Ad Libitum









."Jim, you okay?" Blair asked softly. He'd asked that same question about a hundred times, but this time he got an answer.

"I'm fine," Jim almost growled, which was a pretty good indication he wasn't. Dark circles under his eyes made his face looked grim and slightly deathlike. If the cops stopped them right now, Jim was going to be hard pressed to convince them that he wasn't either some dangerous criminal or a man on the edge who had no business being behind the wheel. Even Blair was thinking Jim had no business being behind the wheel. He could deal with being kidnapped, but dying in a wreck when Jim fell asleep at the wheel was just not in his plans.

"Maybe we should—"

Jim made an annoyed growl that sounded far more like his spirit animal than a rational human being.

"We have to talk about this," Blair said, trying his best to be reasonable. It wasn't easy to be reasonable in handcuffs, but he was trying. At least Jim had cuffed his hands in front.

"No, no we don't," Jim countered.

Blair sighed and shifted in the seat of the sedan Jim had either rented or stolen. This morning, Blair would have laughed at the idea of Jim stealing a car, but right now, he wasn't sure what Jim was capable of. Shit. He was on thinner than thin ice with the university, and going on an impromptu field trip was not going impress anyone. Double shit. Alex was supposed to have stopped by this afternoon. Looking out at the fading lights of the sun as the last streaks of light stained the concrete, he figured he'd missed that meeting.

Lifting his hands, he scratched his nose and made the chain between the cuffs rattle. Jim's fingers twitched.

"Jim... seriously, we need to just pull over and talk about this now. Man, we are hours outside of Cascade. I mean, where are we at this point?"

Blair had a good idea, but he wasn't sure how much information Jim was trying to keep away from him.

"We'll get to Dalkena soon," Jim said, his eyes focused on the road. Okay, so Jim wasn't intentionally trying to keep him in the dark... he had just reverted to his good old Neanderthal alter ego.

Blair loved Jim desperately, and he knew his lover was going to be seriously pissed, but it was time for the guide to put his foot down. They had to be two or three hundred miles from Cascade and whatever danger had set Jim off, and now it was time to stop the car and talk.

"Jim, man, you should pull over. You are seriously too wound up," Blair said, his voice soft and low and if Jim was paying attention to him at all, he would catch on to what Blair was doing and immediately verbally rip him a new asshole. Instead, Jim did little more than cock a head as his fingers tightened on the wheel.

"I could rub your shoulders, work out some of that tension," Blair offered silkily. Jim's lips tightened, but he didn't tell Blair to knock it off, so something was definitely wrong. A few days after they'd ended up in bed the first time, they'd discovered that Blair had a direct line to Jim's libido. Blair had made an inappropriate comment and given Jim a lewd look or two, and next thing you know, Jim had him bent over a bed in a house where they were working a stake out. Blair had been shocked, and Jim was humiliated. After that, they'd agreed that Blair's ability to veto Jim's common sense would be kept under lock and key when outside the loft.

True... it had eased their sex life, allowing Jim to loosen up on the control he so desperate clung to in his job, but outside the bedroom, Blair's sexy voice was verboten. The truth was, the control kinda freaked Blair a little, even if he had enjoyed it when he used it, even by accident. It was tough to not sound turned on and sexy with Jim naked in the same room. It never bothered Jim when Blair had taken control during those times when they were safely at the loft, but now Blair used his weapon in a way that might possibly get him gagged.

"Pull over and I can run my fingers over your strong muscles, follow the line of your shoulder down onto your chest, my fingertips gently brushing over your warm skin so that the muscles contract," Blair whispered, forcing Jim to focus his hearing. "I could follow that trail with my lips, kissing down your body, detouring to give your nipples those little licks you love until they reached a hard peak." Blair paused to slowly lick his lips. Jim was utterly motionless now, the car finally starting to slow as the sun sank beneath the horizon behind him.

"By the time I leave your nipples, you'll be so hard. Your balls will ache with need, hot and stretched as I slowly tease you. I brush kisses over your stomach, resting my palms against your thighs. You feel the heat of my hands, but you're frozen and waiting for me as I caress your sides. I love to feel the curves of your body, the way your muscles strain under the hot skin. I'll lose myself in holding your hips, in feeling the strength as you thrust up blindly, desperate to finish. Oh man, by then, I will be totally read to blow!"

Blair could feel his own cock react to the words. Yeah, Jim was seriously freaking him out with the kidnapping impression. He'd been coming out of Hargrove, when Jim had pulled up, demanded he get in, and then handcuffed him the minute he had. But even Jim acting so uncharacteristically creepy didn't change the fact that Blair loved the big idiot. He reached down and rubbed his own cock, losing himself in the pleasure edged with just a hint of pain as his cock demanded more room than it currently had in his jeans.

Suddenly the car was screaming toward the shoulder, gravel rattling against the underside as Jim brought it to a barely controlled halt that left the heavy smell of burnt rubber drifting in through the open window.

Blair yelped as Jim reached over and pulled Blair's jeans open. He ended up with his cuffed hands resting on Jim's shoulders as Jim swallowed his cock with no warning or foreplay. Blair's body trembled as Jim's mouth worked him expertly. Part of Blair wanted to tell Jim to give him some space, to let him gather his thoughts or at the very least uncuff him. Instead, Blair just wiggled helplessly as his world narrowed to the mouth on his cock and the steadily darkening line of trees out the window. He yelled as he came--and for a second, Jim lay with his head on Blair's leg, his warm breath skittering across Blair's softening cock. Blair's hands were still awkwardly resting on Jim's shoulder.

"That was manipulative," Jim finally sighed. From the way his body was relaxed, even though he was twisted around in the front seat, Blair was guessing that Jim had come in his pants.

"Man, you were starting to seriously freak me out, so, yeah, I was totally manipulative," Blair agreed wondering if there was going to be a gag in his future. He'd never intentionally hijacked Jim's awareness like that before, but Jim was handling getting hijacked way better than Blair had expected.

Jim had managed to completely twist himself around so his back was to the wheel, and now he struggled to sit up. He braced himself on the seat and grunted before he finally got himself upright and settled back down behind the wheel.

"Talk to me," Blair asked quietly. For a long minute Jim just stared out the window. "Please?" Blair asked.

Jim looked over and gave him one of his unamused looks... one that made it very clear that he knew Blair was still playing the guide card.

"I had a dream," he admitted, and the look got even more disgusted. Even in the low light, Blair knew that Jim was already second-guessing himself.

"Okay, so getting out of Cascade was 100 percent necessary," Blair quickly agreed. "The handcuffing, though? That might have been a little beyond the pale." Blair gave his wrists a bit of a yank. He could see Jim flinch.

"Sorry about that, Chief," Jim said as he reached for his keys. Blair could see the moment when Jim hesitated, and clearly Jim wanted to keep Blair safely chained to his side, so whatever was wrong, it was seriously freaking him out. And it was just pretty much a given that anything that could freak Jim out could send Blair into a blind panic.

"I'm so totally glued to your side until we figure this out. You don't need the cuffs, man," Blair said as he held out his hands. He'd been cuffed for hours now, and his wrists were seriously itching and annoying him. Jim took a deep breath and took them off before quickly shoving them in his pocket. "Okay, so what's up with the dream?" Blair demanded before Jim could think too much and convince himself to just ignore the whole thing.

Instead of answering, Jim started the car and eased back out onto the road. "I killed you," Jim finally admitted softly.

"Oh man. Whoa. That's... that's worthy of a little freaking. Are you sure this was one of your blue dreams and not... I don't know... some Freudian response to my hair costing us $450 in plumbing repairs? I seriously did not think it would be that big of a deal pulling the stopper and just letting my hair go down the pipes."

"This was not about your hair, Chief," Jim sighed. "I wish it was. I was in the jungle again, and I saw a wolf. I shot it, but when I got close, the wolf turned into you."

"So your response is to kidnap me?" Blair was the first to admit that Jim-logic and Blair-logic were in totally different continents most of the time, but this was strange, even for Jim.

Jim sighed again. "I was doing something wrong, Chief. I know it's not about us or something at the precinct and since the only thing new in the land of Sentinels is Alex..." Jim let his voice trail off, but Blair knew exactly what Jim thought of the other Sentinel. He only left Blair alone to work with her because her appearance would allow him to publish his Sentinel work without putting Jim in danger.

He had tons of data on her baseline control and ability, and with Jim's baseline date safely squirreled away behind a few fictional biographical details that made it look like the late and beloved Officer Olio was the Sentinel, Blair finally had a way out of the trap he'd made for himself when he went and fell hopelessly in love with his Sentinel. Nothing he collected after that first time they'd gotten drunk and tumbled into the same bed... nothing after that had any scientific merit. There was participant-observation method and then there was losing all objectivity. But Jim's early data with Alex's early data would make an incredible dissertation.

"You think letting me work with Alex was the metaphorical shooting of me?" he asked.

Jim scrubbed his face with his hand. Now he had a large wet spot on his pants and he looked even more dead at the wheel, but at least he was talking. "Yeah, Chief, I do. I kept seeing a spotted leopard snarling at me. I think she's going to make a play for you."

"No way," Blair quickly said. "No fucking way. From day one, I told her I was not interested in doing anything more than testing her and helping her with some meditation. I am a one Sentinel Guide."

"That's the problem," Jim said wearily.


Jim glanced over. "Blair, she's desperate. I remember what that felt like. I don't think I would have kidnapped you if you'd refused to help me, but I can't say that for sure. I was in too much pain."

That made Blair stop and think. Alex was a strong woman... and a very physical one. He doubted he could defend himself for long if it came down to a fight. "You think she'll try to grab me."

"If you aren't willing to be her Guide, yes. I think that's why I saw myself shoot you... because my actions were leading to your death. If you absolutely refuse to guide her, I don't think she's going to care about why. I think she'll kill you, and I would have delivered you to her door and smiled because it helped protect my identity in your dissertation. I don't care if I have to walk away from Cascade forever or go on national television to announce I'm a Sentinel, I will not let her take you, Chief."

Blair reached over and rested his hand on Jim's arm. "No way am I going to get taken. You are the only one with permission to kidnap me," he said with a small smile. "So, let's find a place to hide for a bit. I wouldn't mind a nice hotel with a Jacuzzi and internet, but I have a horrible suspicion you have camping equipment in the trunk, don't you?"

"Enough to keep us out here for the two week vacation we just started and a satellite phone so I can check in with Simon who's doing a little digging on our sweet Miss Alex," he agreed.

Blair sighed and just shook his head. Either this was some strange manifestation of Jim's jealous insecurity or they'd just found a whole new early warning system buried in the Sentinel instincts. Either way, they'd figure it out together.

"Two weeks, huh? I wonder how much sex we can fit into two weeks." The car did a quick jerk to the right before getting back on track. Jim growled. Maybe a vacation wasn't such a bad idea after all.




"Aw, Chief," Jim sighed. Blair stood naked in the slow-moving river, crouching down with a strip of cloth he'd ripped from his blanket and a bar of soap on a rope.

"What?" Blair immediately checked for leeches, snakes or gun-toting sky-divers because the way his life had been going lately, they were all pretty plausible. He was so not okay with Simon's latest intel on Alex. So not okay.

"Your wrists," Jim said with a frown. He stepped close, his bare skin dappled with shadow from the trees as he reached down, uncharacteristically hesitant.

Blair checked out the matching red circles around his wrists. "No big. I mean, it's not like they're infected with flesh-eating bacteria or something," Blair laughed. Then he closed his mouth. He really didn't have room to be tempting fate the way his life had been going.

"No big? Chief... look what I did." Jim took Blair's hand in his own and brought it up as he stared at the damage. "I did that." The pain in Jim's voice made Blair ache for him.

"No way. That is my fault because I should have figured out to stop talking with my hands. I was the one yanking on the cuffs."

"And I cuffed you. It's inexcusable."

"Considering what Simon found out about Alex Barnes, I'm calling it excused. I'm calling it more than excused."

Jim made a disagreeable snort as he finally let go and turned his back. No one could do guilt like James Ellison, that's for sure. "I had no right to hurt you."

Hooking the soap rope over his wrist, Blair grabbed at Jim's arm. He clung, forcing Jim to stop before he could retreat to go do the hair shirt and self-flagellation routine. "You have never hurt me. Yeah, you went a little overboard considering that I was fucking kidding when I made that Blessed Protector joke, but I hurt myself. And I'm guessing I hurt myself a whole lot less than Alex would have been hurting me if we'd stuck around."

Jim just stood, his bare feet half sunk into the mud and the bottom of his jeans dark from the sluggish current that swirled around their feet. Blair could feel guilt sucking at Jim, but of all Jim's quirks, Jim's guilt really did confuse Blair the most. Naomi never felt guilty about anything... not even when she should. So, he had a very limited experience base when it came to that emotion. Taking a deep breath, Jim turned to look at him. "Chief, it's never acceptable to leave a physical mark on a partner. I restrained you against your will. If someone told me that their partner had done that..." Jim stopped, his jaw tightly clenched. Even without words, Blair could pretty guess where Jim was going.

"Man, do not go there. Just do not go there."

"Why? Because being a Sentinel excuses me from taking responsibility?" Jim's body was tight with emotion, the muscles of his back standing out in sharp cords. Blair reached out to rest his hand against Jim's arm, and Jim shrugged him off like a horse shedding a fly.

"Oh man, you are walking the tightrope of total assholeness here."

"Yes, I am. Only I think I've already gone off the tightrope," Jim said as his gaze flicked almost involuntarily down to Blair's red wrists.

Blair crossed his arms over his chest. "Listen, Ellison, I hate to point this out, but I'm the one who fucking hijacked you and had you nearly wrecking the car in order to give me a blow job. So, if someone is crossing the domestic abuse line, it's me."
"What the hell are you talking about?" Jim asked with an honestly confused expression on his face. Blair blinked at him for a second, too surprised to form an answer right away. Okay, he'd been expecting anger and denial but not outright amnesia.

"Last night. I did the whole voice thing that we agreed I would never do."

"You did what you had to in order to get me to stop and listen to reason." Jim dismissed the whole argument with a roll of his eyes as he waded out onto the damp grass.

"Oh no!" Blair snapped. "No, no, no, no, no. You are not walking away now. I mean, I was expecting fireworks and screaming and possibly gags when I hijacked you, and no offense Ellison, but coercing someone into sex is much higher on the slime scale than handcuff marks that aren't even your fault."

"You did not coerce me, Darwin. I happen to enjoy having sex with you." With that, Jim was definitely finished. He, the muddy cuffs on his jeans, and his guilt complex all headed back to the camp. Splashing his way out of the shallows, Blair tried to follow only to get caught up in the mud. One foot slipped in the slick and he ended up with one knee sunk deeply into the mud, and thank god he was naked because mud spattered everywhere.

"Jim!" Blair cried out angrily. Jim kept right on going, and Blair took a deep breath. He was so going to hell for this. "Jim, man, I need you here," Blair said softly. Jim stopped. He was standing just past the trees so he was backlit by the sun, and Blair squinted as Jim turned slowly, a dark shadow caught in the sun. "Please, man, come on. Naked, helpless, muddy man here," Blair teased gently as he tried to trance his Sentinel, and the voice pulled Jim steadily closer.

When Jim stepped into the shadow, Blair could suddenly see the amused expression on Jim's face, so maybe the trance didn't work quite so well when he had mud in uncomfortable places.

"Naked and muddy, maybe," Jim said as he crossed his arms over his chest. "That's a little manipulative, Chief."

"Hey, if it saves you from doing the self-flagellation, it's worth it. Besides, it's totally unfair that you have all the gracefulness in this partnership, and there was no way I was doing this the old fashioned way by running after you and tackling you."

"With that much mud on you, you'd better not," Jim agreed with a grimace.

"Anal retentive stick in the mud," Blair accused Jim who now held out his hand.

"I'm not the one stuck in the mud," Jim said. Blair gave Jim's hand a hard tug while he gave an evil laugh. Unfortunately, Jim just let go and Blair went flying backwards and landed flat on his back with mud squished into a whole new set of uncomfortable places.

"Well, fuck," Blair said softly.

"Not until you clean up," Jim said sweetly as he walked around to a grassy clump on the far side of the muddy bit and offered his hand again.

Blair glared a bit before he took Jim's hand and this time actually used the help to get up onto his feet on solid ground. "My point was that I am just as capable of manipulating and coercing as you, so you have no right cornering the market on guilt here."

"So you're feeling guilty about trying to manipulate me?" Jim asked as he looked at Blair disbelievingly.

"Well... no, not exactly," Blair admitted. "Look, I wasn't going to let you go running off to spend quality time with your guilt, and I thought it was worth the lecture you'd give me later." Blair wiped a chunk of mud off his soap and headed back for the river.

"Blair," Jim sighed, but at least he wasn't being an asshole and going off to sulk about a few handcuff marks. "I can stop myself when you use that voice on me."

"Uh, huh," Blair said with a wry grimace as he crouched down in the slow current and started sloshing the mud off. "That's why you had sex on the stakeout."

"I could have stopped," Jim said mulishly. "I just... I didn't want to," he snapped. "Look, you are not sexually manipulating or raping me, so you can just get that out of your head. That voice just tells me that you're serious about wanting something." Standing on the edge of the river in the dappled light, Jim slowly turned a gentle shade of red.

"And the handcuffs were just your way of telling me you were serious. Man, seriously, so the same thing." Blair struggled to reach around and get the mud that was slowly sliming its way down his back.

With an aggrieved sigh, Jim shimmied out of his jeans and followed Blair into the water, snagging the ripped piece of blanket Blair had been using for a washcloth. "Give me the soap." He held out his hand, and Blair quickly surrendered it. Jim efficiently soaped the blanket and then started working it over Blair's shoulders. Blair shivered in contentment as strong fingers stroked and massaged as they cleaned. Jim had huge hands, strong hands that could lift weights or break a man's bones. Jim had done that to a suspect who wouldn't let go of his gun once. He'd broken the man's arm with his hands.

"So, when I use the voice, you can resist it?" Blair asked, arching his back in pleasure as Jim stroked down his back.

"Yes, Darwin, I can. I'm not your puppet on a string." Jim sounded amused, so Blair didn't bother trying to reassure Jim that he didn't want some sort of ultimate power. He just moaned as Jim's hands worked over his hips. "I just don't always want to resist it. Bend down and rinse off," Jim said, his voice low, and Blair had a pretty good idea why. He backed up a step and pressed his soapy backside to Jim's chest. An erection brushed against his ass.

"Is that a banana or are you happy to see me?" Blair joked. Jim just rolled his eyes as Blair bent down to rinse his back and get his hair wet again. "You know, it's the same with your power over me," Blair said as he tipped his head back into the stream. Running his fingers through the curls, he tried to get any mud out.

"Chief, I didn't give you any choice before I cuffed you," Jim said, and the guilt monster started raising its head again.

Blair stood up and put his hand on Jim's arm, looking up at his partner and lover. "Jim, if I had told you to take the cuffs off, if I had accused you of being abusive, you would have stopped," Blair pointed out as he turned his back so Jim could use the soap on his hair. He was going to have a tangled, frizzy mess by the end of two weeks, but that's what happened when the guy with the military cut packed the hair-care products. Jim's hands came up to his hair, running thought and finding tangles before gently teasing them free.

"I had no right to physically overpower you."

"Jim, you can always physically overpower me," Blair pointed out. "Right now, you could kill me in a half dozen ways that before I met you I would have totally considered cliché. You know, that whole, 'my hands are registered weapons' bullshit in martial arts movies, but you're the real deal. So yeah, you can physically overpower me. That doesn't mean you would."

Jim's hands had gone still, and Blair turned around to find Jim staring at him intensely.

"I wouldn't ever hurt you. I couldn't, Blair," Jim said seriously. He used his hand to gently guide Blair down to the stream where he rinsed Blair's hair and then helped him back up to his feet. Allowing himself to just follow Jim's tacit commands, Blair studied his lover. Alex was obviously still an active danger and setting off instinctive behaviors that Jim only had partial control over. Once Blair was standing again, Jim ran hands over him, as though checking for injuries even though Blair hadn't been out of Jim's sights since they'd set up camp three days ago.

Blair took the strip of blanket off Jim's shoulder where he'd draped it and he soaped it before gently washing Jim's chest where he'd left streaks of pale and soapy mud when he'd backed up into him. For long seconds, Jim allowed Blair to wash him, and then he brought his hands up and cupped either side of Blair's face, forcing Blair to stop. "I can't stand the fact that I left a mark on you, that I dreamed of killing you, that I sent you off to interview an international thief. I can't lose you," Jim said softly, his palms resting against Blair's cheeks.

Blair reached up and rested his hand on Jim's chest. "You never will. You'll never lose me, Jim, I promise." Blair frowned at the pain he could see in Jim's eyes. "Jim?"

"The leopard is coming for us," Jim said quietly before he pulled Blair close. "She's tracking us through the dreams... through me."

"Oh man." Blair sighed as he thought about Jim and Alex going up against each other. "Do we need to leave right now?"

"No, she's not close yet."

"So, what do we do?" Blair asked as he leaned into Jim's warmth. This was starting to seriously weird him out, so he could hardly blame Jim for freaking and handcuffing him.

"Drive to Spokane, catch a commuter flight back to Cascade," Jim said quickly. "I want to meet her on my own territory."

Blair nodded, his mouth suddenly dry. He clutched the soggy rag and watched the soapy water flow between his fingers. "Okay, I can do that. I'm not freaking."

"I'm glad one of us is keeping his cool," Jim said as he picked up Blair's wrist and ran a thumb over the red circle.

"Jim Ellison, you will stop feeling guilty over a red mark," Blair said using his best low, sexy guide voice. Jim raised an eyebrow at him. "You will absolutely stop feeling guilt and start feeling up more interesting parts of your guide," Blair continued as he added a shimmy to his hips as he kept his voice low and intense. Jim's hands slipped down to his hips, and Blair took one more swipe at a stray streak left on Jim's chest.

"Should I take my cold-blooded guide out of the water before he loses what little interest he's managing to rally?" Jim asked with a bit of a smirk as his fingers skimmed over Blair's mostly soft cock. In his defense, the stream really was chilly.

"Warm-blooded asshole," Blair said as he smacked Jim in the face with the makeshift washcloth before turning and splashing toward shore. This time, Jim was right behind him with a hand under his elbow as Blair navigated the shore and avoided getting anything other than his feet muddy. By the time they reached camp, Jim was hard, his cock jutting out in front, and Blair's cock was starting to recover from the water.

"Someone needs warming up," Jim said as he grabbed Blair around the waist and pulled him to a stop just outside their tent.

"You should definitely warm up the guide. Lots of rubbing and stroking and warming," Blair agreed. "We should get in the tent."

Jim got that glassy-eyed look Blair recognized and pulled Blair down to the ground in front of the tent, cupping the back of Blair's head before pressing his lips to Blair's. As usual, Blair melted under Jim's attention, his hands running over Jim's back and hips. Jim pushed him toward the tent flap, and Blair crab crawled backwards into the tent with Jim matching him as he hovered an inch above Blair, mirroring him.

When Blair stopped, Jim lowered himself and used his weight to hold Blair in place as he kissed Blair on the mouth before exploring the side of his face and then his neck where he sucked gently. Blair hooked his feet behind Jim's legs and pulled him close.

"Jim, man, I can't take much foreplay here. Come on, have some mercy," Blair pleaded, and Jim rolled them both so they lay side by side. Then that large, strong hand wrapped around two hard cocks, and Blair groaned at the need that crawled up into his stomach.

"You sure you want this already? I could taste every inch of you, make you come over and over until you're lost in lust before I slip inside you," Jim whispered in Blair's ear, and the words gave Blair a case of the hot shivers.

"Later. Oh man, so later," Blair gasped because they were so doing that just as soon as they got back to the loft. Jim gave a little chuckle and then started pumping them both. Blair clutched at Jim's shoulders, lost in the physical sensations in a way he only lost himself with Jim. Just Jim. Jim's breaths matched his, and then Blair was coming with a shout, feeling warm semen splatter between them.

Collapsing back onto the sleeping bag, Blair was surprised when Jim tucked in around him. "Man, you have to be in the wet spot," Blair commented sleepily.

"That's your fault. You're the one who used the guide voice to say we should do it in the tent," Jim pointed out. And as for the wet spot..."

Blair shrieked when he found himself physically lifted and rolled over Jim. Flailing instinctively, Blair was out of breath when Jim neatly scooted over and then dropped Blair onto the wet spot.

Glaring at his lover, Blair could only shake his head. "I am so going to gain about a hundred pounds so you can't do that anymore."

"I'll just lift more weights," Jim said with a wide smirk.

"Nice. Now we're both disgusting and sticky," Blair sighed as he realized that Jim had parked him right in the middle of the wet spot.

"Yep," Jim agreed without a bit of regret. Giving up on understanding the workings of a Jim brain, Blair laid his head on Jim's chest and settled for soaking up a little of his warmth before they had to pack the tent and get back on the road.




"Hey, Simon," Blair waved from the far side of the room. With Jim in Blessed Protector from Hell mode, Blair was pretty much stuck on the couch because one step toward a door or window brought Jim to his side with a growl.

"Sandburg," Simon offered as he shoved a file toward Jim. Blair didn't need to read the evidence, or in this case, the lack of evidence. The police suspected Alex of a dozen different crimes, and with Blair's unpublished information on Sentinels, the FBI was pretty sure about how she'd done her jobs. Unfortunately, opportunity, motive, and ability didn't actually constitute evidence.

"They need to pin her location down," Jim growled as he read through the file standing in the middle of the loft. It looked like Simon wasn't even getting an invitation to sit down.

"Maybe you would like to tell them they aren't doing their jobs," Simon offered facetiously.

"Oh man, ignore him. He's practicing his asshole impression," Blair suggested.

"I've got news for you, Sandburg. He doesn't need any practice."

Jim stopped reading long enough to give Simon a nasty look, and Simon raised his eyebrows. Blair just leaned on the back of the couch and watched the male posturing. Growing up in communes, he'd been around women far more often than men, so this complex dance of hidden emotion and tacit warnings was a world he'd only recently discovered.

"We're just lucky they're taking your research on face value even though it looks outrageous," Simon said. Blair noticed that the captain looked over only after Jim dropped his own gaze back down to the file.

"I documented every test, Simon."

"Dr. Stoddard verified your dissertation topic and spoke highly of you to the Special Agent in charge," Simon nodded. "But I can't help but wonder if this isn't going to backfire on us." Simon ignored Jim's body language and pushed past him before sitting on the couch next to Blair.

Jim narrowed his eyes for just a brief second. Oh yeah, the man's instinctive behaviors were off the chart. If Blair had any objectivity or credibility when it came to Jim, this territorial conflict would make a fascinating chapter.

"Considering that she is a danger to Blair, do you really think I care if I get outted?" Jim demanded, his aggression levels way too high. Luckily, Simon didn't seem interested in taking offense.

"I think you would care about protecting your job and your privacy," Simon said in an entirely too-calm tone of voice.

"Hey, we are totally covered," Blair hurried to say. "There is no way any of my research can be traced back to Jim. Anyone who digs will have to conclude that I am comparing Alex Barnes to the late Clyde Olio."

"And most of the station assumes that Blair is sticking around because he and I are sleeping together," Jim added as he did another tour of the windows, looking out each before checking the lock.

Simon sighed. "Of course, you aren't, because if you were involved, there is no way I would condone that blatant a violation of rules."

Jim stopped and just looked at Simon blankly.

"Nevermind, I don't want to know," Simon quickly said as he held up his hand. "I delivered the file, and now I have a suspect to try and track down. When you're over whatever Sentinel flu you have, let me know." Simon headed for the door. "Sandburg, don't let him do anything too stupid." Simon shook his head sadly. "When Sandburg is the reasonable half of this partnership, we all have to worry."

Blair really didn't have the energy to be offended for himself or on Jim's behalf. Jim was pacing, his hands clenching as though strangling someone. "Yeah, sure thing," he answered Simon.

Without another word, Simon was gone, and Jim immediately headed for the door, closing each lock and touching it before turning to survey the room again.

"Man, you are totally freaking Simon out," Blair pointed out. Jim stalked to the windows checking them again.

"As long as I keep her away from you, I don't really care, Chief," Jim answered, and that was about the longest answer Blair had gotten out of Jim since they'd hit the Cascade airport.

"Are we even sure she's after me?" Blair asked uncertainly. Logically, she should take off with all the police interest in her presence.

"Yes," Jim said shortly. Blair watched as Jim slowly turned to face Blair, his eyes dark with worry and his hands clenched into fists. "I'll kill her if she tries to take you."

"Hey, if even half of the stuff in the FBI file is true, I'm not even going to make the argument about the sanctity of human life," Blair quickly agreed as he held his hands up in surrender. Jim cocked his head.

"I want you," he whispered.

Blair's eyebrows went up. "I thought you were on high alert."

"I am," Jim said as he moved close, his body tight and controlled in every motion. Each step closer widened the grin on Jim's face as he considered Blair with open lust and a dangerous leer. Someone was feeling playful.

"So, I'm only going to get half your attention?" Blair asked with mock indignation. "Forget it Ellison." Blair got up and slid over the back of his couch in a move that would have inspired a lecture about shoes and furniture at another time. But this time, Jim didn't comment as Blair headed for the stairs.

Blair was halfway up the stairs before a tug on his vest slowed him. He shrugged out of his vest. The game was a familiar one, but familiar in a way that made it safe and comforting without ever getting boring. Any game that ended with a naked Jim Ellison could never be boring. When Jim caught his shirt, Blair squirmed, hurrying to unbutton it before Jim lost his patience, pushed Blair down, and just pulled it off.

The last button came just as Jim's arm caught Blair around the waist. Blair twisted and laughed as he slipped out of his lover's grip.

"Too slow, Chief," Jim warned as he pursued Blair who was now walking up the stairs backwards.

"No way. Man, I had it off," Blair argued. He reached the top step and started backing toward the bed.

"I had you, and you squirmed away," Jim corrected him.

"I—" Blair didn't get any more out before Jim tackled him, sending them both crashing to the bed. They bounced, and Blair grabbed at Jim's waist. Jim had lost his shirt somewhere along the way, so he had warm, firm skin to run his hands over as they came to a rest, Jim's body pinning his.

"No cheating, Chief. There's always a consequence for cheating," Jim whispered, the warm air tickling Blair's ear. Jim's knee pressed against Blair's thigh, and Blair happily spread his legs. This was one consequence he was more than happy to endure.

Instead of stripping Blair and claiming his booty, Jim sat up, his strong hands braced against Blair's ribs, holding him down. Blair looked up with a frown. "Jim?"

"Shhh," Jim said, his eyes falling closed in either need or concentration as his fingers brushed across Blair's stomach. The tiny hairs of his body bowed under Jim's fingertips. Blair reached up and grabbed Jim's wrists, not fighting him, but just holding on as Jim outlined Blair's muscles. Sensitive fingers followed the curve of each oblique muscle before following the linea alba up to Blair's throat.

Blair swallowed. Jim's fingers found his throat, touching the Adam's apple gently. Part of Blair was concerned at this strange and silent behavior. Another part was more interested in moving this along because the touch was quickly causing a rather painful problem in his jeans.

Jim's hands wandered down over Blair's shoulders to his arms, and Blair let go of Jim's wrists and let his hands rest on either side of his body. When Jim's fingers skimmed over Blair's sides, Blair twitched involuntarily and laughed. Jim got a wicked smile on his face, and Blair opened his mouth to object just a half second too late. Jim attacked with fingers gently brushing over Blair's vulnerable sides, and Blair laughed manically and twisted as he tried to push Jim's hands away.

Laughter forced the air out of his lungs, and his stomach got sore as Jim moved his tickling up.

"Man..." Blair gasped, and Jim started in on the tender spot just in front of his underarm. Blair's whole body convulsed as the light touch short circuited every muscle and he was left writhing and laughing, Jim's knees pinning him down to the bed so that he couldn't scramble away from the touch.

"Jim, I'm..." One of Jim's hands slipped down to Blair's belly button, sending shivers that made Blair flop his arms until Jim caught both in his hand and pinned them over Blair's head. Of course, this meant that his other hand was limited to tickling Blair's sides, but with his arms up, Blair couldn't protect his underarms at all, and Jim targeted them with a merciless efficiency that left Blair panting and on the verge of peeing his pants.

"Stop," Blair cried out desperately. For a second, Jim hesitated, his hand hovering over Blair's skin. He was breathing hard as though he'd been the one tickled into helplessness. "Man, seriously, I'm going to pee my pants here. Enough," Blair said. He cocked his head at Jim who had a strange and intense expression on his face. "Jim?"

Jim shuddered and laid his hand on Blair's heart, his eyes falling closed. "Oh man, talk to me, here. You're freaking the guide out."

"I want you," Jim whispered without opening his eyes.

"You have me. Helpless guide all pinned to the bed here," Blair pointed out as he shimmied his hips. If he were totally honest, he liked Jim in this mood. For him, sex had always been about courting and tempting and cajoling and pleasing. He'd never had a lover who pursued him, who would pin him down and make him feel like he belonged. When Jim would guiltily admit that he didn't think he could let Blair leave, he would bask in that. He'd spent too long drifting from place to place and pretending he liked it that way.

"Helpless and horny guide pinned to the bed here," Blair repeated even though Jim had to be able to smell the desire. The aphrodisiac effect of asphyxia was well documented, although tickling the partner to breathlessness was a new way to get there.

Jim's eyes slowly opened, the center wide and black with a thin circle of ice blue around it. He studied Blair. Slowly Jim leaned down and kissed Blair breathless again. Blair pressed his hips up and squirmed as Jim took all control over the lovemaking.

When Jim finally pulled back, Blair could feel his mouth tingling. Letting Blair's wrists go, Jim quickly stripped him and then flipped him onto his stomach. Blair arched his back in invitation but didn't do anything else. Maybe with another Sentinel in the area, Jim needed to re-establish territory. Maybe Jim was reacting to Blair's signals because Blair was man enough to admit that Jim was so very pretty when he went all dominant. Maybe Jim just had a kink.

Blair gasped when Jim started pushing in with no preparation. Pressing his forehead to the pillow, he pushed back to open his muscles and then relaxed as the head of Jim's cock slipped past the first ring of muscles. Jim's hands were pinning his shoulder to the bed, and Blair panted as the pressure in his ass made his cock sit up and beg.

Then Jim's cock nudged against Blair's prostate, and after that, Blair didn't have much time to think anything at all as the lust and need built. Jim's hands were all over his back, his thrusts were so powerful that Blair had to use his hands to brace himself on the railing to avoid getting pounded into it. Jim came with a rough cry and he pulled out before he was even finished. He flipped Blair over and swallowed Blair's cock. Blair screamed as his orgasm crashed through him.

Laying limply in Jim's arms, Blair could feel his whole body sending little tingles of pleasure through his body.

"Blair, I’m sorry," Jim whispered, his words a puff of air against Blair's neck that stirred his hair.

"Man, that was incredibly good, so whatever you're apologizing for, stuff a sock in it."

"I don't—" Jim just stopped.

Blair craned his neck around. He was the first one to admit that he was a little more aggressive in the bedroom, teasing and tempting Jim into trying things that Jim might be wary of. Considering that neither one of them had been gay before they'd landed in bed together, they had managed to make up for lost time. And usually, it was Blair who brought the ice cubes, the candles, the finger of ginger, the chocolate syrup, the blindfold... and usually it was Jim looking suspicious until Blair talked him into trying it. And with the spectacular exception of candle wax and chest hair, it'd all turned out pretty mind-blowingly good. But he hardly minded Jim being a little more aggressive. Okay, he loved it. But Jim definitely had a guilty expression on. "Jim? What?"

"Chief," Jim said in a pained voice.

"Oh man, what is it?" Blair demanded as he squirmed around and propped himself up on one elbow as he considered the man who was his Sentinel, friend and lover.

Jim shook his head. "If Alex gets in here, you order her to stop."

Blair raised his eyebrows. "I should just *order* her to stop? The woman suspected of being an international thief? The ex-con? The woman who could bench press me? Jim, no offense, but what the hell are you talking about?"

Jim sagged back and looked up at the ceiling. "Chief, just do it."

Blair frowned as a suspicion crept into his mind on sharp little feet. "Jim?"

Jim's eyes closed.

"Oh man. Fuck." Blair collapsed on the bed next to Jim. This was one part of the Sentinel-Guide dynamic Blair had never wanted to test. He never wanted a definitive answer because he suspected the answer would do more damage that the nebulous fear that it might be true.

"You tried to keep tickling me, didn't you?" Blair asked softly.

For long seconds, Jim didn't answer. His body was still, but he wasn't relaxed and calm in the aftermath of his orgasm like he normally was. "I tried to make you pee your pants," he finally admitted softly. "I did that to Stevie once."

"Oh man." For a second, Blair held his breath, half afraid that Jim was about to kick him out of their bed. "This doesn't change anything. Not anything. We're still just Jim and Blair."

Jim opened his eyes and turned his head to look at Blair with that special brand of incredulity that Jim wielded like a weapon. Blair wilted.

"Do you want me to leave?" Blair asked, his eyes hot and his chest so tight that it physically hurt. But if Jim needed to feel safe... if Jim couldn't handle this, it was better to talk it out and end this relationship before they hurt each other too much. Only this was already feeling like too much hurt. For a second, Jim stared at him blankly, and Blair struggled to breath past the pain that blossomed in his body. Then Jim reached out and pulled him close so that Blair was crushed against his chest.

"Fuck no. No, I don't want you to leave. No, I don't think I can let you leave. And I think that makes me a borderline abusive fuck, but I can't do this without you, Chief."

One of Blair's arms was trapped under his body, but he slipped the other one around Jim's waist and held him tightly. "I don't want to ever leave, and you would never abuse me. Never. And I would never abuse you."

"I know, Chief," Jim answered after a slight pause. Jim had come so far from the man Blair had once told a friend was defined by fear-based reactions, but the fears were still there. Blair could hear them in the silence, and only time would prove to Jim that they were nothing more than phantoms. As long as Jim gave him time to prove that they could get through this, they'd be okay. The light from the skylight faded slowly as they lay in bed and held each other. Blair could only hang on tightly and hope that this was one more obstacle they'd navigate together.



"So," Blair said as he picked at his spaghetti, "are we going to talk about this?"

"Talk about what?" Jim asked as he did his best to play stupid. Unfortunately for him, Blair had figured out a long time ago that Jim Ellison was many things, but not a Neanderthal.

"Right, let's just keep ignoring the elephant in the room. The big pink elephant. The pregnant pink elephant about to give birth to a huge..."

"Drop it," Jim growled.

Blair opened his mouth to argue, but then snapped it shut again. He hated this. Hated. If Jim hadn't tested Blair's harebrained theory then Blair wouldn't be afraid to argue... afraid of using the power of the Guide voice. Fuck.

Jim stood up from the table and a second later, Blair could hear a fork scraping against his plate as Jim threw his food away. He walked back through on his way to the bedroom, and Blair sat twirling pasta and poking at the mushrooms with his fork. "I'd take off if we didn't have crazy lady out there somewhere," Blair whispered to himself, and yeah, he knew Jim heard too. Unfortunately, Jim didn't feel the need to comment on Blair's frustration. Blair seriously wished this was one of those rough spots that they could just screw their way through. It might not be exactly healthy, but Blair had discovered that if they just had a few rounds of hot and sweaty sex, they were both in a much better mood about just about anything. Either that or Jim was just too tired to get too defensive after Blair had fucked him through the mattress.

Footsteps pounded down the stairs, and Blair dropped his fork in surprise. Jim had his gun drawn, and that alone sent Blair scrambling for the kitchen, his cell phone already out. Even though Blair made fun of Jim's anal need to plan and drill for every contingency, sometimes it did come in handy. Jim stood, his weapon half-raised and aimed toward the door as he cocked his head to the side.

"She knows you'll be listening. Don't get caught in a trap, man. Keep it centered. Don't stretch too far," Blair said softly, the words rising naturally to his lips.

"It's your mother," Jim said disgustedly as he took a step back and holstered his weapon.

"It's... what?" Blair shoved his cell phone in his jeans and headed for the front door. He pulled it open just as his mom raised her hand to knock.

"Sweetie!" she called as she caught him in a big hug. "I was traveling through Greece when I saw the most perfect carving for you and Jim, so when I headed for New Mexico, I detoured my flight through Cascade," she said, totally oblivious to any negative vibes as she let go of him and headed for Jim. Blair closed and carefully locked the door before leaning against it. While Naomi went on and on about the perfection of the carving and the enduring value of handcrafted art, she hugged Jim, her arms reaching up around his neck to pull him down for a peck on the cheek.

"Hi, Naomi," Jim said, even managing to sound polite.

"And no pretending to have Blair sleep downstairs. I am proud of you two for being who you truly are, even if the oppressive system of rules at work inhibits your expression of that love." Naomi headed for the couch, dropping a huge and obviously heavy bag next to her.

"Mom, we never pretended. Jim and I really weren't sleeping together back then," Blair said with a sigh. Sometimes he wondered if Naomi ever truly listened to or believed him.

"I hear you, honey."

"Naomi," Jim said, managing to make the syllable sound painfully constipated. Naomi totally ignored him and pulled a bundle out of her bag, unwrapping the scarf that had been wound around it.

"You two are eternally in balance, so when I was visiting this little community in Antikythera or maybe Kythira, that's not the point, the point is that I saw this and I thought of you two. Its spirit just wanted to be here with you." She finished pulling the scarf off, and Blair couldn't help himself; he reached out and touched the warm wood she had just revealed.

Two male figures faced each other, their bodies turned to give the illusion that together they made a circle. They were almost dancing, their bodies mirroring one another, and each raised a hand as though about to touch the other. Even though the forms were abstract, Blair could feel the joy in the curve of the arm and the tilt of the head on each figure. The natural wood had created subtle differences. One was slightly darker and had a leg that reached inward to the center of the circle while the other had a knot in the center of his chest that created a whorl pattern. "Oh, mom." Blair breathed the word as he took the sculpture in his hands. The entire piece was of one piece of wood, and the base gave the illusion of water.

"Oh honey, I knew you'd see it," Naomi said happily as she patted him on the knee.

Iceburg Ellison sighed, and it was not the sort of sigh that indicated any potential melting. "Naomi, it *is* beautiful, but this is not a good time for you to be here."

"Nonsense. I totally support your lifestyle, and if you think you're going to shock me by having Blair upstairs, I can assure you that..."

"There's a criminal after Blair," Jim cut her off. Blair looked up from the sculpture long enough to glare at Jim. Even if Naomi occasionally freaked Jim out with her weirdly enthusiastic support for Blair's new found gayness, he did not have to be so blunt. The room was silent as Naomi stared up at Jim with wide eyes.

"Oh my."

"Yes," Jim said, ruthlessly driving his point home. "So it really is both dangerous and difficult for you to be here. When we go to work tomorrow, I can't leave you unprotected."

"Me?" Naomi gasped. "I'm more worried about Blair." She took a deep breath, and Blair could practically see her struggling to not explode. His mom might meditate and have an open mind, but he'd seen her go off the deep end, so he just really hoped tonight was not going to be the night Jim got to meet feral, embrace-her-inner-Amazon, my-cojones-are-bigger-than-yours Naomi Kickass Sandburg. "I understand that the excitement is exhilarating," Naomi started slowly, her fingers tightening on Blair's leg. "I understand that. You are a male. Males have testosterone. And we should respect our bodies and their needs, but honey..." she looked at him seriously, "this police business is getting more and more dangerous. Why don't you come with me to New Mexico while Jim takes care of this, and he can join us as soon as the danger is over."

"Naomi, the criminal is after Blair, not me," Jim said dryly as he walked around to the chair and sat down. His eyes drifted to the sculpture for a second before he focused on Naomi. "If this were about me or my job, I would get Blair out of the way."

"No," Blair immediately snapped. "No way. No, I do not get put to the side. We're partners."

"Partners does not mean joined at the hip," Jim almost growled.

"It does mean that one does not go into danger without the other," Blair growled right back.

"It's a moot point here anyway, because Alex is after you," Jim said, his jaw tight and his lips thin with anger. Blair could feel his guts tighten. He hated conflict. Oh, he did conflict... he did conflict a lot. When you didn't do conflict, you so totally got run over by all the conflict-happy morons with their emotionally-retarded attitudes. But he hated it. He hated that look Jim got on his face when he was really aggravated and obviously fighting an urge to do something very unlike Jim. Like now.

Naomi looked from one of them to the other. "I should burn some sage."

"No!" Jim and Blair both snapped at the same time. Blair closed his eyes and envisioned a perfect white circle while taking three deep breaths.

"Mom, I totally understand where you're coming from. But seriously, this time, it's not even about the police work. I managed to get this nutjob's attention at the university... a university which as fired me because I can't lecture with the nutcase in question stalking me."

"But if she's stalking..."

"We don't have evidence strong enough to stand up in court," Jim cut her off, and now his back was steel-rod straight.

"Oh." Naomi frowned in concern.

"Mom, you know Jim wouldn't let anything happen to me..."

"Of course not, Sweetie."

"But it is going to be a problem having you in town," Blair finished firmly. If he didn't, Jim was so going to kick Naomi out with way less tact. "You could be in danger, and if Jim is trying to watch out for both of us, his attention is going to be split."

Naomi studied their faces silently for a second, and Blair kept silent, willing his mom to just believe him for once. "Is this person really that dangerous?"

Jim almost exploded from his seat. "Naomi, the FBI and Major Crimes both have their best people on her, and they can't find her or enough evidence to arrest her once they find her." He ended up standing near the balcony doors, peering out at the city.

Even though they weren't exactly on the same wavelength right now, Blair was still drawn to follow him. Setting the statue on the coffee table, Blair got up and stood behind Jim, his hand resting on Jim's back. For several minutes, Blair just offered Jim his silent support.

"Maybe we should all go to New Mexico," Naomi offered softly. Blair turned and found his mother had an honestly concerned expression on her face.

Jim made a small snorting sound that might be amusement or disgust... who knew given his current mood.

"Mom, you know how I was studying Sentinels?"

"Of course. It's thrilling work, honey," she agreed nodding.

"I was working with Alex because she is a Sentinel, except she seems to be using her powers for evil." Blair tried to laugh about it, but it came out brittle and sharp. Turning, Jim slipped an arm around his waist.

"The FBI was impressed with Blair's research, both on her senses and on a profile of her he was working on." Jim sounded proud, and Blair leaned back into that support. Hopefully their fight was officially over. "But with her abilities and her background, no one is quite sure how to pin her down."

"Maybe she's just left town," Naomi tried as she shifted forward on the couch. She looked like she was ready for something to come jumping out at her from behind the couch, which was pretty much how Blair had been feeling for days now.

"No." Jim didn't even try to elaborate. Luckily, Naomi was Naomi and she didn't press. With her face far more serious than when she had first shown up, Naomi gathered her bag to her chest.

"I understand. I am making a difficult situation more difficult," she said as she got up. "I should go."

"Mom, you can't just leave. We can drive you..." Blair stopped as she started waving him off.

"Mrs. Anderson on the second floor is a very lovely lady. I promised I would stop in to see her next time I was in town, so I'm going to go spend the evening with her, and I'll fly out tomorrow," Naomi said as she got up and headed for the door. "I am not sorry I came because the universe wanted you to have that lovely piece of art, but I understand your concern." She walked over and gave Blair a kiss on the cheek before going up on her toes to give a matching kiss to Jim.

"Naomi, I really don't want to chase you away..." Jim said softly as he bent slightly so she could reach him.

"No, Blair's your first priority, and I respect that. I never joined my soul to someone else, but I have respect for that choice. But honey," she turned to Blair, "you really do need to burn some sage as soon as you can. The aura in here is very dismal." And with that, Naomi headed for the door with a little wave. The door clicked behind her, and Blair glanced over at Jim, watching as Jim got that particular expression that showed he was extending his hearing. Blair stood, still in Jim's arms, and waited. The locks could wait; right now he just wanted the physical contact. Even a day without touching was too long. He didn't realize how often they brushed against each other or rested a hand on each other until they just stopped.

"She's inside one of the downstairs apartments." Jim snorted. "I've lived here for ten years and I've never met Mrs. Anderson from downstairs."

"That's Naomi for you," Blair shrugged. She did make herself at home wherever she ended up. Jim pulled his arms away and headed for door, and Blair shivered at the sudden loss of contact.

"Jim." Blair whispered the name, and Jim paused in the middle of hooking the chain. "Man, please, please do not shut me out here."

Jim didn't answer right away, but at least he wasn't storming off to the bedroom either. Slowly Jim turned. He had a wry expression on his face. "I never noticed how often you do that; how often you cajole me into something."

Blair flushed as he realized he had just used his Guide voice. "I... I didn't mean to." Blair closed his eyes tightly and wrestled with the rising fear that Jim was trying to find a way to end their relationship. Couldn't even blame Jim because looking back, he did use the voice a lot. He'd gotten Jim to take him in even when Jim didn't want a roommate. Now that he thought back on it, he'd been the first to suggest they go past the low-level flirting and actually act on their mutual attraction. Over the years, he'd used his power to manipulate and control Jim in ways that both of them had definitely overlooked, and now he was about to pay. He'd rather just go buy himself a gag. "I never meant to," he whispered.

"I know, Chief," Jim sighed as he returned across the room and caught Blair in a quick hug. "I know."

"Oh man, this is going to be the end of us, isn't it? Why did you have to do that, Jim?" Blair asked, struggling against a need to cry. He put his arms around Jim and tried to remember what this felt like... what it felt like to have Jim's strong arms holding him close. He wished he had perfect sensory recall so he would always remember the smell of Jim's body and the way his arms curved. But maybe, in the long years to come, that would be torture. Maybe it was better to forget how right it felt here because they weren't going to be able to get past this hurdle.

"I had to know, Chief. I don't know how to stop her, and I had to know what weapons you had. You had to know so that if she gets past me, you have a way to defend yourself."

"I didn't want to know, not if it meant losing you," Blair said. If some part of him had hoped for reassurance, that part was disappointed. Jim remained silent.

"Come on, Chief, it's been a long day, and we both need a little sleep tonight," Jim said as he urged Blair toward the stairs.

Blair looked at the door to his own room. When this was over, when they finally caught Alex, would he end up downstairs? Would he go back to being just the guide and not the lover or would he come home to find his shit packed up and a newspaper with one-bedroom apartments circled in red?

"Come on," Jim urged him again, and Blair let his ex-lover steer him toward the stairs even though it was too early for bed... even though he had no illusion that nothing would happen except sleep. His chest ached as he climbed the stairs and found himself wishing he could just go back in time and wish Alex away before she'd done so much damage to the relationship that matter the most to him.



Blair stood with his hot coffee in hand as he leaned against the balcony railing. It revealed a lot that Jim was still upstairs, having slept through Blair getting up, showering, and turning on the coffee pot. He was exhausted; he'd worked himself to exhaustion. Blair could feel the guilt of that grating on him. What would happen if he used his Guide-voice to order Jim down? Blair toyed with the idea for a second. After all, Alex was probably on another continent by now. The FBI had taken Blair's warnings about Sentinels way more seriously than Blair had expected, and the amount of surveillance equipment they'd rolled out had impressed even Jim.

Sipping at his bitter drink, Blair wondered if Jim wasn't still on high alert because standing down would require them to look at the mess they had made out of their lives. The Guide voice was the thin edge of the wedge that was going to drive them apart, and Blair knew it. When he was looking into Jim's face—the face of the man he loved more than his own life—he could almost bring himself to forget reality, but then reality always came butting back in.

The pure panic Jim had suffered after they'd had sex on stakeout—that had been the real Jim. Blair hadn't even known he could "trance" Jim, so the idea of Blair having the ability to pull out the voice whenever he wanted... it was just too much. The real Jim could never surrender so much control... he could never allow another person to veto his will. The real Jim could never deal with the Guide voice, which was why Blair had never pushed his hypothesis.

Steam rose from his cup as Blair watched the unmarked car with some random police officer. He had no idea what to do with his life once he lost Jim. He should finish his dissertation. There could be other Sentinels out there sitting in insane asylums, and Blair felt the burden of their pain on his shoulders. The academic community had to accept Sentinels before doctors would start considering the possibility that a man hearing voices might actually just be hearing voices. He could hit New York or maybe talk his way onto a few military bases and interview doctors. A rolling stone gathers no moss, and maybe this was the universe's way of telling him he'd gotten a little too mossy.

Blair stared out at the gray light of dawn. He'd lived by that belief, by the idea that he just had to keep moving, but now he figured the rolling stone just crushed toes... and hearts. It was funny that the heart was the center of emotion. Aelius Galen back in Roman days gave the power of emotion to the heart, and the belief just stuck, but right now, Blair could feel all his pain—not in his heart—but in the center of his gut. His stomach throbbed and the hot coffee could soothe that pain only for a heartbeat before it returned. He took another drink. Jim would be up soon, and then the pain would be worse. This was tearing Jim apart. The man did love his guilt, and now he got to carry the guilt of running that damn experiment that revealed Blair's power. The guilt and the fear would destroy Jim eventually.

Anger flared for a second, sharp enough to push the pain aside. The bastard never should have tried testing the Guide voice. For once in his anal-retentive, control-freak life, Ellison should have trusted Blair to handle something... testing or choosing not to test because testing was the fucking worst thing in the world to even consider—that was his fucking job. Blair curled his hands around his cup tightly, but the anger faded almost immediately, leaving him again with the pain.

Maybe he could find enough satisfaction in his academic work to fill the void Jim would leave. "Yeah, keep lying to yourself," Blair snorted. His coffee had cooled, and he took a swig of it, swallowing without really tasting, but the warmth felt good as it settled into his stomach.

A woman went trotting by on the sidewalk, moving fast. Blair didn't even realize it was Naomi until she looked up and flashed him a brilliant smile and waved. "You take care, now Sweetie!" Naomi yelled up.

"Have a safe flight, Mom," Blair called back down, but Naomi was already headed for the street, her small bag thrown over her shoulder as she headed for the corner where the bus stopped. Blair didn't think much of the woman in the headscarf who stood across the street until she darted across the road and grabbed Naomi by an arm.

"Hey!" Blair yelled down. The woman tipped her head up, and Blair's skin chilled and goosepimpled. Alex.

Blair looked desperately toward the parked patrol car, but there wasn't any movement. When he started to turn to go get Jim, Alex called up a sharp "Don't" that made Blair freeze in place.

Naomi was squirming, but Alex had an arm around her waist holding her firmly as he looked up at Blair. "My hearing is working very well this morning," she called up to him. "Either you come down here without waking up your partner or your mother and I will have to have a little discussion."

Blair could see the moment when Naomi figured out who had her. She went still and looked up at him with wide eyes.

"Don't hurt her," Blair said as he put his cooling coffee down. The words were a prayer or a plea, but after what he'd seen of the FBI's list of Alex's suspected crimes, he wasn't sure the prayer would be answered. Alex was a killer. Before prison, before a long stint in solitary confinement that had left her irrevocably changed, she'd been a thief. Now she was something far more dangerous. The patrol officer was probably dead. If he tried to get Jim, his mom would be dead before Jim could even get to a window to take a shot.

"Come down and let's talk about it," Alex suggested in a deceptively calm voice.

Blair didn't bother answering, he just turned and headed for the front door. He wondered if Alex could track his footsteps across the hardwood floor and then down the stairs. He wondered if his Guide voice was powerful enough to order her to the ground because he'd never tried to order Jim to do something he absolutely didn't want to do. He wondered if he could get his mom out of the middle of this fight and if Jim would forgive him when he woke up and realized what Blair had done. Blair stopped wondering when it occurred to him that he didn't like any of the answers his all-too-vivid imagination was supplying.

Blair walked out into the crisp morning air and headed around the corner of the building. Alex was standing on the sidewalk, her long arm wrapped around Naomi like a lover's, pulling his mom close to her body.

"Let her go," Blair asked softly and persuasively in that tone that would convince Jim of anything.

Instead of obeying, Alex tightened her arm so that Naomi gasped. "Are you giving me orders?" Alex demanded, her voice low and rough.

"No way, no, I’m just saying you don't need her," Blair said as he quickly changed tactics, holding his hands up in surrender.

"You're trying to screw with me," Alex snarled, but at least she let Naomi go. She let her go and then charged towards Blair so fast that Blair didn't have time to retreat before she had him by the shirt and was slamming him back into the wall. Blair didn't even try and fight. She was probably armed, and Naomi still stood on the sidewalk watching with a startled expression. Alex pulled him close and then slammed him back again so that his breath left his body.

"Please," Blair managed, and now his prayers turned to the hope that Jim would wake up and hear them.

"Move," Alex ordered as she wrapped a vice-like hand around his arm and pushed him toward the side street. Blair stumbled in front of her.

"Wait, let him go!" Naomi called, her voice shrill with fear. Alex ignored her.

"Mom, go get Jim," Blair said a little louder than he needed to. "Jim, get Jim." If Jim were anywhere near waking, the sound of his name should fully wake him up. However, nothing happened except Naomi ran after them. Her hands pulled ineffectually at Alex's jacket while Alex pushed him. They made an odd sort of parade as they all headed for a yellow Plymouth parked illegally close to a fire hydrant.

"Let go of my son. I don't know what your problem is, but he never hurt anyone. Let go." Naomi was clearly panicking, and even worse, she wasn't listening to him at all.

"Mom! Get Jim!" Blair snapped as Alex shoved him into the side of the car. She twisted his one arm up behind his back while she opened the passenger door.

"Yes, go get the great Detective Ellison. Let him listen to the sound of the engine fade as I take his Guide from him," Alex encouraged her with a slimy smile. She shoved Blair inside before slamming it shut. It took Blair all of a half-second to figure out she had disabled the passenger side door and window. He turned to crawl into the backseat and climb out, but Alex was already at the driver's door. She reached in, caught him by the back of the shirt, and hauled him back into the front.

Naomi started to scream at the top of her lungs, and Naomi had a lot of lung power for a woman her size. She alternated "Jim!" with "Fire!" and "Help!" Then she planted herself in front of Alex's car.

"Please, please don't..." Blair started. Alex reached over and slammed the edge of her hand into his neck hard enough that Blair's eyes filled with tears and just breathing became a chore. He braced his hands on the dash as he tried to pull air though a throat that felt like it was swelling to half its normal size.

She put the car into gear, and Blair watched through watering eyes as Naomi refused to move. At first she shuffled backwards, her hands braced on the hood of the car. Blair reached over to grab the wheel, and Alex caught his wrist and wrenched it painfully. Then Naomi was on the hood, her hands braced wide and her dress flowing up around her as Alex drove down the small sidestreet. Luckily the blowing dress forced her to crane her neck and drive slow to avoid hitting parked cars. Even more luckily, Naomi didn't slide off.

Alex reached the main street, and Blair made his move. Twisting so that his back was to the jimmied door, he pulled both feet up to kick Alex as hard as he could. Before he could finish the attack, he was looking down the end of a gun.

"I want a Guide, but if I can't have one, I'll settle for making sure Ellison never has one again, either," she said coldly. For a second, Blair debated with himself. But the need for life was too great. He lowered his feet and turned back to the front. He'd never be Jim's Guide again. Jim would never allow anyone to guide him now that they knew the power of the Guide voice. Maybe Blair just had to establish a relationship with Alex, show her that he did want to help her and then the Guide voice would work. He could be patient.

Blair didn't even think about his mother and what she might be doing until the back door of the Plymouth opened and Naomi slipped in, throwing her bag in ahead of her. Alex swung the gun in her direction, and Blair didn't couldn't even breathe through the fear the enveloped him.

"Get out."

"No," Naomi said firmly. "I don't know what problem you have with my son, but if you are a Sentinel, like Blair says, then you should know that hurting people is never the right option."

Blair opened his mouth to beg for his mother's life, but so far, the Guide voice seemed to piss Alex off more than anything else, so he closed it with the words unsaid. For a second, Alex seemed confused, but then she laughed as she turned back toward the front and tucked the gun under her jacket.

"Lady, you have no idea what options I've been given in life," she laughed darkly. She turned into traffic, and Blair gave Prospect Place one last longing look as they passed. Even if Blair got out of this alive, which was becoming more doubtful, this wouldn't be home to him again. It was time to be that stone and roll on. So, time to start making something of this new life. Step one, find a way to let Major Crimes or Jim or the FBI know where Alex was.

In the backseat, Naomi gave a huff of exasperation. "Oh please, do you think you're the only one who has been given limited choices because of circumstances or just because you don't have a penis? It doesn't matter if it's men or the pigs or just society, it's amazing the idiotic ways people try to limit each other, but if you allow yourself to be limited, that is your own choice. Society draws the lines, but you have to choose to live within or not," Naomi started, and Blair cringed at the emergence of Naomi "live your own life" lecture number 31. They seriously did not need to antagonize Alex, and this speech was probably one of Naomi's most antagonistic. This was the speech that had made Blair stop asking her to stay with him when he had first enrolled at Rainier. This speech convinced a fifteen year old that living alone in a strange world with strange rules and very little money was infinitely better than dealing with Naomi's lecture number 31.

"I never fucking had a chance, and if you think I give a shit about society's lines, you're crazier than I think, and I think you're fairly crazy," Alex said, but at least she sounded amused as she said it. If Blair didn't get his mom out of here fairly quickly, no way would that amusement last.

"No one ever has a fucking chance," Naomi said with a dismissive wave of her hand. "But you are totally inside the lines. Good and bad, the FBI versus the criminal." Naomi held up her hands and balanced them one against the other. "You're playing their game by being exactly what they expect."

Alex gave the rearview mirror a dirty look, not really able to do much more while she navigated morning traffic. She took the exit for the 5, so either they were all going to Canada or Alex had a boat waiting somewhere up north. Blair silently cursed because he knew how hard it was to track private boats.

"I'm doing what I have to do to survive."

"Of course," Naomi said, and the panic had vanished from her voice. This was Naomi's territory—trying to convince the unrepentant. Blair often thought that if his mother had gone into fundamental Christianity, she could have made a fortune as a televangelist. "But why do you have to define yourself the way they do?"

"I don't," Alex snapped.

"I hear you," Naomi said soothingly, and Blair wondered if she had always sounded condescending the way she said that or if the sheer fear was altering his perception. Thankfully, Alex seemed too distracted by her driving to take offense. "You do come off as a rather stereotypical criminal, however."

"I am a criminal," Alex pointed out as she gunned the engine in order to dart around a Volvo. Plymouths weren't really designed for darting, and the big engine rumbled in protest.

"Of course you are. And I can't say much since technically I've committed more than one crime myself. Why, I always joke that Blair learned breaking and entering before he learned to breathe because I was pregnant with him when several of us broke into a courthouse in Boston to protest the trial of William Coffin, Mitchell Goodman, and Marcus Raskin. Those were wild days. There I was, pregnant and I didn't even know it yet, seventeen years old, and I was committing a major felony." Naomi laughed fondly. "We upended file cabinets and spray painted walls in a dozen offices before the security guard chased us out. I thought for sure that the pigs would come looking, but they were so busy trying to convince people that Goodman, Coffin and Raskin were wrong for speaking the truth and encouraging young men to burn draft cards that they dropped the whole matter. They didn't want to remind the country that a lot of us sympathized with their position."

Naomi gave an unreserved laugh, and Blair decided that he could understand Jim's insistence that his mother wasn't entirely mentally stable. "And then, you're not going to believe this, I was eight months pregnant when three of us broke into the maintenance crawlways and destroyed all the clocks at Grand Central Terminal. I was waddling as I climbed some of those scaffolds, but I never said to myself that I couldn't do it. And let me tell you, there were plenty of people who tried telling me I shouldn't go because even in the counter-culture, people always try to draw the lines. You have to be for the pigs or against them, you have to wear lipstick or burn your bra. I was always very capable of wearing lipstick and burning my bra, thank you very much," Naomi finished proudly.

When Alex looked over and gave Blair a confused and almost pleading look, as if she expected him to rescue her from the Naomi whirlwind of illogic, Blair found himself fighting to avoid laughing. It was absurd. It was the whole damn theater of absurd, but that pretty much defined Naomi.

"Of course, with you, you're already living within the lines, but learning to break free of them is incredibly liberating. You should come down to New Mexico with me."

"Mom," Blair started. Alex gave him a dirty look, but Blair tried to ignore that. He needed to get Naomi away; he couldn't make a run for it until she was a safe distance away. "Alex isn't stable enough to travel to New Mexico."

He found Alex's gun pressed against the side of his head, right on the soft spot above his temple. Blair froze.

"Oh babe, do you really think I'm unstable?"

"Stop that, right now. Put that gun down," Naomi ordered, her voice edging toward panic again. Alex pulled back a little so that the gun was only pointing at Blair's head and not pressing into it. Blair pressed his lips together. "I'm sure Blair didn't mean it that way, did you Sweetie?" she asked.

Blair kept his eyes firmly fixed at the traffic ahead. "I mean her senses," Blair offered as softly and carefully as he could. He risked a quick glance over, and Alex seemed to be paying more attention to the rearview mirror than to either him or the traffic.

"Your senses? Oh, you mean like when... nevermind," Naomi interrupted herself. She'd been there when Jim had had a spike, so she'd seen what the senses could do. "That must be just horrible. I can't imagine how difficult it is to have that to deal with on top of the discrimination you must face as a beautiful woman and the difficulty of living within the societal constraints of being a criminal. Everyone always talks about the advantages of beauty, but the fact is that beautiful women are either dismissed or shoved into neat little pigeon holes.

"She's beautiful but she doesn't have a brain in her head," Naomi said as she used her hands to mimic the motion of shoving something into a little box. "She's beautiful and powerful, so she must be a ball-buster. She's beautiful with superpowers, so she must be a villain. What is wrong with admitting that a woman's beauty has no relation to her moral fiber, her intelligence or her sexual choices? Okay, it might have something to do with sexual choices, but that is only because males have no self-control when it comes to attraction. I'm sorry, honey, but it's true," Naomi said as she reached up and patted him on the shoulder. Her voice had lost that panicky edge as she focused on Alex again.

"Waving a gun around is just one more example of you living within a stereotype. Break free!" Naomi's hands flew wide, and Blair was shocked when Alex dropped her hand so that her hand and the gun lay on the wide bench seat between them. Naomi smiled widely.

Suspiciously, Blair looked from Alex to Naomi. "Mom, the police think Alex might have stolen a very dangerous nerve gas," Blair said, carefully directing his words to his mother. He and Alex always had a rather difficult relationship, one that Blair had attributed to her pain and frustration. Now another theory was forming.

"Yes, but did anyone ask her why?" Naomi asked cheerfully. Oh yeah, Naomi had decided that Alex was a sister warrior... a lost soul who just needed help walking outside the lines... a friend. God help him, had he ever been as impulsive or as self-destructive as his mother? No wonder Jim had an over-developed case of Blessed Protector... it made sense if Blair sounded anything like this when he went off on one of his rants.

"I mean, Sweetie," Naomi went on, "there are many reasons for stealing something like that. Absolutely, my first concern is that no one should have access to that, and if the gas is that easily stolen, I would consider stealing it myself."

"You would?" Alex sounded confused, and for the first time since they had started working together, for the first time since he found out who she really was, Blair felt a twinge of sympathy for her. Naomi was not easy to deal with.

"Absolutely," Naomi agreed. "Imagine the press you could get if you took that gas to a reputable newspaper and talked about the dangers of producing and storing weapons of that nature. The irresponsible actions of our government and the leading pharmaceutical companies are shocking."

"But then they would know I took it," Alex protested weakly, and Blair realized that Alex had already lost the fight.

"Simply tell them you found the gas in some place. I've played that wink-wink-nod-nod game myself," Naomi said with an airy wave of her hand. "A group of us once broke into a lab that did animal testing. I took the sweetest little puppy out. He had been terribly blinded, and his back was shaved and marked with the most horrific pox marks from some sort of ridiculous testing. I took that puppy to the Toronto Sun, and they ran the story without ever identifying me as one of the people who broke into the lab. Trust me, if you're good for circulation, they will protect your privacy. Of course, trusting the discretion of a reporter only goes as far as the reporter's honor and your value as a source, but we can definitely work around this."

"Work around?" Alex sounded confused, but she tucked her gun away in her jacket.

"Of course, I'll need to postpone my flight to New Mexico. The Cascade Herald and the Cascade Tribune are the best options. I know a reporter at the Tribune who would donate a kidney for a story like this. Pull off at the next exit and let's find someplace I can call him."

The fact that Alex was already merging right told Blair a whole lot about Alex, about his mother, and about his newly-minted theory. Maybe he had always annoyed Alex because he was already committed to Jim or maybe he had never been compatible at all. Maybe she could sense how close they were to compatibility and that very closeness annoyed her because, in the end, he wasn't the right Guide. Maybe nature designed Sentinels and Guides to pair up in such a way that they couldn't ever produce a child unfortunate enough to inherit the genes of both. Maybe Blair had no idea, but at this point, he was willing to let his play out a little.

"There!" Naomi said as she pointed at a waffle place. "We can use the payphone." She clapped her hands softly. "Oh, I haven't played this game for so many years that I've forgotten how much fun it is to play. Why Blair, the last time I got involved with anything illegal, you couldn't have been more than six or seven."

"With Ralph," Blair said as he remembered the man's pockmarked face. He'd been a dweeb.

Naomi laughed. "Oh my god, I had forgotten Ralph. We used to leave him to babysit you because he couldn't walk a straight line without tripping. We were protesting the ban on poison gas set up by the Geneva Protocol—or to be more precise, we were protesting that the ban had absolutely no teeth. There was no provision for inspection, no funding, no enforcement. They banned biological weapons and then blithely announced that a piece of paper was enough to ensure that the ban worked. They thought we were idiots," Naomi said with a roll of her eyes. Oh yes, this was the Amazon Naomi that Blair remembered from childhood. This was the woman who, if she wasn't very careful, was going to end up getting arrested by Jim.

"Mom," Blair said, not sure how to broach the subject without pissing Alex off. He was suddenly very sure that Alex wouldn't hurt Naomi, but he didn't think he would get a free pass.

"Yes, yes, honey. We will keep the subversive work away from you and Jim." She rolled her eyes again, but this time there was a fondness in the gesture. Reaching out, she laid her hand on Alex's shoulder. "Can you believe I raised a son who would essentially marry a pig? But that's my boy. I raised him to step outside anyone's lines, even mine, so I don't think I did such a poor job."

"He's a good man," Alex agreed cautiously as she glanced over, confusion still warring with the aggression that Blair had thought part of her core personality.

"Of course he is. And he's good enough to keep this little bit of conversation to himself," Naomi said confidently. Sadly, she was right. No way did Blair want to explain to Simon and the others how he had sat in the car while his mother implicated herself in a half dozen crimes and then advised Alex on how to best exploit the social conscience of the media using stolen nerve gas.

"I don't even want to think about this conversation," Blair agreed as Alex pulled into the waffle place. "I'm going to forget it as fast as I can, but I'm not going to lie about the man Alex killed in his car. They're going to ask if she was around, and I won't lie," Blair said firmly, trusting that his mother had figured things out well enough to stop Alex from killing him.

His mother might put on a good display of flakiness, but when it came down to it, she was sharper than he was. What she hadn't yet told Alex was that she had planned most of the raids she was describing. Blair very firmly remembered his mother's "Queen of the Amazon" phase, and she had ripped through pretty much anyone who tried to disagree with her. Then she had lost interest as the counter-culture movement turned from protesting to doing drugs. She had joined the New Age movement and had never looked back.

"I didn't kill anyone," Alex said as she parked the car. The frown of pain that had lived on her face since Blair had known her had vanished, and his mother's hand was still resting on Alex's shoulder.

Blair frowned. "But the officer..."

"I put sedative into his coffee when he went to use a tree to take a piss," Alex said vaguely. "He'll wake up thinking that he just fell asleep on duty."

"Great. Simon's going to rip him a new asshole," Blair said without too much sympathy. If Jim found out that the guy had left his food and drink undefended while peeing, Jim would resort to ripping out a few internal organs, so the guy was probably getting off easy.

"And Jim will be fine, too," Alex said.

Blair's guts turned to cold. "Jim?"

She shrugged as she opened her door. "I hired a shaman to keep him on the dreamscape while I tried to find a way into your apartment." She got out, leaving the door open as she opened the back door for Naomi. Blair had to scootch across the seat to get out, and he expected Alex to turn on him. Instead she had eyes only for Naomi, watching as Naomi fussed over a tear in her skirt.

"The gas was very easy to steal," Alex offered almost shyly. Naomi gave up on her skirt and turned to Alex with a bright smile.

"When we get done with them, they're going to be sorry they ever kept a stockpile. When human beings refuse to do the right thing, it's up to us to give them a little push," she offered as she slipped her arm around Alex's waist. The two walked ahead, smiling at each other like best friends or lovers. Following behind, Blair wondered if he and Jim had those same expressions when they looked at each other.

"I should probably call Jim... or Simon. I should let someone know where I am," Blair said as he trailed behind rather like a lost puppy.

"Of course, honey," his mom agreed. "But you need to wait until Alex and I are finished, and then we should probably drop you off somewhere else. The police will trace the call back to this phone, and we don't want your call to be the next one after ours. Think it through, Sweetie." Naomi turned and gave his cheek a little pat. Oh yeah, this was the old Amazon Naomi. With Alex at her side, Blair was starting to develop a real feeling of sympathy for the war-mongers and polluters of the world.

He sighed. "Wipe off the quarter you use," he offered.

"The quarter?" Naomi's eyes brightened. "Of course, they'd print all the coins inside. Alex," she said as she turned to the tall woman now looking at her with something close to devotion, "we need to do a little research on police methods. It isn't fair to put Blair in the middle, you know. So, let's go raise a little hell with the establishment." Naomi smiled up at Alex, her arm still around Alex's waist.

They walked into the restaurant, and Blair had to remind himself that it truly wasn't any stranger than a cop taking in a graduate student guilty of stalking, impersonating a doctor, and illegally obtaining medical records. Okay, it was a little stranger, but then his mom never was one for staying inside the line of common sense. And the Guide voice was a powerful tool, so he was fairly sure Naomi was safe. Now, the rest of the world had to worry, but Naomi would keep Alex within her own ethical boundaries. Now Blair just had to worry about the disaster that was his personal life.

As he took a seat near the phone, carefully not touching anything that might be checked for prints later, Blair ordered a donut and watched as Alex and his mom huddled over the phone. With Alex officially out of the way, now Jim could feel safe enough to push him away. And Blair didn't intend to fight it. The very knowledge that he could order Jim to ignore all his fears was the best reason in the world to not give that order.


Blair sat on the edge of the brick planter in front of the bank and waited. A man with a long ponytail and a leather jacket stopped at the nearby phones, and he leaned against the silver shell as he looked Blair over. Normally Blair would be either complimented at the attention or wary. Right now, he was too tired for either emotion, so he just let his eyes slide past the guy and watch the traffic flow past.

A brown sedan pulled up to the curb, and Jim was out of the passenger side before the car even stopped rolling. "Blair!" Jim called as he hurried across the plaza, his hand hovering near his weapon as he looked around suspiciously. One look and the guy with the ponytail hung up and headed down the street.

"Sandburg, what the hell were you thinking?" Simon bellowed as he got out of the driver's side.

Blair had no idea what to say to Jim anymore, so he focused on Simon. "Simon! Hey! I so did not expect you."

Jim was standing in front of him, arms crossed over his chest in a pose that Jim normally reserved for murderers. "I asked him to drive me over. I thought it would make it easier for me to strangle you in the backseat.

"Har, har," Blair joked tightly. God this hurt. He didn't know how to even react to Jim anymore, and the minute he found out that Alex was well and truly out of the picture, well, Blair wasn't sure what would happen, but he wasn't expecting to enjoy it. Oh, Jim would be polite and accommodating and make noises about remaining friends, but it was Blair's voice he was avoiding. It was hard to be friends without occasionally talking to each other.

Jim glared at him. "I'm not joking."

Obviously Simon figured something was wrong because he stepped closer. "I was at the apartment because Jim reported you missing. Sandburg, the FBI, Major Crimes and the entire department mobilized under the theory that Alex Barnes somehow got you out of that apartment. Then you call and announce you just took a drive with your mother?"

Blair cringed as he realized how stupid that sounded. "It was her last day here," he offered lamely.

"I don’t care if it was her last day on Earth. A psychopath with superhuman powers is trying to kill you." Simon's fists were clenched.

"Oh, that." Now Blair wasn't sure which of them to avoid eye contact with. Maybe he should have just gone with Alex and Naomi, even if they were getting way too comfortable in their bonding over all things female with a good side dish of male bashing.

"Oh that? Oh that?!" Simon turned an incredulous look toward Jim. "Ellison, talk to your partner before I arrest him for felony aggravation of a police captain."

Jim moved close enough to rest a hand on Blair's shoulder. "Chief..."

"I know, I know." Blair stood up fast, sliding to the side so that Jim's hand fell off. "So, if I told you not to worry, would you believe me?" he asked cheerfully.

Jim just stared at him, but Simon gave a huge sigh. "I'm not going to like this, am I?" he asked as he got that blank expression that he usually got whenever Blair brought up anything related to Sentinels.

"Probably not." Blair considered that for a second. "Okay, definitely not. In fact, you may want to go get some coffee or something... just for a couple of minutes," Blair told him. Simon's expression went from emotionally constipated to outright horror.

Jim hadn't followed Blair, and now he stood next to the brick planter, his hands hanging awkwardly at his sides. "Blair, does this have anything to do with my nightmare last night?"

Blair cast a quick look over at Simon who really didn't look like he could take too much more without resorting to his cigars. "I don't know... probably... what was your nightmare?"

"I dreamed that I was the jaguar and a giant spider kept trying to catch me in his web." Jim crossed his arms over his chest and stared at Blair through long, pregnant silences. Even the pedestrians on the sidewalk gave them a wide berth.

Eventually, Blair sighed and admitted defeat. Yeah, he had the Guide voice, but Jim had that Ellison glare. "Oh yeah, that would have been the shaman Alex hired to keep you distracted," he admitted. With Alex now firmly aligned with his mother, admitting that she had hired someone to attack Jim just felt... wrong. It felt nearly as wrong as Alex doing the hiring. She should not be trying to attack them, and they should not be saying things to the police that might get her in trouble. Only Jim was the police, and Blair really doubted that he was going to feel the same way.

"A shaman?" Simon demanded as he pulled a cigar out of his pocket. "She hired a shaman? Do none of you remember that we are living in the 20th century? I truly miss simple assault and murder cases... cases involving weapons and hired assassins."

"I defeated the spider, Simon," Jim offered soothingly, but Simon just gave him a seriously dirty look.

"Good to know. We won't have to put out that spectral ABP now."

Blair was surprised. Yeah, Simon didn't exactly love it when mystical stuff tumbled out into the middle of an investigation, but he wasn't normally this stick-up-his-ass about it. "Man, you are totally closed-minded today. What is with that?"

"What is... ?" Simon almost choked on his words. "Sandburg, I had FBI ripping down my office door wanting to know how my officer fell asleep on duty and how I managed to lose their expert witness. I'm not sure exactly when you became *their* expert witness, but apparently, as the only known expert on Sentinels, the federal government has decided that you're valuable. And since I lost you, I've had everyone from the commissioner to the director chewing on my ass." Simon was red faced, and Blair kept backing up as he poked his cigar at Blair.


"Oh? Oh? That's all you have to say?"

Blair nodded. "Totally. Because to be perfectly honest, the idea of the federal government even noticing me is making me a little uneasy."

Simon narrowed his eyes. "I know how you feel. So, either you explain to me what the hell made you take off with Naomi or you can go explain to the FBI."

"Simon," Jim offered softly, still playing Blessed Protector.

Then a new fear hit Blair. It hit him so hard that he stumbled back a step and nearly ended up falling on his ass. "Oh man, Jim, you don't think that they'll connect the dots, do you? I know we have everything covered, but if someone really..."

"Calm down, Chief," Jim interrupted him. He moved close, so close that Blair could smell his aftershave, but this time, Jim didn't try to touch him. "Brackett figured out I was a Sentinel long before you wrote anything, so I think there are parts of the government that have always known."

Blair's heart started pounding even harder at that thought. "You are not really comforting me here."

Jim sighed and put his hand on Blair's shoulder, but this time, Blair was freaked out enough to want even that pale imitation of the intimacy they used to share. "Simon, can you give us a couple of minutes here?"

"I should haul both of you down to the station and make you give official statements," Simon growled, but then he shook his head. As he turned away and started walking north, he called over his shoulder, "Fine, just hurry up."

Once Simon had reached the end of the block, he lit his cigar and stood on the corner watching traffic. Blair stared at Simon's back. If he didn't work at the station, would Simon want him to keep in touch?

Jim's fingers tightened slightly on his shoulder. "Blair, what happened?" Jim asked in his best soothe-the-freaking-out-victim voice.

Blair shrugged. "Alex is no longer a problem."

"Is she dead?"

"No, no way." Blair backed up a step and looked at the seriously pissed expression on Jim's face. "Do you really think I could...." He waved his hand in lieu of finishing that thought.

Instead of answering right away, Jim scrubbed his face with his hand. "I think people do what they have to do, Chief. However, short of being dead, what would keep Alex away from you?"

"Finding her real Guide." Blair walked past Jim and sat on the edge of the brick planter again. He still wasn't sure how he felt about Naomi taking Alex with her. They'd been like giggling schoolgirls when they called the reporter. Before Blair had even gotten dropped off at the bank, Alex had confessed to the nerve gas job and told Naomi where to find the gas. And his mother... his mother had been as delighted as she could be. It'd been years since he'd seen her so animated, her hands flying as she catalogued a world of human suffering all caused by corporate greed. And Alex had watched with such intensity, her eyes following Naomi's every gesture. He supposed he should be grateful they hadn't started planning their next raid right there in the car in front of him.

Jim tilted his head at Blair as though he was using his sense to check for lies. "She found her real Guide? How can you be sure?"

"This is going to be the part you don't like."

Jim sat down next to him. "I don't like any of this, and you haven't told me anything yet."

"Trust me, you're going to like this a whole lot less."

"Sandburg," Jim growled.

"Okay, okay. Geez," Blair rolled his eyes. "Alex was outside the loft, down in the street."

"And you left the loft? You didn't get me?" Jim's voice had a dangerous edge now. His body was unnaturally still, and Blair couldn't help but offer some reassurance. He reached out and rested his hand on Jim's thigh.

"She was with Mom. You weren't waking up, and I didn't have time to really..." Blair struggled to find a way to say this without implicating Alex in a kidnapping, which was odd because last night he would have been thrilled to have actual evidence that would have sent Alex to prison. "I didn't have time to think things through," Blair finished weakly.

"She kidnapped Naomi? Shit." Jim reached for his cell phone. "Knowing Sandburg luck, I should have driven Naomi to the airport last night. We'll get an APB..."

"Whoa, hey, you are running off the rails here." Blair plucked the cell phone out of Jim's hand. "Just... just let me finish."

Jim's body was tight with the need to fight, and he glared at Blair. A lesser man might have run for the hills under that withering stare. "There's more?"

"Way more than you want to know," Blair agreed. "I went down to talk to Alex, and she insisted on us going for a little ride."

"Which would explain the bruising around your wrist." Jim picked up the hand that Blair had laid on his thigh and turned it over. Thumbs gently brushed over his pulsepoint. Blair couldn't see anything, but Jim's fingers traced the path of Alex's hand where it had held him when she wrenched his arm up behind his back. The touch felt good, as if Jim was erasing Alex's violence. When Blair shivered, Jim dropped his hand, and Blair let his gaze fall to the sidewalk. The old cliché about them being friends obviously wasn't going to work because even now, even in the middle of their whole damn breakup, Blair still wanted Jim. It took every ounce of self-control to not use the Guide voice, to not order Jim to forgive him, to take him home, to make love to him. A wave of self-loathing crashed through Blair when he admitted to himself how much he wanted to do exactly that.

"She bruised you," Jim repeated.

Blair shrugged. "Probably. Okay, here's the thing—Mom came with us, and Mom and Alex started talking, and Mom started remembering her old days of protesting "the man" and how many times she broke the law, and the next thing I know, she's using the Guide voice on Alex, and Alex is following after Naomi with this starstruck expression." Blair kept his voice as professional as he could. The need to use the Guide voice was an itch he had to resist scratching.

"Naomi?" Jim sounded confused now.

"Yeah, hey, I think we have evidence that being a Guide might be genetic because Alex definitely honed right in on my mother, and that's where it gets a little sticky because I don't really want my mom getting dragged into the middle of this, but trust me, she is not just going to walk away and let someone arrest Alex. As far as mom's concerned, Alex is her Sentinel."


"Not yet, they haven't, but trust me, from the looks they were giving each other, I'm guessing that is not far down the line," Blair laughed darkly, but when he glanced over, and Jim had an absolutely stricken expression. "Geez, it was a joke."

"That's your mother, Sandburg. You once went after me for even looking at her and now you're telling me to back off an international thief because she's planning on bedding your mother?"

Blair blinked as the implication of that sank in. He'd totally forgotten how Jim had reacted when Naomi first showed up. She'd rearranged his furniture, accidentally called him a pig, stunk up the house with food Jim declared toxic waste, and the two of them had still ended up laughing and sitting on a bed together. "Oh shit," he breathed. "That's right, you were interested in her, and Alex was interested in me. You were both probably picking up that the genes were compatible. Of course, obviously you weren't totally compatible with Naomi or else you wouldn't have paired up with me...."

"Chief, hold on there," Jim interrupted as he held up a hand to stop Blair. "I paired up with you because I wanted to, not because of some uncontrollable instinct."

"I know, I know," Blair quickly assured him. He did not want to get into Jim's control issues right here in the middle of the street.

"No, Chief, I don't think you do." Jim caught one of Blair's hands in his own and pulled it close.

Blair chewed on his lower lip, caught between wanting to just press into the contact and wanting to face reality. He couldn't survive many more days of the Ellison coldfront at home. "Maybe this can wait until we finish with the FBI interrogations. I really don't think I have the energy to deal with you and the FBI on the same day," Blair said softly.

"Deal with? I'm someone you have to deal with?"

"You're taking this all wrong," Blair said as he jerked his hand back from Jim.


"No, look, I totally understand that this is hard on you. Like the song says, there ain't no good guy and there ain't no bad guy." Blair leaped up and started pacing. On the corner, Simon turned to fact them, his expression still closed as he puffed on his cigar.

Jim stood up. "Are you trying to break up with me?"

Blair stopped pacing long enough to glare at Jim. "Are you just trying to be thick?"

"This morning, it seems to be coming naturally," Jim said with a wry grin.

That just confused Blair even more. He stared at Jim, not even sure anymore what he was supposed to say. He tried reaching out to Jim only to get shut out. He tried to back off, only to get Jim trying to pull him back in. At this point, Blair truly didn't know what Jim expected from him.

After a few seconds of silence, Jim sighed. "Blair, I know this has been difficult."

"Which part?" Blair snorted.

"No offense, Chief, but we aren't getting anywhere here. Can we deal with one question at a time, please?"

For a second, Blair felt an almost overwhelming urge to run away because getting somewhere meant getting to a place that he didn't want to get to. But he didn't have a car or anyplace to go where Jim couldn't find him. He might as well get it over with. He sat down on the brick wall and buried his face in his hands, waiting for the bad news.

Jim asked quietly, "Are you trying to break up? Do you want to leave me?"

Blair shrugged. "Want isn't exactly the word, but I understand why you put it that way."

Blair didn't bother looking up when Jim sat next to him so close that their shoulders brushed. "That makes one of us because I'm not understanding anything here, Chief."

Blair swallowed around the lump in his throat. "I understand why you need me to leave."

"Why I...?" Jim stopped, and Blair struggled to hold in his emotions. Sometimes he really wished that his mother had just taught him to be emotionally constipated like all the other men. Jim's hand came to rest on his shoulder, and a tear escaped. "Oh Chief," Jim whispered.

"Hey, I'm a big boy. I'll land on my feet," Blair said without moving. He wanted to spring up and run away, but he wasn't strong enough to give up the feeling of Jim's hand on his arm.

"Chief, you are an idiot," Jim said in a voice that almost sounded amused.

Blair tilted his head and looked at Jim who was smiling.

Jim patted his shoulder. "I already told you that I never wanted to let you go, that I wasn't sure I was a good enough man to let you walk away without a fight if you ever did want to leave, so where did you get the harebrained idea that I wanted you gone?"

"Oh man, ever since that idiotic test you did... you haven't wanted me anywhere near you," Blair said with a frown.

"We live in the same house, we've slept in the same bed every night."

"That's just it--we've slept. And man, you are a fucking expert on not being there when you're there, if you know what I mean."

That made Jim flinch, and the amusement vanished under something that looked a whole lot more like guilt. "Shit. Chief, it's not that I don't want—"

"Hey, I totally get it," Blair said, holding up a hand to prevent Jim from going off on a good case of self-flagellation.

"No, you don't. However, if you'd shut up for a minute or two, you might." Jim caught his hand and pushed it down to where their legs touched. "I'll admit that this revelation about the Guide voice threw me a little."

"A little?" Blair snorted.

"Okay, maybe more than a little. But Blair, I just needed to think through a few things, and I needed to do it on my own."

If this was Jim's breakup speech, he definitely needed a whole lot more practice. "Define thinking through."

Now it was time for Jim to sigh heavily. "I don't suppose you're willing to just believe me when I say I'm okay with this and let this drop." Obviously the expression on Blair's face answered that for him. "You're going to worry this to death, aren't you, Chief?"


"Blair, I needed to use my senses to remember when we first met. I had to know how much of our relationship was real and how much was this Sentinel shit." Jim looked guilty.

Blair thought about all the hours Jim had spent alone in the semi-dark in their bedroom. "Oh man. You're doing sensory recall of our relationship? Our whole relationship?"

"And I needed to do it on my own," Jim agreed.

"I hear you," Blair said with a pained grimace. "I know I pushed things, Jim. I swear I didn't mean to, and I didn't know what I was doing, but I was pushing things from the first time we met. Oh man, there I was in a doctor's coat telling you to go see Blair Sandburg. And I know I can't take any of that back." Blair swallowed, his emotions threatening to spill out if he said one more words.

"You think you were using the voice on me back that far?"

"I was ordering you around pretty much from day one. I feel like a schmuck about it, but I totally understand why that makes it really hard to forget how I've manipulated—"

"Not really," Jim laughed, and the humor in his voice stopped Blair dead. "Chief, I went to see you because I knew something was wrong with that doctor act. I slammed you up against the wall, and as I remember it, you couldn't get me to let you go. If you had the power of the Guide voice back then, don't you think you would have used it to make me let you go?"

"Well... um...." Blair could feel his face warm with a blush.


"Uh, yeah."

Jim shook his head, and the small smile had grown into a pretty wide smirk. "Let's leave your kinks for another day. My point is that you didn't have a Guide voice then. When we were on that train protecting Derek Wilson, you definitely didn't have the voice."

"You put me up against a wall that time, too," Blair pointed out. Back then, Jim's hands holding him against a wall was the most intimate contact between them. The sex hadn't come for almost a full year.

"You have a one-track mind, Sandburg," Jim laughed as he reached over and ruffled Blair's hair. "But you didn't have the voice from the beginning. You had to do a whole lot of begging to get an invitation into my house because you didn't have the voice. You didn't start influencing my decisions until Laura McCarthy. I didn't want to believe that my hormones would lead me that far off track, but when you told me that I was losing perspective, I believed you. I would have told anyone else to take a flying fuck, so I know the voice was an influence, but I still made the decisions in that case. You didn't actually push me into anything until you made me trade in a fishing weekend for a monastery."

Blair considered the timeline. According to Jim, he hadn't been using the Guide voice as long as he thought, but he'd still been using it long enough to damn their relationship. "Still, oh man, that means that I was using the Guide voice when we got together.

"You didn't use it that night," Jim said firmly.

"How can you be—"

"I'm sure, Chief. You were so drunk that night that you couldn't have gotten the tone right if you tried all night. But my point is that I thought you were cute and flaky long before the Guide voice. What we have is built on trust and attraction, not the voice."

Hope curled in Blair's stomach, whispering promises that maybe he hadn't lost the only home he ever loved enough to make permanent. "But with Alex, it worked right away," Blair said before his skeptical common sense could check in with that gut-level feeling of hope. "And maybe you should ignore me because I really don't want to question you on this," Blair hurried to add.

"Chief, are you sure that Alex wasn't faking it? If she thought Naomi was willing to guide her maybe she played along."

Blair was shaking his head before Jim even finished. "Man, you did not see it. Alex was looking at her like she was the last chocolate in a room full of menopausal women. Naomi talked her into giving the nerve gas to a reporter in order to get him to write some big piece about how corporations are endangering human beings by producing poison and then cost-cutting on security. It was seriously freaky. They were bonding over how much they hated the system. Sister Amazons against the world, and as someone who owns a penis, I was feeling a need to cross my legs and keep my genitals covered."

Jim slowly smirked. "Ah," he said with a nod.

"Ah? Would you care to share with the class?"

"Either your mother is more persuasive than you are or I'm a closed off, suspicious bastard. We may actually have evidence that the second is pretty damn possible." Jim slung an arm over Blair's shoulder, and hope glowed warmly in the pit of Blair's stomach.

"That doesn't actually make sense."

"The Guide voice—it only started influencing me after Lee Brackett. You took the fall for me with Carolyn when you claimed you had tasted that trace evidence we found. You followed me into that restaurant to meet Brackett, and you kept your head when we found the bomb in the trunk."

Jim pulled him up, and Blair fell into place next to Jim. He might not understand what had changed, but the hand resting at the small of his back told him that he had his friend and lover at his side again. Yeah, the whole business with Alex and Naomi was messy as hell, but they'd survived messy before. "I'm still not getting the connection with the Guide voice," Blair objected as Jim steered him toward Simon. Seeing them coming, Simon crushed his cigar on the side of an ashcan and dropped it in the sand.

"That's when I trusted you, Sandburg. Before you got to use the Guide voice on me, I had to decide that I trusted you. It was my choice to turn that power over to you because you're a man I can trust at my back."

Blair lost his step and nearly stumbled. He looked up in shocked awe, and Jim was smiling at him. "Uh..."

"Eloquent as ever," Jim said with a small smirk. "I guess I haven't said that to you often enough. However, if you're right about Alex, that means she trusts Naomi." Jim thought about that for a second before shrugging. "Well, criminals aren't generally known for their great intelligence."

"Hey, that's my mom," Blair objected. Jim smiled at him.

"That would be the point, Chief. She's trusting Naomi. Naomi!"

"What about Naomi?" Simon asked as he came up to them.

"Oh man, you do not want to know," Blair said as he wondered how they were going to get out of this one with the FBI. Jim laughed before pulling Blair close to his side.

"You know what," Simon said as he headed for his car in long loping strides that Blair couldn't hope to keep up with, "For once, you can annoy someone else with your stories. Whatever it is that I don't want to know—don't tell me. You can explain it to the FBI."

Blair looked up at Jim and smiled.

"Don't look at me, Chief. She's your mother, and you get to talk your way out of this one," Jim teased, and suddenly things seemed a whole lot better than they had this morning... than they had for many mornings in fact.

"Traitor," Blair teased back. "You could at least pretend to have my back."

"With Naomi around?" Jim asked with mock horror as he open the car door. "Simon, can I crash at your place until we're sure Naomi's cleared out?"

"No!" Simon yelled a little louder than he really needed to.

"Cowards. Both of you are cowards," Blair said as he got into the back of Simon's car and shut the door.

"Sandburg, sometimes the wise man knows when to retreat from the field. And sometimes the wise man better spend his time thinking up something really clever to say to a half-dozen pissed off FBI agents."

"Don't worry about Sandburg. He'll come up with something that won't smell of bullshit until three days after the FBI leaves," Jim said with confidence as he turned to give Blair a smile. Blair smiled back and decided that as long as he had Jim to go home with, he could handle the whole fucking J. Edgar Hoover building single-handedly.

Simon just snorted as he steered them into morning traffic.



"Oh man, I am exhausted," Blair complained as he dropped his bag next to the door and collapsed into a chair.

"Lying takes a lot out of a person," Jim agreed with just a touch of sarcasm as he followed after. The only reason Blair didn't throw a shoe at him was that Jim had dinner in bags decorated with red Chinese characters.

"I so did not lie."

"That statement of yours had enough omissions and exaggerations to make it inadmissible in any court," Jim disagreed as he dropped the bags of food on the table and headed for the kitchen. Blair toed out of his shoes and pushed himself back up to his feet wearily. He'd been tap-dancing around the truth for so long he could still hear the tip-tap-tapping of little feet in his brain.

"Hey, I made it perfectly clear on that tape that I was not even reading my typed statement. I asked those guys if the statement was the truth, the whole truth, and only the truth I told them, and that was their chance to tell me that they had made big jumps of logic and filled in my statement with their own assumptions."

"You mean the assumptions you led them right into making?" Jim asked as he came out of the kitchen with the plates. Blair unpacked the Ma Yi Shang Shu and Dou Ban Yu and Beef with Broccoli.

"Whatever. Again, I didn't read it. I told them I couldn't find my glasses, and trust me, whatever assumptions they made and put in that report, I never actually told them anything that wasn't one hundred percent true."

"Just like you told them that your glasses weren't on my desk where you usually left them, and then let them assume you meant that you had lost them?" Jim asked sarcastically as he pulled a pair of glasses out of his jacket pocket before offering them up.

"Thanks, man." Blair put the glasses on and immediately went for the fortune cookie. His hand hesitated. "You know, I wasn't expecting quite as much support from your end of the room."

Jim sat down and raised an eyebrow at him as he grabbed the container of Beef with Broccoli. "You thought I'd point out all your lies and watch them haul you off for obstruction of justice?"

"No," Blair said slowly. "I thought I'd spend the day fending off your glares. I even had a few good lines ready to convince the FBI that you were just pissed about me taking off with my mom."

"Oh, I'm plenty pissed about that," Jim quickly agreed before he speared some food with a little more emphasis than he really needed to. For long minutes, they ate as Blair tried to figure out an answer for that. From Jim's point of view, he had well and truly fucked up, but even now, Blair couldn't see that he had another choice.

"I couldn’t let Alex take my mom."

"I know." His expression wasn't exactly forgiving, but he wasn't yelling, which was normally a good sign.

"Yeah, yeah, you're pissed. You're the big bad cop with the gun and I should have gotten you. The point is that I thought you'd be climbing walls at the thought of me anywhere near Alex. I thought you'd try to help the FBI find her even if that would lead to some really awkward questions about Naomi."

Jim chewed, his fork hanging from one hand and a thoughtful expression on his face. It took a few seconds for him to answer, and Blair shifted nervously—he still couldn't help but wait for the other shoe to drop.

"I don't know. I just don't feel like she's hunting you anymore," Jim shrugged. "I still hate her guts, and I'd be more than happy to throw her ass in jail, but I'm not going out of my way to try and get something on her. The taskforce spent the last two weeks trying to put together enough evidence to convict her of jaywalking, and they couldn't. I'm just facing reality."

"And are we facing the Guide voice or is that still the pregnant pink elephant in the room?" Blair asked, half expecting that Jim would shut down now that they were in private. Instead, he laughed.

"I can safely say that I am grateful for the Guide voice. Naomi might be annoying with a borderline bipolar personality, but she wouldn't endanger lives, and right now, that's more than I can say for Alex. So here's to Naomi and her Guide voice," Jim said as he raised his beer bottle in a quick salute.

Part of Blair wanted to let this drop, to just let things slide back into what passed for normal, but he'd never been good at ignoring a scab. He was a picker. "What about my Guide voice?"

Jim sighed and rolled his eyes. "Jesus Christ, Sandburg, do you have to look for drama?"

"Man, you are shifting gears too fast for me. I keep expecting to skid out. I'm just trying to..." Blair waved his hands inarticulately. That got another roll of the eyes from Jim.

"Look, Chief, it makes sense for you to have a way to veto me in the field. The voice just makes me stop and think about something because my first instinct is to listen to that voice. It's not like you have me under some sort of thrall."

"And the tickling?" Blair asked, kicking himself even as he said it.

Jim shook his head and looked at Blair the way an indulgent parent might look at a particularly stupid child. Blair glared back. "Chief, you were up there begging me to stop for a good while before the voice could get through. The voice is..." Jim stopped, clearly struggling with the words.

Blair pushed his plate away. "Is it something you can live with?" Blair asked softly. In the end, that's the only question he needed answered.

"Easily," Jim answered immediately. "It's a push, a big push toward a particular choice, but it isn't mind control. If Alex went along with your mother's voice that easily, it's because part of her wanted to. When I go along with your harebrained schemes involving candle wax—which was not your brightest idea, Darwin—I go along because I want to, and the voice lets me ignore my doubts. I made the decision to trust you with that power, and I still do trust you, Squirt." Jim paused for a second. "Of course, I don't trust you with candle wax." The corners of his mouth twitched with a repressed need to smile.

"Asshole," Blair huffed.

"Considering how bad the candle wax went over with nipples, I wouldn't suggest trying assholes," Jim said, and now the sarcastic grin escaped.

"You're... you're really okay with it?" Blair asked hopefully.

Jim stood and retreated to the far windows. Part of Blair wanted to follow, wanted to apologize for even asking the question because if Jim was willing to fake being okay, Blair was willing to go right along with the lie. But something kept him in his seat. Jim stared out at the city for a long minute.

"Blair, I spent my entire adult life following orders from superior officers or bosses, some of whom I didn't trust as far as I could throw them."

When Jim didn't continue, Blair tried to come up with an answer for that, but he couldn't. He'd been raised to challenge everyone and everything. Not even Naomi had ever expected his obedience, so Jim's father, his bosses, his commanding officers... it was like a whole different culture for Blair and he didn't really understand the rules.

"I got this a while back." Jim circled around the table and ended up standing next to him. He put a small box down on the table next to Blair's food. Blair opened it, not sure what to expect from Jim at this point. Inside, a small, ring with two hands carved into the rope band. The band was discolored with age, and Blair could tell it was a carved piece, not a poured cast.

"The man in the shop said it was a Claddagh ring. Something to represent fidelity." Jim looked intensely uncomfortable.

Blair lifted the ring out, looking at the detail. "Actually, it's a fede ring, Victorian gold if I'm not wrong, definitely made by a smith and not out of a cast. Blair slipped it on his hand, not surprised when it fit perfectly. "Oh man. I'm... I’m pretty much speechless here," Blair admitted.

Leaning back against the table, Jim reached up and ran the back of his fingers down Blair's cheek. "This thing freaked me out, Blair. I'm sorry that in the middle of my panic I didn't see that you were freaking out, too. But now that I've had a chance to think it through, yes, I'm okay with it. My fears are stupid because you have stuck by me through everything. You stuck by me when common sense would have told you to run for the hills. You chose to have a relationship with me even though it cost you your dissertation."

"It didn't exactly cost me..." Blair stopped when Jim's fingers ghosted over his lips.

"I read Stoddard's note. You told him you lost access to your research subject, and he told you that the baseline data was an interesting anomaly but scientifically worthless."

Blair shook his head. "But comparing those early tests to Alex... man, that could potentially change the world."

"At the time, you didn't know you would ever meet another Sentinel. Blair, you chose me over your life's work. I think you've earned some trust. More than that, I really hate how careful you are to never show emotion in your voice anymore. I miss the way you cajole me out of acting like an asshole. When you use the Guide voice, I know I'll never have a chance to ruin our relationship by shutting you out the way I did Carolyn." Jim crossed his arms. "At least I thought I knew that before you stopped using the damn voice."

Blair frowned for a second, surprised at that admission. In his world, Jim Ellison had control issues: he never wanted to let go of control. Only now, it seemed like Jim had control issues of another sort. Maybe. Maybe Blair was reading all the signs wrong. He'd done that before. He glanced down at the ring, at the two hands clasping each other.

"Like the way I didn't mind the way you spent the first month shoving me into walls?" Blair asked, struggling to keep his voice casual. From the way Jim's eyebrow quirked, Blair had failed. "You know," Blair hurried to explain, "after all the lovers I've had walk away, I love the way you hold on so tight. Man, I know you think it's over the line when you say you don't think you could let me walk away from this relationship, but every time you say that, it so totally hits the hot button. Big time." Even talking about that, Blair could feel his cock stir.

"Really?" Jim asked, his voice low as he palmed Blair's cheek. "I couldn't, you know. I'd use every sense to find you. I'd beg you to take me back, and if that didn't work... oh, Chief, I'm not sure you want to know how far I'd go to keep from losing you," Jim said, his voice a dark whisper. Now Blair's cock truly hardened, and from the smug look in Jim's eye, he knew just how much his words affected Blair.

"You're assuming I wouldn't use the voice on you," Blair said in his Guide voice, carefully watching to see Jim's reaction. His eyes darkened, the blue vanishing into a ring around the wide black pupil. "You're assuming I wouldn't strip you of every defense and leave you at my mercy," Blair whispered as he stood up, his body pressing into Jim's. He ran his hands up Jim's chest and then down, past the waist until he rested his fingers against the hard bulge trapped in Jim's pants.

"Would you?" Jim finally asked, his hands coming up to rest on Blair's forearms.

"Would I what?" Blair worked the button of Jim's pants, slowly unfastening it before lowering the zipper. White underwear bulged out as Jim's cock struggled toward freedom.

"Use the Guide voice? Would you stop me from doing something stupid?"

Blair glanced up at Jim, at the raw need shining from his dark eyes. "Only if you promise to push me into some walls," Blair agreed. Before he could move, hands grabbed the front of his shirt and he was flying backwards as Jim propelled him backwards until he met the door with a solid thump. Blair found himself pinned there by Jim's body. The last time he'd been up against a wall, they hadn't been lovers, and Jim definitely hadn't been sporting a hard-on that poked into Blair's lower stomach.

Jim leaned down, audibly sniffing Blair's hair and neck with deep breaths. He made a noise low in his throat, and Blair grabbed Jim's shoulders as his whole body reacted with a delighted shudder. "I'll never let my Guide go," Jim muttered softly as his hands slowly released Blair's shirt only to start freeing the buttons.

"You'll never have the choice because I'm not going anywhere," Blair agreed, intentionally putting every bit of sultry heat he could into his voice. Jim's hands hesitated on his shirt buttons and the muscles of his shoulder shivered. "Stop," Blair whispered, running his hands down Jim's arms to where his fingers were working the last button on Blair's shirt. Jim shivered again, and then stopped, his fingers holding the half-freed button without finishing their task.

Blair took a second to just run his hands up and down Jim's arms, feeling the tension there. "Go to parade rest," Blair said softly, half expecting an argument. Jim did cock his head curiously, but then he stepped back and moved his hands behind his back. With his pants open, the posture was nearly pornographic. With a slow smile, Blair moved in, his own fingers now freeing Jim's buttons while Jim watched with dark eyes. "You've been on guard so long. It's time for you to rest, it's time for you to let me take care of you for a while." Blair opened the last button and ran his hands over Jim's white t-shirt. With the white briefs and white undershirt framed by the dark pants and shirt, Jim looked incredibly debauched and sexy. Blair took a second to just step back and watch. For a moment, Jim rocked forward on his toes as though he were going to reach for Blair, but then he settled in and just watched as Blair circled.

When Blair reached Jim's back, he stopped and ran his hands up and over those broad shoulders. Jim didn't move as Blair slowly pulled the shirt free. Because Jim was holding one wrist, the fabric pooled around Jim's hands, and for a second, Blair was tempted to take the shirt's arms and tie them. But then, his power was in his voice. "Drop it," Blair suggested instead, laying his hand on Jim's bare arm. Immediately, Jim dropped the shirt to the ground and then returned to his parade rest form.

"Fuck you're sexy." Blair circled back around to the front, and Jim had an amused look on his face. "What?" Blair asked.

"I'm balding and going on forty, Sandburg."

"You're stunningly hot, Ellison." Blair moved in, and pulled up the t-shirt to reveal Jim's stomach. He followed the furrow of Jim's six-pack, his fingers trailing over the soft skin and hard muscle.

Jim started to bring his hands around to the front, and Blair planted his hand in the middle of Jim's chest. "Go to parade rest. You've been trying for too long to deal with all this by yourself. You shut out Simon, and you largely shut me out. Now it's time for you to stand down and let me do what I want," Blair said, his voice half-command and half cajoling. Jim returned to parade rest, his eyes half closing in a dazed expression Blair had never seen on Jim before. Sometimes people who were hypnotized had that expression, but hypnosis had never worked well with Jim, mostly because he refused to let go of his control long enough to allow it to work.

Blair tilted his head and considered the man standing before him. Then again, maybe Jim had truly let go of his control. Reaching down, Blair ran a single finger over Jim's cock, and the bulge trapped in the underwear twitched and grew. "Strip and go upstairs," Blair said. Without hesitating, Jim pulled his t-shirt up and over his head and let it drop to the floor with his other shirt. His shoes and socks were quickly pulled off and then his pants and underwear shoved off together, leaving a pile of abandoned clothes right in front of the door before he padded barefoot toward the stairs. Blair's hand went to his own trapped erection as he nearly came in his pants.

"Fuck," he breathed softly.

"No problem, Chief," Jim answered cheerfully enough from the top of the stairs. For a second, Blair just closed his eyes and breathed deeply as he forced his own lust back before running after Jim.

By the time Blair got to the top of the steps, Jim was standing at parade rest next to the bed, silently watching Blair with dark eyes. Blair stood, breathing like he had just run a marathon as he slowly approached Jim who just stood and watched, quieter than Blair was used to ever seeing him. Reaching out, Blair cupped Jim's heavy balls, feeling the heat of them for a minute before circling his finger around the crown of Jim's thick cock. Usually, they had turned into a tangle of groping arms and legs by this time, but now Jim stood still, his chest muscles bulging as he strained, but he kept his hands behind his back.

"So sexy. I want to see you laid out on the bed just waiting for me to take care of this for you," Blair crooned, his fingers still circling Jim's cock. At first Jim didn't move, but when Blair looked up, Jim slid back onto the bed, his upper body supported on his elbows and his legs open. He watched Blair with that same blissed-out, hooded expression from downstairs.

Blair stripped off his clothes, leaving them in a pile at the end of the bed as he considered just what he might do for an overworked and exhausted Sentinel. "I should just order you to get some sleep," Blair said wryly. Jim's mouth quirked into a smile. "Yeah, yeah, so not going to happen," Blair said as he circled around to the side of the bed. Jim blinked, seeming to pull himself out of the dazed quiet he'd been in.

"Blair, I'm fine," he said quietly.

"You're fine by your definition, which means you haven't worked yourself to the point of exhaustion where you might drop at any point," Blair contradicted him. He let his voice grow soft and rhythmic. "But you're going to lay there like a good Sentinel and let me do the work here because you are so totally worn through. Man, Alex has had you wound tighter than a nun's underwear. You've been twitching at every noise, and your body is still all tight." Blair caressed Jim's legs, slowly pushing them together before he crawled up Jim's body, his knees straddling Jim's thighs as he looked down at Jim.

Jim relaxed back onto his pillow, looking up at Blair with an openness Blair had never before seen. "Oh man, you are so incredibly hot... and wound up." Blair sat on Jim's thighs and ran his palms across Jim's chest, and the muscles truly were tight. Smiling impishly, he massaged Jim's chest and shoulders, totally ignoring the hot cock that pressed against his leg. Of course, he ignored his own cock, too, but that torture was more than worth it. Jim's hands twitched and he arched his spine as Blair's fingers worked south, slowly soothing and rubbing his pecs before he pulled at each nipple briefly.

Jim's closed eyes flicked open and then fell shut again as Blair's hands worked down over stomach muscles until they finally brushed against the nest of hair around Jim's cock. Then Jim hissed with need. His fists curled into the sheets, but he lay otherwise still as Blair's fingers teased him by detouring around to the dip of his hip.

"Turn over," Blair said, his own voice breathy and strained as he tried to not come all over Jim. He raised himself up so that he was kneeling over Jim, giving him just enough room to turn if he moved carefully.

Jim's mouth curled into a smile, but he didn't even bother to open his eyes as he squirmed around to his stomach. It took some shifting and rearranging of covers before he could find a way to lay on his stomach without hurting his cock, but he finally got arranged, and Blair let his weight settle on Jim's legs again, pinning him down.

This time, Blair pressed the heels of his hands deep into the tight muscles of Jim's back. Blair added a soft litany of words in his best Guide voice. "You're incredibly strong. Oh man, you are like GI Joe from my childhood. The moral man who's always out to save life, liberty, and the American way. So incredibly sexy. My protector. You did your duty, and now you get to stand down. Alex is gone, and I'm safe." Blair worked up Jim's spine and then over to the right, his fingers finding knots in the muscles that he worked to smooth out. Jim grunted as Blair found a particularly tight muscle and attacked it with the heel of his hand.

"You can relax now," Blair said as he ran his hands over Jim's hot back. From the way Jim arched his back and groaned, Blair suspected that relaxing wasn't quite what he was thinking about. Blair shifted to the side and got off the bed, letting his fingers trail over the back of Jim's leg as he reached for the nightstand. He expected some sort of cursing about moving faster. When Jim got horny, he tended to have slightly less patience than a crack addict, but instead, he just lay on the bed watching Blair.

"Normally you would have just brought yourself off by now," Blair commented as he grabbed the lube and took a second to sit on the edge of the bed. Jim didn't answer, but he reached up and rested his hand against Blair's hip. "Of course you make up for that with your willingness to just keep going once you've finished, but self-denial has never been your kink," Blair finished with some amusement.

"Thought I'd try something new," Jim said sleepily, his fingers dancing over Blair's hip.

"Man, when you make up your mind to not be bothered, you are seriously not bothered." Blair clicked the lube open and slicked his fingers. Rather than getting uptight, Jim just chuckled. That ended when Blair circled a slick finger around Jim's ass. Jim hissed and spread his legs a little more.

Blair studied his lover: the quiet expression and chiseled body, the beads of sweat gathering at his spine and the small tremors that ran through his shoulders. "You are seriously hot like this."

With half-open eyes, Jim considered him for a second. "Do you plan on getting around to doing something this year?" he asked with a wry smile. Despite his words, he continued to lie peacefully under Blair's hands.

"Backseat driver," Blair huffed. Jim might mellow under the Guide voice but it was pretty damn obvious he was still the same old Jim. "Kneel up."

With a salacious grin, Jim shifted up to his knees, spreading his legs so that his heavy cock hung down. Blair ran a slick hand over the hot flesh, and Jim shivered. Before Jim could recover, Blair slipped a finger inside and pressed deep into him.

"Blair." Jim mangled the word.

"Problem?" Blair teased as he braced on hand on Jim's hip and slowly moved his finger in and out of Jim several times before adding a second finger.

"You're trying to kill me, aren't you, Chief?" Jim moaned as he thrust back.

"Hey, no way. You Sentinels are way too hard to break in for me to go through that again," Blair joked as he knelt on the bed behind Jim. From the amused snort, Jim obviously had another opinion on that. Behind Jim, Blair lined up and started pressing slowly in, but Jim thrust suddenly backwards, impaling himself on Blair's cock.

Blair gave a strangled cry, his body thrusting back instinctively as his need to come overcame any other thought rattling around in his brain. Jim matched him thrust for thrust, countering every drive with a withdrawal in perfect rhythm. Entirely too soon, Blair came with a hoarse shout, his hands clutching Jim's hips.

Still gasping, Blair slumped over Jim's back, his brain oozing out his ears. Below him, Jim writhed. It took Blair a second to realize that Jim hadn't come; he was still panting, his body tight as he rocked back and forth. Reaching around, Blair tightened his hand around Jim's hard cock, and Jim bucked into the grip, coming within the first stroke and splattering his come over the bed.

For long minutes, they were statues panting for breath, locked in their embrace as they both came down from the high of the orgasm. Then Jim twisted around and lay to the side of the wet spot, pulling Blair down with him so that Blair ended up with his head on Jim's chest. For long moments, Blair lay with his head over Jim's heart, listening to it beat steadily. Alex was gone. They were still together. This was the biggest storm in their relationship yet, and somehow Blair couldn't escape the feeling that they had just slid past some looming disaster.

"So, we're good?" Blair finally asked.

Jim chuckled. "Darwin, if you don't recognize that as good, we need to get you some therapy."

"Yeah, yeah," Blair answered, too lazy to even lift himself up enough to look at Jim's face. Jim's stroked his hair, and Blair vowed to never cut it again.

"So, we're okay?" Blair asked again. Even telling himself that he sounded needy couldn't stop his mouth.

"We're fine, Chief. And next time, I'm putting you up against the wall and having my evil way with you, even if I have to gag you to get the job done," he warned. Blair smiled and watched as the light from downstairs gleamed off his ring.

"Promises, promises," Blair joked. He got a finger-poke in the ribs in return. Yep, they were back to normal.




"Sandburg, hurry your ass up!" Jim yelled from the elevator. The newest detective—a young man with spiked, bleached hair—chuckled at the evidence that Blair was in hot water with his partner again. Blair spared the man a quick glare before he grabbed his bag and his legal pads, trying to run after Jim and shove his paperwork into his bag at the same time.

"Blair," Jim said wearily.

"I know. I know!" Blair practically ran into the elevator just as the alarm sounded because Jim had held it open so long.

"Chief, you could just take some time off," Jim sighed as he let the elevator doors close.

"No way. I'm fine. I'm just fine," Blair said as he pulled out a pocket notebook and started thumbing through it. "Where to?"

"I thought I might run home to change shirts before going out for an interview with McCracken."

Blair glanced up at the coffee stain down Jim's arm. "Man, I am so sorry," he repeated.

"Save it, Chief. At least it wasn't hot."

"I'll wash it," Blair offered quickly. Jim gave him that disbelieving look... the one that made it perfectly clear that no matter what promise Blair made, Jim knew he was going to end up washing his own shirt. "Oh man, this will be better once I have the dissertation done. I’m just drowning in data, you know?"

"I know you're doing something good for these veterans," Jim said, slipping his hand down to Blair's back and gently pushing him out of the elevator when the doors opened. Blair was trying to find his notebook with case information... which seemed to have vanished under all the other crap he'd shoved in his bag.

"Oh man, I can't find my notes on the McCracken case." Blair pulled out the notes from Sentinel Clark and shoved them under his arm as he tried to dig deeper into his bag. No way would he have lost his case notes.

"Don't sweat it. You probably left your McCracken notes at the loft. You can look when I pick up a new shirt," Jim said as he steered them past a group of patrol officers.

"God, Jim, I’m so sorry," Blair apologized. He'd been doing a lot of that lately... apologizing. It seemed like he was always apologizing ever since Special Agent Anderson of the FBI had convinced someone at Walter Reed Army Medical Center to look at his work on Sentinels. He'd gone from having data on two Sentinels to having data on eighteen men and women who'd been referred to the center after having episodes that appeared to match Blair's dissertation. Sixteen had eventually lost their hypersensitivity, one had gone missing, and one was in a coma.

And now, Blair felt pulled in a dozen different directions. Jim was his Sentinel. Jim's cases were, in many ways, his first priority. Every time Jim walked out to work a case alone, Blair could feel the creeping fear that he was doing something wrong. He had to put Jim first. Jim was his lover, his family, his partner, his Sentinel.

But then Eli would call about the need to finish the dissertation and Blair would scramble to organize his notes only to have Dr. Muir call to consult about another set of case notes he'd dug up in old files. New data led to whole new theories, and the field of Sentinel studies was one giant sand dune shifting under him. And then the Chancellor would call with her unctuous encouragement as she made noises about him taking a faculty job at Rainier just as soon as he finished, and exactly how soon did he plan to finish. Then Simon would start making noises about partnering Jim up with Megan or, even worse, the new putz, and Blair was right back to the beginning where he knew he should put Jim first.

The whole ride back to the loft, Blair was silent as he struggled to finish just one of his self appointed tasks for the day: going through the latest fax from Dr. Muir. Like many of the others, Charles Clark had been initially diagnosed with acute stress disorder after a training mission that went wrong, although the ways it went wrong seemed to have vanished from the records. Blair snorted at that redaction of information. Schmucks. The army tortured their own guys into displaying Sentinel traits under the guise of training, labeled them head cases, and then shuffled them off to Walter Reed.

Before Blair had even noticed they were on Prospect, Jim reached over and plucked the papers from Blair's hands. "We're here, Professor. And if you try to read and walk at the same time again, I'm going to actually let you walk into the light post." Since Jim didn't look like he was joking, Blair snatched the file back and shoved it into his bag.

"Geez, one little mishap and you go all Mother Hen on me," Blair snorted as he followed Jim into the building.

"One little mishap? Sandburg, you've been one long mishap for the last three weeks. You need to take some downtime and get one of these projects off your plate before you kill someone with one of your mishaps and I have to arrest you," Jim said with a snort that didn't actually sound all that amused.

"Maybe when your caseload is lighter," Blair said absent-mindedly, not really paying attention as Jim opened the front door and sort of shoved him toward the dining room table. Blair's various files and notebooks and records were sprawled all over the table, a mute testament to how stressed he was because normally Blair tried to prevent his office from spilling out into the main room. "I'm sure the McCracken notes are in here," he said as he started digging through the piles.

"I'm sure they are," Jim agreed. The clinking of something that sounded like handcuffs didn't faze Blair until cold steel locked around his wrist.

"What?" Blair looked at the handcuff locked around his arm, the other end was locked around a chain and that led to the main pillar that held up the loft area. "Jim?" Blair turned a confused look toward his friend... his friend who had just handcuffed him to a pillar in their home.

"Forget it, Chief. You're running yourself ragged trying to do everything. So, you need to sit down and try and finish this damn dissertation of yours and if Stoddard or Edwards or Muir or anyone else calls, I'm going to rip them a new asshole before hanging up on them."

"Jim," Blair said disbelievingly, then he switched into a more sultry tone. "You don't want to do this, Jim. Come on, we have cases. Unlock the cuff."

Jim leaned against the kitchen island and looked at him. "You know, the tone is almost right. I can feel your words like insects down my skin, but when you have the Guide voice right, insects is not how I'd describe it," Jim said in an almost clinical tone. Part of Blair wanted to grab another notebook and start taking notes, but instead he grabbed the chain and yanked it.

"Man, this is ridiculous."

"Yep," Jim quickly agreed, "which is why you need to sit down and focus on your work instead of trying to bounce between a half-dozen different projects at once. And you know that or else your Guide voice would work and I'd be uncuffing you."

"But," Blair protested.

"Nope. Either you finish your dissertation or you get yourself caught up enough to be able to ask to be uncuffed in a voice that suggests you actually want to be uncuffed. Right now, you and your work need some quality time, and I'm reviewing the Academy requirements for potential redundancies or new methods classes."

"You're what?" Blair asked in confusion as he sat down on the closest chair.

"I'm on desk duty until I'm feeling one-hundred percent after this persistent cough I've been suffering," Jim said as he faked a cough or two. "So, you need to get your shit done before we both go stir crazy."

Blair started to argue, but Jim walked away with a whistle and Blair's chain wasn't long enough for him to reach the stairs. Actually, his chain wasn't long enough for him to reach anything other than his notes and laptop. The chain dragged across the table as he reached for a file.

"Jim?" Blair yelled up.


"Can you cuff my leg instead because this is going to annoy the piss out of me," Blair pointed out. Jim looked over the railing and smiled at him.

"Right after I change my shirt, Chief."

Yeah, they had issues. A therapist would look at them and probably call their relationship questionable and Blair could come up with a few psychological conditions he could qualify for all by himself. Jim had kidnapped him, he had enthralled Jim, they had both covered up for an international thief turned eco-warrior and a radical reformer. Their issues had issues.

Jim came down with the key in hand, cheerfully unlocking Blair's wrist before wrapping the chain around Blair's leg and locking it with a padlock. "The cuff is too small for an ankle, but I could probably requisition ankle cuffs if you're going to keep being stubborn, Chief," Jim offered before ruffling Blair's hair.

"Nah, I'm good," Blair said as he settled down at the table to write. The phone had been moved away from the table and even from here, Blair could see the wire had been unplugged from the wall.

"Let me know if you need anything. I'm just going to be reviewing some paperwork," Jim said as he headed for the couch and opened a thick envelope of papers.

Yeah, their relationship was nuts, but it worked for them.


Keep reading the sequel: Pandora's Box

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