Blair took a few minutes to get himself under control, leaning against the door and trying to ignore the throbbing in his ass and the aches over the rest of his body. With a sigh, he moved slowly to the bathroom, indulging himself and taking his time to get there. Inside the small room, he closed the door and carefully peeled off the hastily thrown on clothes, leaving them on the floor.

Turning on the shower, Blair sat on the toilet to pee and void his body. Gasping in pain, he knew then that Jim had hurt him internally, even though he hadn’t meant to do so. How bad, was the real question, but Blair didn’t know how to tell. He grabbed the jeans from the floor and looked at the seam, but didn’t find any blood on it, which he took as a good sign. After gingerly cleaning himself off, Blair climbed into the shower and let the hot water relax and soothe him. Washing his hair took up a lot of time, but it wasn’t like he had to save any hot water for Jim, so he took the extra time to condition it while he was there.

Finally shutting off the water, Blair stepped out of the tub and dried off, wrapping his hair in a towel start drying it. Grabbing Jim’s robe from the back of the door, he opened the bathroom door and almost tripped over the big cat lying across the threshold. Jim quickly scurried out of the way, keeping distance between them.

Blair sighed and said, “Jim, you don’t have to do that. I know you’re not going to, um, jump me again.”

Jim made a mournful sound that tugged right at Blair’s heartstrings.

Smiling faintly, Blair walked over to him and was surprised to find the cat scrabbling back, away from him. “Jim, come on, it’s not that bad.”

Jim huffed in obvious disbelief, blue eyes big and head hanging.

“It isn’t,” Blair insisted. “Sure, I would’ve rather done that for the first time while you were human, but that was my major complaint, not that I didn’t want to do it at all. You were there, you could smell my pheromones, so you know that’s not a lie. It wasn’t rape, it wasn’t exactly the way I would have done things.”

Sliding down to the floor, Jim put his jaw on his forepaws in such a dejected way that Blair couldn’t help chuckling at the sight. He closed the distance between them and knelt beside Jim, gently rubbing his hand over the exquisitely soft fur. Jim looked up at him with an inquiring glance, nudging Blair’s knee with his nose.

Blair bent down and kissed the top of Jim’s head, right between the ears, and explained, “You’re just so cute like this.”

Jim huffed at him, but rested his chin on Blair’s thigh, scooting closer and looking up at him with those impossibly big eyes.

Shifting so that he wasn’t on his sore ass, Blair leaned to the side and then gave it up. He stretched out along Jim, resting on the strong jaguar and nuzzling happily into the fur. “You know, I could get used to this, I really could, but I really want you back as a man too.”

Jim’s purr rumbled softly beneath him, soothing Blair towards sleep, and he went willingly.

*  *  *  *

Blair slid off Jim’s back slowly, once he fell into a true sleep, and Jim immediately curled up around him protectively. Guilt still dogged him, but if Blair wasn’t going to hold his out-of-control behavior against him, he really couldn’t keep it up himself. There were too many other things in his life that really were his fault that he should feel guilty about to worry about the things that no one was blaming him for.

His mind roamed over their mating and Jim was more than a little amazed at himself. He’d never made anyone scream like that before and he knew that after the first few minutes, Blair hadn’t been feeling any pain. It had been pure pleasure and Jim hadn’t even really been trying to do anything but get as deep in his mate as possible. He’d never felt so hard and so desperate in his life as that moment and he literally could not have stopped if his life had depended on it. Jim was just grateful that Blair had been so receptive to him.

The end of their mating had been something of a revelation to him, expanding their connection so that he’d actually been able to hear Blair’s thoughts through the chaos of his own. It had been pure electricity and fusion, their bodies and minds, hearts and souls, all one entity. It made Jim want to dive right back into his mate’s body so bad that it was a struggle to keep his cock sheathed, but he did. There was no way that he’d be doing anything to, or with, Blair unless the other was a completely willing participant, and that seemed to hinge on him being human again.

Sighing deeply, Jim wondered if maybe it was just a matter of wanting it bad enough. If that was the case, it wasn’t a real wonder that he was still on four legs. He liked being in this body; enjoyed the strength and power, the control that seemed almost automatic with it. The only real thing that made him want to be a man again, was Blair’s want for him to be a man again.

His ears picked up footsteps outside of the loft and his ears twitched forward when they stopped outside the door. A key in the lock startled him and he growled, jumping to his feet and jogging over. All his protective instincts were out in full force, with his mate sleeping and not at full strength. The Blessed Protector imperative was the only thing to which he could react. Crouching by the sofa, Jim waited for the door to swing open and the intruder to walk silently inside. In a streak of black fur, Jim leaped to tackle the man, claws extended, only realizing at the last second that it was Stephen.

Yowling in alarm, Jim twisted his body to avoid finishing what would be a deadly attack and slammed against the doorframe. The unyielding wood broke something and he howled in pain as he dropped to the floor.

“Jesus Christ!” Stephen shouted, jumping away from the giant cat.

Blair shouted, “Jim!” and was suddenly beside him. Gentle hands cradled his head and Jim whimpered as the fiery pain seared through his torso.

“What the hell’s that doing here!?”

Calm, but loud enough to penetrate Stephen’s obvious panic, Blair ordered, “Help me get him inside, carefully, and then shut the door.”

“I’m not touching...”

“It’s Jim, Stephen!”

Dead silence for an indeterminate time, but Jim only counted a handful of heartbeats until two sets of hands carefully lifted him and brought him fully into the loft. He was deposited gently onto the sofa where Blair’s hands felt over him, searching for injuries. Jim had the odd thought that he should be glad Blair had taken that first aid course the previous summer, then hissed in pain when those skilled hands hit the broken bones.


“What is it?”

“His right shoulder is broken. I can’t fix it and I sure can’t bring him to a vet. He’ll be healed, but then caged and put in a zoo or something.”

“It’s, it’s really Jim?”

“Do you really think a wild jaguar would let me touch him like this? That a wild jaguar would stop its attack on you?”

Stephen was subdued as he answered, “No, no it wouldn’t. Shit, how...?”

“We don’t know.” Blair’s face came into Jim’s line of sight and he stroked Jim’s head as he continued, “Jim, you have to listen to me, okay?”

Jim licked at the nearby cheek.

A worried smile surfaced and Blair said, “Good. I can’t do anything for you. I think you’ve got a compound fracture, and I know that a few ribs are broken from hitting the wall like that. You need to change now, Jim, you have to change back so we can get you to the hospital.”

Whimpering with the pain and uncertainty, not having any idea how to change back, Jim’s claws extended, ripping into the sofa.

Ssh, it’s okay, I’ll help you,” Blair promised. Soft and resonant, the Guide voice, Blair spoke directly into Jim’s ear as he ordered, “Just close your eyes, Jim, listen to my voice. Focus only on me until you reach that point where you’re floating, unanchored, senses level and pain gone. Breathe slow and even, that’s it, and think about what it is to be a man.

“Think about the way you walk, the way you eat, the way you sleep in your bed and what it’s like to run after a suspect you know you can catch. Think about all the little things that make up being a man. Shaving your face. Peeing standing up. Trying not to scratch yourself in public. Getting embarrassingly hard when you don’t want to. Think about all of that and what your body feels like. The way the muscles form. How tall you are. Your hair color. That’s it, Jim, concentrate on what it feels like to be you.”

Jim could feel something happening while Blair talked, that same something that had happened before, when he’d fallen asleep watching a documentary on Panthers and Jaguars. He remembered the ache, the burn in his muscles; remembered the itchiness all over, even as he couldn’t fight the heaviness of sleep that kept him from realizing what was going on. All of that and more as his body contorted and changed, shifting from feline to human, the hair recessing, the claws retracting into nails, the ears rounding and getting smaller, the legs and arms elongating.

At long last, Jim was able to shout, “Fuck this hurts!” and Blair held down his chest, a human chest, as he writhed in agony.

“Stephen, call an ambulance!” Blair commanded, not letting go of Jim.

Panting through the pain, Jim’s head turns and he saw the bone sticking out of his shoulder. Nauseated, he closed his eyes and continued to breathe shallowly for a few long seconds, listening to his brother call for help. Marshalling his thoughts, Jim looked into Blair’s concerned blue eyes and gritted out, “We need a story.”

Blair blinked at him in surprise, then said, “Right. Cover story. Shit. Ah, okay. You fell off the fire escape?”

“Naked?” Stephen pointed out.

“And I’m inside,” Jim agreed.

But Blair shook his head and said, “That’s the only thing around here that would be consistent with these kinds of injuries. High-force impact. The rest of the story is that I was sound asleep when it happened and Jim, uh, you had a reaction to an OTC med that made you hallucinate. Shit. We need an OTC for when they test your blood. Stephen, do you have anything in your car?”

Stephen nodded and said, “Just some antihistamine for my allergies.”

“Perfect. Run outside and get it. I’ll grab him some jeans from upstairs,” Blair said, standing.

Jim was left alone and groaned as he thought about trying to explain all this shit to Simon.

*  *  *  *

For the second time in twenty-four hours, Simon was worried about his two best friends, though this was for an entirely different reason. He paced the hospital waiting area, glaring now and again at Stephen Ellison as if the man were personally responsible. When he’d found that bite mark on Blair, he’d nearly lost it, knowing that Jim was the one who’d put it there. He’d instantly put that together with the awkward way Blair had been moving and known that Jim had, at the very least, fucked Blair without any consideration. At least, he was praying that that was all it had been. That Jim hadn’t completely lost it and raped the smaller man.

And not five hours later, he’d gotten a call from the hospital administration that Jim was in the hospital. When he’d gotten here, Simon had cornered Stephen Ellison and found out that Jim had a broken shoulder and was in surgery for internal bleeding from a fall off the fire escape. That some allergy medicine had caused Jim to hallucinate and he’d gone right over the edge of it.

Simon’s bullshit-meter had gone off the chart and he’d known it was a lie, but he wasn’t sure why. The real reason for why Jim was in surgery was locked in with him and Sandburg, who was nowhere to be found. That alone made him worry even more. That maybe Blair hadn’t been able to control whatever Sentinel shit had been happening, Jim had raped him, and maybe been about to do worse, so Blair had shoved him over the fire escape to save his own life.

Scrubbing tired fingers through his short hair, Simon was about to go to the reception desk to demand another update when Blair himself walked slowly through the front door. Relief that Blair was all right swamped him and Simon stalked over to him, snapping, “Sandburg! Where the hell have you been!?”

Blair gave him a tired look and answered, “None of your business, Simon, I’m sorry.”

Taken aback, both by the exhaustion and being shut out, Simon growled, “It is my God damned business when my best friends wind up hurt! Tell me what’s going on!”

Biting his lip briefly, Blair pulled him over to an empty corner and said quietly, “I had to go see my own doctor. Um, to make sure nothing inside was, well, damaged, or torn too badly.”

Fuck. He had been raped.

“Jesus, Blair, what happened? Please, just tell me!” Simon begged softly. “Did Jim rape you?”

Blair’s eyes widened in shock and he hissed, “No! God, no Simon, I swear! He was just a little too rough. He didn’t know that I hadn’t done anything like that before and was too far gone to hear what I was trying to tell him.”

“Too far gone? On allergy medicine?” Simon demanded in disbelief.

The other man’s hesitation was enough to tell Simon that that wasn’t the real story, but a doctor came out just then, calling, “Who’s here for Jim Ellison?”

Blair instantly turned and walked over, saying, “That’s me.”

Rubbing his eyes, planning to tie Sandburg down to get the full story out later, Simon followed.

*  *  *  *

“He’s going to be immobilized for a few days, both because of his shoulder and his stitches, but Detective Ellison will be fine.”

Blair sagged in relief, smiling at the doctor, and exclaimed, “Thank you so much. When can I see him?”

“He’s in recovery now, so it’ll be about a half hour before he’s moved to a room,” the man informed him. “I’ll have a nurse come get you when he’s settled.”

“Thanks again,” Blair said, shaking his hand.

Stephen and Simon were both relieved as well, though he could see Simon was still very troubled. That he’d even thought Jim capable of rape threw Blair. It seemed impossible, but then, a lot of people would view what had happened as very nearly that. And there were definitely issues of non-consent, no double about that, but Blair couldn’t be sorry that it had happened. He was sure that it was only the bond forged during their, well, mating that had enabled him to get Jim to revert to human form.

“Come on, Sandburg, I’ll buy you a cup of coffee.”

Knowing that Simon was going to try and get him to explain what had happened, Blair shook his head and promised, “I’ll tell you everything if Jim agrees to it, but it’s not really my story to tell, Simon. Just know that I’m fine, that Jim didn’t knowingly hurt me, and that he’s back to normal.”

Simon glared, but only said, “He better be, Sandburg. Tell him that I’ll be back this afternoon to check on him.”

Which was both a promise and a threat, Blair knew. He merely nodded and agreed, “I’ll tell him.”

Clearly unsatisfied, Simon grunted and strode towards the exit.

Breathing a sigh of relief, Blair half-grinned at Stephen and observed, “Safe for the moment.”

Stephen stared after Simon with something like awe as he asked, “How do you work with him every day? He would scare the shit out of me.”

“Who says he doesn’t?” Blair countered, dry. Shaking off the urge to find the nearest bed and collapse, he touched Stephen’s arm to get his attention and questioned, “How are you doing?”

Startled, Stephen echoed, “Me?”

“It’s not every day you find out your brother’s a shapeshifter.”

“Well, true. But...”

Curiosity piqued, Blair prompted, “But?”

A flush chased over Stephen’s handsome face as he said softly, “When we were kids, and I always thought that I’d imagined this, but, I remember chasing after Jim a lot, tagging along as little brothers do, but we weren’t on two legs.”

Blair’s eyebrows nearly rose off his face. “Both of you?”

“Yeah. I mean, like I said, I thought I’d imagined it,” Stephen repeated.

Sighing explosively, Blair pulled on his hair and muttered, “Repression strikes again.”

“It was Dad. I remember being really terrified of him one day. I think, I think he was going to do something to me because I didn’t want to change back and Jim attacked him, as a cat, you know? I think he was hurt pretty bad and it scared me and Jim a lot,” Stephen admitted, staring at the floor.

Well sure. Even adolescent jaguars are pretty massive animals, Blair thought. Bill didn’t stand a chance against Jim if he was protecting his little brother from what he thought was a real threat.

Out loud, he said, “But you haven’t changed since then, right?”

“No, not once,” Stephen confirmed emphatically. “I can’t even believe that Jim did. Do you know why?”

Blair stared thoughtfully at his de facto brother-in-law and answered, “Honestly? I think that Jim’s become comfortable with who he is and because of that, all the facets of his heritage are finally coming out. He’s accepted his life as a Sentinel, accepted that he and your father won’t ever be on great terms, and accepted his feelings for me.”

Boy has he ever, Blair thought in dark amusement, the twinge in his ass only slightly faded, thanks to the cream his doctor had given him.

“So, that’s it? If I suddenly have everything going right in my life, I can worry about this happening?” Stephen exclaimed.

Gripping Stephen’s shoulder, Blair said, “We’ll figure all this out before you have to worry, Stephen, trust me.”

Stephen gradually relaxed and nodded, sighing deeply. “Okay. Yeah, you’re right, of course. Hey, you want something to eat or drink? I’m hungry all of a sudden.”

Knowing that it was the Ellison avoidance tactics in play, Blair just smiled and shook his head, well used to a steelier version of it from Jim. “I’m fine, thanks.”

“Okay. I’ll um, I’ll be back in a little while.”

Blair watched him walk slowly down the hall, towards the elevators, and took himself over to the row of chairs that were calling his name. He had at least twenty minutes to rest until the nurse came and got him, and he was going to take advantage of it.

*  *  *  *

Jim was more than sore when he woke, he felt groggy and out of it, which told him he’d been under anesthesia. He hated being under anesthesia. It was an effort to pry his lids apart and he only did it because Blair was holding his hand, bringing him back to the land of the conscious against his will.

“Jim? You awake now?”

Groaning a bit, Jim forced himself to focus on Blair and found the other man staring at him with worry and relief. He could see the tension in the slight frame that spoke of Blair holding himself too stiff, in pain probably, cleared his throat and asked, “You okay?”

“I’m fine,” Blair soothed. “I got myself checked out and there’s nothing a few days of not doing anything won’t heal. Got an antibiotic to be on the safe side.”

“Good,” Jim sighed.

Blair sat carefully on the edge of the bed, his fingers lightly combing through Jim’s hair as he said, “Assuming you survive Simon’s visit when he shows up in a few hours, you’ll be here the next couple of days until your stitches heal.”

Frowning, Jim questioned, “Stitches?”

“Yeah. You suffered some internal damage from the impact. Jaguars have a lot of power in their bodies, Jim. You probably hit the doorjamb at about ten miles an hour.”

“No wonder I hurt.”

Blair grinned briefly at the wry comment before he leaned forward, pressing his lips to Jim’s forehead for a long moment. When he pulled back, he was serious. “Did you want me to talk to Simon? I could tell him everything for you, let you rest.”

But Jim shook his head. Now that he was human again, now that he had his memories, all of them without any further blanks or repressions, he knew that it would have to be him. Simon deserved honesty from him, as Jim’s oldest friend. Jim squeezed Blair’s hand as he asked, “Do you mind if I tell him about us, too? There is an us, right?”

A brilliant smile flashed over Blair’s face as he retorted, “Just try getting rid of me. And no, of course I don’t mind. Might as well give him all the bad news he can handle at once, right?”

The chuckle that forced its way out hurt, and Jim groaned again, complaining, “Don’t make me laugh, Chief.”

“Sorry, Jim,” Blair apologized, still smiling.

This time, the kiss was on Jim’s mouth and it lasted a lot longer.