Risk Assessment

Risk Assessment by Xanateria, artwork by Stoneygirl77

by Xanateria

artwork by Stoneygirl77

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“No one knows if Pantheon is real or not. Supposedly, there's a branch in nearly every city in the world. It's a very exclusive sex club, that caters to every flavour of kink. You have to be invited by a member, but you don't always know who it is, or why they sent you an invite. It’s not free, but the fees, like everything else about it, are shrouded in mystery. If you go, and they accept you, you're in. It's a pretty big if, but it's worth it. Anything you want, they can make it happen. Any desire you might have - even the ones you can’t admit - becomes a reality when you walk through the door.”

- Entry taken from ShouldBeReal.com


They really shouldn’t call it spring. Spring was supposed to mean lush green grass and sunshine to carry hints of all the growing things.

In Cascade, all spring meant was enough rain that they ought to issue monsoon alerts. Blair had been through monsoon season in other parts of the world, so there was plenty of basis for comparison. The downpour he could see out the window didn’t come in drops, it pounded down in sheets, and showed no signs it would let up any time soon.

Still, he had things on the agenda for the day, so there was no way to avoid it. He’d have to get wet. Obviously, mother nature had no respect for how long it took hair like his to dry, or how much he hated cold, especially when it came with an extra helping of squelchy and waterlogged.

Dressed and perched on a kitchen chair while the coffee burbled its way to done, Blair reminded himself he was a grown man who wouldn’t melt, especially not with a giant cup of his own special cinnamon blend of dark roast coffee to take with him. He doctored his coffee the way he liked it, then fixed one for Jim, grabbed his backpack and raincoat, and headed out.

It occurred to him that the rain might keep people at home for the day. The idea that there might be slightly less chaos to deal with made him smile a little, even as he shivered. Unfortunately only a few minutes into his drive, the number of fender benders he’d seen shot his theory to hell. By the time he made it to the station, his knuckles were white around the wheel and his determined cheer had faded.

The phone was glued to his ear and the furrow between his eyebrows that meant his temper was already strained, but Jim smiled when the go mug clinked down on his desk, and Blair dropped into his usual rickety chair.

“I thought you’d sleep longer, given the weather.”

“I tried, man. But, I figured with the court appearance and the small mountain of paperwork you have to catch up on before Simon exiles you to Siberia, or at least the basement, you need all the help you could get. Besides, my coffee is an excellent morale booster.”

“It is,” Jim agreed. “But so is the fact that you just volunteered to help me out of paperwork hell. In fact, I am so generous that as a thank you, I’ll let you clear the current mail for both of us while I fight with the reports Simon insists need to be revised.”

“Gee, what a shock,” Blair told him, just before he scooped the mail up and dumped it onto the desk Jim had cleared off next to his.

To save time and frustration, Blair worked out a system, oldest stuff that might have been important got read first. It wasn’t as bad as he expected: inter-departmental memos that he knew perfectly well no one except him read in a timely fashion, requisitions requests that needed to be backdated and filed, records that would be returned once he put them in the proper internal mail envelopes.

By midmorning, Jim’s mail had all been sent on its merry way. That left only his own much smaller stack: the journals he subscribed to that he’d had sent to the station in hopes that would up his chances of actually being able to read them, a few miscellaneous bits of random junk mail, and the expense reports. Technically, half of them should have been Jim’s problem. It reduced the headaches for both of them if Blair dealt with it. He had much more patience for red tape.

At the bottom of his stack, Blair found a plain envelope, more cream that white, with more weight to it than he expected. He’d tackled his oldest stuff first as well, so that meant the envelope had come today. There was no return address, just his name in care of the station and a local postmark. For a moment, he worried something might be about to go wrong. He wasn’t called trouble magnet for nothing. Then common sense reminded him the letter would have to pass the station security screening. More importantly, it had been close enough to Jim that he’d have sensed anything wrong with it long before now.

He opened it carefully, since he had no idea what might be damaged if he didn’t. A sheet of paper and a card slid onto the desk. The logo on the card raised his eyebrows immediately. Stylized glossy black letters spelled out Pantheon. The first letter was bracketed by the line silhouette of a man and a woman.

Unleash your senses and give in to your inner god, the logo demanded underneath, in smaller letters.

After a moment to re-read, Blair felt the hair on the back of his neck prickle. He’d heard whispers of a place with the same name on the Internet, but it was just an urban myth, like the guy who woke up in a bathtub without his kidneys.

Dear Blair,

The enclosed card will admit you to our facility, free of charge, for consideration as a member. Pantheon is a private club that strives to meet the most intimate, and passionate, needs of each of its members. We pride ourselves on our ability to create memorable experiences with the utmost discretion.

If you are not interested, simply do nothing. No one from the club will ever contact you again, and there are no consequences should you choose not to attend.

I cannot tell you who submitted your name for membership consideration or why. But, I can tell you that our club is a place for those who have felt they didn’t quite fit anywhere else to find a haven from the pressures of everyday life, and people who can help you explore your needs – whatever they might be. If you have ever felt like something was missing in your most intimate relationships, Pantheon is the perfect place to explore why.

It would be impossible to answer all of your questions in a short letter, but I invite you to join us and ask them in person. If you choose to attend, you’ve been matched with an experienced member to help you through the discoveries that await you.”

There was no signature, but the tone of the letter only made him more curious. Who were these people, to know so much about him, and how he related to the world? Oh, they hadn’t come right out and said so, but he was as good at reading between the lines as the next guy, thank you very much.

The card that came with the letter was no help. It had only his name, and some brief instructions. Prospective members were asked to dress up, though not required to wear suits or tuxedoes. For the preliminary visit, transportation would be provided. Below that, a date and time, two nights from tonight. The same logo was stamped at the bottom.

As he considered the possibilities, Blair knew his heart rate had accelerated enough that his Sentinel would want to know why. It bothered him to lie, even by omission, but he slid the letter and card back into the envelope before they could be seen. When his partner asked if everything was alright, he shrugged off his reaction as too much caffeine. The explanation was thin, but he knew Jim would accept it at face value for now. He refused to let his gifts compromise things as important as personal privacy, except in an emergency.

Once he had a bit of breathing room, so to speak, Blair leaned back in his chair, closed his eyes and evened out his breathing. He’d preached to Jim and his colleagues so often about meditation that no one would think twice at his position, even in the middle of the controlled chaos of the station house.

If he set aside his initial disbelief that a place like Pantheon could exist in such obscurity, he was still left with an uncomfortable choice: go or not? He had no particular issue with a club with such sexual overtones. Naomi may have let him down in some ways, but she had taught him from an early age to be comfortable with his body, and the physical expression of affection, regardless of such petty concerns as race, age, or gender.

That’s not to say Blair made an issue of his bisexuality. Age and experience brought some measure of discretion, and so did a wide streak of self preservation. It wasn’t safe to buck the cultural norms for males in a predominantly alpha male environment, unless you could defend yourself. More to the point, he had no desire to lose his position as Jim’s partner, even in an unofficial capacity, or to do anything that could cause problems for him at work. As a whole, cops weren’t always the most tolerant bunch, regardless of how open minded individuals could be.

Small wonder the idea of a safe place to explore the more sensual side of life appealed to him so much. The idea of a place you could go and be openly, totally yourself, without judgement or fear would intoxicate anyone.

A few years ago, he would have accepted an invitation like this in a heartbeat. Now, it couldn’t be that easy. If he chose to go to Pantheon, he would have to let go of the idea he rarely even let himself think about – a romantic relationship with the one person who knew him better than anyone in the whole world, who just happened to be his best – and completely uninterested – male friend.

There were times over the last few years that it seemed Jim did appreciate men, as more than just friends. The hints never went anywhere, and he only dated women, but still, every now and again, Blair would catch what looked like more than platonic interest in a guy. A trained observer, especially one who genuinely enjoyed people, noticed these things. Trouble was, he’d never had the guts to ask Jim outright about his orientation.

Late at night Blair gave himself many lectures about misplaced affection and the many different kinds of love and appreciating what was given. It didn’t matter. The closeness between the two of them deepened, and despite the unwanted direction his heart – and if he was honest, his hormones – wanted to go, he wouldn’t change that for anything in the world.

He also knew himself well enough to know it would be impossible to enjoy whatever might be offered at Pantheon if he went into things with his heart and mind still insisting they belonged to Jim. It wouldn’t be fair, to himself or the other members.

On the other hand, nothing he’d tried on his own had persuaded him to completely give up on the idea. Maybe if he went to Pantheon, he would find something or someone else that could convince him it was possible.

He opened his eyes to study Jim as his partner attempted to get his computer to cooperate. It wasn’t a particularly successful effort, but that wasn’t new. Still, the sight of that familiar body that he wished he knew so much better sent a pang through him.

But who was he kidding? If there was one thing Blair knew he couldn’t resist, it was a mystery. And personal growth was good for the soul, no matter how painful it might be. The invitation to Pantheon offered him the chance for both, and no matter difficult some aspects of the process might be, he knew somehow he would be sorry if he didn’t go.

By the time the specified night rolled around, Blair had himself so keyed up, he couldn’t sit still. When Jim teased him about a hot date, he only smiled and nodded. One last check in the mirror, and he was ready. The outfit wasn’t new, but the charcoal dress pants and blue silk shirt were a good look on him, so that was one worry off his mind.

At seven o’clock on the nose, he walked out the door, just as a black town car with tinted windows rolled smoothly to the curb. He tried to look as if he got into cars like that all the time, and climbed into the back seat. For a moment, he wondered what Jim would make of the car, then put all thoughts of the other man out of his mind. Tonight was about doing something for himself, and moving forward with all aspects of his life.

Blair made himself reasonably comfortable in the back seat, afraid to breathe for fear he would accidentally break something. If he did, no way would he be able to pay to replace it on his pitiful salary. Before his nerves made him fidget, the glass partition came down with a barely audible hum and the driver, immaculate in a well tailored suit, handed him a folded strip of cloth.

“Prospective members are not permitted to know our location, sir. That is why your transportation this evening has been prearranged. In the event you are accepted as a member, you will make your own arrangements, but until then, if you’ll put on the blindfold, we can be on our way.”

With a smile for the cloak and dagger routine, Blair complied. He already assumed that was the reason his transportation was arranged in advance. Pleased to be proven right, he covered his eyes and did his best to stay calm and centered as they drove. After about twenty minutes, the car stopped and the driver led him into a building, careful to warn him of any terrain changes and obstacles.

Once the blindfold was off, the driver wished him a good evening and left. The tastefully decorated lobby wasn’t high on the list of possible options he’d concocted in his head to pass time on the drive. If he didn’t know better, he’d have thought he was checking in for a stay at an upscale hotel.

While he blinked to adjust his vision, an automatic door on the far wall whooshed open, and a tall, broad shouldered blond in another impeccably tailored suit bustled over to shake hands.

“Hello, Blair. I’m so glad you could join us. I’m Clint. I’ve been assigned to help you with any questions you might have while we get the preliminaries out of the way.”

Struck with how odd it felt to meet someone who probably already knew all about him, Blair waited to see what would happen next. “Pleased to meet you.”

“Why don’t you come with me to one of our conference rooms. I’d like to explain a bit about how Pantheon works, and what we can offer our members. I’m sure you have questions. We’ll just wait for somewhere a bit more private before I answer them.”

While Clint led the way down a hall with carpet so plush it almost completely muffled the sound of their passing, Blair reminded himself that curiosity didn’t make it any more polite to stare. Under the layers of polish and sophistication supplied by an excellent interior decorator, the subtle signs of high level security were there if you knew where to look: key card readers, cameras, keypads, and other components he couldn’t identify. It made sense, and jibed with what he’d heard about the club’s discretion.

Rather the bland, impersonal box Blair expected in a conference room, they ended up in a spacious room with a table just big enough for the two of them, and chairs padded well enough to sink into.

“You’ll review the policies and the code of conduct before you fill out your screening,” Clint explained. “But let me sum up the highlights.”

He waited for a nod of understanding and then continued. “Each of your visits here constitutes a single engagement, regardless of length. Most times, we don't have a time limit, so long as you are within twenty four hours of arrival. Engagements longer than twenty-four hours are not generally available to new members, but you can request that from your counsellor, if you feel you need it. In your case, that would be me, in case you hadn’t made the connection.”

“I figured,” Blair told him, which earned a smile.

“Each engagement can involve any number of participants, of the gender of your choice. We have spaces for public engagements, and for private ones as well. If you choose the private option, you and any members you choose to have with you interact in a private room, and cannot be observed. If you end up a member, you will have the option of advance arrangements. For tonight though, after you finish with the paperwork and the screening, we’ll talk and then I’ll take you to the area I feel best suits your needs. Does that make sense?”

Though he must have gone through the whole spiel quite often, Clint radiated such enthusiasm he practically vibrated.

Even as he agreed that it all seemed straightforward, Blair watched the easy affability slide away, replaced with an intensity that made it clear whatever came next, he had better pay attention.

“I also need to impress upon you how seriously we take our code of conduct. There is no such thing as a minor infraction. Any incidence of rule breaking can, and very often will, be grounds for immediate expulsion, as well as other consequences meted out by our directors. Nothing seen in the building can be discussed off the premises, even if you have the permission of those involved. No one can be forced to do anything they truly don’t want to do. Any participant has the right to change their mind about any engagement at any time. All activities must be within the bounds of safety and consent as discussed by all participants. All engagements can be stopped at the request of qualified staff members.”

Startled by the abruptly serious tone, Blair nodded. “I understand.”

“Good,” Clint replied. “Remember the rules exist to protect all our members, which I hope will include you.”

Once they covered the highlights, he went on to explain that all copies of the paperwork had to stay in the building, and were not available via email. However, they were available for review at any time, by request.

The sunny exterior belied the strength and control beneath the surface when it came to his counsellor, but that was alright. Blair had no intention of rule breaking, for once. He didn’t even know if he would be offered a membership, but he had a feeling if he was, it wasn’t something he would willingly give up.

Once everything was properly signed, Clint put the forms into a folder, and left him alone to complete his intake screening.

For his part, Blair expected the screening to consist primarily of things he had considered. The document proved conclusively that he wasn’t as worldly as thought. There were a number of things he ticked off as not applicable, but also a number he checked off as would like to try. Questionnaires of this type were designed to engage the imagination, in order to better draw out repressed desires. Even though he knew that, the number of things he responded to surprised him. The fact he had a dominant streak wasn’t anything new, but the more submissive side, well, that just wasn’t something he thought about. If you let yourself want the impossible for too long, it changed you. But maybe here he could find someone he felt comfortable letting go with. There had to be more than one person in the whole world who could make him feel safe.

That idea made his stomach drop, and it felt like the temperature in the room dropped, but he ignored the discomfort. No one ever said moving forward with your life was easy. Truth be told, most of the time he wouldn’t want it to be. With an effort, he finished up with his final form, and looked up at Clint.

“Can you tell me why I’m up for consideration as a member?”

“Every member of Pantheon, worldwide, is submitted for consideration by a senior member. Seniority is based on length of membership, club conduct records and other contributions. We have mentor programs, and several other options there, but you’ll learn about that later. If this visit leads to preliminary membership, you receive notification about that within two weeks.”

He continued before Blair could ask his next question.

“When a member chooses to pursue sponsorship, they choose whether that includes disclosure. In this case, I am sorry, but they opted not to do so, though they have the option to do so later.”

That seemed reasonable, even if it was a disappointment. Excitement had replaced most of the nerves. Blair drummed his fingers against his knee and resisted the urge to stand up and pace.

“Now what?” he asked instead.

“Now, we get you added you to the building security guest logs for the evening. While you are doing that, I’ll review the information and come back to show you to the room you will use.”

“Just like that? I thought I would get a chance to meet some of my prospective partners.”

“It does work like that at times. In your case, I’m quite certain we will match you with someone. If you like them, then you will proceed. If you don’t, then we can pursue other options.”

The intensity was back, and Blair found he couldn’t look away as the other man continued.

“I know how important your intellect is to you, but part of why you are here is because something isn’t working. It might go against your nature to not have input in the pros and cons of selection, but I’m very good at my job, and so is every other counsellor here. Let me try and help you. Trust me, at least enough to try. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.”

Even as he wondered exactly how much psychology training a job at Pantheon required, Blair nodded. “Alright. We’ll try it your way.”


Blair expected a rather utilitarian room, despite what he’d already seen. There had to be dozens, even hundreds of engagement rooms after all. As he stepped through the door that Clint indicated, he realized he would have to adjust his expectations. To begin with, it wasn’t a single room, but a suite. He noted the art on the walls, originals, not prints, as he walked through the entrance area into a living room. The light was dim, only a single lamp pooled a golden glow in the far corner, but he could see enough to note the custom made furniture: dark wood pieces that blended with the greens and light browns of the earth toned color scheme.

The masculine feel of the rooms made him wonder if those who ran Pantheon always segregated by gender so obviously. That could have been why it took him a minute to realize he wasn’t alone in the room. In an instant, it got hard to breathe and Blair felt his mouth go dry. Even in the dim light, he’d have to be struck deaf and blind to not recognize the man who stood facing away from him as he walked closer to the sofa that faced a fireplace at the far end of the room.

“Jim?” Anticipation and the unexpected thrill of where he was faded to confusion and uncertainty. If it were anyone else, he would have suspected some kind of cruel joke.

“Come sit down,” Jim told him as he turned around, his tone warm, but guarded like he weighed each individual word before he let it come out.

Part of him wanted to turn and walk back out the way he’d come. The whole point to coming to Pantheon had been to make things less complicated with his sentinel. Even without any explanation, Blair knew things were about to get anything but simple.

He didn’t even shift his weight to take a step. He could no more turn his back on Jim, than he could cut off his arm. His joints felt rusty, and he nearly stumbled, but he seated himself on the sofa and waited until Jim sat next to him.

“I don’t understand,” he admitted, while he tried not to be distracted by his body’s usual reaction to Jim. Even under these circumstances, that was just another thing he couldn’t change.

“I know this all probably comes as a shock to you. I’m sorry. I’ve wanted to tell you so many things, needed to open up to you more times than you can imagine. I could never take that step though, because there needed to be a way to do it that guaranteed no consequences to our lives no matter how it plays out. The things I need to tell you are no one’s business but yours and mine. When this club promises discretion, they mean it. Not only are we safe here, but so are our secrets.”

“That’s good to know, Jim. But, it’s not exactly what I meant. What are you doing here? More importantly, what am I doing here?”

“I’ve been a Pantheon member for a number of years. An old friend recommended me for membership when I came back from Peru. He thought I might have a better time adjusting if I had an outlet. I guess he was right. But, I haven’t had an engagement at any of the club’s venues since just after I met you.” There was a pause, and when Jim continued, his voice was softer, the struggle to get the words out clear on his face.

“It didn’t seem right to come here and have something that was just about the moment, even with no strings, when I knew it would be you I thought about, no matter who I was in the bed with.”

Blair barely noticed the pause that came then, the sound of his own heartbeat was so loud in his ears. If this were a movie, or a fairy tale, right about now would be the perfect time for the heartfelt declarations of love and the happily ever after.

Back in the real world, Jim’s declaration raised more questions than it answered, despite the wild hope he wanted to let run away with his good sense.

“What exactly are you trying to tell me here, man?”

“The truth is, I don’t know exactly how to explain everything that I feel for you. I’m not sure I have the words for it. That’s your department. All I know is that what I feel for you goes way beyond friendship. I want a chance to find out what it really is and how good it can be, without excuses or half truths or any of the other crap in the way.”

For the first time since he started talking, Jim moved. Slow enough that his guide had more than enough time to move backward if he wanted, he leaned forward and reached out to grasp his arm. The point of contact flashed heat through both of them, though the room was a bit cool.

“Like I said, I know this probably comes out of nowhere, and maybe I read things wrong. But I hope not. I’m tired of fighting with myself, trying to find reasons why we would be better off as friends. I don’t want just that part of you. I want all of you, and I don’t want to share.”

Under other circumstances, the possessive growl might have been off putting. Here and now, Blair couldn’t help but smile. At least he hadn’t been the only one who’d needed lessons in self control.

As satisfying as it was to know that, he couldn’t manage to silence the little voice of doubt in the back of his mind.

“I know you, Jim. You aren’t into men that way. Maybe it’s just wanting what you can’t have.” He tried to keep his voice level, but it shook a little by the end. Just because he hated the idea, didn’t make it any less valid.

“I suppose that could be true,” Jim agreed. “But that’s another reason why I decided to tell you here. Because here, I can do this.” And then he leaned over and kissed him.

Every doubt, every question, pretty much every thought, vanished for Blair as soon as the kiss began. Of all the things he had expected, this hadn’t made the list. Shock gave way under the sheer pleasure. He reached out to hold on, and distantly noted the strength in the muscles beneath his hands. Then the kiss deepened and he remembered he knew how to do this.

When Jim eased back reluctantly a few moments later, they both had to take a second to catch their breath.

“Well, I know I liked it,” Jim murmured. “So much for that objection, partner. As for not liking men, well, I’ll give you that. I usually don’t. But you aren’t the first man I’ve been attracted to; you’re just the first one in a long time who made me care enough to want to do something about it.”

The hell with objectivity and logic, Blair told himself. Not like he could find them with need and want tangled together to demand he stop thinking and take what was offered. But curiosity wouldn’t be denied.

“Have you got any other bombshells you’re waiting to drop? ‘Cause I gotta tell ya, I can’t help but wonder what else I don’t know about you.”

“Fair enough. I’ll tell you what, ask me anything you want, and I promise to answer honestly no matter how uncomfortable I might be.

Blair’s eyes widened. “Who are you and what have you done with Jim Ellison?” he asked. The Jim he knew would never leave himself so vulnerable.

“What can I say? You’re a better influence than you thought. And I know how your mind works. If I want to have a shot at proving how much you matter to me, you need to be able to understand why before you can believe me. Besides, you already know me better than anybody.” There was a pause, while Jim crossed to light the fire, then came back to the sofa. Once he was seated, he put his arm around Blair’s shoulders, and looked at him.

“So, go ahead. I know you want to. Ask me about my past, the Sentinel stuff, my career, my exes; whatever you want.” Jim leaned back and stayed quiet, though the tense set of his shoulders showed he wasn’t quite as calm as he tried to appear.

All the times Blair had imagined getting Jim to talk, and now that it finally happened, his brain couldn’t quite keep up. It didn’t help that he was still hyperaware of Jim’s body so close beside him, the light but distinctive smell of his cologne, and the taste of him that lingered even now.

“I can’t decide what to ask. I keep thinking about how much I want to kiss you again.” Blair hadn’t meant to say that out loud, but his mouth liked to run away with him at the best of times.

“I like how you think,” Jim agreed with a low chuckle. “And I can’t believe I’m saying this, but we need to talk first.”

A small part of him was still amused at the role reversal, but Blair nodded in agreement, while he fought to control his body which definitely didn’t want him to just talk, not when Jim smelled so good, with the heat of his body so tantalizingly close.

After a few seconds to sort through the questions crowding his brain, he went with the most obvious.

“When did you know?”

Jim didn’t bother to ask for clarification. Even with what had already been said, Blair half expected he would temporize, but he smiled, just a little, and then began to speak.

“That’s not the right question, actually. If I’m being honest, I think I knew the first day I laid eyes on you. For a moment, it was like you were the only person in the world, even I didn’t matter. Nothing did, except you. But, as you know, I’m the master of denial,” he admitted self deprecatingly.

“I refused to let myself think about it much, because it scared the hell out of me. I don’t have the best track record when it comes to the people in my life that I really need. It got to be easier to convince myself that no matter how much I might care for someone, I didn’t really need them.”

He shrugged and looked down at his hands, and when he continued, Jim’s voice was rougher, the lines around his eyes and mouth deepened, but he continued.

“I hated what the problems with my senses did to me, being so overwhelmed and out of control, so it got easier to keep my focus on that. But I couldn’t tell myself the same thing, because I do need you. Even now, things are better, but that hasn’t changed. It never will. But, I never intended to let you get so close.”

The rueful tone surprised a laugh out of Blair. “I have that effect on people,” he admitted, without a trace of apology. “But you aren’t the only one who got nailed by way more feelings than he was expecting.” If Jim could put aside his upbringing and his training enough to be honest, he deserved reciprocity.

The admission drew another smile from Jim. One deep breath, then another, and he spoke again. “Even after I came out of denial, little by little, I agreed with what you said, about how it’s about friendship. And I didn’t want to screw that up. Hell, I still don’t. But, the close calls just keep getting closer, Blair. Either one of us could be gone tomorrow and there’s not a hell of a lot we could do about it. That whole disaster with Golden could happen anytime a new designer drug hits the street. Losing my sight scared me, but the thought that I might lose you was so much worse. I tried not to think about it, of course.

Then, you were in that damned elevator, and I thought you might actually be gone, it hit me what that would actually mean for me. Not as a sentinel missing his guide, but just for me. Nothing like a dose of reality to yank a guy out of denial, I guess. I have enough regrets. I don’t want anything to do with you added to that list.”

While he fought to keep his jaw off the floor, Blair wished he wasn’t prone to over-analyzing. There were so many good things in what he’d just been told. And yet, the next question spilled out before he could stop it.

“How do you know this isn’t just some Sentinel and Guide thing? If that’s all there is between us, I’m sorry, but it’s not enough.” Deliberately, he ignored the lump in his throat and the tightness banded across his chest. Just because he didn’t want to say it, didn’t want it to be true, didn’t change anything.

The flash of anger was only there for a moment, as Jim’s hands tightened into fists in his lap, but he had to pause for a moment before he could answer. “Do you really think so little of yourself, Blair? I’ll admit that part of our relationship adds some layers here, and I think we will need to explore that, for both our sakes.

But, this isn’t about just one part of me. Every part of me knows that this is the right thing, that you are the only one I want.”

In that instant, Blair felt his hands go cold and he actually felt the breath catch in his chest. Don’t live your life out of fear. He’d lost track of the number of times Naomi had told him that. But how could he risk taking such a huge step? He was shit at relationships; they never worked for him. And none of the people he’d ever been involved with had come close to being as important to him as Jim was.

“It’s okay.” Even though there was no way he could have missed the obvious signs of fear, Jim’s face was calm. “I understand. When I realized what I wanted, I didn’t sleep for three days, could barely eat. The trick is, don’t think about all the relationships that didn’t work. That only proves they weren’t the right one for you.”

Blair sat still for a long moment, uncertain how he was supposed to understand the tangle of emotions that bubbled within him. Then again, maybe he didn't need to name them all. The need he'd tried so hard to ignore, to bury so deep he wouldn’t feel it, screamed through him now. That he could want wasn't new. The urge to claim was though, as was the powerful urge to let Jim do the same to him.

"Kiss me again." His voice was quiet and the note of command was a surprise but Jim smiled and moved closer without comment. This time, the kiss was deeper and wetter, and Blair took his time exploring every inch he could reach, then indulged himself and bit down very gently on Jim’s lower lip.

He didn’t seem to mind, if the low moan of reaction was anything to go by, and Blair pressed even closer, all but draping himself over Jim’s lap, but that was alright, since it allowed them to rub against each other with even more points of contact.

They kissed again, longer this time while Blair let his hands roam where they would. “Off,” he muttered, hand caught on the hem of shirt that kept him from sliding his palms over bare skin. “We can talk more later.”

Jim considered that for a moment then nodded. “How about we both lose some layers here?” he suggested, his voice lower than normal. That was the only sign he wasn’t as in control as he looked but the tone curled heat up Blair’s spine and he had to pause before he could think.

There was a slight delay, while both of them stripped off their shirts, but even that was too long and he fought not to whimper at the loss of contact. But skin to skin was better, so much so that he exhaled on a soft moan. They kissed again, and tangled their tongues together over and over. It was so good but it wasn't enough. He needed to be closer, needed more.

The urgency surprised him, might even have scared him, if he thought about it. He’d never felt need like this, the drive to see more, taste more, and touch more almost a pain, because he couldn’t get enough.

He let Jim trail kisses down his neck, over his collarbone and all but purred when he licked his way lower, then paused to bite gently at a nipple. Before he could go any lower, Blair shifted his weight back, not enough to create space between them he didn’t want, but enough to make it known he had something to say.

“Let’s move this to the bed.” It wasn’t a question, but he couldn’t stop the thread of uncertainty.

The smile Jim gave him made all the doubts fade away. “Not that I object to relocating,” he murmured, “but are you sure? I don’t want to move things faster than you’re comfortable with.”

“You won’t.” Here at least was solid ground. Jim would never hurt him, or push him farther than he could go. He knew that like he knew his own name, or that the sky was blue. It was a constant of nature.

They turned back the blankets together and laid down facing each other. Both of them reached out at almost the same time then they were kissing again. They changed position a few times, experimenting with what felt the best, and ended up with Blair half on top, so he could discover whether Jim’s nipples were as sensitive as his own.

Without thinking, he reached up to change the angle of his position, then shifted his weight to pin Jim to the bed a bit more. He liked the extra contact even with clothes in the way. He expected Jim to flip them back over immediately, but instead he made a sound of pure need, like he couldn't help himself, as he arched upward just hard enough to enjoy the friction.

As reactions went, it was small, but he made a habit of knowing how to read people. Even with his brain only partially at the party, Blair realized he might be guilty of some assumptions.

“You said I could ask you anything,” he reminded his lover quietly.

They locked eyes, and Jim nodded. “Yes.”

“We’ve spent time talking about what I need to know, what I want. But, we kinda glossed over what you want.”

“I want whatever you want to give me.”

It was true, Blair could see that much. It was humbled him, to see Jim make such an effort not to put up walls, but it reminded him that he wasn’t the only one outside his comfort zone.

“I want...need, to know what you need. What have you thought about, when you imagined this? Because I get the feeling I’m missing something important here.”

Jim tensed, and tried to draw back but Blair tightened his grip and waited.

“I’ve been dreaming about you,” Jim admitted, his voice soft. “That’s part of what helped with the denial too, I guess. Every time I had a dream, there would be more and more things that we tried. That’s part of what scared me, not just that it was you, but that I want things from you that I’ve never wanted from anyone else, and I am not as inexperienced as you think.”

The smile was gone, and Blair could see fear and traces of confusion.

“I think we’ve established it’s okay for both of us to want. As for the rest we’ll figure it out as we go. No judgement, okay? Just tell me. If it doesn’t work for me, we’ll figure out a compromise. But you can always ask. Two way street, okay?” he promised.

For the first time, the implications of what they were doing, and that it would be long term didn’t bring a flutter of fear. The warmth and satisfaction he did feel were usually reserved for when he solved a problem, but in a way, he’d done just that.

Beneath him, Jim nodded, and this time Blair pulled back but only far enough to shimmy out of his pants and boxers and help Jim do the same. Once they were both naked, he resumed his previous position and claimed another kiss.

Where the certainty came from, he couldn’t have said, but he knew he was right before he spoke again. “It’s okay that you want me to take you,” he promised, his mouth close enough to Jim’s ear to raise goose bumps with his breath as he spoke.

As if the words released it, Jim moaned, caught in a full body shudder. “God, I can’t think when you do that.”

“Good,” Blair replied, as he trailed his hand down Jim’s chest then shifted down to follow the same path with his tongue.

That made Jim let go of him, and clench his hands in the sheets, but that was alright. Though he had some experience with men, it had been long enough that he wanted a chance to explore without distractions. He’d always loved blowjobs, so much so that some of his past lovers had accused him of oral fixation. Any of his previous attempts paled though, when he listened to the sounds Jim made as he took him in his mouth, and felt the light sheen of sweat on his skin as he fought to keep still.

It came back quickly, the rhythms, how to use his hands, his tongue and just a touch of teeth in concert to maximize the pleasure. After a few minutes, Jim touched his shoulder, and he looked up.

“S’good. But I need more. I need you,” he managed to say, the hunger in his eyes sending a thrill of heat directly to Blair’s groin.

“I know.” The heat between them spiraled up, but Blair could feel it too, the pressure he saw reflected in the taut lines of the body beneath him. His own pulse beat in his ears, as he fought against the urge to simply take, as part of him demanded. That would mean pain, and that was unacceptable.

His hands shook as he reached for the thankfully close supplies, and his vision went a little hazy around the edges, but he hung on to his control. He knew without having to ask that they needed to face each other, so he used the pillows to prop Jim up more comfortably, then played a finger over his entrance. Once his body relaxed, he replaced his finger with his tongue, unable to stop the pleased little sounds in the back of his throat as he explored the most intimate part of his lover.

After several tries, Jim spoke. “Blair, please.” He tried to say more, beyond caring that he begged, but his voice wouldn’t work.

“It’s alright. I’ve got you,” he soothed. They weren’t quite there, not yet, but he could tell Jim was close to getting overwhelmed by all the sensations, too overwhelmed with need to have anything close to control.

Blair warmed the lube for a minute then stroked one finger in, slowly, so slowly he felt himself start to shake with the effort. Long minutes later, another finger, then a pause to kiss him, sucking on his tongue while he added a third finger and swallowed the strangled cry.

They stayed like that until Jim bucked helplessly against Blair, his breath caught on a sob. “So good.” Mixed with the pleasure there was almost shock, and a slight hesitation.

And then it clicked. Jim hesitated because he was scared to let go of the last of his control, not only because of the risk of a zone out, but because he didn’t know what to do with the intensity of the input.

“It’s okay. I’m right here. I won’t let anything happen to you that you don’t want,” he told him. “Stop fighting it. Whatever you need is okay,” he finished just before he was caught in a kiss so hard he thought his lips might be bruised. It went on, and on, and Jim’s fingers tangled in his hair to hold him in place when he shifted slightly. He felt Jim smile against his mouth in approval of the sound that dragged from him.

When he crooked his fingers, to change the angle of the stretch, it was his turn to smile as Jim moaned his name.

Who knew the sounds of his own name could be so sexy on someone else’s lips? When he reached for the condom, Jim clamped a hand on his wrist. “No. I’m clean, we don’t need it.”

About to launch into his usual spiel about safe sex, Blair paused. He got tested regularly, and knew he was clean. More to the point, he trusted Jim’s word that he was too. The certainty from earlier was back, and this time, instead of his pulse in his ears, he could swear he heard drums – deep, resonant echoes that timed with his heartbeat, overlaid with a faint but unmistakeable howl of triumph from a wolf.

Alright,” he agreed, and shook his head to clear it. With only the briefest pause to slick himself up, since he wasn’t sure he could keep from coming if he did anything else, he aligned his body in the proper position. Mine. Mine. Mine. He chanted it over and over in his head as he slid in a little at a time. Lost in the tight heat that enveloped him, he somehow wasn’t surprised when Jim spoke, his voice tight.

“Yes. Yours.”

Between one breath and the next he thrust upward to take Blair all the way in and they both gasped.


The tone made it clear it wasn’t a request, but that was okay, since there was nothing in the world he wanted more at that moment.

No matter how much Blair wanted it to last, it wasn’t very much later when he lost his smooth pace, and felt his body strain toward what promised to be a spectacular orgasm. Still, he couldn’t let go. Together. The merest whisper through his mind, but then he understood.

Carefully, he reached down and took hold of himself hard enough to bring himself back from the edge.

Jim’s eyes snapped open when he stopped moving, and he made small noise of disappointment.

“Hang on,” Blair managed, as he adjusted his angle slightly, and rested Jim’s legs so they went over his shoulders. It wasn’t the most comfortable position, but it let him go just a little bit deeper, and the instant he did, Jim hummed with approval.

“Oh yeah.”

“Glad you approve. But I can make it even better.” It was a tight fit, but he got his arm down at an angle that allowed him to take Jim’s cock in his hand. He gave himself a moment to appreciate the hard length, then began to stroke in time with his thrusts.

When Jim started to writhe, Blair put his other hand on the curve of his hip. “If you keep moving like that, I’ll stop.” Truthfully, he didn’t know if he could, but his lover responded to the unspoken command and stilled beneath him.

“Much better,” he approved warmly. But that was the last coherent word he could manage. Jim thrust up against him in earnest, an endless stream of syllables that almost formed words falling from his lips. For just an instant he arched upward and went still, then came with a shout that sounded almost like pain.

Somehow, Blair managed to hold off until he could see that Jim wasn’t zoned, just boneless in the aftermath of pleasure that he could feel the echoes of. Then, the wanting crested within him, and he could only plunge as deep as he could, his hands locked on the shoulders below him hard enough he knew there would be bruises. When he felt himself start to come, he let go, but there was so much more to the feelings that he caught his breath on a scream.

When he was completely aware of himself again, he was draped over Jim like a blanket. As gently as he could, he disengaged himself and reached out for a kiss.

“If I’d known it would be like that, I’d have done this years ago,” Jim told him, voice still lower than he was used to.

“Ditto,” Blair answered, pleased when the answer made Jim shift closer to hold him close against his chest. The earlier urgency had faded, though he could feel sparks of it still inside him as he felt the rough slide of leg against leg.

They lay in the silence for a while, and eventually he turned so he could listen to Jim’s heartbeat beneath his ear.

The fire popped and made him jump, but he still caught the slight wince his Sentinel couldn’t hide. “Careful, man. You’re bound to be oversensitive for a while.”

The grin Jim gave him in answer was wicked enough to wash heat over his skin, and he forced himself to swallow, hard. His libido obviously had delusions of grandeur. Just because his best friend in the world was looking at him like he was edible, did not mean anything for right now. They had plenty of time.

He closed his eyes to take a deep breath, then jerked upward when Jim licked the shell of his ear, then nibbled his earlobe.

“We decided we could both ask, remember?” So fast, he made it look effortless, Jim caught him around the waist and this time he did roll them until he was on top. “Don’t ask me how, but I know not all the need I feel is mine. Now I know how you knew what I needed.” He stopped to crush their mouths together in a kiss then pulled back slightly. The intensity in his gaze let Blair know he had at least one sense dialed up, but before he could say anything as a caution, Jim shifted so their groins rubbed together.

“Time for me to return the favour.”

And then there was no talking, because Blair’s impressive vocabulary deserted him under the relentless onslaught of a Sentinel determined to learn him with all of his senses. He would have begged if he could, but he couldn’t manage anything beyond a moan. He arched backward helplessly when Jim prepared him with the same thoroughness he now knew could drive a man completely insane with impatience.

Somehow, it was exactly right to feel Jim pressing inside him, even as the rest of his weight made him feel safe and protected. He kept his thrusts shallow at first, until Blair could accept all of him. Something made him shift up to his hands and knees, and he stayed there, then grasped the headboard and thrust backward in demand.

He felt the rush of heat from Jim’s release an instant before the other man moaned his name, but it still wasn’t enough. Desperate, but uncertain as to what he more he could need, he dropped down slightly, that pushed his shoulder back.

He felt movement, as Jim shifted. Then his hand stroked down, and he bit, just at the top of the curve of Blair’s left shoulder. It wasn’t the pain, not really, since the bite wasn’t hard. But he had a flash of the mark it would leave on his skin, and that was it. He came with a rush that greyed out his vision and left him shaking while he wondered exactly why his throat was sore.


Later, when the fire Jim lit had burned down to coals, they lay in the oversized bed, and tried to stop getting distracted from drying each other off. They managed to shower without it turning into round three, but it was a near thing. Only the fact they needed sleep after their exertions and the emotional rollercoaster of a day had stopped things from getting out of hand.

“I booked the full twenty four hours with an option to extend if we want to,” Jim remarked, as he trailed his fingers over all the skin he’d so recently explored.

Blair couldn’t have stopped his wide grin if he tried. “Have I mentioned how much I admire that you’re so good at planning ahead?”

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