Territorial Imperative 1

Title: Territorial Imperative 1

Author: Bone

Author's E-mail:

Author's URL:

Fandom: Sentinel

Category: Slash

Rating: NC-17

Pairing: Jim/Blair

Archive: Do not repost, publish or link without discussing it with me first.

Disclaimer: The Sentinel characters belong to Pet Fly Productions and Paramount. Written for pleasure, not profit. For adult readers only, please. Contains male/male sex.

Notes: Thanks go to my stalwart beta-readers, Kady Mae and Kat, and to JaC, for luring me in.

This is, like, torture. Stakeouts are bad enough. Stakeouts overnight, in February, in the middle of freaking nowhere just flat-out suck. How do we stay awake? We drink coffee. Lots and lots of coffee. Guess what that leads to? Yup. Peeing. Lots and lots of peeing. Slowly, but surely, Jim and I are christening most of the pines in a fifty-yard radius. How do we stay awake? Well, could you sleep if you had to piss every half hour? How do we keep warm? We don't. Do you know how hard it is to pee when you're fucking freezing?!? This is why I'm standing here, leaning against a tree with my dick in my very cold hand, my back to the marginally warmer truck, whispering encouragement to my recalcitrant bladder.

"C'mon, c'mon, the faster you do this, the faster we're back in the truck. Ahhh…"

Sometimes I wonder if this is worth it. The dissertation? An excuse. The Guide thing? Convenient, but no longer really necessary. At least on the surface. On the surface, the big guy's got a handle on his senses. He could talk himself out of a zoneout if he had to; he's pretty much able to keep them from happening at all. Underneath, though, it's different. It's like I'm velcroed to him. I could have stayed home tonight. Could have caught up on journal reading. Could have watched the Jags. Could have gone on a date. Could have done a lot of things. But I'd rather be here, freezing my sorry ass off, slurping seriously high octane beverages, blaming my racing heart on all that caffeine, peeing against a tree.

Man, I have got it bad. If someone had told me three years ago where I'd be tonight, I'd have laughed in their faces. If anyone had told me I'd find the dream of a lifetime and he'd be a grumpy, he-man cop…well, let's just say my track record hasn't left much room for grumpy he-man cops. I like women. Preferably smart, with a social conscience and long, long legs. I haven't looked at men much. I look at Jim though. I get as close as I can and I watch him as long as he'll let me. See, I'm memorizing him. Because one of these days, he's going to figure it out. Someone's going to tip him off.

"Research?" they'll say. "The only thing he's researching is your ass."

It's inevitable. So I take these hours when they come. These middle-of-thenight hours, just the two of us in the cab of the truck. I take them because they're safe. I take them because they're what he offers. And it beats the hell out of lying in bed in the loft, knowing goddamn good and well that if I jerk off he'll hear me, and smell me. And that just makes me want to do it more. Shit. Just thinking about it makes me hard. How can my dick possibly be considering that in this weather? In you go, fella. Zipped, buttoned, tucked safely out of sight. Down, boy, down. It ain't gonna happen. It ain't ever gonna happen.


The boy has a bladder the size of a pea. He could never be a cop. Not a real cop. Stakeouts are all about pacing yourself. The kid's gone through two Thermoses of coffee and it's only 1:30 am. His third trip to the trees already. What if Mason decides to leave the cottage? I'd have to leave Sandburg behind. Wouldn't that piss him off. So we haven't seen Mason for two days. So all the lights went off in the cottage at 11 pm and it looks like yet another night will creep by without any action.

Sandburg could still use a few lessons in Stakeout 101: Stay awake. Keep alert. Don't drink too much coffee. I won't say anything though. I need a break every hour or so. Need him out from under my nose, literally. I swim in him sometimes, just the smells. Sometimes I make a game out of narrowing down the ingredients in his soap, or his shampoo. Anything to keep from just reaching for a curl and eating it. Anything to just keep from reaching for him. So I let him drink all the coffee he wants. Go on, Sandburg, head for the nearest tree and stay there awhile. It gives my poor old dick time to stand down.

I don't know why he comes with me on these things. It's always the same. We sit, sometimes we hardly talk. Well, I hardly talk. He hardly ever shuts up. I swim in that sometimes, too, when I think I can get away with it. He usually doesn't need specific answers. I've learned that nods and occasional grunts are all he needs to keep going. I close my eyes and his voice washes over me. Deep, a little rough, a little smooth. It should drone, but it doesn't. It …I don't have a word for it. It cleans me.

Simon has to wonder what's going on. I've gotten away with claiming I need him for the Sentinel stuff. I need him, all right. But not for that, not really, not anymore. It's like we graduated, but I'm still going to school every day because it's what I always did. I'm stuck to him. He's stuck to me. My Guide. My partner. My motor-mouthed roommate. The one with all the women sniffing around. Tall, short, all gorgeous, all smart as whips. He could be snugged warm in any one of a dozen beds tonight.

So what the hell is he doing out here with me?


It really is warmer in the truck. I can't see my breath in here. I blow on my hands, wishing I'd worn gloves. I'm failing Stakeout 101. I'm tired and wired, my eyeballs are turning yellow and I never remember from one time to the next just how cold it gets. I hear a sigh, then something soft falls in my lap. "Put it on," he says. A glove. A big wool glove, still warm from his hand. Boing. There goes my dick again. Just what I needed. I slide both hands in the glove. My fingers interlock inside it and suddenly I'm warm all over. I hazard a look at him. He's staring at my hands in his glove. He clenches his jaw in some internal rhythm. He's staring at my lap.

He's staring.

At my lap.

Oh, fuck…

Not the hands, he's not staring at the hands. He's staring at my crotch. It's dark, but it's not Sentinel-vision dark. What's there is there for him to see. I'm wriggling now, turning toward him in the truck, hitching up a leg on the seat, pulling my coat lower, anything. I'm not even going to look at him. Oh hell, yes I am, but I can hardly see him anyway. Just the outline of him. Just the granite outline of him. My very own personal Mt. Rushmore. I think if I fell on him, I'd bounce. He's gone still, his eyes still down, his jaw still working. Oh man, oh man, what if he can smell me, smell that I'm hard? Does that smell different? How would I know? Okay, I think I have to get him to look at me.

"Uh. Jim? You with me?"

Good, Blair. That sounded almost normal. Almost Guide-to-Sentinel. No quiver, no cracking. All in all, pretty good. In the little light there is, he's the strongest, sturdiest, most beautiful thing I've ever seen. I want him. I want to touch him, lick him, bite him, take his hands and put them on me, I want so much I can't even start to think about it because he'll know and it'll all be over.

Breathe. Breathe. Slow and steady. I know he can hear me, hear my heartbeat, hear my blood running around in my veins. Come on, breathe. I've made it this far without jumping him. I can do it again.


He's all churned up. Heartbeat tripping all over itself, the little hairs on his cheeks standing on end. I can't tell what's agitated him so, unless it's my looking at him. Doesn't usually bother him. Of course, it's a little different this time. I don't know who he was thinking about out there, but our boy's sporting a woody. He leaves my truck and then gets hard. Yeah, that's flattering. What the hell am I doing? How jealous can I get? I'm jealous of who he's thinking of. I've got to get a grip.

Hiding things from him is hard. It's like he just ignores all the signals most people read without any problem. He pegged me quick. Quicker than Simon. Certainly quicker than Carolyn—she never did get it. He looks at me and doesn't see what most people do. He looks at me and sees me. Nobody ever did that before. I could do him so much damage. I could hurt him in a hundred different ways, but he never backs down. He breezes through my temper, talking a mile a minute. He doesn't ever back down from me. Not ever. But right now he's hard, and silent. He's backing away from me. I don't want that. I don't ever want that.

"I'm with you," I finally say, answering a question I think he forgot he asked.

He's swallowing hard. I think his mouth is probably dry. I think he probably tastes like coffee. His lips are chapped and I want to lick them. His eyes are wide and he's trying to hide, distracting me with his hands, tight inside my glove. I reach for it, reach for his hands inside my glove, and he spikes. His heart jumps so hard I think I could hear it without dialing up.

The cab of the truck isn't cold anymore. It's warm and it smells like sex, smells like boylust, smells like me and him. I wrap one hand around both of his and I yank him toward me, sick of pretending, sick of smelling him like that for other people.

"Are you with me?" I ask. Ask. Shit. I growl it at him, out of patience. I never did have much skill at this. At least I ask. What I really want to do is take.


"I'm here, I'm here."

Jesus, is that my voice? That breathy thing, that 'fuck me please' voice? The cat is so out of the bag. He's got both hands on mine, I'm totally trapped. He's so unbelievably big, God he's big. He's got me in the middle of the bench seat now, my knee's pushing against his thigh and he's using that to lever me up, face to face, my hands a rudder for him.

"Why so quiet, Sandburg?" he asks, and his voice is like sandpaper, like a cat's tongue.

"Just absorbing, man," I answer him, and he nods.

Speculative is how I'd describe how he's looking at me now. Like he's searching for something. I could try to hide it, but he'd just look somewhere else. Chin up time. So I look him right in the eyes.


That's where the heat's coming from—his eyes. That's why my hands are warm and I'm starting to sweat a little. It's because of his eyes. They're the same old Jim eyes I look at over breakfast, the ones that see criminals three blocks away, the ones that watch basketball with me.

But now they're looking at me like they've never seen me before. I can actually feel them move over my face. They stop so long at my mouth it feels singed and I'm leaning toward him. I want his eyes to kiss me. Close, close, we are so damn close even in no light I can see his pupils expand, I could count his eyelashes if I wanted, but who would spend time there when there's a mouth waiting?

He has to do it. I can't. I can't make that first move, I can't be the one to tilt, and move. I can't, I can't, oh shit, yes I can. I'm tilting right, just a little, and he's mirroring and I'm licking my lips because I think they might break if I don't and then I don't have to do anything else, because he's there, warm, mobile lips on mine like they've been there before, like they've done this a million times. I'm getting a charge out of it. Literally. Feels like my hair's standing on end. We haven't even opened our mouths, not really. Just a little, just enough to slick things up, just enough to mingle.

My mouth on Jim's. God almighty. His on mine, sliding and moving, and his tongue says hi, this okay? I want to touch him, it's bordering on outright need, and I'm still trapped in his hand, so I nudge him, make him open farther, make him take my tongue in his mouth and I'm making myself at home there. I might never leave. I just close my eyes and eat him up.

We're steaming up the windows. We're steaming up my life. I can't believe I'm here, tangoing tongues with him, with Jim, with Jim.


He tastes better than anything I've ever put in my mouth in my whole life. I want to taste every inch of him. I want to hold him down and strip him and taste the front, then flip him over and start from the top and work my way down.

He's in a coat, I can get to maybe three inches of skin. I have to do this. I don't know when we hit out of control, but there isn't any left. I don't have it and he sure as hell doesn't. He's so quiet, I think he's shocked. I don't have time to talk about it, he doesn't seem to want to talk about it, so we're just going to keep on going until one of us wises up or we're both naked.

He takes his tongue back, licking my taste off his mouth and says, "Hands, please, give me my hands."

I'm trying to figure out what he wants when he tugs hard. I'm left with my empty glove in my hand and ten fingers are pushing off my hat, plowing through my hair, holding my head at an angle that he wants, and I find out why. I want it too—it's perfect, this angle. Perfect. He doesn't seem to be breathing at all, maybe he's taking my air, I don't care. I sound like a bellows in the close, tight space, each breath a groan I can't stop.

Freeing his hands freed mine too, and I'm wrapping myself around him, moving so he's straddling my lap, his legs on either side of mine, we're on his side of the truck now, no danger of death by steering wheel. I can feel it, his hard-on, through all those layers of denim. I slide my hands under his ass and shove him toward me, digging my fingers in to his muscles, rubbing him against me. I couldn't stop now if he put a gun to my head. I'm losing it. Losing it.


He's losing it. It took, like, three minutes, and we're rubbing each other like we'll die if we don't. Maybe we will. Maybe we have to do this. There's probably some fascinating anthropological reason for the fact that two previously heterohappy men are pawing each other in the middle of the night in the seriously uncomfortable cab of an unheated truck, but I'll be damned if I can waste brain matter on it right now.

I'm trying to keep Jim Ellison from coming before me.

I'm trying to keep my Sentinel from flying to pieces without me.

I'm trying, trying trying to get his zipper down.

Air hits his erection and it leaps in my hand. Man alive, I thought his face was hard. I thought his chest was hard. This is hard. This is a fistful of iron here, leaking hot silky stuff that I'm spreading around with my thumb. He's somewhere else now, his cheeks hot, his eyes closed, hitching his hips up into my hand. I'm pinching him behind the head of his cock and he's moaning, "No, let go, let go."

Uh-uh, big guy. No way. We're doing this together. I'm not wasting this. I struggle out of my coat and he raises his head from the back of the seat and grins at me. Grins at me, in the middle of all this. I'm going to kill him. As soon as we're done. He reaches out for my flannel shirt and one hand pulls sharply one way, and one the other, and buttons go everywhere. Holy fucking shit, he ripped my shirt right off.

He's hoisting me closer, grunting something about how heavy I am and my hand slips off him and my zipper's pushing against him so he reaches down and pops the snap and slides the zipper and reaches in my plain old white briefs and now our cocks are doing all the work. I just put my hands on his shoulders and he puts his on my ass and we're kind of dancing there on the seat, two dicks dancing naked, one on the other. I feel the wet stuff slide on me and I'm shaking. I see my hands shake, I feel quivers start deep in my stomach and I can't be still. I move faster and harder and I have to touch myself, touch him. I put a hand between us and grab first my dick, then his the next time it slides by and I've got them both now and I'm trying to hold onto him because he's bucking under me, his teeth clenched, cords strung tight in his throat, he's breathing so hard I feel it, hot on my chest.

I look down at us. I'm bare from the waist up. He's still got a jacket on. For some reason, that alone just puts me right over the edge. I lean up a little, I worry about coming on his clothes. He looks at me, he looks down at twin erections red and heavy against each other. He reaches down and pulls his shirt up, baring his stomach, his chest. I can't decide whether to lean over and put my bare skin on his or just jerk off all over him. He decides for me, grabbing my hand on our dicks, pumping harder, long, fast jerks and that's it, that's all folks, move along now, there's nothing else to see here. Just two guys smeared with come in a steamed-up truck, grinning at each other like idiots.


So we're sitting there, in like, the afterglow. Windows steamed up, all warm and kind of sticky and grinning like idiots. And then Jim's cell phone starts bleating in our ears. In his coat, which, by the way, he's still wearing, unlike me, who's starting to remember it's February and my nipple ring isn't really designed for temperatures below about room temperature, or body temperature, or inside-my-shirt temperature, whatever that is. Right now it's like somebody poked a FlavorIce through my nipple.

Ruining the moment aside, the phone doesn't bother me, but he must be listening to something I can't hear because he starts yelling and heaves me off him and then I'm on the floor of the truck, wearing no shirt, his come on me, my come on me, unzipped, starting to wonder what the fuck we were thinking.

"S'okay man, chill, chill. Just the phone, it's just the phone. Could you please answer the goddamn phone!?!"

Okay, that last part wasn't in a tone you'd call soothing, but between the phone and him yelling, I'm getting a little …tense. I don't even bother to listen once I hear it's Simon. I can guess. Either we're being called in or Mason slipped by while we were doing the sloppy stuff and we're both fired.

Y'know what? That'd about be okay with me. I mean, I know Jim's into the whole cop thing, and I admit, it's one hell of a rush some days, like meditating on the top of a mountain and feeling it rise up underneath you, but it's 24-freaking-hours-a-day. It never stops. He never stops. I think he dreams cop things. Me, I need a change of pace sometimes. An excursion here, a night out there. Charge the batteries, soothe the mind. Got my batteries charged all right, charged all over the bench seat, but the mind is just plain reeling.

We changed everything and I'm not sure how it happened and I'm not sure how to act or what to say. Shit. I don't know what to say. That doesn't happen very often. Did we start something? Or was that the climax. Oh man, I'm laughing now. Was that the climax. I'm making stupid sex word plays from the floor of a truck, half-dressed, in the middle of the night, on a stakeout. I wonder if I tried to explain it, if he'd understand. I can smell us on me, I smell his Jimscent, not like mine, which I've gotten to know all too well in the men's bathroom at the station, and in the unisex one in the Anthro wing. I've been beating off in public restrooms so I won't do it at home.


Jim's home.

My temporary shelter.

Of two years.

I don't know why I don't just screw somebody. I've got somebodies I could screw. I used to do it a lot, Before Jim. I even did it some During Jim. But I don't do it now. Don't get me wrong, the dowsing stick still points to water, but it turns out the only puddle I'm interested in is about six feet deep and really, really murky.

He's all into the phone now, all in cop mode, asking questions, his eyes like laser lights, cutting through the steam. I dip a finger in the stuff on my chest, slippery, cold, kind of slimy. Tastes good, salty, makes my mouth tingle a little, but I'm not sure if it's me or him I'm tasting. Guess I'll have to blow him sometime, find out for sure. Damn. Wish I hadn't gone down that road.

All right, Sandburg, salvage time.

On the floor at his feet is my shirt. Crumpled, missing all its buttons. Not much good as a shirt anymore and I think about that. About how in one irrational minute we rendered something perfectly functional into something like garbage, something wasted. Something I'm now using to wipe semen off me. Man, I love a good metaphor.

It doesn't have to be wrecked, does it? We didn't have to ruin it just because we couldn't keep our mitts off each other, did we? I can think of so many reasons this happened. Alphabetically, if he wants them that way. Scientifically, theoretically, whatever makes it plausible. I doubt he's going to want the emotional ones and he's already sampled the physical ones.

The shirt goes back under his feet, a little more worse for the wear, but I'm dry. Turns out I'm sitting on my coat, so I heft up, zip up my jeans, and pull it on. I zip it too, and the zipper snags in my chest hair, which hurts like hell, but I'm not about to yell, so I grit my teeth and get to work, one little hair at a time, until it zips all the way to the top and being covered feels …safe.


Poor kid. I'd like to take the cell phone and beat it to a wiry pulp on the steering wheel. I'd like to take this endless conversation and wrap it around Simon's neck and pull. I'd like a clean shirt and a wet washcloth and for this night to either be over or start over. Not sure I'd do it differently, but I might have turned the cell phone off. I can't believe I'd even think that. Since when did nooky become more important than police work? Since nooky came to mean Blair. Blair. Blair. Not Sandburg, not kiddo, or Hairboy, or Chief. I think when we're rubbing each other off in the truck, he deserves to be called by his own name.

Simon's pulling us in. The other stakeout units found something. He told me what, but I don't remember because I'm watching Sandburg—Blair—poke a finger in the stuff off his chest and lick it off. My stuff. Damn, I wish I knew what that look of his meant. He's usually like glass, but even with Sentinel eyes I can't see what he's thinking now. He's rummaging around the floor of the truck like he could move in there if he had to, and he probably could. It'd be a little cramped maybe, but there's room for a laptop and a Thermos, and he rarely needs more than that.

Mr. Adaptable. Put him in a tie and moms think he's the cat's pajamas. Put him miles deep in a forest and he's fine, just fine, thank you very much. Put him in a hostage situation and he talks his way out of it. Put him in front of a bullet and he bleeds.

No one should get used to being bruised and hit and shot at and kidnapped and handcuffed, but damned if he hasn't. He makes do with what he has. Guess Naomi did that for him. Or more likely, made him do it for himself, not exactly being the hand-holding kind of mom. He takes it all in stride. More than in stride, he seems to enjoy it, the excitement, the new experiences. As long as he has an escape hatch, he's happy. Me, I like routine. It's part of why I like stakeouts—they're predictable, for the most part. This stakeout didn't exactly follow procedure. Understatement of the year, Ellison.

He looks cold, even now that he's sort of put himself back together again, all zipped up in the coat I took off him. He's rummaging on the floor again, handing me the shirt, making rubbing motions near my stomach, looking all apologetic, like he's the one who tore it off, like he's the one who made this happen. This. Me and Sandburg. Me and Blair. I shake my head and he tosses the shirt back on the floor. He's climbing up on the seat again and I put a hand out, like I do a lot, on his arm, but this time, it's all different. My hand on his arm feels like I own him. Feels like he belongs to me.

And that's too primitive.

Even for me.

*** Touch is good. Means things aren't quite in rags yet. I can still hear Simon yapping away in the background, but Jim's not listening, not even pretending to listen, barely even holding the phone to his ear. Christ, he's intense. He's looking at me like he needs something, wants something, but I don't know what it is and if I screw it up, bam there goes whatever this might be, if it ever could be, if Simon would just get off the phone.

"What are you listening to?" I ask him, so quiet only he could hear me.

"Your heart," he whispers back and it skips a beat, just to let him know it heard him.

His hand on my arm feels like he's hugging me. God, I love that. I wonder if all those other times he touched me, it felt like that and I missed it somehow. Because this is so not the same. Same five fingers, yeah, but that's the hand that touched my hand when it was on his cock, and that makes it completely different.

"We're coming," he finally says, never taking his eyes off me, and cuts Simon off with an emphatic poke of the finger on the "end" button.

I laugh at him, and it surprises me, how shaky that laugh is.

"What?" he wants to know.

"I just can't believe you told Simon we're coming."

That gets the tiniest grin out of him, just an uptilt of one lip, but I'll take it. At least it's out on the table, not swept under like granola crumbs waiting patiently for the broom.

"He wants us at the station. Debrief. Brief debrief, he said," he's saying to me now.

"And then?" I ask.

"Then we can go home," he says, taking the weight of his hand off my arm and starting the truck.

Then we can go home.

Home has beds.

Two of them.

And couches.

Two of those, too.

And a kitchen table, countertops and a shower.

All of which I've imagined having him naked on, in or under.

Home, to a veritable smorgasbord of fuck opportunities.

Yeah, that briefing might be shorter than even Simon imagines. Because I lost any doubts I might have been clinging to when he touched me again. He put his hand out, and that's it. Forward my mail, I'm a goner. He's going to have to peel me off him. If he doesn't want more of what he's already had, he's going to have to make those words come out of his mouth, and if I know Jim, and damn if I don't know Jim, he'd rather die than talk about not doing this again.


I admire Simon. I do. He's a good man, a good cop. He's even a good boss. But if he doesn't shut up in the next five minutes, I may have to do him bodily harm. It's now three in the morning, my eyes feel like the inside of a cement mixer, and we're both sitting as far as possible from the other guys, on the off-chance that one of them has a better nose than usual, or one of them starts to wonder why Sandburg's not taking his coat off.

He's half-asleep. His hair's all in his face, his chin is all the way down in his coat collar. He looks about twelve and I feel like the dirtiest, horniest old man on the planet. His eyes aren't even focused anymore, but his cheeks are pink and it makes me wonder where he's gone in that head of his. I literally can't imagine, because he's been so many more places than I have. At least this trip we're going to take together. It's probably not new to him, the guy thing, the guy-on-guy thing, but he's a great tour guide, he'll show me around. He'll know all the best places. I smile, thinking I'll tell him my analogy later. He'll get a kick out of it.

"Something funny, Ellison?" Simon asks, his voice sounding like it's been visiting my eyes in the cement mixer.

"No sir, just getting punchy."

Got to be careful. They wonder as it is. I hear them sometimes, the men in this rumor mill we call an office. They look at Blair and they wonder. They look at the hair, and all those layers of flannel and all those earrings (and they don't even know about the nipple one). It took months for the kid to win them over. And they still wonder. Me, they never wondered about. I'm the one with the hard-on for the sleepyhead, but he's the one they talk about.

Never judge a book by its cover.


He's close enough that I can still smell him. If I can smell him, that means he can smell me, and more than smell, get right inside all those scents and live in them awhile if he wants. We're sitting away from everyone else, but close together, like we always do. Touching distance. It's always been that way, even before I really started to think about him, you know, that way. That want-to-be-close-enough-to-touch-you-all-the-time way. I'm not blind, I know no one else gets that close. I just sort of tuck myself in, I'm little enough to get away with it.

The Shadow.

The Sidekick.


I don't give a rat's ass what they call me as long as the personal space I'm invading is Jim's and he doesn't seem to mind.

Maybe one of these days we'll take a personal day, some day when the crooks of Cascade decide the weather's just too darn nice for crime, and we'll go out on the bluffs and spread out a blanket and I can crawl on top of him and hold him down and make him forget he's a cop, make him forget he's an American citizen even, for a few minutes. I can feel the sunshine already, warm and buttery, and I can see his skin soaking it up. I can see myself putting my mouth on him, all over him, and I can see him taking it, stoic until he can't do stoic anymore and he just has to react like his body wants him to.

I tug the coat down, too far gone to do more than that, to do something sensible like leave before I get caught, or think about something else. You try thinking about something else when Big Jim Ellison is in reach of your mouth and you know what he tastes like.

I thought the stakeout was torture. This is torture.


The "brief" debriefing lasted just long enough to render Sandburg effectively unconscious. He stumbled to the truck mumbling something about blankets and bluffs, but I didn't pay much attention.

Whatever that magic thing is that keeps me awake during stakeouts wore off about an hour ago. The adrenaline from the whole truck thing wore off before that. Mostly I'm thinking about getting us home in one piece and making it upstairs before I pass out. I buckle Sandburg in; he's in no shape to do it himself. Tomorrow he'll be all energy again, bouncing around to some tribal rhythm in my living room, driving me nuts, making me crazy, but right now he's just a worn-out grad student with more stuff to do than time to do it in. The kid needs his sleep, but instead he's out all night with me.

Staking out.

Making out. There's that stupid smile again. I'm going to lose my rep as a hard-ass all in one night if I'm not careful. I'm glad he's so out of it. It means we can wait until later—preferably much later—to talk about all this. One thing I learned from being married—never, ever, have serious conversations in the middle of the night. They go places you never intended, take on a life of their own, and before you know it, somebody (somebody else) is crying, or packing. Or both. So whatever we do when we get home, it's not going to be talking.

I peel my eyes off the road long enough to look at him. Fast asleep, chin bobbing on his chest, his hands just laying open on his lap. His hands. Those exclamation point hands. If I tied them behind his back, I think he'd be mute.

Now there's a thought.


I imagined the bed, the sofa, the shower, the kitchen table, even the countertop. I never pictured the floor. I never pictured myself there, stretched out, on the bottom of a pile of Jim. I guess the meeting's over. I guess we drove home, but I don't remember it. I don't remember coming up the stairs, or coming in the loft, but I'm going to remember the rest of what happens for the rest of my life.

Because Jim's kissing me, really deep kissing me, tongue, teeth, the works. I'm awaker than I can ever recall being, he's waking me up in places I didn't even know were asleep. The coat's history, breaking House Rule #453 by lounging there by the TV. Two boots, two socks, gone. The jeans are joining them now, and oops, there go the undies.

And I'm lying stark naked on the wooden floor of Jim's home, more aroused than I've ever been, watching this giant take his clothes off. From down here, he's ten feet tall. And that's just his dick. He's like marble, like a statue, except he's sweating, and his ribs are going in and out hard because that's how hard he's breathing, and he's all red, from his chest up his throat, into his cheeks, into his forehead. Red and sweaty and breathless. Damn I like him like that. He's standing over me, breathing. No, not breathing. Sniffing. Oh, fuck, I'm going to come from being sniffed.

Time for some deep breathing of my own. I link both hands behind my head, like I'm going to be casual about this. HA. Still, it lets him look other places, like the underside of my arm, like my armpit. The nose goes up again. He likes it, his face is changing, going soft, all those hard lines relaxing. He drops down beside me, reaches on the couch for a pillow and puts it under my head. That hits me harder than his naked body does. He can still think—I can only feel. I'm naked here, with Jim. He's not self-conscious, never was, but oh, man, it's different. Not like seeing him come out of the shower, or change his clothes. He's naked so we can be together. He's naked so I can touch his skin, and I'm naked so he can touch mine.

God, why doesn't he just do it? We're moving into imperative here. Forget coming, I might just head straight to cardiac arrest. I have to convince him it's time to stop looking and start touching. Anywhere, it doesn't matter where, but that's the only thing that's going to save me now.

"Please, please, Jim," is the best I can do.

The best I can do when usually I just talk until the answer spills out with everything else.


Imperative might actually be just the right word, but it's not managing to move past my lips. Maybe tomorrow, when there's light coming in those windows and we're eating cereal across the counter from each other, I'll try the imperative theory on him. Territorial imperative, the need to mark your territory, claim it, in whatever way you can. That's what we were doing in the truck, that's what we'll be doing here, any minute now, please God, any minute now. It makes sense in a weird tribal ritual precivilized animalistic way. He's reduced me to that, animalistic. I'd do just about anything at this point. My teeth are chattering. I'm not cold, oh no, not that, maybe never again. What I am is exhausted and so excited I'm starting to bounce. ***

I'm gonna zone if I don't do something quick. First it was the smells, but I had to turn those down, way down, because I think I could get off on them alone. So I'm looking instead, and that's no good either. Because I can see him start to shake, see him holding onto the very finest thread of control and I'm wondering just what it's going to take to snap it.

That hair, there, the stuff spread on the pillow, is mine now to touch. Anytime I want. The dent in his hip, those hairy legs, I can touch them whenever I want.

"Now would be good," he whispers, and I guess I must have said those things out loud. So I start at the dent, one finger tracing it, this soft, smooth place where muscle meets bone, next to where the hair starts. I trace it a couple of times and try fitting my palm there. He moans at that, and I like that sound so much I do it again on the other side, matching my hands on him. I move to straddle him, don't put my weight down, don't want to crush him and he looks up at me like I'm a god. That's a heady feeling.

I'm trying to ignore how I feel, hard as it is, because I want to concentrate on him. I'm feeling my way here, literally. I'm watching him to make sure I do it right. I don't get much in the way of specific encouragement, but my senses tell me I haven't done anything wrong. I let myself look at his dick. It's big, dark red, with heavy veins that I can hear blood rushing through. He's leaking filmy clear stuff out the top, smearing it on his belly. His balls are already tight up against him, standing away from his body. He's close. He's really, really close. I look up. His eyes are closed.

Now or never.

So I lean over and I lick that little place where they cut him as a baby and sewed it up, that tight little scar between the head and the trunk, that place I touch on myself when I'm ready to quit dicking around and just come already. He jackknifes up, his body flying up to wrap itself around me, and that change of angle is just what I need and I take his dick in my mouth and close my own eyes, wrapped in a blanket of Blair, his hair hitting my shoulders, his hands grabbing at my back. He's got no leverage whatsoever, so I'm sliding up and down on him, making the thrusts from the top.

He's babbling something, I can't make myself listen because the taste of this thing in my mouth, the heat of it, the softhard of it, just isn't what I expected. I want him here all the time. I may never let this go, I may never eat again. He's pushing me away now, pushing on my shoulders, pulling my hair.

"Gonna come, coming, coming," he's panting it right in my ear, but I hold him down and then I can feel his penis jerking in my mouth and I'm swallowing, whether I want to or not, and my mouth is on fire.

And he just keeps coming, his body shuddering long after the fluid's gone, long after it's over, he's still in the throes of it. I let him go eventually, pull away with one last long lick and look up at him, this close. I lick my lips and tug his mouth down, kissing him, not hard, not heavy, slowing him down, calming him down. I can do that now. Feeling him come that way took the edge off me, believe it or not. It's like we …shared it.


Oh, man. Okay, heart, keep pumping. That's right, that's good. Alive and kicking, that's me. Holy shit. I've been doing this a long time. This get- excited-fool-around-climax thing. It's like breathing after awhile. Gets so you know how it's going to be. Jim just threw all that out the window. I don't know why that surprises me. Nothing in my life has been the same since he came in my door, so stiff, so scared, so strong. It makes perfect sense that sex with Jim would be more than sex with other people.

Way more.

I'm going to even things up here, I am, just as soon as I get my breath back. Just as soon as my dick stops twitching aftershocks. He's waiting, not for me to do the switcheroo, I don't think it has anything to do with my-turn-your- turn, he's waiting to see how I am. Because that's who he is. Other people come first. Yup, the other person came first. Typical.

"C'mere," I say to him, and I stretch out on the floor again, prop my head on the pillow and invite him down.

He slides down, so graceful for being so damn big, and his head takes up more than his half of the pillow, but I don't care. It's okay. I'll make room. In fact, he can have the whole thing, because I'm moving over on top of him, spreading out all over his bare body, lining up so I've got skin everywhere I possibly can touching his. I'm not hard anymore, for the instant, so we just tuck his erection in there, in that crease he touched so beautifully before. I prop myself up on my elbows and let him move his hips in the hot spot we just made. I'm grinning again, looking down on his face, at his blue eyes and his jaw and that high forehead. He puts his hands on my ass, like he knows just how to do it, and he starts thrusting. His eyes start to slide closed, but I don't want that.

"No, man, keep your eyes open. I want to watch this," I say, and that seems to do something for him because he groans and thrusts harder, his hands moving my ass in these tight little circles on him.

The eyes glaze, but that's okay. He's gone off somewhere and that's okay, too, because I've got his body, see, I've got it under my control, I'm right here with it, and that's all I need right now. He's sweating and that slicks things up so my whole body's moving up and down on his and I bear down on him, my chest rubbing hard on his, my hands going to his shoulders so I can move on him harder. He's got his mouth open, breathing hard, and his fingers start to dig in my ass and he holds me still, tight against him and he's moving up against me and I feel his hard-on swell, man, he's hard, and he arches his neck and his breath is gone and I feel hot liquid surging up between us, he's coming hard between our bodies, and I lose his eyes because my own are closing now, feeling that on me.

Territorial fucking imperative.

I've got his mark on me, and hell, he's digesting mine.

I guess that makes me his.

I guess that makes him mine.

Works for me.


Since the Sentinel thing, I wake up differently. The littlest shift in light behind my eyelids wakes me up. I don't mind. I try to keep to what Sandburg insists on calling "circadian rhythm," but I always just thought of as daytime and nighttime. So when that light filters in gray instead of black, I open my eyes and stare up at the changing colors on the ceiling and start thinking about the day. I'm listing out wrap-up duties on the Mason case when he moves in my arms.

He moves in my arms.

Five words I'd have bet good money you'd never have heard in my brain.

He takes up more room lying down than he does standing up. He's used up his side of the bed and has two elbows, two knees and a lot of hair spilling into my side. I pet his head, feeling just a little strange at being able to do so, and he stirs. Mumbles, flails around, jabs me in the ribs with a sharp elbow and then straightens out, flattening himself up against my side. I like that so I pet him some more, getting my fingers tangled finally in his hair. He wakes up for real while I'm trying to get my fingers back without using the flannel shirt technique of just ripping them out.

"Ow, ow, ow, man, hang on," he says.

He reaches one hand up and about a minute later, we've got them out. He's had a lot of practice untangling other people's fingers from his hair.

That I don't like.

He smells different this morning. I wondered how that would be, unwashed man smells, man morning breath, but it's just more Blair than usual, and that's okay with me. Reminds me of a cat we had when I was a kid who loved nothing more than sleeping in the laundry hamper, on all my sweaty dirty kid clothes. "Smells most like you there," the housekeeper said. Morning Blair smells most like Blair. Makes me want to dive in his armpit, taste his belly, but even still half-asleep I know that's a little kinky, so I behave. I roll over a little so we're face to face. Well, chin to top-of-head anyway, and hug him. I want him to know it wasn't just a middle of the night fluke. I suppose, eventually, I'll have to tell him that. But maybe for now I can just show him.


Whoever it was who coined the phrase "the cold light of day" never woke up in a bed full of Jim Ellison. If we plugged him in, he could heat the whole loft, that's how hot he is. The man's radiating heat.

Waking up in his swedish-flag-on-steroids bed, which, by the way, the blue of exactly matches his eyes, more than makes up for my first sensation of the day being his fingers trying to yank out my hair in tufts. I know that's not what he's trying to do, this just happens sometimes. People …like my hair. No, I mean they really like my hair. Usually they just look at it, but Jim's a toucher, and I've been imagining his hands (and a bunch of other body parts) in my hair for so long. I wait until he's getting frustrated then use the patented Sandburg Maneuver for Tangled Hair and he's free.

Not exactly a romantic start to the day, but I'm not sure when you get right down to it either of us are particularly romantic guys. Especially not with other guys. He rolls over and tucks me in his chest and hugs me. Guess it's all right, then. I guess it's all all right. We never did have that talk about not doing this, and he's not leaping out of bed screaming at me, or tossing me over the railing, or weeping for his lost male virginity, or anything like that.

He's just wrapping me up and that is so cool with me. I've got a morning erection I could beat bongos with, but the urgency of last night is gone. I can concentrate on the chest that's about two inches from my eyes. I can see the texture of his skin, the pucker of his nipples, the slabs of muscle under them. The man's got pecs, lats, traps, delts, bis, tris, gluts, quads, muscles I don't even have names for, let alone my own version of. I've got a Rodin man, spread out here like a feast.

"We going in?" I ask.

"Nope," he answers, way too satisfied with himself. "I told Simon not to look for us before noon."

I peek over his shoulder at the clock. 7:15. That gives me four hours to destroy this man's equilibrium before I have to shower, shave and go back to being The Observer. I can do that.

*** I kept telling him it wasn't a race. That no one was keeping score—that we've hit on a true win-win situation here. But he said if he only had four hours, and we were already past the hard part, which for him apparently had more to do with climbing the stairs and getting in my bed than taking his clothes off and kissing me there, he wanted to make the most of them. So he did. Which means we did, because Blair's nothing if not inclusive. I even relaxed House Rule #267 and let him eat breakfast in bed.

Those four hours gave me fantasy material for a good month, maybe more. If it never happens again, I could stretch those four hours as long as I need to, because they're stuck in my brain for good now. Four hours of him trying to make me ask for what I want. Four hours of me doing my damnedest to make him speechless.

What a pair.

The afternoon's passing by my desk. We've cleaned up the Mason file, we took depositions from about fifteen people, we got new cases from Simon, just like any other day. Sandburg's in the interview room, giving what looks like a lecture to Taggart and Rafe. He's pacing back and forth, his hands flying, making one emphatic point after another. From here the topic looks like official business. All three guys have their game faces on. But my ears tell me they're choosing the all-time NBA all-star team and Sandburg's fighting like hell for John Stockton. Yeah, it's a busy day for the Cascade P.D. I don't mind, I'm still tired from too little sleep and too much Blair.

Over breakfast he started spouting this theory about why we were suddenly going at each other like rabbits. It wasn't quite as insulting as calling me a throwback, but close. I try not to let the Sentinel thing take over, try to remember that whatever precivilized urges I have, I still live in a civilized world. Marking my territory just doesn't seem very …civilized. He's sure it's a Sentinel-Guide thing, but he didn't ever really explain why it's happening now. Me, I just got fed up with hiding it all. I guess this is the excuse he's giving himself. I let him talk. I like watching him get worked up.

Fast forward a few hours and I'm still thinking about what he said this morning, but I keep getting interrupted by memories of what he did. I catch his eye through the window. I don't know what my face tells him, but he flushes bright pink and loses track of what he's saying, his hand left stranded in mid-air, pointless. If he could hear like I hear, I'd whisper something that would make him turn purple. As it is, I get the strange feeling he knows what I'm thinking about.

I'm thinking about that time, this morning, when he put his mouth on me for the first time. Took it in like a popsicle, licking just the head, sucking on it, and finally, when I thought I'd have to give in and beg him, he slid it in, past his teeth, making room with his tongue, and the next thing I knew I had his hair wrapped up in fists that were probably way too tight and instead of him going down on me, I'm kneeling up and fucking his mouth, holding him still, watching his cheeks go in and out, watching his face get red and his lips get red until he looks up at me looking down at him and I dial down sight in favor of feeling. After that, it's all a little hazy.

He's pointing at his watch, pointing to the clock on the wall, holding up one hand to show me that it's five o'clock. Usually, nine to five only applies to when we can get to the bank, or to see the shrink, but today, five means quitting time. I nod at him and he nods back. It's time to go home. I hope he's not hungry because I have no intention of feeding him. At least not until we've taken care of a big problem that's come up in just the last few minutes.


I'm trying to explain to him that some guys aren't meant to be bottoms, and if anyone gives off heavier "top" vibes than Jim, I've yet to meet him.

Cop=Top. I don't need a degree to know that.

But he's got his own thing, his own way and he doesn't want to just hear about it, he wants to feel it, so he'll know, so he'll know how it feels to me when he's the one inside, and that blows my mind. I'm trying to explain that we're all built different, that some guys never get into it, that it's gonna hurt, okay? He's nodding, pushing me off the bed, reaching in a drawer for a tube of something slippery.

Some deity somewhere is making up for all those shitty birthdays, for all those visits from truant officers back when home school meant you were terminally ill or so out-of-control no real school wanted you, for all the crappy places we lived, for all those carob-chip cookies, for all the times the bigger kids picked on the littler ones.

Jim wants me to fuck him.

I suppose now would be a good time to tell him I haven't actually done this before, that he's crediting me with vaster experience than I can actually claim. But he has such unshakable faith that I know what I'm doing, I can't bring myself to tell him otherwise. How hard can it be? Don't answer that. It isn't that I completely lack experience. A woman put her fingers inside me once, right in the middle of the bing-bang, and it was cool. Got to admit though, I think I got off more on the kink of it than any actual physical kick from having her fingers in my butt. Still it's something. I know slow is good and fingernails are bad. Trust me on that. I've got the nail thing covered because I'm chewing what nails I have left down to the pink part. I know you start small and stretch. I know lube is our friend. I can do this. I can do this.

He's on his hands and knees on the bed and I'm standing behind him trying not to make a fool of myself by coming, or crying, or freezing up. If I ever wanted to do something more right, I don't remember it. The trust he's giving up, giving me. I'm humbled. I don't feel that way very often. Cocky, confident, yeah, I'll do those. Humble's something new. So I'm just going to look at him awhile, rev him up, get him so ready it'll be like a hot knife through butter.

That ass is a work of art. It's all muscle, and it's round and tight, especially in the position he's in now. I can trace how each muscle blends into the next, see tendons flex, count each bump in his spine. I lean over him and take a nibble off each one, all the way up his back. He likes that, he's rubbing back against me. He's rocking back and forth, nudging against me, trying to trap my cock in between his asscheeks. I let him. Oh my God. I'm supposed to be revving him up, but he's got me on ready, set, go and I haven't even lubed up yet.

"Slow down, big guy," I say, rubbing circles on his back, but I notice I'm still sliding up and down his ass.


"It's gonna be good, Jim, but there's some stuff we've got to do first." I'm telling him and reminding myself, all at the same time. Slow is good. Start with something small. Lube is our friend.

I leave a hand on him, still trying to hold him down, and squirt from the tube right on my dick, and some on his butt for good measure. Brrr, that's cold, and more than slippery, it's downright slimy, but slimy's good, we can do slimy. I send one finger down the crease, and he opens his legs wide. Jesus. I'm touching him there now, and he likes that. Likes it a lot. He's got his own rhythm now, that rocking thing, and he's doing it for me, taking in a finger, first knuckle, second knuckle, then another finger's finding its way up that furnace and I decide to wiggle them a little, see what that does for him and he stops dead and just starts shaking. I don't know what I've done, man, but I'll try and do it again. His head drops down and there's the whole length of his back and his beautiful ass, and the back of his neck looks vulnerable and when I look down, I can see that I've got two fingers inside the man.

I step towards him and reach a hand around to see how he's doing. Oh yeah, beautiful, he's good. He's better than good. He's about ready to pop. His cock is twitching to its own rhythm. He doesn't even need me at this point, but I'm here, and he's all slicked up, and so am I, so we might as well give it a try, right? And then I'm leaning in, lining up, tugging out the fingers. He doesn't like that, he's groaning now, his head's coming up.

"No, it's all right, man, it's all right. Just stay with me, okay? I'm getting there," I say to him. I grab my cock as well as I can given how freaking slippery it is, and I take hold of his hip with the other hand, and then I'm pushing it in. Tight. Tight. I get the head in and I'm gritting my teeth to keep from exploding, because did I mention it's tight in there? Fuck me. No, fuck him. You get the picture.

I drive in a little bit more.

Okay, it's too much. Way too much. Serious sensory overload. I can't go in there. I can't do this to him. Two inches in and I'm disappearing. So long, Blair, it was nice knowing you. If I go in all the way, I'll never leave, no, not leave there, I'll never be able to leave him, and I have to have that option. Leaving has to be an option. I don't know why I know this is it, this is the place I can't go, this is something I can't give him, but it's the truth. I've hit the wall and it's Jim Ellison's ass. How can he want me like this? How could I ever hope for any kind of objectivity again? I go in there and it's all over. I don't mind losing my heart. That's been his for, like, ever. But when my whole goddamn identity feels at stake, it's time to stop, pop and regroup.


I've left him hanging, just inside him. It feels more like home in there than anywhere else I've lived and frankly, that freaks me a little. Because I'm supposed to be the one on top, I'm supposed to be controlling this, this penetration, and I'm the one who's just plain lost it. I thought I could handle it. Affection. Bonding. Sex. My territorial imperative. But fuck it's strong. Stronger than I want. Stronger than my intellect can handle and my body can cope with. It's just too much, all right?

"Blair," he says, and he's pulling himself off me. He must have figured out the train got stuck at the station. He's sitting down now on the bed, watching me with a completely new expression. I'm standing between his thighs, erection wilting, wanting to scream at him, or bawl, but mostly wanting to run like hell.


I don't know what happened back there, but it was important and I missed it. I wasn't paying attention and I missed it. He looks like he's either going to fall down or throw up. He's not talking, and that's serious. I put a hand out, as gentle as I can, and I touch his leg. It's the closest thing to me and it doesn't seem real sturdy right now. I brace his thigh with my hand.

"Blair, sit down," I say because it seems to make the most sense. Get him down and get him talking. We can handle whatever it is. We always do. He's not moving. He still has that closed look, that …hunted …look and I wonder what in the world happened. I was there, wasn't I?

"What happened?" Good. That sounded good. Nothing accusatory, nothing harsh. Just a straight-forward request for information.

"I got lost," he finally answers, his voice deeper than I remember it being before. I don't get it. Lost? In my ass? I make the mistake of grinning because I think that's a pretty small place to get lost in, and he's pulling away. Pulling away from me.

The hand on his thigh is holding him now, not holding him up, holding him here. He really, really wants to be somewhere else, but damn it, he's the one who always wants to talk everything to death, and this is too soon for something this big to happen and not at least figure out what the hell "I got lost" means.

"Sit, Blair," I say again. "Please."

He moves beside me and sits. He does look lost. And young. His curls are hiding his face, so I brush them aside and he looks up at me. He's so sad. What the hell happened?

"I can't do that," he mutters, one hand flying in the general direction of my butt.

"Okay, Chief, okay, that's not a problem." I'm climbing all over myself trying to reassure him. "It was just an idea, no big deal."

"It is a big deal," he says, and the cub is fierce again.

It was important, I did miss it and now, finally, he's going to explain it. I watch him take a deep breath, hear his heart pounding hard in his chest.

"It's too close, man, it's too close. With other people, I can go in, I can merge for a few minutes. It feels good, connecting, all that. Really good sometimes. Never lasts though. Never. But with you, it's like I'd go in and not come back out. Never be the same. Never be me again. Just some piece of something that really belongs in you."

I wanted to hear it. I'm hearing it. I'm trying to sort through to the heart of it. I'm stroking his back because he's still really agitated. Saying it out loud's helping me, but I'm not sure it's helping him.

"You want to know how I feel right now?" he asks, and he finally meets my eyes. They're really bright, and wide open and everything is there. He didn't have to say it after all, because I can see it there.


There, it's out. The word that hurt him so much.

"Before, before this, it was you and me," he says. "Sentinel and Guide. Pals. Partners. I dig that, the partners thing. Never had a partner before. But I never felt …" He waits so long, I'm afraid he won't finish.


Whoa. A quarter word. I don't have the faintest idea what he means by that. I tell him so, which makes him smile, which makes me smile, which makes me think maybe there's actually going to be an other side to this conversation.

"I'm okay now, really, I am. I just got too into it, y'know?" he says. "Felt like I was losing me and only you were going to be left."

Now that makes sense to me. Getting too into it makes perfect sense. Feeling like the two lost their edges and turned into just one for a minute. Scary stuff. For a guy like Blair, a guy who likes to keep the door open and the motor running, that'd be pretty awful.

He lets me hug him, nothing heavy, just a hug. He even hugs back.

"Chief, we took this kind of fast," I say into his hair. "I mean this time yesterday you were bitching about whose turn it is to do laundry and now we're sitting here naked. Let's back up a little, okay?"

He nods. He pulls away from me, but when he stands up, he offers me a hand and pulls me up. He's stronger than he looks. He takes a deep breath.

"We can back up, but I'm not backing off, you understand? We started this, we're not going to end it just because I have some identity issues. Got it?"

"Got it," I tell him.

"And Jim?"

"Yeah?" I ask, on my way to get towels to get the slime off me, and him, and the bed.

"I'm sleeping in your bed tonight. It's way more comfortable than mine."

No problem, kiddo. You go right ahead and mark your territory.

You mark yours, and I'll mark mine.

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