Blair roamed the loft apartment restlessly. He wasn’t in the least bit tired despite the fact that it was almost two in the morning. Something had definitely happened the day before, even if he didn’t remember any of it and that didn’t sit well with him. He was used to knowing himself and having a blank spot was just…creepy. He’d called Eli, but the other man had only been able to say what he’d seen, not what was going on in Blair’s head, of course. Meditation hadn’t worked, even though he’d sat for almost an hour. Music via headphones and dancing hadn’t worked. He couldn’t eat and certainly couldn’t sleep.
Good thing I haven’t had any caffeine lately, he thought wryly.
Biting his lip, Blair finally gave in to the one thing he knew would at least give him answers. He picked up the phone and called Naomi. Even though it was only five where she was, he knew that she wouldn’t mind. Bringing the phone back to the sofa, he pulled his legs up and dialed the meditation center’s phone number. It took almost a half hour for the night assistant to get Naomi and return with her to the phone and he took the opportunity to do some proper breathing.
Naomi immediately asked, “Blair? Honey? What’s wrong?”
“Nothing, Naomi, I’m fine,” Blair assured her. “I just had a strange day and needed to talk to you about it.”
There was a sigh of relief before she prompted, “Go ahead, sweetie, I’m listening.”
“Well, I kinda have my own Sentinel now.”
“Blair! That’s great!”
“Yeah, but he’s a cop.”
She gave a slightly strangled noise before managing, “How high a match?”
“Okay. Just, give me a minute here, sweetie.”
Given that he’d needed the same and didn’t have her lifelong loathing of authority, Blair waited patiently.
“All right. I’m okay. Go on.”
Blair hesitated, then explained, “Well, today he was on an investigation and got shot.”
“Oh my! Are you all right honey?”
Restraining the impulse to do something completely inappropriate, Blair took a breath and answered, “I wasn’t there, Naomi. And he’s fine, thanks for asking.”
“Blair, of course I’m glad he wasn’t seriously hurt,” she said reproachfully. “I would never wish anyone harm, even a cop. I was just more worried about you.”
Blair shrugged to himself, letting it go. “The weird part comes when I went to see him at the hospital.”
“I don’t know. I can’t remember. According to Eli, I completely flipped out when I walked into the room and saw that he was shot. They had to sedate me,” Blair told her.
The silence was longer this time and Blair could practically feel her figuring out how best to phrase her response to his almost-question to her best advantage. Just because he loved her didn’t mean he was ignorant of his mother’s faults. Highest on the list was to never be badly thought of.
“I’m not sure what you want me to say, honey.”
“Naomi. Mom. I want to know what happened to me. I have this, this wall, this blank spot and it’s driving me crazy!”
“Well honey, if you were ready to know, you would.”
Gritting his teeth, Blair snapped, “I need to know now, Naomi!”
“Honestly, Blair, you’ve only been around that cop for a day and you’ve already forgotten your manners,” she retorted.
Blair counted to five before asking, “Please, Naomi, I need to know. I’m probably going to be around him when it gets violent in the future and if he has to worry about me going nuts every time blood gets spilled, someone’s going to get hurt.”
“I’m sorry, honey, but you obviously aren’t ready to know. Perhaps your cop will just have to find another Guide. Or retire. Surely there’s less dangerous work he’s suited for.”
“I can’t ask him to give up his life’s work!”
“Why not? Isn’t he asking that of you? Aren’t you giving up your pacifism without even token resistance? What about your studies? You’re so close to your dissertation. And how about your work to fight injustice where you find it? Do you know how much the Sentinel caste system oppresses Guides, let alone the near totalitarian rule in place for the government? I thought I taught you better, but apparently not.”
About ready to bang his head against the wall, Blair asked, “So you won’t tell me?”
“I’m sorry, Blair, but no.”
“Great. Thanks, Mom, I really appreciate the help.”
He hung up before he wound up apologizing to her for letting her down.
“That went well.”
Blair jumped in fright at Ellison’s dry observation from the top of the stairs. Glaring up at the Sentinel, Blair snapped, “Do me a favor and don’t listen to my calls in the future, okay?”
“It’s kind of hard not to when you’re practically yelling,” Ellison countered, shrugging. “I’m sorry she wasn’t more cooperative.”
Sighing, Blair tossed the phone aside and replied somewhat bitterly, “Yeah, well, that’s Naomi for you. She’s a beautiful butterfly who is just as fragile and doesn’t get tied down to anything or anyone for long.”
“Not even her own son?”
It hurt to admit, but it wasn’t like Ellison wouldn’t have heard the lie in his voice.
“I don’t know about you, but I’ve been sleeping like crap tonight,” Ellison said abruptly. “I think it’ll help both of us to sleep in the same bed.”
Blair’s jaw dropped.
Snorting, Ellison informed him, “Just sleep, Junior, nothing else. I’m not after your body, don’t worry.”
It was on the tip of his tongue to demand why not, so Blair bit it sharply. Wincing at the pain, Blair thought over the offer and ultimately shrugged. “Why not? Can’t be any worse than prowling around down here on my own. I’ll get ready and be up in a few.”
Ellison nodded and retreated back into the bedroom.
It didn’t take long for Blair to get through his nightly routine, such as it was, and that was with dragging his feet. He climbed the stairs reluctantly, not sure what had possessed him to agree to this. They couldn’t stand each other, so why the hell would they sleep together? He would just calmly decline once he got there.
The problem came when he hit the top step and found Ellison sprawled on the big bed in only boxers. Blair suspected that they’d been donned to shield his sensibilities, not out of modesty, but didn’t really dwell on it. All he could think of was the sheer size of the man in the bed. It was a big bed and he dwarfed it.
“You have to actually get in the bed to sleep, Sandburg.”
The amused statement broke through his fog and Blair glared at the Sentinel. “You know, I think I’ll just go back downstairs and…”
“Plant your ass in this bed, before I do it for you,” Ellison growled.
Swallowing nervously, not entirely sure that the other man wouldn’t follow through on the threat, Blair quickly scrambled onto the bed. He drew the sheet up around him and stared at the ceiling as Ellison turned out the bedside lamp. Even in the dark the Sentinel was impossible to miss.
Blair huffed in annoyance, but started breathing normally. As soon as he let himself relax, between one breath and the next, he fell soundly asleep.
* * * *
Waking the next morning proved difficult, thanks to an unpleasant throbbing in Jim’s shoulder and a strangely comfortable weight over the rest of his body. He was wrapped in an enticing scent, warmed by another’s body heat, and didn’t want to wake the rest of the way. For a while, he simply lay there, relishing the feel of his Guide sprawled upon him, resting a hand over the soft, tangled curls.
It wasn’t until he remembered the conversation he’d overheard the night before that the comfortable sensations were pushed aside in favor of thinking things over. That Blair called his mother by her given name said a lot about their relationship. He knew that some thought it bestowed a sense of equality and confidence in kids to do so, but Jim felt it simply created a barrier. It wasn’t natural, not to him.
Then there was the fact that something had happened to Blair in his childhood. He’d heard the guilt in the woman’s voice and it hadn’t been in regards to withholding information from Blair. It had been caused by whatever incident had so traumatized Blair as a boy. Something that she could have prevented, but hadn’t. Maybe had even caused? There was no way to tell unless Naomi confessed or Blair remembered, and Jim didn’t see either happening any time soon.
The problem was, as Blair had put it, the danger they would both be in if Blair flipped out at the wrong moment. If they were pinned by gunfire, or in a fight, or a standoff of some kind, it could very well have deadly results. Technically, he could go into a field that was less dangerous, the private sector that he’d contemplated just two days before, but he didn’t want to. And if Blair figured out what was going on, then there wouldn’t have to be any changes.
Therapy, Jim thought in dark amusement. How many times has someone tried to get me to do it and now I’m forcing my Guide into it.
It wasn’t a pleasant thought. Forcing his Guide to do anything went against the grain, but this was for both their sakes. There wasn’t a real choice here, not if he wanted to stay a cop.
Blair sighed in his sleep, hitching closer and nuzzling against Jim’s throat, going still once more with lips pressed on Jim’s pulse.
Jim’s body reacted without his say-so, his dick hardening and balls filling with the need to become as close to one being with his Guide. There was no doubt they were, indeed, a match. It didn’t matter what their brains said, because their bodies fit together perfectly. And clearly their subconscious minds were perfectly happy together or they’d never have wound up sleeping in each other’s arms.
Regretfully, he slid out from under Blair and walked downstairs to get ready for the day. He had the feeling his new Guide wouldn’t be all that pleased on finding them curled up together like that. Detouring to the phone, he turned off the ringer so that if it rang, Blair wouldn’t be woken. If nothing else, Blair needed to sleep. He could tell that the young man had been running on fumes for quite a while.
He took a shower and a few extra minutes to allow himself the somewhat guilty luxury of jerking off to the image of the young man in his bed. It wasn’t difficult, despite his wholehearted heterosexuality. Genes did, apparently, make the difference and they were clearly meant to be together, at least biologically.
Getting the rest sorted out would take some serious effort.
It was a good three hours later that Blair finally stirred upstairs, Jim’s hearing immediately latching onto the hitched breath and yawns, as well as the shifting of the body in his bed. He looked up at the stairs, then returned to his newspaper knowing that Blair would be down when he was ready.
That didn’t stop him from monitoring his Guide’s vitals.
* * * *
It was the smell of coffee that penetrated Blair’s dream and he sighed in disappointment on waking. He couldn’t completely remember the dream, just that he’d been engulfed in a tight hug, warm and safe. When Blair tried to move and couldn’t, he realized the ‘tight’ part had come from being wrapped like a mummy in the sheets. Struggling out of them at last, he yawned and stretched before standing to make his way down towards the coffee.
Jim sat at the kitchen table, reading the newspaper and thankfully wearing a robe that hid his bandages. The Sentinel glanced over at him and asked, “Sleep well?”
“Yeah, thanks,” Blair replied. “How are you feeling?”
“Sore, but fine. Mugs’re in the cabinet to your right.”
Blair took down a mug and poured himself some coffee. He breathed in the rich scent and took a slow sip, savoring the flavor.
Jim interrupted Blair’s morning ritual with an abrupt, “I made a list while you were sleeping. Things I expect, things I’d like, things I can’t stand, thinks I think a Guide should and shouldn’t do.”
Blinking at the other man in surprise, Blair finally managed, “That was very…organized of you.”
“You should do it and then we can compare.”
Blair sighed. “Okay, first? My brain isn’t engaged enough yet for this conversation. Second? I don’t do lists.”
“Then how do you suggest we figure out the rules? Or any common ground that we might have?”
“Oh, I don’t know. We could try this new thing called conversation,” Blair sniped. Realizing just how bitchy that sounded, and how unfair given a Sentinel’s innate need for order, he continued hastily, “Sorry, that was uncalled for. I did warn you that my brain wasn’t on yet, though.”
Jim scowled, but didn’t go on the attack.
Taking that as a positive sign, Blair suggested, “What if we just hang out for the day? We totally need to get real food, do some shopping. I have a serious need for clean laundry, and um, we could stop by your work.”
Jim’s eyebrows rose in apparent surprise at Blair’s final words. “You want to go in to the station?”
“Not really, but I’ll have to eventually if you’re going to function properly,” Blair pointed out. “How’d you get shot?”
“The guy got the drop on me,” Jim admitted reluctantly.
Blair mentally kicked his own ass. If he’d been there, no way would that have happened. Sighing, Blair said, “We need to do some testing. I need to see where you are and what you need to work on.”
“There’s facilities at the station.”
“Of course there are.”
“Sorry. I’m going to shower in the hopes of my internal censor kicking in.”
“You mean you have one?”
Blair snorted, grinning as he stood. “It’s a little out of date, but should still work.”
Thankfully, Ellison seemed in a more forgiving mood because the man actually grinned at him, though it was quickly gone.
Refilling the coffee before heading to the small room where his stuff was, Blair mentally plotted out the best way to go about their day. By the time he got to the bathroom, he had to laugh at himself as he thought, So much for not making lists.
The shower was hot and long. Blair hadn’t had anything approaching water pressure at the warehouse and suspected that he wouldn’t take it for granted any time soon in the near future. Like a lot of things, Blair knew. A clean, safe place to live. Food in the fridge. A washer/dryer in the loft. Somewhere comfortable to sleep. Secure finances. Not scrabbling for grants in order to live. No gangs in the neighborhood.
His life had taken a drastic and dramatic turn for the better and Blair knew it. For all that these new rules chafed, he had to admit that maybe a little order to the chaos of his life wasn’t a bad thing. He’d been free-falling for a long time, most of his life really, and now someone was there to catch him, whether he wanted the help or not. He tried not to think about how much he did want it.
Dried off and dressed, Blair rejoined his new housemate a good half-hour later. He froze in place when Jim strode over to him and stopped practically on top of him. The Sentinel leaned in, hands reaching up to grip Blair’s still-wet hair and bring it up to his nose. Wary, Blair stayed motionless as Jim breathed in the scent of him. He yelped, “Hey!” in surprised protest on being hauled into incredibly strong arms and then shivered when the Sentinel pressed his lips to the back of his neck.
Goosebumps erupted when Ellison licked a path along his neck up to Blair’s ear, arousal stabbing into his gut. The Sentinel growled deep in his chest, nuzzling at Blair’s throat. Just as things grew confining and his heart began to pound in something other than lust, Jim released him and stepped back.
“Sorry,” Jim muttered, moving away.
Catching his breath, Blair replied slowly, “It’s okay.”
He still didn’t like being groped, but he knew the Sentinel couldn’t help it. And now that he knew Ellison a little, Blair had the sense the other man wouldn’t take things further than he was comfortable with.
Ellison cleared his throat and said, “Let’s go. Simon’s expecting us. As long as no one gets called to a scene, you can meet everyone.”
The ride to the station was quiet, but Blair didn’t feel tense like the day before.
Of course, it’s hard to be distant with someone that you’ve shared a bed with, he thought.
Inside, the PD was just as busy as he’d always assumed. He was a little surprised at how normal it looked, with people not in uniform roaming the halls.
“Let’s get your credentials,” Jim suggested.
They headed down the hall and stopped at one of the many side offices. The woman behind the counter glared at Jim as she shoved a handful of papers at Blair. “It’s about time you showed up. Maybe you can keep him in line.”
Blair wisely kept his mouth shut.
“I’ll be back, Sandburg,” Jim told him, ignoring her.
After Jim left, the woman held a sample cup out to Blair.
“Oh, come on! Do I look like the kind of guy who takes drugs?” Blair protested. He held up a hand as she opened her mouth to answer. “Never mind.”
Taking the cup and papers to an uncomfortable plastic chair, he started filling out the forms. An hour later, Blair couldn’t believe just how much was involved. He rubbed his sore hand and brought the papers back to the woman behind the counter. “I’ll be right back with this little…ah, duty.”
She snorted, immediately skimming the files and sorting through them.
The bathroom wasn’t far away and he was surprised to find Jim and a big, black man with glasses waiting for him. “What’s up, man?”
“Here to witness, make sure you don’t tamper with the deposit,” the black man rumbled.
Jim confirmed, “Standard procedure, Sandburg.”
“And what if I can’t go with an audience?” Bair demanded.
The newcomer looked surprised. “You can’t?”
Blair made a face and replied, “No, but this is a serious violation of privacy.”
“You’ve got a real live one here, Jim,” the man observed.
Jim sighed. “Blair Sandburg, meet Captain Simon Banks.”
Uh oh, Blair thought. “As in…”
“My Captain, yeah,” Jim finished.
Blair offered a weak smile. “Good to meet you, Simon.”
Looming forward, the man corrected, “It’s Captain, or Sir.”
“Right. Sure. Of course,” Blair agreed hastily. “Sir.”
They all trooped into the bathroom. For a few seconds, Blair thought he really might not be able to go, but finally managed it. Relieved in more ways than one, he finally set the cup on the urinal and zipped himself up. Bringing the cup to the sink, he closed and rinsed it off, then washed his hands.
From there, it was back to the security clearance area to get his temporary badge. Following close behind the two big men, Blair asked, “What happens if I don’t pass security?”
Jim stopped short, causing Blair to run into him. Setting Blair back on his feet, the cop demanded, “Why wouldn’t you?”
“I don’t know,” Blair answered, irritated. “But I haven’t exactly sat on the sidelines, politically speaking. For all I know, the FBI has a file on me.”
“They probably do,” Simon commented wryly. “Doesn’t mean you won’t pass. Let’s take things one step at a time, okay?”
“Whatever,” Blair muttered.
Major Crimes turned out to be a fairly small department. Blair counted ten desks and one office. For some reason, he’d assumed it would be a much bigger place. Two guys, one black, one white, stood arguing on the other side of the office, but it as otherwise empty. Both looked over at their entrance and almost immediately, the black guy groaned and pulled out his wallet.
As they walked over, the white guy crowed, “Yes! Thanks, Ellison!”
Jim frowned. “What for?”
“For just being you,” the young man replied, grinning. “H foolishly thought a bullet would keep you from coming in to work.”
Simon snorted and observed pointedly, “I can see you two just don’t have enough to do around here, Rafe.”
“Come on, Simon, we’re just having a little fun,” Rafe protested.
Putting his hand on Rafe’s shoulder, Jim said, “Before you dig yourself any deeper, this is my Guide, Blair Sandburg. Blair, these two jokers are Detectives Brian Rafe and Henri Brown, H for short.”
Blair shook hands with both men. “Good to meet you.”
“And now, you can get back to work,” Simon ordered.
The two men left and Blair followed Jim back out of the area, parting ways from Simon who walked towards the lone office. When they reached the testing lab, Blair couldn’t help a low whistle, impressed by all the equipment.
“Don’t get too used to me being a guinea pig,” Ellison stated. “It’s not my thing.”
Already engrossed in examining the equipment, Blair waved a vague acknowledgment of the words while thinking, Where to begin?
* * * *
Three hours later and Jim was about ready to kill his new Guide all over again. His head throbbed and his hands itched fiercely. When Sandburg picked up the headphones again, Jim snapped, “Enough! We’re done here!”
The young man blinked at him in surprise, then nodded, looking mildly embarrassed. “Sorry, man. I’ve just never had access to this kind of stuff. Guess I got a little carried away.”
“You think?” Jim groused.
Sandburg looked at him, frowning, then ordered, “Close your eyes.”
“Sandburg, I’m not…”
“Do it, Jim.”
While the command was quiet, it was firm and Jim automatically closed his eyes. Compelled. Fingertips pressed gently against his temples, massaging.
“Take a deep breath and slowly release it. Keep breathing deeply, slowly. Relax first your neck, then your shoulders. Good,” Blair murmured.
Faster than Jim would have imagined, the tension receded. He relaxed under the ministrations until it felt as though he could just melt. All from one small point of contact and the low, melodic voice painting soothing images in his mind.
Opening his eyes, Jim stared into Blair’s deep blue gaze and had to smile. “It’s great. Thanks, Sandburg.”
“No problem. Come on. I bet part of your bad mood is because you’re hungry, big guy,” Blair teased.
Jim snorted, but didn’t dispute the claim and followed Blair out of the testing area with relief. He moved to stand slightly in front of the younger man, claiming his place as protector, and Blair actually relinquished the spot without a fuss.
A faint smile graced his lips as Jim thought, Maybe this’ll work out okay after all.
* * * *
That night went a lot easier than the previous. Blair found himself walking upstairs to Jim’s bedroom without a second thought. He hadn’t had such a good night’s sleep in forever, even counting the first night he’d been in the loft. He curled up under the blankets listening to Jim talk on the phone with Captain Banks, a low, indistinct murmur given the distance. He wondered idly what it would be like to be an actual Sentinel, able to hear whatever anyone said within miles, with the right concentration.
It was a familiar thought, though; one that he’d pondered since a child and so let it go easily to drift in comfort. His mind went lazily over the rest of their day; eating, shopping, a trip to the University to grab some papers. It had been a good day and he’d made sure that Jim hadn’t overdone. Just because he had an inflated sense of invulnerability didn’t mean he actually was. Of course, the sheer physical presence of the man only aided and abetted the conceit.
The water went on in the bathroom downstairs and Blair half-grinned. Jim hadn’t been too pleased with walking through the science department and their miscellaneous projects, even though they hadn’t actually come in contact with any. It didn’t surprise him in the least that the Sentinel wanted a shower before going to sleep. Stretching, Blair yawned and buried his face in the other man’s pillow, inhaling his scent without thinking. It wasn’t until he’d relaxed almost completely that it occurred to him to wonder why he’d done it.
Sighing a bit, Blair wondered how long it would be until their bond grew strong enough to demand a physical connection. He wasn’t attracted to Jim, per se, but couldn’t deny that if he were to go for another man, the Sentinel would fit the bill. And then there was that thing inside that he’d been ignoring for three days straight. That hole in his gut that felt just a little less empty. The longing that had plagued him throughout his life and driven him from woman to woman.
“You awake, Blair?”
Blair grinned. “You know I am.”
“Yeah, well, you’re in my spot.”
“I like this spot.”
Opening his eyes and rolling over, Blair flashed teeth at the other man and informed him, “I’m sleeping right here tonight.”
Exasperated, Jim retorted, “Only if you want me sleeping on top of you.”
“Who says I don’t?” Blair countered lightly.
No time like the present for tackling things head-on, after all.
Jim’s gaze narrowed at him. “Don’t mess with me, Sandburg. I’m tired and my shoulder hurts.”
Sitting upright immediately, Blair scooted over and knelt up, demanding, “Why didn’t you say anything? I’ve got a whole bunch of holistic remedies that…”
“Gotcha!” Jim exclaimed, pushing him down and climbing over him.
Blair snorted and rolled his eyes at the Sentinel when the other man finally let him up. “And people call me immature.”
“Just because of your…stature.”
Jim chuckled and ruffled Blair’s hair as he said, “I’m sure you make up for it in other ways, Junior.”
“Oh real funny, Jim.”
“I thought so.”
But the insult lacked force and Jim’s grin as he settled down for the night showed it. Shaking his head, Blair turned onto his side and looked at his new friend’s profile as he asked, “What did Simon want?”
“There’s an inter-department meeting tomorrow morning and he wants us there,” Jim explained. “I said we would.”
Blair grimaced. “I have a class tomorrow.”
Jim snorted and stated, “That’s not morning, that’s mid-morning.”
“Wait, how early are we talking here?”
“Meeting starts at oh-seven-thirty.”
Groaning, Blair protested, “That’s practically predawn!”
“Then you’d better get to sleep,” Jim replied, merciless.
Blair huffed, annoyed, and stuck out his tongue. He hesitated a few seconds before sighing and giving in to the inevitable. Closing the distance between them, Blair pressed up against Jim’s side and rested his cheek carefully on the broad chest.
“Blair?” Jim asked softly.
Lips curving in a rueful smile, Blair pointed out, “I’ll just end up here in my sleep, right? Might as well start out comfortable.”
“How’d you know?” Jim questioned.
Blair shrugged and answered, “Can’t remember the last time I slept that good. I was…disappointed…when I woke up and you were gone.”
The hopeful tone caused Blair to smile and he nodded honestly. “Yeah.”
Jim’s arm went around his shoulder, slinging down over his back. “Good.”
Smiling at the smug murmur, Blair closed his eyes and reminded, “I’m not coherent before massive amounts of caffeine. If you expect my brain to be engaged, make lots of coffee.”
“Timer’s already set,” Jim promised.
Blair chuckled and then yawned, settling down to sleep as he thought, Maybe this won’t be as bad as I first thought, after all.