A Rampart to the Mind

Written by Annie & Lyn
Cover by Patt
Artwork by Lisa, Romanse, Nicci, Patt & Peter

Sighing in relief, Blair tossed his bags onto the hotel bed and took a quick look around the room. While it certainly wasn't the Ritz, Blair had stayed in worse places. He gave an involuntary shiver as he remembered the long winter nights, trying to keep warm in the warehouse, before he'd moved in with Jim. The thought of his lover made the silence in the room seem even louder and Blair glanced at his watch, suddenly eager to leave and swore. "Shit! I'm late!"

Hurriedly grabbing up his backpack, pre-packed with notepads and pens - student habits never died - he headed for the door and downstairs to find a cab. Jim had insisted on renting a car for him while he was in Seattle, not prepared for Blair to drive his less than reliable classic. There had been a mix-up with the booking, though, and while the rental staff had been apologetic, the best they could offer was a bus ticket to Seattle and a promise to deliver a car to the hotel the following afternoon.

Hurrying out into the comparative warmth of the morning, Blair groaned in dismay as he saw one taxi driving off and the second and only remaining cab being taken by two men in suits. His hopes rose when he heard one of the men give their destination as the Seattle PD.

"Um, excuse me." Blair picked up his pace and reached out to tap the man at the rear on the shoulder, awkwardly gripping the strap of his backpack as it slipped from his shoulder. "I'm heading to Seattle PD myself. Any chance we could share?"

The man turned and, in an instant, the initial curious gaze gave way to one of distaste. Blair couldn't help glancing down at his clothes, as the other man looked him over, a frown appearing on his face. Blair was inordinately grateful that Jim had insisted he pack his more conservative jeans and shirts instead of his usual layers of flannel and colorful vests.

"Sorry," the man finally said. "No room."

"Come on, Dean," the second man, a tall well-built African-American said, "there's plenty of room." He gave Blair a smile. "Stow your bag in the trunk, okay?"

Blair gave him a grin of his own. "Thanks." He held out his hand after doing as the man had suggested. "Blair Sandburg."

The first man's eyes flickered up at him then he turned away and climbed into the front seat. "Perry Davis," the black man said, shaking Blair's hand. "That's my partner, Dean Collins."

Blair climbed into the cab and settled himself next to Perry. Collins sat ramrod straight in the front, staring out the front windscreen and Blair turned his attention to the view outside the passenger window. It looked like it was going to be an awkward ride.

By the time they reached the PD, Blair and Perry learned they were all booked in for the profiling course, and Blair felt relieved that there would be at least one familiar, friendly face in the class. Collins, however, was another matter. He'd remained silent for the entire trip, only scowling and muttering a thanks when Blair handed over his share of the fare and tip at the end of the trip.

They found the classroom on the second floor easily enough and registered before taking their seats inside the large room. Long cafeteria-style tables had been organized in rows and, while they waited for everyone to be seated and the lecturer to begin, Blair took the opportunity to study his traveling companions a little more closely.

Perry reminded Blair of Simon. He was tall, well-built and handsome. His face seemed to be perpetually creased with a smile and, as though he knew he was being observed, he leaned forward from where he and Dean sat at the other end of Blair's row and gave Blair a small wave. Blair smiled back and turned his attention to Perry's partner.

The total opposite of Perry, Dean caused Blair to think of the vast differences between himself and Jim. Dean Collins was short, in fact not much taller than Blair, but he had a stocky build with a broad chest that made him seem somewhat out of proportion. It was obvious that Collins took his workouts seriously. He had dark, straight hair, clipped short; he seemed to be permanently frowning and his dark eyes kept finding Blair, appraising in a manner that Blair knew meant the cop found him lacking.

Blair unconsciously fingered his earrings as he pondered his best course. Maybe he should tie back his hair and remove the earrings before he left the following morning in order to blend in with the group. He was tempted to tell them to go to hell, that having long hair and earrings didn't mean he didn't deserve acceptance just as much as the next person, to force them to respect him despite his appearance. But he'd already fought this battle so many times, and most of Cascade PD - the ones who mattered anyway - accepted him as he was. What would it hurt if he took the easy way out, just this once?

There were about fifteen men and women in all, though men predominated, and Blair received more than one admiring glance from the female officers.

"Right." The lecturer rapped his knuckles on his desk and the soft rumbling of conversation stopped abruptly. "I'm Special Agent John Russell. I'll be your lecturer for the next four weeks, though you will spend some time with various other experts in the field of profiling. Welcome to you all. Let's start by having each of you stand and introduce yourselves to the class. Tell us a little about yourselves and what you hope to get out of this course." He pointed at Blair. "Why don't you start off, Detective Sandburg?"

Blair nodded and got to his feet. Accustomed as he was to being in front of large groups, this was still nerve-wracking, knowing that here, as in Cascade, he was the standout, the one who didn't really belong. Collins' openly hostile stare wasn't helping. Blair picked out a pretty blonde in the front row and kept his gaze on her. "Hi, I'm Blair Sandburg. Um, I'm a detective with the Cascade PD, Major -"

"Detective?" Collins voice dripped sarcasm and disbelief.

"Detective Collins," Russell broke in, "Why don't you be patient and let Detective Sandburg finish?"

Laughter ran through the group and Blair felt his face heat with embarrassment. "Um, right," he continued, "As I was saying I'm a detective with Cascade PD, Major Crime division. My background is Anthropology so I also consult on cases where input is needed on human traits, not just of the UNSUB -"

"UNSUB?" Collins broke in. "What's that?" he snorted.

Before Blair could reply, Agent Russell broke in. "Unknown subject, Detective Collins."

"Getting ahead of yourself, aren't you, Detective?" Collins sneered. "You're not a profiler yet."

Blair gritted his teeth, then rushed on before Agent Russell could make any further comment. He was feeling uncomfortable enough already and he had no wish for the lecturer to have to come to his rescue every time Collins shot his mouth off. "Not just of the UNSUB but also the victims and why a certain criminal might act in a particular way or why he might choose a certain victim."

"Sounds like you should be teaching this course," Collins snorted, grinning when another round of laughter went round the room.

Blair gritted his teeth and glared back at Collins. "Well, that's why I'm here, why we're all here, isn't it? To develop our skills of observation, to learn how to profile correctly, to be able to benefit our partners and colleagues, and the police department in general."

"Aptly put, Detective Sandburg," Russell said. "Thank you. Who's next?"

Blair sat and slumped down, dropping his gaze to stare at the floor, barely noticing the rest of the introductions. This was a mistake, he thought miserably. I don't belong here.

Photo Manip by Peter

The morning session finished with an overview of the course by Special Agent Russell. He handed out several texts, outlining the specialist lectures they'd be attending, including one, Blair noticed with pleasure, in Forensic Anthropology. It was something he had touched on in his own studies and done some reading on, though not in detail.

Collins and Perry were huddled in a small group with a few fellow officers when Blair left the lecture room. He returned Perry's friendly greeting but, when all conversation stopped as he neared the group, he opted to continue on and headed for the stairwell. Agent Russell had told the class they were welcome to eat in the PD's well-appointed cafeteria, but Blair decided he'd had enough undisguised hostility from Collins for one morning, and opted to find a deli nearby where he could pick up a sandwich.

He was halfway down the stairs when he heard footsteps behind him but, before he could turn, there was a solid thump to his back and he thought for a brief, dizzying moment that he was going to fall. His arms flailed frantically for a grip on something to stop his descent then a hand grabbed his arm in a tight hold and dragged him back to slam solidly against the wall.

"You want to be more careful," Dean Collins said, not relinquishing his painful grasp of Blair's arm. "Don't want you having an accident on your first day here."

"Thanks." Blair swallowed down his panic and dragged his arm from Collins' hold. "Must have had my mind on something else." He knew without a doubt that he hadn't slipped and he was pretty sure he knew just who had shoved him.

"I remember who you are now," Collins continued. "You're that guy who falsified his thesis, almost brought a good cop down."

Blair sighed and looked away, studying the wall over Collins' shoulder. Wasn't this ever going to go away? "It was a long time ago," he said finally. "A lot of things got resolved."

"Right," Collins said. "Tell you what, Sandburg, you stay out of my way and I'll stay out of yours, got it?"

Blair nodded, a thin smile straining his lips. "Music to my ears, man." Before Collins could respond, he inched sideways and trotted down the stairs.

"Blair, wait up." Perry's voice stopped him as he reached the front doors and Blair waited for the other man to catch up. "Don't take any notice of Dean," Perry said. "He might be a prick, but he is a good cop. He's got a pretty good arrest record."

"Yeah? Haven't seen any evidence of that so far," Blair retorted angrily. "Sorry," he said, running a hand through his hair. "God, how do you put up with him?"

Perry shrugged. "I have seniority on my side. I know how to keep him in line. You want to join us for lunch? I wouldn't mind hearing about your Anthropology studies."

"Maybe another time," Blair said. "I need some fresh air. You're welcome to join me."

Perry looked apologetic. "Rain check? I'll see you after lunch."

Blair smiled. "Sure, man."

Blair arrived back at the hotel a little after six, pleased to hear that his rental car had been delivered that afternoon. He quickly placed an order for room service, then kicked off his shoes and settled back on the bed before reaching for the phone. He smiled when Jim's familiar voice echoed down the line. "Hey, Jim, it's me."

"Blair? How's it going, Chief? I thought maybe you'd forgotten to call."

"I just got in. You home early?"

"A little, not much happening today. Mackay looks like he's gonna roll over on that gun smuggling case. Connor and I have drawn stakeout duty tomorrow night… and yes, I'll be careful. So, spill, how's it going?"

"Oh, you know," Blair deliberately kept his tone light, "pretty good. Interesting, though we don't really get down to business until tomorrow. Today was pretty much a meet and greet."

"Everyone treating you okay?" Jim asked and Blair knew his partner was remembering Blair's reception by some of the Cascade PD when he'd first returned as a detective and Jim's partner.

"Yeah, they're a great bunch of guys… and girls."

"Those eyes of yours wandering, Sandburg?" Jim asked in a mock growl.

"You know me, Jim, I can't help myself, but you also know I'm a one man guy now. Doesn't hurt to look and appreciate a pretty face though."

"Just as long as that's all you do, Chief."

"So, you miss me yet?"

Jim chuckled. "You, yes, your mess, no."

"I don't have mess," Blair protested, "I have organized chaos." He sobered. "How about you? Your senses okay?"

"Fine, nothing in the paperwork to zone on, except boredom," Jim grumbled. "I do miss you. Feels like you've been away too long already."

Blair glanced around his small room, a chill settling over him in spite of the pre-set temperature control. "Same here." There was a knock at the door. "Dinner's arrived. Look, I'll talk to you soon, okay? You'll call me if there's any problems?"

"You know I will." Jim paused for a moment. "I love you, Blair."

Blair smiled and the room suddenly didn't feel so cold anymore. "I love you, too." On impulse, he blew a noisy kiss into the receiver and hung up to the welcome sound of Jim's laughter.

"So, Jimbo, have you heard from Sandy?"

Jim looked across at Connor, seated in the passenger seat of the truck. He forced back the feeling of wrongness at seeing her there, in what he'd come to think of as Blair's seat. He nodded. "Yeah, he called me last night. He's fine, sounds like he's enjoying the course already."

"Good. You must miss him, though." Connor smiled encouragingly.

"Yeah, I miss him. Um, look, Connor, I'm finding a bit difficult to split my focus without Blair being here so do you think - "

"You want me to shut up," Connor replied. "Sorry. I know I'm no Sandy, Jim."

Jim nodded. "It's okay. I just need to focus on the warehouse, all right?" He tilted his head slightly and drew in a relaxation breath, then let it seep out between his lips. Finding the dial for his hearing, he pushed it up and found the voices he was seeking.

"We need to get everything moved out tonight! The cops are onto us. Mackay talked. He's told the cops we were moving the guns tomorrow night but they'll be watching us now."

Jim flinched back in his seat as the voice he'd been listening to began to yell, giving orders in Spanish. He could hear a low rumbling noise and recognized it as the sound of a forklift or something similar being started up. There was a metallic grinding sound next and he dialed back his hearing as his eardrums echoed with the noise of a truck's engine being revved. He turned to Connor. "Call it in. They're taking the guns out tonight."

"What? Mackay said tomorrow night."

"Guess he was covering his ass. Call for backup. I'm going in." Jim opened his door stealthily and crept out, pulling his gun from the holster at his back.

"Jim, we should wait for backup…" Megan said.

"They could be gone by then," Jim shot back in a whisper. "They've already got the truck partly loaded. I'm going in. You can stay here and wait for backup." He bent double and edged through the shadows across the road, huddling up against the side of the warehouse.

Megan watched as Jim took a quick look around then got down on his back and rolled under the partly opened roller door of the warehouse. "Bugger! Sandy is gonna tear me a new one if anything happens to you, Ellison." Sighing, she put in the call for assistance, then exited the vehicle herself, pulled her own weapon from its holster and followed Jim in.

Once inside, she could see that the interior of the warehouse was dim, lit only by the headlights of the truck and forklift, as well as a couple of upright lantern flashlights on the floor. She squinted, trying to find Ellison and finally spotted him, partly hidden behind a stack of crates about two hundred yards to her left.

There were three men standing around the truck, plus a man in the driver's seat of the vehicle and another man operating the forklift.

As Megan watched, half listening for the sirens that would mean the cavalry was on its way, she saw one of the men hold up his hand and say something in a quiet voice to the others. He walked over to a switch on the wall, just as Jim moved out of his relatively protected position, his gun held in his hand and ordered the men to freeze.

Suddenly, the warehouse was flooded with bright light. Through the rainbow arcs partially obscuring her vision, Megan saw Jim drop to his knees, his gun falling from his hand as he tried to cover his eyes. Shit, he's having a spike!

She called his name and raised her weapon quickly, hoping to draw their attention away from the defenseless cop, as she saw one of the men pull a gun from under his coat and aim it at Ellison. "Freeze, Cascade PD!" she shouted. It worked; the perp swung his weapon toward her, mouth open in startled reaction but, as she stepped forward to repeat the command, one of his companions - unseen in the shadows - shot the gun out of her hand. Megan fell to the ground, gasping in pain from the recoil. Looking around frantically, she saw her weapon a few feet away. She was about to lunge for it when she looked up and saw the perp bring his gun round to bear on Jim again. She leapt to her feet and yelled Ellison's name again, hoping to trigger some response from him. Nothing. Jim was frozen in place.

Before she even had time to think about what she was doing, she was running, faster than she'd ever run before, certain she'd never make it in time, but knowing she had to. A couple of feet from Ellison, she threw herself forward and hit his chest, hearing him grunt at the impact, feeling her own breath whoosh out of her. She heard the report of the weapon in the same moment and felt a fiery burning in the back of her shoulder, then they were on the floor and, in that moment, she heard the sirens she'd been praying for.

The impact of his head on the hard concrete floor had the effect of shocking Jim out of the spike. He opened his eyes, which he'd clenched tightly shut when the light had almost blinded him, residual flashes of the glare causing him to blink rapidly to clear his vision. He could see Connor's face barely an inch from his own, her skin ghostly white. In the background, he could hear sirens and shouted voices but thankfully, no gunfire. "Connor, what the hell are you doing?" he muttered, pushing her body off him to one side.

She moaned at the movement and he was on his knees in a heartbeat, impatiently blinking away the last effects of the spike.

Connor was on her back, next to him, her face pale, her features lax.

Jim saw a huge spreading stain of fresh blood across the front of her shirt. "Oh Christ," he muttered.

"brian?" Megan mouthed the name, her voice almost non-existent.

Her eyes were open, the pupils huge as she looked up at him, pain and fear written large on her face.

"Ssh, it's okay. You're gonna be okay, Megan. I'm sorry, I'm so sorry," Jim murmured soothingly, wincing in empathy as he placed a firm hand over the wound and pressed down, ignoring the shouts of police as the gun-runners were quickly cornered and subdued.

Megan cried out and tried to roll away.

He held her still with his other hand on her hip, turning to yell over his shoulder for the paramedics at the same time.

Turning back to Connor, he said, "It's okay. Lie still, Megan. The medics are here. We're gonna get you to the hospital right away." He started as he saw her eyes were closed and reached out with two fingers to feel for the pulse point on her neck, not trusting his senses after the spike. Heaving a sigh of relief as he felt the faint beat against his fingertips, his head slumped to his chest. "I'm sorry," he whispered again.

Moments later, he was being pulled to his feet by a shocked Simon Banks and he stood back to let the paramedics take over.

"You should go home, Jim, get some rest. You look beat." Simon Banks placed a firm hand on his detective's shoulder when he got no response. He gave the shoulder a small shake, wondering if Ellison had zoned, and was relieved when Jim turned and looked up at him.

"No, I'm fine, sir. I just want to wait till Connor's out of surgery. I'd like to see her, tell her -" Jim's voice broke off and he returned to staring at his shoes.

"Jim, listen, she won't be able to hear anything you've got to say till tomorrow, and anyway, you already told her you were sorry. I heard you back there."

"Yeah, but I don't think she did," Jim retorted. He surged to his feet and faced the captain. "Christ, Simon, my senses are suddenly all over the place. I just don't get it. I've had almost total control for months now and then this…"

"Blair was here then, Jim. Maybe that's got something to do with it. I still don't understand half of this Sentinel-Guide thing between you and Sandburg but I do know he's the one person who seems to be able to help you focus your senses," Simon said sympathetically. "Look, Jim, he'll be back in a few weeks and the weapons case is wrapped up now, anyway. Connor's gonna be out of action for a while. Maybe it would be best if I put you on desk duty, or you took a leave of absence till Blair gets back."

Jim glared at him. "You saying you don't trust me to do my job without Blair here to hold my hand, sir?"

"I'm saying," Banks said strongly, "you don't seem to trust yourself without Blair here to watch your back." He looked Jim firmly in the eyes. "All right, this is what you're going to do. You go home, call Sandburg, then get some food into you and a decent night's sleep - in that order. I'll let you stay on duty for now with Rafe backing you up. Brown's gonna be in court all week and I can't spare anyone else. But the minute I think you're not handling things, I'll put you on leave. Understand?"

Jim exhaled noisily then turned and looked behind him. "The doctor's coming. Maybe you're right, Simon. Let me find out how Megan's doing, then I'll go home. I'll come by in the morning to check on Connor before I go to work."

They walked across the room and met the doctor halfway. Jim sighed with relief as he told them that Megan's wound, while messy and painful, wasn't life threatening. But she had lost a lot of blood and would be in the hospital for at least a week or so. Then she'd likely be off-duty for another two before being able to undertake light duties for a time.

Photo Manip by Lisa Adolf

"Hey, Jim, man, it is so good to hear your voice." Blair sounded upbeat, but Jim fancied he could detect a note of nervousness under the buoyancy.

"It's good to hear yours, too, Chief? You doing all right? Course going okay?" Jim tried to inject a casualness into his own voice that he didn't come close to feeling at the moment.

He'd never been more grateful that Blair wasn't a Sentinel than right now, sure that if he was, his Guide would be able to hear the way Jim's heart was thundering away like a trip hammer.

"Yeah, I'm fine, Jim. The course is still going okay. It has its dull moments but overall, it's pretty cool, really. How are you doing?"

"Me? I'm good," Jim replied.

"Are you sure? You sound… I don't know… sorta off or something? Has something happened with your senses, Jim?"

Jim groaned sub-vocally, mentally cursing the fact that Blair knew him so well. He'd agonized over whether to tell his partner what had happened, fearing that Blair would say he was dropping out of the course and come running back home right away. Then he'd thought about how angry Blair would be if he found out what had gone down later, and that Jim hadn't told him at the time. Deciding that an anxious Sandburg miles away would be easier to deal with than a pissed off one in close quarters, Jim had decided to bite the bullet and just get it over with. Besides, he could obfuscate as well as Blair could and he'd simply gloss over some of the facts and put a good spin on things. Problem was, right at this very moment, he couldn't think of a single good thing about today to put a spin on. He sighed loudly and went with it, sensing Blair's increasing worry even over the phone.

"Jim? Speak to me, man. I'm getting really worried here. Jim?" Blair's voice was tight and nervous.

"Just thinking. Look, there's no easy way to do this, so I'm just gonna say it but I don't want you getting all bent out of shape over it. It happened, it's over, it's being taken care of, everything's gonna be fine. Connor got shot today." Jim blurted the last part out so fast he wondered if Blair had even understood what he'd said.

"What? Oh God, Jim! Is she - "

"No, no, Chief, settle down. She's gonna be okay. She got hit in the shoulder, in and out, lost a lot of blood and it probably hurts like a mother but the surgeon said she'll be just fine. She'll be off work for a while and - "

"Whoa, slow down, Jim, I'm still trying to process this, you know. God, poor Megan. What happened? Did you zone?"

Jim could almost see the wheels turning in Blair's head. "Slow down a minute yourself, babe, you're gonna wear out the hamsters," Jim said, smiling despite himself. "Why does everybody always think I'm zoning or have zoned or whatever? No, Blair, I didn't zone. I had my sight dialed up because the warehouse was dim and just as I stepped out to take the bastards down, someone flipped the switch for the floodlights. I guess my vision spiked. Next thing I knew, I was flat on my back on the floor with Connor on top of me. I didn't know she'd been hit at first, so I asked her what the hell she was doing and rolled her off me…" Jim stopped, the memory of Megan's white face and pain-filled eyes stealing his breath for a moment. "Anyway, I knelt next to her - Simon and the others were there by then and they rounded up the perps and the weapons - and that's when I saw all the blood…" Jim's voice trailed off again. Suddenly remembering he was supposed to be making it all sound more like a walk in the park, he managed to inject a note of studied cheerfulness into his voice. "But the important thing is, she's going to be all right." Jim stopped, realizing Blair's end of the phone had gone silent apart from the hurried breathing he could hear. "Um, Chief, you still there?"

"Yeah, still here. I was just thinking, maybe I should come back. I can always do the course some other time - "

"What? No way, Chief. You do your course. I'm fine. Megan's gonna be fine. Rafe's holding her hand every minute the nurses will give him with her and I've got plenty of the boring stuff to catch up on till you get back," Jim said forcefully.

"Hey, you don't miss me?" Blair asked, sounding as if he was only half-joking.

"Of course I miss you but you might as well get the course over and done with now you've started it. Everything'll be fine, Blair, I promise. Okay?"

Blair sighed. "Okay, I guess. When you see Megan, tell her I'm gonna send her something from down here, all right?"

"Blair, are you okay? Is anyone giving you any grief down there… you know over the press conference or anything? You'd tell me if there was a problem, right, like I told you?" Jim asked, still trying to pin down the troubling undertone he'd heard in Blair's voice earlier.

"Nah, everyone's been great, Jim. Well, there's this one guy but I think it's more because he's a hardass cop and he thinks I'm just a neo-hippie witchdoctor punk." Blair laughed as he parodied the words Jim had once used on him. "His partner's cool, though. It's fine, Jim. Turn off the Blessed Protector radar, okay?"

"Okay, if you're sure. Because I can come down there, you know. I'm sure Simon would let me take some days off," Jim said, hoping Blair would say 'Yes, come on down'.

But he didn't. He said, "I've gotta go, man. I'm really tired. Take care, please. Give my love to Megan and everyone for me. I love you, Jim. I'll see you soon, okay?"

"I love you, Blair," Jim said.

"I'll be home tomorrow night, Jim. I'll see you then," Blair said.

"Yeah, I can't wait, Chief. Drive carefully."

"I will."

Jim hung up the phone and wearily climbed the stairs to bed, only to lie awake into the morning hours, seeing Megan's pale agonized features overlaid by Blair's in his dreams.

Illustration by Romanse

Jim looked up from the television as he heard the front door snick open. He grinned delightedly as a foot clad only in a white sock appeared and wriggled jauntily. The door was pushed open the rest of the way, revealing his lover standing on the other side, a sneaker held in one hand.

"I'm hooome!" Blair called.

Jim turned the television off and hurried to the door, pulling Blair inside and into his arms. He took Blair's overnight bag and set it down on the floor then turned back and cupped his hands either side of Blair's face. "God, Chief, it is so good to see you."

Then the door was pushed shut with a bang and he was grabbed around the waist, and step-marched to land with his back against the wall and an extremely turned-on lover against his chest.

"Hey," Jim said, smiling broadly down into Blair's upturned face. "Welcome home, babe."

"Oh, man, I am so glad to be home, Jim."

"I can see that," Jim replied with a grin.

Blair pulled Jim's head down for a long, deep, and dirty kiss, then wrapped his arms more tightly around Jim's shoulders until Jim could feel the full length of Blair's hardness pressing against his thigh.

Jim groaned as his own cock swelled within the confines of his jeans and pushed himself even closer to his lover, rubbing urgently against Blair's hip. "Bed, Chief?" he muttered through clenched teeth, turning his head in the direction of their bedroom.

Blair shook his head determinedly, his hair bouncing on the fabric of Jim's shirt, curls tangling through Jim's fingers. "Not yet," he murmured back. "Can't wait, Jim. Please! Oh, God!"

Jim felt his back pushed even harder against the wall and he bent his knees a little and opened them so he could pull Blair up to rest against his thigh. He bent his head to rest against the top of Blair's, feeling the urgency to reach completion rush through both of them. Blair's cock branded his leg with heat and he humped back, thrusting against him, gasping as the friction of Blair's jeans fired his own blood. He heard Blair moaning over and over then felt dampness against his leg. As Blair went limp in his arms, Jim held him up and thrust hard against him one more time, then groaned Blair's name as he climaxed as well. He slid down the wall, Blair still clutched in his arms, feeling small jolts and shudders as the aftershocks hit them, unable to tell which were from Blair and which from himself.

Blair moved into his lap as they hit the floor and laid his head against Jim's heaving, sweaty chest. "Oh, man," he said breathlessly. "That was something else."

Jim touched the wet and now rapidly cooling spots on his pants leg and at his groin distastefully and grinned ruefully. "I really hope we've both got clean pants somewhere around here, Chief."

Blair laughed. "Hey, I don't mind if you walk around the loft naked for the next couple of days."

"Yeah, well, if I let you walk around naked, neither of us will get any rest," Jim replied, giving Blair's forehead a quick kiss.

"Rest is so overrated," Blair said with a smile. He stood up and held a hand down to his lover, pulling Jim to his feet with an over-exaggerated number of groans as he did so.

Jim whapped him gently on the head as he stood then turned him and pointed him at the bathroom. "Go take a shower, Chief. I'll dig us out some clean clothes and then when you come out, I think it's your turn to cook dinner."

"Oh, man," Blair whined theatrically. "I just get home and you're putting me to work already."

"Joking, Darwin. I'll order Chinese take-out. You can take your turn tomorrow night, instead." Jim whacked Blair's backside and watched him saunter off to the bathroom. Sighing happily, he turned to the phone and called in the order.

The warm hands moved over his face, cupping it gently for a moment before moving on to trace around his lips. He arched his head back as the fingers moved, lips following in their wake, laving a wet swath down the expanse of his throat. Teeth nibbled softly against the raised tendon in his neck and a tender kiss was placed over his pulse point. He sighed with bliss as a mouth latched onto a nipple and suckled then moved over to lap at the other as well.

He raised his hands to pull his lover closer. "Lie still. Don't move yet," his lover murmured and so he complied, feeling boneless and yet on fire inside as the slow sweet buildup continued.

The hands were on his belly now, rubbing across the planes of his abdomen, a fingertip delving quickly in and out of his navel. He moaned as the knuckles of his lover's hand brushed against his cockhead, and then again as he felt the palm brush down over his shaft to the base and back up again. "Please," he begged, his feet pushing flat against the bed, his knees bent.

"Ssh," the voice said.

His cock was grasped firmly and he shuddered as he felt a mouth close around the head and slide down, licking and sucking to the base. Again and again, his lover took him in and out till he was writhing against the mattress, pleading to be taken.

"Okay, babe, okay."

He heard a bottle being uncapped and he huffed out a happy breath out at the sound. He was pulled further down the bed then up to rest on his lover's strong thighs. Fingers slick and cool with lube probed carefully at his anus and he opened his legs wider, flopping them down on either side of his lover's legs in blatant invitation. One finger pressed inside and he pushed back against it, making small demanding sounds till a second joined the first. His legs were lifted over his lover's shoulders as the fingers continued their exploration and stretching then the fingers were pulled free and he groaned at the satisfying, burning sensation of fullness as he felt the blunt head of his lover's cock breach him at last.

The first thrusts were gentle, incrementally opening him up with each one till his lover was fully seated within him. Then he raised his hips up and down, shoving back hard against the cock within him, begging with his body to be fucked harder and faster.

His lover complied, grunting with effort and reaching down to take hold of his erection and pump it in time with their movements.

He wailed aloud as he felt his prostate nudged and pumped his cock more urgently into his lover's fist, his leg muscles tensing and bunching as his back arched up in a bow off the bed.

He could hear the soft cries above him as his inner walls were bathed with the warmth of his lover's seed and then his own was pulsing hotly from him, trickling and dribbling between the hand holding him lovingly and down onto his belly.

Blair fell forward onto Jim's chest, his tangled curls brushing against his lover's face. They were both sweaty and breathless, sated from their second orgasm in just a few hours. The remains of the Chinese takeout sat cooling on the table downstairs and Jim gave momentary thought to going down to clean up, then decided to leave them until he went down to cook breakfast. Blair hadn't eaten much of his share, and he was certain to have worked up an appetite by now.

Blair snorted a little against his chest as his breathing deepened into that of sleep and Jim kissed the top of his head as Blair's softened penis slipped from Jim's body. He pushed his lover carefully off to one side and grabbed the wipes, cleaning them both up a little. Then he rolled to his side and gathered his lover in his arms, holding him close enough to feel the reassuring heartbeat against his skin. He pulled the blankets up to cover them both and drifted off to sleep, feeling whole again for the first time in a week.

Illustration by Romanse