It wasn’t difficult for Blair to guess where Jim would go to be safe, to keep Blair, himself, safe. It wasn’t any big stretch of the imagination to know that his lover had returned to the jungle that had been his home for years. There was no way that the government would be able to track Jim there, no way that any sign of him would show, except in a rumor.

No, the difficult part was in telling himself to wait.

Blair knew that even though he was safe from reprisal, thanks to Simon and Naomi’s press contacts, as safe as he could be at least, he was being watched. They were waiting for him to go to Jim. They were waiting for him to give in to his need to see his Sentinel, to be with him again. What they didn’t realize was the extent of Blair’s patience. He could wait to see Jim for a lot longer than they had a budget with which to watch him.

So Blair slowly picked up the pieces of his life. He had returned to teaching after the media frenzy of his quasi-government sponsored kidnapping died down. He had returned to lecturing and tutoring. He continued to counsel kids at risk of turning to crime, and consulting with Major Crimes on cases that needed his unique expertise.

It would have been a perfect life if Jim had been with him. As it was, Blair’s heart beat painfully in his chest as days turned into weeks, and then months, and then finally, a year had passed. The day that Jim had left came by again and Blair found himself crying silent tears in bed that morning, even before he was fully awake.

It was a Tuesday that day, which was good. Blair forced himself to get out of bed and take a shower, to maintain his routine in the face of his breaking heart. Classes that day were particularly difficult, but Blair managed to get through them. No one caused any problems, probably able to tell from his face that it was a bad day.

Simon showed up for lunch around two, knowing that Blair’s mid-day class got out at one thirty and Blair seldom remembered to eat lunch after. Arms crossed over his chest, Simon insisted, “You are not blowing me off, Sandburg.”

A quirk of humor reestablished itself and Blair teased, “That’s a funny thing for a straight man to say to a gay one.”

Eyes rolling, Simon ordered, “Lunch, Sandburg, now.”

Saluting, Blair grabbed his jacket and replied smartly, “Sir, yes, Sir!”

“And don’t you forget it.”

Blair grinned and followed Simon out of his office to the car. The drive to Simon’s favorite deli was quiet and short, each man lost in thought. It wasn’t until they were sitting in the uncomfortable plastic booth that Simon finally broke the silence with, “When are you going to start looking for him?”

Blair’s lips twisted as he answered, “Never.”

He didn’t have to look, after all, he knew where Jim was.

Astonished, Simon pointed out, “He’s not coming back, Blair. If you want to be with him, you’re going to have to go to him.”

“I know.”

“And you’re not going to?”

“No.”

Simon searched his eyes for a long moment then sighed. “You’re a stronger man than I am, Blair.”

With a shrug, Blair answered, “Strength has nothing to do with it.”

“It does from where I’m sitting,” Simon said softly.

Uncomfortable with the extent of Simon’s regard, shown clearly in his dark eyes, Blair shrugged again and turned back to his sandwich. He hadn’t lied, technically, but not telling the whole truth, especially to Simon, bothered him. There was no way around it, though, not to keep Jim safe.

*  *  *  *

The jungle welcomed him back as if he’d never left. It had been a simple thing for Jim to get from Cascade to Mexico City and then to Peru. The only thing he’d brought with him was a pillow cover that had been in Blair’s hamper. It held his scent, which kept Jim grounded as well as possible without his actual Guide beside him. He’d cut it up and sewn it into a banner of sorts, tied about his neck. It wasn’t long before their scents mingled, thanks to the sweat demanded by jungle humidity. That was fine, too, bringing back loving memories that were already close to the surface.

Once out of the city and in the jungle proper, Jim had made a beeline back to the village where he’d been Sentinel for Incacha’s people. Incacha had taken one look at him and simply enfolded Jim in his arms for a short, but heartfelt, hug.

Since then, Jim had done his best to throw himself into his adopted world. He worked hard and long to keep the tribe safe from encroachers, white and native both. He assisted with the hunting and rebuilding after flood and fire, of which there had been one of each during the insanely long year that passed after leaving Blair. He knew that it would never be safe to go back, not really. Jim felt in his bones that if rejoined Blair, they’d be right back where they’d started, no matter how much press was involved.

So he lived in a state of denial, keeping his thoughts on the time when he would see Blair walk into the village. He fantasized about having Blair in his small home, in his bed and writhing under him in so much pleasure that there were good-natured complaints from their neighbors the following morning. As happened with all newlyweds, only Jim pictured it continuing for years upon years.

Those dreams were what kept him alive.

Shaking his head to break the reverie, Jim rolled off the bed and climbed to his feet. It was going to be a quiet day as they’d returned just yesterday from the hunt and the women were busy preparing the meat.

“Enquiri.”

Turning to Incacha, Jim half-smiled a greeting, but didn’t bother with words.

“It is a painful day for you,” Incacha observed after searching his face.

Jim shrugged. “No more than any other.”

Incacha’s hand lifted to sketch an unfamiliar sign in the air as he said, “Dreams alone cannot sustain you, Sentinel.”

Not surprised that Incacha had guessed what he’d been doing, Jim replied, “I  have nothing else to do so.”

“To live without the other half of one’s soul is not living.”

“What about you?”

Incacha smiled and answered, “I do not miss what I have not known.”

Snorting, Jim stated, “That’s a load of crap.”

Incacha’s smile broadened and he clapped Jim on the back, steering the bigger man towards the group of men in the center of the village. “You would smell it first.”

Jim knew an evasion when he smelled it, so to speak, but let it pass. He knew Incacha had his own share of secrets and disappointments in life and didn’t want to add to his friend’s pain, whatever it was. Looking up at the sky as he felt a change in the wind, Jim frowned and reported, “We’re in for rain soon.”

Incacha’s gaze lifted to the clear sky and replied complacently, “If you say so.”

Jim sighed. His life’s ambition to become a weather-vane was now complete.

*  *  *  *

“You can’t continue to justify this kind of expense. There’s been no movement for over a year. Cut your losses and move on.”

Haggerty ground his teeth together as he strove for patience. His new superior wasn’t nearly as in tune with the possibilities that Ellison represented as the last. He’d been trying to shut the project down since his assignment to oversight eight months ago. “Sir, it’s a waiting game. Neither of them will be able to last much longer without the other. All the evidence supports that.”

The man behind the desk shook his head and stated, “If this is a waiting game, then you’ve lost. I’m not going to justify these useless expenses any longer. Not when there are far more important and legal ones that deserve the money more. Furthermore, if I hear even a rumor that Dr. Sandburg or Captain Ellison have run into any interference from you, you’ll be behind bars so fast, your head will spin. And it’ll be a cell that doesn’t need a court verdict for, either.”

Knowing from the impassive eyes that stared back at him from those glasses that he was serious, Haggerty mentally changed gears. He dropped Ellison and Sandburg to the back burner and stifled the ache to tell the man what he thought of him. Instead, Haggerty offered a mild smile and replied, “Of course, Sir.”

*  *  *  *

Jack Kelso wheeled himself up to Blair’s office with a smile on his face. It had taken over a year to position himself properly within the organization, but he’d done it. Getting into that oversight job had been a combination of calling in serious favors owed and the judicious application of intimidation tactics that he hadn’t used in a lot of years.

He’d done it though, and not just because seeing Blair so lost was actively painful. The younger man had a good handle on himself, but to those who knew him best, Blair’s face was a constant mask of ill-concealed pain. Helping Blair had been his original goal, but once he’d gotten inside, Jack had realized just how much good he could do. He could take away funding from Black Ops that went too far and divert it to projects that would actually do some good for the world.

Keeping Haggerty on a leash was a bonus.

Knocking cheerfully on Blair’s door, Jack barely waited for the forlorn, ‘Come in,’ to open the door and roll into the small office. It always amused Jack a little that Blair kept the same, tiny office no matter how high his profile got. When he asked Blair about it now and again, he got the same answer. A faint grin and the response, “More space just means more clutter. This keeps me organized, believe it or not.”

Blair’s face lightened with honest pleasure on seeing him and he greeted, “Jack! It’s great to see you, man! How are you?”

Smiling in return as he parked by the desk, Jack answered, “Great Blair, thanks.”

“How’s the new job?” Blair questioned, holding out a can of soda.

Jack waved it aside, replying, “That’s why I’m here, actually. I know that I’ve been secretive about what I’ve been doing the last year or so, but there was a good reason for it.”

Blair’s eyebrows rose as he said, “Well, I have to admit the curiosity has been killing me. Tell me all about it!”

So Jack did. As swiftly and succinctly as possible. The way Blair paled so fast alarmed him and Jack grabbed the other man’s forearm. “Blair! Don’t pass out on me!”

Shaking his head, Blair jumped to his feet and paced to the other side of the room. Jack watched him closely, concerned by the reaction. Now that he thought about it, he wasn’t sure what he’d expected as a reaction. Silence, however, hadn’t been it. Finally, Blair turned and the shuttered expression worried Jack even more.

“I’m grateful, Jack, I am, but...I think I’m either going to start screaming or throw up. Maybe both. Could you, um, I just need to...I’ll call you as soon as I’m sane again.”

Bemused by the rapid-fire reply that preceded Blair’s rush out of the room, Jack grinned at the sudden and loud whoop of joy from Blair in the hall outside.

*  *  *  *

“You’re where!?” Simon bellowed into the phone.

Blair grinned and put the phone back to his ear when the shout stopped echoing. He repeated, “I’m getting on a plain to Ciudad Mexico and then to Peru. I’m bringing Jim home, Simon.”

“Are you insane, Sandburg? No, that’s a stupid question. You are insane!”

“Simon, relax. Don’t have a heart attack or Megan will kill me,” Blair teased.

“Blair!”

Taking a breath to try and slow the rapid beating of his heart which, for the first time in too long, didn’t feel like it was about to expire from sorrow, Blair was about to explain when his flight was called. “I have to go. Call Jack and he’ll explain everything. Bye Simon, I love you!”

Blair hung up before Simon could do more than shout his name again in protest. He bounced in anticipation as he waited in line to get on the plane.

*  *  *  *

Jim had been tense for over a week, but he couldn’t explain it. There hadn’t been anyone in their territory that didn’t belong there and the weather was as calm as it ever got. They had plenty of food and the children were happy and running around underfoot as they always did in times of peace and prosperity.

“Enquiri?”

Jim jumped in surprise at Incacha’s question of his name and snarled at himself as he looked at the older man, alarmed that he hadn’t heard the Shaman’s approach. He heard the unspoken question and snapped, “I don’t know what’s wrong! Something...something is coming and I don’t know what.”

Giving him a long, even stare, Incacha finally questioned, “Something bad?”

“I don’t know,” Jim repeated, frustrated. “It isn’t something I can pin down. A scent on the wind, maybe. A barely heard sound. I’m going to scout for a while.”

“Do you want...

“No. Tell everyone to stay here, but be careful. Something’s coming.”

He strode from the village armed with his crossbow and quiver, the knives that never left his thighs and calves, and the pistol that he’d taken from the body of a bandit on the wrong side of their borders. The body itself had been left as a warning where it could be found.

Traveling soundlessly through the trees and underbrush, Jim easily avoided the snares that would confound even an experienced guide. He stopped short at the thought, his body frozen as he realized what it was that had been teasing his senses. Stilling completely, Jim focused east, where he’d last gotten that whiff of something familiar. It took a few minutes, but finally the wind brought it back to him and Jim moaned in need and anticipation.

Less than a second later, he was running towards Blair.

*  *  *  *

Blair cursed eloquently as he struggled to put his tent together. He’d used this kind before, but it definitely wasn’t cooperating. Murphy’s Law, naturally, since it was raining a solid drizzle that got into everything, no matter how waterproof it was supposed to be.

Finally managing to pop it into place, Blair heaved a sigh of relief and tossed his bags inside. He was on course, he knew that much, but he had no idea how far from the village he actually was. The old woman he’d talked to at the last village had pointed him in the right direction and there was something in the dark eyes that had told him to trust her more than any map.

Not that he was all that great with maps in the first place.

Chuckling at the thought, Blair took a moment to turn his face to the concealed sky, seeing only the thick intertwining of branches and leaves that held the full fury of the rainstorm from him, but allowed enough through to soak himself and the ground. Pulling off his waterlogged shirt, Blair shrugged philosophically and hung it over a branch, the rest of his clothes following in short order. He was, after all, alone in the jungle. There was no one to care if he walked around naked.

There was a strange moment of prescience just after that thought as he turned towards the tent to get some sleep. The hairs on the back of his neck rose and he stiffened just before he was tackled to the ground. Shouting and cursing, Blair fought his attacker, but he was severely outmatched and pinned to the ground in short order. Feeling the hard cock separated from his ass only by a thin layer of fabric caused him to struggle even more fiercely so that it was a long time before the voice penetrated his panic.

The realization that it was Jim caused Blair to go limp in relief, sagging into the mud face first until Jim flipped him carefully over. There was a bruise darkening Jim’s cheek where Blair’s elbow had connected, but the blue eyes were clear as they stared back at him. Blair opened his mouth to breathe Jim’s name when his lover swallowed it in a deep, wet kiss.

Opening his mouth to Jim, Blair returned the kiss and wrapped his legs around the bigger man, squeezing tight. The kiss went on forever, releasing him only for short breaths until he was light headed. When Jim pulled back, Blair moaned in disappointment, but Jim grinned fiercely at him and started undoing his pants. Nodding desperately, Blair released him enough for Jim to unzip and shove his pants down, the hard, thick cock bobbing up instantly.

“I can’t wait, Blair, can’t, don’t want to hurt you but...”

“Do it! God, Jim, just do it!” Blair interrupted.

Jim lined up with a nod and slowly pushed inside. Blair moaned in pain and pleasure, aching to have his lover all the way in and not caring about the burn of muscles that would adjust, however reluctantly. Jim refused to hurry, no matter how much Blair begged, but finally he was balls to ass and kissing Blair again as he stayed throbbing inside Blair’s body.

Relinquishing himself to his Sentinel, Blair’s entire body relaxed and he accepted the loving kiss pressed upon him. Lightly scratching his nails up and down Jim’s bare back, Blair shifted restlessly, eager to have Jim moving inside. The muscles tensed under his fingers and Jim groaned, chest-deep with feeling. Finally, he pulled slowly out to the tip, then plunged back in. Blair shouted wordlessly and again wrapped his legs around Jim’s ass, locking his ankles together to urge his lover on.

It was long and hard, Jim taking Blair’s mouth time and again while their bodies strained together. Blair couldn’t remember being so hard and needy, demanding everything that Jim had to give him and more, pulling his lover’s very soul into every sloppy, wet kiss. As intense as it was, Blair knew it couldn’t last, even as the thought never consciously formed. His balls tightened in anticipation and he clawed at Jim, getting as close as he possibly could.

Jim pounded into him, every so often slipping in the mud and driving even further into Blair. The friction and heat, the sensation of the rain and sweat and tears mixing together, the way Jim’s cock filled him and owned him and hit his prostate often enough to ring bells...it drove him closer to ecstasy with each slap of heavy balls to his ass.

Pulling his mouth away from where it had been sucking a mark into Blair’s throat, Jim swore hoarsely, “Never letting you go again, never!”

“You won’t have to,” Blair promised in return, smiling through the madness of need and sensation. “We’re safe, Jim, no one’s going to try for us again, Jack made sure of it.”

“Jack? Never mind. Later,” Jim ordered, grunting as he slammed into Blair again.

The next few minutes were silent ones, the stillness broken only by the wet sounds of their bodies moving together. There were no more kisses as Blair’s entire body tightened, on the edge. There was only Jim’s eyes on his, staring into his and promising him the world. Blair couldn’t keep it together, though, his eyes rolling back as he came, spitting seed between them and biting his lip bloody as he felt the wet warmth of Jim fill him.

On overload, Blair’s heart stopped from the pleasure and he could feel the world change around them, shifting into a blue-tinted jungle where it seemed their very spirits joined. He came crashing back to himself, panting with his heart thundering against his ribs and Jim collapsed,  out cold, on top of him.

Utterly spent, Blair couldn’t even put his arms around Jim. He was smiling as he faded into sleep.

*  *  *  *

Jim smiled down at Blair tucked into his arms and again kissed the frizzy curls that had dried into a wild riot. He’d woken on top of Blair with his oblivious lover dead to the world. Everything that had happened was kind of a blur, from the time that he’d identified Blair’s scent to waking up inside him and hard again. Reluctantly, Jim had quit Blair’s warm body and brought them inside the tent. The younger man hadn’t even come to when Jim had moved them, which told Jim just how exhausted Blair was.

It was the next morning before Blair finally stirred, nuzzling against Jim’s throat as he woke and said, Thought I was dreaming, but it’s too damn hot for that.”

Chuckling, Jim agreed, “Definitely not a dream, Chief.”

Deep blue eyes blinked open, one hand coming up to wipe away the crud. “We’re safe, Jim, you can come back to Cascade now.”

“So you said,” Jim replied, cautious. “What happened?”

“Jack Kelso is in a position now to protect us,” Blair explained.

“For how long?”

Blair shrugged. “Indefinitely. I don’t see Jack getting pushed aside once he’s in a place he doesn’t want to leave. And right now, he’s got enough power to do some real good and keep shit like what happened to us, from happening again, or to other people. He’s got friends, Jim, we’re going to be safe.”

Staring up at the top of the tent, Jim said slowly, “I can’t really protect you there. You and I could get taken again, despite your friend’s help. The only real way to be safe is for you to stay here.”

“Are you saying that you don’t want to come back?” Blair questioned, soft.

Remembering the cool, soft rain of his birthplace, and the sweet soft autumn wind, and the bitter, damp cold of a winter night, Jim had to shake his head. “I want to, I just...I can’t be sure, Blair.”

A gentle hand brushed through the scant hair on Jim’s chest as Blair pointed out, “Nothing is ever sure, Jim, but this is as close as we can get. Let’s go home. Please?”

Jim turned to look into Blair’s eyes and saw the confidence and pleading there. He knew that if he asked, Blair would remain there in the jungle with him. He knew that Blair would do anything to stay with him and would, somehow, find a life to live here that was fulfilling. But it wasn’t really fair of him to ask that of Blair. This was a time to let go of his distrust and try for a new life. Try to find freedom in another life where they could both be happy and what they were meant to be.

Decision made, Jim leaned down for a long, slow kiss, pulling back to whisper, “Let’s go home, then.”

Blair’s smile was brilliant as he nodded and said, “Of course, there’s nothing saying we have to go back right away...”

Grinning at the suggestive tone, Jim rolled them so Blair was on top and looked up at his lover. “You’ll like Incacha and the village.”

Blair started rocking against him, agreeing, “I’m sure I will, but right now, I think I know something I’ll like a lot more.”

Their hands joined, fingers lacing together, and Jim stated, “I love you, Chief.”

“Love you too, Jim,” Blair breathed, bending down to seal the words and their lives together with a kiss.

It was more than Jim could ever have hoped for when he’d first made the journey north after so long.