Chosen 8: A Reason For Thanksgiving by Natalie L

Chosen 8: A Reason for Thanksgiving - Natalie L

~~~

Dedicated to Lisa Adolf, who gifted me with a lovely picture of Blair from her talented hands, and who entertains me regularly with her Pet Beanie Adventures. This one’s for you, Lisa!

~~~

Jim propped himself up on an elbow and gazed down at the form of his sleeping Guide. He mused about how angelic and innocent Blair appeared when asleep; how young. His body bare of any hair, he looked almost child-like. A grin split his face as he noticed the heavy balls and turgid cock of his mate. This was no under-age boy; this was a man – his Guide, his lover, his husband. Bending down, he pressed his lips against Blair’s.

“Ahhhh....” Blair mumbled, rolling over to wrap his arms around Jim and deepen the kiss. When they parted, he smiled up at his lover. “Good morning, big guy.” A hand snaked between their bodies to cup Jim’s scrotum. Immediately, Jim’s half-filled cock sprang to life, pressing against Blair’s arm.

“’Mornin’,” Jim replied, returning the smile. He lowered his head and began sucking at the delicate flesh near Blair’s carotid artery, feeling the pulse of Blair’s heart speed up and the heat begin to roll off his skin. Fingers caressed the hard nubs of Blair’s nipples, causing his lover’s body to tremble with eagerness and his hand to lose its grip on Jim’s balls.

Blair’s head had fallen back on the pillow and he gasped for breath. “Ah, God, get on with it!” he begged.

Not one to rush their morning lovemaking, Jim let his mouth slip down to the tender flesh of the peaked nipples, while his hand brushed across firm abs and down to where Blair’s quivering cock awaited his attention. Firm strokes up the length of the hard organ drew moans of pleasure from his Guide as Blair arched his back, pressing his erection solidly against Jim’s hand. Jim shifted his position so that his mouth could trail down Blair’s stomach, until he was near enough for his tongue to lash out and caress the tip of the straining cock.

“Mercy!” The word was more of a groan, low and harsh in Blair’s throat, as his mouth went dry and he struggled for breath.

In answer, Jim took the cock into his mouth and began to suck, wrapping his fingers tightly around the base, near Blair’s testicles. Blair bucked as his orgasm built inside him, threatening to send him over the brink. Sensing the exact moment of his lover’s climax, Jim clenched his fingers tightly around Blair’s cock, cutting off the fulfillment of ejaculation. Blair cried out his distress, mewling as Jim gently turned him onto his side.

Jim eyed Blair’s hole with satisfaction. The normally tight muscle was loose and spasming, leaking lubricating fluids. Positioning himself behind his mate, Jim eased his cock inside Blair’s body. The first few strokes were slow and gentle, lubing the length of Jim’s cock. Once the initial friction was eliminated, he picked up his pace, pounding into Blair as he began to stroke his mate’s recently neglected cock.

Blair moaned as his climax began to build inside him once more, knowing that this time, he and his lover would come together, deepening their love as it cemented their bond. Their blended cry echoed around the large chamber of the loft apartment as both men came in unison.

When it was over, Blair rolled over and cupped Jim’s cheek with the palm of his hand, before pressing a gentle kiss on his lover’s lips. “God, I love you,” he sighed, allowing his lips to curl into a sweet smile. “I never expected that, you know.”

“What?” Jim asked, too far gone in the afterglow to be thinking clearly.

“When I came to the Guide Induction Center, I had a fiancée,” Blair explained. “I went, looking for a position as a Guide, but I never expected to find love. Oh, I knew,” he added hastily, “that the interviewing Sentinel – you – would most likely want bonding sex, but that’s just so... impersonal. I thought I could marry Maya and still be a Guide. Of course, Maya didn’t want anything more to do with me once I made my decision to interview –”

“Damn smart woman,” Jim growled, pulling Blair against him.

“But I knew...” Blair continued. “I knew when I first saw you. I trembled at your touch. I wanted you more than anything or anyone that I’d ever wanted in my life.”

“I felt the bond between us almost immediately,” Jim concurred.

“But it became more than just the bond,” Blair insisted. “You pulled my orgasm from me, you kissed me, and you marked me.” His hand rose to his shoulder, where the faint scar of a human bite mark still marred his smooth skin.

“That was the bond.”

“Yes, but I felt more. I was falling in love with you. When I woke up in your bed, I knew we were bonded, but it was more.... You asked me to marry you!” Blair’s voice caught for a moment and he had to remind himself to breathe. “And then, on Nu’utele Island, we consummated our love.”

“The primal bond...” Jim murmured.

“Yes, the blending of our souls. In that moment, our love and our destiny were sealed. Our bond became so deep, that not even death will be able to part us.” Blair stopped to press his lips against Jim’s once more.

“I love you so much,” Jim sighed, “that if you died before me, I’d eat my gun to follow you.”

“But you won’t have to,” Blair emphasized. “If either of us dies, the other will follow automatically. We’re one soul now, one life-force, in two bodies.” He looked at the platinum and diamond band on his left hand. “And our six-month anniversary is tomorrow,” he added.

“Thanksgiving,” Jim said with a grin. “Appropriate, considering how thankful I am for you.”

The ringing of the phone interrupted their pillow talk. Mumbling curses under his breath, Jim rolled over to grab the phone off the night stand. “Ellison,” he barked into the receiver.

“Jim, Simon here,” the captain identified himself. “I’ve got some bad news for you....”

“Can’t it wait?” Jim complained.

“What is it?” Blair asked softly, wrapping an arm around Jim’s bare shoulders.

“Bad news,” Jim whispered.

Blair’s face contorted with worry. “What?”

Jim shrugged as Simon’s voice echoed over the connection. “I’m afraid not. It’s something you need to hear: Brackett has escaped from prison. The rumor is, he’s coming after you...”

+++++

The tension in Simon Banks’ office was heavy and intimidating. The news that Lee Brackett had escaped from Federal prison was not the sort of thing that anyone took lightly. The man was ex-CIA – a rogue – and capable of almost anything. He had once nearly unleashed the deadly Ebola virus on Cascade, all so that he could steal a top secret, black ops stealth jet.

He was also a rogue Guide, hell-bent on making Jim his Sentinel.

“We’ve got to protect Jim at all cost!” Blair stood protectively between his Sentinel and the police captain.

“I know that, Sandburg,” Simon growled, secretly amused at how the smaller man stood up to him.

“Any intelligence on where Brackett might be?” Jim asked, stepping out from behind the shield of his Guide.

“The Feds traced him here, to Cascade,” Simon said. “But so far, no one has seen him. We suspect he’s set up a base in the suburbs, like before; someplace where he’d fit right in and wouldn’t be noticed.”

“I want to be in on the investigation,” Jim insisted.

“Jim, no!” Blair protested. “It’s you he’s after. You should lie low until the Feds or Major Crime recapture him!”

“I’m afraid I have to agree with your Guide this time, Jim,” Simon said with a shrug. “Brackett is dangerous, and he wants you. We can’t take any chances on him getting his wish.”

“He knows where we live,” Jim reminded the captain. “I want a piece of this jerk!”

“Then we’ll go out of town for a few days, a week,” Blair suggested.

Jim shook his head. “No way. I’m not running from a bastard like Brackett. We’re ready for him. If he comes for me, I can handle myself just fine.”

“We’ll put a couple squad cars on patrol around your building,” Simon decided, “and a unit to sit and watch the front door. If Brackett tries to get you where you live, he’ll have to get through us first.”

“Fine with me,” Jim growled.

+++++

“If we’re staying in town, then I have to get a fresh turkey,” Blair said, once they’d arrived back home. “It’s too late to thaw a frozen one, and I want to celebrate Thanksgiving traditionally.”

“I don’t want you out with Brackett around,” Jim said. “It’s too dangerous.”

“Look,” Blair said, standing with his fists on his hips. “I’m just as capable of taking care of myself as you are. Thanksgiving is our six-month anniversary, and I say we’re having a turkey with all the trimmings.”

“I’ll call out to Hanrahan’s Deli and have them send us a pre-cooked meal,” Jim suggested.

“It’s not the same thing!” Blair insisted. “I want to do dinner the way Mom used to do it.”

“Your mom’s the type that would cook a tofurkey before she would roast a real bird,” Jim teased.

“Yeah, well....” Blair replied, temporarily nonplussed. “She still did everything else traditionally. And it’s our anniversary, man!” He stuck out his lower lip in a pout. “You don’t think I’m man enough to take care of myself.”

“I didn’t say that!” Jim protested. “It’s just that Brackett is a dangerous guy, and he’s out there... somewhere.”

“Looking for you.Blair finished. “It’s not me he’s after, Jim.” Blair paused, eyeing the Sentinel critically. “It’s just a turkey,” he continued, “from the market two blocks down the street.”

Jim let out the breath he was holding in a sigh. “All right. But you be back in a half hour, you hear?”

“Forty-five minutes,” Blair bartered. “I have to pick up the sweet potatoes, cranberries and pumpkin, too.”

Jim nodded tightly. “All right, but be careful out there.”

“I will,” Blair promised. As he grabbed his coat to go out again, Jim’s arms circled around his waist as the Sentinel pressed his lips against those of his Guide.

“I love you. Stay safe,” Jim admonished. He watched as Blair hurried down the hall to the elevator, disappearing inside.

+++++

Forty-five minutes passed. When another fifteen minutes ticked by, Jim began pacing the hardwood floor. Another few minutes and he’d be going out to look for Blair himself. He’d already called Simon down at the station. The captain had scoffed at his worry, reminding Jim of his Guide’s perpetual tardiness. That wasn’t good enough for Jim. He’d insisted on a patrol car driving by the market. They’d reported seeing Blair’s Volvo in the lot, and assumed the Guide was inside finishing his shopping, which had taken longer than originally planned.

“He would have called me,” Jim insisted over the phone to his captain. “He has his cell phone with him.”

“Have you tried calling him?” Simon asked.

Jim’s voice was tight. “Yeah. The phone was off and my call went straight to voice mail.”

“He probably just didn’t want to be disturbed while he was shopping,” Simon said. “You know Blair better than anyone, Jim. He gets concentrated on something and loses all track of time.”

“It’s Brackett, Simon. I feel it,” Jim insisted.

“Just sit tight for now,” Simon ordered. “I’ve got men on it. I’ll let you know as soon as I hear anything.”

+++++

The basement was unfinished, with a dirt floor. The dampness soaked through Blair’s clothing and chilled him to the bone. He was bound with his hands behind him, his ankles strapped together with a belt, and a ball gag in his mouth. Lee Brackett stood over him with a malicious smile.

“Jim Ellison is too good for the likes of hippy scum like you,” Brackett sneered. “He deserves someone of his own caliber to guide him. Someone like me.”

Blair struggled against his restraints, his epithets garbled by the gag.

“Feisty little pup, aren’t you?” Brackett picked up a pipe and held it like a bat. “We’ll see how much fight you have after a little softening up.” He swung the weapon, hitting Blair in the upper arm. Blair could hear the sound of bones cracking, but didn’t even have time to register the pain before the pipe hit his ribs. Repeatedly, the pipe beat down, bruising flesh and breaking bones, before Brackett finally swung at Blair’s temple, sending him spiraling into oblivion.

Working quickly, Brackett removed some loose bricks from the basement wall, revealing a small recess he had dug earlier through the crumbling foundation. He lifted the unconscious Guide and shoved him into the opening.

Then he replaced the bricks, sealing Blair inside.

+++++

It had been nearly three hours. Jim had followed orders up until now, but his patience had worn thin. He was going out to find Blair on his own. With Brackett loose in the city, the Sentinel could no longer take any chances that his Guide and lover might be compromised. He pulled on his coat and swung the front door open....

Lee Brackett grinned at him from the hallway, his fist poised to knock on the door. “Well, well, well.... If it isn’t Jim Ellison, Sentinel of Cascade,” he sneered. “Aren’t you going to welcome me in, Jimmy?”

“How’d you get past the guards?” Jim growled. “And what have you done to my Guide?”

“Now, now...” Brackett clucked, stepping inside and closing the door behind him. “You and I both know that that lame excuse for a Guide is no match for you. You need someone like myself – ex-CIA, like you.”

“I was never in the CIA,” Jim growled. “I was black ops in the Army Rangers.”

“Close enough,” Brackett said, smiling. “You need someone with similar skills. Someone who can take care of himself.”

“I need Blair,” Jim snapped. “I need my Guide, not some strutting pretender like you!”

“Sandburg is weak,” Brackett sneered. “He barely even put up a fight when I took him.”

“He’s strong,” Jim countered. “Strong where it counts – in his personality, his spirit.”

Brackett chuckled, the sound grating on the Sentinel’s raw nerves. “Well, it doesn’t matter, really,” he said, shaking his head. “Because that poor excuse for a Guide is most probably dead by now anyway.”

“What did you do to him?” Jim growled, grabbing Brackett’s collar in both fists and pulling the man to him until they were nose-to-nose.

“It doesn’t really matter now, does it?” Brackett replied, not even flinching. “He’s gone, and you need a Guide. I’m your best choice.”

“He isn’t dead.” Jim’s voice had dropped an octave to a menacing pitch. He shook Brackett hard enough that the Guide’s teeth chattered. “Because if he was, I’d be dead too. That’s the strength of our bond. Something you’d know nothing about.”

“The so-called primal bond?” Brackett continued to grin, unconcerned with the Sentinel’s fury. “That’s just a myth. It’s never been proven.”

“Tell me where he is!” Jim growled, shaking Brackett again. “Tell me where you’re keeping my Guide!”

“Jim!” Simon’s sharp bark barely drew a nod of recognition from the Sentinel. “Let him go, we’ve got him.” He grabbed Brackett’s wrist and twisted it behind the Guide’s back. His other arm followed, and soon Brackett was cuffed and in custody. “Jim, let him go,” Simon repeated, softly this time.

His captain’s voice finally penetrated the fog of Jim’s anger and he released his grip. “Gotta find Blair,” he murmured. “Blair’s been hurt....” Jim slowly sank to the floor, his eyes closing and breathing becoming shallow.

“Call the paramedics!” Jim heard Simon’s command through the pounding of his own heart and the rush of blood through his veins, just before the world turned blue.

+++++

Jim opened his eyes to a blue jungle. Slowly he stood, stretching sinewy muscles, feeling strength ripple across lean shoulders and powerful haunches. He flicked his long, black tail and gazed at the canopy of trees with golden eyes. He sniffed the air. His Guide was near. The smell of blood drifted on the slight breeze, making his nose twitch. He took a few tentative steps forward, the pads of his paws moving silently over the jungle floor. He followed his nose, sniffing out his Guide. They were to be together, soon, forever.

Suddenly, the crack of a twig brought the big cat’s head up. Alert, Jim moved forward. His Guide! Blair was near! He began to run, covering ground quickly with long, powerful strides. He broke into a clearing, just as a wolf emerged from the other side. Jim’s heart leapt with joy. Blair had arrived. His Guide was here! Launching himself into the air, he merged with his soul mate in a flash of blinding light.

+++++

“Jim?” Simon knelt beside his unconscious detective, gently shaking a shoulder to try and rouse him.

The paramedic team arrived and set their equipment on the floor next to the fallen Sentinel. Simon moved out of their way while the two women worked on their patient.

“He is still alive?” Simon asked, concern for both his Sentinel and the Guide uppermost in his mind.

“Just barely,” one of the paramedics said. “There’s no discernable cause, but he’s fighting for his life right now.”

“His and Blair’s,” Simon murmured. “God help them.”

+++++

Blair?”

“Jim! You’ve come! See, I told you we’d be together, even after death.”

“We’re not dead yet, Chief. Where are you?”

“I-I don’t know. It’s cramped, and cold, and dark, and damp. I can’t move, and... I hurt.”

“You have to keep fighting, Blair. Don’t let Brackett win. Don’t let him have the satisfaction of killing us.”

“I don’t know how much longer I can hang on, Jim. I’m so tired.... I just want to close my eyes....”

“No! Tell me where you are! Help me find you.”

“Yellow house. Lincoln Avenue South. Near a playground. Come and get me, Jim. Come fast.”

+++++

Jim groaned and blinked his eyes against the bright lights in the emergency triage room. He tried to sit up, but was pushed gently back by a large hand.

“Not so fast, Jim,” Simon said, a smile of relief flooding his face. “Just lie still until I can get the doctor back here to check on you. You gave us quite a scare.”

“Blair’s dying!” Jim said, sitting up despite his captain’s efforts to keep him down. “I passed out because we’re connected. If you don’t want to lose us both, you’ll come with me.” He slipped off the exam table and teetered uncertainly on his feet. Simon grabbed his shoulders to steady him.

“You shouldn’t be up,” the captain admonished. “If you know something, tell me and I’ll see to it that Blair is found.”

“Lincoln Avenue South,” Jim mumbled. “A yellow house near a playground or schoolyard. From what Blair told me, I think he must be underground; in a basement... or a grave.” He shook off the supporting hands. “I’m fine, Simon. I need to be the one to go find Blair. He’s my Guide, my soul mate.”

“You need a doctor’s release,” Simon continued to insist, watching with dismay as Jim began to walk toward the door.

“I’m signing myself out AMA,” Jim said, blowing past the startled doctors in his hurry to find his Guide. Simon followed quickly, throwing out a brief apology to the stunned medical staff. As they reached Jim’s truck, the Sentinel turned to his captain. “We should get Joel to come with us, just in case,” he suggested. “Brackett is known for rigging his places with bombs, and we wouldn’t want to blow ourselves up while we’re in a rescue situation.”

“I’ll call Keats,” Simon replied, pulling out his cell phone. “After Brackett’s last bombing, I doubt Taggart will want to risk it. He was pretty shaken up.”

“This is Blair we’re talking about, Simon,” Jim insisted. “Joel’s the best there is. He’ll do it; just call him.”

Simon shrugged, looking slightly skeptical, but dialed Taggart’s extension. When he got off the phone two minutes later, his face shone with disbelief. “He said he’d meet us there with his team.”

+++++

“I hope you’re right,” said Simon as they approached a small, yellow house that fit the description Blair had given Jim while they were on the spirit plane.

Joel Taggart and his team arrived right behind them, coming up to the small porch. “What do you think, Jim? Is Blair inside?”

“I don’t know yet,” the Sentinel admitted. “But I’m about to find out.” He reached out to lay a hand on the doorknob, only to find it covered by a large, black hand.

“Wait. The door could be rigged,” Joel cautioned. He and his team checked for suspicious wiring around the door frame and lock mechanism before giving the okay for the detective to go inside.

Stretching out his senses as he entered the house, Jim listened for any telltale sight, sound, or smell that would indicate where Blair was hidden. As he canvassed the house for any sign of his Guide, Joel and his team were doing the same, looking for explosives.

“All clear, Jim,” Joel called. “Brackett didn’t leave his usual calling card this time.”

“Too busy trying to persuade me to choose him as my new Guide,” Jim said, his voice flat with distaste. Spying a door near the back of the kitchen, Jim opened it to reveal wooden steps to an unfinished basement.

“This is it. Blair is here,” Jim announced looking around once he’d reached the bottom of the flight of stairs. Simon came up behind him but stayed silent, knowing that the Sentinel needed quiet to do his work. “Over here!” Jim moved to a back wall, where old bricks were placed with fresh mortar. “Help me find something to pry these bricks loose.”

Simon looked around, finally spotting a rusting crowbar. He handed the instrument to Jim.

“Call for the paramedics,” Jim ordered as he put the crowbar to work.

The captain pulled out his cell phone and made the call. Even if they found Blair dead, they’d need a medical team to make the pronouncement. He considered calling Dan Wolfe, as well, then decided to wait and see what condition the Guide was in first.

After Jim had several of the bricks removed, both Simon and Joel moved in, helping to pull the bricks free from the crumbling wall. They quickly revealed the cramped hole, and Blair, who was curled almost into a fetal position in the small opening.

As Jim reached in to retrieve his Guide, Simon put a hand on his arm. “Maybe you should wait for the paramedics,” he suggested. “They’ll be here in just a few minutes. If there’s any serious damage done, you wouldn’t want to make it worse by moving him.”

Jim shrugged off the well-meaning touch and shoved his arms into the small hole, cradling Blair’s body as he pulled his Guide out. Sinking to the damp, dirt floor, Jim cradled his precious bundle. “He’s alive.” Jim looked up at Simon with a grateful smile. “We’re alive.” He buried his face in Blair’s hair, drinking in the musty scent of fresh earth. He began a gentle rocking, crooning quietly until the paramedics arrived.

+++++

Jim paced restlessly outside the triage room as he waited with Simon and Joel for word on Blair’s condition. Finally, the doctor emerged, looking grim.

“It was close,” the doctor said. “A few more hours, and he would have died. His left arm was broken – most likely a defensive wound – and he has four broken ribs. There is also a hairline fracture of the skull.”

“Can I see him now?” Jim asked, edging past the doctor toward the room where Blair lay.

The doctor reached out to gently grab Jim’s arm and prevent his advance. “We’re taking him to have a CT scan to determine the severity of his head injury, and whether or not there may be swelling of his brain.”

Jim looked longingly at the door, beyond which was his soul mate. “How long?”

“The test should take about half an hour,” the doctor said. “Give us forty-five minutes to an hour to finish up and get him settled in his room. An attendant will let you know when Mr. Sandburg is ready for visitors.” With that, the doctor turned and went back to his work.

“Another hour....” Jim groaned. “God, Simon, I just need to see him, to touch him....” As Jim was speaking, the stretcher carrying Blair was wheeled from the triage room and down the hall to the elevators. Jim stared after it, noting the pale, battered face of his beloved Guide.

Simon wrapped an arm around Jim’s shoulders, steering him over to the plastic waiting room chairs. “You’d better sit down, rest,” he said, pushing Jim into one of the seats. “You look like you could use something. Coffee?”

Jim shook his head. “Thanks, no, Simon. I don’t need anything.”

“Black, one sugar, right?” asked Simon, ignoring Jim’s reply. At his detective’s groan, Simon smiled grimly and headed off in search of a strong stimulant boost for the exhausted Sentinel.

Jim propped his elbows on his knees and let his head drop into his upturned hands. Blair was alive, no thanks to Brackett. As he went over the events of the day, his anger grew. By the time Simon returned with the coffee, Jim was ready for action. He accepted the Styrofoam cup with a brief nod of thanks before looking up into the dark brown eyes of his captain.

“Where is he? Where’s the bastard who did this to Blair?” Jim’s voice was a threatening growl, echoing his jaguar spirit guide.

“He’s back in prison,” Simon said, settling in the chair next to Jim. “I told them to put him in solitary confinement, maximum security. He won’t be getting out again.”

“I need to feel my hands around his throat,” Jim continued, his tone never wavering. “I need to feel his windpipe collapse as I crush it with my fingers.”

“Jim!” Simon’s voice was sharp, but his volume muted in respect for the hospital. “You’re talking about a Guide! I know they’re a dime a dozen, and that Brackett is scum, but I’ve never heard of a Sentinel threatening a Guide. It just isn’t done.”

“He threatened Blair, tried to kill him! Simon, Blair isn’t just my Guide, my bonded life partner; he’s my soul mate, my lover. I-I wouldn’t want to live without him, even if I could.”

Simon nodded, understanding. “Don’t think I don’t know how close I came to losing you both today,” he said softly. “But right now, your priority is taking care of Blair, seeing that he’s comfortable and comforted. Brackett doesn’t deserve another moment of your thought or energy. He’s where he belongs and you’re here, with a Guide to care for.”

“This isn’t over, Simon. I won’t rest until I’m certain that all threats to Blair’s life have been eliminated.”

“I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that,” Simon said grimly. “Just remember which side of the law you’re on, Jim,” he added quietly.

A nurse stepped up and stopped in front of the two men. “Sentinel Ellison?” When Jim raised his head, the nurse smiled. “Blair is back from his CT scan. We don’t have him completely settled yet, but you can come and watch us, then sit with him afterwards.”

“That’s very kind of you,” Simon said, standing next to Jim. He turned to his detective. “I’ll go now and leave you two alone. Just remember to get some rest yourself, and focus on what’s important: Blair.”

Jim nodded and followed the nurse down the hall. The orderlies were just wheeling a gurney into the room. Blair lay, still and pale, as he was transferred to the bed and made comfortable. The nurse gave a cursory check of his vitals before turning to Jim.

“He’s been given a light sedative. He needs to rest.”

“I understand. I-I just need to be here, near him.”

The nurse smiled. “I understand. I’ve worked with Sentinels and Guides before. My name is Lani. If you need anything, have any questions, feel free to ring for me.”

“It’s our anniversary tomorrow,” Jim said softly. “We’ve been bonded for six months, and married for most of that time.”

“Congratulations,” Lani said, smiling. She reached out to place a comforting hand on Jim’s arm. “He’s going to be all right.”

“Can you tell me anything about the results of the CT scan?”

Lani shook her head. “I’m afraid not. I’m not privy to that information; and even if I was, I’m sure Dr. Hanson would want to be the one to explain that to you.”

“When will he be back?”

“Later this evening. Now, don’t you worry. You’ll have Blair back home soon,” Lani said, patting Jim’s arm.

Jim watched her go, then turned to his soul mate. Blair’s head was bandaged and his left eye swollen shut. Jim reached up to run his hand over the bandages and the wisps of hair that had escaped the layers of gauze. “I’m so sorry, Chief,” he whispered. “This is all my fault. I should have done away with Brackett when I had the chance. Can you forgive me?”

His question was greeted with silence, as Blair continued to sleep. Settling in a chair next to the bed, Jim waited.

+++++

“Sentinel Ellison?” Jim’s head jerked up from his chest and he came to full wakefulness. “I’m Rich Hanson. I treated Blair when he was brought into the trauma center.”

Jim stood up and shook the doctor’s hand.

“How’s he doing?” Dr. Hanson asked, nodding toward the sleeping Guide.

“He’s been unconscious the whole time,” Jim answered. “How bad is it, Doc?”

The doctor glanced down at Blair’s file, which he held in his hands. “The CT scan shows no signs of unusual swelling. There is a hairline fracture of the skull and he is severely concussed. I’d like to keep him at least overnight for observation; perhaps longer. We’ll see. His broken arm and ribs have been taken care of and should heal fully in about six to eight weeks. I don’t see anything here that would indicate any kind of permanent damage.”

“Thank God!”

“Mr. Sandburg was very lucky,” Dr. Hanson agreed. “He was hypothermic and had low blood oxygen levels when he was brought in, but he’s responding well to treatment.”

“When will he wake up?”

“Any time now, although I wouldn’t expect him to be coherent until tomorrow. He’s exhausted, and has been through a lot. He needs his rest.”

“May I spend the night?” Jim asked. “He’s my Guide.”

Dr. Hanson nodded in understanding. “Yes, of course. We can have a cot brought in for you to sleep on, if you like.”

Jim looked at Blair, longing to lie beside him, to hold him and comfort him in his arms, and realized how impossible that would be for now. Blair’s comfort was the most important thing at the moment, so he nodded, thanking the doctor for his thoughtfulness.

“You can order dinner from the hospital menu, too,” the doctor added. “You’ll find it in the top drawer of the dresser.”

“And Blair?”

“The IV will suffice for tonight. He should be able to go back to a regular diet tomorrow, but I’d like to evaluate him first.”

“Yes, all right. Thank you, doctor.”

“You’re most welcome.”

Once he was alone with Blair again, he turned to his Guide. This was going to be a very long night.

+++++

“Jim?”

Jim started awake to find the morning sun peaking in through the blinds on the windows. One blue eye watched him carefully, following his every move.

“Blair! You’re awake!” Jim grabbed the hand that was lying on top of the blankets and held on for dear life. “How do you feel?”

“Like I was just run over by a freight train.” Blair’s comment was followed by a groan of discomfort.

“Hang on. I’ll get the nurse in here to give you some pain meds.” Jim reached for the call button, only to have Blair squeeze his hand.

“It’s okay. I don’t need anything; I’ll be fine.” Blair stopped and closed his one good eye, relaxing for a moment, gathering strength. Before Jim could interrupt, he asked, “Did you get Brackett?”

“He’s back in prison,” Jim said, struggling to keep his tone light.

“Where he belongs,” Blair added. “Jim, do me a favor.”

“Anything, Beloved. Anything.” Jim squeezed Blair’s hand.

“Leave him alone. I know what you want to do, what the jaguar wants. You have to let it go. Don’t let this poison your soul.” A single tear tracked down Blair’s cheek. “If you kill him, I’ll lose you. We’ll be separated, and that’s a fate far worse than being together in death.”

“He nearly killed you!”

“And you brought me back. Yes, Jim, I remember the blue jungle. I remember you looking for me, finding me. I remember that brilliant flash of light when I came back to you.”

“I couldn’t let you go. Together in death is better than being apart, but together in life means so much more. We have too many years left together, Blair. I couldn’t lose that.”

“Happy anniversary, Jim,” Blair said, smiling. “Wish I could hug and kiss you. This isn’t exactly the way I’d pictured our Thanksgiving.”

“Me either,” Jim admitted. “But I have to say that I’m far more thankful right now than I expected to be today.”

“Oh?” Blair’s grin was infectious, and Jim found himself smiling back. “You’re more thankful I’m here in a hospital bed than if I was at home in our bed?”

“I didn’t say that!” Jim protested. “But I expected to be thankful for the usual things. You know: having a Guide, fucking my Guide, loving my Guide, eating a full turkey dinner, fucking my Guide, celebrating our anniversary, fucking my Guide... Instead, I’ve been made to realize just how precious you are, how thankful I am just to have you. Thankful that you love me as much as I love you.”

“This,” Blair said, holding up his hand so that Jim could see the sparkling diamond set in the band of platinum, “is only a small part of what you mean to me. I love you, Jim, more than I love life. I’d die for you, you know.”

“I’d rather that you lived for me,” Jim said softly.

Blair smiled and nodded, then moaned. “Owwwwww... Remind me not to do that again.”

“You get some rest, Chief. I’ll go see if I can find the doctor. I’d like to get you released as soon as possible.”

“You do that,” Blair agreed. “As good as it feels to lie here and not move, I want to blow this joint and go home!”

+++++

Dr. Hanson put away his stethoscope and gave Blair a hard look. “I’d like to keep you one more night, just to be on the safe side. If your CT scan in the morning doesn’t show any problems, I’ll release you to home care.”

“Is there anything I should be concerned about?” Jim asked. “Blair took a pretty bad blow to the head.”

“So far, the CT looks good, and I don’t really expect any change by the morning,” Dr. Hanson said. “But Blair could experience any number of post-concussive symptoms such as a persistent headache, dizziness, difficulty concentrating, nausea or vomiting.” At the Sentinel’s frown, he added hastily, “Unless the symptoms are severe, there’s no need to worry. They usually clear up on their own after a couple of weeks. But, don’t be surprised if Blair isn’t very interested in sex for a while.” The doctor winked at Jim before turning to take his leave. “I’ll come check on Blair again in the morning. Good day, Gentlemen, and happy Thanksgiving.”

Jim waited until they were alone, and then turned to Blair. “Some anniversary this turned out to be!”

Blair reached out and grasped Jim’s wrist, giving it a slight squeeze. “We’re alive, Jim. That’s reason enough for celebration.”

“Sorry to interrupt,” Lani said, backing into the room, pulling a loaded meal cart. “But I thought you’d both enjoy a nice Thanksgiving dinner. They’re putting on the full spread in the cafeteria for those of us who have to work, and for the patients with no food restrictions – and their significant others.” She smiled as she unveiled the dinner: turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, corn, green beans, sweet potatoes, fresh cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie, along with apple cider to wash it all down.

“That looks as good as anything I was planning to prepare,” Blair said, his mouth watering at the delicious smells. “But I don’t think I can eat that much.”

“Don’t worry, Squirt,” Jim said playfully. “I can help you with that.” He made an aborted move toward the piece of pie nearest Blair. Despite his injuries, Blair’s reaction time hadn’t slowed much. He slapped Jim’s hand and grinned.

“Thanks, Lani. This makes up for a lot.”

“You’re welcome, Blair. Happy anniversary, you two. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.” The nurse grinned at the two men before disappearing out into the hall.

Jim and Blair dug into their feast, eating until neither one could eat another bite. “I think I need a little rest now,” Blair said, gingerly patting his full stomach while letting his eyes drift closed.

“I know what you mean,” Jim agreed, feeling the need for a nap of his own.

+++++

The blue jungle formed around him and he felt sinewy muscles bunch as he ran through the rich undergrowth. Suddenly, he broke into a clearing where a great fortress stood. Looking for an entrance, he found an opening just large enough through which to slip. Inside was dark, the atmosphere heavy with hate and envy. He prowled the corridors, looking for his prey. At the end of a long hallway was a room, walled with steel bars, where his prey waited, cowering in a corner, fearful of the large, black cat. Slipping through the bars with supernatural ease, the jaguar approached. A single swipe of its large claws was all it took. The big cat roared its approval as the lifeblood drained from the man.

+++++

Jim awoke with a start and shook off the shards of the nightmare.

“Are you all right? Jim?” Blair’s voice was soft with worry. He tried to sit up to get a better look at the Sentinel, but groaned and fell back against his pillows.

“Yeah, yeah, it’s nothing,” Jim assured his Guide. “Just a dream.”

“I felt the jaguar,” Blair replied, keeping his voice low. “He was bent on revenge.”

“He... I... he killed someone,” Jim stuttered. “Someone hated.”

“Brackett,” Blair said, not questioning how he knew.

The phone on the bedside table rang.

“Could you answer that, please?” Blair asked, since the phone was on his left, beside his broken arm.

Jim hurried around the bed to grab the phone before it stopped ringing. “Ellison.”

“Jim? This is Simon,” the captain’s voice sounded weary. “I have some good news and bad news.”

“Which do I want first, sir?” Jim asked, feeling his gut churning.

“Doesn’t matter. It’s all the same,” Simon sighed. “Brackett’s dead.”

“How?” But Jim already knew.

On the other end of the phone line, Simon shook his head and frowned. “Damnedest thing. He was locked tight in solitary, where no one should have been able to get to him.”

“How, Simon? How did he die?” Jim persisted.

“One swipe from what looks like a large animal, probably a cat of some kind. The claws ripped open his chest. He bled to death.”

“Oh, God.” Jim rubbed his forehead.

“What is it?” Blair asked, worried at his partner’s reaction to the call.

“Brackett’s dead. A big cat killed him,” Jim explained tersely while Blair’s jaw dropped.

“How could that be, Simon?”

There was a grunt, followed by a curt answer. “You tell me.”

“It wasn’t me. I didn’t do anything,” Jim said. “I was here with Blair all the time. We have witnesses. The nursing staff will vouch for me.”

“I don’t doubt you,” Simon said. “But it’s too weird. I don’t like weird.”

“No, sir,” Jim agreed.

“How’s Blair?” Simon asked, changing the subject.

“Not too bad, considering,” Jim answered. “He’s hurting, but otherwise doing pretty good. Doc says he can come home in the morning.”

“Well, that’s good news at least,” Simon replied, smiling.

“Will there be an IA investigation?” Jim asked.

“There’s nothing to investigate,” Simon told him. “It was an unexplainable animal attack. Case closed.”

“Okay. Thanks, Simon. Happy Thanksgiving.”

“Same to you. Say hi to the kid for me.”

“Will do. Good-bye, Simon.”

“Good-bye.”

Jim hung up the phone. “Simon said to tell you hi.”

“Did he tell you any more about Brackett? How he died?” Blair asked. “This is just too weird.”

“Simon agrees with you,” Jim said with a smirk. “All he knows is what he was told: an unprovoked, unexplained animal attack. It looked like a large cat –”

“A jaguar?”

“Between you and me... yeah, what else?” Jim sighed. “The claws laid open his chest, and he bled to death. There’s not going to be an investigation. No one would believe the truth if they heard it anyway.”

“Thank God.”

“How about a little TV before we call it a night?” Jim asked, going over to turn on the set. “I think ‘Miracle on 34th Street’ is on tonight.” He tuned to the movie and the two settled in, picking at the leftovers of their Thanksgiving meal.

+++++

The following morning, Dr. Hanson walked into Blair’s room smiling. “Your CT scan this morning was clean. No signs of swelling or trauma to the brain.”

“That’s great news!” Jim said grinning broadly as he patted Blair’s hand. “Does that mean I get to take him home?”

“Absolutely. We just need to sign the release papers.” He produced a clipboard with several sheets attached and put them on the portable table that was pulled across Blair’s bed. “I just have a few instructions for you once you get Blair home. Since you’ll be Blair’s caretaker for the time being, there are some things you should know.

“First of all, use an ice pack on that eye three to four times a day for fifteen minutes each. The swelling should begin to go down in a day or two, but he’ll stay puffy for a while. Be on the lookout for signs of post-concussive syndrome, particularly memory loss or slurring of speech, vomiting, persistent headache, and difficulty concentrating. These are normal, to a point. If the severity becomes uncomfortable for you, bring him to the hospital immediately.”

The doctor pulled a prescription pad from his coat pocket and scribbled hastily before handing the script to Jim. “This is for thirty Vicodin 5/500mg tablets. Get the prescription filled immediately and give one to Blair when you get him home. Then, one every four hours for the next twenty-four hours, even if you have to wake him up. After that, taper off to an ‘as needed’ basis; not more often than four hours apart or six pills a day.”

Jim accepted the prescription slip and tucked it into his pocket. “Anything else I need to know?”

“Blair is going to be very uncomfortable sleeping in any position other than on his back for a while,” Dr. Hanson continued. “His breathing will be easier if he’s propped up by extra pillows or one of those foam bed wedges. If he decides he wants to sleep sitting up, make him comfortable and don’t argue with him. Those ribs are going to make breathing difficult and painful for a while. Also,” he turned to Blair, “it would be a good idea if you dressed in comfortable clothes, like sweatpants and a T-shirt. Despite your injuries, you’re going to want some independence, and the elastic waistband will be easier to manage when you need to use the bathroom. Another advantage is that you can sleep in them, so you won’t have to change clothes as often.”

“Makes sense,” Blair agreed, nodding.

“So, do you have any questions, Blair?” the doctor asked.

“Can we, um...” Blair glanced at Jim, his eyes conveying an apology for bringing up the subject. “Jim’s going to need to reconnect after our separation, especially since it was a traumatic one,” he explained. “Can we... bond?”

Dr. Hanson pressed his lips tightly together, thinking how best to answer. “I’m aware of the need for a Sentinel and Guide to bond sexually, especially after an incident like this. There’s no reason you can’t have bonding intercourse, but I don’t think you’ll want to.” He walked over to the side of the bed and pressed lightly against Blair’s taped ribcage. The Guide grimaced and a grunt of pain escaped his lips. “There’ll be no comfortable way to manage for several weeks, I’m afraid. If there’s any other way to accomplish the bond, I’d give it serious thought.”

“Thanks, Doc, we’ll manage,” Jim interjected quickly. “Can I take Blair home now?”

“Yes, of course. You can help Blair get dressed while I go out and arrange for someone to bring in a wheelchair and escort you out.” The doctor gathered the release forms and nodded at the two men as he exited the room.

“Well, this is it,” Jim said, walking over to the small closet to retrieve Blair’s clothes. “How are we going to manage this?”

“Could you help me sit up?” Blair asked, swinging his legs over the edge of the bed, but finding it too painful to use his abdominal muscles to pull himself up.

Jim rushed over, apologetically, and eased his Guide into an upright position, then went back to get the clothes and lay them on the bed. He looked at the soiled green Henley shirt and frowned. “I should have gone home and gotten you something clean to wear,” he grumbled. “And I don’t know how we’re going to get this on over that cast anyway.”

“Let me slip my right arm in the sleeve,” Blair said, holding his arm out in front of him. “You can pull the shirt up over my head and then just stretch it down over my shoulder and the cast. If you have to, you can rip out the seam. This shirt is ruined anyway.”

Jim did as he was instructed, pulling the shirt over Blair’s head. Blair reached up with his right hand to run his fingers through the tangle of curls. “I’m really going to have to wash my hair when I get home. What a mess!”

“You look beautiful.” Jim leaned in to peck a kiss on Blair’s lips before shaking out the jeans and holding them up. “Now for the fun part.”

“You’re crazy, you know that?” Blair said with a grin. “Right now I’m about as cute as a one-eyed, ragged-eared, three-legged cat that the dog dragged in.”

“Are you going to get dressed, or am I taking you out of here half naked?” Jim asked with a crooked grin. “Because right now, the naked half is looking pretty good.”

“Gimme that!” Blair said with mock anger, grabbing the jeans from Jim’s hands. Once he’d claimed his prize, he looked perplexed. “How am I going to get these on?”

“That’s what I’m here for,” Jim said, snatching back the prize. He eased Blair’s feet into the leg openings, and then pulled the jeans up as far as he could. “You’re going to have to stand up for the rest,” he said, wrapping an arm gingerly around Blair’s waist to help him off the bed.

Once the jeans were up and fastened, Jim helped Blair to sit in the chair he’d occupied for the past two days while he bent over to put Blair’s shoes and socks on his bare feet. He’d barely straightened when an orderly arrived with the wheelchair.

“Looks like your coach has arrived, Cinderella.” Jim helped transfer Blair to the wheelchair, and then walked beside him on the way downstairs and out to the pick-up area. “Wait here five minutes; I’ll be back with the truck,” Jim said, sprinting off to the parking lot to pick up their ride.

+++++

It was the day after Thanksgiving, two days after Blair’s abduction. Jim put his key in the lock and pushed the door open, supporting Blair as he walked into their home.

“God, it’s so good to be back!” Blair sighed, turning around slowly to take in every corner of the loft.

“You don’t know how good it is to have you back,” Jim said fervently. He gently gathered his lover in his arms and kissed him.

When the kiss broke, Blair swooned. Jim steadied him and led him over to the couch. “You’d better sit down and rest. I’ll get you an ice pack and the Vicodin.”

Blair sank into the soft cushions and let his head fall back with a slight groan. He accepted the medication and the glass of water to wash it down, then gratefully applied the ice pack to his bruised and swollen eye. “Thanks, Jim. If you don’t mind, I think I’ll just rest here for a while.”

Jim settled next to his Guide and slipped an arm around Blair’s shoulders, allowing Blair to rest his head against Jim’s forearm. “How are you feeling?”

“Like a dozen men are taking jackhammers to my head and chest. Makes me a little sick to my stomach,” Blair admitted.

“The doctor said there might be some nausea,” Jim confirmed. “Do you feel like you may vomit?”

Blair carefully shook his head. “Uh-uh. Just want to rest.”

Jim kissed Blair’s forehead and fell silent, letting his lover close his eyes and doze. Once Blair was sleeping soundly, Jim slipped away, going upstairs to find extra pillows to make Blair comfortable. He rooted around in Blair’s dresser until he found an old, loose pair of sweatpants and a T-shirt that Blair wouldn’t mind ripping if they couldn’t get it over his cast. Laying out the clothes, Jim considered the logistics of living with his wounded Guide. Bathing was going to be particularly difficult for a while. The cast on Blair’s arm shouldn’t get wet, and neither should the wrapping around his ribs. Sponge baths would have to do for the time being, and Jim was more than likely going to have to be the one giving them – not that he minded in the least. Washing that mop of hair was going to be the biggest challenge. No shower, and Blair would protest leaning over the sink, since bending would hurt his ribs. If he could find a way to make a chair tall enough, he could wash Blair’s hair salon-style with Blair sitting in the chair and tipping his head back into the sink.

Jim’s biggest concern was bonding. The need to connect was pulling at him, stronger and stronger now that he had Blair at home. What he wanted... what he needed was the connection of full intercourse. Touching and petting would only heighten the need for more intimate contact. He’d nearly lost Blair – had had to go to the spirit plane to bring him back from the brink, or they both would have been gone. Now, the urge to claim his Guide and mate were the strongest they’d ever been, but his need to nurture and protect was just as strong and needed to win out over his more basal urges.

When he’d finished preparing the room, he went downstairs to make some soup. Hearty beef barley would make a light meal, along with the freshly baked loaf of bread he’d picked up from the bakery on their way home. He cut the bread into thick slices and dished the soup up into large mugs. Putting their meal on a tray, he carried it into the living room where Blair still slept on the couch.

“Hey, Sleepyhead.” Jim laid a gentle hand on Blair’s shoulder and gave a light squeeze. Blair opened his good eye and blinked to chase away the last remnants of sleep. “I thought you might like a little lunch.”

“Smells good,” Blair agreed, smiling. “Thanks.” He wrapped his hands around the warm mug and sipped at the broth. “You didn’t have to go to all this trouble.”

“What trouble?” Jim placed the lap tray across Blair’s legs, shook out the cloth napkin, and tucked it into the collar of Blair’s shirt. “It was my turn to cook anyway.”

“It was my turn to cook yesterday,” Blair replied apologetically. “I had this whole big Thanksgiving thing going, you know? I wanted our six-month anniversary to be special. Sorry it didn’t work out that way.”

“Yeah, me too,” Jim admitted. “But none of that was your fault. What we need to do now is focus on you healing.”

“What we need to focus on – somehow – is bonding,” Blair said, scrutinizing the Sentinel’s face for any sign of disagreement. “I don’t know how, though. I can’t... I just can’t –”

“Shhh... Don’t worry about that now. I’ll manage. How long can it be? A few days?”

“How about more like a month?” Blair countered, trying hard not to grimace as he reached for the bread to dunk in his soup. “I can barely move without everything hurting.”

Jim swallowed, hard. A month? Was he kidding? Surely, Blair had to be kidding. His cock ached from the closeness of his Guide. He wanted to reach into his pants and jerk off just for the temporary relief it would give, but he couldn’t do that now, not in front of Blair.

“W-We’ll work something out,” Jim said around the lump in his throat.

Blair’s face clouded over and he frowned. “Go take care of that,” he said softly, nodding toward Jim’s crotch. “Now, Jim.”

Jim noted the hurt look on his lover’s face, but acknowledged the necessity of Blair’s command by getting up and hurrying to the bathroom. Sensitive ears caught the whispered “I’m sorry” that followed him. I’m sorry too, Blair.

Tugging down his pants, he stood in front of the toilet and grabbed his aching erection. Wrapping his fist around the shaft, he began a brisk jerking motion that quickly brought him to climax. He swallowed his cry of completion, not wanting Blair to hear. When he had washed up and returned to the living room, Blair had finished his lunch.

“I think I’d like to change clothes now, and maybe go up to bed for a while,” Blair said.

Jim took the lap tray and carried it into the kitchen, then came back to help Blair stand. “I laid out some clothes for you on the bed,” he said, leading Blair toward the stairs.

“I can get upstairs okay,” Blair said with a small smile. “There’s nothing wrong with my legs.”

Once upstairs, Blair began to struggle with his shirt. Having just one arm to work with, and extremely sore ribs, did nothing to make the task easier. Jim quickly jumped in, grabbing the hem of the shirt and pulling it up over Blair’s head.

“You’d better let me help, or you’ll never get your clothes changed.” Jim tried to keep his tone light, but the stress of no sex for two days was already beginning to wear on the Sentinel.

Blair submitted to the offer, realizing that for the time being he was dependent on his husband for assistance in even the most basic actions. With a sigh, he climbed onto the bed and rested back against the pile of pillows.

“Can I get you anything?” Jim asked. “Are you comfortable?”

“Yeah, but I’m a little lonely,” Blair said. “How about lying beside me for a little while? I could use the company.”

Jim pulled off his shoes and climbed onto the bed, stretching out next to his lover. “I thought you’d never ask.”

“Hold me?”

There wasn’t any easy way to hold the injured Guide, so Jim rolled onto his stomach and stretched an arm across Blair’s chest. He felt a slight flinch at the touch, and then Blair relaxed with a contented sigh. Soon, his rhythmic breathing spoke of Morpheus and dreams....

+++++

The blue jungle was heavy with humidity as the jaguar stalked through the thick undergrowth in search of the wolf. A whimper from the wounded animal sounded in the thicket the two animals shared as their bed. The jaguar approached cautiously, fearful of disturbing its mate. The wolf looked up and yipped, beckoning the jaguar closer before rolling onto its back in submission. The jaguar let out a roar at the sight of the bobbing cock between the wolf’s hind legs. Straddling the canine, the big cat began to lick at the gray fur, grooming its mate affectionately. Eventually, the grooming made its way down to the cock. As the jaguar rasped its tongue over the erect organ, the wolf let out a howl, coming in a flash of blinding white light that engulfed them both. As the light faded, the jaguar lay sprawled across its mate, sated, if not completely satisfied.

+++++

Jim awoke from his unscheduled nap to find both his pants and Blair’s wet with the sticky remains of their dream orgasm. While his urge to bond had not dissipated completely, it was now less urgent, he realized with relief. He crawled off the bed as carefully as he could, so as not to disturb Blair’s sleep. He went downstairs to wash and to bring bathing supplies back up for Blair.

He carefully tugged off the soiled sweatpants, surprised that his action didn’t wake the sleeping man. Wringing out the washcloth over the bowl of warm water he’d carried upstairs, he began to wipe away the sticky residue.

“Feel better?” Blair’s voice was soft and still fuzzy from sleep.

“Did you see the vision too?” Jim asked, gently wiping the limp cock with the damp cloth and trying his best to remain detached as the sight stirred unassuaged longings in his libido.

“We were in the blue jungle, on the spirit plane.” Blair let out a sigh of contentment as Jim finished wiping down his genitals and covered him with the warm blankets. “We had a bonding experience there.” He had slipped down the pile of pillows while he slept, and he now braced himself on his elbow to push himself into a sitting position. The action produced a gasp of pain as his ribs protested the movement.

“Lean forward,” Jim said softly, pushing Blair gently off the pillows so that he could fluff and rearrange them. “There, try that.”

Blair leaned back with a satisfied sigh. “Thanks, Jim.”

“No problem.”

Blair’s brows furrowed as he contemplated his next question. “Was it enough? The spirit plane bonding, that is.... Was it enough to satisfy your instincts as a Sentinel?”

“Barely,” Jim admitted. “But the edge is off the need to bond... for now.”

“You know,” Blair said, his mind beginning to race with ideas. “I need to submit a paper for publication soon in order to keep my credentials in Anthropology at Rainier. This would be the perfect opportunity. I’ve got time... and I’ve got a subject.”

“Oh yeah? And what’s that?” Jim’s mouth quirked in a crooked grin. He loved it when his lover clicked in to Guide mode.

“I’ll write about you... about us, from the Guide’s viewpoint,” Blair explained. “And our current circumstance – having to bond only on the spirit plane and how that affects your abilities – could be the focus of the paper.”

“Whoa, hold on a minute here,” Jim said, ready to put the brakes to Blair’s project. “What we have going here is personal. It’s between you and me, not the world.”

“Don’t worry,” Blair assured his husband. “It will all be very scientific. I won’t be using our real names either, of course.”

“You’ll let me read it before you submit it for publication?”

“Oh yeah, sure,” Blair agreed. “I wouldn’t want to publish anything that made you uncomfortable.”

“This whole deal makes me uncomfortable.” Jim pushed his lip out in a pout. “No sex for how long? A month? Help me out here, Chief.”

“Scoot a little closer,” Blair suggested, waggling his eyebrows. When Jim complied, Blair unzipped his fly and reached inside to pull out the hard, pulsing cock. As his hand began to massage the shaft, Jim’s head tipped back in pure bliss. “We’ll work something out, don’t worry. I’m your Guide... I’m here to see to your needs.”

Jim’s climax built swiftly, overtaking him in a brilliant flash of ecstasy before his world grayed out. He felt the nearness of his Guide, his lover, and it was enough – for now.

To Be Continued In Chosen 9: Night Shift

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Acknowledgments: I would like to thank my betas: Bobbie and Mary. You gals are terrific!