The Man Whisperer by Marion

The Man Whisperer - Marion

Blair Sandburg could hear the barking from down the street. It wasn’t the shrill yap of a small dog, but the deep throated woof of a larger breed.

He checked the number of the apartment and went inside 852 Prospect. Three flights of stairs later and he arrived at the door of 307 where the barking echoed out in the hallway.

He paused and took some calming breaths. Meeting new clients always made him nervous. Despite the initial phone call, he couldn’t be sure what to expect when the door opened.

Relax, he thought. Think positive energy. He raised his hand to knock but the door opened, just a crack, before his hand connected with it.

“Yes?” The face that looked out was tense and angry.

Blair blinked at the abrupt response and almost took a step back. “Erm, I’m Blair Sandburg. You’re Ellison?” He checked the name on his notepaper. “James Ellison?”

“You’re the Dog Whisperer?” The man sounded incredulous.

Blair laughed self-consciously. “Yeah, well that was my publicist’s idea. I told her we could get into trouble using that title, Cesar Millan probably has the copyright on it, but she wouldn’t listen. I think of myself as more of a trainer of the owners and their dogs so they get along.”

“Right…” The man didn’t look reassured.

“Hey, man, you called me. Now if you don’t want my help, that’s your problem. I’ll just send you the bill for my time….”

The man’s shoulders slumped and he surrendered. “Okay. Come in.” He stood back so Blair could walk into the apartment.

“Nice place!” The flat was large and bright, lots of space and little clutter, but somehow it lacked a personality. “Spacious,” Blair added.

“Yeah.”

Blair turned to face his new client. “So, are you going to tell me what the problem is?” he said, getting down to business. His new client didn’t seem the type for small talk.

“I think you can hear what the problem is. She never stops barking, especially when I get visitors.”

Blair looked around. There was plenty of evidence of dog, a well-chewed ball, slight scruff marks on the wooden floor – which Ellison had obviously tried to polish out, that faint doggy smell and the barking, which had died down somewhat… “Where is she?”

“She’s in the storeroom. Don’t worry; she can’t harm herself in there.”

Blair could hear the dog jumping about in the room and scratching at the door. “May I suggest you let her out?”

Her owner protested. “She’ll never stop barking!”

“I don’t think she’ll shut up now, unless we satisfy her curiosity.”

Ellison nodded. “Okay. Take a seat.”

Blair’s client walked to a doorway under the stairs and Blair took a moment to admire the shape of his back-side. This Ellison had a gorgeous ass, not that the front was an eye-sore – quite the opposite in fact. And the man liked form-hugging clothes – thank all the spirits! To hide those muscles in baggy clothes would have been a sin! Blair thought. Then Ellison opened the door and a large ball of black and tan energy headed straight for Blair – stopping as he raised his hand flat up and ‘tsked’ at her.

Her owner stood stock still and stared as the German Shepherd halted and stood, ears back, her tongue hanging out, wagging her tail – all her focus on their visitor, but no longer barking or leaping around.

Blair just ignored her, keeping his attention on her owner. “Now, Mr. Ellison…”

“Jim, please call me Jim.”

“Jim, come and sit down.”

“But…” Jim looked at the dog, now sitting by Blair’s legs.

“Just ignore her.” Blair waited until his client sat down opposite. “Now, is there another problem apart from the obvious barking?”

“Well, Billie is my ex-wife’s dog. She got her for protection when we divorced. But now she, my ex, is moving to San Francisco and can’t take the dog with her, so I’m looking after her until we can make other arrangements, either Caro takes her, or she gets adopted, or she settles here. The trouble is… well, Billie gets jealous. I invite someone over and she goes crazy. If we start necking on the couch, she tries to drive us apart by pushing in. I brought a lovely lady home and when we…” Jim cleared his throat. “When we went upstairs, Billie ate her fur coat!”

Blair bit off a laugh. “She ate your lover’s fur coat?”

“Ate it. I couldn’t get it away from her.”

“Was it real fur?”

“Hell, I don’t know! I know I had to pay for the darn thing!”

“Ouch!”

“Yeah. And the dog was shitting fur balls for days after!”

Blair couldn’t help it, he laughed out loud.

“Hey! It’s not funny.” But Jim obviously had a sense of the ridiculousness of the situation as he was trying not to laugh too. “And when I brought someone else home, the damn dog ate his wallet!” Jim stopped abruptly, blushed and looked stricken. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to ‘out’ myself like that. That was probably more information than you need to know.”

Blair shrugged and smiled, reassuringly. “Was it a leather wallet?”

“I guess. Is that important?”

“It could be – fur, leather…”

“It’s embarrassing. Every time I get a love interest, she ruins it for me. My sex life is in jeopardy here, damaged by a damn dog! I would like to meet someone, without Billie ruining things for me. I like the dog, but this can’t go on.”

Billie stood and walked over to her owner and he smiled sadly at her, scratching behind her ear.

Blair smiled tenderly at the obvious affection between man and dog. “I hear you, man. She seems very territorial around you. Can I ask you about exercise? How often do you take her out?”

“I take her for a run with me, and have a regular dog walker. I’m a cop; I don’t work 9 to 5, so I can’t really make a routine for her to walk with me.”

“That’s good; she gets regular exercise. What’s she like around other dogs?”

“Bit nervy.”

“Yeah, that’s probably why she barks so much. But there are different forms of barking. Attention seeking, greeting, giving a warning, and aggression – both passive and, well aggressive aggression. I don’t see Billie as barking aggressively. She’s just very curious and a bit possessive. Tell me, do you do some warm up exercises before you go out? Stretching, that sort of thing?”

“Yes.”

“Does she get excited because she knows you are going out?”

“Now you come to mention it, yes.”

“It all fits. You see, a dog is like a mirror reflecting your mood. You get psyched up to run. She gets psyched up to join you. It’s better for you both if you develop a different state of mind. May I?” He walked behind Jim’s couch.

Jim turned to see where Blair was going. “What are you doing?”

“Just sit back. I want to try something here.” Blair’s hands moved onto Jim’s shoulders and just rested there. “Watch Billie out of the corner of your eye, don’t stare at her directly.” Blair began to rub Jim’s shoulders, adding pressure with his fingers and thumbs where he felt tension. Billie’s head had come up and she was watching intently.

“I thought this was about the dog, not giving me a neck rub,” Jim grumbled, but he angled his head so Blair could get to the tense spots better.

“It is about the dog. The dog and your attitude towards her – and hers towards you. Now relax. Take a deep breath and let it out.” Blair frowned as Jim tensed up to argue. “Just do it. Good. Now again. There, that’s better.”

Jim’s head fell forward as Blair worked. “You are good at this,” he mumbled.

“Yes, so I’ve been told by some of my lovers. Now you see how if you are in a relaxed state, Billie relaxes completely too?”

It looked as though the dog had gone to sleep on the mat in front of the table.

“The problem is when I get…” Jim hesitated… “excited, so does she.”

“Yes, I see your point.” Blair chewed his lower lip. He walked around to the front of the couch and to the mat. Billie got up and nudged Blair with her nose. He absentmindedly scratched her head.

“So... any suggestions, oh great dog whisperer?” Jim asked.

“I do have one, but you won’t like it.”

“Try me.”

Blair still felt unsure about what he was going suggest. “It’s slightly unethical.”

“Whatever it is, I’m willing to at least listen. Out with it, Chief.”

Blair took a breath. “I usually put the dog and owner in the situation that upsets the dog in order to correct their behavior.”

The furrow in Jim’s forehead deepened. “You want to make out?”

Blair laughed. “Well, that offer’s been made more seductively before!”

Jim looked flustered. “Sandburg…” His voice clearly carried a warning.

Blair took pity on him. “Relax. I’m not going to jump your bones.” Mores the pity. “All we need to do is act the role. Don’t worry, man, I don’t intend to take advantage of the situation. I don’t usually do this with a client. It’s a new one on me too.” He pushed a stray hair back behind his ear.

Jim chuckled self-consciously. “Okay. I guess I’m game if you are.” His eyes twinkled. “Do you want to be on top or bottom?”

“Ha ha. Very funny – not. I told you, this is play acting.”

“But you think it will help with Billie’s rehabilitation.”

“Yes, yes I do… I think.” Feeling very awkward, Blair sat down beside Jim on the couch. “I think if we are going to do this properly, it needs to look as if you, as pack leader, have given me control.”

Clumsily, they rearranged themselves so Blair was lying full length on top of Jim.

“Now what, Dr. Doolittle?”

“I guess we pretend to neck?”

“Neck… right. You know, this is different. Maybe this time I should be telling you to relax.”

Blair couldn’t help it, this close to Jim’s body, he was getting turned on. “What?” he asked blankly.

“Billie?”

“Oh… yeah.”

The dog was standing, watching, her head crocked to one side.

Blair eased his body up on his elbow and ‘tsked’ at the dog who whined but then settled back on the mat again. Blair returned his attention to Jim. “Want to try that again?” He tried to keep the husky tone out of his voice, but he failed, especially when Jim burrowed his head into Blair’s neck and nuzzled.

“Mmmm, Chief, you smell so good.”

Blair swallowed. “That’s…erm… great, Jim, but this is for Billie, remember?”

Jim had gone very still.

“Jim? Come on, Ellison. This isn’t a joke.”

Still no response. Blair paused and took a close look at the man under him.

“You’re not joking, are you? What is this – some form of fit?”

Billie had come up to the couch and now pushed her head at Blair, whining. “I know, girl.” Suddenly a thought came to him. “He’s done this before, hasn’t he?” He looked at the dog. “You’ve gotten him out of this… fugue state before somehow, I bet. I wonder if you were trained or if it’s instinctive? Okay, he was talking about my smell. Could smell be a trigger? Jim, listen to me, my friend. I need you to wake up now. This is so uncool. Just think of all the paperwork involved if I have to take you to be checked out!” He gently stroked Jim’s face. “Come on, Jim. Let me see a light behind those sexy blue eyes.”

He felt the shudder that traveled Jim’s body.

“I’m awake, Sandburg.” Jim disentangled himself from Blair and sat up.

Blair moved to give the man space, sitting cornerwise to Jim. “This has happened before, hasn’t it?”

Jim wearily ran a hand over his close-cropped hair. “Yes,” he said, sighing. “Usually Billie brings me out of it, don’t you girl.” He lightly scratched the dog’s back. “But it seems to take her a while.” He glanced at Blair. “You think I have sexy eyes?”

“You could hear me?”

“On some level, yeah.”

“How long has this been happening?”

“A while now. I think it started after I did a week-long stake-out.”

“Do you know what causes these zone-outs?”

“It tends to happen if I concentrate on something too much.”

“And you’ve had medical tests?”

“Yes. What’s with all the questions?”

Blair had been paying rapt attention to Jim’s answers. “Please, Jim,” he urged, “just tell me what they said.”

Jim sighed again. “No one seems to know what’s causing the black-outs or if it’s only temporary.” He sat forward, looking down at his clasped hands. “I don’t want your pity, Sandburg. If you don’t want to continue with the training, just say so.”

“What? No, why would I want to give up? In fact…” Blair paused. “Let me tell you a bit about myself.” He stood and began pacing, his hands accentuating his words. “I’ve always had this natural affinity with animals – dogs particularly. I studied their behavior, especially in relation to their senses. Do you know just how much information a dog can collect just though scent? Never mind, that’s not the issue right now. My research expanded to the way we humans use our senses. I found this book, ‘Sentinels of Paraguay’ by Sir Richard Burton, the explorer not the actor.” Blair smiled at Jim. “He discovered humans who had five enhanced senses. They acted as watchmen for their tribes. They knew when game was on the move, when bad weather was on the way. Now, in modern society I’ve discovered hundreds of documented cases of people with one or two hyperactive senses; perfume makers, wine tasters, piano tuners, that sort of thing, but no one with all their five senses heightened. I’ve noticed that if these people with an enhanced sense focus too hard, they get severe headaches, or worse.”

“You think I’m like that?”

“You tell me, Jim. You were focused on my scent. Is smell your strongest sense?”

“I wish it was! No, it also seems to happen if I’m focusing my gaze on something, if I’m listening too hard. Something like a dog whistle can drive me to my knees. Sometimes my tastes buds go off the scale or don’t work at all and I’ve developed skin allergies to detergents.”

“Jim – that’s all five senses.” Blair knelt down in front of Jim, his eyes wide, his hands on Jim’s knees. “You could be the genuine article – a behavioral throwback to a pre-civilized breed of man!”

“What!” Jim roared to his feet.

Blair fell back onto his ass as Jim loomed over him.

Billie became agitated, barking at both men and trying to get between them.

“Are you out of your mind?” Jim continued, raising his voice over the dog’s barking. “Did you just call me a caveman?”

“Whoa! Back up, man! Maybe that comment was out of line, but I think I can help you.”

“What, train me like you do dogs?” Jim backed off a little but he was still angry.

“No! Well,” Blair amended, not looking up as Jim gave him space to stand. He took Billie by her collar, calming her down and gently persuading her to lie down. She put her head on her paws and looked across at her owner with big, brown, soulful eyes. “The principles would be the same,” Blair sub-vocalized, patting her head.

“I just want them gone.” Jim said as he sat heavily on his couch.

“I don’t think I can do that. Once you’re ‘online’, I’m not sure you can turn your senses off, but you could be a human crime lab. You could find clues that the crime scene guys miss! You wouldn’t need listening devices, or binoculars. What more could you want?”

“Control.”

“And I believe, with work, I can help you find that.”

“What would I have to do?”

Blair clamped down on his excitement. “Come out to the farm, meet my pack.”

“Your pack?”

“Yeah, the dogs and my friends, Sal and Jane. They run a farm where they keep a small pack of rescue dogs. I rehabilitate the animals before they get adopted by good people. You and Billie come out tomorrow and we can continue with Billie’s education, and you and I can talk about how you can control your sensory input.”

“What’s in it for you?”

The chance to see you again. “Apart from my fee for the sessions with Billie?”

Jim glared at him and Blair was at once serious. “I want the chance to prove to myself that Sentinels can survive and thrive in today’s society.”

“Thrive?” Jim asked, a trace of hope in his voice.

“Thrive,” Blair stated firmly. “So what do you say?”

“Well… okay.”

“Good. Here’s the address.” Blair handed Jim his card. “There are directions to the place on the back. I’ll see you both tomorrow.” He extended his hand and Jim grasped it as if it were a life-line.

***

All the way home, Blair could hardly contain his excitement. Not only was he going to see that handsome jock again, but said jock could be the living embodiment of his studies. Okay, he’d gotten his Ph.D. in Canine Behavioral Studies, but he’d never stopped looking for a living, breathing Sentinel – and now one had fallen into his lap – well almost! Stop thinking with your dick, Blair. The man is in obvious pain. You may be the only one who can help him right now. Once I get home I must get all my old research out – after I’ve settled the dogs for the night.

The five dogs of various breeds sensed Blair’s excitement as he walked in and all greeted him loudly, running around his legs. He gave each his attention and an affectionate scratch, patting their heads, before he went into the converted section of the small barn he called home. It was never going to grace the pages of ‘House and Home’, but it suited his needs with a kitchen, a main room and a bedroom with ensuite bathroom.

The rest of the barn was divided between an area for the dogs and Jane’s stables.

The farm was an eclectic mix of a traditional farm with pigs, goats, chickens, horses, dogs and organically grown food. “Diversity,” Sal declared often, “is the only way to survive these here days.”

The couple had been good to Blair, giving him a home and work. Blair was happy there, but lonely. The dogs helped, but he’d never grown used to seeing a pack member move on, even when it was to a good home. He tried not to get attached to any particular dog, but it was hard; some of them were so loveable. Like some of my ex-lovers, but they move on, like the dogs. Which was okay – then. Lately though, Blair felt the need for something more permanent, someone more permanent. Jim’s face flashed before his eyes and he scolded himself. I’ve only just met him and he admits to having lovers – plural.

Still, it was that face which haunted his dreams that night.

***

Although he studied well into the night, the next morning Blair was up early. He helped feed the animals. He exercised the dogs. He cursed the fact that he hadn’t pinned Jim down to a time. He had butterflies the size of hulking great Neanderthals charging about in the pit of his stomach. The feeling transferred itself to the dogs, which became edgy and excited. It gave Blair a reason to try and center himself before Jim and Billie arrived.

He was sitting trying to do just that on his veranda when he heard a truck pull up and the dogs started to bark again.

Blair stood up and stretched, rolling his shoulders to ease the last of the tension, trying for casual, but feeling full of anticipation. He walked towards the gate, shushing the dogs as he went. He watched, heart beating fast, as Jim climbed out of the truck and got Billie out on her leash. He waved at Blair, a broad grin on his face and Blair couldn’t help matching that grin with one of his own.

“You found us then.” Really intelligent remark, Blair, he thought.

“Your directions were pretty clear.” Jim was still grinning at him. Finally he broke eye-contact to look around. “So do we get the grand tour?”

“Absolutely! It’ll give the dogs time to settle again.” I really must stop with the grinning. But Jim seemed to be in a good mood and it was infectious.

“You look better than you did yesterday,” Blair noted as they walked. The tense lines on Jim’s face had faded.

“I feel better. We both had a good night’s sleep, didn’t we girl?” Jim looked down at his dog before returning his attention to Blair. “I think it must have been your neck rub. Anytime you feel like doing that again, feel free.”

Blair laughed. “I may have to charge extra for that.”

He took his visitor, and Billie, on a circuit around the farm, showing them the various livestock and finally introducing them to his friends, Sal and Jane. As they turned away to go back to the dog pen, Blair noticed Jane giving him a ‘thumbs up’ sign. He groaned loudly.

“What’s up?”

“Just my friends trying to run my love life.”

Jim looked back. “And do I meet with their approval?”

“It would be my approval that’s important and as I may have mentioned, I don’t date clients.”

“Pity.” Jim looked disappointed. “But then again, I won’t always be a client.”

Blair just glared. “I think you like the idea of paying me back for making you feel… flustered at your loft.”

“Do I make you feel flustered?”

“You tell me! Run your senses over me and find out for yourself.” Blair wished he could take back his words as soon as they left his mouth. The idea of Jim using his senses to check Blair’s responses was both erotic and plain scary.

“Well…”

“Nix that.” Blair had noticed out of the corner of his eye Sal and Jane whispering together. “Jim,” he spoke softly. “Can you zero in and tell me what Sal and Jane are saying?”

“Eavesdrop, Chief? Wouldn’t that be immoral?”

“Consider it a test of your hearing.”

Jim cocked his head, so doglike that Blair had to hide a grin.

Then Jim smiled. “They think we’re a cute couple.”

Blair groaned even louder.

Jim laughed. “Relax, teach. They are only looking out for you.”

“I wish they’d keep their noses out of my love life.” But Blair smiled.

“I guess it’s what good friends do.”

Something in the way Jim spoke caught Blair’s attention and he shot his new friend a glance. “Don’t you have good friends, Jim?”

“One or two. How did you end up here? I’d have thought a canine behavioral specialist would have an office somewhere and money for his own place.”

Blair noticed how Jim was changing the subject and decided to let it go – for now. There were so many facets to this man and a part of Blair wanted to know them all – personally. “Ah, money isn’t everything, man. Oh, sure, I’d like to be able to contribute more to the running of the farm; I’m happy here. How many people can say that about their work?”

Jim looked at him for a long moment. “I guess you’re right there. You’re a lucky man, Chief. Now, what is it you were going to show me?”

Blair frowned. He had the feeling Jim was hurting more than he could imagine and the man was going to lock himself in if Blair didn’t say something to change that.

“This Sentinel business?” Jim prompted.

Blair nodded, his forehead still furrowed. “Let’s settle Billie with the other dogs and then we can discuss how to help you.”

Jim looked towards where the members of Blair’s pack were standing watching them, tails a-wagging, behind a wire fence. “I’m not sure how she’ll react with strange dogs.”

“Trust me, Jim. I know my pack.”

Jim was still unsure. “Billie’s never been around that many dogs before.”

“Humans sometimes act the same around strangers – nervy, insecure – admittedly we don’t sniff each other’s asses, but the principle is the same. We need to be reassured. The secret is observation and projecting calmness. If we are calm, the animals relax.” He glanced at Jim. “You should try it sometime.”

Jim chuckled. “Okay, Chief. I get the message. Tell me what to do.”

“You see the side entrance?” Blair pointed. “There’s a small pen in front of the larger kennel area. We take her into there and introduce one dog at a time.”

“Passive ones first?”

“That’s right.” Blair grinned broadly. “You have good instincts.”

Jim snorted but physically relaxed. “So tell me, who is your publicist?”

“Oh, that’s my mother. She comes up with these ideas and there’s no dissuading her. It was her idea to send out the flyers and leaflets with ‘Cascade’s own dog whisperer’ on, like the one you found!”

“She sounds like quite a woman.”

“She is. She breezes into my life every so often and turns it upside down.”

“Have you thought of working with the K9 branch of the police?”

“They’ve never approached me.” Blair looked up at Jim. “You think they would be open to new ideas?”

Jim paused. “You can try. I could put in a good word for you, if you want.”

“Yeah, it might be interesting. Thanks. You never told me, where does she get the name from?”

“Oh, that was Carolyn’s idea. She named her after my dad, William. She always got on better with him than I ever did.”

Blair chuckled. “Parents! What can you do with them?” But he’d noticed the faint bitterness in Jim’s remark. It sounded as though the man had a few unhappy relationships in his past. But then, so did Blair. He looked down to where Jim was unclipping Billie’s leash. Maybe he and Jim needed rehabilitating as much as Billie and her cousins.

With Jim watching carefully, Blair’s pack was introduced one at a time to Billie. They sniffed at her and she allowed it, then took her turn in investigating each animal. She didn’t bite or try to hide, or flee. Blair smiled approvingly. “She’s a smart dog. Knows when to be passive and not misbehave. Dogs can teach humans so much! Now we can let her into the pack’s territory, proper.”

Once the animals were settled and Billie seemed to be accepted, Blair took Jim into the shade of the awning that covered the deck beside the barn. He sent up a silent prayer of thanks to whichever spirit was listening, that the day was warm enough to sit outdoors and they could enjoy being with the dogs.

Jim sat watching the pack while Blair slipped inside to collect his research and two mugs of coffee.

“Only instant,” he said, handling one to Jim. “I haven’t got any good stuff in right now.”

“This is fine, Chief. You know, I’d never have believed it, if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes.” He indicated Billie happily exploring the compound, with his mug. “It’s as if she’s been around these dogs all her life.”

Blair grinned. “And you know what else, Jim? These dogs haven’t been a pack for very long either. Once they become, well, well-balanced, they know instinctively how to behave, and what’s more, they can show other dogs how to interact.” He frowned. “It’s when they are taught by bad experiences that they and their owners have problems.”

Jim at once became defensive. He put his mug down with a deliberate movement on the table. “Are you suggesting that Billie was ill-treated? Because if you are, you’re very wrong. Carolyn wouldn’t hurt a defenseless animal. That much I do know.”

“No, no, I’m sure she wouldn’t.” Blair said quickly. “I don’t know how Billie behaved with your ex-wife, but I think maybe once the dog came to you, she felt insecure because it was new territory and she was looking to you for leadership. I’m guessing you never had a dog when you were growing up?”

“No, we weren’t allowed one.”

“In one way that’s good. You have no bad habits to correct, but on the other hand, you may have over compensated once Billie became your responsibility. Perhaps you thought she felt abandoned? Maybe you allowed her to get away with more and left it too late before you tried to correct her behavior?”

Jim shifted in his seat. “Maybe.”

“I think Billie needed you to be her new pack leader and treat her like a dog, not a damaged human, and when you didn’t know how to do that, she tried to fill that role by protecting you from those she thought would hurt you. Hence the unwanted behavior.”

“I was in the military, Sandburg. I can lead men.”

“Men, yes. Dogs… dogs live in the moment. Yes, they remember stuff, and those memories condition them to behave a certain way. That behavior can be re-taught, if necessary, by the pack leader. Because dogs do act almost human, we give them human attributes. But they aren’t human. They are dogs; therefore, they require a different form of leadership. You can’t move forward, if you are looking back all the while.”

Blair paused and then hesitantly reached for a piece of paper hidden within his notes. It was a printout of a magazine cover. “This was you, wasn’t it? I’ve read the article.” He sat forward, eagerly. “Your time in Peru, isolated from modern, industrial life could well have brought out your latent Sentinel abilities.”

“I don’t see how. The truth is I don’t remember much of anything about that time. The doctors said that was due to PTSD.”

“Yes, I guess they would. A year and a half spent in the bush? The sole survivor of your unit? That sounds pretty traumatic to me, and trauma tends to get repressed,” Blair said thoughtfully, but then looked at his guest. “But you don’t need all that medical terminology. Your senses are natural and normal – for you. And I can help you, if you let me.”

He stood and walked behind Jim. “It’s all about concentration and flow.” He put his hands on Jim’s shoulders. “We’ll begin with smell. That seemed to trigger a zone-out yesterday.” He felt a mild surge of arousal as he remembered what happened to cause that, and he cleared his throat. “Now, I happen to know that Jane is baking today. You may have noticed the flour on her hands? Well I want you to tell me what she is baking. Close your eyes and concentrate.”

“This is stupid. There’s hundreds of smells around here! How the hell can I pick out just one?”

“The same way you picked out what Sal and Jane were talking about earlier. Filter every other smell out, relax and focus on what smells different, more pleasant. You know what home cooking should smell like.”

Jim sighed loudly, but he did as Blair instructed. After a minute he said, hesitantly, “Apple? And blackberry? She’s making a pie, apple and blackberry!”

He opened his eyes to look up at Blair, who laughed.

“Man, you are good! Yes, I saw Sal bring the fruit to her well before you arrived. Okay, we’re on a roll. Now for sight. Do you see that building in the distance?” Blair pointed. “It’s got the large tower with the flag on the top. That is a school. Do you know this area?”

“No, I haven’t had cause to arrest anyone around here – yet!”

“Ohhh, scary! Okay, Joe Friday. I want you to tell me what the design is on the flag.”

“It’s hard to make out, what with the breeze making it move…. It’s white, with a shield outlined in green in the center… there are… two, no, three people in different costumes?” He shook his head. “It’s moving too much for me to be sure.”

Blair slapped Jim’s shoulder. “That was great, Jim. Yes, the three people represent the different sciences. I can only make out the white, and the figures are fuzzy even with my glasses on! I said you could do this!” He stepped around to face Jim, his face beaming, his hand gently squeezing Jim’s shoulder.

Suddenly the atmosphere seemed charged with something else as Jim rubbed his face against Blair’s hand. Blair’s breath caught in his throat and he knew he was going with whatever Jim wanted.

“As I’ve aced your tests, don’t you think I deserve a reward?” With his eyes on Blair’s face, Jim turned Blair’s hand and planted a kiss in the palm, then he licked it. “You taste as good as you smell.”

Blair felt his knees begin to buckle as Jim’s hand went up to stroke Blair’s chin and he ran his thumb over Blair’s lips. “You feel good too.” Jim’s hand went to Blair’s neck and he gently pulled Blair’s head close so that their lips met.

It was an awkward angle and Blair had to pull away after a while as his neck protested.

Jim licked his lips. “I think I need more taste tests, Blair.” He went to pull Blair down again.

“Not here, Jim. Inside – now!”

They made it as far as the couch, only separating long enough to remove items of clothing. Blair ended up on his back, naked save for his socks, with his cock in the warm, moist, haven of Jim’s mouth. He came explosively and Jim swallowed, shuddering through his own climax.

Blair slumped back, bonelessly. “That was… wow!”

Jim stretched out his bare legs on the floor, leaning back against the couch for support. “Yeah!” He took Blair’s hand and kissed it again. “I am really going to enjoy making love to you again and again.”

Blair grinned at the words, ‘making love’. He really hoped Jim meant them, and even if he didn’t, Blair had a feeling that that was where they were headed. “I guess I’m going to have to change my rule about not dating clients.”

Jim’s head whipped round. “Only one particular client!” he emphasized.

Blair hid a grin. He would bet money that’s where Billie got her possessive instinct from. “Yes, one very special client,” he agreed. “And of course, we have to be sure Billie doesn’t slip back into her old habits.”

“Billie?” Jim looked around. “Did she come in?”

“Yeah, just briefly, before you took me down your mouth. Then she walked out again.”

“Good dog.”

Blair stretched. “I can see lots of tests for both of you in the near future.”

“Tests?”

“Oh yeah! Tests all of us will really enjoy.” Blair reached out to stroke Jim’s hair.

“Jim?”

“Hmmm?”

“You purring?”

“No…”

“You are! No wonder you are having trouble being Billie’s pack leader… you’re really a big old puddy-cat!”

“Am not!”

“Are so!”

“I’ll show you puddy-cat!” Jim climbed on top of Blair and kissed him on the mouth, before moving down to torment Blair’s neck with his teeth.

Blair moved his head to give Jim a better target. Ohhh, big old puddy-cat’s got sharp teeth, he thought. But then training a cat is similar to training a dog. Be a good leader. Observe him in his natural environment, show him affection, and listen to what he’s really saying when he’s quiet or when he shouts, or even when he just whimpers…

The End

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Acknowledgments: My thanks to all the girls at GC - you know who you are, and to Sheila for her advice. Thank you to Patt for the cover art.