Disclaimer: We don't own any of these guys. Rysher, Pet Fly, UPN and a bunch of other people who make a lot more money than we do get to claim them. Please don't pick on us, it's all in good fun.

Attention: This is an ALTERNATE UNIVERSE. In reality, or as close to reality as Zen&nancy can get, Jim would never act this way. We love Jim!!!

That said, this story takes place in it's own time period. Zen&nancy no longer feel the need to comply to TPTB's timeliness. They left Blair dead (he's not dead-he's just damp!) and gave us a crappy final season of Highlander. This is our little world and here we have the power, so NONE of that stuff ever happened. Denial, denial, denial!

Story title and lyrics borrowed without permission from Bob Marley (r.i.p.)

Mucho thanks to Suze for always being there, and to MoonPuppy who is crazy enough to be resident beta at the House Of Slack, and to all you wonderful people who have written us, we're still in shock that people like this stuff.

Three Little Birds

Part 20

By Zen&nancy

Duncan and Blair talked all afternoon. The grocery store was forgotten, and the room grew dark as the afternoon sunlight faded, but they stayed curled up in each other's arms, talking quietly.

Jim's knock at the door surprised them both. Blair looked up at the clock on the wall in the kitchen in disbelief. "Oh my God, we talked all day. It's six o'clock!" He got up from the couch, squeezing Duncan's hand one last time before going to let Jim in.

Jim came in smiling, dressed in dark slacks and a light blue dress shirt. "Hey, Chief, how's it going? You get all your chores done?" Jim looked around the dark, still messy loft.

"Um... Not really. We kinda blew it off."

Duncan came to Blair's rescue, "Hey Jim, how'd the class go?"

Jim came over to sit on the couch with him. "Great, fantastic. I'm thinking you might want to offer this one again in the spring, after high school's let out for the summer."

"Sure, as long as you're willing to teach it, I'd love to. Spence says the kids really like you."

"Yeah, well, they're here because they want to learn. Once they get it through their heads that they're not Bruce Lee, they're really great to work with."

Duncan laughed, "Yeah, I know what you mean. Listen, I need to get ready, let me change my clothes and we'll get out of here. Have you eaten yet?"

"No, have you two?"

"No, let's stop and get something before we go to Joe's. How about Italian?"

Jim nodded agreeably, "Sounds good. Get dressed, I'm starving."

"Okay, I'll be quick." Duncan got up, stopping at his dresser to pick out clothes to wear before going into the bathroom.

Blair watched him from the kitchen, where he'd retreated to sit cross legged on the counter top. He was envious of how relaxed Duncan was with Jim. He really seemed to okay with it, he wasn't the least bit off kilter. While he, on the other hand, felt like the world had tilted on it's axis, and he was still trying to get his balance back.

Even though he and Duncan had discussed the situation all afternoon, it took seeing Jim to make it real for him. As soon as he'd opened the door he'd felt the wave of heat pass through him, and he'd realized that this was going to happen. Feeling the powerful, instinctual attraction, and knowing that it couldn't happen for the past two weeks had left him a basket case. Seeing Jim now, all dressed up and looking hot as hell and knowing it would happen scared him silly.

"What's the matter, Chief? Your heart's going double-time. You okay?"

Blair hopped down from the counter top to wander around the loft, turning on lights.

"Um, yeah, I'm okay Jim." Blair smiled reassuringly at him, feeling his stomach flip over. Jim looked so damn good dressed to go out, it was hard not to stare at him. "You look great."

Jim shrugged self-consciously, "Thanks."

His Guide stood looking at him for another moment, the now familiar heat in his dark blue eyes.

"I guess I should be getting ready to go."

Jim listened to Blair's heart race. He was nervous. Jim frowned, unhappy about the idea of Blair uncomfortable around him.

"Yeah, why don't you do that, Chief."

"Um, yeah, okay, I'll do that." Blair mumbled distractedly, still lost in Jim's eyes. His feet felt like they were sunk in concrete, but he made himself move, going to the wardrobe to find something to wear.

Jim sighed softly, leaning back against the couch. It was difficult not to get angry at Blair when he looked at him like that. It was hard enough keeping these feelings under control without Blair blatantly leering at him like that.

Blair opened the bathroom door enough to slip through, smiling at a shirtless Duncan shaving at the sink, "Hey, gorgeous."

Duncan smiled at him in the mirror, making room for Blair next to him in front of the sink. "How're you holding up, kiddo?"

"Sort of okay?" Blair tried to make it a believable statement, but it came out sounding like a question anyway. His eyes laughed helplessly at Duncan's in the mirror, "Nervous does not begin to explain how I feel."

Duncan finished shaving, setting the razor down on the edge of the sink and turning to his lover. "I can't imagine what this is like for you, but maybe the best thing to do is just try to put it all out of your head. Just go out tonight and have a good time and try to forget about everything else. I think we could all use the night off."

"Oh man, I am so there. I'll try, I promise. It's just not easy. I can't believe how nervous I am, Duncan. It's weird. I mean, I can't even imagine it..."

"Then don't. Sometimes the best way to find an answer to something is not to look for it."

"Okay, Mr. Miyagi, I get the point." Blair chuckled.

Duncan gave him a blank, slightly suspicious look, "Okay, what cultural reference am I missing here?"

"Come on, man, The Karate Kid, Mr. Miyagi, the old Japanese guy... He catches a fly in his chopsticks." Blair laughed again at Duncan's frown.

"That's ridiculous."

"I love you."

Duncan finished buttoning his shirt, reaching for the his hair tie and wrapping it tightly around his hair at the base of his neck.

"The triangle, cool. I like that one best," Blair smiled at him, reaching for his brush.

"Me too. I'll meet you out there, okay?"

"Yeah, okay. I'll be out in a minute."

Duncan went back to his dresser for his wallet and keys, wondering what Jim would think of Joe Dawson.

"So where are we going for dinner, Mac?" Jim asked him, getting to his feet and wandering restlessly to the window. Duncan smiled, thinking that Jim wasn't any better at sitting still than Blair was.

"Villa Palermo?"

"Your call, Italian sounds really good, though."

"You'll like this place, it has wonderful food. Sort of a neighborhood landmark, it's been there for years."

"Okay, I'm ready. Duncan, do you have keys? I can't find mine," Blair came out of the bathroom to join them, going to his backpack to dig out his i.d.

"Now that's a shock," Jim chuckled, shaking his head at Blair. So much about his Guide had changed, it was good to know that inside he was still the same Blair.

"Yeah, Caro, of course I do. I always have keys. He's on his second set," Duncan told Jim, laughing when Blair stuck his tongue out at him.

"Total slander, man, it could have happened to anybody. I just forgot to take them out of my pocket when I dropped my jacket off at the cleaners and they lost them."

"Nope, that would only happen to you, Chief." Jim grinned at him, following Duncan to the elevator.

Duncan laughed at his lover's face, waiting for him to grab his coat and follow them into the elevator before he pulled the gate.

Blair relaxed a little over dinner, and all three of them stuffed themselves on spaghetti and meatballs. By the time they left for Joe's, they were all in good spirits.

In the car on the way to the bar, Jim told Duncan the story of how Blair had moved into the loft in Cascade. By the time he got to the part about Larry the monkey, Duncan was laughing uncontrollably.

"Oh, come on, Jim. You liked Larry, you know you did." Blair piped in from the back seat.

"Sandburg, you brought a monkey into my house, and he trashed the place. He escaped because he knew I was going to turn him into monkey stew when I got home."

"You let a monkey loose in Cascade?" Duncan asked, astonished.

"No, man, he was a Barbary ape. It wasn't like I let him go, he escaped." Blair's eyes laughed at him in the rearview mirror.

"You never cease to amaze me, kiddo."

"So, Mac, you know the guy that owns this place?" Jim asked as Duncan pulled into a parking spot on the side of the building.

"Yeah, we've been friends for a long time. His name is Joe Dawson. I think you'll like him."

It was Saturday night, and the bar was fairly crowed. Joe spotted them as soon as they came in though, waving to Duncan from behind the bar.

"Hey Mac, I was hoping you two would show up tonight. I saved you a table." Joe nodded in the direction of the only unoccupied table near the stage, with a 'reserved' card on it.

"Thanks, come talk when you can," Duncan called back, guiding Blair through the crowd with a hand at the small of his back.

Blair sat between Duncan and Jim, watching Jim take in his surroundings.

"So, what do you think?"

"I like it Chief, I really do. Nice place."

"Isn't it? It's homey. Wait till you hear Joe play, he's awesome."

"Can't wait."

Joe picked his way through the crowd, wondering who Duncan and Blair had with him.

"Hey Mac, how's it going? You keepin' him out of trouble, Blair?" Joe came up behind them, clapping a hand on Blair's shoulder.

"Hi Joe! We're good. I want you to meet my best friend, Jim Ellison. Jim, this is Joe Dawson."

Joe smiled at the stranger, offering him his hand, "Hi Jim, welcome to my place. You a cop?"

Jim laughed, returning Joe's handshake, "How'd you know?"

Joe shrugged, "I've owned a bar for long enough to pick out a cop when I see one." His smile was friendly.

"I was on the force in Cascade, nine years." Jim looked around, taking in the crowd and the activity on the stage, "So, Duncan says you're the band, too?"

"Yeah, gotta pay rent. You like blues?" Joe caught his waitress's attention, waving her over to their table to take their order.

"Yeah, I do. Do you take requests?"

"Sometimes. What do you want to hear?"

"Buddy Guy. Anything, but "Damn Right I Got The Blues" if you do it."

Joe grinned, "I'm a Buddy Guy fan from way back. I'm from Chicago. Sure, I'll do Damn Right for you. So, you in town to visit Blair?"

Duncan spoke before Jim had the chance to. "Actually, he's just moved here. We've set him up an apartment in the building on the third floor. Jim's teaching a couple of classes at the dojo for me."

"Really? Well that's great. Welcome to Seacouver, Jim, it's good to have you." Joe nodded to his bass player, who was motioning to him that they were ready to play. Holding up one finger, he turned back to Jim. "I'll come back and have a beer with you guys at the break, it's nice to meet you, Jim."

"Likewise, thanks."

Joe headed for the stage, sending a quizzical look at Duncan back over his shoulder.

"So when are we going to go shopping for Christmas decorations for the dojo and the loft?" Blair asked Duncan expectantly, reaching for his beer.

"You're right, we should go soon if we're going to do this. I suppose we could do it tomorrow. Are you willing, Jim?"

"To go to the mall with you two jokers two weeks before Christmas? Only if I can go armed," Jim kidded, grimacing at the idea of the noise and perfume levels of a packed shopping mall. "No, I'll go, but let's try and get it over with early, huh?"

Duncan grinned, thinking about how hard it was to get Blair out of bed on Sunday mornings. "We can try. I have quite a bit of Christmas stuff in storage on the second floor, but I'll have to go through it and see what we need. I think we should get more lights, we didn't have enough last year, and we should buy candy for the party, too. Maybe go to the deli and order some snack trays for the parents and some cookies."

"Good idea," Blair interrupted, excited about getting ready for the holidays. "We should go to the toy store and get a bunch of little things to give out as prizes for the games. Maybe like a grab bag or something, and then you want to have presents for all the kids under the tree, too, right?"

"Definitely, most of those kids come from homes where there isn't going to be a lot of money for presents, and I want them all to get at least one toy."

Jim shook his head, smiling. Duncan had the money to buy a Christmas present for every kid in his neighborhood. Then again, so did a lot of other people, but they would never even think of doing it. "You really are a boy scout, MacLeod. You gonna put them all through college, too?"

Duncan sighed, "I would if I could. Education is definitely the only way out for most of them, but having a place to go after school helps too."

"You're a good egg, Mac," Jim smiled at him, taking a long pull from his beer. This was easier than he'd thought it was going to be. He hadn't really wanted to tag along on Duncan and Blair's date, but he was having a good time.

Their conversation trailed off as Joe stepped up to the mike, introducing the band and thanking the crowd for coming out. Jim turned his chair to face the stage. He grinned at Joe, raising his bottle to him when he began with a classic Buddy Guy intro. Jim was surprised by how good they really were, Joe and his band were a class act.

"He's good, Mac, really good. This guy should have a record contract."

"I know, but this is what he loves, I don't think he'd give up the bar for anything, even fame. He is really talented, though, it's good to see the place crowded."

The waitress stopped at their table in her circle around the bar, Blair declined but Duncan and Jim both ordered a second drink.

"Being careful tonight, Caro?" Duncan drawled, giving Blair a wicked, conspiratorial smile.

Blair blushed, but he only nodded, turning his attention back to the stage. Jim watched the interchange, feeling longing and jealousy sweep over him. He tried to push it away, telling himself that Duncan was a good man, better for Blair than he could ever be, but it still made him want to pull Blair away from him. The way Blair smiled at him, embarrassed by whatever secret Duncan was reminding him of, hurt like hell. He didn't want to be reminded of their history. He didn't want to have to think about any of the time that he and Blair had spent apart, but that time had been very important to his Guide. No matter how much he'd like to, he couldn't deny it.

The band played a rollicking set, going smoothly from Buddy Guy to B. B. King, then south for some Mississippi delta blues, and then on to original material that had become popular among the regulars. Joe came back to the table when they took a break, acknowledging their applause with a smile.

"Man, you are really good. You should be famous," Jim told him as Joe sat down, signaling to the waitress for a beer.

"Thanks, but I think I'm happy where I'm at. Fame has a funny way of taking it all away from you." Joe met Duncan's eyes, a look of shared regret passing between them.

"Have you heard from him?" Duncan asked quietly, knowing that Joe would know who he was asking about.

Joe shook his head no, "I'm sorry, Mac. I was hoping he would call and let me know if he's coming for Christmas, but I haven't heard anything. I'm worried about him too," Joe added softly, not surprised when Duncan quickly looked away.

"I have heard from someone else, though. Have you talked to Amanda lately, Mac?" Joe taunted, amusement in his eyes.

Duncan rolled his eyes, "You know damn well I haven't, Dawson."

"Well, she'll be here two days before Christmas. Thank me. She was planning on staying at the loft, but I explained that it would probably be more convenient if she got a hotel," Joe was grinning evilly at his friend and charge.

"How did you explain it, Dawson?" Duncan's voice held a veiled threat.

Joe laughed, enjoying Mac's discomfort, "I told her you were with someone. She was only as miffed as she usually is, I figured I'd leave the details to you, Mac."

Duncan closed his eyes briefly, groaning, "Thanks, Joe, I really appreciate that."

Blair was looking at him expectantly, a wicked glee in his bright blue eyes, "Cool, I finally get to meet Amanda."

Duncan was relieved to see that Blair was only amused, and not apprehensive about meeting his on and off lover of two hundred years. It was good to know that Blair was that secure in their relationship. He had every reason to be, Duncan was as hopelessly in love as he'd ever been, and he was glad that Blair knew it. It was because he did love Blair so completely that he could accept the possibility of Blair giving his body to Jim.

"You're a brave man, Blair. I'm not sure how Amanda's going to react to you. Ah, hell, she'll probably think you're cute."

Jim looked up at Joe sharply, but the older man was laughing, shaking his head in mock disapproval when Duncan reached out to pull Blair's chair up against his, wrapping his arm possessively around Blair's shoulders.

"She can think all she likes, so long as she keeps her hands to herself."

"Mac, when have you known Amanda to do that? You, my friend, are in for a world of trouble, and I, for one, can't wait to see it."

Duncan shook his head, tightening his grip on his lover, "If there's any trouble, it's your fault, Dawson."

Joe laughed, "Ah, come on, MacLeod, you're a diplomat, I'm sure you can smooth things over. Nothing a trip to the jewelers won't fix. Richie, on the other hand, is another story. You're going to have to handle that one delicately, Mac. The kid worships the ground you walk on, still. I don't know how he's gonna take it. He was planning on staying with me, anyway, I guess he figured Amanda... Anyway, I didn't say anything to him, just told him you were staying in town."

"I'll talk to him, Joe, it'll be okay, don't worry about it." Duncan squeezed Blair's hand reassuringly when he looked apprehensively between them.

"Don't worry, Caro, it will be all right. Richie's a good kid. You'll like him."

"Okay, who's Amanda? And why do you have to walk on egg shells around Richie?" Jim turned to Duncan expectantly, frowning at him at when Duncan gave him a banal answer.

"Both close friends, I'm glad that everyone's coming home for Christmas."

Across the table, Joe watched Duncan carefully, knowing that he was really thinking that not everyone would be coming home, and wondering, as Joe was, what was keeping the old man away.

"Sounds like a cop out to me, Mac. Guess I get to wait and see."

Blair laughed, grinning at Jim across the table, "It's gonna be an awesome Christmas, man, I know it is."

Joe smiled at Blair's exuberance, teasing him gently, "He's only had one beer, Mac, and he's already all bouncy. Look out, you could be in for trouble."

Blair blushed, and Duncan pulled him back against his chest, laughing back, "I think I can handle it."

Jim got up, mumbling about going to rest room. He had to get away from Blair, or he was going to yank him right out of Duncan's arms. He saw his Guide move away from Duncan self-consciously as he left the table, and berated himself for making it so obvious. Blair deserved to be happy, and he had no right to mar that happiness with guilt for what was his fault in the first place.

When he returned to the table Duncan had ordered another beer for him, and Joe was back on stage. Blair looked over at him briefly as he sat down, a quick look of sympathy and apology that was hard to swallow. He made himself return his Guide's smile though, turning his chair back to face the stage again.

Duncan leaned close to whisper in Blair's ear, "Don't worry, Caro. Everything will be all right."

Blair nodded, turning his head to kiss his quickly. "I know."

Jim leaned back in his chair, letting the music fill his senses. It was so good that he didn't want to turn it down. He let himself get lost in the rhythm, feeling the notes of the bass reverberate in his chest. They were sitting close to the amplifiers, but for once he was enjoying the loud music. It made it easier to let go of his thoughts and block everything else out, getting lost in the sweet sadness of Joe's guitar.

He sighed regretfully when they finished their second set, Joe thanking everyone again for coming out to hear them. Duncan stood, holding Blair's coat for him to slip his arms into. It was such a casual gesture, but it twisted the knife deeper, and Jim had to turn his eyes away, noticing that the world had gotten fuzzy, light trailing and reflecting back at him dizzily.

"Jim? Hey, man, you okay?" Blair stood at his side, one hand hovering above his shoulder, wanting to touch him but remembering not to.

"Yeah, just my eyes... I shouldn't have had that third beer, I haven't been doing so great with alcohol lately."

Blair sighed, frowning. That was a major understatement. "Okay, um, just be careful, okay?" Blair reached out carefully, catching hold of the sleeve of Jim's coat, not touching him at all. Blair led him out of the bar, the hand that Guided him never touching his wrist. It was familiar, to be following Blair carefully, certain that his Guide wouldn't let him slip up, even though he could barely see at all. Duncan offered to pull the car around when they'd stepped outside the door, and Blair thanked him, sounding relieved.

"That'd be good. You're the best, man."

"No problem, Caro. I'll be right back." Duncan walked away, car keys jingling in his hand.

"I'm sorry, Chief, I should have know better. I just didn't think."

"How are your eyes? Tell me for real, Jim, be honest with me." Blair's voice was stern.

"Not so good. Lots of trails, color but no real definition. I can piggyback the sound thing like you showed me if I try hard. It helps the balance a lot. It'll be okay as soon as I sober up a little. Don't worry about it, Chief, I'll be fine." Jim didn't want to spoil his Guide's evening. He remembered Blair and Duncan talking about taking him to Joe's last night, and how excited Blair had been about it. He felt bad for spoiling the little R and R time Blair had.

"Hey, come on, Jim, don't bullshit me man, there's just no point, okay? You're upset, and you're a little bit drunk and your eyes are going haywire."

"Yeah, but I don't want you worrying about it. It's no big deal, nothing compared to what I did to myself back in Cascade. I'll be okay, it'll go back to normal in an hour or two."

"Okay tough guy, have it your way. Duncan's here." Blair grasped Jim's sleeve lightly, leading him to the curb. Duncan reached across to open the door for them and Blair hopped into the back seat, letting Jim feel his way into the front.

The ride home was mostly silent, Jim listened to Blair and Duncan talk quietly, making plans for Christmas shopping tomorrow morning. Duncan spoke to him kindly as he turned onto their street, "Almost home. How's your eyesight?"

"Okay. Getting better."

"That's good," Duncan pulled into his parking spot, putting the car in park. Blair helped Jim out of the T-bird, guiding him carefully to the door.

Jim wanted to thank Blair for his help, but he didn't trust himself to speak. Blair's hand had closed around his wrist, over the sleeve of his overcoat. He was sure his Guide wasn't aware that he was touching him, and he didn't want to lose the slight connection to Blair's body. Even through two layers of cloth, he could feel the pads of his Guide's fingertips, the pressure against the inside of his wrist, and the blood flowing under the skin.

Blair held the door open for him and Jim closed his eyes, deciding it was easier to let Blair Guide him than to try to interpret the streams of painfully bright light in the hallway. Duncan held the elevator gate for them, catching Jim's arm to steady him when he tripped stepping into the lift.

"Thanks," Jim mumbled, not bothering to open his eyes.

"It's okay." Duncan answered softly, meeting his lover's anxious eyes with calm reassurance.

"I'm gonna walk Jim to his apartment and I'll be right up, okay?"

"Sure, Caro. I'll see you in the morning, Jim."

"No, I can find my way inside my own house. Give me a little credit, here, Chief. I can handle it. Go to bed, I'll see you in the morning." Jim's tone of voice didn't encourage discussion.

"Um, okay, if you're sure you'll be all right... Be careful."

The elevator stopped at the third floor and Jim waited for Mac to pull the gate for him.

"Thanks, MacLeod. See you in the morning."

"Good night Jim."

Blair fidgeted nervously next to Duncan, twisting his fingers and shifting his balance from one foot to the other. Neither of them said anything until they were inside the loft. Blair took off his coat and Duncan took it from him to hang up. They turned towards each other, both speaking at once.



Blair laughed, coming to stand in Duncan's waiting arms. His lover pulled him close, bending to reach his lips. Duncan kissed him very softly, his tongue pushing gently into Blair's mouth to taste him thoroughly.

Blair relaxed against him, smiling dazedly when Duncan's lips released him, "What were you gonna say?"

"Go to him, Caro. He needs you."

"Now?" Blair whispered, looking up at Duncan with wide, scared eyes.

"Yes. Don't worry, everything will be all right." Duncan kissed Blair's forehead, turning him around and pushing him gently back towards the elevator. "I love you. I'll see you in the morning."

Blair hesitated, then rushed back into the safety of Duncan's arms, wrapping his arms tightly around his waist.

"I'm scared. I love you."

Duncan smoothed Blair's hair tenderly, "Shh, it's okay, Caro, really. I wouldn't be telling you to do this if I wasn't sure. Trust me. I won't be angry, I swear it. I love you."

Blair looked up at him adoringly, drawing strength from the certainty in the warm brown eyes. "Okay," He whispered, slowly releasing his tight hold on his lover's waist. "I think you are the most incredible person I have ever known."

Duncan's hands on his shoulders turned him gently, and Blair walked into the elevator and pulled the gate, not letting himself look back. Duncan watched him go, sighing softly. Going to the other side of the room, he got himself a glass and poured it half full of scotch. It was going to be a long night. He knew that he'd done the right thing, and he felt good about it, but he would miss Blair beside him in bed tonight. If he was honest with himself, he had to admit that he was apprehensive about what the morning might bring.

Blair stood outside Jim's door, his heart pounding frantically in his chest. The walk down the hall had felt like it was a mile long. He knew he should be trying to think of what to say when Jim opened the door, but his brain seemed to have shut down. He told himself that he should knock, Jim was bound to hear him standing here trying not to hyperventilate. Before he could though, the door swung open, Jim's broad frame filling the doorway.

"What's wrong, Chief?" Jim swept his Guide quickly with his senses, taking in the rapid heartbeat, perspiration and accelerated breathing.

"Can I come in?"

"Yeah. What's wrong? Are you okay?"

"No way. Not at all." Blair realized that he was scaring Jim, and did everything he could to get himself under control. This wasn't going to work if he couldn't calm down. He took a deep breath, forcing himself to let it out slowly.

"No, I'm sorry, I'm okay. Really, everything's okay." Blair walked passed Jim to the couch, sitting down and looking up at him for the first time since he'd opened the door. "Come here, Jim, sit down. We need to talk."

His Guide's eyes were deadly serious. Fear gripped his stomach, but he responded to the plea in Blair's voice, walking slowly to sit down next to him.

"Okay. What do we need to talk about?" He was too close. He'd done it to himself. He could have sat at the other end of the couch, but the seriousness of Blair's voice made him want to be close to him. He didn't think he wanted to hear whatever Blair had to say, he hoped he could get through this without zoning out on him. Blair was talking, his deep voice sliding into the hypnotic Guide rhythm. Jim blinked rapidly, forcing himself to concentrate on what Blair was saying.

"... Been really hard on you, I know it has, and I want you to know how much it means to me. We've got a lifetime commitment here, man, and we have to make it right again... I know we can do this, Jim. Please, just trust me, just trust me, Jim..." Blair's voice caressed him, spreading gently through his consciousness. Jim realized that Blair had taken both his hands, holding them lightly in his smaller ones. "I know this is how it's supposed to be, Jim, you just have to trust me, partner. It's going to be okay..." Blair squeezed his hands gently, moving slowly across the space between them.

Jim was frozen, not zoned, but so focused on Blair's voice that it took a moment to realize what Blair was actually saying. His Guide was so close, so very close. It took willpower he didn't know he had not to pull Blair into his arms. One thought stopped him.


"No, it's totally okay, I promise. We talked about it all day, everything's going to be all right. Just trust me, Jim, please. I want to make it better, buddy, I know I can. Just trust me, please. We can take this so slow..." Blair's hands slid slowly over the backs of Jim's hands, moving up the solid forearms.

Blair felt himself falling, lulled by the sound of his own voice, crooning softly to Jim. It was almost like a trance, the way he lost himself when he was guiding the Sentinel, stretching his mind out to the link he could feel between them, leading Jim back to him with his voice. Jim wasn't zoned, though, and he was touching him with his body now, his side pressed against Jim's from knee to shoulder. Blair felt as though he was completely aware of every cell, every pore of his body that touched Jim's, and he wondered briefly if this was what Jim felt.

"See, this is good, you're not zoning..." Blair continued gently, his hands sliding slowly up and down Jim's forearms, feeling the muscles relax under his hands. "Everything's going to be okay now, I promise..." Blair's words stopped when Jim's strong arms came up to wrap tightly around his waist, pulling him into his lap.

Jim's arms crushed him tightly against his chest, squeezing him painfully hard. Blair hugged him back just as hard, his arms coming up to wrap around Jim's broad shoulders.

Jim buried his face in Blair's thick hair, every one of his senses filled with nothing but the awareness of his Guide. Blair was heavy and warm and solid in his arms, his breath against Jim's neck something so familiar that it shook him to the core. Jim felt the dam of emotion break inside him, clutching Blair even tighter against him. Finally, his Guide was exactly where he wanted him to be, so close that he couldn't even tell where he stopped and Blair began. Jim listened to their hearts beating in unison, the slow, matched rush of their breaths, and felt pure joy flood his senses. Nothing had ever felt like this before, nothing possibly could.

Blair shifted against him, reminding him silently of his painfully fierce hold on his Guide, Jim relaxed his arms around Blair's rib cage, sighing when Blair melted against him. Blair's head fit perfectly against his collar bone, his arms locked tightly around his neck. Jim realized he was rocking them slowly, absorbing his Guide through his skin.

They stayed that way for a long time, neither of them willing to move and break the sense of oneness. Jim held the compact body tenderly now, his face still buried in his Guide's mop of hair, his lips pressed against his scalp. Finally, Blair shifted a little, lifting his head from Jim's shoulder.

Jim's eyes were like lodestones, drawing him in until his face was only a breath away from his Sentinel's, their breath coming in slow, measured unison.

"Easy, it's okay..." Blair whispered softly, letting himself be drawn into the strong, magnetic pull.

Their lips sealed against each other, mouths slightly open, breath exhaled in a rush through flared nostrils. Jim moaned quietly into his Guide's mouth, drowning in his taste and texture. This was what his Guide tasted like. Happiness rushed in his veins like a drug and Jim fought the zone with everything he had, conscious only of the need to stay connected to his Guide.

Blair pulled back, biting his tongue before he spoke, starting instinctually to try to pull Jim back from nothingness and then stopping himself. Instead, he relaxed completely against the hard, frozen body, wrapping his arms around Jim's neck. He sealed his lips over Jim's, his tongue pushing into Jim's slack mouth.

After only a moment, Jim responded, his arms tightening instinctually around his Guide. His first sensation was warmth. The heat of Blair's body pressed tightly against him and the wet fire of his tongue stroking the inside of his mouth. He sucked mindlessly at the soft, full lips, drawing Blair's tongue in deeper. Blair's taste filled his mouth, sending heat coursing through his body in waves. Jim groaned, his hands coming up to sink into the thick, silky hair, aware of each individual strand as it slid across his skin.

Blair's mouth slanted over his, responding to Jim's tongue ardently, feeding him the desire burning inside him. Jim's hands moved from his hair to stroke his face, tracing the lines of bone and muscle he could feel beneath his sensitive fingertips. His Guide made a small sound against his lips, and gentled his tongue's frenzied thrusts into his mouth.

Jim thought he might die from the pleasure, but he held onto consciousness with absolute determination. Slowly, a delayed sort of shock set in. He tried to remember what Blair had been saying to him, but the desire burning through him made it difficult to hold on to a thought. Blair's lips were so soft, the small mouth open and welcoming, small, sharp teeth and velvet tongue.

Finally, real awareness came back and Jim pulled away, unable to tear his eyes from Blair's wet, gasping mouth. A long, charged minute passed between them.

"Blair..." his voice sounded hoarse and unnatural to his ears, Jim almost let himself zone on the hungry, naked expression of Blair's wide blue eyes. He made himself take a deep breath, and tried again, "Blair... we shouldn't. I... I don't know if I can do this..." Jim stopped again, closing his eyes, his hold on Blair tightening uncontrollably. "You feel so good, Chief. I just want to keep you here..." His voice broke on the last word, his throat sealing up against the pain.

"Shh, easy. I know. It's okay. It's gonna be okay, I promise. I'm here, I'm always gonna be here, man. I'm not ever gonna make you try to do this alone again." Blair's hand's came up between them to touch Jim's face, his fingertips tracing the strong features lovingly, expressing everything he felt for this man who was such an undeniable part of himself.

Jim turned his face into Blair's hand, pressing his lips to the smooth palm. "I'm so sorry, Blair, I'm so sorry, for everything..."

Blair's lips covered his, cutting off his words, raining quick, frantic kisses over his mouth and his jaw. "No. No, it's gonna be okay. I don't want you to think about it now." Blair's whisper was a warm rush of breath against his skin.

"What about Duncan?" Jim forced the words out, his hands moving slowly over his Guide's back.

"It's okay, honest. We talked about it all afternoon. Duncan says that he doesn't want to stop me from being your Guide, and denying the physical attraction between us is doing that... He promised that it would be okay. He's not going to be angry."

Jim interrupted, "Blair, he loves you, how can he..."

"Hush, listen to me," Blair took Jim's face in his hands, turning his head to stare directly into his eyes. "Right now, there's nothing to worry about, nothing at all. It's all the past and future, Jim, and none of it matters. Right now it's just you and me, man, and whatever you want, you can have. Everything's gonna be okay, this isn't wrong, Jim, this is so right..."

Then Blair kissed him again, and the whole world melted away. Blair's lips were so soft, brushing lightly over his, his fingertips still stroking his face. Tracing his eyebrows, fluttering lightly over his closed eyelids, moving across his cheeks and over his jaw. Small hands, with long, finely shaped fingers spread out over the back of his neck, drawing him closer.

Blair shifted in his arms, taking some of his weight off Jim's legs and curling up around him, his knees drawn up on the couch and his upper body draped across Jim's massive chest. It was hard to believe he was really here. The desire burning through him was balanced by the wonderful feeling that he finally had his Jim back, and the knowledge that everything really was going to be okay.

"Ah, Chief, I wish I'd let myself feel this last time... You feel so damn right."

Blair knew he was talking about the night when he'd kicked him out of the loft. Unwilling to waste time on the painful memory, he only mumbled against Jim's lips, "Feel it now." He kissed him tenderly, pouring all the emotion bubbling over inside him into Jim's open mouth.

Jim groaned, his hand coming up to hold the back of Blair's head, savoring his Guide's passionate kisses. He was dimly aware of the hardness pressing against his thigh, but he realized that it only fanned the flames of need rushing through him. Blair's hands had drifted down to his shoulders, kneading the rounded muscles, digging in exquisitely as his tongue fluttered in his mouth. Jim groaned softly, holding Blair tighter against him. His hands roamed restlessly over his Guide's back, longing for more contact.

Their tongues wrapped slowly around each other, each of them knowing that they were playing with fire. Jim forced himself to hold still, returning Blair's passionate kisses, feeling the need grow to desperate hunger inside him.

An entire hour passed slowly like that, neither of them moving, their arms wrapped tightly around each other, kissing until their lips were swollen from the constant contact. For Blair, it felt like eternity. He gave himself up completely to the feel of Jim's tongue in his mouth, pouring himself into his Sentinel without reservation. He felt both completely exposed and utterly protected in Jim's strong embrace. Nothing mattered outside this, right now, Sentinel and Guide.

Jim's whisper broke the heavy silence, "Show me what to do, Blair, I need more..." his lips sealed over his Guide's again, his hands digging into the sharp shoulder blades.

Blair panted back at him, his voice hoarse with need, "Oh, man, Jim. I wanna touch you so bad, I have to."

Blair's hands fumbled with Jim's shirt, pulling his shirt tails free of the waistband of his slacks. His fingers pulled at the small buttons, pushing them through the buttonholes with single minded determination. Jim sat still, neither helping or trying to stop him. When he could push the expensive silk away and Jim's hard chest was exposed, Blair exhaled softly, leaning close to press himself against the exposed skin.

Jim moaned, clutching Blair to him. His Guide's heart pounded against his chest, his swollen lips covering Jim's throat, sucking softly. "Blair..." Jim groaned out loud, his hands grasping at his Guide's shoulders. The shudder of need that went through him sent his senses spinning out of control. The sensation of Blair's hot, moist mouth sucking at the bare skin of his throat spread through his entire body, until he was nothing but the aching desire for his Guide.

"Jim, come back to me, partner. Come on, right here, you know you don't want to miss this, Jim, come on, follow me back, I'm right here..." Blair's words trailed off as Jim opened his eyes, a flush spreading over his cheeks.

"I'm sorry, Chief. I didn't mean to."

"No," Blair shook his head, bright, glossy eyes shining, "No, it's okay. We'll just keep doing this until you don't zone anymore."

"Mm, what about after that?" Jim asked softly, trying to ask his Guide what was going to happen from here.

"Whatever you want, big guy. We'll work on it, don't worry, everything's going to be fine, I promise."

"Okay, Chief. I trust you." Jim answered quietly, his arms tightening around Blair to hug him tightly to his chest. Releasing him, he raised one hand, letting his fingertips brush lightly across Blair's swollen lips, "You always were too smart for me, partner."

"Oh man, it is so good to have you back, for real." Blair wrapped his arms tightly around Jim's shoulders, pushing his face into the side of Jim's neck.

Jim's hands caught the hem of his shirt, holding Blair away from him long enough to pull it over his head. When he pulled him close again, the desire in Blair's eyes made him growl low in his throat, his lips closing possessively over his Guide's.

Blair groaned into his mouth, rubbing himself sensually over the hard, smooth chest. For a second, the heat of Blair's skin was too hot, it burned. Jim turned the dial on his sense of touch down quickly, and suddenly the pleasure was so intense he was afraid that he was going to come. His heart pounded in his chest, the sensation of Blair's skin against his was better than anything he could have imagined, the waves of need went straight to his groin, his hips arching against his Guide. His hands closed over Blair's hips, pulling him closer, and their trapped erections brushed lightly against each other. Blair moaned, his head falling back as his body arched towards him. Pleasure shot through him like a powerful drug in his veins and Jim felt himself begin to slip away. He fought it, but the feeling was too powerful, pulling him down.

"Jim, don't go away on me here, man, I need it too bad..." Rather than letting go, Blair plastered himself to Jim's naked chest, his mouth nuzzling and sucking at the smooth flesh. "Come on, man, this is too good, we're so close... Please, Jim, just let yourself feel it, buddy, turn it down a little if it gets too intense. Oh man, I know you need this, just let me give it to you..." Blair panted softly, his hot, moist breath fanning over Jim's chest as his mouth devoured him. Jim groaned, his hands coming up quickly to grasp either side of Blair's head.

"Blair, don't leave me, don't ever leave me." Jim pulled Blair up to kiss him hungrily, his mouth seeking his Guide's blindly.

"I won't, I promise, never." Blair panted against his lips, his tongue plunging into Jim's mouth, reveling in the way he was caught and held so tightly in Jim's arms.

Blair barely noticed that he was being moved, his entire being was focused on feeding Jim long, passionate kisses. Jim's hands under his ribs lifted him up, laying him back slowly on the couch. Blair became dimly aware of the fact that they were precariously close to falling off the edge of the couch, and tried to counter their dangerous tilt. Unfortunately, flinging his leg around Jim's hard thigh dragged them in the wrong the direction, and they hit the floor hard.

"Ow!" Blair exclaimed, falling hard on one hip and an elbow. Jim did his best to keep from landing on top of him, and managed to hit the floor on his knees, his hands coming down to catch his weight on either side of Blair's head.

They stared into each other's eyes for a second, both turning red, and then burst into laughter. Blair flung his arms up around Jim's neck, pulling the larger man down on top of him.

"Blair, I'm going to squash you," Jim argued, trying to hold his weight off his Guide against the strength of the arms pulling him down.

"No you won't. I don't care." Blair was still laughing, staring up adoringly into Jim's clear blue eyes. "Come here, I wanna kiss you."

Jim sighed, looking down into the beautiful face. It was almost more than he could believe, to really have Blair beneath him like this, laughing up at him, pure happiness in his eyes.

"I need you... I want..." Jim stopped, not knowing how to ask for more. He needed more of Blair, needed to have him naked against him.

Blair's laughter died down, his hands reaching up to pull Jim's face close to his, holding the sides of his head tenderly, "What, Jim? What do you want? You can have it, anything, man, I promise. I want you so bad... You don't have to be embarrassed, Jim, I swear, you can have anything you want, just name it."

Jim groaned softly, his lips moving in to attack his Guide's small, hot mouth, his head swimming with the heat and the implication of Blair's whispered words.

"You, in bed with me, no clothes. I just want to hold you, I want to feel you against me."

"Okay, we can do that, definitely. Floor's hard," Blair's mouth tore itself from his, squirming out from under him.

Blair offered Jim a hand up, grasping the raised hand and hauling the larger man to his feet. Jim's bed was on the other side of the room, a dark blue down comforter spread out over it. Blair led Jim wordlessly across the room, reaching to turn out the light in the living room as they passed it. The loft was cast into shadow, only the light over the kitchen sink still on. Blair stopped next to the bed, stepping away from Jim to pull off his blue jeans.

Belatedly, the fact that he was about to get naked into a bed with another man sprang into Jim's mind, followed by the knowledge that he had asked for exactly that just a minute ago. Blair stood in front of him, his erection very obvious through the thin cotton boxers.

"Jim? Hey, listen to me, partner, it's all good. Anything you want, or nothing at all, okay? We don't have to do anything. Lie down with me, Jim." Blair held out a hand to his Sentinel, not letting himself move forward to touch Jim until he reached for him.

As soon as he touched Blair, the doubt receded in Jim's mind, dissolving under the powerful, familiar sensation of Blair's touch. "I'm sorry, I'm not trying to drive you crazy," Jim looked away from Blair, embarrassed.

"No, come on, don't worry about it, I'm fine. We're fine. Just lie down with me, relax, no pressure..." Blair crooned soothingly, guiding Jim gently to lie down on the bed, holding back the covers for him to slip under and crawling in to lie next to him.

Blair laid still, watching Jim with open, trusting eyes. Slowly, the larger man turned on his side to face him, his hands coming up to cup his Guide's face. He stared solemnly into the deep blue eyes for a long moment before leaning in to kiss him softly. Blair's full lips parted slowly for him, their bodies drawn to each other like magnets under the covers.

"Jim," Blair moaned deeply, pressing himself against the long, hard body.

Jim trembled in his Guide's hungry embrace. To hear Blair moaning his name like that filled him with a desperate, possessive want. He pulled Blair tightly against him, rolling his Guide beneath him. Blair moaned, turning his face into Jim's neck, his breath coming in hot pants against his skin. Blair's calves wrapped around his legs, and suddenly Jim was very sorry that he hadn't taken off his dress slacks. The first contact with the heat of Blair's sex sent him into a state of mindless, desperate need. Afraid he was going to zone on the uncontrollable pleasure, Jim made himself speak, hoping to keep himself from losing control.

"Blair... I don't wanna zone, it feels too good. Help me..."

Blair arched up against him, wrapping his arms around Jim's neck to whisper in his ear, "Don't let yourself. Don't concentrate on one sense for too long. If touch gets too intense go to scent, or taste, don't let yourself concentrate too hard, just find the dial and ease it down a little. There you go, that's good, huh?" Blair questioned hotly, grinding his hips slowly against Jim's hard cock.

"Yeah, incredible. Chief..."

"What?" Blair captured Jim's earlobe between his lips, sucking and then biting softly.

"More," it came out a long, shuddering moan.

"Oh, man, I am so there. Jim," Blair babbled excitedly, his hands fumbling between them under the covers. It took eons longer than he wanted to it to, but finally, he got the dress slacks undone and shoved down around Jim's knees. He kicked them off, trapping Blair with his weight to do so. When he could, Blair maneuvered Jim back onto his side. He couldn't direct their lovemaking trapped underneath the larger man, and although it was obvious that Jim's instinct was to dominate his Guide, it was also clear that he didn't really know what to do with him.

"This feels so good, Jim. You... I just wanna crawl inside you." Blair groaned quietly near Jim's ear, his hands roaming slowly over the powerful body, soothing and inflaming. When he covered Jim's hard cock with his palm through the thin material of his boxers, his Sentinel bucked helplessly into his hand, a harsh sound breaking from his chest as he gasped for air.

"Easy, remember, you're in control of this, we're gonna be okay, you're not gonna zone on me, man, it's just gonna feel so good, Jim, so good..." Blair's hand slipped beneath the elastic waistband, taking his throbbing cock gently in his fist.

"Ahh," Jim cried out at the streak of pure, intense, exhilaration that shot through him, arching his body in a tight curve.

"Shh, I know," Blair pressed himself tightly to Jim's side, stroking the hard, responsive cock in his hand slowly. If felt so right, to hold Jim in his hand and feel every shudder of his breath, hear the quiet groans hissing through his clenched teeth. "Oh yeah, oh God, Chief. Yes," Jim moaned, hanging on to consciousness by a tenuous thread as hot, intense pleasure seized him. Every muscle in his body going tense as he came with a long groan, his hand covering Blair's on his pulsing cock, holding him still as the waves of ecstasy tore through him.

Blair curled himself around Jim's body protectively, waiting to see if Jim would come back to him on his own. He did, opening his eyes slowly to look into his Guide's.

"Blair," He whispered his Guide's name, his voice filled with awe.

"I know. I feel like that, too. I'm so glad you let me... I need you, Blessed Protector."

Blair's soft words broke down every doubt and barrier left in Jim's mind. He shifted on his side to wrap his arms around his almost naked Guide, pulling the smaller man into his embrace. Blair melted against him, the heat of his body still shockingly erotic, even seconds after he'd just come. Blair felt more right in his arms than anyone else ever had. He realized that he was no longer intimidated by the situation, but rather consumed by the overwhelming need to touch him.

Rolling away from Blair, he pulled off the sticky boxer shorts, returning to lean slowly over his Guide. Hooking two fingers under the elastic of Blair's underwear he pulled them down his legs. "Tell me, Blair. What do you need?" His voice was thick with emotion, wanting so badly to return the pleasure Blair had given him.

Blair shook his head, smiling, "Just you," His hands came up to anchor himself on Jim's strong shoulders, rocking slowly against him. "Ah, God you feel good." Blair whispered harshly, pressing his aching cock against the hardness of Jim's muscular hip.

"Mine," Jim growled back, lowering his head to cover his throat and shoulders with small, sharp bites. Blair moaned continuously, writhing in Jim's arms, twisting his head from side to side to give him better access to his skin.

Blair gasped as Jim's mouth moved over his skin, marking him with his teeth, devouring his flesh. The sharp bites didn't hurt at all. Instead, they unleashed inside him a hunger so desperate that all he could do was grind himself against Jim mindlessly, arching his body to offer more of his bare skin for Jim's mouth.

Jim's hands came down on his hips, holding him pressed into the bed. Blair moaned desperately, his eyes flying open to beg Jim silently. Jim's weight came down on top of him, his cock pressing intimately up against his Guide's. Jim groaned, covering Blair's lips to kiss him possessively, his tongue sliding into the hot mouth. It felt even better than Blair's small, tight fist around his cock had, to rub himself slowly against Blair's heavy, stiff erection and watch his face twist in ecstasy.

"Ahh, Jim. Oh yeah, that feels soo good. Harder..." Blair moaned helplessly against his lips, his eyes tightly shut, his body thrusting desperately up against his Sentinel.

"Mine," Jim growled tenderly over his lips, swallowing his Guide's answering moan of pleasure. Although he'd come explosively only a few minutes ago, Jim found himself once again at the brink of orgasm, watching the beauty of Blair writhing in total submission beneath him.

"Yes, yes, oh please..." Blair cried out, his hands digging into the small of Jim's back as his hips bucked beneath him. They came together, tongues thrust deep in each other's mouths, swallowing each other's moans and the violent shudders of their bodies release.

Blair's legs locked tight around him, holding Jim on top of him when he tried to move. "Not yet."

"Can you breath?" Jim gasped, still out of breath himself.

"Nope," Blair grinned against his chest, his lips nuzzling the sweat slicked skin.

"You're a lot lighter, you should be on top," Jim told him humorously, rolling them over without breaking contact with his Guide.

Blair laughed, the sound reverberating against Jim's chest, seeming to go straight through him, "It's a little late to decide that, partner. But I won't argue with you. Next time." Blair stretched out on top of Jim, covering as much of the larger man with his as he could.

"You feel good." Jim told him quietly, wrapping his arms around his Guide. It felt wonderful, perfect, incredible, better than anything should, to have Blair draped over his naked body like a blanket. Jim thought that he could sleep like this, perfectly content.

"Mm, that's awesome, so do you. You're really okay with this?" Blair asked quietly, the first hint of hesitation creeping into his voice.

Jim nodded solemnly, holding the exhausted, relaxed body to him hungrily. "Yeah, I am. It's just you, Chief, you were right... It's because you're the one I need. Don't ever leave me, Sandburg," Jim spoke softly, pulling Blair's head down to press a kiss to his Guide's forehead.

Blair pulled back again to look at him, pleasure and relief in his beautiful eyes, "I won't, you know that. No more secrets, no more guilt, ever. Okay?"

Jim pulled him back down against his chest, hugging him tight. "Deal."

They stayed like that for a long time, until Blair began to drift off to sleep. Sighing, he started to slide off of Jim to lie next to him and laughed when he realized they were very nearly stuck together.

"We need a shower."

Jim wrinkled his sensitive nose in agreement, throwing the covers off of them dramatically. "You're right."

Blair groaned, pushing his face into the muscular chest, "Hmm, I don't wanna get up..."

"Me either, but I want a shower." Jim rolled to a sitting position, his hand caressing his Guide's bare back. "Coming?" He asked softly, lifting his hand when Blair rolled over to squint up at him.

"Yeah. Shower, okay."

Jim grinned, pulling Blair up to sit with his back leaning against Jim's chest.

"Hey, how are your senses? Anything spiking, going hyper?" Blair twisted his head around to look at his Sentinel, curiosity and concern animating his tired features.

"They're fine. Everything feels normal." Jim's arms tightened around Blair's shoulders as he added softly, "Even this."

Blair sighed happily, leaning back against him, "Yeah, I know. I knew it would be like this."

Jim grasped Blair's hand, pulling him to his feet. They took a hot shower and crawled back to bed, Jim wrapping himself around his Guide in the center of the bed.

"I used to think about this," Jim whispered in Blair's ear, gathering him closer against his chest.


"Yeah, just sleeping with you, holding you."

"Oh man, I'm so there," Blair mumbled sleepily, smiling. He took the hand that curled around his waist, dragging Jim's arm further around him.

Blair drifted off to sleep, exhausted and totally content. Jim sighed, letting Blair's steady heartbeat fill his senses. It felt so damn right, to be curled up around his Guide like this, the familiar sound of Blair's breathing in his ear. Blair's head was tucked into his shoulder, his thick mop of curls in Jim's face. Jim smiled, nuzzling his nose into the thick, soft hair. This was exactly where he wanted to be.

End Part 20

Part 21

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