached out to shut the bedside drawer, then frowned and pulled out a small, white dildo. He was inspecting it when Blair came back, tossed the condoms and lube onto the bedspread, and started shimmying out of his jeans. "Twenty-seven minutes and counting," he announced.

"Does this vibrate?" Jim asked, waving the dildo at him.

Blair shook his head. "No."

"You sure?" Jim asked, examining it closer.

"I'm sure," Blair replied.

"Don't you have one that vibrates?"

"No," Blair said, kicking his jeans and underwear away and crawling onto the bed. "You must be confusing me with that other anthropologist you're fucking."

"I coulda sworn this thing vibrated," Jim grumbled.

Blair, propped up on his elbows, regarded him skeptically. "I have this thing, actually, about shoving anything electrical up my ass." He shrugged. "Call me a Puritan."

"Can I use this on you?" Jim asked.

"Sure, if you want."

Jim shoved the drawer closed. "Figure I can use this to open you up, and meanwhile we can be using our--" he glanced at his watch "--twenty-five minutes to greater advantage."

"Sounds like a plan," Blair said.

Jim stood up and took off all his clothes, leaving his watch on. "Okay, turn over."

"Okay," Blair said, and did, pillowing his head on his folded arms.

"Raise your hips," Jim directed; he reached for the lube and began to slick up the small dildo. When he was done he gave Blair's ass a rough caress, then smacked it gently, and Blair spread his legs.

He gently slid the small dildo into Blair, being careful not to rush it. He found himself fascinated by the way Blair's muscles twitched as his ass strove to accommodate the small piece of plastic. As he watched, Blair shuddered and broke out into a light sweat. God, he could almost see the millions of tiny contractions, the way--

"ELLISON, YOU ZONE ON ME NOW, I'LL FUCKING KILL YOU!"

Jim blinked hard, shook his head, and carefully pushed the dildo the rest of the way in. "Sorry," he muttered.

"Sheesh." Blair rolled over and glared up at him. "Some minutes, man--"

"I'm sorry," Jim repeated helplessly. "Just--"

"My ass was fascinating," Blair deadpanned.

"Yeah!" Jim said, nodding eagerly, because that was exactly fucking right! "Your ass was--"

Blair howled with laughter and Jim found himself laughing too. "Well, it was!" Jim insisted. "No, really, it--"

"Twenty minutes, Jim," Blair reminded.

"Right, okay." He settled down onto the bed beside Blair and bent his head to drop a big sloppy kiss to his base of his throat before kissing and nipping his way downwards.

"Oh, that's nice," Blair sighed.

Jim smiled into Blair's abdomen and then began seriously applying himself to giving Blair a hard-on, teasing the semi-soft penis with lips and teeth and tongue.

"Very nice," Blair said dreamily, closing his eyes. "Very nice. Kiss my balls, will you?" and Jim nodded and did, getting himself way turned on by the sensory contrasts, by the scratchy hair and the oh-so-fragile skin, by the softness of the sac with its rolling orbs and the hardness of the cock that jutted out above.

And then suddenly Blair was moving underneath him, shoving him off and sitting up. "Okay, that's it!" Blair said breathlessly. "Let's hit it! I'm ready!"

Jim rolled onto his back and smirked up at him. "You sure you're ready?" he asked, just to be annoying.

He expected a witty comment or a 'fuck you' in reply, but Blair just turned around and pointed his ass at him. "Get this outta me."

"Okay," Jim said, sitting up and obliging.

"Now suit up," Blair said, flinging one of the foil packets at him. Jim ripped open the condom packet, sheathed and lubed himself. " Good," Blair said, nodding. "Now lie down," he directed. "Totally flat. Arms above your head."

"Geez, even when you're a bottom you're a top," Jim muttered, but he scrambled to get into the position Blair had indicated.

Blair climbed on top of him, straddling him, bracing himself with his palms on Jim's shoulders. "That's the idea, yeah," he said, grinning, and slowly lowered himself onto Jim's erection.

Oh Christ, Jim thought, closing his eyes, that was good. Those first, few moments of penetration--the agonizingly slow squeeze of it--always took his breath away. And then, to his delight, Blair leaned forward and grabbed hold of his wrists, pinning him down. Jim's eyes flew open and he saw Blair's face, inches from his; Blair grinned and kissed his nose--and then began riding him.

God. God. He wanted to grab Blair and hold him by the waist; he wanted to thrust upwards; he wanted to stroke Blair's cock and pinch his nipples--but he couldn't, because Blair had him pinned there, because Blair was a top even when he was bottoming.

Not that he was complaining, because Blair was working him hard, using every muscle that he had. Blair was holding his wrists in tight fists, flexing his arms and straining his legs as he slowly rode up and down, up and down, flexing and relaxing his asshole on the upswing, or on the downswing. Bliss in a bucket, this was--he felt totally dominated by 160 pounds of wiry, hairy Blair.

"Gonna come," Jim gasped finally, when orgasm was clearly on the horizon.

Above him, Blair groaned. "No," he protested, looking down--and Jim could see that Blair was sweating profusely now.

"Yeah," Jim contradicted breathlessly. "Sorry."

"Dial--down--" Blair muttered, but all Jim could do is shake his head: it was too late for any of this bullshit of dials and wires. It would be like waving your arms in front of a steam train.

"Shit," Blair hissed, and then suddenly Blair was gritting his teeth and slamming himself downward, and Jim heard himself shouting out at each slam, and he felt like he was yelling for Blair, because Blair was too intent, working too hard, was way too focused on getting Jim's dick to bang into his prostate. Blair clearly couldn't spare the brainpower even to yell, and so Jim yelled out for him. And also because it was good, it was damn good, to be fucked this way, to be fucking this way, to--

He felt the sudden sticky splatter on his chest, felt the musky odor rise to engulf his nose, and came hard. The world went fuzzy for a while, and when he began to take notice of things, he found himself stroking Blair's hair absently with one hand. Blair had collapsed on top of him, and had buried his face in Jim's armpit.

"Seven minutes to spare," Blair murmured.

Jim smiled up at the ceiling. "Yeah. A new world record."

Blair lifted his head out of Jim's pit and grinned at him. "And, in the category of speed-fucking, the gold medal goes to...Sandburg and Ellison of Cascade, Washington! And the crowd goes wild!"

Jim raised his fist to his mouth and made appropriate crowd-noises.

Blair laughed and rolled onto his back, then stretched hugely. "Okay, I feel good," he commented. "I'm relaxed and loose and ready to camp."

"Yeah," Jim said dryly, "anal sex will do that to you."

Blair elbowed him hard, making a face. "Not that kind of camping, asshole." He propped himself up on his elbows, and glanced over at his bedside clock. "Five minutes," Blair noted with satisfaction, and then he turned to Jim and gave him one of those trademark, teasing kisses--what Jim had come to think of as a 'we're done, here' kiss--and then pulled back and moved to get up.

On impulse, Jim reached out and grabbed Blair's arm and pulled him back again, giving him a longer, gentler kiss. Blair looked surprised and then oddly pleased at this--though, as if they'd just done yet another explicitly sexual act, Blair's impulse was to lean forward and punctuate it by giving him yet another 'we're done' kiss.

Jim found this strangely irritating--it was like Blair always had to have the last kiss or something--and he pulled Blair tightly into his arms and shoved him down on his back and kissed him slow and deep and thoroughly, so much so that Blair was panting and hard again when Jim lifted his head.

"I thought we were done here," Blair managed.

"Guess not," Jim said tersely. "Guess we're not done," and he closed his eyes and began to mouth Blair's temple gently, slowly rubbing his half-hard erection against Blair's smooth hip.

"But--the schedule? Camping--?"

"Fuck camping."


PART SEVEN

"Shaman of the Great City," Blair grumbled, punching the throw-pillow in his lap. "What the fuck does that mean, Jim?"

Jim shrugged helplessly. "Like I know."

"Well, don't you?" Blair accused.

"No," Jim said, sitting down on the coffee table in front of Blair. "No, I don't."

"You're the one who went to Peru." Blair looked about as frustrated as Jim'd ever seen him. "You're the one who worked with them--with Incacha, with the Chopec. He was your Shaman, right?"

"Yeah," Jim said somberly.

"So what did he do exactly?"

"It's hard to say," Jim tried to explain. "The context was so different. I was just trying to survive over there, I wasn't sitting around analyzing the culture--"

"Well, a little analysis would help me here, man!" Blair said, crossing his arms.

"Hey! Look! That's your job," Jim said, pointing a finger at him. "You're the analysis-man--can't you get a book on this or something?"

"The books don't help." Blair looked away; it sounded like the admission cost him. "The fucking books don't help--they don't seem to apply here, they don't talk about what a modern Shaman in a big city would do."

"So all right," Jim said, trying to console him. "So you'll figure it out as you go. You don't have to know everything right away, do you?"

"I just..." Blair stopped, closed his eyes, let out a deep breath. "Jim," he said, opening his eyes--and there was an emotion there that Jim had never seen before, that Jim didn't quite recognize. Or maybe he'd just never seen it on Sandburg before. "I just can't help feeling that there's something I ought to be doing, here. Like there's something I'm supposed to be, something I'm supposed to be living up to. I've got this--like--perpetual nagging feeling--like when you've forgotten your car keys, or like there's some really important deadline that you know you're missing but you can't remember what it is."

"Yeah, I know that feeling," Jim admitted, reaching up to rub at his neck. "Like when you're on an important case and feel like you've missed the key clue..."

'Yeah," Blair said, nodding rapidly. "Yeah. Just like that. It's driving me nuts, here, man..."

"Still, though--the only way of dealing with that is just to relax, you know? The more you stress about it, the more it gets buried in your subconscious or whatever. Best thing to do is just chill out and hope that the thing floats to the top of your mind."

"You sound like me," Blair said, raising his eyebrow.

"That is you. That's your advice--but it's good advice, Sandburg."

Blair began punching the pillow in his lap again, hair bobbing as he did so. "It's just on the tip of my tongue," he said, beating out the words with his fist. "It's like--right (thud) fucking (thud) there--on the edge of my peripheral vision, man--"

Jim grabbed the pillow from Blair's lap and smacked him hard in the face with it.

"Hey!" Blair shouted, face flushing with outrage.

Jim whacked him again.

"You dickwad!" Blair yelled, springing off the sofa and leaping on him, trying to get the pillow. Jim held it up, high, over his head--and then backwards behind him, as Blair stood up straight and grabbed for it.

"You asshole!" Blair yelled, and tackled him--and they went flying off the coffee table and backwards onto the floor. Blair tried to straddle him, arms flailing wildly for the pillow; Jim waved it around rapidly, taking every chance he could sneak to whack Sandburg in the face.

"Ha!" Blair yelled, finally managing to grab it. "Ha fucking ha!" and oh, shit, Blair was straddling him now and in possession of the only reasonable weapon within reach, and he was using his advantage and thump! thump! thumping! him in the face. "Take that!" Blair yelled. "And that!"

Jim, laughing, wrapped his arms around his head to protect himself, and just let Sandburg pound away at him. Finally, sensing the lack of resistance, he peeked through his arms and watched as Blair flung the pillow to the other side of the room. "Feel better?" he asked, widening the space between his forearms so that Blair could see his face.

Blair was panting and grinning like a maniac. "Yeah," he said. "Yeah. Much better, thanks."

"You're welcome," Jim said, letting his arms fall back to his sides.

"I don't think that was very Shaman-like of me, " Blair admitted, chest heaving, "but it felt great."

"Hey, that's the thing about mindless violence," Jim said with a smile. "It just works. You ready to get on with your life now?"

"No," Blair said, reaching forward to grab two fistfuls of Jim's shirt. "I'm ready for you to fuck me into oblivion."

Jim stared up at him. "Oh yeah?"

"Yeah." Blair pulled hard on his shirt, jerking his shoulders up off the floor. "I want it hard, I want it fast, and I want it yesterday."

"Way to channel that energy," Jim said, breaking into a grin.

"I mean it, Ellison. Now. Now," and Blair was skittering back and up to his feet, yanking Jim's shirt with him, and Jim told himself that he was going along primarily because he didn't want to see his favorite shirt get ripped to pieces. And then he told himself that he was a big, fat, fucking liar, but then he forgave himself, realizing that he was only human when all was said and done.

To his surprise, Blair shoved him toward the loft steps. Jim shot him a questioning look, and Blair replied, "The railing, man--I need that fucking railing." In a few minutes he understood why. Blair wasn't lying when he said he wanted it hard and fast, and after some scrambling and preparation Jim found himself kneeling behind Blair, who was clutching the iron railing with white-knuckled fists.

"Harder! Harder! I can take it--come on! split me open!" and it was like the words were going straight to his cock, straight to his brain, and Jim found himself pounding into Sandburg like he'd never pounded into him before. He just grabbed Blair's hips and thrust in and out wildly, so that each forceful thrust forward was like a slap, like a spank, and after a while Blair's exhortations sort of subsided into a gratified sobbing.

And when they were done, Blair sort of collapsed, half-laughing and half-crying, and then he turned and flung his arms around Jim, hanging off his neck. "Jesus Christ, Ellison..." Blair managed to get out. "Jesus Christ..."

Blair raised his head to kiss him then--and there was no teasing, no hint of promise, no irony at all. This was the real thing, finally. This was promise fulfilled.


PART EIGHT

"I'm beat. I'm going to bed. You want to fuck first?"

Blair looked up from his laptop. "Yeah. Okay."

"Your room or mine?" Jim asked.

Blair put the computer to sleep and then turned in the kitchen chair, hands on his knees. "Mine, for a change, I think."

"Sounds good." Jim rose from the sofa with a yawn and went to go brush his teeth. He came out to find Sandburg already in bed, already naked, which was pleasant enough. "C'mere," Blair said, holding the covers back for him, and Jim stripped off his clothes and got into bed.

He seized Sandburg by the shoulders and pushed him down among the pillows, and he was hovering over him, licking and biting at his face, when he suddenly had that brain-mouth problem that he sometimes had and blurted, "I love you, I think."

Blair sort of went still beneath him, and there was a flicker of some unidentifiable dark emotion in his eyes--fear, maybe. "Well," Blair said finally, and then he coughed. "Me too, I guess. I mean--you know--yeah," he said with a nervous shrug. "Now that you mention it."

"Cool," Jim said, relieved; that had gone well. "That's cool," and he grabbed Blair by the hips, and licked a trail down his chest, and proceeded to blow him into next week.

THE END