(Part Two)

In the morning, we went about our usual routines. He bitched when I used up too much of the hot water. I teasingly offered him a sip of my algae shake, and he made the predictable disgusted face. It was all perfectly ordinary. It seemed somehow important to Jim--no, to both of us--to get back onto familiar ground with one another.

It left me wondering if our work together, my acting as his surrogate, would simply be something we tried once and never even mentioned again.

Over the next few nights, I got my answer. Every day, we would come home from work, eat dinner together, settle on the couch, and before we knew it, we were making out like hormone-drunk adolescents. Every time, I'd assure myself it was all be purely clinical and therapeutic, but somehow, I'd invariably end up with Jim half lying on top of me, his erection pressed into my hip, our legs tangled together, kissing him like I was some starving refugee and he was my banquet.

And even though I always meant to keep things within well-defined parameters, I was never the one who stopped it when it got out of hand and went way beyond the limits I'd set in my own mind. That was always Jim's role. He'd break off a bone-scorching kiss right in the middle of it and pull himself away from me, get up from the couch, retreat upstairs or to the bathroom. I'd lay there a little while longer, trying to get my breath back, before I went some place private and jerked off, picturing Jim doing the same thing, fantasizing about what he would look like when he came, sometimes pitifully imagining it was my name, and not Emily's, that he called during climax.

Not that I ever heard him call her name or anyone else's, for that matter. I never heard even the faintest noise out of him, not the softest groan or the quietest whimper, only occasionally a telltale creaking of the bed springs upstairs. My Sentinel was silent in his pleasure. But I knew what he was doing just the same.

After nearly a week of this same pattern, I finally managed to pull myself together and decided it was time to move on. I'd been a very bad surrogate, indulging my own desires at Jim's expense. It was just that the next step I'd mapped out didn't involve Jim touching me, and once I knew how it felt to be in Jim's arms, I wasn't so willing to give it up.

Still, I was trying hard to be a good Guide, and I really did want to help Jim get control over his senses so he could get back to the basics in life. So that night, after we'd finished dinner, I didn't join Jim on the sofa as usual. Instead, I settled onto the chair opposite him, trying to keep focused on the goal. I was a little caught up in my own thoughts, plotting out how I wanted to proceed. So I didn't see it at first, the anxious, pained look on my Sentinel's face.

"Chief?" he finally said, breaking into my reverie.

I turned to him and saw all the questions and the fear sparkling in his eyes. And then I realized how he must have interpreted my putting distance between us.

"It's okay, Jim," I hastily assured him. "I just wanted to try something different tonight. I think we have a handle on the whole kissing thing. You weren't having any problems, were you?"

He looked terribly relieved and shook his head. "No, Chief. No problems."

I smiled at him. "Good. Time to move on then."

He seemed both reassured and curious.

"I just need to get something," I told him.

I went to my room and dug the video I'd rented out of my backpack. When I came back out to the livingroom, Jim was watching me warily.

"I thought we'd move on to more direct stimulation."

His eyebrows shot up at that.

I shook my head and showed him the tape. "No, man. Visual stimulation. And know." I broke off with a vague gesture that I hoped indicated masturbation. "I figured this is the logical next step since you don't have any problems when you touch yourself. We'll just take it a step further by adding the video, stimuation that's not under your control."

He narrowed his eyes. "While you watch?"

"I am here to coach you through it."

He shook his head emphatically. "No way."

"But Jim--"

"Forget it, Sandburg. I'm not putting on a show."

"I don't know why you have to be so stubborn."

"And I don't know why your ideas always have to put me on the spot in one way or another."

I sighed heavily. "Okay, so what do you suggest then?"

He considered the question a moment and finally said, "If I have to do it, then you do, too."

"You mean..."


"God, Jim, you make it sound like torture or something. That kind of attitude may be part of your problem."


"Okay, Jim."

"Okay, what?"

"Okay, I'll do it too."

"You will?"

I shrugged. "Sure. Fine. Whatever makes you comfortable. I'm going to put the tape in. You might want know, loosen up a bit," I said.

Of course, that instantly made him uptight. "I don't want to..."

"Relax, Jim. We're watching a skin flick, not starring in one. You don't have to take off anything you'd rather keep on or do anything you don't want to do."

He glared at me, but I've been staring down Jim's dark scowls since that first day he came into my office. It didn't phase me at all.

I popped the video into the player and sat down beside him on the sofa, making myself comfortable. The film started, and two minutes later, the screen was filled with naked blondes with big tits, cavorting with one another and two very well-hung young studs. It didn't take long for Mr. Happy to sit up and take notice. I unbuttoned my fly and eased my cock out. I kept watch on Jim out of the corner of my eye. He was staring straight ahead at the television, trying not to pay too much attention to what I was doing. His jaw was set, and I could tell he was trying not to get into it too much. But after a little while, there was a growing bulge in his jeans, evidence that he had at least some interest in the proceedings on screen. The blondes and studs jiggled and bounced and frolicked across the huge satin-covered bed. I stroked my cock, lightly, teasingly, determined to make it last. That was the point after all, to work on stamina. I couldn't be a good surrogate, I reasoned, if I couldn't walk the walk myself.

Jim shifted uncomfortably, his pants getting tighter and tighter, his shoulders tense, trying not to give in to it. I fondled my balls, moaning softly, throwing my head back.

"Damn!" he muttered under his breath.

And then I heard the pop of a button and the sound of his zipper. From the corner of my eye, I could see Jim snake his hand inside his pants, into his underwear. Jim began to stroke himself, sneaking the occasional little peripheral glance at me. I smiled and relaxed against the sofa cushions, picking up the pace, way more turned on by Jim than anything I was seeing on the screen.

Unfortunately, that was when the porno took something of a flowery turn, and the blondes and studs began to act of all things. Hundreds of tapes at the video store, and this was the one I'd picked out, obviously made by some film school wanna be. Whoever thought it was a good idea to try to put meaning into the dialogue of a skin flick was seriously mistaken. Actually, whoever thought a porn film needed dialogue in the first place was disastrously off base.

Jim sighed heavily beside me. "I can't do this to this," he complained.

"Come on, man. It'll pick up in a minute."

But it didn't. It only got worse--heaving bosoms and gyrating buttocks and heavy handed monologues on the nature of desire and completion. Even Mr. Happy, a pretty hardy guy, began to fade a little.

I stole another glance at Jim, and he'd removed his hand from his pants, completely uninterested now.

"Okay, okay," I told him. "I'm turning it off."

I got up, hit the stop button and shut off the TV.

"We tried, Chief," he said, when I sat back down. "It was a good thought."

"We don't have to give up."

"I told you it's not working for me."

"The tape wasn't, no."

"So what are you suggesting?"

"You know, Jim, people did jack off before the invention of the VCR. Think junior high school, man."

"You mean--"

"Yep. A group jerk off, a time-honored tradition among guys everywhere."

"I'll have you know I never did that."

I rolled my eyes. "Uh-huh, sure you didn't."

"I didn't."

"Well, do it now. What do you want to fantasize about?"

"I didn't agree to this."

"But you will, so let's just cut to the chase. So who's your fantasy woman? Emily?"


"Okay, okay. I know. You're too much of a gentleman to go there. So how about Pamela Anderson or one of those Victorias Secret models? Do they do it for you?"

"I am not going to discuss with you who does it for me and who doesn't."

I shook my head. "You're so touchy, sometimes. So, fine, be that way, don't tell me. Just picture whoever it is, your perfect wet dream come to life. Imagine your fantasy person is sitting right beside you on the couch."

"I can't--"

"Yes, you can," I told him sternly. "Now concentrate. Close your eyes. Your fantasy lover is right beside you. What do you want? How does it start?"

He leaned back against the cushions, his eyes shut, frowning. "Uh, well--"

"What do you notice first? Is it how she looks? What you hear?"

"Smell. It's smell."

"That's great, Jim. So how does your fantasy lover smell?"

"Good. Very good. Familiar. Kind of warm and herbally and sweet. But then also sort of deep and dark and musky beneath that. Aroused. Very aroused."

I put my hand back on my cock, lightly stroking myself again. I could feel the heat pouring off Jim, smell his hot, sharp sex scent, and I knew he could sense all the same things coming from me, only so much more so with his Sentinel abilities. I liked that thought. I liked it very, very much.

"That's cool, man. So she's really turned on. She's hot for you. What does she do next?"

Jim kept his eyes closed, and his face screwed up in an expression of confusion. I guess he'd never had phone sex with a woman. He honestly didn't know where to go next with the story.

"Okay, man. I'll tell you what she does. She moves over as close to you as she can get, presses her body against yours. She's teasing, flirting. You can feel her warm breath against your neck. You can hear her heart. It's beating really fast, because she's so excited. She wants you so much."

Having his eyes closed seemed to loosen up some of Jim's inhibitions. He freed his dick from his jeans, and his hand roamed along it and down to his balls. My own dick jumped in my hand as a white-hot jolt of pure, unadulterated, grade-A lust tore through me. I've always had a thing about self-love, one of my kinks, I suppose. I mean, don't get me wrong. I'm not one to pass up erotic company when it comes my way, but there's just something so sexy about taking matters into your own hands. Some people think of masturbation as a sad substitute for sex with a partner, but to me, it's apples and oranges and I wouldn't want to miss out on either one. I love the way you can immerse yourself in your own desires when it's just you and your right hand, become the center of your sensual universe without fear of selfishness, free to go as slow or fast as you please, responsible only for your own gratification.

So being allowed to watch someone else take care of business is a truly amazing thing. Trust is a big turn on. It makes me go all warm and gooey inside that someone would be that vulnerable with me, invite me into their most secret world, allow me to watch, the aching desire, the determined pursuit of pleasure. Then, of course, there was the fact that this was Jim who was making love to himself and letting me watch. Nothing had ever been hotter.

"So what does your mystery lady do next?" I asked him.

"Kisses my neck," he said, eyes still closed, hand working his cock.

"Mmm. You like your neck kissed, huh? Yeah, man. That is nice. But she doesn't just kiss your neck. She makes it her territory, works her way down your throat and then back up again. She kisses behind your ear, along your jawline, on your cheek, your forehead. She can't stop kissing you, and even that isn't enough for her. She's one turned on lady, so hot for you. She latches onto your neck, bites down hard, then soothes it with her tongue, leaving a mark, her mark. She wants you to remember who you belong to."

Jim moaned in the back of his throat and moved his other hand down to cup his balls.

"You like the idea of being marked, huh? You like the idea of being someone else's property, don't you, Jim?"

"Yes," he said, his breath hissing through his teeth.

"What else do you like? What does she do next?"

"Touches my chest."

"Oh, yeah. That always feels good. She's so hot for you tonight that she takes the lead. She does the undressing, undoes your shirt, ever so slowly, one button at a time. She's something of a tease."

"A big tease," Jim managed to say, his face red and sweating, getting really into it by this point.

I smiled to myself. "But that's the way you like it, man. You like it when she takes her time, draws it out, makes you wait. And she's really skilled at it. She knows you so well. She knows just the right way to pull the fabric over your sensitized nipples--oh-so slowly--so that you feel it all the way down to your toes, in your weak knees, in your hot cock. It drives you out of your mind what your dream lover does to you."

Jim nodded. "Makes me crazy. Always has."

"And she loves that. She loves the power she has over you, the power to give pleasure. She leans in closer. You can feel her warm, moist breath on your chest, but that's all. She's not touching you yet. She's just looking, mapping you with her eyes, every inch of flesh. You can feel her gaze moving over you, and it's almost like a caress. Almost. Every nerve ending you have is alive with desire, straining and needy. You desperately want to feel her touch, her skin against yours."


"Finally, when you're straining with need, she does it. She touches you, a light, feather brush of her fingers on your bare skin. But because you've been wanting it so desperately, it arcs through you, like a charge of electricity. Just one soft touch of her warm fingers against your chest, and you're more hard, more needy than you ever could have imagined. Do you feel it, Jim?"

"Yes," he answered, his voice a hoarse grunt, the tendons in his neck standing out with the strain of his pleasure, as he began to stroke himself harder, down the shaft and then circling the head.

I began to squeeze and stroke my own dick more vigorously, wanting to keep up with him, wanting to come at the same time.

"She skims down your chest and across your belly. She loves the feel of your hard muscles beneath her hands, and she lingers, tracing the ridges of your abdomen, lazily, making you shudder all over. Finally, when your whole body is begging for it, she slowly works her way back up again. You're dying for her to do it, to just go ahead and touch your nipples. She's drawing on your body with her finger, moving it over your skin in circles, flirting, getting closer and closer, but not quite touching, until you're shaking so hard you think you can't last one more moment."

Jim made a small whimpering noise in the back of his throat. I knew he must be getting close.

"You nearly jump out of your skin when she does finally start fingering your nipples. The sensation goes straight to your dick, and you feel like you could come just from that. But you're not going to. You hold on. You know how good she's going to make it for you if you last. If it's anything like what she's doing to your tits, you wonder how you'll live through it. She's teasing your nipples, skimming over them very delicately, then pinching them, lightly, just enough to make you insane, careful not to hurt you. She knows you so well, knows your limits. She always seems to know exactly what you need."

"Always," Jim muttered, somewhat incoherently.

"When your sensitive nipples are hard and aching, she finally starts working her way back down your body. Your cock is red and swollen and straining. You've never wanted anything so much in your life as you want her hand wrapped around your dick. She knows you're close now, and she only teases a little. She tugs gently, playfully at your pubic hair. She palms your inner thighs, moving her hands up and down, caressing you. The muscles in your legs begin to tremble. You'd beg her if you could still speak, but you don't have the presence of mind to string two words together. Finally, you feel her fingers, shaking now, because she wants you as much as you want her, tracing the vein down the length of your penis."

Jim grunted, his eyes squeezed tightly shut, the muscles in his arms trembling as he began to pump himself in earnest. I matched my strokes to his, keeping pace with him.

"Uh, she takes you in her hand and starts really, uh…" I said, growing short of breath, on the verge of coming. "You can't take much more. You…"

Jim made a half choked noise. His body went rigid for a moment, and then he climaxed, the milky come pulsing out of him, wave after wave of it.

It was the most amazing thing I'd ever seen, my Sentinel shattered by orgasm, his face twisted with a pleasure so intense it bordered on pain. That was more than enough to send me over the edge, and I came too, in my own hand, fantasizing that it was strong, calloused Sentinel fingers that pulled my orgasm from me.

"Ahhhh! God!" I screamed, riding out the waves of completion.

I flopped back against the cushions, thoroughly worn out. When I had my breath back and my muscles had stopped shaking, I tucked myself back into my pants and zipped up. I turned to Jim. He had already reassembled his clothes and was watching me.

"That was…" he started to say, breaking off with a shake of the head.


He laughed softly. "Yeah, Chief. It was okay, if okay means that I'm half dead."

That made me smile. "Me too," I told him.

"Really?" he asked, seeming genuinely interested.

"Oh, yeah. Wiped me out completely. So I guess whoever you were thinking about really turns you on, huh?"

"Mmm. Sure does."

"And you're sure you don't want to tell me who it is?"

He shook his head, still smiling. "Nope, Chief. That's one secret I'm not planning on sharing with you any time soon. Do you want to tell me who you were thinking about?"

Images flashed through my mind, the same ones I'd been picturing as I jacked off beside him: Jim naked on his bed eager for me to join him, Jim in the shower asking me to wash his back, Jim lubed and ready with his legs spread wide, wanting me inside him.

"No, I guess not," I told him.

"See? Not that it matters much. I know who your fantasy is."

I swallowed hard, a genuine stab of panic lancing my chest. "You do?"

"Sure," he said, his eyes sparkling with mischief. "That new girl down in Records. You should hear how your heart rate shoots through the roof every time we go down there."

"Oh," I said, lowering my eyes, not wanting him to read anything in my face.

It was true. I did get edgy around the new girl in Records whenever we had to go down there together. However, it wasn't because I had a thing for her, but because one day when I'd run into her on the way out of the building, she'd asked me how long Jim and I had been dating. I'd nearly choked on the gum I was chewing and hurried to assure her we were partners purely in the professional sense. But I'd gotten the impression she hadn't quite believed me. I lived in terror that she would say something about it in front of Jim, and he would freak out completely. The last thing I wanted was for him to become weirdly self-conscious around me. That would be dangerous with the Sentinel stuff, and I'd hate for that kind of awkwardness to cloud our friendship.

"It's okay, Chief. I know you'd never do anything about it, since she's married and all," he said, misunderstanding my reaction. "You can't help who you fantasize about."

"No, you sure can't."

"Nothing to be ashamed of."

"Absolutely not," I agreed. "So you kept the sensory stimulation under control?"

"Yeah," he said.

"That's great, man. That's progress."

"Mmm," Jim said, nodding. "So…uh, when do you…when should we…you know, again?"

"Oh," I said, a little surprised that he was handling this so well, that he was eager to keep going with the surrogate thing.

But then again, it must have been a huge relief to him to see that we were making progress. He must have started to hope that we really would fix the problem and he'd be able to go to bed with Emily like he wanted.

"We're on a streak. Let's keep it going. Do you have that stake out tomorrow night or are you free?"

"Simon called it off. The guys across town busted part of the car theft ring, and they ratted out the rest of the people involved."

"So tomorrow then?"

"Yeah. That's good. You know, since we're making progress and all."


"Okay, well, then I guess I'll go get cleaned up a little."

I nodded, and Jim got up from the sofa and headed to the bathroom.

"Hey, Chief?" he called.

"Yeah, Jim?" I said, turning to look at him.


I nodded. "No problem, buddy."

He went into the bathroom and closed the door. I went into my room and flopped down onto the bed. I picked up one of my anthro journals and started flipping pages, not really reading, unable to concentrate.

I knew I should be feeling pretty good. The plan was working. I was helping Jim, just the way I'd wanted, and I'd had the orgasm of a lifetime as a fringe benefit. Hell, Jim had even thanked me, for crying out loud. It should have been some pinnacle in my career as a Guide.

But it wasn't. I can't even explain it. I spent the rest of the evening, long after Jim had turned in, lying there on my bed, pretending to myself that I was reading, trying to figure out why I felt so damned depressed.

The next morning, everything felt like it had gone back to normal, and the out-of-sorts feeling I'd had all night finally lifted. It was a beautiful morning. I appreciated the bright blue sky and the strong, yellow sun, even though I'd had no more than a couple of hours sleep, tossing and turning even after I'd finally put down the anthro journal, still unable to turn off my fitful thoughts.

I got ready and ate breakfast with Jim. We chatted about what we'd be doing that day. I promised to come down to the station to help him catch up on his paperwork for a few hours in the afternoon, but I had to go back to the U. to teach my four o'clock class. We said good-bye and went our separate ways.

It was just the same as all the hundreds of other mornings we'd spent together. Maybe Jim was a little more cheerful. But it was nice weather for a change, and as much as I have the reputation for being ill suited to the Cascade climate, it's Jim that has the Seasonal Affective Disorder, his mood varying wildly depending on how sunny it was. I don't know why, but the normality of it all reassured me. Nothing was wrong. There was no reason to feel bad about anything we'd done last night. No one had been hurt. Nothing had been lost. I kept telling myself that all the way to the university, all day long actually, as I went about my usual routine.

Some small part of me remained unconvinced, but I refused to listen to it.

The next few nights afterwards, we fell into a pattern, the same way we had with the kissing. We'd eat dinner and clean up the kitchen together. Then we'd move to the sofa and do the deed. Answer the bone-a-phone. Crank the shank. Hit the ham. Milk the monkey. Stroke the stallion. It's always amazed me how many colorful ways there are to talk about self pleasure. Every time we jerked off together, we would push Jim's control over his senses a little further, increasing both the stimulation and his stamina.

The second night, we did it quietly, watching each other, getting off on that, in dramatic counter point to the first adventure when Jim had kept his eyes closed the whole time and I'd only been brave enough to sneak the occasional peek at him out of the corner of my eye. This time around, we stared, observed, gawked, without reserve or apology. Hell, I nearly took notes, not that I expected to need such knowledge in the future. I knew our sexual escapades together would end as soon as Jim developed the control he needed to have a normal sex life with women. But still, I was deeply curious about what he liked, what drove him crazy, how he touched himself. I learned plenty: that he prefers a light touch, that he enjoys stroking down the length of his penis and then circling the head, that he likes playing with his balls, that he's both beautifully formed and well endowed.

I know I sound like some kind of voyeur, but I wasn't the only one looking. I swear. Jim was staring at me just as intently as I was watching him. I'd been with guys before, but I'd never had anyone pay such close attention to my cock, regardless of how much they wanted me or how attractive they found me. Maybe it was simply that Jim was a Sentinel, and no one else could pay attention like that. I don't know what it was exactly, but I seriously got off on it. Maybe it tapped into my inner exhibitionist. I don't know. But I'd never felt anything remotely as thrilling as sitting there with my pants open, my privates parts in my hands, loving myself with gusto, watching Jim watching me as he did the same thing to himself.

I really thought it couldn't get any better than that. Until the next night, that is, when I guess you could say that I got caught up in the heat of the moment. Without even thinking, I unbuttoned my shirt and flung it off. I began running one hand over my chest and down my belly, while I played with my cock with the other. I suppose if I'd been thinking clearly it would have occurred to me that Jim might not have been ready for such a step, for more nudity. I mean, it's one thing to take your cock out of your pants just long enough to get off. Somehow, it's another to toss your shirt over the back of the sofa with complete sensual abandon.

It's just as well that I didn't have the presence of mind to worry about it. It would have been wasted effort, and I had a much better use for my energy. Jim watched me undress with something in his eyes...well, the only word I can think of is hunger. He gasped when he saw my naked chest, and then he was scrambling out of his own shirt, casting it aside. And then I was the one gasping. I'd seen Jim's chest before. He runs around the loft with a towel wrapped around his waist often enough. But I'd never seen him shirtless while he was also fisting his cock. Forget staring into the sun. That little tableau was more than enough to scorch my retinas. I'm just glad I didn't go blind. I would have missed one hell of a show.

I rubbed my chest, up and down, in the space between my nipples. Jim started doing the same thing, running his hand over his smooth skin. I moved my hand a little lower, my fingers playing across the muscles of my abdomen, making them tremble. Jim mirrored my actions, and I shook even harder. My hand travelled back up to my nipples, and I teased them lightly, circling first one and then the other. Jim did the same, and my cock jerked in my hand. I fingered my nipples gently and watched Jim play with his own tits, repeating every thing I did to myself on his own body. It was an intoxicating sensual power. I began to pump my cock, squeezing tighter, and Jim did the same thing, his hips thrusting forward as he fucked his hand. I came first, and Jim quickly followed.

I was completely undone. It was the most erotic thing I'd ever experienced in a life dedicated to the pursuit of sensual pleasure.

At least it held that title until the next night when Jim touched me again, the first time since we'd moved on from the kissing stage. I guess I'd been repressing how much I missed the feel of him, having him close to me. I didn't realize it until he reached for me, and then something turned over in my chest, something insistent and grasping and needy, something very much like longing.

We were on the sofa, shirts off, pants open, turned toward each other, watching, going at it, when he reached over with his other hand to brush back the damp hair clinging to my cheek. I couldn't help my reaction. It was instinct. It was that needy thing inside me, demanding expression in the world. I turned my face into his touch and rubbed my cheek against his hand. I was so glad when he didn't freak, didn't pull away. Instead, he began caressing me, tracing the topography of my face with light, tender fingers, tangling his hand into my hair, massaging my scalp. My other hand developed a will of its own and began inching forward along the back of the couch, itchy to touch him in return. But I held myself back, not wanting to cross any boundaries, determined not to break the spell.

Of course, you can never hide anything from a Sentinel.

"It's okay," he told me, squeezing my shoulder reassuringly. "It's okay."

I didn't need any more encouragement than that. I slid my hand over to his arm and began caressing him. I'm really not sure how I survived all that input colliding in my poor, beleaguered brain. Jim's bare skin was smooth and warm and alive beneath my fingers, and his strong muscles rippled and flexed as I touched him. My cock was hot and throbbing in my hand, and I stroked Jim's shoulder and bicep in the same pattern that I touched myself. It really was enough to blow out the circuitry.

He scooted a little closer, and I could feel the heat rising off him. I couldn't imagine what kind of inferno I must feel like to him with the acuity of his Sentinel senses. He leaned forward. It took me a moment to figure out that he wanted to kiss me, and then I leaned into him, giving him the green light. There was some awkwardness as we bent forward to reach each other, careful to keep our lower bodies from touching. But then his mouth found mine, and nothing had ever been that good before. I crooked my arm around his neck, spread my fingers so I could touch his back and neck and shoulder all at the same time. He twined his hand in my hair and slipped his tongue into my mouth. We both worked our dicks, kissing and caressing, connected in a way we'd never been before.

I wanted it to go on forever, but nobody has that much stamina, even without the struggle of overloaded Sentinel senses. Jim tightened his grip on my shoulder, and then he came. I felt the hot, thick spray of his come splashing my leg, and then I was losing it too, gasping his name as I joined him in orgasm.

I expected him to disentangle our bodies right away, but he didn't. He held onto me, petting my hair, rubbing my back, staying with me through the last wave of pleasure. Even then, he didn't seem especially anxious to let go. He smiled at me and brushed the sticky, sweaty hair back from my face. I rested against the sofa cushions, and we just sat there, silently, watching each other, for who knows how long.

Finally, he did move away from me, taking all his warmth with him. I felt the loss, the draft chilly on my bare torso when he was no longer blanketing me. It made me shiver.

He stood up, but lingered there by the sofa a minute, like he wanted to say something. Finally, he just settled for telling me goodnight, and then he headed upstairs, after a brief stop in the bathroom. I lay there on the sofa a long time afterwards, filled with amazement. This was the most intimate sexual experience I'd ever had, and Jim hadn't even touched me below the shoulders.

That got taken care of the fourth night, when Jim finally, really, truly put his hands on me. I'd thought maybe we had gone too far the night before. Maybe he wouldn't want to continue. But after dinner, he joined me on the sofa, just like he had all the nights before. This time, though, he reached for me, wrapped me in his arms, buried his face in my hair and breathed me in. Then he started kissing me, and I was lost, dazed by his heat and urgency, the smell and feel of him, his taste, my own need.

Jim had no stamina problems that night. He took it slow and sweet, touching me deliberately, everywhere. His hands roamed down my arms, across my back, along my neck, into my hair, over my thighs. I was on fire, desperate and trapped in my clothes. Jim must have understood, because he started pulling my shirt out of the waistband, undoing the buttons, pushing it shirt back off my shoulders, all the while still kissing me. I moaned into his mouth. Jim was undressing me. Nothing had ever been more erotic.

I guess he wanted the same experience, because he covered my hands with both of his and moved them to the buttons of his own shirt. I shook as I undid them, my trembling fingers clumsy and inefficient. But he didn't seem to mind. He just sat there watching me and breathing heavily. Finally, I got the shirt open and off him, uncovering all that pristine Jim skin that I longed so desperately to touch. I had been initially shy about touching him the night before, but not now. Now, I ran my hands all over his chest and belly, my palm flat against his smooth, warm flesh. He felt so good. Touching him made my skin sing. It filled me with joy.

Jim seemed to be having the same religious experience touching me, playing in the mat of my chest hair, tracing my ribs. I started circling his nipples, teasing him. He grinned, that wonderful, mischievous smile of his, and mirrored my actions, tormenting me back. I kissed him, demandingly, opening his mouth to my exploration, not taking no for an answer. But from his enthusiastic response, I could tell his answer was yes anyway. As I sucked on his tongue, I fingered his nipples, gently, not wanting to blow out his senses. I could tell they were dialed up. He growled. I'd never heard anyone make a sound like that. Then he was touching me back, rolling and pinching my nipples, and I was making sounds I'd never heard before.

I got kind of lost in all those sensations. It took a while for it to penetrate the sensual fog that Jim was tugging at my jeans, trying to open my button fly. I did it myself and Jim pushed the denim over my hips and down legs. But I still had my shoes on, and the jeans got all tangled up at my ankles. I quickly kicked off my sneakers and jerked the pants off, taking my socks along with them. Jim stood up. For a moment, my heart lurched, afraid that he was changing his mind, leaving me there on the sofa, alone and deeply unsatisfied. But he popped the button on his fly, unzipped his pants and stepped out of them, much more gracefully than I'd managed to get undressed. But still, it accomplished the same thing, leaving us both naked except for our boxers.

He sat back down and pulled me into his arms again, kissing me deeply until we were both out of breath. My cock was throbbing and urgent, and I slipped my hand into my boxers and began fondling myself. Jim eased his underwear past his erection and started doing the same thing to himself. We were much less self-conscious and careful this time than we had been the night before. Jim wound his arm around my waist and pulled me closer. My cock brushed his leg, and we both gasped.

That unleashed something in Jim.

He moved his hand to cover mine, the one stroking my dick, and relinquished his possession of my mouth to ask, "Would this be okay?"

"Yeah," I managed to say, my voice shaking, my hand trembling as I moved it aside, giving myself over to Jim.

And then he did it. He put his hand on my dick and began to explore me, moving his hand up and down, very gently. It was like I'd never had my cock touched before, that's how amazing it felt. He kissed me again, and I couldn't help myself. I was thrusting my dick into his hand and my tongue into his mouth.

I wanted to touch him too. I can't tell you how much I wanted it. But that same hesitancy that I'd felt before gripped me again. It wasn't until he moaned the word "please" beneath my mouth that I dared to reach for him. I don't know how to explain what it was like to touch him so intimately for the first time. His hot flesh was both hard and tender beneath my fingers, and every time I moved my hand, he trembled.

Try to understand. Jim Ellison, the man who never blinked, was shaking with need because of me.

And then there was this very quiet, very subtle thing in the background, like a deep, low hum, a vibration, flowing back and forth between us. I couldn't quite put my finger on what it was. There was only the faintest hint of it, too little to focus on. But it was there. I swear. I felt it.

We kissed and caressed and stroked each other into oblivion. Neither of us won any endurance contests that night, but Jim lasted as long as I did. So I suppose the exercises were having an affect. He came in my hand, and then I came in his. It was everything I'd ever thought it would be--messy, sticky, exhausting.


Jim got up from the sofa, but I was boneless and lazy, too sated to move. I heard him head to the bathroom, and then he came back a few minutes later, already cleaned up, bringing me a washcloth. I reached for it, but he gently batted my hand away and washed the come off my chest and belly for me. The simple tenderness of the gesture was as moving as the sex itself. He smiled at me, wordlessly, but his face was more open than I'd ever seen it, speaking volumes, thanking me. He returned the washcloth to the bathroom and then headed for the stairs, ready to turn in for the night. I watched him go, wanting to say something, but there really was nothing to say. Jim had the right idea with his quietude. Some experiences are simply outside of words, and this was most definitely one of them.

At the foot of the steps, he turned around to look at me, and I couldn't tear my eyes away from him. Suddenly, I had the same sensation as when he'd first put his hand on my cock, even clearer now, of some kind of vital connection forming between us. I stared at Jim so hard it was like I was trying to see through him. I just wanted some confirmation that this wasn't all in my imagination. But Jim's openness from only a moment before had disappeared. His face wasn't hard or set, but it was opaque, unreadable. He turned away again and headed upstairs. I sat there a while longer, just staring into space, too worn out to make myself get up, too confused to even try to figure out whatever this thing was.

Real life intervened over the next few days. Jim ended up working pretty much around the clock on a high profile kidnapping case. The daughter of the local Fortune 500 billionaire had been abducted by a disgruntled former employee. Luckily, Jim was able to detect a trace amount of a rare mineral in mud the perpetrator had tracked into the family's mansion when he'd taken the girl, and the Major Crimes team was able to storm the perp's hideout in an abandoned smelting factory before anything happened to her. I owed my committee the next chapter of my dissertation, and I had to pull a couple of all-nighters to make the necessary edits, which left me both wiped out and cranky. So, of course, we had to put off further work on Jim's senses until we'd finished with all that.

Taking a bit of a break proved to be a good thing. It gave me a chance to regroup and think about what I was doing with Jim, to remember what I'd promised myself at the outset, that this would be about restoring his life, not living out some fantasy of mine. I'd managed to lose sight of that somewhere along the line. All those nights making out on the sofa with him, and I hadn't bothered to ask any questions about the experience. I hadn't gathered any data. True, he'd apparently had no problems, able to go the distance without becoming overwhelmed by the sensory stimulation. But I knew that if we didn't isolate what was going on when he managed to control his senses during a sexual experience, then it would always remain unpredictable. He wouldn't really be in control of it. And that was the point, after all, for him to be able to have normal sexual relations whenever he chose.

By the time Jim and I were both free again to continue our work together, I'd managed to re- engage the scientific portion of my brain and had assessed the data I had. It was obvious that Jim had already achieved greater control over his senses. Now, it was time to up the ante, to try a more sophisticated level of stimulation, to concentrate more on touch, the sense that always sent Jim over the edge and caused his premature ejaculations.

On the way home, I stopped off at my favorite herb store and picked up some massage oil that I'd used on Jim after he'd pulled a muscle chasing down a drug-hyped suspect. The scent was extremely light and hadn't bothered Jim's nose. In fact, he'd liked it.

That evening, after we'd finished our Chinese takeout, Jim looked at me expectantly.

"I was thinking we could try something new," I told him.

"Oh?" he said, curiously.

"Yeah. You feeling up to it?"

He grinned. "Depends on what you had in mind."

I smiled back at him. "Nothing painful. I promise."

"Well, in that case, just tell me what you want to do."

"I was thinking I could give you a massage."

"Oh, yeah. That sounds good. My shoulders are tight from hunching over the computer all day. My partner went MIA and left me with all the paperwork to do myself."

I rolled my eyes. "That's just great, man. It's good to know what you think I'm good for."

He leaned in a little, a naughty sparkle in his eyes. "You know I think you're good for lots of things, Chief."

I blushed. I actually blushed. I hadn't done that since I was in the fourth grade.

"Uh...yeah, man. Like waiting in the truck and calling for back up," I said, tossing the joke back at him, trying to distract him from the warm flush coloring my face.

"So how do you want to proceed, buddy?" he asked.

"Why don't you go take a shower to relax a little first? Then come lie down on my bed, and I'll give you the massage."

He clapped me on the back. "Sounds good to me."

He got up from the sofa and headed to the bathroom.

"Uh, Jim?" I called to him.

He turned around. "Yeah, Chief?"

"You do understand that I mean a sensual massage, right?"

For a moment, something flickered in his expression, but then it was gone.

"Yeah, Chief. I understand," he said and disappeared into the bathroom.

I could hear the water start, and I sat there a little while, just listening, letting the steady, soothing sound lull me, calm me. I knew I needed to keep my wits about me if I was going to be useful to Jim. I pulled myself together, got up from the couch and headed into my bedroom, to get everything ready. I poured some of the scented oil into the warmer and lit the candle beneath it. I also lit a few of my meditation candles, suffusing the room in a warm, rosy glow, much more soothing than the artificial sharpness of electric lights. I spread a chenille blanket out on the bed, a fabric that would feel soft and soothing against Jim's sensitive skin. Finally, I stripped down to my boxers, so Jim wouldn't feel self-conscious about being naked with me.

He came out of the bathroom, a towel wrapped around his waist and joined me. He cleared his throat, shifting his weight, looking a little nervous. "So, uh, what should I--"

"Go ahead and lie down, Jim. The oil should be warm enough by now. We can get started."

He stretched out, settling onto his stomach, the towel still in place. I knelt beside him, lightly caressed his shoulder, and stroked his forehead along his hairline.

"Would it be okay if we got rid of the towel?" I asked him.

"Uh, yeah, I guess so."

"Only if you're sure."

"Yeah, Chief. It's okay," he said and pulled it out from under his body, letting it fall to the floor.

Oh, my God. I can't even begin to tell you how gorgeous he looked lying there, head resting on his folded arms, his back moving up and down with his breathing, watching me with an expression that was both shy and curious at the same time. I mean, I'd seen him in intimate detail before, but never completely naked, laid out before me, waiting for my touch. It took a huge force of will to snap myself out of my wild erotic imaginings, all the selfish, sexy things I suddenly wanted to do to him, wanted him to do to me, wanted us to do to each other.

I checked the oil, and it felt warm enough, not too hot. I took a small amount in my palm and worked it between my hands.

"Are you ready, man?"

He nodded, his eyes already closed, in anticipation, his body relaxed now. I thought I was ready, thought I was prepared. But I put my hands on him, and it shook me. I never really knew how beautiful a man's back could be. I have to admit to not always appreciating the subtler sensual pleasures, often distracted by abundant breasts or a generous manly endowment. But, my God, Jim's back is a pristine work of art. It's not simply that he has muscles all over the place. It's that the architecture comes together in such a flawless way, a study in strength and vulnerability, like Jim himself.

I hitched up my self-control and began to lightly massage him, across his shoulders, along his arms, down that glorious back of his, keeping my touch gentle, not a rubdown, but an exploration, a worshipful caress. It was probably the most silent I've ever been in my life. I felt what other people must experience when they walk into a church, a hushed sense of awe, beyond all words. I can't even begin to describe what it was like to have the coiled power of Jim's body beneath my hands, relaxed and trusting, each individual muscle oiled and gleaming in the diffuse candle light.

I was so hard I hurt.

I stroked him everywhere. After I finished his upper body, I moved down to the end of the bed and went to work on his feet and ankles, the corded muscles of his calves, those powerful thighs, even the high, rounded mounds of his ass, keeping my touch especially light there, not letting myself linger. When I was ready for him to change position, I put my hand on his shoulder to guide him onto his back. He hesitated a moment, and then he rolled over. He was hard too, so beautiful, his cock rosy and leaking, jutting out from the nest of dark curls, curving up toward his belly. He stared up at me uncertainly, need and a million questions in his eyes, and then I leaned over and kissed him. I couldn't help myself. I just wanted him so badly, wanted to touch him, to give him whatever he needed.

But then I made the mistake of reaching for his cock.

"No, Blair!" he tried to warn me.

It was too late though. I already had my hand on him, and he came, making this anguished animal sound of disappointment as his come pulsed out of him, all over my hand. His squeezed his eyes tightly shut and panted raggedly, even after it was over.

"Hey, man, don't sweat it. Next time, we'll--"

Before I could finish, he scrambled past me off the bed, stormed out of the room and slammed the bathroom door so hard the walls shook again.

I cursed silently to myself. Just brilliant, Sandburg. I got up and went to knock on the bathroom door.

"Jim? Hey, man, it's okay. Come out and let's--"

"Leave it alone, Chief."

"But Jim--"

"I don't want to talk about it."

"Jim, just listen to me a minute. This is precisely why we're working on this, to understand what happens to you and how we can manage it. There's nothing to be ashamed of."

"I'm sorry," he finally said, so softly I could barely make it out with my non-Sentinel hearing.

"There's nothing to be sorry for, Jim. I'm not upset. That's why we're doing this. Please, come out so we can talk. I hate having to yell through the door."

I heard him turn on the water, splashing in the basin, and then a few minutes later he came out, a towel wrapped around his waist.

"Come on, man. Let's go sit on the couch."

He followed me into the living room to the sofa, a little reluctantly, but I appreciated that he was making the effort.

"I know you may not think so, but it's actually a good thing this happened."

He snorted.

"No, really, man. You always learn more in an experiment from what goes wrong than from what goes right. Up until now, you haven't really had any problems controlling your senses during our…sessions together. So we haven't had the opportunity to figure out what the key factors are. But now we do. That's good. So can you tell me? Do you know what was different this time?"

He scrunched up his forehead and thought. "I don't know, Chief. I thought everything was fine, but then suddenly the dial just went through the roof."

"Too much stimulation?"

"I just wasn't quite prepared for your…uh, touching me there. I was already so focused on touch from the massage, and when you put your hand on me--" He lowered his eyes. "My senses just went crazy."

I nodded. "Yeah, I kind of rushed things there. I'm sorry about that, Jim. So it sounds like it's important to have a variety of stimulation, to not get over-focused on one sense for too long."

He considered that. "Yeah, that sounds right. When we were together before, I was using all my senses pretty equally. I was paying attention to how you look. I was kissing you and getting your taste, listening to you, the tone of your voice and the things you were saying."

"Well, that helps explain what just happened. You were face down most of the time, so you couldn't see me. Plus, I got so…distracted by what I was doing that I fell down on the job talking to you."

He shook his head. "It's not your fault, Chief. You've been great to me."

"And it's not your fault, either. We just need to process all this and adjust for it the next time."

"Next time?"

"Yeah," I said and then got worried. "You're not giving up on me, are you?"

"No, no. I just wasn't sure you'd want to…after, well, you know."

"Hey, Jim, we're partners. We're in this together. You can't help what happened. And the last thing I'd do is give up on you."

"I just thought you might feel…kind of, well, disappointed. I thought you'd be mad."

"Is that how the women you were with reacted?"

He nodded.

"Well, I'm not them. I'm here to help you master this, and you will get there. It's just going to take some practice, and that means there are going to be ups and downs. It's completely to be expected. So there's never any need to feel bad. Okay?"

He nodded. "Okay, Chief. Thanks."

"No prob. Now, can you think of anything else that may have pushed the dial up?"

He frowned, considering the question. "Your scent. It was kind of overwhelming."

"Makes sense. My room probably wasn't the best idea. So next time we'll have to make sure it's somewhere else."

"So could we try it again?" Jim asked.

"Of course. Tomorrow when we get home from work?"

"I was thinking more like now."

"Uh…do you really think you'll be able to…" I broke off with a wave of the hand, not wanting to come right out and impugn Jim's virility.

He smiled, a little shyly. "Probably not," he admitted. "But you didn't finish. I want to take care of that."

"Jim, this isn't about me."

"You keep saying that, and I hate it. Look, Chief, I don't want to feel like I'm just using you. It's not right that you get me off, and I leave you unsatisfied. What kind of partners would that make us?"

"It's really not necessary--"

He moved his hand to my groin and touched me through my underwear. I was still half hard from before. He began to stroke me, and my cock swelled and hardened beneath his hand. "I'd say there's a part of you that doesn't really agree with that," he said, smiling, his voice low and raspy and hot. I couldn't help it. My hips began to move, thrusting forward, trying to get more of that exquisite torment.

"Come upstairs with me, huh?" he asked. "I don't want to jerk you off on the sofa. I want to make it good for you. I want to go slow and touch you all over."

"God, Jim."


"Oh, yeah. Yeah."

He took my hand, pulled me up off the sofa and led me upstairs. He turned down the bed while I lingered nervously by the railing, and then he came over to me, touched my face, looked into my eyes.

"Are you okay?"

I nodded, licking my lips, a little nervous, which I'm sure he realized.

"If I do anything you don't like, you just let me know."

I nodded again, although when I really thought about it I couldn't imagine anything he'd do to me that I wouldn't be begging for. He kissed me, and then put his hand on my hip, stroking me through the thin cotton of my boxers.

"Can I take these off?" he asked.

I swallowed hard. Despite all the things we'd done together, this felt different, and I was nervous. This time, it wasn't about helping him with his senses. It was simply Jim making love to me.

I nodded, and he pulled them down my legs, careful of my erection. I held onto his arm for balance as I stepped out of them and kicked them away. He let the towel slip from around his own waist, not bothering to pick it up off the floor, a truly amazing compliment coming from Jim. He pulled me against him, and we were finally naked in each other's arms, bare flesh pressed to bare flesh. I gasped, and Jim smiled, a little smugly, pleased with himself. I started moving against him, teasing him with my body hair, and he made this sound...well, I've never heard anything quite like it. I started to feel pretty smug myself.

He maneuvered me over to the bed, kissing me as we went. It was becoming apparent that Jim really liked to kiss, which was an excellent stroke of luck since he was so good at it. We lay down together, and he lingered, just holding and kissing me for a good long while.

And I loved it. You have to understand how revolutionary that was coming from me. I would never shortchange my lovers on foreplay, but when it came to my pleasure, I'd always been a main event kind of guy. I wanted action, as much of it as I could get, as soon as I could get it. Once again, I have to admit to lacking subtlety. But with Jim, it was almost like I was somebody else, a master of nuance. The simple act of kissing had never seemed more complex or felt more satisfying. The last thing I wanted was to rush through any of its finer points. I was determined to have every moment with Jim that I possibly could get.

After some time, he did finally pull back and start to explore the rest of my body. He was as good as his word. There was no part of me he didn't investigate, using his skilled mouth, teasing fingers, that wicked, wicked tongue. His hands sifted gently through my hair, caressed my scalp, as if he were gathering topographical information, memorizing the shape of my bones. He surveyed the expanse of my chest, inspected each rib in its turn, probed delicately at my arm pits, delved into the hollows below my collarbone, studied my nipples with curious, questing fingers as if he was learning the braille of my body. All of his prospecting was so slow and thorough and maddening that he had me screaming his name and gasping for air and begging him pitifully, the last shred of my pride a dim memory.

Jim could have been a scientist, if that's where his interests had led him. He has the patience and the deliberation. He would not be rushed from his sensual investigations, no matter how insistent I became, no matter how much I demanded that he let me come. He moved lazily down to the end of the bed, took my feet in his hands and rested them on his thighs. He inspected them at his leisure, traced the long bones, playfully tugged at my toes like they were little piggies going to market, which made me laugh despite the urgency of my need. He explored each arch and instep, and perused the architecture of my ankles. His hands journeyed upwards: achilles tendon to my calves to the hard knots of my kneecaps and the hollows behind my knees. He lavished so much attention on my thighs, searching out the secrets of my flesh, that my muscles were shaking uncontrollably by the time he finally finished. He placed his hands in the twin triangular hollows created by my hip bones, as if he was researching how well we fit together. His fingers settled naturally into the indentations, giving him the perfect place to hold onto me, and he smiled, as if this truly delighted him.

"Please?" I asked him, quietly, simply, beyond even begging.

He smiled again and kissed me. Then he leaned over my belly and pressed a kiss to my cock. I sucked in my breath and bucked up from the bed. I was expecting his fingers, not his mouth, not his sweet, warm breath in maddening little puffs on my hard, desperate flesh. He took me in his hand and began to string little kisses down the length of my cock. There were sounds coming out of me that didn't even sound human, that I couldn't stop. He licked his lips and hesitated for a minute, looking a little unsure. I wanted to ask him if he'd done this before, to tell him it was okay if he decided he didn't want to. But I couldn't really talk, and if he had pulled away from me then, I think it would have killed me. He didn't though. He didn't stop. Instead, he flicked out his tongue and circled it around the head of my cock, tasting me. He made a contented little grunting sound like he appreciated my flavor, and then he began to lick me more voraciously, like I was his favorite treat, an ice cream cone on a hot summer day, taking long swipes down the shaft with his tongue, swirling around the top, occasionally sucking, enjoying himself thoroughly, making little appreciative noises the whole time.

I can't tell you what that was like, to watch all the gorgeous, hot, sexy things he was doing to me and to know that he loved doing it, almost as much as I loved having it done.

While he sucked me, he traced light little patterns on my hip with his fingers. He explored my balls, making the fire in my belly burn hotter, making me want him even more. He traced the delicate line of skin behind my balls, and every muscle in my body involuntarily began to shake. Finally, he reached a little further, between my cheeks, his fingers more tentative now, and began to stroke the entrance to my body. I wiggled my hips, inviting him inside, but he didn't penetrate me. He just kept caressing--circling and rubbing and flirting with that sensitive spot. Nothing had ever felt more intimate to me, the way Jim was devouring my cock with gusto while he touched me so gently, so reverently in my most private place.

I knew I was going to come soon, and I didn't want to take too many liberties with Jim, especially since it was his first time going down on a guy. I pushed at his shoulders to warn him, and when that didn't work, I tried bucking up to dislodge him. But he simply held my hips down and started sucking me in earnest. It knocked the wind out of me. I could feel my balls drawing up, but I couldn't tell him. Of course, Jim knew anyway. He is a Sentinel, after all. He knew I was close, and he wanted me to come in his mouth. I could feel something pressing into my thigh. Jim was hard again, turned on by touching and tasting me, and now he was rubbing against me, getting himself off. That was what finally pushed me over the edge. I came abruptly, in hard, intense waves, one right after the next, strenuous pleasure, as if the very life were pulsing out of me. Jim's mouth stayed on me the whole time, and when he came, his hot essence splashed over my leg and hip. I could feel his gasps and moans against my highly sensitized flesh, and I came again in another hot surge, my body sputtering, not enough semen left in me to ejaculate properly.

I don't remember much after that. I must have passed out. I only vaguely recall a warm, wet tickle at my groin, on my belly, across my chest, the gentle rolling of the bed and the feel of something warm and solid settling against my back. When I woke up in the morning, I was still in Jim's arms, my head pillowed on his chest, his arms wrapped around me, both of us surprisingly unsticky. I realized that Jim must have cleaned us up before he fell asleep. It was oddly touching, having him take care of me like that.

My brain was still terribly foggy, and I closed my eyes again, making myself comfortable in Jim's arms, like I was perfectly at home there, feeling more satisfied than I had in recent memory, or possibly ever. But it did eventually catch up to me through my bleariness, the unwelcome recognition that Jim and I weren't really lovers, that he'd just been repaying what he felt was a debt for my helping him with his senses, that I didn't really belong in his bed or his arms.

It hurt me, that realization.

And that must have made my heart race, because Jim woke up and began to rub my back in light circles meant to comfort, holding me closer. Knowing he was no longer asleep, though, only made me more tense. My whole body coiled, ready to jump up when he fully regained consciousness and got pissed off that I'd fallen asleep in his bed. But a few minutes went by and he didn't yell at me. He just lay there, eyes closed, resting, still absently stroking my shoulders.

When I didn't settle down, he finally asked me, "Everything okay, Chief?"

"I'm sorry," I told him.

He opened his eyes to look at me and frowned when he saw my worry. "Why?"

"I didn't mean to pass out on you like that. You could have woken me up and sent me back downstairs."

"You were fine here."

"I mean, it's not like we're..."

"After all you've done for me, Chief, the least I could do is let you stay put when you'd already fallen asleep."

"I hope you didn't mind too much."

"Of course not. And thank you. For last night. For not getting pissed when I..." he broke off, embarrassed.

"I meant what I said. There was nothing to be pissed about."

"Thanks, Chief," he said softly and kissed me on the forehead, before gently rolling me off him and getting up. "First dibs on the shower," he called playfully and headed downstairs.

I groaned and pulled the sheet over my head, lying there until I heard the water start running in the bathroom and I figured I'd better get up before Jim came back. I slipped my boxers on and padded downstairs to the kitchen to fix the coffee. When Jim came out of the bathroom, I took my turn.

We both got dressed and sat down to breakfast together. We ate our cornflakes and read the paper in companionable silence like we always did, going back to our usual way of being, as we had every morning after our sensual forays. But it wasn't like those other mornings. Before, I'd been able to refocus my attention, to remember this was all about science and helping Jim with his senses. But that morning, I couldn't get my mind off how it felt to have him make love to me, the images flashing through my mind like an erotic movie. If I let myself, I could easily recall how his hands and lips and tongue had felt on my skin, learning me, owning me. I would never forget how safe and complete I'd felt waking up in his arms, how sweet that little kiss to my forehead was, how he'd thanked me for letting him love me.

I watched Jim innocently perusing the sports section while he drank his coffee, oblivious to all the tangled, sweltering thoughts that were tying me up inside. For the first time since we'd started this, I truly understood what serious trouble I was in.

Surrogate concluded in Part Three.

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