Jim sat in the dark, sipping his beer and brooding. For the fifth time that hour he glanced at the phone. For the fifth time that hour he talked himself out of it.


This is ridiculous. Blair’s been gone less than a day. He’ll be back in three days. The poor guy flew out at four o’clock this morning so he wouldn’t have to spend an extra night away from home – and it’s not like we got any sleep last night either. He’s been at the conference all day, and I’ll bet you anything that he went back to the hotel and worked on his presentation all evening. He’s exhausted; I’m sure he’s sound asleep by now. Hell, it’s two in the morning there.


And Jim couldn’t have imagined a worse time for his Guide to be gone. Not that either he or Blair had had any inkling of that, or Blair would have certainly cancelled his trip to the Boston conference. Blair would never have left Jim alone if he’d had any idea that Jim would find himself assigned to catching a serial child murderer who left his tiny victims in a mutilated state so horrendous as to make identification almost impossible.


The body of eight-year-old Caitlyn Welsh had been found in a dumpster this morning near dawn; dental records had confirmed her identity only a couple hours ago. Her autopsy wouldn’t take place until tomorrow morning, but Jim didn’t particularly need to read the report. Since the discovery of the body this morning, he’d been faxed the case files of five murders in Oregon and northern California. Each victim, all under the age of twelve, was similarly mutilated, each body similarly disposed of. Histamine testing had shown that each of the previous victims had died of shock and blood loss; Jim had no doubt that Caitlyn Welsh’s autopsy would show the same.


There were no real leads from the previous crime scenes. Simon had managed to get Jim assigned to the case, working in cooperation with Homicide, in the hope that Jim’s Sentinel senses might pick up clues that others might miss. Leaving Jim to work with Homicide detectives who resented his intrusion into “their” case. Leaving Jim to work with FBI agents who didn’t really want another police detective meddling with “their” crime scene.


Leaving Jim without his Guide to face one of the most horrific and heartrending murder scenes he’d ever seen in his life. Jim had nearly zoned on the overwhelming miasma of blood scent alone, not to mention the vomit of several other cops on the scene. He’d worked the crime scene for nearly eight hours, then gone to the station and perused case files late into the evening, leaving only when Simon literally pushed him out the door. Now he was on his third beer, and no sign of sleep on the horizon. He was exhausted, drained, shaken.


And very, very lonely for his Guide’s warm arms, his loving voice.


Half an hour later Jim gave in. Blair had left the list of telephone numbers on the kitchen counter. Jim dialed, cursing himself.


“Sandburg.” Blair’s voice was drowsy but not, thank God, semi-incoherent as it would be if Jim had woke Blair from a deep sleep.


“Hi, Chief,” Jim said softly. “Did I wake you up?”


“Hey, Jim!” Blair sounded pleased. “Nah, I was trying to read myself to sleep. This damned bed’s just too big and lonely. I was so tired this morning that I slept through the whole flight, and now I’m pretty wide awake.” A pause. “I miss you already.”


“I miss you too,” Jim sighed.


“Did you call just to chat, or is something wrong?” There was a hint of worry in Blair’s voice now.


“Well – just to talk, I guess,” Jim said. “Nothing’s really wrong, it’s just – “


“Bad case?” Blair guessed.


Jim hesitated. He didn’t want to worry Blair, but he’d never been any good at getting a lie past his Guide, the master of obfuscation.


“Bad case,” Blair confirmed. “What happened?”


Well, there was no avoiding it now. Jim gave Blair a brief summary, leaving out the more horrendous details.


“Oh, man,” Blair said softly. “I can just imagine. God, Jim, how are your senses doing? I know strong emotions can sometimes cause problems. Do you need me to come home?”


“I’m doing fine, and no,” Jim said quickly. “There was a lot of blood, but I got smell dialed down by myself. I’m okay. I just needed to, you know, think about something else. I needed to hear your voice.”


“Hey, you don’t need an excuse to do that,” Blair said softly. “Like I said, I miss you. Need some help getting to sleep?”


Jim sighed.


“Yeah,” he admitted. “I wish I had my Guide to hold me tonight.”


“Well, let’s see what we can do about that,” Blair said, and Jim could hear the smile in his voice. “Where are you, downstairs on the couch?”




“Go get ready for bed. Take my headset upstairs with you and call me back when you’re in bed, okay?”


“Okay. I’ll call back in a few minutes. Love you, Blair.”


“Love you, Jim. I’ll be waiting.”


Jim rushed through his nighttime preparations and fetched the headset from Blair’s room. The cordless phone headset had been a ‘no particular occasion’ present to his lover; it let Blair talk on the phone while typing away on his laptop. He took the headset upstairs with him, put it on, and dialed. Blair picked up the phone on the first ring.


“Hey, Jim. You in bed?”


Jim turned down the bed and slid in.


“Just now.”


“Okay. First thing, switch sides.”


“What, now?”


“Sides of the bed. Move over to my side. Unless you’ve changed the sheets since this morning, that pillow and that side of the bed smells like me. Move over there.”


Jim obeyed. He sniffed and smiled.


“Well... it does smell like you, Chief. Or more realistically, it smells like us, if you get my meaning.”


Blair chuckled.


“I do indeed,” he said. “So much the better. Okay. Make yourself comfortable and turn out the light. When I get through with you, you’re going to sleep like a baby.”


Jim obeyed a little hesitantly.


“Uh, Chief, is this some kind of phone sex thing?”


“Some kind,” Blair said cheerfully. “But I don’t want you to touch yourself, Jim. I just want you to lie back, close your eyes, and listen to my voice, okay?"


“...okay.” Jim took a deep breath. The flannel sheets were soft and warm and Blair-scented. “Should I push up smell?”


“No. Push up hearing. Let’s say two notches. Nothing but hearing, okay? Just concentrate on my voice.”


Jim obeyed.


“Now, I know you’re probably picking up some noise from the line,” Blair said, his voice falling easily into ‘Guide mode.’ “But it’s all background noise, so you can tune it out. Identify it, let it go. I want you to focus only on my voice. Tune out the noise from the phone, tune out the noises in the loft. Just my voice.”


Blair’s voice flowed like warm honey over Jim, teasing him, enfolding him.


“I’m imagining that I’m back there in bed with you,” Blair said. “It’s been a long, tough day, so we’ll just cuddle for a while, unwinding together, holding each other. I know how hard you’ve had it today, so I’ll hold you close, your head on my chest while I stroke your hair the way you like so much, over and over, just soothing you while you listen to my heartbeat. You can hear it right now, can’t you? Listen to my heartbeat, Jim.”


Jim could hear it over the phone, the rhythmic reassuring cadence of his Guide’s heart. It was a little faster than normal, but that didn’t worry Jim; he could hear Blair’s arousal in his voice. Then he heard something else – the rustle of cloth sliding over skin.


“What are you doing?” Jim said softly, shivering. He already knew.


“Taking off my boxers. This is getting me really horny.”


“Hey, you’re not the only one,” Jim protested. “If you can touch yourself, why can’t I?”


“Because right now you need me to touch you,” Blair said patiently. “Because you can hear me in a way I can’t hear you. Come on, Jim, I’m trying to do something special here. Just trust me, okay?”


“Okay,” Jim said grudgingly.


“Thanks.” Blair sighed. “Now we’ve got to start over because you broke the mood. Put your hands behind your head or hold on to the rail or something, okay? I want your hands out of the way so you won’t be tempted. And don’t worry about what I’m doing over here. You can listen all you like, but I want you to concentrate on what you’re feeling. And my voice. Will you do that?”


Jim sighed too. He folded his hands comfortably behind his head.


“Yeah,” he said. “Got it.”


“Good.” Blair’s voice dropped back into ‘Guide mode’. “We were cuddling, Jim, and I was stroking your hair. We’d both be tired, physically and mentally, and maybe we’ll doze just a little, all warm and cozy together. You’ll be able to feel the tension flowing out of you with my touch, my voice, the warmth of my skin against yours.”


Jim sighed again, this time with contentment as his whole body relaxed in response to that voice. God, what was it about Blair’s voice that turned every muscle in his body to jelly and his cock to titanium? Through the phone he heard the soft slide of skin on skin and he swallowed hard, imagining his Guide’s fingers barely teasing his own erection.


“Now you’ll be nice and relaxed, but not as much as I want you to be,” Blair continued softly. “So I’ll open the bottle of oil I have warming in a bowl of hot water beside the bed. I’ll put you on your back first just because you wouldn’t be expecting that. I’m not going to be satisfied until I’ve reduced you to quivering mush.”


Blair’s most recent massage was still fresh in Jim’s memory, and Jim had no doubt of Blair’s ability to make good on that claim.


“I’ll oil my hands and start with your face, massaging your forehead and your temples until all those little worry creases you get across your forehead and between your eyes are gone. Then I’ll work my way down across your cheeks, the bridge of your nose. Maybe I’ll scold you a little about grinding your teeth while I work all the tension out of your jaws. I’ll press a little kiss against your lips, just a taste, before I continue on down your shoulders.


“Can you feel it?” Blair said softly. “Turn hearing up another notch. Feel my voice, Jim, all over your body like warm oil, warm hands, touching you everywhere, moving over your skin. Can you feel it?”


Jim moaned softly. Blair’s voice was a living thing, a soothing caressing blanket of sound, enfolding him, caressing him. He floated in it like a womb, but its touch was far less innocent than that. His skin was tingling everywhere.


“I’ll work my way down your arms, relaxing one muscle at a time, all the way out to each fingertip, rubbing hard where the muscles are firm, more softly where the nerves run close to the surface. And when your arms and hands are absolutely limp, I’ll massage slowly back across your shoulders and down your chest. I love how hard your muscles are here, so smooth and strong. I’ll have to pause to play with your nipples a little, they’re so sensitive, and I love the way you whimper when I tease them – “


Jim moaned again. His nipples tightened; damn it, he could feel those all-knowing fingers.


“Remember the last time we played, when I tied you down so tightly and made you come just from playing with your nipples? You screamed so loud I thought the neighbors would hear you and call the police. Of course, the fact that I didn’t let you come for an hour may have had something to do with it. Someday soon I’m going to try some hot wax on those nipples. I bet you’ll love that. We’ll have to be very careful that you don’t zone on all that sensation.”


“Blair – “ Jim whispered. He tightened the clasp of his fingers. Blair’s voice drifted over his skin like breath, lighting up every nerve in his body.


“I won’t make you wait so long tonight,” Blair murmured. Jim could hear the friction of skin on skin a little more strongly now, a little faster. “I don’t think I could wait that long either. Mmmm, I think I’ll have to bend down and give each nipple a little kiss. Just a little one. And then you’ll feel my hands moving slowly down your belly, so slowly, counting each ridge of muscle with my fingertips. I’ll stop to pour some oil, so warm and slippery, so my hands would slide down your body so easily. Can you feel it, the warmth, the trails my fingertips make down your body?”


“Yessss – “ Jim arched upward against that invisible touch. Blair’s words flowed over him, leaving ripples of tingling sensation in their wake. He felt those fingers slide down over his belly, teasingly skirting his groin, pressing into the muscles of his hips, smoothing the skin of his thighs. The last bits of tension melted from his muscles as those beloved phantom hands rubbed down his legs to his feet, thumbs digging into his insteps, massaging each toe separately.


“And then I’ll turn you over – “ Blair continued.


“Should I – “


“No. No, don’t. Just relax, stay still, let my voice take you there. I’ll turn you over, slide a pillow under you so you’re not lying on your erection, and start back up your legs, slower this time because of all those beautiful hard muscles up the back of your calves and thighs that need relaxing. Alllllll the way back up, but I don’t touch your ass. I’ll come back for that later. Feel my voice moving up your back, relaxing all those muscles, my fingers digging in deep just where you need it, sometimes hard, sometimes just long sweeping strokes, all the way up to the backs of your shoulders. No tension there, you’re relaxed now, but I rub anyway, your shoulders, your neck, until your whole body is completely limp. Well, maybe just one exception. And now that you’re so relaxed all over, it’s time for me to start tensing you up again...


“I kiss the back of your neck, right where I love so much for you to kiss me, Jim. I lick your skin there, nibbling a little bit, and first your skin feels hot from the oil, from my hands and my mouth, and then it feels cool from my breath. I kiss you again, just a little lower, and again, kissing and licking my way down the back of your neck, between your shoulders. One vertebra at a time, your back is hot and then cool, wet and then dry, kissed and loved and then abandoned as I move on, fanning you with my hot breath, and when I talk to you you can feel the vibrations of my voice moving over your skin. Feel my voice moving over you like my breath, Jim, feel it touch you, kiss you, lick your skin. It’s all over you, everywhere I want to touch, to kiss. Feel the heat in my voice moving all over your body.”


Jim couldn’t have moved now if he wanted to. Blair’s voice flowed over his skin, twirled, spiraled, caressed and moved on, then back. It courted him, teased him, brought his body closer to the peak, closer, then ebbed and let him slide back again. The fire moved inward from his skin, into his blood, his nerves, his muscles, sinking into his bones.


Blair’s voice was shaking now, but that didn’t lessen the spell of that voice; rather it added Blair’s own heat to the mix. Like throwing gasoline on a bonfire.


“I work my way back down to your ass, Jim, inch by inch, kiss by kiss. I nip your left buttock hard enough to make you yelp, but not quite hard enough to leave a bruise. Just enough to make you think about the last time I had you in this position, when I kissed your ass with a leather strap instead of my mouth. It’s not about pain today, but the memory of pain is a little spice for the moment. But I’m moving on now. I’ve been all over your body, over every inch of your skin, and now I want inside, and when I touch your thighs you spread them wide for me.”


Jim groaned. He could feel the hard rapid thunder of Blair’s heart. How was Blair waiting? How was he waiting? He wondered briefly if somebody’s cock could simply burst from arousal.


“I bend down and kiss your other buttock and you tense, expecting me to bite again, but I don’t, just kiss you there very lightly. I let my tongue trail down from the base of your spine and I hold you open, and you’re shivering because even though my breath is hot, it feels cool there where you’re so hot and sweaty already. I taste your sweat there, hot and salty and musky, but you’re clean for me, always clean for me and I’m going to drive both of us mad with pleasure before I’m done. I’m – ooooooh, hold on a minute there, your Guide needs a break.”


“Blair?” Jim whispered. “Don’t stop, please don’t – “


“I know, baby, I know,” Blair panted. “I’m just too close, don’t want to end it just yet.”


I do,” Jim groaned. “Come on, please – “


“Shhhhh. Relax. Okay. There we go. Just a brief timeout. All right. At first I’m holding you open, but after a minute or two you reach back and do it yourself, offering yourself to me so I can concentrate on what I’m doing. I kiss your fingers to tell you I understand, and then I work my way down, top to bottom, little light cat licks all the way down to your balls and then back up again. A little harder this time, a little hotter, and this time I circle around that sweet little pucker just to tease you, making a spiral with my tongue, wide at first, then working my way inward, slowly, slowly... “


Blair’s voice wove tingling fingers around him, coaxed him, opened him, penetrated him. Jim wasn’t tense anymore. He was relaxed, receptive, open, welcoming the sweet exquisite violation of his innermost self. His Guide didn’t take him, no – this was better, because he let Jim surrender himself, let him have that ultimate joy of willing capitulation. His skin was still tingling, but now that tingling moved inside him in little teasing swirls like the touch of Blair’s tongue.


“I don’t tease you too long; both of us are so hot, so ready, and I can feel your body opening for me, closing, opening, closing, and I dart my tongue inside to tease you a little longer. You come right up off the bed – I love the way you do that, the hot little whimpering sound you make – so I fuck you with my tongue just a few times, just enough to make your whole skin break out in gooseflesh. Then I stop because I know neither of us can take much more of that and God, I want to be inside you so badly.


“I scramble for the lube, but I hold it in my hands for a minute before I open it. I don’t want cold lube shocking my precious love’s sensitive skin. I try to slide my finger into you slowly and gently, but you’re too impatient, you push back against my hand and take my finger in in one thrust.”


“Oh, Gooooood,” Jim whimpered. “Please... “


“You’re so hot inside, like an inferno,” Blair panted. “So hot, so tight. But you’re holding still now, because you know I know just how to touch you, just where you need it, and I’m touching you there now, rubbing gently with my fingertip. You’ve collapsed back down to the bed now, your muscles aren’t working enough to hold you up, and when I slide a second finger in, your body swallows it right up. Now I can reach in farther, rub your prostate better, and that’s what I do, making your muscles clench and relax around my fingers, clench and relax, I love the way you do that and the way you moan.”


Jim clenched his jaws and clasped his hands hard. His whole body was shaking now.


“One more finger, love, and you’re ready for me,” Blair said. Jim could hear the strokes becoming rapid now. “So hot, so open, you’re making little whimpering sounds as I ease my cock inside you so slowly, one tiny little push at a time, not to tease you but because now you’ve got me so hot that I’m afraid I’m going to go off like a loaded cannon. But you need more than gentle little strokes today, so I’m just going to have to hold out, gonna give you what you need. So I glide in, and oh, God you’re so hot around me, your muscles clutching at me. But I pull back, almost all the way out until just the very tip is still inside you, and then I push back in, all the way, one long, smooth thrust way deep inside you. And you’re biting the covers now, pushing your ass up in the air so I can go even deeper, and I pull out, all the way out and then back in, and now I’m slamming into you, no mercy whatsoever, just pounding my – oh God – pounding my cock hard and deep all the way and – and – oh God Jim I’m – Jiiiiiiiiiiiimmmmmmmm!”


Jim jammed the back of his wrist in his mouth to muffle a scream as his whole body convulsed, hips jerking as his groin exploded with pleasure, pumping out what felt like gallons of white-hot liquid. He dimly felt a pain in his wrist and realized he’d sunk his teeth into his skin – Well, that’s fair, usually when I’m this far gone I’m biting Blair instead – and he groaned richly as the sweet aftershocks of his orgasm echoed through his body, slowly tapering down into contented lassitude. He could hear his Guide’s harsh breathing, his rapidly thundering heart gradually slowing.


“Oh, wow, man, that was so hot,” Blair panted. “You okay over there, love? Man, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scream into the phone when you had your hearing turned up.”


It took Jim a moment to muster enough breath to reply.


“Yeah. Wow. You really blew my mind, Chief.”


“Yeah, well, you’re lucky I didn’t blow your ears out,” Blair said apologetically. “So – feeling any better?”


Jim took mental inventory and smiled. God, he was sleepy.


“Yeah. Yeah, I do feel better.”


“Then I’m going to let you go to sleep, okay? Just close your eyes and smell my scent and imagine me there holding you close, okay? Hold my pillow tight and pretend it’s me, and remember that wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, love, I’m right there with you.”


“’Kay. Night, Chief.”


“Night, Big Guy.”




“I just went over the crime scene again, and there it was,” Jim said triumphantly. “I don’t know how I missed it before. I just followed the scent out of the alley.”


Simon shook his head wonderingly, gazing at the partial bloody handprint, a little smudged but distinct enough, that had been carefully lifted from a car parked a hundred yards from the dumpster.


“Man, that scene was enough to shake anyone,” Simon said, grimacing. “And I don’t know how you could have followed any scent through all that blood and puke.”


“Yeah, well, this guy isn’t exactly timid with his cologne,” Jim said wryly, sipping his coffee to take the memory of that scent away. “But then again, neither was that FBI agent breathing down my neck yesterday.”


Simon raised his eyebrows.


“You don’t think – “


“I wish,” Jim said with a sigh. “Nah. Wrong cologne, wrong size hand. But it’s a start, at least.”


“It’s a hell of a good start,” Simon said firmly. “I’m glad you’re on this job, Jim. And you seem a lot more focused today. That’s good. Whatever you did, keep doing it.”


Jim grinned to himself. I don’t know if our budget could stand the phone bill.


“He will,” a familiar voice said from behind him.


Jim whirled, his eyebrows shooting up as he saw his Guide, thermal shirt and flannels, old jeans and all.


“Sandburg! What the hell are you doing back here?”


Blair shrugged sheepishly.


“I got my presentation switched to early this morning,” he said. “I told ‘em it was an emergency. Flew out right afterward.”


“Oh, man, Chief – “ Jim swallowed hard, wanting nothing in the world more than to grab his Guide and kiss him breathless. He clutched his coffee cup hard to avoid the temptation. “Man, you didn’t have to do that,” he added awkwardly.


“I know,” Blair said, smiling. “I wanted to.”


Simon rolled his eyes.


“Okay, enough with the tearful reunion,” he growled. “Some of us are trying to work here. Now get the hell back to your desk, get on the phone to the lab and start nagging. Then call Homicide and tell them what you’ve got, and then call the FBI.” When Jim groaned, Simon scowled fiercely. “Now! Phone, Ellison! Reach out and touch someone!”


He just shook his head and closed his office door as Blair abruptly choked on his breath mint and Jim’s coffee came out his nose.


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