NO MATTER WHAT

by Annie

EMAIL: Annie

Jim stormed through the door of the loft and headed straight for Blair's room. Sure enough, Sandburg was there, curled up on his side, asleep. Jim reached down and grabbed a shoulder, shaking it roughly. "Wake up, Sandburg!" he yelled, barely inches from his guide's ear then leaned back and switched on the bedroom light.

"What?" Blair shot up in the bed, his eyes wide with shock, his hands coming up to shield them from the glare of the light. "Jim?" he gasped out as he realized who was standing next to his bed. "What's up, man?"

"You tell me, what's up, Sandburg? I sure as hell don't know. Where have you been all night?" Jim asked, his tone still harsh with anger.

Blair glanced over at his alarm clock. "Oh, Jim, I'm sorry. I was supposed to meet you at the station for that stakeout at 8. I don't understand. I set my alarm. I must have slept through it. I'm so sorry, Jim."

Jim picked up the clock, and then shoved it in front of Blair's face. The switch on top clearly showed the alarm had been turned off. He flung the clock down on the bed and stalked out, then put his head back through the open doorway. "Get your ass out here, Sandburg. You and I are gonna have a little talk."

~oOo~

Blair listened to Jim's footsteps walking out toward the kitchen then he wearily pushed himself off the bed and pulled on his jeans and shirt, which, it seemed, he'd only taken off a few minutes before. In truth, he'd come home at 2PM after a particularly nasty argument with a student, the captain of the football team, who'd been threatened with being benched by his father if he didn't lift his grades. He'd wanted Blair to change his D to a C+ at least and Blair had refused. The student, Jeff Davis, had walked out, muttering threats under his breath.

Blair clearly remembered setting the alarm for 6PM, giving himself plenty of time to grab some dinner and get to the PD on time to meet Jim. He struggled to remember if the alarm had gone off but he was sure it hadn't, unless… Blair groaned as he realized he must have turned the alarm off in his sleep without even registering what it was. Jim had every right to be pissed with him, but he was so damn tired lately, what with school and helping Jim at the station with his paperwork as well as going out on cases with him. In between, he did research and worked on his thesis, while trying to come up with new ideas that would help Jim with his senses. And then at night when he should be sleeping, there were the dreams… Blair shoved those memories away. He should be over it by now. He'd lived with Jim long enough to know it was never going to happen. He just had to accept that and get past it. Sighing, he walked out into the living room to face the music.

Jim was pacing when he got there, never a good sign, Blair had learned. He stopped as Blair slumped down into a chair at the dining table and focused a blistering glare at his Guide.

Blair held up his hands, almost as if he could ward off the impatience and anger in the Sentinel's eyes. "I'm sorry, Jim. Really. Would you let me explain, at least?"

Jim nodded tersely. "Go on," he said.

"I had a shit day at the University, man. There was this one student…" He looked at Jim's face, seeing the impatience there and decided to cut to the chase. "Look, I was tired, all right? I mean, I'm basically working two jobs here -"

"That was your choice, Sandburg," Jim interrupted. "You said you could cut it."

"I can!" Blair said firmly. "Look, man, it was one time, okay? It won't happen again, I promise. I was just tired. I must have turned the alarm off in my sleep. Jim, it won't happen again. I'll do better. There must be a way I can organize my time more efficiently somehow. Let me work on it, all right?" Blair gave his partner his most pleading look, not really surprised when it seemed to work. He'd used that look on tougher opponents than Jim and they'd all crumbled before it. And, Jim wasn't an opponent, after all, he was Blair's best friend. Thoughts of how much more than a friend he'd like Jim to be flitted across Blair's mind and he ruthlessly quashed the beginnings of the erection those thoughts initiated.

Jim nodded. "Okay, Chief. I'm sorry I came down on you so hard. I'm tired too."

"So what happened at the stakeout, Jim? Was there a problem with your senses? Is everyone okay?" Blair asked, his heart sinking as he waited for the answer. Had Rodriguez escaped? Had Jim zoned? Had someone been injured because he hadn't been in his proscribed position at Jim's back? The questions hammered at him.

Jim shook his head, smiling slightly, his face flushing. "It went down fine, Sandburg. We got Rodriguez and a haul of drugs worth almost a million dollars on the street. Nobody got hurt and no, I didn't zone."

"You a mind-reading Sentinel now?" Blair quipped as he released the pent up breath in his lungs. "So, if everything went okay, why were you so pissed off with me for not being there?"

Jim stepped past him, reaching out a hand to press softly on Blair's shoulder. "I don't know, Chief. I'm sorry. I over-reacted. I… I guess I just missed you."

Yes! Blair's heart did a high-five and he stood up, hoping his renewed hard-on wasn't too obvious. He followed Jim to the kitchen, chanting a silent calming mantra to his cock as he did so. "You could have just said that, you know?" he murmured, standing as close behind his partner as he dared.

Jim walked over to the fridge and opened it, checking out the contents. "I thought I just did," he replied. He closed the door and turned, finding Blair an inch away. "Chief?" he asked.

Blair took a deep breath and stepped closer. "You missed me?" he asked.

Jim stretched out both hands and took hold of Blair's shoulders, pushing him away forcibly. "Yes. I missed the way you ground me. I can concentrate better when you're there. I guess it's a Sentinel-Guide thing."

Deciding it was now or never, Blair shook himself free of the restraining hands and moved in for the kill. "Maybe not," he whispered, feeling Jim's breath brushing across his overheated skin. "Maybe it's a Jim-Blair thing."

Jim's pupils were dilated and his breathing was becoming ragged. If Blair had been a Sentinel, he was sure he would have smelled the pheromones wafting from Ellison's body in waves.

Taking his courage and his intense hope in hand, Blair leaned forward and kissed Jim right on the Sentinel's surprised but very delicious mouth. He savored the sensation, feeling Jim's lips opening under his, Jim's tongue tangling momentarily with Blair's own. Then he was shoved back at arms-length and held there.

"What the fuck do you think you're doing, Sandburg?"

"I… I thought you wanted it too -" Blair stuttered, his face heating.

"Too? Why the hell would I, Sandburg? I know I'm bi, but you've been strictly het, up till now," Jim said, still hanging on to Blair's shoulders, his fingers digging in. "What is it, Chief? Curious to find out what sex is like with your research project? Going to make that your final chapter - Sex and The Sentinel? Is that it?" He yanked Blair forward again, his hands moving from Blair's shoulders to tangle through his hair. Then he groaned and took Blair's mouth again, bruisingly, his tongue forcing Blair's to open.

Blair twisted his face away and managed to get an arm between them, giving him enough leverage to pull himself free of Jim's hands. "Stop," he gasped. "Jim, what the hell's wrong with you?"

"What's the matter, Chief? The reality a little too real for you. Decided you don't want to play with the big boys, after all? That's all it was for you, wasn't it? Another one of your tests. Eager to get the final chapter written so you can leave, is that it?" Jim snarled, pushing past Blair and walking to the door. He reached up and grabbed Blair's jacket from the hook, then bent to pick up the backpack sitting on the floor beneath. "I'll save you some time, Sandburg. Leave now. I'll let you know when you can come pick up your things, preferably when I won't be here."

"Jim, man, come on. It's not like that. You have to believe me… I've had these feelings for you for a while but I didn't know how to tell you, what it meant… " Blair said, pleadingly. How the hell had it all gone bad so fast? "We still have things we need to work on with your sense -"

"I'll cope," Jim replied shortly. He sighed. When he spoke again, his tone had gentled as if his fury had dissipated and left sorrow in its wake. "Jesus, Blair, just get out for a while, will you? I need to think. If you stay, I'm likely to do something we'll both regret." He looked at Blair, his face pale, his eyes damp with emotion.

"You'll let me come back?" Blair asked, uncertainly, moving over to take his jacket and bag.

Jim nodded. "For now, anyway. I'm sorry, Blair. I probably overreacted, I know. Look, I need some time alone, all right?"

Blair reached a hand out to touch Jim's face, not pulling back as Jim flinched. Instead he completed the movement till his palm was cupping the detective's jaw softly, his thumb tracing over Jim's mouth. "It's not what you think, Jim. I promise. Try to trust me, okay?"

Jim swallowed then stepped back, opening the door as he did so. "I do, Chief. It's me I don't trust."

"I'll be back in about three hours, Jim. Is that long enough?" Blair asked as he left.

"Yeah, that's fine, Blair. I'll talk to you then." Jim waited till Blair walked down the stairs then closed the door behind him.

~oOo~

Jim leaned his head wearily against the door and waited for his heartbeat to slow down. Then he pushed himself away and walked to the couch, detouring to the fridge to grab a beer on the way. Slumping back against the cushions, he rolled the cold bottle across his forehead as he tried to bring his chaotic thoughts to some form of coherence. Finally deciding it was best to start at the beginning of this whole sorry mess that his life had suddenly become, he mentally ticked off the salient points one by one as he chugged the beer.

Number one was that he'd been having fantasies about Blair locking lips (and more) with him almost since they'd met. He'd spent many a night in the shower or in his bed after the kid was asleep, imagining it was Blair's hand rubbing up and down his cock and over his balls instead of his own and then muffling the resultant groan of completion with the sponge or his pillow, desperate for Blair not to hear.

Number two was that it seemed Sandburg had been having his own nightly X-rated picture show going for some time now, if the way he'd latched onto Jim's mouth like a starving man at a banquet was anything to go by.

Okay, Jim decided, getting up and getting another beer, opening it and slinging the cap into the trashcan, maybe that could be explained by the Sentinel-Guide thing. Made sense, he guessed, returning to the couch and sitting down again. After all, the Sentinel and Guide of old would probably spend a lot of time out of town (or village, anyway) on their own, doing their thing to protect the tribe. They'd be close, closer than many marriage partners, definitely a lot closer than he and Carolyn had ever been. His lips twitched a rueful grin at that thought. And maybe some of these Sentinel-Guide pairs were male-female and the ones that were of the same sex fulfilled that particular need for each other as well. It would serve the purpose of shoring up the bond between them, in a way. Jim had listened to enough of Sandburg's lectures on how many tribal cultures viewed sex not just as a means of procreation but as a way to bind mates together to think that probably made sense.

The trouble with all that, and it was a doozey, Jim thought, setting the empty bottle on the table, was that he didn't just want Blair's body. He wanted him, heart and soul. Much as he'd cursed the realization that he'd fallen in love with his guide at the time, part of him - okay, all of him - had been thrilled at the thought. He'd hugged the feelings to himself, liking the way he felt when Blair walked in the door or when they spent a night together watching TV and Jim could watch him covertly all night. Loved the way his heart felt like it was flipping over when he saw Blair smile, just at him. Christ! He sounded, even to his own ears, like some Victorian bodice-ripper but it was true. Jim loved being in love with Blair Sandburg, unrequited though it had seemed at the time.

Number three was the unknown. Did Blair love him or had the words Jim had thrown at him in his fear and anger been right? Was this all just some sort of experiment for Blair? Jim felt his face heat with shame. Blair wasn't like that, Jim knew. He wasn't the sort of person to simply use another human being that way. Hell, it was one of the things Jim loved about his guide - his compassion and empathy for others. He cringed now as he remembered the accusations he'd flung at Blair, the way he'd pulled him forward and ground his mouth against his friend's in a mockery of a kiss.

No, Jim knew Blair loved him. Why else would he choose to try to seduce him? Blair knew Jim was bisexual but he'd admitted freely, when they'd discussed it, that, while the thought of two men loving each other didn't disgust him at all, he loved women, loved everything about them.

Which brought his thoughts almost full circle. Why then had he reacted the way he did to Blair's overtures?

It was fear, Jim suspected. Fear that he'd lose Blair. After all, his track record in keeping people he cared for in his life was pretty damn abysmal. His mother, his father, Steven, Carolyn, the men who'd been his team mates and close friends on the fateful trip to Peru, his former partner, Jack Pendergast, Danny Choi… Then there was the litany of names that made up the train wreck that was his love life. Oh yeah, Jim thought, he was one sorry loser, all right.

But then he'd met Blair and suddenly life had seemed worth living again. He didn't think he could bear to lose Blair too. Maybe he had already, he thought, leaning back and closing his eyes.

~oOo~

Blair wondered if anything would ever be right again after tonight. Sure, Jim had said he could go back to the loft but he'd qualified it by saying, "For now." He was so sure he'd read Jim right, so sure Jim had wanted this, wanted him as much as Blair wanted Jim.

Blair was heterosexual, that part of what Jim had said was true; or at least he had been. Somewhere along the line though, his feelings for Jim, his friend, became desire and love for Jim, the man. Maybe, Blair thought, he'd always been bisexual and just repressed it. Or, maybe it was just a Sentinel thing. No! This went deeper than that, Blair was convinced of that much. If Jim woke up tomorrow with all his senses back to normal, Blair would love him anyway.

"Hey, Mister Sandburg!"

Blair squinted into the glare of a streetlight, seeing a tall figure propped against the post. "Who is it?" he called.

The man straightened and walked closer and Blair swallowed as he recognized him.

"Jeff, what are you doing here?"

"I just want to talk to you. No, wait," Davis said urgently as Blair began to back away, his hands up in a defensive posture. "I just want to talk. I know I said some stuff I shouldn't have -"

"Seems to be the story of my life tonight," Blair muttered, as he was brought up short by a wall at his back.

"What?" Davis asked.

"Never mind," Blair replied. "Look, Jeff, I already told you I can't change the grade. I'm willing to tutor you, help get your point average for next semester, but you need to do the work if you want to get higher than a D. You just didn't do the work, man." He turned to scan the street, seeing several people walking on the other side of the road and thought about calling out to them but held back for now. Jeff hadn't actually done anything threatening yet, after all. Maybe the kid really did just need to talk.

"That won't work, Mister Sandburg. My dad already said he'd have me pulled off the football team if I brought home another D. Football's all I know, all I've ever wanted to do with my life, you know. Please! It's not a lot to ask. Just change the fucking D to a C!"

Davis lunged forward as he spoke and pinned Blair to the wall with one beefy hand around his throat. Blair could feel him scrabbling in his jacket pocket with his other hand and cursed softly as he felt the sharp point of a knife against his throat.

"Jeff, come on, man," he managed to grunt out around the hand constricting his airway. "This isn't gonna work. You hurt me and you'll get expelled. Then you'll never get to play anywhere."

Jeff moved the knife away from his throat and stepped back, both hands falling to his side. He looked up at Blair, who was shocked to see tears trickling down the young man's face. "I'm sorry," Jeff whispered.

"Look, it's not too late to fix this. Give me the knife and we'll keep this between us. Let me talk to your dad. I'll tell him you're doing extra studies next semester to catch up. I'll help you, Jeff. Okay?" Blair said firmly, reaching out for the knife.

Jeff held the knife out, just as suddenly jerking it back as footsteps were heard running towards them. Blair grunted in pain as the blade flashed sharp fire along his palm and he reached to clasp his other hand over the wide gash.

Two teenage boys ran past them, laughing as Blair fell back against the wall. His face felt cold then hot and his stomach churned as he held his wounded hand where he could see the cut. "Shit, that hurts," he said.

"Oh man, oh God," Davis muttered, dropping to his knees in front of Blair. "Mister Sandburg, I swear, it was an accident. Oh God, I'm gonna go to jail…"

"You're not going to jail, Jeff," Blair replied as calmly as he could. "There's some tissues in my backpack. Can you get them out and press down on this for me? Let me think a minute." Jim's gonna fucking kill me, Blair thought, feeling distinctly light-headed as Jeff pushed firmly down on the wound. "Ouch! Take it easy, man! Look, this needs stitches but I don't want my roommate to find out just yet, so how about you take me to the ER and we'll tell them I cut my hand on some glass or something, all right?"

Jeff nodded, his face as white as Blair's felt. "Let me help you up."

~oOo~

"You're late."

Blair jumped. The loft was in almost total darkness, the only light coming from the lamp on the side table next to the couch. He watched as Jim rose from his seat on the bottom step of the stairs and moved towards him. "Sorry. Something came up," he murmured, his heart pounding, causing the gash in his hand to throb in sympathy.

Jim stopped inches away, his nose wrinkling. "I smell blood, Chief."

Blair raised his bandaged hand. "Yeah. I… uh… I had an accident."

Jim took a step forward and grasped the injured hand gently. "An accident? What sort of accident, Chief?"

"I cut my hand," Blair replied, then grimaced at the obviousness of his statement. He swallowed, looked into Jim's concerned blue eyes and decided to go for broke, with the truth. "That student I mentioned earlier?" Jim nodded, his mouth now set in a grim line as he continued to hold Blair's hand. "Well, ah… he was really upset… and he wanted me to change his grade -"

"He cut you! What's his name?" Jim dropped his hand and Blair grunted as it flopped against his hip, pain spiking through it again, despite the Percocet and the local he'd accepted gratefully at the hospital before it was stitched up.

"Jesus! I'm sorry." Jim was back in front of him, Jeff Davis apparently forgotten for now.

"It's fine," Blair lied gamely, gritting his teeth. "It really was an accident, Jim. He was about to give me the knife and some kids came running up and he sorta jumped back just as I put my hand on the blade… It's cool, man, really. I promised him I'd help him. I don't want to press charges, all right?" Blair gave Jim a steady look, the one that meant he wouldn't shift on this.

"Christ, Sandburg, didn't your mother ever tell you not to grab a knife by the blade?" Jim asked, smiling just a little. He leaned in and placed a sweet kiss on Blair's stubborn mouth. "You really okay?" he asked.

Blair nodded, surprise lighting his eyes at the caress. "It hurts a little still," he admitted. "But not too much. Jim? What I said before I left… I meant it, you know? It's not a Sentinel thing, not for me, anyway. I don't know why it happened… don't know if I care why. I just know I love you, Jim." He grinned, his cheeks heating. "You know, that way."

Jim's finger touched his lips. "Sssh. I know. Come sit down, Chief. Let me try to explain."

~oOo~

"It looks different," Blair said.

"What looks different?" Jim leaned forward and traced his tongue around the curve at the top of Blair's ear, enjoying the responding wriggle that made Blair's half-hard cock bump into his.

"Your room," Blair replied, turning his head to look around. "I've never been in your bed before and it just looks different from here." He turned back to his partner and flashed him a wide grin of pure delight. "I like it better like this," he added.

"Me too," Jim confided. "With you in my bed, that is. Makes it look more comfortable and welcoming somehow."

Blair kissed his mouth softly, moaning as their cocks bumped against each other again, the vibration of his mouth making Jim's lips tingle.

"Blair," Jim said, pulling away slightly. "No matter what happens in the future, no matter what I might say in the heat of the moment, remember only this. That I love you, no matter what. Got that?"

Blair nodded, his eyes gentle. "I will. You know I love you, too, always. Will you do something for me, right now, Jim?"

"Anything, Blair. Just name it."

Blair kissed Jim's mouth again, lingeringly this time, then moved his head back and looked deeply into his lover's eyes. "Show me how a Sentinel makes love."

"With pleasure, babe. With pleasure."

The End