“It’s okay, Simon,” Blair said hastily. “I’m not going to do the jealousy thing here or anything. Just the opposite. I just wanted to know, I mean, do you still feel the same way about Jim? Do you still think he’s attractive?” When Simon glanced up, jaw dropping, Blair warned, “Be careful, Simon, and remember you’re answering that question in front of my lover, the human lie detector.”


Simon grimaced.


“Then I plead the Fifth,” he said. “Hell, much more of this and I’ll be pleading for a fifth. Of Scotch.”


Blair glanced at Jim. Jim grinned and nodded.


“Um, this is kind of embarrassing,” Blair began, feeling his cheeks heat. “But – “


“Embarrassing for you?” Simon demanded.


Blair chuckled weakly.


“What I was going to ask,” he said, “was – uh – how about me?”


Simon’s jaw dropped again.


“How about you what?” he said lamely.


“I mean – “ Blair’s face was positively blazing now. “I mean if I wasn’t with Jim, and you knew I liked guys, and I, you know, showed signs of interest, would you have, like, been interested too?”


“Oh, Sandburg, we are not even going there,” Simon said firmly. “I happen to know that Jim keeps at least two sidearms around this loft, and there’s a whole lot of pointy objects in the kitchen, so don’t even ask me things like that!”


“We should have gotten him drunker,” Jim said sourly.


“Can’t make decisions like that while intoxicated, Big Guy,” Blair reminded him. “Go on, tell Simon he doesn’t need his kevlar.”


“Go ahead, Simon,” Jim encouraged. He held up both hands to show he was unarmed. “I promise, no violent reprisals.”


“What are you two up to?” Simon said suspiciously. “Yeah, sure, Sandburg’s a looker and he’s got a really great ass and – ah, shit. Forget I just said that, okay? You’re taping this, aren’t you? This is some kind of big joke, and you’re going to play this all over the PA at the station, right?”


“No, Simon,” Jim said, very softly. “No joke. We just wanted to make sure you’d like your birthday present.”


“Oh boy,” Simon said warily. “I know I’m going to regret asking this, but what birthday present are you talking about?”


“I hope you’re not going to regret it,” Blair chuckled. “And it’s us. We’re your birthday present.”


“Us.” Simon swallowed heavily. “’Us’ as in – uh – “


“Yeah,” Jim said quietly. “As in ‘uh’.” He glanced at Blair almost pleadingly. “Now?”


Blair smiled and nodded. This was so hard for Jim; he tended to get all tangled up in his emotions.


“Yeah, go on, Big Guy,” he said. “Take your time. I laid everything out for you in the playroom.” Jim sighed relievedly and dashed almost headlong into the bathroom.


“Uh, you’re kidding, right?” Simon said in a surprisingly small voice, and Blair turned back to face him.


“No, we’re not kidding,” he said. “Listen, Simon, you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to, okay? We’re just offering ourselves to our closest and dearest friend, and offering him a chance to get closer. Do you think you can get into that?”


Simon swallowed hard. Blair could see he was shaking.


“Um – Jesus,” Simon said, shaking his head. “This is a hell of a load to drop on someone, you know? And where the hell’s Ellison gone, anyway?”


“He’s gone to clean up and change,” Blair said. “These kind of confrontations are real uncomfortable for him, and you and I need some time to talk. See, I know what you and Jim talked about when you discussed dating.”


Simon glanced away uncomfortably.




“And I know Jim told you he needs someone to play hard with him,” Blair said quietly. “I know you couldn’t fulfill those needs for him, and I’m just telling you that you don’t have to worry about it. I can take care of that part of Jim. He won’t need that from you, okay? So don’t panic when he comes out here and you see him with a collar, okay?”


Simon looked like he was ready to panic now.


“Collar? You mean he’s – you’re going to – “


“Kind of,” Blair said, smiling reassuringly. “Right now Jim’s real nervous, and he feels safe when I’m in charge, so I told him we could do it this way. There’s other reasons, too. You need to accept that this is part of Jim too. You don’t have to be a top for him, but he needs to know you’re okay with it.” He gazed at Simon levelly. “Can you be okay with it?”


Simon took a deep breath.


“I don’t know,” he admitted. “I mean, how – uh – hard are we talking here?”


“Jim likes some pain with his pleasure,” Blair said plainly. “He likes to be restrained and sometimes he needs punishment. Mostly what he needs is me showing him that I’m in charge, taking the weight off him for a while. We don’t play that often, just once in a while. But he needs that tonight to cope with this. He’s really scared because he cares so much about you. He doesn’t want to ruin your friendship, but he wants more. So do I. I’m scared too, but somebody’s got to be brave here.”


Blair took a deep breath to calm himself.


“Like I said, neither of us wants to push you into something you don’t want,” he said. “So how about if Jim and I kind of get things started, okay, and you decide what happens from there. I mean, you can call a halt to the whole thing and we can turn on the TV, or you can watch us and do your own thing, if you know what I mean, or you can join in. Whatever you decide is okay. Can you accept that much? Please?”


Simon was silent for a long time, so long that Blair began to worry. At last Simon nodded, very slowly.


“Okay,” he said quietly. “That much I can take. Wait and see, I mean.” He shook his head ruefully. “If I don’t bust out my inseam, that is.”


Blair sighed with relief.


“Cool,” he said cheerfully, pulling out the clothes he’d stashed under the couch. “Listen, do you mind if I change clothes out here real quick? The look’s important to Jim, and we’ve got a couple things to talk about.”


“Mind if – “ Simon swallowed. “No, uh, go right ahead.”


“Thanks.” Blair hurriedly pulled off his jeans and briefs and stepped into his leather pants, trying not to grin as Simon gazed intently into his teacup. “It’s okay, Simon. You can look. We offered, after all, and you accepted. Unless you want to back out already.”


Simon swallowed again, but Blair could see that judging from the very impressive tenting effect in Simon’s pants, not all of him was embarrassed. Simon looked up. Then his jaw dropped.


“What the hell is that?”


“What?” Then Blair grinned. “Oh. The tattoo, you mean?”


Simon nodded dumbly.


“I actually got that the night before the Shelburn stakeout,” Blair chuckled. “I was stinking drunk. That tattoo is what got Jim and me together, kind of. We’d both been interested in each other for a long time, but it wasn’t until Jim found out about the tattoo that we had the nerve to go for it.” He met Simon’s eyes. “How’s your nerve so far, Simon?”


“I’m not backing out,” Simon said, very softly.


“I’m glad.” Blair zipped the leather pants and pulled on his black mesh tank top, quickly shoving his feet into the leather boots. He pulled his hair back tightly before pulling on his thin leather gloves, then grinned at Simon. “Well? What do you think?”


“Jesus.” Simon’s voice was utterly stunned. “I don’t believe it.”


“You will,” Blair promised. He sat back down. “I’ll need a minute to meditate, get into the mindset. But before that, a couple things, okay?”


He gazed at Simon seriously.


“Once we start,” Blair said quietly, “I’m James’ – not Jim, Simon, James’ – Master. Me and nobody else. He answers to me, and I’m responsible for his pleasure, his discipline, his safety. That’s why I’m laying down the rules right now.


“I’m pretty much okay with any kind of lovemaking,” Blair continued. “And so is James, so feel free to jump right in, unless James uses his safeword or I say otherwise. But tonight, I’m sorry, Simon, you don’t fuck him or me – not with your cock, at least; we’ve got some toys you can use if you want, and fingers and mouths are fine too. Part of the Sentinel thing is that Jim sometimes gets very territorial, and I don’t want to push his boundaries when he’s so stressed. That’s not a permanent limit, just for now.”


“For now,” Simon repeated slowly. “You mean this isn’t a one-time thing?”


“That’s up to you,” Blair said gently. “You could never be a one-time thing for us, Simon. You mean a lot more to us than that. As far as we’re concerned, our hearts and our bed are open to you anytime you want to be there.”


For a moment Simon’s eyes looked suspiciously bright. Then he sipped his tea and pulled himself together.


“Okay. Is that it?”


“No.” Blair cleared his throat. “I don’t see James needing punishment tonight, but if he does, he’ll give me a reason. If that’s the case, I punish him and you don’t make a fuss about it. I would never, ever hurt James or push him over limits that we’ve worked out together. He trusts me, and you’ll have to trust me too.


“You don’t gag James or put anything over his nose or mouth. If he’s sucking you, you can push into his mouth but you will not hold or pull on his head. He’s got a phobia about asphyxiation.


“Apart from those rules, we use a traffic light safeword system. Green light means go. Yellow light means we’re heading into a danger zone; we pause while I find out what’s wrong, then slow down or take a different direction. Red light means everything stops immediately, and if James is restrained, whichever of us can do it first cuts him loose. Then the scene is over, period, and James is back to Jim. If you notice James zoning before I do, stop me then and there so I can take care of it.


“I need you to be okay with those rules,” Blair said, holding Simon’s gaze. “Because every one of those rules is for James – his safety, his needs. And those are all way, way more important during a scene than anything you or I like or want or need or are comfortable with. Jim is such a big macho guy that maybe you have no idea how fragile he really is inside. If you break one of the rules and endanger Jim’s physical or emotional well-being, I will fucking kill you.”


He’d expected certain reactions from Simon – maybe anger, outrage, reluctance. He hadn’t expected the slow, quiet nod, or the faint sadness in Simon’s eyes.


“Jim’s told me some of the things that have happened to him,” the Captain said quietly. “I understand. Believe me, I do. It’s one of the reasons I agreed with Jim that we’d better not try to take it beyond friendship. Because his fears, his needs – I knew I had no idea how to handle it.” He smiled slightly. “I’m glad he found somebody who did. Don’t worry, Sandburg. Where Jim – sorry, James – is concerned, I’ll follow your lead.”


Blair smiled, allowing himself a sigh of relief.


“Blair,” he said.


“Hmm?” Simon glanced up again.


“Blair,” Blair corrected gently. “All things considered, don’t you think first names are in order? As in, leave the office at the office?”


Simon grinned abashedly.


“Okay,” he said. “Blair.”


“Thanks, Simon,” Blair said. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “Now give me a minute here.”


He went through his meditative ritual, letting the rest of the world drop away, closing off parts of himself and opening others. He didn’t remake himself or put on a persona to become James’ Master; he simply let a few seldom-used facets of Blair Sandburg out to play for a little while.


When he opened his eyes he was calm, centered. In control.


“Jesus Christ,” Simon said softly. “You have the most incredible eyes.”


Blair Sandburg might have blushed at the compliment. James’ Master accepted it as his due.


“Thanks. Oh, and Simon?”


“Hmm?” Simon was still staring.


“Either of us would probably be happy to fuck you if you want,” Blair said calmly. “But if you want Jim to fuck you, be warned. He can get a little primal at times.” He turned his back to Simon and swept his tail of hair aside, displaying the big bruised bite mark between his neck and his shoulder. “So if you want to tempt the fates, be prepared to wear a turtleneck on Monday.”


“Jesus Christ,” Simon said again, but it didn’t appear to be a sound of either fear or disgust.


Blair glanced down at Simon’s lap. The tent had gotten bigger. He grinned. This was going to be too much fun.


Slowly he walked to the couch, stopping right in Simon’s face. Well, part of him was right in Simon’s face. Simon stared at the lacings of Blair’s leather trousers as if the answer to the riddle of life was written there. Blair squatted abruptly, gazing into Simon’s very flustered eyes.


“It’s okay, Simon,” he purred in his ‘Guide voice’, wondering whether it would have the same effect on the Captain as it did on Jim. “There’s nothing to be afraid of, nothing to worry about. We’re your friends. You can trust us. You’ve trusted us with your life and with your son’s life. We care about you so much. You can trust us.”


My God, it was working! He could see the tension seeping out of Simon’s taut muscles, see the captain slowly relaxing. Blair decided to up the ante. He rested both leather-gloved hands lightly on Simon’s knees and stroked slowly, lightly up the tops of his thighs. Simon froze but permitted the touch.


“It’s okay, Simon,” Blair soothed. “Jim’s the one who bites. I don’t.” Then he grinned wickedly. “Unless you ask me to.”


Simon drew in a rather unsteady breath. The tent was positively monumental now. Barnum & Bailey would have been interested in that one.


Blair picked up one of Simon’s hands, still moving slowly. He guided the hand to his face, ran Simon’s fingertips down over his cheekbones to his lips. He flicked out his tongue, cat-licking the end of Simon’s fingers. The bigger man groaned and what looked like a minor earthquake shook the tent. Blair trailed the tip of his tongue down the underside of Simon’s finger and slowly traced the lines in his palm. He could only hope the tent was at full stand now; otherwise he’d be forced to call the Guinness Book of World Records and consider additional medical insurance for the future.


“I think you’re getting in the mood now,” Blair whispered. “What do you think?”


Simon took a deep shuddering breath.


“I think Ji- -- James had better get the hell back in here,” he said. “Or he’s going to come back to a sight that might set off that territorial thing you were talking about.”


Blair listened for a moment.


“He’s out of the bathroom, so he won’t be long now,” he said. “Don’t be so nervous. Neither of us are going to rape you, or do anything to make you puke, or send you home with a bad case of blue balls, okay? Just relax. Let me help.”


Before Simon could say anything, Blair slid his hands down Simon’s legs to his stockinged feet, pulling off Simon’s socks. He lifted Simon’s left foot into his lap and began slowly massaging it.


“Ohmigod,” Simon groaned, letting his head fall back. Blair grinned to himself. Jim swore he had magic in his hands. He didn’t know about that, but anybody who lived with Naomi Sandburg learned every kind of massage imaginable, and that particular skill had come in very, very useful more than once in Blair’s wide and varied dating life.


“Like that, huh?” Blair said softly.


“If I liked it any more I’d need a safeword myself,” Simon rumbled, closing his eyes.


Blair heard a soft, almost unnoticeable sound and smiled. His lover was the master of the sneak attack. Out of the corner of his eye he could see Jim kneeling a short distance away, his collar in his hands. Blair ignored him, continuing his massage of Simon’s feet for a few minutes longer. Then he released the foot and stood.


“Collar, James,” he said.


Jim presented his collar, silently raising his chin to allow Blair to fasten it around his neck. Blair heard Simon’s gasp, and he fought down a smile as he fastened the collar securely, checking to make sure it wasn’t too tight. Jim was indeed a sight to gasp over.


Ordinarily Blair didn’t have Jim wear anything apart from his cock and ball strap and maybe a harness to hold a plug inside him. Today Blair had decided to forego the plug harness, but he’d laid out Jim’s full body harness and Jim’s wrist and ankle cuffs. He’d also instructed Jim to oil his skin, and his beautiful buff body gleamed enticingly.


Blair held out his gloved hands and Jim kissed them warmly, backs, palms, fingertips. Jim had suggested this part of their ritual, and Blair had been – and still was – touched by the love in this particular act of worship. When Jim was done, Blair cupped his fingers under Jim’s chin, pressing gently upward.


“Up, James,” he said. “Let Simon have a look at you.”


Jim flushed but stood silently, the way Blair liked him to – head up, back straight, hands at his sides, legs well apart. He wasn’t tense, however, and Blair was glad to see it. This was a nervous time for Jim, but he knew Blair would take care of him, keep him safe.


Blair turned to gauge Simon’s reaction, afraid their friend would simply head straight for the door, bare feet notwithstanding. To his relief, although Simon seemed frozen in shock, his eyes were hot and interested and the tent hadn’t shrunk one bit. In fact, that call to Guinness might not be out of order.


“Turn, James,” Blair said, and Jim turned obligingly, showing Blair and Simon the gorgeous sculptured muscles of his back and legs, not to mention that unbelievable perfect ass. “Isn’t he beautiful, Simon? Absolutely perfect.”


Simon took a deep, shaky breath.


“Beautiful,” he whispered.


“Turn, James,” Blair said, and Jim turned back to face them. Blair gestured to indicate a place on the carpet right in front of Simon. “Kneel.”


Jim knelt, keeping his eyes on Blair. That was the rule, so Blair would never miss the first sign of a zoneout. Blair stroked his cheek softly with the backs of his gloved fingers; Jim almost purred.


“I know this is new for you, James,” Blair said softly. “Are you all right?”


“Yes, Master,” Jim said just as softly.


“What are your safewords?”


“Yellow and red, Master.”


Blair gently clasped the back of Jim’s neck, smiling as Jim relaxed instinctively into his touch.


“Do you want Simon, James? Do you want him with us?”


Jim’s eyes stayed steadily on Blair’s.


“Yes, Master.” Then Jim frowned slightly. “Master, a question?”


“Go ahead, James,” Blair encouraged.


Jim’s eyes flickered to Simon, then back.


“Master, how should I address...“ His voice trailed off.


Blair frowned. He hadn’t thought of that, but he should have. All right, fast. Simon? No. Always something separate from our everyday lives. Sir? Captain? No, same problem. Master? Out of the question. Okay. Got it.


“You will address Simon as ‘Mr. Banks’, James,” Blair said. “Will that suffice, Simon?” He glanced at Simon firmly. Don’t question me.


To his credit, Simon didn’t even hesitate.


“Yes, that’s fine, Blair.”


“Thank you, Master,” Jim said quietly. “Thank you, Mr. Banks.”


“Simon, maybe you’d like to give James a kiss?” Blair suggested, raising one eyebrow challengingly.


Simon scowled at Blair; then with great dignity he leaned forward, cupped his hand around the back of Jim’s head and kissed him. At some length. It was by no means a platonic kiss. Jim moaned into Simon’s mouth and his bound cock jumped violently. Abruptly Simon released Jim’s mouth and laid a series of hot, wet kisses down the side of Jim’s neck, then back up, then – Oh, man has he got Jim pegged! – straight for the earlobe. Jim’s hands clenched into fists in his fight to stay still and his moan could have registered on the Richter Scale.


“Simon,” Blair chided. “Take it easy. We’re just getting started.”


Simon sat back, breathing hard. Blair didn’t have to be a Sentinel to read all the signs of arousal – dilated eyes, light sweat, rapid breathing, by God flared nostrils!


“James, since Simon already has his shoes and socks off, and since you’re down there,” Blair said, grinning to himself, “I want you to pick up his feet and suck on his toes for a while.” Oh, Sandburg, you are SO evil, man.


Jim picked up Simon’s left foot and Blair bit his lip. Shit, I didn’t even think, what if Simon has smelly feet and his sense of smell freaks, damn it –


But apparently that wasn’t the case because Jim dove into Simon’s feet like he might pounce on a Wonderburger after a solid week of tofu and bean sprouts, and one glance at the meticulously trimmed nails on Simon’s free foot reassured Blair that this was a man who definitely took good care of his feet, so he relaxed and enjoyed watching Simon moan and shudder under the ministrations of that hot mouth.


So much for no common ground. Jim, Simon, what I believe we have here is a three-way intersection of monumental proportions. Gentlemen, prepare for ignition.


Blair let Jim enjoy the tongue-lashing he was administering for several minutes before he grabbed Jim’s hair – it was just long enough now to provide a good grip – and pulled him back firmly.


“Enough, James,” he said quietly, fighting down a giggle at Simon’s expression of mingled relief and outrage, although thank God Simon knew better than to contradict him. “I told Simon we wouldn’t push him. Go stand under the railing and raise your hands over your head.”


Jim gave Blair a look of pure heat and complied without a word. In their many discussions about these scenes, Blair had told Jim that he preferred that Jim not respond verbally to every order; he preferred ‘Yes, Master’ to be a thought-out answer, not a rote response. Jim had agreed; he liked the additional submissiveness of keeping silent.


Blair hurried upstairs and draped the length of sturdy chain over the rail to hang down to Jim’s hands.


“Simon, would you help me, please?”


Simon stood and walked over to Jim’s side.


“What do you need?” he said hesitantly.


“Fasten the clips at the end of the chains to the D-rings on the backs of Jim’s cuffs,” Blair told him. “Then take the extra clip – it’s on the end of one of the chains – and fasten the two D-rings together, if you would.”


Simon shivered but fastened the clips, and Blair adjusted the length of the chain to give Jim the right amount of slack. He walked back downstairs and ducked into the playroom to fetch the spreader bar Jim had cleverly made from a few cheap pieces from the hardware store. It was amazing, Blair reflected, how much one could save on kinky sex equipment when one had a handyman in the house.