Author's disclaimer: No money made, no infringment intended.
Eventually, he decided it was Carolyn's fault.
She had been the one, after all, who had decided in the early halcyon days of their marriage that the only way she could possibly watch a Jags game was if he allowed her to lie on the couch with him, nose pressed against his chest, one leg threaded between both of his, arm hooked loosely around his waist. For Carolyn the best way to watch a Jags game had been not to watch it at all.
And he had loved it . . . the press of her breasts against his chest, the heat of her breath slowing as she dozed, the tension of being half-hard and distracted by a game with the volume turned down low . . .Those had been some of the best moments of their marriage. It didn't hurt that those moments had often been followed by some of the best lazy Sunday afternoon sex of the marriage as well.
But more than the sex, Jim had liked the closeness, the feeling of being loved so much, trusted so much, that all that mattered was being together. Sometimes, now, watching the games alone or with Sandburg, he still missed those moments, missed shifting and feeling someone else's body shift with his.
He missed the intimacy created by heat and contact, by simple animal comfort, by hearing the rush of someone else's breath or feeling the thud of someone else's heart against his own. He didn't miss Carolyn herself much anymore, which said as much about the marriage as anything else he supposed, but Jim missed watching the games with her on Sunday afternoons.
Sandburg, obviously, was no help.
He sat on the floor near Jim's ankles, heeled like an obedient dog, hair pulled back and a pile of homework assignments in his lap. He was supposed to be grading and watching the game, theorectically, but Blair Sandburg, man of a thousand coats, had gone out two nights ago to get groceries and gotten caught in the rain. He also had caught a cold, and taken at least three doses of DayQuil to fend off the sniffles. Instead of grading and watching tv, he was dozing, head bobbing in the ancient war between responsibility and rest.
Jim had offered him the couch before the game had started, but Blair shook his head.
"No thanks, man. I'd be asleep in a minute. I need to get these done."
Jim had nodded and sprawled out, tuning out the soft muttering and sniffing from the far end of the couch in favor of the game. Despite the fact that he had no one dozing in his arms and hadn't for over four years now, Jim still watched the Sunday games with the volume down low. Habit, he supposed. The Sentinel hearing didn't hurt, either, and Sandburg never complained. He got more done when he had to remember to watch tv.
Jim looked down the length of the couch at his partner. Sandburg's head was bowed like a man in prayer, only Jim supposed that a man at prayer wouldn't be drooling a little unless he was really damn religious. He smiled. Poor kid. He should get some sleep.
"Hey," Jim said, nudging Blair with one sock-covered toe. "Hey, Chief."
Blair's head jerked up. "What? What?"
"You're asleep. Go lie down."
"I wasn't asleep, I was resting my eyes."
Jim chuckled. "Go lie down and rest your eyes, then."
"Ha ha, Ellison. I have to get these done."
"You were doing a real good job there, I noticed."
Sandburg scowled at him and went back to grading. Jim smiled and went back to his game.
It must have been all of a minute and a half before the kid was asleep again, Jim noticed, this time with his head thrown back instead of tipped forward, his ponytail resting on one of Jim's ankles.
Jim thought about moving, about nudging Sandburg off his ankle and into bed, but he'd already tried that and it didn't seem like a productive mode of action. Sandburg would wake up again, bitch again, and then fall alseep again, and they'd be back at square one.
Besides, his sweatpants had ridden up a little and he could feel the soft tangle of Blair's hair against his ankle.
Jim went back to watching the game. Or, more accurately, he tried to go back to watching the game, but every minute or so the Man Who Only Rests His Eyes would move his head, or shift against the couch, or make this gentle sighing sound and murmur a couple of words in sleep-talk and Jim would be forced to look away from the game and at Blair. The final straw was when Sandburg turned in his sleep, papers sliding in an arc off of his lap, and pressed his cheek against Jim's shin, one arm coming up and across Jim's knee as if it were a pillow instead of a bony ridge.
"Jeez," Jim murmured. The kid was really asleep now, no doubt about it. It was his obligation as a partner and a friend to send him to bed before Blair's neck stiffened up or the guy drooled through Jim's protective sweatpant coating.
"Hey," he said again, moving his leg. Sandburg sighed and pressed his cheek against Jim's kneecap, smacking his lips. Jim rolled his eyes.
"Hey," he said. This time he sat up and touched Blair's shoulder, shaking him a little. Blair looked up, bleary with sleep.
"You're crashed out on my leg."
Blair looked down at the leg under his hand and then back up at Jim as if he were wondering what the point was. It hadn't seemed to occur to him that sleeping on his partner's knees was neither appropriate nor comfortable.
"Yeah," he said.
Jim looked at him. Any number of responses came to mind. He could have said "so go to bed, Sandburg" or "I thought you had to get those papers done?" or "you're going to cut off the circulation to my feet," or "are you aware that knee-sleeping is considered a medical symptom of impending impotence. No, really Sandburg. No shit," but what actually came out of his mouth as he extended his hand to his sleep-rumpled roommate was "why don't you come up here?"
As soon as he said it he wanted to take it back. It wasn't fair, not to himself or to Blair--who he knew had a severe case of hero-worship--to use the kid to assuage his own loneliness. It wasn't right, no matter how it felt when Blair crawled on his knees onto the couch and slid up against Jim's t-shirt, hooking one arm around Jim's back and threading one leg between both of Jim's and pressing his nose into Jim's chest.
It didn't matter that Jim had felt his own arms tighten around Sandburg's smaller form as if they belonged there, or that he enjoyed the wieght of Sandburg leaning against him, snug from head to toe. It didn't matter that he had already pressed his face to Sandburg's hair and kissed him there, or that he never ever wanted to move, not because this reminded him of Carolyn, because it didn't not really, but because it reminded him of Blair, or everything he had ever wanted to do to Blair--to protect him and love him and keep him safe.
And it didn't matter how many objections he came up with, Jim thought, shifting on the couch and feeling the ripple of movement pass through Blair, he was never going to be able to get up from this couch ever again.
Jim brought one hand up to Sandburg's hair and stroked it back off his partner's forehead, noticing as he did that Blair's eyes were open although he certainly couldn't be looking at anything interesting.
"You okay?" he asked. He didn't really want to know, didn't want to hear that no, Blair was not okay, but that, in fact, Blair was freaked out by the tender gesture of his generally macho and gruff partner, but he had to ask anyway. It was the only fair question.
But Blair nodded, tilting his head back so that Jim could see his eyes. They looked sleepy and not at all freaked out.
"I'm good," he said, and Jim sighed. "You?"
"Also good, Chief."
Blair smiled. "You adore me," he said, burying his face in Jim's chest and squeezing tight. Jim felt not only the external embrace but something inside tighten as well.
"Go to sleep," he said. "We can talk about our mutual adoration later."
And after a moment, Blair did go to sleep and Jim went back to watching his game.
Later, after the mutual adoration had been discussed, and then expressed, and then expressed again (this time with much gasping and occasional shouting, but only toward the end, really, which gave Jim plenty of time to dial the hearing down), Jim would think back on the whole beginning of what looked to be a "til death do you part" scenario, and decided that he could blame it all on his ex-wife.