by Southy

© July 2005


The voice of the sheriff came over Simon’s cell. “We’ve got a confession. Your man is at 18672 Country Hills Road. It’s a mile east from Highway 6. We’ll dispatch an ambulance. All Ruggart will say is that your man has been beaten.”

Simon was frantically writing the address. “Thank God for that address.”

Jim was starting the motor of the pickup, having heard the conversation while pulled to one side of a country road to re-strategize. Thank God the search for Sandburg was over.

Simon said into his phone, “We’re on our way. We owe you, Sheriff.”

“We owe both your men, Captain Banks.”

Jim wasn’t interested in platitudes. He’d done the undercover drug assignment for Fulton County, and Blair had been kidnapped while performing a small voluntary role as a user who bought from Jim, aka “Shadow Sam”. Since Sam was new to the area, competitors had apprehended Blair to find out more about him.

The word “beating” could mean a lot of different things, with varying severity. At least, it hadn’t been so bad that Blair had broken. But, damn it, he could be a stubborn little shit and probably took a lot more than was necessary. Even if he had revealed Jim’s true identity, the perps would still have been nabbed before plans to take Jim out could be put into action.

But Blair wouldn’t have known that.

And that’s assuming the one who confessed – of all three in custody – was telling the truth about Blair. Even if he were, Blair had been alone for at least six hours. If he suffered from internal bleeding…..

“I’m sure Sandburg is fine, all things considered,” Simon said.

Jim firmed his jaw. “We won’t know until we get there.”

They drove the six miles of rural roads in silence.

When they knocked on the front door, Simon went high and Jim went low. 

An maid screeched in fright upon opening the door, and Simon grabbed her and demanded, “Is anyone else in the house?”

She shook her head.

“Where’s the man being held here?”

“The basement,” she said fearfully.

“Go on,” Simon nodded at Jim, while pulling out his handcuffs.

Jim’s senses were already racing ahead. Scent reached him first as he spotted the stairs going down. Urine. Sweat. Blair’s familiar body odor.

“Sandburg!” he called as he headed down the stairs, gun still drawn, in case the maid was lying – or didn’t know if anyone else was around.

No answer.

He reached the bottom of the stairs and was satisfied, by listening for heartbeats, that the floor was otherwise empty. It was also dank and dark, save the one dim light opposite the staircase.

It was to the right that he spotted Blair.

Blair stood with his head hanging. His arms were secured above his head, so that his feet just barely touched the ground. He was bare from the waist up.

His breathing was loud and labored to Jim’s ears.

“Chief?” Jim said gently as he approached and holstered his gun.

No reaction, other than an increased heart rate.

He could see the bruising now, in the dim light and with the help of his senses, all along Blair’s torso. There were also cuts on his belly, as though from a short-lashed whip.

Dear God.

Cautiously, Jim placed his hand on top of Blair’s head. “Sandburg?”

Blair’s labored breathing increased to a frantic degree. He raised his head, teeth grit, as though bracing for battle.

“Jim?” Simon called as his footsteps descended the stairs.

“He’s going to be fine,” Jim said firmly, hoping Blair heard him.

He refused to express the emotion he was feeling. His eyesight was straining in the dim light as he took in the state of Blair’s face.

Both eyes were swollen almost shut and purple with bruising. Blood ran from one nostril. Both cheeks were puffy. His lips were huge and sprinkled with bloody cuts, and appeared even uglier as Blair kept his defiant grimace.

“Easy,” Jim said softly, to Blair and Simon both, for the latter was now approaching. He nodded toward a nearby footstool. “Get him down.”

“Blair? Chief?” Jim said with deliberate gentleness. “We’re getting you down. I’m right here.”

“Jim?” The single word was barely audible. And so full of hope.

Jim watched Simon take a pocket knife to the rope binding Blair’s hands. “I’ve got you.” 

Blair was going to need a soft place to fall. Jim bent at the knees and placed his shoulder beneath Blair’s chin. 

“Just a bit more,” Simon said. 

Jim wrapped his arms loosely around Blair’s cold back. “You don’t need to do anything. I’ve got you.”

“Here we go.”

A moment after Simon’s warning, Blair’s full weight landed against Jim.

Blair let out a whimper.

“I know,” Jim said, bracing his other arm beneath Blair’s knees. As he lifted Blair’s legs, he lowered them both to the floor, with Simon trying to assist.

He was grateful to rest his back against the wall, Blair in his arms.

“Hey, Sandburg, how you doing , son?” Simon, too, kept his voice gentle as he knelt beside them. He removed his coat and draped it over Blair’s upper body.

Jim strained his ears to hear the soft words that came from Blair’s mouth: “Is it over?”

Jim removed his arm from beneath Blair’s knees and placed it over his chest, where the edge of the coat rested against his skin.

“It’s over,” Jim told him. “You did your job and didn’t blow my cover. Now they’re all in custody. You can rest now.” Blair’s jaw was still firm, even as his head rested against Jim’s shoulder. “You can let go. You don’t have to fight anymore.”

Simon placed his hand on the top of Blair’s head and said to Jim, “I’m going to get some water. Hopefully, that ambulance will be here soon.”

Jim nodded while keeping his eyes on his charge. His senses were picking up the strain on Blair’s nervous system; the tense breathing that told of an avoidance of pain.

“Keeping breathing,” he beckoned softly. “I know it hurts but you need the oxygen.”


Jim placed his ear closer to Blair’s mouth. “Yeah, Chief?”

“Are you really here?”

“Yeah, I’m really here. It’s all over. You did your job like pro. Rest now.”

Blair’s voice quavered. “Hurts so much.”

“I know. If you want to yell or cry out, you go right ahead. I’m right here.”

Blair drew a shuddering breath. Then he asked, “Is it dark?”

Jim didn’t think Blair could see out of either eye. “Yes, it’s dark. You’re eyelids are swollen, buddy, that’s all. Your eyes are fine.” Jim found Blair’s hand and took it in a firm grip.

“So cold.”

The arm that was around Blair’s back pressed him closer. “I know. The ambulance will be here soon with blankets.”

As he cradled Blair, Jim had a sense of being outside of himself, observing his own actions.

Something was happening, but he couldn’t put a name to it. He was holding Blair, trying to give some peace and comfort in his time of suffering. He didn’t think any of the injuries were life-threatening. He doubted that Blair had any broken bones. But he couldn’t define why he was so certain of that.

He did know that Blair had been worked over – the kind of blunt trauma that is meant to hurt but not endanger life. Blair was too valuable to injure to the point of unconsciousness, for his information regarding Jim’s cover could only be gleaned from a conscious captive.

Jim became aware of something else… an odor. Like blood but not the same. He identified the blood from Blair’s lip and other cuts and separated those out. He focused on his sense of smell and followed the peculiar scent. Ammonia, but not pure urine; mixed with iron.

He could imagine Blair’s excitement when he realized what the scent was. They had surely pummeled Blair in the kidneys, as well as the rest of his upper body. The bruising would produce blood in the urine output, which Blair had no choice but to release, in all his hours of captivity – and perhaps had even suffered blows to his bladder.

Simon came down the stairs.

“Easy,” Jim whispered.

Simon was carrying a blanket and a glass. “I’m sure he would be more comfortable upstairs,” he said, kneeling beside Blair, “but I don’t think we should move him.”

“No, I’d like to keep him as still as possible.” Jim helped Simon spread the blanket over Blair. He shifted so the cloth could fit between his hands and Blair’s back.

“Here, Sandburg. Water.” 

Jim watched Simon try to get the water past Blair’s swollen lips. A lot of it ran down Blair’s chin and onto Jim’s shirt.

Then the coughing started.

“Sorry about that, kid,” Simon said, putting the glass aside and placing a soothing hand on Blair’s head.

Jim drew the blanket more snug around Blair’s neck and then let his hand rest near his chest. Blair continued to cough against him.

”Oh, God,” he moaned as the coughing trailed off.

Jim felt helpless to ease Blair’s pain. He could only continue to hold him and murmur reassurances.

“Hang in there, Sandburg,” Simon said. “The ambulance should be here soon.”

“I hear a siren,” Jim said.

“I’d better go up to meet them.” Simon squeezed Blair’s hand beneath the blanket and then turned away.

“It won’t be long now, Chief. Then you’ll be on a comfy gurney with drugs that will let you rest.”

He could sense the effectiveness of the blanket. Blair wasn’t so cold now.

After a moment, Jim realized that Blair was gazing at him with tightly squinted eyes. He made a point of meeting those eyes, and smiling. “See? It’s really me.”

Abruptly, Jim sobered. “I’m sorry about this, Chief. I’m sorry you had to go through this to protect me.” He stopped himself from saying “felt you had to go through this”, as that would demean Blair’s sacrifice.

He wasn’t sure if it were his words, or if it would have happened anyway, given the degree of pain; but a tear squeezed out of one eye and trailed down Blair’s cheek.

Jim put his face closer to Blair’s. “It’s my turn to take care of you now,” he said, whisper-soft. “Relax as best you can.” When he saw a tear from the other eye, he said, “It’s all right.”

Jim felt along the far side of blanket until he found Blair’s hand. He put his own hand beneath the cloth and squeezed Blair’s, then held it.

Blair released a long groan.

Jim swallowed, hating to see the pain but relieved that Blair was letting go now.

After Blair quieted, he said in a very soft voice, “Jim?”


“I love you.”

Jim blinked a few times. He couldn’t figure out whether to be serious or light-hearted. He finally said, “Yeah, well, I sort of figured that.” He squeezed Blair’s hand. “I’m pretty damned fond of you, too.” He drew a breath, then listened to the gruffness in his own voice. “I’d give anything to take your pain away.” 

More tears flowed.

With his thumb, Jim rubbed along the top of Blair’s hand. 

He looked up as the noise increased outside the house. Help had arrived.

He pressed Blair closer and wondered at the protectiveness he was feeling.

Hours later, Jim stopped the pickup at a decent-looking motel.

Blair had been diagnosed with severe contusions and soft tissue damage, plus cuts on his belly. Once Blair was in a room and succumbed to a drug-induced sleep, Jim was comfortable leaving him. 

This motel had a room waiting for them, as the sheriff had seen to it. But Jim wasn’t eager to leave the truck, once turning off the motor. Instead, he glanced toward Simon and said, “The bruising of Blair’s kidney, I knew about that.”

Simon straightened. “Huh? What do you mean?”

“When I was holding him in the basement, I smelled that his urine had blood mixed with it.”

Simon was contemplative a moment, and then said, “Man. That must have scared you. But the doctor didn’t think it was anything serious.”

“It’s not that it scared me,” Jim said, thinking it was different talking to someone who didn’t jump on everything he said with eager enthusiasm. “It’s just that… I knew. Nothing the doctor diagnosed Blair with was a surprise to me. I didn’t try to palpate his injuries, since it would only hurt him, but I knew almost exactly what the damage was like. I knew where the bruising was. I knew he didn’t have any broken bones. I know how deep the cuts were.” Most of the latter had been treated with butterfly bandages.

“What are you saying?”

Jim suddenly felt self-conscious. “I-I don’t know. It was just that, having that physical connection with him, it’s like I knew all about him.”

“Hmm,” Simon commented. “Well, soft-tissue damage is pretty predictable when someone has been battered.”

“I know. But this was more than assumption.”

They were silent a moment. Then Simon said, “I’m just glad the kid wasn’t hurt more than this. Damn, we don’t have a right to put him in these situations. He’s a civilian.”

“He knew the risks.” Jim realized it was an automatic statement; yet, he couldn’t deny its truth. Nor did he want to. “It was his choice to participate.”

“Why doesn’t that make me feel better?”

Jim didn’t have an answer to that. Blair wouldn’t appreciate being second-guessed, especially when he’d succeeded in his self-imposed ‘assignment’.

Without saying anything further, they left they truck and went to register with the motel.

Three mornings later, Jim woke to feeble grunts from the room below. When he listened, he detected swearing and groans of pain.

He put on his robe and headed downstairs.

“Chief?” he called while moving toward Blair’s room.

He found Blair hutched over the edge of the bed, his arm, the hand of which was clutched in a fist, loosely wrapped around his middle, which was covered with the butterfly bandages.

“I can’t move,” Blair gasped between grit teeth. “It’s like the muscles all around my stomach are so tight….” Sweat glistened along his forehead.

Jim put a hand on his bare back. “Hang on and I’ll get your pills.”

“I have to piss.”

“Chief,” Jim said quietly, determined to not escalate the tension, “easy does it. I’ll get you a bottle to go in. You may as well stay in bed until you feel better.” He lightly rubbed Blair’s back, careful of the soreness. “Try to relax. It’s all you can do.”

Blair relented, laying his cheek against the mattress and loosening the grip around his stomach. 

Jim went into the kitchen. Blair’s diaphragm and kidney were bruised – as well as the muscles surrounding most of his other internal organs – and each breath was painful. Moving was doubly so, as there was no way he could shift without agitating the traumatized tissues.

The pain medication would help, but nothing would make the healing happen faster.

Twenty minutes later, Jim had carefully eased Blair into a sitting a position with his back resting against the headboard. He’d tended to his needs, including providing toast and coffee.

Blair’s pinched expression had eased. He regarded Jim with inquisitive eyes.

“What?” Jim asked from where he sat in a kitchen chair that he’d placed next to Blair’s bed.

“Please don’t feel guilty about this.”

It was a natural assumption to make. “I don’t feel guilty,” Jim said, feeling bashful. “I-I know it was important for you to do this – to participate, to protect my identity.”

Blair nodded.

Jim sighed. “I just wish you wouldn’t have had to suffer this much.”

Blair tried a smile as he spoke slowly and with care. “I was pretty sure they weren’t going to kill me, because they needed me too badly. And I figured the pain had to stop some time – even if just from passing out.” He grew contemplative. “Only that never happened. I tried to distance myself; you know, tried to make myself pass out. But I couldn’t.” He forced another wry smile.

Jim reached over and placed his fingers loosely around Blair’s arm. 

Blair drew a breath and the pinched expression returned. He indicated his sides with both hands. “It’s like all the muscles in here are sorer ‘an hell.”

Jim’s hand was still on Blair’s arm. With his other hand, he awkwardly reached across the first to touch Blair’s back. “In your back too. Especially around your shoulder blades.”

Blair nodded. “Yeah. Sometimes it’s hard to believe I’m ever going to feel better.” Another tentative smile. “But I know I will.”

“You will.” Jim patted his arm.

Blair’s furrowed his brow. “How did you know that about my back? I mean, why did you say that so specifically?”

Jim supposed he’d been looking for a way to bring up the topic that had been on his mind. “Chief….” But how to say it?

“What? What’s wrong?”

“Nothing’s wrong. It’s just…”


Jim released a breath. “I noticed something, back at that house where we rescued you, that I’d never noticed before.”

“Which was?” Blair’s eyes were so eagerly searching his face.

“I’m not sure how to explain it. We were waiting for the ambulance, and it’s like I already had a strong sense of what your diagnosis was. I was aware of your specific injuries, what you were feeling. Like now. I just touched your arm a few moments ago, and I was aware of all the soreness around your trunk area, and the way the muscles in your upper back hurt.”

“Really?” Blair looked down at where Jim’s hand was on his arm. “What happens when you aren’t touching me?”

Jim took his hand away. “Nothing. I don’t have the input.” He put his hand back on Blair’s arm. “But I touch you, and it’s like I know what you’re feeling.”

Concerned, Blair said, “You mean you’re feeling my pain too?”

“No, it isn’t like that. I just know that you’re in pain – and where. And why. It’s an intellectual thing; yet, it’s something I know from touching you – not from external reasoning.”

Blair put a finger to his lips, his expression thoughtful. “It’s sort of like a touch telepath.” He looked up at Jim. “Is it like you see an image on a screen in your mind, like people say when they have ESP?”

This was so hard to explain. “No. That’s not what it’s like. I don’t ‘see’ anything. I just know what’s going on with you when I have some kind of physical contact with you.”

“And this has just happened in the past few days?”

This was the most difficult part. “I’m not sure. At that house was the first time I was aware of it. But I’ve been thinking that maybe I’ve had a little bit of ability – if you can even call it that – before.”

“What about with other people? If you touch them, do you have some sense of their physical state?”

Jim shrugged. “I don’t know. Not that I’ve noticed. But then, I didn’t notice it before with you either. It’s just in retrospect….”

Blair was nodding thoughtfully. “We’ll need to test this.”

Yes, he knew that was coming. “Not until you’re better.”

“Jim, man, my mind is going all over the place with this.” He nodded toward his desk. Can you get me that notepad and a pen?”

Jim went to the desk and retrieved a yellow legal pad and a pen. “Do you need anything else for the moment?” He handed them to Blair.

“I just need to work this out. I’ll probably have a lot more questions. Are you going anywhere?”

“No. Just tell me if you need anything.” He grimaced. “Besides questions.”

Blair started writing on the pad. “No promises.”

Jim left the room, leaving Blair’s absorbed murmurings in his wake.

“How’s the kid?” Simon asked the following day.

“In pain. But insisting he can do without me for a while.” Blair was able to stagger, albeit hunched over, to the john at least.

“You think he’s okay? Mentally, I mean?”

Jim nodded and shrugged half-heartedly. “Yeah. You know, it was his choice to participate and he takes full responsibility for that.” He managed a smile. “Some of his is good cheer and enthusiasm has already returned.” Focusing on Jim’s “condition” had helped take his mind off the physical hurt. Jim had spent over an hour answering a flurry of questions last night, as Blair wrote frantically to add to his own notes and scribbles.

“Good,” Simon said, moving back around his desk, “glad to hear to it.” He sat down and started talking about another case that was brewing.

Jim recalled that he’d told Simon the bizarre experience he’d had while holding Blair, and he wondered why he had shared that. Now, while a part of him was relieved that Simon hadn’t had any interest in pursuing the subject – or was even curious about it – he had to admit to feeling a twinge of disappointment. He was so accustomed to Blair’s “We’re going to figure this out” reaction to everything, that he expected new situations regarding his senses to eventually be understood and explained.

Of course, Simon was just plain uncomfortable with all the senses stuff, and had every right to be. 

Still, that didn’t mean he couldn’t be helpful, however ignorant, in obtaining more information about Jim’s touch-sense ability, as that was term Blair had coined for it.

After a brief, preliminary lecture on the case, Simon closed the file and came out behind his desk. He held it out to Jim.

Jim made some comments of his own and asked questions. While making some closing remarks to assure his boss of a positive outcome in nailing the perps, he laid his hand on Simon’s shoulder and squeezed. He waited to get a sense of information regarding Simon’s physical status.

Simon smelled of cigar smoke, but he usually did. Perhaps that smell was a bit more acute, but that could be because he’d moved closer to him.

He let his hand linger a little longer than casually appropriate, as he wondered about the state of abused lungs. 

Simon looked at Jim’s hand. “You trying to tell me something, Jim?”

How to get out of this one? There was no way to do it gracefully. Jim chuckled shyly, took his hand away, and moved toward the door. “Just that Frederickson and his men are dead meat, once I get on his tail.”

Simon nodded, letting the matter go.

Relieved, Jim left the office and moved toward his desk. He couldn’t say that he sensed anything about Simon.

He wondered why he would only have that ability with Blair.

After making phone calls to run down further information on the Fredrickson case – and knowing many of the calls wouldn’t be returned until the next day - Jim arrived home in early afternoon. 

“How you doing?” he asked as he entered Blair’s room and sat beside the bed.

“Better,” Blair replied. “I almost thought about migrating out to the living room to watch TV, but I couldn’t get up the energy.”

Jim studied Blair’s bare skin. “Those bruises are starting to look pretty colorful.”

Blair grinned. “Yeah, I saw them in the bathroom. Actually, my eyes don’t hurt that much. It’s the internal muscles that are the worst.”

Jim took Blair’s hand and squeezed it. “How about we move you to the sofa for dinner?”

“Sounds good.” Blair looked down at their hands. “Can you tell that I’m better?”

Jim blinked at the sensations he was picking up. He let playful disgust over-ride embarrassment. “Christ, Sandburg, I really don’t need to know what you’ve been doing in the past hour.”

“Huh?” Blair seemed genuinely perplexed.

“Well enough to beat the meat, huh?”

“What?” Blair flinched when he tried to straighten. “You think I’ve been beating off?”

A blush rose up Jim’s face. “You haven’t?”

Blair shook his head. Then he grinned. “I admit I’ve been thinking about it. I mean, what else is there to do?”

Jim took his hand away.

“It’s just,” Blair went on, “that my body hurts so much that I’d need extra stimulation. And my extra-specially dirty books are too hard to reach right now.”

Extra-specially dirty books? Jim was relieved that he wasn’t the only one with a collection. After all, if the point of fantasy was, in fact, fantasy, then he liked pleasuring himself with the rawest, most dirty gutter-prose he could find. To say nothing of taboo acts that he would never have any interest in imitating in realty. But when it came to fantasy, group orgies, s&m, sex with animals, toilet games, and antagonistic relationships between participants all came under the heading of pro-masturbation material.

Blair was furrowing his brow. “From having contact with me, you thought I’d… come recently?”

It was his own fault for broaching the subject. “I-I sensed sexual satiation.” Jim quickly amended, “Maybe it wasn’t satiation. Maybe it was lingering interest or something.” He waved his hand dismissively. Surely, Blair wasn’t expecting him to be an expert at his new tactile abilities.

“Huh.” Blair grabbed his notepad and found his pen in a crease of the sheets. He picked it up awkwardly, and it tumbled to the floor, and then rolled under the bed.

Jim knelt down and retrieved it. That’s when he noticed that pile of books under Blair’s bed. 

He grinned inwardly. So that’s where the supply of extra-specially dirty books was kept. He often kept his own supply under his own bed – until he felt compelled to clean up and stacked them neatly in a drawer.

This was going to be fun.

He abandoned the pen and grabbed the nearest book. “What do we have here?” he asked, noting the provocatively posed male on the cover. “Hmm. Straight Shot. True stories of unlikely gay sexual encounters with straight men. 

“Jim!” Blair could only grab half-heartedly for it, considering his condition.

Jim moved a few steps away from the bed, easily avoiding the grab. “True stories,” he teased. “Uh-huh.” He leafed through the pages. “Let’s see what we have here.”

“Don’t you read too much into that,” Blair said defensively. “When it comes to beating off, I’ll read anything.”

“Uh-huh,” Jim said in a pseudo-unconvinced tone. He liked reading male-to-male at times, too, and already knew it didn’t mean anything.

He found a passage with some dirty talk. Voice deliberately casual, he read aloud, “My wide, nine-inch monster cock was plowing his uptight little hole.” Jim glanced at Blair. “True stories, all with massive penises.”

Blair grinned, despite trying to hunch down in the bed with embarrassment.

“After twenty years of friendship, when he’d lectured me about the evils of cocksucking and assfucking, he was taking my huge cock up his virgin-tight religious hole. What’s more, he was loving it. His ass was practically singing as I pounded it. He kept rising it up, trying to take me in even deeper.”

“Jim!” Blair protested, turning beet red where he wasn’t already purple with bruising.

“What’s a matter?” Jim asked with feigned concern. “You getting uncomfortable?”

Blair grit his teeth.

“By the way,” Jim teased, “keep your hands were I can see them.” His eyes returned to the book. This was a good chapter. He loved it when dirty sex clashed with religious propriety.

Trying to keep his own arousal under control, while having more fun with Blair, he let a good twenty pages go by. Ah, yes, here was another good section. “I continued to eat his delicious, sweat-smelling man-ass all night long. My face was buried so deep between his cheeks that his hairs tickled my nose. I know he’d ignore me afterwards and pretend he hardly knew me, but I didn’t care about that now. My tongue just wanted to excavate his hole.”

“Jim!” Blair was still trying to reach for the book.

Jim stayed clear. “This is pretty good,” he said matter-of-factly, as he leaned his elbow on a chest-of-drawers. He turned a few more pages. “All my life, I’d thought there could be nothing more disgusting than tasting another man’s cum. But here I was, greedily gobbling down Frank’s twelve inches.” Jim darted his eyes at beet-red Blair. “Twelve inches. I tasted the pearly drops at his slit and wanted more. I longed for his heavy balls to erupt down my throat.”

Jim shifted the book, knowing he couldn’t continue much more before his own arousal was blatantly obvious. “Suddenly, he pulled away. I was so disappointed. Then he said, ‘All right, cowboy, turn around and bend over.” Jim couldn’t help but chuckle.“’I’m going to show that straight ass of yours how good it feels to be split in two by Serpent.” He laughed louder at the name, and was glad that Blair laughed, too.

“All my life, I’d thought I’d kill any man who tried to fuck me. Literally. And here I was, on my hands and knees, swinging my ass around so that it was at the perfect angle for Serpent to wind his big bulging head up my gut. I wanted to blame it on the wine we’d had earlier. But I couldn’t kid myself. I’d been seduced because I’d wanted to be. Still, I knew I’d continue to play the part of a straight man even after this.”

“Stop!” Blair pleaded.

Jim couldn’t take anymore either. He moved over to Blair and, with playful casualness, bent down to him with the book. “This is where I stopped,” he said pointing to the line. He put the book in Blair’s lap, let it flop closed, and then ruffled his hair. “I’m going grocery shopping.”

He left the loft to the sounds of swearing, rustling of sheets, and pages turning.

When Jim’s hand had been briefly on Blair’s head was when he’d detected the arousal. So, that was different from when he’d first arrived home and Blair had only been idly thinking about masturbating. He wondered what sexual satiation would feel like to this new tactile ability he had.

Blair, at least, was more cheerful now while he waited on the sofa for Jim to finish dinner. “I think these are ready to come off,” he said.

Jim looked up from the spaghetti to see Blair picking at the edge of a butterfly bandage with one hand. The other hand held his sweatshirt up.

“Why don’t you wait until after dinner and then I’ll help you.”

Blair cringed as he continued to play with the bandage. “I don’t want help. The skin there is real tender and you have to be careful.”

Meaning, he suspected Jim would just rip them off with little concern for how much pain there would be.

Well, fine, maybe there was some truth to that. It was going to hurt, regardless, so one may as well be efficient and quick about it.

He hurried to make Blair a plate of spaghetti, sauce, and store-bought garlic bread, so he’d have something else to do with his hands.

They ate silently, aimlessly watching the evening news.

Blair burped loudly, and then groaned. “Owe, that hurt.”

Jim glanced at him from the loveseat. “That’ll teach you.”

Blair laughed softly. “Yeah.” He fell silent. Then, “Jim?”

Jim was intrigued by the hesitant tone. He looked over at the Blair.

“You ever been in love before?”

What? “Where is this coming from?”

“Does it matter? I mean, I know you married Carolyn, but I wondered, you know….”

Jim shook his head, showing how puzzled he was by the question.

“All right, all right. I was just – you know – reading some more and came across a passage where a guy was saying he’d never been in love, for real. And I just got to wondering….”

“They discussed love in that book?”

Blair grinned. “It got a brief mention. Anyway, some of those stories do have real feelings and stuff, in between all the… you know.”

“The virgin ass-poundings with 14-inch dicks?”


All right, all right. Blair was trying to have a serious conversation. Jim stood with his plate and grabbed Blair’s. “I thought I was in love. You know, at the time.” He moved to the kitchen. “Though in retrospect, I’m not really sure if it was love instead of lust.”

“With Carolyn?”

Jim furrowed his brow as old memories surfaced. “No, not with her.” He ran the plates under water.

“Then why did you marry her?”

Jim wiped his hands and turned toward Blair. “I got her pregnant.”

Blair’s eyes widened. “Pregnant? Really? How come you never told me before?”

“You never asked.” Okay, it was a lame response, but did Blair really expect him to spew forth every detail of his life?

Apparently so.

“I’ve asked you questions about Carolyn before.”

Yes, Blair had. And Jim had answered as truthfully as his conscience would allow while still calling it the truth. Apparently, it was time for one of those moments in friendship when one revealed something to the other, the sheer knowledge of which would cause the friendship to be more intimate.

It was exactly that intimacy – and Blair’s eagerness for it – that made Jim shy away in the first place.

He sat down on the coffee table, facing Blair. “I thought she was on the pill because I came across her presciption packet. We were exclusive, so I stopped using a condom after we’d dated a while.” He looked away, letting the memories march across his mind. “She started feeling sick and went to see a doctor. He said she was pregnant. I about passed out when she told me. Then I decided to do right by her and the child and marry her.” He shrugged, feeling foolish, and his voice softened. “I thought it was about time I settled down to a ‘normal’ life.”

“What happened to the baby?” Blair asked with awe.

“She had a miscarriage in the third month – two weeks after we were married.” Jim bowed his head, feeling all the old guilt, grief, and shame. “Nothing was the same after that. We started drifting apart, and I guess neither of us saw much point in trying to stay together. Divorce was easy.” Distantly, he heard himself add, “Too easy.”

“Ah man, Jim, I’m so sorry. I mean, that you lost the baby.”

“Yeah,” Jim drawled, feeling a tug at his heart while he studied the floor. “I’d let myself get excited about the idea, so it was a blow.” He gnawed at his lip. “I guess I convinced myself that it was for the best.” He looked up at Blair. “After we split up so easily, I knew it was for the best. Innocent children don’t need the burden of keeping a marriage together.”

Blair gingerly shifted so that he was leaning against the sofa arm. “I don’t know if it’s any consolation, but I believe everything happens for a reason, and that we incarnate in each life for a specific purpose. I think when miscarriages happen, it’s because God or the universe or whatever decided that the environment is such that that soul won’t be able to fulfill its purpose. So, it’s ‘pulled back’ until it has a chance to enter another womb.”

Of course Blair would believe something like that.

“So, she really wasn’t on the pill when you were dating?”

“She said she’d never gotten around to renewing the prescription when it ran out. She’d intended to, but once she was expecting she was happy about it.” 

“She ever want to have another baby?”

“We never talked about it after that. We weren’t using anything, but we didn’t have sex all that much afterwards.” He was thoughtful for a long time. “Of course, she was upset to lose the baby, but she’s always been the type to move on after a setback.”

“Like you,” Blair said.

Jim shrugged. “I suppose. I try to, anyway.” He gazed at Blair’s rainbow-colored face and was glad to have a reason to smile. “So do you.”

Blair’s eyes beamed, even as he forced casualness into his voice. “Not much point in brooding when there’s so many other things to be happy about.”

A question occurred to Jim. “Are you happy?”

“Sure!” Blair face cringed, as though the exclamation had physically hurt him. Then he said, “Why? Don’t I seem like it?”

“I guess,” Jim said, looking away and feeling self-conscious for having brought up the subject. “It’s just that you always seem so busy and moving from one thing to the next, that I wouldn’t think you’d have time to stop and reflect on happiness.”

“I suppose that can be happiness, in itself – always having something new and challenging to do.” Blair grinned at Jim. “You aren’t exactly Mr. Light and Cheer, but I’ve no doubt that you’re happy, too.”

It was touching that Blair thought so, that he would have considered it and reached a conclusion without asking. “Yeah, I suppose I am.” Jim grinned back. “Guess neither of us needed to find that pefect someone in order to achieve happiness.”

Blair gazed at him for such a long moment that Jim was sorry to have added that last statement. Then Blair said, “I found my sentinel.” As though one had anything to do with the other.

Maybe it did.

He remembered when Blair had rasped, “I love you”, in that basement as Jim held him. Of course, that hadn’t surprised him. Blair showed him love every day.

He’d been quiet too long. Blair added, “And my friend.” As though there were only one that mattered.

This was getting too intense. Jim rubbed his hands along his thighs and forced a chuckle. “That’s right. What other friend would read you bedtime stories?”

“If the stories you read are like the one this afternoon, you’re welcome to read me bedtime stories anytime.” Blair sounded like he really meant it.

Jim grinned and stood, taking their plates to the kitchen. He busied himself with clean-up, while Blair lost himself in the television. After a while, he heard in-drawn breaths, and glanced over to see Blair timidly tearing off the bandages.

He was tempted to offer help again, but thought he’d better not. Touching Blair’s tender skin….
Jim found excuses to stay in the kitchen. When he heard a sigh of relief, he looked up to see Blair hunched over, examining himself.

“How is it?” Jim asked, stepping closer.

Blair ran his fingers along the wounds. “They’re scabbed over. They’re still a little sore if I press on them directly.”

Jim wondered how much it had hurt, being whipped on such a tender area, while stretched taut with one’s arms above one’s head. In Blair’s official statement, he’d said that they had used a riding crop with a lash a few inches long. Or so he’d thought. It had always been so dark in that basement.

He’d born that abuse for Jim. 

Jim didn’t know what he could offer to soothe the hurt, to make Blair feel better; most importantly, to be the cause of Blair feeling better.

Maybe Blair could read some more of that book tonight when he got into bed. That would help him feel better.

Perhaps Jim should offer to pull out some others from beneath the bed, if Blair wanted a variety to choose from.

How weird, though, to be in his own bed tonight and know what Blair was doing. Not that he didn’t assume Blair did it most nights anyway, when healthy and getting to bed at a reasonable hour – and probably sometimes in the morning too – but to know without a doubt….

Not that Jim cared. It’s what most any single man did once the lights were out, if he had any privacy at all.

It had occurred to Jim before that he could eavesdrop and know Blair’s status when he was alone in his room. But he’d never wanted to do that. Blair trusted him – had never even asked about what his senses were capable of detecting at such times – and Jim had no interest in violating that trust. 

Now, he had some kind of new ability, and he could know Blair’s physical state – including his sexual status – merely from touching him.

“Hey, Chief.”

Blair looked up.

“I did a little test today. You know, about this touch sense that I have?”


“I tried it with Simon. But I couldn’t detect anything about him. I was expecting that his lungs might feel labored or something, but I couldn’t determine anything.” He chuckled. “I didn’t tell him what I was doing. He was wondering why my hand was on his shoulder for more than a moment.”

Blair grinned, having forgotten his wounds. “What did you tell him?”

“Nothing. He let it go.” Jim lowered his gaze, and had the feeling of crossing a boundary. “I guess it only works with you.”

“Wow,” Blair said, deep in thought. “I wonder why it would be just with me.”

He was pleased though. There was no doubt about that. Though Jim had feared an over-reaction, he was glad to give Blair that, at least.

“Maybe it’s something that you develop with each person you know,” Blair said. “And since you’ve been around me the most, it’s been honed enough with me where you actually recognize it.”

“Maybe so.”

Blair gazed at the far wall. “I wonder what its purpose is.” Jim could imagine him leafing through the notes – mental and written – of his original brainstorming session. “It would seem to make the sentinel a good candidate as a healer, but sentinels didn’t have those roles, from what Burton said.”

“Maybe,” Jim ventured, feeling presumptuous, “since the sentinel is dependent on the guy who watches his back, to protect his vulnerabilities when he’s using his senses, it gives him a special skill if that guide is ever injured or ill. He’d naturally be closer to that person, anyway, right? So, like you say, that skill would be more honed with that particular person.”

“And maybe,” Blair continued, still deep in thought, “Burton never mentioned it, because it was such a subtle thing between the sentinel and the person who most often acted as his guide, that he never knew it was being experienced.” He suddenly looked at Jim. “I wonder if it works the other way. You know, if you were ill or injured, that I’d be able to have the sense of knowing with you, that you do with me.”

“Why would it?” Jim asked. “The guide isn’t a sentinel, so he wouldn’t have that extended sense of touch.”

“But this is more than physical. You say you knew my diagnosis at that house, but it wasn’t from your sense of touch on those injuries. It was just an overall impression – knowing, actually – that comes more from a sixth sense, but that sixth sense doesn’t come into play unless physical contact is involved.” He suddenly blushed. “Then, today, you knew I’d been thinking about jerking off, though you initially misinterpreted it that I really had been.” Bashful laugh. “That certainly wasn’t from touching me there.”

What would if have felt like if he had touched Blair there? And not just afterwards?

Jim turned back to the kitchen and grabbed a paring knife.

“Jim, what are you – ”

Ouch! Dammit, that hurt. More than he’d expected.


He shoved his thumb into his mouth and tossed the knife onto the table.

“You didn’t need to do that.”

Jim moved over to the sofa and sat next to Blair. “Touch me and see if you sense anything.” He kept his thumb in his mouth. 

Blair closed his eyes and put his hand on Jim’s arm.

“Don’t force it,” Jim said. “Just see if anything comes to you.”

Blair drew a breath, then released it. After a moment he said, “I can sense the cut and that it hurts. Throbs.” He opened his eyes. “But that’s intellectual knowledge. I know that’s what it would feel like. I really don’t think it was some kind of vibe I was getting from you.”

Jim left the sofa and moved to the bathroom. He supposed he felt a bit of pride that it was a gift – applicable to only Blair, helpful to Blair – that only he possessed.

“Of course,” Blair continued in a slightly raised voice, “I do have a ‘sense’ about you, if only from my knowledge of sentinels and having worked with you. I think I have a pretty strong idea of how your senses are affecting you most of the time, without you having to explain it to me.”

Jim applied a band-aid to his thumb.

“That’s something that’s definitely been honed. But I don’t think the average guy would be at my level, even with a lot of practice. So… maybe with sentinels and the ones who look out for them – their guides – each person develops a certain ‘knowing’ about the other, but how that knowing is applied is unique to each individual in the sentinel and guide pairing.”

Since he was here, Jim unzipped and stood before the toilet.

There was a pause as Jim began to urinate. Then Blair said, louder still, “That’s the theory I’m going to go with for now, until something challenges it.”

As he finished, Jim leaned forward to flush.

He heard Blair continuing to ramble, but now on a different subject. “I didn’t take my pills at lunch. It’s not too bad. I’m going without them tonight too.” His voice was just outside the open doorway. “It still hurts a lot but it’s not unbearable, you know?”

Meaning he was tolerating the pain with pride. Pride from having taken those blows to protect Jim.

“You done here? I’m getting ready for bed.”

Jim looked up from wiping his hands. He nodded and moved past Blair, who took his place in the bathroom.

Jim moved to the kitchen, deep in thought.

He had a gift to know Blair’s physical state merely from being in contact with him. What good was that gift unless it got used?

He had moved into Blair’s room without meaning to, and then sat on the end of the bed. What an easy thought it was, to pleasure Blair so that he didn’t have to do anything himself. To let him just lie there and absorb it. Jim would know how good of a job he was doing from being in contact with Blair. He woudn’t have to guess, wouldn’t need vocal encouragement.

But how to bring it up?

Blair emerged from the bathroom, smelling fresh, and pulled up short. “Jim?”

Jim picked up the virgin-gay encounter book. “Thought I might read another bedtime story.” He couldn’t bring himself to meet Blair’s eye.

“You’re kidding.” Blair approached the bed. “You know what kind of state that’s going to put me in.” Then, challenging, “I bet for you, too.” He gingerly got beneath the covers.

Jim put the book aside, realizing he’d missed any chance he’d had to let actions speak for him. 

He resisted the impulse to clear his throat, knowing he wouldn’t able to. Gaze on the floor, he softly said, “Why don’t you let me do for you what you were going to do anyway.”


He knew, from the corner of his eye, that Blair was staring at him. “It’s all right to say yes, Chief.”

“You’re serious,” Blair said with amazement.

Jim placed his hand on the Blair’s blanket-covered leg. Bashfully, he said, “If I have this special ability, and it only applies to you, then what’s the point…?” He forced himself to look up.

“I-I don’t know. I hadn’t thought of it as being anything sexual. Specifically.”

Jim felt self-conscious all over again. “I just want to please you. Make you feel good. I’d know if I was.”

Of course, the reference to his sentinel abilities is what got him agreement. Blair slowly pushed the covers down to his waist, revealing his boxers.

His hesitant eyes looked up at Jim. “It might take me a while to respond. There’s still a lot of soreness.”

Jim moved toward him, whispering, “Lie very still. Let me do everything.” He reached for Blair’s underwear and let his mouth water.

Despite his lack of practice, his innate male knowledge and this new gift allowed him to succeed. He lingered for a long time, marveling at the textures and flavors of Blair in his mouth, the petting of Blair’s hands through his hair; the swelling and trying to stay with it, the marvel of knowing when he was missing the mark and creating frustration, when he was teasing and building sensation, and when his actions were right on and produced a climax.

Then there was the satisfaction of Blair’s satiation, as Blair let himself relax into the contours of the mattress.

There was the strong flavor of emission that lingered on his tongue. He couldn’t say that it was appealing, but knowing that he produced that reaction, and could take it from Blair’s body into his own, was a symbolic milestone.

Then the holding of Blair afterwards, as he fell asleep.

Jim dozed off and on through the night, sitting on the narrow bed next to Blair. He woke to fingertips fluttering along his face. He opened his eyes drowsily, memory intact.

“That was special,” Blair whispered in the morning’s grayness, as his fingers investigated Jim’s stubble. “What happens now?”

Jim closed his eyes and rested his forehead against Blair’s. “What would you like to happen?” He didn’t want to this to be complicated.

Blair laid his head back against the pillow and released a breath. “You want to know a silly memory? Remember, when you first came to my office at Rainier? I said something that pissed you off and you slammed me against the wall. Remember that?”

He certainly wasn’t proud of it and nuzzled Blair’s forehead in belated apology.

“I remember the thought crossing my mind that, ‘This is the man I’m going to marry.’ Crazy, huh? And I didn’t even think about men, in terms of relationships.” He looked up at Jim, his fingers still active along Jim’s face. So softly, he said, “I never wanted to get married. Settling down wasn’t for me.”

Jim felt that he understood. “I remember something too. Only, far more recent.”


“When the ambulance came for you at that house, I wanted them to get you to a hospital as soon as possible. I wanted them to help you. Yet… holding you, I felt possessive. I was reluctant to turn you over to their care. I did though.”

“What do you think it means?” Whatever it meant, Blair looked awed… and pleased.

“You’re the one who always says that everything happens for a reason. That there are no accidents. No coincidences.” Jim was smiling at the thought.

“Then all this stuff, we’ve been feeling – this new touch sense you’ve developed – it’s confirming that we were headed down this path all along. For some reason, it’s important now for us to –” He glanced down at himself, covered again by boxers.

“That works for me.” Leave the explanations to Blair – later. For now, Jim noted that Blair's lips were healed. He lowered his face so that his own settled perfectly on top of Blair’s.

He picked up on the fledging arousal, the body soreness as Blair tried to press upwards, the pleasure of lips that he couldn’t separate between what was experienced by himself, and what was experienced by Blair.

Then there was a flare of pain as Blair shifted.

Jim broke away and laid his hand on Blair's chest. “Let me do everything, until you feel a hundred percent.”

Blair’s large eyes gazed back at him. Just as they started to grow moist, they closed and Jim rejoined their lips. He shifted to get on top of Blair, and his knee came in contact with the book that he’d tossed aside.

The urge was strong to do it all with Blair. He wanted to insert whatever parts of himself were possible, into whatever parts of Blair were possible – to join physically in any way that could be contrived.

While so much of his fantasy life revolved around the earthy, the dirty, the absurd, all he wanted now was to be gentle and tender with Blair as he explored all that he was.

It would be slow going with Blair’s current condition. And that would be just fine.


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