Disclaimers: No copyright violation is intended. The Sentinel characters belong to Pet Fly Productions and Paramount. Written for pleasure, not profit. For adult readers only, please. Contains male/male sex and some really foul language. Please do not archive, repost, publish or link without discussing it with me first. Comments are welcomed (and almost always responded to) at JBonetoo@yahoo.com.

Notes: He-Who-Cannot-Be-Stifled has made himself persona non grata in the Muse Wing. Methos and Duncan have taken to sharpening their swords twice a day, Amanda's sulking by the pool and the poor Mountie, who I left unconscious in a warehouse district, is just moaning and looking paler than usual. But as long as Blair's happy ... Jim's just a tag-a-long -- you know he does whatever Blair tells him. All this rambling is a sort of apology to the people who really, really want me to write more Duncan/Methos. I'm just throwing up my hands at this point and saying, "Take it up with Hairboy."

Kady, Kat, Rache and Mel: Big Jim Bear Hugs for tackling the betaing during finals.

If you're enjoying the series, please write and tell me so. If not, well, as my mama always says, "If you can't say something nice to somebody, don't say anything at all."

Territorial Imperative, Part Five

by Bone

So we've been having ourselves a regular fuckfest. Even after that first flush love-rush flamed itself out around month four, we kept rabbiting. Boink. Boink. Boink. I might have mentioned once a day, twice on Sundays a while back and I'm not exaggerating. Weeknights we're usually huffing and puffing while SportsCenter plays in the background. Weekends I get my morning chubby taken care of and, if I'm lucky, or good, or both, I can count on a nooner and even a middle-of-the-nighter sometimes. Those are my favorites, without question. No doubt about it. You know how once you start getting it on a regular basis, you get so used to it that it takes like nothing to rev the engines? I wake up two, three times a night ready to drill something.

Fortunately, Jim's a light sleeper.

There's just something amazingly primal about doing it in the pitch-dark, when we're barely awake. He's this huge hot shape thing in the dark and I'm like a big pile of goo and we just sort of, I don't know, melt. It's like we're going purely on instinct, like this is how it should always be, but we get stymied by societal expectations and cultural hysteria and other people's mothers into thinking it's wrong and dirty and gross. Jesus. I can't think of a single thing that makes me feel cleaner than a swab from a Jim tongue. He licks me like a cat sometimes, like we all would if we could, but our backs don't bend that way. Just laps at me until I either come or start laughing because he's tickling me and he's so far gone he doesn't realize it. There's not a person in this world who's cleaner than Jim Ellison. He barely even has morning breath.

I love how heavy he is when he's asleep. I forget, sometimes, just how big he is. If he doesn't feel like budging, well, there's not a damn thing I can do about it. It's like that old joke about how many therapists it takes to change a lightbulb -- just one, but the lightbulb has to really want to change. I can lure him, and seduce him, and wangle my way under him, but I'm only kidding myself if I say it's because I want to. Nope. It's because he lets me. That's cool. I don't have a problem with that. As long as we're both pretending the same thing, why worry about it? Isn't that what most partnerships are all about anyway? Creating your livable deceits? Yeah, it's a freaky concept, but sociologically, it's sound. Really, it is. Like in India, where a cook will say dinner's ready if you ask him, because he'd like for it to be ready, whether it really is or not.

Cultural obfuscation.

It works on a personal level, too. Want another example? He's never going to explain me to his brother, not as anything more than just one of the Major Crimes guys. He says he will next time we see him, and I tell him I know, I know, but I know he won't. And he knows he won't. But it's better for us both to say he will. Makes it livable, see?

I'm not even touching the dad thing. That's in a big box with a big lock and a big sign that says in big letters, "There be dragons here." Yeah, I'm curious, wouldn't you be? Maybe curious isn't the right word. Furious is more like it. I don't go there because anger like that's not good for the soul and it wouldn't help Jim any, and helping Jim is what I'm all about, so I don't go there, and that's that.

But sometimes I'd like to. That man heaped every kind of abuse on Jim's head; it's amazing he's as normal as he is, which when you get right down to it isn't that normal, but I'm just a tiny bit off the bell curve myself, and so isn't it great we found each other? No thanks to Dad. Get real, what kind of man calls his twelve-year-old a freak? I'd like five minutes alone with him, with a tazer and a wet washcloth. A cold, wet washcloth.

Anyway, that's a tangent I really don't want to get off on right now. Makes my blood pressure go up, which Jim can smell or feel or hear or something and I'd just as soon not upset him right at this exact minute.

So we've been finding our way, making up our rules as we go along, doing that highwire tightrope no-net balancing act every couple since Adam and Eve has had to suffer through. House rules, truck rules, bathroom rules, kitchen rules -- those are Jim's. They don't annoy me as much as they used to. Big surprise, huh. Of course, nothing much annoys me these days. Sexual satisfaction should be listed right up there with Xanax and Prozac as a preventative for panic attacks. I haven't had once since ... well, since the first time Jim put a hand on me somewhere besides my back or the side of my head. Oh, all right, there was that one breathe-in-the-paper-bag episode right after Simon found out. I'm willing to discount that as the product of two days' worth of Jim-withdrawal and extreme perturbation.

I'm in charge of the boinking rules. And as you can imagine -- if you know me and rules -- we don't have many. I don't have any. Any single solitary thing he wants to do to my body, he's welcome to. He's not only welcome, but encouraged to. We're working our way through his laundry list of misconceptions and inhibitions. We made real progress that night on the kitchen table. He's almost ready for the roof.

Jim only has one boinking rule: No rimming. Not that he wants to anyway -- can you imagine?? Sentinel tastebuds going there? No thanks. But he won't let me lick him there either, which is okay with me. There's plenty more inches to lick on that bod; I'm not going to fight him over sticking my tongue in his anus. I don't care how good the books make it sound, I have to say I'm inclined to think the moms are right on this one -- gross.

So whatever he's doing down there, under the covers, in the dark, in the middle of the night, I can guarantee you it's not going to include putting his tongue anywhere that puckers.

I wonder what he thinks about sometimes. He woke me up about ten minutes ago, already humping the mattress he was so ready. I got him on his back, pulled the covers over my head and went to work. He's got the shakes already and I haven't even done much to him. I thought this was how eighteen-year-olds acted. Blair can come two or three times a night and be ready to go at it again at sunrise. He wears me out sometimes, but then he just goes on without me and I think I like those times more than any others. I dial up smell and touch and piggyback them and then I can smell how he feels when he comes and that's about the best thing ever. This is our first go-round for the night, though, so even the 38-year-old dick is raring to go. It's always a big decision, what to do. Blow him? Do him? Frontways or backways? Sitting up or lying down?

Decisions, decisions.

I keep waiting for this to cool off. I've never felt like this before in my whole life. At eighteen I didn't feel like this. I never walked in my house after school ready to fuck somebody stupid, like I do now. I walk in my loft with an erection every day. Blair says we're conditioned to it now, that our bodies know what's coming and are getting ready. He says it's normal. Doesn't feel normal to me. Normal is being married and making love to your wife every couple of weeks, with her nightgown still on. This does not feel normal. This feels way too good to be normal.

It's like I'm in a cave under here. Between his body heat and the blankets, it's stifling hot. I'm sweating already, and his skin's damp wherever I touch it. His dick must be a thousand degrees. I'm surprised it doesn't glow in the dark. We could land planes with that thing if it did. I lift up the covers and sneak a peek at him. He's got his hands behind his head and his eyes closed. He's only moving from the waist down, nudging up at me. He's breathing really deep, and his heartbeat's fast and hard. I can see it in his bottom lip if I dial up sight. I can feel that same pulse in his dick when I wrap my hand around it. It jumps in my hand, like it has its own agenda, like Blair doesn't have anything to do with it. From the waist up he's playing it cool. From the waist down, he's hot.

This is his new game. He told me once that he has this recurring fantasy where we're in the bullpen, in the research room, and I'm under the table giving him a blowjob and he's still working away, writing out notes, checking references, so if anybody looks in the window, they just see Sandburg up to his usual tricks. He says it's a control fantasy, but I don't see it that way. Of course, I'm the one giving the blowjob, so I guess it should look different from my end. Since he told me that, it's one of my recurring fantasies, too.

I leave the sheets tented so I can see him. I dial up sight and watch his head start rolling around on the pillow when I lick just the head of his dick. It's salty and spongy and it's the most Blair taste there is, and I'd like to suck on it like a peppermint after every meal. It takes about three minutes before he lets go, giving up on control and grabbing my head and thrusting up his hips and making me take more of him in. I just open up wide and let him go as far as he wants to. These aren't muscles they trained me to use in the army, but muscles are muscles and the principle's the same - practice makes perfect. I've learned how to breathe through my nose and relax and I can even ripple a little while he's down in there, and when I do that, he breathes in real sharp, which is a sign that he's totally into it, completely engaged.

He moves his legs and gets my dick trapped between his knees, and that feels incredible, almost as good as being inside him. So now I'm thrusting too, sliding in between his legs, feeling all that hair, and the hard bones of his knees and he seems to know just how to do it, how to not push too hard, so we're rocking, his dick down my throat, mine pushing through his knees, down into the sheets, rubbing back and forth.

"More, more, Jim, more, c'mere," he's saying now, pulling on my shoulders, pulling me up. I let him, climb up on him and lay flat down and tuck my dick under his, going underneath and sliding it between his cheeks. Not inside, we're too far gone for anything that complicated. I'm just dry-humping him now, and he's rubbing his dick on my stomach, and he's got his hands on my ass and I've got mine on his and we are touching *everywhere*. I'm holding on okay until he sticks the tip of one finger inside me, then I just seize up and come in a big rush all over his butt. He takes about another minute and I end up scooping up some of my stuff and rubbing it on him and that smoothes the way for him, I guess, because that's all it takes. I'm still slicking him down when he comes, spurting big lumpy wads on my hand, digging his hands in my shoulders and chewing on my collarbone.

That takes care of the two o'clock feeding.

Maybe we can sleep in tomorrow.

Mmmmmmm. Well, that was fun. And so yet another two am goes by with us both half-awake and sticky. I tried doing the cool calm collected thing, but I never last long. Don't blame me; it's the big guy's fault. He knows all my buttons. He's even finding a few I didn't know I had. Who'd have thought knees could be an erogenous zone? Of course, he hasn't done a thing to me yet that I haven't liked, so I don't know why I'm surprised. There's definitely something to be said for having a guy in bed with you who can smell a hotspot at twenty paces.

It's my turn to go for a towel. I know that because it's always my turn. He rationalizes this by saying if I weren't up there in his bed making him get all wet and sticky, there'd be no need for a towel. I know there's a flaw in his logic somewhere, but it's the middle of the night and most of my brain is still dripping out my dick, so I just get up and go downstairs for a towel. It's not worth fighting over.

I wipe myself off, front and back. He got stuff halfway up my spine, it feels like, so I wrap the towel around me and dance around the bathroom a little, doing the twist again, like we did last summer, humming to myself.

"Any day now, Sandburg. Twist your little butt up here," he calls down the stairs. I hate it when he listens in on me like that. What if I'd been going to the bathroom? Puh-leeze. It's enough to constipate a man. But he doesn't do that. I know he doesn't. He's just tuned in now, residual tuning from the happysmacking. I pick up an extra towel from the pile on my way out. Who knows, we might just need another one before morning.

A man can hope.

About once a month or so we go to IHOP so I can get what Blair calls my RDA of cardiac cooking. The first time we went, he actually made defibrillating gestures while the waitress was putting our food down. I told him that was rude, and he apologized, but every time we go he still mutters stuff under his breath that she can't hear, but I certainly can, which is undoubtedly what he intends.

I get the works: Blueberry pancakes, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, and a side of biscuits and gravy. He gets an egg-white omelet with mushrooms and green peppers and an order of hashbrowns. If he'd ordered whole wheat toast, I'd have made him sit at the counter. I'm still trying to digest the last piece of sausage, and I refuse to give Blair the satisfaction of reaching for Tums while we're still in the restaurant, when my cell phone rings.

It's my dad, which pretty much just makes the digestive process stop all together. We don't talk long, but it's enough to make my stomach feel like it's got lead in it. There are some really good reasons why I went years without talking to my dad. It's healthier that way. I punch off the call and look up to find Blair just staring at me, a forkful of hashbrowns hanging there in the air, halfway to his mouth. I wonder if they've been there the whole time I was talking. Probably. Blair's instincts are about as good as mine and it probably didn't take a second for him to figure out it wasn't just an ordinary call.

"Who was that?" he asks, finally getting the forkful in his mouth.

"My dad."

His eyebrows go way up at that.

"What does he want?" Mr. Diplomat doesn't extend his let's-be-friends approach to life to my dad. I guess I told him one story too many about my childhood; ever since he's acted like my dad is a war criminal. It's touching, in a strange way, just how personally he seems to take something that happened to me while he was still being potty-trained.

"He wants me to come out to the house. When he put the scrapbooks back together he found some pictures of Mom. He wants me to have them."

I think I did that pretty well, just telling him what Dad told me. No reason to go into just how much that hurts to say. Pictures of Mom. Why would I want pictures of Mom, after all this time? I guess I'd better do it; go out there, I mean. I hate to inflict this on Blair, but I don't want his feelings hurt, either.

"You want to come along?"

"You want me to?"

"Blair, do you always answer a question with another question?"

"I don't know, do I?"

That earns him a pop, which he ducks, but I get him from the blind side and he yelps, then grins at me. The couple at the table next to us looks over and the man gives us a funny look, but the woman grins right at Blair. That happens all the time. You can't look at that smile and not give one right back to him.

"So, what do you think?"

"About what? Sorry, Jim, but really, I need a flashlight here."

"About coming with me to see my dad."

"I don't know, what do you think?"

Obviously, I'm the one who's not being clear enough. I realize this probably doesn't come as a surprise to you. So I lean over, so the couple next to us doesn't get the whole story, and say, "He didn't even like Carolyn, and she was Episcopalian."

Bless his heart, he understands what I mean.

He whispers back, Sentinelsoft, "So I guess a half-baked ABD Jewish-slash- pagan wild child with a dick's not going to go over real well?"

That makes me laugh, which I'm sure was his goal. "What does ABD stand for?"

"All But Dissertation. It's a sop for those of us who take longer to get through a graduate program than kids take to get from birth to second grade."

"You're getting there, Chief. I'm the hold-up here, not you."

He waves a hand in front of my face. "Jim, don't pull a Blair on me. We're not discussing my dissertation. We're talking about your dad, remember? And the unlikelihood of his sweeping me into the bosom of the Ellison clan, such as it is."

"I'm not ashamed of you, Chief." If there's anyone I'm ashamed of it's my dad. And maybe myself, for being ashamed of my dad.

"I know, man, I know, you just have some cognitive dissonance going on."

Huh? "In English, please?"

"You're holding two contradictory thoughts," he says, warming up now that he's on firm ground again. "How you feel about me makes you happy, but other people, whose opinion you care about, wouldn't necessarily approve of your choices, which doesn't make you happy."

"I don't care what he thinks." I don't. I don't. I don't.

"Sure you do."

Okay, so I do. I mean, I still do. I guess that never changes. "It wouldn't be the first time I disappointed my old man," I tell him.

"Doesn't matter," he says. He's waving his fork around, getting hashbrowns everywhere. "It's this time we're talking about. Right now, the present, today. And today you can go see your dad without me. Why stir the stew if we don't have to?"

It makes sense. Me, Dad and the ghost of Mom are about enough people to have in one house at one time. "You're okay with that?"

"Jim, I'm okay when you're okay, don't you get that by now?" He goes back to eating like that's all there is to say and he's still hungry.

"I love you, Squirt."

He chokes on a mouthful of omelet and slurps down some water. "Jesus, Jim, don't ever call me that in public again."

That's my Blair. I declare my love and he bitches about a nickname.

I wouldn't complain if it weren't so personal. Nobody but us knows that, but still. He doesn't call me Squirt very often, but it's usually in a situation involving less clothes and fewer dirty dishes than we have right now. He doesn't call me Squirt because I'm short. No, that'd be too easy. He calls me Squirt because that's how I come. In squirts. I tried pointing out that maybe that's how all men come, but it turns out he's more of a streaky kind of comer, long and stringy, and not much volume. I guess I squirt. Lots and lots of squirting. And since I'm the only guy he's seen come, he thinks it's cute. So he calls me Squirt. Now I'm not a prude, I am so not a prude, but I don't care how innocuous it sounds, that kind of talk doesn't belong in an IHOP.

He's pushing his plate away like it smells bad, and it probably does, after that phone call. He'll be popping Tums for the next four hours, I know it. The food here's bad enough as it is without a chaser of William Ellison.

William Ellison. With all those L's in his name you'd think he'd be easier going. It's just not a dictatorial bastard's name. That would be something like Gregory or Jack, some harsh consonant name. William's too damn soft for a hard man like that, I don't care if he is getting old and wrinkly. He still can get Jim tied up in big knots just with the sound of his voice and I hate that. It undoes years of work. I got him out of it this time, but it was just a phone call. I'd better plan something special for tonight. Who knows what kind of shape he'll be in after an actual face-to-face encounter. Maybe I should wire him so I'll get the whole story, not the edited-for- language-content-and-running-time USA Networks version. Right. Like he'd ever agree to that.

I guess I'll just have to trust him. It's either that or make things worse by inflicting my Squirty self on a man who looks like the last time he had an orgasm he strained something crucial. Jim's got enough to deal with without figuring out if I'm going to fit in his dysfunctional family life. It sure was easier when it was just me and him coping with stuff. To be quite honest, I think we still have enough crap just between us to fill a couple of textbooks. We don't really need Jim's dad in the equation. Oh, well. Whatever. This is his life and I'm sitting smack dab in the middle of it, so it's my life, too.

We'll deal.

I think I'll make him some beef stew for dinner. Something that can sit for a couple of hours, in case he accidentally finds himself having a good time, or, more likely, goes out in the woods and punches out some pines until he feels better. Either way, soup's good. Soup will wait.

So will I.

The little druggie.

That's what my dad called Blair. I pointed out to him that when he was bleeding and beat-up, Blair practically carried him out of the woods, looked after him, talked nice to him. He says he doesn't remember that part. Blames it on the head wound.

The apple didn't fall far from that tree, did it? Have an experience that was less than enjoyable? Just forget about it. You can always get some hypnotist or a shaman-guide who minored in psychology to dredge it up later if it turns out to be important.

Shit.

Like father, like son.

I don't want to end up like my old man. I really don't. I don't want to be sixty, living by myself in a big cold house, pretending I'm not in love with my housekeeper. When I'm sixty, I want to be living in a cabin next to a mountain stream with my little druggie buddy, not worrying about anything more pressing than whether we should have trout or venison for dinner. I can see us now: I'll be bald as a ping-pong ball and he'll still be raking long curly gray hairs out of the bathroom sink. Who am I kidding? I'll be raking long curly gray hairs out of the bathroom sink.

I'd actually planned to tell my dad about Blair, about me and Blair, but we never got that far. While I was looking at the pictures of Mom, I said something about how there was a surface resemblance to Blair's mom, and he said, "Who's Blair?" I described him and got a blank look in return. It finally clicked, but he says he only remembers seeing Blair walking off the field with his arm around Simon. Said he looked like a little druggie. Asked if he was a fag. Asked if he was an 'n'-loving fag.

I can't even think the 'n' word.

The discussion pretty much ended right there. I don't have to listen to that from cops, or crooks, and I certainly don't have to sit there for it from my dad. So I put the pictures in my pocket, managed to say thanks, and left. He was standing at the door when I drove away.

That was, let's see, five hours ago. I missed dinner. I don't feel like calling Blair, even though I know he's probably worried. I think if I hear his voice I'll probably bust into a million pieces and I need to get myself together a little more before I go home. It's nothing I haven't heard before, the slurs about Blair and his unconventional ways. And I don't know what made me think I could ever, ever, ever have a normal conversation with my father, about anything. So I don't know why it got to me so, when it's nothing new.

I guess it's just that Blair's so amazing, and I get mad when other people don't see it. They label him one thing when he's so much more than one thing that I'm still learning him. We've been together for almost three years, naked and together for about six months now and he's still this wonderful mystery sometimes.

But he's not a little 'n'-loving druggie fag. He's a righteous, compassionate, smart, clean in all the ways that count, warm, loving person. And if my dad doesn't want to take the time to see that, it's his loss.

Sounds good now. I wish I'd had balls enough to say all that to my old man.

No matter how old I get, I still feel like a weird kid when I'm with my dad. Like I haven't learned anything since I was twelve and he screamed at me to keep my mouth shut about the things I could hear and see. I didn't know about my senses then; I couldn't explain it, and he just knew they made me abnormal. So we set a pattern, as Blair would call it: He shut up if I shut down. We still haven't found any way to meet in the middle.

I've been sitting in the truck up on a bluff, looking down over the I-5. I like watching the lights of the cars weaving along. Big long strings of them, like Christmas lights. Maybe I'll bring Blair back up here some night, let him see. My cell phone rings, and I let it go a couple of times. I really don't want to be called in. I don't want it to be my dad again -- one call like that a day was plenty. And I kind of like how the ring goes with the lights theme I've got going here. But it's insistent, which makes me think it's probably Blair, so eventually, I answer it.

"Ellison."

"Hey, it's me. Are you still at your dad's? Just say yes or no." He's talking fast, like he doesn't want me to hang up on him.

"No."

"Oh. Well, cool, then say whatever you want. Where are you? Why'd you take so long to answer the phone? Are you coming home anytime soon? Because the carrots are starting to shrink."

This is my life. One man who tells me to talk, then doesn't let me. Another who for years tells me not to talk, then acts surprised when it turns out we can't talk anymore.

Some days, being stranded in Peru sounds mighty tempting.

Jim looks like somebody stole his lunch money. It's not a grown-man hurt look. It's a kid-hurt look. Makes me want to punch something. But there's enough of the latent rage thing simmering as it is, so I'm playing like I don't notice anything's even remotely wrong. I serve him up some stew, reconstituted with a can of beef broth because even soup can't wait that long, and throw a box of Jiffy cornbread in the oven (yeah, I put the little paper liners in the tin and everything), and basically act like it's any other Sunday night in our household.

He eats like he's not sure it's going to stay down. Cornbread's great for soaking up stomach acid, so I make him eat three muffins, even if he doesn't want to finish the stew. And I make him drink two glasses of milk, because I bet he hasn't had anything to drink since we left the IHOP, like hours ago and dehydration's not going to help anything.

I'm tending the outside. He's got the inside sewn up tight.

That's all right. First things first. He hates being coddled, but he takes it tonight. Ordinarily, I'd think of that as a good thing, but it just reeks regression in Jim's case. This is a man who barely remembers his mother. He's a formula baby, of course, forced to ride the single-parent wave before that particular sea got really crowded and therefore the norm. Ten years later, everybody did it. In my first grade class, out of twenty kids, thirteen came from single-parent homes. Thirteen. I had a friend, Tim, whose parents were still married, and I remember asking Naomi what was wrong with them.

Maybe it isn't so strange that we connected, me and Jim. He's got no mom. I've got no dad. Together, we'd have one set of parents if mine stayed put for more than three hours at a time and his weren't a Frigidaire with a cleft chin. Naomi gave me a great childhood, a free and clear childhood full of new experiences and interesting people. But once I hit puberty, the mothering part was pretty much over and done. Now she's like a friend who sometimes has maternal urges overcome her.

So I've been doing for myself for a long time now. And from what little Jim's told me, which is still enough to make me want to spit nails, he's been doing for himself even longer. I'd rather have been me, getting along with one person who I know loves me, and screw the whole dad concept, than have had to spend even one night under the roof of a man like Jim's father. I'm bitter. I'm sad for him, and mad. All that love he's got, and he had no where to put it. It's fucking pitiful.

I have my faults, I'm not going to lie to you. But it is one of my goals in life to make James Ellison feel good about himself and I think I'm damn good at it. So we're going to deconstruct whatever the hell happened this afternoon until I can convince him that whatever it is, one, it's not his fault, two, he did the best he could, and three, he's the best person I know, have known, or will know.

I'd better get cracking. It's already ten o'clock.

I feel better than when I first got home. The food helped. The Blairchatter helped, too. He thinks he's putting on a pretty good act, but I see right through it. He hurts when I hurt.

And I hurt pretty bad.

I'm not very good at keeping people in my life. Carolyn's gone south. She didn't even leave an address or phone number. My dad and brother live in the same city, but we're never going to have Thanksgiving dinner together. My old army buddies are either dead, in jail, or actually living normal lives, with car dealerships and T-ball games. I've got a really short list of people in my life and ninety percent of them relate to work. Even Carolyn did.

I can't even describe how grateful I am to have Blair. He's work and home all at once and as annoying as he can be at times, he's always got my best interests at heart, and I'm not sure anyone else ever has. So I let him feed and water me. I let him plump the pillows on the couch and rub my feet some. It's not that this kind of treatment is rare, exactly, but I figure I might as well enjoy it, right? I'm unwinding one clenched muscle at a time. He was smart to start at my feet because by the time he's kneading my biceps and working up to my neck, I've pretty much forgotten what got me so damn tight in the first place.

Almost.

I might have forgotten it completely if Sandburg hadn't decided to stop rubbing and start talking. I don't want to talk. I just want to sit here and have his hands on me somewhere. But you know Blair, he thinks it's not fixed until it's been outlined and bullet-pointed. Now that he's finally got me not thinking about this afternoon, he wants me to start thinking about this afternoon.

"So, Jim, how was your dad?" He says this as if it's just an ordinary, casual question, not a once in a decade occurrence. He's dipping a toe in, testing the temperature of the water.

"He's fine."

He tightens his lips at that. Well, why should I make this easy for him? I lived it once already, I'd just as soon not do it again. And what am I supposed to tell him? 'Sorry, Blair, my dad thinks you're a drugged-out queer with a jones for Simon?' Should I tell him I spent a maximum of fifteen minutes in the house and five of those were spent convincing my dad I didn't want a vodka tonic? Should I tell him I drove around for four hours and I don't remember where I went? Or maybe I should tell him about these pictures I've got of my mom, who looks like somebody on TV. She sure doesn't look like anyone I know.

He takes his hands away from my shoulders. "If you don't want to talk about it, man, just say so."

"I don't want to talk about it."

"I just thought --"

"Are you DEAF, Sandburg? I. don't. want. to. talk. about. it."

What part of that doesn't he understand? He pushes off me, rubbing his hands down the sides of his jeans. I just look down at my feet, all relaxed now in their socks and feel bad, but not bad enough to bring my dad into what was getting to be a really good evening.

"Okay, okay, you want to sit and sulk, fine. Here's the remote. UCLA's playing A-Z on ESPN2. I'm going to bed. Early class."

And just like that, he's gone. At least he headed upstairs. I can hear him stripping, sliding between the sheets, thumping the pillow too hard. He's not even muttering, which surprises me a little. Usually he takes advantage of being out of arm's reach to say whatever's on his mind.

I guess just sitting quietly with him wasn't an option.

That wasn't very adult of me. Jim's having a kid day, and I got right down there in the sandbox with him. I know better than that. I've practiced patience before, I should have been able to do it again. I just don't have any distance any more. I don't even know what upset him so, but I feel it just the same. Is that what the L-word means? I have to get indigestion because he ate hot tandoori? Because it seems like God would have worked out a better plan than that. If you both get discombobulated because one of you's discombobulated, then who plays rescuer? Who's the talker-downer when you're both wailing away somewhere?

Well, of course, once I calm down a little, the answer's easy. I'm the rescuer, the talker-downer. Nothing happened to me today except somebody got under the skin of a guy who's a lot more vulnerable than his jaw structure would ever lead you to believe. So what the fuck am I doing up here pouting while he's down there zoning out on PAC 10 b-ball? What is wrong with this picture, Sandburg, you dumbass?

I don't know what I was thinking. Why make him talk about what he thinks is a weakness? That's like totally anti-constructive. I think we'll show him how to play to his strengths. If he doesn't want to play, maybe he'll at least take a little cuddling. Cuddling can cure most anything, don't you think?

What do you do when you've got a grown-up who's feeling like a little kid?

Love the kid part to pieces.

Then remind him he's a man.

I wondered how long it would take him. I hear him getting out of bed, coming back down the stairs. 'Never go to bed angry' is one of his philosophies of life. We've stayed up all night a couple of times, duking things out, but we haven't ever gone to sleep mad. It's a pretty good philosophy, really. I wish we'd tried that when I was growing up.

He comes and stands in front of the TV, bare as the day he was born. Without even thinking about it, I click off the table lamp. No point in giving the warehouses across the way a free show. He takes the remote from my hand and the TV goes dark. I look up at him, now just a blue shape in the dark and I dial up enough to see that he's got his head to the side and he's just staring at me.

"What?" I ask him, but he just shakes his head and puts his fingers on his lips.

"Shhh."

He comes toward me and drops to his knees, pushing my legs apart and sliding in between. He's hot, but his hands are steady. He's unbuttoning and unzipping and pulling my clothes off a piece at a time. I guess maybe this is the next stage in the therapy session. Suits me. He still hasn't said anything, which, given Blair's usual behavior when we're naked, is pretty strange. I lean towards him and open my mouth to ask what he's doing, but he just shuts me up by sticking his tongue in my mouth. Pretty effective, that. I have no idea what I wanted to say. It's gone, licked out by Blair's tongue.

He wraps himself around me as much as he can and hugs me tight for a minute, a big Blair bear hug. Then he's kissing me again and rubbing his chest on my stomach. I have to bend way over to kiss him. It feels like one of those silent-movie kisses, where the hero bends the one he loves over his arm and dives right in. I usually do everything I can to make Blair feel like we're equal. I sit him up on my lap so he's the one leaning down, or we spread out on a bed and then height doesn't make any difference. This time it's like he wants me to feel bigger, taller.

It's a rush.

I grab him by the hair and hold him in one specific spot and I take over the kiss. It's got a life of its own now and it's making me harder than I've been in a long time. He could probably make me come just from kissing. I can feel his erection leaking against my leg. He's rubbing himself against me, purring a little, catching his breath in these sexy little sighs. But he's still not saying a word. This must be what it's like for him most of the time, going on little subtle signals. Seldom is heard an encouraging word, even when I try, sometimes.

We're going entirely on touch, which puts this solidly in my area of expertise. I'm not dense, I'm sure this isn't some spontaneous new mute- fantasy of his. But even knowing what he's trying to do doesn't take away from how it feels. If they handed out degrees in Jim Ellison, he'd already be working on a post-doc. This man knows me.

He's completely relaxed against me, letting me move him wherever I want, leaning on me, sliding his dick up and down my leg, trapping mine under his chest. This submissive Blair thing is all new, but it's turning me on like a spun top. He makes me feel like Superman. He's soft and hard and he's a little slippery and I want to fuck him so bad I can taste it. I force myself up off the couch, pushing past him and he moans a little, but he still doesn't say anything. He starts to turn toward me, but I put a hand on his shoulder and keep him facing the couch. I can tell the exact minute he catches on. His forehead drops down on the couch and he scoots back a little and spreads his legs wide. He's bracing his arms on the couch, like he knows what's coming, like he knows he's going to have to hang on tight.

"I'm clean. Are you clean?"

Believe it or not, this is the first time in six months of banging his brains out that I've asked him that question. Condoms and lube are too far away, and besides, just once, just this once, I want to feel every bit of him. I don't want even a layer of latex in between. I want him to feel me come inside him. I want to dial up and feel every single quiver in his body, smell him breathe, taste those little shaky breaths he's puffing out. I want to use these senses my dad was so afraid of. I want to feel like I'm on fire.

Can you tell some primitive stuff is surfacing?

I want to own him.

He nods once and arches his back. I drop down on my knees behind him and start swabbing down my dick with spit. It's not as good as Astro-Glide, but it's here and I've got lots of it. I see him slide his hand over the head of his dick and then he's got a wet finger sliding around the outside of his hole. I have to grab my balls hard because that could do it right there and I haven't done what I want to yet.

What I need to.

I do remember to stretch him out first. I don't get off on pain and this is going to be hard enough as it is. The hell of it is that he's helping me, sliding his own finger in with mine and I can't believe how sexy that is. He's like every wet-dream I ever had, all rolled up into one heaving little package. He's pushing his hips back on our fingers now, grinding his chin into the couch. I think he's telling me he's ready.

Good thing.

I asked for it.

I'm getting it.

Hard and fast, and just a little bit painful, but I'm not breathing a word. I know it's dumb to do this, bareback like this, but Jesus, it feels good. Amazingly good. Better than I dreamed it would.

He's got this rhythm going now, quicker than we usually do, more for him, less for me, which is just the way I want it. He smacks my hand away when I tried to fist myself, and growls at me.

Methinks The Man has reclaimed the body.

So I'm just swaying here, taking his thrusts, holding my hips as still as I can so he can just pound in however he wants. The first few felt like I might just break in two parts and he'd have to sew me back together, but once he got far enough in to hit the old prostate, things loosened up and now we're good. We're better than good. We are stratospherically good.

He's getting closer. I can tell by how hard he's breathing, how he's starting to grunt a little with each poke inside, how he's got my hips so tight he's gonna leave bruises. Just when I think it's over, he reaches around and wraps his arms around my chest and pulls me up and back, so I'm sitting on him and he gets in even further, which frankly, I wouldn't have thought possible. Now he's somewhere right around my tailbone, it feels like. It feels like there's a pole in there except it's alive and squirming around and jerking and he's got his head down on my shoulder and he's groaning every breath and just pushing me down on him over and over. He's not paying any attention to what I'm doing now, so I swipe a hand down my dick, once, twice, three times and join him in the jerking, squirming bit.

I got spunk on the couch. Again.

That's okay. I have a feeling he's going to drip on the carpet. There are advantages to condoms. He lifts me off him eventually, and yup, blech, we're making a god-awful mess. He'll be out here with bleach before daybreak.

"You know, I see right through you," he says, mouthing my shoulder and I can tell he's already falling into that post-fuck stupor.

"What, you got x-ray vision now?" I ask him, reaching back to pat his head. He's squeezing me hard, so I wiggle around until I can get my arms around him and now we're leaning up against the couch, snuggling.

"Thanks," he says.

"Oh, no, man, thank you," I say back to him, and he laughs a little at that.

It worked.

Cool.

We slept hard and deep, foregoing the middle-of-the-nighters in favor of just more sleep. He'd be too sore for much of anything today anyway, so when the alarm goes off, I just crawl out from under him, tuck the covers around him again and go downstairs for some clean-up duty and a nice long shower.

Maybe over breakfast I'll tell him about the visit to my dad's house, show him some pictures. He'd probably like that. He turned all pink when he saw Naomi showing me his baby pictures and stuff, but he liked it. I could tell. He doesn't have anything to hide. I liked seeing pictures of him, this small, serious, big-eyed kid, always in the middle of whatever group he was in, watching. I could see who he was going to be even then.

Resolve takes care of the carpet and the couch. I mean Resolve, the cleaning product, not the degree of attention I give it, although that's fairly considerable considering I sit on that couch every day and walk barefoot on that carpet. I don't mind nice fresh stuff on me, or him, or even on the sheets, but day-old dried-up stuff's disgusting.

I hear him flopping around up there, moaning about not wanting to get up, saying 'ouch ouch ouch' when he sits up in bed. He's walking down the stairs now and I shouldn't laugh because I'm the one who made him walk so funny, but I can't help it, and he's glaring at me with blood-shot eyes. His hair is everywhere and he's got a nice healthy beard growth and he looks downright disreputable. Downright edible. Maybe we'll share that shower.

Conserve some hot water.

Jim's welcome to take up shower space with me, but I'm telling him right up front there's no way I'm doing that again this week. You know which that I mean. The sit-on-a-pillow that. He can just forget about it. My ass is off limits until at least next weekend. He takes that news fairly well, but then he should, considering he's got his hands all over the front of me since I called time-out on the backside.

He's in a much better mood this morning. The dad thing's still a big stinking kettle of fish, but if he wants to put a lid on it, let it putrify some more, we'll just have to get the gas masks and air it a little bit at a time. No point in pushing it.

So it surprises me a little when he starts talking, right in the middle of the shower. Seems to me it would be better to save this for a decent hour, in a more reasonable place, like after breakfast, over a second cup of coffee, but if this is where he feels comfortable, I'm certainly not going to shush him.

He'll just have to deal with any non-caffeinated responses he gets, that's all.

"My dad doesn't remember you helping him," he says to start things off.

"That doesn't surprise me," I tell him. "It was under some pretty trying circumstances, and I was only with him for a few minutes. In all fairness, it would have been a little weird if I had shown up on his radar."

"He remembers you and Simon going to the car. You teasing him."

Huh. Now that's a little strange, but nothing to get upset about. Jim's leaning over me now, hugging me tight, tucking me into his chest, using a washcloth to scrub my back. I almost miss what he says next because I'm liking that so much.

"He described you as a little 'n'-loving druggie fag."

WHAT?!?

"I'm a what??" I'm laughing out loud at that. "What a hoot. That might be the best one yet. I think that's even better than 'neo-hippie witchdoctor punk', don't you?"

His mouth falls open at that, and water gets in, so he chokes and I have to take a minute to slap him on his back, get his face out of the spray and get him calmed down.

"How can you laugh at that?" he wants to know.

"Because it's funny. I mean, really, the only part he got totally wrong was the druggie and I have to be honest and say I've done my fair share of experimenting, purely for anthropological reasons. Nothing in the last three years or so, of course," I feel compelled to point out when a vein starts throbbing in his temple and he turns a little purple. "Long before you, buddy, long before you."

He's not completely placated, so I lay it on a little thicker. I lick the nipple right in front of me and say, "You're my drug of choice now, you know that."

He snorts at that. So much for romance.

"Come on, Jim, don't take it so seriously. I am little, I do love Simon, and if fag's not a word I'd use in polite company, I'm standing here with hot water running down my ass because I got reamed six ways from Sunday on my own living room floor last night by my extremely male roommate and I still have a few twinges to work out, so yeah, on the whole, I'd say your father was more right than he was wrong."

He's just staring at me like I've lost my mind, then this tiny little smile peeks out, then I can see teeth it's getting so big and he starts to chuckle and before I know it, he's leaning over, gasping, laughing so hard he's not even making any noise. Which makes me laugh just as hard, so there we are, in the shower, holding each other up, laughing our asses off.

There are worse ways to start the day.

Over breakfast, I spread out the pictures I brought home with me. The pile is pitifully small, and I think Dad gave me all of the ones he had with Mom and me in them. She left us when I was about five. Stevie had just turned one. She left and then she died and I've always wondered whether it would have been easier for me if she had stayed and then died. Maybe that double leaving made it harder, I don't know.

What I do know is that even now, more than thirty years later, looking at those pictures gives me a big lump in my throat. In the early ones, the baby pictures, she's holding me. But once I'm sitting-up size, all the pictures have me in the stroller, or sitting in a high chair and she's nearby, but she's not touching me.

I don't have to have a minor in psychology to know that touching would have been pretty important, even to a normal baby, let alone one with budding Sentinel senses.

My mom failed me.

There, that just saved me ten years of therapy.

My dad failed me, too.

I'm still working on that one.

I point to one picture where Mom's got me in the stroller. Her face is half in shadow and she's wearing a blue dress.

"Don't you think she looks a little bit like Naomi?"

Blair looks at the picture, then looks at me, then back at the picture. He clears his throat and says, "Um, Jim, that is a chubby blonde in glasses. She doesn't look anything like Naomi. Look at it with your sight dialed up."

I do that and it's like I'm in the picture with her. I can hear her dress rustling against her knees. I can hear the breeze in the trees and see the dimples on her arms and the way she's clutching the handlebar of the stroller so hard her knuckles are white. She's smiling but she doesn't mean it. She's miserable.

"...oh shit don't do this, please don't do this, we're late man," I hear him saying and I have to make myself leave the picture. Blair's leaning over me, his voice right in my ear, his hand on my arm, his other arm around me, talking to me. "Come on, Jim, come on, we don't have time for a zone this morning. Can we get back to 1998 here? Don't go all Pleasantville on me, man. Please? You can do it, that's right, come on."

"She wasn't happy," I say. It's the first time I've ever really thought about her as a person, not just my long-gone mom. Blair still has his arm around my shoulder and I look up at him, at all that caring in his face, and feel his strong hand on me and it occurs to me that whatever I missed out on before, it's being made up for now.

"She wasn't happy," I have to say it again. It's important that he understand. He's nodding at me, and he gives me another pat before letting go.

"Some people aren't meant to be parents," he says with a shrug.

I get the feeling he knows what he's talking about.

We were this close to a total Iron John-style primal scream male meltdown there. He zoned on me looking at the picture of that obviously demented woman. Who could give birth to Jim Ellison and not be happy about it? I took the grown-up grumpy version and I'm practically delirious over it sometimes. Some people aren't meant to be parents. They didn't deserve a good kid like Jim. I'm not sure Naomi really had "parent" written in her karmic design, either, but at least she has love to spare and she always, always means well. These cold-hearted upper class snotbrains who damn near destroyed Jim have an awful lot to answer for.

But maybe they've already paid. The mom's dead. The dad's petrifying in that wedding cake mansion. And Jim's doing incredible things with his incredible self and I get to go along for the ride. I guess this is what you call rising above it.

Jim's a survivor. He perseveres. If he copes sometimes by shutting down, well, do you blame him? Look at his role models. He gets by. And he's learning. He's opening up. Look at this morning, in the shower, getting up the nerve to tell me the stupid thing his father said. Two years ago, he'd have stewed over that for days.

We're making progress.

On the way to drop me off at the University, he pulls another breath-robber on me. "Do you think we have to be like our parents?" he asks me.

That's a doozy. If I could answer it I wouldn't still be wearing layers of flannel pj tops to work when it gets really cold. I'd wear polar fleece, the really expensive kind. I'd get our floors refinished and I'd build us a second bathroom and I'd get Jim a Humvee since he seems to wreck anything meeker than that every six months or so.

But I can't answer it. Not to societal standards anyway. I can usually come up with something that satisfies Jim, though.

"No, I don't." Even if I did, I wouldn't tell him that. I don't give lollipops to diabetics.

His hands loosen up on the wheel a little. "Really?" He wants to hear more.

How unusual.

"I think we learn from a variety of external stimuli," I tell him. He grimaces at that, so I try it again.

"I think Bud probably had as much of an influence on you as your dad did," I tell him. And that's probably true, whether he consciously remembers it, or not. Bud was kind to him, patient, encouraging. All the things a dad should be. So he had someone doing at least a little bit of that. It had to be better than nothing.

"Every teacher, every coach, every superior officer, they all taught you something," I say, and he nods.

"I don't want to be like my dad," he says, really quietly. "I don't want to end up like him."

"You won't, man. You're already not like him, and you're only going to get more not like him the older you get." I'm trying to be as reassuring as I can. I believe this is true. I believe he'll overcome his pissant dad and his out-of-here mom and be something more than they ever managed.

Happy.

"How can you be so sure?" he asks me.

"Because I won't let you."

He's still talking. I let it just sort of float over me because my ears are still ringing a little bit from that last thing he said.

"I won't," he's saying. "The minute you start showing Republican country-club snotbrain tendencies I'll tie you up and make you read ACT UP brochures and Amnesty International flyers and I'll make you drink wheatgerm smoothies and I'll blow you from here to kingdom come. You get all that, Jim?"

I got it, partner. I got it.

From here on in, it's just me and my little 'n'-loving, not-currently-druggie, only-a-fag-with-me roommate.

My dad can go fuck himself.

As Blair would say, I'm over it.

The End.

Writer's Note: Blair's right, it is dumb to ride bareback. In real life, babies, layer the latex.