The night for a sentinel was not pleasant. One would think the dark silence would comfort and caress the senses like a womb. But it wasn't so. The absence of light amplified sounds, echoing the slightest *tic* and *toc* from the dripping faucet, the rain on the window, the creak of the building as it settled in the winter cold. The rustle of bed sheets in the spare room below, as Sandburg twisted and turned, murmuring to himself in his sleep, rasped against the ears. The light that did filter through the curtains, and that snuck through the skylight, wrapped itself around shadows, magnifying the darkness until it swallowed objects whole, leaving nothing but dark empty space.
Jim Ellison hated the night. He would toss and turn, despite the white noise generators Blair had so generously given him. The eye mask was uncomfortable, even the silken fabric scratchy against his skin. No matter how long he brushed his teeth, he could taste the remnants of his last meal.
Two weeks of sleepless nights was too long. The dark circles under his eyes grew.
"Jesus, Jim. Are you sick or something?"
"No, Simon, just tired."
"Get Sandburg and go home. I don't want to see you here until you've had at least fifteen hours of sleep."
"Sir, I'm fine."
"Jim, you just wrote a report saying you arrested a perp for being a jack rabbit. While I'm sure that car thieves can run quite fast, I'm pretty sure that's not what you meant. You're tired and it's affecting your work. Go. Home."
So he did.
He performed his nightly routine; cleaned his gun, checked the locks, brushed his teeth violently in the hopes of eradicating the taste of the taco he'd had for supper, shed his clothes and decided on blissful nudity as his choice of night time attire.
It was a dance between Blair and himself, as the younger man detangled hair, packed his book bag and readied his algae shake for the next morning. They brushed against each other in the passing from the bathroom to the kitchen to the living room, spinning unseen circles around each other.
It was with trepidation that Jim had mounted the stairs, dreading another sleepless night while his roommate slumbered below, oblivious.
"Night Jim." His guide was worried. Not that Blair said anything overtly; Jim could see the sidelong glances that spoke of restrained concern.
He lay his head on the pillow, forgoing the eye mask, too tired to turn on the white noise generator.
He closed his eyes, feeling the exhaustion deep in his bones, turning muscle to jelly.
The dawn threw golden streams of light through the blinds. Dust floated in the air, misting the world in saffron auras. Jim slowly stretched, glorifying in the feel of tendons slowly elongating, bones realigning. He could hear Blair puttering around downstairs as he turned on the coffee and snatched the sports section from the newspaper before Jim came downstairs.
The sentinel rolled to his feet and yawned. Then his eyes widened.
He had slept. An honest to goodness full night's rest. His skin tingled slightly, and his nose scented the air instinctively. It was good to be alive. Time to go fight some crime. Jim snorted softly to himself as he imagined himself sliding down a pole into a some bat-cave equivalent, where Blair stood ready to banish the evil criminals, complete with tights and a cape.
It was with a wry smile at the lingering thought of Blair in tights that Jim sat down to scan the remaining newspaper sections as he ate a bagel with creme cheese. Blair sat a mug of coffee down, sloshing the contents slightly.
"Watch it, Chief."
Jim looked up sharply. His roommate looked and sounded haggard. "Rough night?"
"I guess, I didn't get much sleep last night."
"Too much caffeine?" Jim asked as he nodded towards the huge stein that Blair enjoyed drinking his coffee from. He took a sip from his own mug and savoured the slight chicory flavour that undercut the sweet bitterness of the beans, freshly ground from the pungent taste.
"Maybe. Probably stress."
"You coming in today?" Jim idly pondered the stack of paperwork he had building up in his in-box, and mentally calculated how much of it he could pawn off on his partner.
"Hmm." Blair mumbled noncommitally. "Damn, Jags lost last night. One more and they're out of the playoffs, you know."
"So, I'll see you later?" That mound of paper work was almost daunting, ready to topple and smother unwary perps who sat in the wrong chair.
Jim cut off another retort and snatched up his keys.
The drive in was bright, sparkling and for a moment Jim wondered what twilight zone he had entered before deciding to go with the flow.
A cheery grin at Rhonda, shared jokes with Brown and Rafe, and he was seated at his desk powering energetically through the accumulated reports. He didn't notice as the hand in the clock on the wall moved steady along, coming to rest upon the eleven.
"And what was in your wheaties this morning?" Simon loomed like a thunder cloud.
"Hey, Simon. Doughnut?" Jim held out the box he had picked up on the way in, filled with plump Boston Creme filled pastries, chocolate dipped marvels and sugar dusted doughy balls.
"Uh, no. Thanks. I gather you slept well?"
"Like a baby."
"Without the drooling, I hope," Simon quipped.
"Ha, ha. It's weird. I didn't even have to use the white noise generators. I guess I just crashed."
"Go figure. Oh, hey, there's Sandburg." Simon nodded towards the door. "He looks tired."
"Maybe he caught what I had."
Blair smiled across the room and made a beeline for Jim's desk. He sat down heavily, and his book bag slipped off his shoulder, landing with a resounding *thunk* on the floor.
"Hey guys. You wouldn't believe what happened to me on the way here. This pregnant woman on the bus..."
Jim allowed the sound of his partner's voice to rush over him, playing a melody that danced over his ear drums and thrummed in time with his soul. He couldn't stop the small smile from forming on his lips as he became lost in the timbre, rise and fall of his guide's words.
"...Jim? Jim, come on, man. Don't zone here. Not now." It was a hushed whisper. With a shake, Jim broke his reverie and blinked. Blair stared worriedly at him, eyes large, hands brushing lightly over his thigh, sending tingled along Jim's skin, even through the denim.
"I'm okay, Chief." Jim sat up straighter and lightly cuffed Blair's head. "Grab a pen," he said pointing to the pile of forms ready to be filled in. Blair rolled his eyes in protest, but uncapped his favourite ballpoint and wielded it like a sword, slashing through the bonds of bureaucracy with sure and steady strokes.
Jim was getting concerned. He had slept well for the past week, each morning awakening with super sensitive skin and a grin on his face. The latest development was a morning erection that transcended all others, requiring serious hand action and biting of the pillow to smother the ensuing shout of ecstasy.
But that wasn't why he was concerned.
Blair was looking more and more run down as the week dragged on. He was pale, listless, and barely able to maintain his normal breakneck speed. Jim began handing him vitamins, and became really concerned at the end of the week when Blair no longer protested that they were unnecessary. Iron supplements, Vitamin C, Echinacea, and a suggestion to make an appointment with the University Medical Clinic were quietly taken without a murmur of resistence.
The doctor told him to cut back on his work, get rid of stress, and exercise more. Blair laughed tiredly at that, said that graduate students were constituted by stress and work, and he got enough exercise running around after Jim.
Nothing was working, and Jim was getting worried. His own energy had returned, exponentially even, and he couldn't help but suspect that Blair's lack of drive and his own renewal were somehow connected.
He had arrived home, Blair having called earlier, letting him know he wouldn't be coming into the station. When he had walked into the loft, the soft scent of vanilla wafted about him. It was Blair's favourite meditation scent, and sure enough, the young man was seated cross-legged on a pillow outside on the balcony. The soft tinkle of the chimes dangling from the balcony railing twined with sound of the sea as a meditation cd played in the background.
Jim leaned against the door jam, watching his partner. Almost unnaturally still, Blair sat with the backs of his hands balanced on his knees. His hair was down, falling in soft waves that made Jim's finger's itch. Eyes closed, face set in peaceful repose, Blair was positively transcendent. Even when tired, meditation never failed to give him strength. It was a relief to see him so unburdened, despite his darkly shrouded eyes and fine lines at the edges of his full lips.
Jim frowned slightly and went upstairs to collect his sheets for the laundry.
He pulled at the fitted sheet, but it stuck tenaciously to the mattress. That's when he saw it.
A thin gold strand, kinked and curled, lay on one of the pillows. He slowly reached over and plucked it from its resting place. Strong and tensile, yet the thin and fragile, the hair was unmistakably Blair's. But what was it doing on Jim's pillow?
A quick scan of the sheet revealed more of the fine hairs, the full spectrum of Blair's colouring from the rare solid black strands to the abundant, red-tinged auburn hairs. There was a veritable pelt of hair scattered about the sheets. It was a wonder that Jim hadn't noticed them before.
He scrunched his nose.
The scent of Blair was heavy in the air. Jim raised the pillow and inhaled deeply. A quicksilver shiver ran through his spine, starting with the rising of the fine hairs on the nape of his neck and ending with the curling of his toes.
Blair had been sleeping in his bed.
Jim almost slept through the night again. He swore he was going to stay awake and see what the hell was going on with his guide, but he fell asleep almost as soon as his head hit the pillow. And it was only fortune that woke him; fortune in the form of a stray cat and a garbage can outside.
The yowl and clatter that arose outside as the cat knocked over the can startled him awake, his heart pounding. But even after he classified the noise as a non-threat, his heart continued to pound. For beside him, dressed in sweats and curled on his side with one hand on Jim's stomach, the other tucked under his own head, was Blair.
They were wound about one another, legs tangled, feet pressed against calves, thighs intertwined. Jim knew that something about this picture wasn't right, that there was a major paradigm shift required for this to make any sense. But despite what he knew, he felt it was right. This was the way the world was supposed to be. So, after settling back down on his own pillow, and pulling Blair just a little bit closer, if that was really possible, Jim went back to sleep.
He woke up alone.
Blair never said a word when Jim made his way downstairs, wrapped in his robe and slippers on his feet. He simply handed him the mug of coffee and sat heavily down to peruse the paper, the Arts and Entertainment section this time.
"Morning." Jim hoped that sounded normal, at least what passed for normal in his life.
"Gmmmrph," Blair mumbled back, squinting muzzily at the fine print.
"Sleep well?" Casual, slightly concerned, but not pushing in tone.
Blair just shrugged. And took another sip of coffee, eyes closing in bliss as the heated liquid caffeine made its way to his belly. Then, when intelligence returned to his eyes, he looked up at Jim. "Mind if I grab the shower first?"
Jim nodded, he could afford to be gracious. "Go ahead, but I have to shave."
Blair returned the nod and went off to collect his towel.
The shower was hot, Blair's body a muddled shadow on the plastic curtain, as Jim slathered on the aloe-scented. Mist rose about him, fogging the mirror. Hyper aware of the man behind him, Jim tried to concentrate on shaving, not the sound of water, soap and Blair's soft skin.
Managing not to nick himself, he rinsed his skin and escaped from the small room filled with the miasma of Blairness. Something had to be done, but he was reluctant to disturb the fragile balance that kept them in sync. And he didn't want to be startled awake the next night to find an empty bed and cold sheets beside him.
So when Blair streaked from the bathroom to his bedroom, a small towel wrapped around his waist, Jim decided to take action. But because Blair was a man of words, not action, Jim waited until he was dressed and seated at the table enjoying a second cup of coffee before making his move. Which wasn't going to be a move at all, but instead Blair's weapon of choice: language.
"Chief..." Jim paused, uncertain as to how to bring up what seemed so right, not wanting to disturb the utter rightness of whatever was going on. But he had to. For while right for him, it was slowly destroying Blair. When Blair looked up, Jim almost lost his nerve as the guileless eyes peered at him though glasses that magnified their frank stare. "Blair," he amended, "I think we need to talk."
Blair's brow furrowed and Jim yearned to gentle away the worry lines with this fingers. "Something wrong, Jim?"
"I'm not sure." He looked down at his fingers wrapped around the mug, uncertain where to begin.
"Are your senses okay? You're still sleeping all right, aren't you? Is something wrong at work?" Blair surged out of his chair, energy seizing him in a flurry of worry.
Jim pressed a finger against Blair's lips. "Hush."
Miracle of miracles, it worked. Blair fell silent, eyes wide and silently still questioning.
"Nothing is wrong with me. But I think there might be a problem with us." He hastened to continue as a deep fear rose in the blue eyes rivetted to his face. "Not a serious problem, but I think it's one we have to address. Let's sit down."
Gently shepherding Blair across the loft to the couch, Jim seated himself and pulled the younger man down to sit next to him. He could feel the nervous vibrations coursing through Blair's body and he placed a hand on his shoulder to reassure.
"Blair, you've been sleepwalking."
Blair gaped at him in surprise. "You're kidding."
"No. I think that's why you're so tired lately."
"Oh man, how did you find out? Was I doing anything weird? I had a friend who sleep walked and she kept going outside and watering the plastic flowers in her neighbour's yard. Very weird. So, was I doing anything creepy? I wasn't, like, out on the balcony or anything."
Jim tried it again. "Hush."
With a gulp, Blair fell silent and Jim's finger lingered just a bit longer on the soft lips.
"I woke up last night and you were in my bed."
Blair slowly digested the information, his brow furrowed, then as his eyebrows rose, fear arose in his eyes. He tried to bolt, but Jim's hand managed to clamp about his wrist, keeping him on the couch. "Oh, man. Jim, I'm *so* sorry. Oh god. I can't believe this is happening. Damn my subconscious, "he said almost to himself before facing Jim again, dread in his eyes. "If you want me to leave..."
Jim decided enough was enough. He cupped Blair face with both hands, stroking his thumb lightly over the lips before stretching forward and brushing his lips against Blair's.
It was electric, it was shocking, it was paradigm shifting, it was...
It was, for lack of a better word, tranquil. The peace seeped into his very soul, where it fed the love that blossomed within. There was no need for the spoken word, the softest touch more eloquent than any fancy word even Blair could devise.
And touch he did, running his hands down Blair's neck to caress his nape, his collar bone beneath the flannel shirt, down the strong arms and up again to massage broad shoulders.
Blair stilled. And Jim pulled back, wanting to whimper at the loss of contact, the taste of coffee and Blair redolent on his lips. Blair's eyes were luminous, windows to the glorious mind that had trapped Jim from the very beginning. And in them Jim could see his past, present and future, bound together with Blair's soul.
"Jim...," Blair whispered hoarsely.
"I don't want you to sleepwalk anymore. Tonight, come up with me. Please."
"Really?" Blair was uncertain, desire warring with fear.
They kissed again, stroking tongues and moist spit slicking lips. Jim wanted nothing more than to lose himself in the feel, sight, taste, scent and sound of Blair. He let himself go, tastebuds exploding, nerves tingling, exploring the bounteous sensory feast before him. And Blair let him.
He didn't zone, exactly. He knew exactly what was going on, but it was as if he was looking through a microscope, listening through amplifying headphones as he gently bore Blair backwards to lie prone on the couch. It was dizzying, terrifying, and the most glorious experience. Burrowing under the layers of cotton, he slowly revealed the furred chest, where his fingers whirled softly in the fine hair, stroking softly over responsive nubs. The sharp inhalation and whimper pulled from Blair's lips made him grin. And do it again.
Never passive, Blair was wriggling, arching, and his hands were pulling the T-shirt over Jim's head. Soon, they were both bare chested, immersed in the delight of exploring strangely familiar territory as if coming home for the very first time.
He didn't want to stop exploring the body beneath him. His hands had reached the waistband of Blair's jeans.
It wasn't an order to stop, but it gave him pause. He looked down at the dishevelled man beneath him, hair spread across the pillows, cheeks flushed.
"Jim, you have to go to work."
He smiled. Blair was always looking out for him. Reaching past Blair, he snatched up the phone. He simply smiled at Blair, one hand tenderly stroking up and down the soft belly bared for his perusal, while the other held the receiver up to his ear.
"Hi, Rhonda. Is Simon there? Could you tell him I won't be in today? Thanks."
He pushed the off button and tossed the phone over his shoulder.
The night for a sentinel was a place of joy. The quiet still of night magnified the soft moans, and whimpers of pleasure elicited with soft touches. In the dark, taste and smell was magnified, allowing the simple scents of musk to permeate every pore, the salty tang of his lover a succulent ambrosia. The moonlight from the skylight framed Blair in a square of silver light, eyes closed, mouth open as he panted beneath Jim, crying out to the heavens. An angel come to earth, willingly trapped in Jim's bed.
Deeply buried in his lover, the sentinel bent his head and mimicked the thrusts of his hips with his tongue, plundering his lover's mouth with breathtaking intensity. They came, together as in all things. Keening their desire, their ecstasy, their love. Sated and exhausted, Jim gently pulled himself out, bemoaning the loss and comfort of being surrounded by Blair's body.
Having tenderly wiped them clean, he let Blair bring his head down to rest against the hairy chest, cradled in the strong powerful hands that tenderly stroked his hair. He allowed himself to listen, falling asleep to the lullaby of Blair's heart.