Nature's Surprises

by Francesca

Disclaimers: Nothing's mine but the words; everything else belongs to Pet Fly. No infringement is intended, and I'm not makin' a dime. (Who needs money when you've got love?) (Well, okay, but I'm still not making any money!)

Summary: Two months into their relationship, Jim and Blair track down a killer and also begin to discover all the wonderful things that Nature enables them to do together...;)

Warnings: None (I think...)

Notes: Thanks to everyone who wrote such kind words about Nature Vs. Culture, my first story. That motivated me to get this sequel going and going quick. I can write pretty fast (this one took 4 days), so here's the bargain (devilish rubbing of hands...) — give me feedback (any kind, all welcome!) and I'll get you another story by next week. (Yes, you may have created a monster...)

"Shit," thought Jim Ellison, sensing that Blair Sandburg, his partner and lover, had just pulled up in front of the loft. He looked around in dismay at the unfinished task in front of him, then sighed and went back to working.

A minute or two later Blair breezed in, tossing his keys into the basket by the door. "Hey, what's all this?" he asked, coming over to investigate.

Jim was sitting on the floor, surrounded by oak planks and tools. "This," Jim noted grimly, "is a mess. — Hey, watch it! that drill's still plugged in."

Blair stepped nimbly around the extension cord stretched across the loft. Jim reached out and unplugged the power drill. "What're you building?"

"Bookshelf," Ellison said tersely, turning back to work. "You need one. It was supposed to be finished by now." He didn't look up, feeling vaguely embarrassed, and instead focused on carefully sanding a rough edge off a shelf. "It's taking a little longer than I thought."

"God, Jim," he heard Blair say. "I think that's..." Blair stopped, swallowed. "I think that's the nicest thing anyone's ever done for me." Jim glanced up quickly and then looked away again, not trusting himself to respond.

Blair perched on the kitchen table and quietly watched Jim work. The fact that Jim had elected to spend his day off doing this moved him deeply. The bookcase spoke volumes to Blair — spoke of Jim's profound understanding of and respect for who he was, of Jim's tendency to communicate through simple actions rather than complicated words, of Jim's quiet desire that their relationship should be strong and solid and permanent. Mostly it spoke of Jim's love for him, which was surprisingly uncomplicated, considering how odd their whole situation was, really. Blair breathed deeply, feeling inadequate, feeling that despite his mastery of words he could talk from now till doomsday and never even begin to convey to Jim Ellison how much he loved him. Thankfully, however, there were other ways to communicate.

Jim was distracted from his labor by the soft sound of Blair unzipping his jeans. He looked up quickly at Blair's face, and met blue eyes full of longing. Raising an eyebrow, Jim brushed sawdust from his denim-clad thighs and stood up. Blair provocatively spread his legs; Jim suppressed a moan and quickly moved to stand between them.

Blair took Jim's face in his hands. "I love you," he said, and kissed him softly on the side of his mouth.

"I love you," Jim murmured, burying his face in Blair's hair.

"How was your day, Blair?" Blair prompted teasingly, fingers caressing the soft skin on Jim's neck.

"How was your day, Blair?" Jim repeated gamely, taking Blair by the shoulders and gently tonguing his earring.

"Oh, not too bad, Jim," responded Blair, inhaling sharply as Jim sucked on his earlobe. "I graded finals all day, and I'm almost done, but my brain hurts and my body aches from sitting and I need a break." He smiled to himself. A break was the least of what he needed right now. "So how about a little competition?"

This was a private joke, their own codeword for sex. In the two months since they had become lovers, sex between them had become something of a friendly battle. Blair's strongest weapon was words; he was a vocal lover (big surprise) and found that he could bring Jim to orgasm by talk alone, piling sentence upon sentence with care and passion, by saying what Jim couldn't say. Jim's advantage was touch; completely attuned to his guide's body, he had quickly discovered every single one of Blair's buttons, and he had learned how to push them expertly. If Jim gained the upper hand first, Blair would be quickly, effectively, and pleasurably silenced. And so sex had become a sort of game between them, a friendly competition for sexual dominance, a match of skills and strengths. It was nice, Blair thought as Jim's arms wrapped around his waist, to be able to verbally arouse his lover so thoroughly that Jim would suddenly groan and come, shuddering, in his arms: but in his heart Blair admitted the truth.

He usually played to lose.

"They're going to be really nice shelves," Blair said, kissing Jim's cheek.

"I want to please you," answered Jim softly.

"You do please me," said Blair.

"I'm not talking about shelves," whispered Jim.

"Neither am I."

<Let the games begin!> thought Blair joyously. He locked his legs around Jim's waist as Jim picked him up off the table and turned toward the stairs to their bedroom.

"I'm talking about the way you love me," Blair began as Jim climbed. "I'm talking about the heat in your eyes, the feel of your hands, your lips, your tongue on my body, I'm talking about pure, unadulterated — " He bounced once as he hit the bed and looked up, eyes glittering, " — chemistry."

He watched Jim strip in front of him, watched Jim's muscular arms as they moved in the air over his head, grasped the fabric of his T-shirt, and tugged upwards. Blair watched as the thin fabric slid upward to reveal the large, hairless expanse of Jim's chest. Blair took a deep breath and fumbled frantically with his shirt buttons as Jim eased out of his jeans. "God, Jim, I'm talking about being harder than I've ever been in my life, about wanting it, wanting you, more than I've ever wanted anything." He yanked his flannel shirt off his shoulders, and then gasped as Jim suddenly seized him and deftly began removing his remaining clothes.

"I'm talking about wanting it so badly that I can't think about anything else, can't think straight," burbled Blair as his legs slid out of his jeans. "When I'm in my office, and I think of you — I need to touch myself." Blair heard Jim moan softly and smiled inwardly. "I lean back in my chair and slide my hands under my shirt, pretending they're your hands, touch my nipples, feel how hard they are, wish you were there to rub them, suck them — suck them hard." The line between description and direction was blurring rapidly in Jim's mind, and he bent to cover Blair's right nipple with his warm, wet mouth. He sucked fiercely. One hand moved to tug at the nipple ring threaded through Blair's other nipple. Blair arched up off the bed, gasping.

"Oh yes, that's right, that's good," groaned Blair. "More...want more...I move my hands — your hands — down over my body," murmured Blair, warming to his theme. "I unzip my fly, run my fingers over my erection, the erection that you give me, and my body is taut for you, straining for you, I want you so much." Jim slid his free hand down Blair's torso and gripped his cock. Blair began to breathe hard, and he pushed himself up wantonly into Jim's fist. "Oh, yes!" he whispered, "oh yes, Jim..." Blair struggled to pick up the threads of his narrative," — and I stroke myself, and I pretend it's you, and I'm begging for you to do me, and I'm wanting to give myself to you completely, and I'm wanting it hard, wanting it rough, wanting to be manhandled and marked and bruised — " Blair stopped momentarily, hearing Jim's loud, ragged gasp rend the air, feeling Jim tense and quiver uncontrollably above him, and he wondered idly if he had won...

...and then, in a swift, graceful blur of movement, Jim was kneeling between his legs, pulling them apart, lifting them up, and then Blair cried out as a lubed finger traced the cleft of his ass, gently circled his opening, and tentatively probed inside. Jim's other hand closed around his cock, thumb caressing the head. Oh, such talented hands... "God, take me, claim me," Blair pleaded, as Jim's finger worked its way deeper, "touch that...touch...everywhere... oh, please..." Jim's finger raked unerringly over his prostate, and Blair convulsed, knowing now that it was all over but for the shouting, knowing now that he would most definitely, assuredly lose, was losing — god, two fingers now and he was begging. Words had lost their strategic purpose and slipped out of him, bubbling upwards as he lost control of his body — "Use me as you like, I'm yours, you have me, you can have everything, takeeverything — ahhhh ....oh..." And then Blair was silent and straining, fucking himself on Jim's fingers, thrusting up into Jim's fist, pleasure everywhere he moved, thrashing wildly, faster and faster; and he was sobbing, and there were no more words left in him.

Jim looked down at the pleasure contorting Blair's face and felt dizzy, felt overpowered, feared he would pass out. He had never in his wildest wet dreams imagined anything as erotic as Blair Sandburg was in reality, and a raw, primal sound worked its way out of his throat. He angled his aching cock against Blair's hot, throbbing flesh and began helplessly thrusting his hips, trembling as he felt Blair strain hard for completion against his hand, against his fingers. And then Blair was spasming, his internal muscles gripping Jim's fingers tightly, his cock shooting hot come on Jim's chest, and Jim threw his head back and came in pulses against Blair's thigh, and the world swam before his eyes and disappeared.

He came to consciousness with Blair pressed up against his side, lightly nuzzling his earlobe in a post-coital daze. He extended his arm, and pulled Blair more tightly to him. They lay there companionably for long minutes, their breathing calming, enjoying the relaxed contact of skin against skin.

"Jim," Blair said softly in his ear, throwing an arm over his chest.

"Mmmm?" answered Jim.

Blair now swung a leg over Jim's body and clutched him tightly. Jim felt Blair kiss his neck softly, and felt warm and loved. Blair moved his hand up and stroked Jim's cheek. "I love you," Blair said. And before Jim could respond that he loved Blair, too, Blair whispered softly, sadly: "Why won't you fuck me?"

Jim tensed, and felt Blair's hand move across his body, massaging reassurance into his skin. "Game over, Chief," he answered lightly, casually, deflecting the question. "You lose."

"I win, Jim, I win every time," Blair said, and Jim could feel Blair smile against his neck. And then the smile faded. "You know I want you to," he continued softly. Jim whimpered at his partner's words, anxiety battling with desire.

"I know," Jim answered.

"Does it..." Blair stopped, tried to rephrase. "I mean, is it a thing for you?" he asked gently. "Does it — does it disgust you?"

"No," Jim said firmly, turning to pull Blair tightly into his arms.

"Then why don't you?"

Jim sighed and closed his eyes, choosing his words carefully. "I can't account for what will happen, Blair. I'm afraid — I don't want to hurt you." Again his mind added silently.

"I'll guide you, I'll help you," murmured Blair.

"Blair, I can't yet, I'm not ready," Jim said tightly, and then Blair was covering his face with soothing kisses, shushing him. "It's ok, Jim," he said, caressing his lover's face. "It's okay, it's all ok." He stopped to kiss Jim's lips tenderly, and Jim held Blair's face to his, and opened his mouth. They lay together for long minutes, sharing volatile kisses that shifted seamlessly from sweet to fierce and back to sweet.

Finally, Blair pulled away. "I'll make us some dinner, and then I need to finish those finals." He groaned. "Grades are due tomorrow, and of course I'm down to the wire..."

Jim pulled his face close again. "Another minute," he pleaded softly. A minute became ten, and they only broke apart when Jim heard Blair's stomach rumble loudly. He smiled. "Okay, let's get dinner," Jim said, sitting up, running hands over his hair, over his face. "I've got to get that bookcase together anyway."

They showered together quickly, and then put together a meal in companionable silence. Jim stole glances at Blair, who was intently and expertly chopping tomatoes, his wet hair pulled behind his head. He mentally replayed their recent conversation as he set the table. Did he have a thing about fucking Blair? God, no, the idea haunted his dreams, sent him spiraling back to consciousness each morning clutching Blair desperately, his cock hard and dripping. That Blair could ever think that he would be disgusted or repulsed... He sighed. But maybe he did have a thing about it, he admitted, reluctantly frowning. What he had was a massive, malingering case of guilt.

"Hey!" Blair yelped, bobbling a large salad bowl frantically. Jim realized that Blair had passed him the bowl to set on the table, but he hadn't been paying attention and had nearly dropped it before Blair snatched it back. "Jim, if you've got it, get it — " Blair lectured, "and if you don't have it, I'll get it, but don't act like you'll get it if you don't got it, get it? Sheesh!" Blair whisked past him and set the ceramic bowl down hard with irritation. Jim covered his face with his hands.

What a beautiful boy, he mused, peeking through his fingers. What a...well, what an unusual gift Blair Sandburg was. Unusual and unique, a one-of-a-kind, irreplaceable present that you didn't even know you wanted till you had it. And how had he cared for that gift? He had risked Blair's life, resisted his experiments, and grumbled at his habits for three years. And then he had done the monstrous thing, the thing he could not forgive himself for. Two months ago, on his birthday, Blair had treated him to a perfect evening, an evening which Blair tailored specifically to his tastes, an evening engineered and executed with an obvious desire to please him. And at the end of the evening, Blair had offered himself to Jim as a lover, had willingly put his heart and his body into Jim's hands.

Jim had put him in the hospital.

He had hit Blair so hard that he had burst the younger man's appendix. Jim cringed at the memory of his own viciousness, and felt panic because he still had no idea of where that violent impulse had come from. A switch had flipped in his brain, and he had frightened himself: he had not known such a switch was there. But, he thought wryly, the things he still didn't know about himself would fill a book — and he smiled suddenly at Blair Sandburg, who was writing it. Blair smiled back at him and nodded at the table, silently suggesting that they eat. Jim Ellison looked over the table as his guide filled his plate, and idly thought about the place on Blair's body where the scar wasn't.

He had surprised himself (and positively shocked Simon Banks) by healing the wound that remained after Blair's emergency appendectomy. He hadn't known he could do that, didn't know that the power to heal his guide was part of the Sentinel bag of tricks, but Jim was deeply grateful for the ability, because he thought of it as the miracle that brought Blair back to him.

Blair had been positively tickled at the development, though the anthropologist in him was irked that he had hadn't previously hypothesized it. But the revelation of a healing touch between Sentinel and Guide seemed to make perfect sense to Blair, explaining why he healed so fast, why he wasn't incapacitated for longer when he was injured or sick. Jim's friendly, casual touches had speeded his recoveries; Jim's deliberate, intensive touches had supernatural effects.

Based on the sudden, surprising existence of Jim's healing talent, Blair had further theorized that direct physical connection between Sentinel and Guide would unlock further powers for both of them. Thus far, none had become apparent. And Sandburg had been vaguely disappointed to confirm in the weeks after the incident that Jim's healing touch worked only on him, though Jim himself had been secretly and profoundly relieved: all chances at a normal life would have been crushed in an instant under that terrible moral burden. Jim Ellison was not cut out for a life of laying hands on the sick.

But a life of laying hands on Blair Sandburg — well, that was another matter entirely. After the monstrous thing, and the miracle, Jim had vowed to himself that he was going to devote his life to making his guide happy. But he was still afraid to fuck him; he didn't know how he could do it without losing complete control of himself, and he couldn't risk hurting Blair.

"You okay?" Blair asked, and Jim looked up at him and nodded.

"Yeah, I'm fine."

"Guess you liked that," said Blair and smiled, and Jim looked down in surprise at his empty plate.

"I was...hungry."

"Yeah, I see that," said Blair, getting up with the empty plates.

"Leave them — I'll do it," said Jim. "Go hit those finals."

Blair put on his glasses, curled up on the sofa and began reading. Jim slowly washed the dishes, musing about the strange curves that life threw one: he had never expected that his life would come to revolve around 160 pounds of curly-haired anthropologist. Finally Jim slid the last fork into the drainer and dried his hands; he had a sudden, strong yearning for a beer. He bumped into Blair when he turned away from the sink.

"Here," said Blair, handing him a bottle. Clutching his own beer, Blair padded softly back to the sofa. Jim followed him, and sat down on the floor by the bookcase. He considered the tools in his toolbox, took a long pull off his beer, and selected a large screwdriver. Setting the beer bottle gently down on the floor, he began bolting the oak pieces together.

An hour passed. Jim looked up upon hearing a loud sigh from his guide. Blair was rubbing his eyes underneath his glasses. "How are they, Chief? They all passing?"

Blair blew out a long breath, and shook his head as if to clear it. "Oh, they're passing all right — I mean, its a little ridiculous."

"What is?" Jim asked, and Blair waved a hand at the piles of exams.

"They're really good," Blair said, "they're all good. I mean, they got even the tough questions."

"Well, you're a good teacher," said Jim.

"Yeah, but Jim, really, you know?" Blair laughed. "They must have really studied...maybe they formed a group or something. Well, power to 'em." He pushed the bluebooks out of his lap. "Have we got — ?"

"In the desk in the office, left drawer, under my checkbook," answered Jim.

"Right." Blair scuttled gingerly around Jim's construction site and went to fetch the calculator. God, he hated figuring grades...well, at least he didn't have to agonize about flunking anyone this term.

On his way back to the sofa he stopped and squatted next to Jim on the floor to examine what was now clearly taking form as a bookcase. "Wow, that's looking great."

"It'll take a lot of weight," said Jim grudgingly, "and it should last forever."

Blair kissed the top of Jim's head as he got up, and Jim flushed, feeling indescribably pleased.

Two hours later Blair was signing and dating the department's preprinted grade forms, and Jim was double-checking that all the bolts in the bookcase were tight. Concluding they were, he called to Blair. "Hey, Chief, come help me with this."

Blair threw his glasses down on the coffee table and bounced over. "What do you want me to do?"

"Lift that end," Jim directed. "On the count of three — "

Together they strained to lift the bookcase to an upright position. "God," Blair said, panting, "it weighs like a thousand pounds!"

"Real wood," replied Jim, walking around it, checking to see that it stood evenly. He took a few steps back and considered it, then smiled, pleased with his work.

"Boy, isn't it," said Blair, admiringly. "It's beautiful, Jim — I really like it." He ran a finger over the grain, noting how smooth the wood was — Sentinel Senses As Applied To Carpentry, he thought, smiling. A monograph by Blair Sandburg. "Though I don't know how we're ever going to move it without getting, like, a hernia."

"It's got to be varnished and sealed first, anyway," said Jim. "We'll leave it here for now." He glanced at his watch. "Time for bed."

Blair stood on tiptoes to kiss Jim briefly, and then they separated, each going into their own night-time routine. Twenty minutes later, Jim turned on his side to look at Blair; his senses telling him that his guide was teetering on the edge of consciousness. He liked watching Blair sleep; Jim Ellison was a man of simple pleasures.

"Come on, come on," the younger man exhorted nervously, waving his gun at the security guard. The guard swallowed hard, fear cutting harsh lines into his already weathered face, and he obeyed, sweeping the cash off the shelves of the bank vault into a series of small, canvas sacks. It wasn't the thief waving the gun who frightened him, nor the other young man who tensely stood as a lookout by the door. It was the third man, the man who said nothing, who stood leaning against the wall, just watching. He was the only calm one in the room, and that scared the guard badly.

"Hurry the fuck up, you bastard," the one with the gun said, and then he pulled the full sacks out of the guard's hands and headed for the door. "All right, let's go! let's go!"

"Tie him up," the third man said. The one with the gun shot him a look, and then handed the sacks and his gun to the lookout and obeyed. "Oh Jesus," thought the guard as the rope tightened around his wrists, pulling his arms behind his back. He looked at the two thieves — mere assistants, he realized — and saw that they themselves feared the third man. His thoughts flew to his wife, his daughter, his infant grandson.

"Okay, get out of here. Start the car and wait for me," said the third man, drawing a gun from behind his back. With anxious expressions the two assistants left. The guard's heart pounded. "I'm sorry," said the third man softly. "You know what has to happen here. On your knees." Sweating, tears blurring his vision, the guard kneeled creakily, watching the barrel of the gun.

"It doesn't have to happen," he pleaded. "You don't have to kill me — you have plenty of time to get away." He sobbed suddenly as the world went dark, as the third man gently pulled an empty sack over his head.

"Maybe," the third man said, and the guard could hear the pleasure in the purring voice. God, he was enjoying this. The guard was crying quietly now, knowing that this was it, unable to believe that this was it. "But maybe I want it to happen."

The guard never heard the shot; he just keeled over, smashing into the floor. His body jerked once, and he was still.

"Jim!" Simon called, coming out of his office into the bullpen. "There's been a robbery at the Empire bank — and the night guard is dead." He handed Ellison a file. "I want you and Sandburg to get over there, pronto. See if you can find us a lead on this thing."

Jim's eyes quickly scanned the report and he nodded. "Sandburg's at the university: I'll call him." He picked up the phone and speed-dialed Blair's office.

Blair picked up on the first ring. "Yeah, Jim?"

"We've got a body at the Empire bank — are you free?"

"I'll get free," Blair said tersely.

"Ten minutes?" Jim asked.

"I'll be outside," Blair said and hung up. He looked up tensely at his department chair, and continued his conversation. "I don't understand how students doing well is a problem," Blair said.

The chair looked down at Blair's grade sheets. "Blair, you know the school's policy against grade inflation."

"My grades are not inflated," argued Blair. "I made an appropriate exam which covered the material. The questions were of varying levels of difficulty. They just did well, that's all. I can't put bad grades on good exams." He gestured at the pile of papers stacked in a box on his desk. "Look, review them yourself, double-check me, and then tell me what you think."

The chair picked up the exam on the top of the pile. He skimmed it, frowning, while Blair fidgeted. He glanced over two or three more, then looked up.

"I'd like to take these," he said, "and examine them more thoroughly. It's possible that what we have here is a widespread case of cheating."

"They didn't cheat," said Blair firmly. "I proctored that exam myself. Besides, they're my students, I know them, and they wouldn't."

The chair smiled thinly, patronizingly. "Perhaps you didn't notice. You may not have the requisite experience."

Blair gritted his teeth. "Okay, look, fine, you tell me what you want to do."

"I need to discuss this with the dean. I'll call you tonight with our decision."

"All right, whatever," Blair said, throwing up his hands. "I have to go, I need to be somewhere." He grabbed his jacket and headed out, fuming.

Blair emerged from the Anthro building just as Jim was pulling up in his truck. He darted over to the passenger side and hopped in.

"Hey, what's going on?" Blair asked.

"What's going on with you?" Jim answered, sensing his guide's anger as they pulled away from the curb.

"Oh, its those damn exams — my chair says that my grades are too high, and now he's questioning my judgment, accusing me of inflating grades, accusing my kids of cheating — ahhh, what the hell," he sighed, running his fingers through his hair. "It doesn't matter."

"Of course it matters," said Jim. "They're penalizing you for doing too well. That's ridiculous."

"Yeah, maybe," spat Blair, "but they still control whether or not I get courses."

"I'm sorry, Chief."

"Yeah, well, whatever — who's this body?"

"Philip Carter," Jim answered. "He was the night guard at the bank. The security company sent someone over when he didn't answer his phone. They found him dead and the vault empty. He was shot in the head."

Jim pulled up in front of the Empire bank, and waved his badge at the uniforms who guarded the door. He strode into the bank, Blair a few steps behind him. "I'm Detective Ellison," Jim announced, "who do I talk to, here?"

A female police officer strode over and introduced herself. "I'm Officer Woo," said, "my unit was first on the scene. Let me take you down to the vault."

"Fine," said Jim. "This is my partner, Blair Sandburg," he added, gesturing over his shoulder as they walked.

Woo nodded politely at Sandburg as they approached a dark staircase. "The power was cut," she said, pulling a flashlight from her belt and switching it on. "It's part of how the thieves got the vault open. They're working on restoring the power to this part of the building." They passed through a doorway at the bottom of the stairs, and then saw the huge iron door of the vault. The chamber was lit by a number of portable lanterns and flashlights.

Woo shined her flashlight over the guard's prone figure. Jim heard Sandburg's intake of breath, and patted his arm before stepping closer.

"Jim, its like an execution," said Blair, taking in Carter's hooded head and bound wrists. "I didn't realize it was...well, deliberate."

"Yeah," Woo added, "this wasn't a robbery gone wrong." Jim squatted next to the body, scanning it with Sentinel sight. "You might want to wait for the lights to come on before you begin your examination," Woo suggested.

"He's got really good vision," explained Blair.

"The gun was fired directly against his head," Jim said softly a few moments later, standing up — and then the lights flashed on, impossibly bright and dazzling, and Jim screamed and sank to his knees. Instantly Blair was beside him, clutching him, whispering "dial it down...dial it down" softly in his best Guide voice.

"Is he all right?" Woo asked anxiously, coming to support Jim's other side.

"He's fine...he's, uh, epileptic," Blair said, improvising quickly. "He has these fits with bright lights, can't watch animation or anything — he'll be fine in a minute."

"Should I get an ambulance?" Woo was worried at Jim's glassy eyed stare.

"No, no, I'm a...trained medic, I have a certificate in uh, Seizure Recovery Treatment — you know, SRT?" he said brightly. "I've taken a bunch of courses, the Branson method, everything. It's why we were partnered. Maybe you could, um, get him a glass of water, though?"

Woo nodded reluctantly and headed for the door. "You're sure?" she said, turning back.

"Oh yeah," said Blair breezily. "No worries." When Woo was out of sight he turned back to Jim and began whispering urgently. "Jim, dial down your sight... come back to me, man...come on, come home...follow my voice..."

"Blair..." Jim said heavily a minute later. He raised a hand to his head. "Ow."

"Are you okay, can you stand?"

"Yeah, fine," Jim said as Blair helped him up. "Headache."

"Well, what do you expect?" Blair said, as Woo appeared at the door again, followed by a group of forensics specialists and the coroner. " — After an epileptic seizure," he added, darting his eyes at Woo.

"Here's your water, Detective," she said, obviously relieved to see the big man on his feet.

"Thanks," said Jim, taking the glass and drinking it down quickly.

"Lucky for you to have a partner trained in SRT."

Jim nodded warily. "Yeah, Sandburg's a real genius at SRT." He turned to the head of the forensics team. "Listen, I'm going back to the office, let me know what you find."

Jim took a last long look around the room and then breathed deeply, nose wrinkling. "Thank you, Officer," he said, headed for the stairs. "Thanks," added Blair.

"You want me to drive?" asked Blair.

"Yeah, wouldja?" murmured Jim. He got in on the passenger side and let his head fall back. "And what in hell is SRT?"

"It's not important. Are you sure we should go back to the bullpen?" asked Blair anxiously. "Maybe you should sleep this off."

"I'll be okay in a few minutes," said Jim, eyes closed. "And we need to be alert on this one."

"What do you mean?" asked Blair.

Jim sighed. "Something really weird went on down there, Chief." He grimaced. "I smelled semen."

"You smelled what?" asked Simon, incredulously.

"Semen," Jim repeated. "I think...well, I think somebody enjoyed killing that man, physically enjoyed it. I think we're looking for some kind of psychopath."

"But the robbery — "

"I don't know, Simon," said Jim, irritably. "Maybe the robbery was an excuse for the killing — or maybe he's doing two crimes for the price of one, sort of 'buy one get one free' — but I'm telling you, Captain, robbery was not the primary motive for what went down at that bank.'

"Okay," said Simon, wearily. "Okay. Run it through the database, see if there's any record of a similar M.O. Maybe the guy's got a history.

"Guys," piped up Blair. Jim and Simon turned to look at him. "Well, I mean the knots were, you know, complicated," Blair said, hands moving to illustrate his point, "and I don't see that guy submitting if there wasn't a gun, so that's at least two guys, one with the gun and one — "

"Doing the knots," finished Simon, "okay, that sounds right. Run it through, Jim — and eat something, will you? You look like hell. Sandburg, get him to eat something."

"Will do," said Blair.

Blair and Jim were finishing a late lunch and discussing the case when the second call came through. Another robbery, another body, another shot to the head. This time the scene was a jewelry store. Jim flashed his badge upon their arrival and they were ushered past a young man, wrapped in a blanket, weeping openly. "His wife," the uniform whispered to Ellison and Sandburg, gesturing to the woman lying dead on the floor, arms tied behind her back, canvas bag over her head. "He came to help her close up. They inherited the business from her father."

"I hate this," whispered Blair.

"Yeah, me too," answered Jim, softly. He looked around the store, at the smashed display cases, the empty velvet boxes, the broken glass. "What time did she leave for work?"

"Store opens at ten," answered the officer. "She would have arrived about a quarter to."

Ellison looked at the heavy grates covering the store's front windows. "She never opened."

"No," agreed the uniform.

Again, Jim stepped forward to examine the body. And again, there seemed nothing to see. "Same M.O., shot directly against the head," he murmured to Blair. Then Jim inhaled deeply; made a face; shot a meaningful glance at his partner. "Shit," whispered Blair, Sentinel soft. Jim stepped away from the body, and raked a powerful glance around the room. He paused. "Do they have a car?" he asked the uniform.

"I don't know, I'll find out," the officer said, and stepped over to talk to the grieving widower. Jim watched as the officer looked up from the conversation, shook his head no.

Jim crouched down and pointed. Blair peered over his shoulder to look. "What is it?" asked Blair.

"Coolant," said Jim. "Maybe their car's leaking coolant, and someone tracked it in."

"Doesn't narrow things down much," said Blair, ruefully.

"No, it doesn't." He directed the arriving forensics people to the near invisible stain and exhaled tiredly. "All right, Sandburg, let's go. I want to stop by the station and pick up the paperwork, and then home." He shook his head. "I think I've had enough today."

"Of all the stupid, arrogant, dumb-assed, half-witted, self-important, mis-guided, foolhardy, blockheaded, harebrained, pretentious damn-fool things to do!"

Jim winced as he changed into a clean shirt. God, when that mouth applied itself to terms of derision. "What?" he asked, glancing over the balcony.

"YOU KNOW WHAT," yelled Sandburg from the kitchen. Jim heard Blair pop the top off a beer and hurl the cap to the floor. "Don't you get all coy with ME, James Ellison! You heard the message — you can hear the message like a THOUSAND MILES AWAY, underwater, wearing headphones playing Kate Smith singing the Star Spangled FRIGGING BANNER — I KNOW you can, I've tested it myself!"

Jim crept stealthily down the stairs to find Blair collapsed in one of the kitchen chairs, cold beer pressed to his forehead. "Re-give my exam," Blair said incredulously. "Meet with the dean 'to discuss my pedagogy.' There's nothing wrong with my pedagogy." He groaned, and Jim slipped behind him and began to massage his shoulders.

"Of course not," murmured Jim soothingly.

"Do you know what this will do to my reputation at the university?" moaned Blair. "I can't believe they're going to re-give my exam. Boy, will I look like a bozo."

"You could never," said Jim softly.

"Never mind that my students will hate me. Two finals. Oh well," sighed Blair, leaning back into Jim's arms. "Everything can't be perfect." He let his head fall backwards and stared at Jim upside down. "Kiss me, you fool." Jim bent down and kissed him.

"You try to relax, I'll make dinner," Jim said.

"No, I'll help," sighed Blair, getting up.

"We've got steaks," Jim said, looking into the fridge. "I could broil them."

Sandburg nodded. "Okay, I'll make some sort of side," he said distractedly. "Potatoes?" he murmured. "Or Stove-top?" he added sarcastically. "Dumb-ass bastard..." he muttered, "call me up before the dean." He reached under the counter for a saucepan.

"So, nine o-clock, tomorrow?" asked Jim, who had indeed heard the message.

"Yeah," said Blair. "I'll meet you at the station when it's over. Sorry about that." He put the salt and pepper shakers into Jim's extended hands.

"Don't worry about it," said Jim, seasoning the steaks. "This is important, I understand that." Maybe just a little lemon, he thought, and Blair handed him a lemon. "Thanks."

"It's important, sure," said Blair, dropping some new potatoes into the pot of boiling water. "But so's this case."

"Yeah, I have a real bad feeling about this one, Chief," sighed Jim. "I think we've got a serial killer on our hands — or at least one in the making. This guy is really enjoying hurting people — cabinet on the left, Blair — and he's killed twice within twenty-four hours." He exhaled and leaned against the counter, watching Blair pull a colander down from the cabinet. "God only knows what he's doing now. He's going to kill someone else, and I don't know how to stop him."

"Jim, let me in," said Blair, pounding on the bathroom door the next morning. "I need a shower — need to wash away the stench of fear before this damn meeting."

"Hang on a second, Chief," called Jim, and then Blair heard the toilet flush, and then the door opened.

"Could that be my career?" said Blair, cupping a hand to his ear. He sidled past Jim and got into the shower.

"Well, at least you haven't lost your sense of humor," said Jim, lathering his face.

"Are you kidding?" said Blair, soaping up quickly. "As a poor grad student, it's one of my only assets. I'm leaving it to you in my will. My sense of humor to you and my body to science." He squeezed shampoo into his hands and worked it into his hair. "Actually scratch that. I'll leave my sense of humor to science and my body to you. No reason my body shouldn't be happy when I'm dead. And science never appreciated my body like you did." Blair turned his face up into the spray, and rinsed off.

"I love you when you're bitter," said Jim, placing a clean towel in Blair's outstretched hand.

"I can't help it," said Blair, stepping out of the shower. He dried his body rapidly and then lifted the towel to his hair. The sight of a naked, clean Blair gave Jim an instant erection, and he averted his eyes. Shaving and lust didn't mix. "I'm really touchy about my teaching." Blair sat down on the closed toilet seat and toweled his hair thoughtfully. "The thing is, its one of the few things I can do really well, you know? It's not...well, its not second-rate. And having them question me is really messing with my self esteem."

"There's nothing second-rate about you, Chief," said Jim, putting down the razor carefully.

"And having you think that," said Blair, staring up at him, "having you love have no idea what that does for my self-esteem." He got up, letting the towel drop to the floor, and pressed himself against Jim, turning up his face to be kissed.

Jim kissed him, shivering from the feel of Blair's furry chest against his smooth one. Blair kissed him intently, deeply, and Jim's senses swam from the powerful taste of his guide's hot, wet mouth. He pulled back from the edge of a zone-out as Blair slid a hand over his chest, caressed his rib cage. Blair's full lips slid down Jim's neck and came to rest by his shoulder. He sucked and bit Jim's flesh passionately, soothing away any pain with gentle swipes of his tongue.

Jim felt Blair's heavy wet curls brush his nipples, which immediately stood to attention. He reached around Blair and cupped the soft flesh of his ass And then Blair's hands were at the waistband of his boxers, and they were sliding down his hips, and Blair was on his knees in front of him and he was taking Jim's cock into his mouth.

Jim arched into Blair's mouth and reached back to clutch the porcelain edge of the sink. He could feel Blair's tongue stroking the length of his erection, could feel Blair's hands massaging his ass, setting a rhythm, and the rhythm was like a voice exhorting Jim to lose control, lose control, lose control... Blair opened his throat and took Jim into himself fully, and the pressure of his fingers intensified suddenly as he encouraged Jim to fuck his face, fingers explaining that he wanted it, that he could handle it this way, and Jim gasped loudly as the force of Blair's desire gripped his spine, and Blair's near-winning words of yesterday " — wanting it hard, wanting it rough, wanting to be manhandled and marked and bruised — " exploded through his mind and then he was bucking into Blair's mouth, and his hands were seizing great handfuls of the beautiful hair on the beautiful head, and he was coming into Blair's mouth, and the world was turning orange and green and pink and there were bright, shiny points of light dancing in his field of vision, and Blair was swallowing, sucking him dry, and his legs were melting in pools around his ankles, and Blair was guiding him to the floor. He heaved, taking air in great gulps.

"...Jim..." Blair's voice floated to him, and he heard the concern and tried to have a thought, tried to marshal a reassuring word.


"Okay, okay..." Blair murmured, and Jim felt Blair's cool hands stroking his face. "Shhh, rest a bit — as long as you're okay."

<If being blown half way to the afterlife qualifies as okay, well then, yes,> thought Jim, <I am definitely okay.> He opened one eye and looked up at Blair.

"..m-meeting..?" said he weakly, and Blair grinned hugely.

"Well, its a hell of a lot better then smelling of fear," replied his guide prosaically.

Blair's self-esteem was not bolstered any by the fact that the dean had pushed the meeting back to eleven o'clock without bothering to call him. Feeling pushed around by the university, Blair slammed the door to his office and threw himself irritably into his chair. He took a deep breath and centered himself. Okay, he had two hours to kill — well, he was a scholar, he always had work he could do. He pulled out his laptop and began to update his research notes. After all, his real reputation would rest on his dissertation, wouldn't it?

He glanced over his handwritten experiment notes and began summarizing his findings on the computer. He had done extensive tests on Jim's healing powers — incredible, that! No one had ever suspected, let alone documented, the healing skills of Sentinels, and the thought pleased Blair immensely.

Blair had also done some preliminary tests on himself. He was convinced that there were special, as yet, undiscovered properties of the Sentinel-Guide relationship. For the whole time he and Jim had known each other, Jim had been touching him, casually but insistently, as if his hands were naturally drawn to touch Blair in a way that Jim himself, raised in a culture that repressed male-male expressions of affection, refused to recognize or acknowledge. The first time Jim had really touched him, Blair's flesh had responded recognizably and instinctively to him; his scar had knit together almost immediately in answer to Jim's unvoiced but clear command. The second time Jim had really touched him — sexually, this time — Blair had been sure...well, it sounded silly now, he knew...but at the time he had been sure that he was somehow...evolving. But he had gotten a complete physical — he had even gotten his blood work done by a doctor-friend — and he had found nothing to validate his theory. Maybe he had only imagined it. Blair laughed suddenly, thinking that maybe it was just the effect of really reallygood sex. Like when people said the earth moved. Post-Coital Delusions In The Sentinel-Guide Relationship. A monograph by Blair Sandburg.

He sighed, and picked up his ringing phone. It was Simon Banks.

"Sandburg, is Jim with you?" asked Simon, accusingly. "I need him here, and I can't find him."

"No, Simon," Blair answered, "he's not, he's — -he's in the second floor copy room talking to Rafe."

There was silence on the line. "Simon?" Blair prompted.


"Listen, Simon, when you see Jim, tell him that my meeting got pushed back to 11:00, and that I'll be in my office until then if he wants to talk, otherwise I'll come to the station as soon as I'm free. Okay? I'm sorry about this, its just out of my control."

"Uh, yeah, okay, I'll tell him," Simon faltered.

"All right, thanks." Blair hung up, and gnawed on the tip of his pen as he stared at his own medical reports. It had been such a strong feeling...perhaps he should get a cat-scan, just to be sure.

Early in the afternoon, Jim listened to Blair's cell phone ring once before his guide picked up and immediately launched into conversation. "Yeah, Jim, look, I'm downstairs parking and I will be up in a minute, so just hold on, okay?" The phone went dead and Jim looked at it. "Well, okay," he said, putting it into its cradle.

At few minutes later Sandburg strode into the bullpen with his hair pulled back and his glasses on, looking professorial and very very angry. Jim swallowed. You didn't have to be a Sentinel to know that the meeting hadn't gone well. He waited.

"They're reassigning my courses for next term," said Blair quietly, "pen-ding the examination of the second final exam by a faculty com-mit-tee and pen-ding the results of in-ter-views that they plan to conduct with se-lec-ted students from the class in hopes of discovering the precise pedagogical at-mos-phere which could have produced the most successful and bla-tant attempt at academic fraud that the dean has ever witnessed in her three thousand years at Rainier." Blair inflected the words pending, committee, interviews, selected, etc. so sharply that they were practically dripping venom. "And you say I overanalyze? All this rather than believe that thirty students could ace a final exam." He shook his head. "Do they need anybody here, in the typing pool, maybe?"

Jim put his hands on Blair's shoulders and spoke softly, but intently. "Chief, I am so sorry about this but I want you to listen to me, here. I don't want you to worry about anything, okay? Nothing. I — " Jim stopped. He wanted to say, <I'll take care of you, I'll always take care of you,> but he didn't want to sound patronizing or paternal. He took a breath. "You have my complete and total support for...well, for anything you want to do. For everything. This thing's going to work itself out somehow. And until then, you have another job. You're needed here." He paused. "I need you."

Blair nodded. "I know, Jim." He ran his hand along Jim's side briefly, and then stepped away. "So what's going on with the case?"

"Forensics confirms the presence of ethylene glycol at the jewelry store. Coolant," he added, noting Blair's confused look. "And, uh, well I phoned because —

"Oh no," Blair said, "not another one."

"Yeah. The call just came in. Are you up to another crime scene?"

"Yeah, I'm up to it." He closed his eyes, thinking of another helpless, trussed, hooded body. Of fear, of suffering. "Hey Jim," he said, following his partner out of the bullpen. "If I ever complain about anything ever again, just smack me one hard, will you?" He sighed, thinking of a man sobbing his heart out, clutching a cold blanket instead of a warm wife. "I've got nothing to complain about. Nothing at all."

Blair watched Jim's face as he looked around the third crime scene — a private home, this time — and knew that Jim was sensing something. He followed as Jim paced rapidly from the front door into the living room, out again, up the stairs, and into the master bedroom where the body of the middle-aged stockbroker had been found.

"Wow," said Jim.

"What?" asked Blair.

"Carpets," said Jim, distractedly. Blair looked around. Yes, the whole house was covered in lush, thick layers of carpet. And then Jim was going down the stairs, back toward the front door, and Blair was running to keep up. He smashed into Jim's back as he stopped.

"Sloppy," said Jim. "The carpets are picking up everything. Coolant," said Jim, pointing. Blair looked, but didn't see anything. Jim went into the living room, "Motor oil. Differential fluid," he said, arms pointing to each respectively. He turned around and went up the stairs. "More oil," he said meditatively, "eighth step." He strode into the bedroom. "Again, coolant. Also transmission fluid." He paused. "And the smell! God, the place reeks!" Blair shook his head, questioning. "Gasoline," Jim said, then paused, breathed deeply for a few moments, and smiled. "Diesel gasoline," he said with satisfaction. "Okay, let's go!"

"Go where?" said Blair as they left the house.

"Think, Sandburg — even your car doesn't leak coolant and transmission fluid and motor oil simultaneously!" Jim pulled out his cell phone and dialed. "This is Ellison," he said brusquely. "I need to know the location of any diesel fuel tanks in Cascade. There shouldn't be that many," added Jim to Blair softly, holding his hand over the mouthpiece of the phone.

"I fail to understand why you continually insult my car," said Blair petulantly, pulling the leather cord out from around his ponytail and letting his hair fly free.

"What?" said Jim into the phone. He looked over at Blair and held up two fingers. "Uh-huh. Okay. No, not that one, I know that place, its too central. Uh-huh. Uh-huh." <Pen,> Jim thought, and then gratefully accepted the one Blair pulled from his shirt pocket and extended to him. "Yeah, go ahead," Jim said. He scribbled down the address and disconnected.

"I mean, its a good car, a classic car," said Blair as they pulled out into traffic.

Ten minutes later, Jim pulled the truck slowly in front of a warehouse set back from the street on a large concrete lot. "CLASSIC CAR RESTORATION" blared a large yellow and red sign. A smaller, handwritten sign hanging in a grimy window said: "YES, WE SELL DIESEL FUEL."

"Nobody home," said Jim, listening intently. "Come on, let's have a look." The sign on the front door read CLOSED, but the door was open. Inside was a makeshift waiting area, consisting of an old, mis-shapen couch, an armchair, and a coffee table upon which various hot rod magazines were scattered. For the customers, presumably.

"Nothing here," said Blair, but Jim was already working on opening the inner door which presumably led to the larger warehouse space. With a strong and steady pressure, Jim eased the bolt holding the chain out of the door's ancient wooden frame. They stepped into a cavern: the ceilings were at least 30 feet high, and hanging from them was an impressive array of winches, pulleys, and other machinery. One side of the warehouse was lined with huge glass garage doors, all now closed. There were maybe fifteen or twenty cars in various states of restoration scattered about the warehouse. In the near corner were two fuel pumps, diesel and regular, a beat-up wooden desk, four chairs with ripped seats, and a safe.

Jim covered his nose with his sleeve. Even Blair could smell the pungent gas fumes in here, and he suggested that Jim dial down his sense of smell. When he was breathing more comfortably, Jim went over to look at the safe. Locked.

"What do you think?" asked Jim, rubbing his fingers gently.

"Uh, Jim, we haven't got a warrant, so anything we find in there, if there is anything in there, is inadmissible," said Blair.

"Yeah, but Blair, there's no way on earth I could explain to a jury how I got into the safe in the first place, so let's open it and see what's inside, and then we'll know what we're getting a warrant for." He waited to see if Blair would buy it.

Blair thought about it for a moment. "You have a very twisty mind," he admitted. "Okay, open it."

Jim took a deep breath and focused his sight, hearing, touch on the safe, blocking out everything else. He watched the incremental movements of the dial, listened to the clicks as the right gears meshed together, felt the metal jerk under his fingers as each tumbler slipped into place. Finally he stepped back and reached for the handle —

— as the three thieves stepped out from behind a 1966 G.T.O. Two of them held guns. The third man narrowed his eyes and waited.

Jim and Blair raised their hands. "This is breaking and entering," said the youngest of them, his voice an unattractive adolescent whine.

"I'm a police officer," said Jim, moving to reach for his badge.

"Don't," said the other armed thief. "That's even worse."

Jim glanced at the three of them and then his gaze settled on the third man, the only one of them who wasn't nervous, whose heart was beating calmly, regularly. He had black hair and pale skin, and he stared at Jim from under dark, hooded eyelids. Jim Ellison grimaced; he knew that this was his killer.

The pale man made a brief jerk with his head, and the younger thief skittered close to Jim, and raised his gun to his face. "Tie him up," said the pale man, and then Blair Sandburg was moving forward.

"Put down the guns," said Blair softly and Jim's eyes opened wide at the sound of Blair's voice. It was like nothing he'd ever heard, and his head swiveled around to stare.

Blair's blue eyes were glowing in the dark warehouse, and his hair floated around his face. Slowly his hand came out. "Put them down," he repeated softly in an unearthly version of his guide voice, and the sound made the hair on Jim's neck stand on end. Blair turned to look at the man holding the gun on his lover. "You're not a killer," he explained gently, patiently, and his voice was as soft as thunder heard from several miles away. "Or you," he said, suddenly meeting the gaze of the other. "He is," said Blair, and everyone in the room knew who Blair Sandburg meant.

The guns wavered, and then lowered, and Jim shot a look at the pale man, whose face was contorted with confusion. Blair Sandburg took a few steps toward the gunman closest to Jim, and when the young man put his gun in Blair's hand, the pale man turned and bolted.

"Go after him," said the guide, and Jim hesitated for a moment and then gave chase, pulling his gun from behind his back. He darted between the cars, Sentinel hearing focused on the sound of the pale man's ragged breathing. He moved deeper and deeper into the warehouse, and then saw the open back door and a streetlight shining beyond. He hesitated before exiting and heard a gun cock. Pulling back, he swiftly crossed the warehouse to a grime-streaked window, and gently, quietly, he opened it and slipped through.

Jim darted away from the side of the building and stealthily circled around the back of the compound, around piled-up wrecks and mounds of twisted metal, tracking the pale man by the sound of his pounding heart. With fluid, graceful motion, Jim approached the building from the rear — and then he saw the pale man huddled behind a rusted-out chassis, gun trained firmly on the warehouse door. Silently Jim stalked closer, until he was practically standing over the pale man — -and then he brought the butt end of his gun down, hard, over his right ear. The man fell over sideways, and Jim reached down and cuffed his hand to the metal frame of the car.

Jim turned his head toward the warehouse door, realizing with rising panic that he'd left his partner alone with two armed felons. His heart pounded, and then he felt suddenly, overwhelmingly, reassured that Blair was fine. He ran back into the warehouse, gun drawn, and quickly crossed the cavernous space, stopping short as he approached the area where Blair was.

Blair was standing with his back to him, talking to the two thieves in low measured tones. The two men were sitting down, faces turned up to Blair, listening with intent concentration. The guns were laying on the desk. Jim blinked. <It's like he's lecturing!> Jim thought suddenly, stupidly, and then Blair turned around and looked at him.

"I...uh, I got him," said Jim.

"I know," said Blair softly.

"I'll, um, call for backup. Are you okay?"

"I just told you," smiled Blair, "I'm fine." He looked at the two men sitting in front of him. "We were just chatting," he said, and his eyes were a deeply amused blue. "They're going to turn themselves in."

"Yes," confirmed the one thief, swallowing. The other nodded agreement, adding, "We're not killers." "He did it," blurted the first, and his face was contorted and frightened. "We knew he was doing it but we couldn't stop it, couldn't stop him — "

"Shhhh," said Blair, soothing them like children. "It's all going to be okay. Money and jewelry's in the safe," he added, sotto voce, to Jim.

"Uh...right," said Jim, and pulled out his cell phone.

Jim darted anxious looks at Blair as they drove in silence back to the station. Blair was just sitting quietly, hugging himself tightly, his lips curved in a secret smile, his eyes wide and happy. Jim wanted to say something, to talk to his partner about whatever had just happened, but Blair seemed to be having...well, a moment of some sort, and Jim didn't want to disrupt it.

Jim parked and they got out, and then Jim stopped short, realizing that Blair wasn't following. His guide was hovering by the side of the truck, still holding himself; now he was bouncing up and down gently, hair bobbing. "Aren't you coming?" Jim asked, frowning.

"No, I don't think so, Jim," said Blair, and then he bit his lip as if to stop himself from laughing. "I think — " he said, and his face split in an unstoppable smile. "I think I need to go and talk to the dean," he confided playfully. "I mean, you know, really talk to the dean." And then Jim jumped as Blair suddenly whooped and doubled over, and the parking garage rang with laughter.

<Dear God, he's having a nervous breakdown,> thought Jim, staring helplessly. Blair gulped in deep breaths, trying to calm himself, but a glance at Jim's concerned face sent him off again, rocking with laughter, and he put a hand against the door of the truck to steady himself.

Jim took a step toward Blair, reached out to touch him — and then Blair suddenly flew at him, threw his arms around his neck and kissed him hard.

Stumbling back, grinning with amused satisfaction at Jim's confused expression and tousled hair, Blair said, "Walk me to my car?"

"Um.." said Jim, swallowing; but he followed Blair to the Corvair parked a few spots away.

"I'm going to the University," Blair said, getting in the driver's seat and pulling the door closed. He rolled down the window. "And then I'll meet you at home." Blair started the car and slowly backed out of the space.

Jim walked alongside the moving vehicle, bewildered. "Tell her — " Jim called, " — tell her you're a good teacher, Blair!"

"I'm a good teacher, Jim," Blair called back to him, grinning, "but I think I need to have my Sentinel researcher's license revoked." He waved and the Corvair pulled away — and then suddenly stopped short as Blair hit the brakes. Jim ran a few steps toward the car, and then stopped as Blair leaned out of the window and looked back. "Chew on this, Jim," Blair said merrily. "Traditionally, Sentinels and Guides didn't have cell phones." He winked, and with a squeal the Corvair sped away, the sound obscuring even to Sentinel ears whatever Blair Sandburg was shrieking as the car took off. Jim stood in the middle of the road, staring after Blair's car with raised eyebrows.

Blair ran into the dean as she was leaving her office for the evening and gently persuaded her give him a few minutes of her time, and gently explained to her what kind of future relationship he wanted with Rainier University, and gently thanked her as she added him to the fall schedule, and left, laughing softly to himself.

Jim had just turned his attention to yet another piece of paperwork when he heard Blair's voice. He raised his head and looked expectantly toward the door, then looked around the bullpen, then frowned.


The pencil in his hand snapped in two as Jim suddenly sat up, ramrod straight.

<Jim, take it easy.>

This was it, Jim thought. He was finally losing his mind. He had often wondered how much strangeness his poor brain could take before it simply snapped, and now he knew. He had finally hit his limit. He panicked.

<Jim, don't panic. It's okay, it's all okay.>

Clinging to his last hope for self-preservation, Jim dialed Blair's cell phone number. Blair would help him. At the very least, Blair would have a dramatic concluding chapter for his damn dissertation.

He put the phone to his ear and was surprised to hear that Blair was already on the line. The phone hadn't even rung once. "Jim," Blair was saying, "put down the phone. You obviously weren't listening before. We don't need the phone. Just relax, okay?" and Blair hung up. Jim stared at the cell phone, horrified, and dropped it on the floor.

<Jim, you are so not relaxing here.> Jim heard Blair sigh, and then he heard the voice, the unearthly guide voice. <Jim, you're going to relax now and listen to me, okay? Just listen. Concentrate on my voice.> Jim listened to the voice, the voice that could guide the world. <Just relax, relax and listen. Are you feeling calmer now?>

Yes, thought Jim.

<Good. So listen up, a lot's happened today. First of all, Jim, I want to tell you that this is not quite telepathy. I'm not just thinking at you, I'm actually talking here. It's just that you can hear me on the other side of town.>

Oh yeah, thought Jim, just that. No problem.

<And if you're wondering, I can't hear what you're thinking. Well, not word for word, anyway. I get, like, pictures. Except the pictures are feelings. It's hard to explain. Like I know sort of where you are. And I know if you're feeling strong emotions. And I tend to know if you want something, and I pretty much know what the something is. But its not a word for word transcript. I assume you're getting a word for word transcript, yes?>

Oh Yes, thought Jim.

<Whoa, affirmation received, big guy. That's why you're the Sentinel. You need information, I provide it. So you get a clearer transmission. Like if you need directions or something. And as guide, I get, I don't know — call them bulletins — on your emotional state and your needs and desires. So I can help you. I think I've been getting them for some time, now. I just didn't notice before. And I assume you get whatever information you need to protect me while I help you do what you need to do. Because I'm the Guide.> Blair sighed appreciatively. <Man, whoever designed all this stuff thought of everything.>

Blair stopped pacing the loft suddenly. "Wow," he said aloud in the empty room. "I really am phoneboy. I am so much phoneboy I don't even need the phone. I am a phone. Jiminy!" He shook his head.

<Jim, I want you to come home to me. Now. Will you, can you?>

Yes, thought Jim.

<Affirmation received. Leave now, and by the time you get home I'll have finished telling you everything I need to tell you.> Blair took a deep breath, swallowed hard. <And then you're going to fuck me,> he said softly. Jim started, and opened his mouth. < — Don't argue,> said Blair instantly, <just get moving.> Jim stood up and headed for the door.

"Hey Jim," said Simon gruffly, who was standing with Officer Woo, reading her official statement. "Where the hell are you going?"

<Simon,> mused Blair meditatively, closing his eyes. <Say hi for me.>

And kill him, thought Jim. "I — uh — I need to go to Sandburg, Simon," said Jim. "I need to go now."

Jim realized he must have been wearing some expression, because Simon looked at him strangely, and immediately relented. "Okay, I guess you've earned it," he said slowly. "I'll see you tomorrow, then." Jim grabbed his jacket and bolted out of the bullpen.

"Captain Banks?" asked Officer Woo tentatively. She knew she should probably just shut up, but prudence was waging a losing war with curiosity. "I'm sorry if this is out of line, but I have to ask. Are — well, are they lovers? Ellison and Sandburg?"

Banks sighed. "I don't know. Probably." <And I'm beginning to think that's the least of it, lady.>

Jim belted himself into the truck and pulled out of the garage, listening for Blair. <Okay, you still with me?>

Yes, thought Jim.

<Affirmation received. Okay, so this transmission system is obviously part of the Sentinel-Guide thing. An evolutionary quirk which allows for heightened, necessary communications. So cool. But there's more to it. You saw what happened at the warehouse?>

Oh Yes, thought Jim.

<Affirmation received, Jim. I didn't know it would happen, I didn't know I could do it. It's just that that guy — he raised his gun to you — and — and — > Blair had to stop talking, tension had gripped his throat like a fist. <And I couldn't let that happen, Jim. I had to stop it. So I just did.>

You sure did, thought Jim, accelerating the truck.

<And they listened to me, Jim! They really listened. Well, two of them, anyway. I couldn't do anything with that third guy at all. Which makes me think that I can only sort of shove people into doing the right thing if that's what they really want to be doing anyway. Underneath. I don't think I can do anything with someone who's really determined, or crazy, or evil. I think that's your problem.>

Jim heard Blair laughing. <Of course, this will all have to be tested, but that's my best guess at the moment. Anyway, that explains what happened with my class this semester. That's why the grades were so good. I must having been doing the guide thing in class.> Blair laughed again. <They'll forget their names before they forget Anthro 201. Poor kids!>

Poor kids, Jim thought. Lucky me.

<Which leads me to my final point, Jim,> said Blair, walking out on the balcony. <I talked to the dean. And...well, she listened, Jim.> He smiled. <Like she had a choice. Anyway, I got her to give me a class for next semester — a senior seminar. A class full of majors. I thought that was safest, under the circumstances. It's not unusual for the seminar students to get all A's.>

Blair paused and stared over the city, the night wind blowing his hair back. <The thing is, Jim, it occurred to me that I could have asked her for a full-time job. She would have given it to me, too. She would have written me a twenty-thousand dollar check if I'd asked her to,> he said, lips curving into a smile. <Not that I would. Because I'm a force for good in the universe, Jim. Like you.>

Jim shuddered as he felt Blair's affection wash over him.

<And I realized that I don't want a full time job, Jim,> said Blair softly. <Or, rather, that I have a full-time job.> He swallowed. <I'm a good teacher, Jim, but I'm beginning to think that Anthro's not my subject. Do you understand what I'm saying here?>

Jim pulled up in front of the loft, turned off the truck, and stared out into the blackness beyond his windshield.

Above him, Blair chewed his lower lip thoughtfully. <I'd like to teach a class now and then, keep my hand in, keep my office. But I'm going to have to keep my head down.> His lips twitched. <Otherwise some poor slob's gonna end up writing a dissertation on me.> Blair smiled broadly. <And I'd hate that.>

I will kill him, thought Jim, raising his head.

<And that's it. You're here,> Blair said softly. <Please come to me.> His guide's need for him was so tangible, so urgent, that Jim felt practically propelled out of the truck. Who, after all, he wondered grimly, rushing up the stairs, had his guilt been punishing?

Jim opened the door to the loft.

It was very dark outside, and the lamps were turned on, illuminating the room with a soft glow. Blair Sandburg was standing calmly in the middle of the living room, looking impossibly beautiful, impossibly normal. He looked at Jim expectantly with large blue eyes, and Jim closed the door behind him quietly, half not believing that the last half-hour had actually happened.

Jim took his jacket off and lifted it in the direction of the coat-rack, not taking his eyes off Blair. The jacket missed the hook and slid to the floor. Jim didn't notice.

Blair took a small step toward him and then Jim was moving forward rapidly, and he had his guide in his arms, cradled to his chest, and he was caressing the beautiful soft hair. Sandburg looked up at him, and then snaked his arms around Jim's neck and bent Jim's head down to kiss him.

And then everything began spiraling out of control as they sank to their knees where they stood, lips still pressed together hungrily, hands scrabbling at each other's shirts. Fabric ripped, buttons protested and gave way, and then Jim was bent over Blair on the floor, kissing his nipples, rubbing his face into the soft chest hair, working off his guide's jeans.

Once naked, Blair pushed Jim onto his back and rolled on top of him, grabbing his head and pulling him into a bruising, frenzied kiss. Jim reached into Blair's hair with one hand, tried to pull off his pants with the other. It took too damn much concentration and motor coordination and Jim, abandoning it as hopeless, grabbed a warm full handful of Blair's ass instead. He pulled Blair's groin down hard against his, and Blair lifted his head and moaned, and Jim flipped him over again and got on top.

Pinning Blair beneath him, Jim bent to Blair's throat and sucked furiously. <Take me, claim me,> Blair had once pleaded, and now Jim growled. This time he was going to leave a mark. Blair raised his legs and wrapped them around Jim's waist, rubbing his cock wantonly against the open fly of Jim's khakis. The action got Jim's attention. <God, he's a handful!> thought Jim, and then his strong hands moved to grab Blair's thighs, to pry them from his waist, and then he was sliding down his lover's body, intending to take Blair's cock into his mouth —

— and then he stopped suddenly, and looked at Blair, who was lying on his back, hair spread around his head, breathing hard, nipples red and peaked, cock erect, straining, dripping, legs spread wide under the firm pressure of Jim's fingers, and Jim heard the sudden, deafening sound of his own harsh breathing, and he extended his right arm towards Blair's face. Blair took Jim's hand in both of his and brought it to his mouth. He sucked Jim's fingers mutely, laving them generously with his tongue, and Jim groaned and nearly came with the image, the sensation, the pleasure of it. Finally he pulled his hand away and brought his thoroughly wet fingers to Blair's opening. Tilting Blair's hips up, Jim gently inserted a finger into the tight, impossibly hot, passage and moved it in and out. Blair's hands clenched into fists and he opened his legs wider to give Jim better access. Jim ran his finger over Blair's prostate and his guide's hips bucked uncontrollably. Jim put a firm hand on Blair's abdomen and held him down, then inserted another finger into him.

Blair gasped and pushed back, reached down to grasp his cock. Jim pushed his hand away and took Blair's cock into his own hand. He stroked his fingers in and out of Blair, stroked Blair's cock up and down with steady, solid pressure. Blair whimpered.

"Blair," murmured Jim softly, "you're beautiful, you're so beautiful, you have no idea..." He scissored his fingers open, and increased the speed of his strokes on Blair's erection. "I love you, I want you, always want you."

Blair tensed beneath him and Jim knew his guide was close. He added a third finger, and sped his strokes even faster. "You were made for me, Blair," he said raggedly, "made for me, and you're mine. Come for me" he said quietly, and then he pulled out of Blair suddenly, bent his head, and softly, deeply kissed where his fingers had been.

Blair spasmed furiously and came, spurting semen over Jim's fingers, over his stomach. Jim ran his hands over the underside of Blair's thighs, over his hips, feeling the muscles trembling seductively beneath him. Pulling his hands away, he quickly pulled off his pants and boxers, finally freeing his own aching cock. He ran lingering fingers over Blair's abdomen, and then began lubricating his cock with Blair's come. Heart pounding, Jim knelt between Blair's legs and pulled Blair's hips up into his lap. He positioned his cock at the entrance to Blair's body and pressed forward gently.

For a moment he thought that he hadn't opened Blair enough, hadn't prepared him well enough, but then suddenly, slowly he was moving forward forward forward into his guide's beautiful, hot, welcoming body. He exhaled a long breath and looked down into his guide's eyes, and Blair Sandburg's blue eyes stared up at him, and Jim could see so much in those eyes, could see himself in those eyes, and they were finally, blissfully united and the moment was impossibly long and incredibly perfect, and then it was over and Jim was moving and suddenly, finally, buried deep in Blair Sandburg's body, James Ellison completely, totally and utterly lost control.

Jim thrust into Blair hard, and Blair urged him on with his body and his voice as Jim pounded, sliding out and in of Blair with long, furious strokes, "Oh yes, Jim, yes. Yes. Yes. Please. Oh please, Jim — in me, in me, harder! faster! — please, Jim — fuck me, fuck me,ffuck me, oh god, oh god, oh..." And Jim closed his eyes and felt Blair's body contract around him and he was coming and Blair was coming and the world spun and he held onto his guide's warm body as he fell.

It was much, much later when Jim realized that his guide was sobbing beneath him and only with an effort was he was able to tune into what Blair was saying. " — long...made me wait so long...why'd you make me wait so long — " and he took Blair into his arms and stroked his cheek, and kissed him for long minutes. And then he smiled, and dropped his head to whisper softly into his guide's ear: "Affirmation received, Chief."

The End