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Shadow Boxing

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Fuck you, Ellison, you god-damned son of a bitch!" The words were out of my mouth before I could do anything to stop them, but I wasn't going to take them back. Not a chance. I swung around towards the door, and the damp bottle slipped through my fingers. My almost-full beer slammed into the wall and shattered into a rain of glass and froth. Beer trickled down the door like piss in an alley outside a bar, and pooled on the hardwood. It would've made a great symbolic moment on film: the broken fragments of the bottle paralleling the broken friendship of the protagonists. Only my life wasn't as neat as any damn film, and it sure as hell didn't look like it was going to be wrapped up in any kind of ending - happy, sad, or indifferent - in two hours or so.

Before I could move, Jim was there with his broom and dustpan, elbowing me out of the way like some weird Christopher Street remake of Cinderella. Perfect. Abso-fucking-lutely perfect. I couldn't even have a decent argument in this house without him stopping to clean up something. Not that he'd had a chance to put up a fight yet, but that would come soon. And I was so not interested in hearing what he had to say.

But it was my mess and I wasn't going to have him bringing up that fact later, so I stomped off to the closet and got the bucket and mop. Yeah, and the sponge to clean the walls and door. I've been trained by the best.

We worked in silence, which was good, 'cause I did not want to start arguing with a man whose hands were full of glass shards. By the time we'd finished I was still angry, but not ready to bite his head off. Of course, that could change.

He rinsed the mop and sponge and wrung them out, while I snagged another beer and leaned against the island, drinking it slowly, waiting. It wasn't until he'd put everything away and grabbed his own beer that he met my eyes and shrugged.

"Sorry, Sandburg."

And that was it. "Sorry, Sandburg." Sorry, my ass. He didn't look sorry. He looked... well, like Jim always looks when he's done something that he felt was right, regardless of how anyone else viewed it. Calm. A little smug. A little complacent.

I hate it when he looks like that.

"Yeah, I can see you're sorry, man. It's breaking you up, making you really uncomfortable."

"Hey, I said I was sorry."

"Oh, right. You're so sorry you can hardly beat the smile off your face."

With a sigh, he slumped down on the couch and took a long pull of his beer. Then he rubbed his hand over his hair. I frowned, not at all sure I liked that reaction. He sighed again, and I knew I didn't like that reaction.

"Listen, Chief," he began, then stopped and took another drink.

Oh, so we're back to 'Chief' now. I moved over to the couch and sat on the arm, watching him, wondering what bullshit was going to come out of Jim's mouth. Better make it good, Jimbo, 'cause you're in real deep this time, and I'm in no mood to throw you a rope.

"You know," he said, slinging his arm over the back of the couch and lifting his chin, "you should be thanking me instead of-"

"I cannot believe this!" I yelled, flinging my arms out. Drops of beer flew everywhere, and Jim started to get up. "Don't you dare." I rounded the couch and stood over him, glaring. "Don't you fucking dare get up and start to clean before we're finished here!" His face was all calm and cold, but he stayed still, so I turned and started to move. "What was going through your mind, man? Did you think that it would make me happy? That I'd say, 'hey, thanks Jim?' Well, it didn't make me happy, and I'm so far from saying 'thanks' that the word's decided to take a long vacation from my vocabulary."

I stopped and crossed my arms, and then decided I was thirsty so I uncrossed them and took a good long drink. The beer felt good going down my throat; it was cold and crisp and so fucking uncomplicated, unlike the shambles of what was supposed to be my life.

When I finished I looked at Jim. The coldness was gone and the calm was slipped, and I felt my gut clench, right where the beer was sloshing around.

"Blair," he said, and I tore my eyes from his face and turned around and stalked over to the window because I could not look at him when he said my name that way and still stay mad, and I wanted so much to stay mad - in fact, it was vitally important that I stay mad, and even though I couldn't remember the reason why I was sure it would come back to me if I waited long enough.

"Blair," and his voice was very soft and very gentle. "Janice Morrison is wanted for embezzlement and fraud in California. Her real name is Cheryl Foster, and she has a record. I'm sorry."

This time he sounded like he really meant it, and I hated him for that.

"Why?" I asked finally.

"I guess she wanted the money," he said, sounding confused. I almost laughed.

"No. Why did you run a background check on her?" I turned around and frowned at him. Good. I was hitting my stride again. "What gave you the right to investigate a woman I've been dating? I mean, are you going to make a hobby of this? Every time I meet a woman and think that maybe - maybe - this could be a really good relationship, are you going to show up with the news that she got a parking ticket five years ago?"

"Embezzlement isn't a-" he began, but I didn't want to hear it.

"This is what? The fourth or fifth time? I'm like, losing count here. And every time you just take it on yourself to butt into my life and screw everything up. You don't ask me, you just go right ahead and do it..."

He stood up and my voice cut out. I'm not sure why. It's not like he was looming over me or threatening me - in fact, if anything he looked smaller than normal, almost fragile even, which was pretty weird. Jim generally doesn't do fragile.

"I do it," he said quietly, "because you don't."

I blinked at him a couple of times, then found my voice. "What do you mean, I don't?"

He shot me a look that I couldn't read, then walked into the kitchen, dumping his empty bottle into the trash. "I mean, Casanova, that if you spent half as much time and care choosing your girlfriends as you do your CDs, I wouldn't have to run background checks on them."

I followed him. "Oh, like you're so much more successful with your girlfriends. Puh-leeze. At least mine have the possibility of turning into something - yours barely make it to the next morning."

He took a step toward me, and I wondered, in a vague sort of way, if he was going to hit me, but instead he opened his mouth, then closed it. His eyes narrowed, then he brushed past me.

We didn't speak again that night.

In the morning, we flew past each other with barely a 'hello.' I drove to my office and tried to contact Janice... I mean Cheryl, again but she didn't want to talk to me. No big surprise there, because she hadn't wanted to talk to me any of the other forty or fifty times I'd called during the past two days. After all, thanks to my friggin' roommate, she was back in custody, awaiting extradition to California.

A pile of essays from my Anthro 101 course were waiting to be graded, so I picked up the first one. It had extra wide margins, triple spacing, and one of those fancy fonts that's hard on the eyes. Great.

I put it down again.

I picked up my pen and jotted down two words on my notepad.



Not nice words to say about anyone, especially about the woman that I'd been dating for three weeks. Janice... Cheryl was pretty, in a cool, spare way - all legs and lean muscles and breasts that fit my hands perfectly. She liked retro fashions and indie films and world music... We fit together, I thought. We were even planning a weekend in Seattle before Jim and Joel and H and Rafe showed up at her apartment two days ago and arrested her on an outstanding warrant.

The bastard didn't even tell me beforehand.

Jim, I mean. As the bastard, you know.

So there I was, watching the woman I was starting to learn and like being hauled off to the station, and Jim just walks up to me and says "Sorry, Chief. She embezzled money from her employer and ran a fraudulent investment club."

And I'm standing there, feeling like I've been blindsided, while Janice is cursing and fighting and blaming me for all the shit coming down and Jim is pawing through her papers and being extra super polite to her until they got her into the squad car and drove her off.

I guess I sorta mentally dropped off the map for a while there and didn't resurface until last night, when I popped up like a barracuda and tore a couple of chunks out of Jim's ass.

Hey, it's not like he didn't deserve it! Okay, so Janice turned out to be not as nice as I thought, but the last time I looked I was a big boy - I don't need my stinkin' partner to lob a mortar at me and blow my life to Kingdom Come - I can do that myself.


I back up a little, hearing a mental 'beep beep' as I do so, and take that path again.

Have I really been my own worst enemy, sabotaging my relationships? I mean, in addition to Jim's interference, which would be enough to scuttle anyone's chances. Yeah, okay, my love-life hasn't been entirely successful lately... Well, for the past... Oh, right, fine. Ever.

Happy now?

So, maybe I should view this as a wake-up call. Consult both heads before asking a beautiful woman out. Spend a little more time becoming friends before starting the mattress gymnastics. Take a little care, like Jim said.

Okay, so the guy has an occasional good suggestion. That doesn't mean that the rest of his advice and especially his actions don't suck. Because they do. Like a Hoover.

After a few minor setbacks - well, and one fairly major setback in the form of the leggy and luscious Delight Pastor, who, although built like a goddess, had an unfortunate tendency to shoplift - I'd started to date Michelle McKenzie, over in the History Department. Michelle is pretty in a quiet, grows-on-you way, intelligent without being arrogant, funny, and kind. I enjoyed her company and we were taking things slow. Which was frustrating on one level, but fun on another. Yeah, I'd get home after a date and choke the chicken, but that was just to clear the air, so to speak. But the anticipation of finally making love with Michelle... Whew! I finally understood the necessity and appeal of structured and time-consuming courtship rituals - the lure of the forbidden and gratification for the hard-won prize were like major factors. At the risk of sounding whacked out, Harlequin romances were becoming my Bible.

Jim was dating again, too. It took him a few weeks to hit his stride, but then Anita down in Records introduced him to her cousin, Pat Thompson, and the ol' sparks were flying. Well, in Jim's case, the embers were smoldering. Just watching those two together - man, even George Bernard Shaw would've grinned and said 'awwww.' They were so damn cute: Jim, all clean, spare lines, so earnest and honest; and Pat, sweet and soft, with a wicked laugh and a penchant for really dirty puns.

We'd make a foursome and go out to dinner and the movies together. Michelle and Pat hit it off so well that they even made Saturday shopping dates and compared outfits, and Jim and I were back to our usual comfortable snarking, so everything was cool.

That lasted all of a month.

I was sprawled across the couch, working on my third beer, when the keys jangled in the lock and the door opened.

"You home, Sandburg?" Jim sounded surprised.


The refrigerator door opened and glass clinked. Then the door closed and Jim appeared next to the sofa, holding a beer. "Thought you and Michelle had a big night planned," he said, collapsing on the other couch and taking a drink.

"I did too. Thought we had a big night planned, I mean," I continued, because Jim looked a little confused.

He grunted and stretched his legs out, settling into the cushions.

We didn't say anything for a while. Just stared at the wall, or out the window, and worked on our beers.

"Jim," I said finally. "Am I a cowardly bastard who's afraid of commitment?"

He paused, then sat up and rolled the bottle between his hands. "Is that what Michelle said?"



I sighed. "Because I broke up with her."

"You broke up with her," he repeated quietly. "Why?"

"Good question." I put my empty bottle on the coffee table next to the other two, hauled my ass off of the cushions, and headed for the refrigerator. I got another beer and sat down again before continuing. "I'm not really sure why I did it, man. I mean, everything was freakin' perfect about the whole relationship. We like each other, we have fun together, the sex is great, she likes you and Pat..." I slumped back and took a quick swig. "I dunno. We were sitting on her bed, watching "Chinatown" and necking, and I suddenly couldn't do it any more. It was wrong, even though it was right, y'know?"

"Yeah," he said.

I checked the clock: 10:30. Early for a Saturday evening...

"Hey, didn't you say you weren't going to be home until tomorrow afternoon?"

He shrugged. "Plans change."

"What happened? Did Pat get sick?"

"Nope." He leaned forward and put his empty bottle next to the three I'd finished, carefully aligning them into a square. "I told her it wasn't working out and she should find someone else, and I came home." He got up and headed into the kitchen.

"Aw, man! What did she say to that?"

"Not a lot." He circled the couches and stood at the windows, staring out. "Pretty much the same as Michelle."

"I'm sorry, Jim. I liked Pat."

"Me, too."

"Then why?"

He sighed and turned around, coming back to sit next to me. "I'm not sure, but it felt like you said - it was wrong, even though everything seemed right."

"This sucks, you know?"

He nodded and snorted. "You don't need me to ruin your love life, Sandburg - you do a great job on your own."

I punched him on the arm. "Look who's talking, Ellison. Your relationship self-destruct button is a mile wide, with neon letters saying 'Press now.'"

He chuckled and picked up the remote. "Wanna order pizza before we decide whether to watch the all-night 'Porky's' marathon or the Bogart retrospective?"

"Got it," I said, grabbing the phone and hitting speed-dial for Electric Pizza. "And it's gotta be Bogie... He got screwed over by dames a lot, too."

"I've got news for you, Chief. We're the ones who did the screwing over this time, remember?"

I ordered the pizza and hung up the phone. "Yeah, I remember," I said, frowning. "I should feel bad, Jim. I mean, I just totally blew off this fantastic woman, and I feel... okay. Intellectually, I'm kicking myself, but emotionally... Well, I'm okay about it."

He settled back and took another drink. "Yeah. Me, too."

"Man," I said, banging through the door and adjusting myself before the zipper in my jeans did some permanent damage, "I cannot believe that those guys were just using the club as a cover for making bombs!"

Jim closed the door, took off his jacket and hung it up before turning to me. "Not everyone thinks with their dick, Chief. Their political agenda was more meaningful to them than half-naked women in four-inch heels."

I shrugged off my jacket and tossed it to him. "That was their problem, y'see? If they'd've done more thinking with their dicks, they wouldn't have gone off all half-cocked about government conspiracies and shit like that."

"Yeah," he laughed, putting my coat on a hook next to his. "You've got a point. I wonder what the FBI'd think if we suggested a seminar on encouraging sexual behavior among the populace as a deterrent for criminal activity?"

"Great idea, Jim." I hit the fridge for sodas for both of us. "I just want to see Simon's face when you submit the suggestion."

"First of all, he'd blame you for it, and second," he said, catching the bottle I tossed to him, "I think I remember seeing a course like that in one of the training schedules..."

I turned away and adjusted myself again. Thank god for baggy jeans; I know I'd be a permanent cripple by now if I had to wear the tight pants from the '70s.

"What's the matter, Sandburg," Jim called from the couch. "All that nubile flesh get to you?"

"Yeah." I decided against sitting down. Even thinking about Simon dressed in drag didn't put a dent, so to speak, in my situation, so I propped my butt against the kitchen table and tried to get comfortable. It was after midnight, and before long I'd be in bed, where I could get a handle on matters. As it were. "Hey, I'm not blind or dead, and it was pretty much a feast for the senses, kind of like the ancient Greek-"

"Can we hold the lecture until tomorrow?" he asked. I didn't take it personally, because Jim sounded really tired. Well, why wouldn't he be? It had been a long day for both of us, but I didn't have to sneak in through the ventilation ducts and then tackle a three-hundred pound political fanatic before he could connect up the circuit and blow us all into our component molecules. Whoa. That was a really nasty few minutes.

I shifted and sighed. Even remembered terror wasn't making Mr. Winky sleepy. Time to get naked and grow some hair on my palms.

So I finished up my soda and decided to bag dinner. I needed sleep more than food, and I needed to jerk off more than sleep. So much for Maslow's hierarchy. Sorry to step outside the curve, man.

"I'm off to bed, Jim," I said, pushing away from the table. "There's some left-over Chinese in the fridge if you want something to eat, or I think there's enough lunch meat for a sandwich."

He grunted and I hit the bathroom. He was still sitting there when I came out, so I guess he wasn't starving. It only took me a minute to strip off and tumble into bed, and I heard him go upstairs. Not that it mattered. I didn't care where he was right now - I just needed to get off soon or I'd petrify, and then how would I get into my jeans, or take a leak, or... Well, you get the picture.

There are times when seduction and foreplay are critical - witness the entire Michelle McKenzie fiasco - and times when straightforward man-handling is called for, and this was one of those times. I just grabbed the woody that had been making my life hell and pumped and pumped and finished myself off. Wham, bam, it's-a-miracle-I-can-walk-again. The spirit of Elvis visited me, crooning "Thank you, thank you verra much."

In short, it was a great orgasm.

Then I heard Jim groan and my post-masturbatory bliss evaporated. Shit. I didn't need heightened senses to know that he'd been entertaining Rosie and her four friends too, and had just tumbled over the edge. I knew it.

Well, why shouldn't he? Just because he was a little more discreet about sportin' wood than I was didn't mean he wasn't affected by all that wonderful soft skin we saw tonight. Man, there was a lot of skin on show. And the tiny bits that weren't on show, I could imagine.

Besides, it had been over three weeks since we'd both tossed common sense out the window, kicking and screaming, and broken up with Michelle and Pat. I knew for a fact that neither of us was getting any from anyone else. Better a little self-abuse rather than ending up with blue balls or a chastity complex.

So we settled back down to our bachelor routine, and a couple of times a week we'd both disappear into our respective beds and jerk off. What was kinda strange in retrospect, although I didn't see it at the time, was that these 'moods' happened to both of us at the same time. Yeah, yeah, I know that female roommates who have lived together for a while often have similar menstrual cycles, but I've never heard of two guys showing parallel horny-ness. Which doesn't mean it doesn't happen, but considering the communication skills of the typical male, it means no one will ever hear about it.

And then my imagination kicked in, and I started to wonder what Jim looked like as he was spanking that ol' monkey. Did he close his eyes and let his jaw go soft? Did he like to do it on his back? His side? Did he cup his balls, or play with his nipples? What did he look like when he came? Did his face scrunch up? Did he go all still first, and then quiver and shake?

Unfortunately, questions like these started to pop into my mind at the worst times, like when we were interviewing this Captain of Industry and his miracle-of-modern-surgery Trophy Wife, who kept sending 'I'm available' signals to Jim... The wife, I mean. And all I could think of was whether or not Jim pulled his pecker dry or with lube. Or the time in the Departmental meeting when Borelli was droning on and on about student distribution in survey classes, and I'm in the corner with a chubby that's the size of Marlon Brando because I'm wondering if Jim bites his lower lip when he comes.

Where the hell did all this come from?

Jim put down his book and rubbed his eyes, then hauled himself up from the couch with a groan. "I'm dead," he announced, heading for the stairs. "See you in the morning."

I shut my book and leaned back, grinning. He wasn't that dead. I knew what he was going to do before he went to sleep. I was going to do it, too.

"We're going to do it at the same time again, aren't we?"

Jim froze, right in front of the stairs. He didn't say anything for a while, and I wondered if he was just going to ignore me, or pretend he didn't know what I was talking about.

"You got a problem with it?" he finally said, crossing his arms and turning around slowly.

"Nah." I stretched my arms way over my head and felt my joints pop. "It's just like a circle jerk, except that we're in different rooms."

He snorted a laugh. "Yeah, just like a circle jerk, except that it's different."

"So stay, and we'll do it the traditional way." I think I was as surprised as he was - I didn't mean to say that. He frowned a little - not like he was angry, but more like he was considering my offer - and then nodded.


"Okay?" I couldn't believe that I had made the damn offer in the first place, and that Jim had accepted it... What the hell had I gotten myself in to?

Jim sat down on the other sofa, put his hand on his zipper and looked at me. "Want to change your mind, Chief?"

I swallowed and shook my head. "No." I put my hand on my zipper.



Jim shrugged and unzipped and unbuttoned his jeans. With a wince, he gingerly pulled out his cock. It was stiff. It was big. Oh, man...

"You waiting for an invitation, Sandburg?"

I laughed nervously - hell yes I was nervous! - and unwrapped my package, shivering a little from the cool air. Yeah, and nerves, too. I didn't forget about them.

Jim gave me a quick look and nodded, like he approved of me or something. "Who're we going to think about?"

"Uhhh... Elle MacPherson."

"Nah. Too remote. We wouldn't even have a chance."

"Jim, this is a fantasy! You're not supposed to have a chance."

"Can't do it unless I think there's a chance."

"Oh, great," I muttered. Who the hell could I suggest? "How about Missy Caldwell? She was practically throwing herself at you during the interview."

Jim groaned and his dick softened. "I meant someone desirable, Chief. Not some walking advertisement for her plastic surgeon."

"Well, shit, man. You don't like any of my suggestions... Who do you fantasize about when you jerk off?"

Jim looked at me for a second, and then his face turned red. I could see the color creeping up his neck and spreading across his cheeks. Wow. I'd never seen Jim blush before.

"Stop laughing," he snapped. "I don't think about anyone in particular."

Yeah, right. And I'm not sitting here in the living room with you, Jim, both of us holding our dicks in our hands.

"Who is it, man? Megan? Sam? I know... you have a fantasy lech for Taggart."

"Shut up, Sandburg," he said, and started to tuck himself back into his shorts.

"I'm sorry, Jim. Really." I wiped the tears from the corners of my eyes and took a deep breath. "Let's just think about whoever we want, okay? It doesn't have to be the same person."

He stared at me for a minute, then sighed and pulled his dick out again. "Okay."

I settled back and started to stroke myself, enjoying the whole completely-clothed-except-for-my-dick sensation. Jim paused and then did the same.

"Long legs," I muttered, trying to keep my eyes open so I could watch Jim. How else was I going to get answers to all those questions that had been bugging me?

"Long hair," he said, stroking himself slowly, and his free hand slid up under his shirt. Oh man, he does play with his nipples. I mirrored his movements and shivered.

"Smooth skin," I breathed, arching my back as I pinched hard and then pressed flat.

"Strong hands," he whispered, then groaned, his hand busy under his shirt.

"So tall..." I moved my hand down to play with my balls, cupping them and pulling on them gently. My eyes kept closing, and I forced them open, watching Jim.

"So sexy..." Jim's hand had moved down, too, and he was increasing the rhythm of his strokes as he fondled his balls. I matched him.

"Eyes you can get lost in." I was close, so damn close, and I pumped and gasped and tried so hard to see what Jim was doing that my orgasm almost caught me by surprise.

"Lips to die for," he ground out, then looked at me; I mean, he stared right at me and his hand moved faster. When I tensed up and cried out, my spunk creaming all over my fingers and my heart pounding like a warning, he dropped his head back and pulled on his dick twice and then his hips were jerking and his mouth was open and he shot out all over his shirt and I felt like yelling and applauding.

It was beautiful, man.

We didn't say much afterward. Jim complained about getting his shirt all dirty, but it didn't really seem to bother him, more like he did it out of habit. We got cleaned up, said good night and went to bed.

At least I got answers to a lot of my questions.

Two nights later Jim turned off the TV and looked at me, and I knew we were going to do it again. This time he stripped off his shirt first, because he said he didn't want to mess it up. A bare-chested Jim is a pretty impressive sight, let me tell you. Then he looked at me and raised his eyebrows.

"What's with the shirt, Chief?"

"I'm not the person who got it all over himself."

He grinned. "What's the matter, you chicken?"

"Oh, right, Jim. We're going to jerk off in front of each other, and I'm too chicken to take off my shirt. Blow it out your ass." I pulled off my shirts.

He nodded and sat down. This time I sat down on the corner of the couch closest to him, so I could get a better view. Hey, I still had questions.

We pretty much followed the same routine as last time, only this time I could see him running his hand across his chest and pinching his nipples until they were red.

Oh, man... Just the sight of Jim squeezing his little tit almost made me come. I had to back off a minute and regroup. Then I started in on mine, and let me tell you, it felt so good. Jim made this sound like he was being strangled, and squeezed the base of his cock hard.

And then, like we'd received some signal, we both started stroking in time, faster and faster, until we came within seconds of each other.

After some panting time, Jim nudged my leg with his knee. "Good thing you didn't have your shirt on," he said, and I dabbed at the mess on my stomach.

"Yeah, but now I've got to go clean up."

Suddenly Jim's hand was on my stomach, finger-painting semen all over my skin.


He jerked his hand away, startled. "Sorry," he said as he shot up from the sofa. And then he stuck his sticky fingers - the ones covered with me - in his mouth.


"This is weird, man." Fortunately, I minored in weird, and Jim has learned to do weird without freaking, so we didn't have to spend time doing all the preliminary nervous breakdown shit.

Jim pulled his fingers out of his mouth like he had no idea how they got in there, and bolted for the bathroom.

Oh, great. I'm the one with spunk drying in his chest hair, and Jim decides to go to ground.

I was standing at the kitchen sink, wiping off the worst of it, when the bathroom door opened and Jim appeared.


"Sure," I said, and took the cold bottle he handed me. "Do you have any idea what that was about?" I was formulating a few theories, but needed more data.

Jim took a pull at his beer and leaned against the table, rolling the bottle between his palms.

"Sort of."

Okay, this was new. Normally Jim would throw all the responsibility for figuring out these sorts of things on to me, not come up with his own theories. More weirdness.

"Want to tell me about it?" I sat on the table beside him.

He sighed, then shrugged. "Not really, but I need to."

Interesting word choice, Jim. 'Need.' I kept my mouth shut and just looked at him encouragingly.

"I think it has to do with closed societies, Chief." He took a drink and settled against the table, his leg brushing mine. "We were making stupid decisions about women, going after the wrong ones. At first, I figured we were just attracted to dangerous women. But it was more than that."

I nodded. "Yeah, I think I'm following you. Pat and Michelle were perfect for us, but we dumped them."

"At the same time, too. Now, you may turn yellow at the first sign of commitment, but I don't--"

"Hey!" I shoved him with my shoulder.

"Do you want to hear the rest of this or not?"

"Go on." I waited until he was taking a drink before adding, "Prick."

He coughed and almost spewed his beer, but recovered quickly, smacking my thigh and glaring at me.

"So, it was unlikely that this was a coincidence. Our sub-conscious was telling us something."

"Still with you here, but what has this got to do with closed societies?"

Jim gave me his I'm-being-patient look. "We dumped them, Sherlock, because they weren't a part of our closed society."

I thought about that for a minute. "But Michelle works at Rainier... Oh, wait! You're saying that our sub-conscious minds are telling us that we have to date women who work at the PD. That really narrows down our prospects, you know. I mean some of them are great people, but I wouldn't want to date them. Although there's that cute dispatcher who-"

"That's not what I'm saying, and she's already got a boyfriend."

"Oh." I shrugged. "So what are you saying?"

Jim got up and rinsed out his bottle at the sink, then turned around and leaned back against the counter.

"We're our closed society." He gestured between us.

I stared at him. He didn't look whacked out.

"Us. We. Like you and me," I said finally, when it looked like Jim had shut down for the rest of the evening.

"Yeah." He looked grim.

"You're saying that we can only date... have a relationship with each other?"


"Because we've got this closed society dynamic going, and outsiders are strictly forbidden."

"For long-term stuff, yeah."

I stared at him again, trying to wrap my mind around the words he was saying and make sense of them. Jim pushed away from the counter and got two more beers. I think I drank half of mine without even realizing it.

"I think that's why," he said, "we've started doing this," and he waved his hand toward his crotch. "Because there's no one else we can..." His voice trailed off.

"Jim." I was calm, very calm. "You are full of shit! Up to your eyebrows, man! This has got to be, like, the most shit-filled theory I've ever heard!"

"Then what's your explanation, Sigmund?"

"Uhhhh... That it's a male-bonding ritual designed to reinforce the exclusiveness of the partnership and increase the sense of trust," I rattled off, spouting the first thing that came into my head.

"You're almost there, Chief. That could explain why we did it, but it doesn't explain why we keep sabotaging our love-lives." He nodded like he'd made some point.

I opened my mouth, couldn't think of anything to say that didn't involve yelling, and closed it.

Jim looked at me, then shrugged.

"Give me a better theory, Chief. Until then, I'm going with this one." He headed toward the stairs.

I watched him until he disappeared upstairs, and then went to take a shower.

Okay. I'm standing at the bottom of the stairs at four in the morning. "Jim," I whisper, "are you awake?"

It's been a long night, but I've had a lot to think about. And I mean, a lot. I went over our conversation again and all of the events that led up to it, trying out several possible alternative explanations. After a couple of hours, I had to admit that Jim's theory fit the facts the best and made the most sense. And, quite frankly, it was pretty damned appealing.

So, if we did decide to... take this further, what was it going to mean to us? To me?

Good question, Sandburg.

Unfortunately, it was a question I couldn't answer alone.

I could answer my part of the equation. Did I love Jim? Sure. That was a no-brainer. Did I love him enough to go through with this?

What the hell am I talking about? Go through with this? Go through with this? Like it was some hardship to have mind-blowing sex last night, without even touching him? Like I didn't want to do it again and again, only this time with the touching?

What am I, a moron?

The only really weird part at that point, for me, was the male-male business, and that's just because I've always liked women - touching them, tasting them - and not because I haven't thought about doing it with a guy. Guys weren't as interesting to me as women - sexually, at least.

Leave it to Jim to always be the exception to the rule.

So that's what brought me to the bottom of the stairs at four in the morning, whispering up to my supposedly-sleeping roommate.

"Yeah, I'm awake," he snapped. "What do you want?"

"I want to talk, man," I replied, taking the stairs two at a time. "And then, if you're okay with it, I want to get naked with you and do the mattress mambo."

I skidded to a stop at the side of the bed. Jim was propped up on his elbows, his comforter rucked around his waist, looking at me like I was something he had pulled out from under a rotting log and didn't want to touch again to put it back.


"Sandburg, it's some obscene hour of the morning, we haven't gotten any sleep, and you want to talk?"

"We need to talk, man, because you were right and we've got to-"

"Wait a minute," he interrupted, holding up his hand. "You're saying I was right?"

"Yeah," I grinned, "against all the odds, you were. That's why we- Jim?"

He sat up, reached over and grabbed my shirt, and hauled me into the bed with him.

"Hey! What's with the cave man routine?" I smacked him on the chest. On his bare chest. On his smooth, bare chest...

He took my hand, which had somehow started to rub little circles on that smooth, bare chest, and pulled it up to his mouth. Then he kissed my fingers and I shivered and brought up my other hand to continue the rubbing. And then he shivered. Hoo boy.

I pinched his left nipple and he groaned. Can't forget that groan. Nope. That deep, rich groan goes down in the ol' memory banks for all time, because it made me pop a chubby to end all chubbies. My sweats were tented out like a Ringling Brothers big top, and I had to move my fingers from his chest to adjust myself.

Jim caught my hand and pushed it away. "Let me," he said, his voice as deep and rich as his groan. And then he touched me, and I think I must've yelled or something, because he whispered "Shut up, Chief," and let go of my other hand and slid his fingers around the back of my neck and pulled me down for a kiss.

Jim's so polite when he kisses. Don't get me wrong, I love his kisses, but he does these little, asking-permission licks on my lips first, before he slides inside. They make me even harder, if that's possible. Of course, the fact that he was rubbing my dick through my sweats also counted. I groped around for a bit, just mapping the vast, new territory next to me, and then slid my hand down beneath the comforter and under the elastic of his shorts.

Man, his dick felt as good as it looked. I must've been doing something right as I was fondling him, because he shivered again and put his hand inside my sweats and touched my bare cock with his fingers.

I broke off the kiss 'cause I needed to breathe, and tightened my grip on him. Jim looked at me like he was surprised, groaned, and flopped back on the bed, pulling me down on top of him.

He tugged my tee-shirt up around my armpits and ran his hands over my back and ass, then shoved my sweats down to my knees, freeing my cock. I managed, with his help, to push his shorts down enough to pull his dick out. Then there was this mad jumble of stomachs and hands and cocks, rubbing and sliding, and Jim's breaths were harsh and I grunted in desperation, wanting to come and wanting to wait until Jim came. I got my first wish - I came with a shout - then Jim kissed me as I pumped and thrust, and he came as well.

I could feel the endorphins flooding my body, and I rolled off him, gasping, and flopped on the bed. I was bare from chest to knees, sticky, sweaty, and panting like I'd climbed the steps into the nose-bleed section of the Cascade Arena. It was the best sex I'd ever had.

I glanced over at Jim and smiled. He had bed-hair, swollen lips, his chest was covered in semen, and his shorts were low on his hips, framing his soft cock and balls. The man was beautiful.

He groaned, caught my glance and returned my smile. "I was right, huh?"

"Yeah." I leaned over and kissed him. "You were so right."

"Good. Now can we get some sleep?"

We cleaned up a little, and I coaxed Jim out of his shorts, because I really wanted to see him naked, and he told me to take off my tee-shirt and sweats or he'd do it for me, and I grinned and said "Make me." Two seconds later, I was naked and my clothes had been tossed over the railing.

Jim Ellison, Man of Action. What a guy.

We didn't get much sleep after that, mainly because we'd get all settled and comfortable, and then I'd give in to temptation and touch his chest, or his back, or his ass. He'd growl and then touch my chest, or back, or ass, and that would lead to a kiss or two or twenty and some tactile explorations and teasing and even a quick tickle. We'd settle down for a bit and then it would start all over again.

It was dawn, on the way to morning when the thought struck me. Oh, god, this was going to be good... I finished licking and kissing the backs of his thighs and his ass, and stuck my head out from under the comforter.


He was on his stomach, his arms crossed under his head. He opened one eye and peered, blearily, at me.

"What now, Chief?"

I slipped up behind him and draped my arm and leg over him, and kissed his shoulder, neck and ear. "You remember what you said about us being a closed society?"

He shifted beneath me, his hips nudging my groin, and my cock stirred. "Yeah."

"There's another way to describe a closed society of two people, you know."

"Oh, yeah?" He twisted around so that he was facing me and pushed his hips forward. Oh, wow. He was hard again.

I slipped my hands between us and grabbed his dick. "Praise the Lord, it's a miracle," I said, stroking him gently, "the dead have come alive again."

He laughed and grabbed me, and all conversation stopped for a while. Well, anything intelligible, that is. Although I'm sure the noises we made were pretty expressive, if you're interested in that kind of thing.

Anyhow, we ended up sharing a pillow, our arms and legs tangled up, our sticky stomachs pressed together, exchanging tired kisses.

"What were you saying about the closed society of two people?" he asked, his voice slurred with exhaustion.

"Huh? Oh. Oh, yeah." I held him tighter and smiled, looking forward to his reaction. "Well, there's this institutionalized version of a closed society of two people, who share their living space, and care for each other, and usually they're sexual partners, too." I paused. "I think we're married, Jim."

He gave me a quick peck on the cheek. "Yeah. I know."

"You what?"

"What the hell did you think I was describing last night, Chief?" He looked at my face and started to laugh. "Of course we're married. We've practically been married for years, we just didn't realize it."

I shut my mouth, because I was beginning to drool on the pillow, and glared at him. "Then why didn't you say 'married' instead of all that closed society stuff?"

"Because I thought you'd freak even more if I used that word."

"You jerk," I said, grinning, because he was right. Again.

"Idiot." He gave me a quick kiss.

"Scumbag." I nibbled along his jaw.

"Jackass." He rubbed his hand over my chest.

"Nice ass," I said, giving his butt a quick squeeze.

"Hey, Sandburg." He lifted my chin and dropped a kiss on my nose. "Will you marry me?"

"Awww, Jim, you're such a romantic," I laughed. Then I cupped my hands around his face and gave him a kiss to remember. When we finally pulled apart, he suddenly twisted us around so I was flat on my back and he was looking down at me. A truly evil, wicked grin covered his face.

"Dibs on being the husband," he said, then he tossed off the covers and started down the stairs.

"Ellison, you bastard!" Like hell I was going to be the wife all the time! Besides, I had a couple of hot fantasies about Jim cooking spaghetti, naked except for his apron. I took off down the stairs after him.