Author's disclaimer: The Sentinel characters belong to Pet Fly and Paramount. Written for pleasure, not profit. For adult readers only, please. Contains male/male sexual situations and some really foul language.

 Author's notes: Well, TI3 was supposed to be the end of this series. It had an epilogue and everything. But the Blairmuse can apparently only be stopped with duct tape and handcuffs and since I don't do b&d he continues to yap unhindered.

I love my beta readers -- Kat, Kady Mae and Melissa. They let me get away with scandalous sentence structure and they make me think of things I never would on my own. Francesca, thanks for letting me use the phrase. ;)

Territorial Imperative, Part Four [NC-17]

by Bone

Man, I am coming unglued. You'd think a twentysomething, relatively experienced, pseudo-sophisticated scientist could handle himself better. Nope. At the first sign of a potential kink in the works, I'm hyperventilating. We've got a good fifteen feet between us. Jim's on the couch, methodically shredding the fringe on a pillow. I'm sure he doesn't know he's doing it. I've got the kitchen table as a nice big shield.

Despite the whole Mutt-n-Jeff vibe, Jim and I are actually pretty equal when it comes to fights. I have persistence on my side; he has years of carefully cultivated deflection on his. When it's his turn, he gets all in my face and grabs me somewhere, so I go wide-eyed beta-dog and act like he's being unreasonable. Nine times out of ten it works. Hey, I learned passion-aggression at the knee of a flower power master. Wait, that was supposed to be passive-aggression. Talk about your Freudian slips.

So that's what I'm used to. Me mad and him deflecting or him mad and me reasoning. This is a whole new thing. This time, neither one of us is talking. Somebody want to mark the day and time? I know it'll get better as soon as we start talking. We are in this together, right? We're not even mad, at least I'm not. It's not his fault. It could just as easily have been me. As soon as I can breathe without a paper bag, I'll tell him that. Maybe it'll start the ball rolling. We're still on the surface and we both need to just take a couple of deep breaths and dive.

He looks cool as a cucumber, but looking at him more closely, I think that surface calm is deceptive. He looks more shell-shocked than anything else. Which makes me wonder if there's not more going on than the thing that I know is going on, which frankly is thing enough for one day.

Simon knows.

About us, I mean.

That there is an us, for one thing. And that there's more to it than just slap and tickle. I guess he got all the news in one big flash. Biological reaction, territorial imperative, two guys falling way off the straight and narrow, all of it.

I think it will be all right. I mean, Simon's all right with it. Maybe in about ten years, we'll look back on this and think it's kind of funny, but to tell you the truth, that's not how it feels right now. Right now it feels like that feeling you get when you're almost asleep and some renegade body part decides to jerk you wide awake again. I read somewhere that that's the closest we get to dying, and that muscle thing is the body's way of going WAKE UP GODDAMNIT. I don't know if it's really true. I read a lot of crap.

But that's the feeling I've got, knowing that Simon knows. Feels like a big old muscle spasm jabbing me out of a nice wet dream. It's one thing to be a ride-along, an observer. Simon's been relatively cool about that all along. But when a captain finds out his best detective's swapping happies with his partner, well, let's just say I thought fur might fly.

This whole thing started with a phone call from Jim. Sounding entirely like his old self, not his new and improved post-Blair-fuck self. Calling from the truck, terse and testy, saying I needed to meet him at the station. Pronto. None of my eight questions got answered and pretty soon I'm talking to dead air. Getting hung up on really bugs me. So I went, grumbling the whole time about command performances and tight-lipped cops, only to have the whole freaking rug of my life yanked out from underneath me.

We're out.

To the one person who has the power to shut us down. He says he won't. He says he understands that whatever else we have going on, Jim needs me to perform at maximum level. He's been sitting on The Big Secret for more than two years. Now he'll just have to sit on another one.

It wasn't that bad, the actual talking to Simon about it. I had to tell him, yeah, that's what's going on, has been, will be, get used to it, okay? No, I didn't use that tone, what, do you think I'm crazy? I know where my bread is buttered. I guess he just wanted some confirmation. Which I gave him. I'm actually sort of proud of myself. Considering that I couldn't breathe, had a pulse heading for beyond aerobic and the beginnings of a killer headache, I thought I comported myself really well. No, I waited until I got home to go weak at the knees.

Simon shouted and waved his arms a lot. I'm used to that. He got quiet for awhile and did the sincere thing, and that freaked me some. And then he straightened up, lit a cigar and said, "Get the hell out of here."

And that was that.

So the end of that story happened in Simon's office. I'm finally getting the beginning of it in a potentially less hostile environment. Maybe. Yeah, I'm getting the story, even though it's like pulling fillings not just teeth, but I'm reserving judgement on the hostile-environment thing. Jury's still out on that one. Two aspirin and a beer are helping the headache. I'm making him drink iced tea. Alcohol he does not need.

Here's what I've got so far:

A couple of days ago, Jim and Simon went to New York for a Big Cities Coalition joint meeting. Top cops from all the major metro areas flapping gums about their best practices and worst neighborhoods. A real yawner, it turns out, and what with flying out one day and back the next, the poor guys were pretty worn out by the time they headed home.

It took a couple of hems and haws and a false start or two, but he's finally fessed up that he sacked out on the plane, had a little dream, got an industrial strength erection and woke Simon up calling my name. You know Simon'd have to notice. The erection, that is. The name-calling could probably have been excused, but there's just no hiding it when Jim's saluting the flag. I mean, come on, they were flying coach. They cram so many people in those birds you practically have to say 'excuse me' to blink. And Jim's not exactly what you'd call small. So a boner in the cattle car? He might as well have put up a billboard. I guess he was too groggy to think up anything more reasonable than the truth, so there you have it. The whole story came out at 30,000 feet under the influence of half a can of soda and a package of peanuts.

Not a bad place to have it happen, when you think about it. Simon's gun was checked, for example.

It could have been worse.

He's finally tossed the paper bag. That's probably a good sign. But he's still way too quiet about this. I figured he'd be all over me, asking a million questions, but he's just sitting with his chin in his hands, elbows on the table, looking at me. Like he's a microscope and I'm a weird amoeba thing smeared on a slide. I'm used to him taking the lead in these, what are they? Discussions? Conversations? Arguments? They usually start out one thing and end up something else. Sometimes one of us leaves in a huff, sometimes we get naked and lose our minds. Those reactions I'm used to. But neither of us is mad this time, and I don't know about him, but my libido seems to have taken a rain check because even though he's wearing that green shirt that I love, I don't seem to want to take it off him.

I guess it's been a pretty big day. I knew it was only a matter of time before Simon figured it out. He's a cop, for God's sake. Observation is something he's trained to do. As humiliating as it seemed at the time, I'm grateful it wasn't anything worse. Given some of the chances we took in the early days, at the station, in the garage, in the truck in the garage, we're lucky we didn't end up on Hard Copy. At least this way, I could tell him about it, rather than have him find out first-hand, in the act, which was a real possibility a time or two, I'm embarrassed to say.

I'm going to try a Sandburg here and catalog what I know. The only thing that's different is that another person knows our relationship has changed. That's all. It shouldn't be that big a deal, right? Simon's more than just our boss. He's a good friend. If he says he'll keep his mouth shut, he'll do it. If he doesn't, they'll separate us. He's said it himself on more than one occasion: "Don't fraternize."

Fraternize. Hell, at this point, I'd have to have Sandburg surgically removed.

I just hadn't thought about how it looked from the outside. Hadn't really seen it as two guys getting it on. I mean, yes, I had. He's got a dick, so have I. That's one dick more than usually shares my bed. But I've been excusing it as Blair's dick and therefore somehow different, somehow maybe not quite so outside acceptable norms.

But the truth is I'm in love with a guy. Not just a guy, my partner. And it's taken a third party to make me start examining what that means. Not just for today, or tomorrow, but for way down the road. I think we've been coasting on being together and forgetting there's a big bad world out there. And we'd better figure out what we're going to do about it.

Because all I can think about, over and over, is what if it had been my dad?

Or Stephen?

Am I ready for that?

Jim's taking a deep breath. And another one. Cool, I didn't even have to prompt him. He calming himself. That's great. Less chance for accidental bruises and hurt feelings that way. Those would be mine, in case you're wondering. He never means it, sometimes it just happens. Sometimes I want the bruises; they're a nice souvenir from being fucked right off the bed. I hardly ever want the hurt feelings, but they're part of the territory sometimes. If it means we talk deep, I'm willing to risk a few zingers along the way.

"Blair?"

Fasten your seatbelts, ladies and gentlemen. Here we go.

"Yeah."

"How long before we started to ... you know ... did you want to ... you know."

He's disgusted with himself, at his inability to articulate. He's staring down at his thumbnail, worrying it, picking at it. He's adopted that gesture. It's one of mine. Seeing the passing off of an unconscious habit eases the tension just enough so that I can actually open my mouth and speak, which, believe it or not, has been a bit of a problem before now.

"Well, let's see. Not at the hospital, I was too nervous. I guess it was when you came to my office that first day. Remember? Jungle drums, you threw me up against the wall, I talked you down. Wow, that sure set a pattern, didn't it?"

He makes eye contact at that. Good, good.

"That quick?" he asks.

"Yup. Didn't take much, man. I mean, look at you."

"So for two years, you wanted to do ... that ... and never said anything."

"Jim, I'm not sure if you're aware just how straight you come across. I wasn't about to screw up the most important thing in my life just because my dick got an itch."

"But you always dated women. Lots of them." He's puzzled. I don't know where he's going with this, but what the hell.

Yes, I dated women. Lots of them. Not any more, though. No more wham-bam-thank-you-ma'ams. Not since I started getting regular infusions of Jim, mainlining him at least once a day, twice on Sundays. The female form still holds its appeal -- I've got a pulse, don't I? All those soft round parts, those smells. God knew what he was doing, that's for sure. But these days, they just don't have quite as much appeal as the neatnik croptop over there on the couch.

But I think I'm gonna push him a little, see what road he's driving down.

"I love women. Always did." I'm going to make him ask. We're going below the surface and he's going to have to swim for himself, I can't do all the work here.

He drops his eyes again.

"But before me, had you ever ... " I wait and wait, but that's all he's going to give me. This is like torture for him. Sitting still, talking out loud about sex stuff that's not sexy, not when you're not horny and at least partially naked.

So I throw him a bone.

"No."

He looks up at that. I stand up and go sit on the arm of the couch, at the other end so I can face him. No more barriers. Now it's just me and him.

"I'm not going to lie to you, Jim. I've looked at guys in the past and thought they were attractive. Attraction on a purely physical level. I think Brad Pitt's beautiful. And that Alstott guy who plays for Tampa Bay? Stud-and-a-half. But I never acted on it until you."

"And if you hadn't met me?" That one's real quiet. Maybe we're starting to get somewhere.

"I don't know, big guy."

That's not what he wants to hear, but I'm not going to blow sunshine up his ass. I *don't* know. I don't have any frame of reference for that question. I can't imagine not being here, not having found him. It doesn't bear thinking about. It's a little hard to picture fucking any other guy, but growing up with Naomi, you learn never to dismiss any possibility out of hand. You never know when you'll go to sleep in a hostel and wake up in the back of somebody's peach truck.

"What's going on, Jim? Is it because of Simon?" Has to be, nothing else is different.

"I guess."

Oh yeah, the man's a geyser of information today. Maybe it's time to rattle his chains a little.

"How about you?" I ask him.

"What about me?" Oh, there goes the jaw. He doesn't like it when the tables are turned.

Tough shit.

"I know the physical stuff was new to you, but had you ever looked at another man and thought, 'Hmm, I wouldn't mind a look in those boxer shorts'?"

What a question. We both speak English, but he puts words together in ways I never thought you could.

"Jim?"

All right, he's going to push it. I close my eyes and think back. The department, Peru, the army, college, high school. I've spent probably ninety percent of my life in the company of men. Teammates, roommates, partners, and of all those men, the only one I've ever gotten hard for is Blair.

"No. Not that I'm aware of."

He narrows his eyes at that. "What do you mean, that you're aware of? You think you might have suppressed something?"

Jesus, I hope not. That suppressed memory shit scares me. Could that be it? Is there some dark secret I've got stuffed in a corner somewhere? Some forgotten traumatic blowjob in an alley somewhere? An adolescent handjob in the school gym shower? I hate it when I feel like I can't trust my brain. He's coming closer now, on his knees beside me on the couch, patting me on the leg, doing his anti-zoneout routine on me. I must have scared him. I shake my head to clear it.

"How should I know?" I sound irritated, I can hear it in my voice, and see it in the way he pulls back.

"Sorry, man, dumb question. If it weren't suppressed, you'd remember it, right?" He's laughing a little and his hand is still rubbing up and down on my leg. Nothing calms me down or works me up like Blair putting his hand on me. He must have some special thing in his hand.

Wait a minute.

"You know that biological thing you think probably caused this?" I ask him.

He nods. "I'm not sure cause is exactly the right word, I think it just is, but yeah, I know what you mean," he says.

"Yeah, okay, whatever. I wonder if there's something special about you."

"Well, I'd like to think so."

He's laughing at me. I'm exercising my brain-power here and he's laughing at me. Great.

"Just hear me out, will you? And wipe that smirk off your face."

He pulls his hand away, but I slap mine over it, holding it on my knee. "I'm sorry. I thought I was all right with all this, but I guess I'm not."

"This is good, Jim. No, really, it is," he says. He won't let me look away now. He's concentrating so hard he's not even blinking. We're deep now. It's getting so I can't breathe. I'm holding onto his hand and that's about all I can still feel.

"We are doing some life altering shit here, man. I've been sort of waiting for the basket to tip over. I mean, you just jumped into it with both feet, and even you've got to admit it's a little out of character." He's turned his hand up in mine and he's got his fingers laced through mine. So I'm not so much holding him down anymore as just holding onto him.

That's a feeling I'm used to.

"You saying I'm a basket case?"

Thank God. We've hit bottom and we're pushing off for the surface again. The water's not looking quite as murky as it did a few minutes ago. At least he's talking. The strong silent thing is great for movies and romance novels, but it's pure living fucking hell on a relationship.

He's holding up our hands in front of his face. His fingers about swamp mine. I've got small square hands, he's got these long-fingered, just elegant hands. But he's looking at my dumb little hand like it's beautiful. Oh, shit. He's got my index finger in his hand and he's putting it in his mouth. These days, it feels like anytime we get within a few feet of each other, BOOM, we have lift-off.

"Jim."

"Hmmmm?" That's what he said, murmured it right around my finger in his mouth.

"Do you think it's just us?"

He pokes my finger inside his cheek and snaps his lips around it, making that cool popping sound when it bounces out. He grins at me. "I'm sorry, did you say something?"

He's waking up. The surface calm is gone, and so's the shell-shocked look. Now he's starting to liven up a little. The little lines around his eyes are turning up. He smiles without even using his mouth sometimes and you have to know him really well to get it. I get it.

"You just raised some really interesting questions. No, no, I'm not getting out the laptop. I just wonder if maybe you're onto something here."

"You've lost me, Chief." He's got a hand under my hair now, stroking really lightly across the back of my neck. He knows that makes me crazy. Whatever problems he's having dealing with all this in his head, his body is as sure as ever about what it wants. And that would be me, thank you very much.

"Well, I wonder if your senses picked up on my arousal around you, right from the start. Maybe that's how the whole thing starts. Maybe Sentinels and Guides find each other through an intense physical bond. You know, like cats find each other in heat."

Oops, he doesn't like that analogy. He's sensitive about animal metaphors. I guess if you dream regularly that you're inhabited by a panther spirit I can see why that would be a problem.

"So you're saying there's a possibility that this is all just an animal attraction, that I respond to you because you want me? Chief, that's cold." He's leaning over me now, and I can see his nostrils flare. He's sniffing me. Which of course gives me an instant erection. I completely get off on being sniffed. It's a kink, I know.

"Look at us, Jim. When you were over here and I was over there, we had a completely normal conversation. As soon as we get in touching distance, we can't seem to not touch. I just think it's interesting." I do. Not as interesting as what his hand's doing on my crotch, but interesting nonetheless.

"I wonder if you'd react this way to any aroused man? OUCH. Man, my balls are not designed for that kind of pressure. Ease up, buddy, ease up. Geez louise. It was just a thought, for God's sake."

"Well, keep your thoughts to yourself for once, Sandburg."

Like that's even a possibility.

~ Later that night ~

I can't believe we're doing this. What I can't believe even more is that I'm out here and Jim's in there. Oh yeah, Sandburg, here's a story for your memoirs. Tell them about the time we went to a strip club and you stayed in the parking lot. Shit. This feels like the longest day of my entire life. First I'm jolted by this big news this afternoon that Simon knows about us. Then we have this weird non-fight that ends with Jim screwing me on the floor, right there by the coffee table, just pounding me like there's no tomorrow. We didn't even take our clothes off, just shoved stuff out of the way and did it. I love it like that. My back still hurts. I'll have to remember that for the next time we get huffy. Just get close enough for long enough and the pheromones pretty much take over. Now that's what I call insider information.

Maybe once the blood got back in our heads we started thinking more clearly, I don't know. But he got a lot calmer after we'd done the nasty, and like reasonable grown-ups, we discussed that last comment I'd made.

You know -- the one about whether he'd respond to any aroused man the same way. I'm not stupid, I made sure I was out of grabbing distance the whole time. It's a touchy subject, and he's a seriously touchy guy. That doesn't always make for lucid debates. He did okay this time, though, and he's actually the one who said let's check it out. Figuring out how we might find a bunch of aroused men for a little experiment took us through dinner.

Yeah, I'm the one who thought of strip clubs. Big surprise, huh? We talked about going to a leather bar, but he's not ready for that degree of outedness, not when there's a chance he'd run into some of his contacts from the Vice days and he's flat out of Vice excuses for being there. So strippers it is. Of course, it never occurred to me he wouldn't let me come with him. But there's no way I could be in there and not get aroused and he already knows how he responds to an aroused me, so that's why I'm sitting out here in the truck, watching a steady stream of middle-aged men in business suits heading in to get their rocks off.

This gig sucks sometimes.

Last time I was in here, I had a case on my mind. But I'm not blind, and they have some fine looking women working here. Fine looking, practically naked women doing some highly suggestive dance moves about three inches from my face. I remember the look on Blair's face last time, standing there with his eyes glazed over and his tongue practically hanging out. He had a boner that night you could pound nails with. He had these waves of sexual energy just pouring off him. Hang on. I'm here, in a strip club, with a woman's pelvis so close I can smell what kind of shave cream she uses, and I'm thinking about Sandburg?

I think we asked the wrong question back at the loft. Maybe the real question is whether I respond to any person on earth the way I do to Blair. Man or woman.

All right, the point was to come in, smell the horny guys and see if it did anything for me. I can now say, categorically, no. Yes, I can smell them. Each man smells different. None of them make me want to get any closer. I can train my eyes on their laps in the dark and see erection after erection. I'm surrounded by walls of testosterone and it's not doing a thing for me.

I'm not getting a single note of interest from any part of my body. I might as well be home watching ESPN. This is just a big goddamn waste of my time. Fuck this. Who needs it? Fuck the experiments, fuck the debates. I think I'm just gonna go out in the truck and fuck my roommate.

It's been, what, ten minutes? Here he comes already. Thundercloud time. Where'd all that calm go, man? He opens the door like he could pull it right off the hinges if he wanted, gets inside and slams it. Oh, boy. Maybe this wasn't such a great idea.

"Just sit there," he says. "And don't say a word."

I push my lips together and swallow all those words that are just dying to come out. We said we weren't going to experiment with his love life anymore and here we went and did it. I seem to be genetically incapable of not trying to decipher everything. Now it just seems like a stupid idea. Sending him to a strip club to look at the patrons? No wonder he's mad. He's looking out the windshield. He's got both arms draped over the steering wheel. He's clenching his teeth -- I can see the muscles bunching up in his jaw.

"Take off your jacket."

Whoa.

I unzip my jacket and just the sound of it makes my heart start to speed up. I pull it off and drop it on the floor.

"Untuck your shirt."

Now I'm getting hard. Filling right up. After all the ways we've been naked together, who'd have thought him telling me to untuck my shirt could get me this worked up? I can't help it, my dick's got like no place to go, so I reach for it, adjust it a little.

"Don't you even move, Sandburg."

Oh, yeah. I am so gonna like this.

"Unzip."

I think my eyes might just pop right out with this pressure feeling I've got inside. It's the most fucking exciting thing I've ever done. I pop the button and unzip. That's better, he's got some breathing room now. I'm like one huge pulse now, just a big old mess of nerve endings and leaking parts.

"Spread your legs."

Oh, fuck. Make that dribbling parts.

"How you feeling now, Sandburg?"

Who is this man and what did he do with Jim?

"Hot." I've got other words I can use, but that's the one in my forebrain, so that's what comes out.

"And what do you want me to do about it?"

"Anything you want, man. Anything." Damn, we have come a long way since that first time in the truck.

"Can I suck you?"

"Here?!?" Well, what do you know, there's still some tiny part of me that's rational. Getting sucked off in the parking lot of a strip club seems sort of ... dangerous. Which, of course, gets the juices flowing even more.

"Here." And he's moving, fast, from his side of the truck to mine, bending over, pushing his hands inside my jeans, reaching in my undies and going down on me, right here. Fuck me, my head's going to explode. I can see people in the rearview mirror, coming and going. We're parked under a streetlight and I wonder if they look over here if they'd just see the back of my head or if they'd see Jim's big head bobbing up and down in my lap. He has the hottest mouth. Sexy hot, yeah, that too, but I mean temperature hot. He's got a natural God-given talent for giving head; he's all suction and motion, all at the same time.

I get up the nerve to touch him and put my hands on his head, not pushing him, just resting on him, then I go for his ears, then that little place behind his ears. That makes him groan and that sound on my dick makes me start humping up into his mouth. He's got a hand way down inside my shorts now and he's pulling me down on the seat. I've got my head on the back of the seat and my butt's over the edge and he's got one finger squirming up inside me, no lube but whatever spit he wiped off my dick and that's it, I might just die right here. I can feel him start to swallow me, I'm going in all the way this time, it has to hurt him, it has to, but he's holding on with his throat and he's got his tongue somewhere amazing and before I can even tell him it's happening, I'm coming in him, shooting straight into his stomach, it feels like.

Talk amongst yourselves. I'm gonna have my own little zone here for awhile.

Do I have a death wish? What the hell am I doing? We could get arrested for the act I just performed on my little buddy here. Lewd and lascivious. Indecent exposure. Contributing to the delinquency ... well, okay, he's legal, even if he doesn't act like it sometimes. All that stuff I used to get disgusted by during my Vice days. Now I'm doing that stuff. I should leave the experimenting to Sandburg. I should have at least told him what I was doing.

Do you know how unnerving it is to go from thinking you're a normal guy, a guy who's been married once and dated some, to suddenly being a guy who can only get it up for one person? For a person whose track record for sticking around isn't anything to write home about?

So now we know strange men with erections don't get me going. Apparently neither do titty bar dancers. I'm running on empty right now, so tired I can hardly keep my eyes open, it's been two days since I had any decent sleep and all that talking this afternoon just wore me out. So I figured maybe that was it. Maybe I was just too tired to get turned on by anybody.

So I did my own little experiment. I didn't touch him, didn't even look at him. Just told him to take his jacket off and WHAM, he took off. Pulse, breathing, dick, everything. All systems go. By the time his shirt got untucked I knew I'd have to take the edge off. NOW.

He gets me going. Just him. He gets me doing crazy things, dangerous things. I came in my pants. I didn't even rub against him. He barely touched me. Just being near all those smells and tastes, and God, the feel of him way down in my mouth.

I guess we've answered the question.

He's mumbling now, petting my head, pulling it up from his lap and leaning down to kiss me. He bit his lip somewhere along the way and I can taste blood in his mouth, mixing in now with his come and our spit. A long wet kiss, two mouths that know each other really well. Blair kisses like time's stopped and he's got all day if he wants. He never rushes it, no pecks for our boy. No, he likes to get down and dirty, tongue, teeth, slurping, nipping, tonsil-swabbing, the whole bit.

Neither of us has a lick of common sense.

I get back to my side of the truck eventually. The cab smells like us. Tomorrow I'll get in to go somewhere, and it'll still smell like us. He's zipping up, tucking his shirt in, running his hands over his hair. His lip's swollen where he bit it. I reach out and touch it and he winces, then pushes his mouth into my hand. I can't resist him. I lean over and kiss the sore spot and he touches my chin.

"Guess we answered that question," he says, but he doesn't sound happy about it. I guess it's a big responsibility, the care and feeding of a monogamous Sentinel.

"So what now? You want to try someone else?" He's not looking at me as he says that and it takes me a minute to process it.

"What?"

"It's not just me, right? You came out of there hung for bear, Jim. Somebody got you going."

"You got me going, you idiot. They didn't do a thing for me. Not the women, not the men. None of them. You got me going when you took your coat off." For talking as much as we do, we sure do have a lot of misunderstandings.

That makes him pause. I can see the wheels turning in his head. He turns to look at me and he smiles this sweet shy smile and says, "Really?"

"Yeah."

"Cool," he says, nodding, putting his hand out for a slap.

Cool. He turns my life inside out and all he can say is "cool"? Saints preserve me. I start the truck, ready for this day to be done. Ready to be horizontal, with a pillow under my head and a Blair tucked under one arm. Ready to sleep for about eighteen hours.

As we're turning out of the club, he says, "You know, Jim, if we're trying to keep this thing a secret, screwing around in public parking lots probably isn't a great idea."

No shit, Sherlock.

Some days I'm not sure we're even on the same planet, let alone the same page.

I admit it, it took me a while to come around. Not on the sex thing, no sir, that I came around on real quick. But the other stuff. The peripherals. It took me a couple of months to get my hands wrapped around the whole Jim package. So I got it. A little late, but I got it. I got it, and now he's losing it.

Some weird whacked out thing happened that night we went to the strip club. Since then, it's like he's on auto-pilot. The only time I'm really sure I'm getting to him is if I wake him up in the middle of the night, when all his defenses are down. Sometimes I make him talk to me; sometimes I just throw myself on him. His physical responses are still pretty pure. It never takes much to get him going. But other than that he's shutting down, shutting me out and I'll be damned if I can figure out why.

I'd sort of been hoping to corner him tonight, beat it out of him if I have to, but Simon invited us out for a drink, all us Major Crimes guys, and Jim jumped all over the invitation. One drink led to two, which led to ordering food, which led to more drinking. I don't know about the other guys, but I am feeling no pain. I'm buzzed and horny and the object of my erection is sitting just across the table from me. I had some good footsie going with him earlier, but he tucked those boats of his back under his chair after my fourth beer, gave me a dirty look and turned back to listen to whatever story Brown's telling him.

It makes sense, us not sitting together. I give Simon a bonus point for figuring that out and putting me beside him. I don't drink much, but when I do, I tend to get a little affectionate and our cat's too far out of the bag as it is. I've got Simon on one side and Joel on the other. Given the audience, I think I can control my flirtatious impulses. These are good guys, all of them. They seem to have gotten used to me. It feels good, feeling like I sort of belong here. Jim did that for me. Gave me another familial-style unit. The one I have is a just a little disjointed, so despite the archaic patriarchal subcultures, I get some satisfaction out of carving out a spot for myself in their social structure.

Even if I do feel like the department mascot most of the time.

He's wasted. Well, that's a little extreme. He's had about five beers, which on a frame his size is just about enough for one night. If I mother-hen him, though, he'll just have more, so I'm keeping my mouth shut. He's sandwiched between Taggart and Simon, a safe enough place. I know what he's like when he's toasted, but I don't think they've had the pleasure. Come to think of it, I bet no other man has tasted that particular pleasure. Toasted Blair doesn't have an inhibition to his name. And considering he's not the most restrained person to begin with, this has led us down some merry paths. I think my favorite time was the kitchen table. I actually scoured it with bleach the next day before I'd let him eat breakfast. I know what we did on that table.

Just thinking about it makes my throat close up. That's happening a lot lately. It's driving me nuts. It's like I'm not just storing up memories, but already taking them out and getting nostalgic over them. I'm almost forty and suddenly I'm turning into a sentimental idiot.

Over a kid who changed his major six times.

I love Blair. I love everything about him, head to toe. I love how smart he is, how curious, how he interacts so easily with all kinds of people. I love how interested he is, in so many different things. And all I can think is that this won't last. Something else, or someone else, will catch his eye, or capture his interest, or both. And then what will I do? This is not a man who's had good role models when it comes to staying power. He adores Naomi, but I think a lot of it is that she gives him the freedom he craves.

Something he's not getting living with me.

I'm still nursing my second beer. There was a time when I could put away a twelve-pack and not even stumble, but the senses thing took care of that. I'm careful these days. But being sober while I watch him get drunk isn't helping. It just seems to magnify our differences. I'm tight, he's loose. I'm repressed. He's wide open. If it weren't for the Sentinel thing, I can't imagine him ever giving me a second look.

I know; it's stupid to do this. It's not like we could separate out the Sentinel thing even if we wanted to. He's a brave man. He took on the weight of me and my five out of control senses without even a shrug and he's been coping with all the crap I throw at him ever since. I don't get what he gets out of this. Yeah, so he's writing his dissertation. He'd have written one anyway. He could have gone on a dig in Borneo. He's turned down other trips, I know he has.

If I were a better man, I'd just ask him. Maybe I will. Maybe I'll take his toasted self home, strip him naked and tickle him until he tells me.

Now there's a plan with some potential.

"Ellison, it's time you took that boy home."

I heard that, Rafe. Just because the room's spinning a little doesn't mean I'm losing my hearing. I can get home just fine by myself, thank you very much. I'm just not ready to go yet, am I? Am I?

"Come on, Chief, they're throwing us out." He's got a big warm hand on my shoulder. If I turned my head I could kiss it, but I wouldn't do that. Not here. Not in front of the guys.

"Don't let him puke in the truck. I've got to go with you tomorrow." That's Simon's contribution. Thanks a lot, man. As if I'd ever. I've never. At least I don't remember ever. Nah. I've never. Pretty sure about that.

"Sleep well, you two," Joel says right in my ear. I turn to look at him and he's got this smile on his face, just for me. Joel knows, too. Holy shit. I look around. Do they all know? They're not paying attention anymore, even though Jim still has his hand on my shoulder. I guess we're all used to that, him touching me all the time.

"Thanks, man, you too." I let Jim pull me out of the chair by my coat. He slings an arm around my shoulder and we walk out like that. Just like that. I guess we've done that before, but it feels all exposed now, like it's something more than what it is. Which of course is true. It is more than it is. Am I making any sense?

Man, it's cold outside. Wet, too, of course. Jim turns the heater on the truck on full-blast and the windows fog up. Makes me horny. Like that's anything new. I'm like Pavlov's dog. Put me in the truck and I get a hard-on. Put me in the truck at night, when it's cold and rainy and I'm half a goner already. Hope he's ready for me when we get home, because I'm not making it up the stairs.

I wonder if that kitchen table thing would work on the counter?

He banged his head on the kitchen cabinets. Almost knocked himself out, I think. He's got a walnut-sized knot on the back of his head. I tried to tell him it wasn't going to work, but you know Blair. Mr. Sure-We-Can. We were doing fine until he tried to climb me and I dropped him. Next thing I knew he'd hit the edge of the cabinet, hard. You know what's really amazing? The whole time he's yelping about that he's still hard as a rock. It's like his dick and his mouth aren't even attached. As soon as I heard that <thunk> I lost whatever interest I had. I hate it when he hurts himself. I hate it.

"Yo, Jim, we were doing something here," he says, still rubbing the back of his head.

"How can you possibly still be interested?" I ask him.

"How can I not possibly still be interested?" he says back, and if it doesn't quite make sense, I get the general drift. "Let's just find someplace soft, that's all. But save that thought," he says, pointing to the counter. "We'll do it when I'm sober."

I'm sure we will. We've certainly tried just about everything else. Blair has an imagination that just won't quit. I'm a lucky, lucky man. For as long as it lasts, I plan to enjoy it.

"Okay, kiddo, soft it is."

We end up on his bed, his little bed in his little room. It smells kind of musty, like all the books he stores in here are breeding while the doors are shut. We have nowhere near the room we do in our big bed, but there's something sexy about that, hanging on so we won't fall off.

He wants to fuck me, which is entirely okay with me. I like this toasted Blair thing more than I care to admit. I like it that he gets out of control, the things he says, the way he lunges in me. I love not feeling in control, letting him push me on my stomach, letting him rearrange my legs to suit him. He starts at the back of my neck and rubs his fingers all over me, poking muscles, tracing ribs, smacking my ass when he gets there. The whole time he's talking to me. Good stuff. Stuff that makes my dick remember why it was interested just a few minutes ago. He pulls up on one knee and opens me up a little. I rub myself on the bedspread and he encourages me, pushing on my hips while I'm doing it.

He doesn't stretch me out first. He just slides on a rubber, lubes up and starts pushing. It takes awhile, but there's something I just love about having his dick open me up. It's tighter that way, it feels more ... well, it just feels more. I don't know where he gets the control to do it this slowly, especially when he's not exactly sober. But he does it, so slow I think I might go ahead and come and then just lay low for the rest of the ride. I can feel each inch, each fraction of each inch. I can feel the difference in size between the head and the rest of him. If I concentrate, I can feel the big vein in the middle. He hits little nerves the whole way in, but it takes getting all the way in to get to my prostate. Once he's there he thrusts these tiny little thrusts, not withdrawing at all, just poking at me from the inside, over and over.

He's got his whole body laid out on top of mine. He's got one hand on my shoulder and the other on the pillow by my head and he's using his arms, like he's doing push-ups, to just keep thrusting. I can feel his chest hair, and his leg hair, he's sliding up and down, tickling. I can feel him outside and inside. His hair's sliding across my shoulders now, he's licking between my shoulder blades, groaning hard each time he humps in again. He starts pulling out now, and slams back in, harder and harder. I've been ready for that for minutes now; I love it like this. I want it even harder and I tell him that and now he's doing it, holding me down, swearing in my ear. I get one hand underneath me and grab hold of my dick and it just explodes and he's pushing me down, pushing me into the bed and we're smearing my stuff all over the spread and I can tell he's coming, can feel these jerky pulses inside me. I wish he didn't have a condom on. I wish I could feel all that hot wet stuff hitting me inside.

He's breathing hard now, sacked out on top of me. I can feel his heart pounding on my shoulder blade. "You are good, man," he says, kissing whatever part he can reach without having to move. We stay like that for a few minutes, just basking, I guess. Finally, he pulls out and I hear the thwap of the condom hitting the trash can. I roll over and pull his head back down on my chest. I wrap my arms around him and hug him tight.

"I'm good? All I had to do was lay here."

"Yeah, well, you did it really well."

Blair understands the power of positive reinforcement.

Hallelujah. He's opener than he's been in weeks. Opener? Is that a word? Screw it, from now on it's a word. So what if it takes fucking him unconscious to do it. Sitting at the table talking doesn't work. Bringing it up at work just gets me yelled at. So fine. I'll do whatever it takes. Fortunately, I'm pretty fond of this method myself.

Maybe it's being someplace different. My little room's cozy, sort of intimate. Maybe he feels really comfortable here or something. Whatever, I'm not going to let him crawl back in that box of his. No, this time we're going to talk about it.

"Hey, Jim?" We'll start with something easy. Relatively. So to speak.

"Yeah?"

"I was thinking maybe we could tell Naomi, next time she's here. You know, about us."

He's quiet for a couple of minutes, thinking it over. He's got a hand in my hair, making curl twirls.

"You sure you want to do that?" he asks me.

"You mean sure enough about us?" I think this is where we need to head. I'm flying a little blind here. We're in completely uncharted territory. And it's not like he came with an instruction book.

"No, well, yes, I guess. I don't know, Sandburg."

Shit. He's rolling me off him, sitting up on the edge of the bed. All right, all right. Time to tread lightly. He's like a cat in a roomful of rocking chairs.

"Jim, please tell me what's wrong." I think that sounded pretty good. The tone was good, real soft, kind of appealing, I mean, like an appeal, not like, oh hell, you know what I mean. I probably should have waited until the beer buzz wore more off, but I've got to take advantage of the afterglow.

The back of his head doesn't tell me much at first. But then he drops his chin to his chest, and that's sort of revealing. I wish I could see his face, but if I have to have this discussion with the back of his head, I can do that. No problem.

He could talk out his ass and I'd still listen.

One deep breath. Two. He's working up to something, I can tell.

Hell, I can be patient. I'm about as satisfied as I get, we've got a nice comfy bed here, no place to be bright and early.

I've got all night, my friend.

So start talking.

"What do you get out of this?" There, I said it.

"Huh?"

Great, now I have to say it again.

"What do you get out of us being together?" If that's not straight-forward enough for him, we can just forget the whole thing.

"What don't I get out of it, Jim," he says. "Is that what's been bugging you? You think we're not getting equal parts or something? That's crazy, man, where the hell did you come up with that?"

He makes it sound unreasonable. He does this all the time. I can't remember the last time he thought I had something reasonable to say.

I tell him, "I know what I get out of it. I guess I just wondered what you did."

"We have got to talk more," he says, getting up and coming around to face me. His stomach's at eye height and I look at how the little hairs grow in a circle around his belly button. Soft, soft hair.

"How long has this one been running around your brain?" He won't leave it alone. I know he won't. I raise up my head and look at him and as I watch a light goes on in his eyes.

"Is this about the strip club? You think I'm the only person you'll ever turn on for, like, ever? That's it, isn't it. Oh man, why do you sit on these things? Stuff like that festers."

I have to say, once it's out there in the air, it doesn't sound very ... probable.

"Come on, Jim, you know what it's like when you first fall for somebody. They're all you eat, sleep and drink. I don't think it's weird at all that nobody in there tripped your trigger. We've got some good medicine going on here, why would we mess with it? You go with your instincts and your instincts are just a little focused right now."

He always has an answer. Always. Ask him a question, he tells you the answer. It's damn annoying at times. But this time, I'm grateful. Because that actually makes sense. It doesn't solve the what-if-he-leaves problem, but at least I'm no longer contemplating post-Blair celibacy.

I shouldn't push it, but I do. Lines are made for crossing, right?

"For how long, Blair?"

"For how long what?" Jesus, he makes me spell shit out.

"How long do you think we'll be like this?"

"How the fuck should I know?"

Well, I guess that's a tender spot. It hadn't occurred to me that maybe this is something he worries about, too. Somehow that alone almost makes it all better. He's blowing out a breath, hard.

"Sorry, Jim. Didn't mean to bite your head off," he says. He starts pacing, like he likes to do. He can't get very far in this little room. I love this naked, pacing Blair. He takes this as seriously as he does any difficult question. He puts his hand up to his mouth. Yup, he's thinking hard. Then he nods once, hard and comes back to me. Stands straight up, right in front of me and makes me look at him.

"I'm not going anywhere, man," he tells me.

I think my spine might be melting a little. I'm sagging back on the bed, laying on my back, putting my arms out. It's good to hear him say that, right out loud like that.

"Look, we don't get guarantees," he says. "You know that. You just have to hang onto what comes along, that's all. Take it as it comes."

Hang on. Take it as it comes.

"But, what --"

"Come on, Jim. You know I can't answer that," he says, pulling a little on his hair. "I don't know. You don't know. Nobody knows."

He wants to answer it. I know Blair. I know him. He'd like nothing more than to give me the answer I want. I give him credit for not doing it. Even half-drunk and what he calls 'come-dumb' he's smarter than I'll ever be.

"But it's not something we have to figure out right now, either, is it?" he says. He drops his whole weight on my chest, then props himself up on his elbows so he can see me.

I shake my head. No, I think I've thought enough for one day.

"Sufficient unto the day, Jim."

I get that reference. Sufficient unto the day are the troubles thereof. We've gotten through today's troubles. There's time enough for tomorrow's.

Time enough.

Enough time.

If that's good enough for him, I guess it's good enough for me.

The End.