“Man, I’m not going to ask which,” he said. “Never mind.”


He leaned his head on Jim’s shoulder.


“This feels really strange,” he said awkwardly. “I don’t mean necessarily laying here with you. I mean laying here naked and sweaty and you still completely dressed. Not to mention probably really uncomfortable under those jeans. I’m not used to leaving my partners high and dry, you know.”


Jim smiled and stroked Blair’s hair.


“Don’t worry about it,” he said.


“Well – “ Blair hesitated, then propped himself up on one elbow to gaze into Jim’s eyes. “I mean, what happens now?”


Jim sighed.


“Are we waxing philosophical about our relationship, or are we talking immediate chain of events here, Chief?” he said gently.


“Right now I’m thinking immediate chain of events,” Blair said.


Jim traced the line of Blair’s eyebrow with his fingertip.


“I told you,” he said quietly. “You decide what happens next.”


Blair hesitated, and Jim grabbed him and suddenly flipped them over so that Blair was lying on his back once more, Jim leaning over him.


“Let’s not meander all over the place with this one like we did after-sex comments,” Jim grinned. “If you can manage it, Chief, I’d like one specific affirmative statement, something beginning along the lines of ‘Jim, I would like to – ‘ or ‘Jim, I would like you to – ‘ sort of thing. Can you manage that, Chief?”


Blair licked his lips.


“Jim, I would like us to go upstairs to your bed.”


“Good start,” Jim said, nodding. “And then?”


“And then I’d like to see you naked.”


Jim laughed.


“Very good, you managed to skirt the issue of whether I undress or you undress me, and you did it really neatly,” he said. “Okay. And then?”


“And then I’d like to talk and cuddle – “ Blair grinned. “Cuddle as in cuddle as well as cuddle as in foreplay – until I get hard again.”


“That shouldn’t take too long, knowing you,” Jim said amusedly. “And then?”


“And then – “ Blair licked his lips again, his eyes on Jim’s. “ – if you want to, and if we, you know, can, and if you don’t think it’ll hurt too much, I’d like you to fuck me.”


Jim breathed in sharply, pleasurably. He’d never expected Blair to offer, at least not so early in their relationship, if at all.


“I think it sounds like a plan,” Jim said, a little unsteadily. “But, Blair, I’ve got two conditions on that.”


Blair raised his eyebrows.


“Like what?”


Jim traced the outline of Blair’s lips this time.


“Since you’re giving me your virginity,” he said softly, “another time – when you’re ready – I want you to take mine. I’ve never been fucked. Will you do that for me?”


Blair shivered and his eyes grew darker again. Jim felt a stirring against his leg and marveled to himself. God, Chief, you’re going to kill me.


“I’d love to,” Blair said, that wide-eyed wonder back in his voice. “With some coaching.”


“All the coaching you want,” Jim promised.


“What’s the other condition?” Blair reminded him.


“Oh, yeah.” Jim grinned. “That we go take a shower, and either you wash yourself, or you let me wash you, real thoroughly. As you’ve observed on several occasions, I’m a real stickler for cleanliness.”


Blair grinned.


“I think I can go along with that,” he said simply. “Actually that fits in neatly with the whole nakedness thing. Naked and dripping wet would definitely be a bonus.”


Blair ran the back of his fingers across his chin and grimaced.


“Uh, want to give me ten minutes to shave and brush my teeth and so on?”


Jim grinned.


“Go for it,” he said. “It’ll save me the embarrassment of trying to explain beard burn at the station tomorrow.”


When Blair disappeared into the bathroom, Jim snagged a few of Blair’s candles, then dashed upstairs to light the candles and hurriedly put fresh sheets on the bed. For a moment he wistfully wished he owned satin sheets, but that seemed a little funky anyway – Blair just wasn’t a satin-sheet kind of guy. But he did have flannel – soft, warm plaid flannel. Perfect. Blair was definitely a flannel kind of guy. He laid out the lube and the small box of baby wipes he’d bought.


He opened the box of condoms and pulled out a strip, frowning. If Blair really felt the same as Jim did, and this relationship was “it”, then Jim really needed to have the condom talk with Blair sooner or later, preferably sooner. Wearing a condom for any prolonged period tended to leave Jim with an ugly, painful rash on sensitive skin. Up till now, the risks of unprotected sex had always forced a hard choice on Jim – forego the sex, or live with the condom aftereffects. Blair had occasionally teased Jim about his sparse dating life, but he probably would have ribbed Jim unmercifully if he’d known just how seldom those dates ended in more than kissing and cuddling.


Of course, he couldn’t blame that infrequency solely on condom-induced rashes. Sex with Jim Ellison since his Sentinel senses had re-emerged carried a lot of… complications, complications that more and more frequently made sex simply not worth the trouble.


Okay, first there was the condom thing. There were also a host of other chemical sensitivity problems, i.e. spermicides, potpourri, air fresheners, perfumes, hair care products, and even some kinds of lube, with effects ranging from “Oh, shit, the colonel just went on disability” to allergic reactions to outright disaster. One lovely, considerate lady’s feminine deodorant had given Jim the equivalent of an asthma attack when he went down on her. He had narrowly avoided a 911 call on that one.


Then there were the… other… problems, the ones harder to explain than chemical sensitivity. He’d never actually completely zoned on a partner, but one lady had gotten a little rattled when Jim had spent fifteen minutes intensely contemplating the freckles on her breasts.


More alarming were the glimpses of his more primal side. He’d only been with a man once since his Sentinel senses had re-emerged, but that once had been enough. In the height of passion he’d found himself actually growling as he drove into his partner (considerably more roughly than he’d meant to), and at the moment of climax he’d barely restrained himself from biting his shoulder. They’d joked about it afterward, but Jim had avoided men instinctively since that time; he could only pray that nothing of the sort happened with Blair. Blair would probably explain it away as a sort of dominance struggle.


If, of course, he’d told Blair about it. Which of course he hadn’t; he hadn’t told Blair any of it. It wasn’t that he really worried that it would end up in Blair’s dissertation; the plain fact of the matter was that he simply couldn’t talk about sex with Blair. He couldn’t sit there facing the man he loved and wanted more than he’d ever loved or wanted anybody in his life, sit there and talk about his sex life with other people, maybe hear anecdotes from Blair’s own love life, squirm while Blair pried embarrassing details out of him and analyzed them…uh-uh, no way, nohow.


But now it was Blair coming to his bed, his Guide, his partner, his best friend, his soulmate, and now his lover. “The one.” And that meant that at least to some extent, and at some point, Jim would have to bite the bullet and tell Blair about some of the baggage he was sharing his bed with.




Jim’s head jerked up. He was so on edge that Blair’s soft voice from inside the bathroom might as well have been screamed over a bullhorn.


“Want to come take a shower with me?”


Oh my God. The question he’d heard a thousand times in his dearest fantasies. The mere words nearly sent him spinning out of control. Blair. Naked. Warm. Wet. Slippery. Jim felt the IQ points draining from his brain along with most of his blood supply, rushing into his cock. Jim wiped drool off his chin, adjusted himself inside his pants before he did himself a permanent injury, and followed his rigidly pointing erection downstairs.


Blair was standing in the bathroom doorway, gloriously, casually naked.


“I thought maybe you were undressing,” he said a little shyly, and Jim realized amazedly that he was still dressed. True, those were pants that had nearly maimed him. “You know? Shower? Naked?”


“Sorry about that,” Jim said sheepishly. He stripped hurriedly, dropping his clothes in the hamper. He could almost feel Blair’s eyes traveling over his body.


“Oh, man,” Blair said, very softly, and Jim looked up to see his Guide gazing at him with something very like awe. “Oh, man, Jim, you are so – “


“So what?” Jim muttered, his face flaming.


Blair shook his head wonderingly.


“Just so…” he said. “Oh, man.” He smiled. “I got a look at you on the oil tanker, you know, but it was hardly a glimpse, and as usual we got interrupted by somebody pointing a gun at us. God, I have never faced imminent death with such a hard-on in my life.”


Then he flushed.


“All right, all right, I’m babbling again,” he said. “Can we shower already?”


Jim chuckled and stepped around Blair, turning the shower on and adjusting the temperature. He stepped in, then turned around to realize that Blair had been standing there staring, presumably at his ass.


“Coming, Chief?” Jim said mildly, holding the shower curtain open.


“Pretty damned close,” Blair mumbled. He hesitated before stepping into the shower.


“Having second thoughts?” Jim asked softly. Blair shook his head and stepped in.


“Not me, man,” he said, just as softly. “But when you came down with all your clothes on, I kind of thought you were.”


“Not second thoughts, just – “ Jim hesitated. “There are things I should probably tell you – “


“Oh, boy,” Blair chuckled. “You hate that too, huh?”


“Excuse me?” Jim asked, pausing with soap in hand.


“The coy part of the getting-to-know-you process,” Blair said, taking the soap from Jim and lathering it briskly. “Wherein you try to find all kinds of roundabout ways to ask about the things you want and need to know, and try to find tactful ways of telling your partner the things you want them to know. Okay. I’ll make it easy.”


He firmly turned Jim around to face the wall and began lathering Jim’s back, miracle of miracles scrubbing nice and hard the way Jim liked it.


“Let’s see,” he said. “Communicable diseases, none. Blood tests negative from the get-go, no past unsafe encounters. Major turn-offs include bad breath, playing country/western, Rap or opera during sex, partners who aren’t honestly enthusiastic in bed, peach flavored anything, and candle wax. You wouldn’t even believe how hard that stuff is to get out of chest hair. Major turn-ons – I like lots of feedback during sex, verbal and/or nonverbal, scalp massages, foot massages – hell, any kind of massages, thunderstorms, good jazz, whipped cream. Major erogenous zones besides the obvious, backs of my knees, the small of my back, earlobes – oh, yeah, nape of my neck, that’s a new one that you cleverly discovered. Ummm. Sexual repertoire. My motto’s always been ‘been there, done that,’ but since I’m now walking an unfamiliar side of the street, I guess that doesn’t apply. I’ll try just about anything once – okay, twice – if it doesn’t involve children or animals or digestive by-products. Favorite position – not applicable. Favorite act, ditto. What turns me on the most about you physically – “ Blair paused thoughtfully, then washed slowly down over Jim’s buttocks. “Wow. It’s an impressive package altogether, can’t say I can pick a particular part, but now that I’ve seen you naked I plan to spend a whole lot of time exploring my choices. What else really turns me on about you – it’s kind of a tossup between the idea of your senses – I mean, applying them to sex – and your strength. I kind of get the shivers imagining a lover who could just pick me up, throw me over his shoulder and ravage me like a caveman, which also coincides with my favorite fantasy about you.”


Jim sucked his breath in, turned around in the shower and pulled Blair against him hard, growling softly.


“Ooooh, you brute,” Blair laughed in a high, fake falsetto, batting his eyelashes. Jim groaned and released him.


“Okay, your turn,” Blair said, lathering Jim’s chest.


“My turn what?” Jim blinked. “You still have the soap.”


“No, your turn to spill the beans,” Blair said.


“Oh.” Jim thought. “Diseases, none; blood tests, regularly and negative. I’m afraid my sex life predates the beginning of the safe-sex era, but that was long enough ago that it also predated AIDS. Turn-offs. Hmmm. Poor personal hygiene of any sort, too much makeup or perfume or cologne or whatever, lack of honesty in bed, that awful falsetto you just did – oh, yeah, feminine hygiene spray.”


Blair laughed.


“Not much to worry about there, buddy,” he said. “Go on.”


Jim shivered as Blair’s hands drifted toward dangerous territory.


“Major turn-ons. Wow. Your voice, your hands, your smile, your hair – “


“Do I sense a pattern forming here?” Blair chuckled. “Come on, any non-Blair-specific turn-ons?”


“A few,” Jim admitted. “Really, really light strokes over my skin, almost tickling.”


“Like this?” Blair said, his fingers tracing lightly up Jim’s chest. He was answered when Jim moaned, throwing his head back, and his nipples hardened. “Ooookayyyy, I think I got it.”


“And chocolate-covered strawberries.” Jim blushed. “Can’t help it. It’s an addiction. Uh. Major erogenous zones. It kind of depends how well I’m doing with my senses. If I’m in good control of them at the moment, enough to turn up touch a little, just about everywhere on my body. If things are out of whack, sometimes nothing works. Sexual repertoire. Um. That could get embarrassing. I bet I’ve ‘been there, done that’ more than you have – not quantity, probably, but scope. Limits about the same as yours except I don’t have anything against peaches or candle wax – “


Blair’s eyebrows shot up and Jim blushed deeper.


“What?” he said defensively. “Do you see any chest hair here? Anyway. Moving right along. Favorite position with another man – well, I’ve never been fucked, but as far as fucking goes, I guess it’s a tossup between me kneeling upright and my partner straddling my legs, leaning back against me, and my partner on his back, legs over my shoulders. Favorite act – hmmm. Wow. I can’t say I have a favorite. It depends too much on who I’m with and the mood of the moment. What turns me on the most about you physically – see turn-ons list. Fantasies – “ Jim grinned. “Well, one of them’s coming true right now. Gimme the soap.”


He took his time lathering Blair from head to toe, caressing that beautiful, perfect body with the sponge, then tossed the sponge aside and went back over Blair with his hands, memorizing every centimeter. Blair moaned pitifully when Jim’s hands caressed his soapy erection. When Jim cupped Blair’s buttocks gently, pulling him close, Blair clutched at Jim’s shoulders and let his head fall back, unabashedly rubbing himself hard against Jim. Their bodies were slick with soap and slid easily against each other, and for a moment the sheer presence of his slippery wet Guide against his body was almost too much for Jim. He groaned and licked his way up the side of Blair’s throat, never mind the soap, and didn’t realize he was digging his fingers into Blair’s buttocks until Blair suddenly stiffened.


“Ow, ow, ow, Jim, tattoo – “




It took Jim’s lust-fogged brain a few seconds to translate; then he hurriedly released Blair.


“Oh, man, Chief, I’m sorry,” he breathed. “Did I hurt?”


“Um, a little,” Blair admitted. “I mean, it’s kind of sore, you know.”


“Let me see.” Jim firmly turned Blair around and knelt, gently kissing the tattoo – my mark – then running his tongue over it lightly. “Better?”


“Ohhhh, maaaaaan,” Blair groaned, shivering.


Then Jim smelled a slight chemical odor, very, very faint, where he least expected it, and stood up, kissing the back of Blair’s shoulder.


“Blair, I smell – did you – “


Blair nodded, his blush traveling all the way around to the back of his neck.


“I saw it in the bag from the drugstore,” he said shyly. “I thought I was supposed to. I used that packet of solution that came with it, but then I thought about you and chemicals, so I did it again with plain water.”


“Oh, Blair,” Jim whispered, overwhelmed. “Have you ever – “


“Uh. No.”


“Oh, baby.” Jim kissed the back of Blair’s neck. “I bought that for myself, in case you wanted to go that way. It never even occurred to me that you’d – oh, Chief. You should’ve asked me to help you.”


“I can read instruction leaflets,” Blair said a little defensively. “And I thought that was what you meant back at the stakeout when you said that about ‘preparatory cleanup’.”


“Oh, Blair,” Jim whispered again, fighting to keep his voice steady. The thought of Blair preparing himself for Jim, cleaning himself for – oh God. Jim swallowed hard, his arousal so great that for a moment it was almost painful. He kissed the back of Blair’s neck again, nuzzled it. Blair moaned as Jim rubbed his erection over Blair’s slippery buttocks.


“Jim?” Blair’s voice was tentative.


“What?” Jim muttered, still nuzzling.


“Uh, Jim, is it just me or are you growling?”


Instantly Jim stepped back, fighting down a wave of panic. He was so hard it hurt; arousal was a red rim around his vision. He hurriedly turned around to face the shower, letting the water run over him, glad that Blair couldn’t see his face.


“Why don’t you dry off and go on upstairs?” Jim suggested as evenly as he could. “Make yourself comfortable. I’ll be up in just a minute.”


“Jim?” Jim felt Blair turn around behind him; then Blair’s hands rested on his shoulders. “Is something wrong? God, your muscles are knotted up so tight…“ Blair started massaging his shoulders, which didn’t help Jim’s problem at all.


“No, I’m all right,” Jim said, breathing deeply. “I just need to – uh – calm down a little bit before we go any further.”


“Calm down?” Blair stepped around to Jim’s side, then glanced down at the throbbing length of Jim’s erection. “Oh, man, I didn’t even think – this whole evening’s been sheer torture for you, hasn’t it?”


“You have no idea,” Jim muttered.


“Well, let’s see what we can do about – “ Blair began, reaching for the throbbing length.


“No!” Jim interrupted, grabbing Blair’s wrist. Then, more quietly, “Don’t.”


“What’s the matter, Jim?” Blair said cautiously, the slight tone of hurt in his voice sending a spear of pain through Jim’s heart. “I thought you wanted me.”


“I do.” Jim took a deep, ragged breath. “God, I do. But there’s things we need to talk about. I’m just afraid I’m – I’m not very much in control of myself right now.”


“Well, duh, no wonder,” Blair chuckled, moving around in front of Jim. “With a three or four-hour-old erection I’d be leaving claw marks on stainless steel. C’mere.” He pulled Jim’s head down, his lips warm and moist against Jim’s.


“Blair – “ Jim tried again.


“Shhhh.” Blair’s hot breath fanned Jim’s face, and that was it; Jim moaned and surrendered, buried his fingers in Blair’s hair and his tongue in Blair’s mouth and his entire being in the sheer presence of his Guide, and when Blair’s fingers finally clasped his aching sex he only moaned into Blair’s mouth and thrust helplessly into the soapy hand. It had been a long time for him, and he was wound up so tightly that it hardly took any time at all before he cried out hoarsely and came all over Blair’s hand and both their bellies; if he hadn’t been so utterly relieved, both physically and mentally, that nothing had gone wrong, Jim probably would have been tremendously embarrassed. As matters stood, however, he was more than willing to take this gift at face value and simply stood under the rapidly cooling water, leaning wearily against Blair as he trembled out the last aftershocks of pleasure.


“Hey, Big Guy,” Blair murmured quietly against Jim’s shoulder, pressing a little kiss there. “Far be it for me to interrupt your afterglow here, but if we don’t get rinsed off and out of this shower, man, you’re going to end up with one frigid bedmate.”


Jim actually managed a laugh at that one, and they hastily rinsed and dried off, and Jim half smothered Blair in his bathrobe that hung conveniently in the bathroom. Blair pulled out his comb, and Jim neatly plucked it out of his hand.


“Let me?” he asked softly, and Blair nodded, his eyes shining.


It was harder than it looked, conditioner notwithstanding. Jim didn’t want to admit to Blair that he had never, in his entire life, combed anybody’s hair but his own and, when they were children, his younger brother Steven’s. Certainly never anybody with long hair. But there was something about the intimacy of even this commonplace act that very much attracted him. Or maybe that was just his excuse for the chance to play with that beautiful curly mess.


 “Uh, Jim?” Blair said softly. “No offense, man, but what are you doing?”


Jim chuckled abashedly.


“Playing with your hair,” he admitted. “Sorry. Want to go upstairs?”


Blair took a deep breath and gave Jim that thousand-watt smile, the one that always weakened Jim’s knees but produced an amazing solidity elsewhere, and proceeded to all but drag Jim up the stairs.


Once in Jim’s bedroom, however, Blair stopped, suddenly losing some of his self-confidence. He glanced around, taking in the candles, the turned-down bed. He glanced at the lube, wipes and condoms on the nightstand and flushed, and Jim damned himself angrily. There was such a thing as being too well prepared.


“Hey, Chief, take it easy,” Jim said, sliding his arms around Blair from behind. “Nothing has to happen. Tonight’s already been more than I ever expected. If we can just lie here and talk, you have no idea how thrilled I’ll be.”


Blair grinned hesitantly.


“Man, you do have a way of dangling the irresistible in front of me,” he said. “You offering to talk – how can I possibly pass that up?” He leaned his head back against Jim’s shoulder, belying his flippant tone.


“You want to take this off?” Jim murmured, tugging gently at the robe. “If you’re too cold, you could get under the covers.”


Blair glanced over his shoulder at Jim almost shyly.


“Would you keep me warm?” he said softly.


“Just try and stop me,” Jim said, sliding one hand inside the open front of the robe to caress Blair’s chest; simultaneously he nuzzled the nape of Blair’s neck, softly licking the skin. Blair moaned.


“Oh, man, that’s so not fair,” Blair panted. “You’re wicked, man. Come on, Jim, cool down for a minute. I want to talk to you, okay?”


Jim sighed to himself. Blair was right, but that didn’t mean he didn’t want to avoid the subject.


“Okay,” he said reluctantly. “You’re right.”


Jim released Blair and slid into bed, patting the mattress beside him. Blair smiled and dropped his robe, climbing into bed beside Jim. Jim flipped the covers up over him and was delighted when Blair scooted close against Jim’s warm skin.


“So talk to me,” Blair said softly. “What was that business downstairs?”


Jim cleared his throat uncomfortably.


“Um. Well, there’s something about this whole Sentinel business I’ve never – uh – felt comfortable telling you, I guess.”


“Oh, wow, now that’s a surprise,” Blair chuckled. “Jim Ellison not confiding fully in his Guide. Wow. Don’t shock me too hard, Big Guy.”


“I’m not joking,” Jim said, a little more sharply than he’d meant to.


“Ouch,” Blair said softly. “Sorry, Jim. I didn’t mean to – never mind. Maybe you’d better just tell me.”


“It’s about – sex,” Jim mumbled.


“I kind of figured that,” Blair said gently. “Go on. It’s okay. I won’t joke anymore, Jim. I promise. I know it’s not funny.”


Jim took a deep breath and sat up on the edge of the bed. Somehow he wasn’t comfortable lying next to Blair anymore.


“I have a lot of – I don’t know, I guess I’d call them allergies,” he said. “Most of them probably aren’t an issue. But some lubes, most spermicides – that nonoxynol-9 stuff is the worst.”


“Wow,” Blair said softly. “That must make using a condom pretty complicated.”


Jim cleared his throat.


“Uh, speaking of that – “


“Problem with latex?” Blair guessed.


Jim nodded sheepishly.


“Bad rashes,” he admitted.


“Wow,” Blair said again. “What about those new polyurethane ones?”


Jim sighed.


“Even worse.”


Blair shook his head sympathetically.


“How do you manage, then? I mean, you said – “


Jim grinned sheepishly.


“You promise you won’t tease me about it?”


“Jim, man, I swear,” Blair said seriously.


Jim opened the nightstand drawer and pulled out a small case, handing it to Blair.


“Oh, yeah, I’ve seen these natural-membrane things,” Blair said, nodding. Then he frowned. “But I thought they weren’t as effective against STD’s.”


“They aren’t,” Jim said. “I wear one of those and put the latex condom over it.” He blushed. “That is, after I – uh – “


“After what?” Blair asked.


Jim cleared his throat awkwardly.


“I – uh – wash them.”


“The condoms? You wash the condoms?” Blair repeated blankly.


Jim nodded abashedly.


“I wash all the lubes and spermicides and chemical residue off them,” he said. “Then all I have to worry about is lube, because some of the water-based ones give me trouble.”


“Oh, wow, man,” Blair said, shaking his head ruefully. “What a pain in the ass. Well, at least I bet none of your dates ever griped about you taking too many risks.”


“It wasn’t so bad,” Jim said, shrugging. “I mean, I’m one person who never had to worry about loss of sensitivity. But lube was always a problem. I had kind of a scanty sex life.”


“Wow.” Blair shook his head again. “Listen, I think it would be a real good idea for us to keep a running list of all these things that bother you. I mean, I’d really, really hate it if I somehow hurt you in the name of sex.”


“We’ll do that,” Jim said gratefully. “But like I said, most of it probably won’t come up so much with you. You’ve pretty much stopped wearing aftershave or cologne since you’ve lived here.” He chuckled. “And I’ve never known you to use feminine hygiene spray.”


Blair chuckled.


“Well, no,” he said. “Bad?”


“Chief, I damned near passed out,” Jim said with a sigh. “My lungs just closed up.”


Blair was silent for a long moment, turning the condom package over in his fingers. At last he looked up.


“You know,” he said slowly, “if you want to skip these, I’m okay with it. I mean, since we’ve already gone over the health part and the cleanliness part.”


A hot, wondering joy swelled up in Jim’s chest until he thought he’d burst with it.


“Are you sure about that, Chief?” he said softly.


“Yeah.” Blair smiled suddenly, and abruptly the sun rose inside Jim’s loft. “You and me, Big Guy. Just us for the long haul. I’m good with that if you are.”


Jim swallowed hard around the lump that had formed in his throat.


“I’m definitely good with that,” he said hoarsely. “But I never thought – I never dreamed that you – “


“Hey. Hey,” Blair said, reaching up to caress Jim’s cheek. “Don’t let the long string of dates fool you. You think I’ve ever lived with anybody for three years before in my life? Man, the way Naomi liked to travel, and the string of friends she’d leave me with, I’m not so sure I ever lived with her for three years running. And of the two of us, I’m the one that took the permanent step here, right?” He turned slightly on his side, touching his buttock through the covers illustratively. “Even if I had to be drunk to do it.”


“You,” Jim said, chuckling wryly, “are too good to be true.”


“Says the gorgeous hunk of muscle sitting naked on the edge of the bed,” Blair teased. Then he gazed at Jim more seriously. “Hey, Big Guy, you promised to keep me warm, and it’s getting pretty lonely under these covers. I thought I was promised some kissing and ‘cuddling.’ And then I think it’s high time that my man deflowered me.”


Woops – there went Jim’s IQ again as his entire blood supply migrated to the southern hemisphere. He slid under the covers on autopilot, dimly aware that there was something else he’d meant to talk to Blair about, something important… but he couldn’t think of that, couldn’t think of anything but the small hot body in his arms, the searing lips against his, the insistent tongue that met his, the hands that stroked, caressed, explored hesitantly at first, then with more confidence at his unequivocal response.


“Oh, man,” Blair breathed against Jim’s earlobe, nearly sending Jim into meltdown. “Oh, man, oh, man, Jim, what happens with a Sentinel if his Guide’s the one who zones out?”


“A good Sentinel,” Jim murmured against the thin skin of Blair’s throat, which he was licking on his journey down Blair’s torso again, “would never let that happen.”


Despite Blair’s enthusiasm, Jim knew that his Guide was at least a little nervous, and Jim had every intention of melting the last vestiges of that nervousness in the heat he was generating between them. There were no superfluous scents or flavors on his Guide now, not Simon’s cigar smoke or the penetrating residual odor from Brown’s inevitable pastrami sandwiches or the Pledge the cleaning lady used to dust Jim’s desk and chair, nothing but the unscented soap and shampoo Blair had taken to using and the relatively unfiltered aroma and taste of Blair Sandburg, the salt tang of his sweat, the heady musk of arousal seeping out of his pores.


“Jim? Jim,” Blair panted. “Don’t zone on me, man.”


Jim shuddered and realized that he’d had his face buried in the crease of Blair’s left thigh, licking, nuzzling the sensitive skin there for God knows how long. He turned his head, brushing Blair’s leaking erection with light, soft kisses, but despite Blair’s moan of pleasure he didn’t want to finish Blair this way again. Maybe it was selfish; if so, he couldn’t help it. But he’d wanted Blair so much, waited so long, that now he felt the need to stake his claim on Blair here and now.


“Ready to turn over, Chief?” he murmured huskily, wincing inwardly. God, surely he could have come up with something more romantic than that. But Blair didn’t seem to mind, and he flipped over immediately, then yelped as he landed on his erection.


“Raise up a minute,” Jim said, sliding a pillow under Blair’s hips to take the weight off his hard cock. The sight of his Guide stretched out naked on his flannel sheets, his ass slightly raised, all there and all for him, was so potent that Jim had to fight down a zoneout. Dear God, an all-you-can-eat buffet at Wonderburger couldn’t look this scrumptious.


“Jim?” Blair murmured uncertainly.


Jim moved suddenly over Blair, rubbing against the firm warmth of Blair’s back, brushing Blair’s hair aside so he could nibble at the back of Blair’s neck and shoulders again. He surreptitiously grabbed the tube of lubricant.


“So beautiful,” he whispered huskily. “You don’t know how I’ve dreamed of doing this, of feeling you here against me like this.”


He licked and sucked his way down Blair’s spine, reveling in every soft moan, every tremor. He remembered what Blair had told him and lingered at the small of Blair’s back, nibbling on little patches of flesh, sucking wetly until the gooseflesh broke out all over Blair’s skin and his Guide trembled helplessly. He pressed Blair’s buttocks gently apart, breathing warm air across the tender flesh, but when he bent to press a gentle kiss inside the crevice Blair pushed his head up, shuddering.


“Jim, wait, wait, don’t – “


Jim raised his head reluctantly.


“You don’t like that? It turns you off?”


“No, no, man – “ Blair’s voice was distinctly shaky. “Nobody’s ever – Jim, please, I’m afraid I’ll come, and the next time I come I want it to be with you inside me. Please?”


“Whatever you say, Blair,” Jim whispered, and bent to press one light kiss to the clean little pucker before he turned his attention to the tube of lubricant. Squeezing a generous portion out onto his fingers, he returned to his slow, tantalizing licks over the small of Blair’s back as with one finger he gently stroked a liberal coating of lube over the tight opening.


He expected a certain amount of nervousness, even outright fear, but Blair only moaned, spreading his legs wider to grant Jim easier access. Jim paused to get more lube, then carefully eased one finger in, pausing to gauge Blair’s reaction. Blair tensed slightly but didn’t protest.


“Okay, Chief?” Jim asked softly, holding his finger still. “Am I hurting you?”


“Doesn’t hurt, just – “ Blair groaned and buried his face in his forearms. “Just feels so strange – “


“If you want me to stop, just say so,” Jim said, carefully easing his finger a little deeper, exploring – “


“WhoaOHHHH!” A shudder shook Blair’s entire body and Blair’s head came up slightly again. “Ohmanohmanohman that’s good – “


Jim chuckled and withdrew his finger despite Blair’s moan of protest; then Blair moaned again as two fingers returned to gently massage his prostate. By the time Jim had three fingers moving easily inside his Guide, Blair was reduced to nonsense words and incoherent groans, and from the way Blair was pushing back against his fingers and humping the pillow, Jim drew the conclusion that Blair was definitely ready to move on.


“Yesyesyes – Nooooooo!” Blair groaned in protest as Jim withdrew his fingers.


“Easy, Chief, easy,” Jim said. “It’s not the end of the game, just a timeout to make a substitution, okay?”


Blair looked back over his shoulder, and Jim was struck immediately by the raw pagan beauty of his Guide, his hair wild and stuck to his back and temples with the fresh sweat of passion, his eyes even wilder and dark with arousal, his face flushed, lips swollen. Jim wondered if he’d ever seen a more erotic sight in his life.


“Hurry,” Blair urged hoarsely. “I’m not scared anymore, I just want it so bad.”


“I know, baby,” Jim panted, fumbling with the tube of lubricant. He coated his own erection thickly, reminding himself sternly that however eager he and Blair were, he was not going to rush and hurt his beloved Guide. “Turn over on one side, baby. It’ll be easier the first time.”


Blair rolled over on his side, whimpering with eagerness when Jim spooned up behind him. Jim guided the tip of his cock into place, fighting down the desperate hunger welling up inside him, hastily grabbing Blair’s hips when Blair tried to push back against him.


“Hey, easy there, Chief,” he whispered. “We’re going to take this nice and slow, okay?”


“Oh, mannn,” Blair complained, holding still anyway. “I’ve been scared ever since this morning – scared you’d find out about the tattoo, scared you’d figure out how I felt about you, scared you couldn’t feel that way about me, scared of making love with a man for the first time, scared of letting you inside me – now for the first time all day I’m not scared and you’re, like, trying to kill me with frustration. Come on, man, the millennium is coming faster than I am here!”


Jim had to laugh at that, and thank God the laughter took the edge off his desire enough for him to calm down slightly. Taking advantage of Blair’s relaxation and the element of surprise, he eased just barely into Blair.


Instantly Blair went rigid, all over, trembling violently.


“Oh,” he gasped. “Oh – Jim – “


“Shhh, easy, baby,” Jim whispered in Blair’s ear, reaching around to stroke Blair’s leaking erection. “Are you okay? Do you need me to pull out?”


“No – no, just – “ Blair panted. “Man, I’m glad you didn’t listen to my ‘hurry up’ bullshit.”


“Am I hurting?” Jim asked worriedly.


“No, just – just – oh God,” Blair groaned as Jim eased just a little deeper. “Stop a minute, just stay still, let me get used to you, okay? Man, when I called you ‘Big Guy’ I didn’t realize I was psychic.”


“Too much for you?” Jim whispered.


“Never,” Blair said firmly. “Just give me a minute. Just – ooooh, yeah, I love the way you touch me.”


As desire built, Blair slowly relaxed, and Jim eased just as slowly inside him, gently, as easily as breathing, until to his wonder Blair’s buttocks pressed firmly against his groin and his entire length was held securely within the tight heat of his Guide. Blair was trembling again, moaning softly, his heart thundering, but from the smell of Blair’s desire and the excited throbbing of the hard flesh in Jim’s hand, he knew that neither the trembling nor the moaning was inspired by pain or fear.


“Oh, man, I can’t believe it,” Blair breathed. “You’re inside me, I can’t believe we’re doing this, I can’t believe I’m really here doing this with you after all this time – “


Jim groaned, aroused beyond the capacity for coherent speech, letting his body speak for him and praying that his Guide would understand as he always did. He sucked hotly at the back of Blair’s neck and released Blair’s cock, trailing his hand up the firm expanse of his Guide’s sweaty belly and chest. He loved the soft dark curls on Blair’s skin, so different from his own smooth chest, loved the sweet thunder of his heart, that smell that was so uniquely Blair, the taste of his skin.


His fingers brushed over Blair’s nipple, which instantly hardened into a tight little bud, and Jim felt the gold ring threaded through the little bump of flesh. He explored the ring with his fingers, tugging gently, and Blair cried out, pushing back against him.


“Oh, God, Jim, move, please move,” Blair begged, his fingers digging into the sheets. That was all the encouragement Jim needed, and he withdrew slowly, then pressed firmly in again. When Blair only moaned with pleasure, he repeated the movement, again, again – then he was moving smoothly, firmly, Blair pushing back against him, and the desire was building again, hot, strong –


“Jim, wait, Jim, please – “


It took a long moment and several hard thrusts for Blair’s words to reach Jim’s desire-fogged brain, another moment before he could coordinate enough brain cells for verbalization.


“What’s – something wrong?”


“I want to move too, Jim, please,” Blair gasped. “Can we – please – wanna move, need to – “


Thank God it didn’t need coherent thought, just instinct, for Jim to grab Blair, hold him securely and roll them over so that Blair was under him. A little awkwardly they both got their knees under them and then Blair was rocking back against Jim while he thrust. The incredible sight of his Guide on hands and knees, head back, eyes closed and face taut with passion, was all it took to push the last vestige of civilization from Jim’s mind, and he gripped Blair’s hips firmly and thrust hard and deep, rubbing firmly over Blair’s prostate.


Blair screamed with pleasure and his muscles clamped down around Jim like a vise; Jim howled and wrapped his arms around Blair, pulling him up and back onto his lap, drove deep inside his Guide. Blair responded with another scream of abandon and a jittering motion of his hips as he pumped out his pleasure that drove Jim into complete meltdown. Jim gave a last roar of passion, spurting hotly into his Guide, and sank his teeth into the large muscle of Blair’s shoulder as the world exploded for them both.


Jim opened his eyes slowly, groaning. His face was buried in Blair’s sweaty hair and his mouth was full of it. He gradually realized that he was lying full weight on top of his apparently unconscious Guide, who, thankfully, was nonetheless still breathing. Slowly, carefully, he withdrew his spent cock from his Guide’s body, glancing down anxiously and sighing with relief when he saw no blood. He moved over to one side and settled down comfortably, his head propped up on one hand, to watch his Guide sleep, still stunned by what had happened.


He’d made love to Blair. No, he’d made love with Blair. He loved Blair and Blair loved him.


Blair had Jim’s mark tattooed on his ass.


Jim glanced down at the tattoo and grinned, blessing that moment of drunken inspiration that had started it all. It was, after all, a beautiful tattoo.


Blair stirred sleepily and shivered at the loss of Jim’s body heat, instinctively rolling over and cuddling up against Jim’s chest. Jim pulled the covers up over both of them and slid his arm around Blair, pulling him close. Blair mumbled something contentedly; then his forehead wrinkled slightly and his eyes opened, gazing drowsily into Jim’s.


“Uh – hi,” he said, smiling shyly.


“Hi,” Jim said, chuckling.


“What?” Blair asked a little anxiously.


“Nothing. I’m just trying to come up with another miraculously perfect comment for the occasion,” Jim grinned. He stroked Blair’s hair. “I was actually thinking what a hell of a time we’re going to have getting this combed out. And that I sure do love you.”


Blair’s eyes all but glowed.


“I love you too,” he said. He squirmed closer, then winced.


“Sore, Chief?” Jim asked softly.


Blair’s forehead wrinkled again.


“Man, I can see why my ass might be a little bit sore,” he said. “But my shoulder?”


Then Jim remembered, and his own smile faded. He gently brushed Blair’s hair aside and winced as he saw the dark bruise, the clear impression of teeth pressed into the skin. He’d almost drawn blood.


“Oh, God, Chief, I’m so sorry,” he whispered. “I bit you.”


Blair explored the place with his fingertips, then chuckled.


“Wow,” he said. “You sure did. Wild man.” Then he caught Jim’s expression. “Hey, Jim, it’s okay. What’s the matter?”


“I was afraid something like that might happen,” Jim muttered, unable to meet Blair’s eyes. “That I’d get – out of control. It almost happened once before.” He swallowed. “I tried to tell you in the shower, but you – uh – distracted me. And then I tried to tell you again when we came up here, but you – “


“Distracted you again,” Blair grinned. He reached out to stroke Jim’s cheek. “Hey, Big Guy. It’s okay. It’s so very okay. We’d been building up to this for a hell of a long time. Maybe you needed to, like, stake a claim, huh?”


“Maybe.” Jim forced himself to meet Blair’s eyes. “But what if it’s not – not an isolated incident?”


“Welllllll…“ Blair grinned, pretending to think it over. “We could stuff a roll of socks in your mouth. Or I could take you – I mean, it’s pretty hard for you to bite if your face is buried in a pillow and I’m behind you. Of course, I’ve got a better idea.”


“Oh, yeah?” Jim asked warily.


“Maybe I’ll just wear tank tops so I can show these bites off proudly,” Blair chuckled.


Jim groaned and flopped back on the bed. Blair slid up so he was half lying over Jim, propped comfortably on his chest.


“Jim, I’ve got to ask, man,” Blair said softly. “It’s going to be you and me, right? Just us, all the way?”


Happiness swelled up hot and tight in Jim’s heart until it shortened his breath.


“Just us, all the way,” he repeated. “I don’t think I could handle it any other way, Chief.” Then a pang of anxiety. “Are you all right with that?”


“It’s, like, a major lifestyle change, but I’m good with it,” Blair said softly. “Are you all right knowing that I’m not much of an actor?”


Jim took a deep breath as he realized what Blair meant. Blair’s love life had always been pretty much an open book – at the U, in the loft, in the bullpen. His Guide in the throes of infatuation or sheer lust – or, most likely, love – was not very good at hiding his feelings.


“I’m not planning on making an announcement,” Jim said quietly. “If our friends find out, they find out.” He reached up and stroked Blair’s hair. “But you’d better be careful around the commissioner.”


Blair frowned.


“They can’t throw you off the force for being gay,” he said.


“No, but he can revoke your observer status or make you ride with somebody else,” Jim said gently. “Significant others aren’t allowed to ride together.”


“Wow.” Blair bit his lip. “In that case, I guess I can learn a little discretion at the right times.” He smiled. “It’s what’s underneath that counts anyway.”


His hand crept slowly under the covers, sliding down Jim’s torso.


“And speaking of what’s underneath – “


Jim groaned as Blair caressed his still rather sticky cock, which, to his utter amazement, began showing new signs of life.


“Chief, you’re going to kill me,” he murmured, pulling Blair more firmly on top of him, then winding his fingers in Blair’s tangled hair to drag Blair’s mouth down to his. “But what a way to go.”


“So tell me,” Blair murmured as he worked the wizardry of love and touch on Jim’s body, “Ever thought of getting a tattoo? Maybe something like a wolf…“


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