The first time Jim Ellison saw Blair Sandburg, he was dancing naked, except for a pair of white socks stuffed with money, on a bar top in the most notorious gay nightclub in Cascade. Of course, Jim could only see him from the knees up at first, but that view was more than enough to form a lasting impression.
He had gone to the club on official business - there'd been multiple complaints about the raucous behaviour of its patrons when they left the premises, and the Vice Squad had reluctantly agreed to investigate. Drugs might have been involved, and that was enough of an excuse for the proverbial hot potato to be dropped in their lap.
It was a touchy issue - police relations with the gay community had been strained for a while, after Major Crimes had taken far too long to catch a serial killer preying on gay men, and nobody wanted to come down too hard on gay owned businesses right now. Only the suspicion that some members of the gay community were taking full advantage of that reluctance had convinced Jim's boss to send in one man to reconnoitre. It was typical of his bad luck that that man had turned out to be Jim.
It seemed like there was some kind of competition going on. The music was deafening and, Jim realised belatedly, there were two naked young men on that bar top. One was tall and well-built with the kind of Brad Pitt/Robert Redford blond good looks that women and gay men alike go crazy over. The other was shorter, compactly built with dark hair adorning his chest and groin. The hair on his head was a mass of shoulder length dark curls and he used it to full effect, jerking his head in time to the techno-trash beat of the music to make the long strands fly about his face. There was something primal about the way he danced - and the grin on his face, the encouraging motions of his hands and gyrations of his hips invited the onlookers to participate. Even Jim felt a pull in his direction. It wasn't surprising, therefore, that the majority of onlookers were clustered at his end of the bar.
Following his instincts, Jim moved unobtrusively in the young man's direction until he was somehow standing directly in front of the bar. Nobody had pegged him for a cop yet, which only went to show how focussed everyone was on the dancer. Now Jim could see the folded bills stuffed into the top of his socks and the way the onlookers were reaching out, touching him - a brief caress on his leg or thigh as he passed.
Someone held up a hundred-dollar bill, waving it to get the dancer's attention, and the young man laughed, though the sound of it was lost in the painfully high noise level. He moved towards the overly generous tipper and crouched in front of him for a moment, thighs splayed, giving him a good look at his cock, swollen and half erect, as the folded bill was added to the dancer's stash. The man reached up to stroke the dancer's cock almost reverently.
Two minutes later, Jim was outside the nightclub, one hand clutching his badge like it was some sort of talisman, the other clutching Blair Sandburg's arm. He wasn't really sure how he'd got out alive. For once the bouncers were forced to hold people inside the club instead of keeping them out. Passersby were staring at the sight of two men, one holding a police badge, the other stark naked, standing on the street in downtown Cascade. A few wolf whistled.
"...Do you understand these rights?" Jim's well memorised recital ground to a halt and he wondered what the hell he was supposed to do next. His memory of the last few minutes was vague at best.
"Yes, I understand them." The words were hissed in a furious undertone. "Would you mind letting me get some clothes?"
"Oh." Jim blinked, disconcerted, but one of the bouncers was holding a blanket out to him and that would have to do. "Here."
With a muttered curse, the young man wrapped himself in the blanket and accompanied Jim, his arm still held in a firm grip, to Jim's car. A few of the folded bills escaped from his socks as his feet stamped angrily across the pavement.
Jim's arrival at the precinct, accompanied by a naked young man wrapped in a blanket, was one of the highlights of the Vice Squad's week. More wolf whistles and catcalls followed their progress, which did little to improve Jim's temper. He knew he'd made a fool of himself and the only thing to do was to brazen it out.
Since it was impossible to keep Sandburg - by now, at least, he knew his name - in the bullpen in his current state of undress, Jim shoved him into one of the interview rooms with a growled warning not to go anywhere.
"Do I look like I'm dressed to run away?" The blue eyes were still glaring angrily. The kid really knew how to keep up a snit.
Not that he didn't have good reason, Jim reflected. Perhaps it was time for a more conciliatory approach. "Can I get you a coffee?"
Sandburg shrugged one shoulder, allowing the blanket to slip a little. He didn't seem very impressed by the offer, but he hadn't refused either.
"You take cream? Sugar?"
"Black. Two sugars " The voice was sulky now, but otherwise calm.
Jim smiled awkwardly. "I'll be right back."
Outside, his boss was waiting for him. "Ellison, what's this I hear about you dragging some half naked stripper in here?"
"Uh... I arrested him for public indecency and lewd behaviour." There was no change in the craggy face and Jim swallowed. "I think we could also get him on soliciting and..."
"Take his details, give him a warning and release him."
"Get him outa here, Ellison! That is not what I sent you to that nightclub to do, all right?"
Jim sighed, accepting defeat. "Yes, Sir."
That ought to have been the end of it. Jim gave the kid a coffee, found the clothes that the nightclub's manager had sent round to the precinct and let him go. He never expected to see Sandburg again. But a few nights later, he was in the downtown area and just happened to be passing what he now thought of as Sandburg's nightclub. He went in.
It wasn't a habit of Jim's to go to gay strip joints. In fact he'd only ever been inside them on official police business, and it wasn't the kind of place he enjoyed being in. The music was too loud, there were too many smells - even the more pleasant ones grated on his nerves when there were so many of them - and the cigarette smoke made him want to puke.
Tonight he'd arrived earlier and the dancing had just started. Sandburg was still dressed. Nothing fancy, just a pair of faded jeans unbuttoned most of the way and a white shirt hanging open to reveal all that chest hair. His competition tonight was a slender dark haired boy who looked barely legal. No contest, in Jim's opinion, which most of the bar crowd seemed to share.
Everything was fine until Blair's G-string hit the bar's surface.
"Again?" This time his boss was beyond angry. Jim didn't often see this calm, controlled facade, and it was distinctly unnerving. "What did I tell you, Ellison?"
"I know, Sir, but this time he was jerking himself off in public." Well, maybe that was a slight exaggeration, but Jim could still feel the shock that had ripped through him when Sandburg had started touching himself in front of the approving crowd. He'd seen the way the men had been eyeing the kid with open lust on their faces and something had snapped. "I think we could even add inciting a riot."
"Are you sure it was the kid who incited the riot?" A glance around the bullpen invited Jim to view the dozen or more patrons of the nightclub, some sporting bruises and cuts, all of them extremely dishevelled, who were currently being processed. "Where's the stripper?"
"Interview room four, Sir." This time Jim had allowed Sandburg to dress before arresting him, but he wanted to keep him well away from his erstwhile admirers.<br> <br>
"All right. Charge him with public indecency and get him out of here. And, Ellison? Don't ever go back to that nightclub again. Understand?"
"Understood, Sir." Jim went in search of coffee. Sandburg was really pissed this time and Jim wasn't sure that he wanted to face the kid without a peace offering of some kind.
It didn't do him a lot of good. The moment he entered the interview room, Sandburg stopped his agitated pacing and whirled round to face him, outrage radiating from every pore of his body. "What is the matter with you, man? Is this some kind of one man crusade against gay Jewish strippers?"
"Hey, Chief, take it easy." Jim smiled placatingly. "I'm just doing my job, okay?"
"Your..." Sandburg drew himself up to his full five foot eight inches and bounced on the balls of his feet as though he was about to explode. "Well why don't you do your job somewhere else, and let me do my job in peace?"
Jim put the coffee mugs on the table and gestured to a chair. "Let's just sit down and get this over with, shall we?"
"What?" Sandburg looked like he'd been poleaxed. "You're charging me?"
"Lewd behaviour. You'll get a fine and a warning." Jim shrugged. "No big deal."
"Yes, it's a big deal." Blair advanced on him threateningly and Jim took a step backwards. "I'm a grad student, dammit! You think I want this on my public record when I apply for teaching positions? I wasn't hurting anyone. Why can't you just leave it alone?"
"I'm sorry, Chief. I can't do that." Jim shook his head disbelievingly. It hadn't occurred to him that Sandburg might have a day job. "This is your second arrest on the same charge, and..." he took another step backwards as Sandburg's eyes flashed angrily.
"You know, you are really starting to tick me off!" Sandburg followed his retreat, step for step. "At first I thought this was some kind of homophobic macho bullshit, but now I'm starting to wonder..."
"I'm not..." Jim came up against the wall. With Sandburg less than a foot away from him there was nowhere to go.
"No, I don't think you are." Sandburg smiled, but it wasn't a pleasant sight at all. "Why me, Detective? Do you want me? Is that what it is?"
Sandburg took another step closer. Jim could feel the heat of his body. "Do you think about me when you're doing it with your wife, Detective?"
Ouch. It wasn't so long since he'd got his divorce. "I'm not married."
"Now, why doesn't that surprise me?" Sandburg was right up against him now. "You have a girlfriend? No? So when you jerk off, what do you think about, big guy?"
"I don't..." Jim was pinned to the wall by Sandburg's body. He could feel the thick arousal pressing against his thigh, smell it in the air between them.
Sandburg's eyes held him motionless. "So, how about it? I'll give you whatever you want, and then you get out of my life, big guy." He grabbed at Jim's crotch and squeezed it suggestively.
A jolt of hunger exploded outwards from Jim's groin, sending him reeling across the room. Nothing mattered in that instant except the need to get away from his tormentor. It took several seconds for Jim to realise that Sandburg was lying face down on the floor beside the table, unconscious.
He woke in the ambulance on the way to the hospital and lay blinking up at Jim uncomprehendingly. "What happened?"
"You, uh, fell." Jim smiled reassuringly. "You hit your head on the table."
"You pushed me!" Blair struggled to sit up and Jim restrained him with one hand on his chest. The medic shifted uneasily in his seat beside Jim. "Dammit, Ellison..."
"You were getting a little personal there, Chief." Jim patted his chest lightly, trying to convey the impression that it was all Sandburg's fault but he was willing to forgive and forget. If he couldn't convince the kid not to bring charges, he was going to be in deep shit. "I didn't mean to push you away that hard. Maybe you tripped."
Sandburg glowered at him, in no way taken in, and closed his eyes. He didn't speak again until the doctor had examined him at the hospital.
"I'm not staying overnight." Sandburg sat up and pressed his hands to his head. It must be aching something fierce, but he'd refused any medication, and since the doctor suspected a mild concussion, he hadn't been pressed.
"Blair, it's just for observation." Dr Waterson glanced nervously at Jim, who was leaning against the wall with his arms crossed, glowering at him. Five minutes with the kid and they were already on a first names basis. "We'll release you in the morning."
"No." Sandburg wriggled around, dropping his legs over the side of the gurney and sat, swaying precariously.
Instantly, Jim was at his side, ousting the doctor. "I'll take you home."
"He shouldn't be alone."
"So, I'll stay with him." Jim shrugged off the doctor's protest. "I was a medic in the army. I know what to look out for."
"Now, wait just a minute." Sandburg seemed to have got his balance, because he glared up at Jim, pulling his arm free of Jim's supporting grip. "No way am I letting you into my home. You're practically stalking me as it is."<br> <br>
"All right. You can stay at my place." Jim smothered a grin at the astounded expression on Sandburg's face. "It's either that or stay here. The doctor's right. You shouldn't be alone tonight."
Interpreting Sandburg's silence as assent, Waterson turned his attention to Jim. "You'll check on him every two hours?"
"Sure. I know the drill." Jim hoisted Sandburg to his feet and held him while he got his balance again. "Come on, kid. It's time you were in bed."
Sandburg dozed off in the cab on the way home and still wasn't really compos mentis when they got into the loft. Jim half carried him upstairs and laid him out on the bed without too much trouble, but then the kid woke up again.
"Hey, this is nice." He rolled his head on the pillow, looking around the room.
"Thanks." Jim finished unlacing Sandburg's sneakers and pulled them off. "Just lie still will you?" He got to work on the jeans and pulled them off. Sandburg wasn't wearing any underwear. The G-string had been lost in the general free-for-all after Jim had arrested him. Jim pulled the covers over him and folded away his clothes.
"Hey. Is this your bed?" Sandburg lifted his head suddenly, and winced. "I am not sleeping with you, man."
Jim gently pushed him back into the pillows. "Relax, Sandburg. I'll be staying awake, remember? I'll bring a chair up."
"Oh, yeah." He closed his eyes and almost immediately began to snore quietly.<br> <br>
Jim got himself settled as comfortably as he could manage. At least he had the ability to wake whenever he needed to and wouldn't have to stay awake the whole time, but it was still going to be a long night.
By morning the sound of Sandburg's quiet snores and snorts were getting on Jim's nerves. He woke his patient at six o'clock for another check up and decided that he was out of danger.
"Does that mean I can sleep now?" Even with a bump the size of an egg on his forehead, and the worst case of bed hair Jim had ever seen, Sandburg still managed to look no worse than adorably rumpled.
"Yeah." Jim stood and stretched. "I'm going to sleep on the couch. See you later."
He had his foot on the top stair when a quiet sigh stopped him. "You don't have to do that. It's your bed, isn't it?"
Jim hesitated. "And you need to sleep."
"There's room enough." Sandburg yawned. "I'm not going to jump you, man."
"I thought you were worried it'd be the other way round." Jim pulled off his sweater and unzipped his pants, too weary to care. By the time he was undressed, Sandburg was snoring again. He slipped under the covers and was asleep the moment he closed his eyes.
Jim had always been an intensely private man. It had cost him his marriage, along with several other significant relationships; still, he'd never really considered trying to change. Sharing his bed had always been a burden to him. Sure, he could do it - it didn't give a woman a very good impression if he excused himself immediately after sex, and Carolyn would certainly have been upset at the suggestion that they have separate rooms - but it had never felt right, until now. Waking a few hours after crawling into bed with Blair Sandburg was one of the most comfortable, comforting things he'd ever done in his life.
He still couldn't really identify why he was reacting this way to the younger man. Physical attraction, he ruled out immediately, even after that astonishing jolt of desire he'd felt when the kid had groped him. It couldn't be his personality, either. About the only thing that Jim knew about him was that he enjoyed dancing naked in front of strangers and had quite a temper.
Abandoning his thoughts for the moment, Jim rolled on his side to face his still sleeping companion and was hit by a flood of sensory input so strong he almost blanked out. It shocked him even more than Sandburg's clumsy attempt to seduce him. He hadn't felt that since he'd left Peru. Since he'd stopped being Enqueri and become Jim Ellison again.
It took a conscious effort to reach out and touch the younger man. Jim's last coherent thought was that if Sandburg woke, he was likely to end up being charged with indecent assault at the very least. The kid already thought Jim was stalking him. Then he touched a bare shoulder and was lost in a whirlpool of sensation.
He could feel the whoosh of blood through Sandburg's veins, could hear it, almost taste the metallic tang of it in the air. He could feel the smooth surface of Sandburg's skin, the tiny irregularities where hair follicles grew, too fine to be visible to ordinary human sight, but not to Jim's. God, the scents... hospital cleaners, the antiseptic they'd dabbed on the broken skin of Blair's forehead, and underneath it sweat, soap, shampoo, a dizzying combination of smells that he remembered from the nightclub and, burrowing beneath it all, filtering out the distractions, was the essential smell of Blair Sandburg. It was like finding pure gold beneath a pile of dung.
When he reached out, it was Enqueri, not Jim Ellison, who took the sleeping man into his arms. Enqueri, who nuzzled the dark fall of hair, and buried his face in the silky strands. Sandburg stirred sleepily, only half awake, but responding instinctively to the gentle touch with a quiet murmur.
"Blair." The name rose easily to Enqueri's lips. He brushed aside the long hair and inhaled the scent captured beneath it, strong and earthy and as pure a distillation of Blair's essence as was humanly possible to achieve. "You smell so good." He swiped his tongue carefully across the exposed nape. "You taste good."
There was a moment's panicked fluttering in the pulse beneath Blair's skin, then the warm body relaxed in his arms. "Are you okay?"
It seemed a strange question, but Enqueri didn't bother to consider it for long. "Warm. You're so warm." His fingers strayed down Blair's smooth back.
A soft chuckle sounded like music in his ears. "Man, this is wild. Do that thing again with your tongue."
"This?" He traced the fine curves of Blair's ear and sucked the lobe. "Is it good?"
"Very good." Blair's hands were busy now, playing with his nipples. Too rough, too intense, but he said nothing. He needed Blair to touch him and even pain would be better than the nothingness Blair had woken him from. "What do you want to do?"
The enormity of what he wanted washed over Enqueri. He wanted everything Blair was. He wanted to lose himself in Blair and never have to come out again. Blair was his destiny, his salvation. "I want to touch you, taste you, smell you."
"Sounds like a plan." Blair moved closer, pressing against his chest. He could feel each individual hair prickle against his skin. "How about sex? Does that come into your plans at all?"
"Of course." Enqueri could already feel the heightened rush of blood to Blair's penis, and his own. He could smell the individual scents of their arousal, oddly compatible, mingling to make a perfect whole. "Not yet. It's not time yet."
"Okay..." There was a distinct hesitation. Enqueri could taste the puzzlement on Blair's skin. "Well, this is fine."
"Enough talking." Enqueri pressed his mouth to Blair's and gently parted the soft lips with his tongue. Inside was yet another treasure trove of flavours and textures. He could spend a lifetime just exploring Blair's mouth. His hands continued their mapping of Blair's body, learning every contour, feeling the bone and sinew and muscle beneath.
It was a long time before he broke the kiss. Blair was moaning softly, incoherent even to Enqueri's sensitive hearing, but he knew the sound of pleasure when he heard it. Now it was time to explore the rest of his body. He started with the scent in the hollow of Blair's throat, where a tiny film of sweat gathered, and followed the trail from there.
Blair gurgled in surprise, his body arching. "Damn, I never had anybody take an interest in my 'pits before."
"Don't you like it?" Enqueri stopped immediately. Hurting Blair was just... unthinkable.
"Oh, I like it." Blair drew his head down again.
Under the covers, the Blair-scent was so much stronger. So were all the others, but Enqueri had learnt the Blair-scent now and it was easier to filter out the rest. Incacha had taught him how to do that. Incacha had taught him so many things, some of which had made no sense to him at the time. Now that he had Blair, everything made sense.
He explored one nipple and then the other, tugging at them with his lips, teasing them with his tongue, before abandoning them to move lower. The chest hair rasped interestingly against his tongue, the longer hairs clinging lightly to his lips as he moved. A sharper scent tempted his nostrils and Enqueri followed it to the shallow dip of Blair's navel.
"Oh, man that tickles." A soft, gasping giggle reached Enqueri through the layers of bedding. He decided that it didn't require a response, especially now, when everything was getting so very interesting.
Because Blair seemed to be expecting it, he spent some time investigating the stiffened shaft of his penis. So hot, it was... with the rush of blood close to the surface, singing to him. Enqueri bathed its heat lovingly with his tongue, mingling their essences again before closing his lips around the slick wetness of the tip. The semen tasted different from the other Blair-tastes, but still recognisably Blair. Judging by his strangled gasps, Blair was enjoying this part more than most, and Enqueri needed no other excuse to linger there. Oh, but he tasted good... so very good.
The hot gush of semen in his mouth almost overwhelmed Enqueri with the intensity of flavours, though the bland slipperiness of its texture eased its passage down his throat. Blair groaned weakly, relaxing into a boneless sprawl and Enqueri smiled in quiet satisfaction. It would make the rest of this much easier. He turned his head and probed the soft, moist crease at the top of Blair's thigh with his tongue. Here it was different again from the taste of Blair's throat - sweatier and musky with a stronger tang of maleness. Beautiful.
He rested his cheek against the coarse hairs of Blair's belly for a moment, then pressed his lips to the sweaty skin and sucked, just hard enough to leave a mark. His mark, on his Guide. Something shifted deep inside him at the thought, and an urgency came over him that hadn't been there before. He shifted up onto his knees and flipped the Guide over.
The Sentinel looked down in satisfaction at the smooth curves of the Guide's back, the rounded buttocks and sturdy thighs and was pleased with what he saw. He lowered his face until it was almost touching the skin and inhaled deeply, filling his nose with the Guide's scent. He licked from the base of the spine up to the valley between the shoulder blades in one long swoop. He listened to the steady beating of the Guide's heart. It was strong and clear, and just a little too fast. Good. He laid his hands lightly on the Guide's buttocks and kneaded the firm muscle, moving up over his back, feeling how the muscles lay over his bones.
Everything was perfect. The Sentinel had learned his Guide, filled his senses with him; now the need shifted from Learning to Claiming. The urge to do so was an insistent throb, echoing from his penis into his chest and his head, drowning out almost everything. Only one thing was stopping him from claiming his Guide immediately. The Guide must be protected, even if it meant protecting him from the Sentinel.
He hesitated a moment, torn between conflicting needs, then the answer came to him. He parted the Guide's thighs and knelt between them. His penis ached so desperately it was difficult to move, but he managed it. He bent over and brushed his tongue lightly over the shadowy cleft between the Guide's buttocks, sliding a little deeper with each pass.
Unintelligible noises came from the Guide, and his hips lifted encouragingly. His thighs parted a little more. The earthy musk increased until the Sentinel was in danger of knowing nothing else. He pulled cautiously back from the brink. Nothing must prevent him from claiming his Guide. He probed delicately at the resilient little mound of flesh, feeling it tremble and relax under his ministrations until the Guide was completely limp and ready to be claimed.
Now, it was time. The Sentinel leaned over his Guide, taking his penis in one hand to ease it into the Guide's opening. It was all so easy, the way the claiming of a Guide should be. He sheathed his penis in the body of his Guide and lay atop him, covering him with his body. Claim the Guide. Protect the Guide. These comprised the only reality he understood.
Soon, he realised, something was wrong. He pushed himself away from the Guide, though it violated all his instincts to do it, but there was no sign of distress from the Guide. He shifted restlessly, trying to withdraw, trying to go deeper. Something didn't feel right. The angles of their bodies were all wrong. He grabbed a pillow and urged the Guide to lift his hips a little.
That was better. They could both move easily now, and the Guide was lunging back eagerly onto his penis. The sensation of his Guide's body enclosing him, the sweet friction on his penis was almost more than he could tolerate. He began to thrust, penetrating deep into his Guide. Claim the Guide - it was all his mind could encompass, repeating endlessly.
For a moment everything faded to darkness and he smelt not the Guide, but the lush scent of the rainforest. In the distance the scream of a jaguar sent an unearthly stillness flowing over the jungle. Not even the insects made a sound. The jaguar screamed again, in triumph, and Jim was back in his body, sprawled across Blair's back, his chest heaving, his cock buried to the hilt in Blair's ass. He thought he heard a wolf howl.
It took some time to disentangle himself from Blair. After all, it wasn't as if he'd ever done this before. Finally Jim managed it and collapsed beside the younger man. Blair was still semi-comatose and simply snuggled against his chest with a quiet, contented sound. Jim buried his face against the tangled curls, not yet ready to deal with what had just happened between them.
Predictably - this was his life, after all - his brain refused to cooperate, replaying the events of the last half-hour over and over behind his closed eyes. After about the third replay, Jim's eyes snapped open. He'd just realised that he'd gone bareback with a guy who - shit! - danced naked in a gay strip club, and that, when he'd allowed Enqueri to come to the fore, he'd been speaking Quechua. And Blair had answered him in the same language.
But first things first... "Uh, Sandburg? I though maybe you should know... I have regular HIV tests - police procedure - and last one came up clear. About six weeks ago."
Sandburg's eyes snapped open. "Oh! Uh yeah, me too. Just had mine a couple of weeks back. I'm clean."
"Good." Relief flooded his veins. How could he have been so stupid? He avoided meeting the smoky blue gaze of his... Jesus H Christ! Sandburg was his Guide? Sandburg?
"Hey Jim, are you okay?" Sandburg shook his arm. "Jim? You're freaking me out, man!" There was a long pause. "Your name is Jim, isn't it? I thought I heard someone call you that."
"Yes, it's Jim!" He regretted snapping at the kid the moment he saw the hurt withdrawal in those blue eyes. "Sorry. I just..." he sat up and pushed the bedding aside. "I'm going to go have a shower. Then I'll make breakfast. We need to talk."
Blair was waiting for him when he came out of the bathroom. The coffee was brewing and just the scent of it helped to dispel some of his tension. The shower had got most of the smell of Blair off him, but it hadn't done anything for his state of mind, which was shakier than it had been in a long time.
The kid was all bright-eyed and eager, and obviously busting a gut to tell him something. Jim repressed a sigh, pinched the bridge of his nose for a moment, though it never seemed to help much, and decided to let the kid get it out of his system. Until he started listening to what Blair was actually saying...
"...so I understand, Jim, really I do. I'm not gonna make any demands or anything like that. You can just take your time, you know, to process." Blair was smiling up at him all big-eyed eagerness. Jim wondered forlornly if he was always like this first thing in the morning.
"Let's get something clear, Chief. I am not gay." Jim watched irritably as scepticism chased away the eagerness, only to be replaced with a soothing, 'let's-just-humour-the-big-lug' expression.
"Jim, I know it takes a bit of adjusting to. I mean you're what... thirty-five, thirty-six?" Blair smiled calmly. "You've never slept with a guy before. But, man, I have to tell you, you're a natural. That was the most incredible sex I've ever had in my life!" Enthusiasm came bubbling up again. Blair was fairly vibrating with energy. "So, if you feel more comfortable identifying as Bi, well, that's okay. Whatever you want, man."
Something inside him snapped. No way was this neo-hippie punk going to tell him what his sexual orientation was. Jim grabbed the front of Blair's shirt and pushed him up against the wall so that their faces were roughly the same height. The fact that this meant Blair's feet must be dangling several inches off the ground was of minor consideration right now.
"Listen to what I'm saying, Sandburg. I am not gay. Sexual orientation is all about which gender you're attracted to. Right?"
"Right." Blair nodded vigorously. He patted Jim's shoulder hopefully. "If you could just put me down?"
"I am not attracted to men. Never have been, never will be, okay?" Jim pushed his face into Blair's. "I'm not even attracted to you. I just need to..." he stopped, not really able to put into words all the emotions and instincts and urges swirling around his mind and body. And, possibly, his soul. "I just need you."
He could see his own confusion mirrored in Blair's face. He lowered the kid to floor level and released him, turning away. Blair stopped him with a touch on his shoulder. "Okay. Why don't we talk about it?"
"I don't know if I can..." he looked into Blair's open, eager face. Blair was his Guide. If this worked it would be... beyond anything he could imagine, probably. If it failed... he didn't want to think about what would happen. "All right. How about we have breakfast? We can talk while we eat."
Blair's blueberry pancakes were very good. Jim poured himself a glass of OJ and prepared to dig in. He'd already finished one mug of coffee and the second was sitting by his plate. Blair was watching him.
"'S good." Jim smiled warily round a forkful of pancake and syrup. "Thanks."
"You're welcome, man." Blair's eyes never wavered from his face.
"Okay, I'll talk. I promise." Jim sighed. "There's something I want to ask you first. Before, when we were... in bed..."
"Did you... was I speaking in another language?"
"Quechua." Blair's eyes lit up. "Yeah it was the wildest thing. Didn't you know you were doing it?"
"No." Jim shook his head absently. "Blair, you answered me. How in hell do you know Quechua?"
"You never asked me what I studied." Blair smiled and waited, but Jim remained silent. "Anthropology, Jim!" He grinned broadly. "Specialising in tribal cultures. I spent a summer in Brazil. How about you?"
"Peru. I was in the army. I spent eighteen months with the Chopec." Well, that explained Blair's knowledge of Quechua, and maybe, if Blair was an anthropologist, he might be able to tell Blair the truth without getting locked away in a psych ward. "Have you ever heard of Sentinels?"
Blair swallowed hurriedly and shook his head. "What are they?"
Damn. Jim chewed for a moment, trying to think of some way to make it sound convincing. "They have special abilities - they can see better, hear better - all their senses are more developed; far more than normal people. The tribe I lived with, their shaman knew about them. He said I was one of them."
"Are you? I mean... can you?" Blair stared at him in excitement. At least that was better than disbelief. "Wait... hang on a minute..." Blair held up a hand. "There was something I came across. An old text." He frowned as he popped another piece of pancake into his mouth and chewed. "Sir Richard Burton! The explorer, not the actor. But nobody believed it. It's almost forgotten."
"Have you read it?" Jim tried not to look too pathetically hopeful. This was better luck than he had any right to hope for. Of course, Incacha would say it wasn't a matter of luck at all.
"Skimmed through it." Blair stared at Jim assessingly. "How enhanced are your senses?"
Now it was time to come clean. Jim swallowed a mouthful of coffee. "Very. When I got back from Peru I couldn't handle it. I had to shut down as much as I could, otherwise I would have gone crazy. Sometimes, if I get too focussed on something, I blank out until something pulls me out of it." He rubbed his hand over his hair. "That's not exactly a safe thing to do when you're a cop."
"I guess not." The distracted expression on Blair's face gave way to scepticism. "But, Jim, what has this got to do with... with us?"
This was the bit that was likely to get him locked up, Jim thought ruefully. "Incacha - the shaman - told me that every Sentinel had a Guide. Someone who would help him with his senses, stop him from zoning out. He said the Sentinel and Guide shared a... a kind of a bond."
Blair obviously hadn't got it yet. "Yeah? And?"
"I think you're my Guide." Jim got it out as quickly as possible and then waited for Blair to laugh, or flip, or something.
"Yeah?" Blair looked pleased. "Cool."
He really hadn't got it, Jim realised. "Sentinels have a... an instinct to protect their Guides."
Blair nodded. "That makes sense. The Guide protects the Sentinel from zoning, so the Sentinel needs him."
Jim could feel the muscles jumping in his jaw with the effort of remaining calm. "Incacha told me I'd find my Guide in the great city, but you know, somehow, I always thought that my Guide would be a woman. Actually, I'd pretty much decided he'd got it wrong. It's been a long time."
Blair's fork dropped to the plate with a clatter. "You mean... that... that... what we did upstairs... it was about me being a Guide?"
He wasn't looked so relaxed about it now. Jim suppressed a surge of petty satisfaction at the thought. "My Guide, Chief." It came out low and possessive, like an animal growling to warn others away from its territory. Even he was startled by it. Blair looked shell-shocked.
"You are crazy." Blair pushed away from the table. "I'm getting outta here."
Before he could take more than a couple of steps, Jim was blocking his way. "Please, Blair. You have to listen to me."
"No, I don't." Blair tried to go around him. Jim blocked him again. "How do I know any of this is true anyway?"
"I can prove it to you." Jim spoke as calmly, and with as much certainty as he could inject into a voice gone hoarse with fear. He could feel the fragile bond they'd established stretching to breaking point. What would happen if it snapped he had no idea, and never wanted to find out. "Give me a chance, here."
"Even if it's true, that doesn't mean I have to..."
Jim removed the hand he'd placed over Blair's mouth. "I understand. Please."
Slowly, hesitatingly, Jim drew his Guide into his arms and held him. He could feel the agitated thudding of Blair's heart even with his senses dialled down as far as they would go. He could also feel the bond, delicate and tender as a new leaf, drawing strength from their physical closeness. A sigh escaped him and he reluctantly released Blair. "Why don't you go take a shower? God knows you need one."
"If that's an example of Sentinel abilities, it's not a very convincing one, man." Blair smiled shakily. "I stink."
Jim stepped back, shaking his head. "Go take a shower. After that, you can set me any test you like."
Showered and smelling clean and fresh, Blair perched on the couch looking at Jim curiously. Jim returned the look with equal curiosity. If this went well, he was going to be spending the rest of his life in close contact with this strange, irrepressible young man. It was a prospect that he found both compelling and daunting.
Blair was wearing one of Jim's T-shirts and an old pair of his sweatpants. The T-shirt was only slightly too big, since Jim liked to wear them fairly tight, but the sweatpants were rolled up at the ankles and slung precariously low on Blair's hips. His hair was no more than slightly damp now and curled wildly about his face until, with an impatient exclamation, Blair pulled it all into a bunch at the nape of his neck and looked appealingly at Jim.
With his hair pulled back he looked quite different. Jim went in search of something to use and found an old leather bootlace that had broken and never been thrown out. It was long enough to serve as a hair tie.
"Thanks, man." Blair tied his hair back with brisk efficiency and then sat in a relaxed posture, almost as though he was going to meditate. He took a deep breath in and slowly released it. "Okay. Jim, let's start at the beginning. You've got these abilities but you can't use them because you might zone."
Blair raised an eyebrow. "So what can you do? I mean, what would you consider an appropriate test?"
"We don't need a test." Jim grinned. "When you were in the shower you jerked off. I could hear your heart rate increase and I could smell the pheromones." Blair opened his mouth to speak, but Jim forestalled him. "And your semen, too. And you said a few uncomplimentary things about me - something about cavemen and throwbacks to pre-civilised behaviour. I'll forgive you for that. I guess it was pretty unnerving to have all that thrown at you at once."
To give him credit, Blair recovered fast. His jaw snapped shut and his eyes gleamed with interest. "Wow! That's incredible! Jim, if that's an example of what you can do with your senses dialled down..." He closed his eyes and took another deep breath. "Okay, so how do I... does the Guide factor into this?"
"The Guide helps me control my senses." Jim thought about it for a moment. Incacha had helped him control his senses, but hadn't been his Guide. He tried to recall what Incacha had told him about it, but the details were vague. "It's more than that. There's a bond between Sentinel and Guide that grounds the Sentinel, it's not simply a matter of training. The bond is... is spiritual, I suppose you'd say. I felt it the first time I saw you."
"Ri-ight..." Blair blinked. "And that's why you arrested me? I gotta say, Jim, that wasn't exactly the greatest way to get my attention. Are you gonna keep on arresting me?"
Jim shook his head, unable to repress a smile. He'd been thinking about a lot of things while Blair had been showering, and thought he knew what had been going on. "No. That happened because I was acting purely on instinct. I didn't understand what was happening and I interpreted the other men's interest in you as a threat."
"So you protected me by arresting me." Amazingly, Blair seemed to accept that as a viable explanation. "I can't say I'm too thrilled, but I guess I understand. So, what do you want from me?"
This was going to be the hard part. "I need you to be with me. I assume you're dancing at that nightclub because you need the money. You can live here rent free."
"As simple as that?" Blair smiled. "What about this 'bond' thing?"
Oh, that... Jim felt his heart plummet. How could he explain something he didn't really understand himself? "The bond thing?"
"Was that what the sex was about?" Blair frowned, thinking it through as he talked. "You say you're straight, but man, the evidence... but if the bond requires physical closeness... and you had that weird reaction in the nightclub..."
"When I touch you I can feel it." Jim offered the information hesitantly. It felt too intimate, too much like exposing himself to a stranger. "Even when I don't touch you I can feel something... all I know is that before... I needed to... to..."
"Bond?" Blair was looking dazed. "Mate?"
"Claim you." Jim avoided looking at Blair. Talk about throwbacks. It was a miracle Blair didn't run out of the loft screaming. "Will you do it? Move in?" He nodded towards the small room beneath his. "You can have your own space. There's a bed and a desk through there. We can get whatever else you need."
"Jim... I don't know. This is pretty overwhelming." Blair stood and stretched, his eyes never leaving Jim's face. Finally, he shrugged. "All right. I can stand saving the money I pay on rent. I won't promise to stay, though. I'll see how it works out, okay?"
"Okay." Jim smiled cautiously, trying to hide his relief. He didn't want to scare the kid off by coming on too strong. "When can you move in?"
"Today. Tomorrow." Blair shrugged, looking at Jim curiously.
He already knew that look. He'd seen it in the interview room right before Blair had grabbed his crotch. "What?"
"This bond thing..." Blair smiled a little. "Was it just a one time thing? 'Cause I figure if this works out we could be together a long time, and if you have this problem with me and other guys... I mean, I'm just not cut out for celibacy, man."
Jim repressed a snarl with difficulty. He'd have to work on that instinctive reaction. "If you're asking about sex..." he shook his head incredulously, as much at himself as at Blair. "Why don't you just get your ass upstairs?"
Blair grinned delightedly and dived for the stairway. Halfway up, he stopped and looked back at Jim over his shoulder. "That's my 'pert and adorable ass' to you, Sentinel."
two weeks later:
Everybody was clustered around a desk when Blair sidled cautiously into the bullpen. A few of the detectives glanced his way. None of the glances were particularly friendly and Blair hesitated just inside the door. Then he saw that Jim was among them and repressed a sigh of relief.
Since getting permission to ride along with Jim, he'd discovered that if ordinary cops were hard-assed sons of bitches, then the cops in Vice were the hardest-assed sons of the scariest bitches in the whole US of A. It came as no real surprise that they didn't like him, but sometimes the vibes were so bad that his testicles wanted to crawl up inside his body and never come out again.
"Chief, come on over." Jim was holding... oh God, it looked like a kevlar vest. He had to be joking. Naomi Sandburg's little boy never went anywhere that required bullet-proofing. Surely he was joking... "You'll need this. We're raiding a meth lab down in South Town."
"Great." Blair smiled stiffly at Jim and the few cops who hadn't already dispersed. "Can't wait for some action."
He allowed Jim to adjust the clumsy vest and then followed him out to the truck. Not for the first time, he was wishing he'd never let Jim spin him that line about all the wonderful opportunities for a dissertation topic he'd find as a police observer. The hours were lousy, the working conditions were lousy and they all hated him. Of course they hated him. He was a faggot, a Jew-boy, an academic, and a longhaired freak - though a couple of them sported longish hair. Maybe he could forget the longhaired bit.
The silence in the truck stretched out uncomfortably. Blair was too busy thinking about all the possible disasters waiting to happen to keep up his usual non-stop commentary. He realised, belatedly, that Jim was taking frequent glances at him out of the corner of his eye.
"You'll be fine, Chief. Just keep well back." He smiled reassuringly. "I won't really need you until after the fireworks are over. Then I can go over the scene, maybe pick up a few things Forensics might otherwise miss."
"That's great, Jim." Blair smiled absently.
Jim sighed. "Want to tell me what's eating you?"
"It's just... honest to God, Jim, I'm more worried about being shot from behind than by the drug dealers. Why do they hate me so much?" When Jim didn't respond right away, Blair looked over at him. "Is it because I'm gay?"
Jim shook his head. "Mathews is gay."
"Nuh uh." Jim grinned. "Greenberg's the most popular man on the squad."
Blair frowned. "Then it must be because I'm an academic. Geez, I would have thought..."
"Blair, half the squad has college degrees." Jim seemed to be avoiding his eyes. "It could be because I told them..." his voice tailed off into near inaudibility.
"You told them what?"
Jim's knuckles whitened on the steering wheel. "I told them you agreed not to bring charges for assault if I got you ride along privileges. I had to tell them something, Chief!"
"Are you insane?" Blair's jaw dropped briefly. "Are you trying to get me killed? Is that what this is?" He saw with some satisfaction that Jim paled noticeably. "Jim, you've gotta tell them the truth. Or at least..." the truth, he supposed was likely to get them into even more trouble, "you've gotta tell them something better than that."
"All right." Jim pulled over and killed the engine. "I'll think of something. Just not right now, okay? Just stay behind me and you'll be fine."
Blair followed him down a narrow alley and around a corner. He'd already learned to stay quiet whenever Jim got that focussed look he was wearing right now. They came out into an open area of broken concrete and hard packed dirt where a few struggling weeds grew. At the other end of this area was a run down warehouse, rather a lot like the one he'd lived in until two weeks ago.
"Quiet." Jim motioned him over to a pile of rusty machinery. "Stay here."
He was more than happy to do so, especially as he could see some of Jim's colleagues on the other side of the lot, hiding behind a couple of dumpsters with their guns drawn. He caught hold of Jim's sleeve. "What are you going to do?"
Jim grinned. "We're going in. There are another five men on the other side of the warehouse. We just have to wait for their signal."
Unfortunately, that was the exact point at which four young Latinos came out of the alley Jim and Blair had used and spotted the cops. All hell broke loose. Jim, in a move that Blair had already come to expect, pushed him to the ground and darted forward, raising his gun and shouting out a warning to the intruders to drop the weapons they'd produced so readily. All four of them opened fire.
Jim was already diving for cover, but Blair saw his body jerk as the bullets hit and without a conscious decision to do so, threw himself towards Jim. He got there just as Jim hit the ground. The other cops were firing at the Latinos, but Blair was aware only of the need to get Jim to safety. He dragged the larger man behind a couple of wooden crates and cradled his upper body in his arms.
After the first few moments, he'd remembered the kevlar vest Jim was wearing, so he wasn't too surprised when Jim groaned and opened his eyes almost immediately. Besides, he was far too worried about the rapidly spreading bloodstain on Jim's left thigh. He managed to unbuckle his belt one handed and pull it free, then used it to create a makeshift tourniquet to slow the bleeding.
By the time he'd finished, the shooting was over, though Blair could hear shouts from inside the warehouse. When a hand came down on his shoulder he yelped in shock.
Edwards stared down at Blair, concern on his craggy features. "How is he?"
"I've slowed the bleeding a bit. Is there an ambulance on the way?" Blair tightened the belt a little more. Jim was staring to look pretty shocky.
"It'll be here soon." Edwards straightened. "That was quick thinking, Sandburg."
"Thanks." Blair was too preoccupied to notice the approval in the other man's voice. He could feel Jim's weakness, the way his body was growing heavier as he slumped against Blair's shoulder, and now his own body was starting to react. If it hadn't been for Jim's palpable need of him, he would have been starting to fall apart right now.
At the hospital, it was a scene of controlled chaos. Blair had been in an Emergency Room before, but never an Emergency Room where five men were simultaneously being treated for gunshot wounds which they had inflicted on each other. Ordinarily, he would have been fascinated by the interaction of the two opposing sides and the hospital staff, but right now he was too concerned with his Sentinel to notice much.
Jim had already given him as comprehensive an outline of his drug sensitivities as he could. It hadn't initially occurred to Blair that there would be a down side to being a Sentinel, but a serious study of Burton's monograph, and two weeks observation of Jim in action had disabused him of that notion. Food needed to be fairly bland, anything that touched Jim's skin should be either made of natural components or hypoallergenic, and nothing too highly scented was allowed into the loft.
He'd also learned how pain could wreak havoc with a Sentinel's ability to control his senses after a suspect had kneed Jim in the nuts one lively afternoon. Consequently, he stayed by the gurney while Jim's pants were cut away to reveal a deep, nasty looking graze along the inner side of Jim's thigh, and kept one hand on Jim's arm at all times while he maintained a running monologue under his breath.
It was fairly quickly decided that no real damage had been done and that the bleeding had slowed considerably. A large bandage was taped to Jim's thigh and he was wheeled into a waiting area until a bed could be found for him. That was when Jim started demanding to be allowed to go home.
"I'm afraid that's not possible, Detective Ellison." The young resident cast a harried look in Blair's direction, but found no support there. "You've lost a lot of blood. We have to keep you overnight at the very least."
"Listen to him, Jim." Blair tightened his grip on Jim's arm. He didn't want Jim to stay overnight either, but the pallor of Jim's face had him worried. "It's just one night, okay?"
Jim managed a full-on glare that bounced off Blair's Sentinel-armour without noticeably affecting him. It hadn't taken him long to discover that a Guide - or at least Jim's Guide - needed to have pretty strong defences against being browbeaten into allowing his Sentinel to do something stupid in the name of duty. "You'll stay here. I'll pick you up in the morning. I promise."
His 'don't-mess-with-the-Guide' voice had the desired effect. Jim subsided, muttering irritably, and luckily an orderly arrived to announce the availability of a room before any further mutiny occurred. Blair made sure Jim was comfortably tucked in, patted him on the shoulder and got out of there fast.
At two o'clock in the morning Blair rolled over for what felt like the millionth time and punched his pillow viciously. It wasn't the first night that he hadn't slept with Jim - on several occasions he'd come downstairs after they'd had sex so he could sleep alone - but it was the first time that he'd ever slept in the loft alone.
Why it mattered he didn't really know, although he strongly suspected it was one of those Sentinel-Guide things... one of the many Sentinel-Guide things that Jim either hadn't known about or hadn't warned him about. What did matter was that Blair had this nagging sense of being in the wrong place that was stopping him from getting some much needed sleep. He felt as though a super powerful magnet was tugging him in the direction of the hospital, and the more he resisted, the more he felt the need to go.
With a muttered curse, Blair swung his legs out of bed and reached for his jeans. The only way he could be with Jim was to go to the hospital, so it looked like he'd have to go.
When he arrived at the hospital all the lights were dimmed, naturally enough, so Blair had no difficulty in sneaking into Jim's room. He did so as quietly as was humanly possible and slid into a chair with a sigh of relief. It might not be as comfortable as his bed but at least that unnerving tugging sensation had gone.
"Chief?" Jim's hoarse whisper took him by surprise.
Blair went over to the bed and peered down at Jim's face in the dim light from the doorway. "I'm sorry, man. I didn't mean to wake you."
"You didn't." Jim yawned and blinked up at him blearily. "I couldn't sleep either. I felt you as soon as you got to this floor."
"Wow." Blair made a mental note to record that snippet of information in the notebook he was keeping. So it wasn't just him. "I thought I was going crazy. I mean, not being able to sleep just because you're too far away? That's going to put a serious kink in our vacation plans, don't you think?"
Jim smiled distractedly and yawned again. "I think I can sleep now."
"Sure. Don't mind me." Blair patted his arm lightly. "I'll be just over here."
"No. There's room." Jim patted the cover beside him.
"You're kidding, right? Do you have any idea what the nurses would do to me if they found me in bed with you?" Blair shuddered. "Those nurses, they can be nasty, Jim."
"Your choice, kid." Jim moved restlessly, slurring his words. He was obviously close to sleep.<br> <br>
Blair sighed. Even here, in the same room with Jim, he felt the need to be closer, to touch his Sentinel. It was probably the shock of having almost lost him this afternoon. "I'd better take my boots off."
He hitched himself up onto the hospital bed and unlaced his boots. They dropped to the floor with a quiet thud and he swung his legs up onto the bed, settling down against Jim's side with a sigh of relief. It felt good... no, it felt right, to be here. He turned his head into the warm bulk of Jim's shoulder and closed his eyes.
He woke several hours later as the first stirrings of the nurses and other patients signalled the beginning of a new day. Jim was still deeply asleep and looked a lot better than he had when he'd arrived at the hospital the previous day. Blair eased himself carefully away from Jim, but wasn't surprised when his partner woke. The dark lashes lifted to reveal ice blue eyes that were one of Jim's most striking features.
"I'd better go before I get caught out." He leaned forward and brushed his lips lightly over Jim's. They didn't kiss often, but it suddenly seemed like a good idea.
Jim nodded drowsily. "You'll be back at ten?"
"Yeah. Just behave yourself until then." Blair grinned. "Don't go getting shot again, okay?"
Blair was back promptly at ten o'clock with a set of clean clothes for Jim to wear home. He helped his partner dress and settled him in the obligatory wheelchair with as little fuss as dealing with a fiercely independent Sentinel would allow. He'd diplomatically left Jim's truck at home and called a cab instead. Jim didn't like anyone else driving his baby, and Blair had decided that the convenience of using it wasn't worth the aggravation he was sure to get.
The doctors had told him Jim would be on crutches for at least a week. Blair had mentally halved that time and decided it was still worthwhile to make Jim sleep downstairs. To his surprise, Jim didn't argue. The leg must be hurting more than he'd realised. Blair got him settled, with a pitcher of water and painkillers close by.
"I've got a couple of classes to teach." Blair found himself hovering anxiously over Jim. It was decidedly unnerving. "I'll be back around three. Will you be okay till then?"
"Sure." Jim sounded irritated. "I don't need a nursemaid, Sandburg."
"Fine." Obviously Jim wasn't the kind of patient who demanded a lot of attention. That suited Blair down to the ground. "See you later."
Over the next few days, Jim managed to strain their relationship, whatever that was, to breaking point. Blair resolutely refused to consider the possibility that his own behaviour might have contributed to the growing tension between them. Nope. It was all Jim's fault. Jim's fault for being so damned independent. Jim's fault for being so grouchy. Jim's fault that Blair was having nightmares most nights about the shooting...
Okay, so maybe some of it was his fault too. The fact was, it had scared the hell out of Blair to realise how strong the connection was between the two of them. Scared him because he'd already decided - almost decided - to move out of the loft as soon as Jim's leg had healed up a bit more. And if he started getting antsy at being apart from his Sentinel, well he'd just have to get over it.
It hadn't been pleasant, making that decision. In fact it had turned out, much to Blair's surprise, to be one of the hardest decisions he'd ever had to make in his life, even though everything that he knew about himself and Jim told him it was absolutely the right thing to do.
Telling Jim was going to be a bitch.
Not telling Jim was a bitch. He felt guilty. He felt like a fucking coward. He should tell Jim right now. But if he did he just knew Jim would get that look on his face, that 'I'm a Sentinel and I don't need you' look, and tell him to leave right now, because he, Jim, could manage just fine, thank you very much, and he'd managed without a Guide for years and could do it again. And it would be useless at that point to say that he still wanted to be Jim's Guide, just not his live-in Guide. His live-in, fuck-buddy Guide.
What the hell had induced him to get involved with a straight guy? He thought he'd learned that lesson years ago, and now here it was - history repeating itself.
That first time Jim had made love to him had been wild. He hadn't been kidding about it being the best sex of his life. Jim had been... there weren't words to describe what Jim had been like. Since then, it had been a very different story.
"You going to tell me what's eating you?" Jim's voice' coming from the couch, broke in on his thoughts and Blair blushed guiltily.
Resisting the urge to answer 'not you, that's for sure', Blair blinked. "Nothing. What makes you think that?"
"Well you haven't bounced in your seat, tapped your pencil on the table, or hummed along with the music in over ten minutes." Jim smiled. It was a devastatingly warm and friendly smile that reached down into Blair's guts and twisted them viciously. "So, what is it?"
"I... uh, I've been thinking maybe I'll look for somewhere else to live." Blair got it out in a rush. It didn't help much. A huge weight seemed to be stopping him from breathing properly. "It's just... I guess I like having my own space. I mean we can still work together and stuff, but..."
His voice dried up at the frozen expression on Jim's face. Then the mask slid smoothly into place. "Sure, Chief. Whatever you want." And Jim looked back at the TV, away from Blair.
God, he could feel Jim's pain, through the bond. It made him want to dash for the bathroom and puke till his stomach was empty. "Jim... I'm sorry."
"No. You do what you need to do." Jim's voice was flat. "That was the deal. You don't have to be sorry."
Blair got up and went to sit on the couch, perching alongside Jim's outstretched legs. "I'm sorry this isn't working out. I like you, Jim, and I like being your Guide. It's just the other things... living together... and the sex... it's not working for me."
Predictably, Jim seized on the one thing that Blair least wanted to talk about - and when had he ever felt uncomfortable talking about sex?
"I thought you liked the sex. Are you saying I'm no good at... at..." Jim's offended expression was almost enough to make him laugh. Almost.
Blair shrugged. "No. Not exactly."
"Not exactly? Great. Thanks for the compliment, Sandburg." He tried to swing his legs around but couldn't draw the wounded one up enough to get it past Blair's hip and winced. "Would you mind getting out of my way?"
"Yes, I would actually." Somewhere Blair managed to find a calm façade and turned it on his very pissed Sentinel. He even managed to keep his voice steady. "It's not that you're not good at it, okay? It's just..." he searched for a way he could make Jim understand, "it's just... you make love like a straight guy."
"Sandburg, I am a straight guy."
"I know. And I should have known this wouldn't work. It's just..." he swallowed the lump in his throat. "I wanted it to work. I really wanted it to. But it hasn't and I need to move out."
"Blair..." Jim's voice had softened. He leaned forward and pulled Blair against his chest. One finger lifted the hair back behind Blair's ear and he proceeded to nibble Blair's earlobe. When Blair gurgled a weak protest Jim kissed his cheek. "I thought you liked the way I make love to you."
Blair sobbed, just once. "I do."
"Then help me out here." Frustration roughened Jim's voice. "What aren't I doing right? When I fuck you, you just about scream your head off."
"It isn't just about fucking, all right? What is it with you? I suppose you think that being fucked by a big macho stud like you is exactly what a faggotty little guy like me dreams about?" Embarrassment flickered across Jim's face. Gotcha. Unfortunately Blair's own sense of fair play got the better of him. "Well, okay, maybe it is. But dammit, Jim, it's not all I want, okay? That's the trouble with you straight guys. You all think it's about fucking!"
"Well, isn't it?" Incomprehension. Annoyance. And he still looked so damned hot.
"No! It isn't. What if I said that sometimes I don't want to be fucked? What if I said I wanted to be sucked, Ellison? How would you feel about that?" Lovely, hot anger flooded through Blair, covering some of the pain, temporarily. He went on the offensive, and, God, it felt so much better than the misery he'd been wallowing in a moment ago. "What if I wanted to be the fuck-er, big guy? Maybe you're right... maybe it is all about fucking, and I'm just pissed because I'm not getting any!"
Jim's lips tightened and he didn't answer, didn't give anything away with that blank face of his. Blair flung himself against those defences almost gleefully. "Geez, Jim, are you surprised? Are you wondering where all this is coming from? Tell me something, Jimbo. When was the last time you touched my dick?"
"Uh..." Jim flushed suddenly.
"You haven't. Not since that first time. Can you even remember that, or have you suppressed the whole thing?" Blair laughed angrily. "You always make sure I'm face down when you fuck me, too. Have you noticed that? God forbid a fine upstanding member of the straight community should accidentally touch somebody else's dick. Do you fantasise about me being a woman to get off, Jim?"
"No, I don't." Anger flashed in Jim's eyes. "Blair, I'm sorry, okay? I didn't realise..."
"Don't. Just... don't." Blair closed his eyes, feeling his own anger slipping from him, leaving pain and emptiness behind. "Don't start apologising and trying to make it right. You can't, Jim. You can't change what you are and I can't change what I am."
They stared at each other in silence, breathing hard. Then Jim's face softened. "Blair."
"No. Please, Jim, don't." His voice sounded weak and uncertain even to his own ears. He resisted half-heartedly when Jim pulled him into a gentle embrace.
"Shh. It's all right. We can do this." Jim's lips brushed against his temple. Beneath his hand Jim's heart was beating fast, but steady. "I was just going with what I was used to. I didn't think, okay? I'm sorry."
"It's no goo..." His protest was cut off by a long kiss. It felt so good, like his bones were melting. Jim's hands brushed down his sides loosely enough that Blair could have pulled away, except that Jim's mouth held him captive more effectively than any bonds.
It took a while for Blair to realise that Jim was fumbling with his pants. His heart began to pound, depriving him of all reasoning ability, as his cock was carefully drawn free of the entangling cloth. He moaned, a breathless little sound that only increased his hunger, and rocked his hips into that strange, wonderful, delicate touch.
Jim's fingers tightened around his cock and began to stroke, up and down, taking care to get just the right amount of pressure; responding so perfectly to Blair's reactions that he had to be using his Sentinel abilities. And that, suddenly, was such a major turn on that Blair shot his load all over the front of Jim's favourite sweatshirt like some fucking teenager. He leaned his head against Jim's shoulder and groaned. He was trying to cobble together some kind of apology, when he saw that lovely, long fingered hand, all covered in jism, moving up past his eyes.
Jim sniffed his fingers. Deeply, eyes closed. Oh God... Blair thought he might pass out. He nearly did a moment later when one finger went into Jim's mouth, stayed there a while then came out with a quiet popping sound. Blair closed his eyes then, knowing that he was going to totally disgrace himself if he watched any more. He concentrated on remembering to breathe.
"Blair?" Those same fingers - it must be the same fingers - cupped Blair's cheek, tilting his face up for another kiss. "Tonight."
"Tonight." Jim smiled. He looked amused. "Whatever your faggotty little heart desires. We'll do it. Okay?"
Still dazed, Blair smiled and nodded. Shouldn't there be a choir singing in the background?
Getting through the rest of the day was going to be a problem. Once the afterglow had faded, Blair realised that he would be spending most of the afternoon wondering whether Jim could really go through with it. So it was with a sense of relief that he left the loft to teach his Anthro class.
He thought it was going pretty well, really, until fifteen minutes into the class one of his brighter students raised a hand. "Yes, Lydia?"
"Uh.... Sir? Didn't you give this lecture last week?"
Jim snorted gently around a mouthful of pasta. He swallowed and grinned. "What did you do?"
"I told them they were part of a psych experiment to see how long it would take for somebody to question their lecturer." Blair grinned too. "I wouldn't mind so much if I hadn't thought most of them didn't even notice it was the same lecture."
Jim tried valiantly to keep a straight face, but gradually the quiver at the corner of his mouth mutated into a snigger and then an all out laugh. When Jim laughed his whole face changed - became relaxed and open and almost painfully sweet. Blair could feel that smile melting his defences, and the marrow of his bones, with its warmth. He swallowed hard and got up to clear away the dishes.
Even then, he couldn't entirely escape. Jim came after him, standing so close behind him as he washed up that it was like having a big, solid blanket draped across his back. When he reached for a towel to dry the dishes, the cloth was gently removed from his hand.
"They can wait." Jim's voice was deep and slightly husky, and his breath brushed moistly against Blair's ear.
Two slow, deep breaths, and Blair turned to face his Sentinel. He had to put his hands flat on Jim's chest and lean back a little so he could look up into a face so replete with sensuality that he could hardly recognise the stern detective who had arrested him less than a month ago. "Jim, we don't have to do this tonight."
"No. We don't." Jim didn't seem at all fazed by Blair's hesitation. "Don't you want to?"
"It's not that. I just..." how could he say that what frightened him most was the thought that Jim might not be able to go through with it? "I just want to be sure that you're sure about this. I mean, sexual orientation doesn't just change, man."
Jim leaned forward, his eyelids drooping, and gently inhaled. Blair knew what that meant: Jim was going all Sentinel on him again and it went, as always, straight to his groin. "I've been thinking about that all afternoon." The ice blue eyes opened on his. "But I can't deny what's happening to me, Blair. Maybe the Sentinel-Guide bond somehow overrides my sexual orientation. All I know is that I have to do this. I have to keep you with me and anything I do to make that happen is okay by me."
"Okay." Blair nodded slowly, his mind racing. He had to at least try to make sense of this, or it would drive him crazy and distract him when he most needed to be in control of what he was doing. He frowned, trying to recall some of his basic psych lectures. "We know that sexual behaviour is determined by some of the most primitive areas of the brain. There've been some studies indicating that the hypothalamus in gay men is different from straight men."
He glanced up at Jim, and the taller man nodded his understanding. And then something struck him... "Oh my God, Jim! I think... God, I'm almost sure that the thalamus is the part of the brain that processes sensory input. And the thalamus and hypothalamus are closely related, so... if the thalamus is more developed in a Sentinel... or developed differently..."
"What? You think being a Sentinel is making me gay?" Jim seemed amused, much to Blair's relief.
"No... but maybe it's affecting your sexual behaviour." His eyes narrowed as he stared at Jim. "Do you even remember that first time we made love, Jim? You were... it was wild, man. You were like..."
Jim's cheeks reddened suddenly and the smile faded out of his eyes. "I don't remember much."
"It was almost like you regressed, Jim. You were a whole other person - at first you were speaking in Quechua, but then... it was like you were... were... I dunno... pre-verbal..."
"A throwback to pre-civilised man." Jim quoted Blair's words back to him bitterly. "A caveman."
"Well, yeah, but..." Blair blinked excitedly, aware of Jim's discomfort but unable to stop himself from working through his ideas aloud. "I mean, we're talking about the brain's most primitive functions - fight or flight, sex, sensory input - going way back even before human development. Once those kick in the higher functions, the kind that process socially constructed inhibitions, don't stand a chance." He'd have to do some study. Maybe talk to his old psychology tutor. If there were verifiable structural differences in a Sentinel brain... maybe he could convince Jim to get a CAT scan...
Suddenly, Blair was distracted from his speculation by the rub of a hard body against his own. "Oh, God..."
"That's better. I thought you were zoning for a minute." Jim smiled approvingly and butted his hips forward again. "You want to take this upstairs?"
"Yeah. That sounds like a good idea." It might be a blatantly transparent attempt to distract him, but suddenly Blair was more than willing to be distracted. He bit back a moan at the loss of contact and followed Jim up the stairs to his bedroom.
By the time he got there, Jim was already unbuttoning his shirt. Not to be outdone, Blair pulled his sweater, shirt and t-shirt off over his head in one bulky bundle. He skinned out of his jeans and boxers just as quickly and scrambled onto the bed while Jim was still folding away his pants. He watched appreciatively as Jim dropped his boxers and turned towards the bed.
"Is your leg going to be up to this?" Blair nodded towards the dressing on the inside of Jim's thigh. Other parts of his lover were quite obviously up.
"It's still tender. I'll need to be careful." Jim sat on the edge of the bed, his hands urging Blair to move back enough to be able to lean against the railing at the head. "Want some more pillows?"
"This is fine." Blair eyed him warily, wondering what was going to happen next. He didn't want to push Jim into doing things he wasn't ready to try, but there was a determined look on the Sentinel's face that made him feel uncharacteristically nervous.
Jim eased himself further onto the bed, claiming a share of the pillows, and gently pressed Blair's knees apart with one hand. His eyes scanned up and down Blair's body briefly before coming to rest at his groin. One hand slid along Blair's thigh while the other stroked his cheek. "I'm not..." he frowned, looking confused for a moment, "it's all right... I mean... this... I like this." He leaned in and closed his mouth over Blair's in a long, devastating kiss.
Whenever they kissed it was almost impossible for Blair to think of anything other than how good it felt. But this time he was distracted by the progress of that hand on his thigh. It moved with excruciating slowness to the top of his thigh and paused there to investigate the moist crease between thigh and body. Apparently satisfied, it continued on its way across his belly, then down to gently ruffle his pubic hair.
By that time, Blair was barely able to concentrate on kissing. He pulled his mouth away from Jim's with a gasp. "Oh, God, that feels so good."
"I haven't started yet." Jim's breath warmed his cheek. He nuzzled Blair's left ear, then dropped his head to shoulder level and began to suck gently at Blair's throat.
"Jim, you're gonna leave a mark."
"I know." Jim's voice expressed smug satisfaction. Apparently pleased with his efforts so far, his head sank lower to the hollow at the base of Blair's throat and his tongue flickered out across the sensitive skin. "I'll lend you a turtleneck."
The way Jim was making him feel, Blair would have happily worn his shirt unbuttoned to the waist, if it hadn't been so cold lately. He rocked his hips into the hand that was stroking down one side of his groin without touching his cock - and thereby making him more aware of how much he wanted Jim to touch his cock than he'd ever imagined possible. When Jim's lips reached his nipple, Blair groaned helplessly. "Fuck, Jim. Please..."
A soft chuckle was all the answer Jim gave. His gentle fingers slid down below Blair's balls, stroking and pressing in a maddeningly elusive rhythm that made Blair arch his back in delight.
Soon, he'd be reduced to begging. And he'd do it, too. Nothing had ever felt so good as the feeling that, any moment now, Jim would finally give his cock the attention it had been needing for so long. Jim gave one last, long suck on Blair's nipple and returned to his lips. At the same time, he wrapped his fingers around Blair's cock and squeezed gently. Blair's hips jerked up and for a moment he was close to losing it. Jim's fingers squeezed again, more firmly this time, and Blair subsided, panting. He let his head fall back against the pillows and his body relax while Jim's fingers moved over his cock with a tender inquisitiveness. When he managed to raise his head again, all Blair could see was Jim's bent head, resting against his shoulder while he watched his fingers stroking up and down Blair's cock.
Lust jolted through his body, leaving Blair weak. "Oh, God, that's so hot..."
"Yeah?" Jim looked up at him for a moment, smiling, then down again as his fingers traced the outline of one visibly throbbing vein. "It's different from the way mine feels." His hand dipped to cradle Blair's balls lightly, stroking the loose skin with his thumb.
Blair shuddered as Jim kissed him again. They'd kissed more today than they had in the whole time they'd known each other and, God, Jim was so good at kissing. For a moment Blair thought about that talented mouth making love to his cock and groaned helplessly.
"What is it, Blair?" Their faces were so close Jim's lips brushed against Blair's as he spoke. "What do you want me to do?"
Could he ask this of Jim? More than anything, Blair was afraid of pushing Jim further than he was ready to go. But Jim had said... and Blair decided that he would ask. If Jim didn't want to, that was okay. He relaxed a little against Jim's body. "I want..." oh God... he licked his kips nervously, "I want you to suck me."
Jim's eyes grew thoughtful, uncertain perhaps, but not unwilling. He smiled almost shyly. "I can do it. I may not be very good, though."
"Oh you will be." A flash of confused but intense memory, reinforced his conviction. "Believe me, you will be."
Jim nodded once, then slid down Blair's body, curling himself up against Blair's thigh as his head drooped lower over Blair's groin. Blair laid his arm lightly across the wide shoulders, his hand stroking reassuringly as Jim's lips parted and his tongue licked delicately at Blair's cockhead. There was a brief hesitation while Jim processed the taste and texture, then his cock was enveloped in wet warmth. It felt good... so good, it took a concerted effort at self-control for Blair not to thrust up into Jim's mouth, or grab his ears and pull his head down. Instead, Blair moaned and clutched at Jim's shoulder with one hand and the bedding with the other.
It was obvious from the start that Jim was enjoying this new experience; his body moved almost imperceptibly closer and after a moment Blair heard Jim humming under his breath, sending tingling vibrations through his body. In spite of Blair's efforts, his body arched in pleasure, but Jim was ready for him and rode it out easily. He even chuckled softly, the sound of it muffled by Blair's cock.
"Jim... Jii-iim..." Blair arched back into the mound of pillows, arms and legs splayed wide as sensation pooled in his groin. His hips rose and fell, sliding his cock deep into Jim's mouth and out again. Over and over, until nothing else existed; until the warning pressure grew too strong to be ignored. "Jim, I'm gonna come soon... soon..."
He'd expected Jim to pull back at that, but Jim simply grunted, his lips tightening around Blair's cock and his hand taking up a precautionary hold on Blair's hip. Seconds later it was all over, brief, hot. and so intense that Blair was left a jellied, quivering wreck.
Consciousness seeped in slowly. Jim was holding him in a loose embrace, his breath teasing Blair's temple with its warmth. The smooth chest felt wonderful under his cheek and the thud of Jim's heartbeat soothed him like a lullaby. Blair smiled, stretching sensuously against Jim's side and let his hand wander down over that marvellously flat belly.
A faint gasp, and the evidence beneath his hand - the long, hard, burning hot evidence - recalled Blair to a sense of his responsibilities. It was time for step two in the sexual education - or re-education - of Jim Ellison.
Judging by the state of Jim's erection, it wouldn't take much to tip him over the edge, and Blair had no intention of doing that just yet. Not until he'd made Jim squirm and moan and scream a little first. He kept his touch light, teasing, trying to distract Jim rather than arouse him. It worked, to a degree - he'd got his hand between Jim's legs, stroking and pressing against the perineum before the Sentinel was really aware of it. When Jim did finally cotton on, he simply moaned breathily and stared at Blair with wide, nervous, hungry eyes. <br> <br>
"I'm not gonna fuck you tonight, Jim. Okay?" He waited for Jim to respond with a nod before moving his fingers down further until they brushed lightly over Jim's asshole. "I just want you to know how good it can be, when you're ready for it."
"Feels good now." Jim managed to get the words out between gritted teeth. His body was more eloquent; the tight muscle quivered under Blair's fingers.
"It's gonna feel a lot better, believe me." Blair smiled as Jim moaned, his hips instinctively moving to increase the pressure. "But we need to get you prepared. We can go as fast or slow as you want."
Jim nodded wordlessly and his eyes fluttered closed. Taking that as a sign of consent, Blair moved to kneel between Jim's thighs and positioned the long legs carefully to make access easier.
"First, I'm gonna make you nice and wet." His tongue caressed the resilient little muscle to illustrate his point and Blair watched in delighted admiration as Jim's cock jerked wildly before falling back against his belly with a meaty slap. Oh, yeah... he was going to enjoy this. "I don't want you touching yourself, okay?"
"Okay." Jim's voice was weak and shaking. He clenched his fists in the bedding and clenched his jaw.
The stoicism lasted as long as it took for Blair to pass another couple of swipes across Jim's asshole and then probe it gently with the tip of his tongue. Watching Jim's reactions was half the fun, Blair decided, as Jim's eyes flew open and all the long muscles in his body spasmed violently.
"Fuck!" Jim gasped a couple of times and then obviously forced himself to relax. "That was... Sandburg, what was that?"
Blair just grinned, then lowered his head and did it again.
In a remarkably short period of time, Jim was reduced to helpless writhing. Soon, he'd be begging, but Blair decided, magnanimously, to spare his lover the indignity. This time. He crawled his way up Jim's body and planted a wet, sloppy kiss on Jim's parted lips.
There was a slight recoil followed, to Blair's amusement, by a distinct air of curiosity as Jim tasted his own flavour on Blair's tongue. Obligingly, he plunged his tongue deep into Jim's mouth, grinding his lips against Jim's teeth as he did so.
Once again, Blair used Jim's distraction to advance another step in this dance of seduction. He slid his hand down across a hardened nipple and heaving chest. Soon, he encountered the slippery little puddle Jim's cock had leaked onto his sweating belly. Good. A quick caress and a squeeze of Jim's cock wrenched a gasp out of Jim, but then the long body relaxed with a little shudder.
Quickly, Blair collected some of the pre-cum on his forefinger and stroked it over Jim's asshole. Jim moaned softly, his body pushed against Blair's finger, and this time, Blair allowed the movement to carry the tip of his finger inside. He waited, then, for Jim's reaction.
"Okay." Jim's voice was hushed, perhaps a little uncertain. "That's... okay."
Blair wiggled his finger a bit, still watching, but Jim didn't seem to mind it and he pressed in a little further. Almost immediately, Jim's body relaxed around the penetrating finger and Blair began a smooth in and out motion, going deeper on each careful penetration until he felt the small nub of Jim's prostate.
A shiver ran through Jim and Blair had to struggle not to smile as he repeated the motion, this time pressing much more firmly on the prostate. Jim's hips bucked wildly and he cried out in shock at the unexpected sensation; then yelled again as Blair's fingertip raked across his prostate for a third time.
In a moment Jim would be begging for more, but Blair preferred to leave him unsatisfied. That way, he'd be ready and eager next time they made love. He withdrew his finger a little way and resumed the less intense stroking of Jim's inner walls while his lover slumped bonelessly into the bedding.
Blair rewarded him with a long kiss. "That wasn't so bad, was it?" He could have laughed aloud at the wildly conflicting emotions that passed across Jim's face.
"It was fucking incredible." Jim stared up at him, still looking shaken. "I've never felt anything like it."
"I always figured that if God hadn't wanted men to be gay, he wouldn't have given us a prostate." Blair grinned. "I could make you come, just from that. But I'm not going to."
He eased down onto the mattress, twisting his body around to lie beside Jim for a moment before climbing on top of him. A small, incoherent protest escaped Jim as Blair carefully withdrew his finger. He buried his face against the curve of Jim's throat. "Shh... this is going to be so good."
Their cocks were aligned, snugged tightly between their bodies. Blair began to move slowly, rocking his hips into Jim's belly, feeling Jim respond in the same way. He loved how it felt; the slow, easy rhythm, the way their muscles flexed beneath the surfaces of their bodies. This perfect motion that was both eternal and all too fleeting.
Jim's eyes closed; his face was slack with passion, his breathing chaotic as he thrust against Blair's body. It would take almost nothing to push him over. Blair lifted one thigh fractionally higher to press against Jim's balls and rub them gently. The raucous breathing hitched suddenly and Jim made an indescribable sound of need and pleasure as wet heat burst between their bodies.
He wanted to see this - to see Jim in the extremity of orgasm and know that he had brought him there. Only that determination kept Blair from giving way to his own arousal. He watched as the veneer of civilisation was stripped away. Then Jim sighed, his body relaxing completely and something about the utter vulnerability of his expression stripped away the last of Blair's self-control. He groaned as he thrust urgently into Jim's belly and his cock pulsed with liquid fire. Nothing in his life had ever felt like this, and he surrendered to it helplessly.
Coming back from a really intense climax was all too often, in Blair's experience, a major downer. This time it was different. Blair pushed himself up on his elbows and stared down into Jim's face. His Sentinel was the very picture of placid contentment. "Do you have any idea how incredible you look when you've just come?"
Jim didn't answer, being too busy concentrating on lifting away one strand after another of Blair's curls from sweat-dampened cheeks. Blair waited until he'd finished, then leaned down to kiss his lover, thereby undoing all Jim's careful work as his hair swirled loosely around his face. "So, what do you think?"
A smile softened the angular planes of Jim's face, lending a sweetness to his expression that was all too rarely seen. "I think... that was pretty damn good." His smile widened a little, "I think I love you. I think everything's going to be okay."
Dumbfounded was too tame a word for what Blair felt in that moment. The blue eyes staring up into his glinted mischievously for a moment before Jim pulled Blair down into his arms. He settled, happily dazed, against Jim's shoulder. "Oh yeah. Everything's going to be fine."