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The Haunted Grove

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Disclaimer: The City of Cascade and all its lovely residents are the sole property of Pet Fly Productions. This insolent little piece of fanfic is admittedly trespassing on their turf, but purely for amusement, with no intent to profit by it.

Introduction: A few of you may be familiar with my name, since I've been writing Voyager fanfic for about a year now. For those of you who don't know me, my name isn't really Emma Woodhouse - I borrowed the name from a Jane Austen character. (Hey, she was a matchmaker, so it seemed appropriate.) This is my first piece of Sentinel fanfic, and I only started watching in the middle of second season, so I may, in my ignorance, be making some canonical errors. Of course, I'm also having Our Boys falling into one another's arms, a definite transgression against canon, so what can I say?

Many thanks to dear Taffy, who posts my stories and forwards my feedback - what would I do without her?

The Haunted Grove

by Emma Woodhouse

The Coroner's wagon had already departed and the Crime Scene unit was packing up, when Jim's cell phone rang. He pulled it out of his jacket pocket and flipped it open, still scanning the area with puzzled abstraction. "Ellison."

"Jim, it's Simon. Case closed."

"What?"

"When our people went to the victim's apartment, the boyfriend was there, just waiting to confess. Looks like we don't need our walking crime lab for this one after all. So why don't you just head on home? I'll see you Monday."

"Sure. See you." Jim pocketed the phone. He was still looking around when his partner walked over.

"What is it, Jim?"

"Huh? Oh, Blair - that was Simon. The killer confessed. We're officially off duty."

"Hey, that's great!" But then Blair looked around the field and shivered. "Just a routine, run of the mill murder, huh?"

"Looks that way." Jim frowned, made uneasy by the thought. "Maybe modern society doesn't have much use for Sentinels, Chief. How could a tribal watchman protect a woman from her own husband or boyfriend?"

Blair thought about it. "He couldn't, of course. The tribe would have other customs to deal with that. Like the hill tribes of Nepal - "

But he broke off, as Jim raised his hand suddenly for silence.

"Did you hear that?"

Blair sighed in exasperation. "Jim, of *course* I didn't hear that." But he was waved to silence again, as Jim stood, suddenly intent, listening for something that only he could hear.

"Over there! Come on." The detective started off across the field. Blair watched him for a moment, then waved a farewell to the departing Crime Scene technicians, and followed.

At least it wasn't muddy, he told himself gamely. He tried to ignore the cockleburrs that were collecting on the hem of his blue jeans, telling himself not to bother until he could pick them all off at once. Since he'd been observing with the Cascade Police Department, his duties didn't often take him out into the country, which he considered a place to go for recreation, camping and fishing. But, as was his habit, he entered quickly into the spirit of the situation, listening to the birds, and wondering what it was that had captured Jim's attention.

Blair caught up with Jim now, since Jim was walking slowly, looking around curiously, occasionally stopping to listen, or lifting his head as if sniffing the air. After a few minutes of silence, Blair finally asked, "Jim, what are we after here?"

"I thought I heard someone calling - "

"What were they saying?"

"I - don't know. I thought I heard my name. But maybe not."

They were past the field now, and entering the woods. Jim continued on, intent on his search, and Blair followed him in silence, wondering if they were trespassing on someone's property, and why Jim was so interested in a faint call that he might have heard. Maybe someone in some farmhouse a mile away had called for some other Jim to come in to lunch. What's the big deal?

Oh well, it was a nice day for a walk, anyway, early fall, cool but not uncomfortable. Blair was used to following Jim, and figured he'd explain his reasons later.

Now they were far enough into the woods that only woods could be seen. Blair sure hoped that Jim would be able to backtrack them out of here.

The woods thinned a bit, the trees here older and quite large, unwilling to accept the encroachment of upstart saplings. Old growth forest, Blair thought silently. He knew there were still some patches of it around Cascade that hadn't been logged out. Looking at these ancient giants, the thought of turning them into planks and boards seemed like sacrilege. Blair started looking up, wondering if there were any spotted owls, and if he would recognize one if he saw it.

Blair whispered, "I've read that some of these trees are thousands of years old."

Jim didn't answer, but came to a halt in the center of a small clearing. "This is the place," he said, but he was talking to himself.

"What place?" Blair asked.

"This is where it happened." Jim was looking around, some undefinable anguish on his face.

Blair wondered if they'd come across a crime scene that was triggering bad memories for Jim. He'd only been working as Jim's partner and Guide for a couple years, and Jim had been on the police force for a few years before that. Maybe an old murder case?

And then Jim fell to his knees and patted the ground, murmuring, "And this is where he died."

Sounded like a murder case all right. "Who, Jim? Who died?"

No answer.

Jim rose to his feet now, and walked across the glade. "And over here was the altar."

Blair shivered. What was the story here, some creepy cult or something? He didn't think he would have wanted to be on this case.

He followed Jim, hands in his pockets. "So come on, man, tell me the story," he said, trying to speak lightly, trying not to let the atmosphere of this place weird him out too bad.

But Jim ignored him, walking back over to the spot where he said someone had died. He was looking up now, sniffing the wind, and said softly, "The herd has moved on. I can't sense them at all."

What was scariest to Blair was the feeling that it wasn't really Jim talking. It was Jim's voice, coming out of Jim's mouth, but something was different about it.

And then Jim slowly lowered himself to his knees and whispered, "It's over."

His face looked entirely blank now, and Blair was frankly terrified. Was his partner zoned? That's what it looked like, but he was afraid it was more complicated than that.

Blair tried to steady his voice, to speak calmly and soothingly. "Okay, Jim. Listen to me, now. It's Blair, here - follow the sound of my voice, and let me guide you back."

He thought for a moment that it had worked, as Jim blinked and shook his head. But then Jim looked at him, and cried out accusingly, "You're not my Guide!"

And Blair somehow just knew - this wasn't Jim he was talking to. "Where's your Guide?" he asked.

"My Guide is - is - "

The man who wasn't Jim stopped, and looked at Blair, and Blair blinked and had to drop his eyes from the agony there. Whoever this was, he was in intolerable pain, furious, betrayed, anguished - and dying.

And then the man threw back his head and screamed. "NOOOOOOO!"

Jim bowed his head, and curled up into a ball, while Blair knelt beside him, hand on his shoulder, wondering what to do.

After a few minutes, Blair tried again. "Jim. It's Blair. Listen to me, man. Come on, buddy, follow the sound of my voice, and come on back here."

A slight movement told him that Jim was at least conscious again. And then Jim slowly straightened up, and looked at Blair.

Blair started to laugh with relief, but choked it back. There was something still in Jim's eyes, a sad awareness. And then Jim said, "You're not my Guide."

And what made the bottom fall out of Blair's stomach at hearing this was the knowledge that this time, it really was Jim speaking.

"Hey, come on, man," he said uncertainly. "Of course I'm your Guide."

Jim said only, "No." He wasn't arguing, and didn't seem angry, just certain.

"Well, what have I been doing for the past two years then?" Blair wanted to know. "If I'm not your Guide, then what am I?"

Jim stood up, and spoke with weary finality. "A researcher. You're writing a paper." He walked to the far side of the clearing, moving slowly, as if in pain.

"No way!" Blair said. "We're beyond that, Jim - way beyond it. You know that."

Jim shook his head. "You'll finish your dissertation, and then go do something else."

Blair couldn't understand what had brought on this crisis of doubt now. "You know better than that! I didn't go to Borneo, did I?"

"But you'll leave eventually. Because you're not my Guide."

"I AM, Jim. You know I am. Come on, what have I got to do to prove it?"

Jim turned toward his partner then, his eyes blazing. "Give yourself to me!" he commanded.

"Okay. Sure." Blair nodded. For some reason, Jim was doubting his commitment to the Sentinel-Guide relationship. Blair didn't understand why, or why now, but he needed to see Jim through this. Just do whatever he says, he told himself. "How, Jim?"

Keeping his eyes locked onto Blair's, Jim whispered, "Take off your clothes."

Oh, *man*! Did he really mean what that sounded like? Blair hesitated for a moment, and then began removing his clothes. In a few short moments, he was completely naked, and shivered a little. A touch of cold, a bit more of fear, and an overwhelming excitement.

For over a year, Blair had been hiding and sublimating his attraction to his partner, not willing to risk the friendship and loyalty they had created by showing that his interest in Jim had become physical. Blair was no naive kid, he'd had some experience with men before, but just for fun, nothing with this sort of emotional component, and he was afraid of his feelings for Jim, certain that the detective would be disgusted to learn that Blair wanted him. Now he thought, oh, if only he were in his right mind!

And Jim's command returned to him - give yourself to me - and Blair felt a surge of exaltation at the utter surrender required of him. He moved closer to Jim, and whispered, "Alright, Jim. I'm yours. I'm giving myself to you."

Jim nodded, still staring intently into Blair's eyes, and swiftly removed his own clothing. "Come here."

Blair moved closer still, and was swept into Jim's arms. Face buried in Jim's chest, he let his arms creep around his partner, enjoying the smooth warmth of the skin, as large hands caressed his back and moved up his neck to tangle in his hair. He felt lips on the top of his head, and then the hand in his hair pulled back, lifting his face up, and he was staring into blazing blue eyes. "Are you mine?" Jim whispered.

"Yes, Jim." Blair was trembling.

"Completely?"

"Completely. Totally."

And finally, finally, the mouth moved down to his, moving softly over his lips, and he opened his mouth slightly to accept the insistent tongue, moaning faintly deep in his throat.

Blair felt Jim's erection poking him in the belly, and he was so dizzy now that he knew he couldn't stand unassisted. He thought he was falling, but then realized that Jim was lowering them to the ground, and now he was on his back in the deep moss, and Jim was covering his body with his own.

Jim's lips were at his ear, whispering, "Mine," and Blair shivered and nodded, as the lips moved slowly down his throat, and then back up, fastening almost painfully to his mouth.

They were kissing now with desperate hunger, and Blair felt the warmth of Jim's body everywhere, while Jim's hands moved gently down his sides.

Jim was moving lower now, kissing and tasting, and he licked and then sucked Blair's nipples until Blair was writhing with excitement. Lower still, and Blair felt a warm mouth cover the tip of his erection, just the tip, and he arched his back, looking for more, almost out of his mind. But the mouth was removed, and Blair whimpered in protest.

Jim wasn't covering Blair's body anymore, but sat back on his heels, between Blair's legs. Blair looked down, wondering what Jim was doing, and groaned aloud at the sheer thrill of the sight - Jim was coating his erection with his own saliva, and Blair knew what that had to mean, and he spread his legs wider, and lifted his hips, wordlessly offering himself to his partner. Give yourself to me, Jim had said. Well, alright, then!

Blair was glad, now, that this was something he'd never given to another man, just some blow jobs and mutual masturbation, so Jim would be the first man to enter his body like this, surely a worthy offering and adequate proof.

A slick finger was probing him, and Blair was trembling with the feeling of it, unable quite to believe that this was really happening, that Jim, who he'd wanted for so long, was taking him on the ground in a forest clearing, praying that if this was a dream, he wouldn't wake up until it was over. More fingers entered his body, and there was some pain now, but nothing to compare to the pleasure, and Blair was saying something, but just, "please, Jim, oh please!" as Jim lifted Blair's hips and slid his thighs under his partner's body, and then there was a painful pressure, and then - oh!

Jim was inside him.

Blair watched Jim's face, wishing he knew what he was thinking, *if* he was thinking, Jim's expression was so serious, so intent, almost blazing with some overwhelming emotion, and then Jim leaned down and kissed him with absolute tenderness before he began to move in and out of Blair's body.

Blair had never felt anything like this, had never reached this level before, and the fact that it was *Jim* was almost more than he could stand. A large hand closed around his erection, and they were moving together, Blair pushing eagerly against Jim, wanting as much as possible, fast and hard and deep, as the eruption continued to build until he couldn't hold it any longer, and he threw back his head and screamed and kept on screaming, as he came for what felt like forever.

The hot cream anointed them both, and deep inside him, Blair felt Jim's reaction, as Jim thrust powerfully again and again before collapsing on his body.

They lay together, panting, sweating and trembling, until Jim rolled over, carrying Blair along to lay on top of him. He pressed Blair's head to his shoulder, gently stroking the tangled curls, and whispered, "Mine."

Blair nodded wordlessly, and they held each other without speaking for a very long time.

Eventually, Jim raised his head, and rolled to his side, releasing Blair, and the two men sat up.

Blair wasn't sure what to say, he wanted to babble about how happy he was, and how proud, but something in Jim's eyes silenced him. Jim looked puzzled, and rather sad, and all he said was, "Let's go home, Chief."

Blair nodded, and they dressed in silence. Blair was relieved that Jim knew the way back to the road.

The drive home was silent, too. Both men had a lot to think about.



Jim very carefully loosened his grip on the steering wheel, somewhat surprised that it hadn't shattered in his hands. The farther away from the woods they drove, the more incredible the whole afternoon was seeming to him, and he was wondering what on earth had possessed him.

Possessed? No, he wouldn't buy that excuse - he'd been in his right mind, at least when it mattered, and at the time, it all seemed to make sense.

Blair was huddled silently in the passenger seat, and Jim wouldn't let himself looked over at him. He didn't need to, he knew what Blair looked like right now, flushed, tousled, confused and bewildered, entirely beautiful - and thick in the air of the car, he could smell himself on Blair.

And part of him was glorying in it still! - whispering exultantly, 'mine, mine!' even as he was berating himself for a fool.

What *was* all that about? Okay, so obviously he had some unacknowledged anxieties about what would happen when Blair finished his dissertation on Sentinels, and Jim's usefulness to his academic career became a thing of the past. But was that any way to deal with it? Jim felt like a clumsy oaf, some fool who'd just tried to rope and brand a butterfly, and then watched it die in his hands.

But for a while there, he thought he'd seen, thought he understood -

As they entered the loft, Blair finally tried to talk about it. "Jim - "

But Jim held up his hand, and Blair faltered into silence. "Blair. I'm really sorry, but let's not talk about this now. I need to try to figure out what was going on, and it's too hard to explain."

Normally, Blair would have pressed, have insisted that Jim discuss it. But this wasn't about Jim's hearing, or sight, or sense of smell. This was about Blair himself, and Blair was too uncertain of what he wanted to say, so he just nodded and mumbled, "Sure."

So the two took turns in the shower, and retired to their own bedrooms, to think.

Blair sat on the edge of the bed for a few minutes, and then started rooting around on the floor and under the bed for various books, trying to track down some vaguely remembered quotes from old journals and travel memoirs.

Jim went to bed. From downstairs, he heard Blair still moving about, heard the sound of pages turning, light scratches as notes were taken. He turned up his hearing until he could hear Blair's heartbeat, the familiar sound he could pick out of a crowded room. It was a comforting sound, even at this distance.

The bed felt wrong. All this room, and he was alone.

... He rolled over on the pile of skins, and pulled the warm body close to him, feeling a sense of satisfaction, of completeness.

He'd led the tribe for over twenty days, and some had begun to doubt, but the herd had been there, and the hunt was good. Now days of work would go into the drying of the mounds of meat, and the tribe would be safe and fed this winter.

He lightly nibbled the shoulder pressed back against him, and felt the heartbeat of his mate, his other self, and heard the contented sigh. His hands ran over the compact body that he held in his arms, and pressed him still closer. He wasn't ready for sleep yet, his erection testified to that, prodding insistently, and the other chuckled, and threw his leg back over him, aligning them together, and he pressed in now, hearing the faint gasp of pleasure. Now they were moving together, and he reached around the other's hip to grasp his erection, pleased that their desire was in harmony, as was everything.

They came together in the fading firelight, crying out in unison, and all of creation seemed in perfect order as he slipped off to sleep, holding in his arms his partner, his mate, his Guide ...

Jim sat up in bed with a muffled oath, and stared around the room. Alone.

After a few moments, he got out of bed and went quietly down the stairs and into the kitchen. As quietly as he could, he gathered the materials and began a pot of coffee.

He found himself staring at the range, and the light over it, for the first time consciously connecting them with a hydroelectric plant over three hundred miles away. And the coffee beans, which came from another continent.

The tribe of man has devised such marvels that we take them for granted, Jim thought, and it gives us the arrogance to think we can do anything.

And now he could only feel a sort of despairing amusement at their total naivete. To think that two civilized, educated, technologically aware men of the late twentieth century believed that they could reconstruct what it meant to be Sentinel and Guide, based upon the few guesses and hints of Victorian travellers, some cryptic inscriptions on urns, and a monumental amount of hubris.

Partners, Jim had said. "This is Blair Sandburg, my partner," thinking he knew what that meant. Because he'd had partners before, good close friends, both in the military and the police department, men you would die for, and who would die for you. That had been Jim's concept of partner. And then you got reassigned, or your tour of duty was over, and you went on to something else.

Jim suspected that Blair also thought that was the type of partnership they were dealing with. Poor kid, what must he have thought when Jim had demanded, "Give yourself to me!"

"Jim?"

Jim whirled around, slopping some of his coffee on the floor. He must have been really lost in thought if he hadn't even heard Blair getting up. Blair had thrown on a ratty old robe, and was otherwise dressed only in his boxer shorts, and to Jim he looked like the most beautiful, desirable, unattainable thing in the world.

"Oh. Sorry, Sandburg. Did I wake you up?"

"I was having trouble sleeping, anyway. How about you?"

"I - had a dream."

"You and Martin Luther King," Blair said, and pushed past Jim to reach the coffee pot.

Jim could still faintly smell himself on Blair, and wondered if the scent would drive him insane. Blair had showered on returning home, which only reminded Jim why the scent still lingered - 'you were inside him', he thought, and shivered slightly.

"Jim?" Blair was watching him curiously.

"Oh! Yes, the dream." Jim went over to the table and sat down, hoping Blair wouldn't realize what was distracting him.

Blair sat across from him and waited patiently.

"It was a long time ago," Jim said at last, "and there was a tribe of hunters, and they had a Sentinel."

Blair's eyes widened. "This wouldn't happen to be the man who died out in that forest, would it?"

"Actually, I think it was."

"Hey, this is really something, Jim!" Blair was almost bouncing with excitement. "Could you tell how long ago it was? I mean, did they have rifles or anything, had they been trading with white settlers?"

"Hold on, Sandburg, settle down!" Jim couldn't help but be amused and touched by his friend's enthusiasm. "I don't know if there was any element of reality to this dream at all. Some of it was really weird. But there were certainly no rifles, or bows and arrows either. Just big, heavy spears. And - this is why I think it was some kind of crazy fantasy - I just caught some glimpses, but the tribe appeared to be hunting elephants."

There was a long pause as Blair absorbed this. Then he raised his head, his eyes shining with excitement. "Jim - would these elephants happen to have had heavy fur?"

Jim remembered the piles of furs by the fire, and nodded in surprise. "As a matter of fact, I think they did."

"Oh, *man*, Jim! We're going *way* back, here! You know, the first humans on this continent followed the mammoth herds across the land bridge from Asia - I forget how long ago, tens of thousands of years? Tail end of the last Ice Age, I think, I'll have to ask Dana over in Prehistoric Archaeology - "

"Hold it, Chief, whoa, slow down! Mammoths? You're saying there were mammoths and mammoth hunters in this area?"

"That's what I need to check with Dana. But hunting furry elephants with heavy spears? Sure sounds like it to me."

"Well, if you say so. Anyway, this tribe had a Sentinel. And it was really - an eye opener, I guess. To see and experience a Sentinel, back when everyone knew what they were, and they were a routine part of your life. A Sentinel who actually *knew* what the hell he was doing - " Jim trailed off, and stared into his coffee cup.

Blair was still excited by this information, wondering how much of it was true. No way could he work it into his dissertation, though, what would he use for references? A dream? Channeling?

He wanted to hear all about the mammoth hunters and their Sentinel, but kept his silence. Something about this was obviously bothering Jim.

After a moment, Jim took a large gulp of coffee, and then finally met Blair's eyes. "Sandburg, don't you think you have enough information to finish your dissertation?"

Blair froze. Hesitantly, he said, "Well, I don't know. Why, Jim?"

"Because one thing really became clear to me today. And that is that you and I, we *don't* know what we're doing. Maybe we thought we did, but all we've got are bits and pieces. And I think we'd just better put an end to this before somebody gets hurt."

"But, Jim - " Blair didn't finish the remark, because he didn't know what to say.

"Sorry, Blair." Jim wearily rubbed his eyes. "We probably shouldn't be having this conversation in the middle of the night. I'll talk to you tomorrow, okay?"

And Jim stood up and went back upstairs.

Blair remained seated at the table, thinking. He certainly had an inkling now of what the problem was, and he cursed all Victorian travel writers for their euphemisms. Burton had referred darkly to 'the unique relationship between the Sentinel and his Guide, unsettling to Western minds', and very little else, at least in his published work.

Half a dozen oblique references from memoirs and travel diaries were occurring to Blair now, references that took on a whole new meaning when juxtaposed against Jim's demand this afternoon - 'give yourself to me.'

'Okay, then,' Blair thought. 'The Sentinel fucks the Guide. Does that bother Jim, or does he think it will bother me, or does he thinks it's just wrong, or what?'

There was one way to find out.

Blair stood up and, after thinking about it for a moment, removed his robe and boxers and headed for the stairs. 'If he kicks me out, no big deal,' he told himself, 'won't be the first time someone kicked me out of bed' - all the while knowing that this time a rejection would rip his heart out.

'But I have to at least try - after all, I did give myself to him - ' once again shivering with excitement at the thought.

He'd reached the top of the stairs now, and reached in the darkness for the bed, and slipped under the covers.

Jim rolled over. "Blair? What are you doing?"

Blair moved closer until he was pressed up against Jim, saying with an attempt at nonchalance, "Just coming to bed, man." He put his arm around Jim's waist, and placed his head on Jim's shoulder, trembling a little, terrified of what Jim would do next.

Jim sighed. "Ah, Blair - " and his arms went around his Guide, and he pulled him close. "Blair, are you sure?"

"Completely," Blair whispered. "Totally."

Jim kissed him then. His face was wet.

After a few moments, Blair asked, "Jim?"

"Yeah?"

"That other Sentinel - what killed him?"

"He stopped wanting to live."

"Why?"

"He lost his Guide."

Blair raised himself up on his elbow, and leaned over Jim, stroking his face gently. "Your Guide is right here, Jim."

Jim reached up and pulled Blair down to him for a deep kiss, and then rolled over with Blair in his arms, holding him beneath him on the bed, kissing him again and again, bruising kisses between the harsh whispers, "Mine, you're mine."

Blair lay on the bed beneath Jim, glorying in the feeling of being held down, touched all over, trying to keep pace, touching and kissing back. Jim was a faint shape over him in the dimness, but so warm, so real and exciting and alive.

But then Jim stopped kissing him, propping himself up on his elbows, and cradling Blair's head in his hands, his face inches from Blair's.

Blair said uncertainly, "Jim?"

Jim remembered then that Blair didn't have Sentinel vision, couldn't see in the dark like he could, and reached over and turned on the lamp beside the bed.

"Jim? What is it?"

Jim leaned down and kissed him lightly on the nose. "I think I need some reassurance here. You're not just doing this because you think you're supposed to, are you?"

Blair laughed out loud at that, his laughter shaking Jim's body, a surprisingly arousing sensation. "Oh, right, Jim! What, they give a Boy Scout merit badge for this or something?"

"Well, it's just - I don't know. All those women you've been dating."

Blair reached up and lightly stroked Jim's face with the back of his fingers. "Hey," he said softly, "I've always pretty much gone both ways, but you just seemed so - so coply, I figured you couldn't handle that. And pretty soon, there was only one man I wanted."

"Is that right?" Jim whispered.

"Hey, use your senses, man. See if I'm telling the truth." Blair's eyes were huge and dark with arousal, as he squirmed beneath Jim, caressing Jim's erection with his own.

Jim closed his eyes and buried his face in Blair's neck, hearing the accelerated heartrate, the rapid breathing, feeling the heat of Blair's body. He opened his mouth, and lightly tasted the sweat sheening Blair's skin, while his nose was overwhelmed by the smell of Blair's desire.

He was moving now, on top of his partner, pressing against the body that was pressing against him, and he raised his head to claim those sweet full lips, and they opened under his, and now tongues were caressing, hot and wet and velvet soft. His invasion of Blair's mouth became rougher, more insistent, as his movements quickened, and they moved faster and harder, panting and moaning against one another, and Jim reached between them and grabbed Blair's erection almost savagely and felt a warm hand taking him just as they cried out together, and they were falling in the swirling darkness.

Finally Jim rolled over with Blair in his arms, and said weakly, "My senses indicate that you were telling the truth."

Blair mumbled, "The man's a genius," and managed to reach over and turn off the light before they fell asleep in each other's arms.



Jim woke up gradually, subconsciously aware that it was his day off. He was alone in the king-sized bed, but that was all right - he could still smell Blair on the wrecked sheets, and rolled over into the warm spot where Blair had been. He buried his face in the sheets and sighed happily, stretching in all directions.

Then he rolled back over and folded his arms behind his head, listening to the movements downstairs, and smelled bacon frying.

Blair - *his* Blair - was making breakfast, and he supposed he ought to get out of bed.

But not just this minute.

Jim was reviewing the past now, remembering the irritating anthropologist with his crazy theories, and how he had gradually moved from resource to friend, living in the same apartment with Jim with a surprising degree of comfort. Looking back, Jim was almost proud of himself for putting up with someone so different, different habits, different outlook, different background.

But it could only have been serious denial that kept Jim from recognizing that he was falling in love with his new friend. Yes, they'd been friends for quite a while, and Jim simply came to like having Blair around - liked looking at him. That should have been a clue right there! - of all the friends Jim had in the past, he couldn't think of one where he'd actually thought to himself that he liked *looking* at the guy!

This was going to take some getting used to.

Down in the kitchen, Blair was humming softly, and Jim felt his heart melt at the sound. He knew that it was too late to stop it, he was already mated for life to this elusive creature. He only hoped that Blair would stay long enough to make the eventual heartache worthwhile.

Finally getting out of bed, he climbed into a set of sweats, and headed down the stairs.

There were a pair of boxer shorts adorning the stair rail. But rather than irritate Jim, this small sign of clutter excited him - he couldn't help wondering '*what* is he wearing?'

As he wandered into the kitchen, Blair looked up and greeted him with a blinding smile. He was wearing the old robe, and scrambling a mountain of eggs. Bacon was draining on paper towels on the counter. "Can you believe it?" Blair asked. "We completely forgot to have dinner last night."

"I can believe it," Jim said huskily, coming up behind Blair and sliding his arms around him, nuzzling the top of his head.

Blair slid from his arms with agility, saying sternly, "Sit. Eat."

Jim grinned and nodded, taking a seat at the table, and allowing himself to be waited on. As Blair brought the plates to the table, Jim caught his hand. "Blair," he said softly. "The robe - take it off - "

Blair's eyes widened. After a moment, he slipped off the robe and slung it over the back of the chair. Then he returned to the kitchen, leaving Jim pondering his own demand, and Blair's reaction. My god, would he do anything I told him to?

Blair returned with orange juice and biscuits, and then headed back to the kitchen, while Jim admired his young lover. Veteran of many a locker room, he'd never before found the male form beautiful, but Blair was undeniably beautiful this morning, small but well-formed, his long curls lightly brushing his bare shoulders. There was a trace of self-consciousness in his movement - serving breakfast in the nude was perhaps an unusual event in his life, but the faint smile on his lips indicated that he was finding it interesting.

And now Blair was back with the eggs and bacon, dishing huge portions into Jim's plate, and Jim put his arm around him and pulled him onto his lap. Blair managed to put the pans on the table without dropping them, and then put his arms around Jim's neck, while Jim nuzzled the warm curls of his chest, and murmured, "You worry me, Chief."

"Worry? Why?" Blair asked, while gently massaging the back of Jim's neck.

"I can't help wondering if you'd do anything I told you to do."

Blair thought about it for a moment. "Probably," he said at last.

Jim met his eyes now, slightly worried, and Blair amplified. "I'd do anything *you* told me to do," he explained. "I wouldn't kill a child, or bomb a building, but then, you wouldn't tell me to do that. So yes, I'd probably do anything you told me to do."

"Why?!"

"Because."

Jim realized that explanation would have to do for now. He was caressing Blair's shoulders, and lightly nibbling on Blair's neck, and then sat back with a sigh. "Well, you'd probably better put the robe back on, Chief, if you want me to get any breakfast."

Blair exited Jim's lap, with a kiss to the top of his head, slipped the robe back on, and took his own seat.

The meal was a quiet one, with the two men mechanically shovelling food into their mouths, unwilling to break eye contact with the other.

Before long the breakfast was demolished, the table left uncleared for once, and the two men were on the sofa, necking frantically. "God, I feel like a teenager!" Jim groaned.

Blair's face was buried in Jim's neck, as he gently kissed and licked, and he murmured, "I belong to you."

That bothered Jim a little, and he took Blair by the shoulders, and pushed back until he could look him in the eye. "You're worrying me again, Chief!"

"Huh?" Blair's eyes were half-closed, and his breath came in little pants.

"Listen to me, Blair. I know I said some strange stuff out there in the woods, but you do understand, don't you, that no one can own anyone else?"

Blair pouted. "Of course, Jim. I mean, legally, technically - but don't go spoiling it."

"Spoiling it?"

Blair twined his arms around Jim's neck, and leaned closer. "I'm really getting *off* on belonging to you, Jim!"

"Oh." Jim thought about it for a moment. "Well then, carry on."

Blair's robe and Jim's sweats were soon on the floor, and the two men lay wrapped in one another's arms, kissing, caressing, and then Blair slipped down onto the floor and knelt beside the sofa nuzzling Jim's stomach before he leaned over and took Jim's erection into his mouth.

Jim almost launched off the sofa from the feeling. "JEEsus Christ, Chief!"

Blair chuckled, without detaching his mouth from Jim, and the feeling of the chuckle on his sensitive nerve endings almost sent Jim into orbit. Blair sucked deeply, but then backed off, gently licking and nibbling, until Jim was whimpering. The long hair sweeping over Jim's belly and thighs only added to the sensory overload. Then Blair took Jim back into his mouth, while one hand gently rolled Jim's balls, and a finger slipped into Jim's anus.

"Blair," Jim whispered, "please, Blair. Please. Let me - let me - "

And then he was coming, arching his back and howling incoherently as he spurted again and again down Blair's willing throat, until he finally collapsed limply, barely aware that tears were streaming down his face.

A warm weight settled on him, and he put his arms around his lover, now lying on top of him, and they were kissing again.

Jim had never meant to say it, but before he could stop himself, he whispered, "Don't ever leave me."

"I won't," Blair whispered back.

The two men lay peacefully together for a long time, and then Blair raised his head, looking worried. "Jim?"

"Yeah?" Jim raised a hand to play with Blair's hair, twining it between his fingers.

"This connection. How - uh - well, how permanent is it, or maybe I mean, how dangerous?"

Jim lightly stroked Blair's cheek. "I don't know about you, Chief, but I'm mated for life."

Blair smiled a little at that, and leaned down and planted a light kiss on Jim's lips. "Cool," he said. "But what about - what I mean is - suppose I got hit by a car, or bit by a bug, or something. Would you just up and die, too?"

"No." Jim said. He was surprised at how positive he was.

"But that old Sentinel, you said he died because he lost his Guide."

Jim tightened his arms around the younger man. "No, he died because he didn't want to live anymore. There was talk of a new Guide, the chief wanted him to start training someone else. But he didn't want to live without his own Guide. So he went back to the sacred grove, with his sharpest flint knife..." He broke off, at Blair's gasp of dismay.

Blair was kissing Jim, with an almost frantic insistence. "I won't leave, Jim. Not ever. I promise."

"Hey, hey, hey." Jim gently turned Blair's head to look him in the eye. "Don't ever feel obligated to stay, Blair. I want you to stay, to stay for my whole life. But I know enough to know that I don't have to be happy to survive."

"Well, I'm in for the duration," Blair insisted.

Jim must have looked skeptical, he knew his lover's background, the wandering life he'd led.

"Really, Jim!" Blair went on. "After all, I've been here for two years already."

Jim had to chuckle at that, though in fact that was longer than his marriage had lasted.

"You don't understand, Jim," Blair said. "I've never spent two years anywhere in my *life*! It took me six years to finish college because I would keep taking semesters off to go travelling and seeing things."

"And you don't think you'll want to do that again?"

"Well, maybe go someplace and then come back. But don't you see, always before, there was never any reason to come back. And there was never a reason not to move on, because I wasn't leaving anything behind."

"And now there's me," Jim said.

"And now there's you," Blair agreed, suddenly taking on a sultry look. He dropped his voice, and added, "And I belong to you."

Hmm, Jim thought, he really does get off on that. "You do, eh?" he said. "Think you could prove that?"

Blair slid from Jim's arms, and Jim raised himself up on his elbow to see what Blair was doing. His breath caught in his throat as he watched Blair get down on his hands and knees on the floor, his tender ass facing Jim. Blair looked back over his shoulder with a seductive smile, and Jim was quickly on his knees behind his lover, stroking the soft skin and lightly fingering the tight opening.

He saw that Blair had an erection, and ran his hand lightly between Blair's legs, caressing the underside of Blair's penis, and Blair gave a strangled cry.

Jim leaned down and kissed Blair's shoulder, growling in his ear, "Mine!"

"Yes," Blair whispered. "I belong to you."

Jim was probing Blair's body now with saliva-coated fingers, and Blair was pushing back against his hand, gasping, "Now, Jim! Inside me, please!"

And Jim couldn't wait any longer either. He thrust into his lover harder than he intended, and Blair cried out, but with a strange wild joy that only made Jim push harder, and Blair was pushing back against him, moaning.

They established a rhythm, rocking together on the floor, and Blair's hair shielded his face, swinging in time to their beat, and Jim felt a foolish, exultant urge to shout - I'm the king of the stallions, and this shaggy little pony is MINE!

How long it went on, Jim never knew, but it seemed to last forever, a rough and rowdy mating on the floor, two primitives claiming one another forever. And then Blair was throwing back his head, screaming, as he came in strong pulses on the floor, and his contractions drew Jim along with him, pumping his seed into Blair's eager body.

Finally exhausted, they lay panting on the floor, until Jim managed to roll off Blair's back, and haul his mate to his feet, and lead his staggering steps to the shower.

And after they had thoroughly washed and tenderly dried one another, they went back to bed.


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