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Notes: A few people said they wanted a sequel, and for once one came to me. :-) Special thanks to Wolfling for not minding that I got this done before her auction story.

Summary: More fun with the Sentinel-Guide bond.

Warnings: This will NOT make sense unless you've read Territoriality first.


Territoriality II: New Territory
by the lady of shalott


"You're positive about these findings, Major?"

"Yes, sir."

"Mmm. Well, doctor? What do you think?"

"This can't all be coincidence. He's definitely the real thing. And it's definitely been going on for at least a year."

"So why isn't he like the others?"

"I only wish I knew. I've got to have more information on him."

"All right. Major, I want a complete security and background check on him and all his associates, and I want you to put a full surveillance team on him ASAP. Keep me informed."

"Yes, sir."

"Hey babe. Why don't you clean up before you come to bed?" Blair dropped a kiss on his neck before heading for the bathroom.

Jim nearly dropped the plate he was loading into the drying rack. He shook his head at himself with a half-smile as he finished putting things away, still unable to check the instant arousal that a single soft suggestion from Blair could awaken. After watching Blair go upstairs, he checked the locks and security system on autopilot before heading for the bathroom. Once he closed the door, he latched onto the cool porcelain edge of the sink for support while he caught his breath. Hand trembling slightly, he started the bath running, the quiet splashing a soothing constant in the background.

The medicine cabinet slid open easily and he took out a few things, setting them neatly on the shelf above the toilet. He stared at himself in the mirror as he unbuttoned the crisp white shirt, watching the muscles of his chest ripple and shift as he discarded it. Shoes already off, he pulled off his socks, then let the loose khakis and boxers slide down his legs before he stepped out of them. His cock already stood achingly erect in anticipation, the corded muscles of his thighs tense and hard.

Stepping into the tub, he eased himself into the steaming water, leaning back and breathing deeply as the heat relaxed his muscles. Tendons softened, knots slipping free, and his mind slowly relaxed along with his body, leaving him loose and unwound. Ten minutes or so later, he climbed out and drained the cooling tub, then reached for the prepared supplies.

Cleansed, he vigorously rinsed off under the shower, the cool briskness of the spray refreshing without stiffening him up. He toweled off and carefully put everything away with ritual precision, sliding the cabinet door shut at last.

Ascending the stairs, he found his heat-softened erection returning with every step. The soft internal throbbing seemed like a drumbeat, reminding him that he'd never be alone again, never have to just keep going through days that were grey and unfulfilled. He wondered briefly, not for the first time, how he'd managed to go so long without this and how Blair had so effortlessly completed him. As always, the question slipped away, the answer meaningless except as an affirmation of what he already knew, that Blair would find some way to give him anything he needed.

He walked over to the big bed and lay himself down on the cool sheets next to his lover, the welcoming hands easing him down. He sighed and let his eyes close as his face sank into the yielding pillows, spreading his thighs apart comfortably as Blair eased another pillow beneath his hips.

Kneeling down between Jim's legs, Blair lay down a trail of kisses from the base of his neck along his spine, tongue slipping out to delve into the low hollows between the ridges of bone. He kneaded the tautly muscled shoulders as he moved over the satiny skin, keeping Jim relaxed. Each powerful thigh was given the same treatment, warm lips and warm hands moving together over the wealth of smooth flesh.

When he was satisfied that Jim was completely loose, Blair reached for the vial of flavored oil he'd left resting in a bowl of warm water and dipped his index finger in, coating it thoroughly. He snuggled next to Jim, licking gently at the side of his throat, the soft earlobe, as he eased the finger into him by slow stages, careful never to draw more from his lover than a slightly quickened breath. Once the finger was completely sheathed within the tight walls, he kept it mostly still, only turning it around a little to coat the passage.

With a final kiss to the nape of Jim's neck, Blair sat up and gently withdrew the finger. He lay down between Jim's thighs and slid both thumbs up the cleft of his buttocks, holding them apart. He breathed over the small opening, glistening already with the oil, watching the pucker contract and loosen in reaction as Jim started panting quietly. He pursed his lips and blew cooler air over the hole, coaxing a shiver from the muscled body before soothing the tension away by slowly licking over the opening. Finally, he pressed the tip of his tongue inside the moistened ring.

Jim moaned faintly as the soft, moist intruder probed slightly into him, undulating against his inward skin. Blair's hands squeezed his buttocks soothingly, offering a counter sensation to focus on so he could stay relaxed even as the pleasure began to build with each liquid stroke. Involuntarily, Jim struggled to press himself back as the tongue withdrew, trying to get that wonderful pressure further inside him.

Blair soothed him with gentle petting motions while he dipped his thumb into the lubricant, rubbing circles between Jim's shoulder blades as he pressed the thicker digit inside him. Jim's hips rose from the pillow to help along the impalement, and Blair swiftly took advantage of the opening to slip another cushion under him, raising his buttocks higher and keeping his cock from meeting the touch of the body-warmed sheets.

His cock rigid against his belly, Jim wrapped both hands around the railing in front of him to keep from the temptation to reach down and touch himself. He panted loudly as Blair's thumb rolled back and forth inside him, his buttocks clenching repeatedly on the firmness. He closed his eyes to focus better on the sensation of fullness, on the little sucking noises as Blair's thumb moved in and out of him, on the warm oil coating him. His labored breathing started to rock him back and forth until he was pushing himself further onto the finger, taking it up to the base.

Easing his thumb out, Blair bent back down over the elevated ass, tongue flicking teasingly at the oiled, loose opening a few times. Jim moaned approvingly and ducked his head down between his outstretched arms, knuckles whitening as they wrapped around the cast-iron. Straddling Jim's legs, Blair gripped his lover's hips to keep him from bucking and surrounded the bud with his lips. With steady pressure, he started forcing his pointed tongue inside, demanding entrance to the hot, secret depths of Jim's body.

Jim flung his head back with a gasp as the protective ring of muscle slightly gave way, letting Blair all the way in. He held still, body drawn taut, until the full length of the limber tongue was planted deep inside his body and rested there. He shuddered as Blair paused to let the burning heat of the enveloping lips and tongue spread through him. The hot undulating length slid into him up to the root, tickled at the sides of his passage, withdrew a little, then repeated the process. He went limp against the sheets and spread his thighs further, forehead buried in the pillows.

When Jim's body relaxed completely, Blair picked up the pace, thrusting in hard and fast, easing back slowly, over and over. Whimpering incoherently now, Jim strained and writhed against him, against the sheets, trying to find some stimulation for his swollen, aching cock as the relentless penetration built up pressure on his arousal. When Blair's hand came around and gripped his shaft just as the skillful tongue thrust in again, the sudden touch sent him soaring over the edge. Back arched, head thrown back, his lips parted on a cry of ecstasy, Jim felt his climax explode out of him in pulsing, creamy waves. The orgasm washed over him and drove all remaining tension out of his body, leaving him adrift in a warm glow of satiation.

Jim sighed softly as Blair pulled out of him again. Too overloaded by now to be self-conscious, he lay pliant as Blair pushed his thighs further apart and nudged him a little further towards the headboard, exposing him even more, cool air whispering over his groin. Picking up a damp washcloth, Blair slipped a hand underneath Jim's body and cleaned up the stickiness of his climax from his chest and stomach, letting the rough cotton linger briefly on his peaked nipples. Jim twitched slightly at the touch, shivering with muzzy expectation as the cloth retreated.

Two well-coated fingers slid into him together, one from each hand, and began deliberately stretching him, first rubbing around the tight sphincter, then moving deeper within and massaging the tight walls. Now Blair's soft voice began caressing him as well, comforting, meaningless murmurs that snuggled around him as another finger eased into him, then a second from the other hand. His cock made a slow journey back to attention as the gently insistent fingers pressed outwards, then relaxed, then pressed outwards again.

The fingers eased almost all the way out, only two tips remaining to hold him open as Blair's tongue returned once more, flickering back and forth rapidly over the opening, pressing in part-way for a moment, then retreating to rub over him again. Without even realizing it, Jim was panting again, still too drained to thrust back but eager for more.

Blair pulled away and reached for the lubricant with a shaky hand, his own jutting cock laced with pulsing veins and faintly slick at the tip as he rubbed a little oil over it. He urged Jim to tilt his hips up, then poured most of the oil over the loose, inviting opening, catching the runoff with a thumb and massaging it back into the pink anus. Jim moaned wordlessly and quivered, edging his legs apart just a little more as he felt the liquid glide down his passage, coating every sensitized inch of internal skin with golden warmth.

Carefully holding himself to a snail's pace, trying to stay in control, Blair straddled Jim's thighs and leaned over him, scattering soft kisses over the tangle of muscles and sinew across his back. He reached down and positioned himself at the wet, gleaming entrance, waiting for Jim's sigh of approval before pressing in. The head of his cock slid through the loosened ring of muscle smoothly, and he held there for a few moments, breathing hard, until Jim wriggled against him just a little. Blair took a deep breath and pushed steadily, biting his lip against his own moans of pleasure, until his cock was fully sheathed inside Jim's tight, wet passage.

Blair let himself collapse onto Jim's back then, gasping for breath, pressing his cheek between the ridges of Jim's shoulders as his arms stretched out over Jim's so their fingers could entwine. His legs pressed around Jim's, bringing every possible inch of their bodies together. They lay tangled together for long minutes, until they breathed at the same pace, until their heartbeats matched, until neither of them needed a signal to know when it was time to move.

Jim breathed in as Blair withdrew, then exhaled as the hot, oiled shaft sank back into him, breached him in a rhythmic pattern of entry and retreat. Moving slowly at first, Blair gradually began fucking him faster, each penetrating stroke liquefying Jim's bones as it passed over the sensitive nub of his prostate. Panting, nearly sobbing, Jim lost control, trying to push himself back onto the cock as it withdrew from him, keeping his hips raised as far as he could as Blair thrust back into him, reducing the length of the strokes. Blair responded to the wordless request, pounding into the slick channel with short, quick thrusts, his cock throbbing with impending climax. When he couldn't hold on any longer, he bent forward and took a fold of skin at Jim's shoulder between his teeth, biting down carefully.

A short, hoarse cry broke from Jim's lips as he spasmed, the second orgasm pumping out of him in short, intense spurts as Blair kept thrusting into his body until his ass muscles clenched down on the hard length. Jim squeezed his eyes shut, gasping, as he felt the gorgeously amplified sensation of Blair's orgasm rippling through the buried shaft, exploding into his passage and flooding him with pulsing waves of living heat.

They collapsed into a shaky heap, still joined, trying to kiss each other everywhere their lips could reach. Jim whispered Blair's name, suckling the quivering fingers tangled with his own. Blair just murmured wordlessly and nipped delicately at the skin across Jim's shoulder blades.

Exhausted, they dozed off briefly, waking after only a short while as their well-exercised bodies resisted the awkward position. After a few more minutes of languid nibbling and kissing, Blair finally eased out and collected the washcloth. Jim stretched luxuriously as Blair cleaned them both off. Rolling onto his back, he smiled sleepily and tugged Blair down into a sprawl on top of him. Blair reached out and caught the light switch as Jim wrapped strong arms around him, snuggling down against the hard chest. They softly whispered indistinct words of love as they drifted, entwined, into sleep.

Eyes squeezing away the morning sun, Jim caught the railing and arched his back, muscles cracking softly. He thumped back down with a sigh, only remembering that the soft weight on top of him was Blair when said weight registered a protest at the gymnastics. "Sorry," he murmured, stroking the tangled curls now stirring across his chest. "But we have to get up just about now anyway."

Blair lifted a muzzy head and yawned. "Back to the usual grind." He bent his head down and licked a convenient nipple. "Hey," he complained as Jim prudently lifted him up and settled him on the other side of the bed.

Jim swung his legs off the bed and stood up, pointing a stern finger at Blair. "None of that. You start that, we're going to be late for work."

"No morning sex?" Blair put on his best pitiful expression as he wheedled, "Not even a really quick one?"

"Not a chance." Heartlessly ignoring Blair's look of woe, Jim walked across the room and rummaged around in his closet, which had gotten a lot fuller since they'd crammed most of Blair's clothes in over the weekend. "Damn. Where did I put my navy pants?"

With a final sigh, Blair gave up and climbed out of the bed. "They're right near the left side, next to the black jeans, aren't they?" With a regretful eye on his partner's naked back, he padded over to the dresser and vengefully pulled out a dark blue henley and his tightest blue jeans.

"Thanks." Jim grabbed a white T-shirt and a flannel he at least thought was his. "You want the first shower?"

"We could--"


Blair mumbled something about stodgy Sentinels and got a whap on the rear. "Ow." He made a face at Jim. "You go ahead, I'll make some breakfast."

A short while later, showered and dressed, they sat down to breakfast. "So now what?" Jim asked around a mouthful of eggs and toast. "Do you think that this... bond... will keep Angela from getting to you? Or to me, for that matter."

Blair gulped coffee and shrugged. "I don't really know, man. We're going to have to play it by ear."

"I don't like taking the chance."

"I'll be careful. If I start feeling drained or anything, I'll take off," Blair promised. "And you've got to do the same if you start losing it."

Jim sighed. "How the hell am I supposed to do my job like this?"

"Well, Simon mentioned he was thinking of transferring her to another department," Blair said. "I'm just wondering how to get her aside and explain the whole Sentinel thing to her. Not to mention we need to find her a Guide before she zones out in the middle of a crime scene."

"So where do we go looking for a Guide?" Jim asked.

Blair shrugged helplessly. "Got me."

Gut muscles tightening, Jim looked up, unsurprised to see Angela walking into the bullpen. He didn't need enhanced senses to pick up on the break in activity around the room as she entered. Gossip traveled quick in the department, and everyone knew that the two had been royally chewed out and given enforced time off by Simon the previous week. He forced his attention back to the paperwork littering his desk, glancing up with a smile as Blair patted his arm before going back to his work.

The noise level rose back to normal as Angela went to her desk and everyone concluded that there wasn't going to be an explosion, at least for now. But for the rest of the morning, Jim kept a watchful eye on Blair, happy to see him bouncing lightly in his chair the way he usually did when confined to a seat.

"Hey," Blair quietly prodded as lunchtime rolled around. "Think you could handle having lunch with Angela?"

Jim lifted his head. "Are you sure this is a good idea, Chief?"

"No, but I can't think of anything else to do. And we're both doing OK so far." Blair waited for Jim's reluctant nod, then went over to quietly speak to the other detective.

"I've never heard anything this crazy in my entire life." Coster sat back and regarded both of them skeptically.

Jim looked at Blair with a faint 'I-told-you-so' smirk on his face. Blair threw a glance heavenwards in response, then grabbed Jim's as-yet-unopened menu away. "Just follow along in your menu," he told Angela, then walked some distance away and held up the open menu. "Okay, big guy. Read it out loud?"

"I feel like a circus act," Jim muttered disgustedly, even as he zoomed in on the small print. He easily read off the first dozen items or so on the menu. When he finished, Angela's skepticism had turned into nervous surprise.

"All right. I'm convinced that either you're telling the truth, or the two of you went to a lot of trouble to put something totally unbelievable over on me," she said as Blair came back to the table.

"Why would we bother?" Jim sat back in his chair, looking around with belated concern to make sure no one had observed the little demonstration. He noticed a couple of men in business suits at a nearby table staring at them, but they returned their gazes to their menus after he stared pointedly back.

"Angela, we're not making this up," Blair said. "And you need to believe us, because otherwise you could get blindsided by your senses the same way Jim was when they first reappeared."

Angela sighed. "And here I thought I was just overreacting to things because I was in a bad mood." She looked from one man to the other. "But I don't understand. If Jim and I were at each other's throats last week because I'm one of these 'Sentinels', why isn't it happening now?"

Blair exchanged a quick glance with Jim before explaining, "Well, part of it is that you know about it consciously, now. I mean, at least Jim did before we explained it, and now you do too. So that's helping you control it." He paused. "Also, Jim and I... um, we came up with a... committment ritual. To, you know, cement the Sentinel-Guide bond between us. I think that seems to have calmed down the territorial instincts too."

"Mmm." Angela didn't miss the faint tinge of color that touched Jim's cheekbones as Blair described the 'ritual', but she didn't call them on it. "So you say I need to find a Guide?"

"Yeah. A Guide will help you control your senses, keep you from zoning out." Blair gestured to Jim. "That's why I became Jim's partner originally, because of the zone-out thing."

"Lovely. So, is there a store at the mall where I can pick one up?" she asked dryly. "I don't recall seeing a sign for Guides anywhere in the supermarket."

Blair fiddled with his fork a little sheepishly. "Well, the fact is, I don't really know how to find a Guide. I have some ideas on how to recognize one, but, well, the best indicator is going to just be your instincts." He spread his hands. "If you meet someone and instinctively like them, go with that. And in the meantime, maybe we could set up some tests to see how extensive your Sentinel abilities are and--"

"If you let him get you into a lab, you may never see the light of day again," Jim interrupted to warn her.

Blair glared at Jim and went on. "Testing your senses in a controlled environment is the best way to get comfortable with them. You've got them, they're going to be feeding you lots of information, and you need to get used to processing it all."

She sighed again. "I have the feeling this isn't going to be fun."

"What's the matter?" Jim asked absently without looking up from his newspaper as Blair came into the loft after a lab session with Angela.

"This is not working, man." Blair dropped his bag off on a chair before squirming his way into Jim's lap.

Jim tossed the paper onto the coffee table and rearranged the pillows, easing back into the corner of the sofa so he and Blair could both stretch out their legs. He nuzzled into the fragrant hair, automatically filtering out the faint odors of exhaust, cigarette smoke, and chemicals so he could enjoy Blair's natural scent, overlaid by the delicate touch of the herbal mixture he used to rinse with. "What's the problem?" He wrapped his arms around the warm body, enjoying the comfortable warmth of mild arousal without feeling the need to pursue it.

Blair leaned back against the solid wall of Jim's chest. "Mmm. Well, for one thing, she's got zero control, even after the last couple of weeks of working with me. I mean, she's worse than you were when we first got started, even though her abilities don't seem to be as strong. Plus, she's even worse in the temper department. Man, she just flies off the handle for everything nowadays."

"She giving you any trouble?" Jim tensed with concern. Coster was a woman, sure, but she was in great shape, and he'd seen her take apart some bigger guys on the force in the gym. She could easily hurt Blair, who was no bigger than her.

Responding to Jim's unvoiced worry, Blair hesitated before answering. "Nooo... not really. I just get the feeling that she might. That she's walking a little too close to the edge. But she's a cop, she's got to have more self-control than that, you know?"

"What I know is that I'm going to be there for the rest of these training sessions," Jim said grimly. "No arguing." He jiggled Blair a little when he saw him about to protest. "I remember what it was like before you started helping me, Chief. I was so out of control, I threatened to go AWOL on Simon, nearly pounded a waiter for giving me food with too much spice, and all but jumped Carolyn in the street." He shook his head. "I wasn't close to the edge, I was over it. If she's feeling anything like that, I don't want you alone with her."

"Yeah, but you didn't know what was going on with you. I don't understand why she's so frustrated." Blair sighed and snuggled back, tucking his head against Jim's shoulder.

"It's more than just not knowing what was going on," Jim pointed out. "All the input from my senses was really hitting me hard. It just, I don't know, calmed down after I met you."

"Well, we're no closer to finding her a Guide. I've checked out all sorts of people at the U, even dragged her to a support group for students with learning disabilities the other day."

"Why?" Jim puzzled. "Guides don't have learning disabilities if you're anything to go by."

"Actually, I did have a lot of the symptoms of attention deficit disorder. I was hoping maybe that it's a mark of a potential Guide. So I tried to get her to chat everyone there up a little, but she didn't click with anyone there. Even made me leave early."

"Have you tried looking around at the station?"

"Not really. I mean, someone hyperactive and jittery isn't too likely to become a cop, I'd think. I did call Naomi though, asked her to put out some feelers. Maybe that'll pan out, I don't know."

Jim squeezed gently. "Well, give it a rest for now, Chief. You're not going to find a Guide tonight." He nibbled on Blair's earlobe suggestively.

"Mmm." Jim could hear the smile in Blair's voice as he asked, "You have something else in mind for me to do tonight?"

"I think I could come up with something..."

"Sir, I think we've found the factor."

"Well, don't just stand there. Tell me about it."

"It's his partner. Our original background check on him turned up the subject of his dissertation -- tribal watchmen in pre-historic civilizations. Didn't think anything of it then. But this time around, we took a better look at some of his notes. Turns out he's studying tribal watchmen with enhanced senses. He calls them 'Sentinels'."

"Jesus. So his partner is studying the same damn thing we've been working on for years now, and you only now figured this out? Dammit, Major, what is your government paying you for?"

"Um, not to interrupt, Colonel..."

"What is it, Doctor?"

"Instead of placing blame, can we try and move forward? I have to talk to this man. If he's been systematically studying the subject, or doing something to stabilize him--"

"You're talking about blowing project security."

"Sir, with all respect, there isn't really anything in our current findings to keep secure. This, umm, Blair Sandburg probably has more information than we do. And if he's willing to cooperate, he might be able to significantly advance the project."


Blair nudged the door shut behind him with one foot as he flipped through the mail. Tossing away two credit card offers and a Publishers' Clearinghouse sweepstakes offer, he piled the rest on the side table and went to get himself a beer. The phone rang just as he took his first swig, forcing him to swallow too quickly. He answered with a strangled croak. "Yeah?"

"Um, Mr. Sandburg?" The voice on the other end sounded a little jittery.

At the use of his last name, Blair immediately pegged the caller as a telemarketer. "Sorry, don't want any, thanks," he started, only to be cut off.

"I'm not calling to offer you something, Mr. Sandburg. My name is Richard Poland. I'm a psychiatrist working with the Army Special Forces division."

"Special Forces? What is this about?" Blair asked cautiously, trying to keep his alarm from showing in his voice.

"Actually, I was hoping that we could talk about that in person rather than over the telephone. I can say that it has to do with your thesis research."

Blair was silent for a moment, fear crawling up his back. All he wanted was to get off the phone and find Jim, make sure he was OK and not being packed off to a lab somewhere. "Fine," he answered abruptly. "When and where?"

"I'd like to speak with your... partner as well," Poland said. "Would this evening be convenient? I could come to your apartment."

"Make it around 8," Blair agreed, scribbling a note on a piece of paper. "I have to go," he added, his urge to get to Jim increasing.

"All right. I'll see you later tonight, then." The psychiatrist sounded enthusiastic and pleased.

Hanging up, Blair wasn't sure whether to take that as a good or bad sign. He headed out, snatching up his jacket, only to literally bump into Jim as he yanked open the door and dashed out.

"Whoa. What's the rush?"

"Man, we have some serious trouble," Blair said urgently. "I don't want to talk about it here. Let's go for a walk."

They settled on a bench in the nearby park while Blair explained about the call. "So what do you think we should do?"

Jim frowned down at the hard-packed ground, barely starting to soften with the first traces of spring. "If they were planning to pick us up, they'd just have gone ahead and done it, not given us a warning," he said slowly. "But it's a safe bet they're not coming by out of academic curiosity."

Blair nodded. "I can see their point. I mean, your Sentinel abilities are an edge for you as a cop, but they'd be totally invaluable to a Special Forces operative."

Jim looked around, bleakly surveying the empty park. "I'm not going back into that again," he said tightly. "I'm not going to take orders from scum like Oliver ever again, let them play with my life. I'd rather be shot."

"I am down with that," Blair muttered, although he shivered. "Listen, man, you think maybe we should, I don't know, make some arrangements? In case they're planning on using a stick if their carrot doesn't work?"

"Sandburg, there's no place to hide from these people." Jim's shoulders slumped. "Why can't they just leave me the fuck alone? They didn't screw me over badly enough the first time around?" he burst out.

Blair's arms went around his shoulders, soothing away tension. "Hey, it's all right. It's going to be OK."

"You don't understand what these bastards are capable of," Jim muttered.

"Now that is where you're wrong. Come on, man, you know Naomi. I grew up on horror stories of the evil that CIA agents do. And," he nudged Jim, "Naomi knows tons of people who are on the shit lists of half the government agencies in the country. Some of her pals should be able to help us disappear if we have to."

"If we're lucky," Jim said dispiritedly.

"And if we're not lucky, you can bet that she'll have it plastered all over the news. Jim, you're pretty high-profile here in Cascade. They can't just snatch you and cover it up. And like you said, if they really wanted to do that, they would have done it already."

"So what do they want?"

"Well, I guess we'll find out." Two pairs of blue eyes met, shared their fears, and reaffirmed their committment to see things through together, all in a single glance. In silent agreement, they rose and headed back to the loft.

"They're coming," Jim reported tersely. "Two men."

Blair nodded and nervously folded his glasses and put them away along with the journal he'd unsuccessfully been trying to read. "Showtime."

"Just stay close to me, and keep away from the windows." Jim sent a quick glance around the loft one last time as he walked towards the doors, confirming that all the blinds were shut and the path to the fire escape clear.

Both of their visitors wore crisp business suits, but only one, the elder, walked with the rigid bearing that spoke of military training. The other man, his sandy-blond hair tousled, practically jumped into the room, heart beating rapidly with excitement. He gave Jim a vaguely hungry look, then made a beeline for Blair. "Mr. Sandburg? Richard Poland," he identified himself, holding out a hand.

Shutting the door, Jim moved back into the room to keep a direct line of sight clear between himself and Blair, eyes focused on the other man. "And you are?" he asked pointedly.

"Jack Marston." The tall man spoke precisely, stepping into the room only a few paces. Evaluating him as a prospective opponent, Jim pegged him in his 50s from the iron-grey of his hair and the crow's-feet around his eyes, but the body was still that of a younger man.

"Rank?" Jim pressed.

Giving him a piercing glance, Marston grudgingly added, "Colonel, U.S. Army."

"So why don't you tell us what this is about?" Blair glanced from Marston back to Poland.

"Well, you see, um, for several years now, I've been researching a phenomenon in human development, that of, well, enhanced senses." Poland, who had settled down on the couch, glanced a little nervously over at Marston. When the colonel didn't stop him, he continued. "I was part of a team of psychiatrists working for Special Forces, trying to come up with ways to help operatives remain mentally stable, when I came across several cases that didn't appear to be traditional forms of mental illness. When I figured out that these were cases of people who had developed extraordinarily enhanced senses, well, we recognized the potential value of the condition and started looking into the whole thing further."

Blair didn't so much as flick a glance towards Jim, putting on his best poker face. "So you came across my studies? But the focus of my dissertation is on sentinels in tribal societies. I'm not sure how that would help you."

Poland appeared to be at a loss for a moment, then swallowed and said, "Actually, we came across your studies when doing a background check of Mr. Ellison's associates." He instinctively edged a little further into the couch as Jim's fists clenched briefly. "We've been keeping track of exceptional performance in branches of the military and police forces, trying to find other subjects with these enhanced senses, before... um, well, anyway, our researchers came across Mr. Ellison's performance records and saw the sharp spike a couple of years ago, and did a little digging..." he trailed off, seeing the grim set to Jim's face.

Jim took two strides and put himself at Blair's back, fingertips of one hand resting lightly on the back of the couch close to the younger man's head. "Why don't you just come out with it?" he suggested coldly. "What do you people want? A guinea pig?"

"What? Oh, no, we don't need any more subjects. We already have twenty who manifested this condition."

"What!" Blair nearly jumped off the couch. "You've got twenty Sentinels?! Man! Where did you find them? How did they deal with their senses? What--" He subsided as Jim's hand closed over his shoulder. "Um, so if you already have Sentinels, what's with hassling us?"

"What we want," Marston spoke finally, "is to know what it is you're doing, Mr. Sandburg. How you've managed to stabilize Ellison." He indicated the Sentinel with a gesture.

Blair stared from one man to the other. "Stabilize?" he said warily. "What do you mean? They're having trouble controlling their senses?"

Fingers drumming nervously on his leg, Poland looked at Marston, who sighed and gestured for the doctor to go on. "Ah, well, you see, all of our twenty subjects are completely catatonic," Poland explained. "From what records I've found on them, they started complaining of overstimulation, began experiencing intermittent bouts of catatonia, progressed to occasional psychotic breaks, went through a phase of full psychosis, then retreated into catatonia." He added after a moment's pause, "The progression seems to take no more than six months from onset."

Instinctively, Blair reached up and protectively covered the hand on his shoulder with his own, feeling the barely-there tremor going through the strong frame behind him. "So, did you do anything to try and stop the degeneration? Didn't anything help?"

"Well, uh, I haven't had the opportunity to try anything yet," Poland said. "I've identified these subjects after-the-fact, and nothing I've tried so far has been able to bring them out of the catatonia. A few of them have even just died, for no apparent physical reason. That's why we've been doing surveillance -- I've been hoping to catch a... Sentinel? before they get to the final stages, since I've got some ideas..." His voice trailed off at a sharp look from Marston. Hastily moving on, he said, "So you've got to see why finding you and Ellison is so important! From what we've been able to determine," he turned his attention to Jim, "your abilities became enhanced more than a year ago, right?"

Silent, holding on to Blair like a lifeline, Jim remembered vividly the sensation of being overwhelmed by his abilities, the unreasoning rage gripping his mind. The gentle pressure of Blair's hand pulled him out of the introspection, and he glanced down at the question in the blue eyes. He nodded slightly and looked at Poland. "Two years and a bit," he answered, still reluctant to divulge information about his prior experiences in Peru.

Poland gawked momentarily, then realized that Jim had given him tacit permission to ask more questions and pounced on the chance. "How did you avoid catatonia? Have you experienced any symptoms of psychosis?"

"Look, Doctor, whatever it is that's kept me from going off the deep end, I'm not the one to ask about it. Sandburg's the one who knows anything about all this."

Blair remained quiet despite the doctor's inquisitive look, then finally addressed Marston defiantly. "I don't think either Jim or I have many illusions about the kinds of things you and your people are capable of. And we're not interested in being test subjects or in working for you." The colonel remained impassive, so he continued. "If other Sentinels are willing to work for you, that's their decision, and we'll do anything we can to help them stay rational and functioning. But that's it. And if you can't accept our help with those limitations, you won't get it at all."

Instead of responding to Blair directly, Marston looked at Jim. "You were a fine operative, Ellison. I know what happened with your team -- with Oliver. But the man was a bad apple in a good barrel. We could sure as hell use someone with your abilities, even without this 'Sentinel' thing, and with it... well, you could do a lot of good for your country."

"I'd like to think that I'm doing a lot of good for my country now," Jim said in a clipped voice. "And I'd rather uphold the law than skirt it for somebody else's idea of the greater good."

His jaw set, Marston stared hard at Ellison. "I see." He finally turned to Blair. "Mr. Sandburg, I am prepared to do just about anything to ensure the safety and security of this country. But neither you or Detective Ellison are a threat to national security, and your cooperation may help us save the lives of some damn fine soldiers who will gladly serve their country to the best of their abilities. I'd rather have two dozen men with enhanced senses than one, and for that, we apparently need your help. Now, is that good enough for you to start cooperating?"

Ignoring the harsh tone, Blair slanted a quick glance up at Jim. He picked up on the faint nod and took it to mean that Marston was telling the truth. "Here goes," he muttered very softly to himself, and felt Jim's grip tighten comfortingly. "A Sentinel doesn't operate alone," he began.

Jim gladly closed the door behind the two Special Forces men several hours later. Soft rustling came from behind him as Blair starting collecting the reams of paper that had gotten strewn over the couch, coffee table, and floor during the discussion with Dr. Poland. He fastened the locks and stood by the door until he heard the two men walk across the parking lot, then the quiet rumble of car ignition.

"That wasn't too bad." Blair nudged him lightly with an elbow. "Marston was kind of a jerk, but Richard's pretty cool. Man, some of his ideas on the neurochemistry that might be behind Sentinel abilities... this could turn out to be a great opportunity, you know? I mean," he set the armful of papers on the kitchen table and started sorting them, "with his medical background, he could help me figure out so much about your senses. And frankly, I am not unhappy to have a doctor I can yell for if something makes your senses go really haywire."

"Just don't get too friendly, Chief," Jim warned, collecting bottles and coffee mugs. "Whatever you tell Poland is going to get to Marston, and I don't know that I want him knowing everything about my senses yet. He might change his mind about taking no for an answer."

Blair slanted a quick teasing look over at Jim. "I don't think so, man. Did you see his face when I explained that Sentinels have to have the Guide with them when using their senses to avoid a zone-out? He totally lost interest in recruiting you when he figured out he'd have to take me too."

Chuckling softly, Jim set the last mug in the drying rack and came up behind Blair, wrapping him in his arms. "Good," he murmured, nipping at the juncture of neck and shoulder. "Because he can't have you."

With a shiver, Blair let his head fall back. "Only you," he breathed softly, the tip of his tongue painting a wet swath along the underside of Jim's chin.

A soft gasp escaped Jim as he felt his cock shoot to rigid attention. He reached up from behind and carefully unbuttoned Blair's shirt, his fingers stroking the tender nipples as he bared them, pulling the soft flannel away and easing the shirt off. Blair snuggled back against him but otherwise stayed quiescent as Jim went exploring. One broad hand splayed flat over Blair's abdomen, his mouth investigating the riches of Blair's shoulders, Jim unfastened the soft khakis with his other hand, slipped his fingers inside and rubbed them over the hardening ridge.

"So good, baby," he breathed softly into Blair's ear. "Love feeling you get hard." Blair arched back against him, hips rising to press the shaft against Jim's fingers. "Oh yeah, babe. That's right." He slid the other hand down as well, pushed the pants and briefs down to the ground. One hand wrapped around Blair's cock, the other slipped between the spread thighs, cupping the soft sac and squeezing gently. "Come on, get ready for me. Want you hard, want you inside me." He licked the rim of the ear, flicked the tip of his tongue inside for a moment to hear Blair moan in response.

He kept working Blair's cock with one hand, careful not to stimulate him too much, while he unzipped his own pants and stripped them off. Hooking a foot around a chair leg, he pulled it out and pushed Blair down into the seat. He took both of his lover's hands and clasped them behind the chair back, holding them there until Blair looked up at him through glazed eyes and nodded his acceptance. Standing just a little back, he stripped the rest of his clothing off efficiently, until he stood nude in front of Blair.

Breathing hard, he retained enough sense of self-preservation to go to the bathroom and get the lubricant. Blair didn't move during the brief side trip, just let his head lean against the high chair back, eyes half-shut. Jim pressed a quick kiss onto the parted lips, tongue slipping in for a brief taste, even as his slick hand closed on the length of Blair's cock. Blair moaned and bucked up into his hand in response, unable to lift his hips very far from his position.

Jim bit his lip as he slid a lubricated finger into his own body, his cock jumping with each stroke. After a few moments, he had to pull out, let go of Blair, and cling to the back of the chair to stave off his climax. When some measure of self-control returned, he straddled Blair's lap and carefully lowered himself, using one hand to position Blair's straining cock at his loosened entrance while the other clutched the seat back.

He groaned out loud as he lowered himself onto the shaft, a little too quickly for comfort but not nearly fast enough to satisfy the hunger raging through him. Finally, finally, he had completely enveloped Blair's length, his ass resting against the quivering muscles of his lover's thighs. After taking a few moments to catch his breath, he slowly began rocking back and forth, savoring the pure sensation of the rigid length filling him. Then he slowly, deliberately, rose up, eyes closing as he felt his body reluctantly let go of a few precious inches, then greedily take them back inside as he sank back down. A few repetitions, then he was riding continuously, faster and harder, letting his own weight impale him on the throbbing shaft, squeezing down and smiling as he felt Blair cry out softly and writhe beneath him, trying to thrust, trying to move.

And then the phone rang.

He ignored it, too lost in sensation to even think of answering it, until the answering machine picked up and Simon's voice bellowed out, "Sandburg, Ellison, if either of you are there, pick up!" Jim froze, fully impaled, his body's urges warring with his training. Blair's hands came around to his back, a silent plea for more. He moaned softly and jerked, but his hand reached out reluctantly for the cordless handset.

"Yeah?" He was amazed that his voice only sounded slightly wobbly.


"What is IT!" Jim clenched his jaw shut on the involuntary yelp that had escaped him as Blair thrust his hips up wickedly.

"Are you all right?"

"Fine!" He gritted the word as Blair started squirming deliciously beneath him. "What?"

"I need you to find Sandburg and get down here."


"Yes, now! Jim, are you sure you're all right?" Simon's voice was suspicious -- not surprisingly, since Jim normally dropped everything else when duty called.

"I'm fine, Simon. WHY do you need us..." At that moment, Blair's hand closed on his cock, stroking and teasing, and Jim had to cut off anything else he'd been about to say.

"Coster just went ballistic and nearly killed a suspect in interrogation. Took two guys to pull her off him, and now she looks like she's 'zoned'. I stuck her in my office and I'm holding off the shrink for now, but I need you two to get over here pronto."

Jim shuddered desperately as Blair continued to pleasure him, trying to collect enough of the scattered pieces of his mind to respond. "Yeah, okay," he finally managed. "We'll be there... soon." His voice cracked on the last word as Blair's cock twitched inside him, the head batting against his prostrate.

"Right," Simon said uncertainly, still worried that something was wrong. "If you're not here in fifteen minutes, I'm sending over a squad car," he warned.

"Fifteen?" Jim tried not to wail. "Fine!" He rang off and dropped the phone to the tabletop unceremoniously. Hands diving into Blair's curls, Jim locked lips with his lover and started riding him hard and fast, moaning approval as Blair's hand worked his cock. As he slammed down once more, he felt his orgasm hit, and the world faded away for long moments as he vibrated between his own explosion and Blair's, gasping softly as the heat of Blair's climax pulsed into him.

He stayed there, panting hoarsely, curled over Blair. The younger man wrapped his arms around Jim's waist and hung on, whimpering quietly as the final aftershocks shuddered through him. When they could breathe again, Jim quietly murmured, "Have to go to the station. Something's wrong with Coster."

"Oh god." Blair let his head fall against Jim's chest. "Right. Okay."

Reluctantly, Jim eased off him, and they staggered into the bathroom together.

Simon had nearly chewed through his cigar when they finally arrived at the station. About to launch into a tirade, he paused at the vaguely dazed expressions both partners wore and simply ushered them into his office instead. "All right, what's going on?" he demanded, gesturing at Coster.

Angela was seated stiffly in a chair opposite the desk, eyes glassy and far-away, her clothing torn and mussed. Swallowing hard, Blair knelt in front of her and took her hand between his. "Angela? Come on, Angela, we need you to wake up, here."

Simon and Jim drew back as Blair continued to softly coax her back to awareness. "What is going on with her?" Simon demanded. "You were never like this."

Fear coiled deep in Jim's gut as he stared at Coster's unnaturally blank face. "I had a Guide," he muttered. "She doesn't."

"So what are you saying? She's going to keep flying off the handle like this until you find her a Guide?" Simon glanced over, lowering his voice, as Angela drew a sudden sobbing breath and clutched at Blair like a lifeline.

"For a while. Then," Jim took a deep breath, "she'll just zone out permanently."


"That about sums it up, sir."

"Wait a minute. How do you know this is going to happen to her?"

Jim briefly described the visit from the Special Forces people. As he finished the explanation, Blair joined the two of them, leaving Angela huddled on the seat, wrapped in his jacket, trying to use breathing exercises to block out the surrounding noise. "Listen, I think we should take her back to the loft and call Dr. Poland," Blair said.

"What? Sandburg, isn't she in a bad-enough spot as it is without offering her up to those people?" Jim kept his voice down, but his indignation came through clearly.

"Jim, you heard what Richard was saying. She's going to go catatonic if we don't do something fast. Now, we still don't have a line on a Guide, but Richard has some ideas on using psychotherapy and certain kinds of drugs used to treat psychiatric disorders to help keep Sentinels from zoning out, at least until they can find a Guide." Blair gestured back at Angela. "I sure as hell don't know what else to do for her. This might be her only chance."

"I want to try it." They all turned to see Coster staring up at them from the chair, her face white and set.

"Coster, these people... we don't know anything about them except that they're government operatives doing research on Sentinels." Jim argued. "Trust me, you don't want to be turned into their lab rat."

"Oh? And being in a 'permanent zone-out' is so much better?" she snapped. "I'm losing my mind here! If these people can help me, I'm willing to take a few risks."

Blair squeezed Jim's arm gently. Jim glanced down at him, eyes softening, and admitted to himself that he'd have tried anything in Coster's shoes. "Fine," he yielded. "Call him."

By the time Poland arrived at the loft, Angela was curled up in a ball on the couch, shivering with pain despite the eyemask and earplugs borrowed from Jim. Blair looked up from his position beside her as Jim let the psychiatrist. "Thanks for coming," Blair said with relief. "Think there's something you can do for her?"

Richard knelt down beside him, opening the soft briefcase he'd brought along with him. "Any problem with sedatives?" he asked Blair quietly, taking out a hypodermic.

"Well, Jim usually doesn't respond to painkillers or sedatives that well," Blair said dubiously. "They wear off really quickly. But they don't do any damage as far as I've seen."

"All right." Richard lay a hand on Angela's shoulder. She lifted off the mask and blinked at him, squinting despite the dim lighting. "Hi, I'm Richard Poland. I'm going to be giving you a mild sedative -- it should dull things for a little while, give us some breathing room to get your senses under control, all right?"

She nodded silently, her eyes brightening a little with hope, and held out an arm. Richard carefully swabbed the crook of her elbow with some disinfectant, then slid the needle in precisely. Angela winced sharply as it penetrated her skin, clenching her teeth to keep from crying out at the abnormally sharp pain. Putting the syringe aside, he rubbed her arm gently. "That's it, it's over," he murmured. "Try and relax, all right? Take deep breaths, nice and slow." With a muffled sob, Angela curled closer to him, letting her head rest against his chest. Her breathing, harshly audible in the quiet room, gradually calmed.

Blair stood up and backed away towards Jim. A broad grin spread over his face as he leaned against his Sentinel, watching Richard help Angela sit up. Jim absently put an arm around his waist, holding him close, as he also kept his attention on what Poland was doing.

Focusing on the resonant voice and following its instructions to breath deeply, Angela felt the maelstrom of sensory details fade gradually away. Cautiously opening her eyes, she found that she could look around without wincing again, and turned to bestow a grateful smile on the man sitting next to her. "Well, whatever you just did, it worked." She shook her head a little, amazed as her headache receded. "Oh god. This is the first day in weeks that I didn't think my head was about to explode."

"That's fantastic," Richard enthused. "Hopefully if we help you establish some basic control, we won't have to resort to drugs again. There are some hypnotherapy techniques that should help you filter the sensory input, keep it from overloading your receptors."

"So I don't need a Guide, after all?" Angela said, looking up at Blair, her hand clasping Richard's.

"Actually, I think you just found one," Blair said happily.

Richard and Angela both looked at him, then at each other. "Wait a second. You don't really think that... that *I'm* a Guide?" Richard asked in surprise.

"Hey, man, it makes perfect sense. You've got the energy level, then there's your immediate interest in Sentinels when you found out about them, and the way you just helped Angela, automatically." Blair bounced on his heels a little. "And Angela started doing a lot better just as soon as you started connecting."

"That's just the sedative," Richard protested.

"I don't think so," Blair disagreed. "But we can just wait a while -- until the sedative would have worn off anyway -- and see what happens."

A few hours later, Richard was slowly becoming convinced, as Angela's control showed no signs of slipping again. "All right, let's say that I'm a Guide. So now what do we do?" he asked finally. "I'm only in Cascade for this weekend." He turned to Blair and Jim, who were sitting together on the other couch. "We were hoping that we'd be able to persuade the two of you to come back to D.C. with us. But I understand that Colonel Marston wasn't able to get you interested in joining the Special Forces."

Blair shook his head. "Sorry man, but the Army is so not my style. Besides, my mom would probably have a heart attack. She had enough trouble dealing with me working with the cops."

Richard looked at Angela uncertainly. "I could ask them to reassign me here to Cascade," he suggested. "If I explain the opportunity to Colonel Marston--"

"What exactly is it that this Colonel wants a Sentinel in Special Forces for?" Angela interrupted. "To poke needles into, or to actually do missions?"

"To do missions. He wants Sentinels as operatives, not as lab subjects," Richard answered slowly.

"Will he have a problem with my being a woman?"

"Wait a second. Angela, are you really thinking about going for this?" Blair leaned forward, eyes deep with concern.

"Yes!" Angela answered firmly. "The only reason I didn't go into the service to begin with is because they don't allow women in combat, and I didn't feel like hoping they'd change the policy and being support all my life." She looked at Richard, reaching a hand out to him instinctively. "If Marston is willing to treat me like any other operative, I'll take the position."

Richard broke into a grin and caught her hand with his own. "I think I can talk him into it."

"Here you go." Blair handed over the second carry-on to Angela as they reached the metal detectors.

"Thanks again for everything, Blair," she said, swinging it onto her shoulder. "I don't even want to think about what would have happened to me if it weren't for you."

Blair smiled. "Hey, no problem. Just stay in touch. I definitely want to hear about anything you two come up with," he added, turning to include Richard in his words.

"As long as you do the same, Blair. I suspect I'll be calling you pretty often for advice on being a Guide anyway." Richard offered a handshake to both Jim and Blair, then slung his bag onto the X-ray machine's conveyor belt and stepped through the gate.

Angela hugged Blair, then finally turned to Jim. "Well, I guess this is it," she said wryly.

Jim nodded and held out a hand. "Good luck, Coster," he said. "Sorry that we never had a chance to get along."

She took his hand in a firm grip. "Me too. Take care of Cascade, Sentinel." She winked.

Jim's lips twitched. "I'd tell you to take care of D.C., but I think that's a bit much for just one Sentinel."

She smiled and hefted her bags onto the machine, then stepped through the gate and joined Richard on the other side. They picked up their bags and waved one final time before walking towards their terminal. As they rounded the corner, Angela reached out and linked her free arm through Richard's.

Jim slung an arm over Blair's shoulders as they turned to leave the airport. "So, did you tell them about the 'bonding'?" he asked.

Blair slipped a reciprocal arm around Jim's waist and grinned up at him. "Nah, I figure they've had enough shocks for now. Let them get used to being a Sentinel and Guide for a little while before we drop that one on them."

"I don't know, Chief. I mean, no need for them to waste as much time as we did." Jim smirked a little.

Blair casually let his hand slip down Jim's back to cup one firm buttock for a moment. "Well, why don't we go home and make up for some more of that wasted time..."

/*/ The End /*/