Touch

By K9

 

 

Falling through the gate heavily, Jim Ellison turned and shot the guard a vicious look. He struggled to his feet and walked on, "I demand to see your Kommandant," he spat. His words were met with another shove, "I am an American citizen, I shouldn't be here."

 

The burly guard sneered and shoved him a little harder.

 

Jim looked around for the first time as a strange odor assaulted his nose. Glancing up, he saw a row of small children in a barbed wire compound, dirty and malnourished, they reached out with dead eyes, pleading for salvation.

 

Dear God, it was true. He had heard while he was in England of camps where the Nazi's were herding 'undesirables', but even then, he could not bring himself to believe those terrible stories.

What could these children possibly have done to deserve this? Taking a closer look, he noted two yellow triangles forming a Star of David….these children were Jews.

 

Tearing his eyes from the sight of their small hands reaching through the wire, he tried to take in the other sights, but that damnable smell wouldn't let him concentrate.

Row upon row of gray huts studded the compound. At the far end a large shed where he assumed they had the inmates working and a towering chimney stack which rose into the air like a finger pointing heavenwards.

Maybe they had some kind of smelting works or ore processor?

 

Suddenly, he heard a commotion. From the door in front of the main building tumbled a figure, hitting the ground with a thud. Behind the cowering body came a uniformed officer, he kicked the prone figure sharply in the back.

 

"Lazy little Jew bastard, get it done!" he snarled then added another kick to make sure that the message was clear.

 

Without thinking, Jim rushed forward and tried to help the huddled person to their feet.

"Are you alright?" he asked with concern.

When the face turned to him, he realized that this was a young man, possibly late teens, with long flowing hair to his shoulders and bright, pain filled blue eyes.

 

"Don't touch me, they will punish," the man whispered.

 

"Are you alright?" Jim insisted. The young man nodded slightly.

 

Suddenly, Jim felt a hefty blow across his back; he almost fell forwards onto the smaller man, who was still trying to climb to his feet.

 

"You...get up!" the guard barked, "Leave the Jew alone, he is unclean!"

 

Jim turned angrily to face the towering guard, but was dragged to his feet and hurled into the building.

 

Soon he found himself in front of a desk, being looked over by a man of about his own age, tall, blonde and ruggedly handsome.

 

"Are you a spy?" the man asked.

 

"No, I'm James Ellison, I work for a land reclamation company in Munich, I was on my way to the city to finalize a deal with a client when I got mixed up in some misunderstanding at the railway station. I am an American citizen working for a German company and I demand to know why I've been brought here?" Jim said sharply, “I’m just a businessman.”

 

"You are in no position to demand anything. You were suspected of being involved in the death of a German officer at the railway station. Under normal circumstances, we would just shoot you as a murderer or if you are a British military officer, then you are a spy. But we are in need of strong men, strong young bodies to move stone from the quarry," the officer raked Jim over with his eyes like a bird of prey over seeing his next meal, "Strong young men like you," he said coldly.

 

"I am *not* a military officer, British or otherwise, nor am I a murderer, I.." Jim began, only to be silenced by the butt of a rifle across his jaw.

 

"You are a common criminal. You will begin work at once," the officer nodded to the guard who dragged Jim away.

 

 

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

 

 

Twelve hours at the quarry and even Jim was beginning to feel the exhaustion seeping into his muscles. Here he was, a young and superbly fit man, how were these pitiful creatures around him keeping up the pace? He glanced around at the others as they worked on like automatons. Old men and women, younger women, painfully thin and close to collapse, young boys and girls, no more than children. How long had they already endured this? And that *smell*, he couldn't pinpoint what it was, but it was all encompassing in it's pungency.

 

When the guard came to return them to the camp, Jim felt almost relieved. In all of those hours, no one had spoken, not even a child to its mother.

 

 

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

 

 

Staggering into the hut, Jim was directed to a bunk at the far end. He noticed a lone bed situated over beneath a broken window, ‘what a cold place to choose to sleep’, he thought. Suddenly a figure shuffled its way down the hut and fell onto the bunk beneath the window. It was the young man from earlier. He shook uncontrollably, curling himself up into a ball he rocked and sobbed.

Looking around, Jim noted that no one else was paying him any attention. The other inmates, if they noticed at all, just shot him a look of contempt.

Steeling himself, Jim walked over and spoke gently, "Are you alright?" he said almost in a whisper.

 

The man didn't answer just continued to rock back and forth, emitting such pitiful sobbing, mewling sounds.

 

Jim grabbed the arm of a passing inmate, "What is wrong with him?" he asked.

 

The man wrinkled his nose, "Don't bother with him, he's dirty," he said with obvious distaste.

 

"What the hell do you mean, 'dirty'?"

 

"A disease," the man insisted.

 

"You mean because he's a Jew?" Jim asked in disbelief.

 

"He is worse than that. Be warned, keep away from him."

 

Jim looked down at the figure sadly. He couldn't remember ever having seen a sadder sight than this young man who was still almost a boy, so despised, not only by the enemy, but also by these people who should be his allies.

 

Slowly, he kneeled down in front of the young mans bunk.

"My name is Jim, what's yours?" he asked gently. The man did not respond, but the crying slowed to a sniffle. "Were you hurt earlier when that guard kicked you? Are you injured?" His reward was a shake of the head, but the face was still buried in his arms.

"Can I get you some water?" Jim tried again.

 

Slowly, the man's face appeared, tear streaked and pale. His desperate eyes met Jim's and the older man felt himself take a deep breath, such was the effect of that anguished gaze. He stared at Jim for a short time and then nodded slightly.

Jim walked over and scooped a cup of water from the bucket at the end of the hut, returning to the bunk, he handed it to the still huddled figure.

"Are you sure you're not hurt? I've had some medical training."

 

"Why are you doing this?" the young man asked in a whisper.

 

"Doing what?" Jim replied puzzled.

 

"Trying to be nice to me." Suspicious eyes searched Jim's face.

 

"Is there any reason why I shouldn't?"

 

"You know why," the young man's face hardened.

 

"No I don't. Why don't you tell me?" Jim asked.

 

Pointing to the symbols on his chest, the young man studied Jim once more, "Don't you understand what this means?" he asked.

 

"I know that means you are a Jew, so what?" Jim asked studying the Star of David overlapped by a pink triangle.

 

"This means I am a homosexual Jew, unclean and an aberrance to society," he said, as though he'd heard the speech so many times he now believed it.

 

Jim looked at the youngster and smiled gently, "Does that mean you feel less pain than anyone else?" he asked, "Or that you deserve less respect?"

 

"Yes, to them. To all of them."

 

Jim felt the utter sadness wash over him, "What's your name?" he asked.

 

The young man still looked at him suspiciously, "Blair," he replied finally.

 

Jim held out his hand, "I'm Jim Ellison, pleased to meet you."

 

Blair studied the man's hand, then gingerly took it, shaking it gently, "Blair Sandburg, " he said finally.

 

"How long have you been here, Blair?" Jim inquired.

 

Blair sighed, "Forever," his voice beheld a sadness that was soul shattering, "I think about two years, I don't know. Time doesn't mean much anymore. I just wait to die."

 

"Why?" Jim laid his hand on Blair's arm.

 

"Why live? What's the point? I have no one and nothing to live for. They killed my mother, dear God, why didn't they just kill me?" tears began to well in Blair's eyes again, "I was once a strong and willful man, look what they have reduced me to!" he said with a flash of anger.

 

Suddenly the lights were turned out and the hut was plunged into darkness.

 

"Go back to your bunk, Jim. It would not be good for the others to see you here talking with me. There are German spies everywhere. Before you know, they will drag you out and castrate you, to prevent you from becoming 'unclean'," Blair whispered.

 

"I'm not afraid of gossip," Jim insisted.

 

Blair took a deep breath, "Oh but you should be. It can get you killed here. Please, go to your bed," he said, "But, thank you, for your kindness."

 

Jim nodded, knowing that Blair couldn't see the gesture in the darkness. He had been blessed with very sensitive eyesight that allowed him to see well, even in darkness. Along with his unnaturally sensitive powers of hearing, smell and touch he had been the perfect choice for this mission. Until, it all went wrong, that is.

"Goodnight, Blair," he said finally as he made his way back to the bunk.

 

"Goodnight," the young man whispered almost inaudibly.

 

 

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

 

 

Blair Sandburg lay huddled on the bunk. His back ached from the kicking metered out by the guard and he was sore from the repeated abuse from Gunter.

 

How he despised that man.

 

In his mind he saw the tall blonde Kommandant standing above him sneering and taunting while he forced Blair into the most degrading acts.

Funny, Blair had often thought, how easily this man could partake of the very thing he condemned other people for. He knew that Gunter only kept him alive and entire, because he enjoyed raping him. He could see the pleasure in the other mans face as he slammed himself into Blair repeatedly, sometimes tearing him open and smiled as the tears of pain and humiliation flowed.

Yet this man killed others who found pleasure with their own sex, tortured them, humiliated them….and yet he was no better.

 

Blair sighed and tried to find a comfortable position in which to sleep. He shivered with cold, huddled against the wind whipping in through the window. This had been the only place the others would let him sleep. They hadn't wanted him near them, in case he should touch them and 'taint' them too.

 

There were times when Blair yearned for the touch of another human being. Just someone to hold his hand when he was afraid or pet his hair when he needed comfort. But no one did anymore. Not since his mother….

 

He bit down on his lip as he felt the tears sting his eyes. Each time he closed his eyes he saw her face as she was herded into the showers. They had shaved off her beautiful red hair, but her eyes still belied such fire and determination. She had held him in that steely gaze and made him promise to be strong and make it through this.

'But you're only going to have a shower' he'd said, 'we'll be together again as soon as you're finished.'

She had known of course, and in his heart so had he; that she would never come out alive. He just couldn't face the thought of being here alone. The fear ate at him, every passing minute of every day until it had become so all encompassing that he'd forgotten what life had been like before the fear.

From that day, no living soul had ever touched him again…except Gunter…..and Jim.

 

Blair opened his eyes. He strained to peer through the darkness, hoping he could make out the figure of the big man sleeping opposite. Jim had touched him, even after he knew. Jim had touched him and it had felt like electricity passing through him.

 

When he'd stumbled back into the hut, after Gunter had raped and beaten him and one of the inmates had thrown a rock at him for being a filthy, unclean Jew, he'd not seen the big American in the corner. All he'd wanted to do was lie down and die. Then he heard a voice, softly asking if he was all right. The voice was speaking perfect German, but it was clear that he was not a native. Then he'd done it. He'd touched Blair's arm.

 

A tear forced its way from beneath Blair's tightly closed lashes. How pathetic had he become that the mere touch of another human being had reduced him to tears of joy and pleasure? If only this compassionate foreigner knew what he risked by his tenderness, he would never venture near this unclean little Jew again. Blair could not help but pray to whichever God would listen, that the beautiful American would let the warning go unheeded and continue to touch.

 

Blair shivered again; the wind was cutting through him. Suddenly, he heard a voice whisper to him. The closeness of the other voice made him jump and then cower back.

 

"It's all right, It's me...Jim. Are you cold?" the older man asked.

 

"Yes," Blair whispered nervously, peering into the darkness, hoping that no one could hear.

 

"Have this," Jim said, pushing a blanket into Blair's arms.

 

The young man gripped it tightly but sat still, "This is yours?"

 

"Yes, I don't feel the cold. You're in more need of it than I. And tomorrow, we fix something over that window." Jim's deep voice said with determination.

 

"The others won't like that," Blair said shyly.

 

"Then 'the others' can argue it out with me. Now here," Jim took the blanket and shook it out over Blair, tucking the sides underneath him, "Try to get some rest." He said and absent-mindedly stroked his hand across Blair's hair. "Goodnight."

 

"Goodnight," Blair said quietly, pulling the warmth around him, he could still feel Jim's body heat within its fibers and smell the other man in the warmth, "Thank you, Jim."

 

 

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

 

 

Another day of hard labor and Jim was bone weary. But, he had been able to check out the surroundings; getting some idea of how many Germans were in the camp and how it was patrolled. The only thing he couldn't work out was what was being smelted or burned in that 'factory' with the chimney. It was possible that this was an ammunition factory or maybe they were assembling weapons?

Mentally storing the information, Jim shuffled back into the hut, to find Blair already there. The young man was sporting another black eye and a badly cut lip. He sat, eyes cast down as the inmates filed in and carried their meager rations to their bunks.

 

"Hi," Jim smiled.

 

Blair's face immediately raised and the shadow of a smile flitted across his lips, "Hello. I wondered if you would be back," he said nervously.

 

"Why? Where would I go?" Jim replied.

 

A dark expression fell across the young face, "Where they all go," he muttered.

 

Jim frowned, "Where's that?"

 

"Heaven," Blair whispered like a small child being asked where a departed favorite pet now rested.

 

Suddenly a raised voice shattered their quiet moment.

 

"Don't associate with that filthy little collaborator, American, if you know what's good for you," a tall, skinny man growled.

 

 Jim stood and raised himself to his full height, "Oh and *you're* going to stop me I suppose?" he said, eyes cold and hard.

 

The other man swallowed nervously, "You don't understand," he hissed, "You have no idea what he *is*"

 

"He's a human being, just like you and I, 'brother'. Maybe you'd do well to remember who the enemy is around here?" Jim warned.

 

"Why don't you ask him what he *does* all day?" the man spat, "Ask him why he doesn't sweat and die in the quarry like the rest of us? Like our women and children," his eyes pooled with tears, "Ask him why he sat in a warm hut while my nine year old son *died* in that evil place, breaking rocks when he should have been playing. Ask him why my wife was slaughtered while I was forced to watch, but he lives like a pampered German lap dog!"

 

"How are these things the fault of one Jewish boy?" Jim insisted.

 

The tall man turned his tear streaked face towards Jim and shook his head, walking away without a further word.

 

Jim glanced down and saw Blair's shoulders rocking. He kneeled down in front of the young man and placed his hand on Blair's arm.

 

"He's just angry and upset and you're an easy target. Don't let him upset you. Those things are *not* your fault." Jim whispered.

 

"No, he's right. Why do they let the children die, yet I live?"

 

"None of this is your choice. You have no control over the whims of those men."

 

Blair looked up into Jim's eyes, "Why don't you ask me?"

 

"Ask you what?"

 

"What I do all day, instead of working in the quarry."

 

Jim noted the fear rolling off the younger man, his heart was beating fast and he was trembling. "If you want to tell me, you will," he answered.

 

Blair took a breath. "When I first came here, I was with my mother. I had been at the University of Munich since I was sixteen, studying ancient languages, anthropology and pre-civilized man. They told me that I should make Professor by the age of twenty," he gave a sad smile, "My mentor was Professor Marcus Heitzer, he was personally responsible for me being accepted into the University at such a young age. He told me that I was 'a genius', his 'child prodigy'. He," Blair stopped and bit his lip, "he was like a father to me for three years. He was also the person responsible for alerting the Germans to the fact that I was a Jew."

 

Jim winced as the hurt in Blair's voice sliced into him. How must such a betrayal feel? He wondered.

 

"He was also the only man I ever slept with," Blair whispered, "Not only did he tell the authorities about me being a Jew, but he made a point of ensuring they knew I was a homosexual one too. It would have been a greater kindness if he had just shot me and had done," he shrugged, "So they sent us here. Because of my knowledge of languages, Gunter let me live, but my mother went to the showers.

Gunter has a hoard of ancient manuscripts that he discovered, Latin and Greek. They talk of 'old magic', witchcraft. He makes me translate them, he hopes that presenting a translated copy to the Fuhrer will curry favor for him and get him out of here. Being Kommandant of a place like this is a great disgrace for a German officer."

 

"So you spend all day translating manuscripts?" Jim asked.

 

Blair gave a cold laugh, "Not exactly. He has also discovered another taste that amuses him," he said looking away, "Me."

 

When the realization of Blair's words finally penetrated, Jim squeezed his arm tightly, "You mean he abuses you? He *rapes* you?"

 

"In every and any way he can, almost every day. If only he would let me work in the quarry, maybe I could die then?" Blair mumbled.

 

Jim swallowed hard. He had an overwhelming urge to enfold this young man, little more than a child, in his arms and swear to protect him forever. But, it would be a hollow promise. "Oh Blair," he whispered.

 

"So you see the irony of this situation, don't you?" Blair gave a shallow smile, "They think I have a coddled existence here in the camp while they work themselves to death in the quarry. They wish for their children to be in my place. If only they knew that those who die in the quarry are the lucky ones and those who die quickly in the showers, luckier still."

 

"What do you mean, those who die in the showers?" Jim asked, puzzled.

 

Blair looked into Jim's eyes and frowned, "You really have no idea what's going on here do you?" he asked, "When the trains come in, they bring a thousand or more people at a time here, they come at least once a month. How many people do you see, Jim?"

 

"A couple of hundred at best," the American answered.

 

What do you think those gray huts are over on the far side? And that chimney stack?"

 

Jim took a breath, "I'd assumed that the huts were workshops and the chimney belonged to some kind of factory complex, maybe a smelting works. There's that smell…" he said wrinkling his nose.

 

Blair shook his head sadly, "Those huts are 'showers', but there's no water. The only 'cleansing' that happens in there is the 'racial' kind. That's where they gas all the Jews shipped in from Germany, Holland, Poland…anywhere. They herd them in like cattle and murder them. Then they load the bodies into the fire and burn them. They even use the ashes as fertilizer for the officers vegetable garden, just as one, last insult," a tear escaped from the young man's eye, rolling down his cheek.

 

Jim reached up and gently wiped the tear away, "Oh Blair. I had no idea. No one outside knows that *this* is happening. Oh my God," he choked on his words, looking away, as the full reality of what this young man had just told him took a hold.

 

"No one knows and no one cares," Blair said sadly, "We are a forgotten people, abandoned by humanity and God alike."

 

Jim grabbed Blair's hand, "That's not true….if only I…" he stopped and glanced around, "I can trust you, can't I? It's essential that if I put my trust in you, you don't betray me," he whispered.

 

"I would never betray you, Jim. I would die first. I have no fear of death and nothing that they threaten to do to me can be worse than what they already do."

 

Jim nodded, "I was sent here on a reconnaissance mission. The British think that this is a secret weapons factory. One of their planes spotted the chimney and the huts. They know that there are secret weapons dumps everywhere in this area, the terrain is heavily wooded and the mountains make perfect cover. But, they wanted to know what kind of weapons the Germans were working on here. I was supposed to come in here as a casual laborer, to work at the quarry, but I was arrested when one of the local resistance, killed a German officer at the railway station. I need to escape and carry the information to my contacts in the hills."

 

"You're a spy?" Blair whispered.

 

Jim smiled at the hero worship, which suddenly shone from the pale blue eyes. In that moment, Blair had looked so young and innocent. "Yes," he said with a barely suppressed grin, "And I might need your help to escape."

 

"Escape?" Blair gasped, "I don't think anyone has ever escaped from here."

 

"Well, there's a first time for everything. Will you help me?" the big man asked.

 

Blair smiled shyly, "Yes."

 

"Will you come with me?" Jim said quietly.

 

Blair's usually sad face broke into a warm smile, "Oh yes. I'll do anything."

 

"It will be dangerous, I won't pretend that there's no risk involved."

 

"I don't care. I want to be with you," Blair insisted, his voice no longer hesitant, but strong and determined. Suddenly he blushed furiously, "I didn't mean..I…" his eyes dropped to the floor.

 

Jim smiled as he realized that Blair had thought the words sounded like a proposition. Glancing around the almost deserted hut, Jim lifted Blair's hand to his lips and gently kissed his fingers. He needed no words to explain his feelings, no huge outward gesture of affection to show this frightened young man that he was a friend.

 

"I'm going to need a key from Gunter's office," Jim whispered, "The key to the hut over by the far fence. We need enough time to get well into the forest before they know we're gone. They have dogs, we can be tracked easily."

 

"I might be able to help there," Blair said glancing nervously around, "Gunter sends me out to tend the plants in his private garden, it is next to the feeding house where the food for the dogs is prepared. Gunter also has a large bottle of sleeping draught, that he keeps in his desk."

 

Jim smiled, "If you could drug the dogs at the same time you get the key, we could be miles away before the animals were fit to track us," he squeezed Blair's hand.

 

"I'll do it." Blair responded with a fierce determination that both shocked and amazed Jim.

 

Jim Ellison smiled, "Okay."

 

 

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

 

 

"Jew?" Gunter snarled, he grabbed Blair by the hair roughly and yanked him backwards.

 

Blair reeled, Gunter had been drinking; this was very bad news, at least, bad news for him. The big German's tastes became more extreme when his system was suffused with alcohol and Blair would ultimately pay the price.

Gunter pushed Blair to his knees and unzipped his own pants, "Suck!" he demanded.

 

Blair closed his eyes, the hatred bubbled inside him, the desperate wish to see this man die, not quickly, but a slow and lingering death manifested itself in his mind. He was shaken from his thoughts by a heavy blow across his face.

 

"Suck, you filthy little Jew!" Gunter raged.

 

Blair swallowed and took the limp cock into his mouth. It wasn't as if this was a new humiliation, and compared to some of the things this creature was capable of, this was easy. Hopefully, once his lust was satisfied, he would fall into a drunken, sated stupor and Blair would be able to put the plan into action.

It took only moments before the straining member had swollen and was being forced into Blair's throat harshly. Trying not to gag, Blair dug his ragged fingernails into the palms of his hands.

 

Suddenly, Gunter withdrew, "No.... over," he instructed.

 

Blair felt his blood run cold, but obediently, he stood, turned his back and leaned across the desk. The pain of Gunter thrusting into him; dry and without care, brought tears to his eyes, but he did not cry out.

He made the decision in those moments of agony, that this was his turning point. He would help Jim escape and even if it meant living in the mountains like a scavenging dog, he would take back control of his own life.

 

Gunter pushed him away roughly, his spent seed mixing with the blood that trickled down Blair's legs.

"Go, get out," he slurred, dropping heavily into the high backed leather chair, "Tend the garden before you eat," he snarled and almost immediately, fell into sleep.

 

Blair stood before the sleeping monster. He had tried to wipe himself clean and had pulled his clothes together. He looked at the drawer where the keys lay and swallowed hard.

 

It was now or never.

 

He tiptoed around the desk and as carefully as his trembling hands would allow, he slid open the drawer. Gunter shifted in his sleep and Blair stopped breathing. When it was safe to continue, Blair peered into the velvet-lined box, easily spotting the key, alphabetically stored for easy access. Thank God for German efficiency in at least this one thing. Slipping the key into his pocket, he slowly pushed the drawer back.

The cupboard beside the desk thankfully still held the large bottle of sleeping draught, which Blair carefully took out. He glanced at Gunter and wondered why this big sleeping pig needed something to chase away his dreams? Did he in fact *have* a conscience to trouble him?

Blair knew that after he awoke, Gunter would call in his officers and they would discuss the running of the camp….over a glass of the finest Napoleon Brandy. With a sly smile, Blair gently pulled out the stopper from the decanter and tipped a quarter of the bottle of sleeping draught in, before replacing the top.

 

Gathering up his books and a bundle of rags to disguise the bottle, Blair lowered his eyes to the floor and shuffled out of he door. The guard glared at him as he pulled the door closed behind him.

"Herr Kommandant sleeps," he whispered, "I must tend the garden."

 

The guard nodded and shoved him away in disgust. But for once, beneath the tangled curls that covered his face, Blair smiled.

 

 

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

 

 

As Jim staggered through the door of the hut, Blair looked up. He wanted to rush up and grab the bigger man and thrust the key into his hand, pulling him from the hut; such was his excited state. But, he merely shot the American a smile.

 

Jim's pale blue eyes widened. He knew what Blair was telling him. Casually he nodded his head and returned the smile. Some water and a few minutes rest would give him the energy for the night that lay ahead of them.

 

They waited for the lights to go out and everyone fall into an exhausted sleep. Jim moved silently over to Blair's bunk and tugged on the young man's sleeve.

"Come on," he whispered.

 

Together they crept from the sleeping inmates and carefully made their way over to the hut. Slipping inside, the locked the door behind them, and Jim went to work.

 

"I hope no one saw us leave the hut," Blair said nervously.

 

"If they did, they probably think I'm accepting sexual favors from you. They will undoubtedly leave it until tomorrow to report it to Gunter, by then, we'll be gone," Jim explained.

 

Unexpectedly, Blair felt himself blush deeply. The thought of Jim 'accepting sexual favors' from him had sent warmth straight to his groin. Just the idea of an intimate touch from this beautiful foreigner made his heart beat faster.

 

Jim was removing the slatted panel from the back of the hut carefully. This had been the reason to choose this particular building. It was slatted not nailed and it backed onto the wire, which was only a few meters from the trees.

"Did you manage to drug the dogs?" he asked.

 

Blair nodded, "I put the draught over the meat after it had been cut, all of them should have had some."

 

"Let's just hope none are 'fussy eaters'," Jim smiled. At that moment, the last slat slipped free, allowing enough room for Jim's body to go through. "That should do it, if I can get through, I'm sure you can!"

 

They slid from the hut and Jim began working on the wire. He had 'acquired' a metal tool from the quarry, and was working at the wire, weakening it by twisting and turning. It would take only a few breaks to give them enough space to get through, then their fate was in the lap of the gods.

 

Keeping his hearing attuned to the surrounding camp, Jim was struck by how lax the German guards were here. They just assumed that the inmates were so physically and mentally crushed that they would never consider escape, and for the most part, they were right. By herding these people in here like cattle, parting them from their families, working them to the brink of death, they had the perfect 'slave race'. He shot a glance back to where Blair was hiding, eagerly watching the camp for signs of life.

How very wrong they were about this one, though, Jim thought with a smile. Blair was proving to be stronger than most of the Special Forces operatives he'd worked with. Considering what this young man had been through, he showed immense courage.

 

With a snap, the last link gave way, leaving a hole big enough for Jim to get through.

 

"Come on," Jim whispered.

 

Blair scuttled out and eagerly flew through the gap in the wire. Jim followed behind and they raced for the trees.

 

 

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

 

 

The dash into the trees had left Blair gasping for breath, Jim held his arm tightly and helped him along.

 

"We have to get to a hut on the other side of that ridge and wait for the resistance. I managed to smuggle out a message today, telling them to get someone over there to wait for us. Of course, I didn't know all of this would happen so quickly," Jim smiled.

 

Breathlessly, Blair nodded and continued forward.

 

"Did I thank you?" Jim asked suddenly, "For what you did?"

 

The young man blushed.

 

"Because what you've done today, goes beyond courage. I'm proud to know you, Blair Sandburg," Jim said squeezing Blair's arm.

 

"Without you, I could never have found that courage again, Jim."

 

"No, it was always there," the big man grinned, "It's just taken a bit of a battering recently."

 

Blair ducked his head down as another flush worked its way across his cheeks. Why did this man make him feel so shy?

 

The incline rose sharply, Blair had been reduced to hanging on to Jim to stay upright. He wasn't sure how long they'd been traveling, but it felt like forever.

 

Jim stopped suddenly and listened, "Ohhh, I think the camp just erupted, we need to move on," he said.

 

Blair listened, he could hear nothing but the sounds of the forest.

 

When the broken down shack eventually hove into view, Blair thought he would fall to his knees and kiss the ground. He was totally exhausted.

Pushing open the door, Jim smiled. Someone had already been here and left a few supplies.

 

"You look spent, young man," Jim said softly, "There's some food and a couple of blankets. Get some rest. We have a long way to go.

 

"Jim?" Blair said nervously. He felt forced to address the worry that had been nagging him since they had first escaped the wire. The bigger man turned to face him. "If you need to go on alone, I understand," he stuttered, "Just leave me in the mountains, I can fend for myself."

 

"What? You think I'd *do* that?"

 

"You…you have a mission to complete, I'll slow you down. I won't be able to travel very quickly yet."

 

Jim kneeled down in front of the slumped figure, resting his hands on Blair's knees. "Let's get this clear, right *now*. You are coming with me, all the way to safety. If when we get to friendly territory, you want to tell me to take a hike and go it alone, then that's fine. Until then, we travel together. You stop I stop. Am I getting through here?"

 

Blair's teary blue eyes looked up and almost melted Jim's heart, "Yeah," he said in a harsh voice, filled with emotion.

 

"Good."

 

 

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

 

 

The big man with the silver hair smiled, his child prodigy had yet again surpassed any expectations he might have had. The boy was a dream student, soaking up knowledge like a sponge, always eager to learn and so very, very beautiful to look at.

 

Blair Sandburg was just sixteen years old, short for his age and of slender build. He kept his hair long for a boy; his mothers influence for sure. Naomi Sandburg was a bohemian, never believing that either she or her son should be bound by the rules of others. But, one thing she did have faith in was her son. A brilliant child, always inquisitive and interested, never particularly childish and despite his looks always a tough little boy. Fierce and determined, he had a strong will and an engaging personality.

Marcus Heitzer smiled down at the boy fondly, everything he'd ever wanted in a student, all rolled up in one very pleasant package.

 

He had spoken to Naomi Sandburg about her son a few years before. He had offered to take him into the University as a special student at fourteen, but she had refused and insisted that her baby was not going to be forced to cope with adult life at a university while he was still a child. He may act the little grown-up, but emotionally, he was still very much a confused teenager.

 

Marcus had bided his time, keeping in touch with both Blair and his mother, but had always secretly harbored the desire to make that beautiful young man his own.

Now, he was here. Standing before him was a dream student and a fantasy lover, though the boy didn't know that yet of course. It would take months of flattery and attention before the child would be ready to bed. It would be worth it, it always was.

 

Marcus laid his hand on Blair's shoulder, at six feet five inches, he towered above the boy, who was forced to gaze up at him with those incredible blue eyes.

 

"I think you'll be happy here, Blair," he smiled, "Our library is the finest in all of Germany and my own private collection is the envy of scholars across the world. Of course, it will be open to you at all times."

 

Blair smiled, "Thank you, Sir," he said shyly.

 

"You are a very special student to me, Blair. Nothing is off limits to you," he stroked the boys hair lightly, like a master with a new pet spaniel. "Your interests lie in the field of anthropology and languages do they not?"

 

"Yes sir, very much so," Blair's excited voice quivered as he gazed around the room, drinking in the sights of row upon row of old books, their leather bound covers concealing untold secrets, just waiting for Blair Sandburg to discover.

 

Marcus smiled widely, "I think we will become very good friends, Blair," he sighed as the boy wandered off around the room, so innocent and unspoiled and so very trusting.

 

 

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

 

 

Blair huddled against the cold, he opened his eyes to see Jim sitting in the window, watching and listening. He shivered, not sure if it was from the cold permeating his body or the memories returning to haunt his dreams.

Suddenly, Jim turned to look at him, "You okay?" he asked.

 

Blair nodded, "Just cold, but it's not like I'm not used to that," he smiled.

 

"There's bread and cheese in the bag if you're hungry," Jim offered the bag over.

 

Blair took it from his fingers and glanced inside, "I'm not really very hungry," he sighed.

 

"You need to eat more, you're underweight and you need the strength," the older man chided gently.

 

Blair looked down at himself. Jim was right. He was thin and pale and possibly the ugliest creature God ever invented. He glanced over at Jim, who was intent on watching the area for German patrols, <Why would he be interested in me?> he thought, looking at the fine musculature and toned body of the big American before him. <I'm an ugly, skinny, little homosexual Jew. Why would a man like him even care if I live or die? He only needed me while he was escaping, but now, I'm just a burden, but as an honorable man, he won't just leave me.> He felt a stinging in his eyes. Setting his jaw firmly, he'd made his mind up that he'd never cry again, if he got out of that camp alive, he would *never* cry again.

 

He returned to the task of watching Jim Ellison, the big man's head was tilted to the side, like a dog listening for the return of its owner. Jim knew exactly where he had to go and what he had to do. He had a mission to fulfill and then he could return to his unit and begin again, some other mission, some other task. Blair swallowed hard, where did that leave him? He had no family, no home, no life. Where would he go, even if they did make it back to friendly territory?

Suddenly, Blair felt a hand on his shoulder, he hadn't heard Jim move across the room and stand beside him, so lost was he in his misery.

 

"Is there anything left in there?" Jim smiled gesturing to the food bag.

 

Blair nodded and handed it over, "Is it all quiet out there?" he asked.

 

"Yes, for now. My contact with the local resistance group should be here tomorrow. He'll be able to help get us safe passage through the mountains," Jim sat down beside Blair, his knee brushing the younger man's leg. Blair shuddered, as the warmth slid through the thin cotton clothing and stroked his skin.

 

"You still cold?" Jim asked. He leaned across and grabbed his coat, wrapping it around the younger man's shoulders, "That better?" he asked.

 

Blair nodded again, his speech impaired by the rush of emotion the touch brought, and the fact that Jim had not removed his arm from around Blair's shoulder. Suddenly, he found himself being pulled in closer to Jim's chest.

 

"Come on, let's warm you up and then you need to get some sleep," the bigger man smiled. He settled Blair into his side and rubbed his hands up and down cold arms, attempting to elicit warmth within them.

 

Blair closed his eyes, he was feeling tearful again, tearful that he was being touched, not in abuse or to prove domination over a smaller body, but in care and comfort. So overwhelming was the feeling of warmth, that he never remembered drifting back into sleep.

 

 

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

 

 

Blair bounced into the library, leather bound book clutched in his hand, "Marcus!" he called, "Come see what I found!" He laid the book on the table and began to gently thumb through its pages, stopping at a highly decorative page, with a border of ancient symbols and Latin script.

 

"So, what have you found now?" Marcus Heitzer beamed at his favorite student.

 

"This passage, and these symbols…I'm sure they talk about ancient Sentinels," Blair babbled excitedly, "They mention a tribe with a …a…watchman. Someone who hunted and stood guard over the tribe," Blair looked up into the older man's face, "They actually mention the facts that he had a heightened sense of sight and hearing. That he could hear a monkey's heart beating from the ground, when they were way up in the trees….." Blair gasped as the last of his breath stole the words, "It's amazing! This book is incredible!"

 

Marcus smiled down at the child lovingly, "Do you want it?" he whispered.

 

"What?" Blair's jaw dropped.

 

"If you want it, it is yours. I will pay Van Horen when I see him," Marcus laughed as the boy's eyes widened even further. He resembled a kitten, wide-eyed and innocent to the wonders of the world.

Marcus felt his groin tighten. He had been playing mentor to this angel for six months, six months of waiting, watching and lusting. It was time that the child paid back some of the kindness he'd been shown. "Take it with you, but I expect to see you at my house for dinner tonight, as a thank you," he waggled a finger at Blair's face.

 

The young man threw himself into Marcus' arms and hugged him tightly, "Yes, of course. I'll be there. Thank you…thank you!" he said breathlessly as he grabbed the book and scooted away.

 

"Eight o'clock. Don't be late!"

 

 

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

 

 

Marcus swung open the door as Blair bounded up the path. He welcomed the young man in and poured him a drink. "I know that strictly speaking you're too young for this," he whispered conspiratorially, "But if you don't tell, I won't."

 

Blair took the large Brandy glass and smiled, he swilled the contents around the rim and sipped. The taste seemed to sting his throat and eyes and even made his nose run. Marcus chuckled and gestured for him to continue.

Not wanting to appear immature, Blair finished the drink with a gulp, "Marcus, I don't know how to thank you for the book," he said finally, "Some of the information is incredible. I've discovered that some of the story is in the symbols, but some is in the Latin script. Do you think it's because they couldn't translate some of the original symbols? So they had to include both to make the story complete?" he gabbled.

 

Marcus wandered across the room, he refilled Blair's glass and smiled, "Possibly. I suppose they never guessed such an intelligent young man would someday find it and be able to translate both," he ran his fingers lightly across Blair's cheekbone.

 

Blair blushed, "It, it wasn't that difficult," he mumbled.

 

"Not for you maybe," Marcus said softly, "But then, you are a very gifted young man. In so many ways."

 

Blair sipped at his drink, soon finishing the second. His head was feeling slightly dizzy, but there was warmth spreading through his body. He looked up at his mentor, who stood before him.

 

Marcus watched as the young man in front of him visibly relaxed. The alcohol was beginning to suffuse his system. He reached down and pulled Blair to his feet. Within moments, he was kissing the boy hard on the mouth. At first, Blair resisted slightly, unsure of all of this new and confusing sensory assault. But Marcus Heitzer was nothing if not persuasive. With soft caresses and sweet words, he had wooed many a beautiful boy to his bed.

 

"It's all right Blair, just relax. You are so very beautiful that you make me lose my senses. Just your presence awakens such desire in me," he whispered as he stroked Blair's back, and so softly traced the curves of his ass.

 

Blair moaned against the caresses, his mind a whirl. No one had ever touched him like this before. No one but his mother had ever told him he was beautiful. No one had ever desired him. And here was a man, a Professor, respected by the whole world, and he, Blair Sandburg, had tempted him into this.

"I've never done this before," Blair gasped as Marcus pulled away from his lips and sucked gently on his throat.

 

"That's all right, we can learn together. Is that what you'd like Blair?" Marcus crooned.

 

Blair swallowed with difficulty, the wash of sensation was making it hard to think clearly, "Yes," he said finally. He could fell the tightness in his groin becoming almost unbearable. As if reading his mind, Marcus slowly unbuttoned the gray flannel pants Blair wore and slid in his hand, coming to rest on the hard evidence of the young mans arousal. "Oh!" Blair's breath was torn from him, soft fingers exploring his swollen shaft.

 

"It's all right, Blair. Everything is going to be fine," Marcus pulled back and watched the passion overcome the boy cradled in his arms. He slowly pumped his hand, feeling Blair shaking, his legs beginning to buckle. Blair's hands were digging into the older mans shoulders as he tried to brace himself against the orgasm rolling towards him. With a muffled shout, Blair spilled his seed into Marcus' hand.

Marcus pulled Blair close and kissed him, "Let's get more comfortable," he whispered as he led the shaky youth up the stairs……..

 

 

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

 

 

Blair shot awake, pulling out of Jim's arms with a jerk.

 

"Hey, it's okay. It's just me," Jim whispered, noting the fear in Blair's eyes.

 

"Sorry," the younger man swallowed hard. It took all the strength that he had, not to settle back into those welcoming arms. But, he'd been there before, wrapped in the safety of a lover, a lover who ultimately betrayed him.

He stood and moved to the door, glancing around, he slipped outside and out of sight to relieve himself.

Taking long, cleansing breaths, he tried to convince himself that this was different. Jim was *not* Marcus. But, the old feelings of despair ate at his soul. Marcus had protected him, he had *loved* him. Marcus had also handed him over to that German patrol like an unwanted pet for disposal.

How could he *ever* truly trust anyone after that?

 

Pulling his clothing back together, he wandered back into the hut in time to see Jim gathering up their meager belongings.

"Someone's coming," Jim whispered, picking up the gun and pushing the bag into Blair's hands. "Just stay close. It could be our contact, or it could be a patrol."

 

Blair watched as Jim gazed through the window. One thing he had noticed about this man, was the almost uncanny way he could see and hear things, long before they became apparent to Blair. Memories of his studies drifted back to him. The ancient sentinels had the gift of sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste far beyond what a normal man was capable of. Could the man before him really be what he suspected?

The tension rolled off Jim as he scanned the area, he could hear only one heartbeat, but it was coming their way. Suddenly, the figure appeared in the distance, moving carefully through the forest.

 

"It's okay, it's my contact," Jim smiled towards Blair. The young man nodded and let go the breath that he'd forgotten he was holding.

 

Into view came a man, slightly younger than Jim, Blair thought, but older than he. He was tall and dark, handsome but with cold eyes.

 

"Rafe!" Jim said with a smile, "Thought you'd forgotten me."

 

"There are patrols everywhere in the forest. Someone has really made them mad," Rafe took Jim's hand and shook it firmly. He handed over a backpack, with supplies and fresh clothing.  Suddenly he looked up, noticing Blair in the doorway. His face darkened, "Who is *that*?" he demanded.

 

"Blair. He helped me escape, he's coming with us," Jim said, tucking the gun in his pants while he searched in the pack.

 

Rafe glared, "The fuck he is!" he said angrily, "He's a Jew!"

 

Jim's face turned to stone, he looked Rafe in the eyes and spoke again, "I said, he's coming with us. This is not open to discussion," he stated coldly.

 

Rafe gasped, "Nowhere did I sign to say that I'd risk my neck for a goddamned Jew! And he's a homosexual too! Shit, Ellison, since when did you get to bring entertainment with you?"

 

In a split second, Rafe was hurtling backwards, hitting the floor with a thud. Blair ran over and grabbed Jim's arm.

 

"No, Jim. Please!" he begged.

 

Jim looked at the frightened young man and turned his gaze back to the prone figure, "I *said*, he's coming with us. Don't fuck with me, Rafe, you'll regret it……I promise."

 

Scrambling to his feet, the Resistance man spat out the blood filling his mouth from his split lip, "Just don't expect me to risk my neck for *that*," he growled.

 

"Your job is to get me to the border. My job is to protect him. You do what you're supposed to, and we'll get along just fine. You fuck with me, Rafe and I'll kill you," Jim stated.

 

For a few tense moments, the two men just stared at each other menacingly, then Rafe turned and began to walk away back down the track.

 

 

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

 

 

They had walked for hours, most of the way in silence, Jim listening all the time, for approaching patrols. Blair was beginning to feel extremely tired, his weakened muscles and abused body unable to cope with the pace.

Turning suddenly, Jim noticed the younger man beginning to fall behind. He stopped and waited for Blair to catch him up.

 

"You doing okay?" he asked.

 

Blair nodded his head vigorously, "I'm fine," he tried to smile, but even the muscles in his face were too tired work properly.

 

Jim reached out and grasped his arm, "You look tired, maybe we should rest a while."

 

"No, I'm all right," Blair insisted. He didn't want Jim to know how exhausted he was, he didn't want to give them any excuse to leave him behind, but he was beginning to stumble and had almost fallen once.

 

"You're tired, you must be. *I'm* tired and I haven't been in that hell-hole for the past couple of years. Blair, please don't be afraid to say when you need help," Jim said softly.

 

"I don't want to be a burden. I don't want to slow you down," he whispered.

 

Jim wheeled around to face him, "Let's get this straight. You are *not* a burden and you are *not* letting me down in anyway by getting tired. Now, we'll find somewhere to hole up for the night and you can get some rest."

 

Blair smiled as Jim walked ahead to speak to Rafe. He did care, he must do, Blair thought with a warm feeling. But then, Marcus cared too……..

 

 

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

 

 

Blair looked up into the big man's eyes. He was afraid, his heart was beating so fast he thought it would surely explode. Marcus smiled down at him, his almost gray eyes dark with passion.

After stripping the boy naked, he had lifted Blair's legs aloft and tossed them across his shoulders. Now, he was pushing his fingers deep into Blair's ass, coated in a thick creamy liquid, they slid in and out with ease, but Blair was still very scared.

 

He wasn't sure that this was what he wanted, but it didn't exactly feel *wrong*. He 'loved' Marcus, the man had shown him nothing but kindness and care, and he wasn't upset at the thought of loving another man. He had always been attracted to other boys.

No, what he was unsure about was loving Marcus, like 'this'.

 

The big man ran his free hand across Blair's stomach, a teasing sensation shooting straight to the boys half-hard cock, making it spring to life. He smiled as he began to lightly stroke the straining member, the sensation was making Blair pant. He whispered words of encouragement and bathed the boy in flattery, so easy for one so lovely.

"I will make this so good for you, Blair," he whispered, "See how badly your body wants this?" he ran his finger along Blair's cock, causing it to quiver.

 

"Yes," the young man said with difficulty. The feeling that was threatening to overcome him, was like standing under fast running water, making it hard to breathe, the sensations coming so fast that they left him no mind to consider what was truly happening.

 

Marcus withdrew his fingers and lined himself up, he smiled down at the boy like a big cat, surveying its next meal, "Oh, you will enjoy this, Blair. You are so mature, so grown up for your age, I know you'll enjoy this. This is a mans pleasure…" he pushed and slid his cock into Blair slowly.

 

The rapid breathing was leaving him dizzy, Blair thought that he had never experienced such pain. He moaned and tears formed in his eyes, oh God, it hurt so much. It only took moments before Marcus was resting against him, his swollen shaft buried deep within Blair's young body. "Hurts," Blair choked out a single word.

 

"It's all right, just relax, it won't hurt in a minute," Marcus cooed. He began to withdraw slowly and then push back in. Blair clung to his arms, his fingers digging so deep that they would undoubtedly leave bruises by morning. Marcus smiled as he brushed Blair's prostate, making the young man jump. As soon as he saw the young body begin to relax into the rhythm, and Blair began to moan as his cock was stroked and teased into completion, Marcus knew…the boy belonged to him.

 

 

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

 

 

Rafe slammed the pack down in the barn and turned to face Jim. "We can stay here tonight, this area is pretty quiet, few patrols venture up this far and the owner of the barn is sympathetic to our cause. The Nazi’s raped and killed his daughter, so he has no love for them. I didn't tell him we had a *Jew* with us, though," he spat.

 

Blair sat himself down in the corner and tried to make himself disappear into his surroundings. Once again, he was afraid. He tucked his head down on his knees and tried to rest, the exhaustion had finally become complete. He had nothing left.

 

Jim stood before Rafe angrily, "I'd appreciate it if you kept your poisonous opinions to yourself. Just remember who it is funding this 'happy little band' of rebels you belong to," he said coldly.

 

"I don't take orders from you," Rafe sneered.

 

"No, you take them from Megan. And she is funded by us," Jim moved in close, "She's also more of a man than you'll ever be," he whispered menacingly, "So just shut the fuck up and do your job."

Jim walked over to where Blair was trying to curl up into a ball and sleep.

"That doesn't look too comfortable," he said softly, "You want a shoulder to lean on?" he smiled.

 

Blair looked up nervously, shooting Rafe a glance before returning his gaze to Jim. The big American's features had softened into a warm smile and he suddenly felt safer. Shyly he nodded and watched as Jim settled down in the straw beside him. Jim slid his arm around Blair's shoulder and pulled him into his chest once again. In an almost unconscious gesture, he stroked the younger mans hair lightly. Blair found himself irresistibly drawn to the touch, turning into it, so that his head rubbed against Jim's hand.

 

"Don't be afraid of *him*," Jim gestured with a nod of the head in Rafe's direction, "He will do as he's told. I want you to understand that I will *not* abandon you. I won't leave this country without you, no matter what. Do you understand?" he whispered.

 

Blair nodded.

 

"Now get some rest and stop worrying," Jim tucked Blair into his coat and pulled him against his body tightly.

 

 

Rafe watched the two men as they drifted into sleep. He couldn't see why Ellison wanted to drag that little Jew along, if not for entertainment. He was dirty and skinny, but beneath the grime, he was a pretty boy. Funny, he thought, he'd never taken Ellison for a queer, didn't seem the type, but what *was* the type? He'd had boys himself, but he never considered himself queer. Yes, cleaned up the little Jew would make fine sport.

Rafe smiled, 'Might be worth a try, before I kill him', he thought, as the darkness closed in.

 

 

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

 

 

Marcus stretched and reached out to stroke the warm body sleeping beside him. He had ridden the boy hard every night for a week now, and despite his initial reluctance, he seemed to be accepting his fate with a degree of pleasure. Soft words and subtle caresses had won many a battle and this beautiful boy was now such a willing victim.

Blair stirred, his blue eyes flickering open, greeting the daylight with a blink.

Marcus slid his hand around the slender body, pulling it in close, "Good morning my beautiful lover," he whispered.

 

Blair smiled and blushed, "Good morning," he said in a small voice.

 

Marcus marveled at how the child could still blush at a mere touch after the passion they had shared this past seven days, but it all served to add to the feeling of satisfaction each time he claimed this young man as his own. He kissed Blair's neck lightly and slid his fingers down to the boys already willing flesh. Blair turned into his caresses; helpless to the older mans will.

"You do enjoy this don't you, Blair?" he whispered as he gently stroked the boys cock.

 

"Yes, Marcus," Blair choked out the words.

 

"And you love me?" the older man asked.

 

"Yes, oh yes," Blair gasped as he felt the orgasm rushing towards him.

 

"You will always be mine, my love, always," Marcus whispered, as the young man spilled into his hand with a shout of pleasure.

 

 

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

 

 

Blair awoke as he felt Jim move. The older man was listening carefully to something that was beyond his hearing. In the past few days, Blair had witnessed Jim do some amazing things. Hear things that no one else could, see through the forest in almost total darkness. Track a creature by the barest of tastes gathered from the forest floor. Read the textures of object just by a brief touch. Was it possible? Surely modern day Sentinels didn't exist and especially here, amongst this madness?

 

"It's okay, there's no one there," Jim said walking back to his companion.

 

"Jim, can I ask you something?" Blair said, suddenly feeling brave.

 

"What?"

 

"Have….have you ever heard of the ancient Sentinels?"

 

Jim wheeled around to face the young man, a frown etched on his face, "What made you ask that?" he said.

 

Blair gasped, "You have," he said, eyes widening in awe, "You *are*."

 

"I am what?" Jim turned away from the piercing gaze.

 

Blair leaped to his feet and grabbed Jim's arm, "You are a Sentinel. A real, live modern day Sentinel!" he panted.

 

"Blair!" Jim tried to shrug off the claim nonchalantly.

 

"Jim, I've been studying Sentinels since I was a child, I have read every book that I know of in existence about them. They were legendary in pre-civilized cultures as 'watchmen' for the tribes…." Blair babbled. Suddenly he stopped; Jim was smiling so fondly at him. A big hand reached out and caressed his cheek.

 

"I love to see you talk that way," Jim sighed, "I think, just for a moment, I get to see the real Blair Sandburg, and it feels good to know he's still in there," he smiled.

 

Blair melted, "I…er.." he mumbled, suddenly shy at hearing his own voice.

 

Jim laughed lightly, "I didn't mean to embarrass you, it's just nice to see you so enthusiastic," he said. "Look, what if I just tell you that…." he paused, biting his lip, "…That what you said wasn't so unbelievable and that if we had the time, I'd love to explain everything."

 

Blair grinned. He grabbed Jim's shirt in his fist and tugged, "Jim, it's okay, I understand. I just run away at the mouth sometimes, I'm sorry. But, someday, I'd like to go back to this conversation?"

 

Jim nodded, "It's a deal. When we get back to England, we'll have a picnic out in the countryside somewhere and I'll explain everything."

 

"You promise?" Blair asked.

 

"I promise," Jim replied.

 

 

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

 

 

 Blair watched Rafe as he strutted through the forest. The man was almost as arrogant and self important as the German officers at the camp, he thought.

If the camp had taught him anything, it was survival and how to recognize someone who could jeopardize that survival. And, Blair concluded, he was looking at such a risk at this very moment.

Something within him warned that it would be prudent to watch that man *very* carefully. Everything about him reeked of betrayal and that was something that Blair knew all about.

 

Jim was scouting, checking the area ahead. Just thinking about the possibility of what Jim was sent shivers through Blair.

 

A Sentinel. A real Sentinel.

 

Most ancient Sentinels had guides who helped them focus and essentially protected them. Who was Jim's?

 

A thought suddenly occurred to Blair, was Jim married? He had never thought to ask. Why had he assumed not? Jim was an extremely handsome man, there was no reason to think that he didn't have a wife and a whole tribe of children waiting for him at home. That particular thought brought a lump to Blair's throat.

 

<What?> a spiteful voice in his head sneered, <Did you think that he would take *you* home with him? Live happily ever after?> the words mocked.

 

Blair felt tears sting the back of his eyes. What exactly *had* he expected, heart and flowers? What would someone like Jim Ellison see in *him*?

Blair scrubbed angrily at his eyes, the misery penetrating his soul. Why was he bothering to escape? He had nothing and no one; no home, no money, no family, not a soul on earth cared that Blair Sandburg was dead or alive.

But, he had promised Jim that he would stay with him until they reached friendly territory, and he was not about to break his promise to Jim.

 

Suddenly, Jim moved silently back towards them, gesturing to take cover. He covered the ground to where Blair was huddled behind a bush and sank down beside him, "Patrol," he mouthed. Wrapping his arm around the young mans shoulder, pulling him close.

Gesturing to Rafe that there were three German soldiers, he waited. If God were smiling on them, the patrol would pass by.

 

The first young officer strolled into the clearing with his gun half raised; he looked lazily around then gestured to the other men. He was no more than twenty or twenty-two years old, yet he held the air of a killer, as though he'd been born to the task.

 

 Following behind was an even younger man, probably not yet out of his teens, certainly no older than Blair. The third man was still out of sight and Jim was horrified when he saw Rafe break cover and rush the first officer, knocking him to the floor. In a split second, the second man had raised his gun and aimed it at the struggling men on the floor. Only his youthful indecision prevented him from killing Rafe at that moment, unfortunately, that indecision was to be the death of him. Jim leaped from the cover, grabbing him from behind, it took a struggle to get the correct grip, but Jim was a soldier of many years' experience and he soon snapped the young man's neck like a twig.

In the confusion, no one saw the third soldier appear from the trees. He looked quickly from Jim to Rafe, trying to decide whom he should shoot first.

Blair panicked. Grabbing a tree branch, he broke cover and hit the soldier as hard as he could on the back of the neck, moments before he could shoot Rafe in the head; the man fell immediately with a sickening thud.

 

Jim dropped the now lifeless body of the young soldier and ran to Blair's side. He removed the fallen soldier's weapon and handed it to Blair.

"You know how to use one of these?" he asked.

 

Blair shook his head.

 

"Don't worry, just point it at anything that isn't 'us' and fire," he smiled.

 

Rafe had disarmed the older officer and turned his own gun on him, shooting him in the head.

 

Jim watched with distaste. War made people do things that they would normally never do, allowed every man to taste the dark side of his psyche, but some just appeared to enjoy it a little more than others.

 

"What the hell were you doing breaking cover before the third man was in sight?" Jim growled.

 

"He saw me," Rafe snapped back.

 

"I don't think so," Jim glared and shouldered the rifle, "You could have gotten us all killed!"

 

"Scared for your little butt-buddy, Ellison?" Rafe sneered, "That fuckin' little Jew boy stands more chance of gettin' you killed than me."

 

Jim threw a punch, making contact with Rafe's chin heavily, "That 'fuckin' little Jew boy' just saved your miserable life, you sniveling son-of-a-bitch!" he ranted, hurling Rafe back to his feet.

 

Rafe kicked and punched and soon both men were rolling on the ground angrily.

 

"Stop it!" Blair yelled, "What are you doing? Do you *want* to die so badly?"

 

The sound of Blair's raised voice shook both men from their angry disagreement.

 

"What is the matter with you? I thought you were supposed to be on the same side? Do you have *so* much anger that you feel forced to vent it on each other? If we don't go, someone will find us and we just killed three German soldiers, in case you hadn't noticed," Blair's gentle face was hard with barely suppressed rage, "Now get up and let's go. Please?"

 

Angrily pushing away from each other, the two men climbed to their feet and dusted themselves down.

Blair's now stunned expression made Jim smile. The shock at realizing that both men had paid attention to his angry outburst had rendered the young man speechless.

 

"Come on, tiger, lead on," Jim whispered.

 

Blair blushed and his head dropped, his long curls now obscuring his face. Shyly he scuttled away, following Rafe into the forest.

 

 

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

 

 

Blair sat in the library, his attention captivated by his newest 'gift' from Marcus, a book on ancient Sentinels. This was what *truly* fascinated him. The possibility that once there was a breed of man so attuned to nature was like an aphrodisiac. Blair smiled to himself and nodded as the information spilled from the page, chapter after chapter of almost forgotten tales. The Sentinel and his guide; scouting for the tribe, hunting, protecting.

 

"Blair," a voice pierced his world, "Have you seen this?"

 

Looking up, Blair saw Abraham Guildstein's worried face peering down at him.

"What?" he asked.

 

"They say that all the Jewish students at Berlin University have been dismissed, that they were visited by the authorities, had their papers checked and that all those with Jewish heritage have disappeared."

 

Blair smiled, despite his years Abraham was an immature twenty one year old with a very vivid imagination. "Why would they do that?" Blair asked, "What purpose would it serve?"

 

"You know how Hitler hates Jews," the young man whispered, "I'm leaving tomorrow. My mother, father and I are heading for France, to stay with my paternal grandmother until this blows over."

 

"You're over reacting. It will all come to nothing it's just typical tribal squabbling," Blair sighed.

 

Abraham grabbed the younger mans shoulder, "Blair, this is not a game and it's not a scenario in one of your precious books. People are going missing. Jewish families are being turned out of their homes. This is much more than a 'squabble'."

 

"But I'm not a practicing Jew, neither is my mother," Blair reasoned.

 

"You think they care? Your name alone is enough," Abraham shook his head, "I'm sorry, Blair, but this has me very scared. Just think about it? Think about leaving. Take your mother and go. Please?"

 

"Take care, Abraham," Blair smiled as he watched the young man leave. Smiling to himself, he returned to his world of Sentinels.

 

 

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

 

 

It grew dark as the three men pushed their way through the dense forest. Blair was beginning to breathe heavily, the pace had been stepped up to put as much distance between them and the dead soldiers as possible. Rafe hadn't spoken another word since they'd left, but Blair could almost feel the hatred emanating from the man, wrapping itself around him like a cold, wet blanket.

Even after all that had happened, he still could never contemplate what made people hate indiscriminately. After all, he had never done anything to warrant such dislike and distrust.

 

Suddenly, Jim stopped. "Men, in the trees," he whispered.

 

"They're rebel scouts," Rafe said, "How could you know? They're well hidden?"

 

"You sure they're the good guys?" Jim asked.

 

"Absolutely. They're all around here, early lookout so that German patrols never get near enough to the camp to find it."

 

"So, the camp is close?" Blair enquired.

 

"Another hour or so, we'll be there before dark."

 

 

 

The rebel camp was rag tag and haphazard, but it was a welcome sight none the less. Suddenly from one of the huts appeared a tall, slim, dark haired woman.

 

"Ellison!" she beamed, "You old dog you made it."

 

Jim's face broke into a warm smile and he gathered the woman up in his arms, hugging her close, "Megan, it's good to see you again," he said.

 

"You too, mate," she pulled back and looked at him, running a hand gently down his face.

 

Watching, Blair felt himself tense. Why was he so….angry that this woman was touching Jim that way? Because she was doing something that would be forever denied *him*, maybe?

 

"Megan, I'm sorry about Simon," Jim said softly.

 

The young woman's face paled and she nodded slowly, "He was a good man," she almost whispered, "The Nazi's will pay for his death a thousand times over before I die."

 

Jim stroked her hair, "Did you ever find out who informed on him?"

 

"No, but I will. And I hope their God's a merciful one, because you can be damned sure I won't be," a tear began to form in her eye, angrily she wiped it away, "Anyway, tell me what you've been up to. And, who's your friend?" she gestured to Blair.

 

Turning, Jim called Blair over, "Megan, this is Blair Sandburg, the very courageous young man who helped me to escape the camp. He also saved your man Rafe's ass a while back, when three German soldiers attacked us. Blair, this is Megan Connor."

 

"Hey, Blair, nice to meet you," Megan smiled.

 

"You too," the young man answered shyly.

 

"Say, Jim, there's a tub full of hot water if you want to take a bath, sorry we can only provide one. You and your friend could share it?"  Megan suggested.

 

Jim was about to accept when he spotted Blair, his face beet red beneath his hair, "We'll…work something out, thanks Megan."

 

"And when you're finished, there's hot food in the main hut. You'll also find some fresh clothes in the bathing hut too, should be something suitable for both of you."

 

"Thanks, honey," Jim kissed the woman lightly on the forehead and turned to Blair. "Come on, let's get cleaned up."

 

Blair stared at the huge tub nervously. A part of him wanted to strip off his clothes and leap into the water, but the thought of having Jim's eyes on him made him feel sick. He was so skinny and ugly; Jim was sure to be repulsed as soon as he saw that puny little body.

 

"You okay?" Jim asked suddenly.

 

"Yeah," Blair answered as confidently as he could.

 

"Look, why don't you jump in the tub and soak away a little of that dirt and stress while I go speak to Megan, then when you're finished, you can come let me know and I can take my turn?"

 

Looking up at Jim with a shocked expression, Blair opened his mouth, but no words came out. How could Jim possibly have known what he was thinking?

 

"That okay?" Jim asked.

 

"Yes…fine," Blair replied.

 

"Don't use all the soap, Chief," Jim smiled as he unlatched the door and walked out.

 

Lowering his battered body gently into the water, Blair flinched as the heat stung the bruised and broken flesh. It was a quite exquisite agony. After the initial discomfort subsided, he allowed the warmth to seep into his bones.

He truly had forgotten what a pleasurable sensation felt like. Slowly he soaped his body, the tickling sensation on his skin made him grin…he'd forgotten also that a hot bath could be so much fun. Scrubbing at the stubborn layer of dirt, for the first time in over two years he saw the true color of his skin. Lathering the soap into his chest hair, he marveled at how his body had changed and realized that he hadn't even looked at it since the nightmare began. In fact, the last time he'd looked at himself was the night before the soldiers came…his last night with Marcus…..

 

 

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

 

 

Marcus held his young lover in a tight hug. The stood before the full-length mirror in the older man's sumptuous bedroom, "See how lovely you are?" he whispered.

 

Blair shook his head, "Not really, but if you say so," he smiled.

The person he saw in that reflection couldn't possibly be him. The face masquerading as his looked troubled, weary and afraid. That couldn't possibly be him; he was fine…just fine.

 

Blair looked critically at the body reflected in the shiny surface. He saw a skinny youth with big eyes and impossibly over full lips. In fact he was almost girlish had it not been for a deeply unimpressive penis hanging limply between his thighs.

 

But Marcus loved him, so he must be 'okay'.

 

"Let's play a game," Marcus whispered in his ear, before gently nibbling at his lobe.

 

"What kind of a game?" Blair asked.

 

"Let's pretend that you are my captive slave and I'm about to punish you for being disobedient," the big man kissed Blair's neck, gently grazing his teeth across the boys tender skin.

 

"Punish me how?"

 

"By having you…tied and gagged and forcing my will on you. What do you say, my beautiful lover?"

 

Nervously chewing on his lip, Blair looked once more at the reflection in the mirror, "Okay," he said reluctantly, but somehow he knew that the decision was an unwise one.

 

 

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

 

 

"Blair?" Jim's voice pierced the sleepy haze and Blair tried to leap to his feet. The splashing of water caused him to panic. "Blair, whoa, it's okay, calm down, it's just me..Jim."

 

"J..Jim?"

 

"It's okay, shh, steady," Jim said softly gripping the younger man by the arms, "You fell asleep in the tub, I just didn't want you to drown yourself!"

 

Calming down, Blair took a moment to look around and finally get his bearings, "I'm sorry," he said finally.

 

"You don't have to be sorry, you obviously needed the rest. Come on, let's get your hair washed and get you out of there before you start to wrinkle," Jim smiled. He picked up the soap and lathered it up in his hands before rubbing it briskly into the younger man's hair, massaging it into the scalp in strong but soft movements.

 

Blair attempted to object, but as soon as the sensation registered, his nervous system turned to water and he felt himself relax back into Jim's hands.

As the big mans fingers made swirling patterns on his scalp, Blair felt his body come alive as though every nerve ending had woken from an enforced sleep and the touch overwhelmed him. For the first time, his body ached for the touch of another man, an intimate touch. The stirring in his groin screamed for attention and without the energy to resist, Blair allowed the floodgates to open. In seconds he was hardening, his dormant cock springing to life, begging for release.

 

Jim picked up the jug and tipped the water over Blair's long curls, swilling the soap into the tub.

 

Blair unconsciously let free a moan of pleasure, his eyes were closed tightly and his body was alive, tingling and tight.

 

"That better?" Jim said suddenly.

 

Blair jerked back to reality, realizing that he was sporting an erection and breathing hard. He blushed furiously, trying to curl into a ball to hide his arousal, "Sorry…sorry…" was all he could mumble.

 

He felt Jim's hands on his shoulders, "Blair, it's all right, it's quite natural. Calm down," he said softly, "Just relax, it's fine. I'm not upset or offended, just *relax*."

 

Grabbing a large rough towel, Jim handed it to the young man and turned his back, "I'll sort you some clean clothes out, just drag yourself out of the water," he instructed as he pushed aside clothing too large for Blair's underfed frame.

 

Climbing from the tub and wrapping himself in the scratchy material, Blair found himself unable to face the big American as he turned and handed him some pants and a couple of shirts. Suddenly, he felt Jim's hand slip beneath his chin and pull his face upwards.

 

"Never be ashamed of your body or how it responds to others," Jim said, "Be grateful that the years in that terrible place haven't removed all traces of humanity from you. You are a very beautiful young man, do you know that?"

 

Blair swallowed hard and shook his head.

 

"Well you are. No amount of abuse at the hands of those monsters can change that and nothing they did to you can alter the fact that you have a unique soul," Jim smiled widely as Blair flushed again. Leaning forward, he placed a kiss on the younger man's forehead. "Now get dressed, I'm off to see if Megan has any more soap!"

 

 

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

 

 

Jim wandered from the bath hut feeling refreshed and almost human again. Looking around, he couldn't see Blair anywhere. After checking the food hut and their temporary sleeping quarters, he began to get concerned. He was aware that the young man had just survived a camp that would have destroyed most men twice his size and age in weeks, but it wasn't stopping him worrying about him now.

From the toilet block strolled Megan and another young girl, barely Blair's age, both smiling and sharing a joke.

 

"Hey, Megan, you seen Blair?"

 

"Yeah, Molly has him in her clutches," the woman grinned. At seeing Jim's concern, she began to laugh, "Don't worry Jim, she's not molesting him or anything. Come see."

 

Peering through the hut window, Jim laughed. Blair sat on a chair, wincing painfully as a large woman wielding a wicked comb, set into his curls. Slowly she picked her way though, removing clumps of knotted hair, carefully trimming away anything that was impassable and removing any parasites that had found home there.

 

"He said that he didn't want his hair cut, insisted that it was the only part of him left intact," Megan said quietly, "He's a tough one, all right."

 

"Megan, you'll never know what that boy has been through. The fact that his sanity is still intact is a testament to just how tough he is," Jim sighed as he watched Blair yelp.

 

"You falling for him, Ellison?" Megan's voice belied a teasing tone.

 

Jim glanced at her and grinned, "Did Simon tell you *everything* about me?" he asked.

 

"He was big on pillow talk," she quipped, "So are you falling for him?"

 

Returning his gaze to the young man in the room he nodded slowly, "I think so, yeah."

 

"I figured as much," she grinned, "Come on, get some food. He's not going anywhere for a while."

 

 

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

 

 

"So, tell me what happened with Simon and his party," Jim asked as he and Megan shared a hot meal.

 

"They went into one of the towns to pick up supplies as usual, it was a 'safe' place. They were ambushed by a whole platoon of German soldiers. Most of the group was killed outright but Simon and Drew were captured. They tortured them for seven days before executing them in the town square," Megan paused to steady herself, "All we know is that someone informed on them, but we don't know who. We have refugees coming through the camp all the time, it would be naïve to believe that some of them aren't German spies."

 

Jim reached over and grasped the woman's hand, "I'm really sorry, Megan. Simon was one of my closest friends, but I can only guess how hard this has been for you."

 

"Thanks, Jim. So, what did you discover at that work camp, besides your beautiful boy?" she teased.

 

"Christ, you won't believe what I saw," Jim said sickly, "They're exterminating people there, hundred of them, maybe even thousands. Those factory huts-- they're not, they are used to gas the inmates then burn the bodies. Men, women and children, debased, degraded then destroyed like cattle." He rubbed at his face trying not to recall the faces of the children at the wire.

 

"Oh God, Jim, I'm sorry. I had no idea," Megan grimaced.

 

"I don't think anyone has. It just seems beyond comprehension that any human beings could do that. What Blair has lived through this past couple of years…..scares the shit outta me."

 

"As soon as you're rested, I'll arrange for someone to get you to the border," the young woman said squeezing Jim's hand, "I presume Blair's going with you?"

 

"Yes," Jim replied firmly, "That's if he wants to."

 

Megan smiled, "I don't think there's much doubt about that," she said with a mischievous grin.

 

At that moment the door opened and Blair was ushered inside by Molly. On spotting Jim, his worried face broke into a smile.

Jim gasped almost inaudibly; he was suddenly struck not only by how lovely Blair really was, but by how very young he looked beneath the grime. His skin was pale and his face drawn, but it did not detract from the fact that he had high cheekbones and a strong jaw. His eyes were large and so very blue as to be almost unreal. He had full lips, which fell easily into a sensuous pout and his now clean and groomed hair tumbled onto his shoulders, cascading auburn curls caught the light, refracting the dying sunlight in a myriad of red hues.

But it was the smile that finally melted James Ellison's heart.

 

Blair slid into the seat next to Jim shyly and smiled.

 

"Hey, you're looking better," Jim grinned, playfully ruffling the young man's hair.

 

"Yeah, I feel better. I don't remember the last time I combed my hair, let alone washed it," Blair replied.

 

Molly placed a large bowl of hot soup in front of her young charge and a heap of fresh baked bread, "I don't expect to see any left, young man," she instructed sternly before breaking into a smile.

 

"No Ma'am," Blair nodded as he tentatively picked up the spoon and began to eat.

 

 

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

 

 

Blair sat listening to the rebels talking. Jim was at his side and for the first time in what felt like forever, he had the feeling of being 'safe'. Fighting the weariness that threatened to engulf him, Blair tried to keep up with news of what was happening in the outside world.

Half of the civilized world was at war with the other half. Brother nations had turned on each other and were randomly killing.

 

Did mankind *never* learn? Blair wondered.

 

His mind drifted back to his research and the documented cases of tribal squabbling over land or livestock. This wasn't really very different, the only thing that made this more tragic than ever before were the sheer numbers involved. Man in his wisdom had invented so many new ways to destroy so many with so little effort.

Suddenly shaken from his musing, he heard Jim's voice.

 

"Come on young man, you need some sleep," the older man said, pulling him to his feet.

Not having the energy to argue Blair merely nodded and bid his goodnight to Megan and the other rebels sitting around him.

 

 

 

 

The hut they'd been given was tiny but warm. There were two bunks, one placed in each corner with several heavy blankets.

Blair kicked off his 'new' boots and dropped back onto the bed, "I don't remember *ever* feeling so tired," he groaned.

 

"It's with all that dirt gone," Jim joked, "Just slip your pants and one shirt off and get a good night's sleep."

 

Blindly reaching for his clothing, Blair managed to strip off his outer layers and scuttle beneath the blankets. He listened to Jim climb into his bed and his mind set to whirling around all the delicious possibilities that the bigger man presented in his fantasies.

It seemed so long since he'd allowed himself to indulge in such luxuries that he wasn't sure he still knew how.

Turning over several times and shuffling, Blair couldn't seem to relax.

 

"You okay?" Jim's voice whispered.

 

"Yes, I'm just…restless," Blair grumbled.

 

"Cold?"

 

"A little."

 

"We can share if you like?" Jim suggested suddenly, "If you think you'd be more comfortable…you know, warmer," his voice sounded suddenly unsure.

 

"Really?" Blair asked. His rational mind was saying 'No' but every other part of his body screamed yes.

 

"Sure, come on over here."

 

Within seconds, Blair was climbing beneath the blankets with Jim, curling into the bigger man's side like a cat.

 

"Better?" Jim asked.

 

"Oh yes," the young man replied.

 

"We should make the best of a comfortable bed, the next part of the journey will be hard going, mountainous," Jim whispered, "That's if you *want* to come with me. You don't have to, you know?"

 

"I want to come with you, Jim," Blair insisted.

 

"Good," the older man said softly.

 

Darkness made Blair feel bold. He reached up and placed a chaste kiss on Jim's cheek, "Thank you for taking me with you," he said in a sultry whisper, almost shocked at the sound of his own voice.

He felt Jim shiver.

 

A large hand slipped around his neck, sliding beneath his hair, tilting his face up and soft lips found his. Blair melted into the embrace, his lips parted and allowed Jim's tongue to enter, the taste of his so desirable bed-mate almost too much to truly comprehend. He groaned and tried to pull Jim closer, the kiss grew deep and Blair's body woke with a vengeance.  The touch so long denied sparked every sensation.

 

Jim broke the kiss, pulling him into his chest, holding him tightly. "We need to get some rest," he said, his breath ragged, "But when we're free, when this is all over…"

 

"I know," Blair replied. Part of him didn't want Jim to make any promises, nothing that could tempt fate.

 

Jim placed a kiss on Blair's forehead and nestled his face down in the younger man's hair, "Goodnight," he whispered.

 

"Goodnight, Jim."

 

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

 

 

 

"I'm just going down to the next village with Megan and a couple of the scouts, I won't be long, okay?" Jim said.

 

Blair sat with Molly outside of the dining hut, helping her prepare vegetables. "Sure Jim, I'll be fine," he grinned.

 

Jim winked and wandered away through the trees.

 

After finishing with the food preparation, Molly insisted that Blair go rest, so he settled beneath a tree on the hillside overlooking the valley below. It was times like this that Blair could forget there was a war going on, forget that there was so much evil in the world.

He began to think back to his Sentinel research, how the ancient warriors would use their advantages always for the good of the tribe, never to purely give them an advantage over their enemies. If only life could be that way.

If only there were a place where he and Jim could live together forever, where he could openly express the love he felt for this man.

It was a nice dream but unrealistic.

 

Suddenly Blair's peace was shattered by a voice behind him.

 

"Well, well.. Ellison go without you Jew-boy? Find himself a new piece of ass?" Rafe sneered.

 

Blair tensed, "Jim's gone with Megan down to the village," he said coldly.

 

"My, you clean up pretty," Rafe grinned, yanking Blair's chin around to get a look at his face

 

"Don't touch me!" Blair spat, swatting the other man's hand away.

 

"Why not? Everyone one else in the area's had a piece of you, why shouldn't I?"  Rafe dragged Blair to his feet and quickly put him into an arm-lock. Pushing him roughly against the tree, he used his free hand to reach around and unbutton the younger man's pants, shoving them down.

 

"No!" Blair raged, "You have no *right* to do this to me."

 

"I have every right, Jew. You're cattle to be used and discarded. That's all your pitiful race is worth," Rafe unzipped his pants and released his weeping cock, shoving his knee between Blair's legs to spread him open.

 

Blair struggled, he was *not* going to be a victim again, not for this man, the Germans or anyone else…ever. If it meant he died fighting, so be it. He pushed back hard, but his body was still weak from the abuse metered out at the camp and Rafe was a trained fighter.

 

"That's okay, you can struggle…makes it more fun," Rafe taunted.

 

Blair shuddered, those words…so familiar…Marcus had spoken those words on their last night together.

The pain was sudden and violent as Rafe thrust into him. Every fiber of his being was screaming 'no', but with every stab of pain, his energy ebbed away.

 

Shuddering to completion, Rafe slumped against the smaller body beneath him.  After a moment to catch his breath, he stood and pushed Blair to the floor. Taking his gun from his belt, he cocked it…..

 

….Blair uncoiled, sending Rafe sprawling as he hit him in the chest, he knocked the gun from his fingers, hitting him in the face sharply before running for the safety of the camp.

 

 

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

 

 

By the time Jim and the others returned it was growing dark. Blair sensed there was something wrong as the rebels entered the camp. Jim's face was set in stone and Megan looked furious.

 

"Where's Rafe?" she asked.

 

Blair shook, they couldn't possible know what had happened?

 

"I want him found, do it now. No one sleeps until he's found and brought to me," Megan stormed.

 

"Jim, what happened?" Blair asked, nervously tugging Jim's sleeve.

 

"It's a long story, Blair. Needless to say, Rafe is in serious trouble. Are you okay? You look scared?"

 

"I'm fine. What did he do?"

 

Jim's jaw muscle jumped, "He betrayed Simon and his men….for money. We ran into a patrol in the village, a German officer named Heidlman. After some persuasion, he told us that Rafe had been feeding them information for months. That's how Simon was ambushed and how they keep finding the camps so easily"

 

"Oh my God!" Blair exclaimed, "What will happen to him?"

 

"He'll be executed."

 

 

*********

 

 

It took several hours for Rafe to be dragged back into the compound. Megan and Jim stood and watched as he was thrown to the floor in the main square.

 

"Just tell me why?" Megan ordered.

 

"Why what?" Rafe growled, "What's going on, Megan? What's that little Jew been telling you?"

 

"Jew?" the woman's face creased into a frown.

 

"He asked for it, Ellison's little bed warmer. He *begged* me to do it. He's spent so long being fucked by the Germans he can't live without a little rough treatment. What's the matter, Ellison? Can't you even satisfy a little Jew whore?"

 

Jim glanced across at Blair as the realization of Rafe's words began to sink in. Blair dropped his face towards the floor in shame.

With lightning speed, Jim had Rafe by the throat, his neck precariously tilted.

 

"Wait, Jim!" Megan shouted, "I want answers before you kill him." She wandered over and stood in front of the sniveling young man, "Why did you betray Simon?"

 

"For the money you stupid woman," he snarled, "You think I care about your pathetic little band of rebels?"

 

"Kill him," she instructed.

 

Jim tightened his grip.

 

"Wait….you kill me now, you'll never know just what I told them. How do you know if I told the Germans about this camp?" Rafe choked.

 

Megan thought for a moment, "You're right, I don't. I guess I'm just going to have to live with your betrayal. You on the other hand…will not. Kill him."

 

"No…"

 

With a snap, Jim Ellison broke the man's neck, letting him fall to the floor. "It's better than he deserved," Jim said coldly.

 

"I want the camp packed and ready to leave before the night's out. He was right, we don't know what he told them, we should move on," Megan ordered.

The camp was soon alive with activity.

"I'm sorry about this, Jim. And I hope Blair's okay," she said sadly.

 

"We'll head out for the border first thing, I'm sure he'll survive…I'll do everything I can to help him. Take care Megan," Jim said wrapping his arms around the woman tightly.

 

"You take care Jim Ellison, I can't afford to lose another friend," she smiled.

 

"I will."

 

 

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

 

 

Chapter 2

 

Days passed by with tortuous slowness. The two men headed into the mountains and hopefully, eventually, freedom.

Jim noted with some concern that Blair had once again retreated within himself, yet the dejected fragility that he'd witnessed back at the camp was gone and had been replaced by a steely determination.

 

As darkness closed in on the fourth day, Blair sat huddled under a tree, a blanket wrapped around his shoulders, his eyes glassy and blank.

 

Jim kneeled before him, placing a hand on his knee, "You okay?" he asked softly.

 

After a few seconds, the younger man looked up and smiled slightly, nodding and gently patting Jim's hand.

 

"Blair, I'm so sorry about what happened back at the camp…with Rafe. I should have been there to protect you."

 

"No!" the younger man raged suddenly, "I don't need you to protect me. If I can't care for myself I don't deserve to live."

 

"That's not true!" Jim grabbed his hand and squeezed, "Everyone needs someone to lean on. I know what you went through back at the camp."

 

"No," Blair pulled away sharply. Rising to his feet, he began to pace. "You *don't* understand, you saw so little…*understand* so little of what went on there," he choked out the words. As if the floodgates had opened, the words began to spill forth.

"I saw men torn apart by dogs for being homosexual. Babies, thrown into ovens, still crying and stained by their mothers' blood, their only crime was to have been born a Jew." Tears began to stream down the young man's face, "People cut open and their entrails removed while they still screamed for mercy," his hands flung wide as he tried so desperately to convey the pain he was feeling," Men, women and children murdered for the crime of being travelers, gypsies. *Men* did this Jim, men like you and I. Because you know, when you look at it, they're no different to us. There but for the grace of God could be either of us. How do we cleanse this horror? We perpetrate more in its wake. We learn *nothing* from the atrocities we see. What makes us better than them?"

 

Jim swallowed the lump in his throat, "We do what we do because this is war and we have no choice," he began.

 

"Don't you think *they* use that excuse? When their demons come to haunt them in the night, don't you think *they* fool themselves with the idea that they're just following orders? That 'this is war and war makes you do things you wouldn't normally do'?"

 

"Probably," Jim said sadly.

 

Suddenly Blair looked up into the pained blue eyes of his companion and rushed into his arms, wrapping himself around Jim tightly, "I'm sorry, Jim. I'm so sorry. I never meant to take this out on you. I just hate myself for feeling such self pity when so many are still suffering, I needed to lash out, I'm sorry."

 

Jim closed the younger man in his arms and softly stroked his hair, "Don't *ever* apologize," he whispered, "If you want to talk about what happened, I'll listen. It might help to let some of this anger and frustration out."

 

"Maybe. Someday….maybe, just not right now."

 

Jim stroked Blair's hair gently and merely held him until he felt the tension diminishing. There was nothing to be said, because everything Blair had said was true. Each side used the excuse of war to commit murder, but that still couldn't excuse what he'd seen and heard about in that camp. Those things took a special brand of evil.

 

"Jim?" Blair said quietly as he rested against the bigger man.

 

"Mmm?"

 

"Do you think they'll win?"

 

"No."

 

Blair lifted his head, "You seem very sure of that," he said looking into Jim's eyes.

 

"I am, if I thought differently, what would I be fighting for?"

 

Nodding his head, Blair tried to settle down and let sleep claim his weary body, but often, sleep was no solace and no escape.

 

 

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

 

 

Blair squirmed on the bed, his hands tied uncomfortably behind his back, a gag cut into his mouth and he was *afraid*. Marcus whispered soft words of encouragement as he roughly bound the young man, but the gentleness of the words were not matched by the brutality of the assault he was performing on Blair's body. For the first time, Blair saw it as just that. He'd come to realize that everything Marcus had 'bestowed' upon him was a betrayal of trust and a physical assault, designed to satisfy his own pleasure and boost his own ego. Nothing in this 'relationship' belonged to Blair except the pain and the humiliation.

 

Blair twisted in the bonds, trying to get the word 'Stop' past the gag, but the movement just made the bonds tighter.  He could feel tears welling in his eyes and he suddenly felt so completely helpless that his soul ached.

 

Marcus pulled the last bond tight, his knees forcing Blair's legs apart as he ran his hand across the young man's soft, fleshy rear with reverence.

 

Blair began to struggle as he felt Marcus slide a finger into his body roughly, his objections came out as whimpers and the gag bit even deeper into his mouth.

 

"Go ahead, struggle," Marcus growled in Blair's ear, "It just makes it all the more fun."

 

The tears began to spill from Blair's eyes, not from the pain and discomfort but from the sheer humiliation being metered out by someone he loved and trusted. How could you do this to someone you cared about? Someone who was plainly afraid and hurting?

 

Marcus stroked his erection; it stood out, dark and oozing before him. Droplets formed on the tip and dripped onto Blair's naked, squirming body.

With no thoughts to care or comfort for the boy beneath him, Marcus rammed his thick cock deeply into Blair's body with one thrust.

 

Blair screamed through the gag, the agony shooting through every nerve ending, crashing into his senses like a hurricane of white-hot pain.

 

Marcus was sweating heavily, pumping into Blair in vicious long, hard strokes. Clutching the boy's hips painfully as he slammed forwards again and again.

 

Turning his head into the pillow, Blair buried his face and tried to block out the pain by screwing his eyes shut and praying that it soon be over.

 

 

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

 

 

 "I never dreamed I could come to hate the sight of trees," Blair mumbled as they struggled through the densely wooded terrain.

 

Jim laughed and swatted him lightly on the back, "You'll be wishing for more trees once we get higher. It will get cold and windy and the shelter of a tree will be a blessing."

 

"Just being free is a blessing, Jim. But I long to see *flat* treeless meadows and buildings with warm fires burning in the hearth. Food and clean water and…..books," Blair closed his eyes and sighed deeply.

 

Dropping his arm across the younger mans shoulder Jim smiled. Blair wanted so little from life, just safety and basic creature comforts. It seemed almost unfair that someone so unspoiled by all that had happened to him in his short life, could be denied these simple pleasures.

"When we get back to England, you shall have just that," he said quietly, "I rent a small cottage in rural Kent. It has a log fire, its own orchard and a small, nicely stocked library. It will be all yours!"

 

Blair grinned and nodded, "Sounds good," he announced. "You know Jim, when the war is over? I need to go back to Munich."

 

"Sure, okay. I can understand you wanting to return there, it's your home."

 

"No, you don't understand. Even though I didn't really believe the things that were happening would happen to me or my mother, I was worried when I saw that the Nazi's had started to burn books." Blair's face darkened, "I've never understood why a civilized race should be afraid of knowledge? It defies logic. Anyway, when I heard that they were visiting the Universities to check if the reading material was suitable…I hid my book on ancient sentinels. Then on the day that my eyes opened for the first time to what was happening, I sealed the book beneath the floor of my room." He looked up and smiled mischievously, "So, I want to go back one day and see if it's still there. It's important Jim, it might help you."

 

Laughing the bigger man nodded, "Okay, I promise that someday, God willing, once this madness is over, we'll go back and try to find your book."

 

Satisfied and feeling strangely pleased with himself, Blair grinned, "Right!" he beamed and instantly developed a bounce to his step.

 

Jim watched as the young man wandered a little ahead. The difference that freedom made to this one man made the whole mission worthwhile. Beaten and abused, spirit almost broken Blair had been a pitiful sight, yet despite the hardships they had already endured and Jim was sure that there were many yet to come, Blair had begun to blossom. Yes, he was still slightly withdrawn and deeply angry at so much, but the determination had returned.

 

If James Ellison never felt that he achieved another thing in his life, seeing a man like Blair Sandburg reborn before his eyes was enough to make him proud that he’d had at least a small part in Blair’s new found liberty.

 

 

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

 

 

Shouting in the street alerted Blair that there was something wrong. He had been sitting in the library trying to lose himself in the pages of his beloved books, hoping that somehow he could wipe away the horror of what had happened with Marcus.

It had been shocking to him that Marcus could treat him that way, but when finally the ordeal was over and the restraints had been removed, the fact that the older man had looked upon the tears and the fear and laughed went beyond what Blair could bear.

He had pulled on his clothes and fled into the night, despite the pleading of his mentor, desperately scrambling back to his tiny room at the university before dropping onto his bed and sobbing the night away.

By the next morning, the bruises and the pain were almost unbearable. He still bled from the rough anal penetration and a bite to his shoulder had become red and swollen. Still tearful, Blair had cleaned himself and tried to go about his life as if nothing had happened. But on his way to the library, he'd seen soldiers escorting people out of their homes. Old Mr Feinstein, the cobbler, a man well into his eighties was being roughly shoved into a truck. The Goldman twins and their mother Elise were already sitting huddled in the vehicle, frightened eyes peering from the darkness.

 

Blair hurried into the library and tried to close his ears to the sounds, but something was happening…

 

A shout; a warning to stop, Blair nervously moved to the window and peered through. A young man, no older than he, had pulled out of the grip of the guard who was trying to load him into the truck. He was shouting about his rights and how he was a proud German citizen, how he shouldn't be treated this way, but the uniformed officer just took aim with his rifle and demanded he get into the vehicle.

As the young man tried to walk away, calling out to all the people who watched from behind closed curtains, the guard shot him dead…there, in the town square.

 

Blair fell back in horror as he watched the man's blood slowly spill onto the cobbles and the light that was his very essence diminish and die. Grabbing his books, he flew from the back door of the building and across to the university.

 

Once in his small room he began to tear at the floorboards, lifting several to uncover the space below.

With reverence he wrapped his books in a bedcover and placed them beneath the floor, replacing the boards and covering them with a rug that his mother had given him for his birthday.

 

Sitting back on his bed, Blair felt the tears stinging his eyes once more. How big a fool could he have been? So wrapped up in his perfect little world, his 'slave master' providing his every pleasure, treating him like a prized pet to be rewarded for services rendered. And all this time, his friends and neighbors were being rounded up like stray cattle and shipped off to who knows where.

 

Blair threw his clothes into a bag and headed for his mother's house six miles outside the city. If he could only get there and warn her, they might yet be able to get out of the city and out of danger …….

 

 

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

 

 

The object was to keep clear of villages and settlements, never knowing who was a Nazi sympathizer and who was a victim until it was too late.

Jim peered through the trees at the farmhouse sitting silently on the hillside. They desperately needed water, their supplies were dwindling and the terrain was becoming harsher.

 

"What do we do?" Blair asked as they crouched at the edge of the tree-line.

 

"We need to refresh the water cans and we could do with bartering for some fresh food. I'll go over and knock at the door, you stay here."

 

"Why? Why can't I come with you?"

 

"If anything goes wrong, I need you here," Jim pulled out the gun, "Take this. If I look like I'm in trouble just let free a couple of shots…oh Blair? Not in *my* direction, okay?"

 

With a nervous smile Blair nodded.

 

"You're my back-up, I need you to stay sharp."

 

"Yes Jim," the young man said seriously, his trembling hand cocking the gun.

 

Watching the bigger man cover the ground between him and the farmhouse, Blair swallowed the fear that rose in him and tried to concentrate. Jim needed him, he needed Blair to be attentive and sharp. Jim's life might depend on him.

 

The farmhouse door opened and an elderly man appeared. Blair watched as Jim gestured to the hills with his hand, making sweeping gestures and then nodded.

The elderly resident pointed to a well in the yard before closing the door.

 

Casting a quick glance towards Blair in the trees, Jim made his way across to the well and began to draw the water, quickly filling the two cans given to him at the rebel camp.

 

Just as he'd completed his task, the old man appeared again and called him into the house. Reluctantly, Jim followed, but before he disappeared inside, he gestured for Blair to stay where he was.

 

The waiting and worrying was almost worse than anything that had happened in the camp. What would happen if Jim were killed or hurt?

Blair chewed on his nails nervously, never letting his gaze slip from the surrounding countryside.

It was up to him to be the 'sentinel' here, to watch out for Jim.

 

After a few moments Jim appeared at the door and called Blair in. Tentatively the boy crept across to the house.

 

“It’s okay, Blair, Gustav has offered us food in exchange for my fixing the hole in his roof,” Jim explained as the elderly man eyed Blair suspiciously.

 

“You are a Jew?” Gustav spoke at last.

 

Blair jutted out his chin, “Yes, I am.”

 

“My wife’s mother was a Jew,” he said coldly, “That is why they took her away and killed her. They said it was reason enough.”

 

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Blair dropped his defiant gaze to the floor.

 

“Don’t get me wrong, boy, I have no love for the Jews. I have no love for the Germans or anyone else any longer. I close my door and let them fight their fights. I’m an old man who no longer cares about anything,” Gustav picked up his pipe and lit it, sucking in the smoke, “Nothing except the hole in my roof, that is.”

 

It was late by the time Jim had finished the repair, Gustav filled a bag with bread, cheese and a little fruit and they filled the water cans once again.

 

“Will you be all right?” Jim asked as the old man settled into the fireside.

 

“Why should you care, stranger?”

 

“Because you’re an old man living alone among this madness. I just know how I’d feel if it were my father.”

 

“But your father still has a son to worry about and probably other family too, he thinks of their feeling should he die, their grief and that’s what makes him afraid of death. I have no one, so I fear nothing. If you want to sleep in the barn tonight, you can, it’s late…and you’ve done a fine job of my roof.”

 

Experiencing a deep sadness for the old man, Jim nodded, “Thank you, that’s very kind.”

 

The old man shooed away the thanks with the swipe of a hand and Jim turned towards the door, guiding Blair through first.

 

As they stepped out into the dark, Blair whispered, “Do you trust him?”

 

“He showed no signs of lying, his heartbeat was regular and nothing changed all the time he was speaking. But make sure there’s a back way out of the barn before we fall asleep!”

 

 

Jim woke with a start, it was just getting light and he let his sensitive hearing reach out and do a sweep of the area. The sound that had woken him was nothing more ominous than deer moving through the forest, scavenging for good grazing land.

 

Shaking Blair, he gathered up their things and they crept from the barn to begin the most grueling part of their journey; up the mountainous slopes and across the border.

 

Despite the heavy going, Blair appeared to be getting stronger every day and Jim was surprised at how knowledgeable he was about so much. He understood plants and fauna, knew how to make herbal remedies and what to eat without getting poisoned.

 

“So, how did an anthropology bookworm learn all this stuff?” he asked with a smile.

 

“My mother,” Blair explained, “She knew all about plants that heal and how to survive on what nature serves us up. Those roots for example, they’re very nutritious, whereas those,” he pointed to a small unobtrusive looking plant, “They will poison you and you’ll be dead in an hour.”

 

“Useful information,” Jim decided, “Before this journey is over we may well be reduced to eating roots and berries!”

 

“Jim, tell me about your family. Do you have parents living? Brothers and sisters?”

 

“My father is still alive but my mother died when I was very young. I have a younger brother named Stephen; he’s working for British intelligence too. My father’s family is of English stock and as soon as war broke out he suggested that we offer our services. I was already in the army and Stephen had just finished university.”

 

“Does your brother have heightened senses?” Blair asked.

 

“Not to the extent that I do, but he does have some quite uncanny mental abilities. He can crack codes and solve complex mathematical problems very easily. He was a child genius, the gifted one of the family,” Jim grinned.

 

“I’d beg to differ,” Blair remarked, “But it is interesting that you both have such talents.”

 

“What about you, no other family but your mother?”

 

“No.”

 

 

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

 

 

Blair opened the door of his home and nervously called his mother's name. As he'd approached his home, his stomach had rolled at the sight of his mother’s beloved vegetable garden destroyed. The produce had been lifted too early and everything was broken beyond repair. A window was smashed, haphazardly boarded up to stop the rain which now begun to drizzle down again.

 

"Mother?"

 

"Blair?" Naomi Sandburg rushed from the back room, gathering her son into her arms, "Oh my baby, I've been so afraid for you. Everything has gone mad, people came and tore up the garden, broke the window….I hoped that Marcus would keep you safe at the university."

 

Blair bit down on his lip, "Let's not talk about that. Just get your things packed and we can leave. We should make for Grandma's old place in Switzerland."

 

"But baby, that's just a shack, we couldn't live through a winter in that."

 

"We have to get out of here, Mother. You don't know…they're *killing* people in the square in front of everyone. We *have* to go…hurry and pack."

 

Seeing the fear in her son's eyes made Naomi realize that this was no time to argue. It took little time to throw a few essential clothes into a bag and pack some food for the journey.

 

"Where's the horse?" Blair asked suddenly, "And the goats.."

 

Naomi's eyes filled with tears, "They killed the goats and took the horse for 'war work'," she sniffled.

 

"Oh Mother!"

 

"I raised that animal from a foal, I swear if they hurt him…"

 

Wrapping his mother in his arms, Blair held her tightly until the sobs receded, "He'll be fine, he's strong."

 

A hammering at the door made them both jump. Swallowing his fear, Blair opened the door slowly to find a young German officer and two guards standing smiling at him.

"Are you Blair Sandburg?"

 

"Y..yes, why?"

 

"You are a student at the university?"

 

"Yes."

 

"That is your mother, Naomi Sandburg?"

 

"Yes, what *is* this about?"

 

"You both must come with me," the young officer said coldly, the smile still firmly fixed.

 

"Why? What have we done?" Blair demanded.

 

"You are both Jewish, it is unsafe for you to be here. You will be relocated to a safer environment. And we have had reports that you, Blair Sandburg, are a homosexual. In attempting to solicit the attentions of a German citizen you have broken the law under Paragraph 175 and are to be taken to a correctional facility where your disease will be treated."

 

"What do you mean, 'solicited a German citizen'?" Blair's mind whirled.

 

Suddenly a tall figured moved forward, pushing the guards aside, "Yes Herr Captain, this is the boy who made advances towards me, "Marcus said sadly, "He's just confused and so very young. I fear that if he doesn't receive treatment soon he might be lost to this terrible affliction forever."

 

"Marcus! How can you say that?" Blair raged, "How can you *lie* that way? *You* seduced *me*!"

 

"Come, you will be made better boy," the German officer explained as he grabbed Blair's jacket.

 

"Marcus! "

 

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

 

 

“We need some fresh clothes,” Jim remarked as he and Blair huddled beneath a bush, trying to escape the pouring rain that now teemed from the heavens, “And some warm food.”

 

“What about that village we passed back there?” Blair asked as he pressed close and shivered.

 

“It looks like there’s a garrison of soldiers stationed there, it’s probably a stop off point for troops before they cross the border.”

 

“So what do you suggest? Do we go on to the next village?”

 

Jim thought for a moment, “We don’t know how far that will be, we really need to restock our supplies before we try to cross the mountain. You stay here and I’ll go into town to try to find some food and clothing.”

 

“But Jim, I want to help!”

 

“I know, and the way to do that at the moment is to stay here. It’s less noticeable if I’m alone.”

 

“And being a Jew makes me a risk!” Blair tried to bite back the anger in his voice, but failed.

 

“I didn’t say that,” Jim sighed.

 

“But it’s true. I’m small and feminine and Jewish, how much more noticeable can I be?”

 

“You are *not* feminine and you don’t look any more ‘Jewish’ than I do, now will you quit being so self deprecating?”

 

“I’m sorry, I just feel so useless sometimes,” Blair pushed back his long, damp hair and rested his head on his knees.

 

Jim threw his arm around the younger man’s shoulder and held him tightly.

“You’re not useless, I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for you. But we have to face facts; we look more noticeable when we walk into town together. It doesn’t mean that I think you’re incapable of taking care of yourself *or* me!”

 

“Okay, okay, I understand.”

 

Jim smiled and kissed Blair’s cheek tenderly, causing the younger man to flush hotly.

“I’ll be back before nightfall. You keep the gun, if I’m found with it in town I’ll be shot.”

 

“Please be careful, Jim?”

 

“I always am.”

 

 

Nightfall came and Blair grew more worried with every passing minute. Jim had been gone for hours and something inside him felt that there was a problem. He couldn’t put into words how things between himself and Jim had developed in the past days, but it was almost like a bond existed that linked them. A fanciful notion he was sure and he knew that his mother would have insisted that they were ‘destined’ to find each other, believing that true partners went on through eternity forever meeting and spending their lives together only to die and be reborn to continue the search.

But still the thought nagged at him that Jim needed him and he decided to disobey the orders that Jim had given him and make his way back to the village.

 

The darkness closed in all around as Blair crept through the sparse woodland that led along the only real road in the area. The closer he got to the village, the more urgent the sensation in his stomach felt; now he was sure that Jim was in trouble, he wasn’t sure how he knew, but somehow he did.

Stumbling blindly, feeling his way along the tree-line, Blair suddenly closed his eyes.

‘Jim, help me. Guide me, I know you’re there,’ he thought, concentrating on the image of Jim in his mind.

On he went, through the darkness, the tiny voice of reason in his head told him to stop, that he could be going in any direction in the dark and could end up anywhere, lost in the woods or worse, in the middle of the garrison headquarters, but still he moved on, a feeling that he was right his only guide.

 

Suddenly, he heard a noise. Just a small grunt and a whimper of pain, but at that second he knew his instincts had been right.

 

“Jim?” he hissed, then a little louder, “Jim?”

 

“B…Blair?” the pain in Jim’s voice hastened Blair’s speed and by some unknown ability, Blair pushed his way through the trees to a find Jim slumped in a ditch.

With only the moonlight as a guide, Blair peered into the dimness.

“Oh God, Jim. What happened?” he rushed to the older man, grabbing him, his hands moving across his body frantically.

 

“I ran into some drunken soldiers on my way out of the village,” Jim replied through gritted teeth, “I had everything we needed, I must have let my guard down a little. They roughed me up a little and I played the ‘terrified peasant’, I figured what were a few bruises compared to us getting food and clothing?” he hissed in pain again, “I was almost clear when they started taking potshots at me, like live target practice. Thankfully, they were hopelessly drunk or I’d be dead, but one of the bullets hit me in the leg and I managed to get away into the woods. They didn’t follow me, I don’t think they were capable!”

 

“Oh no, you’ve probably lost a lot of blood.”

 

“We need to get clear of the village, help me up.” Jim reached out.

 

“But, you’re bleeding heavily,” Blair protested.

 

“And if we don’t get clear before morning, we’ll both be very dead when they sober up and decide to come finish the job, now help me up!” Jim insisted and he clung to Blair’s arms as the younger man tried to lift him from the ground.

Jim stifled a yelp of pain as he lurched uneasily to his feet and almost passed out with the pain. Blair’s arms quickly encircled him and the younger man took his weight as Jim tried to stop his head from spinning.

 

“I’m too heavy for you,” Jim groaned.

 

“Don’t be silly, I can take it, you think that I haven’t had worse burdens to carry in the camp? I have carried the bodies of fallen workers to the incinerator and been beaten all the way, I survived. You are a burden of love, James Ellison, don’t you dare tell me I can’t carry you all the way to the border!” Blair gritted his teeth and hitched Jim up, almost physically moving him along. “Now come on, before it gets light.

 

Jim lost all track of time and distance, the pain and dizziness producing a hazy state of not quite waking and not quite sleeping.

When Blair finally stopped and began to lower him to the ground, Jim sighed with relief; if only he could sleep now.

 

“Jim, can you hear me?” Blair touched Jim’s face gently, “I think we’re far enough from the village for now. This place has a little natural shelter and I recognize the plant-life, I can make a poultice for your leg, it might stop the bleeding,” he explained, but it was soon clear that Jim was developing a fever and his blood loss had weakened him immensely.

Blair grabbed the pack that Jim had still held onto since being shot and rummaged through for some fresh water. Finding a can, he held it to Jim’s lips and let the water trickle into his mouth, making sure that some at least was swallowed.

“Jim, I’m going to find the plants I need, you stay here and try to stay awake. I promise I won’t be long, please be okay Jim!” Blair nervously ran his fingers through Jim’s hair and offered up a prayer that the older man be spared, they had come so far and been through so much.

 

With dawn breaking, Blair began to scout the area for the plants he needed to make a poultice capable of clotting the blood and preventing further loss. Also, he needed something to clean the wound and sterilize it to stop the infection from setting in and poisoning Jim’s blood.

He blessed his mother for insisting that he learn her methods of herbal healing, a legacy passed down through generations. Her family had been gypsies long ago, traveling Europe and learning the ways of the land, ‘earth magic’ Naomi had called it, and she had insisted that he understand the rudiments of the craft, even though as a boy Blair could never see what an anthropologist could possibly do with such knowledge, he had studied and listened as she’d explained each flower and plant and what use it could have.

 

As he plucked the innocent looking weeds from the ground, Blair felt himself smile, he was sure that at that moment his mother was smiling down from heaven and whispering ‘I told you so’, feeling very pleased with herself that she had insisted he pay attention.

 

‘You are so like your father’ she’d once remarked, ‘always lost in the learning of books when nature is the greatest teacher and she is all around you, tossed aside and ignored for words on a page.’

 

Blair’s father had been an archeologist, Jakob Sandburg, a very well respected man in his field. He had disappeared on an ill-fated dig in the Peruvian jungle when Blair was only three years old. No body was ever found and no one ever discovered the truth of what happened.

Naomi Sandburg had been devastated at the loss of her beloved husband and poured all of her energy into her young son. When Blair had proudly announced as a five year old that he was going to be an anthropologist, she had secretly chilled at the idea, but never once did she dissuade him from his dream.

 

Swallowing a lump in his throat, Blair mumbled a small prayer for his mother and thanked her for being the woman she was. If he could only save Jim’s life, it would go some way to making sense of all of this, of this madness and most of all of his own survival and existence.

 

He found a smooth round stone and an almost hollowed out piece of rock and added them to his bag. That should be enough to make a basic poultice and since time was the most important thing, he needed to get started as soon as possible.

 

By the time he got back to Jim, the soldier was slumped against the rocky overhang and Blair’s heart leaped into his mouth.

 

“Jim? Jim, are you all right?” he kneeled before the big man frantically searching for a pulse and only let out a breath when he found one, faint and erratic, but Jim was still alive.

 

Pulling the plants apart he began to crush them with his makeshift pestle and mortar until they took on the consistency of a paste with the addition of a little of their precious water.

There was only one big problem remaining; the bullet. It needed to be removed in order for the poultice to begin healing the wound, but how?

 

“Jim, I need to get the bullet out of your leg,” he said softly, brushing his fingers across Jim’s cold, clammy brow.

 

Struggling with unconsciousness, Jim tried to speak, “Knife. My pocket.”

 

Blair reached into Jim’s jacket and rummaged around in the pocket to find an army knife. One of the blades was long and slender and very sharp and Blair suddenly realized that this was the only chance Jim had, he must cut into the wound and remove the bullet, then immediately pack the wound with the poultice mixture and bind the leg.

He knew what to do ‘in theory’, but slicing into the flesh of another human being was so much more than a theoretical practice.

 

Taking a breath, Blair sliced Jim’s pants around the bullet hole and washed off the entry wound. His hand shook for a moment and he closed his eyes, trying desperately to steady himself before he made the incision.

Almost as an afterthought, Blair took a piece of hard plant root, stripped it and slid it between Jim’s teeth.

“When I cut, bite down on that,” he whispered, “It has a sap that acts as a mild hallucinogen. It won’t stop the pain, but it might deaden the senses slightly, though I have no idea what reaction someone with your senses might have from it, but it can hardly make things much worse.”

 

Jim nodded slightly and Blair began his task. He slipped the knife quickly into the wound, opening it up and delving down until he hit something solid. Making the hole big enough to get his fingers inside, he quickly slipped them in and grasped for the bullet. Slippery with blood it resisted with the first attempt and Jim’s shaking made him withdraw.

“I’m sorry, oh God, I’m sorry..” he mumbled, but he knew that he had to go back in and try again or Jim would surely die.

At the second attempt, he managed to grasp the bullet with his nail and lift it clear. Quickly he packed the now pumping wound with the plant poultice and covered the area with a type of vine leaf that kept the skin clean and dry. Using a torn shirt, Blair bound Jim’s leg as quickly as he could before falling back against the overhang, his hands shaking and his stomach wrenching.

Jim had slumped back, barely conscious, the pain finally taking its toll and now it was just a matter of time and luck, neither of which they seemed to have in their favor at the moment.

 

After a few moments, Blair recovered his senses and found something to cover Jim with. Keeping him warm was essential, but just as importantly, they needed to move on, away from that village and had up through the mountains.

Even if Jim’s fever broke, he was unlikely to be able to walk, so Blair must find a way to transport him until he was strong enough to move under his own steam.

 

When he was sure that Jim was comfortable, Blair took the heavy blade they carried and began to search.

He remembered pictures he’d seen of the American Indian tribes and how they carried heavy weights on a travois frame. It seemed like an easy structure to build and there were plenty of vines in this area strong enough to bind the frame together, then all he needed was the strength to pull the frame with a two hundred pound man on it, but he’d worry about that later, first he needed to get to work.

 

 

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

 

 

The carriage was so crowded and dirty and Blair felt almost suffocated in the heat. He and his mother had been taken to the local police station before being put aboard the transport to go to the rehabilitation camp.

Naomi had said nothing about what they’d accused him of, but Blair could see that she was worried about it. They both knew that being attracted to your own sex was now a serious crime and was often considered as heinous as murder or rape. Blair would not be treated well if the other inmates knew of his inclination. Being a Jew was bad enough, being herded like an animal a testament to his birth, but being a homosexual Jew was too terrible to consider.

 

“Mother?” he whispered as the carriage clattered and heaved.

 

“Yes?”

 

“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry. This is all my fault.”

 

Naomi Sandburg turned and glared at her son, “Blair Sandburg don’t you ever let me hear you say that again,” she insisted, “Whatever happens it is *not* your fault, you are in no way to blame for the madness of these men.”

 

“But…Marcus..”

 

“Marcus Heitzer is an evil child molester and as God is my judge I shall see him suffer for what he did to you!” Tears began to stream down Naomi’s face, “I swear I had no idea what was happening. I would *never* have sanctioned you going to that place if I’d known why he wanted you there. Damn him to hell, I hope his soul rots in purgatory for eternity!”

 

“Mother, please don’t cry, we’ll be all right!” Blair hugged his mother close, “We’ll just have to work hard for a few months and then they’ll let us go home.”

 

Holding Blair tightly, her fingers caressing his hair, Naomi nodded, “Yes, my sweet. I’m sure that’s true.”

 

 

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

 

 

Six hours later Blair had the frame cut and bound. Strong young saplings had made for a fine frame, their youthful suppleness giving the structure strength but allowing it to bend and twist.

An old jacket stretched across the frame made for a passable stretcher and Blair began to feel proud of his efforts.

 

He turned back to the hideaway to check on Jim, but found the older man shaking and chilled, his fever raging. Blair quickly administered some juice he’d squeezed from a bitter plant found only in mountainous regions. The plant could only be given in moderation and even then only in very small doses, but it was often useful in breaking a fever.

 

Now it was just a matter of waiting. Jim was too ill to move yet, even with the travois, so Blair pulled the blanket over them both and lay beside Jim to keep him warm until the fever broke.

 

As the large body beneath him shook from the fever Blair closed his eyes and sent up a prayer. He wasn’t a religious man, his mother had never adhered to her husbands religion, but Blair hoped that whichever god was watching over them, Jewish, Christian or Pagan, would take mercy on their plight and let this be over some day, let them find freedom after suffering so much.

 

“I will get you to safety,” he whispered into Jim’s ear, “I promise that I’ll get you home or die trying.” He tightened his grip on Jim’s chest and willed his own strength into his companion.

“I won’t fail, Jim. It would be like letting Marcus and Gunter win and I will *not* allow that to happen! You were sent for me, I know that, you came to the camp not by accident but by design, it was meant to be. I can’t believe that the same fates would then take you away from me this way.”

 

“Blair.” The whispered name was barely audible, but Blair huddled closer.

 

“Yes, Jim, I’m here.”

 

“We…safe?”

 

“We’re safe for now, don’t you worry. As soon as you’re well enough to travel we’ll move on. Just relax and try to sleep.”

 

“Hurts!” Jim grimaced suddenly as a bolt of pain shuddered through him.

 

Worrying his lower lip with his teeth Blair tried to think of something he could do to help. He’d given Jim all the natural pain remedy he could without poisoning him and was now lost for ideas as to how to proceed. It was possible that Jim was feeling the pain more readily because of his ‘sentinel senses’, his body reacting to the stimuli more viciously than a normal body.

“Jim, I have an idea,” he whispered, “Listen to me. You know how you can reach out with you hearing and sight? Can you also do the same thing with your sense of touch? Can you enhance the things you ‘feel’?

 

Struggling against the pain, Jim mumbled ‘Yes’.

 

“That’s good, very good. Well then, if you can heighten your touch response, you can also lower it. If you imagine that when you heighten your touch sense it’s like fine tuning a dial on a radio, you move it to and fro, getting it just right to be able to feel something that a normal man couldn’t, then what you need to do now is the exact opposite. Jim, I need you to look at the radio dial and imagine that you’re going to fine tune it, but instead, you turn the dial the other way, so that you begin to lose the frequency, are you listening, Jim?”

 

Slowly Jim’s voice steadied, “Yes, I’m listening.”

 

“Right, now let the dial go all the way down so that you almost lose the station completely, but don’t turn it off, just have it playing in the background. All the way down Jim, are you with me?”

 

“Yes,” Jim sighed and visibly relaxed, “It’s down really low, I can still feel it, but it’s like being numb.”

 

“That’s good, Jim. It might give your body a chance to recover a little.”

 

Before Blair had finished speaking, Jim was falling into a more restful sleep and the younger man huddled close, keeping him warm until he was rested.

 

 

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

 

 

Getting Jim onto the travois had been hard work, but finally Blair had succeeded. The hardest part had been fighting off the older man’s protests, but eventually he had agreed that he was in no fit state to walk.

Blair had attacked the problem, and Jim’s reluctance, with logic and common sense and the determination of a bulldog and Jim had been forced to agree to his terms.

 

Standing looking down at Jim on the frame, Blair sighed. He had the bigger man on the contraption, now he just had to try to move it.

 

“You will never be able to pull my weight, this is insane!” Jim protested. “I weigh two hundred pounds and I’m a dead weight with this injury. Go on alone, I’ll catch up when I’m able.”

 

Blair snorted, “If you really believe that this idea could be a reality, you *are* more stupid than you look!” he teased.

 

“If I wasn’t stuck on this thing, I’d whip your ass for that!” Jim smiled.

 

“Don’t make promises that your body can’t keep,” Blair replied with a grin, “You Americans are all talk!”

 

Suddenly, Jim grabbed Blair’s arm and pulled him down on top of him, kissing him. The younger man flushed wildly.

“When I get well, I’ll show you what ‘we Americans’ are good at!” he growled, “But for now, you’ll have to make do with a kiss.” He slid his hand under Blair’s hair and pulled him in again for a slower, more lingering kiss this time.

 

As Jim’s hand slid down his chest, Blair shivered. Even through the heavy linen shirt, the touch was like fire. He groaned as the sensation shot straight to his groin, a warm, welcome feeling after so long.

Pulling away at last, Blair sat back and tried to calm himself.

“I, er.., This is not the time, but I really want to, you do know that?” he stuttered.

 

“Yeah, I know. When we’re home and safe, huh?”

 

Blair nodded his head vigorously, “Most definitely!”

 

Jim reached out and softly stroked Blair’s face causing the younger man to shiver.

 

“We’d better get going,” Blair announced suddenly leaping to his feet. He was trying to stop his hands from trembling as he hoisted the travois onto his shoulders and held his breath as he gave the first pull. He had been beaten and starved for so long that his energy reserves were low and he grew tired very quickly, but this was important, possibly the most important thing he’d ever done in his life. Closing his eyes for a moment he whispered his mothers name and asked her for her strength.

More than a little shocked, Blair gasped as the frame began to slide heavily along the ground. He allowed himself a grin of true satisfaction and set off into the muddy, murky depths of the forest, all the time keeping his eye on the compass that he’d slung around his neck.

 

He could do this, he knew he could, he could get Jim through the forest and over the mountain to the town, a tiny place called Reitz, where they could pick up new papers from the resistance cell and be on the train crossing the border in no time.

 

 

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

 

 

The railway station was crowded and heaving with people fleeing the madness, so recently under Nazi occupation the small town was still in turmoil.

 

“Damn, I don’t believe it,” Jim hissed, “This town was in friendly hands just a few days ago, we would have home and safe, *damn*!”

 

“And they’re looking for us, those men over there are from the camp, two of Gunter’s men. I heard them asking about a ‘big man and a youth’” Blair snorted, “Youth!” he muttered under his breath.

 

“Shit!”

 

Blair thought for a moment, with Jim still weak from his injury, there was no way they could outrun soldiers should things become heated. Suddenly he smiled, “Jim, they’re looking for two men aren’t they? Two young healthy men trying to escape?”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“I have an idea, it might not work, but I can’t think how else we’ll get onto that train. It will require that I cheat and steal, however.”

 

Still feeling fuzzy from the pain, Jim shook his head, “Do I want to know details ahead of time, or is it best I don’t?”

 

Blair’s face lit up into a smile, “Maybe it’s best that you don’t. But I will need a shave, I can tell you that. Oh and a miracle or two”

 

 

 

There were moments on this journey when Blair had doubted his own sanity, but never as much as at this moment.

He’d watched as the lady from the ground floor apartment had left before creeping in through the window and heading for her bedroom.

 

She’d been chosen for a reason, having just had the funeral of her invalid father, she was now living alone and rarely stayed in her home, snippets of information that he’d gleaned from a newspaper discarded in the town as trash.

 

As he opened the wardrobe, he smiled; she was obviously a wealthy woman and wouldn’t miss a few items of clothing and he needed so little.

Choosing carefully, he bundled the things into a bag and went about his search. In the small bathroom he discovered a sharp razor and a bar of soap, which he broke and took only a small piece. Searching another bedroom, he was thrilled to find the suit and overcoat of an older man; most likely the one in the picture, which lay over the mantle; the one draped in a black cloth.

The immorality in stealing a dead mans clothes was far outweighed by his need to get Jim away safely and he quickly pushed the clothes and a hat into the bag. One more discovery made him beam….a bath-chair sitting idly in the yard, obviously once the old mans, now no longer needed since his death.

 

Scuttling from the rear of the building pushing the chair, Blair made his way back to Jim in the woodland at the edge of the town.

 

“Have you lost your mind?” Jim gasped as Blair told him his plan at last.

 

“No. You’ve said yourself that I’m still very small and skinny, with my long hair I could easily pass for a girl at a busy railway station where they’re only looking for two *men*.”

 

“But you don’t look like a girl!”

 

“Jim, I know it’s a far fetched idea, but it’s the best I can come up with. I could be your nurse taking you over to the spa town for you to enjoy the waters.”

 

“It’s insane.”

 

“Probably.”

 

“Oh God, Blair!” Jim suddenly gathered the younger man up in his arms and held him, “We’re so damned close.”

 

“Jim, you’ve trusted me this far, trust me to do this?”

 

“I trust you, you know that, more than anyone I know.”

 

“I’ll get us on that train, I swear to you.”

 

“Okay, I believe you.”

 

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

 

 

The click of heels and the soft sashaying of a small, neat bottom drew the attention of the young guard as the woman tottered towards him pushing the old man in the bath chair.

 

“Excuse me young man, could you help me?” a husky voice drifted up from beneath the large brimmed hat.

 

Already flattered at being the one ‘chosen’, the guard nodded and smiled, “Ma’am, how can I help?”

 

“I need someone to help me get my dear uncle here onto the train, he’s sick and can’t walk, could you help me? I just don’t think I have the strength to lift him from his chair.” Blair asked. He smiled shyly from beneath lowered lashes, tugging at a stray curl, which fell teasingly across his face. He’d tied a scarf high around his neck to hide his very prominent Adam’s apple and painfully shaved his very hairy legs to give him a more feminine outline.

 

“Er…yes Ma’am, but I need to check your papers first.”

 

Blair fumbled in his bag and clumsily dropped the papers on the floor, letting the wind blow them along the track until another guard grabbed them and carried them back. In the minutes of confusion that he caused, especially when he turned on the tears at being such a silly ‘girl’, he managed to get the papers back barely glanced at, which was a good thing since the hastily changed photograph looked no more like him, than he did Greta Garbo. In the confusion and tears he had managed to persuade a number of guards to help him get Jim on the train.

 

“I don’t know how to thank you,” he sniffled to the fresh-faced young man who’d first volunteered to help.

 

“Our pleasure!” the young man bowed and moved away.

 

Now trembling, Blair sat down in the seat, Jim still in his chair at his side, still unmoving and silent, the overcoat pulled up around his chin and the hat forced down on his head, covering his eyes.

 

The moments seemed to stretch into hours, especially when Blair spotted two Nazi officers strolling along the platform, peering in all the carriages. They had come this far and still they could be caught.

 

<Don’t let this fail now,> he pleaded silently, <We deserve to live and be free, we’ve come so far.>

 

One officer glanced through the window, staring straight at Blair. He swallowed hard and smiled coyly before looking away, noticing that the man gave a smug grin, puffing out his chest and walking on.

 

When finally the rush of air, which signaled the start of the train, hissed and spluttered, Blair almost passed out from the fear and anticipation.

 

When in motion, Blair pulled the carriage door closed and dropped back onto the seat with an ‘oof’.

 

“You are the *worst* woman I have every seen,” Jim laughed suddenly.

 

“I have never been so scared!”

 

“I swear Megan would have you *shot* if she ever saw that ‘hysterical girl’ act,” the bigger man chuckled, “But damn, if it didn’t work.”

 

Blair laughed, “Sometimes, the people who make the most noise are the most quickly overlooked.”

 

Looking up as the landscape rushed by, Jim smiled, “You’re very wise for such a young man.”

 

“I’m very *old* for such a young man,” Blair sighed, “The camp made sure of that.”

 

Jim reached out and took Blair’s hand, “I’m so proud of you,” he whispered, “I’d have died back there without you.”

 

“You give me strength, Jim.”

 

“No, that’s your own,” Jim insisted, “You are a strong man, more courageous than any soldier I ever met. Even what you just did back there took courage and conviction.”

 

“And shaved legs,” Blair scratched miserably, “How do women stand this, it itches?”

 

“I’m more concerned about those poor soldiers, they’ve obviously been at war too long if you’re looking feminine enough to entice them!” Jim laughed.

 

“I’m not sure if that’s a compliment or an insult?” Blair crossed his legs daintily before joining Jim in a mild fit of giggles.

 

When the train crossed the border into Switzerland, Jim threw off the blanket from his knees and the heavy overcoat.

 

They were safe and on neutral territory.

 

He pulled Blair to his feet and kissed him hard, pouring every ounce of need and desire he had into that one kiss.

“I love you, Blair,” he whispered.

 

Blair’s face lit up into a wide smile, “I bet you say that to all the girls?” he teased, blushing slightly before replying, “I love you too.”

 

“Blair, come home with me…back to the U.S when I’m finished in the army?”

 

Shocked, the younger man just stared.

 

Jim held his hand tightly, “I know you have no family here any longer and you could finish your anthropology studies at the university in Cascade. My family has connections, my father is a regular benefactor for the college. Getting you a place would be easy. I don’t want you to waste another moment of your life,” he pleaded, “and on top of all that, I love you and want you to be with me.”

 

“Let’s get you back to England and get you well, then we’ll talk about this again, okay?” Blair smiled and kissed Jim lightly.

 

Wearily, Jim nodded, “Okay.”

 

 

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

 

 

Chapter 3

 

Three Months Later

 

The sun was shining and the birds were singing and for a moment, Jim Ellison forgot that there was still a war raging around him.

 

He’d been out of hospital for two weeks and felt stronger every day. The leg wound had been severe and the doctors had told him that he could not return to active duty, instead he would work out his time training others for undercover work in the field.

Blair had been secretly delighted, it meant that Jim would not be sent into any more dangerous situations and could return to the U.S in a year’s time a hero and safe.

 

Suddenly Blair appeared, bare-chested and sweating but smiling.

 

“Where have you been?” Jim asked as the young man dropped into the seat beside him.

 

“Helping the Land Army girls pick the apples from the orchard, “ Blair explained, “With fruit in such short supply every apple is needed, so I told them I’d help.”

 

“The fact that they’re pretty had nothing to do with it?” Jim teased and Blair flushed.

 

“No! But yes, they are quite pretty and great fun to talk to. They told me that my English is pretty good now.”

 

“It is you’re a fast learner.”

 

“Well, I knew the rudiments before, I’d just never used the language on real people, it’s quite simple with practice.”

 

“No, you’re just annoyingly smart,” Jim pulled Blair down beside him, “And quite lovely.” He leaned in for a kiss, only for Blair to pull away.

 

“Jim! Someone might see us.”

 

“I don’t care.”

 

“Don’t be silly, you’re an army officer, you have a reputation to consider,” Blair chided pushing Jim away.

 

“Then lets go into the house, the land girls have finished and Mrs. Doherty won’t be back until tomorrow, so we have the place to ourselves.” Jim suggested and Blair felt a rush of sensation settle in his groin.

 

Jim had been waiting until he felt strong enough and until he’d had his stitches removed before they had sex, because he wanted everything to be ‘perfect’ and passing out from weakness or pain wasn’t on the agenda for their first time together.

 

“Let’s make love?” the big man whispered.

 

“Jim, what about your leg?”

 

“The stitches were removed yesterday and I feel fine. I’ll be careful, okay?”

 

Blair swallowed, “You’re sure?”

 

“Never been more sure.” Jim leaned in and gently tongued the area behind Blair’s ear, making the younger man shudder.

 

“Okay,” Blair whispered through a tight throat, “But you be careful, all right?”

 

“I’ll be careful.”

 

 

Blair hit the bed with an ‘oof’ as Jim fell forward, almost on top of him. They had quickly shed their clothes and Jim had hoisted Blair up in a playfully macho display, which turned to laughter as he almost collapsed from the effort. Blair began to laugh as Jim winced and groaned at the straining muscles; muscles which had lain dormant for months.

“So you’re ‘fine’ are you?” he said at last.

 

Another wince and Jim grinned, “Yeah….kind of.”

 

“You are such a bad liar, James Ellison,” Blair reached up and pulled Jim against him, “But I do love you all the same.”

 

Resting against Blair, Jim reveled in the warmth and comfort of the other man’s body. Blair was putting on weight and muscle, he’d been working in the gardens, planting vegetables, harvesting produce for the war effort, and the exercise, coupled with better food, albeit rationed, had begun to show as the flesh padded out on his bones.

His long dark hair now shone as the dying sunlight crept through the window, auburn curls falling across his face, brushed away by the trembling fingers of the man who loved him.

 

“You look delicious!” Jim teased.

 

Blair laughed heartily, his face lighting up with the joy the closeness brought, a closeness he never even dared believe he would share again.

“And you are still feverish I think,” he taunted in return.

 

“No, I just love you.”

 

“And I love you too. We were destined to find each other.”

 

Leaning in for a kiss, Jim let the taste flow across him. He felt safe allowing his senses to reach out when Blair was with him because the younger man had begun to act like an anchor. It was almost like a mental bond that linked them and prevented Jim from losing track of his dangerously heightened senses.

 

“I think maybe you’re right,” Jim whispered, “I’ve never experienced the feelings I have for you before, not with anyone, not even my family.”

 

“Dangerous words,” Blair smiled in return, “You might never be rid of me now!”

 

“Promise?”

 

Pulling Jim in close, Blair held him as tightly as he could, “I promise.”

 

Jim inhaled deeply, almost able to taste Blair’s scent, his fingers tangled in the long, lush curls and the heady smell of arousal threatened to overcome him quickly.

 

“I love to touch you,” he mumbled almost without realizing that he’d said the words aloud.

 

“Your touch was my turning point,” Blair whispered softly.

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“No one in that place had touched me since my Mother, except to beat me or rape me. No one had laid a finger on me in probably more than two years; I was ‘unclean’. They’d told me so many times that I really believed it. I was sure that I was tainted and that I could taint others, then you touched me. That night you gave me your blanket, I wept--- not because of the pain or the torture I’d endured, but because I’d forgotten what it was like to be touched softly and in friendship by another human being. No man should be reduced to that, Jim, so I made up my mind that I would fight or die from that day on, but I’d never be anyone’s victim ever again. Your touch saved my life, how can I ever repay that?” Blair reached out and stroked his hand across Jim’s cheek.

 

“You’ve repaid it a thousand times. Every day you’re in my life you repay that debt over and again by just being with me. You saved my life and you’ve helped me appreciate every minute of every day since. I think the debt is mine.”

 

A smile spread across Blair’s face, “That’s a beautiful thing to say. But I say, let’s call it even?”

 

Jim leaned in for a kiss, “Okay, we’ll call it even. Now kiss me!”

 

Never a man to have to be given ‘orders’ twice, Blair launched himself at Jim with surprising ferocity. Jim was almost shaken by the hard, serious kisses, full of desperation and the urgent way Blair’s legs wound around him, holding him in a vise like grip.

 

Slowly he began to take in the true ecstasy of finally having Blair in his bed; a joy he’d come to believe would never be a reality as they’d fought their way through insurmountable odds to find freedom.

His fingertips ghosted across Blair's skin, reading the textures and the feeling the skin tremble beneath his hands. Such soft skin, peppered with fine downy hair at its outer edges, plunging into a forest, which thickened and covered his breastbone.

Jim continued to trace the path of the hairs across Blair's chest, mapping their density until they fanned out thinly across the emerging muscles, leading to already hardening nipples. At Jim's touch, Blair arched and tried to push closer.

"Slowly" Jim whispered, wanting this sensation to last forever. He merely skimmed his fingers across the pebbled nipples, sensing that Blair was sensitive in that area and they had a long way to go yet.

 

As Jim's fingers climbed and stroked the younger mans long, elegant throat, he could not help but allow himself a groan of pleasure, his finger tips were tracing the Adam's apple as Blair attempted to swallow. He could feel the very breath being pulled in and released from Blair’s body.

Then, he began to explore his favorite arena, Blair's face.

He swept up the sculptured cheek, following the cheekbone as it arched and fell away into the deep-set eyes, the true windows to his mate’s soul. His sensitive fingers could feel the texture of those long lashes as they swept across his touch.

Jim took a deep breath and let the sensation build within him for a moment before turning his attention back to his voyage of discovery. He continued down the pert nose and gently lingered across Blair's lips.

 

"I love these lips," he gasped, "They are everything that you are. Beautiful, sexual, unyielding, full of promises," he trailed off, eyes closed tightly as his fingers read every dip and peak, the way the lips turn up slightly at the corners and the unnaturally deep crater beneath the nose that created that memorable pout.

 

Opening his eyes, he glanced down at Blair as the young man lay on his back, one hand idly stroking Jim's arm, just watching his own personal Sentinel read him like a living breathing book.

 

With his body stretched out, Jim could see Blair's ribs still painfully visible beneath the skin and muscle, he let his fingers trace the pattern down until the ribs disappeared and the chasm of a flat, hollow belly was before him. A hipbone jutted out, like a rock in a stormy sea and Jim's hand soon found sanctuary there.

 

The touch of his hand, so very close, made Blair's cock jump and quiver. Jim smiled as Blair released a small ‘Oh’ and bit down on his lip, closing his eyes and drinking in the pleasure of the touch.

 

Ignoring its demands, Jim avoided the sensitive groin and ran his hand down Blair's leg.

 He studied his partner for a moment, before deciding that it was time for his favorite 'sensory test'; tasting.

 

Starting at Blair's long elegant fingers, Jim slipped them into his mouth and gently sucked. He could trace the fingerprints with his tongue and taste the slightly salty evidence of Blair's sweaty nervousness.

The younger man groaned again as Jim licked and suckled each finger, before sweeping his tongue across the palm slowly.

 

"Oh..hell.. Jim," Blair groaned softly.

 

Smiling at the way Blair shuddered beneath him, Jim tasted the soft skin at the crook of the younger man's arm. The skin was thin there and the veins and arteries near the surface. Resting his mouth on the pulse, he could almost taste the blood pumping through the body, feeding oxygen and nutrients. Its heat pulsated against his tongue.

Before his senses became hypnotized, Jim moved over to a hard nipple, standing proud, and curled his lips around it, pulling it in, tasting, reading the wrinkled landscape.

 

"Jim!" Blair arched into the sensation, his hand holding his partners head in place.

 

Smiling, Jim dragged his tongue roughly across the plain of Blair's chest, searching out that delicious throat and Blair's prominent Adams apple.

"I love you," he whispered, biting down gently on the tender flesh of Blair’s neck. He could taste the skin secretions, the very molecules that made up the sensory delight that was Blair Sandburg,

 

"Kiss me," Blair choked out the words, his voice harsh, dry.

 

Jim felt the words, his mouth lingering at the dip in his lover’s throat that held his voice-box, making each sigh and whimper a tangible entity.

 

Searching out those delicious Sandburg lips, Jim indulged himself, losing track of everything but the beautiful man beneath him.

As Blair's tongue fought its way into Jim's mouth, Jim could taste the cider that they'd sipped as they’d relaxed in the garden earlier and the apple pie that Blair had squirreled away when he’d found himself unable to eat it at lunch, before flushing furiously when he realized what he’d done by hiding food For a brief moment he’d reverted back to his camp persona, the years of starvation and secrecy had kicked in even now when he knew he was safe and no one would steal his food.

 

Jim smiled, he’d assured Blair that it was quite natural to occasionally slip into his old ways, that it meant nothing, but the young man had been embarrassed beyond reason.

 

By now, Jim had almost lost himself in Blair, so powerful was his need for the man, that everything else became unnecessary and uninteresting.

 

Feeling Blair's erection banging into his leg, Jim reached down and lightly stroked its length, never breaking the kiss, reveling in his partner's moans as they seemed to echo through his body.

 

 Blair finally broke the connection to suck in much needed air, Jim slid his lips up to gently kiss the tightly closed eyelids, before seeking out what was to become Blair's ultimate weakness; the delicate flesh of his earlobe. Pulling the soft flesh onto his tongue, Jim suckled.

 

"Uh, my God," Blair gasped. His entire body shook as soft lips and strong fingers pleasured him.

 

"I can't believe how beautiful you are," Jim whispered.

 

"Oh Jim," the younger man swallowed hard, "Can't last much longer."

 

"Then don’t," Jim answered. He smiled into the pleading face of his lover before sliding his lips down to pepper delicate kisses across Blair's stomach. The deepening groans of pleasure and frustration, plus the slight thrusting of hips and Blair's tightening grip told Jim that his partner was getting close.

He teased the erection with his tongue, barely touching the tip. Even such slight attention had Blair openly moaning Jim's name. Wickedly playing with the hardening length, Jim licked along it's surface, once again reveling in the taste of his lover, treasuring the sensation of the skin beneath his tongue, it's almost silken softness and the hypnotic throbbing as blood pumped through the vein, feeding it's need.

 

Jim slowly curled his lips around Blair's cock, pulling it into the heat of his mouth. He took in most of its length with practiced ease.

 

"Oh yesss!" Blair hissed, arching up to meet Jim's caress.

 

Jim took his time, gently sucking and teasing until he could taste that Blair was near. He took a moment to glance up at his partner, face twisted in ecstasy, his hair wet with perspiration, tendrils clinging to his face, this dark curls spread out across the pillow. Blair's lips were parted as if silently pleading for completion, then he would grit his teeth and a sob would escape those sumptuous lips, a sound so soul shattering it made Jim tremble.

With a final cry of release, Blair pumped hard into his lovers throat, Jim swallowed and rode out every last shudder of delight until Blair fell, sated into a boneless heap, a smile and a small laugh the only signs that he was still conscious.

 

Jim laughed lightly and crawled back up the bed, "No sleepy time yet," he grinned.

 

Blair reached out and pulled Jim to him, "Wouldn't think of it," he purred, biting Jim hard on the neck.

 

Jim slid down beside him, "Roll over " he stated.

 

Blair turned, his body was still flushed from the orgasmic fury of moments before, he smiled and closed his eyes.

 

Jim's hands were on him once more.

 

His hands had been weapons of war, killing machines, things of destruction, but now beheld only pleasure.

Strong and sensitive fingers, slick with lubrication gently explored Blair's ass. Jim continued to kiss and bite gently on the younger mans neck and shoulders, the slow and thorough pleasuring eliciting whimpers from his partner.

 

"Slow and easy," Jim whispered.

 

Blair smiled a soft, sated smile, "Mmm, slow and easy."

 

Jim gently stretched Blair until he felt the muscles relax.  Taking his time over each simple gesture, ensuring that his partner received as much attention as was necessary and pleasurable.

 

Blair was, by now becoming so accustomed to Jim's touch that it soothed like warm honey flowing through his nervous system, weakening his resistance.

Lifting the younger mans hips slightly, Jim entered him with a strong but easy stroke, he pressed his vigorous erection into Blair slowly, eliciting a deep, gulping breath followed by an ecstatic sigh.

Almost immediately, the interest in Blair's limp cock stirred, enlivened by the sensation of being filled, becoming complete.

Jim reached around Blair’s body and slipped his fingers around the organ, grasping it firmly and teasing with a small tug.

 

"Ah!" Blair grunted and pushed back, further impaling himself, finally sealing the union.

 

"What do you want?" Jim hissed.

 

"You," Blair replied, the word choking in his throat as the blood rushed from brain function to feed a higher need.

 

Jim smiled and so slowly began to pump his hips, almost entirely pulling free of his partner before repeating the process with tortuous languor.

 

Allowing his senses to reach out, fully encompass his lover, Jim searched every sound, each aroma, mentally labeling it all with the memory of this experience, ensuring that he could touch on this sensation again and relive it in his fantasies should they ever be parted. Just knowing that he could elicit this fervor in Blair was a thrill beyond measure.

 

Blair was panting hard, his cock stood proud once again, encouraged by fingers ghosting across the surface and followed by the soft pull from root to tip. It leaked and throbbed, begging attention as Jim decided to quicken the pace slightly.

Blair moaned aloud as the sensation once again flooded his reason and Jim began to thrust harder, hitting the prostate again and again, sending Blair spiraling over the edge, spilling out into Jim's hand, his seed spattering his own belly. Only seconds behind, Jim choked out Blair's name as he pounded into him one last time, falling headlong into orgasmic oblivion with his partner.

 

Tenderly, Jim Ellison pulled free and gathered Blair up in his arms, one last hazy kiss was the final warm response to a moment of true and unadulterated rapture.

 

"I love you," Blair mumbled.

 

"I know." Jim replied.

 



 

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

 

 

The airport was bustling with people moving cargo and saying their goodbyes.

 

Blair stood looking up at the huge aircraft with mixed feelings.

 

“It’s for the best,” Jim whispered.

 

Sad blue eyes turned to him, “Yeah, I know.”

 

“It won’t be for long, I just have to ride out my year at the training academy and I’m home. By then you’ll have had a year at the university and hopefully have caught up on your studies. My Dad was more than happy for you to go live with him. With Stephen and I both away I guess he’s a little lonely. He can be a little cold at first, but he’s not so bad, he won’t interfere with your life.”

 

“I’ll miss you.”

 

Jim took a deep breath, forcing the emotions back, “I’ll miss you too, but it won’t be for long.”

 

“I wish I didn’t have to go.”

 

“You know that I’m being moved back to camp next week, so you’d be alone here. And the new semester at Rainier starts in two weeks…”

 

“I know all of that, but I’ll still miss you,” Blair insisted, “I know you’re right and I can’t thank you enough for what you’ve done, but I’ll still feel incomplete until you come back to me.”

 

Jim pulled Blair into a hug, “You’re all I’ll think about until the day I walk through the door and hold you again.”

 

“I know. I love you Jim.”

 

“I love you too.”

 

“Better go, the plane’s waiting. Come home soon, James Ellison.”

 

 Emotions barely contained Jim smiled, “I will. Take care.”

 

As the aircraft slid off into the blue sky, Jim Ellison shivered. He was already counting down the days.

 

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

 

Chapter 4

 

Ten Years Later

 

 

It was cool as James Ellison and Blair Sandburg stepped from the aircraft at Munich airport and took their first look at Germany in almost ten years.

 

For Blair it was the culmination of everything he’d been working for these past years. He’d become ‘Professor Sandburg’ two years ago and finally had his work on pre-civilized cultures and ancient sentinels recognized the world over.

He and Jim had bought a house in Cascade where they lived quietly together, both upstanding Cascade citizens brought together by the torments of war and that was how the public viewed them. Times and attitudes were not yet open enough to let the world into the secret that they were lovers and dedicated partners, but Blair always believed that some day it would happen.

 

He’d always promised himself that one day he would return to Germany and finally put his demons to rest. He held no grudge against its people, many of whom were as much a victim of the regime as he was and he felt that prejudice was the very thing that began the madness, so why perpetrate it by feeling resentment?

 

No, he had a new life and love and if his years in that purgatory were the price for all of it, then it was worth the price.

He still mourned for his Mother every day and all the people who died there, but his gift to their memory was his success and happiness.

 

“You okay, Chief?” Jim asked, touching his arm gently.

 

Blair smiled at the touch, remembering how it was the very thing that started this whole affair.

“Yeah, I’m good, Jim,” he replied, his sharp European tones fast becoming smoothed by the American accent he was unconsciously adopting.

 

“Want to go to the hotel first?”

 

“No, I want to go straight to the university, if that’s okay with you?” Blair glanced up at the bigger man.

 

“Sure, whatever you want.”

 

“I spoke to the caretaker, he was okay with me seeing my old room since there are no students there at the moment. Of course, I didn’t tell him I wanted to tear up the floor,” Blair grinned and bobbed his eyebrows playfully.

 

“Come on then, let’s go vandalize your old room!”

 

 

 

He couldn’t help feeling the chill run down his spine as he entered the small room, now almost empty but for a bed and an ancient desk beneath the window.

While Jim thanked the caretaker, Blair wandered around the room, touching the surfaces as though they could tell him their stories of the intervening years.

When Jim finally closed the door and stood beside him, he felt incredibly grateful for the older mans presence.

 

Blair slipped the backpack from his shoulder and took out the bar that he was to use to lever up the floorboards.

 

“Want me to do that?” Jim asked.

 

“No! No, I need to do this myself.” He pulled away the old carpet and as quietly as he could, forced the floorboards up until he spotted the cover beneath.

 

With reverence he lifted it from its hiding place, untouched in ten years, lying oblivious to the horrors that had gone on all around.

Placing the bundle on the bed, Blair uncovered the book, ‘A study of Ancient Sentinels by Sir Richard Burton’ and Blair Sandburg’s holy grail.

 

“I know I should hate this book because Marcus gave it to me,” he whispered, “But it’s all I’ve thought about in the past ten years.”

 

“It’s a link to your past, Blair. And whether the memories surrounding it are good or bad, it gives you an anchor to the place and the people who are gone.”

 

Blair tugged at Jim’s sleeve, pulling him in close, “I love you so much, you do know that, don’t you?” he said, burying his head in Jim’s chest.

 

“Yeah, I know that.” The older man hugged him tightly for a moment. “I think we should put the floorboards back and get out of here before we get arrested,” he chuckled.

 

Nodding, Blair set the boards back in place and threw the carpet back over, pushing his beloved book into his backpack.

On the way out, the caretaker shuffled down the corridor to lock the door behind them.

 

Stopping in the doorway, Blair turned and stared. The old hall mirror still stood in the same place it had all those years ago. He looked at himself and gasped; he saw a healthy, muscular man, tanned and already sporting a beard growth despite shaving that morning. Where was that frightened boy now? What happened to the slight teenager that walked these halls back then, so full of ideals and so easily abused by an evil man like Marcus Heitzer?

“I don’t suppose you know what happened to Professor Heitzer, do you?” he asked.

 

The old man frowned, “Bad, very bad, he was killed by the Nazi’s for being a spy. It was nonsense, he was a Nazi collaborator all the way, but someone told them that he’d been passing information to the resistance so they tortured him and shot him in the square down there. Was he a friend of yours?”

 

“No. Thank you for letting us see the room.” Blair walked on past Jim and climbed into their rented car.

 

“You okay?” Jim asked as he climbed in and started the car.

 

“Yes. No. I don’t know. I should at least feel some pity for him, but I just feel glad that he was betrayed and murdered by the people he trusted.”

 

“It’s called ‘poetic justice’ where I come from,” Jim ‘humphed.’

 

“I don’t want to feel this way. I never want to feel glad about the loss of a single human life, not even one like Marcus’. That’s how it all begins again, the hate, the resentment, the fear, the destruction.”

 

“Blair, you’re human, after what you went through it’s only natural to feel bitter towards the man who used you and betrayed you. I for one am glad he’s dead and I just hope he suffered badly first.”

 

Blair reached out and stroked Jim’s thigh, “Let’s forget about it and go back to the hotel for a bath and a sleep?”

 

Jim smiled, “You persuaded me,” he decided as he moved out into traffic and headed into the town.

 

Blair sat back and sighed. Finally, he’d come full circle. The next few days would be hard as he revisited his mothers old house and he wanted to go see the camp again, though Jim was dead against that last idea, but either way, this would be the last time he’d come here. His demons quelled, he no longer needed to cling to the fear and uncertainty this place offered. His life was in America now, with Jim. They’d sponsored three German/Jewish children left orphaned by the war, arranging their citizenship in the U.S and now they were currently putting them through school; that was their gift to the future.

 

‘Future’, such a beautiful word, Blair thought as he relaxed and took in the scenery.

 

The End

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