Home And Hearth
Originally posted to My Mongoose Ezines - " Many Seasons" and "The Many Sequels of The Sentinel."
Blair Sandburg kicked at the flat tire on his car and cursed loud and long. He turned back toward the road in the vain hope of catching someone’s attention and gasped in shock as a truck came barreling past, skirting a deep pool of water and sent it cascading over him, drenching him to the skin.
"Shit!" He shivered violently at the frigid sensation and shook his hair, droplets spraying into the night air. Leaning into the car, he pulled his backpack from the passenger seat and fumbled it open with clumsy hands. Breathing a sigh of relief, his numb fingers found what they were after and he pulled the cell phone from inside - only to toss it onto the seat with a muttered epithet as he realized the battery was flat. He berated himself for getting so caught up in his work once more that he hadn’t even registered the strident tone of the low battery indicator.
He straightened and looked up and down the street. Apart from the truck that had so recently doused him, the road appeared deserted. Not surprising, considering the late hour. Blair had been working in his office and once more, the time had slipped away without him noticing. It was 2am before he left the university and close to 2.15 now. The cell phone was of little use to him anyway. Jim was on a stakeout and had no idea how long it might be before he got home and Blair certainly didn’t have money for cab fare.
Blair pulled his backpack over his shoulders and locked the car. Hunching his body further into his threadbare coat, he crossed his arms over his chest in a vain hope of warding off the bitter wind and began to walk in the direction of home.
Home. The word had a nice ring to it, Blair decided. It was not the apartment itself, though compared to his previous living quarters in an old warehouse, it was pretty up-market. It was more the atmosphere of warmth and welcome that pervaded it and settled into Blair’s bones the very moment he opened the front door. More importantly, it was the man who owned the loft and had taken him in, sharing his food, his shelter, his life, his hopes and dreams, and now, finally, his bed. Blair felt a shiver of delicious anticipation when he thought of Jim.
He contented himself now with conjuring up a mental picture of his lover, lying naked on their bed, waiting for him as Blair finally finished his studies and headed upstairs. In his mind’s eye, he could see the contours of Jim’s broad chest, his narrow waist and further down, strong thighs that opened to reveal a hard, leaking cock, jutting up from sparse pubic curls, damp with precum.
Blair sighed and then shivered violently as the wind picked up speed and buffeted his body. The rain had turned to sleet now, small sharp pellets pelting his face. He wondered perhaps if he should have stayed in the car, safe and relatively warm, out of the stormy weather, and answered his own question as his ankle turned in a dip in the road and he went down on his knees. He staggered up and continued to limp onward, biting down on the pain that surged with each step.
He bent his head into the wind and forced himself to keep moving though he was fast becoming exhausted and sleepy. Headlights flared ahead of him and he raised a hand to shield his aching eyes as the vehicle slowed.
"Sandburg? Thank God. Are you all right?"
Blair continued to walk, oblivious to the words that washed over him, hearing only a nonsensical mish-mash of sound. A car door slammed and then a large body blocked his way. Blair tried to walk around the obstacle but it moved with him. He attempted to shake off the hands that gripped his shoulders, impeding his journey home. His head lolled as the hands shook him and then finally, simply turned him around and allowed his plodding, stumbling feet to lead him to the truck. He felt himself lifted and then doors slammed once more and suddenly he registered the warmth. The blissful, overwhelming pleasure of heat that bathed his face and body. Blair sighed happily, then shifted his gaze to the man beside him.
Jim turned and smiled, then steered the truck back onto the road. "Yeah, it’s me."
"How’d you know where I was?" Blair asked.
"Just a feeling, Chief. It’s been bugging me all night."
"Huh. What do you know? We must have a connection or something."
Jim reached over and squeezed a rapidly thawing hand. "Or something."
Blair reached out his other hand and pressed it lovingly over Jim’s groin. "I was having a dream about you," he slurred. "Was a good one, too."
Jim squirmed and moved Blair’s hand. "There’s that connection again, Chief. Tell you what, when we get home and your hands, and the rest of you are warmed up, you can have the real thing."
"Sounds like a plan," Blair answered, already drifting off. "It’s good to be home."
"We’re not home yet, babe."
"Sure we are," Blair answered sleepily. He raised one slightly less than frigid hand and patted Jim’s chest. "This is home."
Jim glanced over at the sleeping man beside him and smiled. Blair had curled himself into a tight ball on the seat, his knees hunched up almost under his chin and his hands wrapped tightly around them. His hair hung in saturated ringlets about his face, oozing a constant dribble of icy water down his cheek. Blair shivered once violently, then muttered softly and lay down, his wet head now in Jim’s lap.
Jim brushed the lank curls from Blair’s eyes and frowned at the chill of his lover’s skin. He grimaced at the frigid sensation now seeping into the denim covering his groin and quickly dialed down his sense of touch. Carding his fingers through Blair’s curls, as he steered his vehicle through the steady drizzle, he mused upon the strange turns his life had taken.
His sentinel abilities were not something that Jim regarded as unusual anymore. Not since Blair Sandburg, anthropologist, police observer, shaman, and light of Jim’s life had appeared in the exam room at Cascade General Hospital. Jim had gone there in the hope of finding an answer for his seemingly heightened senses and occasional lapses of consciousness. The doctors had been unable to come up with anything untoward in his tests, and as Jim had been about to get dressed, a casually dressed young man with long curly hair, earrings adorning one ear and glasses perched on the end of his nose entered the room. He spouted some nonsense about Jim’s heightened senses and how the doctors couldn’t help him, Jim vaguely recalled something about ‘seeing the man’, thrust a business card into Jim’s face and then disappeared so quickly that the detective didn’t even have time to find out how the stranger knew what was wrong with him.
Initially, Jim had been tempted to throw the card away, but then his curiosity and desperation urged him toward Rainier University where he discovered the strange young man from the hospital taking up office in a small basement storeroom. Within minutes of meeting Blair Sandburg, Jim had thrown him up against a wall in sheer frustration at the anthropologist’s bizarre claims that Jim was a sentinel, a throwback to a pre-civilized breed of tribal guardian.
It wasn’t a label that sat easily on Jim’s shoulders, but within moments of that inauspicious meeting, Blair knocked Jim out of the path of a garbage truck, while Jim was in the throes of a zoneout, as Blair called it, and the detective had a change of heart.
It wasn’t an earth-shattering revelation, though Jim readily admitted his attraction to the handsome young man. The detective had discovered his bisexuality while in the army rangers and was comfortable enough with his image. He’d been married briefly, but unhappily, before Blair happened along.
The relationship had appeared to become more than a friendship soon after Jim had allowed Blair to move in with him when Blair’s warehouse apartment had blown up along with a drug lab next door. Blair was a trouble magnet, and strife appeared to follow him wherever he went. If Jim had any concerns that working with the police would put the young man in danger, his fears were allayed by the warehouse incident. Danger appeared to be Blair Sandburg’s middle name.
Blair had promised Jim that he would be out of the loft in a week, but as the time for him to leave drew nearer, Jim found himself anticipating the day with a sense of dread. He’d casually - he’d thought - suggested to Blair that he stay on and share the apartment, and Blair had accepted the offer with alacrity, then grabbed Jim up in a bear hug that had rapidly progressed to a sweet exploration of mouths and bodies. Eventually, Jim had taken Blair upstairs and pulled him onto his bed, their bed. They’d made slow, passionate love, and then and there, Jim had given his heart and soul to his lover, and felt himself made whole.
With a sigh of relief, the detective saw the apartment building ahead of him and pulled his vehicle into a parking spot out front. Home at last. Blair made it home, Jim decided, or more precisely, Jim and Blair together made it a home.
He smiled as he remembered his birthday the week before. He’d come home from work exhausted from an all day session in court, his mind numb from the defense attorney’s constant attacks on his evidence, always wary of alerting anyone to the secret of his heightened senses. As he opened the door, he remembered that he’d promised Blair they’d go out to dinner, and cursed softly. All he wanted to do was have a hot shower and go to bed. The apartment was in darkness when he entered, save for a small group of candles centered on the coffee table. He was about to call Blair out and berate him for leaving candles lit and unattended when he noticed the slip of paper resting against a small ceramic pot. As he picked it up and read it, a smile curved his lips and he felt his exhaustion flow away.
‘Welcome home,’ it read. ‘Happy Birthday. Come upstairs and see what I’ve got for you.’
Jim followed the trail of red rose petals up the stairs and stopped dry-mouthed at the top. There were more candles here, casting a soft glow about the room, and an ice bucket held a chilled bottle of champagne. Blair reclined on the bed, naked, his skin golden in the candlelight, his dark chest and pubic hair a rich comparison.
"I hope you don’t mind," Blair had whispered. "Thought you’d rather eat in."
Jim raised an eyebrow as he lifted a candy from the box by the bed. "Chocolate?"
"Carob," Blair admitted, sounding almost apologetic. "If you think I’m going to let you clog up your arteries, even on your birthday…"
"You’re no fun," Jim said.
"Sure I am," Blair countered, opening his arms. "Get over here and see."
Jim did, and Blair was. It was the best birthday present Jim had ever received.
Jim grinned at the memory, feeling his erection rise in response. He shoved the alluring memory aside and climbed out, crossing quickly to the passenger side of the truck.
Opening the door, he leaned inside and patted Blair’s thigh firmly. When there was no response, he picked up a foot and shook it, groaning as an icy trickle of water streamed from the inside of the boot and further soaked the seat.
"Ouch! Don’t!" Blair reached down and batted at Jim’s hands irritably.
"We’re home, Chief. Time to wake up."
Blair moaned and then sat up, shoving his wet hair out of his eyes, looking around in confusion. Jim extended a helping hand and Blair climbed out of the cab, grimacing as his feet hit the ground.
"What’s the matter with your foot?" Jim asked, grabbing Blair by the elbow as his balance wavered.
"Twisted it," Blair answered. He began to hobble toward the front door, dragging Jim along with him. "It hurts."
Jim pushed the door open and ushered Blair through toward the elevator. He mentally cheered as he saw that the out-of-order sign from that morning was gone. Blair was small but sturdy and Jim didn’t relish carrying his lover up three flights of stairs. "I’ll take a look at your ankle when you get out of the bath," he said as he pushed the floor button.
Blair nodded and leaned back against the wall of the elevator, his eyes drifting closed once more. The sudden stop at the third floor jarred him awake and he shuffled out into the hallway, resting his forehead against Jim’s shoulder as the detective fumbled for his keys.
Pushing the front door open, Jim helped Blair limp over to the couch and lowered him down to the seat before hurrying off to run hot water into the tub. He called Blair in and had him sit on the toilet seat while he helped him strip off his clothes. Blair was almost boneless with fatigue, which didn’t help matters when it came to getting him naked.
Jim helped him step into the tub and smiled at the ecstatic sigh that escaped his lover’s lips as he sank into the warm water. Blair closed his eyes and leaned his head back against the edge of the tub, submerging himself to his neck in the soothing heat. Jim grinned at the blissful expression on his lover’s face, and turned to leave, then went back and tapped the sleepy young man on the cheek. "Don’t fall asleep in there."
Blair shook his head, then reached up and grasped Jim’s hand. "Get in with me?"
"Not tonight, sweetheart. I’m going to get a fire started and get you some dry clothes."
Blair nodded, then hooked a sudsy finger at Jim, beckoning the detective closer. As Jim bent his head, Blair planted a soapy kiss on his cheek. "Love you, Jim."
Jim smiled. "I love you, too, sweetheart."
"Why do you love me?"
Jim thought a moment. "Because you’re you," he said finally. "Because there is no one else like you, and because you love me."
Blair opened one eye and blinked. "That’s it?" he asked. "No heartfelt admissions of undying love and admiration."
"This is Jim Ellison speaking, not William Shakespeare," Jim answered dryly. "Get the message, Sandburg?"
Blair grinned widely, then sneezed explosively. "I got it, Ellison."
Jim gave his lover a whack on the head. "Don’t be in there for too long, you’ll turn into a prune."
Blair simply smiled again and sank back so that only his head showed above the bubbles. Jim shook his head in mock exasperation and went to hunt up dry sweats for his lover. He had the fire lit and the room was toasty warm when he heard the bathroom door open. He looked up as Blair exited the room in a billow of steam. Blair limped over to the couch and lowered himself onto the seat, raising an eyebrow at the pillows and blankets piled on the floor next to the fire.
"What’s all this," he asked, waving a hand toward the bedding.
Jim pressed a palm to Blair’s forehead and concentrated a moment. "Your temperature is still a little low. I thought we could lay here for a while until you warm up." He waved an arm at the coffee table. "I made you some tea."
"Thanks," Blair smiled.
"Before you get too comfortable though, let me take a look at your ankle," Jim said, rising to his feet. Blair lay back obediently on the couch and lifted his right leg. Jim pushed up the sweat pants and felt carefully around the joints and bones. "You’ve given it a good twist," he told his lover. "There’s quite a bit of swelling and heat here, no breaks, thank God." He pulled the pant leg down and straightened up. "I’ll get you an icepack. Why don’t you lie down in front of the fire?"
Blair nodded and sat up, then lowered himself to the floor. Jim was back in moments with a commercial ice pack that he’d wrapped in a towel and bound it around Blair’s ankle. He laughed when Blair shivered. "Sorry. Keep it on for twenty minutes, all right?"
Blair nodded and reached for his tea. "Feels weird, that’s all. Warm top half and frozen bottom half."
"Want me to warm up the bottom half for you when you take that pack off?" Jim offered.
Blair blew on the steam from his teacup and watched it twirl lazily into the air. "Better still, why don’t you come down here and keep the top half warm while we wait?"
Jim pretended to mull it over. "I think that’s doable," he said finally as he sat next to his lover.
Blair finished his tea while Jim recounted his experiences in court. "Do you think the defence was suspicious of your evidence?" Blair asked.
Jim shook his head. "I don’t think it was that. I think he was just winding me up, hoping I’d make a mistake or fall apart. Anyway, the DA’s objection put a stop to it when he started asking the same question over and over."
"I’m glad," Blair answered. "Though it might come up again. You’re going to have to be careful just how you phrase your reports, Jim."
"You could do them for me," Jim suggested slyly. "Then there’d be no mistakes."
"No way, man. I do enough writing now." Blair put his cup back on the table, then reached down and removed the icepack from his ankle. He flexed the joint experimentally once or twice, wincing slightly. Jim lay back against the pillows and watched. "How does it feel now?"
"Not too bad," Blair answered, massaging the joint a little to encourage warmth back into the flesh. "I think I just jarred it. It doesn’t really hurt at all now."
"I’ll drive you over to pick up your car in the morning and you can take it to get new tires fitted. If your ankle feels too painful to drive, call me. I'll come pick you up.
Blair nodded, then suddenly launched himself at the other man, wrapping his arms tightly around Jim’s neck. He peppered Jim’s face and neck in kisses before returning to hug him tightly. "I love you so much, Jim," he whispered. "You love me, too, don’t you?"
Jim reached up and unhooked Blair’s fingers then leaned back a little so that he could cup Blair’s face in his hands. "What’s wrong, Blair?" he asked, worry beginning to gnaw at him. "What’s this all about? Why do you suddenly need reassurance that I love you? You know I do. I haven’t done anything to make you doubt that, have I?"
Blair tried to push himself away but Jim held firm and Blair sighed and relaxed into the hold. "I saw your diary this morning. It fell off the bed, face first onto the floor. When I picked it up, I just glanced at it. I swear, Jim, I wasn’t prying."
Jim pressed a kiss to Blair’s lips. "That’s okay, Chief. I’ve got nothing to hide from you."
"There was a date circled and it had your and Carolyn’s names written next to it, and anniversary."
"Oh," Jim replied. "That."
"Do you really love me, Jim? If you’ve still got feelings for Carolyn, I’ll understand, but I’d hate to think you’re having doubts and just don’t know how to tell me."
Jim tugged at Blair’s arm until he lay down beside him, then he rolled over and blanketed his lover’s body with his own. "I love you, Blair, only you," he said, stroking a hand down Blair’s cheek. "The date that’s circled is the anniversary of our divorce. I keep it in there as a reminder."
"Reminder of what?"
"A reminder of what I’ve got to lose if I don’t handle things properly this time around. Carolyn and I screwed up our marriage out of jealousy and selfishness. We were both on the force, both trying to get promotions. We worked our asses off at the precinct, and by the time we came home to spend time together, there wasn’t enough of us left to give to each other. You and I are in a similar situation here. You’re spending a lot of time at the station with me, then you’re at the university the rest of the time. You spread yourself so thin, it’s a wonder that you have anything left to give, but you do. You’re my partner in every sense of the word. I don’t want us to lose sight of each other."
Blair was silent for a long time then he leaned up and pressed a kiss to Jim’s lips. "Have I ever told you how lucky I am to have you?"
"You’re usually too busy telling me how lucky I am to have you."
Blair shrugged. "Well, tonight I’m telling you. I’m so very lucky to have you, James Ellison."
"The feeling’s mutual, Chief," Jim answered. He rolled to the side and indicated that Blair should lift his arms. "Didn’t we have a deal about warming you up?"
Blair was naked in seconds. He waited impatiently for Jim to shed his clothes then pulled his lover back over on top of him. He tilted his hips up and wrapped his legs around Jim’s waist, so that they lay, chest to chest, cock to cock. Blair cupped the back of Jim’s head in one hand and pulled him down to claim his mouth in a deep kiss. As his tongue snaked out to plunder Jim’s mouth, Blair began to rock back and forth, providing a steady friction for both of them between their bodies. The rhythm was slow and languid at first, gradually picking up speed and force until both men were panting with the need for completion.
"Blair, I love you," Jim whispered into Blair’s ear as his orgasm rolled over him. "Only you."
"I know, Jim," Blair said. "I know."