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The Tartrazine Effect

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Since she was the author, Jim and Blair accepted her presence at the loft without too much in the way of confusion or qualms.

“I figured I'd say thanks and sorry too for all our... well, interactions over the years, and then I was inspired by those unboxing vids on YouTube.”

“Unboxing?” asked Blair.

“Youtube?” asked Jim.

“Um, never mind? Any way, I brought a big box of New Zealand sweets. Lollies. Candy,” the author finally remembered. “I figured that one of you likes candy and one of you,” - she grinned at Blair, - “likes testing Jim’s reactions to his senses. So fun for everyone.”

“That’s very kind of you,” Jim said with considerable enthusiasm and took the box out of the author’s hands. “Oh, hey, this is pretty heavy.”

“I didn’t think you’d eat it all at once, but I did think that I should make it worth your while. There’s quite a selection - some newer things and some old childhood favourites. Doing a bit of time travelling dimension hopping meant I could pick up some Snifters, too.

Jim dug into the box while Blair stood on indulgently. “You’re going to be spoiling your dinner for a month.”

“I’m going to save a month's worth of money on the candy machine at work – which I will use to take us out to dinner.”

The author felt a warm glow, which was absolutely that of a deed well done and not that of standing in the presence of two gorgeous men.

“So Jim,” she said, “could I ask a favour? Could I get you to draw out the items and just show them to the camera here…”

“Camera?” Blair asked.

“Oh, yeah, it’s a smart phone. Cell phones have moved on a lot in the last twenty years.”

Blair sat next to the author to check out her smart phone. The author was quite overwhelmed and Blair was fascinated by the new tech and as a result Jim was left to his explorations uninterrupted. The author had nearly got over the fact that it was (OMG) Blair Sandburg sitting next to her and was just showing him the picture of her kids when Blair sniffed, like he was a sentinel, and a sentinel smelling danger on the wind at that.

“Is that banana flavour, Jim?”

“Yes, Sandburg, it’s banana. Little candy bananas, see? But they’re sort of fudgy. Like fondant, only banana flavour.”

The author smiled, because Jim Ellison chewing down on pick and mix lollies like a happy kid was really adorably cute, but then Blair looked at her in alarm and said, “Please tell me that you’ve moved past using E102s in that future alternate dimension thing.”


“You know, colourings? Tartrazine?”

“Um, I don’t know.” ‘Oh shit,’ the author thought, quickly followed by ‘the best defence is a good offense’.

“Look, I am sorry, but you’re the guide. Aren’t you supposed to remember that sort of thing? Hell, he’s a grown man; he should know what he can and can’t eat. What’s the deal with tartrazine anyway?”

Blair jumped up and wrestled the little ziplock bag of sweets away from Jim, who looked irritated and gathered the rest of his bounty back into its box which he defiantly clutched to his chest.

“It causes erratic behaviour. Come on, you’re a fanfic writer, you’re going to tell me you’ve never thought about Jim’s sensitivities?”

All the time the author thought but wisely didn’t say so. “I bought the bananas at my local dairy – um, corner store? Convenience store? Short answer is, I don’t know what’s in them. I guess it could be tartrazine.”

Jim’s behaviour was certainly looking a little on the erratic side. The author knew that he could be serious about his candy, but he was guarding the box of goodies just a tad too fiercely.

“Come on, Jim, let’s put that away for now, and I’ll get you a glass of water.”

“Don’ wanna” Jim said sullenly. “She brought them and now they’re mine.”

There was a lot of energy in the Sandburg arm wave of exasperation, and the author found it rather overpowering close up.

“See what you’ve done?” Blair took a deep breath. “Look, I’m sorry, I know you didn’t mean any harm, and you were right, he is a grown man who should remember his food limitations for himself.” This last was pointedly addressed to the glowering man on the couch holding a box out of which the corner of a 400 gram box of Queen Anne chocolates was just visible. “Tell you what Jim; let me do a review on the things still in their original packaging. You can check those out no problems and we’ll just wait for this little… moment to pass.” His voice was coaxing, and the author felt a touch gooey inside – either ‘guide’ voice was a real thing or she was seriously infatuated, and after all this time too.

Jim was taking items out of the box, but as he did he slowly ran them across his nose, and inhaled with tremendous and frankly mesmerising pleasure. “Come on, she said tests.” His expression grew teasing. “You like tests. I can smell the chocolate, the corn syrup…” He took another deep inhale, but Blair was unmoved. More or less.

I can smell the goddamned chocolate, Jim.”

The author decided that she should get out while the going was good. “I’ll just be on my way then. Quantum’s a tricky thing to deal with.”

“Yeah, I can imagine,” Blair said, but his attention was on Jim who was moving the peanut slabs around under the lights. “What are you doing?”

“It’s shiny, Chief.”

The author sidled toward the door. She never had gotten a chance to take some video and she was regretting lost opportunities. Perhaps if she offered to help make tea…? She did know her way around a teapot.

But Jim sprang up from the couch. “I feel great!” he declared. “In fact, I feel so great I’m going for a run along the Sound. Right now.” He charged out the door, kissing the author on the cheek as he went. “Thanks for the candy.”

Blair stared a moment and then set out after Jim, shirt-tails flying.

“Damn it Jim, it’s cold outside! And you’re only wearing your socks!”

He didn’t farewell the author. She hoped it was only because he was distracted. She certainly was, and planned never to wash that cheek again. She also almost certainly didn’t want to be around the loft when the tartrazine effect wore off and Jim and Blair came back, but she was sure they wouldn’t mind if she just took a few photos of the living room before she left….