I really don't have an excuse for what I did after that, for how I misused my power as Jim's guide. If it makes a difference, I wasn't remotely proud of myself. I just needed him so badly.
So even though I should have called a stop to the whole thing, I didn't, and every evening, we'd head upstairs and go to bed together. Even those nights he went out after work, I assumed to see Emily, we still always winded up naked in his bed when he got home. Jim may have thought we were working on his senses, but in my head, we were making love. All that sucking and kissing and rubbing against each other...it was all just because we wanted it, not an experiment, not therapy. Emily didn't exist. I wasn't Jim's surrogate. I was his lover, the only one he needed.
The one chink in the make believe was that I always got up and went back to my own bed when it was over, afraid of what I might reveal if I spent the night in his arms again.
Even though I had pretty much checked out of my role as Jim's guide, he intuitively figured out the key to controlling his senses himself. I guess it really was just a matter of practice. Eventually, no matter how frenzied I became, no matter how heatedly I licked or fondled him, he could handle it. He could go the distance. A part of me felt joyously relieved, so happy that Jim could have his life back again, full and complete, deprived of nothing for being a Sentinel. Another part of me, not my best self, grew increasingly desperate and forlorn, knowing it would all end soon, no more seeing Jim naked or touching him or having him kiss me. No more making love to him, ever. That thought touched some frantic, half strung place inside me, and I was a demented force of need in bed, determined to love him so fiercely that it would always be imprinted on me. I wanted to create memories so powerful that they would sustain me, carry me through all the cold days after he stopped touching me.
Jim didn't seem to be troubled about anything. In fact, he was in the best mood of his life. I'd hear him whistling in the shower or humming some Santana song under his breath while he cleaned up the kitchen. I figured things must be going pretty well with Emily, now that he'd made so much progress with his senses.
Finally, I asked him one evening after he'd come home from one of his dates. I waited for him to sit down beside me on the sofa, and then I turned to him and asked, "Are you and Emily doing okay? I mean, you can probably...you know now. You seem to have a handle on your senses."
He looked confused for a minute, and then said, "Oh, yeah. Yeah. I guess."
"So have you?"
He looked away. "No, not... We just haven't gotten around to it."
"Why?" I asked, suddenly concerned. "Is there some problem I don't know about?"
He shook his head. "No, Chief, no. I would have told you. I suppose I just... I don't feel that secure yet."
"Hmm," I said, thinking that over, an idea hitting me. "Is it because you're worried about intercourse?"
"What?" he asked, coloring a little.
"That's the only thing we haven't...uh, practiced."
"No. I don't know. It's kind of..."
"Because I could help you with that."
Even as I said it, I knew I was going to end up in some circle of hell reserved for bad, selfish, manipulative guides who took advantage of their innocent, trusting Sentinels. But the minute, the thought flashed through my mind I knew I had to make it happen.
Jim froze. "What... No, Chief, no. No way!"
"If you've never had sex like that before, I promise you it's not as disgusting as it might seem."
"God, Blair, it's not that. Disgusting is the last thing... It's just too much. I can't take that from you. I can't. It's not right."
"It's not like... You wouldn't exactly be the first, Jim."
Jim's face betrayed his shock, although he quickly tried to cover it up. "Still..."
"I'm offering. You're not taking anything from me. I want to... I want to do this."
"But why?" he asked, watching me so intently that I couldn't look away.
"Because I need to finish what I started," I told him, and there was a weird sort of truth in that. I knew I would never feel complete until he'd possessed me.
"Come to bed with me. Please."
He looked so torn, and suddenly, I knew he wanted it too. Maybe not as desperately as I did, but he did want it.
"Wait for me upstairs," I told him. "I'm going to take a shower, and then I'll join you."
I hurried through the clean up, retrieved a tube of lube from my room, and rushed upstairs to Jim. He was lying on the bed, naked, waiting for me, just as I'd asked him, already hard. I hoped it was because of all the steamy things he imagined doing to me.
I lay down beside him, and he buried his face in my hair, breathing me in. "Mmm. So good," he murmured.
We kissed and touched and explored each other's bodies. I will never be able to explain adequately what it's like to have a Sentinel make love to you. Every time he touched me, Jim learned me, read my reactions, until he knew my secrets, every last sweet spot and hot button, until he could stroke and pluck and play me like a virtuoso with a violin. He had me sobbing and shrieking and chanting his name, begging him to go ahead and do me, immediately, take me, right that minute.
But he didn't. He wouldn't rush. He was careful with me in the same way a curator might handle a priceless vase, as if I were precious, breakable, and it was his sacred responsibility to protect me. It didn't seem to matter to him that I'd done this before. He teased and stroked and played with me back there, stretching me, lubing me deep inside, massaging that electric place inside me that sent hot, violent waves of pleasure surging through my whole body. He never stopped kissing me, sweetly exploring my mouth as he tenderly opened my body.
By the time he finally entered me, I was practically reduced to tears. Every muscle I had was like jelly, and my universe had been reduced down to the ache in my cock and the empty, slick place between my cheeks where I desperately needed him. He pushed slowly inside, gently, letting me get used to him, inch by inch, until he was finally all the way in, filling me. He began to move, only a little at first, letting the rhythm gradually build, until he was thrusting inside me in long, smooth strokes.
That tingling connection that I'd only vaguely felt before plowed into me headlong, an almost unimaginable sense of belonging, profound and dizzying. I finally understood what all those words really meant: to be taken, filled, possessed, entered, penetrated. I could see now that I'd never actually given myself to anyone before. I'd only ever fucked, which was nothing compared to the way I opened myself to Jim, taking him inside me, welcoming him, not just into my body, but into my soul, until he was an inseparable part of me.
I came first, and then he came inside me. He collapsed on top of me, and I held onto him, as hard as I could, dreading the moment when he would pull out and we would be separate again. But eventually, he did soften and slip from my body. It hurt, not physically, not because he was rough in any way, because he was very careful. It was just that I knew this first time would also be the last, the only. He'd go back to Emily, and I'd have to live with a loss the size of Montana ripping me apart.
He rolled over onto his side and pulled me to him, enfolding me in his arms. I tensed and pulled back, scooting over to the edge of the bed.
"I should go," I said.
"You don't have to."
"I'll just fall asleep."
He smiled. "That's the point."
"You won't want..."
"I didn't mind the other time, did I?'
"But that was an accident. I passed out."
"Look, Chief, I don't make it a habit of kicking my lovers out of bed. I'm certainly not going to treat you that way. Now come here."
I can usually win a battle of wills with Jim, but occasionally, he'll get this tone in his voice that means there's really no use arguing with him. This was one of those moments. I sighed and gave up, let him pull me back onto the bed, spoon up behind me. I can't tell you how much I just wanted to go off alone somewhere, cry myself into a stupor or scream my head off, so long and so loudly that I lost my voice. It was sheer agony to feel Jim's solid weight pressed against my back, to have his arms wrapped around me, to feel his breath against my cheek, knowing none of this intimacy would ever be mine again. I thanked every god I could think of that Naomi had taught me how to meditate when I was still in diapers, that she'd encouraged me to practice and keep it up. It was the only way I managed to stay there in his arms as if nothing were wrong when there was an agonized crater the size of the Grand Canyon in my chest. I lay there quietly and concentrated on keeping my heart rate low and my breathing steady. I could feel Jim drift off to sleep, until he began to snore softly. I didn't even bother to close my eyes. I felt so sick at heart I couldn't imagine ever being able to sleep again.
After that, it occurred to me that there just might be some things you have to pay for, some forbidden pleasures that will cost you. You look into the sun, you go blind. Alex saw the eye of God and went mad. Maybe there's always a price tag to the truly enormous experiences in life, the ones that should never have been ours in the first place, that we had no right to.
The next few days, Jim went out in the evenings, with Emily I presumed, and I went to bed early so I wouldn't have to hear about it when he got home. He was still whistling and humming, making jokes and laughing like he didn't have a care in the world. He was so relaxed and happy all the time, such a perfect picture of well-being that Simon asked me if he had started taking vitamins or had found some new high energy workout.
I felt like a jealous spider, lurking and watching, checking Jim over every chance I got, not always discreetly, looking for signs of whatever it was he was doing with Emily. I would scour the loft whenever he was out, inspecting it, wondering if they'd been there, if they'd had sex up in his room, where he'd so recently made love to me. I half wished I was the Sentinel and could ferret out the evidence that would answer my questions, although there was a part of me that was relieved I wasn't and didn't have to know.
Every night, alone in my small bed, I tossed and turned for hours on end, and whenever I did finally fall asleep, I was plagued by hellish nightmares. I dreamed of Jim using all the things I'd taught him with Emily, doing all the sexy, sweet things he'd done to me to her now. I'd wake up feeling cold and desolate, dangerously incomplete, like someone had removed a rib and left a gaping hole in my side, my other half, my Sentinel, stolen away from me. I always thought heart break was something they invented in romance novels or Hallmark cards, overwrought and melodramatic. I never knew before how accurate those words could be, how perfectly they describe the sensation of ultimate loss, that shattered feeling in your chest, like the shards of your former happiness are cutting into you, making you bleed.
I became listless, and I was freezing to death all the time, no matter how many layers of clothes I put on. I didn't know if it was just depression or some bizarre Guide-related physiological response to what had happened between me and Jim. Either way, I felt like shit, both physically and emotionally. And Jim's freakish good humor only made it worse. The more cheerful he became, the more he looked like a man in love, having the best sex of his life, the more I wondered how I was ever going to survive.
And then one day it all broke open, and I knew I couldn't stay with Jim any longer, not if I didn't want to lose my mind completely, die a little more inside every day.
I was on my way into the station that afternoon to help Jim on a case when I saw him with Emily outside the PD building. They were talking and she was smiling at him. As she was leaving, she stood on her tiptoes and kissed him on the cheek. I froze right where I was standing. My first impulse was rage. I just wanted to scream at her to get away, that he was mine. But then the sick realization hit me, that Jim never had been mine and never would be. I turned around in my tracks and practically ran back down the sidewalk, headed to the loft.
I can't really tell you what I was thinking. I doubt was actually thinking much of anything at all, more just acting on instinct. I rushed home, went to my room and started throwing stuff into my suitcases in a panic. I didn't fold anything. I wasn't the least bit careful. I haphazardly shoved clothes and books and native artifacts into any available bag. The only thing I clearly remember is the driving sense that I couldn't take it any more, that I had to get the hell out of there.
I had no sense of how much time passed. I must have gone into my own version of a zone out, completely focused on getting my shit together so I could get out of there. I didn't hear the door open. I didn't hear Jim calling my name. I didn't know he was home until he was standing right over me and nearly scared me senseless.
"Fuck! Do not sneak up on me like that," I barked at him.
"I was practically yelling your name."
"Well, I didn't hear you."
"I've been trying to call you for over an hour."
"I didn't hear that either."
"What are you doing, Chief?"
"I just... I can't stay here any more. I have to get out of here."
"I need to leave. I have to go."
"Why? Did I do something? Is something wrong? Are you in some kind of trouble? Chief, please, tell me what's going on."
"I can't talk about it. I'm sorry. I've just gotta go. I'll have someone come over and get the rest of my things."
"Is this about what we've been...how you've been helping me?"
I couldn't answer that question. I hurriedly began zipping up the suitcases, my hands shaking.
"It is, isn't it?" he said. "Damn it! I knew this would happen. Chief, please. Can't we talk about it? Give me a chance. Let me find a way to make it up to you."
I shook my head. "I can't. I'm sorry," I said, my voice choked and shaky.
He sounded more desperate than I'd ever heard him. "You said this wouldn't come between us. I should have know. I should never have taken advantage of you like this. I knew you'd push yourself too far and then regret it. It was way too big a sacrifice."
That pushed me over the edge. "Oh, yeah. It was a huge fucking sacrifice," I said, snapping completely. "Making love with the only person I've ever cared about. How the hell did I ever stand it?"
Jim stared at me. "What? What did you say?"
"I said that I loved it. I loved every last minute of it. Nobody has ever touched me the way you did. Nobody has ever been so careful with me, turned me on so much. And I can't bear to stay here and watch you throw all that away on some woman who could not possibly love you the way I do."
"What?" he asked, wild-eyed with confusion.
"I love you, damn it. I'm in love with you. And I probably always have been, only I didn't know it until I'd already started this stupid surrogat thing and it was too late. So now you know what a horrible person I am, that I should have stopped it but I didn't, that I used it to get close to you. And while I should feel really bad about that, the only thing I honestly regret is that it's over now, that you don't need me any more, that I'll never get to make love with you again. That breaks me, man. I can't bear it. I can't just stand by gracefully and watch you ride off into the sunset with Emily. I'm not that big a person. And that's why I have to get out of here."
"There is no Emily, Chief. Not any more. Not since--"
"I broke up with her."
"When? But I saw you today, just a few hours ago. She kissed you."
"I just happened to run into her. We ended on good enough terms that we can still be friendly. She asked why I looked so happy, and I told her. She was wishing me well."
"Falling in love. Getting close enough to the person I care about to start to believe he loves me back."
"He?" I asked, the truth beginning to filter through my misery. "Me?"
"Of course, you. Who else?"
"You love me?"
"But you never... I never thought... Does this mean you just figured it out the same as me?"
"No, Chief, I've always known, since the first month or so you lived here."
"You've been in love with me for three years, and I never had a clue?"
He nodded, suddenly looking weary and sad. "This whole surrogate idea of yours was hell on earth. On the one hand, it was every wet dream I've ever had come to life. On the other, it sucked to be so close to what I wanted and have it all be an illusion. Not to mention how guilty it made me feel, like I was taking advantage of you in the worst possible way, especially when you suggested...when I..."
"But it wasn't like that. I wanted you, I loved you the whole time."
He pulled me into his arms and hugged me so hard my ribs hurt, not that I minded.
"You won't leave now, will you?" he asked, his voice low and pleading.
"No, no, of course not. I never wanted to leave. I just couldn't handle it when I thought... But there's something I don't understand. Where were you all those nights if you'd already broken up with Emily?"
He cleared his throat. "Uh...well, the library."
"Or sometimes the gym or the movies. Whatever I could think of to kill time. I didn't know how to explain why I wasn't seeing Emily anymore without confessing the truth, and I really thought that would be the end of...well, you know. And I was too selfish to want to stop. So I pretended... I'm sorry, Chief. It's not anything I'm proud of. I just wasn't willing to give you up once I'd finally gotten you into my bed where I wanted you."
"But you always came home so happy afterwards, like you had such a great evening. I mean, you were whistling, man."
"It's amazing how making love with the man I cherish can really put me in a good mood."
I hugged him hard. "I love you so much."
"I love you, too."
"It was always you, Jim. I just want you to know that. I never thought about anybody else when we were together. It was you I wanted that time when the video stunk so we fantasized about our dream lovers, not the girl down in Records. She already thinks we're lovers. She asked me about it one day. After that, I was scared shitless that she'd say something about it to you, and you'd be mad."
"Ah, Chief," he said, holding me even closer. "I'm sorry you ever had to think that. And I'm sorry I've always been so rude to that woman in Records. I guess I can stop hating her guts now."
"Were you really jealous?" I asked, pleased beyond all reason, whether I should have been or not.
"In the ugliest possible way."
"You won't have any reason to ever be jealous again. I want it to be just us, from now on."
"I want that too, Chief."
"I really think this is the way it's supposed to be. I don't know if it's a Sentinel/Guide thing or just because we're meant for each other. But there were times when I felt something forming between us, a connection, a bond. Only then I'd remember that I was just a surrogate, a substitute for somebody else, and it made feel like someone had squeezed my heart and pulled it out of my chest."
"You were never a substitute," he said, stressing the point. "It was always you. Only you. And it always will be. No one else."
"Promise?" I asked, my arms wound tightly around his neck, like I was determined never to let him get away.
"On my honor, Chief," he said, holding
me just as ferociously, making it clear that he was never letting
go of me either.