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It was only the faintest hint of sound, but Jim woke immediately. He knew who it was, somehow he always knew when Sandburg was around - something almost subliminal, a combination of the scent and the sounds of his body and just the aura that he threw off. But what the hell was Sandburg doing in his bedroom at - he glanced at the clock - three o'clock in the morning?

He rolled over to face the stairs and opened his eyes. Sure enough, there was Sandburg, a faint, ghostly shape in his tank and boxers, padding towards the bed.

"Sandburg, what the f..." but by then Sandburg had crawled under the covers and was busily putting his tongue in Jim's mouth, while his hands eagerly groped over Jim's chest.

Well, that answered the question of 'what', but... Jesus, why? And... why now, for fuck's sake? As soon as he could pull his mouth free from Blair's, Jim swallowed hard. "Sandburg, would you mind telling me..."

A quiet, contented murmur came from the direction of his throat. On the left side, just below his ear, where Sandburg's mouth was currently occupied in a manoeuvre that made Jim's insides twist pleasantly. He raised his hand to the back of Sandburg's head, intending - honestly intending - to drag him away by a handful of the soft, fuzzy curls, but damn, they felt good, tickling his palm like that, and then Sandburg latched onto his earlobe with a little moan of pleasure, and for a brief, fatal moment, Jim hesitated.

He thought he heard Sandburg whisper his name, his voice sweet and full of longing. The warm, heavy body sprawled over his began to move, rubbing against him, and - fuck - Sandburg was hard, and he was hard and it all felt so damn good that heterosexuality - his, if not, apparently, Sandburg's - seemed like a minor objection to what was happening here.

Somehow, his hands had gotten tangled in Sandburg's boxers and he shoved them down hastily, then his own. Of their own accord, his legs slid apart, cradling Sandburg's hips between them and that was even better. With a soft grunt, he pushed up against the hard dick, his hands pressing down on Sandburg's butt to bring their bodies closer together.

It couldn't have lasted more than a few seconds - some of the best few seconds of his life - and then he was coming, almost painfully intense, all over himself and Sandburg. He groaned, at once relieved and disappointed that it hadn't lasted any longer than that. He zoned a little on the endorphins, vaguely aware that Sandburg was still humping away, until the sturdy body tensed and another burst of wet heat exploded between them.

"Jesus, Sandburg, you sure pick your times, don't you?" he murmured lazily, still only half awake.

There was no answer. He thought for a moment that Sandburg had fallen asleep on top of him, but suddenly there was cool air rushing in under the covers and Sandburg had gotten out of the bed, hitched up his shorts and was silently padding down the stairs again.

Jim lay staring at the top of the stairway for a few seconds, slack jawed, trying to marshal some kind of appropriate response to what had just happened. There wasn't one, or at least, not one that occurred to him. Finally, he decided he could deal with it in the morning. Satisfied, at least temporarily, he pulled his shorts up, rolled back onto his side and went to sleep.

Unfortunately, Jim had forgotten that Sandburg didn't have classes until the afternoon. When he woke and went downstairs, almost ready to believe the whole thing had been nothing more than a really intense wet dream, the doors to Sandburg's room were still firmly shut and he could hear the steady breathing and occasional snuffle that was typical of a soundly asleep grad student who'd been spending way too much time lately in grading papers and helping out down at the PD in addition to his own research and paper writing.

Not without an internal sigh, Jim decided he didn't have the heart to wake his roommate. He showered and ate breakfast, and tried not to feel relieved at having escaped, even if only temporarily, what was bound to be a very awkward conversation.

The day passed slowly. Sandburg didn't show at the PD and Jim decided to spend most of his time on long overdue paperwork. He wasn't sure he could trust himself if he needed to use his senses; every so often he would feel Sandburg's mouth on his throat, or Sandburg's dick, hot and demanding against his belly, and it was so real that he would have to stop what he was doing and work on dialling down the sensations until he could breathe again.

It wasn't until he was heading home, that Jim allowed his mind to wander to what he was going to do, and say, when he saw Sandburg again. Immediately, his gut started to twist and his throat to tighten. His skin prickled all over his body. Jesus. What did a guy say to a roommate who after nearly three years of living with him suddenly decided to jump his bones in the middle of the night?

What the hell did guys say to each other, anyway? It wasn't like he had any experience of that. Should he get Sandburg flowers, or chocolate? Maybe a bottle of wine? Or how about a box of condoms and lube? At that, his mind shied away. Sure, he knew that would happen, if this thing they had lasted for very long, but he wasn't quite ready to face it yet.

One thing he was sure of - he didn't want to screw this up. Sandburg was the best friend he'd ever had. The best partner; better even than Jack. The best roommate. The best everything. He could remember all too clearly the way Carolyn would look at him, the angry resignation in her voice, whenever he forgot some celebratory milestone in their relationship, or didn't make exactly the right romantic gesture at the appropriate times. Half the time, he'd never even been able to figure out what it was he'd done; or failed to do. He didn't want to risk that with Sandburg.

Or should he call him Blair now? What was the gay etiquette for name usage after a guy had slept with his roommate? Jesus! His fingers were cramping on the steering wheel and he was a heartbeat away from a panic attack that would put Sandburg's best efforts to shame. The turn that would take him onto Prospect was just ahead, but instead Jim moved into the right hand lane and continued straight on. He had to think about this.

Without consciously intending to, Jim found himself heading to the industrial area near the harbour. He could get out and walk for a while, and think about how to handle things.

Luckily, he'd left work early, so it wasn't terribly late when he arrived home. As he parked the truck, Jim cast out his hearing and, yep, Blair was home. It sounded like he was cooking. He sniffed... tomato and herbs and garlic. Maybe Blair was cooking a romantic dinner for two. Maybe he should have bought a bottle of wine. Flowers.

No. He'd decided to follow Blair's lead, and take things as they came. They could eat, and then - dear god - they'd have to talk about things. He'd admit his ignorance and his willingness to be guided by Blair (what else was new?). And then, maybe, as a reward for good behaviour, they could make out on the couch for a while, then head upstairs for a leisurely evening of mutual exploration before falling asleep in each other's arms. His dick was signalling its approval of his plans. He was sure that Sandburg - Blair - would approve too.

Jim trotted upstairs, happily anticipating an evening of pleasure the like of which he hadn't experienced in a long while. Not for months, actually. Turning the key in the lock, he resisted the temptation to proclaim 'Honey, I'm home'. Probably better to take things carefully until he and Blair had had their little talk.

As he'd expected, Blair was in the kitchen, chopping vegetables while a pot of tomato sauce simmered gently on the hob. He glanced quickly over his shoulder in Jim's direction and then turned back to his task. "Hey, Jim. Sorry I didn't get in to see you today."

"No problem." He smiled at Blair's back as he hung up his jacket. So the guppy was going to play it cool. Well, he could do that. He walked over and stood close behind Blair. Leaned over his shoulder to inhale deeply. "Smells good."

"It's just a basic pasta." Blair eyed him sideways and moved away slightly. "I know I said I'd cook tonight, but a couple of friends asked me to go out with them later, so I'm kinda rushed. You don't mind, do you?"

Something inside him froze a little. This was playing it cool with a vengeance. "No, I don't mind." He headed for the fridge to give himself something to do. "Want a beer?"

"Nah. We're going to be drinking later. I don't want to overdo it." Blair was watching him narrowly when he turned. "You're sure you don't mind?"

What was this? Some kind of test? He twisted off the top and took a long swallow of the beer. He met Blair's - Sandburg's - eyes squarely and lied through his teeth. "Why should I? You don't need my permission to go out drinking with a few buddies, right?"

Oh god, it was a test. Sandburg relaxed, smiling, and turned his attention back to the vegetables. "It's somebody's birthday party. There's gonna be a lot of people there." He chuckled wickedly. "I might even get lucky, you know?"

"Sounds great." The beer tasted like acid in his mouth. He'd got the whole thing wrong. This wasn't some romantic thing. This was a fuck buddy thing.

When Sandburg's key rattled in the lock at one thirty, Jim was still awake. He hurriedly dialled down his sense of smell. If Sandburg had gotten lucky, he didn't want to know about it. If Sandburg hadn't gotten lucky, he'd better not come up here for a consolation fuck.

He tracked the unsteady footsteps as they crossed the floor, hesitated near the bottom of the stairs and then moved into Sandburg's room. Gritting his teeth Jim rolled over, then back again, punched the pillow savagely and then lay still. It was at least another couple of hours before he slept.

Over the next couple of days, Sandburg continued to act as though nothing had ever happened. Every time he bade Jim a cheery goodbye or grinned in welcome, Jim's silent fury increased a little more. For once in his life he would have welcomed the dreaded "Jim, we need to talk", but it didn't come. So it was that after three days he found himself in the driver's seat, so to speak.

"Sandburg, we need to talk." He not-so-patiently ignored the exaggerated double take and the fearful widening of the eyes. "Now would be good."

"O-kaay..." Blair eyed him dubiously. "Here?"

Maybe not in the kitchen, Jim thought. It might be better to avoid any place where there were sharp knives. He shrugged and crossed to the couch. After a moment Blair joined him, perching on the arm. "What do you want to talk about?"

It looked like he was going to play hardball. Jim swallowed his rising irritation with difficulty. "I just... these last few years, with you living here, they've been pretty good, you know? Strange as it may seem, I've enjoyed having you." He gulped. That didn't sound right. "Having you living here, I mean..."

Blair nodded cautiously. "Jim... are you trying to tell me you want me to leave?"

"No! God, no. It's just..." Jim rubbed his hands over his thighs nervously. Maybe he should try a different tack. "It's just, you know, we agreed on certain things when you moved in and... and, I know things - circumstances - change, but..."

"Come on, Jim. We're both grown men here. Whatever you want to say, just say it, okay?"

If only it was that easy. "I just think... there were certain rules we agreed on and we should stick to them."

"Jim, I am sticking to them. Well most of the time, anyway." Blair started counting off on his fingers "Don't flush after ten, use the spray, share the chores, colour coded leftovers, no s..." his eyes lifted suddenly, "oh god, this is about the other night, isn't it? I thought you were okay about that."

Jim's jaw dropped. What, because he'd said nothing, he was okay with it? Then he flushed as he remembered his enthusiastic participation in those activities. Maybe Sandburg had a point. "Well, I just think... okay, so maybe I'm not as okay with it as I thought I was."

Blair rolled his eyes, obviously not the least bit repentant. "Well, in future just say something, okay? I'm not a mind reader here, Jim. I'm sorry. I won't do it again."

"Okay." Jim swallowed his disappointment. Had he really expected anything else?

"So, are we good?" Blair was still pissed, and not really making any effort to pretend otherwise.

Jim nodded brusquely. "Yeah, Sandburg, we're good."

"Okay, well I've got some work to do. I'll be in my room." Blair walked stiff-backed to the open door of his room, went inside and closed the door with unnatural care. As the chair scraped against the floorboards, Jim heard him mutter: "Jesus! I made him pasta, what did he expect, a fucking three course meal?"

Pasta? Sandburg thought he was talking about the fucking pasta? Jim dropped his head in his hands and groaned, knowing he didn't have the guts to try this conversation again.

Two nights later, it happened again. Jim woke as Sandburg slipped into the bed and opened his mouth to tell him in no uncertain terms to get the hell out. Unfortunately for his good intentions, Sandburg was quicker. His tongue, warm and agile, invaded Jim's mouth and he squirmed energetically against Jim's body, bringing Jim's dick from lax to highly interested in a matter of seconds.

When Jim grabbed Sandburg by the upper arms to push him away the feel of warm, smooth skin against his palms sent a shiver of pleasure through his body. God, how could something so simple feel so good? He let his hands slide down a little and back up, and that was even better. Instead of pushing Sandburg away, he pulled him closer, opening his mouth wider in hungry invitation.

Sandburg was making happy little moaning noises into his mouth and Jim felt the last of his reluctance melting away. It might be wrong, it might be really fucked up, but he didn't have the will to resist. He slid his hand under Sandburg's tank and stroked up and down the supple back, then rolled them both over. Sandburg's chest was even better - soft coarse hair and smooth skin and hard little nipples that crinkled at his touch.

He shoved the tank up out of the way and managed to separate his mouth from Sandburg's long enough to find one of those nipples and suck it gently. A sound that was half groan, half hitch in breathing came from above his head, and Jim heard his name again, whispered in a tone of aching desire. He sucked harder, and tweaked the other nipple sharply between his fingers. His own nipples began to throb in sympathy and his dick grew painfully harder.

Without actually thinking about is, Jim realised he intended to give Sandburg the ride of his life. Let him think about this next time he was in bed with some woman. He dialled up every sense; not too high, but enough that he could tell whenever he did something that Sandburg particularly liked. Like this... he slid his fingers, feather light, down the happy trail and under the elastic of Sandburg's old cotton boxers. Or this... a brush of tongue that barely skimmed the edge of a pointed nipple. Or this... a firm press of his fingers on the smooth skin behind Sandburg's balls.

It didn't take long to have Sandburg arcing off the mattress at every touch and babbling incoherently. What did surprise him was how much he was enjoying getting another man off. Jim pondered this while he jerked Sandburg's dick, his hand moving in an erratic and unpredictable rhythm that was guaranteed to drive any man crazy with anticipation.

Maybe it was just the familiarity of a man's body; kind of like pleasuring himself, yet not. Or maybe it was just Sandburg. Their relationship - which Jim had never felt the need to examine before - had always been... different. Not like the relationships he'd had with women, but not really like the ones he'd had with men either. No, Sandburg was in a category all his own, and it seemed like making it sexual didn't change that one little bit. He sure couldn't imagine doing this with any other guy.

He couldn't imagine doing this, either, as he slid down Sandburg's body, pushing aside the boxers and skimming his lips experimentally over the head of Sandburg's dick. It was already slippery with precum, but that didn't bother him nearly as much as the enthusiastic twitch of Sandburg's dick or the way he jerked his hips upward. This could be more difficult than he'd anticipated. Still, if a Sentinel couldn't provide the best blow job ever, then he didn't deserve to be a Sentinel.

Keeping Sandburg still proved not to be much of a problem. Jim simply laid his upper body across the sturdy thighs and held firmly to his hip with one hand, and his dick with the other. That left him free to work with his mouth and tongue, and Jim really went to town. It didn't take long to get used to having a dick in his mouth; far les time than he'd expected, actually.

Once he'd got the basics down, Jim proceeded to experiment, varying the strength of his sucking, trying different areas to put pressure on with his tongue, changing the angle so the head of Sandburg's dick slid along the roof of his mouth. All of it felt good to him, and it was pretty clear that Sandburg agreed, if the way he clutched at the bedding and whimpered was any indication.

All in all, Jim was feeling pretty smug by the time Sandburg gave one last desperate moan and spurted into his mouth. He held the softening dick between his lips a little longer, curiously reluctant to release it. The body beneath his was still trembling faintly when Jim dragged himself up its length and began kissing Sandburg's slackened mouth.

Sandburg managed to bestir himself enough to respond lazily, and then more enthusiastically. His hands swarmed over Jim's body, finding his dick and wrapping it in a firm grasp, and - crap - he hadn't realised how turned on he'd gotten from giving Sandburg head, because with just a few rough strokes, he was coming so hard he actually saw stars.

Jim supposed he shouldn't be surprised that life continued pretty much as normal. They never spoke about what happened on the nights that Sandburg made his way upstairs; it was as though it had never happened. Try as he might, Jim could detect no change in Sandburg's behaviour at all. He wasn't so sure that the same could be said of him.

He tried not to feel like anything had changed between them because for Sandburg it obviously hadn't, and he wasn't stupid enough to screw up the occasional night of incredible sex by hankering after something Sandburg was never going to give him. That didn't stop him being more than usually ironic whenever Sandburg went out trolling for dates, but Sandburg didn't seem to notice the difference.

Simon noticed something, though. "So who is she, Jim?"

"Huh?" They'd been discussing his latest case, an infuriatingly complicated case with unreliable witnesses and no obvious leads. "What 'she' are we talking about?"

"The 'she' you're obviously dating." Simon chuckled amiably, rolling his - thankfully unlit - cigar between his fingers. "It hasn't escaped my notice that you've been unusually mellow the last few weeks. When do we get to meet her?"

Jim could feel a tide of heat rising in his face. "There is no 'she', Sir."

If he'd hoped that using the 'Sir' would bring the conversation back to a professional lever, he was doomed to disappointment.

"Well, if you're going to be like that, I'll just have to ask Sandburg." Simon tilted his head challengingly. It wasn't a bluff, and they both knew it. "Come on, Jim. Give. All I'm asking is a few details."

Oh, great. "Look, there's no..." he met Simon's sceptical stare and sighed. "All right. There is somebody, but it's just..." how the hell was he going to get out of this? "It's not like you think. We're just friends who happen to sleep together occasionally. No strings, no dating, okay?"

Simon frowned. "That doesn't sound like you, Jim."

"Yeah, well, I'm a little surprised about it too." Jim rubbed the back of his neck uncomfortably. "But it works. We're both having a good time and if one of us gets serious about someone else then it's over, no regrets."

Except, of course, that there would definitely be regrets, he realised. He forced himself to smile calmly and say: "So, have we finished discussing my love life yet?"

Simon shook his head resignedly and waved him out with a brusque, "go get those damn jewel thieves before the Commissioner reams my ass."

"I didn't know you were dating the Commissioner, Sir." He got out before Simon had time to do more than drag in an outraged breath. Score one for the detective.

"So, who is she, Jim?" There were definite undertones of petulance in Sandburg's voice.

Obviously, Simon had been talking. He should have known better that to make that wisecrack about the Commissioner. This was Simon's revenge.

Even so, it was definitely taking Sandburg's 'don't ask, don't tell' policy way over the top and suddenly, he was sick of the whole thing. "Christ, Sandburg, you of all people should know there is no 'she'."

If anything, that only seemed to make Sandburg more pissed off. "What are you saying, that I'm prying into your love life? Jesus, Jim, I thought we were friends. Simon..."

"Simon's talking through his ass." This was just great - coming home to an interrogation about his non-existent girlfriend by his roommate cum fuck buddy. "There isn't anyone else. I could hardly tell him I'm sleeping with you."

"Well, hardly." Sandburg snickered. "Like he'd believe that."

"You see?" He moved forward, unaccountably cheered by Sandburg's obvious jealousy. Maybe there was a chance... his hands lifted to cup Sandburg's face and he leaned forward, leading with his lips.

"What the fuck..." Sandburg hurriedly scrambled backwards. "Jim, what are you doing? Are you okay?"

Left stranded, Jim glowered. "I'm fine. Thanks for asking."

"You know, you have been acting a bit different lately." Sandburg studied him, a speculative gleam in his eyes. "Are your senses okay? Anything unusual?"

"You mean, apart from the fact that I'm sleeping with my roommate, when I'm supposed to be straight?" Jim shook his head. "Nope. Can't think of anything unusual."

"Jim. You are not sleeping with your roommate." Sandburg smiled nervously. "You can trust me on this."

He sighed. "Okay, so there isn't any actual sleeping involved here, but..."

"Jim, I have not had sex with you." Sandburg's voice was adamant. "I think I'd remember if I had."

"Say that again." He ignored the growl of annoyance and dialled up his hearing as Sandburg said it again.

For a moment, Jim was almost convinced he'd hallucinated everything. Sandburg's heartbeat was absolutely steady; there were none of the typical signs that he was lying. Still, he knew with an absolute certainty that everything he'd experienced was real. He caught hold of Sandburg's arm and drew him over to the couch. Sat him down and perched on the coffee table facing him.

"Listen, Blair, I'm telling you that for the last few weeks, every couple of nights or so, you've come upstairs and we've made love." He ran a hand over his hair, trying to make sense of the situation, but it simply didn't make sense.

"And you haven't said anything about it until now?" Sandburg shook his head. "Jim, if I was going to go that way, it'd definitely be with you, man. But you know I'm straight. We need to check everything - everything - you've been exposed to in the last month to see what's causing this."

Already, Jim could see how this conversation was going to go. He'd keep insisting that it had happened, and Blair would smile in that infuriating 'I know better' way he had and eventually it would degenerate into an all out argument. Well, he had a better idea. Next time Blair came upstairs, he'd make sure there was evidence. Indisputable evidence.

He smiled, threw up his hands in surrender. "Maybe you're right. I'll try to remember anything unusual I've eaten lately."

Sandburg smiled. "Great. We'll get to the bottom of this, Jim. Don't worry."

Sandburg didn't visit him that night, for which Jim was grateful. He needed to think this one through. His first idea, to borrow one of the videos with motion sensors from the PD, he finally rejected. It was too uncomfortably like voyeurism, and he wasn't sure he wanted to see how they looked making love together. He was absolutely certain he wouldn't want to see the expression on Sandburg's face after watching the tape with him.

In the end it just seemed easier to mark him with a hickey or two, in suitably suggestive locations, and then inform Sandburg later. That way they could both save face a little. Still, there were certain preparations that Jim wanted to make, and he did so, feeling an awful lot like a teenager again, sneaking into his father's house with porn mags hidden in a brown paper bag. Except that it wasn't magazines he was smuggling into the loft.

That night was a bust too. He lay awake for hours, listening to Sandburg's snuffling breathing in the room beneath his. When it became obvious that nothing was going to happen, he jerked off sullenly, thinking about how that hairy chest felt pressed against his own, how good it felt to hold Blair's hard dick in his hand, or suckle it in his mouth. Soon this would be all he had to look forward to, so he'd better get used to it.

When he heard Sandburg's tread on the stairs the following night, his heart began to quicken. Anticipation, nerves... it was that, but also fear. Before, he'd thought that Sandburg wanted this. If he was doing it in some kind of weird sleepwalking state, then Jim had no right to make love with him now he knew the situation. Sandburg hadn't consented, not really. He had to at least try to get him to either wake up or go away.

He lay unmoving as Sandburg came over to the bed and got in, but when that first touch came, he turned on his side to face his roommate. The blue eyes were open; he seemed to be awake, but now that Jim knew, it was obvious he wasn't. He caught hold of Blair's hands and held them against his chest.

"Blair? Buddy, can you hear me?" He saw Blair's eyes blink but there was no recognition or response. "Blair, wake up. Come on, you need to wake up now."

He tried for several minutes as Blair grew increasingly impatient with the gentle restraint of his hands, only releasing him when it became clear he could only keep his grip on Blair by hurting him. Immediately, Blair zeroed in on his lips, kissing him hungrily.

"Jesus, Blair..." he returned the kisses, holding Blair's head between his hands, and deepening them, continuing until his lips felt raw and swollen. He'd wanted this for almost the whole time Blair had been coming to him, but he hadn't wanted to give so much of himself away when it seemed Blair was only interested in getting off.

Eventually, he forced himself to acknowledge that this was happening for a reason. He had to carry out his plan regardless of the consequences. All the same, he wanted more than quick, utilitarian sex, and he slowly stripped off Blair's underwear, lying naked with him for the first and last time. He wrapped himself around Blair's sturdy body, exploring him with every inch of his own skin.

"I want this, want you, so much, Chief." He could say that, now he knew Blair couldn't hear him. He slid his hand down over Blair's hip, drawing him closer, sliding his knee between Blair's thighs and rubbing slowly, luxuriously against him. "I wish... wish it was real."

There was no answer, other than the quiet murmurs of pleasure that Jim now knew were meaningless. He rolled Blair onto his back, avoiding looking at the pale blur of Sandburg's face. He didn't want to see the blankness there - how could he not have known? "I'm sorry, Chief. I'm so sorry."

He made the marks, as he'd intended, wanting to get that part out of the way, and then reached for the condoms and lube he'd bought yesterday. Earlier, he'd prepared himself, as he had the previous night, shocked at how good it had felt, that he'd enjoyed that even without Blair's participation. It didn't take long to slide the condom on Blair's dick, and lube it generously - it looked and felt a hell of a lot bigger than a couple of fingers, and Jim wasn't about to take chances.

Blair made a quiet, satisfied sound as Jim pressed down onto his dick and began to rock into him. It hurt, but not as much as Jim had expected. Soon, he was moving easily, and he leaned forward to run his fingers over Blair's chest, teasing his nipples and tugging gently on the longer hairs in the centre of his chest.

A smile curved the full lips and Blair's eyelids fluttered closed. Jim closed his eyes too, concentrating on holding himself together. This was far more intense than he'd expected and the temptation to go hard, to drive himself to the limit was almost overpowering. He could feel the climax building fast, and when Blair's hands, wandering over his body, came to rest on his dick, there was no more willpower left in him to resist.

Jim threw his head back, crying out at the force of the sensations buffeting him and his body froze, rigid as iron for an incredible few seconds before collapsing limply to the bed beside Blair. And, Christ, that hurt, because Blair had still been hard, and not prepared for his sudden movement. Blair didn't seem to be in any discomfort, though, and Jim ignored his own, wanting to end this now. There was only one way to do that - Blair would leave once he'd climaxed, and not before. He took Blair into his arms and held him as he coaxed the condom off his dick, then with a few quick jerks, finished him off.

He lay still, letting his breathing subside, knowing that any moment now Blair would get out of the bed and leave. And that would be the end. Once Blair accepted what was happening, he'd do something about it - find a psychiatrist, or take some weird herbal concoction, or meditate - whatever it took to stop himself from ever doing this again. Jim might be able to justify tonight by saying that he had to prove to Blair what was happening. There would be no excuse for allowing it to happen again.

It was only the space of a few heartbeats before Blair moved, smoothly disentangling himself from Jim and getting out of the bed. He found his discarded underwear and dressed, while Jim watched in despairing silence, then padded down the stairs as calmly and quietly as he always did.

Waking the next morning after only a few hours sleep, Jim lay grimly contemplating the grey skies through the skylights and wondered how he was going to get through the next couple of days. He'd have to tell Sandburg today, there was no point in putting it off, and then... he couldn't even begin to imagine what would happen then.

Delaying the inevitable wasn't going to help, so when he heard the sounds of Blair moving around in his room, Jim got out of bed, shrugged on his robe and went downstairs. He was just in time to meet Blair coming out of his room, still wearing the tank and shorts he'd slept in, and with a towel slung over his arm.

"Chief, before you go in the bathroom, there's something I want to say."

Blair jiggled impatiently. "Better say it fast, Jim. I'm a man with a mission, you know what I mean?"

"It won't take long." Jim hesitated a moment, then decided just to give him the bare facts. "You came upstairs again last night and I can prove it." He caught hold of Blair's left arm and raised it slightly. "See that hickey just below your armpit? I gave it to you. There's two more..." he touched his fingertip to the inside of Blair's right thigh, just below his groin and to his belly, just above his pubic hair ", and here. Go in the bathroom and look in the mirror."

"Jim..." Blair narrowed his eyes, looking shaken but resolute.

He shook his head. "Just look in the mirror."

"Okay." Blair disappeared into the bathroom and Jim waited.

And waited.

Finally, Blair came out, pale and looking more than a little shell-shocked. "This is... this is impossible. How could I have sex with you and not even know about it?" his voice was rising in volume, roughening, "Jesus, Jim, how can this happen?"

"I don't know." He reached out, but Blair ducked away from him, eyes wide and panicked. "Chief, we'll work this out. It'll be okay, I'll make it okay. Somehow."

"I don't think this is the kind of thing that..." Blair stopped, pressing his lips tightly together. "I... I have to think about this, okay, Jim?"

He watched helplessly as Blair disappeared into his room.

"Sexsomnia?" Jim gave him his best 'you've got to be kidding' look.

"Yeah. It's a fairly new diagnosis, but it's now being studied as a genuine sleeping disorder." Blair glanced at him rather nervously, but at least he was talking again. Four days of silence had been more than a little unnerving. "It's often caused by stress."

"What kind of stress?" God knew, Sandburg had a busier life than anyone Jim knew, but it wasn't any busier lately than it had been in all the time Jim had known him.

Blair shrugged. "I'm not sure. I'm going to start therapy and I'll keep on taking the sleeping pills for a while. And... uh, Jim? We... we kind of need to talk about this. I mean, about how this affects you."

It had to happen some time. Didn't mean he had to like it. "And what if I don't want to talk about it?"

"Jim, you're straight." A worried glance in his direction. "And there I was crawling all over you and making you..."

"Okay, hold it right there." This was definitely something he didn't want to talk about, but the guilt-laden tone told him he was going to have to set the record straight. "Do you honestly think you could force me to have sex if I didn't want to? In your sleep?"

"Well, if you put it like that..." Blair chuckled uneasily. "But, still..."

"And do you think I'd let it go on for over a month, and... and not say anything about it because I thought that was how you wanted it to be, unless I was okay with it?" And spend every night since it all fell apart lying awake wishing there was something he could do to get Blair back in his bed again? This time as his acknowledged lover. He took a step towards Blair and forced himself to ignore the minute flinch Blair couldn't suppress as he held his ground. "Believe me, you have nothing to feel bad about. I should have realised there was something going on. I should have put a stop to it. I'm really sorry about that, Blair."

"It wasn't your fault, Jim." Looking a little more confident, Blair spoke firmly. "If I'd never heard of such a thing, how could you expect to? It's not exactly commonplace."

"All the same..." Jim stopped as he realised how ridiculous this whole thing was getting. Arguing about who was most to blame wouldn't solve anything. "All right. We accept that it's happened and we move on. Deal?"

Blair smiled. "Sounds good to me."

Which would be reassuring if Jim couldn't hear his heartbeat, pounding like a trip hammer, or smell the anxiety rolling off him in waves.

Nothing was quite the same after that. There was a certain distance between them that had never been there before, a hesitation where once they would have touched unselfconsciously, and they didn't get into each other's personal space they way they'd always used to do. Jim missed it like people missed their amputated limbs. The easy companionship with which they'd shared the loft had gone too. They still inhabited the same space but they didn't live together.

They'd crossed a line, and although they couldn't live on the other side, turning back hadn't been particularly successful, either. So it came as no surprise to Jim when he found the paper turned to the rental pages, and the heavily circled ads for apartments close to the university. It was as though the other shoe had finally fallen.

He celebrated by going to the Irish bar on Tenth and drinking too much whiskey until the bouncers finally kicked him out about five shots after he was legally drunk. He took a cab home and stumbled up the stairs.

Blair met him at the door, his face creased with worry. "Phew. You've really been tying it on. You stink of booze, man."

"I'm fine," he enunciated with great precision. "Know exac'ly how much I can hold."

"Sure you do. You want some help?"

Jim shook his head, and immediately regretted it. When the room stopped spinning, Blair was under his arm, propping him up. "How about I take you upstairs and you can lie down for a few minutes?"

Upstairs... with Blair... for some reason that sounded like a really bad idea, but he couldn't remember why. So he allowed Blair to help him up the stairs and dump him unceremoniously on the bed. He tried to focus his eyes on the ceiling while Blair removed his boots, but it kept advancing and retreating and that was upsetting his stomach. He frowned and squeezed his eyes shut.

A click of the light switch and darkness beyond his eyelids encouraged him to open his eyes again. Blair's face was hovering a few inches above his, and he remembered another time when that had happened, when other things had happened. Things he wanted to happen again.

He reached up and slid his hand around the back of Blair's neck, under his hair. "Don't go. Don' leave, 'kay?"

"Jim, you're drunk." Blair's voice sounded strange. Maybe it was because he was drunk, but Jim didn't think so. "We'll talk in the morning."

"No!" Instinct told him that come morning, they'd be back to the same, awful isolation from each other. It was killing him, wrecking their friendship. It was why Blair was looking for some place else to live. "Don' move out. Promise me. We can fix things, Chief."

"Oh, god... Jim, I'm not moving out. I was looking for my friend Jeremy. He doesn't get the paper, so I said I'd check the rentals." Blair sounded like he was either laughing or crying. "Is that why you got drunk?"

"Yep. Don' wanna lose you." He sighed mournfully. "Love you, Blair."

"I love you too, you idiot. We'll talk in the morning, okay?"

"No. Not okay." He took a deep breath and forced himself to speak carefully. In the morning he'd be sober and that meant he'd only have to get drunk again if he wanted to do this. "I really love you, Blair. Like this."

He pulled Blair closer, managed to get his mouth on Blair's in a wet, sloppy kiss. Not one of his best, but it got the message across, he hoped. "Love you. Want you. Want..." he fell silent as Blair kissed him back. There was no doubting this kiss; it was hard and desperate and there was tongue. Lots of tongue. When Blair pulled away, he was left breathless.

Blair was smiling. "I get it, Jim. Okay? I get it." He brushed his fingers down Jim's cheek. "And now you need to sleep it off. I'll get you some water and aspirin. And maybe a bucket."

He caught Blair's arm. "Sleep with me."

It seemed like a long time before Blair answered him. "All right." He bent over and kissed Jim on the forehead. "I'll be back soon. Don't go anywhere."

"I'll wait. Promise." He smiled and closed his eyes. Oh yeah, for Blair he'd wait a long time. However long it took.