Recognition - Rogue

It's not easy being a cop's partner.

It's even less easy being in love with said cop, especially if that cop possesses heightened senses.

But it's worth it!

Okay, I suppose I should start at the beginning so this will make a smidgen of sense - oops. Pardon the pun. I can't seem to get away from those in this business.

Introductions first; I'm Blair Sandburg, anthropologist and Guide to the Sentinel of Cascade. Think that's not impressive? Try it sometime; guarantee you'll be wondering what the hell you've gotten yourself into. But it's a real thriller of a roller coaster ride. It's got those wussy rides - like The Mantis and the Magnum XL-200 - beat. Totally beat.

The sentinel-cop that I'm partnered with is one James Joseph Ellison, anal-retentive marshmallow with a twisted blue steel inner core and a surprisingly vulnerable heart. Please, don't ask me to list all of his contradictions; it'd take way too long. And speaking of long stories....

****

Let me tell you the story of how we ended up together. We met with a bang, he and I. Actually, he smacked into me while chasing a fleeing perp. I had stepped out of the door of the anthropological wing of the Cascade Natural History Museum. See, I consult there five days out of seven. It's one of the perks of my being the youngest professor on tenure at Rainier. Anyway, I had stepped out the door just as some guy had gone running past as though he were being chased by a pride of tigers with only one thing on their mind: lunch. Of course, being as curious as I am, I'm gawking after this guy when I hear a shout of "GET OUTTA THE WAY!!" from the other direction. My head whipped around in time to see a wall of granite running at me and I only had time for one inane thought ("Granite walls can't run!") and then said wall plowed into me since I had chosen to ignore it's orders and stayed right where I was. I went down with heavy weight atop me, registering that none of it was fat, and then I was down.

When I woke up - well, what did you expect? Very stoppable object (my head), meets very immovable force (the concrete sidewalk). Hi. Pleased to meet you. NOT!

ANYway, when I woke up, I found this to-die-for-gorgeous man hovering over me, standing next to my bed. We looked at each other for a few moments and of all the things I could have said ("Who are you? Where am I? Why am I here?"), what I did say was: "You have the bluest eyes, man."

Those blue eyes blinked, nonplussed, and then that utterly sensual mouth opened and this rough, sexy, rolling purr of a voice spoke. "How are you feeling, Professor Sandburg? Do you want me to call the doctor?"

Let me tell you, my nerves tingled delightfully at the sound of his voice. However, once that sensation registered, another one quickly followed: pain. My head was killing me!

"Professor Sandburg?" the voice asked again, and it was the only nice thing happening to me at the moment.

"Uh, yeah. I'd like to see a doctor and I would love to have some aspirin. My head hurts," I said. I was puzzled by the subtle wince the man standing beside my hospital bed gave before turning to leave the room, presumably to fetch someone. I closed my eyes for what felt like only a moment, but I was shaken a few minutes later by a warm human hand and that voice calling my name.

"Mr. Sandburg? I have some aspirin for you."

I opened my eyes to see that the man was back. His hand left my arm and I felt such a profound sense of loss that I was surprised. I blinked, then waited as he raised the head of my bed carefully. A moment later, he handed me a glass of water that he'd collected and the aspirin and I swallowed them carefully. When I was done, he took the glass and set it on the hospital stand beside the bed.

"Thanks," I said. "Who are you and why am I here?" Questions I should have asked immediately, but wouldn't you know it....

"My name is Detective James Ellison. I'm the one who knocked you down outside the museum a couple of days ago," the tall, buff, gorgeous man said, his voice flat, his eyes wintry.

I winced. "Oh, man. I'm so sorry; I got right in your way. I didn't mean to, really - wait. When was this?"

"Two days ago, Mr. Sandburg. You've been out of it for a while. You hit your head pretty hard when you went down," the cop replied.

Then he did the most strange, amazing thing; he reached out and caressed first my temple, then my cheek, lightly with the back of his hand. He looked down at me and I saw the glacial eyes melt, soften with concern, and he asked quietly, "Are you all right? Really?"

"S-So far as I know, man," I stuttered, shocked at the heat leaping between us, the electricity crackling from my skin to his and back again.

I don't think he knew it, but I was having a fast internal argument with myself. Specifically, my libido. It went something like this:

ME: Knock it off!

Libido: I would if you'd give me some help!

ME: I didn't mean it like that! I meant stop.

Libido: Are you nuts? He's perfect.

ME: We're - I mean, I'M - in a hospital bed! I'm hurt! Now is not the time to start waving a certain flag, if you get my drift!

Libido: Buzzkill!

Fortunately for me, I managed to stave off any outward reactions because just then, the doctor appeared. Detective Ellison moved aside then, but he stayed in the room as the doctor, a matronly lady by the name of Barbara Jennings, went through the usual routine. Asked me how I was feeling, thanked Ellison for fetching the aspirin for me, told me I'd been out two days and while they had done a Cat Scan, the only thing I apparently had to show for getting knocked down was a bruised skull and a mild concussion. When she got to the point of mentioning me staying over another two nights at their lovely establishment in order to keep an eye on me, I balked.

"Uh, no. No thanks, Doc, but I'd rather go home if there's nothing really wrong with me," I said.

She frowned. "Mr. Sandburg, I advise against that. You need to be checked regularly through the evening when you sleep-"

"Which solves one problem, I don't get a lot of sleep anyway," I said cheerfully.

"And I have it on good authority from some of your visitors that you regularly scorn the use of Western medicine and that you live alone," the doctor finished triumphantly.

"Hey, Doc, if it's a matter of getting someone to look after me for a couple of days, no problem, you know?" I said with a playful leer.

She gave me a half-amused, half-don't-try-my-patience look and said, "It's also the matter of knowing you will dismiss taking the painkillers I plan on prescribing. How do I know I can trust you to take them when every single one of your friends who has visited has assured me you'll flush them down the toilet the first chance you get?"

I had the grace to blush at that point. Before I could come up with my standard argument about holistic medicine versus western medicine, the detective spoke up.

"I can keep an eye on him for you, doctor. Swing by his place a couple of times a day. I'm going to need to take his statement about our accident anyway," Ellison said, stepping forward.

"You'll what?" I blurted, unable to believe what I was hearing.

The two of them ignored me. You wouldn't believe how incensed I was, too.

Jennings turned to Ellison. "Detective, are you sure it wouldn't be out of your way? Because I can write the paperwork to keep him here."

"Clearly, Doctor, he'll be miserable in here, which will hinder any progress in healing. No, it's not out of my way. Simple enough to do; I was a medic in the Rangers."

"Army?"

"Yes."

"Well, okay. Simple wake up routine every couple of hours for the first night and then getting him to take his meds for the next week. Then he'll need to come in for a check up."

"Sounds easy enough. What do you say, Sandburg?"

I had plenty to say.

"I think you're taking an awful lot for granted here, Detective. Who the hell put you in charge of me, anyway? Have I committed some crime that I'm unaware of? Am I under police protection? Or do you generally get off on adopting anthropologists who trip you up?"

Those eyes went glacial again and the voice followed along suit when Ellison looked at Jennings. "Doctor, would you excuse us for a moment, please? Go ahead and get his discharge papers and his prescriptions written up. We'll be along to collect them shortly."

Jennings had the nerve to smile at him. "Certainly, detective. I wish you good luck with him." Then she turned to me. "Mr. Sandburg, I expect you to listen to him and do the right thing. Take care of yourself, young man. And start getting more sleep!"

As she walked out of the room, pulling the door behind her, I remembered that I had told her I hardly sleep and I grimaced. One of these days, I'd learn to keep my big mouth shut.

Ellison snagged my attention by moving to stand very close to my bedside, leaning over a little so that he was crowding me in the most subtle of ways. I gulped and stared back at him, refusing to lower my gaze from his. I might have been bedridden at the moment, but I wasn't going to show him how intimidated I felt.

Something akin to respect crept into his blue eyes briefly, and then he growled at me. Well, that's what his voice sounded like when he spoke to me, I mean.

"Listen up, Sandburg. You fouled up my arrest attempt by getting in the way. Not only that, but your boss as well as my own is breathing down my neck for this. My boss for letting that guy get away - and believe me, he was a big fish that needed catching - and your boss is yelling stuff like lawsuits for reckless endangerment."

I blushed at that point, mortified. "Oh, man. I'm so sorry. Chancellor Edwards loves money, man. She'll use any attempt she can to weasel some out of you if there's a chance. I'll swear to it in a court if need be that it was my fault, since I wasn't watching where I was going. Totally my fault. You couldn't have stopped in time to avoid the accident. I'm really, really sorry."

Ellison softened a little bit more and he reached out to pat my arm. "Relax, Sandburg. I know it, my boss knows it, and you'll let Chancellor Edwards know. I do appreciate your willingness to testify to that, though. Thanks. Now, then. Since I did knock you down hard enough to put you out for two days, you're going to sort of be under police protection. Mine. Edwards was right in one part of it; I was being a tad reckless. At least I wasn't driving, or so my boss thanks his lucky stars. I would like to keep an eye on you, partly to make up for putting you in here in the first place, and partly because I want to make sure you're really okay."

That was when I figured out a couple of his contradictions: stoic, tough, kind-hearted and generous. I'd seen the stoic and tough; he then showed me kind-hearted by wanting to make sure I was okay out of a genuine desire to do so, rather than avoid a lawsuit, and he showed me generous by offering to give up his spare time in order to do it.

So of course I said yes. I mean, come on! How much more intrigued did I have to be, really? I'm an anthropologist! I study people for a living! And I sure as hell wanted to study him! Yes, I'm leering. You would, too, if you had a Jim Ellison of your own (you can't have mine, so get that thought out of your head right now) to play with, if you get what I'm saying.

I had no idea, though, just how I would be studying him at that point in time.

****

He took me back home after I'd gotten checked out of the hospital and we'd picked up the prescription. He was driving a teal F-150. Comfortable ride, but I wanted my Corvair. More room to sprawl out in and do it with style, for one thing!

At any rate, his reaction to my choice of living space was, shall we say, less than impressed. Especially when the rodent trap snapped.

"What was that? Was that a mousetrap?" he demanded after we'd entered my warehouse. Well, technically, it isn't mine; I mean, I don't own the deed to it or anything, but I pay rent and I was allowed to fix it up into a living space however I wanted. Hey, it pays to have friends in the right places, you know? The rent significantly reduced, the wherewithal to spruce the place up any way I want, the heating system turned on and maintained for me ... yeah, it could be worse. What's a few rats here and there compared to that?

Jim, however, seemed to want an answer, pronto-like, so I gave it to him.

"Oh, no, no. Mice are, like, small and cute, but these ... these ... these...." And I held up my hands to show him I wasn't exactly exaggerating about the size of my flat mates. He was kind of skeptical, so I showed him the recent "catch of the day". It was fascinating to see a man who deals with blood and pain and death daily blanch at the sight of one li'l ol' rat ... okay, not so little. The size of a mature terrier, but still, not too bad. I've seen bigger and uglier. Not by much, but I have, so it counts.

He turned to look at me as I walked back towards my established living space. "How can you live like this?" he asked as he waved his arms around. I had claimed half of the warehouse to spread my stuff around and put up a sort of barrier to divide the rest of it off. The rats tended to obey that barrier, for some reason.

I refused to be daunted by his attitude. I grinned at him - as I recall, that seemed to irritate him for some reason - and said, "Where else am I going to get ten-thousand square feet for 850 a month?"

He blinked, then glanced around again. "Is this even zoned residential?"

"If it wasn't, my friend wouldn't let me live here. He's a straight-lace; is terrified of causing trouble or being involved in it."

"You know, this is not where I pictured a respected anthropology professor to be living," Jim muttered.

"Respected? By whom?" I asked, curious.

"Your students and friends all spoke highly of you when they showed up to visit. Some of the staff weren't surprised that you'd landed in the hospital and had a few words to say about that, but the rest of 'em were genuinely sorry for you and hoped you'd get better soon. Said you were a great teacher, really knew your material. A wonderful asset to the department." This was said with a wry grin.

"Yeah, well, I'm the youngest professor on staff. Even if I weren't, the ratio of respect to pay isn't based on age, really. It depends on the contributions you make to your chosen field and what sort of recognition you get for it. Therefore, since I've made plenty of contributions to my work but have only been recognized for my work with the Chopec, I won't see an increase in pay and benefits until I start doing more - hey, man, you okay? What's up?" See, Jim had gone bone white at that moment and I was a little alarmed.

He shook his head. "What was that about work?"

"Huh? You mean, the Chopec?"

"Yeah, that."

"Well, a few years ago, I was on an expedition to Peru and managed to get myself lost in the jungle. I had an excuse! Some wild cat was after me; a black jaguar. Chasing me. Didn't especially feel as though it were hungry, though; more like it was trying to herd me. Weird. Anyway, a few miles later, I get found by the Chopec, some of their warriors anyway. I managed to get the point across that I'd been running for my life from a black cat. It was really weird, 'cause they looked at each other - there were four of them - and seemed to know what I was talking about in this totally mystical way. So, I got taken back to the village and was cleaned and fed and then had a powwow with the tribe's Shaman, a great guy named Incacha. I knew enough of the local Peruvian dialect that we could converse with a mild degree of difficulty - they all laughed at my accent, though. Apparently, it stank very much bad. Well, I managed to tell Incacha what we were doing and so on and so forth. I ended up collecting a ton of information and then they took me back to the campsite. I waited until we got back to the states, though, before proposing an actual study by me for my dissertation. My advisors agreed and I went back down there and lived with them for a while. Got enough information to get my dissertation and to make waves with the Peruvian government. Apparently, wood and oil companies were encroaching on the forest pretty heavily and with the information I learned about the role the Chopec play in the ecological scheme of things, along with cultural history, well, it put a stop to the threat against the Chopec."

"Things ... are okay, then?" Jim asked at that point, and I noted he looked a little pained.

"Oh, yeah. Things are fine. In fact, Incacha was the proud papa of a baby girl by the time I left. He was over the moon, let me tell you. Apparently, six sons were enough for him and he wanted a little girl. Got her, too. His wife, Alidure, told him that seven children were enough and he'd have to put procreation on the backburner for a while - well, that was the gist of what she said, anyway. It was funny, now that I think about it. He agreed with almost comical reverence, man."

"I'm ... glad to hear that."

"Yeah. Know what was the most fascinating thing I heard about while I was there?"

"What?"

By then, I'd gotten kind of worried about the big guy. We'd settled on the couch, but I got up to get him a beer and make myself tea; not allowed to have any alcohol while on meds, which I had reluctantly yet dutifully elected to take.

"While I was there, I learned of the tribe's sentinel, although they called him Sentinalme. He was a stranger from another land, Incacha told me, but he was invaluable to them while he was there. Helped patrol their borders and flushed out the drug lords that had moved into the area, before his own people collected him again. Apparently, he'd gotten lost or left behind, depending on how you look at it. But it was amazing! I'd heard of sentinels before, you see. I wanted to do my dissertation on them, but could never find a subject. Wanna know what a sentinel is?"

He nodded wordlessly as I brought back our drinks and handed him his beer.

"A sentinel is someone who possesses five genetically enhanced senses. All of them - sight, sound, smell, taste, touch - heightened far beyond normal humans. Imagine being able to see for miles, hear for miles; smell and taste things that would be invisible to others; feel things to a depth of awareness that nobody else could. That's why sentinels were called the guardians of the tribe. The watchmen; it was their job to warn of impending dangers; to provide updates on weather and game patterns. To sense illnesses before they struck hard enough to decimate the tribe. See what I'm saying?"

Jim nodded at me again.

"Anyway, apparently I missed this sentinel by a year or so. His name was Enqueri and - Jim! Are you okay?" I asked frantically, because at that point, he dropped his beer bottle and it shattered all over the floor.

Then he really floored me.

Turning to me, he said, "Runasimita rimankichu?"

Which, in Quechua, meant: "Do you speak Quechua?"

I gaped at him, and he said, again in Quechua, "Allichu, runasimita rimankichu?" which translated to: "Please, do you speak Quechua?"

Swallowing hard, I replied, "Ari, rimanki Quechua. Pin kanki?" Essentially, I agreed with him that I spoke Quechua and then asked him who he was.

What he said next had me bolting to my feet and backing up, gaping like a fish.

"Enqueri sutiy."

"Qan ... qan..." I stuttered, before switching to English. "You are Enqueri?!"

"Ari. Mayman rinki, Blair?" he said quietly, getting to his feet.

"I ... I don't ... this is too freaky, man!" I yelled. I knew he had asked me where I was going, but at that point, I didn't have a flaming clue.

"Ama," he said quietly again when I backed away. He didn't want me to go.

I paused, then whispered at a sub-vocal level: "Speak English, man. I think faster in that language."

And he answered me!

"Whatever you want, Chief."

My head snapped up and I stared hard at him. "You heard me."

Okay, so it wasn't genius thinking, but jeez, you know??

He gave me this wry little grin. "Sentinalme sutiy. I am a sentinel, Darwin. Of course I heard you."

"Why are you ... how ... aren't you the teensiest bit freaked out right now?" I asked as calmly as I knew how.

Jim sighed and shrugged, and against my will, my eyes fasted on that muscular chest and those broad shoulders. Hey, I could be on my friggin' deathbed and I'd notice that body, okay?!

"I know I ought to be, Sandburg, but frankly, I'm a little tapped out right now," he growled. "May I explain?"

"I think you'd better, man, 'cause this is definitely getting beyond me."

"Fine. Sit down. Take your meds. Rimani, rimanchik. I'll talk, you'll talk."

I settled down and hastily swallowed my pills with a gulp of cooling tea as he sat back down on the couch. "So. Parlanki."

He grinned at me. "Thought you wanted it in English?"

I made a vague half-annoyed, half-get-on-with-it gesture at him and he began.

"Did you happen to see an article in a Newsweek magazine about an Army Ranger stranded in the jungles of Peru for 18 months and then rescued by the Army, finally?" he asked me.

I thought hard and finally remembered. I had read about it, five years ago. Nodding, I looked at him and saw a ragged bandanna and dirt and stubble superimposed over his current visage. It was odd, but the eyes were too similar from the picture I had seen way back then and the ones I was looking at, at that moment. Too lost, too weary, too confused, too lonely.

Apparently I saw too much because I swear a shield went over those blue, blue eyes and his emotions were suddenly blocked from me. I cursed at that; the man had far too much practice at doing so to be that efficient. I didn't like what that implied as to his past and present emotional status, but I didn't pursue it.

Instead, I looked at him. "That was you, wasn't it?"

He nodded. "That was me. My chopper was shot down because my team and I had been sold out. I was the only survivor of the wreck. Came close to there not being any survivors. I had been injured and the cuts were infected. I was found by Incacha and some of the other Chopec. Yes, the same Incacha you met. He nursed me back to health and I repaid the debt by teaching them how to defend themselves against the guerillas in the region. We drove out the drug lords and mercenaries and kept them out. Then the Army brought me home."

I was utterly fascinated and was hanging on his every word. He and I had known the same Shaman and tribe? Too cool!

He'd seen my eagerness, that was for sure. Hell, once it really started to sink in that he was a sentinel, I realized that it would've been impossible for him to miss!

Grinning, he continued. "Before I was rescued, however, we had lots and lots of talks. Several of them centered around my guide."

"Your what?"

"Guide. The person who would be by my side; my mate. The one who would teach me about being a sentinel; how to be a sentinel."

"I get it now. Richard Burton - the explorer, not the actor - who first learned of sentinels and brought his findings back to the modern world, he mentioned that the watchman had someone to guard his back, to help keep him from zoning out. But it sounds to me like you know how to be a sentinel; that Incacha taught you how to be one."

He shook his head. "Incacha was a stop-gap guide, for lack of a better phrase. He was not destined to be my guide. I was to come home, he had to stay there. He knew my guide was out there, though. Knew we'd find each other. Said that we would both know. Told me that when I met the Wolf, I will have found my mate. That I, the Panther, would know."

I froze. Panther? Black panther? Wolf? Like the one I sometimes dreamed of?

Jim tilted his head a little and his eyes dropped to my chest. I got the feeling that he wasn't visually undressing me and I was proved right a moment later when he said, "Your heart sounds like it's about to jump right out of your chest. What's wrong, Chief?"

"The panther you mentioned ... black jaguar, right?" I asked, my voice quavering.

He nodded.

"Incacha ... when I told him I had been chased by one, he smiled at me and said that the Panther was not here, meaning there in Peru. He ... said the Panther; not a panther, but the Panther, with a capital 'P'! He was talking about you, wasn't he?!"

Jim smiled at me and my heart wasn't the only thing leaping about then.

"Ari ... um, yes. Sorry about that."

"S'alright. So, if you are the Panther ... and how did you get that name, anyway?"

"My animal spirit, according to Incacha, is a black jaguar. Actually, I've seen him a couple of times, but it's been a while since the last sighting. So, that's why I'm called 'the Panther'. And the black jaguar that was chasing you in Chopec territory was probably my animal spirit."

I was silent for a moment, trying to absorb all this. Never let it be said that I'm stupid, however, because it wasn't long before I came to a conclusion that both thrilled and terrified me. "I'M your guide?!"

Jim shrugged nonchalantly but his fiery blue gaze was anything but. "Maybe. My guide - my mate - is supposed to be the Wolf."

"I dream about a wolf," I whispered before I could stop myself, and shivered when he sat up straighter and his eyes burned brighter. I licked my lips nervously, and his eyes dropped to my mouth.

"Sumaq simi," he said softly, telling me that he thought my mouth was beautiful.

I went hot and looked at him intently. "Jim ... munawanki?" I said, asking him if he wanted me.

His eyes were so hot when he looked into mine. So hot and powerful. "Ari." Just that one word, but it was guttural and full of want and I had no doubt that he meant it.

But when I offered myself a moment later, opening my arms with a smile, he shook his head and sat back away from me.

Talk about confused! I must've had question marks exploding out of my scalp like some kind of cartoon character, because he grinned at me and said, "Calm down, Sandburg, and I'll explain things."

I nodded and with great effort, kept my mouth shut. It's got this tendency to run away from me sometimes; just ask any of my friends, they'll tell you I can't shut up to save my life.

Nodding approval, Jim was silent for a long moment. He started out with a non-sequitor. "You know, that was one of the things I missed most in the jungle; cold, tasty beer. The Chopec stuff tastes for shit."

"Tell me," muttered.

He smirked. "Hit you hard, did it?"

I smirked back. "Q'echa onqoywanqa kashani," I spat, telling him the Chopec's version of beer gave me the shits.

He laughed at that point. Threw back his head and roared with it.

Apparently, he knew exactly what I was talking about.

His laughter got me going, so I joined in. After all, it had been somewhat amusing, the contortions I went through trying to keep from shitting myself sometimes.

When our laughter finally died out, he grinned over at me. "How many times?"

I shrugged, grinning. "Only six. Once I mistook it for water and chugged down half a jug before the taste really seeped in. When it did, I immediately ran for a latrine hole and squatted. Not two minutes later, I was practically disemboweling myself with the force of it! I wised up, though, and refrained from drinking anymore. Love the buzz that came after the crap, but the crap was too much."

Jim laughed at me ... asikun (he laughed at me). He then surprised me into nearly falling off the sofa. "For me, it was chunka iskayniyoq ... twelve. I couldn't leave well enough alone. It was like catnip to me. I spent quite a lot of time bathing as the result, but it was sort of worth it. Especially when I found out that by concentrating hard, I could ignore the taste of it."

"You'd end up bathing a lot anyway, with your sense of smell," I murmured absently.

He nodded. "Yup. So, here's the thing. My senses have recently come back on-line; like a week ago. Not too long before I met you. I'd gone camping for the weekend and boom! Suddenly, everything was louder, brighter, a lot more intense. Should've caught too many fish, but the sudden reappearance of my senses hurt so I didn't catch squat."

"I can imagine."

"No, you can't. But you might be able to help. Here's the way I see it. There's too many coincidences here between us. We've both met the Chopec; we've both met Incacha. We both know about sentinels. I am a sentinel. You dream about a wolf, I am the Panther. My mate is supposed to be 'the Wolf'. You're a teacher. I need a teacher. You're fascinated by sentinels; I'm right here. And unless I'm mistaken, I turn you on as much as you turn me on, which is very. Does this add up for you the same way it does for me?"

I nodded eagerly, licking my lips again. He closed his eyes and tightened his jaw, which gave me a little thrill. He wanted to kiss me, but was forcing himself to hold back. When he opened his eyes again, his look was incendiary and I wanted to rip off my clothes to put out the fire. Or maybe fan the flames. Either way...

"Try not to do that anymore," he grumbled, and I knew what that meant. I nodded agreement and waited for the rest of it.

"Now here's the kicker, Chief. My guide has to be by my side almost constantly in order to help me. I'm a cop and I'm not ready to stop being one yet. Point of fact, I'm getting transferred out of Vice and into Major Crime which, believe me, is a wonderful step upward for me."

"I believe it. From what I hear, Vice is nasty business."

"It's the ninth level of Hell, Sandburg. The things I see; the things I do..." he whispered harshly, and I couldn't hold off anymore.

Scooting close, I lightly lay one hand over top one of his. He looked at me quickly and I said with absolute assuredness, "Not anymore, Jim. Things are getting better; will be better. I'll help you!"

Quicker than I could blink, I was scooped up in a firm hug against him. His face was mere inches from my own, and we shared breath. "Really, Sandburg? You're not blowing smoke, here ... you truly mean what you say? You'll be my guide?"

"Yes. I want this. I want you. I want to learn about you and learn for you and keep you safe," I grunted, wrapping my arms around him.

"It means you'll have to work with me in my world as well as your own," he said quietly, trying to give me an out as he wound his fingers into my hair.

I didn't want an out. Everything I wanted in a mate and as an anthropological mystery was right there in my arms. I'd rather be tied down and forced to listen to Barry Manilow and be tickled for hours on end with no relief in sight than give up what I had right then.

"I know, Jim. I know working with you is probably going to be dangerous. I'm prepared to accept that. I ... I probably shouldn't say this, but I've known I was empty, was missing the other half of my soul, for a long, long time. And when I saw you, and being with you now, I know that other half is you. Please, please don't make me give you up now! I'd rather die!"

He squashed me in a fierce hug, then. "No! No dying, never. I won't think that. Ever. You're sure, Blair?"

He'd said my name and oh, the chills of pleasure it gave me! Rough, rolling purr and a whisper of silk combined in one that was my name coming from his lips. Already hard, I nearly came just from hearing it even as I gave him my word. "I'm sure, Jim. I'm so sure. I refuse to cut my hair, but I'm with you all the way, one hundred percent!"

He laughed joyously at that and then I went out of my mind because he kissed me. That sensual mouth was on my own and my brain fried in that one moment. We were both reduced to our primal instincts in that moment, I think. The next time I consciously thought for myself, we were both naked and on my bed, the futon spread out into a full mattress, and he was kneeling between my spread legs.

"Sumaqnki," he whispered, telling me that I was beautiful.

"Sumaqnki," I repeated, reaching up to trace his face lightly before bringing my fingers and palms down over his neck, shoulders, and chest.

He purred at that, which made me purr, although not nearly as well as him. What'd you expect? Him cat, me dog. Meow, bowwow. Of course, there was some howling and yowling thrown in as well, but that came later, along with the rest of us.

(You know, I never used to be this ribald until I met him. He says he can live with it. I hope so, since he started it!)

After some more mutual petting and animal noises, Jim kissed me again, deeply, passionately, then lay down fully atop me. I wrapped my arms around him to hold him tighter to me; he felt so darn good. I vaguely recalled that he was supposed to be taking my statement, not my tonsils, but I really couldn't complain about the way he was going at it. Talk about taking my statement directly! Oh, well. About the time his hands cupped my buttocks and pulled our groins together, I wasn't thinking about much else except getting his cock in my ass and coming harder than I ever had in my life. We kissed frantically, mouths wet against each other, hot and wet against the flesh of throats and shoulders and chests. I nearly bucked us both off the bed when he latched onto my pierced nipple and played with it delightfully. I swore some filthy things at him, but it only inspired him to greater tricks. I still haven't decided, even after all this time, if it was a good thing or a bad thing.

We rolled on the mattress, rubbing and stroking tenderly, passionately. I licked sensuously at his nipples, he nipped at mine, until we were both near sobbing with arousal. It didn't take much, really. Just a look from him is enough to turn me into an unrepentant slut. (He says he can live with that, too.)

"Look at me, Chief," he pleaded in a wonderfully breathless way, and I opened eyes I hadn't known I'd closed. When they were open, he asked, "Moving too fast for you?"

I shook my head frantically. If he stopped now, I was sure I'd be heartbroken. "No. I've waited so long for you."

He smiled. "Me, too, munakusqa."

My eyes widened. He'd called me his beloved. "Munakusqa," I breathed back.

His grin was nearly incandescent and it made me feel lighter than air and stronger than King Kong.

Then he lowered his head once more and began to trail kisses down my waiting body. I sighed happily and he moved his body to accommodate his actions. Sliding down between my hard, hairy thighs, he placed burning kisses there. I shivered hard when his hands slipped beneath my buttocks and then up around my hipbones for a steady grip, and then I whimpered in anticipation when I felt his hot, moist breath nearing my erection. He nuzzled me, glanced up, and before I knew it, he'd taken three inches of my dick into his hot, wet mouth.

I quivered and bucked, shouting, but he held me down as he licked and suckled me. When I felt my orgasm starting in my balls, he must have too, because he left off sucking me with a near obscene slurp and began licking lower. He bathed my balls for a few moments before moving to my waiting hole.

I really have no words to describe what happened next. All I was aware of was intense pleasure as something hot, slick, and flexible drove me flaming bonkers.

It wasn't long before I was yelling for more.

"I want you inside of me!" I begged, doing my best to ride down on that hot tongue. "I can't take anymore, man, please! Come inside me!"

With a chuckle, he raised himself over me. "Allin apakunki," he whispered, telling me that I begged so well.

I proved it by using body movements and hot words to entice him as best as I could.

Apparently, it was well enough.

I'd barely had time to whisper that a tube of lube would be in my desk drawer along the far wall before he was gone, leaving me naked and wide open to the air and his gaze, which I now knew could see well enough from the far wall. Two seconds later, he was back, kissing me hungrily, and I got the shock of my life.

He was kneeling above me and reaching behind himself with well-lubed fingers.

"Wh-what?" I stammered.

"I want this," he said harshly, though a tiny smile twitched at his mouth. "I want to give this to you; to have this from you."

"But - but then why-" I asked, trying to ask why he had bathed me with his tongue if he were not going to take me then.

"To let you know that I intend to take that sweet hole at some point in the very near future," was the heated reply. "And to give you pleasure. You did like it, didn't you, Chief?"

I smiled, reaching up to stroke his chest and belly, watching as his fingers probed deeper inside himself in reaction to the petting. "Yeah, Jim. I liked it. I liked it a lot, man."

"Good. That means you can return the favor some time." A slight pause. "If you want to."

"If I want to...? You must be joking. More like when won't I want to. The answer to which is never." I gave him my sassiest grin and got one in return. Yowza, but the man is pretty!

But don't let him hear you say that. "Pretty", evidently, shouldn't be used to describe him. If I told you what he does think describes him, you'd puke. So, see, I'm doing you a favor, trust me.

Finally, he was ready and I was slicked up. He lay down atop me again and we kissed for a while, and then he rolled so that I straddled him. I lifted myself up and shifted so that I knelt between his thighs. He lifted and spread his legs so I could have easier access and I nearly came at the sight of his wet hole waiting for me.

"Oh, man," I whispered. "Where have you been all my life...?"

"Waiting for you, Chief. Now come in here, please! I've waited long enough!" he demanded, and pulled me closer.

I leaned down to kiss him as I fitted myself to his entrance, then slowly pushed. For a moment I was afraid I wouldn't go in, but in the next moment, he relaxed so much that I was halfway inside before I quite knew what was happening. When I did, I groaned deeply and he groaned back, our breath mingling as our tongues and lips and teeth did.

I slid deeper and deeper inside until finally, my balls were resting against his ass and he was making these delicious sounds of hunger, his hips already jerking minutely beneath me as he tightened reflexively around me.

I groaned again. "Jim, if you don't stop that, this is gonna be over whether either of us likes it or not."

"Then I suggest," he purred in that voice of his, "that you move, Chief."

Which I did. With vigor.

Bracing my hands on either side of his head, I lowered my mouth to his and kissed him for all I was worth as I began to ride him. His legs wrapped around my waist of their own volition and I pumped into him with deep, lingering strokes before I began to gain speed and strength.

He gasped out what might have been my name, but I wasn't the one with sentinel hearing. What I was certain of was that he was loving every moment of it, if his reactions could be judged accurately. His hips jerked up to meet mine, he held me close, and he just about sucked my tongue out of my head. If that wasn't enjoyment, I'd hate to see diffidence or even dislike.

As I began moving faster and harder, he pushed me away slightly and we both gulped in breaths of air. He looked up at me, his features wreathed in pleasure, and I gazed back as he gasped, "Yes ... yes, Chief! Sweet, so sweet! More, oh more, please!"

"Yeah!" I shouted, my hips moving like greased lightning. "Yeah! Jim! Yes, Jim, yes, you can have it. You can have me! Right now, oh, yeah!"

I was amazed at this, frankly. I had never been this verbal during sex before. I can't speak for him, but when I have sex, my brain kind of sidelines it and shuts down for a little while. I'm lucky if I can get out even the most basic Anglo-Saxon words. Maybe it was because I was going into it - into him - with every part of me? Because I was. I was giving him all of me: heart, body, soul, and mind. I'd finally found him, not knowing he was what I had been searching for. But I had found him, and every part of me was his.

He groaned beneath me as though he was dying, but I knew he wasn't. There was pure lust and aching hunger in each note of that groan and it drove me near crazy. I shuddered hard when I heard him mutter, "Yeah, babe ... god, I can feel you pulsing inside me. Feels so good, please, please, don't ever stop, never, ever...."

I was loving it, too. Didn't ever want to stop these glorious sensations cascading through me. But as much as I loved the fucking, as much as I loved loving him, each thrust was bringing us closer to the end, especially when I shifted and began stroking over his prostate. And I thought I'd seen reaction before! Hah! When I stroked his little pleasure nub, he thrashed about like a Bronco on speed.

I wish I could say I was made of sterner stuff than most men, but I'm afraid not. When he bucked, clenched hard, and shrieked my name, I was a goner.

Leaning down again, I gave him a lusty, frantic kiss, which he returned, and then I leaned up again and my hips moved in short, sharp jabs, pushing deep inside him, glorying in the feeling of his sheath folding warm and wetly around that most sensitive part of me. "Jim, Jim!" I yelped at the ceiling. "I'm not ... I can't ... too sweet ... not gonna last!"

He let out an anguished sound, hunger and lust mixed together, and then reached between us and took himself in hand. He jacked roughly, quickly, and my eyes riveted to the sight of his penis slipping in and out of his own fist as I plowed deeply and roughly into his tight channel.

When he went rigid beneath me, I finally lost control of myself. I closed my eyes, let my head fall back, and howled a blood-curdling wail as I gave myself over to the coming and slammed into him, digging myself as deep as I could go, my semen spurting hotly from my dick. Over and over and over, until I was almost afraid I would never stop coming, and dreading the moment I would.

I heard a deep-throated yowl from somewhere below me and intense pressure squeezed my cock. I barely felt the splash of his come coating our bellies and chests before I passed out atop him, slumping down to cover him.

*****

We awakened much later to eat, neck a little, love again, nap again. We woke up again, he put in a call to his captain, and then we snuggled together in our nest on the futon mattress.

I lay curled in the shelter of one of his arms, my head pillowed on a broad shoulder as I slowly petted his broad, muscular chest. His skin felt like velvet, with that hard muscle beneath. For one moment, I had male envy, but he let me know that he appreciated my own muscular chest, though smaller in stature it was.

After a while, I asked, "Will you tell me about your time with the Chopec? How you came to be with them, I mean?"

He shook his head.

"Why not?" I pressed.

"I don't want to. That time is full of ... qhate sonqo yuyarina. Bittersweet memories. It hurt that I lost my team to a few traitors I should have been able to trust. Maybe someday, Chief, I'll tell you about it. Right now, though, I don't want to talk about it."

I nodded. "All right. So, what do we do about getting me in as your partner? I've got this thing about guns, man. Don't like them at all."

He glanced down at me and grinned. "Neo-hippie witchdoctor punk," he said with fond amusement.

"Bet your ass," I replied promptly.

"Nah. I'm fond of this ass."

"I am, too."

"This I know. Believe me, I know."

I sat up at that, draping myself over his chest so I could look into his eyes with worry. And why not? I may have only just met this man, but I already knew he had my heart, and I had his. "Are you okay? I didn't hurt you, did I?"

Jim smiled that heart-melting smile at me and shook his head. "Nah. I'm a little sore, maybe, but it's a good sore. Settle down, simisapa."

I blinked. "Blabbermouth? You called me blabbermouth?"

"Uh-huh."

"Why?"

"'Cause that brilliant brain of yours never shuts up and your mouth is attached right to it."

I shrugged. "So I have a phaqsa osq'on; big deal. But ... do you really ... my talking bothers you?"

I was instantly turned to cuddle him, his arms wrapping around me. I snuggled into the heat of him, enjoying myself immensely.

"Chief, there's something you need to understand. Before we ran into each other - okay, before I ran into you - I've been alone. I live alone, don't have many friends, don't get out much unless I'm on a case. I'm not used to someone who talks as much as you do. But that doesn't mean I won't get used to you; doesn't mean it bothers me. It's something I need to get used to, but it's a part of you. And I know this has happened fast, but I do love you, already. We're soulmates, just as Incacha said we'd be. He was right when he said I'd recognize you. I never would have gone to bed with you this quickly otherwise."

I smiled and snuggled closer. "I know, Jim. I know exactly what you mean." I yawned then and said sleepily, "Hold me? Feel so warm, so safe, here."

He knew I meant that I felt that way in his embrace. His arms tightened around me as he whispered, "Always hold you, munakusqa. Always. Noqa waylluni. Now sleep, baby."

"Noqa waylluni, munakusqa," I whispered back, and then went to sleep.

****

And a couple years later, here I am. Anthropologist and Guide to the Sentinel of Cascade.

I'm also a consultant who rides along with Jim in the Major Crime unit. In no small part due to me, I'll be quite frank, I managed to smooth out any ruffled feathers and rough patches that Jim and his new captain, a big black teddy bear of a grumpy man named Simon Banks, would have hit. They're both friends now and Jim has managed to create friendships with the other officers in the bullpen.

I've carved out a niche for myself as well. There were quite a few officers in the whole PD who were openly unhappy about my presence, especially after I moved in with him. But between Jim and myself - and a few close calls in which I did my very best to save a fellow officer's bacon (read: Ellison) - I have sort of endeared myself to most of them. There are a few diehards, but that's to be expected. Can't please everyone all of the time, only some of them. Abraham Lincoln; very wise man. Shame he was killed.

There've been a few hairy spots during our career together. And some spectacular fights. Jim isn't one to open up and talk easily and I do nothing but. However, we know for a fact that we love each other, that we would die for the other, and that never will we abandon or betray the other. So, when we fight, the make-up sex can be some blistering hot, let me tell you!

Other than that, though, we seem to be doing alright. I've put him through test after test - which he has bitched about quite articulately - that has led to making significant inroads on discovering what his abilities can do. Those discoveries have come in handy a few times in his cases, at which point he'll thank me very nicely. I do mean nicely, too. And I've come a long way in learning my own abilities as his guide. And all I can say is that it's nice to be needed so deeply by this one man who gives off the vibe of needing no one.

So, all in all, we're doing pretty well. Anything else that comes our way, we'll just have to-

"Chief?"

"Uh ... yeah, Jim?"

"What're you doing, babe?"

"Being nibbled on by a horny sentinel?"

"Besides that."

"Mmmmm ... oh! Uh, nothing, really."

"Well, then, close up shop and come to bed."

"At 8:30? Jim, it's not that late, man."

"No, Sandburg, I mean come to bed."

"Oh ... oh! Right! Gotcha!"

"You'd better. I want to be the one inside tonight, Chief."

Well, I've said what I had to say. Good night, good luck, you're on your own! I have some serious loving to attend to.

"Whoa! Chief! Blair, don't run up those stairs so fast, okay? I don't want you to slip and ... and ... aw, God, you're stripping. You know I'm a sucker for stripping and ... ooh, playing with yourself ... right. I'm coming!"

"Bet your ass you are."

"Chief, we've been over this."

We sure have. And we'll do it again, too.

I love my job!

THE END

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Acknowledgements: To Bluesky, for being a total Wonder Woman. And to my usual gals: Mary, Patt, Lisa, and Cat. Like I could ever forget 'em.