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The Study Session

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Standard Disclaimer: Jim, Blair, the concept, and all things wise and wonderful belong to Pet Fly Productions and UPN. I'm not planning on getting any financial recompense; there is no intent to infringe on any copyrights--I'm in it just for the simple satisfaction of playing with them for a little while. I'll put them back on their little shelf, unharmed, hopefully with silly grins on their gorgeous faces. Don't sue me--I'm paying off student loans for the rest of my life.

Well. This is my first attempt at fiction of any type. Any previous attempts at writing have been of a technical nature. The last thing that I wrote was a paper on pancreatitis, and if you'd care to peruse that lovely, light-hearted little piece of fluff, I'm sorry--I burned all twenty-seven pages of it in a celebratory fit once I passed state boards.

I'd appreciate feedback of a constructive nature. My email address is If you're going to throw bricks at me, please wrap them in cotton first--I'm sensitive, and bruise easily. Oh, feel free to archive this if you wish, but for any other purposes, please contact me.

Many thanks to Merry, who was kind enough to encourage me, and to Nita, beta reader without peer. To Nita: That! That! That! She knows what I mean. Chocolate chip cheesecake to both these lovely ladies.

Without further ado, on with the show.

The Study Session


//Oh. My. God.//

Blair was going to die. He was absolutely certain of it.

//Stop it. Stop it, now. Stop looking.//

He forced his attention back down into the textbook. His fingers cramped as he gripped the pen, and he forced them to relax again, to resume the normal task of taking notes, the comforting skritch-skritch of pen against paper loud in his ears. But not as loud as the thrum of blood in his veins, not as loud as the heart that had accelerated after beating a quick, odd little tattoo.

//Stop it. He can hear it, you idiot.//

Blair drew in a deep cleansing breath, held it for a count of three, and let it out slowly, willing the stress to exit with the exhalation. Tension eased, but only marginally. He could still feel it, curling around, tightening muscles, swirling within, settling finally in his lower body. He was forced to shift slightly, as his blood seemed to make a conscious decision to take up residence in places he really wished it wouldn't.

He thought of Indian swamis, and wished he had their iron control over autonomous reflexes.

That's all it was, really. Just a bunch of reflexes. Stimulus and response. Completely natural, completely out of his control. Yeah. Sure. Out of his control, definitely. Natural? Well, for Blair, perhaps; desire was beyond gender, as far as he was concerned. People were simply people, and the sex of his desired tended to be of little consequence; it was the whole package, mind, body and soul that attracted him. But while he acknowledged himself as a free spirit, open to all life had to offer, he was also forced to realize that not everyone felt that way.

Especially not Jim Ellison. His roommate. Cop. Subject of his study. His Sentinel. The one he cherished beyond all logical, sensible reason.

Blair's dark blue eyes drifted up again from the textbook to the object of his frustrated desire. Jim was standing in the doorway of the balcony, his attention focused on something outside. Blair allowed himself the luxury of a slow visual sweep of Jim's body, from the top of the dark, closely-cropped head, over the wide shoulders, the strongly muscled arms, the broad back, the narrow waist, the tight buttocks encased in running shorts //oh, gods, Jim, you don't know what seeing you in nothing but those thin shorts does to me// down the heavily-muscled legs, and finally, down to the long, surprisingly elegant bare feet. Unconsciously, Jim stood at parade rest, his strong hands clasped loosely behind his back, a vestige of years spent in military service. Strength and power, held under check, disciplined to obey a sharp, clear mind. Masculine perfection, textbook definition.

//I'm going to burn in nine different kinds of hell.// Blair sucked in his lower lip, worrying it with his teeth. //No,// he revised quickly, //I am *already* burning in nine different hells. And in all of them, Jim Ellison is the dark lord of those fiery regions.//

Jim's head turned slowly, so that the sunlight gilded his sharp profile. Blair froze, caught in his guilty perusal like a deer trapped in a hunter's spotlight.

"Sandburg, what the hell is the matter with you?" Jim's voice was mild.

Oh, unmerciful gods. Had Jim's Sentinel senses picked up the changes in his body, the quickened respiration, the rapid heartbeat, the heat rising from him, the scent of his arousal, even the rush of blood through his bloodstream? It was inevitable that he should; Jim was attuned to his Guide in ways Blair could only think of as arcane. Jim could differentiate the sound of his heart in a crowd, could scent him in a sea of others.

"Nothing, Jim," he said, and was surprised at how normal his voice sounded. "Just studying, Big Guy." Blair was certainly not above telling a lie, but in this case, it was the gospel truth. He just wasn't studying his book, but no need to confess *that*.

The corner of Jim's mouth quirked upward. "Must be interesting material."

Blair cleared his throat. "Um, yeah, man, you might say so." //Just go back to what you were doing, Jim. Ignore the little guy sitting at the table lusting hopelessly after you. Please. Please. Please.// He would have fled the room, but was certain that Jim's sharp eyes would not have missed the now-prominent evidence of his raging hormones straining the front of his shorts. A blind man couldn't miss that. Maybe, if he sat here quietly, and thought of such things as eating grubs, or vivisection, or ice cold mountain streams, he could force his willful body into submission, or at least, quiet it enough that he could slink away unnoticed. //Sure. Easy, man.//

In his agitation, he almost missed the increasing curve of Jim's mouth.

Jim turned. "Really? Mind if I look?"

Blair felt every nerve snap to screaming attention as Jim padded over to him. The tall man moved with a gliding grace, like a great hunting cat, just as powerfully and as silently. Jim's ability to move almost without sound in spite of his muscular bulk had always fascinated Blair. But not now. At this moment, it terrified him.

"You probably wouldn't be interested," he said and hoped his wild despiration didn't show. He knew it did, however, and started making movements to escape. To hell with his dignity. He had to get out, and right now. Somehow, though, with most of his blood flow diverted to his groin, his brain couldn't connect with his legs, wouldn't let him move.

"Oh, you might be surprised. I have an enquiring mind."

Jim came to Blair's side, leaning over him, a hand on the back of his chair, the other planted on the table next to Blair's own smaller, more slender one. He leaned close, and Blair could smell the clean, masculine scent of him, could feel the heat of his body, could see the rise and fall of his bare, smooth chest as he breathed. Blair felt his mouth dry, and his eyes closed a moment. Agony incarnate. To be so close, and not be able to touch, to taste...

Bad karma. *Really* bad karma. He must have been a monster in a previous life, to deserve such punishment now.

Jim turned the page, slowly. "What, no naked pictures?"

Blair's eyes snapped open at the amusement he heard. "I'll have you know that this is serious literature. There are no *naked pictures.*" He managed to make the last words sound like an accusation.

"Ah. Boring, then." He turned another page, and Blair found himself held captive by the movement, mesmerized by the slide of muscles beneath the lightly tanned skin.

Blair blinked and snapped out of the spell. "Well, I wouldn't expect you to like it. Comparative anthropology obviously pales in comparison to the intricacies of something much more esoteric--football, for instance."

//That's it. Take the offensive. Push him away a little. Don't let him get any closer, don't let him see the truth, or he'll boot your sorry, skinny ass out so fast you'll not know what happened. Where would you be then? Simple--with no friend, no Sentinel, no research, no place to go, and utterly miserable.// He allowed the frustrated desire to transmutate, to sublimate into something easier to handle; irritation. Irritation he could work with.

The chuckle rumbled out of Jim's chest. "You're an intellectual snob, Sandburg."

That stung, in spite of the light, teasing tone. He had been accused of that on more than one occasion, by more than one person. He hadn't liked it then; he liked it even less, now. Blair felt himself quiver in sudden anger. "I'm not an intellectual snob. I merely choose to engage my intellect at higher levels."

He began gathering his papers together, and jerked the textbook out of Jim's hands, slamming it shut decisively. Jim's big hand came down on it, as quick as a striking viper, holding it to the table as Blair sought to pull it away. Blair gave it a little tug, but it was like trying to move something trapped beneath a mountain. With a sigh, he gave up, his mouth turned downward in displeasure. He removed his glasses, put them on the table, and rubbed at his forehead, where a headache the size of Godzilla was building.

"Hell, Sandburg, I was just teasing. Sorry. Didn't mean to press a button."

Blair dared to slant a look upwards. Jim's pale blue eyes really did have a contrite look. Blair set his papers back down on the table, and ran his hands through his thick, dark curls in an effort to calm himself. It didn't help much; his elbow brushed Jim's shoulder, who hadn't moved, still far too close for comfort. Blair jerked back, as if burned.

"It's not your fault, man. I'm just...tired. I get a little testy." Testy. That just brushed the surface of his emotions. That one was the safest, no, the only one he'd allow himself to express, though.

"Well, it's no wonder. You burn the candle at both ends." Jim smiled. "And usually, in the middle, too."

Blair tried for a casual laugh, and was surprised when it succeeded. "That is *so* the life of a grad student, man. No sleeping, no eating, no time. I'm used to it now."

"It's Saturday afternoon. Even a grad student needs a day off now and again." Jim moved, sliding behind Blair, who suddenly went on hyperalert.

He wanted to scream as Jim's big, warm hands settled gently on his shoulders, burning his already-tingling skin through the thin fabric of his tee shirt. Then the hands began to move, massaging, kneading, infinitely gentle. Blair just wanted to die, right then. It could get no better, at least, not in any of his known realities. Blair stored up the memory of how it felt to be touched by Jim's hands, saving it for addition to his rich fantasy life, which admittedly, revolved almost entirely around this big man.

"Relax, for God's sake. You're one big knot." Jim's hands dug in a little harder, fingers and thumbs finding bunched muscles, encouraging them to release the tension. After a few moments, a low moan of pleasure escaped him, and he let his head fall forward, his long hair swinging down to hide his flushed face. Jim's talented hands moved down his back, enticing the tight muscles along Blair's spine to release and relax.

Gods and goddesses, have mercy. He was going to melt into a puddle, nothing left but his atoms. Jim's fingers swept slowly upwards, stroking each vertebra, coaxing him to a state of near bliss. Nirvana. Olympus. Asgaard. He felt his hair brushed off the back of his neck, long fingers stroking away the tension, and suddenly, Blair couldn't think of any other versions of heaven. He sighed, relaxing completely, liquified.

He felt the slight shift in the big man's weight, and then...oh, god. His eyes flashed open, as he realized what was brushing over his sensitized skin was not fingers. Not fingers. Lips. Soft, warm, with the teasing whisper of moist breath. Jim's hands moved to rest on his shoulders, a slight, almost imperceptible restraint. Blair's eyes rounded in shock as he felt the nibble of teeth over bumpy vertebrae, the stroke of tongue on his flushed skin.

"Jim?" His voice sounded strangled. "Um, like, what are you doing, man?"

The wet caress stopped, and he could feel Jim's lips shape a smile on his skin. "I'm kissing your neck," Jim said patiently, as if addressing an idiot child.

"Oh." Blair's normally agile mind went into complete shutdown.

"Obviously, I'm not doing it right, if you have to ask. I suppose that I'll have to try again."

Blair felt one of Jim's hands tangle in the softness of his hair, and pull gently, angling his head to the side, exposing the length of his neck. He gasped aloud as Jim's other hand moved to the neck of his shirt, pulling it aside, giving him access to the maximum amount of skin. Jim leaned forward again, placing wet, open-mouthed kisses from the curve where Blair's neck met shoulder, all the way upward, ending at the soft, sensitive skin just beneath his ear. Blair shuddered when he felt the tease of a moist tongue over the curve of his ear, flicking across his earlobe, then the gentle tugging of Jim's teeth on the silver hoops in his ear.

He was dying and having a near-death experience. That was the only explanation.

"Sandburg. Blair. Breathe."

Blair realized he had been holding his breath, and that he was dizzy from lack of oxygen. He complied with the command, and sucked in a lungful of air. His fuzzy vision snapped into clarity.

Jim laughed, the low, throaty sound making Blair tingle throughout his entire body. "I guess I got it right, that time."

"Yeah," Blair replied faintly. "I suppose you did."

"Good. I'm glad I haven't lost my touch."

Jim placed his hands back on Blair's shoulders, and began a slow slide down over the younger man's chest. When Jim's nails raked lightly across his nipples, Blair suddenly exploded, flinging himself from his chair, and out of Jim's grasp, quickly enough that not even Jim's Sentinel-enhanced reflexes could stop him. Blair ceased his headlong flight at the couch, hoping the distance was enough to allow him rational thought once more. He stood still, his arms wrapped around himself, breathing heavily.

"Oh, man, you're scaring me. This is *so* not you, Jim. I swear, if I go upstairs and find a pod in your room, I won't be surprised."

The big man stood up straight, totally relaxed. A grin slashed across his face, wicked, almost--what? Predatory. There was no other description that fit. He bounced a little on his toes, loose and ready. Ready for what? The thought caused a flash of panic to rip through Blair. This was not his Jim, not at all.

"No pods. I swear." He advanced a step.

Blair backed away, striving to keep the same distance between them. He raked his hands through his curly hair again, distressed. How could everything around him still look so normal when the world he knew had just tilted on its axis, changing everything? His mind cast about for alternative explanations for this clearly aberrant behavior on the part of his best friend. His *straight* friend, who had suddenly turned into the poster boy for stalkers everywhere.

"Chemicals, then. You've obviously been exposed to some sort of weird toxin..."

Jim shook his head, sidled a little closer, that strange, odd little smile still on his lips. "Nope. No toxins. No chemicals. No adverse reactions to food."

Blair's hands fluttered in frustrated gestures. "Then what, Jim?"

Jim pounced. Blair scrabbled frantically to get away, and almost did. Jim's arms closed about him, firmly but gently, and he threw them both over the top of the couch. Blair ended up beneath him with a breathless "Oof," squashed into the soft cushions, infinitely glad that Jim had managed to keep the majority of his considerably greater weight off him. He struggled briefly, then stilled as he realized the futility of it. Blair was a small man, and strong for his size, but no way in hell would he ever win a physical contest with Jim, who was bigger, definitely stronger, and had the advantage of military and police training.

"It's you." Jim's voice was soft.

"What?" Blair was distracted by the enveloping warmth of Jim's skin, the heat radiating from him, the definite hardness poking aggressively into his hip, and had lost the question Jim had answered.

He smiled down at Blair. "You asked what I'd been exposed to. It's you."

Blair blinked, wordless for a change. He licked suddenly dry lips, and felt a rush of desire as Jim's bright, pale blue eyes locked on him, absorbed by that movement. He could see the gradual dilation of the older man's eyes, the pupils opening wider, until the blue was only a small circle around the black. Oh, gods--the desire there was almost enough to consume him, to immolate him. Jim leaned down toward him.

"Wait!" Blair was distressed that his voice squeaked, and turned his face aside, avoiding the kiss. Damn, he couldn't think...."Why now?" he finally managed as Jim's lips slid over the soft skin just beneath his chin and sucked gently at his adam's apple, eliciting a pleasured moan. Oh, how good that felt, how often he'd imagined it....He felt himself start to relax into it, his eyes drifting shut, then jerked them open, resisting the strong desire to give himself over to sensation, consequences be damned. As much as he'd always wanted it, as much as he wanted it *now,* he just couldn't, not without finding out why his friend had done a complete one-eighty on him. "I'm serious, Jim...please."

He could hear the other man sigh, feel warm breath gusting over his throat. "It's really difficult to neck with you, Blair. You talk way too much."

"I've been told that." He gave a breathy little laugh. "But answer the question, Jim. I've got to know. Why, all of a sudden, now? We've known each other for a couple of years--I *really* need to understand." Blair's voice was stronger, more sure, and he felt a little of his own power return when Jim levered himself off him, sliding to the side, keeping Blair trapped between the back of the couch and Jim's body. Jim was still pressed close, but at least Blair didn't feel quite so overwhelmed by his sheer physical presence.

Jim ran a hand through his short-cropped hair and over the strong planes of his face, clearly attempting to regain control. It took a moment, but Blair was willing to wait.

"It's not suddenly," he replied, and waited so long that Blair made a little encouraging 'I'm listening' sound. "I've felt this way about you for a long time."

Blair knew his face reflected astonishment; he could feel it. "But you never..."

"Never gave any indication. Yeah, I know. I can't help it if I'm the strong silent type." His grin was slow, sexy, a marvel to behold, and Blair's heart gave a flip worthy of an Olympic gymnast.

"The classic hero archetype," he murmured.

"If you say so. It really started a couple of months after you moved in. We were so close all the time, what with you on observer status at the police station, going out with me on cases, running all the Sentinel tests, living here, constantly right under my feet..."

"Oh, great--you make me sound like a cat winding around your ankles, always underfoot. Appreciate that, Big Guy." Blair tried to sound annoyed, and succeeded only in the mildest sense.

Jim chuckled, and slipped his hand under Blair's shirt, to stroke the flat, furry stomach. "Well, you do feel feline, what with all this hair," he teased. Blair tried to control the quiver of pleasure the gentle touch brought, but could not. He succumbed to it and sighed as Jim's fingers continued to stroke, curving and raking through the thick soft hair, working upward to his chest. After a moment, he looked up, to find Jim's eyes closed, his face taut with concentration, starting to zone out on the sensation of touch.

"Jim! Snap out of it." He put his hand on Jim's biceps, dug in his fingers sharply and shook, hard. Jim's eyes opened, blank, and he took a deep breath, coming out of it.

"Sorry. Didn't mean to do that. I've just wanted to touch you for so long, and it was a little too much." His hand stilled on Blair's chest, right over his heart. "Anyway, I started depending on you, in ways I didn't expect. You are my friend, my Guide, but somehow, it became more than that. A lot more. It was like..." Jim paused for long seconds, thinking, " you became a part of me. Like your heart was in sync with my own, like your scent became a part of me, like your breath was mine. Like I wasn't whole, complete, without you. Alone, I was only half of something greater. You became...necessary. Needed. Absolutely essential." He shook his head, clearly frustrated. "I don't know how to say it, Blair. You're the one who's good with words, not me."

Blair almost felt short of breath as the tide of emotion swept through him. "I'd say you said it pretty well, Jim," he said, his voice husky.

"Every day I spent with you, it seemed like you twined around me more and more. You were like some sort of aggravating, annoying vine--but one I just had to have. Before I knew it, I couldn't even begin to think of life without you. It seemed like I had two lives--without Blair, and then with Blair. Dark, and then light." Jim looked a little embarassed at his unexpected poetic turn, and Blair was charmed.

"Oh, man, why didn't you say anything?" Blair could not believe Jim had kept this much emotion under such close wraps. Stoics had lessons to learn from Jim about self-control.

Jim shrugged, a careless gesture that didn't quite hide the depth of his feeling. "I didn't think you felt the same way. I didn't know if it was just me. If it was, I didn't want to scare you away--your friendship was too valuable. I would've never said anything to you about how I felt, if I thought that's what it would take to keep you with me. Besides--you always seemed to be chasing everyone, men and women both. I didn't think I stood a chance."

Blair wondered if that was a reprimand, however slight, but had to acknowledge the truth of the statement. His sexual life was a smorgasbord, and he knew that even showered, Jim could smell the scent of his partners, of sex, on him. Blair felt immediately sorry for his past indiscretions. Knowing now how Jim felt, he knew it must have been torture for the big guy.

"Sublimation." Jim looked up at him blankly. Blair took a deep breath. "You know--when you divert unwanted sexual or aggressive feelings into more socially acceptable activities..."

"Yes, Blair, I know what it means," Jim said, rolling his eyes. "I'm muscular, not stupid. Just what does it have to do with this?"

Blair blushed. "I never meant to imply that you're stupid. You're one of the most intelligent, intuitive people I know." He looked down at his hand, still on Jim's biceps; he had been stroking the warm skin without realizing it. He drew a deep breath, deciding to give Jim the truth. "I was sublimating what I thought you couldn't accept from me. Face it, Jim, you've always given off 'I'm straighter than straight' vibes. I thought I'd never have a chance with you, so I slept with everyone else. I became the King of Sublimation. But it was a *really* poor substitute, and so lately, I haven't slept with anyone. I go out on dates, but don't sleep with them anymore."

Jim's eyes were sharp on him, and he wanted to squirm under the intense scrutiny, but resisted. "How long is lately?"

"Oh, about seven months or so," he said quietly. "Maybe a little longer."

Jim was silent a long moment. "Sandburg, we're both idiots, you know that, don't you?"

Blair's smile spread slowly across his face. "Yeah, man, probably. You've wanted me for awhile, and I've wanted you, like forever. So what do we do? We ignore what's been in front of us, plain as the noses on our faces." A mischevious imp possessed him. "Or at least, as plain as the nose on your face."

Jim's eyes twinkled in response to his tease. "I'll have you know that this is a nose of great character, indicative of a great man."

"Yeah, Cyrano, sure. Jose Ferrer did it much better." Somehow, he'd worked his other arm out from between their bodies, and was sliding it upward, over Jim's arms, up around his shoulders.

A subtle shifting, a pressing closer together. Blair managed to free a leg, and wrapped it around Jim's, pulling his pelvis closer to his own body.

"So what made you decide to pounce on me? Jesus, Jim, it scared the shit out of me. Totally out of left field." He moved again, bringing his erection into close proximity with Jim's, and moved suggestively, a subtle undulation of his hips.

Jim took a deep breath at the headiness of the sensation, and Blair could see him try to focus. "I'd been planning this big seduction scene in my head for days--food, fine wine, candles--everything. I was going to lay it on the line, regardless of whether it made you run screaming from the loft." He paused. "I didn't think it would. I'd been watching you for awhile, scenting your arousal, and noticing that it had been getting...stronger, but I wasn't sure if you were reacting to someone else, or to me. I mean, it seemed like...well. I just had to take a chance that it was in reaction to me. The whole thing had grown beyond me, beyond everything. But then, you were looking at me like a starving man at a banquet, and I could smell your scent, feel your heat, hear your heart racing, and well, hell, it just seemed to be the thing to do at the time."

Blair's laughter was low, husky. "The old scream and leap technique, eh?"

Jim had the grace to look a little pink. "Yeah, it kind of ended up that way. I didn't mean to go over the edge like that."

"Well, given proper motivation, I might be inclined to forgive the manhandling." Blair smiled, then wiggled beneath Jim, and smiled even more at the gasp that escaped Jim.

"Damn, Blair. And what might that motivation be?"

Blair pulled him down closer, until Jim's face filled his entire field of vision, as it had filled his heart from what seemed to be the beginning of time. It was right, so right. "Give me a kiss."

Whatever Blair had expected, it was not the sweet, hesitant tenderness he received. Jim's lips were soft, gentle against his, moving slowly, barely brushing his. Blair's mouth opened slightly with a surprised, breathy "Oh," and Jim took the invitation, deepening the kiss.

Oh, how good it was, Blair thought, no, not good. It was better than good--it leapfrogged into wonderful. Jim's mouth was hot, sweet, and dark, full of a heated passion he'd never have expected. Jim deepened the kiss, pouring himself completely into it, withholding nothing. His tongue stroked along Blair's, slipped along his teeth, caressed the roof of his mouth, everywhere, and yet, still not enough. Heat swept through Blair, bringing every nerve ending to screaming life, scorching him. Blair captured Jim's tongue, and sucked on it, the rhythm a promise of what was to happen later. The sound of the growl deep within Jim's throat made him ridiculously happy.

Lack of oxygen made Blair finally pull away. He gasped, then said, "Where the hell have you been hiding *that*?"

Jim chuckled against Blair's throat. "Didn't you know that you have to watch us quiet ones?"

"I'll...have to...remember...that..." Blair's words subsided into moans as Jim began to work over his throat, sharp, almost painful nips of teeth, soothed by kisses and warm strokes of his tongue. He began to move helplessly beneath Jim's body, rubbing against him, the feel of male heat against male heat almost too much to bear. His moans escalated in volume.

Jim's hands closed on his arms, pushing him away slightly. Blair let his eyes drift open, confused. "What?" His tongue felt thick, almost unable to ennunciate.

Jim was breathing hard. "If you don't stop moving around, I'm going to come, and I don't really want to, not right now."

Blair felt the fuzz clearing from his brain, rational thought drifting his way once again. "Oh. All right. We can stop for a minute." Wow. He was actually verbal, even multisyllabic. Blair was impressed with himself--he hadn't thought it possible at that moment.

He pushed and pulled against Jim, trying to maneuver the larger man into the position he wanted. It was difficult, with Jim's hot mouth possessively over his, making his thoughts scatter again. He managed to nudge Jim over on top of him, nestled between his thighs, his legs around Jim's waist, his arms wrapped securely around Jim's neck. Covered, and enveloped by Jim's heat and strength. Blair could press his forehead into the curve of Jim's neck, could feel the pulse racing there.

"I could die here, right now, and be content," he sighed.

Jim's laugh was a rumble deep in his chest. "It doesn't take much to make you content, then."

"Not when I'm doing what I wanted to do for ages and ages." Not when it felt so wonderful, a moment of single, crystalline perfection that he wanted to remember forever.

"Blair--you know, don't you, that it's not just about sex." Jim's voice sounded thoughtful.

Blair nodded, his hair rubbing against Jim's jaw. "Yeah, I know."

"I know it isn't, because I never had any desire for a man before you. With you, somehow, it isn't a man-man thing." He sounded a little uncomfortable.

Blair pulled back slightly, trying to see Jim's face. Jim looked introspective.

"What is it, then?" he asked gently.

"Its a Blair thing. It's you. Somehow, the fact that you're a man doesn't matter. It's a completion. You fill up all the empty places I have inside. I can't imagine feeling about another man--or woman, for that matter--the way I feel about you."

Blair felt the sudden sting of tears in his eyes, and closed them tightly. He swallowed, hard. "I love you too, Jim," he said softly. And he did. He always had.

Jim's arms squeezed him, hard. "Do you...would you like to...go upstairs?"

He sounded so endearingly unsure that Blair was almost swept away by the love he had for this man. He raised his hand, and stroked Jim's cheek, a gentle caress. Jim leaned into the touch, as if starved for the affection so easily offered.

"Jim, have you ever been with a man before?"

Blair could feel the blush that swept over his skin, and had his answer, even before Jim cleared his throat and said, "Um, no. Just the fooling around guys do when they're teenagers. Nothing serious. I can pretty much guess the mechanics, though."

Mechanics. What a typically Jim way to describe something as beautiful as the sexual act. Blair couldn't prevent the small smile from curving his mouth, but didn't dare let the amusement escape. He knew from experience just how fragile the male ego was. "Yeah, I'd like to go upstairs." //Like I like to eat, to breathe, to exist.// The universe had suddenly expanded for him, entropy had ceased, and everything was clear, clean, and glorious.

Jim pushed himself off Blair, and Blair was acutely aware of his loss. It was for only a heartbeat, though, and then Jim's hand was out to him, offering to help him up. Blair took it, pulled himself up, and kept his hold on it, pressing a kiss into the palm, then onto the thick wrist. Jim hesitated slightly, and Blair wrapped both his hands around Jim's large one, backing toward the stairs, pulling gently. It was with a certain sense of irony that he noted the hunted had become the hunter.

"It's okay, Jim," he soothed, his voice low, coaxing. "We don't have to do anything, if you don't want to. I'd be happy if I could just hold you." And it was true. Although Blair wanted more than anything to wrap his arms around his beloved and bury himself deep within him until he was lost, he would count himself blessed by the gods if he could just lie in Jim's arms. "I would never try and make you do anything you didn't want to do. Trust me."

The smile that formed on Jim's face was beautiful, like a sunrise. "I do trust you, Blair," he said simply.

Blair was struck dumb by amazement. //Oh, God, the gift I've been given....//

The trip up the stairs was forever, and not long enough. Blair tugged Jim into the bedroom, and over to the bed. He released Jim's hand long enough to pull back the comforter and sheets, then tilted his head, looking up at Jim who stood there, unaccountably quiescent, eyes wide and dark, shadowed by both desire and a slight apprehension. Blair could feel the desire and hesitation warring within the big man, and felt understanding tenderness sweep over him. //I'll make him feel good,// Blair promised himself. //It's all for him.//

Blair raised a hand, ran it in a slow caress over Jim's face, cupping the strong jaw, letting his thumb trace Jim's mouth. "Beautiful mouth," he whispered. Before he became distracted by that, he brought his other hand up, and placed both of them on Jim's wide shoulders, running his hands over that smooth, soft skin, feeling the ripple of muscle, the quiet power. Blair knew that Jim could snap him like a twig, and the thought that he now held that strength leashed in his hands was incredibly erotic to him. "Amazing, wonderful strong..." He trailed his hands downwards, over the heavy muscle of pectorals, let his fingertips skitter teasingly around the flat male nipples, pleased to note that while Jim was quiet and still, he was breathing a little deeper. He allowed his hands to splay over the warm tanned flesh, then rubbed his thumbs over the little nubs.

A gasp from Jim was his reward. Yes. Blair leaned a little closer, rubbed his cheek against that sleek, virtually hairless expanse, so different than his own furry one. He hummed to himself in delight, hearing Jim's heart pick up speed, his breathing catch. He pressed his lips to Jim's left nipple, opened his mouth, and flicked his tongue across it before fastening down and sucking firmly.

Jim bucked against him, hard. Blair smiled to himself, but didn't stop, working at that sensitive flesh until he heard the deep moan escape from Jim. Releasing the now hard nipple, Blair dragged his mouth over to the other, teasing until he again heard his vocal reward. Ah, yes. Positive reinforcement at its finest. Experimentally, he nibbled gently, then bit harder, quickly soothing it with his tongue. The response was immediate; Jim's voice reached almost operatic proportions, and his hands tangled in Blair's hair, pulling hard. Blair filed that bit of information away for future use. "So responsive to my touch..."

Blair moved his hands downward over Jim's ribs, a firm touch to avoid accidentally tickling him, then let his mouth follow the same path, kissing, licking, memorizing the taste, the texture of that fine skin. He felt Jim's hands loosen in his hair, but not release him. Blair made a mental note to warn Jim to turn him loose when he reached his eventual destination. Blair was all for losing oneself in the midst of passion, but not in losing a handful of hair to it.

Kneeling before Jim, Blair pressed his lips to the indention that was Jim's navel. He felt the hard muscles beneath the skin ripple slightly, then slipped his tongue in, moving in a slow, evocative motion that he knew drove himself insane. He could hear Jim's voice, softly murmuring, but wasn't sure what he was saying. It didn't sound like a request to stop, so he continued. Blair nipped at the firm flesh covering Jim's stomach, restraining himself from letting go and biting; that was for later, when they were deeper into their relationship, when he felt secure enough to let the tiger loose that growled within him. With women, Blair was gentle, the lovemaking as tender and satisfying as he could make it, but he could not deny that he found men, with their equal or greater size and strength an outlet for his more aggressive impulses. He pressed a series of light kisses all along the skin just above the waistband of Jim's shorts, satisfied with the shiver of muscle beneath skin. "Such a sexy man..."he murmured. "So much to be grateful for..."

Blair paused, then rubbed his cheek against Jim's erection, and nuzzled his nose against the hard ridge of flesh beneath the thin fabric of Jim's shorts. He didn't need to have Sentinel senses to catch the musky scent of male arousal. He dared a glance upward. Jim stood there, his eyes closed tightly, his face a study of bliss, self-control, and almost-pain. His chest rose and fell with the irregularity of his breath, and he swayed slightly toward Blair. Almost there, Jim, Blair thought, almost there.

His hands moved over the narrow, angular hips, every bit as enticing as a woman's curves, and down the strong thighs. He could feel the twitch of muscles beneath his fingers, stronger when Blair slid his hands around to the backs of Jim's thighs. Blair hesitated a second, and then ran his hands up the legs of Jim's shorts to cup and knead the hard buttocks. He leaned forward and placed a line of kisses along the insides of both thighs, just below the soft bulge of testicles.

Blair felt a blaze of satisfaction as Jim quivered beneath his touch. He then rocked back on his heels, hooked his fingers into the elastic waistband of Jim's shorts, and pulled downward, swiftly divesting him of the garment. He reached upward, disentangled Jim's fingers from his hair, kissed those fingers, and pressed Jim firmly back, and down, seating him on the edge of the bed before the big man toppled forward over him. He nudged Jim's thighs wider, and insinuated himself between them, snuggling close, Jim's erection against his stomach, hard and hot. Jim looked a little stunned, and a lot aroused. With a soft smile, Blair wrapped an arm around Jim's waist, and looped the other around his neck, drawing him down for a kiss.

At first, Jim's response was unsure, then Blair felt the forging of that connection with one another, and the quick blossoming of passion. He could feel the moment that Jim's hesitation was swept away by the rise of desire, and almost whooped with joy as Jim let himself go. Jim's arms closed around him, pulling him closer, and tightened his legs around Blair's body.

Oh, gods, yes, *finally.* Blair had started to wonder if Jim's doubt was going to win out over passion, but the response, the fire that overtook and scorched him convinced him otherwise. The kiss quickly grew demanding, aggressive, and turned fierce when Blair slipped his hand from Jim's waist and ran it slowly, slowly, down between their bodies to curl around the heated length of Jim's cock.

Jim jumped as if shot, and pulled out of the kiss. His eyes were wide, dilated, slightly unfocused.

"Blair, I..."

"Do you want me to stop?" he asked, his voice very gentle. He didn't want to stop, gods knew he didn't, but he could, and would, if he was moving too quickly for Jim. He moved his fingers up and down, a slow, teasing movement, and slid his thumb over the weeping head, spreading the slick pre-ejaculate around, lubricating his fingers. A low moan slipped from Jim, along with a shudder throughout his big frame. "Tell me, Jim. Do you want me to stop?"

Blair watched the movement of Jim's adam's apple as he swallowed heavily, and murmured, "No. Don't stop, Blair. Please."

Blair felt his heart swell, and thought it would burst from happiness. Jim was his. Permission asked, permission granted. He flashed Jim his most seductive smile, guaranteed to elevate blood pressure several points, and send temperature skyrocketing. Jim reached out, traced gentle fingers over his cheek, nose, and mouth, lingering on the moistness of his lower lip. Blair turned his head to place a kiss into Jim's palm. "I love you," he whispered into the warm flesh, "I've loved you forever," and knew Jim had heard.

His fingers had not stopped their motion, and he felt Jim get harder. Blair was certain he'd never been so excited in his entire life as he was at this moment. Pleasure he'd had with other partners faded rapidly in comparison to this he had with Jim. Jim was the apex, the pinnacle, the zenith of all his sexual adventures. Desired, and beloved. His alpha, his omega. Everything.

He let his hand slip from around Jim's neck, and trail teasingly downward, loving the shiver of response from his lover's body. He knew innumerable ways to keep Jim poised on the knife's edge of orgasm, to send him almost there, and them pull him back, only to repeat the sweet torture, but refrained for now--later, later, he promised himself. Don't torment him too much--it's all too new for him. The thought occurred to him that Jim might zone, given the intensity of the experience, but trusted in his own instinctual feeling as to when Jim was about to zone, knew that he could pull him out of it.

Blair bent and ran his tongue over the wet head of Jim's cock, continuing to stroke. Jim gasped, swore, arched, and let out a low moan that made the hair at the back of Blair's neck prickle. He smiled to himself, and ran his tongue from the base of Jim's cock to the tip, a long, slow, wet trip. Jim had a cock as beautiful as the rest of him, straight and thick, the soft skin like velvet over hot steel. Far, far too wonderful to rush.

Jim's voice rose, gasping moans as Blair took his time licking and teasing, pressing soft kisses to the shaft, covering every hot inch of skin, both a slow torment and an exquiste pleasure. Blair's free hand moved over the crease of Jim's leg and groin, down to his knee and back, scratching lightly, tickling teasingly. Blair couldn't help the sound of appreciation that escaped him, before he opened his mouth and took in the rosy head. Sensation swept over him, almost overwhelming: the slightly bitter taste of pre-ejaculate on his tongue, the softness and heat of the smooth skin, the throbbing of Jim's pulse in his cock, the heavy, musky scent of Jim's arousal, the moans that were punctuated by breathy sobs, the wet sounds of his own mouth on Jim's cock as he sucked, the movement of Jim's hips, the pounding of his own heart, the heavy ache of his own cock, and the thrum of excitement along his own veins. Was this incredible awareness what Jim felt all the time? How could he bear the intensity?

He let his free hand caress the heaviness of Jim's sac, squeezing gently, with just enough pressure to arouse, not to hurt, then slipped back further, running along the perineum, in slow, teasing figure-eight movements. Jim was moving helplessly beneath his attentive mouth, lost to everything but sensation, and Blair let his index finger stroke over the tightly puckered opening. Jim almost bucked him off, but Blair moved with him, intensifying his efforts, sucking hard now, with intent to drive him to orgasm, all teasing gone.

It wasn't long before he felt Jim's body start to tense, start to tremble, and then Jim was coming with a roar that Blair thought the entire town must have heard, pumping hard into his mouth, his hands clutching at Blair's shoulders with such ferocity that he knew he'd have bruises. He swallowed, again, then once again, milking Jim with his hand, until there was nothing left. He continued to suck gently, then pulled away, licking the skin clean, removing all traces of passion. Running his tongue over his teeth, then his lips, he cherished the silky feel of Jim's come in his mouth, better than even his rich fantasies had imagined, and wanted to purr in satisfaction.

Raising himself off his knees, Blair began to kiss up over Jim's body, now sprawled backwards on the bed, boneless. He could feel the trembling aftershocks of his lover's orgasm, taste the sweat that sheened the fine, smooth skin, and didn't stop until he lay draped over Jim, a warm, living blanket. Jim was still gasping for breath, and Blair could hear his heart pounding in his chest beneath his ear. Any faster, and it would have been at warp speed. Jim's arms came around him, and Blair snuggled closer, content. He was hard, harder than he thought he'd ever been, but happy he'd been able to give his beloved pleasure. His own could wait.

Jim's big hands continued to stroke him gently, then thread through his heavy curls, and Blair sighed in bliss. If he died at that moment, he'd not regret it, having had what he'd wanted, for so long. He'd loved Jim, had given him pleasure, and had been given, in return, Jim's complete and utter trust. There could be no greater gift than that.

"Jesus, Blair," Jim said finally, his voice raspy, "I think I ruptured a vocal cord when I came."

Blair laughed, and tilted his head so he could press a kiss to his lover's throat. "I never thought you'd be a screamer, Big Guy."

"I'm not. I wasn't. I mean...that was incredible. You're incredible." He tried to turn, but with Blair on top of him, and himself half off the bed, it was a difficult proposition. Blair felt bereft of Jim's warmth when they separted, rearranging themselves more comfortably on the big bed. Blair could feel Jim's sweat cooling on his skin, and reached down to snag the covers, pulling them over their cuddled bodies. He shifted, trying not to let his erection dig into Jim's thigh, and sighed with pleasure when he could press against Jim once more. They lay together in comfortable silence until Blair heard Jim's body subside toward normal heartbeat and breathing.

"Um, Blair?"


"I can't help but notice a couple of things. One, you still have clothes on, and two, you didn't come yet."
"I've always admired your observing nature," Blair teased gently, running his hand over Jim's chest, an easy, soothing motion that he found almost hypnotic.

"Well, I am a trained professional, skills honed by years of use." Jim's voice was warm with amusement. "Plus, I do have the advantage of Sentinel powers. Let's not forget that."

"Hmm, no, we really must factor that into the equation," Blair replied dreamily. The spot halfway across Jim's collarbone seemed to call him, begging for a kiss, and he complied. He sucked at the bit of skin, hard enough to leave a mark, then licked at the reddened area to soothe it. A small mark, but a definite sign of his possession. Blair had a ridiculously adolescent desire to leave a larger mark--oh, about the size of Montana--on Jim's throat, marking him so the entire world could see, but squashed the errant thought ruthlessly. Jim was a cop, requiring and deserving of respect, and he'd not embarrass him in front of his collegues, even though they would automatically assume that Jim had received the love bite from a woman. Blair knew himself not to be a jealous man, but somehow, the thought that *his* mark would be attributed to someone else was a highly unpleasant one.

The world tilted, and Blair realized that Jim had rolled with him, covering his slender body with his own bigger, muscular one. Blair had always known that Jim was larger--hell, that was obvious to anyone with two eyes--but had not really realized just how much larger he was until today, pinned beneath him, held tightly in his arms. It was almost overwhelming, but definitely...exciting. Like most big men, Jim had a good sense of his strength, keeping it well under control, and Blair knew Jim would never intentionally hurt him. The flash of desire Blair felt as he thought of controlling that strength was almost blinding, and he was forced to close his eyes for a moment as a shudder passed through him.

He felt Jim's hands in his hair, pulling, tilting his head back, not gently. His lips parted to let a little a little grunt of discomfort escape, and he found Jim's mouth on his, fierce, controlling, demanding. There was no tenderness in this kiss, only a claiming, a marking of ownership. Possession. For a few seconds, Blair struggled for dominance, but Jim would not give it up. Blair submitted, and the fire that rushed through him was like a live thing, taking him and shaking him almost senseless. Jim released his mouth, trailed along his jaw, sucked his earlobe, bit gently into the soft skin just beneath his ear. Blair heard himself making incoherent sounds which intensified as Jim started a series of wet, voracious, sucking kisses over his throat, angling downward, until he reached the hollow of his throat, where Blair's pulse beat wildly.

Blair's hands had not been still, sliding over Jim's body, as far as he could reach, running over the silk of Jim's short hair, tracing the slide of muscle beneath the skin, clutching hard enough to leave marks when the sensations threatened to overwhelm him. He moved restlessly, constantly, seeking relief, thrusting up against Jim, unable to remain still.

"Holding on to you is like trying to hold onto a wildcat." Jim managed to sound aroused and exasperated, at the same time.

Blair opened his eyes. His need was alive, overpowering, and he felt helpless before the strength of it. "Please, Jim...I've got to feel you all over me. Please."

Jim pulled back, and Blair tried to shuck out of his clothing, but was shaking so much that Jim pushed his hands away, and stripped him with quick efficiency. Jim sat back on his knees and looked at him. Blair watched his bright blue eyes move slowly, tormentingly over his body, cataloguing and memorizing each curve and hard plane, each convexity and concavity, each highlight and shadow, each place where the skin was furred, each place where it was smooth, seemingly devouring every single inch of his body, and couldn't help the shiver that wracked him at the hotness of the gaze, the brightness of the desire.

"Hell, Blair, you're beautiful," Jim said softly. "I just never let myself see it, before."

Blair was astonished; that was the last thing he'd expected to hear from Jim. It was also wrong. Jim was the one who was beautiful--he was perfect. One of his ancient gods on earth in the flesh. Blair curled over, pressing kisses up those powerful thighs, headed for Jim's half-erect cock, but Jim laughed, took hold of his wrists, and pressed him down onto his back, holding him easily, without pressure.

"I've had my turn, and now it's yours." Jim slid back over him, covering him entirely, moving gently, until Blair was certain he was going to die from the pleasure. He could feel his hands start to clench and unclench as Jim began nuzzling through his chest hair, tongue warm and wet, seeking and finding...

"Aaahh!" Jim had found the silver ring threaded through his nipple, and was sucking at it, tugging it gently with his teeth. Blair felt the jolt of electricity slam through him, arrowing straight toward his groin. Had he ever been so sensitive? Dimly, he was aware of himself begging, pleading, promising anything for release. An evil god, was Jim....

Jim kissed and nibbled down his stomach, a delicious wet trail, and Blair felt him tug at the silver navel ring. Blair writhed beneath him. "Oh, please, oh please, just touch me, Jim, I can't take any more, please..."

And then Blair went seriously preverbal as he felt Jim's mouth, hot and wet, surround his cock. He hadn't expected that, not at all. He panted, trying to maintain a semblance of control, his eyes tightly closed. He didn't dare look; he knew he'd come immediately from the sight of Jim giving him pleasure like that. Jim's mouth moved on him, a little awkwardly, not quite finding the rhythm Blair needed, but the sensation of heat and wetness, the very thought that *Jim* would do this for him, give him such an intimate gift, was enough to send him skittering toward the edge.

"Jim, I...stop, Jim...I'm going to..." He was only vaguely aware of his hoarse warning, and hoped that Jim understood, and heeded it.

Jim pulled back, replaced his mouth with his big calloused hand. Blair thrust hard against the strokes. He could feel the orgasm beginning to run through him, building up from a sparkling tingle into a blinding, ripping pleasure, and he came hard, like he'd been struck by lightning, wailing his release.

Blair could feel himself floating, tingling, could hear a pounding that he first thought was tribal drums, then gradually identified as the sound of his heart. He was helpless, defenseless, boneless, sprawled beneath Jim, loose, completely at ease. He was aware that Jim had snagged his tee shirt, and was gently cleaning him with it, and the thoughtfulness of the act made him stupidly happy. He could feel the moronic grin on his face, but couldn't help it.

The bed dipped as Jim moved back up, and took him in his arms, curling around him, holding him until his breathing evened out, until his heart stopped trying to pound its way out of his chest. Blair felt Jim smooth his sweaty hair out of his face, felt his lips brush over his own, a tender, loving gesture.

Floating in the warm, tranquil ocean of post-orgasmic bliss, Blair was truly aware of only one thing. This was right, it was perfect. It was meant to be. He was meant to be with Jim, and Jim with him. It was cosmic, preordained, and he was caught in it, unable and unwilling to free himself. For a brief second, he wondered if Jim could feel the very *rightness* of it, but the pull of sleep beckoned, and he let himself drift away, a smile curving his mouth.


Blair awoke slowly, reality filtering in a bit at a time. He was lying on his stomach, his arms and legs tangled in the covers, almost spread-eagled. That in itself was odd--his bed was too small to allow such a comfort. He shifted a little, and realized that he could feel the sensation of sheets over his entire body; he was naked. Naked, and in a strange bed. Nothing terribly unusual about that, except....

He slitted an eye open. The room was dark, but still, he recognized it.

He was naked, and in Jim Ellison's bed.

Memory brought him instantly awake, and he felt a blush work over his entire body. He suddenly, unexpectedly felt the need for reassurance, and reached out to touch Jim. Nothing, not even residual heat from Jim's body. He was naked, and alone in Jim's bed. The fact that he was alone disturbed him more than he cared to admit to himself.

Rolling to his side, he peered at the clock. A little after nine at night. Wow. He'd slept for hours, the best sleep he'd had in a very long time. The sleep of the sated. He couldn't help the satisfied smile that crept across his lips, the warm inner glow of contentment. He'd actually made love with Jim, and he'd been happier than he'd ever been in his entire life. How had Jim put it? Completion. Yes, that was it, exactly. Separate, but part of a greater whole. Not male-male, not Sentinel-Guide, not even Jim-Blair, although all those factored into it, shaping it into a force beyond what he was able to describe. He felt it, almost down to the cellular level of his being. They were meant to be together--he knew it with an absolute certainty.

So why was he alone?

He listened for Jim downstairs, but knew that even if Jim was moving around, he'd probably not hear him; Jim was that quiet when he moved. Soft music floated up to him, soothing, but he couldn't make out who it was. He stretched, and then sat up on the edge of the bed. He couldn't smell coffee, or cooking, so evidently Jim wasn't doing that. So what was he doing? Blair felt a sudden rush of apprehension, his mind taking off on all kinds of tangents, all of them highly unpleasant. What if Jim were just sitting down there, regretting what they'd done? What if he didn't feel Blair's bedrock certainty? What if he despised himself and Blair for their actions? He had certainly seemed willing--hell, he'd initiated it--and had been caught up in what they were doing, but Blair was well aware of what screaming hormones could do to the thought processes. What if he really regretted it? What if he wanted Blair to leave?

It was simply too horrible to contemplate. He couldn't leave. They were bound together. Jim was the Sentinel, and he was Jim's Guide. What they had learned over the years of their relationship was too much; what they'd just shared today was too great to leave lying in the dust.

//Stop it.// Blair had always been pretty secure in himself, and this new feeling of unease bothered him. There was only one way to find out--go down and face whatever it was that Jim was thinking. He knew Jim was straight-forward, and always said what he thought, so best to find it out, not sit up here and torture himself with wild imaginings that might have absolutely no basis in fact.

He found his shorts and pulled them on. His tee shirt was nowhere in sight; he supposed that Jim had already picked it up and thrown it in the hamper. Not like he could wear it again without washing it. He stood, tried to finger-comb his wild hair into submission, and gave up as it refused to cooperate.

He padded down the stairs, his bare feet quiet, but knew that Jim would hear him, or scent him, long before he ever saw him. The downstairs was dark, except for one lamp, but he didn't see Jim anywhere. The balcony door was open, however; he could feel the cool whisper of a breeze, and smell the summer night. He stepped to the threshold, and looked out.

Jim sat in one of the chairs, his long legs propped on the balcony rail, crossed at the ankles. It was dark enough that Blair really couldn't see him very well, but he was aware Jim's face had turned slightly towards him. Blair had always had a sense of Jim; he was a quiet, reassuring presence, an oasis of calm control. Now was no different, but there was something a little...changed. It was a heightened awareness, an almost subliminal electrical charge that he felt as he came close to Jim.

"Hey, Big Guy," he said softly, "What are you doing out here?"

Jim shifted a little. "Just...thinking."

"Oh." Blair wanted to touch him, but wasn't sure how it would be received, so he crossed his arms over his stomach instead, an unconsciously protective gesture. "Thinking about anything in particular?"

A long moment passed. "Just thinking about you. Me. Us. This thing between us."

Jim's voice was neutral, and as Blair couldn't see his eyes, he wasn't sure how to react. "And?" he finally asked.

"Do you regret it?"

Blair felt as if he'd been punched, hard. It hurt. "Do you?" His voice was surprisingly steady to his own ears, and he wondered how he'd managed that.

He could sense Jim's shrug. "It's not regret, not least, I don't think it's guilt. Do you feel it?"

Blair laughed, a little painfully. "I'm Jewish, Jim. Guilt is genetically predetermined for me. But regret--no. Never."

Jim was silent for so long that Blair began to despair. He just wanted to go to his own room, crawl into his bed, pull the covers up over his head, and never come out. //He doesn't feel the connection. He doesn't love me like I love him.// The pain of rejection was starting to gnaw at him, making him feel hot, then cold, then nauseous.

"It's neither, Blair. It's something different. I don't regret it, but it does change things."

"Life *is* change, man. Change, or stagnate and die." Maybe, just maybe--he didn't regret it--he said that he didn't, and Jim never lied....Blair tilted his head, trying to read Jim, but it was impossible; Jim was a master at giving away nothing.

"Yes, that's true. But I feel...trapped."

"Trapped?" Blair sucked in a breath sharply, and could feel the pain starting to consume him. Jim may not regret what they'd done, but still was rejecting him. He tried to speak, but his throat was too dry. Swallowing hard, he tried again. Making his voice sound even and calm was one of the hardest things he'd ever done. "I'd never try and trap you, Jim. If you want out, you're out. I won't hold you to anything. Just having loved you once will be enough, if that's all you want."

Feeling as if he'd swallowed razor blades, Blair turned to leave. Jim's hand settled on his arm, gently restraining him.

"That's not what I meant. That was the wrong way to say it." His voice was soft.

"Not if it's the truth." He just wanted to get away, before he disgraced himself. He felt as if every single muscle in his body was clenched in pain. Experimentally, he tugged a little bit, but Jim wasn't letting him escape.

"Don't run out on me. I...couldn't take it if you did." The pleading tone in Jim's voice cut through his misery.

Jim pulled at him, and Blair allowed himself to be coaxed closer. He came to stand behind Jim, and Jim pulled his arms around him, leaning his head into Blair's chest. Jim sighed. "That feels nice."

"Yeah." Blair allowed himself to soften, and rested his cheek against the top of Jim' head. The short hair was silky beneath his cheek.

"*Trapped* was a really bad choice of words," Jim said after a few moments. "I'm sorry."

"Do you have a better choice?"

"Compelled, maybe." Jim was stroking Blair's arms. "I love you, but I can't help but feel like I'm being forced to do it. I don't respond well to coercion--you know that."

"I'm not doing that," Blair said softly. "I'd never make you do anything you didn't want to do."

"I know it isn't you. It's something deeper, more than I can control." He drew a deep breath. "I respond as well to lack of control as I do to coercion."

He was so quiet, that Blair could almost feel him thinking. "What did you say before?" Jim asked.

Blair couldn't help the snort of amusement. "I say *lots* of things, Jim. You'll have to be more specific than that."

"It was about genetic predetermination."

Blair waited. Jim didn't sound as if he were asking for an explanation, and Blair didn't want to aggravate him by offering one where it wasn't needed. He knew Jim was intelligent, and wasn't too macho to ask if he needed a definition. Then, suddenly, Blair felt the 'eureka' feeling of a breakthrough flash through his brain.

"So you think that this is a Sentinel-Guide type of genetic predetemination? Something to bind us, to keep us together for the sake of that relationship?" His own thoughts on awakening played back swiftly in his mind, about the sense of rightness, and he could see exactly where Jim had gone, and why it disturbed him so. Jim's entire existance was based on the control he had over himself--that was why the acceptance of the Sentinel powers had been so difficult--the sudden lack of control over everything, and his dependence on his Guide had meant giving up a bit of his control, and it had cost him. Here was yet another factor that was threatening to take away more of his control, and Blair was certain Jim didn't like it at all.

"I was thinking that, although maybe not in such precise terms. I don't want to think that I only care for you because of chromosomes."

Blair felt almost light-headed from the rush of renewed hope. "Jim, you're pig-headed enough that nothing, no one, not genetics, not even God himself, could make you do anything you really didn't want to do."

Jim's soft laughter made Blair feel warm again. "I suppose that's probably true--more true than I care to admit." He paused, serious again. "But you do see what I'm driving at."

"Yeah, I see. I felt it myself. Somehow, I find it less disturbing than you do. It seems to fulfill some cosmic sense of rightness, for me. I think I knew that we'd be together, at one another's side, from the moment we met."

"Blair, I've always been a practical man. This New Age stuff is beyond me. All I know is that I don't want to be forced to love you, to have no say in the matter at all."

"We're all more than simple genetics, Jim. We're the sum of our total experiences. The predetermination may or may not have been there, but it doesn't make you do anything that you really don't want to do. It may have given you a push, but the emotion is entirely yours, as is the will to act upon it."

Jim thought for a long time, then Blair felt his acceptance in the relaxation of his body. "I can accept that, or at least, take it as a starting point."

Blair let out a long, heartfelt sigh. Jim tugged at him again, pulling him around and into his lap, wrapping him in strong arms. Blair snuggled in, feeling his cool flesh start to warm against Jim's. Predetermination or not, what he felt was real, he knew Jim felt the same way, and that was all that truly mattered. They would have problems to iron out, but as long as they faced them together, they'd be able to deal with them. And they would be together forever. He'd never been so certain of anything in his entire life. Jim and Blair. Sentinel and Guide. Two parts of a greater whole, one completing the other.