Leading to Water
Warnings: Animal Play, BDSM

Part One:

Blair stretched and felt every muscle in his body strain and twitch. Oh yeah, Jim had definitely worked him hard last night. As much as Blair had spend his first twenty-five years of his life chasing women, he really loved having a strong male lover, someone who could help take the edge off and bring him down when he got really worked up. Jim knew just how to do that.

Red marks around his wrists showed where he had fought the leather cuffs, but those would fade before he had to go back to work. And if they didn’t… well, the secretaries already had their tongues wagging about whatever lover had caught Blair’s eye and was regularly leaving bite marks on his neck.

Grabbing his robe, he padded downstairs, beckoned by the smell of bacon and eggs. After a really energetic night, Jim always seemed to feel the need to load on the proteins. “Hey,” Blair said as he hit the bottom of the stairs. Jim was wearing sweatpants and his bare back was a roadmap of perfection.

“Morning,” he answered.

“Man, I was so wound tighter than a tick last night. Those assholes at the governor’s office doing that astroturfing bullshit to undermine the women’s protection bill… so not cool.”

Jim turned and held an arm out. Blair slipped himself into the space Jim made, wrapping his arms around Jim and soaking up the warmth. “Trust me, I don’t mind.” Jim chuckled. “Watching you tied up and squirming is not exactly a chore.”

“Man, good thing, because you know I’m going to get that worked up all over again by next weekend. The governor’s office is creating all these websites making it look like women’s groups find this bill offensive.” Blair snorted. “Yeah, like women are offended by a bill that would protect their rights in cases of domestic violence. Schmuck.”

Jim gave Blair’s hair a tug. “You’ll nail his political ass to the wall, Chief.”

“Damn right,” Blair agreed. He groaned as Jim’s hug made all his aches more vivid. “I’m just really glad you were here to talk me out of shooting the bastard.”

“What I did last night… it’s not called talk, Sandburg.” Jim bent down and scented Blair’s neck before he ran a tongue along the line of muscle that ran between the shoulder and the jaw. Blair shivered.

“Oh man, if you start that, I’m going to end up begging you to tie me to the bed, and the groceries will not buy themselves.”

Jim chuckled and let Blair go with a slap on his hip.

“Be right out,” Blair said, darting into the bathroom before he ended up peeing on Jim’s leg. There was kinky, and then there was just unsanitary and disturbing. Being with Jim may have tilted his sexual preferences a little, but he still believed pee belonged in a toilet or under a tree.

By the time Blair got out of his shower, Jim had finished eating and his plate was washed and sitting in the drainer, there wasn‘t a plate of food waiting for Blair, the lid sitting over it to keep it warm. Clearly Jim was not as happy as Blair had assumed after a night of really hot sex. Usually Jim wanted to eat breakfast together and check on all the marks he’d left on Blair’s body, although Blair honestly wasn’t sure if that was concern over potential injuries or just a prurient desire to see his marks on Blair’s body. Either way, this morning was clearly going to be different. Jim sat in front of the television, seemingly engrossed by a rerun of a basketball game.

As good as the bacon and eggs smelled, Blair opted for whole wheat toast and fresh strawberries. Unlike Jim, he spent a lot of his day sitting at a desk, and he just couldn’t afford the calories. Munching on his breakfast, he waited for Jim to say something, but the man just stared at the TV as thought hypnotized.

Jim might let things fester, but Blair was more the kind to poke and prod and pick scabs, so by the time he put his dishes in the sink, he had decided to verbally pick at whatever scab Jim was nursing.

Plopping down on the opposite side of the couch, Blair crossed his legs and stared at Jim. “What bug crawled up your ass and died?”

The words clearly shocked Jim. He looked over, his eyes wide. “Nice, Sandburg,” he eventually answered, sarcasm fully in place.

“No, nice is when my lover talks to me. Bug up the ass is when he pretends that everything is nice and refuses to talk. Man, my insecurities have insecurities. I have therapists on speed-dial. If left in a corner without sunlight for two days, I sprout random neuroses. So, unless you want me to start making really shitty and self-destructive guesses about why your head is up your ass, you’d better talk.”

Jim crossed his arms, but he looked more weary than angry. “I just need some time to myself, Blair. Is there anything wrong with a man needing a little time away from people?”

Blair opened his mouth to give a quick answer, but the expression on Jim’s face stopped him. Whatever was going on, it was eating at Jim. “Man, I totally get that. But going off on your own only works if you know what you’re trying to purge from the soul. Tell me what’s going on and I will back off so fast your head will spin.”

“Sandburg,” Jim sighed.

“Forget it, Ellison. If you need to go commune with yourself, hey, I am all for that. If you’re running away from me or this relationship or some problem you’re not telling me about, I can promise you this: I will have an entire litter of neuroses by the time you get back. The things will be peeing all over the carpet and I will be a total basket case.”

“So, this is all about you?” Jim narrowed his eyes into a dangerous glare.

“No, it’s all about us, and I am one half of the us. So if one half is hiding something from the other half, yes, this is all about us.”

Jim sighed and leaned back into the couch, and Blair just waited. He recognized success when he saw it, and now he just had to wait for Jim to spit out whatever weirdness had him tied up in knots.

“I just couldn‘t sleep last night.”

“Insomnia?” Blair knew how much that sucked. He also knew Jim had been suffering with it longer than he was willing to admit.

Jim scrubbed his hand over his face. “Yeah.”

“As bad as before?” In the past, Jim had missed entire nights. Blair would wake up and find their CD collection alphabetized or the grout bleached. However, from the shocked expression on Jim‘s face, he thought he'd been keeping his problem hidden. The governor wasn't the only schmuck in Washington.

“It's worse,” Jim finally admitted.

“Well, shit. How bad is worse?” Blair studied Jim, trying to see just how much his overly stoic partner was hiding from him.

“When the insomnia is driving crazy, you have no idea how I wanted to kill you for being asleep at night,” Jim whispered. Blair’s eyebrows went up. “I wander through the house and come and stare at you, slumbering away and peacefully unaware that I could really, really murder you just because I want to sleep so much.” Jim was staring at the wall now, refusing to even look at Blair.

Blair blinked and just stared at Jim, not sure what he should say. “Oh man,” he finally managed, but then he couldn’t decide what else to say.

“It’s my problem, Chief.”

“No, this is definitely an ‘our problem’ kind of thing,” Blair immediately answered. The last thing he needed was for Jim to go off on a self-flagellation jag. Blair might have neuroses, but Jim had guilt issues that could swallow all of Cascade and still have room for dessert. “Are your senses giving you trouble? That time you got your ears cleaned--oh man, you were a basket case there for a while.”

“It’s not my senses,” Jim growled in that tone that meant he hated his senses and didn’t want to talk about them. Unfortunately, Blair didn’t know whether that meant Jim was telling the truth or just avoiding the issue.

“Okay, can you tell me what it is, then?” Blair tried to keep his voice calm but maybe he failed because Jim glared at him.

“Drop it, Sandburg.”

“You say you want to murder me in my sleep, and then you expect me to drop it?” Blair gave a derisive snort. “Not happening.”

“I wouldn’t do it.”

“Well, duh. Man, that is not the point. The point is that you’re reaching a critical mass here, and I didn’t even know the reactor was in danger of overloading.”

“It isn’t. Fuck." Jim rubbed his face. "I shouldn’t have said anything.”

“Do not go there. Hey, I came to you and confessed that I was flying apart at the seams and I needed to be tied up and ravaged until I forgot my name. If I can confess that, you can….” Blair stopped. The slow red color that crept up Jim’s neck and into his face was pretty much a confession, and this particular confession shocked Blair into speechlessness.

Exploding up from the couch, Jim headed for the stairs. “Forget it, Freud.”

“Oh no. No, no, no, no, no.” Blair ran after Jim, catching him by the arm, but Jim pretty well just dragged him to the bottom of the stairs before turning to glare at him. “There is nothing wrong with having to let go of control." Blair blurted before Jim could go and shut him down. "Human beings need to unwind, and if poker night or basketball aren’t doing it anymore, there’s nothing wrong with needing a partner to help you reach that release. Hey, I’m complimented. Considering all the trust issues you have, the very fact that you have even considered this is making my ego grow by leaps and bounds here.”

“I’m not considering it,” Jim almost growled.

“Okay, so that brought my ego back down.” Blair chewed at his lip. Had he read Jim wrong? “You want to let go, the way I can only let go when you tie me up, right?”

The blush on Jim’s face suggested yes, but the scowl on his face said no. Blair was confused.

“Talk to me, here, Jim. Do you want to find another lover? Do you want someone who is a better match for you physically?” Blair could hear the tremble in his own voice, and he tried to control it. If he wasn’t doing it for Jim, then Jim needed to find someone else. Naomi always told him that love and sexuality were not mutually exclusive, but he felt like someone had kicked him in the guts anyway. Correction, he felt like Jim had kicked him in the guts.

“What? No. Shit, Sandburg, how do you manage to get things so spectacularly wrong when you’re such a bright guy?” Suddenly Jim’s arms were around him, and Blair took a deep and trembling breath as he tried to just feel those arms and not the overwhelming fear that tried to swallow him whole. “Fuck. Fine. I envy the way you get to fight and know you’re safe and the way you sleep afterward. I envy your ability to just turn off all the voices in your head when I’m up pacing the floors.”

“But?” Blair prompted. He wasn’t sure he wanted to hear the ‘but’; however, they had to find a solution because Jim was clearly fraying at the edges.

“But I just can’t do it,” Jim said. His voice was thick with weariness. “I can’t just lay down and let someone, not even you, tie me down. It feels…” Jim took a deep breath. “It feels wrong, Sandburg. As much as I want the peace you find in the end, I can’t do it, Blair. I just can’t do it.”

Blair felt his heart ache for Jim. Some days, Blair wanted to track down every person who’d ever betrayed Jim and beat the shit out of them. Seriously. Considering Jim’s trust had pretty much been betrayed at every turn, it wasn’t surprising that he couldn’t let himself go, but the need to stop carrying the weight of the world was clearly just too heavy for Jim. Something was going to crack.

“Give me time to think about it?” Blair asked.

“Is that code for you plan to nag the shit out of me?” Jim asked.

“What? No way.”

Jim released him and leaned back to really study him.

Blair blushed. “Okay, fine, I do that. But not this time. This is too important. I just need time to think about it.”

Jim sighed, but then with one last pat on Blair’s shoulder, he headed upstairs--the weight of the world still on his shoulders.


Part Two:

Jim walked into the loft, his whole body tight as a drum, and his head was even pounding to match. Finding the criminals should be the hard part of his job, but more and more, dealing with DAs and news reporters was trumping the damn cases. The new commissioner thought it looked good to have Jim out there looking noble for the newspapers, reassuring the public that some piece of slime would be convicted. Apparently he had decided that Jim’s cover on Time and his time as Cop of the Year made him some sort of spokesperson, and no amount of growling or snapping at reporters could convince him otherwise. Right now, Jim was starting to consider places to hide the commissioner’s body. Killing him would be the easy part.

“Whoa. Okay, that is your cranky look.” Blair stopped in the middle of the kitchen, a towel in his hands as he looked at Jim the way a technician looked at a nuclear reactor that might go off at any second.

“Long day.”

“That wouldn’t have anything to do with you showing up on the news again, would it?”

Jim cringed. Damn it. He’d thought he’d snapped at the damn reporters enough to keep the them from using the footage.

“Face it, Jim, you’re what the public wants to see. You’re handsome, uncompromising, and scary as hell, which are three things John Q. Public wants in a cop.”

“Maybe I should start wearing gay pride shirts to work.” Jim dropped down onto the couch and closed his eyes. Within a minute, Blair was pressing a cold bottle into his hand. “Bless you,” Jim said as he brought the beer up to his lips.

“If you did wear your gay pride shirt, parts of this city would consider canonizing you,” Blair pointed out.

“As long as the commissioner wasn't in that group, I’d live.” Jim didn’t even bother to open his eyes. For long minutes, the loft was relatively quiet. Blair went back to the kitchen, and Jim could track him by each dish he moved and even the soft huffing sound as he breathed. Downstairs, the Mrs. Pittman was moving her furniture again. Either she was obsessed with vacuuming under her couch or she just really liked to try out new arrangements.

“So,” Blair said, but his voice had that edge to it that it got when he was about to say something that really made Jim question the sanity of dating someone who had no common sense. Jim opened one eye warily. Edging his way out of the kitchen, Blair hovered around the dining table, twisting a towel. “I was watching a documentary on the training of elite soldiers today.” Jim’s eyebrows went up. “That is like seriously impressive stuff--swimming the length of a pool with your hands and feet tied. Whoa.” Blair inched closer. “Could you still do that?”

Jim thought about it for a second. “Maybe. I don’t know if I could still do it with gear on like I did when I was nineteen, but with street clothes, probably.”

“That is….” Blair tossed his towel down on the table and his hands instantly flew into motion. “Seriously impressive. That is fucking seriously impressive. And the survival training. Did you really practice escape scenarios with your hands tied?”

Jim pried his other eye open so that he’d be able to see the trap when it hit him. In terms of subtlety, Blair ranked up there with a freight train loaded with TNT. “Yeah.”

Blair nodded again. “That must have been a real challenge.”

Jim sat up. Whatever Blair was about to hit him with, he felt like he needed to brace himself. “That’s the point of special ops training, Chief. It’s a challenge. Hopefully they challenge you enough that you don’t get killed the first time you walk into enemy territory.”

Blair was manically nodding. “Totally. I mean, I think that’s overkill, but if your job is to go out and fight, I can see where that would prepare you. And I bet you get totally consumed by the whole scenario.”

“Whatever crazy scheme has crossed your mind, just spit it out,” Jim suggested.

Blair jumped like a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar. “Okay,” he said slowly. “I know you really need to get away--to turn all this off, so what if we do a little training--get out into nature and let you show off all those skills of yours with a challenge that would really let you cut loose and focus on the physical.”

“A challenge?” Jim loved a good challenge, but with Blair, it paid to be specific.

“Sure,” Blair smiled widely. “I design a challenge--something like you have to go 48 hours without my capturing you or you forfeit.”

Jim’s interest faded. “Chief,” he said softly. He wasn’t sure how to say this without really offending his partner, but outmaneuvering Blair was not exactly a challenge.

“I know, I know… if the playing field were even, you would kick my ass. But let’s throw a twist in there. Imagine you’re dressed only in boots with your hands tied. Man, escaping from me would not be all that easy then.”

Jim took another drink of his beer and imagined the teasing he could do if he managed to escape Blair under those circumstances, and he had very little doubt that he could. If nothing else, Sandburg would be distracted as hell if Jim were naked. “So, it would be like a training scenario,” Jim said slowly.

“Sort of.” Blair was hedging again.

Jim lifted an eyebrow.

“Okay, here’s the thing. The second part, I know it’s what you need. I know it. It would let you totally leave all this shit with work at home and tune out the stress, but you are going to kick and scream the whole way.”

“What is it?” Jim’s stomach tightened in anticipation--either that or fear. He was man enough to admit that some of Blair’s harebrained schemes scared the shit out of him. Either way, the feeling was a nice distraction from his hate for the commissioner.

“I’ll make you a bet.” Blair’s grin made it clear that he had a trick or two up his sleeve.

Jim crossed his arms and waited.

“If you can tell me every spice in tonight’s dinner, I’ll tell you part two right now. If not, you trust me on it and agree to give it a try before you chicken out.”

Jim glared at Blair. The little shit was playing him, and he wasn’t even trying to be subtle. Jim smelled the air and realized that Blair had taken that damn lemon-oil cleaner to the whole kitchen. “In a mood for a little cleaning?” Jim asked. If Blair thought some lemon would throw him off, Jim was about to make him sorry. “I tell you what… let’s up the stakes. If you win, I will not only go along with part two, but I’ll go through with it without even trying to back out.” Jim knew that it couldn’t be too crazy because Blair always suggested they try the weirdest stuff on himself first. “However, if I win, you’ll do the paperwork at the station for a week, and cook with at least two forms of meat at every meal during that same week.” Jim smirked.

Blair’s cringe suggested that he wasn’t as sure of himself as he pretended. Jim smiled as he considered bacon and sausage for breakfast, club sandwiches for lunch and meat-lovers pizza for dinner. Yeah, he was going to be putting in extra hours at the gym, but it was going to be worth it. “Deal,” Blair finally said, his lips pressed together into a tight line. “So, you have to tell me what spices I have in the chicken.”

Jim smelled the air, working to ignore the lemon that tried to overwhelm him. A few years ago, he wouldn’t have been able to even try this, but his senses were more powerful and he’d learned more about exotic spices than he’d ever expected with Blair as a roommate. “Mustard seed, garlic, onion, cumin,” Jim said, naming the easy ones. “Ginger, cauliflower, tomato, potato.”

“The cauliflower and the potatoes are the main ingredients along with the chicken, but you’re right.”

“Yeah, but I’m not going to lose this bet because you decide that some South American culture calls cauliflower a spice,” Jim said. Knowing Blair, that’s exactly what he’d planned. Jim took another smell and struggled to get past the bitterness of the garlic. The kid had definitely used too much. “Turmeric, hot pepper.”

“Hot green pepper,” Blair said, “but I’ll give you that one. I’m not sure there is a chemical difference between red and green hot peppers.” Blair’s voice had that curious tone that suggested Jim was going to be experimented on in the near future.

“There are more, aren’t there?” Jim asked.

Blair blinked at him with exaggerated innocence. “I don’t know. Are there?”

Oh yeah, there were more. Jim cursed his guide and smelled again. “Vegetable oil.”

“Okay, no way is that a spice,” Blair muttered.

“Jim pushed aside his frustration and just concentrated on the sense of smell. He thought he’d identified each. Closing his eyes, he tried dismissing each spice he’d named, struggling to find any hidden scent beneath the surface. He smiled at a smell so ubiquitous that he nearly missed it. “Salt,” Jim declared triumphantly. “The last ingredient is salt.

Blair slowly smiled... smugly. Jim could feel his stomach drop as Blair's glee shone through his manipulative little smile. “You missed asafoetida ,” Blair said.


“Asafoetida … it’s used in Indian cooking by certain sects who don’t permit garlic and onion.” Blair pulled out a little bottle and handed it over. “Barry Farm Asafoetida Powder 2oz.” Jim stared at the label with the little red barn and green trees and realized his guide had conned him. However, Jim knew how to be a good sport.

“You’ll pay for this,” he warned. Blair’s grin grew wider.

“You’ll do it?”

“I don’t go back on bets,” Jim said. Considering that part one was for him to be naked and tied, he was really wondering what the hell Blair planned to come up with for this mysterious part two. “Oh, and remember, Chief, I am special ops trained, so when I manage to get free and take you hostage, do not expect any mercy from me.” Jim prowled closer, using his size to herd Blair back into the kitchen. Blair’s eyes darkened with lust, the pupils growing to twice their size. From the smell, the chicken had a way to cook yet, so reaching out, Jim caught Blair and pushed him into the refrigerator, pinning him there and using his body to trap him before tangling his fingers in Blair’s hair and pulling his head to one side.

“Oh man, okay, the chicken can wait,” Blair’s words came as breathy gasps.

“Yes, it can.” Jim ran his teeth over Blair’s exposed neck and wallowed in the smell of lust that blossomed. Blair was so predictable. Jim just wondered if the cuffs were still dangling from the railing because he definitely needed to work up an appetite before dinner.



Part Three:

Jim parked the truck and got out. The sun streamed down into the clearing, and Jim gravitated toward the shadow of a giant pine where the shade and the mountain breeze made the air more comfortable. If Blair wanted to tie Jim up and see if any of his survival training had stuck, this was a nice place to do it. They were high enough into the mountains that the streams would be fairly fresh and any bugs he picked up from natural water would be easy enough to clean out with a few antibiotics. The road had been miserable enough to discourage anyone who wasn’t truly determined to get out here and even stretching his hearing to its absolute limits, Jim couldn’t hear anyone.

“Does this work?” Blair asked. He was bouncing on his toes.

“It’s private. So, where is this safe zone you set up?” Jim asked. He’d cut his own leg off before he went into any safe zone, but he had to admit that it was smart to have something prepared in case the unexpected happened.

The game was to not get caught for forty-eight hours. Of course, Jim planned to play a little differently. He planned to turn the tables on Blair by getting himself free and then capturing Blair. Considering how much the man liked being tied up and then teased until he couldn’t see straight, Jim didn’t think Blair would mind. Jim envied Blair his ability to just let everything go and throw himself into his sexuality--into becoming a creature that was all about feeling and not thinking. For someone who thought so damn much, he was fucking good at turning it off.

“This way.” Blair bounded through the trees, following a faint trail up toward the summit. Not more than 500 yards in, Blair detoured off the trail and the ruins of an old cabin appeared between the trees. Some old trapper or moonshiner had built the cabin sturdily enough that the thick log walls and stone foundation still stood, even though a tree was pushing against the south wall. The roof had collapsed, but someone--Jim was guessing Blair--had strung a heavy tarp over the small cabin to make it weather-proof again. Filmy blue curtains hung at the open windows and a vividly colored crazy-quilt hung over the back of one of the two camping chairs set out on the small clearing in front. Blair had done everything to make it clear that someone was claiming the site. Jim figured any campers who came this far up the mountain wanted privacy, so they’d probably avoid the site.

“You were busy when you were up here, Chief.”

“Oh man, you have no idea. I worked my ass off,” Blair agreed, and he’d never sounded quite so happy about manual labor. Oh, Blair would pitch in with the best of them, but he didn’t generally like to get hot and sweaty and sore--not unless it involved a bed. “Check out behind the cabin.”

Feeling more than a little suspicious, Jim headed around to the side. Whoever had built the cabin had used a crack in the mountain face as a windbreak so the house was at the wide end of the crack. An old fence with a heavy gate went from the east side of the house to the edge of the crack, so Jim figured the trapper had kept his animals in the v-shaped space behind the house. The two stone walls rose high enough to keep even the most determined animal in, so the short length of fence would be the only worry and the animals would be protected from the worst of the winds. This high in the mountains, winter would be long and hard, so it made sense to keep the animals close. He pulled the gate, surprised that it still worked, but then when he looked, he could see new steel hardware.

“Exactly how long were you up here?” he asked suspiciously.

“Too fucking long. But man, it was worth every second.” From the way Blair had that little bounce in his legs even when he was standing still, he had something huge in mind. The space behind the house had been cleared. The ground was as smooth as if cattle still trampled it every day and three posts had new chrome rings set deep into the old wood, as if someone was about to ride up on a wagon and ask to hitch a horse. The trapper who’d built this place probably tied his horses off to brand them or shoe them.

In the corner where the two rock faces met to make this three-sided enclosure, another tarp had been pitched to make a shelter just tall enough for Jim to step under and check out. Posts along the sides had hooks where several lengths of rope hung, and Jim raised his eyebrows at that bit of preparation. “Are you planning to move up here?” Jim joked.

“Permanently? No way. However, I sure wouldn’t mind visiting more.”

Jim nodded. Either fear or anticipation was starting to make his stomach roll and his muscles tighten. Blair wanted to test his training, so Jim had expected something out of his survival training days. Stripped of weapons and tied, he’d be dumped out of a helicopter and told to make it back to a drop point before the members of his unit who were “hunting” him could tag him. Jim had loved the training. His favorite trick was to use his legs to attack and disable one of the hunters and then use that man’s weapons to free himself. In the back of his mind, he really had expected to easily do the same to Blair, but all this preparation spoke of some devious scheme that Jim hadn’t expected. However, there was only one way to know what was on his lover’s mind.

“Right then, strip now?” Jim pursed his lips and looked at Blair, enjoying the way his words stole Blair’s breath and made his pupils dilate.

“Yeah,” Blair finally said, his voice breathy.

With a shrug, Jim pulled his shirt off and walked over to toss it over the top rail of the fence. That’s when he noticed that the top rail was actually held in with shiny, new galvanized screws. “Doing a little home repair around here?” Jim asked. The rail was a split log; Blair must have brought help to get it lifted and screwed into place.

“Yep,” Blair agreed, sounding smug.

Jim toed off his shoes so he could strip off his pants and underwear. And then, knowing that he still looked good, Jim leaned against the fence and just watched Blair to see what the man might do. Well, what he would do other than stare at Jim and compulsively swallow. It felt good to have a lover who still wanted him so much.

“I’m not running around woods barefoot, Sandburg,” Jim prompted him. Blair had said he would bring boots, but if he didn’t Jim was putting his sneakers back on.

“Oh, yeah.” Blair darted up the back steps into the cabin and came out with boots stolen right out of Jim’s closet. They were combat boots--which was both a blessing and a curse. The heavy leather would be good protection in the forest and would actually make formidable weapons. Kicking or just pinning Blair down with the sole of one of those boots would immobilize him effectively. However, they were heavy, and Jim wasn’t used to running in heavy boots anymore. They’d tire him quicker than normal. But this was Blair’s challenge, and Jim was going to not only live up to it, but surprise his guide.

Holding out a hand, Jim took the boots and pulled them on over his socks. “No handcuffs, right?” Jim double checked. Cuffs were easy enough to pick, but not out here in the woods where paperclips weren’t as common.

“Right. In fact, I got leather so there wouldn’t be any marks.”

Jim kept his face neutral even though he was cursing inside. Leather cuffs were going to be harder to deal with than knots, which time and a little wiggling could usually loosen. Blair went inside again and came out with two pieces of leather that looked too large for simple cuffs.

“Chief?” Jim asked, eying the contraptions.

“Hey, you lost the bet.” Blair sounded defensive as he almost clutched the leather to his chest.

With a sigh, Jim crossed his arms. “I’m not going back on the bet, Darwin. I’m not even worried because I have no doubt that this training refresher is going to end the same way most of my training missions did--with anyone who gets in my way eating dirt.”

“So, you think I’m going to get my ass kicked.” Blair narrowed his eyes--his insecurity vanishing under the challenge. Oh yeah, Blair might pretend to be all hippy child, but kick sand in his face, and he had as much testosterone as any other man.

“Oh yeah, you are, short stuff,” Jim said smugly.

“You know, you deserve to get taken down a peg or two.”

“And you’re not the one who’s going to do it,” Jim finished.

“Oh, you are asking for it.”

“Yeah, yeah, talk on, little man.” Jim smiled. He was feeling better already. Blair, however, was glaring as he finally started coming over.

“Fine. We’ll see who gets nailed and who does the nailing this weekend,” Blair said. Jim rolled his eyes. While he didn’t mind rolling over for Blair, the man loved getting pinned to the bed too much to be much for nailing others. “Hold your hand out.”

“So, we’re starting the training challenge?” Jim felt odd holding out a hand for someone to restrain him, but the fact that he was going to have a chance to fight back, just like in training, made him comply. Blair pulled a leather bag around Jim’s hand, and immediately Jim saw what evil plan his guide had. “Fuck,” Jim cursed. The damn cuffs had a leather mitt attached that was going to make his hands worthless.

“You give up?” Blair asked. He wasn’t even finished buckling the first mitt around Jim’s left hand.

“Fuck no. I can beat you even with both hands tied behind my back.” Jim tried to not cringe at that wording. If his hands were in mitts and tied behind his back, this game was going to be harder than anything Jim went through in boot camp. “Were you a drill sergeant in a previous life?” Jim asked dryly as Blair finished buckling the mitt and checked the tightness before adding a small lock.

“Man, I don’t think they let guys do this in the service.”

“You might be surprised,” Jim said, waiting as Blair put another mitt around Jim’s right hand. “Some of the guys in training did seem to like putting the trainees through our paces just a little too much.”

“Hell, if I were one of them, I’d make you run the obstacle course all the time, just to watch you do it,” Blair agreed with a laugh.

“If you were one of them, I’d never run it because I’d have you bent over the low crawl bars nailing your ass.”

“Oh man. I’m going to come in my pants,” Blair complained softly. Jim moved forward, pressing his body against Blair. He didn’t need hands to dominate his partner. “Oh no. No, if you want to nail me to something, you’re going to have to fight for it.” Blair put out his hands and pushed at Jim’s chest.

“Oh, I can do that,” Jim agreed.

“After we get the training mission set up,” Blair said firmly.

Jim sighed. “Fine, whatever evil little thing you have in your head, just do it,” Jim said.

Blair’s bright smile was not reassuring. “Wait here,” Blair said, darting into the cabin. Jim leaned against the fence and studied his mitted hands. As far as he could tell, the straps were thick enough and tight enough that Jim couldn’t pull free. The locks would be easy enough pick if his hands were free, but there was still a fair chance he could pick them with his mouth if he could find a paperclip or maybe a thin nail. Jim started scuffing his boots along the dusty ground, searching for a dropped nail. Before he could find anything, Blair came back out of the cabin with more leather.

“I’m starting to think you have a leather fetish,” Jim commented dryly.

“Hey, you’re special ops trained, and I sit behind a desk all day. If we’re going to have a fair fight here, I have to even the playing field before I get trounced.”

“So, you want this to be a fight?” Jim looked at Blair suspiciously.

“Oh man, from the second I said I wanted to see if you still had your survival skills, you were so planning on ambushing me,” Blair said with a laugh. “Face it, Ellison, you’re predictable.”

“Oh, you think so?” Jim asked. He was clearly going to have to teach Blair a new lesson or two.

“Yep, but hey, that’s why I love you.” Going up on his toes, Blair gave Jim a quick kiss that completely derailed Jim’s growing frustration. Before he could regroup, Blair had dropped to his knees and was bucking a padded leather strap around Jim’s thigh. Thigh-to-wrist restraints. Okay, Jim could slide the thigh restraint down… he’d lose a little skin, but he’d survived worse in training.

“I think I should be complimented on how far overboard you’re going,” Jim commented.

Blair snorted. “Are you kidding? You’ve been chained to a pipe with a bomb ticking down, and you still kicked the bad guys’ asses. This is not overboard… this is just on-board." Blair pulled Jim’s hand down and clipped the wrist to the thigh cuff with a small lock. “Man, do you think there’s a chance you can still get the jump on me?”

“My odds are getting stiffer, but yeah, I could still win,” Jim said. He tried to sound doubtful, but he was still 60% sure he could take Blair and 90% sure he could stay free for forty-eight hours to win the bet. Blair locked Jim’s right wrist to his right thigh and then spent a second stroking the back of Jim’s leg and his ass. “Having fun, Sandburg?”

“Man, usually you have me so distracted I don’t get to appreciate just how beautiful and powerful you really are.” The reverent tone went straight to Jim’s dick, and since he was pretty much naked, there was no way to hide his erection.

“Forget it, Sandburg. You are not giving me some blow job that makes me slow and lazy and easy to catch,” Jim warned darkly.

“Geez, can’t a man just appreciate that his lover is completely fucking hot?”

“No,” Jim answered firmly.

“Hardass,” Blair muttered as he picked up what looked like a leather belt. He wrapped it around Jim’s waist and buckled it at the back before locking the thigh cuffs to it by straps. Clearly Jim would not be pulling the thigh cuffs down. He shifted and pulled at the restraints, testing his range of movement. The straps were long enough that he still had some control over his arms--enough to put Blair in a head lock certainly. His legs were still his most dangerous weapon, though, and it looked like Blair was out of leather. Jim would have objected to shackles anyway because his escape and evade classes had never involved shackles.

“You done?” Jim asked. “What sort of a head start are you giving me?”

“Okay, there’s one more thing, it’s the part two of this little challenge, and I don’t want your answer now, but I want you to think about it.”

Jim looked at Blair suspiciously. The kid had obviously spent way too long planning this whole scenario.

“Okay, you know how you really envied me the ability to let go and submit?”

“Sandburg, if you try something, I’m going to prove to you just how hard I can still kick your ass,” Jim warned. His stomach curled in… not fear, but something equally dark and unwanted.

Blair skittered backwards. “Whoa, hey, no fucking way. I am not trying anything. This is going to be a chance for you to get out there and do your best to kick my ass. Trust me, I am well aware of the fact that you still are physically stronger and more dangerous than I am. But man, that does not guarantee that you’re going to win. I mean, I had a chance to prepare ahead of time, and I’m not exactly an idiot. So feel free to try and kick my ass, and I‘m going to feel more than free to try and kick yours. That‘s the deal, and I‘m not changing it.”

Jim gave Blair a feral smile. “So, you’re really going to try and take me down? Bring it on, kiddo. You just tell me how much of a head start you’re giving me. Or maybe you want to start right now.” Jim moved forward, crowding Blair. Blair’s pupils widened.

“Okay, damn, you are seriously making it hard to think.”

“Good,” Jim answered.

“Just give me a second,” Blair said, holding a hand up.

“If you’re going to cry uncle..."

"Hold on." Blair grabbed a length of rope that was hanging from the top of the fence, and Jim watched him cautiously. He was not about to underestimate Blair and end up hog tied. Nope. He was going to find a way to pin his guide to the ground one way or another. "Okay, first of all, I'm going to change before we get started, so we aren't started yet."

"Changed?" Jim narrowed his eyes.

"No way can you deal with zippers," Blair's gaze slid down to Jim's restrained hands, and Jim had to admit that a zipper or button would be a challenge. "So I'm going to wear something with an elastic waistband. I have sweats in the cabin."

Jim gave his lover a smug smile. Yeah, Blair was competitive, but not so competitive that he wanted to win. He was making it easier for Jim to nail his ass and Jim would happily oblige.

"Man, don't go there," Blair said, poking his finger toward Jim. "I am so going to kick your ass, Mr. Special Ops trained."

"You and whose army?" Jim taunted back.

"Yeah, yeah. I think we can both agree that Jim Ellison is all dominant all the time."

"You said it, Chief, not me," Jim pointed out. Stalking closer, he watched as Blair's fingers tightened on the coil of rope. However, he wasn't foolish enough to rush in. Blair had something up his sleeve, and Jim wasn't going to engage the enemy until he knew where all the traps were laid. Actually, he was enjoying this a hell of a lot more than he’d ever expected.

"Are you listening to me or just imagining the ways you could ravage me, hands tied or not?"

Jim backed up a step and tried to dial it back a little. The fact was that Blair smelled so damn good and Jim was so hyped up on this little challenge that he didn't want to dial it back. He wanted to pin Blair to the ground and take him.

"Okay," Blair said, but his shaky voice made it pretty damn obvious that he was feeling as horny as Jim was. Jim's smirk grew. "Okay, we both know that Jim Ellison is pretty damn dominant. So, what about turning Jim off... just leaving him behind temporarily?"

"I don't roleplay," Jim said. He was not going to pretend to be someone he wasn't. He'd done that for his father far too long to find any sexual satisfaction in it.

"I hear you," Blair said, "and I totally understand. You're James Joseph Ellison, but you're also the sentinel and you're the detective and you're the lover and you're the primitive creature that feels the adrenaline and testosterone rushing through his veins. I’m just suggesting that you let one part take over for a while, and let Jim rest."

"You want me to turn the sentinel senses loose?"

From the blank stare Blair was giving him, Jim was guessing he'd gotten that part wrong.

"Could you?"

"No," Jim said. "They're tools, Sandburg. The senses don't have a personality of their own."

Blair nodded. "But your primitive self does. Oh man, your primitive self is thinking all about ravaging me, even while your more logical self is trying to avoid this rope." Blair gripped the rope tighter. "I'm suggesting that you let the primitive self rule for a while."

"So, you want me to be stupid and easy to catch," Jim summarized.

Blair sighed. "You never make it easy, do you?"

Feeling a twinge of discomfort at that judgment, Jim stood up straight. "Maybe I would if you ever spit out what you were thinking." Jim strained at the cuffs that restrained him. Hell, he'd probably asked to be cut loose only he was not losing this fucking bet.

Blair backed up a step, and Jim felt a little better at having intimidated Blair that much. "Animal play, Jim. I understand that you can't just submit to me because that is so not your nature, but I also know that you have got to blow off some steam because you are in grave danger of becoming an asshole. So I'm suggesting that you let yourself just be the primitive beast. Let yourself be a leopard or a stallion.” Blair gave a feral smile, which looked odd on his open and loving face. “When I catch you and put this rope around your neck to metaphorically drag you back here, I'll follow your lead, but think about it. Think about a strong stallion fighting the horse breaker, struggling for freedom before finally learning to gentle. Think about letting all your worries go and just becoming a creature intent on fighting and fucking and freedom and the feel of leather as you realize that you have to lay down your power at someone’s feet.” Blair’s words made Jim shiver. “If you want what I have under your hands, you have to let yourself think about the possibilities. Oh," Blair looked down at his watch, "think fast because you have fifteen minutes before I'm coming for you."

Blair had a dangerous look on his face and he pulled off a strand of loop. Jim realized that he had already made a noose at the end, and one toss of the rope was going to end this far quicker than Jim wanted. Jim backed up toward the open gate where he'd have a chance to duck down if Blair threw it.

"I thought you were giving me a fifteen minute head start," Jim said, his eyes Blair while he watched the rope out of his peripheral vision.

"I am, unless you come at me again. Man, I adore it when you dominate me, but I'm just as excited about the idea of capturing you and holding you at my mercy." Blair actually did look excited about the prospect.

"You have to catch me first," Jim said, and then he was trotting out the gate and toward the trees where that rope would be less than worthless.


Part Four:

The summer day was warm, but Jim could feel his skin contract and chill as he thought about what Blair had said. It would be so tempting. When he watched Blair yield himself up to Jim’s hands, Jim wondered what he felt. No matter how many worries he had, no matter how many papers were due or people were pulling at him to perform miracles, Blair’s worries just faded away as he turned into Jim’s creature, a lover that existed to squirm and writhe under Jim’s direction.

But as much as curiosity and need pulled at Jim, he couldn’t see himself doing that. He loved Blair, but Blair was not exactly the sort to inspire thoughts of toppiness. Jim had found a stash of huckleberries, and he carefully knelt and pulled the dark ripe fruit free with his lips. Could he have played submissive with any of the other men in his life?

Jim had a number of gay lovers, but most had been a quick fuck and quicker goodbye. Right after the service, he’d hooked up with another man coming out of the Army. Rich had never been anything other than a fuck buddy, and then they’d both decided that they wanted lives that didn’t include people looking at them like they were degenerates. Ironically, Jim had ended up in Vice not long after that. He’d crawled around sewers with men running cock fights and dog fights and women who sold their bodies for a ten-dollar bag of crack. Most everyone in the station had looked at him like he was a degenerate just because he’d been so fucking good at working undercover that they half-believed that he was a slimy piece of shit. Simon had saved him from that. Simon and Jack.

However, Jim was pretty sure he’d cut off his own dick before submitting to those two. He had needed them to respect him.

Squirming around, Jim used the side of his boot to obscure his trail. He didn’t think Blair could read trail signs, but the man had a bad habit of pulling the strangest skills out of his ass. Knowing him, he'd been an apprentice to an Apache scout. No matter how much Jim tried to distract himself with thoughts of Blair riding around with war paint, he couldn't keep his mind from wandering back to the original question. Submitting. Would Simon have disrespected him if he’d known Jim was not only gay but bottom? Jim twisted around to rub his mouth on his shoulder, and he smeared purple juice across his skin. Simon wasn’t an idiot. He had to know that Jim and Blair were together, and yet Simon had never shown Blair any disrespect.

Jim smiled at that. Okay, he’d never shown Blair any disrespect for being gay or for clearly being willing to submit to Jim. All Simon’s disrespect centered around the fact that Blair simply didn’t fit into the military and police culture Simon had always known. Blair stormed in with his unrestrained energy and wild ideas, and it was sometimes hard to not get frustrated.

Sighing Jim headed for a tuft of low grasses where he could sit without getting rocks poking him in uncomfortable spots. If Blair could hear his thoughts, the man would lecture him until the rest of Jim’s hair fell out. Obviously submitting didn’t mean losing someone’s respect. Hell, Jim envied Blair. However, there were screws floating around loose in Jim’s brain.

Closing his eyes, Jim cast out with his hearing, straining to find his devious guide. It didn’t take long before Jim spotted the only other human heartbeat in the area. Blair’s heart was tripping along dangerously fast, but some instinct told Jim that excitement and not fear was driving it. He smiled. So the mouse liked to play with the cat.

Pushing up to his knees, Jim got up and slowly started making his way toward Blair. The situation called for caution, but Jim had once taken out a four-man Ranger unit while playing this game, so taking Blair out should not pose too much trouble.

Jim passed a spot with a green rope tied low down between two trees, leaf litter partially hiding the trap, and he spotted a net ready to fall from the treetops. Either Blair had help or he’d been reading up on hunting traps, either that or these were primitive hunting traps used by some obscure culture.

The smell of frying fish drifted on the air, and Jim narrowed his eyes. That little shit was frying fish when Jim was stuck eating berries and bark. Oh, he was going to pay for that. Jim stalked closer, his eyes searching the shadows for more surprises. With the sun starting to sink low, the trees had shadows twice as long as their trunks, and Jim crept from shadow to shadow. His arms felt strange, but Jim didn’t want to shake them out to get the circulation going because that might make the various buckles and locks jingle and Jim didn’t want to give away his position.

Blair was in front of the cabin and a large fish was cooking in a wire campfire cage propped over the coals. The smell made Jim’s mouth water. The tart huckleberries had given him the sugar he needed, but they hadn’t filled his belly. Blair was busily chopping something on a low table set up near the fire. Something slid off, and he bent over to pick it up, his sweatpants rode low enough to show enough of his bare butt. Jim gritted his teeth. There was nothing he wanted more than to rush out and knock Blair back into the dust and take him. However, rushing in would only get him caught. This place smelled not only like a fish, but also, metaphorically, like a trap.

Jim faded back into the trees, leaving Blair to fix his dinner. Hunger wasn’t chasing Jim, and since he knew he only had to hold out two days, it wasn’t likely to become a problem. Jim worked his way around to the north, but he hadn’t gotten far before a new smell stopped him. Grease. Not cooking grease but axel grease, like there was some machine that required lubrication. Jim went to one knee as he considered the many things Blair might have dragged up here. Pulleys and springs required greasing. Maybe he’d made a pitfall or an net trap hung on some sort of triggered pulley. Jim studied the canopy of leaves, struggling to identify the source. He could tell it was above him and just to the west, but he couldn’t see any wires or ropes.

Slowly edging east, away from the cabin, Jim opened his senses in a way he would never dare in the city. He could smell the rotting leaves under the dry layer that crunched under his boots. He could hear a deer picking her way through the tall grasses, he could taste the pollen spores on the wind, but nothing told him what Blair had brought out here. Opening his mouth, he breathed deeply, searching for clues. A faint metal trace was all he could find, but then the actual machine might be mostly rope or plastic. Jim shied away from the smell and moved back to the south where he had been. Now the cabin lay west of him, and Jim would have to stare into the sun to keep an eye on the direction of most danger. That felt dangerous. Instead Jim moved down south of the cabin.

He wasn’t far from the car now, and Jim could smell the traces of city that clung to the tires and the mud that lined the truck’s underside. Jim frowned. He could also smell something almost peppery. Glancing around, Jim studied the area. This might be another of Blair’s tricks, but if someone had been messing with his truck, Jim wanted to know.

Edging out of the forest, Jim crossed into a road that was mostly a trail weeds with only a thin undercoat of gravel that hinted at where a road had once gone through. The peppery smell was worse now, and Jim searched the truck, zooming in with his senses. Along the hood, tiny black dots were scattered in a random pattern. Blair had peppered the truck.

Now Jim was really worried. Blair was up to something, and when all else failed, you had to keep the enemy in sight. Moving back into the forest, Jim started working his way north to the cabin, but he moved warily. Was Blair trying to keep him away from the truck or hiding the scent of something he had used on the truck. It was reasonable to assume Jim might go to the truck… well, except that Jim wasn’t. He had already decided to beat Blair fair and square, and using the weapons he did have hidden in the truck didn’t seem like a fair win.

He could hear Blair long before he could see him. The sound of a knife clicking against the chopping board and the faint and frantic beating of his heart made him stand out like a spotlight in the growing twilight. Blair was either nervous as hell or scared shitless. Jim was guessing he was nervous, and that implied that he was anticipating something. A sense of disquiet made Jim shiver. A buckle jingled softly and Jim went to one knee in the leaf litter, waiting to see if Blair would react.

The knife still clicked against the board for a second and then he could hear the scrape of metal against wood as Blair used the knife to push the vegetables off the board and into a pot where they rang dully. With his eyes closed, Jim could almost see the scene. Blair was making not just a meal, but a gourmet meal. The faint smell of camp bread was starting to rise. Blair loved to make the flatbread that cooked under the embers of a glowing campfire. The crusty bread always tasted of smoke and salt and the butter melted into the soft doughy inside.

Getting up, Jim edged closer. Obviously Blair hoped to tempt Jim into camp. Maybe he planned to turn his back to Jim and let Jim tackle him. Jim’s cock rose as he thought about laying on top of Blair, holding him down. A few feet closer and Jim could see Blair bent over the fire, poking at the roasting fish with a fork. Did Blair want to lose this fight? Jim remembered how determined Blair had sounded.

The thought of Blair’s suggested made Jim’s stomach tightened and roll. Blair had offered Jim a chance to both surrender and fight… but he’d also said that Jim wasn’t built to submit, and he wasn’t. He’d follow orders--when he thought the orders were valid--but he didn’t submit. Now dominating? Oh, he was good at being a dominating bastard. Luckily for both of them, Blair enjoyed being dominated.

A little pop and puff of air startled Jim. Silently, he turned to study the forest just behind and to the north of him. Had something triggered one of Blair’s traps? After several second, Jim moved to get a better view. Maybe some poor deer was now under one of Blair’s nets.

Suddenly, a huge bang slammed into Jim and a flare of light blinded him so that he could only stumble back, his ears ringing so badly that he was temporarily deafened. The ground vibrated, and Jim realized that he was dangerously close to Blair’s camp. Using his memory of the ground, Jim moved deeper into the forest, scraping his shoulder on the rough bark of some tree when he estimated his position wrong. A familiar smell warned him that Blair was near, and Jim swung around, his mouth open to try and gather up the scents of the forest.

Magnesium stained his tongue. That little shit had used a flash-bang stun grenade. Jim’s eyes watered, and he had to squint to see shadows, but still, he could see the shadow moving in on him fast. Jim didn’t have time to retreat, so he attacked. Darting forward, he put his shoulder down and took Blair in the stomach, knocking him to the ground. Blair went down silently, only grunting when his back hit the ground. Normally Jim would have followed up on the moment to subdue Blair completely, but the flash-bang had thrown off his balance and his watering eyes could still only see in dim shadows, so he pulled back and turned to run now that Blair was down.

Almost immediately, Jim knew he had a problem. Something brushed against the back of his right leg, but when Jim tried to change direction, a sharp yank at his waist told him that something had caught him. That little shit. Jim reversed direction. He had to charge Blair hard enough and fast enough to make him drop the other end of the rope. His blurry vision slowed him down for a second, but then he found Blair just getting up from the ground. Jim charged at him with a low cry, and Blair scrambled away. However, instead of dropping the rope, Blair tossed the rope over a tall branch and then darted off the other direction. The rope pulled tight, and Jim was stuck standing under the branch, the rope pulling tight against his belt.

With a wordless cry, Jim tried to throw himself to the ground. He hoped to crack the branch and then just physically drag Blair close enough to pin. The branch held and Jim felt panic roll up through him as Blair tied the end off against another branch. Nearly panicked now, Jim put his boots up against the tree trunk and shoved with all his might. His back ached as the belt dug into his skin, but the branch held all of Jim's weight without the slightest sign of failing.

"Whoa there. Hey, it's okay," Blair said calmly... or as calmly as he could when he was still panting and his heart was pounding a million miles a second.

Jim opened his mouth to curse or complain or something, but he didn't want to complain... he wanted to fight. Damn it. He wanted to throw everything into fighting and not fucking care what someone else wanted. Blair edged closer and Jim struck out with his boot.

Blair's hands went wide as he stumbled back and then windmilled his arms to keep his balance. "Whoa there. Oh man, that old story about catching the tiger by the tail is suddenly sounding so very true. Okay. I can do this."

Jim glared at Blair and gave a loud snort. The first time Blair tried to move him, Jim was going to knock him down and give the man a hickey that could be seen from fucking space.

"Good boy," Blair crooned. "It's okay. No need to kill the nice guide." Blair edged closer, and Jim watched him. Throwing his weight back against the tree limb, he tried again to free himself, but Blair had chosen the strongest damn branch on the tree.

"Well, shit. I'll be right back. Good boy. Stay here." Blair darted off, and Jim watched him race toward the cabin.

Jim looked up at the gray sky. The last streaks of pink were starting to fade and it would start getting chilly soon. Jim had planned to nest up in the leaf litter for warmth, but he couldn't now. Blair probably had much better sleeping quarters planned, and Jim knew that. Hell, all he had to do was say 'uncle' and he could sleep inside with Blair's hot body pressed up against him. Jim had never known anyone who generated or craved heat as much as Blair. But somehow, Jim knew he wasn't going to do that. He wanted a fight, and he was going to get it. He pulled against the rope again, tugging as he studied the path the rope took up and over the branch and then down to the other branch where Blair had tied him off. He had to give Blair credit for a lot more tactical skill than Jim had expected. The man was good.

So why the hell wasn't he just saying that? Jim shifted forward and changed the direction, pulling forward. The damn branch still held. Jim couldn't go anywhere. He was trapped, waiting for Blair, and he searched for the panic that he thought he should be feeling. Instead, Jim was feeling a steadily building sense of satisfaction. He was going to find a way out of this. The same determination and joy he felt every time he faced a basketball game against guys half his age crept up on him. Oh, Jim wasn't ready to give up on this little game, not yet.

Footsteps crashed through the woods, and Jim turned to pin Blair with a cold glare. Oh, they were so not even close to done yet. Blair came around the last tree and stopped dead when he caught sight of Jim.

"Jim?" Blair sounded unsure.

Instead of answering, Jim snorted again and pulled back against the rope, waiting for Blair to come close.

"Good, boy. Now you know you don't want to kick," Blair said as he inched closer, several ropes in hand.

Jim snorted again and angled his body.

"Or maybe you do." Blair almost sounded amused. "Shit. You are beautiful. Man, your muscles have muscles. Greek gods have nothing on you, do they? Good boy." He kept up a litany of compliments, and Jim watched him edge closer, ready to kick. Unfortunately, Blair stayed too far away. Instead, he shook out two ropes, each with a lasso on the end. Jim knew just how well Blair could throw those, and Jim had very little room to maneuver around.

When Blair tossed the first at the ground, Jim realized too late that he should have pressed as far forward as he could. Well, he wasn't a dumb animal that would just step into a noose. Jim caught his toe under the edge of the lasso to throw it back. At the last second, he spotted the lasso coming at his head, and he pulled his legs out from under him. For a second, he swung from the belt, his weight finally making the branch give the smallest of groans, and both lassos missed their target.

"Good boy. You are clever. Man, we may be out here a while. Such a clever boy you are," Blair just kept on with his soothing tone. The words were damn near nonsensical, but the tone was more calming than Jim wanted to admit. The second time Blair tried the same trick, Jim dodged to the left, missing both lassos. However, the third time, Jim leaned too far and had to catch his balance, which meant he put his foot right into the lasso. Blair pulled it tight faster than Jim could pull it back.

"Whoo hoo. Score one for the guide," Blair said. Jim jerked so hard on the rope that it pulled through Blair's hands. Blair dropped it with a yelp, but before Jim could shake the noose off his foot, Blair had grabbed it again. "Oh man, score two for rope burn," Blair said sadly. Jim had a little flash of guilt, but then Blair pulled the rope tight, and Jim was forced so far forward that his left foot had to carry all the weight and his right foot was just above the ground. Shit. He couldn't even kick without out ending up dangling helplessly from the damn belt.

Blair moved in slowly, watching Jim, and it soothed his ego a little that Blair was still so nervous. "Good boy," Blair said. He moved around to Jim's right side where Jim had no hope of kicking. Reaching out, Blair ran a hand over Jim's shoulder. Jim shivered, his skin more sensitive than normal. At first Jim thought his sense of touch was dialed up, but it couldn’t be. Jim didn't even realize he'd worked up a sweat until Blair's hands slid over his slick skin. "Such a beautiful boy you are." Jim jerked at the restraints, making all the buckles jingle, but Blair just kept stroking.

Jim let out a shaky breath. It felt good. God it felt good. He didn't have to try and monitor Blair or make it good for Blair. Hell, he was still pretty sure he'd kick like hell if he had half a chance, and yet Blair's hands were running over his skin, the touch reverent and warm. Jim threw his shoulders back as the sweat gathered along his spine, tickling as it ran down.

"Good boy. Such a strong boy you are. You'd kick the shit out of someone who wasn't careful, wouldn't you? Yes you would." Blair ran his hand along Jim's back, and shivers followed the touch. "It's getting cold and dark and dinner is probably half-burned, so let's get you back to camp. Jim watched suspiciously as Blair crouched down and fastened a cuff around his left leg, attaching a short hobble strap to it before fitting his right leg with another cuff. For a second, Jim thought he was going to get a chance to fight because the hobble strap was too short for Blair to fasten his legs together. Going over to where Blair had tied off the rope, Blair loosened it to give Jim's right leg another inch of room. However, before Jim could kick, Blair tied it off again.

Jim sighed loudly as Blair came back and quickly fastened the strap. Jim knew when he was beat. Part of him considered just surrendering, but he just didn't want to. Jim watched as Blair took the rope off his leg and then untied the first rope, the one that Blair had hooked to Jim's belt. Blair had to let go of the end in order to pull it back over the limb, and Jim watched, not even bothering to hide his feral smile. Sure enough, Blair was jumpy when he came close. Jim was standing right under the branch where the rope was caught, so Blair had to get within striking distance to grab the rope and pull it down.

"Good boy. Back up boy." Jim narrowed his eyes and glared at Blair. The light was dying now and pretty soon Jim was going to have the clear advantage. Clearly Blair knew that because he was moving close, his eyes focused on Jim as he moved in. Jim waited until Blair reached for the rope and then he lunged forward. The hobbles pulled him up short, but he let himself fall forward and hit Blair. Blair went back into the tree and Jim had Blair nicely trapped. With a chuckle, Jim nuzzled into Blair's hair, finding the place where shoulder and neck met, and he pressed his teeth lightly to the skin while sucking. Blair made a little mewling sound. If he was thinking right, he'd probably complain like hell about Jim marking him so high up. Not only was Blair going to purple, but short of wearing a turtleneck in July, he wasn't going to be able to hide it.

Blair pushed against Jim's body, and Jim ignored the struggles. After all, if Jim was a wild animal, that meant he got to do as he liked. Eventually a tug at his waist forced Jim back, and he made an unhappy growl as Blair caught the trailing rope and pulled it. Since the rope was still draped over the limb, that forced Jim back. Jim shuffled back, happy enough now that he'd marked his lover. Blair held the rope with one hand and touched his neck with the other, flinching visibly.

"Oh man. I am never going to hear the end of this. You are dangerous. Man, next time I want to mess with a wild animal, I’m doing it in November when I can hide the damage. " For all his complaints, Blair didn't actually sound unhappy. This time when Blair went to grab the part of the rope closest to Jim, Jim let him with only a half-hearted snap toward Blair's hand. Even that was more to make Blair jump. And boy did he.

"You shit. You did that on purpose." Blair got the rope looped once around his hand and then he started trying to lead Jim back toward camp. However, Jim had no intention of making any of this easy. Leaning back, he pulled in the other direction, and Blair's eyes widened as he realized he was getting dragged into the woods. Yep, even tied and hobbled, Jim could hold his own.

"Shit shit shit. Good boy. Down boy," Blair said, but Jim strained against the rope. He could feel his leg muscles protesting as Blair dug in his own heels, creating an odd tug of war, but Jim had a lot more physical strength, even when he had very limited motion. "Oh man, I need to learn to not underestimate you. Good boy. You know you want a nice warm place to sleep boy, right? Come on, boy," Blair wheedled. Jim kept inexorably dragging him away from the cabin. "Well fuck this." Blair darted to the side, and before Jim could do anything, Blair had darted around a tree, using the tree as the focal point. "One way or another, you are going into camp," Blair pulled, but Jim set in his own heels. With the rope wrapped around the tree, Jim couldn't drag Blair into the woods, but Blair couldn't pull him, either. It was the world's oddest Mexican standoff.

Blair knotted the rope and sat down at the base of the tree. Holding out a hand, he called softly. "Come on, boy. Come here." Jim narrowed his eyes. No fucking way was he some damn pet to get called like a dog. Jim inched closer, playing the part. Blair's pupils were large and black in the darkness, but Jim could see the smile as Blair thought he'd finally found the key. "Good boy. That's a boy. Come on and we can go back and have a good meal. He raised his hand a little more. Jim just wanted the man to stay on the ground as he got closer, and luckily, he did. Jim figured Blair had some harebrained idea that he was less intimidating down there. The fact was that Jim was not intimidated by Blair.

That made him pause for a second. Tied up as tightly as he was, he probably should feel intimidated, but he didn't. He just felt free to fight like hell because this thrust up, Jim probably couldn't do Blair too much damage. Oh, he'd do him some damage to make him pay for winning the challenge, but Blair was safe from major injury.

Blair smiled widely as Jim got within touching distance, but then his eyes went wide with shock as Jim threw himself toward Blair. "Oh shit!" Blair had a chance to shout before Jim pinned him again, this time to the ground. Blair squirmed like mad this time, and Jim dug his toes into the soft earth and fought to stay on top of him. Finding the warm neck, Jim latched on again. By the time Jim was done, Blair was going to be too embarrassed to leave the house for fucking week. He was going to look like a chew toy. Jim smiled evilly as he sucked at the tender skin. He didn't get far before Blair got an arm free and pressed his thumb up into Jim's jaw.

The pain made Jim jerk back and then it wasn't hard for Blair to push Jim onto his side and then his back. Jim sighed unhappily as little twigs pressed into him and leaves stuck to his bare backside. Blair pulled something out of the back of his belt. More leather. Jim figured he probably had it coming since he'd attacked Blair twice in ten minutes, but he still tossed his head around and struggled as Blair worked to get the straps over his head. Jim wasn't surprised that he eventually lost and Blair tightened a harness around his head.

Jim blew out a big sigh through his nose. He couldn't play the same power games if Blair was leading him from a harness—the human neck just wasn't built for that kind of fight. The best tactic now was to wait for a better chance to fight.

"Good boy. Just settle down now." Blair spent a few minutes just stroking Jim's shoulder. The touch felt good, and Blair was straddling Jim, his ass pressing into Jim's cock. Jim was hardening. Digging his heels in, Jim thrust up into Blair. He couldn’t strip Blair naked and nail the man, but he sure could invite Blair to ride him. Blair patted him on the cheek. "Good boy. Just settle down and you'll get what you need."

Jim snorted and looked at Blair's crotch where Blair's erection was pressing up against the fabric of the sweatpants.

"Yeah, yeah. But man, that meal is going to be charcoal. Up boy. Come on. Be a good boy." Blair got up and helped Jim up to his feet. Sure enough, Blair had attached a lead to the halter, and Jim was forced to follow. He considered tackling Blair the second Blair turned his back, but unfortunately, Blair never did. He backed his way through the woods, pulling at Jim and forcing him toward the cabin.

Blair tied him off against a tree while he went to sort the meal, and Jim spent some time watching an ant struggle up the bark with a seed on its back. Some of the food was burned, but from the smell, most was fine. Jim wondered if he'd get any of it or if he'd annoyed Blair enough to get fed the protein bars they always carried as backup. It was strange knowing that he really didn't have a say in it. Oh, he could have a say if he just told Blair to get over and untie him, but Jim had scored three times now and he had every intention of playing this game through to the end. He might have lost, but there was losing and then there was going down without a fight. Sometimes Jim did one, but he never did the other.

"What a beautiful boy you are." Blair was back. He ran his hands over Jim's back and shoulders. His touch traced the muscles as Jim tensed them and then ran down over his ass. When Blair pressed his fingers against Jim's hole, Jim actually arched his back in invitation. At this point, any sex would be welcome. His cock was still half-hard from earlier, but Jim was tied so effectively that he couldn't do anything about it. "Shit. You are stunningly beautiful. You are also so not safe. I had no idea that one wild critter could do so much damage. Man, you are going to feel guilty when Brown gives me shit about the hickey from hell." Blair kept moving his hands over Jim's body, but Jim snorted his disagreement with that statement. He planned to smirk when Brown did exactly that.

Blair's hands vanished for a second, and then one appeared under Jim's nose. A piece of fish lay on Blair's palm. Sighing at the indignity, Jim reached down and picked up the food. Dignity was one thing, but fresh baked fish was another.

"Let's get my pretty boy fed and wiped down and then we have a nice bed for you in the lean to. Yes we do. You are far too beautiful to let you run wild in the woods. Besides, you'd terrorize all the other animals out there, wouldn't you?"



Part Five:

Morning came, and Jim had to wait for Blair to unhook his lead from the embedded ring in the stone wall and lead him out to pee on a bush. Breakfast was scrambled eggs from Blair's palm, at least until Blair wasn't keeping a close enough watch and Jim hip-checked him, sending him to the ground. Instead of getting upset, Blair just led Jim to one of the posts and tethered him to it before petting him again. This time, Blair's hands lingered over Jim's cock. Warm fingers teased him, stroking the slit and weighing each of his balls, and all Jim could do was groan with need as Blair then let his hands wander down to Jim's legs.

"Such a good boy." Blair paused. "Okay, maybe not good per say. Good at being a dangerous and wild animal, though. And beautiful," he added. "Oh man, this is about the most adrenaline I've ever had running through my veins at once. Holding your leash is like sitting down next to a tiger and really hoping it isn't going to eat you." Standing up, Blair let his hands caress Jim's back again. Blair seemed obsessed with it.

Leaning forward, Jim rubbed his cheek against the massive post he was tied to in order to scratch an itch on his cheek.

"I've heard there's one good way to gentle down a big stallion," Blair said, and his voice was deep with lust. If it wouldn't ruin the mood, Jim probably would have said that it was about damn time. "Oh yeah. Such a beautiful animal, and I know how to make you eat out of my hand." Blair laughed and slapped Jim's hip. "Actually, I can already make you eat out of my hand, but I know how to get you to do it without knocking me down afterwards."

Blair left, and Jim was forced to follow with his hearing as Blair headed for the cabin. Jim shifted his feet and listened to various zippers and clicks as Blair took things out of bags. Sleep still clung to Jim, which was strange because he'd slept for at least eight or nine hours. He wasn't sure of the time, but the shade cast by the tall stone sides of the crack suggested that it was mid-morning. Jim had woken only briefly during the first rays of morning, and after he'd found himself still secured and Blair still sleeping just far enough away that Jim couldn't reach him, Jim had closed his eyes again and gone back to sleep. He hadn't done that in years.

"Good boy. Oh yeah, I know what a boy needs," Blair said happily as he came back out. A sleeping bag rustled and Jim pulled against the rope to try and see what Blair was doing. The fact that he couldn't was uncomfortable and exciting and frustrating all at once. Jim was seeing a whole new side of Blair, and maybe that was why he just leaned into his post and waited for Blair to come untie him. His guide was a lot toppier than Jim normally gave him credit for, and for some reason, that made Jim all the more excited to get back to the loft, tie the man to the railing and pound him into the mattress. But for now, Blair was not going to be the one getting pounded.

When Blair came back, he repeated the petting ritual that Jim had come to expect. Blair's hand stroked over his shoulders and his back and his ass. Then Blair pressed up against his back and ran his hands over Jim's chest, teasing him by not touching his cock. Jim blew out an aggravated breath, but Blair totally ignored him. The petting continued until Jim was straining against the restraints and about to start rubbing on the post. Then Blair untied the lead and walked Jim over to the cabin's back porch. The porch was low enough that only two steps led up to it, and a sleeping bag was on both the porch and the ground just below it. Jim could see where this was going.

"Down boy," Blair ordered after he'd walked Jim over to the sleeping bags. He pulled down on the lead, and Jim got awkwardly to his knees. This would be easier without all the restraints, but Jim figured he had already shown that he would rather fight than play nice, and that was still true. Jim finally did get down, and Blair urged him to lay his chest down on the porch before he hopped up and went inside. Jim tried to struggle back up to his feet, but Blair's voice floated out. "Down boy, good boy."

Jim blew out an unhappy breath. He wanted to get this show on the road, but he settled back down. Blair came out almost immediately, but the lead stayed taut. Jim used the little room he had to shake his head. Blair had tied the lead off so Jim couldn't fight. Jim really was complimented that he could be tied hand and foot and Blair still didn't feel comfortable making himself vulnerable without securing Jim. Actually, Jim was surprised at his feelings all over the place this weekend.

"Good boy. My god you're muscled. I'm getting inferiority complexes back here." Strong hands ran over his ass, sliding easily. Blair had oil. Jim shifted his knees, spreading them and putting more of the weight on his chest. "Such a beautiful body you have." Blair slipped a finger inside, and Jim groaned at the pressure as Blair's finger went unerringly to his prostate. Jim refused to squirm and beg—not that he minded when Blair often did both, but he refused to. Instead he arched his back and strained against the restraints so that his muscles stood out. That got a chuckle from Blair as he ran a hand over Jim's hot back while sliding a second finger into Jim's hole.

"So, is my stallion going to settle down if I show him who's boss? Yes he is. Such a good boy."

Jim didn't bother to correct Blair on that little mistake in logic—not when he wanted Blair's cock in him already. After Jim got to come, he'd teach Blair that it took more than one mounting to gentle a stallion. Blair didn't bother with three fingers; he just pressed the head of his cock up against Jim's entrance. Jim didn’t bottom as often as Blair, and this was going to be a tight fit, but that felt right. Jim wanted this to be a little hard. It fit the game. Jim didn't need coddling or careful preparation; he needed Blair inside him now.

Jim grunted and tried to push himself back onto Blair's cock, but the lead attached to his bridle was too short. He couldn't even do that. Instead he just had to wait as Blair pressed slowly in with a hiss. Jim arched his back and grunted happily as the pressure made his cock fill and Blair's body pressed him into the sleeping back. With the little movement he could manage, Jim humped the side of the porch, rubbing himself as Blair started rocking in and out. Each stroke was longer and came faster and harder. Jim gave a pained cry as his need grew, and a hot hand found his cock. Fingers wrapped tightly around it, and Jim strained against the restraints. He fought with every fiber as Blair really pounded into him now.

Jim, who normally was the quiet one, came with a scream, his ass tightening. Blair gave a cry of his own and drove into Jim so hard that their flesh slapped and then he was coming inside Jim. Jim sagged against the porch, too sated and weary to even try to bite as Blair ran fingers over his face to trace over his features and follow the line of the leather bridle.

"You okay?" Blair asked softly. Jim blew air out his nose almost silently and then lay there under Blair, Blair's softening cock slipping out of his slicked hole.

Eventually Blair stroked his shoulder. "Good boy," Blair said.


Morning came too early for Jim on Sunday, even if it was so late that the sun was threatening the lean to. "Hey, Jim, do you have the sleeping bags out there?" Blair called.

Jim groaned and rolled to his side. He vaguely remembered Blair slipping each restraint off last night, but it had been in the middle of the best massage Jim had ever gotten in his life, and after one seriously long and tiring day, so the memory was vague and foggy with sleep. Jim reached up and rubbed a hand over his face. He could feel where the leather had pressed against him, but he could tell from the faintness of the heat signature that the marks would be visible only to sentinel eyes.

"Yeah, I got 'em," Jim answered. Getting up, Jim stretched his arms, reveling in the feeling of movement after a weekend of being tied. Blair stuck his head out the back door of the cabin, and Jim could see the worry in every line of Blair's face.

"Don't forget the leftovers, Chief. If you do, I'm making you walk back up here to get them," Jim threatened. Blair's smile lit his whole face.

"Forget that camp bread? No way. It's already in the truck."

"Then I guess it's time to call it a weekend, huh?" Jim bent over and picked up the sleeping bag and started rolling it. His ass felt stretched, but then he wasn't used to bottoming twice in a day. Looking over, Jim spotted his clothes exactly where he'd left them on Friday afternoon. "Here you go, Chief." Jim held out the sleeping bag, and Blair trotted across the enclosure where he'd used a long lead and a whip to make Jim run a wide circle like a horse on a lead. That was okay though because Jim had gotten his fourth point of the game by giving Blair a kick just hard enough to warn him that Jim would probably never be particularly tame or even friendly when it came right down to it.

Jim handed over the bag. "Are you okay, Blair?"

"Me?" Blair's voice squeaked in surprise.

"Yes, you. You got kicked more than once by a man who has broken people's ribs doing that." Jim gave Blair a stern look.

With a shrug, Blair pulled up his shirt to show the spot on his side where Jim had landed that last kick. It was splotchy and red with bruising, but it didn't look terrible. "I'm tougher than I look. You aren't going to break me."

Jim raised an eyebrow.

"Okay, so you came close there a couple of times. Man, when you knocked me to the ground, you really drove the air out of me, but the worst is this. How the hell am I supposed to show my face in the station?" Blair swept his hair back to show the most vivid, swollen and purple hickey Jim had ever seen in his life.

"It's not your face you have to worry about showing—it's that neck." Jim tried to keep the amusement out of his voice, but from the glare Blair gave him, he failed. Jim gave a shrug and walked across the corral to where his clothes waited for him.

Jim was sitting on the back porch tying his sneakers when Blair came back from loading the sleeping bags in the truck. Without a word, he sat down next to Jim. Left on his own, Jim would probably just ignore all the revelations of the weekend. He'd treat them like the sun... something that just existed and only needed explanation if you were obsessively nosey and curious. However, Jim knew Blair would never be able to let this lie.

"How did you know?" Jim asked, since that really was all he found remotely curious.

Blair shrugged. "I didn't."

"Chief, you had to have known something."

Blair blew out a breath. "Okay, I had a student write a paper on the culture of stables and kennels. It was interesting. He agreed to show me around, and I came to realize that a lot of the men and women who were submitting in the stables weren't all that damn submissive. You had already said that you envied how I could turn off, so..."

"So, you thought I could do this? You bought all that equipment on a hunch?"

Blair nodded. "Tom said I could return it if it was unused, but man, there is not a piece of leather that I brought that I didn't use, and I still felt like I was trying to hold onto the tiger's tail and not get ripped to pieces. If you want to do this again, I am totally there for you... this was one of the hottest sexual moments in my life, right behind the moment when I discovered that my dick would explode if you tied me to the railing. However, I want some warning because I'm buying more fucking leather. I swear, you are not getting to use me as a chew toy again."

"Sure I am... unless you can figure out a way to stop me," Jim pointed out.

"Man, I will figure something out because this is going to be downright embarrassing on Monday."

Jim didn’t answer, and for a time, they sat and listened to the birds calling.

"Are we going to do this again?" Blair asked softly.

Without answering, Jim looked around at the post where Blair had tied him and the place where he had hipchecked Blair to the ground. He'd kicked Blair by the fence, and Blair had tied him to this porch and had taken him so hard Jim could still feel it. And for the first time in months if not years, Jim felt totally relaxed.

"Same time next year... unless the commissioner keeps being an asshole and then we may just have to take another trip up here sooner," Jim agreed.

Blair's relief was obvious. Jim figured he was probably worried that Jim would take it out on him that Jim had suddenly found he wasn't quite as dominant as he thought. However, Jim knew that the second they hit Cascade, he would be. Blair would probably be tied to the railing before sunset. This was just a part of him that needed to come out and fight and strain and lay under Blair's hands with nothing to worry about but how to score one more point before getting tied to the porch and nailed.

"Man, Tom was right about one thing," Blair said as he stood.

"Oh, what's that?" Jim pushed himself up. His legs were sore from that damn run yesterday, but that had kept him from kicking Blair more than he had. It was funny, this morning, Jim disliked how many hits Blair had taken, and yet he knew that if they came up here again, Jim would take as many as he could. In fact, he would be very happy to pin Blair in a corner, pull those sweat pants off and prove that a stallion could just as easily mount Blair.

"Tom said that every person has to define him or herself. Some people become show ponies or draft horses or show horses or stallions... the personality is something inherent to the person and what they need out of the play."

"Oh?" Jim made the noise more to give Blair permission to keep talking than out of any curiosity. Blair was probably going to need to talk this to death just to prove to himself that Jim wasn't upset.

"Oh yeah. And man, you are the wildest fucking stallion I have ever seen. I don't care how much I train you, I have a feeling you will always be a wild stallion."

Jim pursed his lips. "Yep," he agreed. He could live with that. Jim stretched and felt a body that was totally rested and relaxed. He could totally live with being a wild stallion every once in a while.



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