by Francesca

Author's disclaimer: Not mine, all theirs, yadda yadda.

Author's notes: Ok, I have to confess that I can't even remember who betaed this story. This story has been hanging out on my HD for some time now. I have the idea that MT Webster took a look at it, I have the idea that Miriam must have run her eyes over it. Clearly my brain is going. Anyway, they're both wonderful people, so I thank them anyway. And if you betaed this story and I didn't mention you — apologies in advance and please remind me and I'll put it up on my site. About the story. Well. It's sort of a rape story and it's sort of a comedy. Sort of.

In the dream, he knew that Blair was screaming, even though Blair's mouth was stuffed with the rough cotton fabric of his t-shirt, even though his screams were muffled and he could only really hear the harsh inhalations of air through Blair's nose.

And that was scary enough — god, in the cold light of morning that was fucking terrifying, but what was scarier still was that in the dream he didn't care. He didn't care that Blair was screaming — hell, he could remember vividly just how much it didn't matter, how the only thing that mattered was having him, fucking him. The only thing that mattered was the muscular back bent over the armchair in front of him. The only thing that mattered was the narrow waist, the swell of buttocks — hell, the only thing that mattered was being inside that smooth tight ass, whether Blair liked it or not.

And now in the cold light of morning it was he who was breathing raggedly, because it was terrifying, fucking terrifying, remembering how little he had cared as Blair struggled and screamed beneath him.

He stared up at the skylight and he could feel the sweat streaking his chest, could feel the dampness under his back, could feel the spattered wetness on his stomach where he'd come.

God, Jim thought, swallowing hard. What the fuck was that about? God, he amended a moment later, I don't care what it's about, just make it go away, please.

Please, God. I don't want to have that dream again.

"Hey Jim — you awake?" Blair called up from his room.

Jim started guiltily and cleared his throat. "Yeah," he called back.

The question floated up: "Do you want breakfast?"

Hell, what was the right answer to that? I mean, no, he wasn't particularly hungry or anything. Having spent the night viciously raping Blair had somehow, strangely, killed his appetite — but he didn't want to alienate Blair either, not after —

Hell, it was just a dream, Ellison. Calm the fuck down.

"I don't know," Jim called down, finally.

There was silence from downstairs: shit, that had been the wrong answer.

"Okay," Blair called up a moment later, "only, see, if you're eating, I'll make eggs and stuff, whereas if you're not eating, I might make some of that grain mush you hate."

Jim sat up and dragged the sheet across his stomach to wipe the come off. "Which do you want?" he called back.

"Either," Blair replied. "Both. Do you want eggs?"

Somehow the answer to this continued to fail to be apparent to him. He could hear the nervous pounding of his own heart and it suddenly reminded him of Blair's pulse, Blair's pulse beating through his wrists.

He'd been holding Blair down by the wrists...

"Tell you what," Blair called up in his best, 'See what a conciliatory guy I am' voice. "I'll make the eggs and then you can defer this decision until later. Okay?"

"Yeah, okay," Jim answered, and he listened to Blair pad out of his room into the kitchen and start fumbling with the coffee machine.

Get a grip, Ellison, he told himself firmly. It's just a dream. Dreams are weird. They never mean anything — or whatever, if they mean something, they don't mean what you think they mean. They never mean what they depict. That's too obvious, and plus he'd never hurt Blair anyway. He'd never dislocate Blair's shoulder as he held him down and —

See, right, that's a perfect example right there. See how the fucking subconscious works? You don't want to think about something so then bang! Technicolor movie. Because our brains are so fucking perverse that way. So if he was dreaming about raping Blair — well, then, raping Blair was the last possible thing that such a dream could be about. QED. Too obvious by a long shot.

No, dreaming about raping Blair was obviously a cover for something he really didn't want to think about. His team dying in Peru. Or finding Bud's murdered body. Or his mother's death.

Except, well, not any of those because he'd just thought of them.

Something really twisty that he hadn't even thought of yet.

Really, the field was wide open.

"Coffee's up," Blair announced from below, and Jim could smell the eggs cooking, hear the soft scrape of the wooden spoon against the teflon. "If you want some," Blair amended a moment later. "You don't need to decide now or anything."

Jim could hear the smile in Blair's voice and it brought an answering smile to his. Right. Blair was right — he was just acting like an asshole. He got out of bed and slipped a pair of sweatpants on over his boxers. He was wigging out over nothing. Just a stupid dream that didn't mean anything.

Still, though, it had been fairly horrifying, and he consoled himself by affirming that he'd have been equally horrified if, say, he'd dreamt about cutting Simon into bits with a hacksaw, or stuffing Carolyn into the wood chipper.

He put on a t-shirt and then — on impulse — slipped his bathrobe on for good measure.

Blair stared at him as he came downstairs and into the kitchen. "Are you cold?" he asked, frowning. Blair himself was wearing a t-shirt and shorts — well, hell, it was August.

"Yes," Jim said, pulling the bathrobe close around his throat.

Blair's face flashed with guilt. "Shit, you're sick. Shit. Sorry, I thought you were yanking my chain. Sit down — sit down — I'll get you some juice."

"I'm not sick," Jim countered, sitting down.

"Shut up," Blair replied, getting the juice. "You are so. You're totally sick — god, look at you!" He brought the glass to Jim and looked him over with a critical eye. "I've never seen you wear so many clothes. Your body's telling you something, man — your body's telling you to warm up. Maybe you've got to sweat it out or something. Trust me — you gotta listen to your body when it talks to you."

Jim gritted his teeth as he reached for his juice. Listen to his body. Yeah, right — well, currently his body was getting off on some pretty nasty-ass shit. So maybe he didn't feel like listening to his goddammed body right now, thanks very much.

"I'm sure I'm fine," Jim said, putting the glass down.

"I'm sure you're not," Blair countered, and then Blair was reaching forward and touching his face, feeling his forehead. Jim shrank away, but Blair just moved forward with him, touching his face with cool, dry hands. "You think it's a fever or a cold?" Blair asked, frowning. "You're cold, so you probably have a fever. What is it — feed a fever, starve a cold? No — -starve a fever, feed a cold. Ha. And you've got no appetite, have you? No. Fever. Gotta be."

Hell, maybe he did have a fever, Jim thought, because he didn't really get one word of that.

"But eat a little of this anyway," Blair said, going back into the kitchen to get a plate of eggs. "I mean — I don't think starving can be good for anything, really. Fever or cold. So eat a little of this and then go back to bed." He brought back the plate of scrambled eggs and put it in front of Jim. "I'll bring you up some extra blankets, a pitcher of water — "

"Really," Jim insisted, "I'm not sick. I'm fine."

Blair shook his head. "You're not fine. You're flushed for one thing." And then Blair was touching Jim's face again and Jim thought he was going to die. Jesus, Blair was touching his face — god, if he only knew what Jim'd been dreaming... "And you're hot," Blair concluded triumphantly. "Hot and flushed."

Well, yeah, of course he was hot and flushed — he was wearing sweats, a t-shirt, and a bathrobe in fucking August.

"Eat that and go back to bed," Blair said firmly, and Jim sighed, and nodded, and began to eat his eggs. Fine. He'd do that. He was tired anyway.

He'd slept poorly.

In the dream, he could hear Blair sobbing softly beneath him, but he didn't care — he had Blair pinned down and he was crushing him down with his weight and he was fucking him. And god, Blair's ass was round and smooth where it caressed his abdomen — and god, Blair was so warm and tight inside. He couldn't help but groan as he slid in and out of that slick warmth; god, this was his, this was for him, and it felt so fucking fucking fucking good....

His breath caught in his throat, suddenly, as pleasure gripped him, and then he was thrusting his hips helplessly, hands gripping Blair's biceps tightly, thrusting again and again and again to get on top of it, to ride that wave of pleasure until it crashed over him, until he drowned in it. And then a groan was ripped from his throat and he was coming, shooting come into Blair's ass, coming inside him, and that was wonderful, that was the very best fucking thing ever, and suddenly he felt weak and he let himself fall forward onto Blair, and he wrapped tight arms around him and kissed his neck and felt Blair try to jerk away...

He frowned and turned Blair around to face him, and Blair's face was contorted and tear streaked and still fucking beautiful but Blair kept twisting his head away as Jim tried to kiss him —


Jim opened his eyes and saw Blair's face, staring down at him — and then suddenly he jerked up and nearly leapt to the far side of the bed.

Blair blinked with surprise. "Hey!" he said, raising his hands. "Hey, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to scare you."

Jim could hear his own harsh breathing as he looked around, wildly — and then he felt the stickiness on his belly and squeezed his eyes shut. Oh, goddammit, he thought desperately.

"It's just — you've been asleep for hours," he heard Blair say, "and I really thought you should take in some fluids and — " Blair was silent for a moment and then he said, quietly, "Hang on — I'm gonna get you some aspirin, okay?"

Aspirin! What the fuck did he need with aspirin? He needed a fucking lobotomy, he needed fucking electroshock treatments! God, why was this sick shit happening to him — what the hell was wrong with his fucking brain? Jim gasped a little and then opened his eyes. How had he come from thinking about that? Thinking about it now, consciously, made him ill, made him feel like his cock was shrinking right back up into him.

Blair was coming back up the stairs to his bedroom and Jim sucked in a deep breath and tried to control himself. He looked up at Blair as he approached the bed and sat down on the edge; Blair looked so fucking worried.

Well, hell, maybe he should be worried: he was living with a maniac.

"Take these," Blair said, holding out the two small pills to Jim on his palm. Jim nodded grimly and reached for them but when his fingers touched Blair's hand he started shaking and the pills scattered on the bedclothes. Blair frowned as he scrabbled on the bedspread for the aspirins — and then suddenly Blair grabbed Jim's palm and put the pills into it and closed Jim's fist around them with both his hands.

Blair's hands — his warm, dry, helpful hands.

Oh, god, he was going to throw up.

But he didn't; he forced the wave of nausea back down and merely nodded and brought his hand to his mouth and sucked the pills in. Blair handed him a glass of water and he drank — -drank and swallowed.

Was it too much to hope that Blair was right? — that this was a fever? If it was a fever, could this all be a fever dream of some sort?

"Listen, I don't think you should go into work tomorrow," Blair was saying in that soft, concerned voice of his.

"I don't want to sleep anymore," Jim said tightly.

"Whatever," Blair replied, "but I still don't think you should go in."

"It's probably nothing," Jim muttered. "Just some bug. "

Blair nodded. "Probably," he said, turning away and picking up a mug from Jim's night table. "Here," he added, "have this — it's soup."

"I'm not hungry," Jim said.

"I know," Blair said, though of course he couldn't know, "but you need fluids — you're sweating, you don't want to get dehydrated, okay? Just have a little." Jim sighed and took the mug — it was some sort of chicken broth. "Meanwhile," Blair said, "you ought to take your temperature. Just so we know exactly what we're dealing with here, okay?"

We. What we're dealing with. Christ. He slurped at the soup, which was tasty.

"Do you have a thermometer?" Blair pressed. "I've got one downstairs if you don't."

"In the table," Jim said, and Blair nodded and began to rummage through the little drawer.

"Is it clean?" Blair asked, drawing it out.

"Of course it's clean," Jim snorted.

"All right, all right — don't get testy," Blair said. He squinted at the thin glass tube to get a reading, and then began to shake the mercury down.

He is beautiful, Jim thought suddenly. He is totally fucking beautiful. Blair's hair was drawn back at the nape of his neck and a single tendon stood out there as he waved the thermometer up and down. He was wearing a white v-necked t-shirt, which showed off his neck and upper chest very appealingly and —

And what the hell did that mean, Jim thought grimly. Blair peered again at the glass tube and nodded with satisfaction, then handed it to Jim, who slid it under his tongue and clamped his mouth down around it. Okay, so maybe this wasn't a Freudian-type dream, this horrible rape thing. A Freudian dream didn't break into your conscious life like this. So maybe this was some sort of Sentinel dream — those dreams sure seemed to blur the dream world and the real world.

Not that he wanted those worlds blurred. God, no.

He shivered. Blair's frown deepened, and Jim found himself absurdly grateful for the thermometer in his mouth: he wouldn't be expected to say anything for another couple of minutes. The violent dream world and the real world couldn't possibly blur, could they? I mean, he couldn't ever be that violent, could he? He couldn't possible ever hurt someone who had made him eggs and brought him soup and — and — and tugged the blanket up around his shivering shoulders, the way Blair Sandburg was doing now.

Beautiful Blair Sandburg. Goddammit, men shouldn't look like that.

Jim closed his eyes and examined his own soul for a moment. Could he do such a thing? Was he capable of such a thing? He was almost sure he wasn't. I mean, hell, he was far from perfect, but he wasn't that sort of a monster.

Or was he? After all, he had killed — he had killed in the army, he had killed in Peru, and as a child he'd never thought he could do something like that, either.

Peru — he'd done things in Peru — he'd done —

But he'd had to, hadn't he? Eight men dead; eight men who'd needed burying; and then there was just him, there, all alone —

But he had never killed in anger, never killed for self-gain — he'd only killed to protect himself, to protect others —

Was that nitpicking? His mind suddenly conjured up white-haired Father Lawlor, who'd been the head of the parish church the Ellisons had attended during his childhood. What would he say about all this? The kindly priest had lived through World War One, World War Two, Korea, and had died near the end of the Vietnam conflict; surely he must have a more complicated view toward killing than the fifth commandment would indicate with its simple "thou shalt not"?

Or maybe he didn't; maybe it was the complicated view that killed the soul.

"Jim?" Blair said softly, "it's probably been enough time," and Jim opened his eyes and took the thin glass tube out from between his lips. He stared at it for a moment, but he couldn't get his eyes to focus; with a sigh, he handed it over to Blair. Blair would read it.

It hardly mattered what Father Lawlor would say, after all. What place did Catholic theology have here? No more place than Freudian psychology. Not with this Sentinel business. The damn thing was godless, unscientific. It ran by its own set of rules, and Jim felt suddenly, bleakly, lost.

"Well," Blair said, frowning. "Only ninety-nine and two lines. Not what I would have expected — maybe it is a cold, after all." Blair put the thermometer down on the nightstand and pondered for a moment. "Or some sort of infection."

"Maybe," Jim allowed.

"Well," Blair said again, getting up. "You just rest, okay? I'll be downstairs — yell if you want anything." He looked Jim over again critically; the beautiful face was creased with concern. "Do you want anything now? Juice? Something to read...?"

"No," Jim said. "I'll be okay."

"Okay," Blair sighed, turning for the stairs, then hesitating at the top step. "I'm right downstairs, all right? So just yell."

"Yeah. Okay," Jim said quietly, and Blair nodded grimly and went back downstairs.

He couldn't ever do such a thing. He couldn't. To be unkind to someone who was kind — that was the worst, that was the pits, and he didn't give a shit what kind of moral system you were in, that had to be the fucking bottom of the ladder, the scum of the earth. Surely even in this Sentinel thing there was no place for that. Hell, if there was, you could just count him the fuck out.

Except it wasn't so easy to be counted out. He had tried — he had tried several times — and he couldn't get out. But he had to — maybe he really had to, now.

Because he, James Ellison, would never, ever do such a thing. But maybe — just maybe — "The Sentinel" would. Jim snorted and stared up at the skylight overhead. Face it, "The Sentinel" just wasn't the most sophisticated of guys. He was a creature of the jungle, and there was nothing sophisticated about the jungle. The jungle was a brutal place. Lacking the conveniences and the civilities of modern American life. Those conveniences, those civilities, were a luxury: hot showers and restaurants and handshakes. It hadn't been like that in Peru.

In Peru you found your food and snapped its neck. In Peru you just took what you needed when you needed it.

Jim sighed and draped his forearm over his eyes.

The tribe certainly had its own sort of civilities — but the Sentinel really wasn't of the tribe: he knew that much from experience. The Sentinel was his own separate entity: he guarded the tribe from the perimeter. Ever on alert, ever suspicious. Ready to use violence as a means to an end.

What had Blair called him? A throwback.

God, did Blair have any idea what he was saying?

In the dream he gripped Blair's face tightly with his hand — he could feel Blair's breath blasting into his palm, could feel Blair struggling to free himself, but he just clamped down harder, digging his fingers into Blair's jaw. He focused his weight on the small of Blair's back, forcing him flat down into the grass, and then worked his knee in between Blair's legs, forcing them open.

"Just stop it," he whispered harshly against the back of Blair's head. "You're making this harder than it needs to be."

And he could feel a wet, ragged sob against his hand, and then Blair suddenly lay still. Good: that was good. But he couldn't be too careful — Blair might still bolt — so he grabbed Blair's wrists and held them tightly in his fists before shoving his cock between Blair's buttocks, feeling blindly for his opening.

He could feel Blair shaking with the effort to keep still, and he moaned softly. The jungle had a warm, fertile smell after yesterday's rain; he could smell the leaves, he could taste the wind. And now Blair was stretched out underneath him — acquiescing, finally. He bent down and buried his face in Blair's thick hair, which smelled of oil and sweat and herbs —

His straining cock found Blair's hole, and he shoved himself forward, shivering as Blair's whimper reached his ears. Oil and sweat and herbs and the delicious feeling of Blair's body squeezing and caressing him — for a moment he just couldn't move, because to move would be to spoil the perfection of the moment.

But then he had to move — he had to — and he could feel the burning heat of Blair's body, the delicious spasms of Blair's asshole, the smooth skin of Blair's buttocks gliding against his hips and thighs —

"...stop..." Blair's voice, soft and broken-sounding, calling to him. "...jim, stop — "

But he couldn't stop — he wouldn't stop — he had to finish, god, he wanted to come so badly —

"...jim — jim, come on! — please..."

No. No and no and no — and he screwed his eyes shut and thrust his hips forward hard, setting up a punishing rhythm, barely pulling back before shoving in again, over and over and over, wanting it now, now — come on, come on, dammit! —

— -and he felt a stinging blow to his face and he blinked, feeling stunned, because it wasn't possible — he had Blair's wrists in his fists and he clenched them tight and felt Blair's warm flesh against his hands —

"Jim, man, come on! Snap out of it!" and Jim blinked again. Blair's face was looming above his, looking fearful, and he took a deep breath and looked away, looked down, and saw that he was gripping Blair hard by the wrists —

— and then the world swam before his eyes and he was up, out of bed, and throwing up in the wastebasket by his desk.

"I'm calling the doctor," Blair muttered behind him, and he whirled around, still feeling dizzy and sick.

"No, don't," he croaked.

"Jim — for god's sake!" Blair said, looking exasperated and gesturing toward him with his hand. "Look at you, man — you're a mess!"

"Just don't, okay?" Jim said weakly. He put one hand out to steady himself against the desk. "You're not my fucking mother, Sandburg."

"Dude — you're about to fall over!" Blair protested, taking a step closer.

"Stay there!" Jim yelled. "Don't you fucking move!"

"All right!" Blair yelled back. "I'm not moving!" Blair raised his hands in mock surrender, and god, there were bruises — bruises around his wrists —

Jim felt his stomach turn and he quickly bent back to the wastepaper basket, dry heaving.

"Oh geez," Blair hissed under his breath, and Jim could hear Blair moving toward him on rubber-soled feet. He flung his arm backwards, trying to tell Blair to stay away, to back off.

Thankfully, Blair stopped; he could hear Blair fidgeting behind him, but Blair wasn't coming any closer. Jim took a deep breath, and closed his eyes, trying to steady himself.

"Jesus Christ," he growled finally. "Can't a guy puke in privacy?"

He could hear Blair's outraged exhalation. "You know, you're really something."

"What the fuck are you doing here, anyway?" Jim asked angrily.

"What am I doing?" Blair sounded stunned. "You're fucking yelling and screaming up here, you asshole! So I come up, and you're thrashing like a demented person, and I try to wake you up and you nearly rip my fucking arms off. And now you're yelling at me!" Blair shook his head and began to pace back and forth. "You know, some minutes I don't know what the fuck I'm doing here, either: I really don't. The pay is nonexistent and the hours are lousy!"

Blair stopped suddenly and took a deep breath, clearly trying to calm himself. "Okay, look, I am going to ignore the fact that you are being a number one asshole, here, on the grounds that you've probably got the plague or something. But listen up: I am not taking any more shit from you, okay? Now you just turn yourself around, and get back into bed. Drink some of that water — you probably have no water left in your body by now."

"Sandburg," Jim growled.

But Blair just crossed his arms and stood his ground. "I don't think you're listening," he said dangerously, and Jim gritted his teeth and kicked the side of his desk.

"Temper, temper," Blair said, and Jim sighed and stumbled back toward the bed. Blair nodded approvingly. "All right. Now listen. I am calling the doctor. I am going to tell him your symptoms. I am going to ask him to phone in a prescription for you. I am going to go and pick up said prescription. If you are alive when I return, you are going to take said prescription. You got that?"

Jim clenched his jaw. "What — Blair Sandburg resorts to modern medicine? I can't believe it."

"Yeah, well, I'm about to resort to a tranquilizer gun or a sledgehammer," Blair snorted, heading for the stairs. He paused on the third step, only to reiterate, "Drink your water," before completing his descent.

Jim leaned back into his pillows and closed his eyes, listening as Sandburg phoned his physician and described his symptoms. Chills. Sweating. Lack of appetite. Vomiting. Irritability. Restless sleep, possibly hallucinations. No, no fever — just ninety-nine and two lines.

Violent impulses, Jim added bleakly. Mental illness. Psychosis.

He heard Sandburg thank the doctor and hang up, then cross the room to the door. "Jim! I'm going — back in five, okay?" Jim swallowed and didn't answer, and he heard Blair sigh and mutter, "You are such a pain in my ass," as he went out and pulled the door shut behind him.

This had to be a Sentinel thing. Had to be, somehow. That last nightmare — he had been in the jungle with Blair, his Guide. Jim shuddered, remembering the feel of the grass brushing his legs, the smell of the wind after the storm. He had raped his Guide, he had just forced him down on the ground and taken him.

Was that how it was supposed to be? Jim opened his eyes and stared up at the skylight. Maybe — maybe that was how it used to be. The Guide cared for the Sentinel, provided for his needs. Did that include sex? Was that part of the deal?

And if it was, was that how it had been done? With violence and force — throwing the Guide down, taking him whenever you wanted —

That didn't seem right. But how else could it have been? After all, it was the jungle, wasn't it? Peru was a relatively primitive society — a society without eyeglasses or aspirin or a good deli counter. It wasn't exactly the sort of society where sex would be prefaced with dinner and a movie.

Kill or be killed. Take or be taken. Fight or be vanquished. You couldn't exactly expect sweet nothings and flavored lube, now could you?

Jim rubbed roughly at his face. This whole thing had been out of control from the beginning. It bothered him that his life seemed to be following some script that had been written hundreds of years ago.

Well, this was where it ended: this was where he yelled, "Cut!" If being a Sentinel meant that he was going to develop this sort of violent desire for Blair — well, forget it. Jim's mind flashed to the bruises on Blair's wrists. The Sentinel was no gentleman, and as long as he was The Sentinel he wouldn't be able to trust himself around Blair. Maybe the throwback in him thought that Blair was his to use, but his rational mind was still in control here. He was a police officer, for God's sake. And maybe The Sentinel was supposed to dominate his Guide, but James Ellison wasn't going to do that to Blair Sandburg.


So that was that. This was the end of the line. This long, strange trip was finally going to be over.

He heard the door open, heard Blair come back in, throw his keys in the basket, and move to the stairs.

"How goes it?" Blair asked, appearing at the landing holding a small white bag.

He had made his decision. "Blair, I think you should leave."

Blair just nodded. "Right. So the doctor says that there's some sort of flu going around — he's gotten tons of calls in the last few days." Blair's nimble fingers were ripping the white bag open. "He's been prescribing this here antibiotic — "

"I mean, I think you should move out. It's nothing personal," Jim insisted, as Blair came over with the small amber vial. "It's just — I don't trust myself anymore. This Sentinel thing — it's out of control: I can't control it."

"Normally, I'm not in favor of antibiotics," Blair continued, sitting down on the edge of the bed. "They're so overused. But you don't take a whole lot of them, so it can't be too bad for you to take some every once in a while. Plus, I'm home, so I can always monitor you for any sort of adverse — "

"You're not listening! I need you to listen, here!"

Blair put the medication down on the bedside table. "I'm listening. You want me to move out because the Sentinel thing is getting out of control and you don't trust yourself."

"Right," Jim said. "Yes." Blair sighed, and Jim reached out and grabbed his arm. "Blair, please — "

Blair looked down at where Jim's hand was clutching him, then looked up at Jim's face. "Geez, man, you look terrible," he said quietly.

"Blair, I'm trying to tell you something," Jim said desperately.

"Just wait one more minute," Blair said, getting up. "I'll be right back and then you can tell me anything you want, okay?"

Jim sighed and then nodded. Blair went downstairs, and fumbled around in the bathroom for a few minutes, then came back up with a bottle of alcohol and a washcloth.

"You're gonna take those pills, right?" Blair asked, sitting back on the edge of Jim's bed.

"No," Jim replied. "No, I'm not. I'm telling you, Sandburg, I'm not sick!"

"You sure look sick." Blair unscrewed the bottle of alcohol and poured some into the washcloth. "You're green and you're sweating — just lie back and breathe for me, okay?"

"I'm having these horrible dreams," Jim tried to explain, and then Blair was hovering over him, wiping his sweaty face with the cool washcloth. Jim bolted up into a sitting position and shoved Blair's arm away. "Will you just fucking listen to me?"

"Okay, okay! I'm listening! Talk! You're having these dreams..?" Blair prompted, tossing the washcloth down onto the bed.

"Yes! And they're fucking horrible!" Jim said, glowering at Blair angrily. "Because I'm hurting you, okay?"

Blair blinked. "You're hurting me?"

"Yeah," Jim said. His throat burned; his voice felt like sandpaper grinding against his throat. "I'm hurting you. I'm really hurting you."

"How?" Blair asked, frowning.

"I'm — I — " Jim felt a wave of nausea hit him again, and he immediately lay back against his pillows and tried to breathe.

"It's okay," Blair murmured, reaching out to stroke his arm gently. "Whatever it is, it's okay."

"It's not okay!" Jim spat. "I'm raping you."

Blair's eyebrows shot up. "You're raping me?"

"Yeah. Yeah." There. He'd said it. He'd said it and his heart was pounding like a fucking jackhammer. "See, look — so I'm thinking that these dreams are a Sentinel thing."

Blair nodded slowly. "Okay. Go on."

"Because — like — the last one was in the jungle — and the jungle's not a civilized place — and I think — well, I think that the Guide is sort of there to provide..." Jim trailed off, feeling his face grow hotter still. "Or he used to. I mean, I think being a Guide used to include — I mean — I think — " God, he was babbling: this was so hard to explain. "And I just feel — dammit, Sandburg, I won't do it — I don't want anymore of this throwback shit! — "

"Hang on, hang on, slow down," Blair said soothingly. He reached for the washcloth again and soaked it with more alcohol and then folded it and lay it across Jim's forehead. Jim sighed and let him do it — god, that felt good. His brain felt like it was on fucking fire.

"Okay," Blair said, "so let me see if I've got this. You're having horrible dreams where you, the Sentinel, rape me, the Guide." Jim nodded, careful not to dislodge the washcloth. "And so you're thinking, now, that this was part of the Guide deal. The Warrior-Sentinel and the Shaman-Guide, alone in the jungle — "

"Yes, exactly," Jim said, grateful that Blair had somehow understood what he meant.

" — and the Guide takes care of the Sentinel's needs, right? Takes care of him when he's sick, watches his back, maybe prepares his meals?"

"Yes, exactly."

"Right," Blair said, nodding. "And then when the Sentinel gets horny, the Guide becomes the victim of a little marital rape, is that it?"

Jim swallowed. "Yeah. I mean — yeah."

"Because the Sentinel is so much bigger and stronger than the Guide — what with all those genetic advantages and all."

"Yeah," Jim whispered. "Exactly."

"And so the Sentinel forces the Guide to — "


"Well," Blair considered, thinking about this. "That's a very interesting theory you've got there."

Jim pushed himself up on his elbows urgently. "See — that's why you have to leave! Because this whole thing — don't you see, the whole Sentinel thing is based on outmoded, primitive relationships! You said it yourself — I'm a throwback! I could hurt you — "

"Shhh!" Blair reached out and turned the washcloth over on Jim's forehead. "Man, you have got to calm down!"

"Blair, I'm not stupid," Jim insisted. "Sexual relationships haven't always been romantic — they were generally based on force or economics or — "

"Jim — whoa! Whoa, okay?" Blair shook his head. "Look, I never said you were stupid, but I gotta tell you, armchair anthropology isn't exactly your forte, either. A little learning is a dangerous thing, man." Blair moved onto the bed and crossed his legs underneath him. "So let's examine this theory of yours, shall we? You've postulated a strong Warrior-Sentinel, and a Guide who's sort of a Shaman-Whore, right?"

"Well, yeah, I guess," Jim admitted.

"And they're alone in the jungle together, and the Guide becomes the Sentinel's ipso facto love slave. Because the jungle's not civilized — because strength is everything there, right?"

Jim swallowed and nodded. "Yeah."

"Okay, fine. So what about zones?"

Jim frowned. "Zones?"

"Yeah. Zones. I mean, the Guide's supposed to help the Sentinel with zones, right?"

Jim nodded slowly. "Yeah."

"Okay, so picture. Day after day, the big, strong Sentinel defends the tribe," Blair puffed himself up and mimed throwing a spear, "and the weak little Guide sort of follows behind, tending the Sentinel's wounds, making lunch, and getting raped twice a week. And then one day, the big strong Sentinel zones out when a cricket chirps." Blair cupped his hand to his ear and let his expressive face go slack as he listened to the imaginary cricket. "The big lug is out for the count, right? — he's just a big paperweight at that point. And so away goes the nimble, abused Guide, off into the woods. Or at least, that's what I'd do if I were the nimble, abused Guide. Which I guess I am, really," Blair added. "And then, the big stupid Sentinel gets eaten by a lion. The end."

Jim's lips twitched. "I never thought about it like that."

"Well, that pretty much explains why you need a Guide," Blair answered, prosaically. "See, you're not really thinking this through. I mean, yeah, the Sentinel's got physical strength and all that, but ultimately he's a pretty vulnerable guy." Blair reached out again for the washcloth, and began to gently wipe it across Jim's face.

Jim sighed and closed his eyes. "He is?"

"Yep. He is," Blair explained. "What with the zone-out factor and all. It would be easier, I think, for the Guide to abuse the Sentinel than the other way around."

Jim's eyes shot open. "What?"

"Well, think about it," Blair said. "The Guide could probably induce a zone whenever he wanted. And then, when the Sentinel zones out, the Guide could beat him up, or kill him, or betray him to a neighboring tribe, or just roll him over and — "

"All right, stop," Jim said quickly, raising a nervous hand. "That's enough."

Blair grinned. "I thought it would make you feel better."

"It doesn't, thanks," Jim said firmly.

Blair shrugged. "Well, don't worry about it. 'Cause ultimately I don't think that's very likely either. I mean, we're talking about a major position of trust, here. The life of the tribe depends on the Sentinel, and the Sentinel depends on the Guide. So you're gonna want to pick a reliable Guide to protect your Sentinel. I'm sure it all worked out fine." He smiled down at Jim. "Does that help any?"

"Well — sort of," Jim said. "But what about my dreams?"

"Oh." Blair frowned. "Your dreams. Right. "

"I mean, I'm glad it's not a Sentinel thing," Jim added, "except then maybe I'm just crazy."

"You're not crazy," Blair said firmly.

Jim ran a nervous hand over his hair. "Well, I'm glad one of us is sure."

"You're not crazy, Jim," Blair repeated. "We just need to think about it for a minute." Blair stared up at the ceiling, and Jim looked at the underside of his neck, the necklace around his throat, and felt his mouth go dry. Blair lowered his head suddenly and frowned at him. "Are you mad at me or something?"

"I don't think so," Jim said.

"Cause, that's the most obvious explanation — that you've got some sort of repressed anger toward me," Blair said.

"I don't think I do," Jim said, thinking about it. "I mean, if I do, then I don't know about it, you know?"

"See, the thing with dreams is — well — usually they're about what you really want to happen. Even when you don't think that's what you want. So if you're hurting me in a dream — it could be that you want to hurt me, subconsciously speaking," Blair explained.

"I don't want to hurt you," Jim said, reaching out for Blair's arm again. "Even in the dreams, I didn't want to hurt you. I just wanted — " He broke off and then sputtered, "I just wanted — but you just wouldn't — "

Blair stared at him. "I just wouldn't what?" he asked softly.

"You just wouldn't ," Jim whispered.

Blair nodded slowly. "I wouldn't let you."

Jim felt his face heating up and drew his hand back. "No."

"So, uh," Blair said, sounding nervous for the first time. "You wanted to — um. But I just wouldn't — uh — "

"Yeah," Jim murmured, staring down at the bedclothes.

"Well," Blair said finally. "Well, I mean — that's it, then, isn't it? Nothing particularly complex there, right?"

Jim looked up at him. "What do you mean?"

Blair shrugged. "Just that — you know, you wanted to, but you didn't think I would. So subconsciously, you played it out, and that's the scenario you came up with."

Jim took a deep breath. "Oh. Well," he said, trying to mirror Blair's casual tone. "So that's it, then."

"Yeah," Blair said. "That's probably it."

"So, no big deal."

"No," Blair agreed. "No big deal."

"Well, good," Jim said. "I'm glad we cleared that up."

Blair nodded and took the washcloth off Jim's forehead. "Yeah, me too." He tossed the washcloth onto the nightstand, and then picked up the plastic bottle of antibiotics. "I guess you don't need these after all."

"No, I don't think so," Jim said. He watched as his partner stared down at the bottle's label. "I mean — do you think I do?"

Blair looked up at Jim vaguely. "What?"

"Do you think I should take them anyway?" Jim asked.

"Nah," Blair said, putting the bottle down again. "No point. You probably just need some food. A decent night's sleep."

Jim nodded. "Yeah. Probably."

"I'll bring you some dinner," Blair said, uncrossing his legs and sliding toward the edge of the bed. "Something simple." He got up and ambled toward the stairs, and then hesitated at the landing.

Jim waited, but Blair didn't say anything; Blair just looked over at him thoughtfully, bouncing slightly on his sneakers, his hand obsessively squeezing the banister. "You okay?" Jim asked finally.

Blair blinked. "Yeah," he said. "Yeah, I was just — " Blair stopped for a moment, his features blank with thought. Then he shook his head a little, seemed to come out of his daze. "I was just wondering, you know? If you were right." Blair flushed suddenly and cleared his throat. "Whether I'd let you," Blair added quietly, and then he disappeared down the stairs.

And the universe was only sound — the sound of Blair's sneakers on the stairs, on the hardwood floor, crossing into the kitchen. The sound of the fridge opening, of Blair rummaging inside.


Whether .


There was an if in this situation.

Holy shit.

And part of him was relieved that he'd told Blair about the dreams, that Blair had explained that it wasn't a Sentinel thing, that Blair had shown him what a crummy anthropologist he was.

But the other part of him was terrified: god, what can of worms had he just opened with Blair?

And the universe was the clink of a knife inside a jar of mustard, and the smell of swiss cheese, and the hiss of the kettle boiling.

Sandburg was downstairs fixing him a sandwich and tea.

Sandburg was downstairs wondering if.

Holy shit: he wasn't ready for this. For any of it. For anything.

He wasn't ready for Blair Sandburg to say yes or no. He wasn't ready to have the fucking option.

God, he was going to throw up again.

And he could hear Blair putting the sandwich and the tea on a tray, and Blair was slicing up some apples for him, and Jesus, what the hell was Blair thinking down there?

And then Blair's sneakers were crossing back toward the loft stairs: Blair was coming back. Jim sat up against his pillows and tried to look relaxed.

"Here," Blair said, appearing at the top of the steps with the tray. "It's just a sandwich and some fruit — "

"It's great," Jim said quickly.

"Just try to keep it down this time," Blair said, putting the tray down on the bed.

"Okay," Jim said, nodding. He reached for the cheese sandwich, eyes fixed on Blair, trying to read Blair's thoughts from his expression. And Blair seemed to be studying him, too — oh, god, what kind of a mess had he made?

He chewed, and muttered, "S'good. Thanks."

"You're welcome," Blair said, shuffling nervously. "I — um — maybe I'll go eat something myself," he added, jerking his thumb back toward the staircase.

"Uh — okay," Jim said, nodding.

"Okay," Blair repeated, looking relieved. "Try to get some rest." He backed toward the staircase — god, the poor kid looked as tense as he felt.

Jim finished the sandwich and ate the apple slices and sipped at the tea Blair had made him as evening approached and the loft grew dark. He listened to Blair eating apples and flicking idly through the channels on the television set.

That was a bad sign: a channel-surfing Blair was a restless Blair.

A Blair who was maybe still wondering if.

The tea made him warm and sort of sleepy and he let himself doze for a little bit. He drifted in and out of dreamless sleep, lulled by the soft sounds of the TV downstairs, and Sandburg's rhythmic breathing...

And then he woke up, and the TV was off, and Blair was sitting on the edge of his bed in the dim light.

Jim lifted his head. "Blair...?"

"Don't dial up," Blair whispered quickly. "Please, Jim, okay?"

"Okay," Jim replied softly; he kept his eyesight dialed down, let Blair remain a dark and hazy shape at the foot of his bed.

"Thanks," Blair said. "It's just — I just wanted to tell you — " Even without Sentinel senses, he could tell how nervous Blair was. "Just — that I think I would, you know?"

Jim felt his chest tightening. "Oh yeah?"

"Yeah," Blair said, swallowing. "I mean — I didn't know at first. I'm not — real experienced," he added quickly. "And plus, sleeping with your research subject is just a bad idea. And then I'd be worried about — well, a lot of things."

Blair broke off suddenly, and Jim was just about to ask Blair what he was worried about when Blair began talking again. "Except that — when all's said and done — I think I want to. I mean, I think I would really want to. If you wanted to." Blair's last words were barely audible, and Jim had to force himself not to dial up his hearing.

"I'm not sure what I want," Jim said quietly.

"Hey, that's okay," Blair answered immediately. "Believe me: I understand that." He moved away slightly, and suddenly Jim knew for certain that he didn't want that.

He reached out and grabbed Blair's arm, felt Blair twitch in the darkness. "Wait," he whispered.

"Okay," Blair whispered back. "I'm waiting."

"Maybe just...come here?" Jim asked.

He heard Blair take a deep breath. "Uh...yeah, all right," Blair said, but he didn't move — he seemed frozen, there, in the darkness, on the edge of the bed. Jim tugged on Blair's arm a little, and Blair moved forward, let himself be pulled forward.

"Kick your shoes off," Jim whispered.

"Yeah, okay," Blair murmured, and he wriggled a little, and Jim heard one thump, and then another, as Blair's sneakers hit the floor.

"Come here," Jim said. He pulled on Blair's arm, and Blair crawled up onto the bed. Jim tugged until Blair was lying next to him, still wearing his shorts and t-shirt — he wrapped his arms around Blair's broad back, and felt Blair's arms come around him in the darkness.

And it was like Blair just fit there, against his body. Blair was heavy against his chest. Blair's ponytail brushed his cheek. A beaded bracelet scraped against the back of his neck — Blair was warm and hard and masculine and Jim felt suddenly happier and safer than he'd ever felt in his life. He rested his head against Blair's, just breathing him in, and thought that he might actually sleep well if Blair would just sleep beside him.

"Jim?" Blair's voice brought him instantly awake.

Jim moved his hand over Blair's back in a gentle caress. "Yeah?"

"I've got to tell you: I'm freaking out over here."

Jim blinked and pulled Blair deeper into his arms. "Why?"

"Cause this could be a big mistake," Blair whispered.

Jim tensed. "Yeah. I know."

"A really big mistake," Blair muttered against Jim's shoulder. "Sleeping with you."

Jim nodded thoughtfully and moved his hand to stroke Blair's hair. Blair was right, of course. This could be a really big mistake.

Except, well, it just didn't feel like one.

"You're not going to be a jerk, are you?" Blair asked suddenly.

Jim blinked. "Uh — no, I don't think so."

"I mean — I want you — but not if you're going to be a jerk about it, okay?"

Jim nodded. "Okay. Right."

"If you're gonna be a jerk — you can let me off this bus right now," Blair said.

"I — I don't think I'm going to be a jerk," Jim said.

"Well, just think about it for a minute, okay?"

"I — okay," Jim relented. "I'm thinking, okay?"

"Think hard," Blair directed.

He thought hard, but all he could think about was Blair bringing him sandwiches and tea, and Blair washing his face with a washcloth. Blair making him breakfast, Blair bringing him white noise generators, Blair bringing him out of zones and not leaving him to the lions.

Blair being kind.

And he didn't think he could ever be unkind to someone who was kind. Because that was the worst, that was the pits, whatever moral system you were in.

Blair was watching him expectantly, waiting for his answer. "I really don't think I'm going to be a jerk," Jim said, finally.

Blair looked relieved. "Okay, good."

"I mean, I just can't really imagine being mean to you," Jim said. "Well, I mean — maybe for a minute, but not for any real long amount of time, you know?"

Blair nodded. "Yeah, that's what I thought, but it never hurts to double-check."

Jim reached out for him again, to pull him closer again, and this time Blair didn't object. "I think," Jim said quietly, "that I want you very badly."

Blair took a deep breath. "Oh yeah?"

"Yeah," Jim confirmed.

"Go on," Blair said, pressing closer, brushing his face against Jim's neck.

"In the dreams, I kept trying to kiss you," Jim explained.

Blair raised his head to look at him. "Oh yeah?"

"Yeah," Jim said. "And you wouldn't let me."

"Oh," Blair said, and holy shit, Blair mouth was on his neck, Blair was kissing his neck.

"But I really wanted to," Jim murmured, tilting his head back, offering his neck and throat to Blair.

"Mmmm," Blair said, and god, Blair's mouth felt good, Blair's mouth felt so good on him, Blair's mouth was making him hard.

"I couldn't handle it when you wouldn't let me," Jim said.

"Mmmm," Blair said.

"You're making me hard," Jim confessed abruptly.

"Good," Blair murmured.

"I mean — you're making me really hard, here," and shit, Blair was tonguing his ear, Blair's tongue was in his ear, and he'd never been so keyed up — never, ever been so keyed up for sex before.

"That was sort of the point," Blair mumbled.

"Jesus, Blair — " and Jim took Blair's head in his hands and pulled Blair's mouth to his. And this time Blair didn't twist away — Blair was there, in front of him: solid and real and ready to be kissed. He placed gentle little kisses on Blair's generous lips, beautiful lips —

" — oh, jim — " and Jim slid his tongue into Blair's mouth and moaned as Blair sucked it in hungrily, grateful that the real-Blair's pleasure noises were so blissfully different from the dream-Blair's muffled cries of protest.

He felt Blair's hands sliding under his own t-shirt, felt Blair's hands caressing his sides, skimming across his back, and he arched and let Blair pull the t-shirt up over his head. He had to lift his mouth off Blair's so that Blair could get the shirt entirely off him, and he was surprised, when he met Blair's eyes again, at the look of lust he found there.

He had never seen that look of lust — not in any of his dreams.

"Geez," Blair said softly; his blue eyes had gone dark. Blair lifted a hand and gently traced Jim's chest. "Geez, Jim — -you're pretty nice, there."

"Uh — thanks." Jim felt his face grow hot.

"Way to make a guy feel shallow," Blair said, the corner of his mouth turning up slightly. Blair reached out and carefully rubbed one of Jim's nipples, hissing with pleasure as it hardened under his fingertip. "Geez," Blair said softly.

"That feels good," Jim muttered.

Blair moved his finger to Jim's other nipple, and stimulated that one into full hardness, too. "Geez," Blair said again, and Jim thought it was ironic that his nipples were being teased, but Blair was the one breathing hard. "I — " Blair began, and then he stopped and met Jim's eyes. "You're amazing," Blair confessed, letting his fingers trail down Jim's chest to the hard planes of his abdomen. "Your body fucking staggers me."

"Oh yeah?" Jim asked, shuddering at the touch.

"Yeah," Blair said, leaning in to touch Jim's nipple with the tip of his tongue.

Jim moaned.

"I kept telling myself that you didn't do anything for me," Blair murmured against his chest. "That you weren't my type — god, I'm such a fucking liar."

"I didn't even get that far," Jim ground out. "I never even let myself think about you."

Blair was dropping wet, open-mouthed kisses across Jim's chest. "You did in your dreams."

"I kept trying to kiss you," Jim choked out. "I kept trying to kiss you but you wouldn't let me..."

"Kiss me now," and Jim groaned and pushed Blair onto his back and kissed him, and Blair was clutching him and wetly kissing him back.

"You're beautiful," Jim muttered, moving lower to suckle Blair's neck. He kissed his way down to the V-neck of Blair's t-shirt, then grabbed at the hem and pulled it up over Blair's head. He hovered over Blair, staring, taking in the pale skin, the dusting of dark hair, the slim waist. He bent his head to the small, shiny ring threaded through Blair's left nipple, taking it between his teeth and poking the tip of his tongue through it gently.

This drew a sharp gasp from Blair, who arched up. "Don't," Blair hissed. "I'll come — you'll make me come — "

"That was sort of the point," Jim murmured, licking at the silver ring.

"Yeah, but — " Blair protested breathlessly. "I mean — I want to come with you inside me," and Jim groaned helplessly and let his head fall against Blair's chest.

Blair's hands came up to caress his hair. "Jim?" he heard Blair say. "You okay?"

"Oh christ..." Jim moaned softly, unable to look up.

"I mean — that's what you wanted, wasn't it?" Blair whispered.

He felt like the admission was being ripped from him. "...yes..."

"Me too." Blair's hands were touching him, were all over him. "I want you. Inside me."

Jim lifted his head, finally, and met Blair's eyes. Blair was nodding at him, and god, this was so different from the dream — so very different to have Blair wanting, Blair offering...

He stroked Blair's chest soothingly with his palms and then let his hands drift down to Blair's shorts, tugging them off, down his hips. And Blair was hard too — -hard and beautiful, blood-flushed cock curving upward from dark pubic hair. He stroked Blair's cock with his palm, and Blair sucked in a harsh breath.

"I won't make it if you touch me like that," Blair warned.

"But I want to touch you like that," Jim protested.

"Fuck me first — touch me later."

"I can't," Jim whispered, and that was true — he couldn't not touch — he couldn't keep his hands off Blair. He stroked Blair's cock with one hand, feeling it hard and hot against his palm, while he let his other hand skim up Blair's thighs, caress his balls, skate across Blair's abdomen.

"Jim..." Blair was gasping and writhing beneath his hands.

"I can't help it," Jim said softly. "I can't help myself — god, you feel so good to me..."

"Jim, please," Blair begged.

"You don't know how much I want you." And it was frightening, but he suddenly felt gripped by the same overwhelming intensity he'd felt in his dreams. Wanting so desperately, wanting to the point that he didn't care about anything else — god, so much of the dream had been wrong, had been horrible — but this was so familiar, this state of desperate wanting —

— and Blair was trying to sit up, Blair was pushing at his chest, pushing him off, and for a terrible moment he thought that he was back in the dream world — that Blair was fighting him, that Blair was going to run away...

But this wasn't a dream, and so he controlled himself, pulling back and letting Blair sit up. Blair was flushed and panting, long strands of hair escaping his ponytail, and then he leaned over toward the end table and yanked the drawer open. "God," Blair was muttering as he rummaged in the drawer, "you've got to have something — there's got to be something — "

And then Blair's flashed him a brilliant smile and pulled out a bottle of hand cream. "Here," he said breathlessly. "Here — this'll do. Use this," and Jim frowned and took the bottle from his hand.

"I — uh — don't know what to do," Jim confessed, feeling embarrassed.

Blair blinked. "Oh. Well — uh — okay," and he took the bottle back, and carefully squeezed some of the cream onto his own fingers, and then Blair was leaning back on the pillows again, and spreading his legs apart, and —

"...oh god..." Jim breathed. "...oh god oh god..." and he couldn't breathe, he couldn't breathe, and he was dizzy, he was weak, the blood was draining out of his head. It was all in his cock — he was so fucking hard, he couldn't even believe it.

Blair was breathing hard, eyes closed, cock and nipples straining as he fucked himself open. Then Blair took a final gasping breath and withdrew his fingers. "C'mere," he whispered, and Jim nodded wordlessly and inched forward. Blair lips twitched. "Jim — you're going to have to take your pants off."

Jim blinked. "Oh. Right," and he swallowed hard and pulled his sweats down and off his legs.

Blair stared at him with unselfconscious appreciation, and Jim flushed. Then Blair took a deep breath and reached for the hand cream. He squeezed some more into his palms, and then rubbed them together and reached for Jim's erection. Jim gasped and closed his eyes, unable, somehow, to watch Blair touching him.

Blair's hands were strong and slippery as they stroked him, coating his shaft with lotion. Jim hadn't thought he could get any harder, but he was wrong: he cock instinctively strained into Blair's hands, which squeezed and caressed him with gentle affection. He moaned and let his head fall back, letting himself enjoy being touched.

"You're ready now," Blair murmured, dropping his hands.

"No, please, " Jim protested softly. "Please touch me." He captured Blair's hands and brought them back to his cock. "I need you to touch me," he whispered, and Blair groaned and began to fondle his cock again. "Yesss," Jim hissed, loving the feel of Blair's hands on him. "Yes, please, Blair..."

And then Blair leaned forward and pressed his mouth to Jim's, kissing him hungrily, and that was almost too much — almost too much — and Blair must have felt it, because he quickly pulled his hands away and whispered furiously, "Dial it down, Jim — don't come yet."

"Okay," Jim gasped, trying to obey. "Okay."

Blair clutched Jim's biceps. "Dial down...stay hard...come inside me," and it was like the dream again, he felt as wild as he had in the dream, and he pushed forward and shoved Blair backward, down onto the bed, desperate to have him, desperate to be in him.

Except this time Blair was panting "...yes, yes..." Except this time he didn't have any trouble turning Blair over — Blair turned over willingly for him and it was just like in the dream: Blair's ass was round and smooth and totally goddammed inviting.

And he didn't have to force Blair's legs open, because Blair was spreading them for him, opening for him. But it was harder to get inside him than it had been in the dream. Despite the stretching Blair had done, Jim found himself really working for it, grunting and thrusting forward, shoving himself in inch by inch.

Tight. So very tight — tighter than he had imagined. Underneath him, Blair was sweating and making pleasure sounds deep in his throat; his asshole was spasming erratically as it strove to accommodate Jim's girth and length.

Jim pushed in until they were snugly pressed together: god, his cock was being squeezed hard inside Blair, and he didn't have to move, the sensation was that intense. He didn't have to move, he didn't have to — and then he had to — and with a groan he pulled back only slightly before shoving in, and he could feel the shudders of pleasure moving through Blair's body. Blair whispered something that sounded like "yessss", so he did it again — pulling back, shoving in, just a bit, shoving in — until Blair's body loosened, and he could move more easily, slide in and out slickly, eased by the lubricant and his own leaking juices.

"...yes," Blair hissed. "...yes: do it," and Jim fucked harder now: once, twice, three times, four — jerking hard into him — and he was surprised when Blair suddenly gasped and came with a shudder on the fifth thrust.

Jim immediately shoved himself deep inside Blair, wanting to be in Blair as he came, wanting Blair to be conscious of what was inside of him, stuffing him, filling him up. Blair sobbed as he spasmed around Jim's cock — and then suddenly he relaxed profoundly, completely, letting Jim slip another half-inch deeper into him.

That did it — Jim felt like his orgasm was pulled from him by Blair's ass. It felt like Blair's hands were reaching into him and caressing his vital organs — squeezing heart, liver, lungs, cock possessively, claiming them for his own. And he was claiming Blair, leaving seed deep inside him, as deep inside as he could get.

He collapsed, finally, onto Blair's back, letting Blair's wide body support him, buoy him up. Blair was languid beneath him, breathing softly and deeply, and when Jim had collected himself somewhat he gathered Blair into his arms and rolled over, pulling Blair with him. Blair didn't resist. He just sank back into Jim's arms exhaustedly, and Jim buried his face in the damp hair at the back of Blair's neck, and fell into a sound sleep.

And in the dream Blair was struggling in his arms; in the dream Blair was grunting and wriggling, trying to get away from him. And as he gradually came awake, Jim realized that he wasn't dreaming — that Blair was, in fact, struggling.

"Jim?" Blair whispered through the darkness.

"Mmmmph," he mumbled.

"Wake up." Blair was digging his elbow into Jim's side.

"No," Jim muttered, tightening his grip and bending forward to nuzzle the back of Blair's neck.

Blair shivered. "Jim," he tried again, trying to keep his voice steady, "I'm in the wet spot, here. The wet puddle. It's a lake, Jim, okay?"

Jim groaned and released him.

Blair sat up. "I'm sorry," he murmured, "but I think I wanna sleep downstairs."

Jim opened his eyes and sighed. "Okay," he replied softly. "Whatever you want."

Blair scrambled to the edge of the bed, then stopped and looked over his shoulder with a frown. "Aren't you coming?"

Jim blinked. "Um. Uh — yeah. Okay."

Blair extended his hand. "Believe me, you'll be a lot more comfortable," he assured Jim. "You'll thank me later." Jim nodded, gave Blair his hand, and allowed himself to be tugged up off the bed.

He followed Blair downstairs through the darkness. At the door to his room, Blair turned and murmured, "Go on and crash out, man. I've gotta wash up." Blair leaned up and gave him a quick kiss on the mouth before disappearing down the hallway into the bathroom.

Jim went into the unfamiliar room and approached the unfamiliar bed, but couldn't bring himself to lay down. He dialed up his sight slightly and looked around at the unfamiliar objects — books, toiletries, momentos — and felt strangely moved.

He had begun a relationship with this person. The person whose stuff this was.

Blair Sandburg.

Jim sat down on the edge of Blair's bed and picked up a throw pillow. Coarse fabric. Intricate needlework. Not South American. Not Indian. Indonesian, maybe? He'd have to ask Blair about that.

He'd have to ask Blair so many things.

"Just make yourself at home, man," Blair said quietly; he had reappeared in the doorway. "Mia casa e sua casa." The corner of Blair's mouth turned up. "Literally, in this case."

"I should wash too," Jim said.

Blair stumbled forward toward his bed, climbed on and crawled to the far side, leaving him plenty of room. "Okay. Hurry up and come back."

Jim nodded and got up. He went into the bathroom and washed himself. God, it was odd to be up at this hour. Odd to be sleeping downstairs. Odd to be sleeping in Blair's room.

Odd to be sleeping with Blair.

And as he was laying the washcloth it over the towel bar to drip dry he was suddenly overtaken by the memory of Blair leaning back, opening himself. He shivered.


Jim padded back down the dark hallway back to Blair's room. Blair was stretched out under the covers, but a quick sensory check told him that Blair was still awake. Feeling awkward, he moved toward the bed — but the awkwardness passed as Blair reached out for him and tugged him down

"Better?" Blair mumbled drowsily.

"Yeah," he acknowledged. The futon wasn't half bad to sleep on — and it was more comfortable being clean. "Much."

Blair pressed closer, resting his head against Jim's arm; Jim threw an arm around Blair's waist. "Told you," Blair murmured, half back to sleep already.

It was just so odd being in Blair's room; just so odd to be lying here staring at an unfamiliar ceiling. Jim felt slightly lost, and more than a bit disoriented. He had so many questions: so many things that he wanted to know. He couldn't sleep: his brain was spinning.

"Blair?" he whispered.


"I think I'm freaking out, now," Jim confessed.

Blair's hand found his. "Don't."

"This is just really strange," Jim explained.

"I know," Blair answered.

"Are you freaked out?" Jim asked.

Blair thought about it a moment before answering. "No."

"Why not?"

"I was freaked out before we did it," Blair replied. "I think I used it all up."

"Oh," Jim said. He pulled Blair closer, and rested his chin against the top of Blair's head. "I think I'm just getting started."

"Oh," Blair said quietly. "I'm sorry."

Jim felt a pang of guilt. "No, no — it's not you, it's me. I'm freaked out at me."

Blair shifted so that he could see Jim's face. "Why?"

"Cause — I mean — " Jim sighed. "How could I not know this? How could I not know this about myself?"

Blair considered. "Well," he began, and then stopped. "Uh — was that a rhetorical question?"

Jim frowned. "Not necessarily. Why — do you have an answer?"

Blair shrugged. "I don't know about if I have an answer, but I can give you a little armchair psychology."

"Go ahead," Jim encouraged.

"Well," Blair began, "just that I think that you did know. Or part of you knew. But you're not — " Blair stopped and fumbled for phrasing. "You just don't attend to yourself very well. You don't take hints. You just ignore stuff and wait for it to go away or become a problem. You do it when you're sick, too. You never have, like, a sniffle. You've always got some full-blown illness that requires a trip to the doctor. Same thing here, you know? I mean, you must have had some sort of indication that this was coming. But you just ignored it until your subconscious revolted and started torturing you."

Jim nodded slowly. "Yeah, I guess I can see that."

"So now it seems like it came out of nowhere — but nothing comes out of nowhere, really," Blair added.

"No, I guess not," Jim said. He tried to remember if he had had indications of this — and then, of course, realized that he had, because his mind was giving him a slideshow. "The Best of Blair Sandburg" — all those moments when he had really noticed Blair in a not-so-platonic sort of way.

The slideshow ended with a number of recent, gut-wrenching images. Blair sitting at the end of his bed. Blair kissing him, Blair underneath him, Blair opening himself up...

"You said — you weren't experienced," Jim murmured, and he could feel Blair stiffen slightly.

"Well, I'm not," Blair answered, and then he coughed with embarrassment. "Well, not really. Just enough to be nervous about this," he added and squeezed Jim tighter. "Because, you know, I have this thing where I confuse admiration with love. It's this problem I have."

Jim felt poleaxed. "You admire me?"

Blair snuggled in closer. "Yes, very much. As a cop, as a man..."

Jim struggled to take that in: he didn't feel worthy of that. "But this is more than admiration, right?"

"Mmm-hmm." Blair was falling off.

"It's not just that I'm cop of the year or whatever..."

"Nope," Blair agreed, sounding distant.

"Or a Sentinel, right?" Jim added quickly, wanting to get the question in before Blair fell asleep.

"...right..." Blair mumbled.

Admiration and love. Love and admiration.

"You love me, don't you?" Jim asked in a low voice. No answer; no movement from the man lying against his shoulder. Jim took a deep breath and tried again, a little louder this time. "Blair? You love me, right?"

Jim's sigh was loud in the silence. Too late: Blair was gone — off into the woods.

Then the answer came, a brief exhalation against his chest.

"Duh, man," Blair Sandburg said.  

The End