Run Away

Scene One - The Forest

The nights had grown darker. It was winter, coming onto Solstice, and from now until the Lady returned the nights would be so dark. He felt a growl deep in his throat, as he stretched towards the tree looming above him. It was dark, so very dark. It was time.

He turned his head, casting glances into the shadows, listening for the sound he was waiting for. After a moment he heard it, and got to his feet. Padding silently, he entered the darkness as a prelude. Before him, waiting, a body lay sleeping. He remembered his Lady's entreaties, and knew he had to be careful.

[You should have seen him.]

She had looked in on him, before. He knew all the stories and knew all the rules but when she'd knelt to whisper to him he'd listened. She always looked, before a match was made, but she rarely took the time to share what she saw. What she'd said about this one made him take the time to consider. Hence the visit to this patchy darkness. Thinking about what she'd said. About what it seemed to mean. About what he would do, if he had a choice at all.

Deciding to wait, and see what life would bring, he brought the nighttime inside him, spreading it thick over his body. Preening in front of the vanishing lake, he admired himself. If it was to be, then he wanted beauty. An added bonus for his match to enjoy. He remembered the whisper that guided him. He remembered the times he'd looked in, as well. And the times he'd been unable to leave.

[Lying alone in helpless silence in the night.]

What would it mean?

Scene Two - The Loft

Jim stretched as he stepped out of the shower. Nothing felt better on a lazy morning than a hot shower followed by lunch as the first meal of the day. He scouted around for a towel, then decided against it. It was warm, middle of summer, and if he opened the windows he'd dry soon enough. He padded into his room, breathing in the clean smell of a summer day. He glanced down at his rumpled bed, and smiled. He nudged the mattress with one foot.

"Hey, wake up."

A mumble, then a groan, then the sheet stirred. After a moment a thick shaggy mane showed, then sleepy, blinking eyes peered up at him. "What?"

"Get up."

"Why?" Blair moaned.

"Because it's morning. Almost afternoon, actually."


"I want to do something."

Blair looked up, a suspicious gleam in his eye. "We can do that in bed."

Jim laughed. "I meant outside. It's a gorgeous day--"

"We can do that outside, too."

"Oh, no! I don't want to have to arrest us. Come on, Chief." He wheedled. He'd started picking up Blair's habits -- he didn't quite have the soulful eyes down, but the tone he had just perfect.

With a defeated sigh, Blair began to stretch. Raising his arms to either side of his head, he reached, as if begging to be picked up. He arched his back, thrusting his chest upwards, and pushed his legs down, and out. He held himself tightly for a few heartbeats, then went totally limp. Jim quickly laid down on top of him, burrowing his face into the crook of Blair's neck. Blair laughed, delighted. He rubbed his hand against the clean, still-wet skin of Jim's back.

"Does this mean we're staying in?"

"Grrrrrrr..." Jim bit him. "You do that deliberately."

[You should have seen him.]

The bite led quickly to other things, rubbing dry skin on shower-softened skin, pressing nude bodies against sleep-mussed sheets, fingers and tongues vying for position on every available surface. Jim growled again, pushing himself against Blair's lower body. As they touched, Blair answered with a gasp, and the sounds invaded in one more ecstasy.

When they lay spent, completely entwined, Jim felt the rhythmn of his lover's breathing. He listened, and with a grin he heard it change -- Blair teased him by purring, deep in the back of his throat, letting Jim know just how damned content he really was.

The sunlight danced in, tossing itself into every corner of the room. Jim laughed again. His lover looked up at him, quizzically. "I just feel so good, Chief. I just feel good."

Avoiding the obvious response, Blair simply brought him down for a drawn-out kiss. When he let Jim go, he stared up, smiling. He traced one fingernail along the ridge of Jim's jawbone.

"You still want to go out?"

[You would have seen his eye reflecting in the light.]

Scene Three - The Darkness

He'd returned, for one night. He needed to rest -- his spirit was restless and he needed some time to think. What was changing, he didn't exactly know. His spirit was aging, as was right, along the lines laid out for the choosing. He was pleased with the choices so far -- rightfully so, considering where they'd led. But something disturbed him and so he'd returned here, to discover why.

For years he'd simply stayed back, and observed. Never getting involved, not really -- answering questions and gathering information to use for furture observation wasn't really being involved. He didn't know if what he was doing was what the Lady had intended. Her words that first night had seemed so clear, back then. Now he wondered, and he was afraid that he would find himself not knowing the answers.

He walked through the darkness, looking for ways to see the truth. Paths led into futures he wished to avoid; paths led into futures he wished he could embrace. But the choices weren't his to make. He sat down and gazed, briefly asking for what he should see.

[So for the old man, Ashes to ashes, earth to earth and dust to dust]

Each future that he could see, held the vision of one man.

Scene Four - The Road

They couldn't be lost. Blair rechecked the map, pretending to study it but really studying his lover's face. They'd driven through this area so many times, simply taking a required detour for a blocked road shouldn't have gotten them lost.

"So where are we?"

"Beats me, man. You were driving."

Jim gave him a look. "You have the map."

Blair held it out. Jim didn't take it. Sighing, Blair checked it again. "Last sign we saw said Riverton 38 miles, right?"


"Ahem." Blair gave Jim a dirty look. "And we only made one turn, towards the east. So we *should* be... right here." He put his finger on the map, and showed Jim.

"There's no road there Sandburg."

"Don't tell me, tell Rand-McNally."

"Are you sure we aren't over here?" Jim pointed out a small line heading away from the main road.

[No one will see me]

Blair watched as Jim looked at the surrounding area, as if searching for a 'you are here' sign. "Almost positive. We turned way before that intersects with the road we where on. Besides which, that line is for a four lane highway. This isn't." Blair looked up and down at the barely two-lane, paved only in this decade, country highway.

Jim said nothing, apparently assimilating the information. Blair was struck by how focused he could become -- thinking, or when using his senses, Jim could become so tightly focused the world would disappear. It was as if his entire being became the single thing he was doing and everything else just disappeared. It wasn't just the zone out, that was when the focus got out of his control. It was the moment before, when his entire body seemed to vibrate with attention. Sometimes Blair found it frightening.

He wondered how Jim could have ever needed someone like him. Once he'd gained control over his senses, that is -- until then he'd needed such hand-holding Blair thought he'd go nuts. He'd been so resistant to it, too, which made it harder. But now, with enough control to relax and enough confidence to ask when he was uncertain, Blair found himself concerned. How much longer would the Sentinel need a Guide?

[No one with guilt to share, no secret soul to trust]

"I guess we could keep going, find out where we end up." Jim looked over, decision made for now.

Blair grinned. "Cool. Let's go."

Jim put the truck make into gear.

Scene Five - The Wayside

It was night -- a normal night, when the sun simply went down and the spirits stayed in their beds without demanding. He didn't know what had awakened him, so he lay still until he made sense of the sounds reaching him.

Normal, middle of the world sounds.

He wondered how long it would last.

[And he won't be found at all/Not a trace to mark his fall]

He rolled onto his stomach, and looked out into the nighttime. Creatures stirring, sleeping or foraging, gave him a feeling of loss. Once life had been understood. He knew what he was, what he was expected to do. Everything mapped out for him, by others, by choices he hadn't made. Then he found something he'd never thought could be offered him, and he knew the world had forever been altered. A new path for him, then, and one he'd never been allowed to walk before.

What would he find at the end?

Was this love that he was feeling?

Scene Six - The Stars

Something slammed into him. Shaking the water from his eyes he looked around. Hands pulled at him and he laughed, delighted. The 'something' slammed into him again, trying to pull him underwater. He fought back, trying for purchase on the slippery rocks underfoot.

With a huge splash his playful lover came up for air. The sight of him, spackled with clear water and shining with exuberance, made him want to shout for sheer joy.

[Nor a stain upon the wall]

He'd gone down, willingly, and even if someday he found the price he had to pay, he would remember this. This was worth everything. He grabbed his lover tightly, letting him take their weight -- reduced by buoyancy. He threw his head back and let loose a yelp. He'd fallen, and fallen willingly. And it was good.

That night he pointed out constellations as his love held him in his arms.

[Louder and louder/Till I could tell the sound was not within my ears]

His sleep was interrupted; Jim was restless with a dream, reaching out, looking for something to hang onto. Quickly taking his lover's hand, he leaned over. "I'm here, Jim."

Jim turned his head, still asleep. "Chief?"

"Yes." He leaned his face closer to Jim's. The man's breath warmed his face.

"Don't go."

Concerned, for though the words were not afraid the words themselves were wrong. "I'm not--" he stopped. He felt the Lady brush past him. He gripped the hand tighter. "It's all right, love. You're only dreaming." Please don't let me go, he whispered inside.

"Please, don't leave." Jim's eyes were open, but he knew he still slept.

He tried to reassure his lover, brushing his hand over the man's face. "I love you."

Before he could hear the answer, the darkness surged and he was captured again. The last sight in his eyes was his love's face, lips forming the replying phrase.

[You should have seen my eyes grow white and cold with fear]

Scene Seven - The Lakeside

He didn't move for a long time. It seemed like a long time, it was hard to know, here. The darkness was playing with him, asking him stupid questions about life this time. It tossled his coat -- he hadn't gotten rid of it when he'd come back, like he usually did. Instead he'd wrapped himself tighter inside it, hoping he would remember the touch of a man's hand along his body.

The Lady didn't show. He wasn't sure if he had expected her to. This life had been such an odd one, he didn't know what it was for or what any of it meant. If guides were allowed to die, he would have wished to so that he would escape the fear that he might live on and not know. Not remember it. He huddled deeper inside his coat, ignoring the singsong voices around him.

They wanted to know such stupid things, things they couldn't understand because they weren't meant to live. Were guides meant to live? Not like spirits, but something? Like what he'd just done? Walk the planets and see things which meant so little unless you had a life to explore them by?

Why had they let him live? Why had they brought him back so soon? He hung his head, then, ashamed. Just a day ago -- was it a year? Another eon? -- he'd sworn it would all be worth it. The price to pay, for the sight of love shining through a living soul. Directed at *him*. The price, the prize. He nodded, agreeing, and tried to answer their questions in a way they might understand.

[Heard all the things in Heaven and Earth/I've seen many things in Hell]

Scene Eight - The Field

Jim was standing by the edge of a meadow. It was the same one they'd hiked through two days before, but this time he stood alone. Not alone, he realised. Beside him something stood, as if waiting. He wanted to ask what it was waiting for, but the one with the answers wasn't here.

He began walking towards the valley and the river inside. The presence kept pace with him, never giving a hint of the direction he need take. Jim chose anyway, picking his way through the meadow then the trees, somehow knowing that there was no reason to falter. His path was clear -- he'd seen it before. But then he'd seen it with another beside him.

"Don't leave..."

He remembered his entreaty and wondered how long ago that dream was.

It didn't matter. Whether this was a dream, or real, or something else entirely, it didn't matter. Steeling himself, he began to work his way down the slope of the valley. Nothing was going to stop him.

[But his vulture's eye of a cold pale blue/Is the eye of the Devil himself]

He found the lake as he's expected. He didn't know how he'd known, but here it was where it should have been. He looked around, knowing there was someone here.

The presence at his side became a young woman. She smiled, and held out her hand. She inclined her head, as if asking if she could take him somewhere.

He shook his head sharply.

Smiling more widely, more invitingly, she stretched her hand out. Again he shook his head, and looked around. Where-ever she wanted to take him, he didn't want to go. He needed his Guide and she, whoever she was, wasn't it.

[Take me away now]

He shivered, and suddenly the darkness lifted. Growling softly, he got to his feet and looked around. The lake, where he often came before leaving this world and entering the real one. He looked at it sadly. The preening he'd done didn't matter now, his sleek coat was of no joy for his spirit, now. Being beautiful would mean nothing, without the pleasure looking at it brought his lover. He walked towards the lake's shore, wondering if he could shed it painlessly.

He suspected it would hurt as much as anything. But he couldn't take it with him, would not wear it for the next spirit to whom he was assigned. He would fashion a new body and leave this one in a shell for a hope that someday, someone might find it and see that once there had been joy, here. How long before he left again?

And would he be allowed to take these memories along?

The hand on his shoulder startled him; the Lady never touched her folk, and no one else had a body. He looked up, and felt his heart stop.

His lover stared down at him.

"I need you to show me the way out."

He blinked. How had he gotten to this place? He saw a flash of sunlight, and decided not to ask. Smiling, he rubbed against the hand resting on his shoulder. Then he began walking, away from the lake, down the path he'd gone so long ago. He didn't need to look to know that his spirit was following.

[But let the silence drown the beating of his heart]

Jim awoke, and looked over at the sleeping figure beside him. He smiled, and wondered if extra garlic pizza was such a good idea. The strangest things he dreamt.... A glance at the alarum clock told him he had a good three hours' more to sleep. He wrapped an arm aorund his lover, and snuggled in. As he fell back asleep, he noticed that Blair still smelled of sex, sweat, and rather a lot of garlic.

Something else tickled at his mind, and as he slipped into dreamless sleep he thought of clear water.

Blair opened his eyes as Jim fell asleep. He brushed a finger lightly over the hand resting on his stomach, grateful for the possession it signified. Whispering his love to the now soundly asleep figure, he closed his eyes. He fell asleep, purring.

A large, content, and very old spirit stretched itself out on the grass by the Vanishing Lake. It rubbed its head against the grass, not up to lifting a limb to its head to deal with the mild itch. It yawned, once, and then closed its eyes. The day was warm. It always liked warm days.

Here, anyway. In the Physical world there were advantages to the cold. Snuggling up with a Person of choice was, in the spirit's opinion, a pleasure never to be missed. Unless the Person available was uptight. The spirit had a very open mind when it came to what it would accept -- personal hygiene and obnoxious personalities were nothing compared to someone who would simply *not* relax into a lazy snuggle. Yawning again, it thought about the pleasures of a warm body in close quarters until sleep crept up and smacked it behind the ears.

Something *else* smacking its head woke it. It rose to a crouch before quite realising who, or rather what, had woken it. The scent of an old friend identified its assailant and it sat back down. It yawned again, by way of greeting.

"Oh thanks. Wondered if you had tonsils."

"Can see them up close, if you like. Haven't had a bite to eat in eons."

The second entity wriggled its nose and sat down next to the spirit. "No thanks."

It waited. When nothing more was forthcoming, it sighed, and faced its friend. "What is it, little one?"

"Don't call me that. Just because I'm shorter than you--"

"You're shorter, skinnier, bonier... I have had *toenails* bigger than you. I should be--"

"Just because you were a triceratops once doesn't mean you can tease me about my size." An impish grin affected the words.

The spirit looked over, haughtily. "I was *never* a triceratops! Haven't you learned your species yet? How in the Lake you can expect to Guide something--"

"I *know* my species. I think. I do when I'm a Guide -- I like forgetting things, when I'm here. Otherwise my head hurts. Do you know I had a Spirit last time that needed to be able to chart stars in fourteen *galaxies*? He had to discover a new star so he had to know all the old ones... Lady had me visit each and every one of them before I went. My head *still* hurts and I don't even remember them now."

It chuckled. "Guiding's like that. Have to know anything your spirit might need. That's why you go down to live so many lives as a psuedo-person -- to learn."

The little Guide groaned, and rolled onto its back. "Couldn't I just wait for the movie?"

The spirit decided this required only One True response. It pounced, landing squarely on top of its friend. A squeal split the air and they began tussling in earnest. They stopped only when they found themselves several inches past the Lake's edge. Crawling back to drier land they each stopped, and stared at a new presence. Several yards away, a Guide walked slowly past, apparently unaware of the two creatures nearby. The grasses and trees around the second Guide were trembling slightly -- evidence of the intensity of emotion pouring through, spilling out of, the Guide.

The little Guide looked at its friend. "Is that--?" The spirit nodded. The Guide looked back at the other, saw how its coat was thicker, blacker, and coarser than it had ever seen on a Guide. In fact, it looked more like a *real* coat, a real cat. It glanced up at its friend again. Before it could speak, its friend moved foward, heading for the other Guide.

The second Guide finally noticed their arrival when they were nearly beside it. It stopped, and waited, a faintly welcoming expression on its feline face. The spirit crouched down. "How much longer?"

The welcome transformed quickly into despair. "I don't know! He's been born and I can see his paths but he isn't anywhere near ready to need me. Lady says I have to wait for him.... I don't know how long that will be!"

The older spirit nodded sympathetically. It remembered things like this from its own life - emotions, and the pain they could bring. This Guide was already deeply in love with its Spirit. It would be a while before the Spirit would be able to meet, and fall in love with, his Guide. "You've seen him?"

"Yes. I've looked...." Suddenly its despair changed to joy. "He's wonderful."

"Wonderful, huh? This coming from an objective observer?" The spirit teased.

"He's mine. I don't have to be objective." The flat statement didn't surprise either of the two friends. Everyone knew about the Lady's decree that this Guide would be paired with a Spirit, which most of the future paths said would be its match forever. Privately the spirit thought the Lady was bored and had *created* the match herself, but knew better than to suggest it. The Lady liked being mysterious and merely all-seeing.

"How old is he, now?" The younger Guide asked, curious about his older comrade's newest charge. It had never, itself, gone to see its charges before the time for the Guiding. But then, it had never been attached to its charges.

"Seven years."

"You've been watching him all this time? He hasn't seen you at all?"

The other Guide suddenly looked guilty. "Maybe once. But he's forgotten already. Thought he dreamed me. But I couldn't help myself. He was... I was so proud of him, and I just had to tell him."

"Uh-huh." The spirit had heard this story already. "And sleeping curled up with him after he pulled his cousin from the pool, that was... what? Pride? His reward for a heroic deed?"

The Guide grinned. "Nope. Fringe benefits of being assigned a Guide."

"A Spirit, you mean." The spirit continued to tease. Then it became serious. "Have you decided what you're going to do?"

It shook its head. "Lady told me I could go down, in Physical form. So we can be together all the time once we've met. But... I don't know how. Or when. If I met him now... would he still be around when he grows up? If I wait too long will he meet someone else? If I pick the wrong form maybe he won't want to meet me at all."

The spirit suddenly understood the despair it had seen, earlier. It moved forward, rubbing its nose gently along the side of the Guide's face. "Maybe I can help."

"How?" It reared back in surprise.

The spirit smiled. "Well, I *did* say I was missing certain comforts of living...."

Two weeks after James Ellison's eighth birthday, a woman in another country went into labour. That in itself was not unusual. What *was* unusual was the woman's expression when she held her newborn son, and the words she whispered to him.

"I had forgotten what a *pain* this sort of thing is."

The baby simply smiled at her, waving its fists about as if testing them for the first time.

"I think I'll name you Hubert."

*You do and I'll set fire to the carpet every chance I get.*

She laughed.

Blair looked up into serious, blazing blue eyes. He swallowed nervously. His off-handed remark about the latest near-death experience had been met with stony silence. He smiled hesitantly. "Hey, man, I was just--"

"Don't joke about it, Chief. Don't *ever* joke about me losing you." Jim stopped, working his jaw slowly as if trying to find the words to force out. He reached out and grabbed Blair by the forearms. "Don't joke about it."

"Relax, Jim. I'm all right." Blair turned his hands, to lightly trace fingertips along Jim's arms, hoping the slight motion would get enough attention diverted to prevent the Sentinel's zoning out. "It was in bad taste, I guess. I'm sorry. I didn't think you were still uptight about it." Blair winced as he said the words, seeing how the impact struck through Jim, making the tense lines throughout his body even tenser. It had been hours since Jim had rescued his partner, hours spent at the crime scene for a mop-up and then back to the station for reports. Now, back home, they had started to relax. Blair had wanted to lighten the mood and made a joke about his insurance premiums.

"It isn't funny, Blair."

He nodded. "I know. I just--" He stopped as he saw something Jim wasn't saying. Something in his eyes, in his stance. The way he still held onto Blair's arms, as if letting go meant waking from a horrible dream and finding that his Guide was dead after all. "Jim?" He said it softly, in his guide's voice, coaxing and gentling the other man.

"You can't die on me."

And he saw it. The reason for the trembling, the staring, the wide-eyed disbelief. He smiled then, preventing only by sheer force of will its being a wide grin. "I won't." He leaned forward and kissed his partner.

Lips opened wide, unthinkingly, and Blair pulled his own mouth wider, taking and accepting the sudden feriocity as Jim's body figured out what was happening. Hands on his arms gripped tighter, pulling him closer. Blair wanted to free his arms, so he could wrap them around Jim but couldn't break free; he didn't waste time trying. Instead he let himself be forced back, plundered and tasted with every atom of attention.

It was the one thing he'd been waiting for. The moment when his Sentinel realised the feelings his guide had been feeling for what seemed like forever. Head over heels in love from the first time he laid eyes on him; unwilling to jeaprodise a friendship by moving too fast, unwilling to force the other man's hand by admitting to things Jim wasn't yet ready to acknowledge.

But now, as the kiss deepened and Blair began to wonder if he would *ever* find an ending to this moment, he knew it had been worth everything. He had one spare thought, a whisper of thanks to whomever had created this moment for them. Then he was lost as hands released him -- briefly, taking him again in an embrace, holding him tight. Shuddering breaths caught in his ear and he only then realised the kiss had broken.

"I love you."

"Oh god..." The broken voice said more than the words.

Blair stepped back, taking Jim's hand. "Let me love you, Jim. Please. Let me show you how I feel."

Jim smiled for only the second time since he'd seen Blair step from the burning wreckage of the building. "You've already done that. This is just... more." Blair replied by pulling Jim towards the stairs.

They went up to Jim's bedroom, then faced each other. Blair ran his hands along Jim's chest, finally touching where before he'd only been able to look. The force of need had not dissipated, but had dimmed enough by certainty that they did not crush each other as they had before. Jim removed his shirt, and Blair touched again, delighting in the skin beneath his hands.

"Oh, Lady..."

Jim was busy with explorations of his own, but looked up. "What was that?"

Blair shook his head. "Nothing."

"Wasn't English."

"No..." Blair forgot the reason for the conversation as he felt Jim's fingers on his ribs, stroking, lifting fabric out of the way. Blair tugged fast, and the shirt came free of his waistband. Jim helped him remove it and they pressed their bodies close together, feeling heat and the delicious touch of skin on skin; Blair closed his eyes, and moaned.

"I love you."

"Take me...."

He felt Jim step away, and heard the zip as he unfastened his jeans. He kept his eyes closed, listening as his lover got undressed. Imagined the pool of denim at his feet, the muscles of his legs, the hard length wanting for its first touch. He kept his eyes closed, wanting to preserve the dream for a moment longer for he knew that reality would be so much more, so much closer to perfection. When he opened his eyes all he saw was a smile, gleaming blue eyes, and a hand coming up to carress his face.

"Thought you'd gone to sleep on me."

"Not yet... after." Jim laughed, and Blair remembered the first time he'd heard that laugh, knew it was one sound that if he ever died he'd want to take with him, to sustain him in the eons of forever. It could colour the universe -- or a soul.

"Want some help with those?"

Blair looked down and saw a hand on his hip, thumb rubbing towards the button fly. "Oh... yeah. Don't need them right now, do I." A quick kiss and then Jim was undoing the buttons, one by one, brushing against then pushing against Blair's erection. Blair moaned again, and threw his head back, hands clutching at Jim's shoulders to maintain balance. He began whimpering as Jim tugged his jeans down, hands caressing his legs, lips pressing lightly here and there.

Blair felt himself start to fall, and Jim eased him down onto the bed. He reached up, and pulled Jim to lie on top of him, wriggling under the weight that pressed down upon him. He brought Jim's head close for another kiss, and lost himself again.

When he opened his eyes his underwear had been removed, and Jim was tracing paths on his chest with one finger. He stared as Jim seemed intent on memorising every inch of skin with both sight, touch, and -- he moaned again -- taste. This wasn't fair, he said to himself. I want to touch him too, learn him too. Blindly he reached out and found heated skin; dug his fingers in, pulling himself closer. As Jim moved, he suddenly reconnected with the rest of his body -- legs wrapped between each other, erections pressed between their bodies.

Blair reached down and touched, not certain if his hand was touching his or Jim's or both, and rubbed, twice. Jim grabbed him in a kiss, pushing himself down onto Blair, thrusting into Blair's hand and against his erection; Blair couldn't move, could only lay still as the force of motion, exquisite touch drove him nearer the edge.

Teeth found purchase and he bit, muffling the growl in the back of his throat, and the loud outcry could have been either as first Jim, then Blair came. Neither stopped moving, even as the tremors passed and the pounding of twin heartbeats began to slow. Blair began kissing every piece of his lover's body he could reach -- mouth, cheek, neck, shoulder.

"More, more, again."

He didn't know who had said it, but he sat up and eased Jim onto his side. He followed, until they had switched positions. He sat up, looking down at the flushed face, rapid rise and fall of the diaphragm, the tip of a tongue as it slowly licked moist lips. He wanted it all, first, now, forever. Blair placed his hands on Jim's stomach, letting his hands rise with each breath. Jim waited silently, watching him, making no other move.

Blair felt the urgency suddenly spin away into darkness. "I love you." Jim smiled, and the urgency slammed into him again. "I want to fuck you. May I?"

Jim nodded, words hitting him as hard as they'd hit Blair; he wrapped his legs around Blair's waist, pulling him closer.

"I love you. Forever. I'm yours forever."

Blair found himself in darkness. He smiled. He knew what had woken him. Carefully, so not to disturb his sleeping lover, he crept out of bed and padded downstairs. There, by the fireplace, were curled three figures. He shook his head.

"What are you doing?"

The figures jumped, then leapt to their feet and surged forward, surrounding him. He laughed silently, and rested a hand on one furred head.

"He said it, didn't he? He did! Didn't he!" One young voice piped up, its bouncing owner tugging delightfully at Blair's other hand.

Blair crouched, and felt the three press against him. "You shouldn't be here." He smiled, though.

"We know. We aren't. Haven't you ever seen a dream, before? We just wanted to hear him say it."

Blair looked at the one who'd spoken, and fixed its gaze with a stern one of his own. "So you heard. Why are you still here?"

Innocent green eyes stared back. "You left the fireplace unattended."

"I left the fireplace *unused*."

"So we lit it for you."

Blair laughed and shook his head. "Just be gone by morning. I am *not* going to explain you three." He stood up, and watched fondly as the three moved back towards the fireplace. He thought about staying and talking with them, but then he thought of his lover, upstairs. He turned and headed for the stairs.

A voice called after him. "Can we finish the pizza?"

"You what?" Blair stared at his lover, wondering if this was some strange sort of joke or if Jim were merely having really unusual dreams. He had a bad feeling it was neither, primarily because he hadn't seen this coming.

"I saw my Spirit Guide in my dream last night. I was wondering if you could help me figure out what it meant." Jim looked a bit embarrassed, but glanced back up at his guide over the still untouched plate. Blair had walked out from his shower to find breakfast made, but before he'd been able to enjoy his waffles, his lover had sprung this. Blair shook his head slowly. Jim's manner was hesitant but open, which Blair knew came from the difficulty he had talking about his Spirit Guide, even with someone he trusted. Usually Blair found it amusing.

"What... er, what happened exactly?" Blair tried to find his bearings while appearing as if nothing were amiss.

"It was really weird... probably nothing." Jim tried to change his mind and brush it off.

"Why was it weird?" Blair persisted.

For a moment Jim just stared at his breakfast, then finally he looked up at his partner. "You know how usually when my Spirit Guide visits me, it's either.. while I'm awake, and it just appears; when I'm sleeping or meditating, I dream about being in Peru."


"This time I was dreaming, and I saw my Spirit Guide in the station. It didn't seem strange at first, except...."

Blair waited patiently as Jim trailed off, then prompted, "Except what?" He tried to sound patient.

"It led me upstairs, towards the Vice Squad. I haven't... been up there in a long time, Chief. Everything looked the same, only some of the faces were different. I followed it through to David's old desk... it just sat there, staring at me."

Blair watched as his lover described the dream; it was obvious it had disturbed him. The dream disturbed Blair, as well. "Who's David?"

"One of the Vice cops. He was transferred about a year ago up to Seattle. He was there when I was, we never got along very well but he was a decent enough cop."

"Any unfinished business with him?" Blair continued to play the role trying to help Jim find out what the dream meant. He gave his lover a look of encouragement and support. Inside he was confused, and worried.

"That's just it," Jim shook his head in frustration. "As far as I know, there's nothing. We never had any major disagreements just lots of little ones. We were rarely even on a case or a bust together. I haven't even thought about him in years."

"Did the panther do anything?" It felt weird, saying it.

"No, it just sat there. I asked for a hint, some sort of clue as to what it wanted but it just stared at me. I tried walking around to check the desk but there wasn't anything unusual about it.... when I tried to leave it got in front of me, wouldn't let me past. A minute later I woke up."

Blair frowned. It sounded like something serious, but it made no sense. Who, or what, had gone into Jim's dream? "Is this the first dream like this you've had?"


Breakfast long forgotten, Blair rested his chin on his hand, thinking. "Are you sure it was your Spirit Guide? I mean, you might have just been dreaming."

"I thought of that... but it *felt* real." Jim let out a breath, clearly as frustrated as Blair.

Slowly, Blair offered the only suggestion he could. "Maybe you should wait, and see if you have the dream again? See if anything else happens which might make more sense."

"I suppose." Jim sat for a moment, then Blair saw as his lover pushed the problem aside. His face cleared and he gave Blair a smile. "Looks like the waffles got a little cold."

Blair grinned. "That's why there's ice cream." He laughed at the look Jim gave him. Before the other man could ask, he began explaining the origin of ice cream cones, how an ice cream vendor at the World's Fair had used waffles to serve his ware after running out of cups. Blair was surprised when Jim let him talk without a single interruption as the talk segued into the impact World Fairs had on the social development of US culture. Blair talked, following Jim around the kitchen as the other man cleaned up from breakfast. He was all the way up to the 1930s when Jim held a hand over his mouth and asked if he was ready to go.

Blair nodded, Jim's hand moving up and down with his head. He gave the palm a lick, and smiled innocently when Jim glared. He let his lover move away and begin gathering his things, before he spoke again as grabbed his own backpack and wallet. "The World's Fairs before the war were..."

Throughout the day Blair stayed with his partner, doggedly but subtly remaining within reach at all times. If anything happened he was determined to be there for it -- although every time he checked there was nothing ready to occur. He'd looked in on David while Jim was safely stuck in the morning traffic; nothing to suggest there would be any upcoming contact with the man. By the middle of the afternoon Blair was willing to admit he was worried. He wasn't sure what to do -- ask for help? Wait to see? For the remainder of the day he waited as patiently as he could for nightfall. There wasn't any point in doing anything until he found out what Jim was dreaming about.

He realised Jim had noticed his day-long proximity; as soon as they reached the loft and Jim locked the door, he was grabbing onto his partner and kissing him deeply. Blair felt words whispered, "You've been driving me crazy," and then hands were pushing him back towards the stairs, pulling his shirt tail loose as they went.

Jim was all over him; Blair had no chance and less inclination to regret the unintended effect he'd had on his lover. Blair pulled Jim close again, taking another kiss before his foot hit the stair. For a moment they held still, moving only hands and tongues. Then Blair broke free and turned, running up the stairs. He was undressed by the time he hit the bed, Jim landing beside him a few seconds later. Blair rolled onto his side, pulling his lover close, already hard and ready.

Jim brought his arms around Blair, wrapping a leg over his, rubbing his fingers gently down Blair's back. Blair moaned, and tried to relocate control of his body. It always happened this way, the touch of his lover made his soul spin. It was everything he could do to keep from going inside, remaining out here where he was supposed to be to make love to his partner the way it was intended. Every time Jim touched him he'd start to forget until he remembered he had to touch as well, and the interest in *that* would drag him back to focus on his lover until the next touch sent him spinning.

It made having sex a long, mesmerising, exhausting experience. Blair had no complaints.

Blair watched as his lover fell asleep, brushing his fingers through the short, soft hair on his head. The soothing motion drew a smile to Jim's face as he slipped into sleep; Blair hoped his lover's dreams would be easy. He lay snuggled up to Jim for half an hour before he went.

Easing out of his lover's arms, Blair scooted back until he could crouch comfortably. Watching closely, he saw when Jim was halfway between waking at the disappearance of his bedmate and falling into a dreamstate. A careful nudge determined the direction of Jim's attention; the jungle began to form almost on its own. Blair slipped out of his body and into his lover's mind with ease. It was the thing he always lived for -- the chance to shed the separation of skin and feel his lover close. He would be going deeper than ever, this time, and he shivered at the thought. To be totally immersed in his lover's mind, totally at home in the spirit he loved made every pain of living worthwhile. Living with Jim made living worthwhile, but being inside was what made him forget those pains at all.

Padding softly through the tree branches Blair looked down into the clearing. Jim was standing there, waiting, dressed as always in his fatigues and face paint. Blair felt the usual stir this sight always gave him and fought it down. Time enough to attack his mate in bed when all of this was over. He let the dream settle, allowing a sense of peace pervade the jungle. He watched as the Sentinel relaxed, lowering his guard and scanning the area with hopeful anticipation. Blair remained where he was, up in the trees.

Soon the dream faded and Jim left the REM state for a deeper sleep. Blair remained fully ensconced in his lover's mind, now hidden by the presence of Jim's own being. Keeping his thoughts quieted, Blair simply observed, smiling when Jim's subconscious nuzzled at him.

Part-way into the night the dream came. It felt clearly of a spirit guide's touch -- Blair held himself tightly still to see who was invading his spirit's dream. Blair watched, unmoving, as the police station formed. Jim was standing in the elevator, dressed now in his usual clothing. The elevator rose past Major Crimes, doors opening when they reached Vice's floor. Jim stepped hesitantly off, looking around. Blair saw that he was aware of the dream and was watching for the panther to appear. Other police officers were moving through the station, none meeting Jim's gaze. It was obvious they were they for show. After a moment Jim began walking, heading directly for the squad room.

When he got near, a flash of black crossed the hall ahead of them. Jim stiffened, then cautiously followed. He entered the squad room and stopped when he saw the large black panther sitting beside Hudson's old desk.

"What is this?" Jim asked, and Blair felt the man's impatience.

The spirit guide said nothing, sitting still. The guide felt familiar to Blair, but hidden in a copy of the form Blair had chosen, the other guide's identity was hard to discern. Jim took a step closer, looking down at the guide first, then at Hudson's desk. "What does Mark Hudson have to do with anything? For that matter, what does David?"

For a moment Blair considered leaping out of Jim and confronting the intruding guide, but there would be no way to hide from Jim who and what he was, once the man felt his guide emerge from within his own mind. He waited, for now the other guide was doing nothing but confuse his lover.

They watched as the panther suddenly stood on all fours. Blue eyes blinked once, then the form morphed into a Chopec shaman and in the moments between forms, Blair recognised the guide. The knowledge did nothing to clear up why it was here. It was neither a friend, nor one of the few who disliked him. Blair was intrigued to realise that the form it took was not Incacha -- obviously this guide did not have permission from the elder Shaman to use his form. The unfamiliar image confused Jim more. "What do you want?"

"What do *you* want, Sentinel?"

The question took them aback; Blair began to ever so slowly fade out of the recesses of Jim's mind and into the dream proper, keeping himself always hidden behind Jim. "I don't know what you mean," came the careful answer. Jim had enough experience dealing with spirit guides that he knew better than to say ''no' straight away.

The guide answered, sounding firm and commanding -- just the sort of voice people thought guides should use. "You have chosen a path, Sentinel. You are allowing yourself to be led from it."

"How?" Jim did not try to hide his disbelief. Blair was glad, it would make it easier to prevent the other guide from accomplishing its purpose in coming here. Blair finished extracting himself and stood behind Jim.

The other guide suddenly started, recovering quickly. "You have followed a well-meaning, but ignorant guide. He has brought you from your intended path."

Blair saw, from Jim's sudden defensive stance, that the man knew about whom the guide referred. Before he could come to Blair's defense, Blair stepped out and confronted the second guide. "What are you doing here?" He demanded, remaining at Jim's side. Jim placed a protective arm across Blair's shoulders.

The guide glared at him but addressed Jim. "You must follow your true path, Sentinel."

Jim growled back. "My true path is right where it belongs." The hand on Blair's shoulder tightened.

Sadly, the guide shook his head. "You have been deceived--"

"What do you think you're trying to do?" Blair demanded. He didn't expect the guide to tell him, but Blair hoped to at least force his hand.

"I am trying to save this man's soul."

Blair didn't try to hide the surprise. "You're not going to pull the old 'evils of homosexuality' thing are you?" Guides didn't have gender in the natural form, so they rarely cared about those things. They both ignored Jim's demand to know what was going on.

The guide faced him, and Blair could see the confrontation had barely begun. "You have lied to him, misled him, and if you are not stopped you will cause his downfall."

"Hold on, here." Jim finally managed to interrupt. "Blair and I have been partners for years, and lovers for months. Why come now and say it's a mistake?"

Blair glanced up and saw Jim's eyes narrow. He was worried, not that the other guide would convince Jim, but of what might happen when the other was thwarted. "There's something not right, here...."

The second guide turned to Jim and Blair saw a flash of worry in its eyes. "Heed my warning, Sentinel--"

"You're not my guide." Jim declared. Blair grinned at the other guide's stunned reaction. He glanced up to find Jim looking down at him. "I don't know what's going on here, Chief, but this isn't my spirit guide."

"Perhaps you should ask the little one who is." A snide tone had replaced the commanding one.

Blair said nothing. Jim merely shook his head. "Come on, Chief, let's get out of here." With a last look back at the guide, whose intentions he still did not understand, Blair let himself be led gently back towards the door.

A fierce scream came behind them, and they spun; the guide had reverted to panther form. As they turned it leapt. Blair changed instantly and jumped, hitting the other panther and knocking it into a desk. The other panther spun and slashed out with a handful of claws; Blair ducked and lunged forward. His jaws scraped the other's hide before it pulled away. Behind them Jim was calling his name.

Blair leapt again for the second panther's throat. He felt claws dig across his chest and screamed from anger -- he had never heard of guides attacking each other with such a serious intent to harm. Latching onto the other panther, he kicked with his hind legs. Suddenly a hand grabbed at the nape of his neck, pulling him back. The slam of a gunshot pounded in his ears; after a stunned moment he realised the other guide had been shot. Jim was still aiming the gun at the other panther as Blair changed back. He stood, pulled up by Jim who had not let go, holding the collar of his shirt instead of his neck.

"Are you OK?"

"Yeah--" he stopped as the second guide suddenly vanished, running back into the Lady's realm to heal its wounds. Blair stared at the spot, trying to understand what had transpired.

"Hell of a dream, Sandburg."

His lover's tone made him look up. Blair saw concern and amusement on Jim's face. "Thanks, Jim."

The man smiled. "What was I gonna do, let him maul you?"

Blair realised that Jim believed this was in fact all a dream -- no longer words of portent, no longer something real. Blair sighed. "Let's go home, Jim." He was relieved that Jim would disregard this when he woke, perhaps not even remember it.

Jim began walking out of the squad room. The station changed quickly, first turning into their usual jungle home before fading into the blackness of sleep. Before it faded completely Jim stopped and turned to Blair.



"What was that he yelled? Right before he attacked?"

"Oh..." Blair shifted slightly from one foot to the other then decided there was no reason not to tell him. "You'd translate it as 'pervert'." His lover frowned, and Blair pushed him out of the vestiges of the dream. "It doesn't matter, Jim. It's gone and that's all that counts."

Jim didn't argue, and Blair watched the dream finally end. For a while Blair remained where he was, still inside his lover, letting himself feel alive before sighing and slipping outside. He felt that familiar ache; every time he left Jim's mind, it was like stepping out of a warm home into a cold winter field. It took a few moments to adjust to the physical world, replacing the surrounding sensation of love with the mere sight and sound. Kneeling on the bed, Blair crawled forward to resume his place at Jim's side. He would watch his lover sleep for a bit, then go ask the Lady why the other guide had attacked. He suspected it was anger at the apparent impropriety of the guide's life with his spirit. Some didn't believe the Lady had given him permission, or perhaps one would say the direction, to do so.

Jim rolled over as he laid down, wrapping an arm around him and pulling him close. Blair sighed happily and snuggled in.


He froze. Opening his eyes, he saw Jim looking at him, wide awake. "Yeah, Jim?"

"Was that you?"

Blair didn't answer right away. He had promised once never to lie to Jim, and although Jim didn't know of the promise others did. "Yes." What would Jim do if he knew the truth?

"Who was that other one?" The question was calm, curious.

"I don't know." Blair watched his lover's eyes, clear and staring right at him. He was still being held close, as if this were just another late night talk, wrapped in the security of the blankets.

"Will he be back?"

"No." The Lady would see to that, once the wounded guide returned home it would be called for reckoning. There were few serious rules for guides to follow, but once broken there was no chance for apology. The guide would be reincarnated as something else, where it could not do any further harm.

Jim hugged him then. "I don't understand what he wanted."

Blair wanted to delve into lecture, explain and guide his lover to understanding. Instead he lay still.


He didn't answer. Of all the paths he'd seen for his spirit, those which led through here more often than not led to heartbreak.

"Blair, what's wrong?" Jim sounded so calm.

He watched, waiting for some sign of which way his lover would go.

Jim sighed, and gave Blair a kiss. "Why didn't you tell me?"

That he could answer. "I was afraid you wouldn't love me anymore."

"Don't you know how I feel, Blair? Can't you feel how much I love you?"

Blair nodded, chin brushing against Jim's chest. "But you might change your mind."

"I can't change my mind, Blair. I can't stop loving you just because I find out you're more than I ever dreamed." Jim's voice caressed him, as did the fingers brushing through his hair.

"You're not mad?" Blair was almost too afraid to ask, for fear of hearing the answer.

Another kiss was his reply. "Why would I be angry?"

"To find out I'm your guide." Blair knew from long experience to not mind when conversations with spirits grew surreal, but the level of acceptance and peace was beginning to make him nervous.

"I already knew you were my guide."

Blair started, then realised what Jim meant. "No, I mean... your spirit guide. That I'm not originally human."

"Like I said... I already knew."

Blair pulled back -- not out of Jim's grasp, but just enough so he could stare properly. "What do you mean you knew?"

"I knew. From the time I felt you in my dream."

"And you've had a whole twenty minutes to get used to it," Blair said sarcastically.

"I had your entire being inside me, Blair. What do you think you hid from me?"

Blair blinked. Jim watched him, still smiling, still holding him. "You know everything?"

"I know that Naomi was a friend of yours who helped you create a place for yourself here. I know why the leftover pizza always disappears overnight. I know that you don't sleep, instead you lie here watching me, holding me, longing for your chance to be needed in my dreams." Jim pulled him slowly closer as he spoke, until Blair was pressed completely against his lover's body.

He blinked again. Considering all the important questions he could ask, he settled on one. "Can I?"

His lover kissed him, deep and lasting, then whispered, "Always."

Blair let Jim go; Jim closed his eyes and Blair waited patiently as he fell asleep. When he crawled inside, Jim was waiting for him, arms open wide.

Notes: The lyrics are set in [] and is Alan Parson's Project's "The Tell-Tale Heart' a song about, and tribute to, EA Poe's story of the same name. While reading the lyrics, I realised that it was, in fact, a love song. In certain sense...