Author's website: http://www.geocities.com/ainm66/TS
Not mine, making no money, intending no copyright infringement. Blah blah blah.
Thanks to _suziq_ and feikoi for looking this over for me.
Written for Calic0cat as part of the Hurricane Katrina Auction - thanks so much for waiting!
This story is a sequel to:
It was about 2:00 the next afternoon when they finally got home from the day before. Nothing like 30 hours on the job to boost your spirits, Jim thought cynically.
Because Blair was moving faster than he was, Jim had to settle for the second shower, hardly improving his mood.
When Jim came out of the bathroom, he was startled to find Blair shaking out a beach towel. He'd assumed his roommate would be either asleep or eating, since they were way behind in both departments -- but beach towels in January?
"Oh man, isn't it good to finally relax?" Blair asked. "I don't understand why all the criminals in Cascade have to go on a spree at this time of year -- what happened to the spirit of Christmas?"
Blair continued as if Jim were actually participating in the conversation. "These past few weeks have been a nightmare, wouldn't you say?" He didn't wait for Jim to answer.
Setting the towel on the arm of the sofa, Blair stretched, reaching his arms high over his head, which in turn lifted the hem of the T-shirt he wore under an open flannel shirt.
Jim reminded himself not to stare.
Distracted, he missed the beginning of what Blair was saying. That wasn't an infrequent occurrence -- but no mere mortal could take in *every*thing Blair said, so Jim didn't feel guilty. Usually. Much.
"So I'm going on holiday," Blair was saying when Jim tuned back in.
Jim tensed, and felt suddenly chilled. "Holiday?" he asked in what he hoped approximated a calm voice.
"Definitely -- between finals in mid-December and then the rash of weird cases and stake-outs and middle-of-the-night gun battles, I need a holiday."
"So... where are you going?"
"Barbados," Blair answered in what to Jim sounded like a very self-satisfied tone.
Jim was not pleased. No, actually Jim was seriously pissed. How could Blair be going to Barbados without him? Hell, how'd he even get the money? The kid was always broke -- was that just a scam? Or had he somehow scammed someone else into taking him?
"...warm sun, fruity drinks..." he caught from Blair in mid-muse.
He'd had enough -- he was too tired to deal with this, and he was standing with nothing but a towel around his hips in the middle of winter, he realized.
He felt like stomping out of the loft, he felt like yelling... but this was his place, and he was exhausted, and it wasn't any of his business where Sandburg went when. Or why. Or with whom...
Jim turned with a snarl and took a tiny bit of solace in stomping up the stairs to his room.
He sat on the edge of his bed for a moment, towel slipping off unnoticed as he listened to Blair bustle around below. Which he did not want to do, he told himself, and turned his hearing down to ignore his roommate.
Sitting there trying not to think about Sandburg, it finally occurred to Jim that he was getting rather chilly -- this wasn't Barbados, after all. He scowled, but got up to pull on a soft cotton shirt and a pair of sweat pants.
Well, now what? he wondered. He was a bit hungry, and a bit thirsty, but he'd taken the edge off while he waited for his turn in the shower, and he didn't feel like facing his partner. With a sigh and a shrug he lay down on his bed on his back, punching the pillow a few times to get comfortable.
As he lay there and slowly began to relax just a bit, he had to admit to himself with a small snort of recognition that he was behaving rather childishly about the whole thing, especially when Blair seemed so happy. Behaving ridiculously, truth be told. But damn, he was tired... he closed his eyes and slowly brought up his hearing...
... and was startled to hear just what a commotion his roommate was making downstairs. He was humming what seemed to be an ever-mutating medley of Jimmy Buffett songs as he moved from his room, to the kitchen, through the living room... what the hell was he *doing? * If he was packing for a trip, he must be planning to literally take the kitchen sink, he thought, laughing at the image.
The call from below came as a shock to the sentinel's ears, focused as they had been on the quieter sounds that Sandburg had been making.
"Hey Jim, are you awake up there?"
Oh god, he's going to ask me to borrow something for his trip, Jim thought, and contemplated not answering, but that wasn't his way.
"Yeah," he said in a tone that didn't exactly invite discussion.
"Then get down here, man! Time's a wasting!"
The thought ran through Jim's mind that the last few weeks had possibly caused Sandburg to lose his grip on reality.
"Come on, Jim, don't sleep the day away in the hotel!"
"Get down here, Ellison!"
Jim had to smile -- he always knew Sandburg wouldn't take no for an answer when he called him Ellison. Deciding that it probably wasn't safe to let Blair wander around deranged, and that he wouldn't be able to nap anyway with Blair shouting at him all afternoon, Jim headed down the stairs.
And stopped dead in his tracks halfway down those stairs as he saw what had been done in his absence.
Blair had moved all the furniture away from the balcony doors to make a wide, open space. He had covered the floor with the beach towel he had been holding when Jim had come out of the shower plus a couple more that Jim had never seen, two side by side and one across the bottom.
There were several tropical decorations that looked like Blair might have actually bartered with some native tribe for on some expedition. On a woven placemat at the head of the blankets, about a foot and a half from the balcony door, sat two inviting-looking frozen drinks and a pile of fresh fruit.
And there, on top of one of the beach towels, staring out onto the balcony, was Blair, wearing swimming trunks and nothing else.
As if drawn by a magnet, Jim made his way down the stairs and around the couch, coming to stand between the food and the door, in front of Blair.
Blair looked up. "Watch out, man, you've got long pants on and the ocean's gonna get you!"
Jim looked at Blair's grin blankly.
"And where's your suit, anyway?"
"I swear, Jim, you just are not with the program here. Your swimming suit -- I told you to put it on."
"Yes, I did. You can hardly tell me you didn't hear me, Mr. Ears-Like-A... um, I'm too tired to think of what has good ears, but it doesn't matter, because your ears beat them all." Blair looked a bit bewildered himself.
"I... um, I wasn't listening."
"You weren't listening."
"Well, I know you heard me saying we were going to Barbados. Uh oh, big wave, you better get back!"
Jim automatically took a step back toward the door.
"Not that way, you're going deeper into the ocean! Come on, just get on your blanket -- you're blocking my view of the sea anyway."
Forget Barbados -- Jim was sure they were in the Twilight Zone. But he obediently lay down on the blanket next to Blair's, and faced the balcony like Blair was.
They were both quiet for several minutes, and despite his confusion, Jim found that the tension was nonetheless starting to slip away.
Finally, Jim spoke.
"I didn't what?"
"You didn't say we were going to Barbados."
"Of course I did -- I remember you saying 'Barbados?' like you'd never heard of the place."
"I heard Barbados, but I didn't hear we. You said you were going to Barbados." He tried to sound matter-of-fact, but he was afraid that just a little bit of a pout colored it.
Blair turned onto his side and faced Jim. "Jim, man, I might have said 'I' at first, but then I went on about what a nice break it would be if we set up our own little beach party here in 'Barbados'" -- he waved his hand to encompass the tableau he had created -- "and OK, you didn't say yes, but you didn't say no, either."
Jim felt a wave of relief pass through him, followed closely by a wave of utter stupidity.
"I..." Feeling unpleasantly vulnerable lying there next to Blair, he sat up on the towel.
Jim smiled ruefully. "Yeah."
"Well what did you think I was doing with the beach towel, anyway?" Blair sat up as well, peering at him intently.
Jim just looked at him, too embarrassed to admit the truth.
Blair shook his head, looking at Jim with exasperated affection.
"I don't believe it -- you really thought I was just waltzing off to Barbados for real? Without even talking to you about it?"
Jim replied with only a sheepish and hopefully apologetic little smile.
As Jim watched his partner, the smile slid from Blair's face, replaced by disappointment and no small measure of hurt, as if the import of his own words was finally hitting him.
"You seriously thought I would do that to you? Pick up and leave with almost no warning? Especially knowing that I couldn't even afford such a thing? A week after winter break? Not even talk to you about it until I started packing?" His voice rang with righteous indignation.
"Blair, I --"
"No. Just leave it alone." He got up from his towel and moved toward the door of his tiny bedroom.
Jim stood and took a step toward him, wanting -- needing -- to... what? Explain? Apologize? Offer lame excuses? But Blair held up a hand in a classic 'don't you even think of coming any closer' gesture, so Jim stopped.
"Look, Jim, I've just got to... process. Alone." With that, he walked into his room and closed the door.
Jim just stood there, watching the door as if somehow Sandburg was going to pop out and make everything right again.
But he didn't mess it up, Jim acknowledged. I did.
Sighing heavily, Jim moved to the sofa, now facing a strange angle to accommodate the "beach," and slowly sank down. He fixed his gaze on Blair's beach towel and discarded boat drink, and tried to think of what he could do.
Not only had he hurt Blair by thinking the worst of him, again, he'd also ruined Blair's 'vacation.' He wasn't sure if trying to fix the second would help with the first, but he was at a loss as to how to try to convince Blair that he was truly sorry without admitting the fact that it was mostly jealousy that had fueled his anger, and admitting that the jealousy had its base in his... feelings.
No, saying sorry wasn't going to cut it. But maybe showing it might work...
Blair emerged from his room about 20 minutes later. At the first sound of him approaching the door, Jim hurried over to meet him.
As Blair began to speak, it was if he didn't even see Jim, as if he were simply reciting some speech that he'd cooked up in his room.
"OK, Jim. I know that you have abandonment issues. And trust issues. And self-esteem issues. I get that no matter how often and how much I prove to you that you don't have to worry about those things with me, you're still going to act in instinctive, if unflattering, ways when certain situations arise.
"But I deserve your attention before you decide that I've betrayed you somehow. I deserve to have you actually hear me before you jump to conclusions and pass judgment."
"You deserve more than that, Blair," Jim murmured sotto voce.
"What?!" Blair demanded.
"Nothing... but I am sorry, Chief."
"Yeah, you always are, afterward."
A pain almost physical went through him as Jim recognized the truth of Blair's statement.
Apparently Blair noticed his flinch, because suddenly he actually focused on Jim. Taking in the swimming trunks and the bare torso, Blair made a questioning sound.
Jim just smiled, and swept his hand in a gesture that invited Blair to come back to the beach.
Blair moved slowly back to his towel, and stood there for a long moment, taking in the changes that had come to Barbados. As Blair stood there, transfixed, Jim hurried to retrieve some items from the kitchen.
Jim set down the brightly-colored floral tray on his towel and began to unload it onto Blair's original placemat, plus three more that he had added.
First the drinks -- he'd taken the fruit smoothies that Blair had already made, poured them out of the clear plastic cups they'd been in and into two margarita glasses made of bubbled green glass, and garnished them with fresh fruit.
Next came a clear glass bowl with the fruit that Blair had set out, now trimmed and ready to eat. Chunks of mangoes, pears, apples, even slices of kiwifruit -- Jim didn't know when and where Blair could have gotten them given the schedule they had been under, but he wasn't going to look a gift horse.
Finally came two plates, matching the glasses and also garnished with fruit. One held a small wedge of Brie, two cheese knives, and thin slices of French bread; on its twin rested two decadent-looking pastries.
Jim was afraid to look at Blair's face -- he usually worried when Blair was silent -- so he took the tray back to the kitchen and set it on the counter, and returned to the now-seated Blair with two smaller plates that matched the serving plates and the glasses.
Setting a plate at the head of each of their towels, Jim sat down on his blanket and waited.
After a long minute of quiet, which allowed Jim's fears to multiply, Blair finally spoke.
Jim couldn't be sure, but he thought the "wow" was more along the lines of "wow, look what you've done" and less "wow, aren't you a hopeless idiot."
"I couldn't really go too far with the Barbados theme with the food we had in the house, so I went cruise-ship instead... you can get to Barbados on a cruise ship, you know... so I thought maybe it would be OK..." Jim realized embarrassedly that he was babbling, and shut up immediately.
Blair looked between the artfully presented fare and Jim several times, his 'analyzing the situation' look on his face. Finally he sighed.
"I know by now that the words don't come easy to you -- but this is definitely the most elaborate apology you've ever given me."
"Are sorry? Were a big, distrustful jerk? Leapt to bizarre conclusions so fast that -- that -- I don't even know what?"
Jim laughed softly as Blair wound down as quickly as he'd spun up.
"I was going to say I was tired, but, yeah, the other stuff too."
Blair matched Jim's small smile.
"Sleep deprivation's a bitch, man -- I should know. Not enough to get you totally off the hook, but definitely a mitigating factor."
Jim breathed a sigh of relief at the humor that had crept back into Blair's voice. With a grunt that Blair seemed to correctly interpret as 'go ahead,' Jim gestured once more toward his mini cruise-ship buffet.
Blair picked up his drink and took a small swallow, then sat staring at the glass, holding it up to the fading winter sunlight shining through the balcony doors.
"Where did all this stuff come from, anyway? I've never seen this green glass set, and all I recognized of the food is the fruit -- you hardly had time to go shopping," he questioned.
"Well, after I found the cheese in the back of the fridge, I ran down to Collette's for the bread and pastries. As for the serving stuff, it's been downstairs in storage since the time Carolyn decided we had to have a luau, fiesta, some damn thing."
"She doesn't really seem the type."
"Well, she's not -- but maybe she was wishing she were."
"How'd it turn out?"
"Just short of awful. Probably why she left all the evidence here when she moved out."
Blair gave a snort of amusement, and settled in to partake of the unexpected feast.
Time passed quietly as they spread soft cheese on crusty bread, ate chunks of juicy fruit, sipped their drinks. The late afternoon sun wasn't really warm, but it was relaxing nonetheless, and Jim was almost starting to feel like they were somewhere in the Caribbean.
"So. What's this really about, Jim?"
Blair's question jolted him out of his mellow contemplation of the "ocean."
"Seriously, Jim, this is a bit extreme for you. If it was just a matter of realizing you'd been an ass, you would have just pounded on my door and said something like, 'Come on, Sandburg, your drink's melting and the tide is coming in, you've got to rescue your blanket.'" He shook his head with an amused smile.
Blair exhaled loudly in obvious aggravation. "Are we going to go through this little exercise again?"
"Yeah, yeah. You." He rolled his eyes. "There's something else going on here. You aren't just sorry that you leapt to conclusions, there's more to it... why did you jump to that particular conclusion, hmm? Why did you assume that I was going off on holiday without you?"
Jim took a sip of his drink rather than answering.
"One of the implications is that you would have liked to go with me to Barbados. Perhaps you didn't like the idea that I might be going off with someone other than you?"
Jim made a strangled sound, but no actual reply. It didn't sound like Blair was really asking anyway, more like torturing him with already-decided answers.
"So, what do we have? Hostility over being left behind, followed by a very thorough 'apology'..." Blair turned away from Jim for a moment to survey the now picked-over spread that Jim had provided.
"A rather... sensual apology, appealing to most of the senses... almost an intimate take on the initial beach-party atmosphere..."
He turned back toward Jim, capturing his eyes with a thorough and unwavering stare.
As they sat facing one another on their respective beach towels, Jim was disgusted to feel heat rising on his cheeks.
"Mmm..." Blair continued. "That sounds like... jealousy, to me. What about you, Jim? Does it sound like jealousy to you too?"
If the intense look in Blair's eye hadn't also been warm and welcoming, Jim probably wouldn't have instinctively answered truthfully by giving him a small nod.
"Ah. Hmm." A smile played about Blair's lips, but he made no further comment.
Suddenly tired of the hesitant, diffident attitude that he'd somehow found himself adopting to counteract his earlier hostility, Jim looked at Blair with more than his eyes, taking in his scent, his heartbeat...
All the signs, taken with Blair's words, were enough to let Jim find his confidence and shake off the uncharacteristic, almost timid mood. Gone was the supplicant, back was the alpha male.
His tone and his expression were intense. "And what about you, Blair? How does that jealousy make you feel?"
If he was startled by the abrupt shift in the atmosphere and the way Jim had suddenly turned the tables, Blair didn't show it. Instead he gave an almost blinding smile of approval.
"It makes me feel great, Jim. Wonderful, actually."
"Oh yes?" Jim asked, trying for fierce but unable to wholly contain his grin. "And why would that be?"
"Because I've been waiting a long time to see it. A long time." The laughter on Blair's face was somewhat muted, letting an expression of unshakable satisfaction shine through.
"Apparently we've been wasting that time," Jim said as he leaned in closer to his partner.
It was Blair's turn to look wide-eyed and at a loss for words. He moved fractionally closer to Jim, seemingly unaware that he did so.
Threading his fingers through the hair at the base of Blair's neck, Jim pulled him closer still, just close enough to capture his mouth with his own.
Blair's lips were sweet from the fruit and from the pastry, but Jim thought fleetingly that he would taste that way regardless. Blair opened his mouth on a soft sigh, inviting Jim in to explore that sweetness further.
Their kiss was addictive... they took small pauses for air but couldn't seem to pull completely away, trading nibbles and licks and deep, intimate strokes until Jim felt almost dizzy with the sensations that had been so long postponed.
But still, their only points of connection were Jim's hand cupping the back of Blair's head and their hungry mouths, and rather than fulfilling their need it only served to heighten it further.
Finally Jim pulled back a bit so that he could look at Blair's face, and hopefully find confirmation that they really ought to be horizontal on the towels at this point.
They looked at one another with somewhat dazed expressions, eyes dark, breathing rapid.
"So," Blair said in a soft, husky voice.
"So," Jim replied in kind.
"So... we're finally here, hmm?"
Blair's sound of exasperation wasn't particularly convincing. "Here, now, us, you and me, doing this."
"Mm hmm," Jim agreed. "But... not just now?" He realized the question was rather cryptic, but he also knew that Blair was well-versed in reading between his lines.
"No, not just now. Forever, Jim."
Jim gave a satisfied nod. "But we need to be careful."
"Why?" Blair questioned with a suddenly wary look.
"Cardinal rule of making out on the beach, Chief: don't get sand in your trunks."
Blair laughed so hard he collapsed against Jim's chest -- but as skin met skin for the first time, all thoughts of humor were swept out to sea.
Barbados by ainm: email@example.com
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