Author's disclaimer: At this point in the Nature Series, I venture to say that these guys are mine. So there.
Author's notes: Thanks to Miriam who worked patiently on endless drafts of this. WARNING: There's some strange stuff in here, it's a mystical episode, okay? Please write to me and let me know whatever you thought: like, hate, whatever. I also take requests. (g)
"I can't even believe it," Blair was muttering. "This is such bullshit." Blair was descending the courthouse steps quickly, propelled by anger, and Jim had to hurry to keep up with him.
"Look, it happens," Jim said, pulling his coat tighter against the wind. "Perps walk, it happens."
"It shouldn't happen," Blair spat. He bumped into someone making their way up the steps and hissed, "Watch where you're going!" The man immediately skittered to the side, reached for the iron handrail, and began to climb with slow, intense concentration.
"But it does," Jim protested, grabbing Blair's shoulder and stopping him once they'd reached the sidewalk. "It does happen and you have to learn to deal with it."
"Drug rehab and community service," Blair nearly yelled, waving his arms wildly. "What kind of sentence is that?"
"It's a sentence for first time juvie offenders," Jim explained, and Blair snorted and plunged into the midtown lunch crowd.
People moved aside as Blair angrily strode forward toward the station, two blocks away. "Why don't they just take them to dinner and a movie?" Blair muttered to himself.
Jim sighed and began to follow in the wake of Hurricane Sandburg. He caught up with Blair at the corner, where Blair was fidgeting angrily, impatiently waiting for the light to change. "Look," he said, quietly, "I know it's hard. I've been there. You're angry, and I understand that. But you have to learn to control that anger, okay?"
Blair glared at him. "I'm in control, Jim, believe me," he said, and then he turned and glared at the traffic, which suddenly stopped dead.
Jim stared as Blair began to cross the street against the light, weaving his way between the suddenly stilled cars. Holy shit. Holy fucking shit, and he quickly ran after Blair, who was already on the other side of the street.
"Blair!" he called, but Blair wasn't stopping. Behind him the traffic had resumed; in front of him the people crowding the sidewalk were moving left or right, splitting down the middle, letting Blair stalk through, untouched.
Houston: we have a problem, Jim thought, running to catch up. He grabbed Blair's arm and turned him around.
"Blair," Jim said with quiet urgency, trying to gesture subtly to where the crowd was parting around them.
"It's not right, Jim," Blair said, shaking his head. "It is so not right. Drugs aren't an excuse — those assholes hurt people, they hurt you for God's sake! — "
"Blair," Jim said through gritted teeth, staring hard at him. "I don't think you're noticing — "
"I just can't stand the thought of them hurting you," Blair hissed intently, stepping closer to him suddenly. "You just don't even understand how upset that makes me."
"I think I have a pretty good idea," Jim muttered, looking at the traffic pattern Blair had created for them, to give them room to walk and talk.
Blair started moving again, shaking his head; Jim followed nervously. "You just can't, man," Blair sighed. A man sitting on a bench at the bus stop ahead of them crumpled his cardboard coffee cup and threw it into the street; Blair made a face at him and the man immediately jumped up and darted into traffic after it. Jim tensed as a car squealed to a stop, only just missing him. "Idiot," Blair muttered, walking past. "It just makes me feel so damn helpless," Blair yelled suddenly, and Jim thought that was almost funny under the circumstances.
The smirk fell off Jim's face as the glass door to the station abruptly swung itself open to let them in. He swallowed and quickly looked around, hoping that nobody in particular had noticed. "This whole thing must have been easier in the jungle," Blair was saying as he stalked across the lobby. "Couple of tribes, no legal system, frontier justice."
The elevator ahead of them was full, doors about to close. Blair sighed and crossed his arms and immediately everybody got out. Jim sighed with embarrassment and followed Blair into the elevator, watching as Blair pressed the button for the seventh floor.
The doors shut and Jim said, "Blair, you're pushing."
Blair looked at him and frowned. "I'm pushing?"
"You're pushing," Jim nearly yelled. "You're fucking pushing the whole city around!"
"That's not very nice," Blair said, looking hurt. "I mean, excuse me for giving a shit, but I happen to care about you, okay?"
"No, no," Jim interrupted. "That's not — "
"And this was my collar that just blew up, thanks, and plus this is my job, it's what I do, right? Special Officer Doctor Sandburg, Shaman Numero Uno of the great city of Cascade." The elevator binged and opened onto the bullpen of Major Crimes.
Blair stepped out and Jim grabbed his arm. "That's not what I'm saying!" he hollered in frustration, and Brown, Rafe and Connor suddenly stopped what they were doing and turned to stare at him.
Blair looked from Jim to them, and then said, peevishly, "Don't you guys have work to do?" Jim groaned aloud and covered his face with his hands as his three friends immediately started working intently.
"So what do you mean?" he heard Blair ask and he sighed, and let his hands drop.
"Sandburg, Ellison, get in here," Simon called, and Jim cursed under his breath as Blair turned and headed toward Simon's office.
"Drug rehab and community service," Blair announced irritably as he walked in. "Can you believe it?"
"I believe it," Simon said.
"They put Jim in the hospital for four days," Blair said, slamming himself into a chair in Simon's office, "and they walk. "
"Well, they were underage," Simon equivocated. "And they didn't mean to — you yourself said that they didn't mean to."
"Right now, I don't really care what they meant," Blair muttered, banging on the table with his fist.
"Well, the law does," Simon explained. "They call it intent, Sandburg, and it matters."
"Well, I call it assaulting an officer," Blair objected fiercely.
"Nobody cares what you call it," Simon said in a gruff but sympathetic tone.
Blair's expression tightened angrily and he looked away.
Simon sighed and looked over at Jim. "You want to take over the Branson case, now that you're free?"
"I want to go home," Blair muttered.
"Why don't you go home?" Simon said immediately, and Jim nearly fell over. "Take the afternoon off."
Jim stared at Blair's back for a moment, and then looked back at Simon, who was beaming at him in a frighteningly un-Simon-like way. "You deserve it," Simon added warmly, coming around the desk. "I work you too hard," Simon continued, "and I couldn't run this place without you." Simon moved forward and Jim realized in abject horror that Simon was about to hug him — he stumbled backward and crashed into Simon's bookcase.
Simon was still moving forward and Jim yelled, "Blair!"
"What?" Blair asked, turning around to look at them.
"You're my best detective," Simon was saying mistily. Jim glared at Blair, only to notice that Blair was watching them with a vaguely jealous expression.
"What am I, chopped liver?" Blair grumbled. Jim flinched as Simon suddenly hugged him tightly to his massive chest. "Good work, Jim," Simon said heartily. "Good work, Detective."
Blair harumphed and walked out of the office, and then suddenly Simon was coughing and stumbling backwards, studiously avoiding his gaze. Jim looked at him and took a deep breath: suddenly taking the afternoon off didn't seem like a bad idea after all.
Blair was out of control, and he had to be stopped.
"Thanks for the afternoon, Simon," Jim said quickly, backing his way out of the office. "We're going now."
Simon managed to look annoyed and confused at the same time. "Yeah, you do that," he said, eyes narrowing. "Go away."
"Right," Jim said immediately, pulling the door shut behind him.
He turned and found his partner behind him, arms crossed. "You know, I'm glad he's finally showing you some appreciation," Blair said, "but I wouldn't mind getting a little myself."
Jim grabbed Blair's arm and began to steer him toward the elevator.
"I mean, I'm not you, I know that, but I'm at least partially responsible for your improved closure rate." Jim nodded and stabbed at the elevator button. "And besides which, those assholes were actually my collar, what with you being unconscious and all."
The elevator came and Jim nudged Blair inside, looking nervously at the other occupants. "A little appreciation would not have gone amiss, is all I'm saying," Blair said, as Jim pushed the button for the garage floor.
Jim nodded and gritted his teeth, waiting patiently as the elevator stopped to discharge the other passengers on their floors. Finally the elevator sank to the garage level, and they stepped out onto the cold concrete.
Jim turned to Blair and opened his mouth to explain, but Blair jumped in first, his eyes wide and upset. "Jim, honestly, this has really messed with my head," Blair began, stepping closer, and hell, Jim believed that, all right. "I mean — I just never saw that coming, and I should've. I'm supposed to have all these goddamned powers, but what good are they?" Blair took another step towards him.
"They're pretty good, Chief, " Jim muttered quietly.
Blair suddenly put his hands on Jim's waist and looked up at him. Jim looked around nervously — the gesture was private and personal and they usually didn't touch like this in public. In fact, Blair in particular was nervous about public displays, more nervous than he was.
"I couldn't stop it, it was just so unexpected," Blair was saying with quick, quiet intensity. "And then, at least, you know, at least I arrested them — I arrested them and got you to the hospital and everything and I tried to protect you there..." Blair's fingers were tensing, closing around the fabric of Jim's shirt.
"It was good, you did good, you did everything right," Jim assured him.
"Right doesn't equal four days in the hospital," Blair protested, seeming distressed. "Right doesn't equal perps who walk. It's a fuck up — I fucked up totally — fucked up as Guide, Shaman, cop, the whole enchilada — "
"No," Jim said firmly, gently putting his hands on Blair's biceps.
"Yes," Blair insisted, staring up at him. "And I don't know, I guess I just live with it, I guess I just try to learn from it and do better next time, but it makes me feel so fucking helpless and so fucking incompetent — "
Jim opened his mouth to reassure his partner that he certainly wasn't — but then Blair was tugging at his shirt and pulling him closer and tilting his head up to close the few inches between them. And then Blair was kissing him, caressing his sides, kissing him hard in the goddamned parking lot of the Cascade P.D.
But he couldn't help but respond, he couldn't help but kiss Blair back, and he tried to put his assurances into the kiss, so that Blair would feel how much he trusted him, needed him. Instinctively, though, he threw his hearing out, looking for spectators, witnesses — and immediately heard the slow rhythmic steps of the uniform patrolling the garage, too close for comfort.
He pushed Blair backwards, breaking the kiss, and muttered, "Someone's coming," but Blair was pushing forward again with blind passion, Blair didn't seem to give a shit.
"It's okay," Blair hissed back, leaning forward to kiss Jim's neck, "He can't see us."
The footsteps grew louder. "Blair!" Jim whispered furiously, shoving him away again.
But Blair hung on tenaciously, grabbing Jim's leather coat. "He can't see us," Blair murmured again, and now he was sucking gently at the pulse point just below Jim's left ear.
Jim froze as the uniform, a heavy, older cop with short gray hair, suddenly appeared from behind a police van. He was walking relaxedly, swinging his nightstick — just to amuse himself, apparently; this was hardly the most dangerous of duties. The uniform looked around routinely, vaguely checking for intruders — and appeared to look right through them, right through Blair clutching him and sucking on his neck. He didn't even break stride.
Holy shit. He can't see us. Hell, Jim thought with sudden cynicism — this guy clearly wouldn't have wanted to see this — two cops in a romantic clinch near the elevators — so Blair probably didn't even need to push him that hard. He was halfway to denial already, all on his own.
Jim shook his head, pushed Blair off him again, and then turned him around and shoved him back against a parked car. Blair looked up at him with hurt surprise. "Hey!" Blair protested.
"Blair, listen," Jim said forcefully. "You are pushing people. In the Guide way, not in your normally pushy way, okay?"
Blair frowned. "What?"
"You've been pushing since we left the courthouse — you pushed pedestrians, Simon, most of the bullpen and that guy!" Jim said, flinging his hand out in the direction of the retreating officer's back.
Blair looked anxious and embarrassed. "I did?"
"You did, you are — you're like — on — and you need to turn it off."
"Jim, I — I didn't know — I — " Blair sputtered.
"I know, I know, but you've got to turn it off, now," Jim said firmly. "Okay? Turn it off."
"I didn't turn it on, how am I supposed to turn it off?" Blair shot back, flushing deep red.
"I don't know!" Jim said, frustratedly, releasing Blair and taking a step back to give his partner some space. "Don't you know?"
"No! Why would I know? You think I know everything?" Blair crossed his arms defensively, and kicked absently at a crushed soda can at his feet — and they both stopped and stared as the can kept going, and going, and going...
"Whoa," Blair said in a low voice.
"See? See?" Jim said accusingly, looking from the can to Blair and then back at the can again. Blair probably couldn't see that far, but the can was still going like it was fucking battery powered. God only knows when it would stop.
He looked back at Blair, who was now grinning. "Hey, come on — you gotta admit, that's kinda cool," Blair said.
Jim blinked and then laughed, suddenly, despite himself. "Yeah, it's cool," he reluctantly admitted.
"I mean, come on," Blair said, grin growing wider. "This shit is all pretty cool. Your senses, and this thing — you can probably still see that can, can't you?" Jim instinctively glanced in the direction the can had gone. "You can, can't you?" Blair pressed. "Where is it?"
"Oregon," Jim replied, grinning back at him.
Blair laughed and nodded in triumph. "See! When push comes to shove — to coin a phrase — you think this is all pretty cool, too."
Jim rolled his eyes. "I never said it wasn't 'cool'," he replied defensively. "But you can't — I mean we just can't — I mean, this is like a bad episode of Bewitched or something," and Blair burst out laughing.
"Oh great," Blair said, falling back against the car. "That's just great!"
"Hey, you don't have to live with it," Jim objected, grinning helplessly himself.
"I have to live with you," Blair replied. "You try being on the other end of a zone out for a change."
"Okay, look," Jim said, trying to bring this conversation back to the point. "What are we going to do?"
"Which Darren are you?" Blair asked, and then bent over the car, howling.
"Okay, quit it," Jim protested, trying to banish his own grin. He grabbed Blair and hauled him upright — Blair was flushed and panting with laughter, and not a little hysterical still, underneath. His blue eyes were sparkling even more than normal — he was definitely up, he was definitely still on.
He reached out and took Blair's head in his hands. "Maybe...you know, just breathe or something."
Blair laughed and rolled his eyes. "What — is this you being me?"
"You have a better idea?" Jim shot back, and Blair considered this for a moment and then shook his head no. Blair's eyes were dilated, his eyes were goddammed sparkling. "Breathe," Jim said again, softly, and this time Blair did, Blair took a deep breath in, and then exhaled.
"Okay," Jim said quietly. "Now just keep breathing like that. Find your — you know — whatever — center — and breathe. Picture yourself there."
Blair nodded and kept breathing deeply, staring up at him with those big, blue, glowing eyes. "Good," Jim murmured. "Good. Now..." Shit, what now? "Now picture a dial," Jim said, hopefully.
Blair blinked. "A dial?"
"Yeah," Jim said, defensively. "Why not a dial?"
"No reason," Blair replied, taking another deep breath. "Okay. A dial."
"You got the dial?"
"I got it," Blair confirmed.
"Where's it at?" Jim asked, frowning.
"It's, like, at fourteen thousand," Blair said, and then laughed a little high-pitched laugh.
"Okay, well, that's no good," Jim said, hoping this was true. "Take a deep breath and try to bring it down. Nice and slow, just turn it down. Piece of cake."
Blair nodded and seemed to concentrate harder. Jim became aware that Blair was breathing slower and slower, Blair's breathing was moving into sync with his own. Blair was also swaying slightly, so Jim dropped one hand to Blair's waist to steady him.
Blair was blinking slowly, rhythmically, and his heart was slowing down, his breathing was slowing down. The tension was ebbing out of his body — he was calming, relaxing, the glow was abating. "That's good," Jim encouraged softly, feeling relieved. "That's good, you're doing great. Find your center and dial down. That's it," Jim said, approvingly. "You're okay — it's okay now..."
Except, it wasn't okay — because suddenly Blair's head lolled backwards and his eyes rolled upward into his head, and he was falling, and Jim was so fucking surprised that it took a second or two for him to realize that Blair was going down and that he'd better catch him before he hit the concrete floor.
"Shit!" Jim grabbed Blair under the armpits and heaved him up and thrust him backwards against the car. But Blair was gone, he had split, he was outtathere.
"Blair?" Jim said nervously, shaking him a little. "Sandburg?" Shit, he'd broken him! He'd fucked up somehow — hell, this Guide stuff wasn't as easy as Blair made it look!
"Sandburg, cut it out, dammit!" Jim yelled. "That's too far down! You hear me? Too far down! "
But Blair was deadweight in his arms. Shit. Shit, shit, shit. God, was this what zones were like? Shit. Okay, so Blair was right — it wasn't any fun on the other side, either.
"Cut it out already," Jim said, shaking Blair again. "Dial up — wake up — come on already!" Blair's vitals were strong — powerfully strong, even — so he was alive, he was okay, he just wasn't, well, home.
Goddammit. If it wasn't one thing, it was another!
Jim looked nervously around the garage. Shit, people could probably see them now, without Blair to push them into denial. What the hell was he going to do — what did the responsible Sentinel do in a situation like this?
He took a deep, calming breath himself, just in case. Okay. He lowered his voice and said to Blair, "Okay, Chief, now just listen to the sound of my voice, okay? Just listen to me and follow my voice, all right?" Nothing. Niente. Jesus Christ, he needed this like a hole in the head. "Hear my voice, Chief, I need you here, you've got to come back now. Turn that dial up again, okay? Back to — you know — consciousness. Come on, Chief, follow my voice home, follow my voice back to me..."
Jim frowned. This was not working, this wasn't working at all. Blair was still out for the count. Maybe this wasn't a zone after all — god only knew what this was. One goddammed problem after another, this whole thing, that's what it was.
He shifted his grip on Blair, holding him up, and tried to think. Okay, this is a whole new problem here, he thought, annoyed that it was probably his fault. Somehow he'd caused this, and he didn't seem to be able to uncause it. Shit, maybe Blair would just come out of this on his own...
He frowned as Blair shuddered suddenly. He held Blair closer, trying to soothe his shaking partner...
You know, in some dim way this scenario was familiar.
Familiar...oddly familiar even — when had he...?
Peru, maybe. Peru probably — hell, he had hardly run into shit like this at the local 7-11. Had to be Peru. Where weird shit happened — they should put that on the fucking travel brochure.
Come To Peru: Where Weird Shit Happens.
Okay, he had to get a grip. Okay. Jim took another deep breath and closed his eyes and tried to remember...
The memories became clearer...became clearer...and then began flooding back as Blair began to twitch more violently in his arms. He could remember this, he had seen this, he knew what this was...
Spirit walk. The Chopec had called it a spirit walk and he had seen them, hadn't he? — had seen Shamen unconscious and twitching on the ground like they were being fucked by the universe — but shit, it had never been his Shaman before...
And goddammit, this wasn't the jungle, this was the middle of the goddammed city! Suddenly he was hyperaware of the people moving in patterns through the building above him, though the hallways, through the streets. He could hear the hum of electric wiring crisscrossing the city, in the walls and in the floor — he was trapped in a giant piece of machinery, caught in the belly of the clockwork city —
He had to get Blair out of there, keep Blair safe, keep himself safe, even — because he suddenly realized that his senses were spiraling up, dialing up, maybe in reaction to Blair's dialing down. He was losing control of his own dials, but if he dialed too far up in the city he'd go mad, he'd lose his mind, his brain would fucking short circuit.
Goddammit! Only Blair Sandburg would decide to take off on a spirit walk in the parking lot of the Cascade Police Department. At lunchtime, yet. Jesus.
"Shit," Jim muttered. "Shit, shit, shit," and it was like he could hear the rumble, feel the vibrations, of a great whacking Protector Impulse heading his way. He couldn't see it but it was coming, it was coming, it was like his DNA was screaming — goddammit, Blair, you're supposed to be here to help me deal with this shit!!
He took a deep breath and began to drag Blair toward the truck, wishing he'd parked closer, hoping that nobody else was around and that he wouldn't have to make any explanations.
He was almost there when suddenly he heard the bing of the elevator and he froze, clutching Blair to his chest. God, please let them be parked closer to the elevator than I am, he thought fervently, and then he heard the click of heels and got a whiff of perfume and knew that it was Megan Connor.
Whose snazzy little Fiat was parked right next to his truck.
He heaved Blair up and quickly moved to the far side of the truck, hoping that Megan would just go to her damn car and pull out, already. He crouched down on the ground, arms wrapped around Blair's torso, and waited for her to go.
It wasn't gonna happen, he realized a few moments later. Woman's intuition, Aussie sensibility, whatever, but she was coming over. If he'd been kissing Blair there woulda been no problem, but she was gonna have a cow over this...
"Jim!" Megan cried out, staring at Blair. "Oh my god!" and Jim nodded wearily. Right. One cow, front and center.
"Hi, Megan," Jim said, trying to sound normal.
"Oh my god, what happened — I'll call an ambulance — "
"No, don't!" he protested immediately, and she froze and stared. He stood up awkwardly, grunting, still holding Blair in his arms. "Everything's fine," he said, and then suddenly winced as metal ground hard against metal — shit, they were opening the garage door on the other side of the building.
"Fine?" Megan asked incredulously. "This is your definition of fine?"
"It's fine," Jim ground out, irritably. What, she was gonna tell him how to handle his own Shaman, now? His head was pounding suddenly, he had broken into a sweat — shit, his dials were up, they were up. Not at fourteen thousand yet, but way the hell higher than they should be.
"Jim, this is not fine," Megan was saying in a crisp authoritative tone. "Blair's unconscious, you look like hell — "
"Megan, I need a favor," Jim interrupted.
Megan's eyes were wide. "Jim — you don't need a favor. You need an ambulance."
"I don't," Jim argued. "He's fine — he's good!"
"What on earth did you do to him?" Megan asked, taking a nervous step forward.
"Nothing, okay!" Jim protested. "Nothing!" Not on purpose anyway, he amended silently, though he suspected that this whole spirit walk was somehow his fault.
"That's not nothing, Jim!" Megan said, gesturing nervously toward Blair. "I really think we should get him a doctor."
"Megan, look. Please, I — Please, Megan!" Jim begged, and Megan took a deep breath and crossed her arms and challenged him with her stare.
"All right. All right. What's the favor?"
"Get my keys out of my pocket," Jim said, moving Blair slightly to one side and thrusting his right hip forward.
"Not until I hear a reasonable explanation," Megan said firmly.
"Megan, for god's sake!" Jim exploded.
"I'm serious," Megan said, and indeed, she looked serious. "You tell me what's going on, I'll get the keys."
Jim clenched his jaw. "He's unconscious."
"I can see that," Megan retorted. "Why is he unconscious?"
And Jim cycled through about fifteen explanations in his mind — epilepsy, narcolepsy, allergy, post-traumatic stress disorder — shit, no wonder Sandburg obfuscated so well — before taking a good look at Megan's face and deciding to go with the truth. "Well...he's sort of a Shaman," Jim admitted quietly. "And he's having a sort of — mystical — um — moment, here." He coughed a little, feeling stupid.
"A mystical moment?" Megan frowned and took a step closer.
"Yeah. Sort of. Look, it's hard to explain." Certainly he couldn't explain it. Hell, you needed a Ph.D. and a particularly twisty frame of mind to make sense of this shit.
God, he missed Blair already...
Megan's eyes narrowed. "A Shaman."
"Yeah," Jim muttered.
"And what exactly does that make you? Tribal chief?"
"That makes me in big fucking trouble, here!" Jim yelled, not finding any of this funny. "Megan — the keys — please?"
Megan hesitated for a moment, eyeing the unconscious Blair, and then she nodded. "All right, all right — god, you guys are odd."
Jim glared at her and then sighed. "Jacket pocket," he said, putting his right hip forward again. Megan nodded and searched the pocket, then pulled out the keys.
"Good," Jim said. "Open the door for me, willya?"
Megan unlocked the passenger door quickly and watched as Jim carefully maneuvered Blair's body onto the bench seat.
He could feel Blair shaking in his arms, could feel his arms and legs twitching. Blair's skin was growing warm — he was heating up. Vulnerable — god, Blair was so incredibly fucking vulnerable like this. Utterly defenseless, and they were surrounded by hundreds of people, thousands of people...
He pulled the seatbelt across Blair's lap and fastened it.. "Hang on, Chief," he muttered. "Hang on," and he swallowed hard, because the air was thrumming suddenly with the rhythm of a thousand heartbeats — he could hear every damn person in the building and beyond. Wow, he was up, his senses were way up, and he had to get out of there, he had to get his Shaman somewhere safe.
He shut the door and turned to look at Megan. Headache — god, he had a hell of a headache starting — all the heartbeats, all the footfalls, and the encroaching sounds of traffic outside. "Tell Simon," Jim said, circling around the truck to the driver's side, "that we probably won't be in tomorrow."
Megan followed him with an incredulous expression on her face. "That's it? You won't be in tomorrow?"
"I doubt it," Jim said, grimly, getting into the driver's seat.
"But — but — where are you going?" Megan asked.
"I don't know," Jim muttered. "Haven't a clue. " He started the truck's engine and recoiled sharply — god, it was so goddamn loud!!
"But Jim!!" Megan practically shrieked and he winced.
"It's okay, it's cool, it's all okay," Jim said quickly, shifting the truck into reverse and backing out of the spot.
Megan was apparently flabbergasted. "But — "
"We'll be back!" Jim called out the window, and then he pulled away with a squeal of tires which he instantly regretted.
He hit the accelerator and took the right turn out of the garage practically on two wheels. Blair slid toward him as the truck turned, and he flung an arm out to steady him. God, the engine was so loud...so loud...roaring...and he tried to tune into the comforting lub-dub of Blair's heartbeat.
He took a deep breath, feeling the sweat dripping down his forehead. He had to get them out of the city — just out — anywhere — out —
God, the engine, rumbling, grinding — the fucking cacophony of the street... He took a long shuddering breath as someone leaned on their horn, and tightened his grip on the wheel. So loud, so many people, no defenses... Protect the Guide — -god, it was agony, total agony, he was going to pass out, he was going to throw up.
He gritted his teeth and clenched the wheel, trying to stay calm, trying to breathe. Blair would tell him to breathe, Blair would tell him to breathe deep — and shit, it wasn't his fault that it hadn't worked the other way around! He steered the truck jerkily through the afternoon traffic, trying to keep focused, to keep concentration.
It got easier as he kept going, driving the truck out of the city, past the dense cluster of tall buildings, out through the suburbs. The houses grew more and more sparse, the trees thicker and thicker, till there were only trees — only trees and the road.
Which was good, because his dials were up, higher than they'd ever been, and thankfully the sounds of people, machinery, electricity were dying down, getting dimmer as they moved out of the city. It was easier to breathe now — his mind was clearing as they got further away, though the engine was roaring painfully in his ears, now — the only machinery for miles.
He glanced over at Blair, who was pale and sweating and shaking in the seat beside him. But Blair's heart was beating powerfully, and he was tuned into that, that was keeping him calm.
Now that he could think again, he found himself unsure of where to go. His first instinct was to take Blair to St. Sebastian's — to lay Blair out in a quiet, cool cell and watch over him there. But there were too many people at the monastery — too many explanations to be made.
But there was the house, now. Now they had the house.
Their house — theirs, now, but still empty. Nothing in it, nothing there — no food, no water, no —
No matter. There was the stream, there was the woods, he would fish, hunt — he could care for Blair there...
He turned the truck towards the house, trying to fill his still-expanding senses with Blair and Blair alone. He'd take his partner to the house — and suddenly he understood Blair's obsession with it, with its isolation and defensibility.
Blair was right — it was dammed useful to have a place like that.
He tried to fill his senses with Blair, because the truck was now a screeching agony to his senses — the roar of the engine, the squeal of brakes, the metallic click-click-click of the signal lights and the scraping of ball-bearings in their casings. The glug of gasoline and the smashing, crashing of plugs igniting and pistons exploding — it was like a war, it was like a hell of small explosions in his brain.
He gritted his teeth and accelerated, hoping they'd get there before the pain became unbearable.
He made it halfway down the first dirt road and then he had to stop — had to stop — had to pull over, and as the engine died down he fell forward against the steering column, exhausted and sweating with the effort of it. God, it hurt — his ears were ringing, his eyes were burning from the fumes, he felt like he wanted to climb out of his skin. He shrugged out of his jacket and then ripped his shirt off and took a deep breath, trying to force the pain back down, trying to regain some sort of balance.
But now, in the sudden quiet, there was only Blair — Blair only — and that gave him the strength to move. Couldn't be far now. Couldn't be too far. Jim shoved the driver's side door open and gracefully dropped down to the ground, then circled around to the other side and hauled Blair out and then up, over his shoulder, in a fireman's carry. Couldn't be too far now, he thought, heading up the dirt road, leaving the truck behind.
Blair seemed lighter now, easier to carry, and Jim left the road and cut into the woods, instinctively seeking the shortest way. And it didn't take long — or it didn't seem like long, anyway; time moved faster, now that he was outside, in the open, in the air. Time moved faster and the world was more fluid; he felt like he was swimming, like Blair was half buoyed up by water.
He could see the house through the trees well before they were even close, and he fixated on it and moved faster — finally breaking out into the clearing surrounding it.
The sun was low in the late afternoon sky as he carried Sandburg behind the house and lay him down in the grass. He knelt down beside his partner and studied him; damn it, Blair was burning up, blood pumping — Blair was sweating and shaking and growing hard. Jim pushed Blair's hair back from his face, pulled it up behind his head, off his neck.
What to do now? The Shaman lay inside a circle, and all around him there was threat, but inside the circle he was safe and his Sentinel stayed with him, watched over him. He spotted a long, straight branch and went to retreive it. He scraped the circle into the grass around Blair, then fell to his knees with a grunt and dug the stick into the soil, making the circle darker, more definite, more precise — a barrier only he could cross.
When he was done he crawled into the circle and hovered over Blair, who had begun to writhe feverishly. Jim fingered Blair's shirt, then began to pull Blair out of his clothes.
Finally Blair lay naked in the circle of grass; he was shaking more violently now, and his cock and nipples were erect. Jim watched, frowning, as Blair's breathing became more labored, as the twitching turned to thrashing, the gasps to quiet sobs.
Jim pulled Blair's pants from the pile of clothes and slid the belt out of the loops; then he rolled Blair onto his side and tied his hands together behind his back. Blair moaned and shook a little, but stayed within the circle, his restrained arms helping to keep him still, stopping him from hurting himself inadvertently.
Convinced that his Guide was safe for the moment, Jim rose to his feet, grabbed Blair's t-shirt and picked his way through the trees to the stream. He knelt by the bank and drenched Blair's t-shirt in the water, then returned to the circle, kneeling beside his Guide and bathing his burning face, his body, chest, legs, with the wet cloth, with the cool water. Blair seemed to calm at this, and Jim finally twisted the damp cloth in his hands and lay it across Blair's forehead.
Blair quieted and seemed to sink deeper into his trance-like state. Jim stripped off the rest of his own clothes, sat down beside Blair in the circle and closed his eyes; there seemed nothing to do now but wait, wait and guard the Guide.
God, he could hear for miles, he was aware of everything for miles. He closed his eyes and tracked the progress of the stream and the flight patterns of birds; he listened to the wind, tracked the rambling paths of animals as they foraged in the woods. He closed his eyes and monitored the environment, monitored the area for threats to his Guide.
He knew from the way the sun hit his skin that it was beginning to get dark, and as the daylight slowly faded he opened his eyes and began to gather wood for a fire. When the fire was blazing, he searched Blair's jacket and found his partner's Swiss army knife in the inside pocket. Selecting the largest blade, he sat close to the fire and sharpened the end of the long stick until it made a serviceable weapon.
He pulled the now-dry t-shirt off Blair's forehead, took his weapon and headed back to the stream. He waded hip deep into the cool water and stood stock still, watching the fish slide past his legs. Finally he moved, spearing two large trout, one after the other.
After a few minutes work, he moved back to the house carrying the two fish, now clean and impaled lengthwise on smaller branches, and Blair's t-shirt, which he had again drenched with water. He was approaching the clearing when he heard Blair's breathing suddenly catch in his throat, grow more ragged, and he burst into a run.
Blair was thrashing again, pulling at his restraints but staying within the circle. Jim set the fish and stake down by the fire and went to his Guide's side. He knelt next to Blair and twisted the drenched t-shirt over Blair's mouth, sending a cascade of cool water down for Blair to drink, watching with satisfaction as Blair swallowed. And then he smoothed the damp cloth over Blair's face again, wiping away his sweat, trying to soothe him back into a restful state.
But Blair didn't calm this time — instead his breathing grew louder still, until he was openly panting, and he was hard, so hard — his cock was leaking and his nipples were tight and his muscles were tensed beneath his skin. Jim closed his eyes and gritted his teeth — he couldn't help it — he was suddenly consumed by jealousy, was suddenly burning with it, because Blair — looked like — Blair was alone but it looked like —
It looked like someone else was fucking his Guide.
And he just couldn't stand that, just couldn't stand for that —
He closed his eyes and listened intently for a moment, checking the perimeter once again, making sure they were alone, that they were safe. But there was no movement, no predators, and so he opened his eyes and allowed himself to focus on his Guide alone.
God, beautiful. So beautiful — and dimly he could remember once having found other things, other people, beautiful. But those memories were vague now — from another life, another person. Now there was only Blair, his Blair, his Shaman, and he understood deep in his bones that Blair had been made for him, made to some unconscious genetic specification.
Unconscious certainly, because he had never been conscious of what he wanted, or what he needed. In hindsight he understood that he had been protecting himself from the searing power of his senses; he had had no Guide, and he had had to protect himself from feeling too much, from feeling anything at all, really. And so he had insulated himself, he had wrapped himself in thick cotton, and thus mummified, he had felt safe.
Safe and alone. Safe and lonely. Safe and dead.
But then his Guide had come for him, his Guide had unwrapped the layers from his body and sometimes he felt raw, achingly raw, raw and exposed. But he could feel now — he had wants and needs now — and he wanted a man, wanted this man, this man who had been made for him. Sent to him.
And Blair Sandburg was his — brains and heart and cock: his — and he understood that Blair was so complete because he was meant to be the only one, to be everything he needed. Shaman, soulmate, lover — his only companion, his only comfort. But that was all right, because Blair had been made for him and was complete: Blair completed him entirely.
Blair was his, made for him — but Blair was shuddering and aroused in the grass, being fucked by the universe. And he couldn't stand that, he couldn't — Blair was his — only his — his only — and so he took two handfuls of Blair's hair in his fists and bent his mouth to Blair's.
He pressed his mouth hard against Blair's, forcing him to open, to let him in. He slid his tongue between Blair's parted lips, and Blair sucked him in hungrily, arching up towards him. Jim moaned his satisfaction into Blair's mouth — his Guide knew him, his Guide would always know him. He caressed Blair's lips with his tongue, feeling their lushness, tracing their shape; Blair was blindly straining for him, mouth open, mutely begging him inside again. Jim put his tongue back into Blair's mouth and fucked it gently, feeling Blair's moan of desire as a physical wave of pleasure down his spine.
His — his — and Blair was open to him, Blair was being offered to him — and hell, he would accept him. He lifted his head and reached for Sandburg's knife.
His alone. His only.
The knife's smallest blade was sharp, catching the last of the sunlight. He held the blade to the fire until it glowed, then let it cool. Blair was trembling beneath his hand, straining up for him and he kissed Blair's lips, his chest. A thin red oval appeared, two inches long, bisected lengthwise over Blair's beating heart. The knife moved again and a third, tiny radius was revealed, moving out from the center to what would be ten o'clock on a clockface. The knife fell from his hand, and he kissed the tiny beads of blood away, sucking Blair's heartbeat hungrily, feeling Blair's lifesblood on his tongue.
He raised his head and put his hand over Blair's heart, feeling the pattern against his palm, the ragged edges of the cuts and the warm blood. When he removed his hand, the design was set there, the skin healed around it, and he wiped away the traces of blood from Blair's chest.
His alone. His only.
He rolled Blair over in the grass and pulled his legs apart and bent his mouth to Blair's center — his now, only his, this was for him and him alone. He licked the ridged edges and caressed the muscle with circular strokes of his tongue, kissing and sucking until he felt Blair opening for him, opening, giving way. Blair was sobbing beneath him, sobbing and boneless, and he was the only one who could pleasure Blair like this.
Blair was his to pleasure — his to pleasure — and he would — he was — because Blair was sobbing so breathlessly, trembling so violently from the movement of his tongue. Blair wanted him, wanted this — Blair was opening, loosening, letting him in, and he slid his tongue inside easily and flicked it gently, liking the soft sounds Blair was making, liking the total control that this gave him. He plunged his tongue in and out, in and out, and Blair was wet and open and sobbing quietly into the grass, and then Jim spit into his hand and lubed himself and sheathed himself in Blair's ass.
God, perfect — so perfect — he couldn't even move, he just let his head fall back and savored the sheer perfection of the moment, the feel of Sandburg's tight ass spasming around his cock, the feel of the open air on his skin. Blair was sobbing quietly beneath him, and Jim could smell the warm, fertile scent of Blair's come spattering in the grass.
His senses were up — his senses were flying — and he could feel the rushing pulse of Blair's blood, heart pounding in orgasm, running through Blair's body, arms, legs, veins just under the surface, and he didn't have to move, Blair was moving, alive pounding hard warm all around him, and he was raw aching exposed, senses up, stripped bare — Blair, Guide, Pusakulay — made for him, sent to him —
His orgasm slammed into him, knocking him forward. He threw an arm down to brace himself, not wanting to fall onto Blair. He dug his nails into the grass and held himself up, let his head fall forward, and gasped for breath. Pusakulay, munaki, khuyayki — he carefully let himself settle on top of Blair and then rolled them both to their sides, protectively curling his body around his Guide's.
He heard Blair's deep, even breaths, and Blair was sleeping deeply now, Blair was at rest finally. He wrapped his arms around Blair, pulling Blair's back hard against his chest, trapping Blair's bound hands between them. Time seemed to have stopped; the fire crackled beside them, the wind blew gently across his back, the Guide slept.
He waited patiently for Blair to come back to him; he lay there peacefully in the firelight waiting for the first, rushing signs of awakening in the body before him.
He knew that Blair was beginning to wake because he felt his own senses starting to dim slightly; distant sounds started to seem more distant, the black evening grew blacker still. Blair made a soft, snuffling sound and stirred a bit in his arms.
"Welcome back," Jim murmured, as much to himself as to Blair.
"Hmm?" Blair said vaguely.
"Welcome back," Jim repeated, bending forward to kiss the nape of Blair's neck gently.
Blair pressed back into the kiss and then snuffled a bit more. "Thanks," Blair replied, clearing his throat absently. Jim felt Blair wriggle a bit, trying to settle into the grass more comfortably, and then suddenly freeze.
"Uh...Jim?" Blair asked softly.
"Where are we?"
"Outside," Jim answered.
"Out in back of the house."
"The new house?" Blair asked.
"Yeah," Jim replied.
"Oh," Blair said. Jim felt Blair try to move his hands and then sat up quickly to undo the leather belt binding them together.
"Hang on," Jim said quickly, fumbling with the buckle. "Wait — I've got it." The belt slid off and Blair groaned and rolled up into a sitting position, pulling his arms back around to his front and flexing them.
"How do you feel?" Jim asked warily.
Blair stretched his arms over his head and arched his back. "Good," he replied, letting his arms fall down again. "Great, actually — I feel like a million bucks." Blair glanced around curiously at the fire, at the circle cut into the grass around them, at the trees, at the looming back of the house. "Adjusted for inflation," he added, massaging his chafed wrists one at a time.
Jim reached out and closed his hands around Blair's wrists. "I'm glad," he said, sincerely. "Are you hungry?"
Blair considered for a second and then nodded. "Yeah, actually. I am."
"I've got — " Jim said, looking toward the fire, " — fish. Trout."
"I like fish," Blair said. "Fish is good." Jim let go of Blair's wrists and scrambled over to the fire, where he quickly set the two speared fish over the fire on a makeshift spit. Blair looked down at his wrists; the redness was gone. "Thanks, man."
"No problem," Jim said, banking the fire up again with wood.
Blair looked again at the circle in the grass, then back up at Jim. "So," Blair began slowly, "any mail for me while I was gone?"
Jim glanced over at him and smiled. "No."
Blair moved toward him, toward the fire, and then flinched suddenly. Jim looked at Blair nervously — his lover was obviously feeling a little sore. "Uh...Blair...I suppose I ought to tell you — "
"It's okay," Blair interrupted, edging closer to the fire.
"I mean, you were — I just couldn't — " Jim said, guiltily.
"I dreamed you did," Blair said, drawing his knees up and wrapping his arms around them. He frowned for a moment and then laughed. "I mean...I dreamed a lot of stuff. Weird shit, you know?" Jim nodded grimly: he knew. "But good, though," Blair added, meditatively. "Really good." Blair stared thoughtfully into the fire for a few moments.
"It's hard for us, you know, in the city," Blair mused. "In modern civilization. I never really understood that before." He stopped and thought about that. "The level of threat, the level of stimulation, is way high. And we don't have — we're not part of — any real supportive community." Blair looked at Jim, who carefully turning the fish over so that it would cook evenly. "I mean — even in the jungle, Sentinel and Guide stand separate from the rest, but the other members of the tribe know who they are, what they do. They have — you know — a context."
Jim nodded at this and Blair grinned, lopsidedly. "Okay, yeah, you know that," Blair said, ruefully. "You did it, you were there. But I wasn't — this is all new to me." Blair sighed. "I find it a little hard, sometimes, to be honest with you."
"I'm sorry," Jim said quietly, staring at the fire himself. "Can I help?"
Jim heard Blair laugh and quickly looked at him again. "Of course you can help," Blair said. "You are helping — you did help. I mean, you just sent me off on that great all-expenses paid trip, there," Blair added, gesturing back at the circle.
"I did?" Jim asked, surprised.
"Yeah, you did. I sure didn't book that trip. You touched me and sort of said 'go', so I went, you know?"
"I didn't mean to," Jim said, frowning. "I thought I did something wrong." He still sort of did, actually. I mean — today — this — everything — couldn't be — this just couldn't be right.
"Hmm," Blair said, seeming totally unconcerned. Jim sighed and pulled a fish off the fire, and Blair immediately reached for it hungrily.
"Watch it, it's hot," Jim objected.
"I don't care," Blair said, grabbing at the skewer. "I'm starving." Blair lay the fish on the ground before him and started tearing at it with his fingers.
"Chief, careful," Jim said. "Trout is really bony."
"I know, I know," Blair said, pulling some of the white meat off the bones and eating it with his fingers.
"Eat slow," Jim cautioned. "Watch the bones," but Blair was tucking into the fish furiously, like he hadn't eaten for days.
"I'm just starving," Blair mumbled with his mouth full. "And it tastes great...wish I had a little lemon."
"Sorry," Jim said.
"You should be," Blair teased, grinning around another mouthful. "Go grow me a lemon, will you?"
Jim made a face at him and pulled the other fish off the fire, carefully eating a bit of it himself. It was good — plain, but fresh and juicy.
"So I'm thinking," Blair said, swallowing, "that maybe 'meaning to' doesn't have anything to do with it."
Jim frowned. "What?"
"You said you didn't mean for it to happen. What just happened," Blair clarified.
"You mean the spirit walk?" Jim asked.
It was Blair's turn to frown. "Spirit walk? Is that what that was?"
"That's what the Chopec called it," Jim informed him, glad, for once, that he had a name for something, if not a really good explanation. But Blair would come up with the explanations. That was his area.
"Wow," Blair said softly. "Cool. Well, yeah: that, then. The spirit walk. But you said you didn't mean to send me on it. So I'm figuring, you know, that it must be hardwired, too." Blair pulled some more fish off the bone, put it into his mouth, licked his fingers.
"Hardwired?" Jim pressed.
"Yeah. Like a default. Probably, you know, like the way you heal me." Blair stopped and pondered this for a moment as he tore up some more fish. "It's probably the same thing, really," he mused, pulling a bone out of the white flesh and putting it to one side. "I mean...a spirit walk is probably some other form of healing."
"You think?" Jim asked, surprised.
"Well, I mean, it felt healing," Blair explained.
"It did?" Jim was surprised — he rarely felt healed by his own spirit visions. In fact, he tended to feel sort of anxious afterwards.
"Yeah. It did," Blair confirmed. "Healing. Sort of cleansing. Mentally, I mean. Spiritually. You gonna finish that?" Blair added abruptly, looking over at Jim's fish.
"No," Jim said, and Blair dived for it.
"Like the best therapy session of my life times a million," Blair said cheerfully, tearing into the fish hungrily.
"Well, that's good, then," Jim said, watching his partner closely.
Blair swiped at his mouth with the back of his hand. "What was it like on your end?"
"I went up," Jim admitted. "Sense-wise. Way up — Protector overload." He suddenly grinned, thinking about Megan Connor's cow in the parking garage.
Blair grinned. "Glad I missed it." He looked around again at the circle in the grass. "You brought me here?"
"And made this circle?"
"Yeah," Jim repeated quietly.
"Why?" Blair asked, curiously.
"I don't know. I mean — because, you know? Because I had to," Jim confessed.
Blair nodded with satisfaction and murmured, "Right. Hardwired."
Jim fidgeted, feeling not quite comfortable with that. "Yeah, I guess."
Blair frowned and touched Jim's arm. "Jim," Blair said, looking straight into his lover's eyes. "Thank you."
Jim felt strangely taken aback. "I — you're welcome. Like I said, I didn't mean — " and suddenly Blair threw himself forward, was tackling him, pushing him over backwards, kissing him roughly. Jim ooofed as Blair's weight hit him — but all and all he wasn't about to complain. This was his Guide, his Guide brought back to him — there and conscious and still in love with him, apparently.
And god, how wonderful it felt to be naked, to have Blair naked on top of him. He could feel the grass under his back, he could feel Blair's skin, still sun-heated from the day, warming him. Blair's mouth on his, Blair plundering his mouth, holding his head still and exploring his mouth, Blair's hair tickling his face.
Blair pulled back slightly and started kissing Jim's lips, slowly, over and over. "What you mean has nothing to do with it," Blair mumbled between kisses. "You don't have to mean — you are."
Jim took Blair's head in his hands and pushed his hair away from his face. "You are, too, Chief," he said, staring up at his Guide.
Blair pulled back and grinned at him. "Yeah, I am. I am, Jim."
Jim bent upwards and sucked Blair's left nipple into his mouth — Blair moaned and arched upwards, then looked down at Jim and exclaimed, "Whatthe — !"
Jim pulled his mouth away from Blair's nipple and looked up. "What?" And then he saw what — Blair was staring down at his own chest, at the design now carved over his heart.
Jim felt his mouth go dry, felt his own heart pounding suddenly, and he closed his eyes. Holy shit. Holy shit, what the fuck had he done? He felt Blair suddenly roll off him, felt the cool air where the warmth of Blair's skin had been.
"Oh my god," Blair was saying softly. He sounded shocked. "Oh my god. Jim..."
Jim found he couldn't open his eyes, couldn't bear to look at Blair. "Blair, I'm sorry," he whispered, barely audibly.
"Jim — my god — this is SO COOL!" Jim's eyes shot open and he turned his head to look at Blair, who had drawn near to the fire, and was closely studying the marking in the flickering orange light.
Jim pushed himself up onto his elbows and gaped at him. "So cool?" he repeated incredulously.
"Oh my god, yeah, totally!" Blair said excitedly. "I mean, in most South American tribes, the Elders and Chiefs and the Shamen accumulate a series of decorative markings — piercings, tattoos, jewelry — you know the drill, dammit, you lived there, I don't have to explain to you!" Blair was practically vibrating with exhilaration. "Each momentous occasion leads to another piece of body art — and the guy with the most stuff wins, man! He's the head honcho, the top dog, the man, dude! The dude, man! I mean, shit, I didn't get that it was a pattern, but it is — the nipple ring, the stuff you gave me for graduation — and now this! This fucking rocks, Jim — this is permanent, this is! I am going to be one cool old dude, I can tell you that," Blair concluded happily, staring down at his own chest.
Jim slowly nodded his agreement and then started to laugh, and then started to worry a little, because he didn't think he was going to be able to stop laughing. He sat up and covered his face with his hands, laughing until his fingertips were wet with it. And then he felt Blair beside him, Blair sitting next to him with his arm around his shoulders, pulling him close and kissing his face.
"Jim," Blair whispered. "Hey. It's okay."
Jim nodded and tried to bring himself under control. "I thought I hurt you — I thought I broke you," he confessed.
"Broke me?" Blair looked confused. "Jim — you healed me. You helped me."
"Okay," Jim said, taking a deep breath. "Okay."
"And I'm okay, now — I'm okay, now, all right?" Blair's mouth was warm on his face, Blair's breath was warm and comforting.
"Yeah," he replied quietly, because Blair was soothing the raw places in his mind, in his soul. Maybe Blair had the spirit walk, but he had Blair.
"Everything's fine, everything's good," Blair was murmuring, and then Blair was pulling Jim head to his, Jim's mouth to his, Blair was softly kissing him again.
"I need you," Jim muttered.
"You have me," Blair reassured him, giving him another brief kiss.
Jim blew out a long breath and pulled Blair close. "You're the only solid thing in all this weird shit, do you understand?" Jim said urgently. "The only solid thing."
"You have me, Jim," Blair repeated softly. "You have me." Blair buried his warm face against the side of Jim's neck, and Jim wrapped tight arms around him — holding on, holding on to what he had, as the cool night wind rose up around them.