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Disclaimer: All characters from The Sentinel are the property of Petfly. This is a work of fiction written for my own and others enjoyment. No money has been paid and no copyright infringement is intended.
Rating: N/C-17 (V) (L)
Summary: In the aftermath of Blairs rape, Jim and Blair try to cope with the consequences amid the stresses of dealing with their new relationship.
Authors notes: This is the sequel to Seasons of the heart. It would be preferable for you to read that first, in order to understand this one.
For Patt because she liked the first one so much and for Nancy, for asking a question that made me scratch the surface.
This story didnt get written so much as it evolved. It started out with a very simple plot and from a comment in feedback on "Seasons of the heart" became something much more complex.
Many thanks to my wonderful betas, Carol and Melinda. Their comments and insight made this a better story.
"No." The voice was a whisper, the tone uncompromising.
"Whats wrong?" Jim looked up from his frantic scrabble through the bedside drawer. "Are you hurting?"
"No." The voice was a sigh now, the tone resigned.
Jim bent and placed a kiss on Blairs full lips, then lay beside him, stroking a gentle hand up and down his chest. "Whats the matter then?"
"I cant we cant do that," Blair whispered. "Im still waiting on the blood test results."
"Ill use protection," Jim answered. "I was planning on it, anyway."
He turned back to the drawer, but Blairs hand reached out and grasped his forearm. With his erection rapidly dwindling, Jim sat up and switched on the bedside lamp, then turned once more to face his lover. "Whats going on? Whats different now compared to the other day?"
Blair scooted back until he was leaning against the headboard. "I wasnt thinking clearly then. Youd just told me you loved me. I was scared. It wasnt until the doctor phoned the test results through that I stopped and really thought about what it meant. I dont want to take any chances, thats all. Ferretti is refusing to be tested for HIV. Even though my test was negative, I have to be tested again in three months. The first test was only to establish that I didnt already have HIV. Now Ive got to take those damn pills for a month."
"If the worst should happen, and you have been exposed to the virus, the doctor said the drugs can reduce the risk of infection by 80%. Its worth it, babe, you know that."
Blair nodded then turned so that he faced away from Jim, his voice slightly muffled by the pillow. "I should never have put myself in the position where he could do this to me. Id never forgive myself if I passed something onto you."
Jim lay back down and slowly began to massage Blairs tense shoulders. "I told you, you are not at fault here. You had no way of knowing what that bastard was up to."
Blair flopped over onto his back. "Ive been working with cops for how long now? I should have known better. There was this voice in my head telling me to just go home. Something about the guy bothered me but I couldnt put my finger on it. I should have known."
Jim supported his head on one hand as he resumed his stroking along Blairs chest, his hand gradually going lower. "One of the things Ive always loved about you is your ability to see something positive in all situations. Your belief in the innate goodness of people. Ive always worried that partnering with me was going to make you lose that perspective, make you cynical, like the rest of us."
He scraped a fingernail gently up Blairs semi erect cock, smiling as it hardened further. Then his hand was slapped away and Blair pushed himself upright, a slight wince hinting at still healing injuries. He swung his legs over the side of the bed and sat with his head down, his thick curls obscuring his face.
"I cant believe you even want to touch me that way," he said softly, not looking up.
"I love you, Blair. Ive wanted to make love to you for a long time, feels like forever. What that bastard did to you doesnt change that."
Blair turned to look at him then. "It should make a difference. I keep getting flashbacks, dreams." He snorted at that description. "Nightmares. I can hear him telling me what a slut I am. How Id bend over for anybody. How much Im begging for him to stick his cock in my ass. How I "
He was crying uncontrollably now, the tears coursing hotly down his cheeks. He fought to control it but that only made his throat tighten up and then he was fighting for breath, his eyes wide and his hands grasping at his spasming chest.
Jim shot up in bed as Blairs breathing suddenly became panicked, his heartbeat wildly pounding and erratic. He pulled the hysterical man to him and gathered him up in a firm but comforting embrace, whispering soft soothing sounds as he rocked him gently. Theyd done this before, several times a night after the attack, though this was more severe.
"You did nothing wrong. You were drugged, beaten and raped." He lifted Blairs tear streaked face to look at him. "You did not ask for this."
"I see myself in my dreams," Blair whispered softly, hiccups of sorrow punctuating the words. "Im lying on my back and Im stroking myself, moaning, like Im enjoying it. Then I lift my knees and hold myself open for him."
"You were drugged, Blair. Hell, you dont even know what dreams are real flashbacks and which ones are hallucinations."
"You know," Blair said, shifting so that he rested back against Jims broad chest.
Jims hands found their way unconsciously to Blairs nipples and he stroked the soft nubs feeling them grow hard against his fingertips.
"You saw the photos. You know what I did."
"No! I know what he did," Jim said firmly. He maneuvered around until he sat facing Blair once more and gripped his shoulders. "What I saw was a rapist and his victims. Thats all." And its something I never want to see again as long as I live.
"Im sorry, Jim. I cant do this right now. I cant let you make love to me until I know about the tests. I dont think I could handle that guilt on top of the rest," Blair whispered.
"Then we wont do it," Jim assured him. "Not until were both ready. Id like to hold you though. Can I do that?"
"I can do holding," Blair said, giving him a weak smile.
Jim lay down on his side and pulled his lover to him, bestowing a chaste kiss on the soft lips.
" Thank you," Blair whispered as he turned to his side, silently inviting Jim to spoon up behind him.
Jim accepted the invitation and curled himself in over his lover, one arm resting across Blair's chest, his splayed fingers registering the beat of his heart. " I love you, Chief."
" Me too." Blair said sleepily. "Cabin tomorrow?"
Jim had to force his mind back from the edge of sleep. "You bet, babe. Just got a couple of things to finish up at the station in the morning, then were out of here."
Jim woke early the next morning, aware of the extra presence in his bed. He rolled to his side and contemplated his lover.
Blair was still deeply asleep, lying on his stomach, his sturdy legs tangled in the bedclothes. A riot of curls partly obscured his face, the tendrils puffing gently up and down in time to the even breathing and Jim couldnt resist brushing them away so that he could observe his lover freely.
The physical evidence of Blairs beating and rape were fading quickly. The bruising around his eyes was now a sickly shade of yellow-green, the swelling from brutal blows almost gone. The emotional scars still ran deeply and Jim doubted that they would ever disappear entirely. Blairs nightmares continued to haunt him but Jim knew that in order to help, he needed to clamp down on his own emotions.
Jims hand brushed against the dark stubble of Blairs jaw and he marveled once more at the strange turns his life had taken. He was a sentinel, a man who possessed enhanced senses. A genetic throwback to a pre-civilized breed of man Blair had called him. If that wasnt bizarre enough, hed had fallen deeply and passionately in love with his male guide.
Jim smiled a little as he remembered the incredulous look on Simons face when hed told him of his feelings for the anthropologist. The emotions though had crept up on him and he had not been aware of their existence until hed spoken the words aloud, as though that alone had been enough to give them life. Jim had never before, nor did he now feel an attraction for any other man. Maybe Blair was right. Perhaps it was a sentinel-guide thing.
Jim sighed and got out of bed, moving carefully to avoid disturbing his lover. Last night had kept Blair in a seemingly never-ending grip of nightmares. Jim would only just soothe him awake from one, and then hed be spiraling into another as soon as his eyes were closed.
Jim knew that Blairs mind was trying to deal with more than the fragmented memories of Ferrettis attack, surely terrifying enough in themselves. It would be bad enough knowing that you lay drugged, powerless to fight back while someone abused your body, forcing you to submit to unspeakable acts. But how much more difficult it must be, knowing that those same acts may have infected you and given you a death sentence. Overlaying the fear was the all-encompassing guilt. Jim had seen it often enough in his years on the force. The relentless thoughts that the victim had somehow done something to invite the attack or hadnt done enough to prevent it.
Jim turned back to the bed as Blair stirred restlessly, muttering worried disjointed phrases in his sleep. Jim whispered to him softly until he relaxed once more, then went downstairs. He needed to talk to Simon before they went away. The DA had hoped to get Paul Ferretti to accept a plea bargain. Jim wanted her to add an extra condition to the deal. Blair had demons enough to fight.
Jim heard Blair fumbling about upstairs and put the water on to heat for coffee. Blair had never been a morning person but without his caffeine fix, he was impossible.
He leaned back against the kitchen counter and watched, smiling as his lover stumbled down the stairs. Blair made it down without missing a step, a remarkable feat, Jim thought, since his eyes were still closed. He wore worn sweatpants pulled partly askew over his boxers but his chest was bare. His long curls stood out from his head in disarray and he needed a shave. Jim thought he looked more desirable than ever and seriously considered phoning in sick and taking him back to bed, just to hold him and stroke his silky soft skin.
"Good morning," Jim said cheerily.
Blair stopped at the foot of the stairs and squinted blearily at him.
"Coffee will be ready in a minute."
Blair waved vaguely in his direction and continued his trek to the bathroom.
Jim grinned and turned back to pull eggs from the fridge. Just as he was about to pour the beaten eggs into a pan, the phone rang.
"Oh no you dont, Simon," he grumbled as he crossed the living room to pick it up. "You promised us a few days off."
He took a deep breath to calm himself, knowing that a phone call this early was unlikely to be social and picked up the receiver.
//Jim? Simon. You still coming in this morning?//
//Yes, sir. Ive got to finish up the Becker report and give Rafe and Brown a rundown of my caseload.//
//Good, good. Stop by and see me when you come in, will you?//
//Sure, no problem. Ive got something I want to run by you, anyway. Is there a problem, Simon?//
//No, no maybe. Look, well talk about it when you come in. This place is crazy with a man short.//
//Okay, well see you in about an hour.//
//Uh, Jim, I thought Blair was staying home for a few days.//
//He is, but were heading out to the cabin this afternoon. I thought wed leave straight from the station.//
//Leave him home today, Jim. Okay?//
//Simon, whats going on?//
//Ill talk to you when you get here.//
Jim hung up the phone and went back to cooking breakfast. He served up a portion of eggs and a slice of toast for himself, poured juice and coffee and sat at the dining room table. He picked up his juice and sipped at it, mulling over Simons words, starting suddenly as an arm appeared over his shoulder and grabbed the coffee mug from in front of him.
"Is this for me?"
Jim reached up to capture a kiss. "Sit down and Ill bring you some eggs."
Blair made a face and flopped down into the chair opposite. He was dressed in his usual layers of clothing topped by a red flannel shirt and denim jeans, his hair neatly pulled back into a ponytail. "Im not really hungry. Hope the coffees hot, though."
"Let me at least get you some toast or a bagel. Ill even make you one of those horrible algae shakes," Jim said, getting up to go to the kitchen.
"Nah, thanks anyway." Blair accepted the proffered coffee mug and took a reverent sip, sighing in pleasure. "Nectar of the Gods, man."
He looked up in surprise as Jim pulled the cup from his hand, replacing it with a plate of hot toast, then leaned over to line up three pill bottles in front of him. "I said I wasnt hungry."
"You have meds to take, Chief. I dont think you should take them on an empty stomach." He bent down and kissed Blair again, this time cupping the back of his lovers head, pulling him up against him slightly.
Blair moaned softly and opened his mouth allowing Jims tongue to slide in and stroke his own. The fresh mint of Blairs toothpaste made his tongue tingle slightly and he moved it in a slow caress around Blairs mouth before pulling back and grasping his shoulders.
"Take them for me," he whispered.
Blair nodded and pulled the plate back toward him. With a grimace, he bit off a corner of toast and munched slowly. "Bon appetit," he said around the mouthful. "What time are we going in?"
Jim walked over to the counter and picked up his gun and holster, buckling it on. "Why dont you stay here, rest up a bit and make sure weve packed everything," he suggested.
"We did that last night, Jim. I can help out with the paperwork, get it done twice as fast," Blair smiled.
Jim looked up finally. "Humor me, Chief, okay? Get some rest and Ill be back before you know it." He watched Blairs face for the thrusting of jaw that indicated he had a fight on his hands.
Blair took another sip of coffee and then nodded his head. "Sure, Jim, whatever."
Jim took the opportunity that was offered and decided to quit while he was ahead. Placing a quick kiss on Blairs forehead, he headed for the door. "Great. Ill see you around 2p.m. Dont forget to pack your pills."
Blair sat and watched the closed door for a moment, trying to fight off the growing unease. Simon didnt want him at the station and there could be only one reason for that.
He shook off his morbid thoughts and began to clear off the table, figuring Jims absence meant he could get a reasonable block of work done on his dissertation. He carried the plates to the sink and after hesitating for a moment, scraped his remaining toast into the bin. He took another sip of his lukewarm coffee, then held a hand to his mouth as his stomach churned ominously. Throwing the cup into the sink, not waiting to hear if it broke on impact, he ran for the bathroom, praying he'd make it before he lost his meager breakfast.
The Major Crimes bullpen was a hive of activity even this early in the morning. Rafe and Brown were already at their desks taking a statement from the witness of the murder of a drug dealer. Jim called Henri over to give him a rundown on the cases currently crowding his desk. It was all fairly straightforward and Jim didnt expect a breakthrough any time soon on the one or two still awaiting closure.
Henri stood to leave, then sat down again, pulling his chair forward and leaning over the edge of the desk. "Hows Hairboy doing, Jim?"
Jim smiled. "Hes okay, H. Hes still pretty shook up by what happened and hes getting some flashbacks and nightmares. His physical injuries are pretty much healed though except for a few bruises."
Henri nodded and considered Jim for a moment. "My sister went through a similar thing in college. It was pretty tough on all of us. I know its not quite the same, Sandburg being a guy and all, but if he needs to talk to someone, the therapist my sister saw was pretty cool." He waited, his face tense as he watched Jims reaction, and visibly relaxed when Jim smiled at him.
"Thanks H, thats great, Ill let him know."
Henri went back to his desk, his dancing gait and hip manner firmly back in place and Jim grinned and gathered up the finalized reports and headed for Simons office.
"Hey Jim, hows Sandburg holding up?" Simon asked as the detective slipped the files into his tray and took a seat.
"Doing okay, Simon. Some nightmares still, some pain. Well both be a whole lot better when his HIV tests are done. Which is what I wanted to talk to you about."
Simon held up a hand. "Before we talk about that, Ive got something I need to say. You want some coffee? Its a new blend."
"No thanks, Simon." Jim shifted in his chair and stretched his long frame out a little. It had been a rough night, spent mostly sitting on the side of the bed, waking Blair from his tormented dreams and soothing him back to sleep. "So whats the problem?"
Simon wandered over to the window, coffee cup in hand and stood for a moment looking out.
Jim sat up straight in his chair, his body tensing. Hed known the police captain for enough years now to read every nuance of body language and what he was seeing now set the alarms off.
Simon finally turned to face him. "I had a call from the commissioners office. Blairs observer status has been revoked until he has the results of his HIV test."
Jim jumped from his chair, his hands fisted at his sides. "They cant do that. Theres every chance that his results will be negative. He tested clean for the first test and he gets tested every three months. The fact that he was able to start the post-exposure prophylaxis pretty quickly after the attack means he has an 80% chance of avoiding contamination. Anyway, its discrimination."
"Hes not a cop, Jim," Simon shot back. "His presence here is dependent upon the goodwill of the Commissioner. And Ive read all the literature on HIV and PEPs." He sat back down in his chair and sipped at his coffee, then grimaced and put it back on the desk. " Sit down, Jim."
Jim remained standing, his jaw muscles twitching madly.
Jim sighed and folded into the seat.
"Look, Im amazed weve been able to keep Sandburg here as long as we have without someone from further up saying anything. Observer status is usually automatically revoked after three months."
"Maybe its got something to do with the invaluable assistance Blairs given us since hes been here," Jim said sarcastically. "If it wasnt for him, a lot of my cases wouldnt have been solved. Its not just his expertise in Anthropology, Psychology, languages, but helping me," he lowered his voice, "fine tune my senses, keeping me from zoning out."
"Im not disputing that," Simon said. "The kids become a real asset to this unit. If he werent so nervous around guns, Id be talking him into joining the force. Dont rock the boat. If you want to keep him as your full-time partner, leave him at home until his HIV status comes through."
"Okay, Ill talk to him."
"Good, now, what did you want to ask me?" Simon said. He leant back in his chair and pulled a fat cigar from his pocket, savoring its rich aroma.
"I wanted to ask you to speak to the DA, see if shed put an extra condition on Ferrettis plea bargain. It could work to our advantage too. Force him to agree to HIV testing. If it comes back negative, Blair can relax about the whole thing and maybe the Commissioner will let him come back."
Simon nodded. "Ill see what I can do. Everything okay between you two?"
"As good as it can be, considering whats happened." Jim shrugged. He hesitated a moment, then spoke again. "Hes scared about getting too close to me right now. Doesnt want us to be intimate, if you know what I mean, not until the results come in."
He stopped speaking as he noticed Simon begin to fiddle with the papers on his desk, looking distinctly uncomfortable. "Im sorry, Captain, thats probably too much information. Id better get moving. We want to head out to the cabin this afternoon, get there before dark."
He stopped at the door when Simon called his name.
"Tell Sandburg I said hi. The kid gets on my nerves sometimes, but regardless of what you think right now, I do consider him part of this team."
"Thanks," Jim said, his stance still slightly aggressive, stubbornly refusing to extend the forgiveness that Simon obviously sought. "Ill pass the message along."
"Take your cell phone in case I need to call you back in."
The loft was silent when Jim arrived home and he felt a shiver of apprehension as he looked around the apartment. He extended his hearing and detected Blairs heartbeat instantly, coming surprisingly from his old bedroom. Moving over to the door, Jim knocked softly and then called out.
"Blair? Can I come in?"
"Yeah." Blairs voice was just a whisper and Jim grew more concerned as he opened the door and stepped inside.
The bedroom was in semidarkness; its location under the stairs and the window opening onto a fire escape had always made it rather dingy in comparison to the lighter aspect of the loft bedroom. Most of the furniture was still in the room but Jim and Blair had discussed plans to turn it into a small office that both could use.
Blair lay on the bed curled into a ball, one arm thrown up over his face, his pale features creased into a worried frown.
Jim crossed the room quickly and sat as his lovers side.
"Whats wrong?" he asked, fearing the answer.
Blair reached out blindly and fumbled for his hand, giving it a reassuring squeeze. "Its okay. Just a headache. The doctor said there might be some side effects."
"How bad is it?" Jim asked. "Do you need to go to the hospital?"
Blair shook his head then moaned and held his head with both hands. "I think maybe, not the hospital. On my desk, theres a business card. Its Doctor Masons office number. Could you call him? I was going to phone him before but I couldnt stop throwing up. We can see him on the way to the cabin."
Moaning again in pain, Blair turned carefully to his side facing the wall and closed his eyes.
Jim reached over and picked the card up from the desk, turning it over and over in his hand. "Maybe we should postpone the trip for a few days until youre feeling better," he suggested.
"No," Blair replied. "I want to go to the cabin. I need to get away from here just for a little while. Everything here reminds me of what happened."
He began to rock restlessly on the bed and Jim stroked his back trying to prevent him from exacerbating his pain.
"Okay, okay. Ill ring the doctor," Jim whispered. "Hes the expert. Why dont we let him make the decision?"
Blair stilled and sighed. "Thats probably the best idea."
Jim patted Blair on the shoulder and went out to make the call.
Doctor Mason agreed to see Blair within the hour. Blair insisted that they load the truck first. If the doctor said he couldnt go away, they could just bring the stuff back.
Not wanting to cause further distress to Blair, Jim reluctantly agreed. He knew so little about HIV and its treatments and attendant risks and berated himself for not paying more attention to the lectures hed attended when he was in Vice. Like 99% of the community he had always assumed that short of getting a needlestick injury from a drugged out perp, his chances of contracting the disease were nil. He didnt even know anyone with AIDS.
The headaches and vomiting frightened him. Despite chiding himself for being foolish, knowing deep down that Blair could not possibly be exhibiting symptoms of the disease this early, the foreboding thought continued to nag at him. Compounding the worry was the specter of the other infections that Blair could have contracted, a seemingly never-ending list with equally horrendous symptoms that the doctor had reeled off.
Getting organized to leave took them twice as long as it should have, with Blair racing off to the bathroom to throw up twice. In the end, Jim insisted that he lay on the couch and rest until the packing was completed.
Jim got the final load into the car and then stood over Blair, watching him doze. He was still pale, his eyes slightly sunken from mild dehydration, dark circles under them from exhaustion standing out in stark relief. Jim began to feel an overwhelming terror that this was just the tip of the iceberg and that their new life together was going to be snatched cruelly away.
He started as he felt a hand on his chest, the voice low and calm in his ear. He looked down to see Blair standing in front of him, one hand cupping his face; the other splayed wide over his heart.
"You zoning on me sleeping now, big guy?" Blair asked.
"Must be." Jim hedged around the answer, not wanting to trigger Blairs guilt feelings. "Lets go."
"I cant see any reason for you not to have a few days away," Dr. Joe Mason said cheerily, pulling his stethoscope from his ears. He extended a hand to Blair and helped him into a sitting position on the examination table.
Jim felt an inexplicable disappointment at his words. "What if he gets worse? There arent really any medical facilities nearby."
He was aware of the sharp look that Blair shot him and looked away, staring fervently at the doctor.
Joe shook his head and busied himself with a syringe and a vial of liquid. "Its a fairly common reaction to the PEPs, Jim. Ill give Blair an injection now for the nausea and headache and a prescription for painkillers and Phenergan that you can pick up on the way. That should settle things down. Youre only going for a couple of days, right?"
"Yes," Blair said, a little loudly and Jim turned to him as though only just remembering he was there.
"Okay then," Joe continued. "The injection and the Phenergan are liable to make you drowsy but from the looks of you, you could do with the sleep."
Blair grimaced and shrugged. He lay back down at the doctors urging, rolling to his side so that the injection could be administered in the fleshy part of his buttock. Jim watched his face screw up in pain as the drug was pushed into the muscle and swallowed his nausea.
"Not pleasant stuff, I know," Joe said sympathetically, massaging the injection site with two fingers.
Jim looked away and studied the dust motes twirling lazily in the sunlight by the window.
Blair climbed carefully down from the table and took the prescription that the doctor held out.
"If you get any worse, Blair or if this stuff isnt helping, call me or come home, all right. Use the BRAT diet for a while until your stomach settles and no coffee or alcohol."
"BRAT diet?" Jim said, looking questioningly at the doctor.
Blair spoke up. "Bananas, rice, apples, toast." He looked down at his hands. " Ive been doing some reading."
Jim nodded slowly. "Guess I should too." Shaking himself, he turned back to the doctor and held out his hand. "Thank you Dr. Mason. I-we appreciate your help."
"Not a problem, Jim." The doctor shook both their hands and ushered them out of the office.
Blair dozed most of the way to the cabin, the injection hed been given taking a toll on his already exhausted body. Jim managed to rouse him enough to get him into the cabin where he stood in the middle of the living room, his body boneless and his eyes barely focussed. Jim guided him into the bedroom, stripped him down to his boxers and tucked him into bed. They had not spoken a word to each other since they had left the loft.
Jim got the rest of the gear from the truck and stowed it in the appropriate places, making a mental note to visit the General Store the following day for bananas and apples. They had brought rice and fresh baked bread with them.
Unwilling just yet to examine his reactions at the doctors office, Jim went on a cleaning frenzy. The cabin consisted essentially of three large rooms. There was a spacious living area with polished floorboards and a brick enclosed fireplace. Two overstuffed cotton covered armchairs flanked the fireplace and a large floor rug in warm autumn colors contributed to the rural feel. The sole bedroom was off one side of the living area complete with an adjoining bathroom and a simple kitchen with a plain wooden table and plump cushioned chairs led to the back.
Jim wiped the damp mop over the wooden floor once more, and then checking the time pulled a container of frozen vegetable soup from the freezer. Blair had spent the last couple of days cooking soups and casseroles and freezing them in readiness for the trip.
Once he had the soup heating on the stove, he walked quietly into the bedroom and sat down on the edge of the bed. Deep blue eyes gazed up at him and he smiled and leaned in for a kiss.
Blair reached up and cupped the back of his head, pulling him down to cover him. Jim snaked his tongue out and went for a leisurely exploration of Blairs mouth. Blairs other hand came up and stroked along his back to the waistband of his jeans and Jim felt his cock harden in desire. Finally, he ran out of air and sat back, stroking Blairs stubbled cheek, enjoying the sandpaper feel beneath his fingers.
"I take it youre feeling better?" Jim said.
Blair nodded and sat up, scooting back to lean against the headboard.
"Much. About a lot of things."
Jim motioned in the direction of the kitchen.
"Ive got some of your vegetable soup heating. Are you hungry?"
Blair swung his legs over the side of the bed and stood, stretching.
Jim got up and stood beside him.
"Ill go check on the soup," he said.
Before he left, he ran one finger lightly across Blairs chest, watching the muscles twitch in reaction to the feather light touch.
"Im glad youre feeling better," he whispered.
By the time Jim had the soup heated and served, Blair was dressed in sweats and seated at the table. As Jim sat opposite him and began to eat, Blair reached out and caught his hand.
"Whats wrong?" he asked.
Jim looked up, surprised by the question.
"Nothings wrong," he answered.
"When we were at the doctors, you looked uncomfortable."
Jim shook his head in denial.
"I just dont like seeing you in pain, thats all. It was nothing."
Jim sat back, his appetite gone. "What do you want to do this evening? I dont think the TV has great reception but we might be able to pick up a game or something."
Blair finished the last spoonful of his soup and pushed back from the table. He moved around to stand at Jims side. "I want to take a shower."
He leaned forward and softly kissed Jims ear, allowing the tip of his tongue to trace the contours of cartilage, smiling as Jim sighed and moved his head back to give him better access.
"With you," he whispered.
He turned and left the kitchen, stripping off the top to his sweats as he went and tossing it nonchalantly across the living room. It landed draped over the TV screen and was joined by his white T-shirt.
Jim stood at the kitchen doorway and watched the mobile striptease, arousal hardening him and dampening the front of his jeans. By the time, Blair reached the bedroom door; he was naked, his tight bronzed ass beckoning Jim.
Jim followed Blair into the bedroom but as he heard the shower turn on, he stopped and sat heavily on the side of the bed.
"You coming or do I steal all the hot water?" Blair called from the confines of the bathroom.
"In a minute."
Blairs voice close by surprised him and he looked up. His lover stood in the doorway to the bathroom, still naked, his arms crossed over his chest.
"Are you sure?" Jim asked. "I mean after what you said this morning. Dont think you have to do this for me."
"Do I look sure?"
Jim let his gaze travel slowly over Blairs body, his mouth going dry. Blairs cock arched up from a nest of tight dark curls, its tip ruby red and wet. Blair circled the hard shaft with a thumb and forefinger and began to gently stroke up and down.
"I still dont want us to fuck each other. Not until the test results are through," he answered, his breath coming in soft pants. "But I had some time to think this afternoon after I woke up. If I do...if the results are positive " He paused, seeming suddenly unsure of himself.
"I know," Jim agreed, nodding understanding.
"Besides, there a lot of other stuff we can do," Blair said, wiggling his eyebrows theatrically.
Jim laughed finally and rushed at his lover, pushing him back bodily until he was under the warm spray from the shower, then turning to quickly strip off his own clothes. He stepped into the alcove and took the shower gel from Blairs hand. Bestowing a soft kiss on his lips, he turned him to face away. "Let me wash you."
Blair sighed and leaned so that his back lay against Jims broad chest. "With pleasure," he whispered.
Jim cupped his hand and squeezed a generous portion of the gel into his palm. He swirled it over Blairs broad back, smiling as the other man sighed and arched up, his neck now exposed to Jims lips.
Jim nibbled and sucked on the tender spot just below Blairs earlobe as his hands massaged down the length of his back, feeling the strong muscles ripple beneath his touch. He continued his stroking downward along the narrow hips until they cupped the tight ass cheeks and he rested them there a moment before massaging in firm circles. He felt Blair shift slightly, his legs widening in their stance and snaked both his thumbs between the cheeks to slide enticingly over the pucker at Blairs center.
Blair moaned softly and thrust back slightly causing Jims thumbs to press into the tight channel. He removed one hand and poured a generous amount of gel over his fingers before returning to Blairs ass. He removed his other thumb and slid in two fingers, feeling Blair tense up slightly before sighing again and pushing back hard so that both fingers were pushed fully inside.
Jim placed his other hand over Blairs straining cock and began to stroke slowly as Blair rocked backward onto his fingers, then forward into his fist. He felt his own cock grow harder as it was massaged between Blairs back and his own stomach, the movement matching his own on Blair.
Blair began to thrust back more forcefully on Jims fingers, his ass grinding in tight circles as he tried to get Jims fingers to hit the right spot. Jim grinned in delight when Blair arched up and then back down as the digits within found and massaged his prostate. Jim lowered his mouth to the juncture between Blairs neck and shoulder and began to suck hard as he stroked Blairs passage, invariably finding the small nub within.
Blairs movements sped up now, his breath coming harshly and Jim matched his lovers motion with the strokes in and out. He felt his own cock harden and then his orgasm exploded from him as Blair shouted and thrust back hard once before freezing, the muscles spasming tightly around Jims fingers.
They collapsed to the floor of the shower cubicle still locked in each others arms, both breathing heavily. Jim moved his legs out so that Blair sat between them and to his lover's amusement picked up the gel and washed him again, then handed him the shampoo before stepping out himself.
"Ill go light a fire," he suggested.
Toweling himself dry and dressing quickly, Jim made his way to the little lean-to out back and hauled in armfuls of ready chopped wood. The crackling heat soon attracted Blair who crouched in front of the ancient TV and fiddled with the knobs until he discovered a channel playing a basketball game. The signal left a lot to be desired as they squinted through the snow on the screen to view the game.
Blair busied himself making hot chocolate then they sat Jim in one of the armchairs, Blair on a cushion on the floor, cocooned snugly between Jims legs the silence broken only by the occasional rumble of thunder from an approaching storm and the muted commentary from the TV.
Jim leaned forward to place his cup on the coffee table then began a soothing massage of Blairs shoulders.
"Thank you for tonight," he whispered softly.
The only reply was a soft snore from the head pillowed against his thigh.
The morning was dull and iron gray when Jim awoke and he reached out to pat the place beside him, surprised to find it empty and the sheets cold.
"m here, sick," Blairs voice came softly and Jim flew out of bed and ran for the bathroom.
Blair knelt hunched over the toilet bowl, his white face rested against the seat, his hands hugging the edge. His hair was slick with sweat and he looked ready to fall down.
Jim quickly dampened a washcloth and held it against the back of Blairs neck before wiping it gently over his forehead.
"Why didnt you wake me?" he asked, lowering his voice the instant he noticed Blair flinch. "Another headache as well, huh?"
Blair nodded then moaned and pushed Jims hands away as he turned back and began to heave once more.
"Ill get your pills," Jim said, desperate to find something to do that would help. He stood up and rushed back to the bedroom, pulling gear haphazardly from the small overnight bag. Finding the medicine, he hurried back to the bathroom and filled a small tumbler with water before crouching next to Blair once more.
"Here, try taking these."
Blair took the proffered glass and waited while Jim slipped a Phenergan tablet onto his tongue. He took a small sip of water, grimacing as the tablet slid down his irritated throat then held a hand to his stomach and breathed deeply as he willed the small pill to stay down. Sighing in relief when the drug didnt make an immediate reappearance, Blair sat back slowly on the floor and rested his head against the cool tiles behind him.
It was another ten long minutes before Jim could persuade him to take a pain pill then he walked slowly back to bed, wavering slightly on his feet. He collapsed in a heap on the bed and turned to his side as Jim piled the bedclothes over him. Jim sat with him, stroking his clammy forehead until he drifted into a deep slumber.
Deciding that Blair would sleep deeply for at least a couple of hours due to the sedative effect of the medications and his exhaustion, Jim decided to take a quick trip down to the little general store they had passed on the way to the cabin. He searched his mind for a moment trying to remember the name of the diet the doctor had recommended to Blair.
BRAT. That was it. He shook his head and allowed himself a smile as he thought how appropriate the name was when applied to his lover. Leaving a note for Blair propped up on the kitchen table in case he woke; Jim headed out to the truck.
As it happened, Blair didnt stir from his sleep until almost an hour after Jim got back from the store. Hed purchased apples and bananas and some crackers and lemonade as well as a newspaper and a couple of magazines for Blair. He poked his head briefly into the bedroom and seeing Blair was still deeply asleep, decided to prepare a light lunch and set up Blairs medications.
Jim heard the shuffle of feet and looked up as Blair came into the kitchen. Some color had returned to his face and he looked well rested.
Jim walked over and wrapped his arms around him, giving him a gentle squeeze and a soft kiss.
"Youre looking a lot better," he said. "How are you feeling?"
Blair returned the hug and then yawned widely. "Better, thanks. Hungry."
"Great. Ive been to the little store down the road and got you some bananas and apples, those nice green ones you like, the apples, not the bananas."
Blair reached up a hand and placed it over Jims mouth, delighting in the kiss Jim gave it. "Chill, big guy. Im okay."
Jim shrugged. "Sorry, cant help it. Anyway, I also bought some lemonade. Its supposed to be good for upset stomachs. If you can eat a little and keep it down, you can take your meds."
"Doesnt matter," Blair answered, sliding into a chair at the table. He picked up a banana and peeled it. "The PEPs are whats causing the vomiting and the headaches, not to mention a wonderful new side effect, diarrhea," he grimaced. "Im going to stop taking the drugs."
Jim stopped in his tracks in front of the open refrigerator, a large bottle of lemonade clasped in his hand. He turned slowly to stare at Blair with open-mouthed shock. "Youre going to do what?"
Blair turned in his chair to face Jim, his features defiant. "I said Im going to stop taking the drugs." Before Jim could open his mouth to protest, he held up a hand. "They make me nauseous, they make me throw up, they give me headaches and diarrhea." Blair ticked the points off on one finger. "And theres no guarantee that theyll help anyway."
"The doctor told you the PEPs can reduce the risk of infection by 80%, Sandburg," Jim retorted. "Id call that a pretty good guarantee."
"Well, I dont, all right." Blair shouted, wincing slightly as the noise awoke the pain in his head. He slumped back into his seat, his head bowed. "I dont want to feel sick anymore. I just made you figure out you love me. Im so scared Ill lose you."
Jim hurried to Blairs side and knelt by the chair. "Oh babe, youre never going to lose me. Do you think Im shallow enough to let a little sickness bother me?"
"I saw it in your eyes at Doctor Masons," Blair whispered. "I saw the fear in your eyes. I heard you ask the doctor if it would be better if we didnt come here."
"Im afraid for you, thats all," Jim assured him. "Im just scared youll get really sick out here and Ill need to get you to the hospital. Id never forgive myself if I let you get hurt again. Its my fault this happened in the first place."
"Its my fault, not yours," Blair shouted, pushing away from Jim and standing up. "I did it. I let myself get fucked by some guy Id never met before because Im a slut and now I have to pay the price."
His eyes filled with tears and overflowed down his cheeks. "If I dont take the pills, I might get AIDS and Ill lose you. If I do take them, Ill throw up and shit and have headaches and youll get tired of looking after me and Ill lose you."
Jim took a shaky step forward. He held a hand toward his partner, his own eyes beginning to tear. "I love you, baby. Id never get tired of looking after you. Whatever happens, well get through it together. Give the drugs a chance, please. I cant bear the thought of losing you. A little vomiting and nausea has got to be worth it."
Blair took a step back, shaking his head then squared his jaw and glared at his lover. "Probably in the end, Ill lose you anyway because youll never be able to trust me again. Ferretti was right. Im worthless." He looked up at Jim in surprise. "Id forgotten that until now. He told me that after he was finished with me, no one would ever want me again."
Jim shook his head vehemently. "Thats not true. Ill always love you, Blair. I just want us to have the time to be together. I dont care if we never make love again. I want you to take the pills so you dont get infected." He scrubbed a hand over his eyes, growing impatient with the argument.
"I could have already passed it on to you." Blair looked suddenly panicked at the thought.
"Blair " Jim moved closer to his lover, wanting nothing more than to take him in his arms and protect him forever.
Blair backed away again, holding his hands up defensively. "No, dont! Everyone keeps telling me what to do. I need.. I need to decide for myself now. You want to know why I let you make love to me in the shower?"
Jim shook his head, dreading the answer.
"You wanted sex yesterday before we left." Blair spat the words out like epithets, his shaky, tear filled voice belying their vehemence. "I was scared that if I didnt give you sex, Id lose you. It was a cheap enough price to pay."
Jims temper flared at the admission. "You make yourself sound like a fucking rent boy," he shouted.
"Whore, slut, same difference. It seems that no matter what the end result of all this is, Ill lose you one way or another. Thats my punishment for doing what I did." Blair shrugged his shoulders, then wiped impatiently at his cheeks with the sleeve of his shirt. "Im going for a walk," he said, turning around and heading for the door. "I need to think things out."
"Okay, good," Jim said, grabbing both of their jackets from the hook by the door. "Ill come with you. I could use some fresh air myself."
"Jesus, Jim! Take a hint, will you," Blair started angrily. "I need to be alone for a while. Sort through all this shit. I cant think straight right now." He looked beseechingly at the other man, willing him to understand. "Please?"
Jim sighed and nodded then held Blairs jacket out to him. "Dont go too far into the woods. You dont know the area well enough. And dont stay out too long. That storms about to break. I can smell the rain already."
Blair smiled through his tears. "You can smell the rain? Cool."
He opened the door then turned back, placing his hand in Jims. "I didnt mean what I said about you wanting sex. I was just trying to push you away. I dont want you to get sick as well."
Jim squeezed his hand and leaned forward to place a gentle kiss on Blairs lips. "I know. You wont get rid of me that easily though."
"Im glad," Blair answered. He pulled his jacket snugly around him and hunching into its warmth, stepped out onto the porch.
Jim straightened from his preparations as he heard Blairs footsteps on the porch. He schooled his features into an expression of casual interest, not wanting Blair to realize that hed been worried sick since the wind had picked up and the downpour had started. Blairs sense of direction was abysmal at the best of times but in a storm, in an unfamiliar place - Jim had about been ready to call search and rescue when his lovers absence had slipped into its second hour.
Jims welcoming smile turned to a frown of concern as the door opened and a shivering bedraggled creature limped inside. Blairs hair hung in dripping ringlets around a pale face. His cheeks and nose were bright red and his teeth chattered noisily as he clutched his wet hands together and rubbed them furiously.
"Jesus, Chief," Jim managed. "What the hell happened?"
Blair limped over to the roaring fire, sighing as he extended his hands and turned them to and fro in the welcoming warmth, ignoring the water that dripped from his clothes and shoes, pooling on the floor.
"Im a klutz," he said, matter of factly. "When that rain started, I lost my bearings and I couldnt see two inches in front of me. I slipped on some wet leaves and went over on my ankle."
Jim was at his side in a moment, pushing him down into the armchair. He reached for Blairs foot and felt around the bones with gentle hands. "Its a bad sprain," he said. "Ill get you some ice."
He headed out to the kitchen and pulled an icepack from the freezer then detoured into the bedroom, hauling a bundle of towels and a blanket from the closet. Returning to the living room, he quickly stripped Blair of his wet clothes and then wrapped his hair in one towel and rubbed his icy body down briskly with another, pausing once to lay a kiss on the chilled lips.
Blair sighed as Jim wrapped the blanket about his dry and tingly skin and then lifted his swollen ankle to rest on the coffee table. He winced a little as Jim turned it, examining the dark bruise already blackening his foot and shivered as the icepack was placed on his ankle.
Snuggling deeper into the warm folds of cloth, Blair gazed slowly about the room, his eyes finally coming back to rest on his lovers face.
"Jim, whats going on?"
"What do you mean?" Jim asked, fiddling with the icepack as Blairs movements caused it to slip.
"Whats all this about?" Blairs hand did a sweep of the room, indicating the candles placed on the mantel, the fruit punch sitting in a wine decanter with two glasses beside it and flanked by a tray of cheeses and fruit. Their sleeping bags were spread in front of the fire piled high with pillows and the bedding from the bedroom.
Jim looked up and cupped Blairs cheek in his hand, stroking it lightly. "I wanted to apologize," he began.
A low whistle escaped Blairs lips. "Some apology," he said. "Tell me what you did again, so I can make you do it more often."
Jim laughed, the happiness welling up unchecked. "I was going to apologize then it turned into a celebration. Simon called "
"Oh man," Blair broke in. "Dont tell me we have to go back."
"Will you let me finish a complete sentence, Sandburg?" Jim growled but the smile on his face softened the words.
Blair took a deep breath and settled himself back in the armchair, his expression one of rapt concentration. "Youre right. Sorry, sorry. You were saying?"
"Simon called," Jim continued, unable to keep the grin from his face. "Ferretti rolled over and accepted a plea bargain from the DA."
Blair looked puzzled. "Thats great, I guess, Jim. Personally, I was hoping theyd lock the bastard up and throw away the key."
"Me too, sweetheart," Jim agreed fervently, trying once more to shake the memories of Blair's abused and battered body from his mind. "Part of the plea bargain was that he agree to be tested for HIV."
"And?" Blair looked hopeful but wary.
"The tests arent due back for a few more days but he claims he was tested only a few days before he before the attack on you and he was clean. Beverley was able to speak to the doctor who tested him and he verified the results. Rowan, the guy Ferretti worked for, apparently insisted that his men were HIV negative. Ferretti also confirmed that he," Jim clenched his jaw for a moment then went on, a slight tremor evident in his voice, "was the only one who had sex with you. The chances of him contracting HIV in the few days after his test are non existent because he swears he didnt have sex with anyone from the time of his test until he met you."
Blair sat perfectly still, only the steady rise and fall of his chest giving any indication that he was still breathing. He stared at Jim for a long moment, then a small smile began to twitch the corners of his mouth. "So its finally over," he whispered.
Jim leaned forward and gathered his lover to him, capturing his mouth in a deep kiss. He leaned back and looked into Blairs blue eyes, one hand reaching up to brush away the tear that trickled down Blairs cheek. "Yes, baby. Its over."
"Oh man," Blair groaned. "No more for me, man. You dont want me spoiling all your preparations by throwing up everywhere, do you?"
He reached up and captured Jims hand in his, forestalling the passage of the tempting morsel of fruit to his mouth. He sighed and leaned back, positioning himself more comfortably against his lovers naked chest, smiling as Jims hands wrapped around him and stroked gently across his nipples.
Both men were silent for a time, enjoying the togetherness. Jims hands began to stray lower, a feather light touch ghosting across Blairs stomach, his knuckles drifting over Blairs hardening cock. He felt the muscles quiver beneath his fingers and stilled his movement.
"Blair? Is this okay?" he asked, his mouth descending to nuzzle at the juncture of his lovers neck and shoulder.
Blair moaned softly and angled his head to the side to allow Jim better access to his soft skin. "Mmm," he answered. "Better than okay."
He sat up then collapsed back against the pillows, bringing Jim down to lay on top of him. "Just not enough."
Jim smiled and bent to capture his lovers lush lips, his tongue snaking out to push at Blairs mouth until he sighed and opened under the pressure, sucking Jims tongue into the warm depths. Jims hands began a slow sensual dance over Blairs body, fingers scratching through the dark chest hair until they found the small brown nubs and stroked and twisted them gently.
Blair gasped softly as Jim lowered his head and sucked softly on a nipple then bit it gently as he rolled its twin between thumb and forefinger. Jim explored further with his hands, allowing his mouth to follow his fingers path as Blair arched up against him, his erection grinding against Jims tight stomach.
Jim placed both hands against Blairs hips to hold him and looked into Blairs eyes, the blue irises now dark with desire. "Relax, baby," he whispered. "Let me love you."
Blair nodded and Jim felt his body become pliant beneath his hands. He stroked his fingers through the soft pubic curls, and then encircled Blairs straining cock with the fingers of one hand. He began to stroke slowly along its length, his thumb swirling through the moisture gathered at the tip. He cupped Blairs sac in his other hand and rolled the balls within gently. Then he bent his head and engulfed his lovers cock in the warm moist cavern of his mouth, his hand still stroking the base of the shaft, smiling as he heard Blair suck in a breath and then begin to thrust in and out.
Jim felt Blair shift on the blankets and watched as his legs pulled up until his feet were flat on the floor. Jim continued to suck and lick his way up and down Blairs shaft and allowed a finger to trace beyond his lovers balls stealing into the crease of his ass. Blair moaned and moved his thighs apart, arching up once more into Jims mouth. Jims finger rubbed gently across his center and stole just inside the tight pucker. He began to stroke lightly in rhythm with his movements on Blairs cock and Blair began to move in counterpoint to his strokes.
Jim pulled his mouth away and sat back, continuing to stroke Blairs passage gently.
"This goes as far as you want it to," he said. "If you want me to stop now, I will."
Blair shook his head then reached for Jims free hand, turning it over to kiss the palm. "Dont," he said. "Dont stop. I want you inside me." He leaned up on his elbows and kissed Jim lightly on the lips. "I want to replace the nightmares with memories."
Jim nodded then smiled shyly at his lover. "I, um, I havent done this before, you know? I did some reading but I dont want to hurt you."
"Youd never hurt me," Blair said, his voice sure and deep with passion. "You love me."
Jim grinned and reached for his jeans, lying strewn on the armchair. He fumbled in the pockets for a moment before pulling out a small tube and a wrapped condom and holding them aloft triumphantly.
Jim shrugged. "I was a boyscout."
Blair laughed uproariously and pulled his lover to him, enveloping him in a warm hug. After indulging in another long, deep kiss, he pulled away and cupped Jims face in both hands. "Let me put it on you."
Jim held out the small foil package and watched intently as Blair tore it open with his teeth. He arched up and threw his head back as Blairs warm hands found his drooling cock and stroked leisurely along its length once, twice, three times. As Jim growled low in his throat, Blair placed the tip of the condom on the head of his penis and slowly rolled it along the length of the shaft. He stroked a few more times, smiling as Jim began to thrust into his hand.
Feeling Blairs pleasurable touch gone, Jim opened his eyes and saw that his lover was laying back against the pillows once more, his legs bent at the knees, his thighs parted widely.
Jim needed no more invitation. He squirted a good amount of lube into the palm of one hand and over the fingers of his other. Reaching down, he grasped Blairs erection and began to pump firmly. As Blair began to pant heavily, Jim stroked one finger over his center and then slipped a finger inside. He gasped at the heat he found there and began to push in and out, encouraged as Blair thrust down on the digit. Pouring more lube onto his fingers, he pushed two into the clutching hole and scissored back and forth, going a little deeper each time. He circled the slick passage lazily and jumped as he rubbed against a small nub within and Blair cried out, frantically fucking his fingers.
"Oh God, did I hurt you?"
Blair shook his head vehemently, then opened his eyes briefly. "Stop now and Ill get your gun and shoot you," he promised.
Jim laughed, feeling the tension begin to ebb and thrust his fingers deep into Blairs ass, trying to find the small gland once more. Finally, he pushed three fingers into the loosened hole and Blair began to make hurried jerky movements, pushing back hard on the fingers within and grinding his ass in a circular motion. He reached for his cock but Jim batted his hand away and circled it firmly with his own fist.
Blairs hips arched up off the ground and he lifted his legs so that they hung over Jims shoulders. Straightening his back so that he was balanced on his shoulders, he pushed Jims fingers in as deep as they would go, humping rapidly. Jims mouth went dry at the sight and he felt his cock begin to jerk.
Moving quickly, he removed his cramping fingers and placed the head of his cock at Blairs spasming pucker. Taking a deep breath, he pushed tentatively, surprised when the shaft slid in easily. Stopping for a moment to give Blair time to adjust, he was shocked once more as his lover groaned and pushed back hard, shoving Jims cock all the way in so that his balls slapped against Blairs ass. He pulled out slightly then slammed back in, feeling Blair move in counterpoint to his strokes. Far too soon, he felt his orgasm building and he reached down to grasp his lovers neglected erection. Blair began to thrust back then forward into his fist and Jim lost any semblance of control.
Blair arched up impossibly high and froze and Jim felt the muscles clench tightly around his cock. Seconds later, he groaned loudly as his orgasm flashed through him and he pumped harder into Blairs heat.
Exhausted and sweaty, Jim collapsed over his lover and lay breathing heavily until he felt his softened organ slip slowly from Blairs ass.
"That was incredible," he panted, bestowing a kiss on Blairs equally sweaty brow.
"Yes, it was," Blair agreed happily as Jim rolled off him and drew the smaller man to lie with his head pillowed on his chest. "Let me get my breath back and Ill show you a few other moves."
He grinned as he felt the chuckles vibrate against his face and drifted off to sleep to the comforting sound of his lovers heart.
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