Chapter 9


Jim woke first, not surprising considering the medication Blair had taken, and propped himself up on one elbow to gaze lovingly at his sleeping companion.

Blair in his bed. He still couldn't manage to get over the awe that that thought inspired. So far they'd kept it entirely platonic, apart from gentle, chaste kissing, hugging and holding (very carefully so as not to hurt Blair), and that was okay with Jim. He'd never had what he'd call a very high sex drive, and he didn't want to push Blair. The whole sex train had enough baggage loaded on it for both of them that he was perfectly content to take the curves nice and slow lest they derail over a cliff. Slow was good. It could take as long as it took.

Blair, on the other hand, was slowly recovering, body and spirit, and he was younger and much more at the mercy of his hormones than Jim. Sooner or later he was going to want something more. Jim was willing to try, at least, whatever Blair wanted, top or bottom or sideways or however it worked – however nervous certain prospects might make him, that had to be nothing when measured against Blair's fear. So he was willing enough. In fact, parts of him were more than willing, way past 'curious' and moving towards 'eager', all with a heavy dose of 'nervous' mixed in. Well, no surprise on any count; it had been a long time since his last lover; he hadn't even managed much time, opportunity or energy for jerking off in the last several weeks. Too, he'd only recently come to think of Blair not only as a sexual being, so to speak, but a prospective lover – and, of course, said prospective lover was kind of omnipresent in his life these days. Jim had quietly bought a couple of books about gay sex; they were stashed under the sofa now, and he was working his way through them, bit by bit, whenever Blair took a nap. He didn't want Blair to see the books and think that Jim was getting impatient. He wasn't impatient. Nervous, curious, worried, horny, yes, but not impatient. Especially horny. Hopefully when the time came, horny and curious would override the rest.

In sleep Blair's face was so relaxed, so open, almost childlike, his beautiful full lips slightly parted and, amazingly, silent. Jim fought down the urge to bend down and kiss those lips.

Blair had rolled over in sleep and lay on his back against Jim's side, one hand curled over his head, the other resting lightly on his stomach. He didn't wear the t-shirt to bed anymore, just his boxers now, and Jim had a relatively unrestricted view of his beloved's beautiful compact body.

Blair had lost some weight during his recovery, but he was slowly gaining it back. He'd also lost some muscle tone, but Jim knew it wouldn't be long before Blair was exercising hard to rebuild it, wanting to be in tip-top shape to go back to the PD. Even so, however, Blair was beautiful, so beautiful, his surprisingly soft skin marred only here and there by scars he'd gained working with Jim. The sight of those scars sent a spear of pain through Jim's heart, and he wished guiltily that he could actually regret his Guide's presence at his side in those dangerous situations. But he couldn't. And besides, Jim wasn't the only, or maybe even the largest, danger in Blair's life. His Guide was frankly a danger magnet. He'd been multiply raped and nearly killed just hanging around campus where he should have been safe. Hell, Blair wasn't even safe at the precinct itself – they'd certainly established that. Blair was proud of the scars he'd gained working with Jim. They were marks that showed he'd made a difference – at times even saved Jim's life. To Blair, they were badges of honor.

Blair sighed in his sleep and shifted slightly. Jim could feel his heartbeat speed slightly, and his eyes were moving under his eyelids. Dreaming. A faint smile curved his Guide's slightly parted lips. He gave a little sleepy moan, and to Jim's astonishment his nipples hardened, his sex stirring inside his boxers.

Dreaming. Are you dreaming of me, Chief? If not me, then who? And if you're dreaming of me, what are we doing?

Softly, as gentle as breath, Jim reached out and ran his hand over Blair's chest, barely touching his skin, marveling at the softness of the hair there. Blair sighed in his sleep, arching slightly upward against Jim's touch. Involuntarily Jim's fingers slid over Blair's chest, up to trace lightly over the skin at the side of his throat, Sentinel sensitive fingers feeling the stubble there. Blair had taken to shaving a second time before bed, not wanting to leave stubble burns on Jim if (when) they cuddled. Blair purred in his sleep, turning his head to grant Jim freer access to his skin, and his cock hardened further.

Whatever you're dreaming, I'd do it. I'd try, at least. I'd do almost anything to put that expression on your face when you're awake, to make you feel good. I would.

He let his hand slide back down ever so slowly, coasting on the soft hair of Blair's chest. He dared to turn up touch just a little, and for once, to his amazement, his senses cooperated. His palm slid over one nipple, the one without the ring, and he marveled at the taut hardness of it against his skin. Blair moaned softly in his sleep, thrusting his hips slightly upward.

Oh, boy. That must be some dream, Chief. Who? Who's giving you that pleasure? What's she doing to you that I never did? What's she giving you that I withheld? Is she telling you that she loves you, like I never could? Is she touching you all the places you need to be touched, all those places I left cold and lonely because I was too damned stupid and stubborn to realize what a treasure I had right here in my home and too cowardly to face what I felt?

His hand was on Blair's upper stomach now, near the hand Blair had resting there already. Jim wanted to weep. He wanted to find out which of Blair's flavor-of-the-month girlfriends he was dreaming about, track her down and break her neck. He wanted to weep for all the lost time, all the lost chances, all the lost love that might never come again. All the love that a succession of undeserving women had taken because Jim Ellison was too fucking repressed to admit he was in love with another man.

"Jiiiiimmmm," Blair breathed, and Jim froze.

Him. Blair was dreaming about him. It was Blair's dreams of pathetic, undeserving Jim Ellison that put that incredible smile on those incredible lips, that made that lump under Blair's boxers, that puckered those rose-brown nipples and dappled that skin with gooseflesh.

"Jiiimmmmm," Blair sighed again, and his hand moved, touched Jim's, pushed it slowly, drowsily downward.

Jim stared at his hand as if it was no longer a part of his body, watching helplessly as Blair pushed his hand down, down his waist, down his belly, down toward that mound in his boxers.

Oh God. Oh God. What do I do now? How can I touch Blair in his sleep? How can I not, when he's been so afraid he'd never be able to make love again? How can I touch him at all? God, I've bathed him, I've massaged him, Hell, I've had my finger up his ass I don't know how many times, but none of that has been about sex, none of it. We haven't so much as fucking GROPED a little yet. Not even any tongue in the kisses, for God's sake. I'm not ready for this. Am I?

His cock argued that he was plenty ready, and then some.

Shut up, you. Nothing for you no matter what. This is for Blair. Wait a minute. What the hell am I saying? I can't – molest – Blair in his sleep. How could I even consider doing something like that?

Is it molesting if he's the one shoving my hand onto his cock?

That was, in fact, what Blair was doing. Lost in thought, Jim had hardly noticed at the time, but now he had a handful of his Guide's very, very erect and actually leaking cock, warm and pulsing through the thin fabric of his boxers, and Blair was undeniably shoving his hand against that hardness, rocking his hips to force Jim's hand to provide the stimulation he wanted. A sleepy little moan trickled out from between Blair's lips and his heart rate sped up, his breathing deepening.

Oh shit. Now what the hell do I do? If I stop I'm a fucked-up inconsiderate prude. If I don't stop I'm a fucked-up perverted rapist. Maybe... I mean, if it makes him feel good....

No.

The Blessed Protector took over. Trust was more important than pleasure. What Blair wanted and what he needed, what he was ready for, might be two different things altogether.

"Blair." Jim left his hand where it was but pushed firmly back against Blair's hand so he wasn't actually rubbing Blair's cock anymore. He bent over his Guide, speaking into his ear. "Blair, baby, you need to wake up, okay?"

"Whuh – " Blair's eyes opened drowsily. "Wha? Jim?"

"Yeah, baby." Jim bent down and pressed a gentle kiss to Blair's cheek. "Blair, you were dreaming, Chief, and you've kind of – well, worked me into your dream, okay? And I need to be sure it's what you really want."

Blair blinked blankly.

"Huh?"

"Look down, baby."

Blair looked down. And froze. A flush suffused his face and started travelling downward. It was actually rather amazing that he had enough blood in his upper body to blush, considering that there had to be a considerable quantity in use to keep that monster hard down below.

Jim held perfectly still, not withdrawing, not proceeding, afraid of the reaction either action might cause. Blair stayed frozen like a deer in the headlights of an oncoming car. His cock remained equally stiff.

"Uh – Jim – " Blair turned terrified, pleading eyes to Jim's, and Jim stopped breathing. He didn't know whether Blair was desperate for him to stop or to continue, but Jim could plainly read the desperation. "I – I – "

"Blair, baby, it's okay," Jim said softly. "I'm okay, I'm not disgusted, I'm not upset, everything's all right. I just need you to tell me whether I should take my hand away or not, okay? Whatever you want is all right with me, but I don't want to move too fast for you. Just tell me what you need so I don't scare you or hurt your feelings. Just tell me what you need."

"Would you – would you – " Blair's voice was the merest terrified croak.

"What, baby?"

"Would you – " Tears welled up in Blair's eyes. "Would you please please find some way to make this okay?"

Jim took a deep breath and prayed that somewhere inside him, somewhere between the Sentinel and the spirit guide and the cop and the friend and the man, that somebody knew what the hell to do. That for once in his life the right words would come.

And he was answered.

He cupped his hand ever so softly around the hard cock under his palm and leaned down, brushing a light kiss over Blair's lips, gazing into the wide full blue eyes.

"I'm so fucking honored that you dreaming about me made you feel that way," Jim whispered. "And I'd give anything to be able to make you feel that good when you're wide awake. Will you give me that privilege?"

Now Blair's eyes were more than full; now they were spilling over, but they weren't tears of fear anymore.

"Only you," Blair whispered back. "Only you forever."

Jim felt Blair's hand on his start to retreat, and he turned his hand over, capturing it.

"No," he said softly. "Don't. You were guiding my hand, showing me what you want. Don't stop doing that. Help me please you. Teach me how to please you."

Wonder replaced the last vestige of fear in Blair's eyes, but there was a distinct hesitance in the trembling of Blair's fingers as they once more crept over the back of Jim's hand. If it weren't for Jim's heightened sensitivity, he might well have missed the almost indiscernible push directing his hand to close more firmly about the warm length under the cloth of Blair's boxers. Following the faint prompts, Jim rubbed slowly, gently, almost soothingly.

"You okay, baby?" he murmured.

"...good," Blair whispered, his eyes closing.

"Is this the way you want me to touch you?"

Blair nodded almost imperceptibly.

"You want me to do it through your boxers? Is that what you want?"

Blair opened his eyes, and Jim was dismayed at the guilt and shame he saw there.

"You don't want to do this, do you?" Blair whispered miserably.

"I do want to," Jim said softly. "I'm just scared as hell of frightening you, of doing or saying something wrong. I want to give you pleasure, yeah, baby, but I want more than that. I want to love you. May I hold you close and kiss you while I touch you?"

The pain in Blair's eyes melted, just melted. He gave a little groan and rolled over into Jim's arms. Jim smiled and held him close, as warmly as he dared considering Blair's ribs. Then Blair's lips were hot against his, salty with tears and moist with passion, and Jim let Blair control the kiss, responding eagerly but not directing, trying to show love without overwhelming Blair with lust. Jim rolled onto his side so that Blair could lie more comfortably on his back, and he held his Guide against his shoulder, nuzzling Blair's ear, smelling the sweetness of his hair.

"May I touch you now?" Jim murmured in that ear, touching it with his tongue.

"Please," Blair moaned softly, and Jim resumed his slow, gentle strokes.

"May I touch inside your boxers?" Jim asked daringly. As far as he knew, none of the boys had touched Blair's cock; hopefully this wouldn't frighten him, and knowing that Jim wasn't disgusted or turned off could be a big help.

Blair gazed up at Jim trustingly.

"Yeah."

Holding Blair's gaze, Jim slid his hand slowly under the waistband of Blair's boxers and tenderly clasped the hot erection, already slippery with pre-come. He made no effort to part Blair from the garment, figuring that even a pair of pretty much irrelevant boxers held some value by way of clothing as armor. If Blair wasn't completely naked, he might feel less vulnerable.

"Mmmm, I think we've been calling the wrong one of us 'big guy,'" Jim whispered. "Tell me if I'm doing this wrong, okay? I've got nothing to go by except what I like."

He stroked slowly, gently at first but not light enough to tease, his sensitive fingers finding the strokes and pressures that speeded Blair's pulse and made his sweat go musky with arousal. Blair's eyes dilated and a fine sheen of sex sweat slicked his skin; his hands opened and closed, opened and closed in time with Jim's strokes.

"Okay?" Jim breathed.

"Uh-huh." Blair's eyes started to close again; then they shot open with panic.

"Look at me, Chief," Jim said tenderly. "Listen to my voice. I wish you could smell me the way I can smell you. Want to know a secret? Sometimes I just surround myself with you – the smell of you, the sound of your heartbeat, the way your skin feels, I just wrap everything I feel about you around me like a blanket when I'm feeling bad. I've done that from the very start, you know. It was like bit by bit I accumulated little pieces of Blair, a scent here, a touch there, the rhythm of your speech, the feel of your hair, your smile, hell, the sound of the way you burp. Sometimes those little bits I've collected were the only things that kept me sane, the only things that seemed stable and real. When the world got to be too much, too noisy or too bright, I'd pile all those little pieces of Blair up as a wall between me and the world and I'd be safe again. I know you can't sense all the things that I can, Chief, but I want you to wrap me all around you like a blanket, soft and warm and safe. I will never hurt you, I will never allow anyone else to hurt you. I'd kill or die to save you, you know that. I'm your Blessed Protector, but now I'm more, too. I'm not only going to keep you safe, Chief, I'm going to keep you loved."

Blair moaned again, his hips making little rocking motions, thrusting up against Jim's hand.

"More!"

Jim slid his free arm under Blair's shoulders, holding him close, burying his face in the hair near Blair's ear while he speeded his strokes. Blair clung to him tightly, whimpering with sheer pleasure.

"This feels so good, baby," Jim murmured. "So right. I never even thought about touching another man before, but God, baby, this is turning me on so much, the feel of you, the smell of you – "

He rubbed his thumb slowly over the leaking head, spreading the pre-come over the hot skin, and suddenly Blair arched upward, almost screaming, and Jim felt the telltale pulses ripple through his cock just before Blair flooded his hand with semen.

Jim didn't stop, just slowed his strokes to draw out Blair's climax until he realized that his Guide was too sensitive now for further stimulation. Then he simply held the softening organ just as he held his Guide's gradually relaxing body, murmuring little words of encouragement and love into his ear.

Then he realized Blair was trembling, and he pulled back slightly, dismayed to see the tears streaming down Blair's cheeks.

"Oh, baby," Jim whispered. "Did I hurt you? Did I do something wrong?"

Blair shook his head, bit his lip, and then sobbed, burying his face in Jim's chest and shuddering.

"Nothing wrong – just – oh, God, love you – "

"I love you too, baby. So much. So damned much."

Blair sniffled and lay back, tears still running out of his eyes but a big smile on his face nonetheless.

"That was incredible," he said, sniffling again.

Jim chuckled.

"It was a handjob, baby. And a pretty amateur handjob to boot."

"It was a great handjob," Blair said stoutly. "And it came from you, which made it perfect."

"I'll make you eat those words next time I cook," Jim laughed. He drew his hand slowly out of Blair's boxers, gazing at the semen coating his skin. It didn't revolt him as he'd thought it might. Curiously he raised his hand to his face, sniffing. Blair. Essence of Blair. It was potent, incredible, almost making his head spin. If he'd thought Blair's musk of arousal was intoxicating, this was the lab-refined version.

"Jim?" Blair murmured hesitantly. "What are you – "

Without thinking Jim's tongue darted out to taste, and the super-potent, triple-distilled flavor of Blair exploded across his taste buds, filling his senses and his mind. He gradually came back to awareness to the realization that he'd just finished licking his hand clean, his cock was so hard it ached, and Blair was staring at him.

"Uh – Jim?" Blair asked hesitantly.

"Yeah." Jim almost purred it. "Oh, yeah."

"If I can ask – why the hell did you do that?"

Why had he? Jim had no idea whatsoever. Probably part of the Sentinel thing, or maybe part of the spirit- panther thing. Who cared?

"Beats the hell out of me," Jim said honestly. "I think I was running on autopilot or something. But you taste good, baby. Really, really good."

"I can't believe you did that," Blair chuckled. "I just cannot believe it."

Jim chuckled.

"I can't believe it either," he admitted. "But it bodes well for when we move on to blowjobs, huh? Me making a face and going 'Ewwwww, yuck' could be such a turnoff."

Blair gave a snort of startled laughter, then kissed Jim, probably tasting himself.

"You know, we ought to get you cleaned up," Jim said.

"Well – " Blair glanced down. "What about you, though?"

Jim glanced down too. A pretty sizable erection was tenting his boxers. But he could hear the trepidation in his Guide's voice, see the faint fear in his movements, hear the anxiety in his rapid heartbeat. It was too soon for Blair to try even a handjob, and Jim wasn't a hundred percent comfortable with it either.

"I'll tell you what, baby," Jim said, cuddling Blair closer. "How about we hold each other close while I take care of that?"

"You don't want me to do it for you?" Blair whispered.

Oh, God, how to answer that one? Jim slowly stroked Blair's face while he wrestled with words.

"Blair – I love every loving moment we've shared," Jim said quietly. "And I know you want to please me. But I know you're scared, too. Yes, I want you, but I want to wait until I'm sure you're touching me because you want to. Not because you feel like you have to, or just to even the score or something, or even just because you want to please me. To tell you the truth, I loved the feeling of giving to you. That doesn't mean I want something in return, okay? So there's no need to push you before you're ready, and this is all kind of new to me, too. If you're comfortable lying here with me while I do myself, and if I can get used to the idea of sharing something so private with another man, that's a hell of a step right there for both of us."

"I do want to," Blair insisted. Then he sighed and admitted, "But, yeah, I'm scared, too. I don't know why. I'm not afraid of you. I know you'd never – you know."

"Baby, I know," Jim said softly. "But in some part of your mind a hard cock other than your own is still threatening, frightening. It's going to take you some time to separate my hard cock from all that fear. It's okay. I'm not going to get impatient or frustrated. So – " He gestured at his erection. "May I?"

Blair nodded abashedly and cuddled closer, kissing Jim's chest.

"Can I – watch?" he asked tentatively.

"Sure, baby. Want me to take my boxers off?" Jim kissed Blair's temple.

"Uh-huh."

Jim squirmed out of his boxers, careful not to displace Blair. He found the idea of Blair watching him strangely exciting, but then he found the fact of Blair right there beside him, sharing his warmth, his scent, his sounds, even more intoxicating. No fantasies needed today; he was holding the real thing right there in his arms.

He started to push up touch again and froze, gritting his teeth against crying out as sensation surged up wild and out of control, for a moment his entire skin almost painfully sensitive, before settling back down again.

"Jim?" Blair pushed his head up, apparently feeling Jim tense. "Is something wrong?"

Jim took a deep breath. Something was wrong, all right – big time, too, if he could lose control of his senses with his Guide lying right there in his arms. But that was just one more thing Blair didn't need to have to cope with right now, and besides, the problem always seemed short-lived.

"Nah, everything's fine, Chief," Jim lied, stroking Blair's hair. At least his erection was still there. "Just a case of nerves, that's all." At least he hoped that's all it was.

Blair blinked.

"If it bothers you, me being here..." he whispered.

"Oh, it 'bothers' me, all right," Jim chuckled, grinning to take the sting out of his words. "In fact, I think 'hot and bothered' pretty much describes my condition, and it's all your fault." He reached down and cautiously traced his erection with his fingertips, unsure where touch was right now, but thankfully it appeared to be back to normal. Still, he kept his strokes slow and gentle at first, not really wanting to shoot off like a hormone-happy teenager again.

"Don't you ever – should I shut up?" Blair murmured.

"No, baby, talk to me," Jim urged. He loved Blair's voice. Even when Blair didn't actually use his 'Guide voice', the sound of Blair's voice meant all kinds of good things – home, security, safety, love.

Blair hesitated, however, before speaking again, still barely above a whisper.

"Don't you ever, like, touch anything else, play with your nipples or anything?"

Jim felt his cheeks heat. He knew he was a rotten, unimaginative lover; Carolyn had told him so plenty of times. But he hadn't really considered the possibility that he was a rotten unimaginative masturbator.

"Uh, not really," he muttered. "I mean, especially when I was in the army, you know, the goal was to just kind of take care of business as quickly and efficiently as possible before somebody heard me, if you get my meaning." His erection was definitely flagging now after thinking about Carolyn and her comments. "Um, if you don't mind, I'm kind of going off the boil here – "

"Oh, man, I'm sorry," Blair whispered contritely. "I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to – "

Blair pushed himself up further and fastened onto Jim's mouth, kissing him apologetically, but the kiss went from apologetic to warm and from warm to hot, and man, there was no 'off the boil' now, no question about that – the kettle was whistling merrily and perilously close to boiling over. Jim drew out the kiss but at the same time returned to stroking his renewed erection slowly. Blair settled comfortably with his head on Jim's shoulder, watching intently.

"Wow," Blair said quietly. "That's a little... intimidating."

Jim blushed, pleased and a little anxious at Blair's comment. He didn't want to frighten the younger man.

"It's not that big," he protested weakly, but 'it' actually swelled a little larger at the semi-compliment.

"Well, it's bigger than mine," Blair amended, bending to press a kiss on Jim's chest. His fingers strayed to Jim's nipple, idly toying with the little bud, which instantly stiffened into an insistent point. "Oooooh, sensitive, aren't we?" Blair chuckled at Jim's gasp. "I should've figured that, though."

"I'm five inches taller than you," Jim said a little breathlessly. Spears of pure desire shot from his tormented nipple straight to his cock. He'd never had any idea his nipples were so sensitive – or that they could feel so good. "I'm supposed to be bigger. But taking it proportionally, I think you're actually bigger than I am." It was getting hard to talk. Between Blair's proximity, the unfamiliar stimulation of his nipples, and the fact that Blair was watching him, Jim was fighting not to shoot off like a Roman candle.

"You're so beautiful," Blair murmured in Jim's ear, still toying with his nipples. "I wish I had a picture of you right now, like this, hanging right on the edge. You have this incredible, unearthly expression on your face. I can't wait to see you come, to see you lose control."

Blair's voice, his touch, were suddenly too much for Jim. He cried out, thrust up into his hand, and came so hard it hurt; it was a long moment before he could slump back to the bed, still shaking with aftermath.

"Ooooh, I hope that was as good as it looked," Blair murmured, snuggling close to Jim. He licked the sweat off Jim's collarbone.

"Better," Jim panted, running his fingers lazily through Blair's hair. "It was perfect, because it was with you in my arms."

Blair blushed happily.

"Oh, man, Jim, I'm going to turn you into a hopeless romantic yet," he said.

Jim felt an odd tickling sensation and glanced down, surprised to see Blair trailing his fingers through the semen on Jim's belly.

"What're you doing?" Jim murmured.

"Well, if you like the taste, what with your senses and all – " And Blair raised his slick fingers to his face.

The sudden tensing of Blair's body alerted Jim to trouble even before he glanced back up – and saw that Blair had gone completely white. Against his side, he felt Blair's stomach jump and lurch, but what frightened him most was the expression of near panic in his Guide's eyes. Before a completely stunned Jim could say or do anything, Blair had mumbled something that might have been an apology, bolted out of the bed and fled headlong downstairs.

Jim sat up, horrified and confused – what had he done? Was the mere act of touching Jim too much for Blair? Or was it a delayed aftermath of Jim touching him? Had the whole thing been too stressful for him? And would Jim help or hurt by going after him?

For long moments Jim sat frozen in indecision; then a sound from below had him on his feet and down the stairs in a heartbeat – Blair was vomiting.

Jim arrived in the bathroom just in time for another violent bout of retching. They'd only just woke up, and Blair had nothing to bring up but a little bile, but powerful spasms wracked his entire body as if his entire system utterly rebelled against some unseen poison.

Jim squatted down beside Blair, gathering the smaller man into his arms.

"What's the matter, baby?" he said worriedly. "No – come on, sit back and take a few deep breaths for me. Here, you can hold this towel over your mouth if you want, just breathe, breathe – "

Blair started to lean back against Jim; then his eyes widened and he pulled violently away, hunching over the toilet again. Horrified, Jim realized that he was, in fact, the cause of Blair's distress.

"Baby, tell me what's going on, please," Jim begged. "Did I do something? Say something?"

Blair shook his head violently and heaved again, waving Jim away from him. Not knowing what else to do, Jim retreated from the bathroom, backing far enough away that he could see in, but well out of reach. After a few long, agonizing minutes, Blair subsided, resting his head on one forearm on the toilet seat. Now he wasn't vomiting – he was sobbing.

"Blair – " Jim almost choked. "Talk to me, please, baby. Should I call Gerard? Should I – should I go?"

"No!" Blair's head snapped up, his eyes red and wild and pleading. "Jim, no – please – "

Jim allowed himself the tiniest sigh of relief. All right. Blair still loved him, still wanted him. Whatever else might be the problem, Jim could stand it.

"Should I call Gerard?" Jim offered again, tentatively.

Blair shook his head. He rested his forehead on his forearms again, still shuddering.

"I know what it is," he whispered, so quietly that only Jim's Sentinel hearing could have picked it up.

Jim's heart ached, but he didn't dare approach. Not until he was certain it wasn't him.

"What, baby?" he murmured. "Can you at least tell me – was it me?"

Blair shook his head again, to Jim's great relief.

"Not – exactly," Blair whispered. "It was the smell. The smell of your come, and then I thought I was going to taste it, and I remembered – I remembered the taste of Frain's cock in my mouth, and the blood, and the smell of his come and their come and my blood all – all o-ho-over me – "

Blair broke down again, retching and sobbing; Jim positively ached to hold him, but –

Desperately Jim dashed into the kitchen and started the sink running. He scrubbed himself vigorously with dish soap until his skin hurt and even his sensitive nose couldn't detect the faintest odor of semen. Only then did he edge cautiously into the bathroom.

Thankfully Blair's dry heaves had stopped, and he was sitting back against the edge of the tub, head down, eyes closed. He didn't flinch when Jim sat down beside him and cautiously slid an arm around his shoulders, just turned and silently curled into his Sentinel's body, and that single movement sent a spear of joy so intense it was painful through Jim's heart. Silently he held his Guide close, stroking his hair.

"I'm sorry," Blair whispered after a long time of silence. "I'm sorry you thought it was you."

"It's okay, Chief," Jim said, kissing Blair's forehead. "This was probably moving way too fast for you anyway."

Blair looked up, his eyes widening.

"No, Jim, man, don't say that," he said, shaking his head vigorously. "It wasn't. That's the thing, see? It wasn't too fast for me. What we did, I mean. It's just that – " He blushed. "It's just that, you know, I probably won't be sucking you off just yet. I mean, puking all over you would go way beyond 'Ewwwww, yuck.'"

Jim snorted at the comment, startled as hell by his own laughter and the answering grin on Blair's face. Sheer relief made him silly, and he chuckled again, and this time Blair joined him, and chuckles became laughter, then guffaws, then near-hysterical howls.

Finally they subsided, gasping for breath.

"Man, I needed that," Blair wheezed, and that almost set Jim off again, but hypoxia intervened.

"Come on, Chief," Jim panted, pushing himself to his feet. "We need a shower." Then he sobered, gazing into Blair's eyes. "Unless, you know, you want to do it alone?"

Blair smiled, and pulled Jim's head down for a long kiss.

"Nah," he whispered against Jim's lips. "Alone's easier, and sometimes it feels safer, but all things considered, I'd much rather do it with you."

Jim smiled, feeling his heart melt.

"Ditto," he said simply, and helped Blair into the shower.