A Sea-Change by Laurie

A Sea-Change - Laurie
Part Two: Legends, Lost-love, Leaving and Lies

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Notes: Part One can be found here and should be read first.

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Arise, and say how thou camest here
-The Tempest. Shakespeare.

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The date with Carolyn had not gone well. I'd had another one of my increasingly difficult spells where my senses were out of whack. Carolyn hadn't appreciated my making a scene about the food at the expensive restaurant she had picked out for our two-month anniversary. I'd thought my meal had been poisoned; she'd thought I was imagining things. Again.

She'd been so annoyed with me that she'd called a cab from the restaurant and gone home. No sex tonight. Damn -- it was time to make a date with my hand. I mentally kicked my own ass for overreacting this evening.

I walked to my truck, hearing everything around me, it seemed.

Customers in the restaurant talking about business and pleasure, waiters arguing with the cooks, the clink of pots and pans, the sound of traffic, and a dog walking down the street; all were jumbled sounds that were bombarding me. The smells from the restaurant were overwhelming, and made my gut churn, which didn't bode well if I didn't get in the truck soon and get some relief.

It felt like somebody had put a curse on me, the way my senses had become so over-sensitive. If my granny were still alive, she would have gotten water from one of the Holy Wells of Ireland and dabbed some on my eyelids and my ears, as well as my tongue, nose, and hands, hoping to block the curse.

I didn't believe in the power of the Holy Wells, myself. But I would have let her try to lift the curse, to keep her happy.

Thank God, I did have something that helped me manage my out-of-control senses, and I climbed into my truck and fumbled open the glove compartment. A bottle of aspirin fell out onto the floor as I pawed through insurance papers and the F-150's owner's manual. I found what I needed and gripped it tightly, already noticing the smells receding and the sounds reducing to manageable levels.

I shouldn't have tried to leave it in the truck. I should have known better and kept it next to my skin. But I had thought Carolyn and I would be getting naked with each other after dinner, and I didn't want to explain why I had a leather choker wound around my wrist or my ankle.

God knows nobody would buy me wearing something like that as a decoration.

Blair had worn the plain band of skin openly, though. He'd worn it around his neck, and as I wound the choker around my wrist, I remembered the last time I'd seen it on him.

He'd been damp from his shower, his hair hanging in wet curls around his attractive face. The choker had been the only item of clothing on his golden skin and he'd looked primitive and entirely fuckable. He'd taken the leather decoration off and he probably meant to put it into his backpack - he started towards it, anyway, till I captured him in my arms and he dropped his choker on the motel room floor.

I'd found it later, after he'd left me. There was no easy way to return it because I hadn't even known his first name, till a bartender remembered it. But Blair hadn't contacted me about his strange band of skin, although I'd left my number at the motel and at the bar. So, finders keepers. And I'd discovered through trial and error that wearing it helped to keep my senses manageable; I could make my senses return to normal or I could keep them high, but they didn't hurt me, so long as I wore Blair's charm. I halfway wondered if it was magic, somehow. Actually, I didn't like to speculate on why the thing worked so well. I was just glad that it did.

After I had put Blair's charm back around my ankle, making sure my sock covered it up, I recovered enough so that I was able to drive to a florist's shop. Sent an expensive apology to Carolyn with a note asking her to forgive me for ruining the evening. I had put a lot of effort into dating Carolyn; I didn't want it to be for nothing. She was the one I'd picked out to marry; she was classy and tough, with long legs and red hair. Besides being a handsome woman, Caro was intelligent, and had just been promoted to Department Chief of the Forensic Unit.

The sex with Caro was okay. She was a vanilla kind of girl, but I was working on making her feel comfortable with me going down on her. She had yet to return the favor, but I figured sooner or later I would talk her into sucking my dick.

We hadn't brought up the subject of children. If she wanted them I would go along with her, but I wasn't asking her to bear my offspring. Of course, my father would be in favor of a grandson to preserve the Ellison name. He didn't get a vote. I hadn't talked to him since I joined the army, and I had no plans to look the old man back up.

Sometimes, I did miss my brother. Well, I missed the version of him that was about nine years old. Back then he'd been my shadow and I took care of the little snot. My father's twisted attempts to have my brother and me compete against each other had influenced Steven more than me, and my little brother had learned to play dirty. I'd taken the fall for him when he'd scratched up Dad's classic car. Little bastard had lied and said I'd done it. That was pretty much the last straw and as soon as I'd graduated from college I was talking to a recruiter.

My granny - actually my great-grandmother - had been the only one I'd stayed in touch with while I was in the Army. She had been quite the character, and had taken care of Stevie and me a lot when we were younger. Especially after Mom took off. She'd lived in Ireland till she was seventeen, then had immigrated to Seattle and met and married my great-grandfather. My granny had been a Murphy, and was fond of reminding me that it wasn't only Ellison blood that ran in my veins.

Granny was down to earth and a good cook; there was always a spice cake and sugar cookies for neighborhood kids at her house. I'd been as tall as her when I was ten years old, but her lack of height didn't stop her from calling the shots.

Granny was superstitious and fond of telling stories from her girlhood and I'd grown up hearing about the Sidhe and Pookas and other strange folk. She was a devout Catholic and went to Mass every Sunday. Dad disliked the rituals of Catholicism and had become an Episcopalian, instead. He joined the country club in his efforts to distance himself from our family's working class background. He'd done well in his business and insisted that I participate in horseback riding lessons and dance lessons and other activities the rich kids were expected to master.

Must have really galled him, if he had even bothered to find out, that I'd reverted to my Irish roots and become a cop.

I hadn't particularly enjoyed my last assignment, but luckily Major Crimes was run quite differently from Vice. I was more than ready for a change after working in that snake pit, and had started in Banks' department when I returned from my vacation, expecting that transferring couldn't be any worse than staying where I was.

Though, I hadn't returned rested. My crazy senses had been acting up ever since I'd almost died when I'd been caught in that rip tide. My best guess was that becoming mildly hypothermic had set them off. I kept hoping they'd return to normal.

And the rest of my sex and surfing vacation had gone to hell after leaving La Push and Blair. I'd tried to surf again, further down the coast, and I... I couldn't stand to be on my board. I would start to sweat and get dizzy and have to come back to the shore without catching any waves.

A shrink would tell me that I had a phobic reaction because I'd almost died while surfing. Tough titty. I was an ex-ranger and a cop. I didn't do phobic reactions.

Except I did. And it was eating me up to keep walking away from the Pacific knowing that the ocean had kicked my ass. After I came home, I would make plans to go down to the beach and get back up on the horse that had thrown me... and then I would find excuses not to follow through.

A shrink would also say my self-esteem had taken a beating.

Sometimes shrinks were right.

The cruising for guys had bombed out, too. Nobody looked good to me after having fucked Blair, and I found myself turning down interested strangers.

Blair.

Pretty, blue-eyed boy.

I'd never see him again. But I had his choker and I flushed when I thought of how I would use it when I got up to my loft. It wouldn't be long now - I was a block from home - and the sweet tension low in my belly was a sharp reminder of what I would experience tonight.

I showered before climbing the stairs to my big bed under the skylight. My muscles felt relaxed from the warm water as I stretched out on the sheets and took Blair's strange rectangle of leather-skin and wrapped it around my cock. I'd been doing myself like this for the last two months, since I'd inherited this... charm from my one night stand. I wouldn't be able to stroke myself with it and feel that intense sensation once I married Caro. It would be cheating on her, kind of. But I wasn't her husband yet, and this felt too good to stop before I had to.

I pictured Blair, while my hand pressed the choker into my flesh as I made the age-old motions. I'd loved his hair, loved to feel it and twine it around my fingers. Loved to really look at it and see all the colors that each curl held.

I thought about his voice, commanding me to be quiet while he brought me to orgasm. And how he had wailed and screamed out his pleasure when I made him come.

Mmmm... The taste of his mouth, the softness of his lips.

I closed my eyes and rode out my own orgasm. When I could move again, I made a tight bracelet of my only connection to Blair. I fell asleep wondering where he was and if he ever thought about the tall man he'd help rescue from the sea.

** ** ** ** ** **

I walked through the jungle, the air shifting color in the twilight to a blue hue. I could see the tiny pinprick of yellow ahead and followed the twisting path till I was standing next to the small fire and gazing down at Incacha, where he sat cross-legged by the flames.

"Sit, Enqueri. Open your mind as you look into the fire."

I did. And I knew this was a dream, but you did not ignore a shaman's directives, not in your dreams and not in reality.

After I'd watched the fire burn awhile, I asked him a question. "What is this supposed to accomplish? I've got to be at the PD in the morning to meet with Jack and Banks about a case."

Incacha sighed. It was the kind of thing a teacher might have done when some bone-headed student missed the point of the lesson that had just been explained.

"C'mon, Incacha. At least give me a study guide or something. I know I'm not an A student so how about some help, okay?"

Incacha got up and fed some small pieces of wood to the fire. The smoke became aromatic and I recognized the scent. It was something that translated to 'Holy Wood' and Incacha had used it in some of the ceremonies he'd done to help his people. He kneeled behind me and rested his fingers on my forehead.

His voice was not loud but it was commanding, as he made small circles on my temples. Reminded me of the way Blair had given me orders during our little sex-a-thon.

"Watch the flames dance, Enqueri. Follow the movement and think back, sentinel. You have put away your memories and you have need of them now. Watch the flames, Chapaq, my qari churi."

Watchman, guardian. My son. I smiled to myself. I'd missed him after the Army had finally arrived at the Chopec Pass and taken me back to the good old USA.

I breathed in the sweet, heavy smoke and felt my body relaxing as my old friend continued his massage of my forehead, occasionally shifting to massage my neck and shoulders. "Watch the flames, my qari churi," he whispered.

I did, and felt my heart and breathing slowing down. The flames blurred as I gazed into them; I saw myself as a boy, telling my father how I could see and hear things much better than the other kids. I saw myself crying up in my room after Bud was killed and my Judas-father had lied to the cops about my gifts. I had stopped using them after that; I'd done some trick in my head and they had gone away. They weren't wanted.

I saw myself leaving the helicopter crash site after having buried my team; I was alone and I needed every skill I possessed to survive in the jungle. I remembered how exulted I felt with the return of my extra-special senses - that was how I'd thought of them as a boy - and how miserable I'd also felt when they would turn on me.

Like fire, my senses could be useful and like fire, if they got out of control, they would harm me.

Incacha had made the difference.

I didn't know how he made the difference; I just knew he had made the difference.

Guided by a vision, he had found me; his touch and voice had allowed me to regain control so that the fire of my senses didn't burn me any longer.

I'd become the guardian, the watchman, for the Chopec, and in return, they had helped me with my mission objective - to hold the mountain pass bordering their land.

While I was living with my adopted people, Incacha had told me a watchman required a partner to assist him. He'd assured me he had seen in a vision that I would meet this partner. Being a shaman, he had been able to help me, but he was not a true guide.

We have not bonded, Enqueri. We will not bond. Be patient and wait, Chapaq. Those were the last actual words I'd heard from him. Words I'd forgotten till now. Oh, I remembered my dreams where Incacha would remind me to wait and be patient, but I didn't understand what I was waiting for.

I had been torn when it was time to leave the tribe. Eighteen months I'd been with them, I'd learned, and my former life as a Ranger and an American had grown to seem far away. I had stuffed those months spent in the jungle, and my extra-special senses, deep down into my head and resumed the life I'd had before. I was de-briefed and re-entered civilian life. I'd been a criminal justice major in college -- my father had expected me to go on to law school; I'd joined the Army instead after graduation, sticking it to him - but once back in Cascade I decided that being a cop would be a more fulfilling career than being a lawyer, and I entered the police academy.

My self-imposed repression of life with the Chopec was effective; I found I had few memories of my time in Peru. And until two months ago, my senses had been no more remarkable than the next guy's.

They were out of the box now, and I'd tried to put them back but I couldn't manage it.

Incacha's touch grew lighter on my shoulders and he whispered into my ear.

"Look for your guide, Enqueri. He searches for you -- for you have taken him hostage unknowingly."

"I did? Who is he? Have I met him?"

"His skin touches you even now, Enqueri, and eases your pain. Find him and bond with him." His voice faded out and his touch was gone. I knew he had left. He was spirit walking and needed to return to his own body.

I stared into the flames until I felt my eyes closing... and as I left this dream state and entered a more mundane one I made the connection. Skin... touching me now... Blair. I needed to find Blair.

** ** ** ** ** **

I waited till Jack and I were alone in his car, chasing down leads pertaining to the new case Banks had dumped in our laps this morning. There was a favor I needed, and if there was ever a guy who could get it for me, it would be Jack. The man knew everybody in the legal system, it seemed, and had a convoluted method for getting and paying back favors. I would owe Jack Pendergrast, but I trusted it wouldn't be something I couldn't afford to pay. The guy was my partner, after all, even it had been something of a shotgun wedding, with Banks playing the part of the wielder of the shotgun.

"Hey, Jack. I could use your help on a little project of mine." I was trying for nonchalant, but Jack had been in the detective game for a long time, and I could see his interest in what I was saying spike into more than casual curiosity.

"So, talk to me, Slick."

"I need to find someone I met a couple of months ago. I've got a description and a first name. I was hoping you might know somebody at the DMV who could do a search for me." I had no basis for going through official channels for this, and Banks and I weren't on good enough terms for him to cover my ass.

"Off the record, right?" Yeah, Jack. Of course off the record, otherwise I'd be filling out the paperwork right now.

"Yeah."

"Donna could arrange it. But, Boyo, as they say... There's no such thing as a free lunch. I handle this for you, then you need to agree to do something for me. Understand, Kemosabe?" Jack took his eyes off the road and glanced over at me. He was smiling.

"I figured as much, Tonto. What've you got in mind?" I answered him a little warily, a little defensively.

"Nothing too painful. I want you to start coming to our poker games; it's a long-standing tradition in Major Crimes. You'll take your turn at hosting the game at your place, too. Oh, and lose the attitude. You come across as pricklier than a hedgehog. I know Vice was no bed of roses and you did a good job despite those asshole senior detectives there, but the Lone Ranger act isn't necessary anymore. Stop oozing disrespect to Banks and make an effort to be more of a team player. And Slick? Lose the ball, okay? You sitting there and bouncing it when Banks is trying to talk to you pisses him off. You're a good cop, Jim. And you've got a brain. Don't let the attitude be what people notice about you instead of, shall we say, your better qualities."

Jack grinned at me disarmingly and I had to admire Banks' strategy in pairing us up as partners.

I thought over what he had said. I had carried the anger and disgust I'd accumulated from my time in Vice over to my new posting. But nobody in Major Crimes had fucked me over, and though Banks seemed mostly annoyed with me, he'd also been fair with me. Maybe I did need to lighten up a bit.

"Okay, partner. Fair enough." I fingered my ear, where I was wearing a stud earring. Banks had said to lose it, but I frequently wore an earring anyway, to thumb my nose at him. Pretty childish of me, I had to admit. I took the stud out of my ear lobe and held it out to Jack.

"Get Donna to run the search. And Jack? Here you go." I dumped the earring in his hand. "A little present for Banks."

"So, you and Carolyn want to go out to dinner tonight with me and Emily?" Jack gave me a look that said, 'Put your money where your mouth is,' and I shrugged my shoulders.

"Sounds okay to me. I'll give Carolyn a call and see if she's up for it."

"Write down your search parameters, and I'll meet with Donna after we talk to Chen." Jack turned down Baltimore Street and we headed for our reluctant witness's place of business.

** ** ** ** ** **

Jack delivered the large manila envelope to me as I was leaving for the day. I thanked him for it, and told him Carolyn had enjoyed our dinner together the night before and wanted to know if Jack and Emily would like to go to the horse races some weekend.

Turns out Jack and Carolyn had an interest in common. They both enjoyed gambling and had reminisced about past trips to Los Vegas. Maybe Carolyn would like to get married there. That would be the easy way out for me. I wasn't keen on suffering through elaborate wedding plans.

Jack clapped me on the back and said they'd love to go. I told him to call Carolyn and set up the details. Punching him lightly on the arm, I'd turned to head out of Major Crimes for the elevators when I heard my name bellowed.

Banks.

I looked back and my captain was motioning towards his office. Sighing, I went towards him wondering what I'd done now. I'd been friendly with the other detectives the last two days - well, cordial at least, and I was wearing clothes that didn't scream, 'Kiss my ass if you don't like the way I look.' I'd been extra polite to Rhonda, and had even bought her a pastry from the donut girl this morning. Well, I did like her, but I'd been late with paperwork last week, which had made her job harder, and I'd felt I owed her an apology.

So, I didn't know what Banks wanted to slap me down about. Maybe something from the week before that was just now coming to his attention.

He ushered me into his office and pointed at a chair. I sat.

Banks went around his desk and lowered himself into his chair. He fished out a cigar from an inner pocket on his suit jacket and sniffed it appreciatively, then returned it to his pocket.

I sat quietly and reminded myself that I was trying to make some changes in my life, and that included having a more satisfying job. And this man could help or hinder me, depending on how I reacted.

He gave me an assessing look, and I decided to just apologize now and get it over with.

"Sir, I apologize and it won't happen again."

Banks' eyebrows went up.

"Detective, care to explain what you're apologizing for?"

"Sir" -- I tended to fall back on my military language in situations like this - "I'm apologizing for whatever I did that you brought me in here to discuss."

"Ellison, you take the cake. You really do. I called you in here to invite you to the poker game at my house a week from this Friday. Our poker games are the second Friday of the month. Bring your own beer and some kind of snack. Chips or pretzels, that kind of thing. And Jim - I pay more attention to my detectives than you might have realized. Keep up the changes I've seen the last couple of days and you and I will have no problems. Jack says you're a good guy and that he wants to stay partnered with you."

He got to his feet, getting ready to dismiss me. "And thanks for my present."

Banks touched his ear and laughed. It startled me into an answering grin and I felt something inside me shift and open up. I felt a little like I had when my team was still with me, before I'd buried them in the jungle's loam. Like when Incacha and I had sat around the evening fire and listened to the Chopec men telling whoppers - what was it about men and campfires and bullshit? seemed kind of universal - and laughing when the women's banter as they prepared food had occasionally zinged one of the boasters.

I stood and held out my hand. "I'd like that, sir. I haven't played poker for a while."

Banks shook my hand with a strong grip. "Come prepared to be sheared then. And Jim, when we're away from the PD, call me Simon."

I left his office feeling more contented than I had since I'd first walked into the PD as a rookie. The plan for making a better life for myself was working. A decent job, the first steps to new friendships, and marrying Carolyn. There were a couple of loose ends to clear up still. Danny Choi, for one. I had enjoyed being his Big Brother when I was in college; until I'd been sent to Peru, we'd kept up with each other. Danny had gone into the Marines, but I could contact his mother and write him a letter, let the kid know I hadn't forgotten him.

My hand tightened on the envelope as I thought about my other loose end. Will I find your picture and last name here, Sweet Blair? And what will I do with you when I find you?

My dick chimed in with an idea as I rode the elevator down to the parking garage. Carolyn and I hadn't agreed yet to be exclusive with each other. Maybe, when I found Blair, we could have a fuck for old time's sake. Yeah ... I liked the idea of doing the horizontal bop with him again while I tried to figure out what he had to do with controlling my senses. Because his choker did work for me. Possibly because he had worn it for so long that it was drenched in his molecules?

If that was so, then after a while, if I kept wearing it, his scent would wear off and it would just be another strip of leather and useless to me.

I walked across the parking lot and unlocked my truck; I was hungry and decided to stop at The Golden Lion and bring some Kung Pao Chicken home. My senses felt under control today since I was wearing my choker around my ankle, and I relished the thought of eating the spicy peanut and chicken dish. And I wanted to be home when I looked through these records. I wanted to be private.

** ** ** ** ** **

Taking my eyes briefly off the road, I glanced down at Blair Sandburg's DMV record on the truck seat. His phone had been disconnected, and I figured the fastest way to track him down was to actually go to his home. He didn't live that far from Cascade, and I could make it down and back before my date with Carolyn for our standing Saturday night on the town.

I took the Cloverdale exit off of Highway 99 into South Park, one of the poorer neighborhoods of Seattle. After I'd turned onto South Donavon Street, I located the rundown old house listed on his driver's license.

Feeling some trepidation, I banged on the door. A girl with blue hair and a lot of earrings opened it a crack. She took one look at me and asked if I had a warrant. After explaining that this wasn't official cop business and that I was trying to find Blair Sandburg, she said he'd moved out a couple of weeks ago. I expressed concern about Blair being gone and she warmed up enough to open the door, but she didn't invite me in - I didn't blame her as somebody upstairs was smoking pot. I could hear a number of people in the house - I guessed that this place was sort of an urban commune, and the girl confirmed my hunch. When I asked more questions about Sandburg, she said Blair didn't know himself where he was going. He'd told the other members of this zoo - known to the inhabitants as Harbor House -- that he was going walk-about and when he found where he needed to be, he'd be in touch.

I left my name and number with the girl and emphasized that he wasn't in any trouble, but that it was important that he get in touch with me. If he showed back up, Miss Blue-hair said she'd pass along the message.

I headed back home feeling disappointed and wondering what my next move should be. Putting out an APB on the kid, much as I would like to find him, was out of line. I still wasn't sure what Incacha meant about the whole bonding thing - but I was hoping he meant sex. And that Sandburg would be interested in getting it on.

The girl had said that Sandburg had been a student at the University of Washington. Monday, I would see what I could find out from the University. Fall classes would be starting soon, and if he was registered I could find him in a few weeks.

Waiting wasn't what I wanted to do. 'Patience, Enqueri,' I could hear Incacha telling me again. I stuck a Santana tape into my cassette deck and prepared to listen to Carlos' guitar wail for the hour and a half drive back to Cascade.

** ** ** ** ** **

Two days later, I was industriously working on my case notes when the desk sergeant downstairs got me on the phone.

"Ellison, I got a kid down here says he's been looking for you. Didn't know your last name, but he described you and your truck. Says his name is Blair Sandburg. You know this kid? Looks like a hippie."

My little wanderer wandered right to me. Incacha, did you send him to me? If so, I owe you one, old buddy. My skin pebbled with arousal and my nipples hardened at the thought I might be fucking him very soon.

"Yeah, Frank. I know him. Tell him to have a seat and I'll be right down." I closed out my report on the computer and let Rhonda know I was leaving for the rest of the day. There was plenty of flex time I needed to take, and I wasn't going to talk to Sandburg at the PD.

The elevator was tied up, so I took the stairs and came out down the hall from where he was sitting in a chair. He couldn't see me and I admired his hair as I walked up to him, my sight allowing me to take in all the variations of red and brown and even golden blond that made up that glorious mop. He smelled good, too, but there were other scents overlaying the one that said 'Chief' to me. Beats me how I knew this, but I could tell he was tired and anxious, just from how he smelled.

I had meant to walk up behind him and lay my hand on his shoulder to quietly get his attention, but as I drew nearer he stood up and turned and faced me.

"Jim," he said, with a look of relief on his face.

I smiled at him. "Blair. Blair Sandburg. We've got some catching up to do," and I motioned for him to come with me. He picked up a beat-up old backpack, followed me down to the parking garage, and got into my truck. He hadn't said anything to me and the anxious scent was increasing tenfold.

"Look, Chief, I'm not mad you tracked me down. Did your housemate give you my message, or did you get the phone number I left for you at La Push?"

He looked over at me in surprise and shook his head. "Why were you looking for me, Jim? I thought one night stands were your preferred modus operandi?"

"They were. Things are different now. But I'm glad to see you and I was looking for you, too. I... just didn't feel right about the way we left each other." I reached out and put my hand on his thigh, stroking the tensed muscle as a new scent filled my truck.

Good. He was interested in fucking, too.

On instinct I decided not to mention his choker to him. I'd see if he brought it up.

"Come home with me, Chief. Let's get reacquainted." Willing him to say yes, I watched Blair bite his lip gently and felt him squirm under my hand.

He closed his eyes, covered his mouth with his hand, breathing out between his fingers, and spoke so softly that I knew he hadn't intended me to hear what he was sub-vocalizing to himself. "This is probably a bad idea. But I need to...

"Okay," he said out loud, and put his hand on top of mine, stilling the stroking motions I'd kept making. "My car is parked on the street. Why don't I follow you home."

"Are you on a meter?"

"No. I'm on a side street."

"Your car will be fine and I'll bring you here tomorrow when I come back to work. Stay the night with me, Blair Sandburg. I've wanted another taste of you ever since you left me in that motel room."

He licked his lips, and I was seized with the impulse to kiss him - right now in the underground parking lot. I didn't, though. There were security cameras here.

"All right. I haven't been able to get you out of my mind since we met. Let's go." And he reached over and cupped my balls right through my jeans. Jesus.

It felt like the very air was heating up between us. Fuck, I needed to do something to cool things back down, or we would end up having sex in the truck. Here, or I'd end up parking somewhere on the drive home. And it would be my luck that some uniform would show up to find out what the hell all the steam inside the F-150 was about.

I lifted Blair's hand off of my nuts and started the truck. And I tried to kick start my brain into a conversation.

"What's your major?" I said, and cringed. Very cool. I sounded like some dorky sophomore at a frat mixer.

Blair shot me a look that said he was well aware of how inane that had sounded, but he answered me.

"I did a double major and graduated with a BS in Anthropology and Folklore, plus a minor in Psychology. Last spring I finished my Masters in Folklore. I'm going for my Ph.D in Anthropology."

"Huh. I figured you for maybe a junior or senior. I know you're barely old enough to drink beer legally."

"I'm twenty-two. Started at Rainier when I was sixteen, and I tested out of as many intro courses as I could, plus I already had some credits from a community college."

"Rainier? I thought you were going to school down in Seattle at the University of Washington."

"I did my Masters there. Their Folklore department is excellent. I... I haven't decided where I'll get my doctorate." Blair squirmed a little on the seat.

"I'm glad you looked me up, Chief, but how did you know to look at the PD?" I knew I'd never told him I was a cop. Or what city I lived in.

"Um... I just had a gut feeling and I went with it." Blair dropped his eyes from mine and studied his hands. 'Gut feeling'? He wasn't telling me all the truth here. If I'd been interrogating a suspect, I'd never have let that go, but I didn't want to spook him off by being confrontational. It could keep.

I noticed that an accident had occurred far ahead of us. A fender-bender, apparently, because while the cars involved were blocking traffic, the people were outside of their vehicles and... I cocked my head and listened. Yeah. They were screaming at each other. I reached for my radio and called it in, then took a side street to detour around the mess. The slowdown in traffic hadn't reached back to where we'd turned off and Blair looked puzzled.

"Jim, I didn't see any accident. How did you notice it? And how would you know that it was just a fender-bender?"

"I've got good eyes." I didn't mention I had good hearing also. That would start to push me into the realm of 'freak,' as my father would have put it. Time to change the subject.

"So, you've got a Masters in Folklore. I didn't know you could study old stories and myths for a degree program. I think the old tales are interesting."

Blair brightened. "Yeah, me too.'

"My granny used to tell me a lot of old stories from Ireland," I offered.

"Cool. I'd love to hear what was passed down to you by your grandmother." Blair was smiling at me. I was enjoying Blair smiling at me.

"My great-grandmother, actually. She was a pretty good storyteller and I remember all the stories she told my brother and me. I guess you know about the Banshee."

"The bean sídhe," he pronounced it a little bit differently from me, "is Gaelic for 'Woman of the Mounds.' She's a fairy woman whose lamenting when she appears announces a death in the family. The tales tell that a bean sidhe will always keen for the dead of certain great families, like the O'Neills or the O'Conners."

"Well, merely being an Ellison, I'm probably safe from hearing the banshee." Probably. Granny's re-telling of the old myth had raised the hackles on the back of my head when I was a kid.

"So, your family is Irish. I was born in Ireland. But I left when I was only a couple of weeks old."

"Sandburg isn't your usual Irish name."

"Nope. It's Jewish. I have my mother's last name; she's American. Back then she was visiting some friends who lived on the western coast of Ireland. I, uh... I don't know who my father is."

I glanced over at him. Should I say 'Sorry about that, must have been tough' to him or just let it go by? Oh, hell. I was curious.

"Well... You found me with your 'intuition.' Have you ever tried to find your father?"

Blair pursed his lips in thought. And my thoughts leapt to kissing him and to seeing those full lips mouthing my cock.

"Naomi - that's my mom -- wouldn't tell me anything about him. But I found out some stuff in an old journal she kept. Yeah, yeah, I snooped. Wouldn't you? I'm not sure it's possible to locate him again, although I think about trying to, sometimes; I think I'd like to meet my father's side of the family. But for that, I'd have to go back to Ireland. And... I'm not sure it would be wise to do that. My mother was scared to death that my father would keep me, but I'm not a child anymore, so I can't see that being a problem now. Finding him would be tough, though. Apparently he's at sea a lot and doesn't have a home on land. And by this time, I'm not sure we have anything in common, aside from a certain family resemblance."

Blair looked wistful and I reached over and squeezed his thigh. We would be at my place in about ten minutes - plenty of time to speak of other things, and I wanted to see a smile on his face again, so I dredged up more memories of Granny's stories.

"Sea stories. My granny told me about St. Brendan and his voyage. I really liked the part where he met the sea monster. She said that St. Brendan and his men made camp on its back before they realized the island was alive and they had to get back to their boat."

"St. Brendan. He's the patron saint of sailors and travelers, you know. I once saw this beautiful stained glass window of St. Brendan at the Naval Academy in Maryland. Did you know there's a theory that he actually sailed to Newfoundland? This guy, Tim Severin, actually built a curragh and re-enacted St. Brendan's travels. Pretty cool, huh, that an old myth might have some basis in reality. That's what I love about folklore. Ferreting out the origins of myths and realizing the reality that the story was spun from." Blair was smiling again, and I felt rewarded.

"Granny talked a lot about Selkies, too. You know, the seal-people that would come to land to shape-shift to human form by taking off their seal coats. They were good lovers but the only way to keep them on land was to steal their seal coats and hide them. Granny said the women made good wives and mothers but that they always would pine for the ocean and the other Selkies, and if they could find their stolen coat of seal skin, they would go back to the sea, leaving their husband and children behind. She said a Selkie-woman would swim up and down the beach to get a glimpse of the children she'd left behind." Blair's eyes had widened a bit when I'd started telling him about Selkies, so I figured it was distracting him.

"If a woman had a hankering for sex - not that Granny put it that way, you understand, but when I was old enough I read between the lines -- she would go to the beach and a Selkie-man would come to make love with her. If the woman had a child born from that union, then he would come to her house and ask for the child. Granny used to sing an old song about that. It didn't end well. The woman in the song had gotten married and her husband shot the Great Selkie and her son, when they were in their seal form -- maybe accidentally, maybe out of spite. Hard to tell from the lyrics. Hey, what's wrong?"

Blair's breathing had quickened and his heartbeat had speeded up. His scent was anxious again. And how the fuck was I hearing his heartbeat?

He took a couple of deep breaths and smiled at me. It wasn't a very successful smile. "I just thought of something, but it's not important. How much further to your place, Jim?"

The little shit was being evasive again. What on earth had I said that had set him off? I was just repeating old stories that he must have already known, with a Masters degree in Folklore.

"We're on Prospect now, and it's three blocks away. I live upstairs over a bakery. Hey, do you feel okay? Not getting cold feet, are you?" I reached over and stroked his thigh again. He shook his head and spread his legs a little wider in the truck. With an invitation like that, I let my hand drift between his open thighs and teased him by coming so close to his cock... but not touching him. He grew hard anyway and I smelled his arousal. His breathing became more erratic and as I pulled into a parking place, I laid my hand over his cock, then traced its outline under his well-worn jeans.

"I'm going to suck you off as soon as we get in my door, Chief. I'm going to strip you naked and push you up against the wall and drop to my knees. If you've got any objections state them now, because once you're in my territory, I'm in charge." Then I grinned at him. "I'm in charge till it's your turn to be in charge. You know, like we did back in that motel room. So, you ready?"

He nodded and raised himself up a little under my fingers. Giving him one last stroke, I withdrew my hand and opened my truck door.

"Get your ass out of this truck and inside, Chief. Hurry."

Blair grabbed his backpack and jumped out of the truck, and I felt a grin threaten to split my face. This was going to be so much fun. And later, after we were sated, I'd try and figure out what that bonding stuff was about.

** ** ** ** ** **

Blair was already upstairs in my bed and sliding into sleep as his breathing slowed; I'd mellowed him out by sucking his brains out through his cock. He'd been a sight, stripped naked and pushed up against the wall, and I'd run my hands over his body till he'd been frantic. I hadn't gotten undressed - I found it sexy for me to be fully clothed and for him to be the yin to my yang -- totally naked when I sucked him off.

Not that I'd hadn't come, too. I'd gotten my zipper down and my dick out and kept time with my mouth sliding up and down his cock while using my hand to do the same thing to my dick.

He seemed exhausted - from traveling, perhaps -- because he had looked like he might just have to crawl to bed after coming out of the bathroom, and I'd pointed to the stairs when he'd stumbled out. In the past, after fucking, this was where I would have parted ways with my anonymous partner, and it felt a little strange to know he'd be here in the morning. I stalled around re-checking the locks and windows and looking through yesterday's mail while he pulled down the bedspread and got comfortable in my bed.

I wanted a shower, but I wasn't just procrastinating about joining Blair. Lately, I could feel the grime of the city on my skin even more than usual, and my clothes picked up odors from everywhere I traveled. It was distracting, and if I wasn't wearing the choker I could get lost identifying the odors that clung to my skin.

Ah, the choker. Did Blair want it back? I wasn't going to bring it up. I needed whatever it was that allowed that small strip of leathery skin to keep my senses under control. If Blair had written it off as a loss... well, like I'd told myself before - finders, keepers. I undressed in the bathroom and unwound the choker from my ankle. I would hide it after I'd cleaned up.

Ah... I had to get control back of my senses. What if the choker stopped working? I thought about Blair being an anthropologist. Plus, he knew a lot of old stories. Maybe I'd ask him if he'd ever heard any about watchmen with very good senses. Maybe he'd heard of ways to deal with out of control senses. Incacha had told me that I wasn't unique; there were others like me who were curve breakers when it came to their five senses. There must be some information out there. But I'd have to be casual about bringing it up. I wasn't eager for Blair to think of me as being a freak.

I let the hot water pound on my neck and shoulders for several minutes before I reached for the soap. In my dream, Incacha had - in his own roundabout way -- named Blair as my guide. And said we should bond. But he never was big on giving out details of things; he would want me to figure out for myself how Blair and I should bond.

Maybe the sex we'd had back in La Push had started something that we hadn't finished. Maybe Blair needed to stick around for more than one night. Tomorrow, I'd ask him if he'd stay with me till next week. That should be enough time for me to puzzle out how to make a bond together. Besides, I knew he'd given up his space at that commune house and I doubted he'd rented somewhere else yet.

I finished my shower and turned the water off. And then it hit me. I'd have to tell Carolyn some story to explain why Blair was living with me. My conscience wasn't pinging me about sleeping with Blair; Carolyn and I weren't at the point of swearing fidelity to each other, and he was just a temporary fuck, anyway. And I was going to marry Carolyn -- I had a lifetime to make love to Carolyn. Blair I would only have for a week.

How to explain Blair staying with me... the kid could be my second cousin's stepson. I'd say he was thinking of going to school at Rainier, and my cousin had asked me to put him up till he found his own place or he decided to go to school somewhere else.

I'd have to pretend he was sleeping on the futon couch in the downstairs bedroom. I'd also have to convince Blair to go along with my story.

I listened to Blair sleeping upstairs - it wasn't even dark yet outside - and decided I'd join him in a nap. Right after I secured my choker. I thought about hiding it in the toilet tank taped up above the water level, but that was a classic drug dealers' hiding place and I just bet Mr. Natural would know to check there. If he was looking. But why would he be looking? Still, better to be careful. Even if he'd accepted that his necklace was lost, finding it here in the loft might make him want to have it back. And I needed it right now. But I made a deal with myself: when I got the senses thing under control and didn't need Blair's choker anymore, I would mail it back to him. I'd write that I'd found it inside the bag where I kept the wax for my board.

I finally stashed the choker in my travel shaving kit. And I put that on the top shelf of the bathroom closet behind a box of Epsom Salts. I could barely reach it, and there was no way that Blair could, without a chair or ladder. You couldn't tell there was anything behind the big box of Epsom Salts, anyway.

And then I joined Sandburg in bed. He stirred when I got in, woke up enough to spread his legs for me, and I gave him a very gentle fuck. After he'd come, and I'd erupted into the condom and slid slowly out of him, I turned him on his side and spooned up against his back and butt. Blair had succumbed to slumber again, and this time I joined him.

** ** ** ** ** **

I dreamed of the sea. I felt again the wild exhilaration of mastering the wave my board was riding upon, being in balance between the ocean and the wind. I loved it; I loved that feeling of riding an edge and being in control.

Then the dream changed and I found myself once more being swept out to sea on the rip tide, cursing my own stupidity for not being more observant of the way the waves were hitting the shore. I couldn't escape it and I wasn't in control anymore; the sea had me and wouldn't let me go.

In my dream I heard my name being called. The rip tide shoved me to the edge of the current running out towards the horizon, and I swam diagonally out of it towards the voice. It was a nice voice, mellow and smooth, and it commanded me to save myself. The voice guided me as I swam out of the trap and towards it. I knew that voice. It belonged to Blair. Blair was in the ocean, and I was swimming to him because he knew how to help me.

"I know about watchmen, Jim. I've studied about the ancient guardians, and I'll help you learn to control your senses again. Here I am; hold tight and I'll take you to shore."

My dream changed again as the seal that had saved me surfaced next to me and looked at me with his blue eyes. I heard his voice in my head, like I had when he'd rescued me before - and his voice was so familiar. "Don't worry; just hold on to me. I've dreamed of helping a watchman like you. A guardian needs a partner. I let you fuck me, Jim; I'm supposed to be with you."

My dream altered; the seal and I were almost back to the beach. "I've been looking for you, Jim. I was drawn to you when I met you, and after we made love, but now I'm compelled to be near you. Where is it, Jim?" I heard those words in my head and I recognized Blair's voice. And then the seal twisted under me and Blair was standing, hands grabbing me to steady me, his choker around his neck. I stumbled to shore, Blair half holding me up. I reached up and took his choker off of his neck and wrapped it around my wrist.

"You're mine, now, Selkie-man. I want to keep you." Blair backed away from me, towards the sea, but stopped his retreat when the waves flowed around his ankles. I walked away from the beach, and Blair gave a cry and followed me. I unlocked my truck and he got in - naked and so very beautiful. We drove away and then the dream ended.

I felt myself waking up slowly, listening to Blair mutter unintelligibly to himself. I was in bed alone, and the sheets smelled of our lovemaking. I extended my hearing and his whispers became clear as he was opening cupboard doors in the kitchen.

"Where is it? Does he have it? Shit, how the fuck am I supposed to know what this feels like? I want him. I don't believe that has anything to do with it being lost. Fuck, maybe I should just ask him if he found it. Careless, Blair. Careless of you to leave it with him. Maybe you wanted him to hold it, so you could follow him."

The search shifted to the living room, and I looked over the railing and saw him peering under the couch cushions and moving things on the bookshelves. "Maybe it's really gone. You guessed he was a cop. Maybe you're not really being forced to find him, maybe that's a convenient excuse to act like a damn stalker." He went back to the kitchen and started poking around some more.

I remembered my dream -- and fantasy and reality collided. In my dream, Blair was a Selkie. Granny had believed in them, but I wasn't a superstitious old woman. He was muttering about finding something he'd lost and feeling like he'd needed to find me again. But he hadn't stood up and announced he was a creature out of old legends. I shook my head. Dreams were usually fucked-up. How could I put much stock in a dream? It wasn't like Incacha had visited me again while he was spirit walking. Last night's dream was just a mish-mash of what had really happened and those old stories. Maybe I was putting together two and two and getting five. I needed more proof before I would believe I'd slept with a Selkie. I gave a loud yawn, and then called down to him.

"Sandburg, since you're so interested in what I've got in my kitchen, how about finding the coffee and making us a pot. I'm taking a shower; do you want breakfast here or do you want to stop someplace when we pick up your car?"

** ** ** ** ** **

Blair had opted for breakfast in the loft and had produced omelets, bacon, and bagels when I emerged from the shower. I'd replaced the choker on my ankle and was curious to know if Blair could tell I was wearing it today. A Selkie would know something like that, surely. Maybe he'd been too tired yesterday to figure out his choker had been touching my own skin.

The only flash in his eyes I could see was of appreciation for my bare chest as I walked into the kitchen, my t-shirt in my hands.

"Man, I cannot believe I slept like that. I never go to bed that early, and I'm so starved now from missing supper last night." He started filling our plates with food.

"Chief, this looks great." I pulled on my shirt and sat down at the table. Blair set my plate in front of me and plopped himself in his own chair.

"If this is courtship behavior, Chief, I'm all for it. And kidding aside, I'm inviting you to stay till next week with me. I'm not ready to stop fucking you yet. And you were too tired yesterday to do me, but I'm available tonight."

Blair waggled his eyebrows at me, but then a more serious expression settled on his face. "Is this a sex only deal? Does it have an expiration date in a week's time -- and then you pretend you never met me? Because I'd be willing to see where this leads us, Jim. I've been drawn to you since I laid eyes on you in that little bar at La Push."

I sighed and stalled by finishing my cup of coffee. I didn't want to lead the kid on. I'd let him know what my cards were, and he could stay or he could fold.

"Chief, I told you I wasn't out. I don't want to be out. And eventually, I plan to get married, and there won't be any men on the side after I commit to my intended wife - or cheat with other women. I'm seeing a woman now, at work, but we haven't said we'd be exclusive with each other. Not yet, anyway. She's the one I've picked out to marry, when she's ready to take that step. But I'd like to have you for this week, Blair Sandburg. You're a sweet fuck, and a nice guy. If you decided to get your degree at Rainier, I don't see why we couldn't be friends. If you can stay with the plan, that is."

I gave myself a moment by drinking my coffee. I needed his help, but it was hard to ask for it. "And there's something else I wanted to check with you about. Something that's kind of weird and has to do with the old legends that you're so familiar with."

Blair's heartbeat - what the hell was up with me being able to hear the guy's heart! - had started beating too fast, more like he was running. Something was spooking him, and I wondered what he'd do if I just came out and asked him if he was a Selkie.

Probably run for the door. Nope, I couldn't just do that. I was a detective; I'd gather more evidence before I started talking like a crazy man. Hell, if I was wrong Blair could claim I was delusional and I might find myself out of a job and in group therapy at Conover. I might be forced to take anti-psychotic drugs. People would look at me like I was a freak. No, it was too risky for the straightforward approach.

"Do you love her, Jim?" Blair asked me quietly, and I thought maybe the racing heartbeat and the scent of anxiety that was wafting from him had been about him and me.

"I'm planning on loving her, Chief. It will come. She's everything I've been looking for in a wife. But, Blair, this week could be something special for both of us. You know you turn me on, and we're great together in bed. It could be my last hurrah before I pop the question to Carolyn."

I took another long sip of coffee and took the plunge. "And... have you ever heard anything about guardians or watchmen and bonding in your studies?"

Blair was silent for a moment. "You mean sentinels?"

"Maybe. Why don't you tell me about them on the way to the PD? I've just gotten on Banks' --he's the captain in charge of Major Crimes - my boss's good side, and I'd like to stay there. I don't want to be late. I can give you my extra key and you can hang out here, or go down to Rainier and see about their doctoral program."

I rose and held out my hand to Blair, pulling him up and into a tight hug when he grasped my hand.

"Please say yes, Blair. Stay here with me for this week at least, and think about keeping in contact with me as friends. I like fucking just fine, but I decided after almost visiting Davy Jones' Locker that I need to make some changes in my life and that includes making real friends. I'd like to have you as a friend."

"I'll... I'll think about it, Jim. And I'll stay for the week. Let me visit the bathroom and then I'll be ready to go."

** ** ** ** ** **

The rest of the week went by in a blur. Jack and I closed two Major Crimes cases, which made Banks call us into his sanctuary on Thursday and offer us some of his flavored coffee after he told us we'd done good work. I was going to decline when Jack kicked me and I found myself agreeing to a cup of Irish Crème coffee. I really hated foo-foo coffee, but Jack's kick made it plain I'd better drink it. He explained later that when Simon offered coffee, an intelligent man drank it and avoided offending the boss.

The other Major Crimes guys took their cues from Jack, and I participated in my share of friendly banter. I'm not a practical joke kind of guy, but I've been told I have a dry kind of wit, and I held my own.

When I wasn't at work I was spending every moment I could with Blair. Sometimes we'd talk and sometimes we'd fuck and sometimes we just hung out.

He had been intrigued by my questions Tuesday morning about sentinels, and on the ride in to work and his car, he'd explained what he remembered of the myths. Mostly, he'd recalled a professor lecturing about the Tale of Gilgamesh and Enkidu; there was speculation that Gilgamesh had been a sentinel and Enkidu, his guide. It had been kind of interesting, and I had enjoyed Blair's retelling of the poem and explaining the points of convergence between that ancient pair and sentinels and guides.

Of course, he had been curious to know why I was curious about people with enhanced senses.

I don't know why I didn't just come out and tell him Incacha had named me one. But I didn't. I did tell him a little about my time in Peru, and that the shaman there had told stories about chapaq. His eyes widened when he realized he had a ready-made source who had lived with the Chopec, and he had about a million questions for me.

There was no time to answer the barrage of inquiries before depositing him by his car, and I promised him I'd talk to him after work, and I'd pick up Thai take-out for supper.

I'd returned home with Beef Satay, Shrimp Spring Rolls, and Pad Phew Wan Tofu - I didn't know if Blair was a vegetarian or not: he'd skipped the bacon for breakfast - and found out Blair had made good use of his time at Rainier's library while I was running down suspects in my current cases.

He told me sentinels had originally been documented by Sir Richard Burton and smacked me on the back of the head when I asked him if Liz had been along for the expedition. I had to retaliate after that and held him captive while I gave him a good old-fashioned noogie.

After the Punch and Judy show, he explained what Burton had theorized about sentinels. And guides. And bonding.

According to Burton, bonding was a spiritual and physical connection between sentinel and guide. A form of closeness. Blair said that it didn't have to be sexual but often was, because tradition held that guides and sentinels must touch each other to allow a connection.

Now, that really caught my attention. I definitely was experiencing impulses to touch Blair, but was it because of normal attraction, or this sentinel/guide shit?

Blair was excited about sharing his research, and I was amused at how his hands punctuated his words. Kid looked like he was conducting an orchestra while he explained that the physical aspect of bonding was less well understood, and biological anthropologists could probably do some groundbreaking research into how pheromones and glandular changes affected sentinels.

He said the textbook definition of a sentinel was someone who had enhanced senses plus what he called a genetic imperative to protect the tribe. And then he mentioned guides.

There was very little historical literature on guides. Blair described a guide as someone who would watch the sentinel's back. And probably his ass, I thought to myself. Sentinel and guide pairs had been known to be both heterosexual and homosexual. There were female sentinels as well as male ones. And guides came in both flavors also.

A shaman's examination was the usual proof that a bond existed between guide and sentinel. Sometimes a shaman was also a guide, but Incacha had said he wasn't my guide. He'd still helped me control my senses, though, even if we hadn't had the physical connection common to sentinels and guides. Since he was an expert in dealing with the spirit world, I figured he knew some tricks that had let him guide me without actually becoming my guide.

Of course, if you couldn't get a shaman to diagnose you, Blair said, then shared visions, sightings of each other's spirit guides, or demonstrating shared empathy that allowed one to have a sense of what the other one was feeling, or where he was physically, were all considered proof of a bond. Blair emphasized that a bond had to be really solid for any of that shit to happen. I thought back to when I'd walked up behind him at the PD; he couldn't have seen me but he'd gotten up and turned around before I'd been close enough for him to have noticed me. Maybe that was because we'd bonded in that crappy motel room at La Push?

Turns out that studying sentinels - he was definitely more interested in the guy with the enhanced senses, to the point of showing a little hero worship - was something he decided after his day of research to consider for his dissertation. Making a connection between the legends and modern day sentinels would be Holy Grail time, he said, his eyes lighting up with academic fervor.

Blair explained that these days, Sir Richard Burton - the translator of The Arabian Nights - wasn't exactly seen as a reliable source of information on sentinels, and most modern day studies were of the 'It's a myth, and only a myth' kind. It didn't help, Blair complained, that after Burton's death his wife had destroyed the original book detailing bonding practices. She'd made a bonfire out of his books that dealt with sexual practices, so the only remaining sources were from excerpts that had been copied from the original. There were discrepancies between the different quotations from Burton that cast doubt upon the veracity of Burton's original observations. If Blair studied sentinels with the intention of proving they were real, he was going to catch a lot of flack from other anthropologists.

** ** ** ** ** **

Blair went back to ransacking the University library for the next several days, and he'd talked to people at Rainier but hadn't made up his mind about entering their Ph.D program. Likewise, he hadn't decided about sticking around after the week was up.

I'd mentioned to Carolyn Wednesday morning that my cousin's kid was staying with me for this week and she'd been a little put out that I wouldn't make any dinner plans with her while he was here. I reminded her that we were going with Jack and Emily to the races on Saturday and told her that I owed it to my cousin to entertain the kid. And entertain him I did.

The sex was great, but there was a tinge of bitter-sweetness to our lovemaking. Neither of us was getting much sleep as we tried to maximize our time together in the sack. I even took a day off of work Friday, telling Jack it was for personal reasons.

Blair kept looking through the loft for his choker when he thought I wasn't paying attention to him. By the end of the week, he seemed to have accepted that it wasn't there. I'd hardly worn it this week, since I had the real source touching me and sleeping with me at night. Apparently, I only needed it if Blair wasn't in frequent physical contact with me. And after I came home from the races Saturday evening, I was going to ask him about staying to be my guide. I'd sit him down and tell him I was a sentinel. I'd make him an offer. If he could guarantee my privacy, I'd let him study me for his graduate work. That was the kind of bait that my little anthropologist wouldn't be able to resist.

From overhearing his mutterings I knew he'd been restless after leaving me in La Push and had felt a vague sense of where I was, which to me was proof that we probably were bonded. Unless he really was a Selkie, in which case he'd been compelled to follow me because I had his choker.

If Blair was a Selkie, then this choker was his seal coat, somehow shrunk down. My granny had several versions of how a man could steal a Selkie's skin, and in one story I remembered that a group of Selkie-women had come ashore and their skins had condensed into caps on their heads. The sisters had untied their hats and had concealed them among the rocks. A man had watched them come to shore and had hidden from their sight. Seeing them dance naked, he decided to take the prettiest one home with him; he snuck and stole her hat, and she followed him home, crying all the way. He married her and they had children. I couldn't remember if she found her skin and left him or if they stayed married the rest of their lives. The old tales all said that a Selkie could live a full life on land. They just chose not to.

He hadn't asked me about the choker and I wasn't volunteering any information. Especially if he decided not to stay, I would need it in order to stay sane.

He couldn't really be a Selkie.

** ** ** ** ** **

I'd fucked Blair until he was a sleepy, sated pile of submission, then left to keep my word to Jack about coming to the monthly Friday night Major Crimes poker games. Once I was at Captain Banks' home, I turned down my senses. Didn't seem fair for me to be able to tell who had a good hand by the changes in their scent. Or who was bluffing by the way their heart rate would pick up.

I still did fine.

Jack took too many risks, and was the first one to bow out from going broke. I remembered his love of gambling, and wondered if he ever got in over his head. Since he was no longer playing he was designated as the go-fer, and, grumbling, he brought over bottles and cans of beer from Simon's refrigerator.

One of the other detectives, Henri Brown, threw out a question to me after taking a good long slug of his Miller Lite.

"Jim, when are you going to cut your cousin loose? Plummer's been out of sorts the whole week since she hasn't been able to get her Ellison fix. Thought she was going to take the report on the Carter evidence and stuff it down my throat when I asked her a reasonable question about when it would be available. Man, you need to take one for the team and get her back into a good mood."

"How the hell did you know that my cousin's - my second cousin's - kid is staying with me this week?" But I knew the answer to my own question. The grapevine. Carolyn must have bitched to somebody at work about Blair taking up all my time this week.

"Babe. Do I really have to explain how information travels at the PD?" Henri's round, brown-skinned face looked pityingly at me, but I could see he was suppressing a laugh.

"It was a rhetorical question. And Blair hasn't decided if he's going to go to Rainier or not. He'll let me know by Sunday, though." But if he needed more time, I'd let him stay longer.

Jack had looked up from his cards when I'd spoken Blair's name. Then he gave me a narrow-eyed stare and I knew he'd recognized the name of the boy I'd been trying to find. Damn. I'd given him the search information in a sealed envelope, but I suppose it had been too much to expect that he wouldn't check it out.

But he wouldn't say anything to the other guys. Jack was good at keeping secrets. His own and other people's.

Then he threw me a curve ball from out in left field.

"Bring him along tomorrow to the races, Jim. He must be bored, being new in town and not having much to do. I'd like to meet him. I have a feeling he'll be a real interesting fellow."

I drank my bottle of Molson's while I worked out how to block his suggestion. I wasn't that keen on Blair getting involved with the guys from the PD.

"Thanks, Jack, but he'd probably feel like a fifth wheel since he doesn't have a date to bring." Not that I wanted to see him with somebody else. He was mine. Till Monday morning, anyway. I finished off my beer and sat the bottle down on the table.

Jack stood and said, "Here, let me" and picked up my bottle, and a couple of other empties, off of the table and took them to the kitchen. That was a deliberate move on his part; he wasn't just being polite. I doubt the other guys as the table picked up on our little interaction, but you get to know a guy when he's your partner. He was dealing himself into my business.

He called back, "I wouldn't want the kid to feel like he was cramping our style, so hey, Simon, would you like to join us? And bring Daryl and Joan, if you want. Anybody else interested?" He directed that to the rest of the players and got a variety of answers that all boiled down to 'No.'

Simon, though, was nodding his head. "I'll come. And I'll probably bring Daryl, but Joan has a baby shower to go to tomorrow afternoon. My uncle will be there, too. He's got a horse that he races there."

Jack handed me the phone. "Call him, Jim. So you don't forget when you get home."

Blair picked up on the fifth ring, right before the answering machine turned on. He was breathless, and I asked him what he'd been up to. Then, with Jack watching me, I invited him to the races.

After I hung up, Jack said, "Well? Do we get to meet your cousin's kid?"

"Yeah. He's all excited about going. Says he's got a system for betting on the ponies. So, break time about over here? I've got time to play another hand or two before I have to leave."

Simon gathered the cards while telling Jack about his uncle's horse. I tuned him out. The reason Blair had been breathless was because he'd gone down to the harbor and had just run in the door to answer the phone. Was he pining for the sea? Or did he just enjoy watching the ocean? I didn't like to think of him watching the waves - not alone; not without me there. I wanted to fuck him tonight and mark him with my teeth; make him remember that for the next two days, he was mine. I guess I looked like I was thinking about something other than jacks and queens, because Brown nudged my arm.

"It's your turn to deal, Ellison."

** ** ** ** ** **

"So, I'm going to meet your girlfriend. But don't worry that I'm going to spill the beans about you sleeping with me this week. You've been upfront, Jim, that we're not really going anywhere together. I'm... like a detour or something, on your road to marriage."

I rolled my eyes at him and grimaced. "Christ, what you just said sounds like something from a bad romance novel. Don't be so dramatic, Chief. You're not a detour. You're more like... I dunno. A scenic drive instead of the Interstate. And you knew the score about this week; no sense whining about it now. And we need to get a move on to get to the races on time. Now remember, you're my second cousin's stepson. His name is Michael and your mother's name is Linda."

"Jeez, Jim. This sounds like you're briefing me for a spy mission." Blair rose up on one elbow and looked down at me with a mixture of amusement and annoyance on his expressive face.

I reached out and wrestled him on top of me and kissed him. Then I rolled us both over, closer to the side of the bed, and dragged my ass out of the sheets. Blair was damp from our exertions this morning, and his hair was wild looking from where I had run my hands through it and bunched it in my fists.

"Want to stop and eat breakfast on the way?" But Blair shook his head and got out of bed.

"Nope. I want to make pancakes. I bought some whole wheat flour, and yogurt to use instead of maple syrup."

I gaped at him. "No maple syrup on the pancakes? Chief, isn't that heresy or something?"

"Jim, your diet is eighty percent crap. After I'm gone, I know you'll revert back to your favorite four food groups - sugar, caffeine, grease and salt, but for today and tomorrow, I'm cooking healthy."

"You're going to fix me dinner? Will it be edible, Chief? I ate enough twigs and berries when I lived in the jungle."

Now it was Blair's turn to roll his eyes. "Yes, you great big lump of suspicion. It will be tasty."

"No tofu?"

More eye rolling from Blair. Damn, he was cute. "No, no tofu. You'll like it, I promise. Go take your shower and I'll get started so we can get to the races. I want to size up my competition."

"Blair..."

"Kidding, man, I'm just kidding. I'll keep to the deal we made. And I haven't decided to stay in Cascade, you know. I need to meditate about it."

I pulled him to me and kissed him again. I would miss the sex but I would miss his company more, if he left. "Please, stay here, Blair." He startled against me and I hurriedly added, "As just my friend. Please stay in Cascade." I wanted to tell him about Incacha and that I wanted him to be my guide, but there wasn't time to get into it now. Tonight, after supper, we'd talk.

But he wasn't just my friend, yet, and I kissed him again before I left him standing by the bed, to go downstairs.

** ** ** ** ** **

We were a cozy bunch on my truck's bench seat: me behind the wheel, Carolyn sitting next to me, and Sandburg riding shotgun. Carolyn was being polite to Blair, who was busily being polite back to her. And from the scents in the crowded truck, neither one of them liked the other one. I thought to myself that putting these two together was like dumping gasoline onto dry leaves. All it would take would be one little spark and then my ass would fry.

Blair was asking my soon-to-be fiancé questions about collecting forensic evidence. Seems physical anthropologists also had protocols to follow when gathering up their dusty old bones or pottery pieces.

Carolyn started to thaw a little, responding to Blair's curiosity with genuine answers, and the last half of the drive to the racetrack was spent with the two of them deep in discussion about ways to avoid contaminating evidence.

I suspected that Blair could charm the birds from the trees, as my granny would have said. He must have kissed the Blarney Stone before he left Ireland as a baby.

I wanted Carolyn to accept Blair. I wanted to have it all - Carolyn for a wife and Blair for a friend. I'd miss fucking him, but my dick did not rule me. However, I wasn't going to forfeit my last two nights with him; I planned on taking Carolyn home after the races and returning to the loft with Blair. We had unfinished business, my blue-eyed Selkie and me. Although I should stop calling him that in my mind. I'd decided that the dream I'd had was just from stress and that it was ridiculous to think Blair wasn't human. I'd spent almost a week with the man - he was human, not a supernatural creature.

Be damned to what my granny would have said. 'My Jimmy, the Fair Folk can deceive you. Stay far away from them, or they'll cast a charm on you and be-spell you, my boy.'

Blair could be-spell me all right, but it was with strictly human charms. His eyes, his lips, his hair, his intelligence, his sweetness. If he'd been a woman, I'd have had him to the altar by now. But he wasn't. And Carolyn had her charms, too. A cool intellect. Smooth skin. She was a police officer, like me, and knew the challenges and pitfalls being a cop entailed. I would never have to struggle to explain the pressures of the job to her. She was brave and well thought of by her brothers and sisters in blue. In bed, I loved to cup her breasts and make her shudder and cling to me through an orgasm. We would suit each other, and the fondness I felt for her would grow into love. Marrying Carolyn was the best decision. I loved Blair, I realized - but I would have to shift my feelings for him into love for a friend. Probably I was just infatuated with the kid anyway. And infatuations wore off.

I pulled into the parking lot for the racetrack and paid the parking fee. We'd be meeting Simon, and his boy, and Emily and Jack at eleven o'clock, by the entrance to the stands... Jack had orchestrated me into inviting Blair along to satisfy his own curiosity -- I hoped he would leave it at just meeting Blair. We were partners, but that didn't mean he needed to know I was bisexual.

Blair pushed open his door and jumped down. He held out a hand to Carolyn and I quietly drew a breath in through my nose, wanting to know if they'd become more comfortable with each other. Blair's scent was warm and friendly; it looked like he'd decided to accept Carolyn. Carolyn's scent told me she didn't actively dislike Blair - but she hadn't warmed to him, either. There was still a tinge of suspicion and reserve that clung around her. Well, I was confident that given time, Blair would win her over.

** ** ** ** ** **

I swatted Blair on the back of the head with the racing program. "Don't you know it's bad manners to crow when you win, Chief?"

Emily chuckled, and Jack grinned at Blair. When they'd walked away to place a bet on the fourth race, I'd overheard Em telling Jack that Jim's cousin was kind of kooky, but nice. Jack had gotten Blair to talk about living in South Park, the old house he'd shared with seven other people was just a street over from the Seattle harbor, and the way the neighborhood was revitalizing from community involvement. Jack was good at getting people to relax and discuss things. He usually took the role of the sympathetic cop when we tag teamed a suspect, leaving me to be the hard ass. With witnesses, he would first get them to calm down, before leading them through a series of careful questions that never seemed to come across as an interrogation. And he'd been using those skills on Blair. Blair hadn't said anything that would blow his cover as my cousin's kid, or give away the fact that we'd been fucking, though. Blair might seem like a flake, but he was good at steering the conversation away from too personal a question.

Blair ignored my admonition and jumped up from his seat, doing a little victory shimmy. My eyes were drawn to his ass and I had to look away before Jack caught a clue. Or Carolyn. Caro took the betting seriously and had been pretty involved in watching the races and discussing her bets with Jack, but she wasn't blind. I was really going to have to watch it that I didn't give myself away.

"Dad! Can I go with Blair?" Daryl had gotten up from his seat and was latching onto Blair again. It was cute. Blair had been great with Simon's son; Daryl had been thrilled to be able to talk video games and music with one of the adults, and Blair had given him attention without being condescending. Simon had commented to Blair that he was good with kids, when Daryl had gone with Emily earlier to get some nachos; Blair had explained that he sometimes substitute taught at schools. He'd made a funny story out of telling how he hadn't been allowed to teach at Seattle high schools until he was at least two years older than the seniors. And even now, he frequently was asked for his hall pass, if he was walking down the corridors in between teaching classes.

"I'm just going to get my money, but Daryl can come with me. If it's okay with you, Simon." Jack shot me a look, but I knew in my bones that Daryl would be safe with Blair. I smiled soothingly at Jack.

"Bring me back a beer, would you, Chief?"

Blair promptly stuck his hand out for my money, which made everybody, even Carolyn, laugh.

"What! You're not going to buy me a beer out of your winnings? You're a real cheapskate, Sandburg." I grinned at him to let him know I was just teasing.

"Thrifty, Jim. I'm thrifty. One of the Boy Scout virtues, and I just know you were a Boy Scout. So fork over the dough. I've been saving to go to grad school and it's expensive. Although I think I can afford to buy a couple of textbooks now." Blair looked over at Simon, who gave a little wave for them to go on.

I dragged out my wallet and gave him some cash and he and Daryl walked off, with Daryl talking a mile a minute.

About twenty minutes later, I started to feel very uneasy. I stopped watching the next race being set up and closed my eyes. I had a sense of where Blair was and I listened intently to try to find his voice. It was hard because there were so many noises masking Blair talking. I reached down under my sock and gripped the choker, concentrating on how the slick flexible skin felt to me, while I started ignoring the sounds that didn't matter.

Then I heard a male voice say, "Fuck you!"

Blair answered him firmly, "Back off, man. He's just a kid and didn't mean to make you spill your beer. Here, you can have this one." I listened to the sound of a cup being smacked out of Blair's hand and something splashing on the floor. A second voice, mean and menacing spoke.

"That's not good enough, you damn hippie! You and the nigger brat are gonna get taught a lesson!" A different guy made sounds of agreement.

"Daryl, go get your dad and Jim." Blair said it calmly, quietly, but I couldn't hear Daryl moving.

I opened my eyes and looked toward where I'd heard Blair talking. I could see the opening to the nook past the concession stand, but I couldn't see him. From the racket coming from that area, it sounded like he was cornered by a couple of guys. They were out of eyesight and in an area that was mostly deserted. Nobody was going to notice a problem until they'd been hurt.

I heard him whisper fiercely to Daryl that when he yelled run, Daryl was to take off and get his dad.

I'd heard enough. "Hey -- Daryl and Blair are in trouble. C'mon." and I took off from our seating area at a run, pushing past people in my way. The others were bewildered but they were following me.

I heard Blair tell Daryl to run again and listened to what was happening to them. It was hard to move and listen at the same time and I almost stumbled into a woman carrying drinks and nachos.

When I rounded the corner of the corridor I could see that four punks had rushed Blair and were grabbing at him. Blair was grappling with them, holding onto them, while they were punching at him. He was giving Daryl, who was behind him, a way out of the trap. Daryl took off running and was flying down the corridor.

I passed him, heard Simon behind me in the main walkway meet his son and drop to his knees to hug him and ask what was wrong. I kept running. Blair was getting pummeled, but now that Daryl was out of the way he had broken loose from his attackers and was trying to get around them and out of the dead end.

I reached the group of four men and Blair and yelled, "Police," ordering them to lie on the floor, on their bellies. They tried to run past me, but Blair tackled one and I blocked another one from leaving and ordered him to lie on the ground. He tried to get around me and with great satisfaction I belted him over and over until he sank to his knees on the concrete floor.

Behind me I heard Simon subduing the third man, and Carolyn - long legged Carolyn who I knew had run track in college - had caught up to the fourth man and brought him down. I saw her put a gun to his head and start to read him his rights. She had brought a gun and cuffs to the races. I was astounded. I hadn't brought either. Jack had, though, and went past me to help subdue Blair's perp. My man was starfished on the floor and from what I could hear Security was on its way.

"Jack, cover this clown, will you?" Jack cuffed Blair's man and had him move next to my man. And I went to Blair.

He was holding his side and looking anxiously around. I could hear Daryl with Emily. It sounded like the boy wasn't hurt, just good and scared.

"Daryl's okay, Chief. Are you hurt?"

"Nah. Well, I'm gonna have some bruises, but nothing's broken. Man, Jim, how did you know we were in trouble?"

Fuck. That was a good question. What in the hell was I going to say?

"Later, Chief." I moved next to him and started running my hands over his face and torso. Already I could feel the heat through his clothes where hotspots were developing into bruises. I gently circled the area on his cheek that was going to be a spectacular bruise, and kneaded his shoulders for a moment, trying to loosen up the tense muscles I could feel. When we went home, I'd give him a massage, coax the lactic acid out of those stressed knots.

Blair nudged me and whispered, "Carolyn." I stepped back and turned to his side. Caro was watching us. I patted Blair on the back and for her benefit I added, "You're right, Chief. Nothing's broken, but you should get some ice on those bruises as soon as possible." Then I walked away from him and went to talk to the Security guys who were arriving.

Blair had let his question drop, but from the gaze I could feel boring a hole in between my shoulder blades, I knew the conversation was far from over.

After Security and a couple of uniforms had cleaned up our mess, we called it a day. Simon requested that we all go down to the station and give our statements. I was still thinking about how to explain that I'd heard Blair from so far away. No bright ideas had come to me by the time Carolyn, Blair, and I had reached the truck. We got in and I didn't start the engine.

Blair's voice ended the silence among the three of us.

"Jim, I'm thinking there must have been trick acoustics in that dead end space we were in that must have bounced the sound waves from our voices out to where you picked them up. Does that sound right to you?"

He looked at me and I knew. I knew that he had figured it out. He was a smart guy and he'd put the puzzle together. I could let his story stand, and maybe Carolyn would buy it. It was definitely a good story for the statement I would have to make.

But... I'd already planned to tell Blair tonight that I was a sentinel. There was no point in delaying confirming it to him. And I was going to marry Carolyn. She deserved to know the truth. Probably I would need to tell Jack since he was my partner. And Simon needed to know what was going on with me too, or he'd have too many questions I couldn't answer. Emily didn't need to know. Neither did Simon's kid. The acoustics story would have to do for them.

I sighed and said, "Chief, why don't you fill Carolyn in on what I can do as a sentinel. Carolyn, I hadn't said anything to you before, but after today you're bound to have some questions. And what my guide - yeah, Chief, I'm ninety-nine percent sure that you're my guide - tells you is to be held confidential. If this gets out, it could be turned against me."

Blair turned in his seat and gave me an intense look. Carolyn was tight-lipped; her scent shouted out her anger, and I figured she already knew that Blair and I had something more than a supposed family connection.

I started the engine and began the drive to the PD, listening to Blair explain what enhanced senses were and what Richard Burton had to say about people like me and him.

** ** ** ** ** **

Carolyn had been skeptical about my abilities but I'd given her enough proof by the time we'd gotten to the station that she believed me. Her former coldness to Blair had returned, though, and while he hadn't told her the whole story about guides - just that they helped sentinels control their senses - she obviously didn't like the idea of me being close to him.

I wasn't sure Blair liked the idea either. I really needed to talk to Blair. As soon as I could get free from the PD, I told myself I would work it out with him. I was sure we were bonded. I'd felt something was wrong and knew sort of where he was, back at the racetrack, before I'd heard his voice. And I wondered if I would have noticed anybody else's voice from that distance.

Jack, Carolyn, and I typed up our statements, and waited in the bullpen for Simon, Daryl, and Blair to be finished. Emily had gone on home. I asked Carolyn if she wanted a uniform to run her home but she said no.

Earlier, when we'd gone up to Major Crimes, I had told Jack and Simon I needed to talk to them privately after they'd finished their statements. I made a trip to the john and when I returned, Jack was already in Simon's office. I knocked on the open door and Simon waved for me to join them. Blair was entertaining Daryl on my computer. Carolyn was nowhere to be seen. I shut the door.

"All right, Jim. I know damn good and well that I haven't heard the whole story here this afternoon." Simon glowered at me, and like a prick I started to act defensive, but then I caught Jack's eye and reconsidered. The man had seen his child terrified this afternoon, and I decided to cut him some slack.

I went to parade rest in front of his desk. It was easier for me to be respectful if I put myself back into my 'reporting to my commanding officer' mindset.

"Sir, I need to explain something about myself. But I'm asking you and Jack to keep it private. I only told Blair and Carolyn this on the way to the station this afternoon."

Banks made a 'get on with it' motion with his hands and I continued. Jack was sitting quietly in his chair in front of Banks' desk and watching my every move.

"Sir, I have enhanced senses. They're genetic, but for most of my life they weren't expressed. I had them as a boy, and when I was stranded in Peru. About two months ago, after I experienced hypothermia and almost died at sea, they returned."

I could feel Jack's eyes on me. I wondered if he'd ever noticed how well I could see or hear things. Captain Banks was frowning as I continued.

"Sandburg is a part of this, too. He rescued me from the ocean and I believe he's my guide. A guide helps a chapaq, which translates to watchman or guardian -- although Sandburg tells me another name is sentinel -- to not have his senses overwhelm him. I don't want it common knowledge that I'm a sentinel. I don't want the publicity. I had enough of that when I came back from Peru. I never asked to have my picture splashed all over the media. And I don't want it to interfere with my job."

Jack spoke when I paused. "Sandburg... he's not your cousin's kid, is he?"

I shook my head. "We have a connection - it's something that happens to sentinels and guides. The reason I knew there was a problem this afternoon? I could sense that Blair was upset. It's a two way street - he was able to find me when he didn't even know my full name. He showed up last Monday here at the station with my description and knowing what kind of truck I drove. But he had known my first name and I still didn't recall ever telling it to him.

Simon narrowed his eyes at me. "Who came up with the acoustic trick cover up?"

"Sandburg. He's very smart, Captain, and I'm going to offer to let him study my abilities in return for helping me."

"Sandburg just learned he's your guide? And he doesn't know about this deal you want to offer him, detective?"

"I was going to talk to him about it tonight, sir."

Simon started rubbing his forehead and from the way his eyes were squinting, I was sure he was developing a headache. He looked at me and said, "You're going to be a real pain in my ass, aren't you, Ellison?"

I stiffened, and fought down the impulse to salute him. "Sir, I understand this will complicate things. I'll transfer to another department if that's what you want."

"I didn't say that was what I wanted. No, Ellison, I think you'll be an asset to this department, as long as you remember not to act like an ass. We'll work with you on this senses thing. Weird as it may be. And I trust Jack to kick your ass if you need it."

Simon reached into his pocket and brought out a cigar, sniffed it deeply, and then replaced it. I was catching on that he performed this little ritual when he needed to think about something.

"About Sandburg..."

"Sir?"

"This assistance he's going to give you... if he agrees. Does he need to be with you all the time? Because I can see problems with that. He could have an observer's pass, say he was studying the PD for school - Seattle has intern-observers all the time from the University of Washington, and psychologists or psychiatrists consult regularly in their departments - but he couldn't work with you everyday. When would he go to school?"

"Sir, I'm sure we can work something out, and I think that as long as Blair and I have enough contact I'll be able to manage." I wasn't going to tell him about my choker that had belonged to Blair and how wearing it helped me keep my senses under my control.

"I'll talk to the kid, Simon, and see what he can teach me to do to help Jimbo here manage." Jack stood up and moved next to me. "I'm just getting my partner whipped into shape. I'm not going to lose him now. And if he can use his senses like he did this afternoon - our solved case rate is going to be high as a kite." Jack looked sideways at me and grinned. "Hey -- Simon, can you drop me off on your way home?"

Simon nodded. "Sure, Jack. Give me a couple of moments to finish up here."

Jack punched me lightly on the upper arm. "See you Monday, Slick. Simon, I'll be in the break room. I need a cup of coffee." And Jack walked out of the office, humming "Camptown Races."

I was still in parade rest and Simon looked me over thoughtfully. "Stand down. You're not in the Army anymore, Ellison. Go home."

I left the office and found that Carolyn was sitting at my desk. I didn't know where Blair had gone and I indicated my question with a cock of my head.

"He took Daryl to the bathroom. He didn't think it would be a good idea for the boy to be alone right now." She wasn't smiling. "Jim, he and I had a little talk. And I told him that you were going to take me home. Alone. Simon can run him back to your place."

I had opened my mouth to tell her that maybe it would be better for us to talk later, when she stood up and placed her palm over my mouth.

"Jimmy, if you don't come home with me right now, we are through. You owe me, and I'm cashing in your marker. Don't wait to talk to Sandburg, come with me now."

Guess I'd have to wait to talk to Blair when I got home. Caro didn't sound angry but she did sound determined. I believed her when she said she'd break up with me if I didn't appease her.

We left without running into Blair.

** ** ** ** ** **

I tried to talk to her on the way, but she said she refused to have a conversation this important in a pick-up truck. So we drove to her apartment in silence. And for my part, in apprehension. I tried to gauge her mood through her scent and picked up on emotions she had hidden with her body language - anger, frustration, jealousy. And sadness.

We had barely gotten in the door before she pulled my head down to hers and kissed me. It was a demanding kiss and I answered it with as much passion as she was showing me.

She pulled away from me and reached up and framed my face with her hands.

"It's very simple, Jimmy. I want to know where you think we are going with our relationship. Because I don't want to waste my time or yours if we're going nowhere." She kissed me again.

"Caro... I know what Blair and I told you was probably something of a shock, but it doesn't really have anything to do with you and me. And I thought we were good together. I don't want to see other women. I was hoping that someday you'd marry me."

She touched her lips to mine in a quiet kiss, stepped back, and crossed her arms. "What about this Sandburg? What does it mean that he's your guide?"

"I only know what Blair and Incacha - he's the shaman of the Chopec - have told me. There is a connection; I will need to spend time with him. He's going to be like... a partner to me. Blair's a great kid, and I hope you two can become friends."

"I've hardly seen you this week, Jim. You've spent all your time with Blair. If we continue to see each other, we need to set some ground rules. I think we should agree to not see other people. I think maybe we should try living together. You say you want us to marry. Well, it's time to put your money where your mouth is. A month from now, I'm going to want to know if you still feel the same way, Jimmy. And if you do, then we're going to set a date.

"And you and Blair will have to... connect with each other during work hours, because I want you at night and on the weekends, Jim." She shook her head. "It almost sounds like we're arranging custodial visitation, but that's my bottom line, Jim Ellison."

Too soon. I wanted my last nights with Blair before things changed. But I wasn't willing to lose Carolyn, either.

"Caro, I want to say yes. I want everything you've said. But I need to finish figuring out what Blair being my guide means to him and me, and I haven't even talked with him about it. I need another day or so to spend with him, and then I can commit to your terms whole-heartedly."

"You can talk to him tomorrow, Jim. I need you now. I need you and I'd better have a higher priority in your life than your guide. Because if it's the other way around, you can walk out that door right now - but don't bother trying to walk back in. I mean it." I could see tears clinging to her eyelashes and it killed me that Carolyn - my tough, beautiful Caro - might break down and cry. I had brought her to this and I felt suddenly remorseful. I couldn't let her stay like this.

I crossed over to where she was standing and pulled her into my arms. I kissed her and ignored the tears. Carolyn wouldn't want me to see her cry. I murmured to her that I wanted to take her to bed. Carolyn nodded, but then added, "Stay till morning, Jimmy."

It was a test. I knew that. She knew that I knew it. I wasn't going to screw this up. Blair would have to wait. And I closed my mind to any further speculation on what Blair was doing right now and what he would think when I didn't return to eat the meal he was cooking for me tonight. And I couldn't call him. Caro would take that as a sign that I valued Blair over her. As I started to unbutton Carolyn's blouse, I repeated to myself, 'Blair will have to wait.'

** ** ** ** ** **

It was almost noon when I returned to the loft. Blair's car wasn't parked on the street and I listened for the sound of his voice as I jogged up the stairs.

Silence.

The table was set and there was food in pots and pans sitting cold on the stove. I looked around and didn't see any of his belongings. The few things he'd moved into the bathroom had disappeared. I moved slowly upstairs, afraid to confirm what I suspected he'd done.

His backpack was gone. He'd removed all traces of himself from my home. Except for the note on my pillow.

I could feel my stomach clenching as I opened his letter to me.

Jim,

It's one in the morning, and you obviously aren't coming back here tonight. Thinking it over, maybe it would be best if I followed my mom's advice about lovers and detach with love. Leave on friendly terms. I don't think we want the same things. I don't want to hide my sexuality. You do (and I so know you're going to destroy this note when you're done reading it, so nobody finds out that you and I were lovers).

About the guide thing: it explains why I was so drawn to you and why I felt compelled to follow you to Cascade. I didn't tell you I first went south following you when we parted in La Push. It seems you were still on vacation and traveling, but I didn't know that. Really confused me for a while, but I listened to this inner sense that told me if I was coming closer to you. And eventually I pinpointed where I needed to be.

Except I didn't sign on to be a guide. We bonded without realizing it - the sex, I guess. But I can't even see that you need a guide to help you with your senses. Whenever I've seen you using them, you were doing just fine on your own. And you didn't tell me or Carolyn about having any real problems with them.

I think if we are out of contact, the bond will eventually dissolve without us renewing it by touching each other.

You want to get married to Carolyn. She made it plain that she wasn't going to tolerate any interference from me. So, man, I'm history.

I wish things could have been different. I fell for you hard. I love you, you know. I wish I didn't.

Blair.

I read that damn thing three times before methodically tearing it into little pieces.

So Blair was going to bail on me. Irrational anger filled me, and I knew I was out of line to be angry with him. He was right. We did want different things. But he was wrong about me not needing him. If I didn't have his choker to keep me... grounded, I guess was the best term, then at times I wouldn't be able to function.

At least I had it.

I would miss him fiercely. Like him, I wished now that I hadn't allowed myself to like him. Or love him.

This was Lila all over again. Once more, I'd built a pretty castle in the air - Blair staying with me as my guide - and now it was lying in pieces on the ground.

But I consoled myself that I still had Caro.

As I stripped the sheets off of the bed and carried them downstairs it occurred to me that I hadn't felt Blair leaving me. Inside, I hadn't noticed he was gone. Maybe I'd been too occupied with Carolyn at the time, but why didn't I feel him being upset now?

Maybe he was out of range for bonding shit. He'd been gone for eleven hours. You could drive a hell of a long way in eleven hours.

I cleaned the loft, glad to have something to do to keep my hands busy while I adjusted to the fact that I'd lost my guide. Incacha was going to be pissed.

It was dark, and I was sitting out on the balcony, drinking a beer, and caressing the choker in my lap. I felt like I was on watch, and I wondered where Blair was going to lay his head tonight. I ignored the faint sensation of the bond, although, I think I could have followed him; he'd made his choice and I needed to respect that. But I wasn't surprised when I observed his car park down the street. He got out and looked toward my building and I saw him square his shoulders. I stood up and he said softly, "I know you can hear me, Jim. I tried. I really tried to leave. But the more distance I put between us the more terrible and sick I felt about it. So I came back to talk. But I don't want to go into your place. Would you follow me to the beach?"

I waved at him, and went to get my jacket. Blair was already in his rust-bucket of a car when I came out the door. I got in my truck and took a deep breath. I had a chance to salvage this whole guide thing, and I told myself not to blow it.

Blair drove past me and I followed him. We left Cascade and pulled off the coastal highway onto the side of the road. Obviously, Blair knew this area, and I was reminded that he'd lived here before, when he was an undergrad at Rainier.

Blair got out of his car and waited for me to catch up to him. He smelled sad and worried and resigned. I hated what his body was telling me. I pulled him to me in a hug and kissed the top of his head. "I'm sorry," I whispered to him.

"Me, too. But I bet we're not sorry about the same things. C'mon. Let's go down and watch the waves." I didn't need the bright moonlight to see where I was going but he did, since he didn't have a flashlight. He took my hand and I followed him down the beach path till the waters of the bay were visible. We sat down on the beach, holding hands, well out of the range of the grasping waves, and for a while we were silent.

"Did you destroy my letter?"

"Yeah. Tore it up into a million pieces."

Blair snorted. "Were you sick yesterday or today at all?"

"No."

"It must be a guide thing then, because I've never felt so bad in my life, Jim, as I did when I drove away from Cascade. I started to feel physically ill, like I wanted to throw up, and all my muscles were aching. And not from being caught in that fight at the races; this was different. My head was pounding so hard I could barely drive. I've never gone through withdrawal, but I'm guessing it feels sort of like that. And maybe I could push through it, and break the bond, but I started to wonder if my hurt feelings that you chose Carolyn over me were blinding me from realizing what I could have."

I squeezed his hand. "Are you feeling okay, now, Chief?"

Blair nodded.

"I'm sorry you were sick. I'm sorry I can't be the lover you want."

The sad scent from Blair increased and I hurried to offer him what I could.

"But I do want you to be my guide, Chief. I was going to tell you that I was a sentinel last night, after we came home from the races. I was going to tell you that we could maybe do a little deal. You help me with my senses - and at times they are really bad; Blair, you being in my presence helps the damned things behave - and you can study me for your schoolwork. You said you were thinking of doing your dissertation on mythology and legends having a real life origin. You could study sentinels. We could go down to Peru and talk to Incacha. I mean, I talk to him sometimes in my dreams, when he's spirit walking and he's checking up on me, but you could talk to him, too. He knows all about chapaq. There's an old temple he knows about, also, dedicated to guides and sentinels. It's not in Peru, though. I'm not sure where it's at, but Incacha could probably tell us. He's a shaman; remember I told you about him before?"

Blair sighed. "So, that's the carrot, hmm? And the stick is that I have to see you in somebody else's arms. You still want to marry Carolyn, right?"

"Ah, yes, Chief. I do. I wish I could say that being out doesn't matter to me, but it does. Carolyn will make a great wife for me. But I love you, too. Actually, I can't say that I do love Carolyn, but then I'm not making this decision based on hormonal feelings. I think I'll grow into love for her, but I'm letting my head make this decision, not my dick. " I raised his hand to my lips and kissed it. He jerked it away from me.

"And we have to talk about this kind of shit, Jim. If I stay as your guide and you are committed to Carolyn -- you did commit to her last night, right? - then you and I can't do stuff like kissing or sex. Do you understand that, Jim? I'm not going to be your secret lover on the side. This past week was hard enough, but I thought you might change your mind about me." I could scent his tears spilling over and I tried to wipe them away but he stopped me.

"Touching, if I stay, means you can't get that personal with me. Hugs, okay. I hug lots of my friends, male and female. Teasing stuff - like a punch in the arm -- is all right, too. You can skip the noogies on my head, though."

"Oh, I don't think so, Chief. Noogies are definitely in."

He wiped his sleeve across his face, and I regretted that I would be overstepping my bounds to touch him like that anymore. But it was for the best.

"Blair, Banks said you could work with me at the PD, be like an intern, an observer. But, we have to keep my being a sentinel classified on a need to know basis only. Can you do that? Will your professors let me be anonymous?" This was a sticking point for me. I didn't want to be known as a sentinel.

"Yeah, there are protocols to follow for confidential subjects. You're going to have to sign a shit load of paperwork, though, allowing me to do research on you. I'd want to scientifically prove how enhanced your senses are, and that will mean lab time and tests. Still want me for your guide?"

I thought about it, and while I wasn't thrilled about the testing he mentioned, I could live with it.

"Yeah, I'll do the tests and all that crap. Be my guide. I'll do a spit handshake or pinky swear or do a blood brother thing, as long as you'll be with me, Blair."

Blair chuckled. "I should make you do the spit thing, but I won't. But Jim, umm, I was also wondering about something else. I lost something in your motel room, back in La Push. It was my leather necklace and it's important to me. It's sort of a keepsake from my father's side of the family, the only thing I'm ever likely to have that connects me to him and my other lost relatives. Did you pick it up and put it with your stuff? I really need it back, if you've got it."

My mind whirled with choices. Tell Blair the truth and unwrap it from my ankle and hand it to him? God, if he were a Selkie, then he'd be free to leave me. And what if the illness he'd felt upon leaving me wasn't because he was my guide but because I held his seal-coat hostage? What if the act of rebelling against the holder of a Selkie's skin by leaving triggered sickness? Why didn't the Selkies in Granny's stories who were captured ever run away without their seal coats? Shit, if I returned it there'd be nothing to hold him back and give him second thoughts if he tried to leave me again.

Should I lie to him? Crap, why did he have to bring this up when we'd just worked things out?

"Jim? Do you remember it?" He gave me a little nudge, and I made my decision.

"I think I threw it away, Chief. Sorry. If it turns up, I'll let you know."

"Damn. I was really hoping you had packed it up with your stuff. My mother had it with that journal I mentioned that I'd swiped and read. She's doesn't know I have - had - the skin necklace; I left a dummy one in her hiding place. God, how could I be so careless? I've lost a part of my heritage now." He reeked of sadness and I felt like a traitor.

I cautiously asked, knowing I should just let it alone, but I couldn't stop myself, "What kind of leather was it, Chief? Cow or pig skin?"

"Sealskin."

He was a Selkie! No, of course he couldn't be, it was just a coincidence that his choker was made of sealskin.

Time to change the subject.

"Any ideas on where you want to live, Blair? I don't think Carolyn will let you stay with us."

Blair gave a hollow laugh. "I know a guy who has some warehouses, down by the harbor. He rents out a section in each one cheap, if you'll keep an eye on his stuff. Less expensive for him than hiring a security guard. I've stayed in one before."

He stood up. "Are we good, Jim?"

I stood up, too. "Yeah. And Blair, thanks for coming back." I gave him a hard hug and I enjoyed the feel of his body against mine. Yeah, I'd be faithful to Caro from now on, now that we were exclusive to each other, but I wasn't made of stone. Blair felt good. But he smelled so sad.

"I'll stop at the PD tomorrow and catch up with you; okay, man? I want to stay here a while and walk down by the water." Blair stepped back from me and walked across the beach to the edge of the ocean; he bent over and took off his shoes and socks and rolled up his pants legs. He gave me a good-bye wave and started walking away, the ocean run up swirling around his ankles and the breeze blowing his hair.

I watched for a long time, as he disappeared down the beach. Was he pining for his ocean home? Was he just walking to help his thoughts settle? I bent down and touched his choker. It felt like it always did, smooth and slick and flexible.

I'd lied to my guide. And I wondered if those fishermen who took home a Selkie mate ever regretted what they had done.

** ** ** ** ** **

Tbc in Part Three.

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Acknowledgments: Beta'ed by T. Verano. Thank you for a wonderful job. Thank you also to Amy for the lovely cover art.