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Breakthroughs - SLASH version

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I’m amazed that I fell asleep in this position – although I didn’t have much of a choice. I’m in my futon, and Jim’s lying on top of me. During the night I must have slid down the wall a little because now I’m slouched against the pillows and turned slightly. Jim’s head is on my shoulder, the only part of my body that’s flat. I try not to move, to twitch, but consciousness is demanding it. I groan quietly as I roll onto my back, the muscles spasm, and I squeeze my eyes shut trying to avoid making any more noise. I don’t want to wake Jim. Yesterday was a hard day for him, the attack of his senses drained him physically and emotionally. Me? I’m drained too but that isn’t important, finding Jim better this morning is a priority – that and getting to work. I lift my head and try to see the clock but can’t and my glasses aren’t within arms reach. That’s when Jim moves and lifts his head from my arm.

"What time is it Chief?" he asks, his voice raspy from disuse.

"I can’t see it."

Jim shifts further and from the way his body tenses, I think it’s late. "Damn it, let’s go, we’re late," he says and climbs over me to stand in the middle of my room. I’m moving on autopilot and also roll out of bed, wincing when my back protests this motion too.

I straighten up to find Jim standing there; he puts a hand on my shoulder, squeezing it slightly. "Thanks Blair – for everything yesterday."

"How are you feeling?"

"Better," he pauses and tilts his head so I know he’s taking an inventory of himself. "Actually, fine I think."

"You think you can tell me what happened yesterday, maybe I can figure out what went wrong."

Jim’s hand drops to his side as he turns and leaves the room and I follow him into the kitchen where he starts to make coffee. Evidently we’re not that late.

"I don’t know, and we can talk about it later. Hurry and get a shower, we’re late."

"So you said. What’s the all fire hurry, Simon knows what went on yesterday."

"We have a meeting with him first thing."

I sigh, I don’t want to see Simon today. I had wanted to avoid him, make sure he calmed down. "I’m sure he’ll understand."

"Chief. Get in the shower, I’m back to normal now." He grins at me before climbing the stairs to his room.

I nod as I head for the bathroom and resign myself to acting normal and controlling my reactions. I seriously don’t think this is going to work. Just thinking about Simon, about what was said, makes my heart beat faster. Jim is sure to know something’s up. Just what I need, something else on my mind.

All my thinking the night before did nothing for me, except give me a headache and I’m not sure how to proceed with the aftermath of the sensory overload. I need to know what caused it, but by the time Jim and I sit and discuss his timeline of events, the culprit will be gone. How can I work with that? Jim doesn’t seem too upset about yesterday, but he didn’t see what I did, he wasn’t aware of my helplessness.

I know all men have their limitations, I’ve accepted mine, but I didn’t expect to fail at something I thought I could handle. If anything comes out of the fiasco from yesterday it may be the idea that Jim needs someone more dependable. I’m sure there’s got to be people out there with guiding capabilities... Guide. I’m supposed to be the damn Guide; guide Jim out of a zone, prevent a zone, ease his pain. What the hell did I ease yesterday – it took too long, he suffered too much because I failed.

This train of thought isn’t getting me anywhere right now, I’ll plot a course of action later, after Jim and I talk. He really needs to shed some light on what was happening; I think that would help...

I jump when he pounds on the door. Guess I’ve been in here too long. I quickly shut off the water and wrap a towel around me before opening the door. Jim slides passed me, untying his robe as he goes. He suggests that I shave as he showers, saving us some more time. I do, his suggestions are always helpful when they help save time. But this morning I think I should have shaved alone. I’m distracted by... me. I look like shit. As Jim shuts the water off, I hurry through the rest of shaving so he doesn’t suspect anything. It doesn’t matter, because as I turn to tell him that I’m leaving the room, he’s standing there watching me. That’s never a good thing.

"We don’t have time for a drip dry today man, get moving." I quip as I head to my room, giving him no chance to respond.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

God I’m comfortable. Heh. What a way to start the day. And then my pillow shifts and I realize that I’m still in Sandburg’s little room, draped over the poor man like some big wasted animal. He shifts away from me and the awake heartbeat under my cheek is muffled by a low groan. The muscles ripple beneath me as he lifts his head.

"What time is it, Chief?" Geez – is that croak from me? I swallow and try to get some spit in my mouth as he answers.

Can’t see it huh? Reluctantly I give up my pillow for a better view. Where are his glasses – oh, way over there. Now the time... shit. We’re about a half hour behind, not too bad but enough to make us have to hustle. I inform him of this as I swing myself up and over him to get out of bed. I stand there a minute, flexing and stretching stiff shoulders and abs.

Blair’s sitting up now. His hair’s all bunched up on one side and pressed flat from the pillows and he’s moving even worse than I am. He stands slowly and I can see the pain flicker across his face. I put my hand on his shoulder to steady him as he stretches out obviously sore back muscles. I wonder if I can talk him into letting me take care of that for him tonight. He loves massages and yet puts up such a fight when someone offers to give him one. And I’m feeling the need to reciprocate. The rub he gave me yesterday was so steadying and soothing, just what I needed right then. It occurs to me that I never thanked him for his help yesterday – so I do just that.

He looks up at me, tired and inquisitive, "How are you feeling?"

"Better," I stop and sort through what my senses are telling me. I can’t find anything wrong other than a lingering bad taste in my mouth, nothing that a good brushing won’t fix. Well, that and some *really* bizarre memories. "Actually, fine I think."

"You think you can tell me what happened yesterday, maybe I can figure out what went wrong."

Time is passing and I need some coffee for the taste, so does Blair though he’d never say. I head out into the kitchen and start the process, thinking over yesterday. There are so many choices and we really need to get going. I make a solemn promise to myself to finish this with him. This whole thing really freaked me out and I’d actually like to know what happened this time, but we can’t right now. I turn back to him, standing rumpled in his doorway. "I don’t know, and we can talk about it later. Hurry and get a shower, we’re late."

"So you said. What’s the all fire hurry? Simon knows what went on yesterday." He looks confused and slightly annoyed.

"We have a meeting with him first thing." I’m sorry to have to do this to him, I know how much he’s going to want to get into this. But this meeting was set up yesterday before all this went down and it’s going to be doubly important to make it now.

He sighs, still visibly reluctant, "I’m sure he’ll understand."

Yeah, probably, but still, the cases wait for no one.

"Chief. Get in the shower, I’m back to normal now." I smile reassuringly at him before climbing the stairs to my room for clothes. I lay out what I’m wearing on my still-made bed as I listen to the sounds of the shower starting and smell the brewing coffee, steam and shampoo. I really do feel fine. A set of thirty quick sit-ups and push-ups take care of my stiffness until I can get a real work out. As I’m exercising and waiting, I wonder again what it was that caused all this. One thing’s for sure, the whole episode really brought home the point of how much I use Sandburg as a baseline. Just how many things about him don’t hurt me like the rest of the world can; the blue-green of his voice and his touch. I wonder how I’m going to manage to tell him that. Well – maybe it’ll work its way into the conversation as he dissects the experience. I frown as I realize this is actually one sense conversation I’m really interested in sharing.

A glance at my bedroom clock shows time even further advanced than I figured. I shed the boxers, slip into my robe and head downstairs to hurry Sandburg along. I give the door a good firm rap to make sure he hears me over the water. Moments later, a still mostly damp Sandburg opens the door. I slide in quickly not letting the heat out and to block him from leaving.

"Hey Chief, why don’t you stay and shave? There’s plenty of room and it’ll save time." I hop in the shower and turn the water back on gently. The sentinel-friendly soap he found for me feels great on my skin as I wash off the lingering feelings of yesterday. Still, it’s a quick wash and I’m anticipating the end of the hot water, but it holds out and I snag my towel off the rack to dry off and wrap around me. Through the gap in the curtain I can see him lingering over the razor and I take a good look and him. The wet ringlets have been toweled damp and tamed, but he looks tired and haggard. Like tending me yesterday wiped him out more than me. He’s pale, with dark circles under his eyes and he stares at his reflection unhappily, even bitterly. Why? I wonder. I pull the curtain back and open my mouth to ask him when he turns to me. He pauses and something flickers over his face before he pastes on a small grin.

"We don’t have time for a drip dry today man, get moving." He jibes turning and going, leaving me standing in the bathroom, beginning to get chilly.

I finish my morning routine and head up to get dressed. When I come back down Sandburg’s ready and has evidently looked at the clock. He’s filled our travel coffee mugs and is gathering his things for the day. We shrug into coats and he hands me my coffee in the elevator. I take it, and looking him squarely in the eye, I tell him with all the sincerity my jaded cop’s heart can muster this morning, "Thank you. You really did… do… help."

He blinks at me, big blue eyes all round and amazed, "Uh – you’re welcome."

We hit the truck and head to the station in a comfortable silence, sipping our coffee. At least at first. I notice his tension rising the closer we get until it hit a midlevel for him and stayed there as we pull into the parking garage.

"Are you ok, Chief?" I ask as we get out and head upstairs.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

I don’t like the way Jim was looking at me, I know that I sometimes wear my feelings on my face but today has to be different. I can finally see the clock so I hurry into a pair of black jeans and maroon shirt, with a cream colored undershirt. Running my hands through my hair several times makes it look presentable, so I grab my watch and head into the kitchen.

Finding the travel mugs on the drainer, I fill them up as we’ll need to take the coffee with us if we only want to be slightly late for the meeting with Simon. As Jim comes down the stairs, I finish stuffing what I’ll think I’ll need for the day into my backpack, then get into my coat. I carry both mugs into the elevator as Jim locks the door and shrugs into his own jacket and as the elevator descends, I hand Jim his coffee.

"Thank you. You really did… do… help." He says, and the odd thing about this exchange, is that he isn’t shifting or embarrassed, just staring at me.

I blink at him, not knowing what to say – such words are rare for Jim. "Uh – you’re welcome," I say.

The trip to the station is quiet, we’re enjoying our coffee, but the closer we get, the more on edge I become. I can’t help it, and all the hope in the world that Jim doesn’t notice flies out the window as we get out of the truck.

"Are you ok, Chief?" Jim asks as we head upstairs.

Great. "Fine big guy, let’s just get to Simon’s office before he bellows into the bullpen." I say, trying to be nonchalant. As we reach the bullpen we don’t even have time to put our stuff down before Simon is yelling for us from his office. I look at the clock on the wall and we are in fact only a few minutes late – which isn’t bad considering it was luck that I woke up.

I quickly throw my backpack on the floor behind Jim’s desk, then hang my coat on the rack before heading to Simon’s office. This should be fun. Jim’s already there, having not taken the time to remove his jacket. I immediately sit in a chair as Jim leans against the table.

"Sorry we’re late sir, we overslept this morning." Jim says, trying to anticipate a reprimand – I think.

"It’s fine Jim, how are you feeling today?"

"Fine sir, there doesn’t seem to be any after-effects from yesterday. After you left Sandburg was able to calm me down and then I slept."

My heart starts to beat faster, no matter how hard to try to keep it steady, and I refuse to look at anyone, so I’m staring at the front of Simon’s desk.

"He did." Simons says, and his voice has a disbelieving tone to it. We can’t get into this here, I’m afraid that things will get out of hand and the whole bullpen doesn’t need to know our business.

"It just seemed to me that he was aggravating things considering you were stable until he arrived, then seemed to be in much more pain."

"Simon... sir, we can talk about Jim’s episode later..."

"I don’t think it should wait Sandburg, this needs to be discussed..."

I stand up and cut him off, not even worried about how this will look. If he wants to dress me down for what he thinks my motives are, fine – but not at the police station, I need to keep all the respect that I’ve got here. "Sir," I stress that. "We can discuss this later, now’s not the time." I look him in the eye and don’t even flinch. Simon stands up from behind his desk, trying to intimidate me, which won’t work, and glares at me. Out of the corner of my eye I see Jim’s head moving as he keeps looking between myself and Simon. I think he’s confused – sorry man but I can’t help you out right now.

"Sandburg, you aren’t needed for this meeting."

My body relaxes slightly at the dismissal, I wasn’t expecting this, I was expecting a loud rebuttal – but if I leave them alone, then Simon may talk about it anyway. How can I defend myself if I’m not even here?

"Sir, I think..." I start until Jim interrupts me.

"Chief, maybe you should just wait at my desk." I look at Jim in surprise. "I promise that no talk of yesterday will happen." Jim looks at Simon then, giving the Captain a glare of his own.

"Fine." I say and I leave the office, slamming the door behind me. It isn’t the most adult thing to do, but I was dismissed because of personal feelings, not because of the help I give on cases. Captains aren’t supposed to have those sort of biases. I throw myself into my chair and pick up the pile of paperwork that Jim and I have been ignoring. Might as well work on this. I can show Jim my worth this way. He did say thank you this morning... twice – my conscience tells me – that has to mean something.

Yeah, it does, but Jim didn’t seem himself, he probably doesn’t remember everything. Like the fact that I caused him more pain by arguing with Simon. I glance toward Simon’s office and I can see that they’re talking, so I just drop my head and work on the Browning report.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

I watch them walk into the bullpen, only a few minutes late, but I’ve been worried about Jim and need to talk to him. So I stand at the doorway to my office and bellow to them. "Ellison! Sandburg!" Might as well get this over with. I can’t believe how yesterday went down, there has to be another way to help Jim when he gets overloaded, because I don’t think Sandburg can handle it. I hate to put the kid down, he’s been growing on me, but between Jim having to wait for Sandburg to arrive and then making things worse. It’s a wonder Jim recovered at all.

"Sorry we’re late sir, we overslept this morning." Jim says.

"It’s fine Jim, how are you feeling today?" I ask, still keeping my fingers crossed.

"Fine sir, there doesn’t seem to be any after-effects from yesterday. After you left Sandburg was able to calm me down and then I slept."

My eyebrows rise as I hear what Jim says. "He did." I say, I sound skeptical, and it’s only because I am. I glance at Sandburg who is just sitting there, almost as though he’s trying to hide.

I want to talk about the incident, so I continue. "It just seemed to me that he was aggravating things considering you were stable until he arrived, then seemed to be in much more pain."

"Simon... sir, we can talk about Jim’s episode later..." Blair interrupts.

"I don’t think it should wait Sandburg, this needs to be discussed..." I start but then he stands, straightening his back as though he’s readying himself for some sort of fight.

"Sir, we can discuss this later, now’s not the time." He only ever says ‘sir’ when he thinks I want to hear it, now it’s just being said as he tries to be official. I can tell he doesn’t want to talk about it, but I want to and no amount of pleading from him is going to change my mind. I stand up, trying to make my point known, that I will not be ordered to do anything in my own office; he just keeps glaring at me like I have no effect on him at all. That pisses me off, this decision may have serious repercussions down the road, but for now I need Sandburg out of my hair, and I dismiss him from my office. I expect him to blow, to scream and yell. I think I actually wanted that to happen, to show Jim what a loose cannon he could be. But the kid just sags and doesn’t know how to counter that – good, he shouldn’t, I’m the Captain.

"Sir, I think..." Sandburg starts to say, but Jim cuts him off, which surprises me – no more than Sandburg though.

"Chief, maybe you should just wait at my desk. I promise that no talk of yesterday will happen." Jim says and turns and gives me a look that brokers no arguments. When did I lose control over my detectives? Oh well all right, Sandburg isn’t one, but Jim is, he shouldn’t be deciding what to talk about.

Blair stiffens his back and says fine, leaves my office and slams the door. I really wish he didn’t do that. There are several moments of silence before I turn my gaze from Sandburg’s retreating back to Jim; that’s when I notice he’s standing at attention, arms behind his back. That isn’t a good sign.

"Jim, I know that things," I trail off as he looks at me.

"Sir, I promised Sandburg we wouldn’t talk about it, and I’m not talking about it. I’m not sure what the hell happened yesterday when I was out of it, but something did."

"Damn right. He doesn’t..."

"Simon! I’m not talking about it right now. You wanted to discuss the Montgomery robberies?"

I grunt and go behind my desk again, seems like I have little control here, and I shouldn’t be so surprised when it concerns Ellison and Sandburg. We discuss the Montgomery robberies, which appear to be a small band of thugs, breaking and entering up and down the same suburban street. There have been five B and E’s so far and yet even with the increased patrols at right, these sneaky bastards are continuing to be successful. Jim has some insightful ideas, that maybe it’s a group of kids that live on that block, that way they know when people are home and who is around. The merchandise stolen is always little things, jewelry, knickknacks, but the incidents made the news so everyone is watching. We need to close the case quickly considering the media attention. I give Jim a few more instructions and then we’re finished.

During our chat he’s relaxed his stance enough to lean against the table with his arms crossed in front of his chest. Now he’s heading toward the door.

"Jim, when can we talk about this?" I ask, and if I sound sarcastic, I don’t care. I only have his well being in mind.

"Tonight, come by the loft – I don’t want anyone to overhear us."

He gives me no time, no chance of stating my reasons, just walks out of my office. I pick up my cigar and bite down on the end of it – I’d really like to light it up, I need the smoke, but can’t. So, I’ll see them tonight and straighten this nightmare out then. I just wish I didn’t need to do it in front of the kid, but he should have realized before this that he couldn't help Jim the way a real partner could.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Sandburg puts me off with a nonchalant answer but I’m not really buying it. However Simon’s bellow interrupts my train of thought and I head into his office. I want this meeting over and done with so I can get back to Sandburg and our discussion. He comes in a moment later, slouching into a chair beside me. He looks more like he wants to melt right through the floor than be in this room right now.

Simon’s already frowning and I try to head him off with the sleeping comment. His question about my health is expected and I answer him as truthfully as I did Sandburg. "Fine sir, there doesn’t seem to be any after-effects from yesterday. After you left Sandburg was able to calm me down and then I slept."

Blair’s heart speeds up at that statement and I toss him a questioning look but he’s avoiding my eyes.

"He did." Simons says, and his voice has a disbelieving tone to it. I frown in response. Where is he going with this?

"It just seemed to me that he was aggravating things considering you were stable until he arrived, then seemed to be in much more pain." It did?? Things are a little fuzzy still but getting clearer. I’d *really* like some quiet time to go over everything in my head – sort out my reactions and memories.

"Simon... sir, we can talk about Jim’s episode later..."

"I don’t think it should wait Sandburg, this needs to be discussed..."

I’m jerked abruptly out of my thoughts as things between Simon and Sandburg start getting heated. What the *hell* is going on here? Simon’s standing now, trying to use that height as imposing body language but Sandburg’s not falling for it. I guess he’s developing a tolerance for being loomed over – especially while he’s defending me.

"Sandburg, you aren’t needed for this meeting."

"Sir, I think..." Sandburg starts. Wait wait wait. Did I miss something here? Simon’s attitude here has taken a u-turn from his usual Sandburgian tolerance and it’s downright antagonistic. Maybe I’d better separate them until I get some more answers.

"Chief, maybe you should just wait at my desk." He looks at me, completely astonished and I hasten to give him some reassurance. "I promise that no talk of yesterday will happen." I glare at Simon willing him to see my determination, and straighten myself to attention for added weight. I vaguely hear Sandburg’s response and the slam of the office door. I’m marshaling my thoughts into a defensive pattern against an attack from a party I always thought of as a firm ally.

"Jim, I know that things," Simon trails off as I meet his eyes.

"Sir, I promised Sandburg we wouldn’t talk about it, and I’m not talking about it. I’m not sure what the hell happened yesterday when I was out of it, but something did." Colored voices I remember. Simon was brown and spiky – something like the tone he’s using right now. I remember it hurt my skin at one point. Does that make sense?

"Damn right. He doesn’t..."

"Simon! I’m not talking about it right now. You wanted to discuss the Montgomery robberies?" I have to cut him off again. Damn! I’m gonna be on his list for weeks. Sandburg and I are going to get the *worst* cases. Thankfully he gives this time and reseats himself at his desk. After I update him on the last incident, I tell him my suspicions about the local teens and he gives me instructions on dealing with the media, the homeowners and impresses again the need for speed. Like the higher ups aren’t already breathing down our necks on this one. Finally done with the briefing, I push myself off the table and head for the door and my partner. I can see him, bent diligently over the files on our desks, but his shoulders are tense and he seems to radiate unease and unhappiness.

"Jim, when *can* we talk about this?" Simon’s almost equally tense voice comes from behind me and I make a snap decision.

"Tonight, come by the loft – I don’t want anyone to overhear us."

Free at last. I head over to my desk and slouch down next to Sandburg. "Hey Chief, how’s it going?"

He fills me in on the completed details of the Browning report and I sign it and add it to the finished pile. He pulls out the next one and hands it to me before taking one for himself. We work quietly together for some time but his continuing tension distracts me.

"Chief?" He looks up from the folder, wary and distraught. "Is something wrong? Can I help some way?" I pause but he doesn’t answer right away. So I go on. "I wanted to thank you for sticking up for me in there. I really appreciate it. Things are still fuzzy and I’d like a bit more time to remember before Simon rakes me over the coals."

"What about me?" He asks. "Don’t you find that I ‘rake you over the coals’ too?"

I ponder that briefly, tapping my finger against my lips. "There’s a whole different feeling to it usually. You’re doing to it to help figure out what happened – so it doesn’t happen again. I appreciate that though I don’t usually say. And I want you to know that I really want to know what happened this time. I mean…" I look quickly around and lower my voice to a murmur, "I was seeing everyone’s voices in colors and textures. That was just freaky. I just want you to think about it... to know. I trust you." I give him a quick chuck to the chin for emphasis and wait for a reaction.

A good deal of the tension drains away from him – replaced by curiosity. "Colored voices huh?" I can see him taking the idea and running with it. The ‘I trust you’ part seems to stiffen his back and bring more confidence to his eyes. Damn – I have to remember to say that occasionally. "I'll work on it." He assures me.

We turn back to our papers – though he’s going through them so much more slowly now. In fact, after lunch, his gives up on it completely and dives deeply into research. I just grin and keep going. At quitting time I get up and remind Simon to meet us at the loft for dinner. As I head back to my desk, Blair’s still buried and I tap on his head for his attention; my hand lingers for a moment remembering a feeling of comfort from his hair yesterday. "Come on, Sandburg. Time to pack it in. You can tell me all about it when we get home."

He nods – still lost in his research and I bundle him into the truck. I’m not really sure if he noticed the stop for food. But he did get out under his own power and take all his findings upstairs. We entered the loft and head in various directions, Blair for research in his room, me to the kitchen and then the door as Simon arrives.

"Thanks for coming, Simon."

I see Blair come back out. His shoulders tense again but he greets the captain civilly enough.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

I’m not sure how long they’re in there, but I get through the whole Browning file before Jim materializes beside the desk. As he plops his ass into the chair he asks me how things are going. I shrug and just ramble about the finished file and ask him to sign it before taking two more, one for him and one for me. I’m pretty content to just plow through the rest of the reports but I can almost feel Jim vibrating next to me. Like he’s itching to ask me about the confrontation with Simon.

"Chief?" I look up from the folder. "Is something wrong? Can I help some way?" He says, and I don’t answer him, I’m not sure what to say at this point... sitting in the middle of the bullpen, but then he continues. He says thanks again, which is almost cause to feel like I’m in the Twilight Zone, and wanting more time to figure things out. It’s not what I expected from him. Thanking me for sticking up for him when I was just trying to cover my own ass and prolong the inevitable. "What about me?" I ask. "Don’t you find that I ‘rake you over the coals’ too?" I’m not sure I want the answer to this and since Jim is taking his time and thinking about his answer only makes me more nervous.

"There’s a whole different feeling to it usually. You’re doing to it to help figure out what happened – so it doesn’t happen again. I appreciate that, though I can't usually say. And I want you to know that I really want to know what happened this time. I mean…" He pauses and when he continues his voice is only whisper loud. "I was seeing everyone’s voices in colors and textures. That was just freaky. I just want you to think about it, to know. I trust you."

I blink at him as though this isn’t my Jim, then he lightly taps my chin and just waits. I suppose he’s waiting for a reaction, I want to smile and just bask in the praise, but I don’t. It does go a long way in helping relieve my tension; I’ve been so upset with this impending fight with Simon that I haven’t been able to relax all morning. This helps – more than he probably realizes.

"Colored voices huh?" This is interesting. I knew from Simon that he was tasting colors, which was freaky enough, but to see them too? I wonder if there is any documentation on this anywhere... I tell him I’ll work on it and then turn back to the reports – there’s always reports to do. I know I need to do the reports, but I can’t stop thinking about tasting and seeing colors, I want to look in the books that I have, do some research. I try to keep my mind on the police work but I just can’t, so I just shove that aside and start looking, it’s what I do best.

The time flies by because the next thing I know Jim is tapping me on the head and telling me it’s time to leave. Huh, should get into my research more often at the station, it makes the day seem so short. I just nod and get bustled to the truck. I’m not talking, but my mind is going in several directions at once trying to figure out anything about this color business. I think Jim feels as though I’ve lost myself in my own head, which is true to a degree. I go straight to my room when we get into the loft, I need to check another book that I didn’t have with me.

As I’m coming out of my room, Simon enters and Jim is greeting him. All the nervousness I lost during the afternoon is back, and I say hello – nicely too.

"Hi Simon."

"Sandburg." He nods my way, not too different than normal, just a little gruffer. Jim could have mentioned that Simon was coming for dinner though, I could have prepared myself, or snuck out. I’ve lost my appetite but since Jim went to all the trouble of setting up the meal, I’ll try and eat some.

The dinner is quiet. We pass the time with small talk on safe subjects. Jim is trying to draw us into conversation, but I’m too busy forming my arguments in my head. Why I did what I did, why it took me so long to help, why Jim seemed to get worse before getting better. A bunch of why’s to go along with the how’s – none of it sounds good to me, and finally Jim gets the idea and just clears the table in silence. Simon retreats to the living room while Jim and I work silently – it’s a quick job, not that much to clean up. Funny that we all know a huge argument is about to happen but Jim is concerned about cleaning up from dinner. Someone needs to recheck their priorities.

With a final wipe to his hands on the towel, Jim grabs me by the neck and directs me toward the living room. He sits me down on the yellow chair, farthest from Simon and then stands between us.

"Does someone want to tell me what this is about?" Jim demands.

I shake my head, but since he isn’t looking at me, the movement is lost. I’ll just let Simon run with this and then add to his statements.

"Jim, I know you don’t remember a lot from yesterday, and that’s frustrating." Simon says.

"Damn right it is, but throughout the day I keep getting flashes. So if you’d elaborate on the fact that you and Blair want to come to blows, I might remember even more."

"I don’t want to fight Simon, just make sure that he doesn’t misunderstand anything." I offer. This makes Simon angry because his eyes narrow and he sits straighter.

"And I just want to make sure Sandburg tells the story like it happened, and doesn’t obfuscate through the rough spots."

Oh, low blow Simon. Jim just looks more confused, so I take pity on him and start the story. "Simon called me at the U., telling me that you were tasting colors, and that something was wrong with you. He mentioned a hospital, but I convinced him it would be better to bring you here. As soon as we hung up, I left. Even though I hurried, Simon beat me here. You were already lying on the sofa, curled up. I went to you... I, um, I stroked your head and you seemed to know I was here. That’s when I started to ask Simon about where you were, what you ate, who you talked to..." I trail off because everything after this point is going to be hard to say, but Simon seems intent on making me face up to my failings.

"That wasn’t the first time you demanded to know where Jim had been, Sandburg. You started to grill me on the phone before you even left the university. Wasting precious time if you ask me."

I bounce out of the chair and take a step toward Simon. "Time? I needed to know, need to know, what happened to him so I can try and prevent it again. I wasn’t just shooting the shit, I was looking for information!"

"Information that I didn’t have!"

"You should have had it! You were with him..."

"Sandburg." Simon stands and puts his hand on his hip. "Like I said, I don’t keep tabs on my detectives, you want to know where Jim is, you watch him."

"I do, except when I’m not there!" I’m getting angrier and angrier, I can feel my heart thumping wildly in my chest, my fists are clenched, trying to hold back my rage.

"Well then maybe you should look into someone else helping Jim if you can’t handle it!" Simon is almost yelling now, and I can’t help but scream back.

"I can handle it, things were fine, till yesterday. And you want someone else helping Jim? So do I!! Yesterday showed that I can’t be where I’m supposed to be all the time and Jim suffers for it. And since I do care about Jim, more than a test subject, I’m willing to back the hell away." I take a deep breath, and move toward Simon again. "If you ever say that I only have interest in Jim because of my damn thesis again..."

"Are you threatening me Sandburg?" Simon asks incredulously; he moves forward also, now there is only the coffee table between us – and Jim, but I haven’t looked at him since this all started.

"No, I’m not Captain, but you have to understand that you don’t know everything that goes on in our lives. And I’m sorry if it was too much to ask that you remember what Jim had to eat for lunch, you were there, you should have been able to remember something. But instead, you attack me for not being able to help him, of not caring. That went a long way to helping... Sir."

"You son of a bitch, you aren’t turning this around on me! You aren’t blaming me for your shortcomings!"

"I’m not – I do that enough myself. You’re the bastard that wanted to argue yesterday when I started to ask questions!" I’m shaking now, and I can’t keep the tremble from my voice. It’s bad enough that this confrontation had to happen at all, but to have these two men witness my own lack of confidence, is a blow that will take time to recover from. If at all.

Before Simon can say anything else, I hear Jim’s voice, steady, almost deadly in it’s tone. "That’s enough. I’ve heard enough."

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Well, this is fun. For once I’m doing all the talking. Chatterbox Sandburg has almost completely shutdown, but I can see things churning in his eyes. Simon is keeping things more hidden but it’s there in the set of his shoulders and the deliberately casual tone he’s using. Whatever started in the Captain’s office is building to a head. Then I realize that what I saw in there was just the last part of the battle. I missed something earlier. Something while I was out seeing and feeling voices.

Sandburg and I clean up with an off-putting air of normalcy which just sits like a rock in my gut. I use the brief time I have left to dredge up a few more recollections. Me on the couch, Blair’s voice hurting me as it hit me – No. His voice didn’t hit me – but he was upset, though not at me. He was upset and angry at Simon. Why?

With the dishes drying and the counters clean I slip a hand under Sandburg’s hair and tow him gently to the big yellow chair. I give him a small push to get him seated and to keep him there. Looking around, I notice that I’ve instinctively separated my two fighting friends and placed myself between them. Taking a deep breath and feeling absurdly like I’m about to release the hounds of Hell, I declare myself open for any and all explanations.

My gaze falls on Simon first and he picks up the challenge. "Jim, I know you don’t remember a lot from yesterday, and that’s frustrating." Simon says.

I nod emphatically and cross my arms. "Damn right it is, but throughout the day I keep getting flashes. So if you’d elaborate on the fact that you and Blair want to come to blows, I might remember even more."

"I don’t want to fight Simon, just make sure that he doesn’t misunderstand anything." The hesitant offer from behind me makes me swing my gaze around. Sandburg looks like he’s about to get punched long distance. His face pale and his eyes still show signs of the stress I put him through yesterday. He flinches very slightly in response to Simon’s reaction. I doubt Simon saw it, it was so small, but it hurts me.

"And I just want to make sure Sandburg tells the story like it happened, and doesn’t obfuscate through the rough spots." Simon’s angry words don’t help any and as I whip my head back and forth between them, I can feel my anger and confusion building. Finally, looking me in the eye, Sandburg starts explaining.

"Simon called me at the U., telling me that you were tasting colors, and that something was wrong with you. He mentioned a hospital, but I convinced him it would be better to bring you here. As soon as we hung up, I left. Even though I hurried, Simon beat me here. You were already lying on the sofa, curled up. I went to you... I, um, I stroked your head and you seemed to know I was here. That’s when I started to ask Simon about where you were, what you ate, who you talked to..."

His voice trails off worried and embarrassed. I take the time to try and match up my impressions. I remember making it to the couch. My skin hurt – I remember it easing as my shirt came off, that must have been Blair. In fact the drop in pain that I remember I think I can directly attribute to his presence. But still… before that I remember it hurting again. Hurting more, from the angry colored voices.

Simon’s voice booms, startling me back, "That wasn’t the first time you demanded to know where Jim was, Sandburg. You started to grill me on the phone before you even left the university. Wasting precious time if you ask me."

*This* is what they were fighting about?? That can’t be it. It can’t be a simple matter of a couple of minutes here and there. I really wasn’t that critical…

A waft of air and energy brush past me as Sandburg bounds out of his chair, his face twisted with anger, "Time? I needed to know, need to know, what happened to him so I can try and prevent it again. I wasn’t just shooting the shit, I was looking for information!"

"Information that I didn’t have!"

"You should have had it! You were with him..."

"Sandburg." Simon stands and puts his hands on his hips. "Like I said, I don’t keep tabs on my detectives, you want to know where Jim is, you watch him."

I feel like I’m at a tennis match, watching the furious verbal assault being launched from either side. My own rage is climbing, having long since smothered the confusion and at this point I’m just waiting for them to take a breath so they can hear me. What the HELL is going on here?? How the HELL did they get this way over a simple sensory overload?!

"I do, except when I’m not there!" Sandburg shouts, his cheeks flushed and his curls flying. He’s vibrating in place and I’m afraid his heart’s going to pound right out of his chest. I start to reach a hand towards him when Simon’s almost bellow surprises me into a backward flinch.

"Well then maybe you should look into someone else helping Jim if you can’t handle it!"

Sandburg bounces slightly in place, his whole face now red with his anger, but his eyes… Do my eyes look like that, shooting blue lightning? No, I can feel it now. My anger is colder, icier, more crystalline. I can feel it in my blood and it only solidifies at Blair’s next words.

"I can handle it, things were fine, till yesterday. And you want someone else helping Jim? So do I!! Yesterday showed that I can’t be where I’m supposed to be all the time and Jim suffers for it. And since I do care about Jim, more than a test subject, I’m willing to back the hell away. If you ever say that I only have interest in Jim because of my damn thesis again..."

But Simon cuts him off. Moving to be as close and as physically intimidating as possible. "Are you threatening me Sandburg?"

Blair blinks, and draws a breath. The color fades slightly from his face but not the feelings, the rage, the protectiveness, and caring are beneath it all – I can see it so clearly now – the insecurities about himself. "No, I’m not Captain. But you have to understand that you don’t know everything that goes on in our lives. And I’m sorry if it was too much to ask that you remember what Jim had to eat for lunch, but you were there, you should have been able to remember something. But instead, you attack me for not being able to help him, of not caring. That went a long way to helping... Sir."

He’s concerned about me, worried about this episode and only trying to find out what happened. He was dropped into this whole thing cold and needed some important information. Why didn’t he get it?

"You son of a bitch, you aren’t turning this around on me! You aren’t blaming me for your shortcomings!"

The faded rage comes back doubled. He’s visibly shaking and I wonder if it’s from the anger or the hurt. I can’t believe how out of control this has gotten. His tone becomes low, even, and almost frightening in it’s intensity. "I’m not – I do that enough myself. You’re the bastard that wanted to argue yesterday when I started to ask questions".

Simon pauses, gathering his next blow. I need to stop this and in the brief silence, I interrupt them. "That’s enough. I’ve heard enough." It comes out chilling and they turn to stare at me, surprised and frostbitten. "I can’t say I completely understand what went on yesterday between the two of you but I understand enough. Now both of you back the fuck down."

Blair goes meekly, and even vaguely gratefully back to his seat but Simon I have to stare down. It’s not something I like to do or have to do often, but I’m very effective at it. After a brief pause to remind me I still have to work for him next week, Simon retreats. I take a deep breath and swipe a hand down my face. I notice abstractly that it’s shaking slightly. I’ve only been this angry a couple of times in my life; when my mother left, when I left my father and when I found out about the betrayal of my mission. This almost tops them all.

I take a page from Sandburg and try to channel this into movement and I pace between their respective positions. Thankfully they both remain silent until I’m under control enough to speak again.

"Let me get this straight." It comes out more like a hiss but I can’t seem to control it. "You Blair, wanted to know what I’d run into yesterday to cause my reaction and you asked Simon a couple of things about it over the phone and then again when you got here, right?" Blair just nods, eyes wide. "And you, Simon, claim not to remember anything and then accuse Blair of not taking care of me, right?" Simon also nods but he’s starting to look just a hair uncertain.

"All right, let me tell you briefly what I remember and then I will tell you what I think you should do and you will both listen and do it." Do I sound a little dictatorial? Do I care? This is my life, my head, my senses and if I can’t get rid of them then they, and everyone associated with them, will be working with me not against me.

"Blair," he blinks and relaxes ever so slightly at the use of his name. "I had a very unidentifiable thing for lunch, ran through a construction site with a lot of dusts and scents and slipped in something really disgusting in an alley. I made it back to the station and didn’t notice anything weird for a good length of time." I pause for a breath.

"Simon, I have to say sir, that this attitude is fairly shocking. I thought you understood this whole sentinel thing. Not only that, I thought you were a better cop than this. Don’t you think that stopping to consider Sandburg’s request for a lunch menu would have been more expeditious than ripping him a new one while I’m lying on the couch? Not only that but we’d just had lunch several hours before." I halt in my pacing or maybe it’s stalking, to face him for an answer. I’m feeling distinctly feral right now.

"Jesus Jim! How was I supposed to know it would be so important?" He scrubbed his face with his hands. "All I could see was you freaking out. Saying weird shit about colors and shapes that weren’t there! I wanted to take you to the hospital. What if you’d needed anti-seizure drugs?? What could he have done? What good would knowing what lunch was do if I didn’t know what else happened yesterday??"

"True enough." I say softly but intensely, when he pauses. "And I understand how freaky this thing must have been for you but that’s just no excuse! He’s here because he needs to be." I wave my hand in Sandburg’s direction, the kid’s biting his lip and has frozen into a statue. "He’s here because I need him to be here. And I need you to help me with that!" I feel my anger dropping away, to be replaced with tiredness and sadness and I perch on the coffee table in front of him. "Simon, I need you both to help me out. I know you said I need a ‘keeper’. And Sandburg tries his almighty best, when I let him. But you know perfectly well there are times when it’s just not possible. I think we were both under the impression, and I’m sorry that it apparently wasn’t clear to you, but we consider you to be my ‘keeper’ when he can’t be."

Simon’s jaw drops and he looks like someone hit him over the head with a board, his eyes stunned and slightly glazed. "But, but…"

"Blair does what he can and he’s done an amazing job here at home so I don’t run into anything wrong. And he thinks of things while we’re out too. So we just assumed you were paying the same attention. Right Blair?" I turn to be able to see him, sliding on the coffee table. He nods again, wearing almost the same dumbfounded expression as Simon. Turning my head back and forth to address them both, I continue. "You guys did everything right yesterday. There was no way the hospital was going to help, Simon. I just needed to work through it. In fact I felt a LOT better after I threw-up. What really helped was you being there, Chief." I looked him square in the eyes. "Where you were it didn’t hurt. Your voice didn’t hurt, your touch didn’t hurt, even your hair felt good, calming."

"Jim, I..."

"No." I interrupt him. "It did. I won’t let you deny it or pass it off as a part of the reaction. I know what I felt." I hold out my hand and he hesitantly, stiffly comes over to sit next to me on the table.

"Simon, I want you to know that you helped too. You got me home as gently as possible and cared for me as best you could and I’m grateful. Now I want you two to get over this."

Simon nods, still wide-eyed and perplexed. "Sandburg, I’m sorry. So very sorry." He’s sincere, I can feel it in his voice and see it in the hand he holds out.

Leaning past me, his shoulder brushing mine, Blair reaches for it, "Me, too."

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

After shaking Simon’s hand, it feels as though the tension between us has disappeared. Which is wrong, it’s still here, but it doesn’t feel like an actual *thing* in the room with us anymore. Simon doesn't stay long, all this purging of worry and anger seems to have made him uncomfortable in our presence. Or maybe it's just mine. Who knows, the man can do a blank, impersonal face just as good as Jim. Imagine trying to work with both of them all the time - it's tiring.

My mind is still reeling from Jim's openness tonight. For a man who always says words aren't his forte, he seemed to convey an awful lot. I didn't appreciate being treated like a child, but Jim was hit with so much, it's a wonder he didn't just clench his jaw and go silent. I have to admit, a little selfishly, that Simon's reaction was priceless. I've never seen him go quite so speechless before. That's unfair though, how was Simon to know what Jim and I were thinking? It just seemed logical to us that he keep a watch on Jim if I wasn't around - we kind of assumed he would know that, course we all know the saying about assuming.

Jim needs me. He needs me by his side, admitted it to his superior and in front of me. I don't know whether to be ecstatic or scared out of my mind. I was so surprised by his confession that I didn't put up a big enough fight to discredit his feelings.

No, that doesn't sound right. Jim can feel however he wants, but to need me, to think that I help him that much. It's not true; I've never helped anyone that much and for him to start thinking of me like that now... I don't think I can handle it. Yesterday was a fluke, too many things were weird. Just the color thing alone, but then there was my reaction to everything. I haven't forgotten about the rash, the queasiness - I just haven't had time to research it, or just to think about what the hell it means.

Do I help Jim so much that he knows I'm around when he isn't even conscious? Does he really need me or was that admission just something to make me feel less like a failure? I'm not sure I even want him this dependent on me. I love him, with all that I am, but I'm afraid that I won't be enough or I’ll be too much for Jim to handle. I’ve screwed up before – I can’t take any chances here. No one should be dependent upon me, I’m just not strong enough... I've been doing the dutiful partner and friend routine and I've gotten good at it – but now with his needing me, relying on me so readily... I don't know if I can do it; if I can always *know* what he needs. Just replaying the words he said: "He's here because I need him to be here," makes my heart stutter and speed up. Also fills me with pride... before I let my past errors cloud the joy there.

"You ok, Chief?" Jim asks.

I jerk as I realize that I'm still sitting on the coffee table, Jim must have heard my heart speed up. Wonderful. "Fine. What're you doing?"

"Making some tea."

"Oh yeah?" I ask with interest and push myself up to stand; a groan escapes before I can stifle it.

"Blair?"

I roll my eyes and try to cut off any over reacting he may start into. "I'm fine, just a little sore, it's nothing."

He turns back to the kettle as it whistles and chuckles. "Yeah, the same nothing has been bothering you all day, making you groan and sigh and a bunch of other noises."

"You listen to the different noises I make?"

"I do when you're hiding something from me."

It's said so low, so serious, that I don't know if I should be angry that he eavesdrops on me, or not. I shake my head wondering if bodily functions qualify as that. This brings up something else. If he knew my back’s been hurting, then he knows all the times my heart rate jumps at his touch; probably even smells the differences in me when he's near me.

"I wasn't hiding it..." At his doubtful look I amend my statement. "I just didn't want you overreacting, I just pulled my back a little. No big deal."

"You did it helping me."

"Yeah so?" I really don't see the problem here.

"You always seem to hurt yourself helping me."

Jim talks about the Sandburg Zone? Well welcome to my world – Ellison style. "Jim, I think you're reading way too much into this. So I pulled my back. There were no psychos involved or even jilted girls. It happens."

He turns from the counter holding two cups of tea, lightly flavored with cinnamon and hands me my own cup. The look on his face makes me realize too late that I should have escaped to my room before the tea was finished. I look longingly toward the French doors.

"Not tonight Sandburg. Come and sit down."

I sigh and plant myself in the corner of the sofa, sipping my tea lightly. I know this is petty, but if Jim wants to talk, he's going to have to work at it tonight. I'm too tired to decipher his meanings, I just hope he's clear. The silence stretches from a minute to two to several, till I lose track. I finish my tea and enjoy the warmness that fills my insides; I allow my head to fall onto the back of the couch and I take a deep breath. It's now that I realize Jim's been watching me. The little hairs on the backs of my arms are standing up and it's as though I can feel his gaze sweeping across my body. I panic slightly as my heart picks up speed and I take another deep breath trying to regulate the beats. I've gotten fairly good at this, but it doesn't fool Jim when he's concentrated on me.

Like now.

Sighing again I realize that he's waiting for me to speak, like I'm the one that called this little tête-à-tête. "Jim, what do you want?" I ask as I lift my head and wince at the sharp pinch at the base of my spine.

"I have to want something?" he asks innocently.

"Don't be coy - it doesn't become you." My tone is harsh and I find that I'm bordering on pissed off. I'm aware, too late, that our tea drinking has put me on edge. The thoughts of him monitoring me have made me question all of my actions recently. If Jim remembers me being helpful yesterday, he probably remembers me holding him in the bathroom, stroking his head as he calmed from the stomach spasms; maybe even remembers why we were sleeping in my bed. I look at Jim, his face seems calm, but his eyes are piercing, like he's on a mission.

"Why do you discredit anything good I have to say about you?"

I blink. Damn, right to the point. "I don't know what you mean, Jim. I take the credit when I contribute to the cases..."

"I'm not talking about the cases. I'm talking about us, about what you do for me."

"For you? What do I do for you?" I ask, really wanting to know what he sees in my presence. He says he needs me, but what do I do other than just be there to kick around, or lean on when things are bad?

"Chief, you do plenty for me. You seem to forget the troubles you've gone to so I'm comfortable. All the trips to the store to find soap that didn't make me sneeze or wince; the different cleaning products we tested, the food you so carefully buy and prepare, to being my grounding wire."

"Jim. I..." My throat closes on me and I can't get any words out. "I don't do anything a friend wouldn't do."

"Sandburg, I don't know what happened to make you think so little of yourself, but it's more than that."

I stand up, my eyes suspiciously blurry and head toward the kitchen. I don't want to hear this, I don't want his pity, I don't want his attempt at understanding. I just want his friendship, with the laughable hope of something more; this trip into my past and my insecurities is not something I wanted to do. Ever. He won't respect me afterward, might not even understand what goes through my head.

As I put the cup in the sink, I feel him behind me. "Chief." My head falls and my hands grip the edge of the counter. I can't cry – this is ridiculous. Just the thought of him believing in me like he does, just having faith in me is enough to knock me off balance. The fact that he's done so much more than that in the last hour... well I'm confused. I just can't comprehend how he can feel this way, not when I know the truth.

"Chief," he says again, and this time he gently takes my shoulders and turns me around. His right hand slides along my shoulder to the back of my neck. He squeezes me, then pushes me in the direction of the couch again; I go willingly. I suppose this was bound to happen eventually. Even all my fast-talking couldn't hide my own thoughts forever – let’s just hope that he didn't discover all my thoughts.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Simon takes his leave shortly thereafter. I see him to the door with more assurances of my good health and he leaves, a man with a lot on his mind. He’s already lost in the revelations and newfound responsibilities, and I wonder how he got lost on that point. How we missed that he didn’t see it, wasn’t on the same page as we were. I thought it was understood; we tell him about my senses and he covers for us and everything that that entails. I feel the need for something to drink and need neither alcohol nor coffee for my nerves right now. Where’s that one tea I really like? I wander into the kitchen, put the water on to heat and start sniffing.

Blair’s groan as he rises from the table distracts me from my hunt.

"I'm fine, just a little sore, it's nothing." The tone comes out dismissive and vaguely defensive. The kettle whistles and I chuckle at his attempt to hide it. "Yeah, the same nothing has been bothering you all day, making you groan and sigh and a bunch of other noises."

"You listen to the different noises I make?" The tone changes to surprise. I’m pouring and fixing the tea so I can’t see his face but I figure I can guess at his matching expression.

Letting the tea steep for a moment and savoring the pleasant spicy odor, I decide to gently confront him. "I do when you're hiding something from me." The silence is as eloquent as a long explanation from him.

Finally, hesitantly, "I wasn't hiding it..." I give him my ‘I-don’t-believe-that’ look number two and he hurriedly goes on. "I just didn't want you overreacting, I just pulled my back a little. No big deal."

"You did it helping me." I suppose I should feel guilty about that here, but I’m more interested in his strange reactions as he tries to hide it.

"Yeah so?" Blair’s tone is supremely unconcerned.

"You always seem to hurt yourself helping me." The earlier missing guilt comes roaring back at full force.

"Jim, I think you're reading way too much into this. So I pulled my back..." He continues on, mentioning the ever present psychos in and out of our daily routine, and the occasional jilted girls. His tone gives me Mr. Nonchalant but the sense that he’s hiding something grows.

The tea’s ready and we are going to talk about this sensory episode and the state of his back. I promised myself I’d take care of that for him if it was still bothering him and apparently it is. I take the tea over to him and nudge him into sitting down. I can’t help the smirk my mouth forms as I notice his gaze toward his room, his normal escape route. Not tonight Sandburg, forget it. We’re going to cover this now. He sips his tea and lets his head fall back onto the couch. His hair spreads out like a halo and captures sections of the light. He still looks tired but the tiny lines of pain are fading as the tea and the sofa relax him. He sighs again and then tenses very slightly. I can see it in the shiver of the skin on his arms, the set of his shoulders and thighs. And his heart, the pace picks up just slightly betraying him. I’m making him nervous though I’m not sure why.

Finally, he lifts his head, a brief flash of pain crossing his face. "Jim, what do you want?"

"I have to want something?" I snort to myself. That came out a lot more coyly than I’d intended.

"Don't be coy - it doesn't become you." Damn! Busted. Well, my own fault there. He’s tense - or I should say tenser, and getting worse by the moment. What is it that’s upsetting him so? My watching him? I watch him a lot more than he thinks - always buried in his work and grading. But this isn’t about my watching him. It’s about his response to my declarations earlier. I caught the disbelief on his face at my statements to Simon and I *know* I don’t say it enough but I was kinda hoping my actions spoke instead. Apparently the king of words needs to hear some of them sometimes and then needs to be made to believe them.

"Why do you discredit anything good I have to say about you?"

He blinks those big eyes at me. "I don't know what you mean, Jim. I take the credit when I contribute to the cases..."

Oh I see, I can’t be coy but he can? I have to call him on it. "I'm not talking about the cases. I'm talking about us, about what you do for me."

"For you? What do I do for you?" He blinks at me again, leaning forward slightly, the look on his face intense.

"Chief, you do plenty for me…" Can one babble while thinking at light speed? I know I ramble on, pulling examples up out of thin air, things I’ve apparently noticed him doing for me but never consciously thought about. Anything to drive home this point, to break through this wall he has. And to think that I hear him muttering at times about MY walls.

"Jim. I...I don't do anything a friend wouldn't do."

"Sandburg, I don't know what happened to make you think so little of yourself, but it's more than that." Crash, I slam into that wall again. But this time instead of verbally withdrawing, he actually gets up. What *is* this? Even more concerned than before, I follow him. I can almost feel him thinking.

He wanders into the kitchen, rather absently puts his mug in the sink and just pauses there, staring blindly down at it. I call quietly to him as I approach. He tenses and lowers his head further, the curls falling to shield his face.

"Chief," I say again. Reaching out I take his straining shoulders and turn him around, he’s practically vibrating with tension. I shift a hand to cup the back of his neck and I can feel the surrender. He relaxes somewhat and goes easily when I steer him back to the couch. I sit him down where he was before and park my big self next to him but facing him this time, sitting sideways on the sofa with my left leg tucked underneath me.

I’m silent for several long moments, trying to think this through. He has no problems accepting his contributions to work and anything work-related. It’s only the sentinel and friendship/personal stuff that he has problems with. Thinking back in time, Sandburg has had this attitude for as long as I can recall, as long as I can remember noticing, and it being important to me.

I can recall more or less when he became more to me than just my good or even best friend. I can even pinpoint it to a week or so after he disarmed that bomb on the oilrig. He just looked up at me one day. He was sitting on the couch in the sun, grading... and he was glowing from the light, from life – his eyes incandescent from the angle of the light and his laughter at me. And I was so happy that he was still here, that I caught my breath and stared. He asked me what was wrong and I told him something stupid, that he had a pink mustache from the juice he was drinking and I stood there and watched him howl with laughter. He chased me around that day, smacking me with pillows until I was laughing so hard that he’d cornered me on the stairs and I went to bed that night grinning foolishly at my revelation.

I know he loves me - but I wonder if this same block is what stops him from loving me the way I love him. He’s starting to fidget now, shifting in his seat to face me, mirroring my posture. I’ve gotten lost in that memory for too long so I take a deep breath and dive in. "Come on, Chief. Talk to me here. This isn’t like you. Not only to not talk but to not believe me. Granted, I haven’t told you everything that I should have about me and my senses - but I’m trying and I’ve never lied to you. I’m not going to start now. You’re important to me. You really help me. You really helped me yesterday."

He’s still silent, thoughts churning in the depths of his eyes.

"Blair, let me in, the way you’re in me. Let me help you the way you help me."

Another long moment passes and I can actually see the walls crumble before he looks down in self-defense. The words come out hesitantly, stumbling at points but still clear. Several years ago, Blair starts, he was in the middle of working for his Masters and he was dating this wonderful girl. He and Julie were deeply involved with each other and had been dating for nearly eleven months. They were planning trips for after college, even talking vaguely about marriage somewhere down the line as a possibility.

I can already see this is going to be bad and I lay my hand on his knee for support, stroking gently across the denim with my thumb. They’d had plans to meet one night; Blair was going to pick her up because she was having car troubles. But he was called in unexpectedly to a departmental meeting. He called her and told her to wait for him or call someone else for a ride to campus. He found out later that night that she tried driving anyway. The car problems in combination with the slippery winter roads around here conspired against her and she crashed. She died instantly.

He looked up at me, tears slipping unheeded down his face. "She died. I wasn’t there. I couldn’t stop her. Couldn’t save her..." He crumples and I sweep him against me. This is an old pain. I’m sure he’s dealt with it before but it still haunts him. I can see where this would make him so hesitant to commit to a relationship, whether romantic or friendly - look what happened to the last one he was in. I’m stroking his hair, rocking and murmuring against his temple as he soaks my shirt. How can I make him see there was nothing he could have done?

I press my lips to his temple and tell him that. "You did nothing wrong. There was nothing you could have done. It was a terrible accident but it wasn’t your responsibility. If Julie was as wonderful as you say - and I don’t doubt that she was - than you know she wouldn’t want you to take the blame for something you had *no* control over!! You loved her to the best of your ability at the time. She’d want to see you happy. She’d want to look down on you and see that you didn’t cripple the rest of your life and relationships because of that accident."

He seemed to be listening, the tension in the body I held was dissipating. "Julie would want you to find love and friendship where ever you could. I want you to think about her, the good times, her generous spirit..." He twitches in my arms but I forestall the movement. "She’d have to have that type of spirit. I know you. Then I want you to realize that you are my best friend and you bent over backwards to take care of me and my senses. Yes, it’s a responsibility. But you can and do handle it wonderfully. You’ve never let me down." I just sit there, holding and rocking while he processes for a long time. I slide the hand around his shoulders down and rub slowly over his back, feeling the stressed muscles there.

Finally, when he’s looser, relaxed and calm against me, I straighten him up. "You ok for a minute?" He nods rather dazedly at me and I gently lever myself off the couch. I wander about the loft for a few minutes and deposit the results of my foraging in front of the fireplace.

I light the fire and place a bowl of warm water near the heat and the massage oil in the water to start warming. I unroll one of our old sleeping bags, cover it with two layers of soft old sheets and push the coffee table out of the way.

"Come 'ere Chief. You really need this now." I say, kicking my shoes off. He looks at me and then looks around like he’s slowly surfacing from his thoughts.

"Jim, you don’t have to…"

"I know I don’t. I want to and you need it. Come here." I hold out a hand and he finally rises to join me. I pull off his shirts and he slowly takes down his jeans. With exhausted and painful movements, he lowers himself face down onto the makeshift pad. I get him a flat pillow and wait until he’s comfortable.

The oil’s warm now and I drizzle out a small palmful; slicking my hands up, I lean over him. He’s warm and smooth, the silky skin of his lower back made even smoother by the oil and my skin delights in the feel as much now as it did yesterday when everything hurt. I run my thumbs up his spine and fan my fingers outward, pushing out the tension. I use rolling motions to attack the knots I feel in his shoulders and lower back and gentle circular movements over the pulled areas in the center. I can feel the throbbing of the stressed sections and concentrate on soothing and relaxing them. Blair’s scent rises up, warm and sweet, filling my nose. He smells good, floral and woodsy at once, masculine and soft. He smells like he’s finally relaxing and I shift around to work on other areas.

I straddle his lower thighs, not really touching him and I reach up to the waistband of his boxers then pause, "Can I?"

He just lifts his hips slightly in response and I slide the boxers down another three or four inches. With long sweeping strokes I slide up from the tops of his gluts to his shoulders and back down. He sighs deeply and relaxes again. His scent envelopes me once more, warm and familiar, finally smelling happy and heading toward sleepy with a touch of... arousal? Not unusual with a good massage – but this time, the scent goes to my head and straight to my groin. The desire to taste that smooth skin just rears up and takes over. I could attribute it to the stress, his and mine of the last two days... but really this time I just want to. Just one small taste...

Not really expecting a reaction, since he is almost asleep, and figuring I can hopefully field any other – less than positive responses, I gather my courage. Fanning my fingers and palms over his waist and rubbing gently upwards in circles I lean down and place a gentle kiss between those smooth, warm, sweet-smelling shoulder blades.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

He faces me as we sit on the couch, but I just don’t want to play this game. I know that I spout chapter and verse about him opening up to me, about Jim always needing to tell me what’s going on – and now I’m refusing. Does that make me a hypocrite, yeah most likely... hence why I won’t look at him. Jim has this way of just looking at me and knowing what I’m thinking or if I’m hiding something. He even admitted to listening to the sounds I make, what kind of privacy does that leave me for my own personal feelings?

Not much. I’m amazed that I’ve been able to hide the fact that I’m in love with him. It must be all the meditating I do, it helps me control my reactions to him. His touches only elevate my heart slightly now, his lingering gazes roll off my back... till I’m alone and then I feel each and every touch as a caress, making me yearn for his company, yet reminding me how alone I am. I *am* lonely. It’s the nights that are the most difficult, I miss the feeling of a body next to me but I’ve learned that I can’t have that – not without the responsibility and I already know that I’m unworthy of it.

The silence in the room gets to me and I start to shift, Jim needs to start talking soon or I will make an attempt toward the safe haven of my room. I turn toward him hoping to push along the conversation. The quicker I start it, the quicker I can dodge whatever he’s looking for. I stare at him as the words tumble from his mouth. My stoic Jim giving me everything I’ve ever wanted. Concern. Love. Trust. Belief. I have to blink the tears from my eyes as he softly begs me to let him in, to let him help me.

I never prepared myself for Jim asking me in such a way and all the defenses that I have just crumble. I take a long, shuddering breath and I close my eyes in resignation. I try to steel myself for the story, knowing that to anyone but me it would seem I’m being irrational, overly sensitive, or just completely ridiculous. Tragic events effect everyone differently. Me? I have shut myself away from anything more serious than flings and friendships, feeling as though I’m a failure at real love or deep friendship.

"Her name was Julie." My voice cracks as I start my story and I clear my throat before starting again. "I was in the midst of working on my Masters when I started dating her. She was great; long brown hair, steel blue eyes, and a smile that would light up the room." I smile at her image in my mind. "It was the longest relationship I had had, eleven months and counting. We did everything we could together, people started telling us we were joined at the hip but we didn’t care. We even discussed and planned several trips for after school... just the two of us. If we survived that, we mentioned marriage."

Jim’s hand is rubbing my knee and just that show of concern lightens my heart a little before I continue. "It was the middle of the winter semester and there was a gala at the museum. Well, gala is strong, there was an event, something we were both interested in and we had snagged some tickets. There are some benefits to being faculty. I had already agreed to pick her up, her car was acting up and causing her unexpected problems. A few hours before I was to meet her I was called in for a departmental meeting. I’m not sure who called it or why it was so fucking important, but my presence was mandatory." I start to get angry, remembering that I had to change plans that had been set for weeks just to appease the tenured department heads as they sat there and basked in their self-conceived importance. "I called Julie and told her that she had to wait for me or find someone to bring her to campus. We could have left from there, saving as much time as possible. Only a few hours later I found out that she decided to drive the piece of shit car herself. I never knew if it was the car, the slippery roads, or a combination of both."

I pause and take a breath. "She crashed and died instantly," I finish softly. All the hurt and pain that I’ve pushed down for years comes up and I can’t hide it. I want to, so badly, but since I never really talked about it, always shrugging off everyone’s concern... the emotions are too strong. Tears roll down my face and I start to talk again immediately regretting it as my voice catches in my throat between muffled sobs. "She died. I wasn’t there. I couldn’t stop her. Couldn’t save her..."

Jim gathers me into his arms and all the tears I had suppressed all those years ago come rushing out. I feel like a child sitting here on the couch, Jim holding me as I sob against him – but it feels right. My heart is thumping wildly in my chest and my breath is coming is short gasps, but he doesn’t move away from me. Jim actually starts to rock and pet my hair, while telling me that it wasn’t my fault. Telling me that I didn’t do anything wrong, or it wasn’t my responsibility.

Did I love her to the best of my ability? Part of me hopes not because what does that leave for Jim? I love Jim even more than I did Julie, maybe it’s because I feel a deeper connection to him – the reason doesn’t really matter. If I loved Jules with all I had and she died... what are the chances that things will work out with Jim, or just not end badly? Another reason to keep quiet about my feelings. Even though I may not agree with Jim’s reasoning I start to relax a little; there’s nothing I can do to change the past, I can only prevent it from happening again.

"Julie would want you to find love and friendship where ever you could. I want you to think about her, the good times, her generous spirit..."

I tense and begin to pull away. No one could know what she did for others, how many things we did together on the weekend just helping those that needed it. He says that she’d have to be that way for me to have loved her. If he could only hear himself... not since Julie have I met another person so determined to help everyone, than Jim. My crying subsides but now my stomach is rolling over itself.

I’m his best friend. I take care of him.

I’ve wanted to hear these words for months – the only thing that would make this perfect would be for him to tell me he loves me. But he doesn’t. He continues to rock me and starts to rub my back gently. I can’t help but relax into him.

He finally sits me up and asks me if I’m ok, I just nod, not sure where he’s going, but I feel better. Crying is always therapeutic, but it always leaves me feeling vulnerable, and I hate that. This time’s no different. Several minutes pass and I barely notice until Jim calls me over. I look around and notice that there’s a fire going. Not only that, but Jim’s set up a make-shift pad on the floor; then I spot the massage oil...

"Jim, you don’t have to..."

"I know I don’t. I want to and you need it. Come here."

As simple as that huh? I sigh, knowing that fighting a protective Sentinel is a waste of energy, I take off my shirts and kick off my jeans. As I get comfortable on the floor I realize just how exhausted I feel, and my back seems worse that it had that morning, it’s practically throbbing with my pulse.

I resist the urge to moan as soon as his fingers touch my back, but I can’t hold in the groan that emerges minutes later. Jim has magic hands I swear. He’s given me massages before, after long study nights or grading papers. I know it’s his way of helping me with my schoolwork, and I appreciate it very much. The best feeling to have on a Monday morning after a weekend of grading, is to be so loose and ready to go – and that’s always thanks to Jim. His hands are constantly moving over my back, going right to all the places that hurt and I’m putty in his hands.

Jim moves and I can feel him settle on my lower thighs, then he pulls on my waistband. My heart starts to beat faster but a deep breath as I lift my hips, granting permission, steadies my heart again. The boxers are now pulled down over my ass at an awkward angle; I feel goose bumps rise on my cheeks as the air hits the uncovered skin. God it feels so good. I inhale slowly as he strokes my entire exposed area and let out the breath just as slowly. I feel myself harden as his hands sweep low and brush against the material that’s bunched from him pushing it out of the way.

My entire body starts to tingle and I allow myself to revel in it – how many more times will Jim do this for me? Especially if he figures out the feelings I’m hiding. His hands feel wonderful, so warm and big. I groan again as his fingers dig deep into the abused muscles; then I sigh as those same fingers trail softly across my back. I feel more relaxed after this short massage than I have in a week, especially after these two days. I’m sure that if I let myself, I’d fall asleep, but I don’t want to miss anything. I shiver as his fingers rub in circles over my waist; I feel Jim’s body shift but nothing can prepare me for the... kiss I feel between my shoulders.

A kiss. Jim kissed me. That can’t be right. I want to move, to turn around and see if that’s what he had done, but I’m frozen. All thoughts of keeping my breathing under control are gone as I wait to see what happens next.

I’m surprised he can’t hear my heart, I can feel it beating against my chest. There are only a few moments before there’s another kiss – it has to be Jim’s lips because I can feel his hands grasping my waist and his chest against my back. Not knowing what to do, I clear my throat and call to him. He freezes as though realizing for the first time what he’s doing.

"Jim," I say softly again.

He sits up and shifts off me and I turn onto my side and grab his arm. He apologizes before I can even say anything.

"Hey – just tell me what’s going on."

"Nothing Sandburg."

Oh, now I’m Sandburg again. "It’s not nothing. You kissed me man... why?" I can’t conceal my hope, I want him to proclaim his love for me, or at least deep feelings – but I’m not kidding myself, I’ll take a buddy fuck and deal with the consequences in the morning.

Only silence greets me and I don’t want this opportunity to pass, so I take a breath and jump right into the deep end. "Do you want to do it again? I liked it." I say and even to me that sounds so lame, but it gets his attention. His eyes snap up and I feel as though he’s looking for the honesty in that statement... so I let him look, allow him to see everything that I’ve been hiding for months. The love I have for him, the trust, and maybe even a little sexiness.

Jim doesn’t say anything, but he gets to his knees and leans forward again until he’s inches away – all the while still looking as though he’s searching for answers. His hands cup my face and all I want to do is grab him and scream, I mean, I’m the one that just put myself on the line. Well... he did kiss me, but it didn’t seem as though he was totally in control of himself; I’m the one that just said I liked it, asking him to do it again. I’d tell him I loved him but I’m not sure if he’d believe me right now...

He smiles at me, his whole face relaxes and there’s a light in his eyes that wasn’t there before, I blink in surprise. "I love you. I’d love to do it again."

Jim doesn’t give me a chance to answer – I’m not sure I can say anything... he’s given me everything I wanted without realizing it. He leans up and brushes his lips against mine, the touch is soft, a little hesitant, but I want nothing to do with procrastinating.

I can’t help the moan that comes out when his tongue swipes across my lips. I grab his shoulders and pull him toward me. I want to feel all that muscle mass on top of me – the hardness of his chest and arms, and the softness of his stomach.

Clothes. Jim has too many clothes on. I push him away a little to get his shirt off, but he tenses. I gaze up at him and just start to tug at the shirt, mumbling about too many clothes. He finally gets the hint that I want him naked, not away from me and he pulls the t-shirt the rest of the way off. I’m suddenly more aware of the fact that my boxers are bunched at my groin, one hip totally exposed. I start to feel slightly shy, which is ridiculous; we’ve seen each other naked - granted, me him more times than vice versa.

I take advantage of Jim kneeling in front of me again and maneuver myself so that I’m also on my knees and I reach to push his jeans and boxers down in one swoop. I grab his ass and pull him so that our cocks grind against each other. I groan and Jim attacks my mouth. It’s all I can do to keep up. His tongue is soft as it licks at my own and the inside of my mouth. It lingers and I start to suck on it as I squeeze the round flesh in my hands.

Jim jerks against me and I smile as I push my tongue into his mouth. He returns the favor and sucks on it; it sends shivers down my spine. With a growl Jim pushes me back onto the bedding and pulls my boxers down and drops them to the floor. His hands grip my waist as his lips slide across my shoulder, down my chest to pull on the hair there. It’s an odd sensation, the pulls don’t hurt, but I can feel every move he makes.

As Jim continues across my chest he’s breathing deeply, as if smelling me, but before I have a chance to think about it, he takes a nipple into his mouth. I arch upward only slightly since his hands are holding me in place. Jim laps at the hardened nub; the sensation of soft wetness, to the cold air is startling and I gasp with each lick.

Something about us, the way we’ve come together allows me to be bold and I start to reach for my other nipple. Before I can get there, Jim grunts at me, then grabs and holds both wrists away from my body. I try to protest but my words are cut off as Jim sucks the once ignored nub into his mouth. He teases it between his teeth, ever so lightly, and rolls it.

"ahhhh, Jim..." I can’t be quiet anymore, and I can’t be still. I wrench my hands away from his and drag his head up to mine. I look into his eyes briefly before sucking his bottom lip into my mouth. I run my tongue across it, smiling at the tremor that runs through his body. We share kisses and licks for a little while, but then Jim moves away again.

"Jim..." I start but he just ignores me and leaves a trail of kisses down my chest to my stomach. His hands dig under my hips so that they are cradling me and holding me in place at the same time. I feel gentle, soft licks across my left hip, the licks getting longer and harder as they travel across my skin. I’m panting as Jim gets closer to my cock, I want him to suck me so badly that I’m afraid I may come from the first touch of his tongue.

Jim’s lips leave my skin and I raise my head to see what the problem is... but he’s not looking at me, rather reaching for something I can’t make out. Without warning his eyes meet mine and he slowly lowers his head to my cock, I can’t look away. I stare as his tongue comes out and gathers the moisture at the tip, he moans and takes the head into his mouth, sucking. My hips buck and I cry to him, wanting more, needing more.

My whole body feels as thought it’s tingling, my breaths are shorter now as his head bobs up and down. I can’t seem to close my eyes. I don’t want to miss anything. My heart beats faster as Jim takes me all the way down, his nose buried in my pubic hair. I gasp and he moans, making me shiver. He swallows and I can’t take it, I fall back so I’m flat on the floor, eyes shut as I pump my hips slightly. The warmth that surrounds me is so complete, so wet, so good...

I need to feel him so I try and get his attention my tugging on his arms, but he’s so focused. "Jim." I say, then I repeat it, louder, all the while I’m trying to ignore the pleasure coursing through me.

"mmm?"

"Turn around." I say, but he seems to hesitate. "Come on, Jim... I want to taste you too." That couldn’t have been louder than a whisper, but he hears me. His body tenses for a moment then he starts to turn, only letting me drop from his mouth for a moment.

Finally he’s settled and I can see that he’s hard. His cock is long, flushed with blood, with moisture resting at the top. I somehow know that I can’t tease him, so I only lick across the head a few times – the shudder that goes through his body is intoxicating. I want him to lose control...

I grasp the bottom of the shaft and slowly close my mouth so I surround it. I can feel it jerk and pulse in my hand and I take a long, slow suck. I hear and feel him moan, and I think I heard my name. My heart skips a beat at that thought... Jim calling my name as he comes. I start to pant as Jim picks up the pace; I do the same. I drag my fingers from the back of his thighs to the small of his back. That gets me another tremor. As I suck, I continue to all touch the skin I can reach, and Jim’s hips begin to pump. Just as I’m reveling in the thought of making him come first, I feel a slick finger at my entrance. I tense, then shudder as the digit presses inside me at the same moment that Jim deep throats me again.

My breath pushes itself from my lungs. I grasp Jim’s thighs hard as I push him further into my mouth licking the base as much as I can. His finger plunges in again, twisting and I lose all control. I swallow hard, gripping Jim’s ass tightly as my body shudders and jerks. The pleasure rolls through me – tingling all my skin as I come down Jim’s throat. Jim’s hips snap twice, his legs go stiff and I can feel his groan around my cock as he continues to swallow and lick me clean.

Soft now, I fall from his mouth as he rides out his own orgasm, body slightly twitching. I gently pet his thigh and place soft kisses at the hair covered skin there. I sigh, I’m not sure what to do now. He said he loves me, and I love him – but I didn’t tell him before.

Will that make a difference? Will be believe me now, or should I wait until morning. I’m so caught up in my thoughts that I don’t realize that Jim’s moved to settle behind me. I smile as I scoot back against him, and sigh as his arm wraps around me. I drift off to sleep, back no longer spasming and my heart much lighter than ever before. I think I’ve found peace.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

He stiffens beneath me, the soft muscles tensing up again as his heartbeat and breathing speed up. Trying to get him to relax I lean in again. The kiss lingering this time, my lips enjoying the warm smooth taste of him... until the sound of my name shocks me into stillness.

"Jim," he says it again softly, but I can’t identify the tone lurking in it. My nervousness overwhelms me. What the FUCK am I doing? He’s just poured his heart out to me and I’m *kissing* him?? What if he thinks this is just a pity fuck – I couldn’t stand that. I scramble off him and as his hand comes up to stop me, I’m already talking.

"I’m sorry. I didn’t mean... You don’t... I’m sorry."

"Hey – just tell me what’s going on." Well – he’s not ripping me a new one. That’s something at least. But I’m certain I’ve screwed this up. He’s still in love with Julie, even after all this time. I can tell. It was there in his voice, his face, the set of his shoulders. He’ll love her forever and I’ll just be second best. Can I live with second? "Nothing Sandburg."

"It’s not nothing. You kissed me man... why?" He’s staring at me – all big eyes and hair, a solemn expression on his face and his skin glowing in the firelight. I drop my eyes, fixing my gaze on my slightly oily fingers in my lap. I’m still wrestling with myself – second or none at all seem to be my only choices here, but my eyes flick back up at his words. "Do you want to do it again? I liked it."

Is he for real? Is he sure? Sure he liked it – it’s not like I bit him or anything. But did he LIKE it. His eyes are intense, staring into and through me. Almost against my will, I’m drawn up to my knees and over the small distance to where he’s sitting. I cup my hands over his slightly bristled cheeks and really look at him. His eyes are red-rimmed but clear and in them I see – what? Arousal, trust... and love. Love for me. But how much love for me? Love for your best friend or is it more. I realize I’m gently stroking the soft skin as I look at him.

I know Blair. I know his capacity for love. Even second for him will be exuberant and encompassing. A decision made, I smile. I can feel it lighting my face and he blinks in surprise.

"I love you. I’d love to do it again." And I lean forward those remaining inches to barely brush my lips across his.

He moans in response and opens up to my tentative brush with my tongue. All that Sandburg enthusiasm... He grabs me and pulls me in, up-close and hard against him. His hands are running over me but it’s just a vague distraction to the joy that is his mouth. I’m living in his kiss until his touches resolve into a more solid push. No – not now...

"Clothes. You’re wearing to damn many clothes," he mutters at me. Staring up with unfocused eyes, tugging at my shirt. Right. I can do that. I pull the shirt up and over my head and in that brief amount of time he’s shifted. He’s now kneeling even closer and I stifle a gasp as I feel his hands brushing the skin of my stomach as he undoes and shoves away my pants.

His hands on my ass are burning imprints; I feel them so clearly. He pulls me forward until our cocks are sliding against each other. That satin skin I’ve fantasized about is rubbing against me from midchest to midthigh, interrupted only by the boxers, and it feels as good as it looks. He’s glowing in the soft light, burnished gold. His soft pants are driving me insane along with the scent of arousal wafting up between us. My mouth feels left out so I dive back in to complete my interrupted explorations. He’s slightly salty, and sweet and tender and everything that will say ‘Blair’ and ‘love’ to me forever. The soft sucking on my tongue only cranks me higher and the hands squeezing my ass make me jerk at the burst of sensation.

The dancing tongue is now invading my mouth and I pull gently on it as he shivers in my arms. That little sign of surrender is all I need and I push him gently over backward onto the mat. The shifting position drags my cock across his rumpled boxers and I sweep them off as I arrange him.

I brace my hands on his waist again and lean over to trail my mouth over his shoulder, loving that hard/soft rounded feel of it. A few lingering nibbles there and I wander down to the center of his chest. His small pelt is thickest there and I start to lip and lick at him. The skin beneath is warm and soft, and the hair carries the essence of his scent. A scent I live in everyday. I capture some of the hairs between my lips, tugging gently on them, wetting the tips as they’re in my mouth, the flavors subtle and intense. He’s twitching slightly below me, waiting and relaxed. I draw in a deep breath, smelling. Warmth, arousal, musk, love, excitement. I’ll take his love – all that he can give me and be happy with it. He’s got so much love anyway. I take his nipple now, the soft skin toughening up under my tongue as I stroke it. I suck the whole nub into my mouth and he tries to buck into me, but I hold him still and back off. I’m only covering it with small licks – allowing the air to brush him after each and he’s soon gasping at the attention.

A wayward hand is drifting to his other nipple and I can’t have my playthings covered by anything. I grasp the hand and its mate and hold them away as I dive in to play with the other poor, neglected nipple. He chokes on his protest as I score the bud lightly with my teeth, a shudder racking his torso.

"ahhhh, Jim..." The first of his noises break free and he twitches harder beneath me. With a jerk he snatches his hands free and pulls me up for a kiss. Those bright blue eyes meet mine for a moment and with a final assessment of the intent there, I lower my lips to his. He surprises me by sucking on my bottom lip and dragging his tongue across it. The rough velvet on my sensitive lip sends a shiver racing down my spine to explode in my pelvis. I lay there on him for a short bit. The tiny cat licks and little kisses slowly stoking me higher. Finally, I hit a breaking point and I have to touch him more.

"Jim..." He moans again, but this time I won’t be distracted. I’m on a mission. I can smell my objective. Hot and mouthwatering, just waiting for me. I follow the trail of hair dusting his stomach, playing with it, kissing it in different directions. I shift and hold his hips still as I paint small designs on his skin with my tongue. His cock is bobbing inches from my nose and I shift again but get tangled up in my own trailing clothes.

With a silent grunt I lift off Blair and shed as fast as I can. Now – where’s that oil...? Ah, hidden over there. I grab it and turn back to my waiting feast. He’s looking at me, blue eyes burning, his lips swollen and red. I rearrange myself and, staring into those intense eyes, I slowly lick off the diamond bright drops beading on the head of his cock. He cries out harshly above me, but I hardly hear him. The flavors are exploding across my tongue and I fall hard in love with him again. The intensity of his taste almost makes me come and a moan escapes as I struggle for control.

The satin flesh is calling me and I swoop down to cover the head with my mouth. The musky flavor is an instant addiction and the silk over steel feel is my drug of choice. I can feel my own cock throbbing and leaking in response to the pulsing I hold against my tongue. His hips buck up against me and I hold him to the same distance, hearing him moaning and gasping in frustration and desire.

A few last circular swipes around the head and I open my mouth to slide his length completely within me. I slide down until the fragrant pubic hair is brushing the tip of my nose. He freezes then shimmies in response and a breath drawn from the depths of him makes me moan. I love that I can do this for him and he’s writhing in small moves, trying to get all he can. I feel him give up on trying to watch and relax into accepting this. He’s big and warm and alive in my mouth, twitching and leaking and wanting to come.

"Jim," My name, breathless and husky. He’s tugging on me but this is where I want to be.

"mmm?"

"Turn around." What? Why? Another flavorful dribble making its way to my tongue. "Come on, Jim... I want to taste you too." Oh. Oh my god. The thought alone is enough to send me scrambling for my control.

I pull up and off him only long enough to settle myself above him. My knees on either side of his shoulders, thighs spread wide and back, in a comfortable stretch for me and so he won’t have to lift his head to reach me. I feel his breath gusting across me and I slurp up the ruby head of his cock again returning to the slow up and down motion as before, circling my tongue on the throbbing veins and the sensitive head.

His warm breath turns into licks across the tip that shoot fire through my system causing my legs to tremble. A hot, hot hand circles the base of my cock, squeezing gently and the wet velvet heat encases me. I groan around my mouthful, vibrating the thick shaft. I feel his tongue tap on the very tip of my cock as he sucks and my head jerks up in reaction. "Blair..." It comes out as a strangled moan, the tail of the word muffled as I gather him up again. I’m bobbing my head up and down more quickly, and we aren’t going to last long now. His heart is pounding beneath me and in my mouth, his cock so stiff, hot and succulent. My hips are beginning to jiggle as I stifle the urge to thrust into that willing mouth and the fire and pleasure is burning up my spine. My nipples are hard, hot points brushing occasionally over his smooth skin.

His hands are roaming over everything he can reach, stroking over my back and thighs, dancing over my tight balls and it’s just too much. My hips settle into that instinctive rhythm and I know it’s a matter of moments. He’s so hot, so tight around me. I want to feel that everywhere – to bring him such ecstasy. Pulling back to suck hard on just the crown of his cock, I brace myself on my elbows and slick up the fingers of my right hand. There – that tight little hole. I run a slick finger around the pucker and gently press inside. I get the fingertip started then slowing push in and lower my head at the same time until I’m knuckle deep and nose to his balls. His scream is muffled by my bulk in his throat and the vibrations shoot up my cock like an electric shock.

I’m pumping him now both from within and without. The angle is wrong for his prostate but that doesn’t seem to matter. We’re actually thrusting in sync for about five thrusts and then he’s over the edge. He convulses beneath me, mouth and ass tightening – his hips lift me up and the come fountains into my mouth. The essence of my Blair flooding my mouth is the final trigger I need and my mind whites out as I stiffen and come hard.

I’m breathing in deep gasps and I shudder out the last shocks of pleasure by licking Blair clean of the spit and semen I’ve missed. I lick gently until his cock relaxes soft and bright pink against the dark hair. The soft kisses he’s been showering me with slow and he sighs, the air gently wafting over my hypersensitive skin makes me shiver again.

He’s limp and boneless now, drifting hazily and I carefully shift myself off him. The dark blue eyes are sated and sleepy, but he’s able to think again and I wonder what about. I cap and put aside the oil bottle and collect the afghan from the sofa, my movements slow and languid. If that’s what being loved second by him is, I can take it – hell, I may not survive it if it’s always going to be like that. But I hope it is though.

I settle down behind him and pull that solid, silky body against me. He sighs and cuddles back as I wrap my arms around him and bring a drape of the blanket over us. His curls brush my cheek and I close my eyes. Second is good and I fall asleep, drifting in my newfound bliss.

~FIN~