Part III

Chapter 11

"Remember, we're on a first-names-only basis here," Gerard said, gesturing Jim and Blair to two chairs in the circle. "Folks, this is Jim and Blair."

"Hi, Jim." "Hi, Blair."

"Guys, let me introduce everybody. That's Mark and Sean, Eric and Joanne, Steve, Cody and Peter. Now, here's the rules of this support group. Everyone shares what they can, and we don't pressure them to share what they can't. There's nothing but straight talk in this circle, no bullshit, and everyone's entitled to their opinions and their emotions, whatever they may be. It's okay to exchange phone numbers and have contact and support each other outside the circle if both parties agree, but it's not obligatory or expected. I'm going to ask the others to go around the circle and tell a little about themselves and why they're here, and then I hope the two of you will do likewise, okay?"

Blair nodded, instinctively reaching for Jim's hand. Then he blushed and pulled his hand back. Gerard shook his head.

"No, demonstrations of affection and support are just fine here," he said. "Everybody's encouraged to comfort each other. But while we're in the circle, nobody, not even your partner, is allowed to touch you without asking your permission first, not even a hug. Are you okay with that?"

Blair nodded again silently, and Jim said yes.

Mark and Sean were a young couple, both freshmen at Washington State U at Cascade. Sean had been repeatedly raped three years ago by an uncle with whom he'd been left for the summer while his parents travelled. Eric and Joanne were married; Eric had been forced at gunpoint to fellate a mugger while on a business trip to Los Angeles. Steve had been ambushed by a gang of gay bashers on his way home from a club and severely injured when one of his assailants had brutally raped him with a beer bottle. Cody had been locked in an abusive relationship with a sadistic, brutal older lover for nearly a year before he fell in love with Peter, who had talked him into leaving his lover and filing charges.

Jim wasn't sure Blair could manage to tell his story to these strangers, but he did, haltingly, amidst murmurs of horror and sympathy from the rest of the group.

"Oh, Blair, that's so awful," Joanne, sitting on the other side of Blair, said softly. "May I give you a hug?"

Blair stiffened slightly, blushing.

"I – uh – "

"Blair, everyone in this group is allowed to say 'no' with no consequences," Gerard said firmly. "If you don't want to be touched, that's absolutely okay."

"I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings," Blair mumbled.

"Blair," Gerard warned. "Remember what we talked about? It's okay to think about your wounds, your needs."

Blair took a deep breath and turned to Joanne, smiling apologetically.

"Um, maybe some other time, okay?"

Joanne smiled reassuringly.

"That's fine, Blair. Eric couldn't let me touch him at all for months. You're not hurting my feelings."

"I saw this case on the news," Steve said suddenly. "About these four college students who raped their professor over at Rainier and beat him half to death. That was you, wasn't it?"

Blair blushed bright red.

"Yeah," he said softly.

"Oh, man," Peter said, shaking his head. "I saw that segment too. Man, those guys were these hockey jocks, fucking mountains. Boy, you must be one tough guy to hold it together after that."

"I didn't hold it together all that well," Blair said shakily. "I mean, I'm here, aren't I?"

"Well, yeah, as opposed to the morgue or a padded room," Mark snorted. "You know, I've never been raped, but being with Sean, and hearing all the stuff that's happened to the rest of you guys, I mean, I can't believe how brave you all are. I'd be a fucking basket case, a total veg. So what if you need some help? If you broke your leg, nobody would think anything about you going to a doctor, y'know what I mean, having physical therapy and limping around on crutches while it healed. It's stupid to think that your – I don't know, your soul, maybe – can take that kind of wound and you should just be able to shrug it off, oh, well, everything's back to normal. That's ridiculous. It's okay to limp for a while."

Blair smiled, a smile of pure relief.

"You've got a way with words," he admitted.

"He's a poet," Sean said proudly. "He's talked me down off the ledge – metaphorically speaking," he said hastily, " – a lot of times now."

Everyone relaxed a little; Jim was surprised at the easy rapport within the group. Although Steve was the only one attending without a partner, everyone seemed ready and eager to fill in to support him.

"Does anybody have any problem areas they'd like to talk about tonight?" Gerard asked when the conversation lagged.

Sean talked about awkwardness with his relatives. Most of them, including his parents, hadn't believed his account of his uncle's behavior despite his uncle's arrest, trial and conviction; some had even testified as character witnesses in the uncle's defense in court. He felt that he'd divided his formerly close-knit family, but after some discussion around the group, he admitted that it was his uncle's crimes, not his reporting of them, that had caused the split. Eric still couldn't go outdoors at night unless it was just from the house to a taxi and a taxi to a well-lit public destination, and then he was nervous. The man Steve was dating didn't know about Steve's assault and Steve didn't know how to bring it up. Cody had had a severe panic attack during sex one night, leaving Peter nearly crippled with guilt and afraid to so much as touch him for days. Blair didn't have anything to say, but to his own surprise, Jim did. He turned to Peter.

"You know, I feel like that a lot," he said. "I'm always afraid I'll do or say something that will remind Blair of what happened. That makes me want to, I don't know, pull back, let him come to me if he wants. But I know if I make Blair take all the initiative, then maybe he thinks I don't care, or that I'm disgusted or turned off. And if I hold back out of fear of how he'll react, I'm protecting myself, not him."

"That's a really valuable observation, Jim," Gerard praised. "Communication is the key. It's okay to pull back in a relationship – as long as your partner knows why you're doing it and has a chance to give you some feedback about it. Don't make assumptions about your partner's needs or feelings. Many rape victims simply aren't emotionally able to take the initiative in the relationship, either sexually or emotionally, especially at first, no matter how much they need the contact and affection. You have to trust your partner to tell you if he's reaching his limits, and your partner needs to learn that he can say "no" whenever he wants, with no repercussions. And you can't live in constant fear of reminding your partner of past traumas. Those reminders will come up no matter what, and pretending the past doesn't exist doesn't help either of you to deal with it."

After some more discussion, Gerard invited them to share stories of their progress. The tension eased almost immediately.

"We came out at college and to my family this week," Mark said. "I figured if Sean was having trouble with his family, I'd just give him a kind of extended family to take up the slack. Our friends took it really well. My family was kind of shocked, but then they were happy for us. I wish we could have done it in person with them, but they live in Boston, so it was just over the phone."

"I went down on Joanne for the first time last night," Eric offered shyly. Then he grimaced. "For a minute I thought I was going to throw up. Real romantic."

"Love, it's only been two months that you could kiss me," Joanne said firmly. "I think you're doing just fine."

"I haven't had any nightmares this week," Steve said, occasioning a round of applause and several hugs.

"Well, I've got a good one," Peter grinned. "Cody told me no on Tuesday. Real firmly. Even when I wheedled. I'm so proud of him."

Jim glanced at Blair, raising an eyebrow. Blair took a deep breath.

"I – Jim brought me off with his hand the other night," he said, blushing furiously. "I wasn't ready to, you know, do him, but I watched while he did it and I held him. I – that was the first time I've ever been with a guy except, you know, the rape. And then the smell of his semen brought back bad memories and I spent the next half-hour in the toilet puking, but we talked it out and we're doing okay now."

"Oh, wow," Steve said, eyes wide. "Man, you were only raped, what, a month ago? And you'd never been with a guy before?"

Blair nodded.

"Those flashbacks really suck," Sean said sympathetically. "But as long as you don't let 'em beat you, you're going to make it."

"Jesus Christ," Cody said prayerfully. "That's incredible, Blair, flashbacks or not! Man, share your secret!"

Blair smiled shyly, squeezing Jim's hand.

"Sorry, guys," he said. "Jim's my secret. And I'm not sharing him."

They came away from the support group tired but happy. Blair looked more at peace than he had since the rape.

"Wow, man, Gerard was right," he said softly as they climbed into the truck. "That was good for me. It's good to have people rooting for us."

Jim squeezed Blair's shoulder.

"They aren't the only ones," he reminded him. "We've got a whole lot of friends at the station rooting for you too. Even though most of them thought there was an 'us' when there wasn't, and now think there isn't when there is." He chuckled.

"That's true," Blair admitted. "But these guys, you know, hearing what happened to them, I guess it gives me – I don't know, perspective? I mean, look at Eric. He wasn't injured, wasn't even fucked, but his life has been affected even more than mine. It makes me feel like I'm doing pretty terrific."

"You are," Jim said stoutly. "You're doing fantastic, Blair. And you know what? I think hearing from you helped them, too. It gave them hope."

Blair fell silent after that, and Jim let him think for a while before asking what was on his mind.

"I was thinking about Sean and Mark," Blair admitted. "We're the only ones in the group who are in the closet."

Jim grimaced.

"I guess it depends on what you mean by 'in the closet'," he said.

Blair glanced at him blankly.

"I mean nobody knows about us. Heck, I haven't even told Naomi. She doesn't even know I was raped yet." He sighed.

Jim took Blair's hand.

"Chief, we couldn't find her to tell her," he said patiently. "And I still can't get any closer than 'somewhere in India'. We'll tell her as soon as we can, okay? All of it – about us, I mean."

Blair nodded, but he was still frowning.

"As far as other people – Simon knows," Jim said. "Remember, he even sat in on our depositions." He chuckled. "Besides, remember what Beverly said? Most of Major Crimes thought we had a relationship. We were 'out' even before there was anything to be 'out' about."

Blair glanced at him again.

"Yeah, but now they know we weren't together, so we're back 'in' again, aren't we?" he said. "Now nobody but Simon knows, and Gerard and the support group. Well, and Beverly and those lawyers."

"I guess it depends on what Simon's told everyone," Jim said after a moment's thought. "I imagine he's pretty much kept his mouth closed. You know, Blair, there's a pretty good reason for us to stay 'in' publically. Officially the PD can't do anything about gay cops, but unofficially a lot of hassling goes on – but that isn't even the point. Significant others can't work together. Simon might not be able to keep us together if word got around to the higher-ups – he can't exactly explain about Sentinels and Guides, you know, and he's already pulled a lot of strings arranging for you to take the detective's exam so soon, setting you up as my partner."

Blair sighed.

"I know," he said. "I just hate that it seems like – I don't know, like our relationship is a dirty little secret or something."

Jim gently grasped Blair's shoulders.

"Blair, our relationship isn't a dirty little secret," he said. "Do you think of the Sentinel thing that way? Because we don't tell people about that either. Hell, we've even out-and-out lied to our friends about it."

"Well – " Blair looked thoughtful. "No. But that's to keep you safe. But then, so's my riding with you . . . so I guess it's the same thing, isn't it?"

"I'll tell you what," Jim said quietly. "You give it some thought for a couple weeks. Decide which of our friends you want to trust with the big secret – I mean the Sentinel secret, okay? You choose who we're going to tell, who we can trust to keep it to themselves, and we'll invite them over to the loft and drop both bombs on them at once, all right?" He chuckled. "I can't wait to see their expressions. But, see, anyone at the PD that we come out to, we've got to tell about the Sentinel stuff, so they understand why we've got to work together and why they've got to keep quiet about it."

Blair took a deep breath, staring at Jim.

"You'd really do that?" he said softly. "Tell some of our friends about your senses, just so we don't have to hide our relationship from them?"

Jim nodded.

"In a minute," he said firmly. "I'm not ashamed of you, Chief. I'm proud of you. I wish I could just yell it to the world. Besides, I've been thinking about telling our friends for a while now – about my senses, I mean. It would've been helpful at work a lot of times, having one of the others help cover for us once in a while, and these are people we already trust with our lives. Connor already knows, Simon knows, so sometimes I wonder – well, you think about it. You're a much better judge of people than I am."

The next day, buoyed by the group meeting and cheered by their conversation afterward, Blair finally consented to pay a visit to the station and maybe have lunch with some of the guys. Jim was delighted but felt a hint of worry himself; he'd rather have gone in by himself at first, tested the waters, so to speak. Speculation around the station was one thing, and thankfully Jim and Blair's friendship and working relationship with their coworkers in Major Crimes hadn't suffered because of the mistaken opinions, but there were a lot of other cops at Cascade PD who were far less tolerant. There was no reason for anybody else at the station to know for a fact that Jim and Blair were lovers, but it was always possible that word had leaked out from somewhere and a rumor had gotten around. Jim was fully prepared to weather the consequences of being "out", but he'd kill the first person who made an unkind remark to Blair.

He needn't have worried. Blair was no sooner through the door than he was surrounded by well-wishers. In fact, Jim had to run interference several times as everyone wanted to hug Blair, pat his back, or ruffle his hair. Blair took the rather rough greetings better than he would have a couple of weeks before, but he was still leery of being touched by anyone but Jim, especially men. It wasn't an easy ordeal for Jim either, because the first loud voice sent his hearing into the now-typical up-and-down wobble. When they finally made their way up to the bullpen, Simon waved them into his office.

"Good to see you here, Sandburg," Simon said almost casually, but his eyes told Blair and Jim just how glad he really was. "Oh, by the way, I've got something for you." He silently handed Blair his badge. "You missed graduation, but at least now you're official."

"Oh, man." Blair touched the shiny badge reverently. "Oh, wow. I can't believe it."

"Believe it, Officer Sandburg," Simon said gruffly. "Now the shit work really begins."

"Now?" Blair glanced up, a hint of alarm in his eyes.

"No, not now," Simon corrected himself. "You aren't on duty until your doctor and psychiatrist release you for duty. And while you're off, keep studying, because I expect you to pass that detective's exam in record time so I don't have to explain why a rookie officer is riding with a veteran detective. Jim, on the other hand – " He glanced at Jim. "We could sure use you back here."

"Uh-uh," Jim said, shaking his head firmly. "I'm staying with my Guide. I've learned my lesson on that one. He gets into too much trouble when I'm not around." He raised a hand, stifling Blair's protest. "And vice versa, okay?"

"No, it's not okay," Blair protested. "You need to get back to work, and I need to – well, I need to be doing something, or I'm going to go crazy." Then his eyes lit up. "Hey, Simon, all the computer work Jim's been doing? You said you were going to hire somebody to do that. How about if I get myself cleared for desk work and handle that kind of stuff until I'm fit for active duty?"

Jim frowned; Simon looked thoughtful.

"Well, that works fine for me," Simon said, nodding. He glanced at Jim. "And you'd know the kid was safe here – barring drugged pizzas, terrorist takeovers and international assassins, that is. How about you, though?"

Jim sighed.

"I guess I could do milkruns for a while," he said grudgingly. "You know, the backlog of dead-in-all-but- name grunt work. I don't need a partner for that. There's not much chance I'd zone on anything."

"Under one condition, though," Blair said warningly. "If you send Jim on anything even remotely active, either I go with him or at least Megan does. She already knows about Jim's Sentinel abilities, and she could at least cover for him till I got there."

Jim looked unhappy with the solution, but he couldn't object, not with his senses in such rotten shape; Simon didn't look exactly thrilled either.

"Well – we can probably manage it for a little while," Simon said, nodding again. "You two want to start Monday?"

"No, I've got to get a note from Dr. Atherton and Dr. Worth first," Blair said. "And Dr. Atherton told me he wouldn't clear me for even desk duty for at least another week from now. I can ask him again, I'm doing so much better, but... you know, though, since Jim is actually off work anyway, I figured maybe we'd take a real vacation for that week."

Jim raised his eyebrows.

"Excuse me? Did anybody consult me on this?"

"I didn't mean anywhere elaborate," Blair said hastily. "I'd just like to get out of the damned loft for a little while, okay? I thought maybe we could borrow Steven's cabin, if you and he didn't mind."

Jim's expression went from doubtful to thoughtful.

"That would be nice," he admitted. "All right, I can get with that." He turned to Simon. "Want to say a week from Monday? And you can put next week down as actual vacation, not home work, okay?"

"Good idea," Simon admitted. "All right, burn some vacation days, have fun, then come back here and get your asses to work."

"Excuse me, sir," Jim protested, grinning. "Our asses are our own business."

Simon scowled.

"Yeah, and see that they stay that way," he said. "I don't want to have to explain to the commissioner why I'm letting two lovebirds ride together, and Sandburg doesn't need the off-the-record hassle that gay cops get, especially considering he's on the fast track to detective. From this moment on, you two are so deep in the closet that I fully expect you to reach Narnia, got it?"

Jim snorted despite Blair's faintly offended expression.

"Got it, sir," he said. "Come on, Blair, you can gripe at me later. I've got a Wonderburger on my mind."

"Not a chance," Blair said firmly. He stuck his head out the door to Simon's office. "Hey, who wants pizza? My treat!"

Once more Blair was thronged, this time by enthusiastic and hungry detectives. Rafe grabbed the phone.

"Man, I'm calling this one in," he laughed. "A dozen large pizzas, extra cheese, hold the Golden."

"From your mouth to God's ear," Simon said grimly.

After the bullpen pizza party they drove home and started making arrangements. Dr. Atherton agreed that Blair could go to work, desk duty only for two weeks after the vacation, and he'd need another physical before resuming active duty. Gerard okayed the desk duty also and thought the vacation was a fine idea, although there were some issues concerning both that he thought they should discuss at the next day's appointment. He wanted at least Blair to return to two sessions a week for his first weeks on duty, more if needed, and he wanted at least two sessions alone with Blair before he considered clearing Blair for active duty. Jim didn't especially love the last requirement, but he understood it. Gerard needed to know that Blair could stand on his own, without Jim at his elbow every second for emotional support – although Jim privately planned that he'd glue himself to Blair like a Siamese twin for the first few weeks anyway.

Steven gladly okayed the loan of the cabin. Jim started hauling up gear from the basement storage so they could air out their sleeping bags, since Steven had taken the linens home for the winter.

When Jim finished, he went in search of Blair and found his Guide staring unhappily into his closet.

"Man, I've got nothing to wear," Blair sighed. "I've worn out or ripped up most of my outdoor clothes, and my hiking boots are, like, history. The top and the soles are having an amicable parting. And I sure don't have a wardrobe to start work at the station, either."

Jim kissed the back of his neck.

"Don't worry about it, Chief," he said. "We'll go shopping for sportswear after we see Gerard, and we'll pick you out a wardrobe before you start work."

Blair shook his head, smiling.

"Wow. I can't get over that," he marveled. "I mean, just buying clothes without thinking about how many meals I'm going to have to skip for every shirt."

Jim winced, his eyes unable to avoid the line of worn shirts and jeans, some holier than the Dalai Lama. He knew Blair had always been on a tight financial string with only his stipend from Rainier, but he'd never complained about having to do without things. Jim suddenly felt horribly guilty. He'd noticed his Guide's scruffy wardrobe and often teased him about it – "thrift shop chic," they'd called it in the bullpen – but it had never occurred to him that Blair simply couldn't afford new clothes. God, come to think of it, the only dressy clothes Blair owned were the ones Jim or Naomi had bought him for Christmas and birthdays. Jim should have taken better care of his Guide. But now that opportunity was lost. Now Blair was wealthy and didn't need Jim to take care of him.

Blair turned, gazing up worriedly into Jim's face.

"Hey," he protested. "What's going on in there? You look like somebody just made road pizza out of your puppy."

Jim picked at the threadbare collar of the flannel shirt Blair was wearing.

"I haven't been taking very good care of you," he said quietly.

Blair seized Jim's hands in his own and kissed Jim softly.

"Hey, big guy, I didn't want to be somebody's kept boy, okay?" he said firmly. "You took me into your home, man, fed me, sheltered me, took care of me when I was sick or hurt, fixed my car, protected me . . . geez, Jim, I felt constantly guilty about all the things you did for me. I've always dressed this way, okay? You know Naomi. Do I really strike you as the Armani suit type?"

Jim shook his head, smiling faintly.

"Okay," Blair said, mollified. He grinned. "You know, it's kind of neat to have money to do a few things for you for a change. Wow. I'm going to enjoy this."

That night they discussed the trip, cuddled comfortably together in bed. At last Blair slid his hand hesitantly over Jim's belly.

"Jim?" he said softly. "I'd like to try something tonight."

Jim stroked his hair, overjoyed that Blair had initiated the idea. They hadn't attempted anything beyond cuddling and kissing since that one handjob, apart from a couple of massages that Jim privately thought more erotic than most of the pre-Blair sex he'd ever experienced.

"Whatever you want, love. What is it?"

"Can I – " Blair blushed violently. "God, this is hard."

"What, baby?" Jim said softly, although his heart was pounding hard. "I can't imagine anything you could want that I wouldn't at least try, if that helps."

"I want to – " Blair took a deep breath. " – look at you."

"Oh, the perversity of it." Jim chuckled. "Here I am, Chief, stark naked. I think you can see just about everything."

"I mean up close." Blair's blush deepened. "I know it's strange, I just – I mean, apart from being raped, which I don't consider a real learning experience, the closest I've ever been to a man's genitals is – " He glanced down at his erect cock. "About two and a half feet." He gazed up apologetically at Jim. "Do you mind?"

Jim smiled. Actually it was probably a wonderful idea. Demystify the genitals, make them less mysterious and threatening, and all that other impressive-sounding psychobabble. God, Gerard's rubbing off on me. Watch it, Ellison, or you're going to start sounding like Naomi next. God forbid.

"No, love, I don't mind. Look all you want."

A little awkwardly Blair scooted down on the bed; Jim spread his legs obligingly, and Blair moved between them, gently kissing Jim's belly. The fan of Blair's warm breath completed Jim's erection. Then Blair moved back slightly, and the waft of his breath caressed Jim's inner thighs.

"Oh, wow," Blair said softly. "You're so beautiful, Jim. I didn't think a guy would look like this – hard and yet kind of vulnerable, you know?"

"No, I don't," Jim chuckled. "Am I going to get a chance to look at you too sometime?"

Blair chuckled a little nervously, but Jim didn't think the nervousness was due to his question.

"You've pretty much seen what there is, big guy, not to mention washed and handled and probed."

"Yeah, most of the time hurrying to get done as quickly as I could, and worrying about whether I was hurting you or frightening you," Jim pointed out.

"Oh." Blair looked up at him, surprised. "I hadn't thought about it like that. You're right, it's different. Yeah, you'll get your turn to look all you want. Although there's something kind of unnerving about the prospect of a lover who can count every pore on my balls, you know?" He chuckled.

Jim could feel Blair's gaze moving over him, like a touch. Blair moved closer; his breath stirred the few fine hairs on Jim's scrotum. A moment later Jim realized that Blair was smelling him; the knowledge was intoxicating, not to mention gratifying – apparently in this context smell wasn't a problem. Jim stifled a groan of pure arousal.

"You smell different here," Blair murmured.

Jim snorted, trying to get a handle on his arousal.

"Are you saying I stink?"

"I didn't say stink, I said smell," Blair said. "You smell good. Kind of musky. It's . . . a secret sort of smell. I like it." He hesitated a long moment. "Would you – "

"What, baby?" Jim asked softly.

"Would you kind of, um, bend your knees up a little? I mean, everything's all kind of squished together down here."

Jim raised his knees so that his feet were flat against the bed, spreading his legs a little more.

"That what you want, baby?" he whispered tenderly.

"Uh-huh." Blair's tone wasn't embarrassed or hesitant, just soft and wondering. "Oh, man, I never thought – " Trembling lips placed a tiny, light kiss in the crease of Jim's thigh, low enough that Blair's cheek brushed against his scrotum. "May I touch you?"

A pang shot through Jim's heart that Blair even felt the need to ask. But of course consent was very important to Blair, and he was making such progress. It worried Jim a bit, that Blair might stumble across bad memories again, but he had to trust Blair to know his own limitations. Jim reached down and stroked Blair's hair.

"Of course, baby," he said. "Touch me all you want."

He wasn't surprised that Blair's touch was more exploratory than caressing; he wasn't sure that Blair actually viewed this in the context of sex at all, despite the hard dick pretty much bopping him in the face. Still, the light skim of Blair's fingers over his hard cock, gently tracing the veins, marveling at the difference in skin texture between the shaft and the head, was intensely arousing, and Jim bit back a moan. He wasn't sure whether any sign of sexual enjoyment on his part might frighten Blair.

Blair's fingers dipped down to slowly trace over Jim's balls. By the time the fingers brushed over his perineum, Jim was having one hell of a hard time holding still and staying quiet; he could manage only the dimmest surprise that he wasn't more anxious or just downright afraid. This was, after all, the first time another man, apart from a doctor, had ever touched his genitals. Hell, he'd never even had a woman give him this kind of close examination! But this was Blair, and somehow it was impossible to be afraid of Blair.

Unfortunately it also seemed impossible to not be aroused by Blair.

As hard as Jim tried to keep still and quiet, he sucked in a great gasp of air and shivered when the tip of Blair's forefinger circled ever so gently around his anus.

"Wow," Blair breathed, and the fan of his breath over Jim's sensitive skin made him shudder violently. "You're so clean and pink and, I don't know, innocent-looking down here."

"Well, I am kind of – uh – innocent there," Jim gasped, trembling with arousal. "I mean, apart from the rubber-glove treatment at the doctor's, nobody's ever touched me there before."

"Really?" Blair's head shot up and he gazed amazedly at Jim around the obstacle of Jim's erection. "No woman's ever even stuck a finger in during a blowjob or anything?"

Jim shook his head; then he frowned, remembering Blair's puzzlement when Dr. Atherton had talked about Blair's prostate.

"Have you ever – "

Blair grinned sheepishly.

"Uh-uh. That always seemed too, I don't know, intimate for, like, casual sex. But I figured you'd been married and all, you know – "

Jim chuckled, trying to imagine Carolyn even thinking about touching his anus. Hell, he'd never even touched hers. Even mentioning the word "anal" would have probably landed him on the couch for the night.

"Suffice it to say, Chief, no, that's never happened."

Blair gazed into Jim's eyes, leaving his finger where it was.

"Do you like it?" he asked, very softly.

Jim took a deep breath, consciously relaxing. Did he? Gentle fingertip, light pressure, the warmth of Blair's skin against him . . . there was a strange sort of eroticism in making himself so vulnerable, in baring himself to his Guide's view and touch, in letting Blair touch this intimate, private part of him.

"Mm-hmmm. Yeah. I like it."

"Can I – " Blair hesitated. "May I put my finger inside you?"

Jim shivered. He'd said he was willing to try anything. This wasn't so much to ask. He'd done it to Blair, after all – many times, although never in the context of sex, and Blair had been hurting and scared to death. Jim was healthy, normal, untraumatized and no more than nervous. I can do this. I can.

"Yeah," he whispered. "Get some of the lube, okay? It's on the bureau next to the ointment and the gloves."

Blair shifted off the bed for a moment, then back again. Jim heard the cap being removed from the tube, but Blair didn't touch him. Jim could almost sense his Guide's nervousness.

"Remember the movie?" Jim murmured. "Just spread the lube around gently, give me time to get used to the sensation and relax. It's okay, baby. You can touch me."

Warm, gentle touch where Jim had expected coolness; the gel had warmed on Blair's finger. The slippery warmth was soothing, then arousing. Jim shifted his legs a little further apart.

"Get a little more lube," Jim said softly. "Then press your finger in nice and slow, just let me open up and kind of take it."

Gentle pressure; Jim took a deep breath and concentrated on relaxing. I want him inside me. I do. This is my Guide, my love, my best friend . . . I want him to be my lover.

Then Blair's finger was entering him, oh God, the strangest sensation, warm slippery intruder but Jim's body welcomed the penetration, shocking the hell out of both of them. They both gasped simultaneously.

"Jim?" Blair whispered.

"It's okay, it's okay," Jim panted, staring at the ceiling, his entire being focused on the sensation. His erection throbbed impossibly harder. "It feels strange, but it's a – a good strange."

"Should I take my finger out?"

"No – don't," Jim said rather shyly. "I'm fine. I like it. I mean, if you want to . . . "

"Okay." Blair smiled slightly. "What do you think'll happen if I find your prostate?"

"I don't know," Jim said, chuckling and relaxing more. "But I sure hope my ass doesn't buzz and light up red."

Blair laughed too, and Jim felt the finger move slowly inside him, exploring tentatively.

"Wow, man, you're so tight," Blair marveled. "I've had my fingers inside a lot of girls, but none of them were ever this tight and hot." His brow furrowed in concentration. "Now where was – "

Jim cried out in surprise and pleasure as the most bizarre, delightful sensation he'd ever felt shot through his body – a feeling of urgency, pressure like the need to urinate, and at the same time an almost orgasmic pleasure.

"Ohmygod," Jim breathed, digging his fingers into the bedclothes, holding perfectly still and trembling violently. "Ohmygodohmygod – "

"Jim," Blair said, slightly alarmed. "Jim! Are you okay? Should I stop?"

Jim shook his head violently; he was held at such a peak that somehow it seemed likely that if the stimulation was suddenly withdrawn he'd simply shatter into a thousand pieces. Then he realized the head shake had to be ambiguous at best.

"D-d-don't stop," he whispered through chattering teeth. "It's – it's – feels – good."

The frown cleared and Blair cautiously made a slight rubbing movement with his fingertip, causing Jim to shudder and groan.

"What does it feel like?" Blair asked softly.

Jim had to force words out through tightly clenched jaws.

"Like – like having to piss, like being right on the edge of coming, and like – like I'm coming right now, all at the same time," Jim mumbled. "Can't explain, it's just – God, it's intense."

"Wow." Blair continued the slow, gentle rubbing. "Do you think you could come just from – "

"Uh, Blair? The answer is yes. In fact the answer is soon, and if you don't want to smell come, you'd better – uh – stop pretty soon."

Blair hesitated, then slowly drew his finger out, to Jim's disappointment. Then Blair bent over, kissed Jim, and grinned from ear to ear.

"Stay right there," he whispered. "I've got an idea."

Blair disappeared, not only from the bed but from the room, and Jim hoped to hell his idea, whatever it was, involved relief of some sort for the subject of his examination. A moment later, however, Blair was back, condom packet in hand. He ripped the packet open and, to Jim's astonishment, rolled the condom down over Jim's aching erection.

"Do you mind?" Blair asked belatedly, giving Jim an apologetic glance.

"No, that's – uhhh! – fine," Jim panted, jumping slightly as Blair's re-lubed finger returned to its previous activities. A moment later he did jump as warmth suddenly enveloped the head of his pulsing erection. His eyes, which had drifted closed, shot open to the incredible sight of Blair's mouth slowly taking him in.

And if that sight and the sensation of Blair's finger performing its sorcery inside him weren't enough to completely overwhelm him, there was the feel of Blair's mouth, the condom no barrier at all to the nerve endings of a Sentinel; he could feel every crease in Blair's lips, the slight roughness of his tongue, the faint inexperienced scrape of teeth that under other circumstances Jim might have found bothersome.

Blair took him in slowly, a hair's breadth at a time (God, how can he do that at all after -- ), so slowly that the pace and the building pleasure almost overcame Jim's control entirely; but the first hint of an involuntary thrust upward resulted in a spike in Blair's heartbeat and froze Jim completely. With difficulty, he held absolutely still, stroking Blair's hair but careful not to push his head.

Maybe it would help if I remind him it's me.

Forcing the words out past a pleasure-locked throat, Jim croaked, "I love you, Blair – God, you're making me feel so good – "

Apparently that was all the reassurance Blair needed, for suddenly that hot mouth went from tentative to bold, just like that, plunging down Jim's erection farther than he would have believed possible, at least for a first try, and sucking strongly.

That was it – all Jim could take, and then some. Only the last vestiges of his will kept Jim from arching upward into that hot mouth; he sank fingers and heels into the sheets and screamed, his entire body shaking as powerful waves of pleasure shot through his entire body. It went on, and on, and on until Jim thought he'd lose his mind, tapering away gradually to little thrilling aftershocks. Then finger and mouth were withdrawn, a warm hairy weight curled into his side, and Jim languidly threw an arm around Blair, turning his head to nuzzle the soft curls brushing his cheek.

"Love you," he murmured.

Moist lips brushed his.

"Love you too," Blair whispered.

Gradually it seeped into Jim's pleasure-fogged brain that while he'd had an earth-shaking climax, Blair probably hadn't gotten much out of it. He rolled over, kissing the smaller man, reaching down to caress Blair, surprised to find Blair's cock limp and wet with semen.

"You came?" Jim said disbelievingly.

Blair blushed.

"Yeah. When you did," he admitted. "I was just so turned on making you feel good – I couldn't believe you'd let me do that with my finger, you know?"

"And I couldn't believe you were able to do that to me," Jim said tenderly. "That was so wonderful, Chief. So incredible."

"Yeah, well, I came pretty hard too," Blair chuckled.

"And here I was all set to return the favor," Jim grinned, kissing Blair.

"Next time," Blair said agreeably. Then his eyes twinkled mischeivously. "Hey, when we tell Gerard about this tomorrow, d'you think we'll get that look?"

"Without a doubt, Chief," Jim smiled. "Without a doubt."