(A Sequel to "The Protector")

by Southy

© January 2007



Jim took a sip of bottled water as he stared out the sliding glass door.  The gray sky offered no enlightenment on this Monday afternoon.

He moved to the love seat and sat down, his lower regions hosting the ache of memory.


Last night, Blair had entered him.  Jim had been eager, for Blair had carefully stretched and prepared him each of the past few nights.  Then it had happened, flesh joining flesh, feeling as natural as breathing.


And the pleasure…. Before.  During.  After.


There had been Blair’s pleasure, too.  After his young love had had such a difficult time feeling himself a worthy member of the human race the past eighteen months, Jim had no doubt what last night had meant to Blair in his quest to reclaim his manhood.


He loved Blair so much.  It almost felt like a physical pain.


And that was the very problem.


What was going on between them was too good.  Nothing in life lasted.  Especially not the good times.


Jim put his water bottle aside and rested his head in his hands.



Twenty minutes later, Blair breezed into the loft with a pair of grocery sacks in each hand.  “I think we’re going to have to move more money from savings to checking.  The register is down to something like fifty bucks.”  He placed the sacks on the kitchen island and began putting the contents away.


We.  Blair had so easily accepted Jim’s money as both of theirs.  Like they were married.


Jim got up and walked to the kitchen.


Blair looked over his shoulder as he placed a box of crackers on a shelf.  “What’s wrong?”


Jim slipped both arms around Blair’s shoulders and leaned down to rest his cheek on top of Blair’s head.  “Nothing’s wrong.”  He relished the warm feel of Blair’s body.


Blair let himself be held.  “You almost sound sad.”


Jim put his lips near Blair’s ear.  “I love you so much.  Everything has been perfect since you came into my life.”


Blair grinned and squeezed Jim’s arms.  Then he said, “Why am I sensing a 'but'?”  He turned around to face him.


Jim bent to rest his forehead against Blair’s.


They stayed like that a long moment.


Then Blair pulled back.  “What’s going on?” he asked worriedly.


Jim presented a wry smile.  “We’re going on.”  He straightened and brought the water to his mouth.  “It scares me sometimes.”  He turned away, taking a large swallow.


“W-What?” he heard from behind him.


He didn’t like filling Blair with doubts, especially after Blair had come so far in his recovery from a brutal assault over eighteen months ago.


Jim sat in the easy chair and couldn’t meet Blair’s eyes.  “I’ve never known anything to feel this good, let alone for this long.”


Blair came toward him with a tentative smile.  “Neither have I.”  Then he moved to the chair, put his arms around Jim’s neck, and rested his head on his shoulder.  “I know we’re going to have some bad times, as unbelievable as that seems right now.  But I think that’s all the more reason to enjoy everything we possibly can from the good times.”  He kissed Jim’s cheek.  “This is a honeymoon of sorts, I guess.  We can only have it once.”


Blair’s loving spirit was irresistible. 


Jim brought his hand up and placed it against Blair’s cheek.  “I just wanted you to know, in case I seem… I don’t know, a little unappreciative sometimes.  This seems too good to be true.  I get afraid.”  He felt so vulnerable, saying that.


“That’s okay,” Blair whispered.  “I promise I’ll try to always be positive when you get scared.”  He kissed him again.  “I love you, Jim.  So, so much.”


Jim was tempted to say something about last night, but he didn’t know how to find the words.  Instead, he closed his eyes and rubbed his cheek against Blair’s.


He felt so much better.



Jim had his arm draped along Blair’s shoulders as they crossed the street.  It was a breezy autumn day in Chicago.  They had just spent a long lunch with Jim’s old army buddy, Calvin Jones, who now ran his own detective agency.  Jones had presented a lot of caveats, and said starting a new business would suck up a lot of cash and have many discouraging moments.  Obtaining enough paying clients sooner rather than later would be the key to success. 


“So what do you think?” Blair asked as they strolled by various shops, barely glancing at the windows.


“I don’t know that I’d have enough to get us through the lean years,” Jim said.  “I might see if I can get a loan from the bank.  Which would mean writing up a good business plan….”


“I have contacts with Rainier who could help with some of that.”


Jim sighed.  “And then we have to find a way to attract clients.”


“Can’t your old boss – that Simon Banks – give us some cases that the police department can’t handle for whatever reason?”


“I suppose that’s a possibility.”


“Do you think the bank will loan you money?”


“I don’t know.  I have decent credit.  But I’m not sure why they think we’d be a success, any more than the average guy on the street.”


“What about a relative?” Blair asked.  “Any possibility of that?”  As soon as the words were out, Blair knew it was the wrong thing to ask.


A cloud came over Jim’s face as his jaw hardened.  “I’m not asking any relatives.”


Blair wondered if Jim was estranged from his entire family, as well as his father.  At least, Blair assumed the latter.  It was the one subject between them that seemed off limits.


“Sorry I brought it up,” Blair murmured.


Jim squeezed his shoulder.  “Some day, I’ll get real drunk and tell you the story of my family.  Then maybe you’ll understand why I keep my distance.”


Blair nodded, though he wasn’t sure how convincing Jim would be.  Having had so few people in his life who truly cared about him, Blair couldn’t understand not keeping contact with familial bonds.  He only had his mom, and he couldn’t imagine shutting her out of his life.  Of course, truth be told, he tended to withhold some of the most negative aspects of his life from her.


But that was to protect her, not punish her, as Jim seemed to be doing where his family was concerned.


“Hey, how about a souvenir?” Jim said, nudging Blair toward a t-shirt shop.


They entered the shop, which had numerous racks of t-shirts, sweatshirts, and other casual clothing, many with Chicago slogans. 


“I could use a new sweatshirt,” Blair said, selecting a thick white one that said I Got Blown Away in the Windy City.  He also picked out a light blue one in the same style.


Jim began looking at the t-shirts as Blair handed him the sweatshirts.  “Here.”


“What do I look like,” Jim mock-grumbled as he let them be draped over his arm, “a coat rack?”


“I’m looking at stuff over there,” Blair said, and he headed for a wall with various figurines and posters.


He wasn’t interested in buying anything further, but just browsing.  He did notice a small Raggedy Ann doll and thought of his mother, as she used to collect them.  He considered buying it for old times sakes, but then decided not to, since she’d sold off her collection years ago. 


Blair turned and noticed another patron was putting away his cell phone.  The man made eye contact with Blair, just as his expression became a scowl.


Blair’s heart raced. 


Even as he rationalized the scowl was in reaction to the phone conversation, and even as he was aware that the man’s eye contact with him was merely coincidental, he couldn’t stop the fear that overtook him, reminding him of that night at Rainier when he’d been assaulted by six members of a hate gang.


The man started to move away, breaking eye contact, but Blair felt a vise gripping his heart.


Suddenly a firm grip was on his arm.


“Blair?” Jim said in a gentle voice.  He urged Blair away, down an aisle, around a wall, and to the far corner of the store.


Blair tried to get his gasping breath under control.


Then he was being embraced, Jim’s hand rubbing slow circles along his back.


“It’s all right,” Jim whispered.  “It’s all right.”


He let himself rest against Jim, so grateful that Jim seemed to understand what had happened, and he didn’t judge or question Blair.


Had he had any kind of life before Jim?


Blair swallowed and took a deep breath.  “I’m okay,” he managed.  After another moment of enjoying the back rub, he straightened.


Jim looked him in the eye.  “You sure?”


Blair squeezed his hand.  “Yeah.  Thanks.”  Bashful smile.  “Let’s get our stuff and go.”


Jim had left their selections on top of the t-shirt rack.  He grabbed them now and took them to the cashier.


Blair tried to unobtrusively hold onto the back of Jim’s shirt.


He was aware of the man with the cell phone browsing through a rack near the cashier.  He wondered if the man had noticed his reaction. 


He hoped not.


As they left the store, Jim shifted the sack to his right hand, and put his left arm around Blair, pulling him close.


Blair also put his arm around Jim.  “I’m okay,” he said cheerfully.  Then he looked up at his love.  “Thanks for not making a big deal out of it.”


“Out of what?” Jim said in a light tone.


Blair squeezed him harder.  “I love you,” he said with a happy chuckle.



Two weeks later, a loan officer pushed an open file folder toward Jim and Blair.  “Unfortunately, Mr. Ellison, we can’t approve your loan.  We don’t have reason to think you’ll be able to pay it back in a reasonable amount of time.  Our experts predict it’ll be five years before your business could start making a profit.  If, perhaps, you had co-signor with a better cash position….”


Jim shook his head.  “Thank you for you consideration.”


Blair kept his thoughts to himself until they left the bank.  “That really sucks.  I wonder if maybe we told them you were a sentinel….”


It was a sunny autumn day, but very breezy.  Blair was grateful to be wearing his white Chicago sweatshirt over a t-shirt.


Jim drew a breath as they moved down the sidewalk.  “That would open up a whole different line of questioning and require proof.  No one has officially declared me to be a sentinel.  And I don’t want to put on a dog and pony show to prove it, especially when I know that I’m not that good at it.”


“You’re great,” Blair beamed at him.  “You’re fantastic.  I wish you would allow yourself that.”


“I never want that to be a part of anything we do,” Jim said.  “Like I told you from the beginning, I want people to hire me because they think I’m a good detective, not because they think I’m a sentinel.”


“So, where does this leave us?” Blair asked.


“I have enough to get us through the first year.  Maybe we should just focus on trying to beat the odds of how quickly new businesses fail.  Maybe we’ll get lucky.”


“And if we’re not?” Blair asked, though he wanted to be optimistic.


Jim sighed.  “Then we’ll be broke and we’ll both need to see if we can get employment somewhere.”


Blair decided to risk Jim’s wrath.  “The guy said that all you need is a co-signor in a good cash position.  If you won’t go to family, maybe there’s someone else who could invest in our plans?”


Jim was thoughtful, at least.  Then he replied, “I don’t know anybody who could risk losing that kind of money.  Plus, if the worst happens, it could strain the friendship beyond repair and take a long time to pay back.”


Blair put his arm around Jim’s waist.  “What do you want to do?”


“Take our chances and see what we can make of it.  If we fail, it won’t be the end of the world.”  He squeezed Blair closer, which Blair relished.  “We’ll still have each other.”


Blair grinned up at him.  Yes, that would be the best thing of all.  He still couldn’t believe how giddy the thought made him feel.  They could be homeless, penniless, and they would still have each other.


Blair had never imagined being so rich.


Jim looked at his watch.  “I agreed to go to lunch with Simon Banks, my old boss.  Maybe this would be a good time to hit him up for possible clients.”


“Yeah, that would be great.”


“Did you want to come?”


Blair chuckled.  “He meant it to be just you and him, right?  That’s okay.  I still haven’t gotten around to picking up my new glasses, so I’ll drop by the eye doctor’s office, since it’s on the way home.  I’ll just walk.  Plus, we’re out of eggs and milk, so I’ll stop at the grocery.”


They were now at the lot where Jim’s truck was parked.  “You sure?” he asked as he retrieved his keys.


Blair nodded.  “Yeah.  But I want us both to have lunch with Simon at another time.  He could be a good contact.”


“All right.”  Jim got in the truck.  He gave Blair’s arm a squeeze before Blair turned away.



Blair grinned as he continued down the sidewalk.  He couldn’t wait to get Jim into bed tonight.  He’d bring out the fur-lined manacles.


Jim got so excited whenever he saw them.  The manacles meant he was going to be restrained, spread-eagled on the bed.  Being in that position meant that Blair was going to lower his mouth over Jim’s stout erection.


According to the book Blair had read on sex with sentinels, the restraint was necessary, since sentinels could get so excited from oral stimulation that they couldn’t restrain the desire to thrust, inadvertently causing serious choking.  Therefore, while tied down, Jim could only move his hips so far.


They had reached a level of trust – and Blair a level of skill – that he didn’t think the restraints were necessary.  Jim would never hurt him, even at the peak of sexual excitement.  But it was fun to watch Jim sweat with anticipation when Blair pulled the manacles from a bedside drawer.


It was amazing, the way they were in bed together.  Jim seemed to have the upper hand in so many of the ways they related to each other.  Yet, when the lights were out, Jim willingly yielded to anything Blair commanded.  That was because of his sentinel genes, according to the book.  Blair loved being in control of Jim’s pleasure, and feeling free to demand pleasure in return – any way he wanted it – which Jim was always so eager to provide.


Sex with Jim was unlike anything Blair had ever imagined possible.


Of course, the one thing they’d never done was have intercourse with Jim on top.  Blair didn’t know when, or if, he’d ever be able to do that.  Being almost sexually assaulted by the hate gang was still a memory seared into his brain.  Even with Jim, he wasn’t sure if he’d ever be able to handle the thought of being penetrated.


At least, Jim didn’t seem to consider it any kind of gap in their sex life.  The sentinel’s instinct was to please the one he was providing sentinel services for.  That’s what was most natural for him.


Blair felt a cough coming on and put his hand to his mouth.  After coughing a couple of times, he stopped in front of the small building that his eye doctor rented for an office.  There was a sign on the door that said Temporarily Closed for Renovation.  He could hear pounding and sawing from inside.


Damn.  He wished he had picked up his new glasses when they’d called him three weeks earlier to say they had arrived.  It was a new prescription, as his sight had gotten slightly worse since his check-up two years ago.


He decided to head for the grocery store, coughing once more.



Jim pushed his empty plate aside, and then perched his elbows on the tabletop and folded his hands.  “I want to give this a go.”


“For what it’s worth,” Simon Banks said while wiping his mouth with a napkin, “I miss you like crazy back at Major Crime.  You were our best detective.  Why not try to get reinstated with the Department?  With a good lawyer – ”


Jim waved his hand.  “I’m not interested in pursuing that right now.  I first want to see if Blair and I can make a go of it on our own.  Besides, if I were to try to go back to the Department, what would Blair do?”


Bank shrugged.  “Maybe get his own job?”  He was down to the last few bites of his steak.


Jim shook his head.  “He’s beneficial to me, to my senses.”


Banks continued to eat, watching him.


Jim lowered his gaze.  “He’s important to me in other ways too.”  How could he ever describe to another what Blair did to him in their bed?  


Jim made a decision and straightened.  “He and I….  We… we’re… you know, together.”


Banks’ chewing gradually slowed as he gazed back at Jim.  Then he sipped his water.  “What do you mean?  I know you said you were a team.”


“Yes,” Jim said softly.  “With the senses.  With whatever we’re going to do to help people..  And – and we’re a team personally.”


Banks wiped his mouth while eyeing him.  “You mean you’re in a relationship with him?”


Jim nodded.  “Yes,” he said, hearing the reverence in his own voice.


Banks furrowed his brow.  “This sounds serious.”


Jim nodded.  “It’s for real.”


Silence stretched for a long moment.  Then Banks pushed his plate aside.  “I admit I never would have guessed that you’d swing that way.”


“Neither would I.”  Pause.  “It’s not about ‘that way’.  It’s about when you love somebody so much that you feel like your whole life has changed for the better.  They understand you the way no one ever has before.  And they give so much love in return.  You just want to make them feel wonderful and good and happy, every moment of every day.”


Simon’s cheeks billowed as he blew out a breath.  “You’ve got it bad, Jim.”


“I know.  In these few months I’ve known Blair, he’s become everything.  All that matters.  Because of him, I feel okay about this sentinel stuff.”  He snorted with tender amusement.  “He seems to think the senses make me special – and not in the way society pretends to honor sentinels, while treating them like dogs.”  The last came out bitterly.


The waitress approached the table.  “Will that be all?”


They nodded.  She left the bill on the table.


“I’ve got this,” Simon said.  He pulled out his wallet and left a twenty.  “You ready?”


Jim nodded and they got up from the table and moved toward the door.


“From a purely selfish standpoint,” Banks said, “I wish you’d come back to Major Crime.  But I see that your mind is made up.”


They exited out to the street.  “I want to try – ”


Jim was abruptly aware of a pounding in his ears.  He focused.


Heartbeat.  Frantic.




He took off running toward the sound, charging across the street, barely glancing at the oncoming traffic.


Prospect Street was just two blocks over.  Blair had intended to walk home, after doing errands. 


Jim moved faster.  Past Optimum Street.


He was getting winded, but Blair’s heartbeat still sounded loudly in his ears.  He was also picking up distant voices… a sharp grunt….


Even as he breathed harder, his pace quickened.  He saw an old white van speed down Prospect Street. 


Blair was inside, still grunting and gasping amidst the pummeling.


Jim’s heart sank with the realization he could never catch up on foot.  He stared at the license plate on the disappearing van.  H76-237.




Squealing tires sounded loudly behind him.  He cringed, wanting to block out the sound.


Sharp braking hurt his ears even more.


“Get in!”


His ears ringing, Jim glanced up with watering eyes to see the passenger door open on Simon Bank’s sedan, Simon leaning across the seat.


Feeling a ray of hope, Jim vaulted into the seat.  “Follow that white van.”


Simon put a red police light on the roof as he sped away from the curb.  “Who are they?”


“I don’t know,” Jim said, his face cringed with the assault on his ears from all directions.  “But they’ve got Blair.  Hurry!”


“Call it in,” Simon said.


“I’ve got to listen for Blair’s heartbeat!”


Jim tried to sort out sounds and pointed to the right, which was the street he’d seen the van turn onto from Prospect.


Simon picked up the microphone and called for assistance in the pursuit.


Jim told him, “License plate H76-237.  1984 or 85 white Chevy van.”    He tried to focus amidst all the louder-than-normal noise.


Simon called it in quickly.  Then asked, “Which way did it go?”


“I don’t know!”  Jim tried again.  Focus… focus…..


Noise.  All over the streets.


He slammed his fist down on the dashboard.  “Goddammit!”


He was Blair’s sentinel.  His protector.


He’d failed him.



The first thing Blair became aware of was chirping crickets in the distance.  They sounded so peaceful.


The second thing he became aware of was how much his body ached.  He groaned as he tried to shift, and then realized his hands were tied behind his back.


“He’s waking up,” a voice said.


Memory returned as he slowly stretched out his legs, glad that they, at least, weren’t tied.


“Take it easy,” the voice said in a level tone, “and we won’t hurt you.”


These pricks had already hurt him.  His stomach muscles hurt like nothing he’d ever felt before.


Blair’s eyes squinted open.  It was dark.  His face was pressed against the floorboard of the van he remembered being thrown into. 


“We’re going to sit you up,” the voice warned.


Two pairs of hands grabbed his upper arms.


He gasped as he felt the strain of various muscles, but then was relieved to rest back against the side of the van.  Then he coughed against the tight feeling in his chest.


He drew a calming breath and opened his eyes more fully.


Two men sat across from him on stools, staring at him.  The one who had spoken was young, slender, and dark haired.  He had a strangely pleasant expression.


The other was middle-aged and beefy.  He was the one who had thrown him into the van and hurt him.


“Who are you?” Blair asked in a whisper.


The burly man said, “If we told you that, we’d have to kill you.”


They didn’t intend to kill him.  That was good news.  “What do you want?”


The younger man asked, “When is Calvin Jones going to make the drop?”


“Huh?”  It took Blair a moment to remember that Calvin Jones was Jim’s old army buddy in Chicago, who had talked to them about starting a detective agency.


The beefy man said, “Don’t play dumb with us.  I’ll beat the shit out of you, if I have to.”


“When is Jones going to make the drop?” the younger man repeated patiently.


Feeling a sense of dread that he couldn’t tell them what they wanted to know, Blair said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”


The big man’s hand pulled back and his fist clenched.  Blair wasn't sure how to brace himself because he didn’t know where he might get hit.


Suddenly, the fist landed in his stomach.


He cried out and collapsed to one side.  “Fucking bastard,” he gasped, drawing his knees up. 


He was going to kick that man in the balls if he did that again.


“Maybe he’s the wrong guy,” the younger man said worriedly.


“He’s the right one,” the big man said.  “He’s even got a new white sweatshirt with Chicago on it.”


“I was in Chicago,” Blair spat angrily.  “With a friend, to talk to Calvin Jones about starting a business.  I don’t know anything about any fucking drop!”  He wasn’t even sure what a “drop” was.  The only thing he knew for certain was that his stomach hurt like crazy, and it was worse when he talked.


Or when he breathed.  The feeling in his chest wasn’t right.


He coughed.


The big man stood, his hands on his hips.


“If you hurt him so he can’t talk, he won’t do us any good,” the younger man said.


“I have nothing to tell you,” Blair said with clenched teeth.  “What makes you think I do?”


“You saw Calvin Jones.  You and your buddy were hired to pick up the money.  We just need to know when.”


His buddy.  Jim.


Please Jim.


Jim wouldn’t know where to find him.  It had been hours since he’d been taken.  He wondered if Jim was still waiting for him to come home, or if he’d figured out something was wrong.  “Jim, Jim,” he whispered, wishing so much that Jim was somehow close enough that he could hear his voice.


That was highly unlikely.  He was going to have to get out of this himself.  Just like when he’d killed Matthews, who had claimed to have killed Jim.


He tried to calm his thundering heart. 


Blair’s muscles tensed when the big man bent over him.


His hair was grabbed and he cried out again, as it felt as though his scalp was being ripped away from his skull.


Filthy breath was in his face when the man squatted down to eye level.  “That’s all we need to know, son.  When is the drop going to take place?” 


The grip eased.


“And then what?” Blair asked softly, figuring that talk would at least hold off the hurt.


“We’ll let you go,” the younger man said in a confident voice that Blair badly wanted to believe.


“Why?” Blair asked, wondering if he was planting ideas in their head.  “No matter what I make up and tell you, why would you let me go?  I’ve seen you.”


The burley man chuckled wickedly.  “We’re going to keep you right here with us, until we get our people in place in Chicago to take the drop money.  We’ll be long gone by the time you contact Jones or the police.  You’ll have a little walk before you reach a phone booth.”  Wicked laugh.


So, they were out in the middle of nowhere.


Please, Jim.



“Goddammit,” Jim growled into the phone, “somebody took Blair.  I want to know if you have any goddamn thing to do with it.”  Jim ignored Simon’s hand on his arm.  He wasn’t going to ‘calm down’.  “It just seems more than a little coincidental that within two days of seeing you, Blair gets kidnapped.  Plus, he was wearing a Chicago sweatshirt.”


A loud sigh on the other end.  “Listen, Jimmy, there’s some things you don’t need to know about.”


“I need to know everything that could affect Blair’s safety!  His life is on your head, Calvin.  Don’t forget that.”


Subdued, Jones said, “I’m involved with some stuff.  Some under-the-table dealings.  Maybe whoever took Sandburg was trying to find out about money that’s going to be dropped.”


Okay, they were getting somewhere.  “Where is it going to be dropped?”


A long pause, then a reluctant, “At café downtown, two days from now.”


Jim felt like he’d been punched in the gut.  “Two days?  Calvin, I need to know where Blair is now.  If they’re trying to find information from him that he doesn’t know…,” Jim’s voice was suddenly choked. 


Banks’ hand was on his arm again.  He softly said, “This is a good thing.  It buys us a little time.”


Across the phone line, Calvin said, “Unfortunately, Jim, I don’t know for sure who would be after the money.  Besides, my enemies here in Chicago would probably have to hire somebody in your town to kidnap your partner.”  Pause, then, “Dammit, Jim, what if this doesn’t have anything to do with me?”


Logically, Jim could see the possibility.  But he trusted his gut.  Matthews had been Blair’s enemy, and Blair had killed him two months ago at Rainier.  Why would anyone else take Blair?


It was inner rage at thinking Matthews had been responsible for killing Jim, that had given Blair the strength to save himself.


Jim hoped that the idea of a future together would give Blair the strength to save himself now.


Jim clutched the phone harder.  “You’d better damn well come up with something to help me, Calvin.”  He slammed down the receiver.


Banks released a breath.  “I’ve got every unit available searching for that van, Jim.  But we’ll need to alert the state police and authorities in surrounding towns, just in case.”



“I have to piss.”


“Not until you tell us about the drop.”


“Jesus, Al, it won’t hurt to let him piss.”


Blair looked at the younger man hopefully.  He actually wasn’t sure that he could urinate, but he longed for anything that might change his circumstances.


“He’ll be more eager to talk if he’s uncomfortable.”


“I have nothing to tell you!  If you don’t take me outside, I’ll just go in my pants.  Doesn’t matter to me.”  In some ways, it truly didn’t.


The younger man stood, and then bent take Blair by the arm.  “Come on.  Open the door, Al.”


As Blair struggled to his knees, his midsection flared with pain.  He was aware that Al, at least, was complying.


Once he reached the back door of the van, he found it awkward getting himself in position to jump to the ground with his hands tied


He managed, gasping loudly as his tender insides were jarred upon landing.


They were in a forest, near a dirt road.  It was dark and clear, but a brisk wind was blowing.


The younger man guided him over to a tree.   “Go here.  Al has a gun pointed at you.”  He nodded behind them.


Blair didn’t need to look to know it was true.


The knot on his hands was worked with while he stood partially hunched over, because of the pain in the muscles along his torso.


This was his best chance to escape.  But how could he?


Just as the rope became loose, the man beside him gripped his upper arm tightly.  “Hurry up.”


Blair didn’t think the command made things any easier.  With his free hand, he unzipped his fly.  He was thinking too frantically to be embarrassed as he pulled out his flesh, which wanted to shrink all the more from the sharp breeze.


He tried to spread his legs and relax.


“Christ,” came Al’s gruff voice behind them, “how fucking long does it take to piss?”


Blair wondered if the man beside him was looking away. 


Or staring at him.


He shuddered.


He needed to go, but his bladder wouldn’t cooperate.


As he stood, staring at the ground, his predicament sunk in.  This was nuts.  How had this happened to him?  Even if they became convinced he didn’t know anything, would they let him go?  Alive?  He’d seen them.  He could have the police looking for them, so they’d always have to be worried about being identified. 


What could he do?


He intentionally allowed a painful groan.  Then he hunched over, groaning louder, his right hand remaining on his dick.


He felt the grip loosen on his left arm, as the younger man said, “What the -- ?”


“Help,” Blair pleaded softly, not sure it was completely a ruse.


“What’s the fuck’s wrong with him?” Al grumbled.


“My stomach,” Blair said pitifully, now kneeling on the ground.  He coughed, and was sorry when pain shot through him.  “Oh, God, blood!”  He hoped the one beside him wasn’t looking too closely.  “I need a doctor,” he said as a near-sob.


“Christ, Al, we’ve got to get out of here.”  The younger man had actually taken a step away from him, as though to distance himself from Blair’s “illness”.


“He’ll talk now,” Al said with confidence, and his footsteps moved closer behind Blair.




Blair scrambled to his feet and took off running.




Blair heard charging footsteps behind him… and the cocking of a pistol.



“We’ve got a sighting!”  Simon slammed down his phone.  “A patrol car spotted the van going east on Highway 86, but he had to abandon pursuit when he came upon a big traffic accident involving a semi.”


“I’m heading out there,” Jim said, reaching for the door.


Simon grabbed his coat.  “I’m coming with you.”



Blair zigged-zagged through the forest, his heartbeat increasing every time the gun was fired.  They were firing blindly, in the dark, which gave him hope….


A burn flared across his left side.


“Dammit,” he heard, followed by the impotent firing of an empty pistol.


Blair slowed, tip-toed, tried to still his heaving breath.  If they couldn’t hear him, how could they possibly find him in the dark?


Finally, he dared to pause.


“We’ll never find him,” he heard the younger man say.


“Fuck,” Al grumbled.  “That little runt has cost us two grand.”


“There’ll be other jobs.  Come on.  It’s getting damn cold.”


Yes, it was damn cold.  Just as Blair felt relief that the two were starting to step away, he began to shiver and realized there was a gooey dampness where his side was throbbing.


He looked down and took a moment to zip his fly.


It too dark to see, but he knew it was blood making his t-shirt stick to his skin, beneath the sweatshirt.


What to do? 


He couldn't afford to rip up any of his clothing for bandaging, as the temperature had dropped significantly.  And it was hard to draw a breath, for his chest felt so heavy.


He listened for a long moment.


He heard the van start up.


He began walking in what he believed to be the direction of the road.  His only option was to wave down a passing car – if there were any at this time of night.


Suddenly, he heard a motor coming.


He couldn’t risk it.  It was probably the van.


He knelt down behind the brush, gasping with pain.


The motor became louder, and then he saw a flash of white some twenty yards ahead.


The van was gone.




Now he was alone.  Cold.  Wounded.  Something hadn’t been feeling right in his chest for a number of hours now.


He needed to get help.  But if he moved close enough to the road to wave down a passing car, he wondered if those two jerks might anticipate that, and turn around to come back for him.


Blair stayed where he was and shivered again.


What could he do?



The road narrowed and curved sharply as it climbed deeper into the woods.


“For all we know,” Simon said, “that van could have turned off anywhere.”


Jim said, “There aren’t any other roads until this deadends at Salton Springs.”


“You sure about that?”


“Yes.  My father has a cabin in this area.”


Suddenly, a white van appeared on the curb in front of them.


“That’s it!” Jim said, just as the van moved past them on the narrow road.  “Turn around!”


“Dammit!”  Simon exclaimed.  “There’s nowhere to turn.”


“Do it anyway!  They’ve got Blair!”


Simon rounded the curve, and then slowed and turned on the narrow road.


They ended up sideways on the road.


“Come on, Simon!”


Simon shifted and backed up the few inches available on the road, before it dropped off to a steep shoulder, and then moved forward a few inches, turning the wheel sharply.  He backed up again, repeating the process.


Jim knew yelling wasn’t going to solve anything.  Instead, he closed his eyes and focused, finding the van’s motor.  He focused more intensely and heard two heartbeats.  Then voices.


“Fucking little cocksucker,” a voice grumbled.  “I hope he dies up here, for costing us our pay.”


Just then, Simon had the car turned enough to gun it forward, in the direction of the van.  But he had miscalculated and the left front wheel dropped over the edge of the shoulder.


“Dammit!  Dammit!” Simon shouted, fighting the steering wheel and struggling to bring the car back up on the road


Then they were spinning their wheels.


“Stop!” Jim said, grabbing Simon’s arm.






Simon braked and then the car died.


Jim said, “Blair wasn’t in that van.”


“How do you know?” Simon asked sharply.


“I heard them talking.  He must have gotten away.”  He cocked his door handle.  “He’s out here somewhere.”


Jim walked briskly along the road, deeper into the forest, his senses on full alert.


I hope he dies up here, the man had said.  Did that mean that Blair was tied up somewhere?  Hurt?  Or…?


“Are you certain, Jim?”


“Yes.”  Jim drew a deep breath, then called, “BLAIR!”



Blair  lay on the forest floor, curled in on himself in an attempt to keep warm, his hand putting as much pressure on his side as he could bear, and drifting with the fever that had taken hold of his body.


He thought he heard his name in the distance.


He was probably just imagining it.



Jim’s nostrils dilated to an extreme degree.  “I smell gunpowder.”


“Where?”  Simon demanded as they continued to walk briskly.


“Right around here.”  Jim paused, and then stepped down the steep bank and into the woods, Simon following.  “It’s stronger here.  There’s been gunfire.”  Jim now focused his sight on the woods.  “BLAIR!”



He thought he heard it again.  Louder and more desperate.  “Jim?” Blair whispered, wanting very much to receive some kind of confirmation that it wasn’t a wish answered by delirium.



“I don’t see how – “


Hush,” Jim commanded sharply.  He listened, and heard the distant hoot of an owl.  “BLAIR!”  He continued to hold up his hand to Simon, warning him to stay silent.


“Jim?” came the soft, hopeful whisper.


Jim’s heart soared.  “He’s over here,” he said as he took off at a run.


Then Jim started to slow, for one tree looked the same as another.  He was about to call Blair’s name again, then paused to try to focus once again.  He listened… listened….




He squelched the urge to call out encouragements.  Instead, he focused on the sound, moving at a trot, dodging trees, following the rhythm that became louder… and now included stilted breaths.


“Blair,” he called more gently.  “I’m almost there.”




Jim whirled around.


There was Blair, eyes closed, wearing his white Chicago sweatshirt, curled up beneath a cluster of bushes, his hand holding his side.


Jim dropped to his knees beside him.  “Hey there, Chief,” he said in his gentlest tone.  “I’ve got you now.  Open your eyes.”


Blair blinked his eyes open.  “Jim?”  Then they widened as they looked beyond.


“It’s just Simon,” Jim said, squeezing Blair’s shoulder.  “We’re going to get you out of here.  How you doing?”


Blair swallowed thickly and met Jim’s eye.  “I don’t feel so good.”  With his free hand, he reached up to Jim’s shoulder and squeezed mightily.


Jim’s heart melted.  “It’s okay,” he whispered gently.  “I’m here.”


“How’s he doing?” Simon asked, as he knelt next to Jim.


“I got shot,” Blair said, fear in his voice.


“Let’s take a look,” Jim said, keeping his voice cheerful.  “We’re going to sit you up first, all right?”  He didn’t like the way Blair was struggling for breath.  “Simon, give me a hand here.  Let’s rest him back against me.”


As gently as possible, they took Blair by the shoulders and sat him up.  Jim shifted to sit behind Blair, and then they leaned Blair back against him.


“Jim,” Blair murmured, rubbing his cheek against the warmth of Jim’s shirt.


“Hey, there, Chief,” Jim said.  He put a hand against Blair’s head and pressed it more closely against him.  He breathed deeply, giving them both this moment, and then slowly released Blair, so he could remove his jacket.


Simon reached down to Blair’s side, “Damn, it's so dark.  I have a flashlight in my car.”


“I can see,” Jim said.  He wrapped his jacket around the front of Blair’s body, and then lifted it up to see his damp side.  He focused his eyes and took in the shirt, the blood that was seeping into the white of the sweatshirt..  Very carefully, he pressed at the flesh a couple of inches from the wound.


Blair didn’t react.


Jim let out a breath.  “Chief?  The bullet didn’t go inside.  It just took a chunk of flesh as it went by you.  You’re going to be fine.”


“Thank God,” Simon said.


“Do you hurt anywhere else?”


Blair looked up at Jim, now more alert.  “Just achy where they beat me up.”


“Yeah?  How did you get away?”


“Tricked them,” Blair said with satisfaction.


Jim grinned.  “That’s my Chief.”


“What did they want?” Simon asked.


“Kept asking about some stupid drop.”  Blair looked up at Jim.  “Something to do with when we were in Chicago.”


“Calvin Jones,” Jim said angrily.


Simon said, “I don’t know if we’re going to be able to get my car up and off the shoulder.  But at least we need to get him there to help warm him up and wave down a passer-by.  I already know the cell phone isn’t going to work out this way.”


Jim shook his head.  “My father’s cabin can’t be more than a half mile.  I recognized that last bend we went around.  The road to the cabin should be just a hundred yards or so beyond that.  It should have heat and water and a first aid kit.  If we’re lucky, the phone might even be in service.”


“Sounds good.  But do you think the kid is up to it?”


“I can walk,” Blair whispered with dubious confidence.


“Let’s see how you do,” Jim said.  “If it’s too much, Chief, we can carry you.  But let’s get that wound bound first.”


They didn’t have any supplies, so Jim felt it would be safest to use Blair’s own t-shirt, since he had the protection of the jacket.  He searched Blair’s pockets until he found his pocketknife.  Then he cut off a long strip and wrapped it around Blair’s middle. “That’ll hold you until we get there.  All right?”


Blair nodded.


“Let us lift you.  Put your arms on our shoulders.  On three.”


Together, Simon and Jim stood, bringing Blair with them.  They began making the slow journey toward the cabin.



“Here it is,” Jim said.  It may have been no more than a half-mile, but it had seemed much longer.  He and Simon were breathing hard, and Blair was leaning almost all his weight on Jim, sweating profusely.


“You have a key?” Simon asked, as they approached the front door.


“No.  Kick it in.”


Simon moved Blair’s weak arm from his shoulder, to turn him completely over to Jim’s care.  He stood before the front door, aimed his foot, and then slammed it into the door.


The door crashed open.


Simon moved inside and turned on the lights.  “Man, nice place.”


“Easy, Chief,” Jim said, “I’m going to carry you.”  He wasn’t sure if Blair was very alert now. 


He knelt down, put one arm behind Blair’s knees, and then lifted with a mighty heave.


“Pull back the covers,” he said, carrying Blair over the threshold.


The furniture had plastic coverings.  It was a one-room cabin, but it was large.  Simon moved to the bunk beds nearest the kitchen and took the plastic from the lower bunk, and then pulled the covers back.


Jim knelt and carefully placed Blair on the mattress.


“Where’s the phone?” Simon asked, looking around.


Jim nodded.  “By the fridge.  The first aid kit is in the cabinet above it.”  He moved the jacket aside and began easing up both of Blair’s shirts.


Simon brought the first aid kit to the bunk.  “How’s he doing?”


Blair’s eyes were closed and his breath was raspy.  “Holding his own.  He’s got some kind of infection in his lungs.  I realize now that I heard it earlier this morning, but I didn’t understand what it meant.”  Jim started to undo the makeshift bandage.  “The wound isn’t serious.  It’s the fever that’s weakened him.”


“Tough kid, to get away from two hired thugs.”


“Yeah,” Jim said softly.  He had become associated with Blair, because Blair had needed a protector.  Now, Blair had proven twice over that he was quite capable of taking care of himself.


Simon went back to the kitchen area and lifted the receiver from the wall phone.  “There’s a dial tone,” he said with surprise.  “I’m going to call 911 and get the local sheriff.  How do I tell him how to get here?  What are we, about five miles north of the 86 and Westcott intersection?”


Jim placed a large gauze pad over Blair’s side.  “That’s a tough one.  This road isn’t marked.  There’s quite a few cabins in this general area.  Maybe tell them it’s the Ellison cabin and they’ll have a record of the location.”  He hadn’t been here since he was a kid, and he’d never noted the street names during the journey.




Jim looked up.


“How about we call your father?  He’ll get here faster, won’t he?  He can take us to the hospital.”


Jim felt the blood freeze in his veins.  The last thing he wanted was his father to know he needed him.  Especially while in the presence of Blair.


Simon pressed, “He can get here, can’t he?”


Yes, his father was in good health, and had a large Cadillac that could easily get them all to the hospital.


He considered insisting that Simon call the sheriff, and then imagined hours wasted as law enforcement and an ambulance – which might still be tied up with the semi accident in this county – tried to find a lone cabin in the dark woods.


He looked down at Blair’s fevered face.  This was about him.  His health.  His safety.


Jim restrained a sigh and held up the bandage he was holding.  “You finish with this.  I’ll call my father.”


He was surprised to realize that he remembered the number, for it hadn’t changed since childhood.


“Hello,” a female voice greeted.


“Sally, it’s Jim.  Can you put Dad on the line?  It’s urgent.”


“Yes, I will.  It’s good to hear from you, Jim.”


Jim squelched his guilt that he didn’t have time for social niceties.


A moment later, his father’s concerned voice said, “Jimmy?”


“Dad, I’m out at the cabin.  I’m with Blair, my guide.  He’s been hurt.  My captain is here, too, but his car is hung up on the side of the road.  We need to take Blair to the hospital.  We thought it would be faster if you came, since you know where it is.”


“Certainly.  Do I need to bring anything?”


Jim was relieved that his father had always been a practical man.  “No, just reliable transportation.  Everything else is here.”  He was grateful, too, that the cabin was kept well-stocked.


“All right.  I’ll try to hurry.”


“Thanks, Dad.”  Jim quickly hung up the phone.


Simon looked up, having pulled a bandage snug around Blair’s middle.  “How long will it take?”


“An hour or so.”


“That’s good then.”


Blair murmured something unintelligible.


Jim opened the refrigerator and took out a bottled water.


Simon stood.  “You can take over here.  I’m going to call the station and let them know what’s going on – and that they need to keep looking for that van.”


Jim sat next to Blair and encouraged him to sip some water.  Afterwards, Blair’s eyes squinted open and he said, “Jim?”


Jim squeezed his hand.  “Hey there, Chief.  You’re going to be fine.  My father is on the way, and he’ll take us all to the hospital.”


Blair hesitated, then, “Your father?”


“Yeah.  This cabin is owned by him.  We used to come here when I was little.”  He knew Blair would enjoy hearing that.


Blair regarded him for a long moment.  “Good memories?”


Jim nodded.  “Sometimes.  The fishing and hiking could be fun, especially when Steven and I were old enough to go out by ourselves and not have to be watched over all the time.”


Another extended gaze.  Then Blair said, “You don’t want your father to come, do you?”


Jim shrugged, wishing he wasn’t so easily read.  He leaned closer so he could keep his voice soft.  “Doesn’t matter.  He’s on his way.  Getting you help is what’s most important.”


The reminder of his situation prompted Blair to say, “I couldn’t understand what they wanted from me.”


Jim’s voice hardened.  “This had nothing to do with you, Chief.  Turns out, Calvin Jones is involved in some shady stuff.  Obviously, his enemies saw us meet with him and thought it had to do with his shady dealings.  They thought that by taking you when they had the chance, they could get their hands on some of his dirty money.”  His voice softened.  “I’m sorry my friendship with him got you mixed up in it.  And got you hurt.”


Blair attempted a smile.  “You couldn’t have known.”


Simon hung up the receiver.  “Taggart assures me that they’ll have all possible units looking for that van.”


Jim nodded toward a closet.  “Can you grab some blankets?”


Simon opened the closet and grabbed two blankets.  A few minutes later, Blair was bundled up.


Next came cold compresses against his face, neck, and chest.  He expressed gratitude and grew more alert. 


Simon found crackers and peanut butter.  He and Jim indulged, while Blair turned down the idea of a snack.


Eventually, they heard a car coming, its motor sounding rough.   Jim moved to the window and cautiously glanced out.  “It’s my father.”


Simon said, “That engine doesn’t sound good.”




Jim re-settled the covers over Blair while Simon started putting away the peanut butter and crackers.


A moment later, the broken door was pushed open. 


“Sorry about that, Dad.”  Jim stood before his father.  “This is my captain from when I was on the force, Simon Banks.”


The two men nodded politely at each other.


Jim made a decision.  He moved next to the bunk beds.  “This is Blair Sandburg.  He’s my guide.  And my love.”


The elder man blinked.


“Hi,” Blair said softly.




Simon gently cleared his throat.  “What’s wrong with your engine?”


William Ellison turned his attention to Simon.  “I’m not sure.  I haven’t gotten around to taking it in.  It tends to die when I brake and I have to keep restarting it.”


Jim was grateful for the turn in the conversation.  “There’s automotive supplies around here, right?”  He started moving toward a closet in the living room.


Self-consciously, William said, “It’s been a long time since I’ve worked on an engine.”


Jim opened the closet and grabbed some tools.  “I’ll take a look at it.”


“I’ll stay here with Blair,” Simon said pointedly.


Jim growled to himself when his father followed him out the front door. 


“Don’t you need a flashlight, son?”


“No.”  Jim’s voice hardened.  “I’m a sentinel, remember?”  Memories of all the childhood rejections welled up.


Getting the car fixed and Blair to the hospital was all they needed to focus on right now.


His father popped the hood and Jim lifted it, and then put the support in place.


They both put their heads under the hood, though only Jim could see clearly.


“What’s it mean that he’s your guide?”  Without waiting for an answer, William’s voice hardened.  “Did I hear you correctly?  He’s… your love?”


Jim began putting his wrench to work.  “Detest it all you want, Dad.  I don’t care.  Blair is, by far, the best thing that’s ever happened to me.  He understands the sentinel stuff, doesn’t judge it, isn’t afraid of it.  He loves me unconditionally.”  Jim straightened and looked his father in the eye.  “That’s something I’ve never had before.  Ever.  And you know something?  It feels good.”


He turned his attention back to the engine.  He couldn’t figure out if he was satisfied or repulsed by his father’s silence.


After an audible swallow, his father said, “I was trying to protect you, Jimmy – not reject you.”


“Protect me from what?” Jim shot angrily over his shoulder.  “From myself?  From what I truly was?”



Simon released a sigh as he sat in a chair next to Blair’s bunk.  “I guess it’s a bit late to tell them that we can hear everything they say.”  The front door hung open half a foot, and sound carried far in the stillness of the night, now that the wind had died down.


Blair looked away.  “It hurts so much to hear how much Jim hurts.”  His eyes darted to Simon.  “He’s a good man.  The finest I’ve ever known.  He didn’t deserve to grow up wounded.”


“He is a good man.”  Simon liked saying it.   “Though I must admit, I’ve seen Jim in some of his less stellar moments.  He could be a handful sometimes.  Especially when I first took charge of Major Crime.  He had a chip on his shoulder then.  A cocky arrogance about him.  I partnered him with someone he was able to admire, and he grew up a lot that first year.”  Simon shrugged.  “I think marriage helped settle him down, too.”


Blair managed a smile. “Can’t say I’m sorry it didn’t work out.”


Simon chuckled softly.  “I guess you wouldn’t.”  He remembered his and Jim’s conversation earlier in the day.  “He loves you, Blair.  He lights up when he talks about you.  I’ve never seen him like this.  Could never imagine him ever feeling like this toward someone else.”


From outside, Jim’s raised voice yelled, “All I ever got from you was rejection and the conviction that there was something wrong with me.”


William’s voice responded, but it was too soft to hear.


Blair coughed, then sadly said, “He’s had the sentinel abilities all along.  He must have suppressed them because of his father’s disapproval.”  He met Simon’s eye.  “How hurt must he have been to have submerged them so successfully.  When we’ve talked before, he truly didn’t remember ever having them.”


Now Jim said, “I have a gift, Dad.  It’s a burden sometimes, but it’s allowed me to help people.  Like Blair.  The way society treats sentinels – as some sort of trained guard dogs – is wrong.”


“I know, Jimmy.  That’s what I wanted to protect you from – being treated like an animal that could be trained into submission for the sake of some wealthy patron.”


“You were no different from anyone else,” Jim said harshly.  “You still believed that my abilities made me inferior, and you punished me with disapproval when I made claims about what I could see and hear.  You outright accused me of being a liar.  I was a good kid, Dad.  A good kid.”


Blair closed his eyes with a grimace and turned his face away.


The telephone rang.


“That has to be the Cascade PD,” Simon said, grateful for the distraction.  He rose and turned toward the kitchen..  “I gave them this number.”



The surge of anger had cleared Jim’s head and he had little trouble finding the source of the engine's problem and repairing it..  “Start it up,” he commanded.  He was aware that the phone inside the cabin had rung, and assumed Simon would see to it.


The motor was started.  The smooth noise was a balm to Jim’s nerves.  “That’s stabilized the engine, at least for now.  I’ll get Blair.”


Just as he turned to the cabin door, Simon emerged.  “That was the station.  They caught the two perps just inside Cascade’s city limits.”


“Great,” Jim said.  “The car’s ready.  I’ll help Blair.”


Simon laid his hand on Jim’s shoulder.  “Jim,” he said softly, “we could hear everything you two were saying.”


Dammit.  He was so focused on his anger that he hadn’t extended his senses to the cabin.


What could he do about it now?


Jim shrugged off Simon’s hand and moved inside the cabin.  “Hey, Chief,” he greeted softly, “time for a ride to the hospital.”


Blair put his hand against his side.  “I’m not sure I even need a hospital.  I feel better.”


“Your wound needs sutures.  And they should be able to give you something for your infection so you can rest more comfortably.”  Jim pushed the blankets aside.  “Okay, slow and easy.”



In the early morning dawn, Jim knelt beside the sofa.  Blair was covered in blankets once again, but inside it were heating pads, placed at various locations on Blair’s torso, where he’d been pummeled.  They’d gotten home from the hospital a few hours before. Blair had mostly slept upon arriving home, thanks to a mild painkiller and drugs to suppress his symptoms.


They’d decided it would be easiest to be close to the kitchen and bathroom, so Jim had opted to place him on the couch.


Now, Blair said in a scratchy voice, “I really think your father meant well, Jim.  I know he made wrong choices, but at the time he thought they were the right ones.”


Jim firmed his jaw.  “It’s hard for me to see it that way.”


“I know.  Because the hurt is so deep.  But because of everything that has happened in our lives, you and I have ended up here.  How could we have ever met if you hadn’t suppressed your senses when you were young?”


Jim smiled lovingly.  “I suppose that’s one way of looking at it.”


“I’ve always believed that things happen for a reason.  It doesn’t mean that they’re pleasant or they don’t hurt.  Or that we should even forgive them.  Just that things happen the way they do, because ultimately it’s for the best.”


Jim recalled a history class from high school.  “You mean like a blessing in disguise?”




“Was it Winston Churchill who said, after a rough year, ‘That was one hell of a disguise?’”


Blair chuckled softly, and then grimaced.


Jim shook his head.  “I can’t kiss and make up with my father.”  He bowed his head.  “I just can’t.”


“I’m not saying you should.  It’s too soon, for one thing.  You have a right to your feelings, Jim.  I’m just saying that his actions seemed reasonable to him at the time.”


“Speaking of feelings,” Jim said enticingly, placing his fingers near Blair’s throat, “I’d say that, between your stitches and all the bruising, you’re going to be out of commission for a while.”


“Not necessarily.  I can still appreciate feeling good – as long as I can lie still.”  Blair ran his tongue along his lips.  “I’ll let you know when I’m ready for your special skills.”


Jim felt a throb at his groin.  It was time to change the subject.  “I called Calvin Jones earlier this morning.  I chewed him out, but I’d rather have done it in person. He even had the gall to be grateful that the two perps were caught.”


“I guess that was in his best interest,” Blair said.  “Anyway,” he added around a yawn, “it doesn’t change the fact that his advice was helpful.”


“Maybe so.  But we still need to figure out what we’re going to do with it.”


“I can understand now why you don’t want to borrow money from your father.  So, maybe we should do what you said, and just spend what we have, devote ourselves a hundred percent to making our own agency work, and hope we succeed?”


Jim picked up Blair’s hand and clasped his own around it.  “That sounds good to me.”


“It’ll give us something to do while I’m laid up.”  Blair closed his eyes and yawned again.  “Except, right now, I think I need some more shut-eye.”


Jim leaned down to kiss Blair softly on the lips, and then let him be.



That afternoon, Jim emerged from 852 Prospect, the grocery store his destination.


Just as he turned to his SUV, he spotted his father driving up.


Warily, he moved to the driver’s side.


The window came down.  “Jimmy, I found this in the backseat of the car."  William held up a pocketknife.  "I didn’t know if it was yours or Blair’s.”


Jim took it.  “It’s Blair’s.”


His father got out of the car.  “How is he?”


“He’s doing fine,” Jim replied in a monotone.


The older man licked his lips.  “Look, Jimmy, I’ve been doing some research.  I know you’re real fond of the boy, but there’s a reason why the idea of guides became obsolete in modern times.  They can control sentinels, Jimmy.  They have power over them.”


Yes, they controlled sentinels.  Jim already knew that, though he'd never put the feeling into words.  Blair controlled him in their bedroom.  It was the most wonderful thing that had ever happened to him – over and over again.


He was tempted to rub his father’s nose it in – the pleasure he would never know – but even his animosity toward this man couldn’t bring him to reveal something so private and sacred.


Instead, Jim firmed his jaw.  “Controlled by a guide who honors him, or controlled by an employer who paid for him… I’ve made my choice.”


“You may not think so, but I care about you, Jimmy.  I want what’s best for you.  What kind of life can you have now?”


Jim made sure he met his father’s eyes.  “I’m having the best life I’ve ever had, Dad.  It’s only going to get better.”  As he spoke them, he realized how firmly he believed his own words.  He held up the knife.  “Thanks for bringing this.”


He turned his back and started toward the truck.






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