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What Else Is A Guide Good For?

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What Else is a Guide Good For

by Jennifer Lyon

He was glad that his roommate was sound asleep when he got home. This was one evening he did *not* want to talk about. He didn't even want to think about it. Not that he could help it. The images kept replaying in his mind over and over, sensory flashes and emotional jolts, all intertwined into one jagged nightmare. Only it wasn't a dream, the bruises and livid scratches on his arms and back were a constant and painful reminder. He hurried into the shower and scrubbed at himself, the rush of hot water on his too-sensitive skin burning in fierce counterpoint to the rough surface of the wash cloth as he swept it over his chest. But the ritual cleansing did little to assuage the agony in his mind, it boiled inside. A fist formed of humiliation and frustration clenched on his belly.

Of all the times to 'zone out' - this could not have been worse. He'd been so sure he could handle the situation since the fits of hypersensitivity had been easier to control in recent weeks. Blair's ideas, peculiar as they were, actually seemed to be working. At times he even felt 'normal' again, and that had given him a sense of freedom and confidence that he'd thought he would never recover. So when he'd gotten the opportunity to share an evening - and more - with a beautiful and charming woman, he'd seized it with both hands. Until it blew up in his face.

Swearing under his breath, he shut off the water, scrambled out of the shower, and began to towel himself dry. His sense of touch began to scream again, his responses all disarrayed, sharp peaks and valleys of sensation swirling, demanding his attention. He began to lose himself to the feel of the soft, yet slightly scratchy surface of the towel as it rubbed at his belly, then he jerked himself out of it, seizing for control with terrified determination. He'd already zoned out once that night, he would *not* do it again.

She hadn't told him how long he'd been out, but it must have been a while. The mirror was uncompromising; the marks from her nails streaking his skin. He remembered the incredible sensory rush that his heightened senses had created during the act of lovemaking - he'd felt like he was drowning in her. He could feel every pulse of her body, the condom hardly a barrier to a Sentinel's sense of touch. She'd smelled of perfume and female musk, tasted of salt and wine. Her skin had gleamed a clear porcelain white, her moans had sounded like drunken bells in his ears... He'd gloried in it all, senses mixing upon each other, each demanding his attention in flashes of poignancy and sharpness so intense that he'd wanted to cry aloud with the sheer immensity of it all. And then suddenly, he'd swooped down into a thick, syrupy nothingness, only to come awake yet again to a bitter reality.

And oh - how hysterical she'd been.

Fear giving way to rage...

He supposed he couldn't blame her...

But it wasn't his fault. Not really. He hadn't asked to be a Sentinel.

Sure he'd accepted it, even come to like it on rare occasions, but...

Oh hell, blast, and bloody damnation!!

What was he going to do now - except to pretend it had never happened?

Not much of a solution.

He crawled into his bed and tried to sleep.

He failed.

"Morning!!" Blair called out, puttering around energetically in the kitchen.

Jim gave him a fierce scowl in reply; it was blithely ignored. Blair wandered over to peer closely at him, those bright, glassy eyes prickled at his skin. Jim turned his back, reaching past the smaller man to grab for the carton of orange juice. Those eyes remained pinned to his back.

"What happened? Rough night?" Blair's voice lilted with amusement. "Katie prove to be a bit too much to...whuff..." He broke off in mid-tease when Jim shoved past him, stalking towards the couch. The big man sank into the cushions, his entire body tense, veins pulsing in his neck. An element of his mood tugged at his friend's emotions, pulling him along. Blair sat down beside Jim and spent a cautious moment studying the back of his averted head.

"Jim?" Blair asked. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing." Jim responded brusquely, taking a hard swallow of the juice, then grimacing as the acidic fluid stung at his sensitive taste-buds. He eyes the glass in his hand as though it were responsible for all the ills in his world.

Blair was still looking at him, big wide eyes glittering, mouth half-pursed, head tilted slightly to the side in a familiar stance of devoted curiosity mixed with intense concern. Jim glanced at him, back down at his own hands, then sighed and shook his head.

"I don't want to talk about it!" He growled, knowing even as he said it that Blair would never let it go until he'd worried it all to pieces. That quality of relentless examination was Blair's most useful and most irritating quality. Jim preferred to act on instinct, to move swiftly when the situation warranted, and otherwise let well enough alone. But Blair wouldn't let go, especially if he found out about the zone out. Jim blanched as the memory struck him; orange juice sloshed wildly as his hands shook.

"Jim!" The glass was grabbed out of his hand and set aside by slender fingers that soon closed down on his wrists. Jim tried to twist away, but Blair's hands were stronger than their delicate appearance indicated, he held on tenaciously.

"Jim, please, tell me what's going on? This is more than a bad date, isn't it?"

Blair had always managed to wheedle things out of Jim that the taciturn cop had never confided to anyone else, and he was bound and determined to do so again. "Come on, man, talk to me! Whatever it is, we can deal with it." Blair's voice was rising now, his own sensitivities all on alert. Jim knew that sitting like a marble statue on the couch was hardly going to convince Blair that nothing was wrong; he had to move. His instinctive reaction was to run. Powerful muscles tensed, bunching in his calves and shoulders in anticipation of flight, but that certain grip of slender fingers on his wrist held him pinioned more surely than an iron chain.

"Look, Blair. I really don't want to talk about this. It's nothing, OK? The date just...didn't work out." He tried to shrug his shoulders; he couldn't meet Blair's intent gaze.

"Uh huh," came the disbelieving reply. "Looks like it got a physical to me, or did you have a run in with an alley cat on your way home?"

Jim jerked around, then followed Blair's eyes downward to his forearms. A long series of red scratches streaked up his arm, disappearing beneath the thin cotton of his tee-shirt. He dropped his other hand over them, swearing softly under his breath.

"It's not what you think," he found himself insisting.

"I don't know what I think," Blair replied, his voice remaining soft, slipping into the nearly hypnotic smoothness he used to Guide Jim through the use of his senses. Jim responded to it instantly, his heartbeat slowing down as Blair continued. "Why don't you tell me, Jim? What happened last night? Things looked good when I left to take Lucy home.

Jim rubbed wearily at his eyes, the confession finally bursting its way up from his gut, up through his lungs and out his throat in a sudden explosion.

"I zoned out, Chief. Right in the middle...right when I was..." his right hand waved expressively in the air, then plummeted down to strike flat against his thigh. "Damn it, I zoned out on her!"

Blair sucked in a deep breath, shock widening his eyes for a moment as the implications struck him.

"You mean you zoned out...when you were..."

Jim nodded, fingers digging into his palm.

"Oh man!" Blair exclaimed. "That is *not* good!" Jim gave him a fierce scowl in response to the obviousness of that comment, but Blair ignored it easily.

"So what happened then? When you came out of it?"

Jim grimaced, leaning back against the couch, breath expelling roughly from his lungs.

"She was hysterical. I think she thought I'd gone and died or something. When I came round, she wanted to call an ambulance, but I managed to talk her out of it. I...God, Chief, I don't remember exactly what I said. I was still a bit disoriented, you know, but whatever I said, it just made her mad. Anyway, I got out of there as quickly as I could. Came straight home."

"Why didn't you wake me up?" Blair asked.

"I didn't want to talk about. I still don't." Jim replied bluntly, his jaw clenching.

"Well, we can't exactly ignore it either," Blair pointed out.

"We?" Jim challenged.

"Yes, WE," Blair answered firmly. "I'm supposed to help you with the zone outs, remember?"

"So what are you going to do, watch the next time I have sex?" Jim leapt to his feet and stalked over to stand by the big glass doors that led out onto the balcony.

Blair followed him, coming to stand by his side.

"Well, it's a possibility..." He cut off as Jim threw him a menacing glare. Blair ignored it with characteristic panache. He shrugged, then grinned brightly. "Look, man, it's just like any other zone out - you simply over-focused on one of your you remember which one it was?"

Wincing at the lilt of open curiosity in his Guide's voice, Jim shook his head. "I dunno. Probably touch, but I was using them all. It was...overwhelming. I was getting flashes of each of my senses, like a sensory slide show. One after another...In fact it was almost as though I zoned out on all of them at once."

"Oh wow - we've never seen anything like that happen before." Blair was nearly hopping with excitement. "I wonder if we could duplicate the conditions..."

"What?!" Jim exclaimed.

"Oh..." Blair paused, then ran a hand through his wiry mane of curls. "Nah, I suppose that would be a bit tricky."

"A bit?" Jim shook his head, then wandered back to plop down on the couch. "I just want to forget it ever happened."

Blair purposely followed him, perching down beside Jim, his feet tucked up beneath him.

"And what if it happens again?" That got Jim's attention, and Blair forged onward, gesturing expansively. "Actually, it's amazing it hasn't happened before. Sex is a very sensory experience. It's not too surprising that it might overstimulate your senses." He chuckled. "'s enough to rock most people, what it must be like for someone with your - must've been incredible! I never thought about that before."

"Yeh, well I'd rather you weren't thinking about it now," Jim commented dryly.

"Ahhh...come on Jim, it's not such a bad thing. In fact, you're incredibly lucky! Well, so long as you don't zone out on it." Blair grimaced, then came up brightly. "So we just have to teach you how to have sex without zoning out!"

Jim just stared at him for a moment, then felt he had to spell things out more thoroughly. His partner had had some hair-brained ideas before, but this sounded like it was going to top the list.

"Who's going to teach me what?"

Blair just grinned; his eyes sparkled. Jim took one look at that expression and mentally ran for cover.

"UNH UH...NO WAY!! Forget it, Chief."

"Now Jim, it's nothing to get so upset about. I just think we ought to work on this before it happens again. You got lucky this time, she only threw you out. What if she had called 911?"

Jim flinched visibly. That would have been beyond humiliation - there's no way he could have explained this. If the department rumor mill found out, he'd have no choice but to take the next plane to Peru, go straight into the jungle and never come out again.... But she hadn't told anyone, he reminded himself. And she wouldn't, would she? No, of course, she wouldn't...and besides...

"This is insane!"

"Why?" Blair came right back, still gazing firmly at him. He was in full Guide mode now, persuasive and utterly self-assured.

"Why what? You can't be serious! You...I...You can't think I'd do that - with you watching...much less participating...." Jim spluttered, then struggled for control, the effort making his jaw pulse and his shoulders bulge.

"Why not?" Blair was perched on the couch like a bird about to take flight, his legs tucked up beneath him. His hair framed his face like a curtain of ebony water, accentuating the sharpness of his cheekbones and the richness of his mouth. Jim subjected him to a forceful glare, but Blair ignored it with practiced ease.

"What else is a Guide for?" he persisted. "I'm supposed to help you learn how to control your senses. The only way you're going to be able to handle the sensory overload involved in sexual activity is to practice controlling it." Jim's large-boned, stony face didn't soften, and Blair suddenly sighed and waved his hands in the air.

"Look, man, it's your life. If you want to take a chance on this happening again, and maybe hurting the woman or yourself...well, hey - it's your decision. Good luck finding a woman who won't mind being zoned out on. Who knows? There's got to be someone out there who'll get a kick out of it!" Blair shrugged expressively, then popped up off the couch, and sauntered away.

Stealing a piece of toast from the table, he called out as he left the room, "My turn in the bathroom!" And then he was gone.

Jim sat still, listening for each of Blair's movements. He could hear every rustle of skin and cloth, every creak of the floor, every touch on countertop, faucet, each droplet of water. The swish of toothbrush over enamel was painfully loud; Blair's heartbeat sang a steady rhythm beneath it all. Jim could pick out that rhythm from a hundred yards, isolate it from a crowd. He was preternaturally aware of his Guide, more so than any other person, he was attuned to the sound of his voice, the scent of his flesh, the expressions that flashed through his eyes. But there were limits, levels of privacy that Jim was loathe to give up. Barriers he did not want to let go. What had he told Blair once before..."A man needs a certain amount of privacy!" Something like that. And he did. Yet...

Blair was right.

He was looking at two choices. He either remained celibate for the rest of his life - an option that did *not* appeal - or he took his chances with zoning out. He could explain to the prospective lover about his abilities...but that was taking a risk too. Who knew if the relationship would work out? What if he told the wrong woman, and it got used against him? Or got publicized. His mind rolled in circles, round and round. Up and down and back again.

He was in deep shit, no question. He was sunk.

It was damned unfair!

Take a chance on zoning out, remain celibate for the remainder of his life, or...

His eyes narrowed. Blair really seemed not to mind the idea at all. Jim abruptly found himself chuckling; the sound was edged with hysteria. He punched the couch pillow with his fist, the action was thoroughly unsatisfying. He laughed louder. Blair...God, Blair would stand on his head and eat dog food if he thought it would give him another insight into Jim's Sentinel abilities. One of these days that insatiable curiosity of him really was going to get him into major trouble. It would serve the irritating little bastard right if Jim actually took him up on the idea.

He couldn't help smiling at that. How far would Blair really go? Was this all just a big tease? Or did Blair really mean it seemed incomprehensible. Jim had never even considered doing ... that ... with another man. OK. OK. He knew such things happened, he'd been around the block enough times to be willing to live and let live. But that was a far cry from doing it himself. He wasn't...Blair wasn't...he couldn't be!! Could he? Nah!! But...

Suddenly unable to sit still, Jim stalked towards the bathroom. He nearly ran Blair over as the younger man exited the steam-filled room. Glowering down at his towel-clad partner, Jim found the question shooting out of his mouth before he could stop it.

"Blair, you haven''re not..."

Put foot in mouth and bite down hard. Jim snapped his mouth shut, wishing he could suck those few syllables back in and make them disappear. But Blair didn't seem to be bothered at all. He gave an impish grin, tilting his head sideways, all the while staring upwards into Jim's confused eyes.

"I have...and I'm not...exactly. "

Blair pushed past Jim, angling for the kitchen and the recovery of his aborted breakfast. Jim followed, feeling a bit like a fish stranded on a beach.

"What do you mean, not exactly?" he finally demanded.

"I'm bi." Blair said that as though he was pronouncing on the weather. Utter nonchalance.

"But you...all those women!" Jim blurted out.

"I said 'bi' didn't I?" Blair replied calmly. "And I adore women." He chuckled happily. "I just like a little variety now and then." He shot a quick glance at Jim who was watching him as though he'd suddenly grown wings. "Look it's no big deal. Relax already. If you don't want to be Guided through coping with the effect of sexual arousal on your Sentinel senses, then we'll just forget it. As I said before, man, it's your life!"

Blair chugged down a glass of orange juice, then turned to leave the room. Still staggered, Jim moved to intercept him.

"Chief...I..." he faltered.

"It's OK, Jim, really!" Blair was instantly in support mode. He pushed at Jim's chest. "Look, it's Saturday and you obviously didn't get much sleep last night. Go get some rest."

"Mmm....maybe you're right." Suddenly a huge yawn escaped up through Jim's chest and explode from him. His eyes teared over. Rubbing at the offending organs, he silently turned and wandered back up the stairs. Blair was right...he often was...he just needed sleep...

"NOOOO!!!" He jerked upwards, abruptly awake, body trembling, nerves jangling. Sweat dripped from his temples, dampening the sheets. His legs were entangled into a cocoon. He kicked out randomly, not really trying to disentangle himself, simply moving in order to free himself from the cobwebs of the dream. A nightmare that was only too real. Memory mixed with possibility, fantasy with reality.

"Hey man, you all right?" Blair's voice broke into his thoughts, the bed tilting to the side as it took the young man's weight on the edge of the mattress. A cool hand settled on Jim's forehead.

"You're feverish!" Blair exclaimed, and his weight shifted again in preparation for getting up.

"No!" Jim interrupted, reaching out to forestall Blair from leaving. "I just had a nightmare, that's all."

Blair nodded, resting back down. "Must have been a doozy!"

Jim grimaced. "Yeh. Damn it! I thought we were really making progress with this Sentinel thing. And now this!"

"We ARE making progress, Jim!

"Oh yeah, I'm doing great! As long as I live like a monk!" Jim replied petulantly.

Blair couldn't help smiling, even as he offered reassurance. "Not necessarily. Look at where you are now, relative to when we started out. There's more to do, but we'll get there. If you work with me."

Biting at his lower lip, Jim considered him silently for a moment, then cautiously asked, "Just exactly what did you have in mind." At the spark of excitement in Blair's eyes, he gestured rapidly. "I'm not agreeing to anything. I just...want to know what you would suggest."

"Oh, sure. Look, the bottom line is that we've never really examined the effect of multiple stimulation of your senses. We've always concentrated on control, and on focusing one - or maybe two - at a time, exclusive of the others. The key here would be to stimulate as many of your senses at once as we can, and then figure out a way to keep you from zoning out on the combination."

"Stimulate how?"

"Well, we don't necessarily have to start with sexual stimulation. I think we'll need to experiment with that at some point, but we could work into it slowly. In the meantime, we could use video and music, some touch sensitivity. Like a back rub plus some jungle music, maybe throw a tape on the VCR. Oh - and some incense for your sense of smell..."

"Whoa," Jim interrupted. "Incense?"

"Sure. I've got some great stuff in my room. A combination of herbs used by the..."

"OK...OK...I'll take your word for it. A back rub, huh? Music..." Jim shrugged. That not only sounded safe, it sounded quite good. He was so tense that his shoulders felt like someone had tied them into knots. "All right, let's try it." His surrender wasn't exactly gracious, but it was genuine.

Blair chortled, leaping to his feet. "Great! Let me get things set up and then I'll call you downstairs. I think the new Afro-Celt CD I just bought will be perfect..."


The music was a surprise. Bagpipes and drums, Celtic chant intertwined with African rhythm, it wove a sensual spell. Sinking into the softness of the blanket spread beneath him on the floor, he let the haunting sounds meld into the beat of his heart and the pulse of the blood in his veins. His ears absorbed it all, picking strands of melody and harmony apart, then welding them back together into a totality of sound. He drifted on the waves....

Until a stirring of sensation from his nostrils flickered at his mind. His head lifted, even as he rocked with the music. Pungent, singular, herbal spice ... he didn't recognize the scent. But it intrigued, tantalized, wound itself into the music like an extra strand of harmony. His head drifted back down, satisfied.

And then, another stirring, this time touch. Warmth spreading across his shoulder blades, feather light at first, then stronger. He sighed. Those muscles hurt, the slow caress of the flesh sent shivers down his spine. Electricity wound through strands of a harp singing to the beat of the drums. A slow stroke up his spine, then a harder press across the breadth of shoulders tense and sore. Digging deeper now, those fingers found a knot, rubbing, kneading, eliciting alternating currents of pain and relief. He shifted, sighing, silently begging for more.

Three senses intertwined with each other, winding around each other in a play of stimulation. He shivered, arching his back in encouragement, anticipating each move of those blessed hands. Fingers found and probed a knot of muscle on his shoulder, and he moaned aloud. His eyes hazed over, not shut, but unseeing, darkness floated before the light filtering through the windows, closing him off in a sea on sensation. He felt as though he was buoyant in a bath of warm water, drifting, ears and body throbbing with the beat of the music, the stroke across his flesh, he surrendered to it...

"JIM!" The rhythm broke. Hands were now clutching at his shoulders, shaking him in a broken beat, the voice in counterpoint to the music, calling his name, disturbing him, he didn't want to leave the darkness, he...

Broke alert, and turned swiftly, catching at the hands restraining him, drawing the friend...down across his chest. Their legs tangled. The ebony waterfall of Blair's hair surrounded both of their faces. Blair's eyes were wide, brilliant blue marbles shadowed with concern. They both gasped for breath.

"What happened..." Jim asked, understanding following the instinctive question in a wave of embarrassment. "I zoned out again," he answered himself roughly.

"Yeah - you were *gone*," Blair told him bluntly, wriggling slightly above the bigger man's body, causing a strange shiver to run through Jim's nerves. He frowned, a part of his mind trying to trace the sensation as it arrowed into the pit of his belly. That was peculiar... His mind shied away.

Blair was studying him, still a bit worried, but the edge of the scholar peeking back through his demeanor. He finally smiled reassuring, as soothing as a display of even white teeth could be. A sign of aggression in some cultures, a pleasure shared in others.

"So we know what the problem is, now we figure out how to stop it from happening. Or at least to give you better control when it does happen."

Jim never let go of Blair, his hands held on to those slender, wiry wrists almost of their own accord. His mind was still not fully awake. But he heard and understood - and doubted.


Blair looked pensive for a moment, then his eyes blazed with purpose.

"You need a way to stay focused. Let's try this again, but this time, look at me. Talk to me."

"Talk to you?" Jim's eyes were blank.

Blair chuckled. "Yeh - haven't you ever heard of love-talk? Maybe if you communicated more with your bed partners instead of always being such the strong, silent type, maybe you'd be able to keep awake at the critical moment." His voice was light and teasing, but underlain with a certain seriousness. It was that alone that kept Jim from exploding. His eyes narrowed, his jaw pulsed, he glared... but he held still.

"I don't need to be such a chatterbox as you, Chief," he said with deceptive mildness. "Women appreciate me just as I am."

"Oh - and they'll certainly appreciate you falling into a trance while making love to them too, won't they?" Blair challenged back, but a flash of regret softened his eyes as he saw his words hit true.

"I'm sorry, Jim, that wasn't fair..."

Jim shook his head, his mouth tight. "No, fair enough since it's true." He sighed, then shrugged his massive shoulders. "All right, you're my Guide. What do you want me to do."

"Let go of my arms, for a start," Blair said ruefully. Jim was startled, he had forgotten he was still holding on. He let go immediately.

"I'm sorry..."

"Ahh, forget it. I startled you when I woke you up." Blair rubbed at his wrists, they weren't really sore. Jim had a better sense of his own strength than most men his size. He was careful with it, a natural gentleness softening the physical power he could bring to play when he so chose. Blair had been on the receiving end of that strength once or twice in the early days of their relationship, but it had been restrained quickly, averted into the by-play of verbal banter - an arena where Blair could more than hold his own. Another facet of their relationship that had slipped nearly effortless into place almost of its own accord.

Blair shifted his position, tucked his wayward hair behind his ears, then poised over Jim. His knees on either side of the big man's abdomen, he straddled him from above.

"OK, now try to relax," he advised. Jim's nervousness had increased; Blair had learned to read those barely perceptible signs. "Take a few deep breaths, in...and out...Good."

Jim's breathing steadied, and his eyes half closed. Blair placed a hand on his shoulder and pressed gently.

"Hey, stay awake there. Look at me." Those gray-blue eyes shot open and focused intently on his face. Blair smiled his encouragement.

"Better. Now keep looking at me, listen to the music, but talk to me. Tell me what you're thinking." As he spoke, he began to knead the solid muscles that swept across and between the bony ridges of Jim's shoulder and collarbone. Jim's eyes blinked, then with an obvious act of will, homed in on Blair's face again.

"Come on, Jim, talk to me..." Blair urged.

"Ummm...about what?" Jim asked.

"I don't know, anything."

Jim paused for a moment, his mind wandering. God, Blair knew what he was doing. Somehow his hands seemed to find each sore spot and smooth it out, knowing exactly how to touch him. The music still throbbed in the background, the keening sound of bagpipes melding with the drums, like it was making love to itself. That thought and the images it provoked sent a wave of heat through Jim's body, even as he tried to focus on Blair.

Blair. Who had said he was bi. Which meant?

"You've been with men?" That blurted out of him before he could contain it, his mouth clamped shut afterwards as though he could have held it back. But the genie was out of the bottle.

However, Blair's response was simply amusement. His lips curved softly.

"Yeh, once or twice."

Jim blinked, his over-stimulated senses warring with his conscious mind. "You mean...when? I haven't seen you with anyone but women since..." His eyes suddenly narrowed. "You haven't done that since we've been living together, have you?

Blair shook his head, sending tremors through his hair. He continued to probe at a particularly vicious knot in Jim's left biceps, but there was a spark of mischief in his voice.

"Not since then, no. There was someone when you and I met, but we broke up soon afterwards. I didn't have as much free time since I was spending so much of it with you, and I didn't think it was fair to Ed to leave him hanging."

"ED?" Jim blurted out. This was getting a bit too real. He tried to focus on the images skittering across the edge of his imagination. He was accustomed to the idea of Blair with girls, that was all right. Not so threatening as the idea of Blair with a man....

Threatening? Now that was stupid! It shouldn't be a problem. Blair had a right to his own private life, and yet the more Jim thought about it - the more vivid those images became - the more upset he became.

"Who's Ed?" he demanded.

Blair looked a bit startled at the vehemence in his partner's voice, but at least Jim wasn't zoning out again. He transferred his hands to Jim's sides, rubbing at the long strips of muscles that ran the length of his torso, and considered the question.

"Just another grad student I know. We dated a few times, nothing heavy."

That nerve in Jim's jaw pulsed, he ground his teeth together. "So, you haven't seen him since."

Blair shook his head. "No, not really. I see him around school and we grab a bite to eat together on occasion. But he's seeing someone else, and I think it's working out for them."

That sent a sharp sense of relief through Jim, startling him. He clamped down on it hard, his eyes squeezing shut.

"Jim, you all right? Stay with me, big man!" Blair was instantly alert. Jim's eyes flew open and he shook his head.

"No, I'm fine." Blair subsided, moving his ever active hands back up to rediscover more tension in Jim's shoulders.

"Sheesh, you need to learn how to relax."

"I know how to relax," Jim argued.

"Yeh right," Blair said, his tone expressing pure disbelief. Jim thought about bantering back, but his mind was still preoccupied with other things.

"So you haven't been with a man since..." he asked again.

"No," Blair replied equably. "Too complicated, us rooming together and all."

"So you've thought about it," Jim arrowed in on the implication of the reply like the experienced detective he was.

"What is this, twenty-questions," Blair joked. Jim's face was intent, that focus startled Blair. A few emotions flew across his mobile features, fear, uncertainty, hope, curiosity. "Why do you want to know?"

"I..." Jim found himself stumped for a moment, then fell back onto semi-safe ground. "I just worry about you. Picking up strange men can be dangerous."

Blair laughed at that, though his amusement was edged with something sharper. "I'm well aware of that. I can take care of myself, you know?"

"Oh sure you can, Chief," Jim replied, though the words were not convincing. That pushed Blair's temper over the edge.

"Hey, I may not be more than half your size, but I'm smart and quick and I've been taking care of myself since I was a kid. Taking care of my Mom too, for that matter. So ease up on the parental shit. You're not my father."

"I know damn well I'm not your father!" Jim was abruptly angry too. It rose in him, fiery and insistent. He reared up, supporting himself on his elbows. "And I know you can handle yourself in most situations, but..."

"But what? I need some big thug like you looking after me, is that it? Or is it simply that you don't like the idea of me having sex with another man. Bother you, does it?" Blair's fury erupted and died, the impact of those words fell into clear silence. Air held in both their lungs, time froze around them. A broken eternity later, Jim grabbed for his breath, then spit out the words burning in his throat.

"Yeh, that's right. I don't like the idea at all."

"Why?" Blair's challenge was rough, his own voice sounding like sandpaper over rough wood.

"Just because..." Jim's sudden fluidity was gone as quickly as it had come. He fell back into comforting silence.

"Just because what?" Blair picked at it, stubbornness tightening in his sharp featured face. His hands began their abortive stroke down from Jim's shoulder, the fingertips moving over his breast, then sliding almost unaware over a peaked and sensitive nipple.

Jim gasped aloud, his body jerking. Then abruptly his big hands closed over Blair's wrists, stopping his movements, pulling him down to sprawl across Jim's body. Their chins nearly touching, Jim repeated himself again.

"Just because..."

And then he claimed Blair's mouth in a demanding first kiss. It began hard, it ended soft. Their lips clung, moved, shifted for purchase, seeking union, learning. Blair tasted of juice, the orange sweetness lingering on his flesh, coloring his breath. Jim drew it in, his tongue darting forth to trace the contours of Blair's lips. The twin bows of flesh parted, inviting, and Jim thrust deep, his sense of taste exploding in rush of a thousand sensations. More orange, salt, a particular muskiness that was Blair himself. Touch sparked on taste, smooth enamel and rough flesh, the darting battle of tongue against tongue. His entire body jerked on contact, blood rushing through his veins, roaring in his ears.

Their hands were busy too, Blair quickly returning to the hard nub of flesh that had sparked the welcome assault. He pinched it between sensitive fingers, the man beneath him bucked upwards. Their hips ground together, a shared gasp echoed between their lungs. Mouths broke apart long enough to suck air unto burning lungs, then they sought each other again, drawn together by an invisible, unstoppable force.

Jim struggled with Blair's shirt, fingers impatient, stressing buttons and fabric until they finally gave way. He stripped the cotton garment away, tossing it aside, then returned to span Blair's back with outspread palms. The pads of his fingertips began a thorough investigation, cataloguing each handful of flesh with meticulous determination. Up across the breadth of the shoulders, down the spine to the narrow waist, then even further down to close upon denim clad mounds of flesh. Blair wriggled when that grip closed on him, friction between their throbbing groins adding fuel to the fire.

"Jim..." Blair moaned before burying his mouth in the hollow of his Sentinel's neck. That elicited a sigh of acceptance. Jim's head tilted back, to the side, offering the long expanse of clear flesh for his Guide to feast upon. Meanwhile, his own hands ran upwards to tangle into Blair's hair, weaving through the thick tangle to caress his scalp.

Blair's mouth moved downward, bestowing soft kisses, nibbling bites, tasting and testing the satiny skin inch by inch. He suckled at the brown, distended nipples, forcing Jim's breath to catch in his lungs. But Blair wasn't finished, he slid his body across Jim's as he moved further downwards, letting the contact stimulate them both, until he was licking at the rippled flesh of Jim's abdomen, his tongue darting in and out of the tiny hollow of the belly button. His hands slid down to find the waistband of Jim's sweatpants and he tugged them downward. Jim's hips arced upwards, allowing Blair to strip him bare. Blair stepped back to strip his own jeans off, tossing their clothes aside, then he kneeled down at Jim's feet.

The young man looked back up across the man spread out before him, and he smiled with the hunger of a starving man facing a well-laid banquet. He settled himself across Jim's legs, resting his elbows on either side of the sleek, massive thighs. The ends of his hair whispered across Jim's sensitive skin like a thousand tiny feathers, and a groan escaped his lips.

"Blair!" It was both a demand and a plea at once, an ocean of need encapsulated into one exaggerated syllable. It said all that his Guide needed to hear. With a sigh of his own satisfaction, Blair dove downward to take the rosy tip of Jim's straining cock into his mouth.

"Ahhh...God...Chief..." Jim was becoming remarkably vocal; he was surprised to hear himself. It was like a bubble bursting inside him with each stroke of that magnificent, clever tongue, every movement of those tight, wet lips. He demanded, begged, insisted, suggested, hips rocking, blood pulsing, hands reaching to touch whatever they could find. They slid through silken hair, cradled scalp, cupped shoulders, traced the length of wiry, solid arms. But the apex of his concentration was centered on a few throbbing inches of his flesh, his nerve endings screamed overload like a fire alarm. It felt so good... no woman had ever known to take him like this. That tongue seemed to know where every single sensitive spot was, it explored them all, then came back for more.

Jim's hands finally fell to the floor, and clenched upon the blanket in desperation. "Blair...please...oh'm..." And he came in fiery pulses, waves that rushed over him and receded, sending all that he was out of his body and into Blair's devouring mouth. Then he collapsed back, trembling, spent, stars shooting before his eyes.

A soft weight settled down on his chest, and a familiar chuckle sounded in his ears.

"Still with me, man?"

"Yeh...yeh..." he rasped through a dry throat. "I'm here."

"Good. Cause, I think you owe me one." Blair nuzzled the side of his throat, unashamedly pressing his own rampant cock against Jim's belly. It rubbed over the hard, muscled flesh, and Blair's voice tilted down into a growl of need.

Uncertain yet certain, both and neither, Jim began to rock his hips upwards against Blair, seeking to match his partner's rhythm.

"Oh yes, that...oh yeh..." Blair urged him on. Jim wrapped his arms securely around the smaller body pressed so close to his, matching his motions to Blair's. The friction turned to slick purchase as sweat coated their skin. Blair moaned, shifting, trying to gain more and more contact, until finally, Jim tilted them both over to the side. Blair grasped for him, nearly mindless now as he reached desperately for climax, and Jim cuddled him against his side, one powerful arm cradling Blair's waist. The other large hand slid between their bodies and closed, tentatively at first, then with more confidence, around Blair's straining cock.

"Oh...JIM!" Blair sobbed aloud, his hips jerking helplessly into the hand that held him. Jim tightened his grip, began to pump his hand against Blair's movements, his confidence building as Blair reacted, clinging to him as the rise to ecstasy began to peak. Jim felt it all, the pace of Blair's pulse, the tension building in his muscles, the smell of flesh, the seepage of fluid that slicked the rub of fingers over engorged flesh. He knew when the moment peaked, Blair's cries only an accompaniment to the physical signals that flooded them both.

Jim tightened his grip on Blair, holding him snugly as the smaller man convulsed, thick fluid spurting over Jim's hand, both their abdomens, dampening the blanket beneath them even more. He drew one last contraction from Blair with a twist of his fingers, then he released him, moving to draw Blair up across his chest. Blair snuggled in close, his arms reaching out instinctively to return the embrace. Together they wallowed in sleepy satiation, satisfaction oozing out of both men's pores.

They slept.

Jim woke to find Blair gazing solemnly down at him. Jim stared up at him for a moment, then his eyes blinked in silent inquiry.

"How're you doing?" Blair asked, a mixture of hope and uncertainty coloring his voice.

Jim realized he ought to feel strange - ought to be disturbed by this. He'd never even *thought* of having sex with another man before. And yet, all he felt was a warm, slightly hazy, utterly feral sense of satisfaction. He felt *good.* And the fact that it was the very masculine Blair in his arms instead of Kate or another woman didn't seem to matter at all. Perhaps the fact that it *was* Blair made the difference. Jim didn't know. At the moment, he didn't care.

"I feel fine," he announced, breaking out into a wide grin. That expression was all Blair needed to respond in kind. They matched inane smiles for a moment, then Blair leaned down to kiss Jim's chin.

"Guess we got to try sexual stimulation after all."

"Yeh," Jim chuckled, unable to be annoyed when he felt this good. Especially when another thought occurred. "And more than that - I didn't zone out this time!" he said triumphantly.

"So I noticed." Blair responded wryly, but they both grinned, sharing a moment of mutual appreciation. Then Jim frowned. "Still, it might happen again."

"Maybe," Blair replied. "But if you controlled it once, you ought to be able to do so again. With some practice of course."

Jim's smile blazed forth; his azure eyes sparkled. "Well, then we'd better get to it, hadn't we." Reaching down he drew Blair's mouth to his. He was met with equal hunger, satisfaction humming in both of their veins. Blair moaned his frustration when Jim paused, pulling back just far enough to corner Blair's eyes with his own.

"No other men besides me, understood?"

Blair blinked at him, taken by surprise, then daylight dawned in his smile.

"Yeh, sure, but the same goes for you too."

"Me?" It was Jim's turn to be stunned. He'd never considered the idea. He grimaced, but before he could speak, Blair collapsed into laughter. Jim groaned aloud, then wrapped his partner up in a massive bearhug.

"God, you drive me crazy sometimes!"

Blair's breath warmed Jim's chest as he replied.

"What else is a Guide for?"

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