"Hey, knock it off."
Blair's voice--irritated, grumbling--filtered up to the loft. I opened my eyes and stared into the shadows, blinking.
"No, that's my pillow--hey! A little room here, please!"
Very strange. I rolled onto my side, looked at the clock. Almost one. We'd gone to bed an hour ago, maybe a little more. Blair didn't sound like he was talking in his sleep--sounded too lucid. Strange, which was actually normal, and clear as a bell.
"Did I say you could have that blanket? No, I didn't think so. Why don't you guys go bug Jim, huh? His bed is bigger."
I looked around. Yeah, my bed's bigger than Blair's, but then again, I'm bigger than Blair. And I sprawl more. The kid's inclined to tuck himself neatly against the edge of the mattress and doesn't take up much room in his bed at all.
A growl floated up, faint, just barely menacing, and definitely familiar. I groaned and rolled my eyes, tempted to put my hands over my ears. Surely I could fall asleep again in an instant and pretend that nothing was going on downstairs--
But no, I could hear Blair grumbling--"Fine, all right, you guys win." The sound of him crawling out of bed. "You mind if I take a sheet and pillow, huh? Real gracious of you, thanks." And then bare feet shuffling across the floor downstairs. The couch springs creaked and Blair sighed.
For a few minutes, it was quiet. I closed my eyes again and tried to relax. So the kid was going to have to sleep on the couch--wouldn't be the first time. It was long enough and wide enough that I could sleep there without a problem, so Blair would be fine.
Then I heard the growl again. A low pitched yip. Blair's long, drawn-out groan. I echoed it and pushed back the covers. No sleep for the Sentinel until everything was calm and quiet, peaceful and settled. Damn it.
I headed down the stairs. Sandburg was stretched out on the couch, his arm over his eyes. I looked into his bedroom and there they were, the jaguar and the wolf, sprawled across the bed and fighting for space. The wolf had all the pillows.
"They won't get lost," Blair grumbled, and I went to sit on the coffee table.
"How long they been at it?"
Blair lowered his arm. "Twenty minutes at least. I woke up because your cat was making himself comfortable on my side of the bed--never mind that I was still on it."
I snorted. "Not my cat." Another growl caught my attention so I looked back into his room; they were wrestling now, the wolf's teeth buried in the cat's neck, the jaguar's big, heavy hind paws kicking hard against the wolf's stomach. I wondered if there'd be bloodshed before they settled down.
"You know, for figments of our imagination, they are definitely annoying," Blair said decisively.
"Can't be entirely our imaginations, Chief," I pointed out. "No imaginary jaguar could rip open your pillows."
Blair looked around me, groaned. "It'll take a week to clean up all those feathers!"
"Probably more. Looks like a mass of them are getting worked into the fibers of your blankets."
Blair groaned again. "Your spirit guide did it. You clean it up."
I raised my eyebrows at him. "But it's your spirit guide who's chewing on your mattress."
He sat up on the couch, leaned around me. "Hey, you guys mind? I need all that stuff!"
Two sets of amber eyes turned our way. The wolf licked his lips, and the jaguar licked his paws. Then they went back to mutilating Blair's bed.
He laid back down, closed his eyes. I grinned a little--wouldn't have been able to if it had been my stuff they were digesting but as long as the tragedy was Blair's, it was definitely kind of funny.
"No laughing, man," Blair ordered without having seen my grin. "Laugh and I'll go upstairs and drool on your pillows. Chew your sheets a little."
That didn't actually sound like a bad idea. I raised my eyebrows, grinned a little wider, and prepared to make a little joke--
But the two animals on his bed came bounding out of his room and into the living room. The jaguar took a leap and landed behind me on the coffee table with a heavy thud. The wolf jumped up on the couch and sat on Blair's feet. Blair opened his eyes again.
"You know," he grumbled; I wasn't sure if he was talking to me or the animals, "a little peace and quiet would be great. Me and Jim have to be at work by eight tomorrow."
Ah, he was talking to the animals. I studied them--they didn't seem to particularly care about our work schedule. The wolf looked quite comfortable on Blair's feet but seemed to be expanding somehow. Taking up more and more room on the couch with every panting inhale. The jaguar met my gaze and I would have sworn that he smiled at me before he slid off the table with strong, elegant grace. He crouched beside the couch and had a mouthful of cushion before I could stop him.
"No way!" I shouted, slamming my hand down on his neck and pulling. I wasn't intimidated by him at all of course, not even when he turned to me and his lips curled back to reveal gleaming, sharp teeth. The fact that I took my hand off him fast at precisely that second was entirely a coincidence.
In the meantime, Blair was struggling to get the wolf off his knees. Big canine teeth gleamed too, but he looked a lot more playful than the jaguar had. Like it was all just a game, crushing Blair's legs.
So I pulled Sandburg off the couch.
He landed hard on the floor and turned to glare at me, but at least he was out from under the wolf's weight. And he climbed up to sit beside me on the coffee table easy enough, so he was obviously fine.
"Rotten beast," he said, glaring at the wolf's doggy grin, but I had the feeling he was referring to me.
The jaguar had let go of the couch cushion and leaped up with the wolf. They both turned in a few circles then curled up in the middle of the couch, black and grey fur mingling comfortably. And they were both looking at us.
I turned to Blair. "You could probably go back to bed now--"
The wolf howled, long and low.
"Maybe not," I conceded.
"What am I supposed to do?" Blair looked almost ready to cry or fight the animals tooth and nail for some cushion space. "Should I go sleep in the bathtub?"
The jaguar curled his lips back and rumbled at us in a slightly threatening manner.
"Oh, well then. You go ahead and tell me what to do," Blair ordered the big cat. They looked at each other for a long second, then the cat looked up at the loft.
"No," I said quickly. "That is my bed. I'm not giving it up for him. You guys want to see me try to curl up in the bathtub?"
I would have sworn that the two pairs of gleaming amber eyes rolled, and that's when it clicked for me and Blair.
"Oh no," he said. "You're not getting both of us in that bed."
The jaguar growled.
"I don't care," Blair argued, his hands flying. "The day the two of you sleep together all nice and cozy, maybe--"
I cleared my throat. Blair stopped glaring at our animal spirits long enough to glare at me instead. "No way, Jim. I don't care if they are curled up all nice and comfortable. If me and you try to share a bed, I'll end up cuddling--I really cannot help cuddling--and you'll wake up and feel honor-bound to kick my ass."
I cleared my throat again, looked away, looked back. A little honesty is a good thing, I told myself encouragingly, and then I said, "Cuddlingwouldn'tbotherme," real low and fast. The jaguar huffed, a sound almost like laughter, and Blair blinked.
"I'm sorry, you want to repeat that for non-Sentinel ears?"
I glared. "No, I do not."
Blair threw up his hands. "In that case, remember to kick me out of the bathtub tomorrow when you go to take your shower." He half-rose and I gripped his wrist, tugged him down.
"I said, cuddling wouldn't bother me," I grumbled, but it was loud and clear this time.
Blair blinked at me again, looking shocked and slightly stupid. Then a grin began to creep across his face, slow and delightful. I let out a long, sighing breath. "Yeah?" he asked, not losing the grin. "You think you're man enough to handle cuddling with a Sandburg?"
I raised my eyebrows at him and flexed my arms. "I'm man enough," I said confidently. "Are you man enough to take me on?"
He chuckled, low and soft, delighted. "You bet," he said quietly, and then he put a hand on my leg, squeezed. Leaned in. "Kiss me," he whispered, almost against my mouth, "and I'll go upstairs with you and prove my manhood."
I was hard in an instant, hard and smiling and closing the last inches between us. I licked his lower lip very slowly, very lightly, then sucked it in. He groaned and I settled my mouth over his. He opened for me instantly, his hand rising to wrap around the back of my neck, big, hard fingers gripping tight. I slipped behind his teeth and thought I heard a pleased growl--it might have been the spirit guides, it might have been him, and it might have been me. I'm still not sure. What I was sure of was the perfection of his tongue against mine and the way his lips moved. The way his hand massaged my neck.
I reached out and tangled my hands in his hair, changing the angle of the kiss, then drawing my tongue out of his mouth and inviting him to come play in mine.
He followed instinctively and I was sure that it was me who growled then, but after that I lost myself. It was a long time before I drew back and he rested his forehead against mine, panting. I licked my swollen lips to get the last of his flavor and he mimicked me, doing the same.
"Upstairs," I said, urging him to stand, listening to his laugh and hearing the sound echoed in appealing huffs by the wolf and jaguar, who had pretty obviously planned the whole thing and were quite delighted with themselves.
Not that I blamed them.
I spared them a quick glance as we slowly climbed the stairs, just in time to see the wolf lick the jaguar's ear and the big cat begin to knead his big paws against the couch cushions.
"Watch out for the upholstery," I shouted down to them, and the jaguar turned his head and met my gaze, the look in his eyes saying clear as day, "You too, buddy." Then we turned away from each other and went back to the business at hand.
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