Jim rolled over and pressed his face deep into the pillow. Sounds
nudged at his consciousness, daring him to identify and acknowledge them, but
he resisted. It was Saturday morning, and he had no good reason to get out of
bed. That was the only thought he allowed inside. A beam of morning sun touched
his shoulder where the blanket had fallen away, and he sighed deeply. The heat
from the late spring rays gently massaged the recently healed shoulder. Fingers
of solar energy worked the stiff muscles, moving slowly down his back as the sun
climbed in the pale blue sky. Jim kept tired eyes closed, and willed the massage
to continue, picturing golden fingers caressing his shoulder, his back, then gently
tickling farther down as they searched for more stiffness to quell.
the sun pushed farther from the horizon, and the rays moved their intensity. Rolling
onto his stomach, he pulled the blankets farther off his back to expose more skin
to the changing beam. Tactile senses opened in response to the warmth, and the
pulsing of sun on skin was almost sensual. It had been a cold, wet start to summer,
and this unexpected break in the weather couldn't have come at a better time.
For once in too long, Jim had absolutely nothing to do for an entire two days.
First and foremost on his mind was something he almost never did: Sleep in. Second
was going to be a long, hot shower, courtesy of the new tank they'd had installed
a week ago.
And third...Right now, third could wait. Jim felt the pulsing of
the sun as its heat, magnified by the window it was pouring through, met with
soft flesh and willing muscle. Waves of UV moved up and down his back and shoulders,
tingling sensations of heat and motion, made that much more sensuous by the use
of his senses. By opening up completely, Jim was able to spread the sensations
to the parts of his skin still covered, moving the heat and massage and spreading
the effects around. His hearing had inadvertently increased with the opening of
his reception, and he was made aware of sounds in the loft. Blair was in the living
room, the motion of pen on paper reaching clearly up to Jim's bedroom.
golden hands were still caressing his back. Thin fingers reached down, straining
to push their way under the offending blankets. Jim sighed deeply again, letting
the fingers find more of his back, listening to the sounds below him, letting
himself become aware of another presence in the loft. He pictured those golden
fingers, and the hands they were attached to. Soft, warm hands that fit perfectly
at the ends of long, tanned arms. Arms that stretched up to nicely rounded shoulders.
Blonde hair cascading down over a beautifully smooth back.
The hands moved,
and Jim turned to find them again. As he rolled farther around, he heard the coffee
pot gurgle to an end, and pictured his golden blonde masseuse downstairs, fixing
him breakfast on this lazy morning. Groggily, he opened one eye, and caught sight
of her standing in the kitchen. She was smiling to herself, and pouring coffee
into a cup. But her perfect, smooth, tan skin was covered in an old T-shirt and
sweat pants. Jim blinked, trying to clear some of the languor from his eyes. When
he looked again, she had changed.
It wasn't her. It was Blair.
Jim let his
face fall back to the pillow. Baseball. Trucks. Math. Come on, Ellison. One look
out the window showed him the cloud that had put an end to his fun. The rest of
the sky was still a lovely shade of light blue, what he could see of it from where
he lay. His morning illusion completely dashed by the sight of Blair downstairs,
Jim reluctantly considered getting out of bed. Although he really couldn't see
why. The cloud hiding his massaging fingers seemed to be following the sun, preventing
his pleasure from returning. A phone rang downstairs and Blair picked it up.
Jim pressed his head into the pillow, willing the phone to be for Blair.
yeah, I've got those notes in my room, hang on."
Yes! Now, if that sun
would just come back, he could maybe drift off again. As long as you don't see
the clock. Move your head, but don't look at the clock! If you see the clock,
it will all end. Maybe, if...just sort of -- squish the nose down -- slide the
face -- don't look! Damn! He saw it. 8:45.
Well, it was ruined now. No amount
of coaxing or solar massage could override so many years of drill instructed guilt.
Oh sure, he could lie there till noon, but the pleasure was gone. As were his
golden fingers. He sighed deeply, feeling the air as it filled both lungs, then
forced it slowly through his nose, forcing his frustration out each nostril. It
was no good. Well, at least he had the day to just sit around and catch up on
some serious relaxation.
Jim brought both hands up to his chest, and pushed
against a mattress that begged him to stay. Legs fished their way out from under
a tangle of blankets. Feet searched for a cold floor. The smell of freshly-brewed
coffee finally impinged on his awareness, and Jim found the strength to push completely
off the bed and stumble toward the steps. When he was halfway down the stairs,
the sun returned, teasing him by dancing across the now empty bed. Jim continued
down and walked straight for the kitchen, letting the odor of promised caffeine
draw him away from the searching golden fingers.
He reached for the pot as
Blair came back out of his room, still on the phone. Nodding through a barely
suppressed yawn, Jim acknowledged his housemate, then noticed an odd look on his
face at the same instant that the lightness of the pot registered on his groggy
mind. He looked quickly at the pot, willing his eyes to deny the evidence, then
shot Blair an accusing glance when they confirmed the emptiness of the carafe.
Blair moved the phone's mouth piece far enough to mouth the word 'Sorry', then
hurried back to the living room, continuing his conversation.
washed out the pot, breathing in as deeply as he could the essence of what he'd
missed. Just a slight delay, no big deal. Set the pot up again, turn it on, take
your hot shower, and you'll have the whole morning to savor the black liquid.
He opened the cupboard. Sugar...flour...a bag of oreos...cereal...something that
had a picture on the side Jim didn't even want to identify. No coffee. He checked
the other cupboards. No coffee. One more dagger-stare at Blair was met with another
"Sorry" and shrugged shoulders as he remained conveniently on the phone.
Jim checked the soggy grounds, trying to judge just how many times Blair had
already recycled them. The stimulating scent was still strong, and the craving
even more so. Deciding it was worth the effort, he filled the reservoir halfway
with water, flipped the switch, and glared once more at Blair before proceeding
to the bathroom.
The golden fingers were replaced by pulsing jets of heat,
as the shower beat the last of a weeks worth of stress out of Jim's back. He let
his mind wander through the loft as he stood under the spray, eyes closed. Several
things he'd been unable to find time to do beckoned for his attention, but the
loudest voices he heard were those of the couch and newspaper. The shower ended
as hot as it began, and when Jim stepped out, dripping and relaxed, his mood had
improved once again. Even the lack of clean towels, and a balled up sock that
he kicked as he searched the cabinet didn't interfere. Sandburg's idea of what
constituted a laundry bag still seemed to include the entire bathroom floor, but
Jim was willing to ignore it -- today.
Today was his day. Today he was going
to relax, kick back, and let Blair take his turn with laundry and shopping. Jim
wrapped the towel around his waist after drying off, added the sock to the rest
of the dirty laundry in the hamper, then padded out to the kitchen. The coffee
was a lighter shade of brown than he liked, but the smell was still tempting enough
to let him convince his mind it would be strong. He poured a cup, then took it
upstairs, passing Blair who was just finishing his call.
"Hey, Jim. Sorry
about the coffee, man. I was up all night and forgot to go to the store yesterday."
Blair's raised eyebrows and apologetic expression did little to improve his status.
"I'll go to the store this morning, I swear."
Jim left it there and continued upstairs. It wasn't worth an argument that they
both knew he'd win. And Blair had, after all, paid half the cost of the new hot
water tank. Jim had been surprised, and just a little amused, when Blair willingly
and unhesitatingly wrote him a check for $350.00. Even after Jim insisted he was
under no obligation to offer. He remembered what it was like being young, and
Blair really did work two jobs with only his University paycheck to cover his
cost of living. But, it was more a matter of pride, and Jim knew that too. Which
was why he had accepted the check, then placed it in his desk drawer upstairs
with no intention of cashing it. As rarely as Blair balanced his checkbook, he'd
never realize it hadn't been cashed, and it would be there when he needed it.
Jim dressed, made the bed, noting the fingers of sun that had moved now to
spread over the entire upper half of the loft, then gathered up a few dirty clothes
and his empty cup and went back downstairs. Blair was once again ensconced on
the couch, notebook in his lap and papers strewn around.
"I suppose you
ate all the bagels last night, too?" Jim passed the couch and took his clothes
to the hamper in the bathroom.
"Hmm? Oh, no, man. There's still bagels."
Blair didn't even look up from his notes.
Jim walked back to the kitchen and
was reaching for the refrigerator when another thought struck. Before he could
ask, Blair looked up from his writing.
"And cream cheese." He returned
to his work, pushing his glasses back in place. "I'll go to the store as
soon as I get some more of these notes organized."
"How about laundry?
It's your turn." Jim found the cream cheese, surprisingly right where he'd
left it, and retrieved two bagels from the bread box.
He glanced out at Blair, completely unconvinced that his housemate was even
listening. Well, he'd give him a few minutes. At least he had breakfast, and the
morning paper was right where he liked to find it, untouched even. He sliced the
bagels, smeared cream cheese liberally over each slice, placed three of the halves
on a plate, stuffed one in his mouth, and poured another cup of the weak coffee
before taking his load to the table and his waiting sports section.
had lost their third game in a row. Well, there went all hope of a repeat of the
Western Series title. No real surprise there. The rest of the sports section was
unexciting, so he switched to headline news. The serial arsonist captured in Mexico
last month was being extradited this weekend. The trial would start next week.
Jim remembered that case. Three of Cascade's best firemen had lost their lives
in one of his fires. The entire city was braced for this trial. He idly wondered
who the poor saps were who would be saddled with the escort duty on that one.
Public cases were no one's favorite. Even if you were just the messenger, somehow
having your face on the front page of the paper, standing next to one of Cascade's
most well-known criminals, did nothing to further your standing in the public
At least the weather looked good. Sunny and mild for the next four days.
Maybe he'd finally go golfing. Jim had just finished the back section when the
phone rang again. It was still on the coffee table, so he let Blair answer it
while he took his plate and cup to the kitchen.
"Hello? Oh, sure, Captain,
he's right here." Blair held out the phone without even looking up from his
Jim sighed and walked out to the living room. Maybe he wants to go golfing?
"Jim, sorry to do this to you on a weekend, but I
need you to do a retrieval."
"A retrieval?" Oh no. No no no.
"Eddie Martinez, the arsonist."
Dammit. "He's in Mexico,
"That's right. The Mexican authorities have all the extradition
papers worked out, we just need him transported up to Cascade. There's no one
available right now. Sorry. But it's a simple job. Just fly down there, pick up
Martinez, and fly back. You can take Sandburg to keep you company."
glanced at Blair, still sitting on the couch, absorbed in his writing. He could
take Blair, or, he could view this as a nice break and go alone. Then he remembered
his morning coffee. "What time is the flight?"
"You leave in
two hours. One stop in Mexico City, then a short hop over to Chiautla. Everything
is ready for you. I'll see you when you get back."
Jim flipped the off switch then set the phone on the kitchen counter. "Duty
calls, Chief." Blair looked up, eyebrows raised questioningly behind his
glasses. "We're flying to Mexico for an extradition. Better bring something
to entertain yourself." Jim saw the hesitancy flash across his face and dared
Blair to beg out of this one. Instead, the glasses came off and he nodded.
When do we leave?"
"Plane leaves in two hours." Jim went to
the steps, and paused next to the bookcase. "Might want to bring a change
of clothes, just in case." There it was, behind Blair's stack of National
Geographic. He'd always meant to read Jack Kelso's book. During his week of recovery
last month, he'd read just about everything else. He retrieved the hardback and
climbed the stairs. Blair could be heard gathering up his papers and notebooks,
then walking to his room while Jim dug his backpack out of the closet.
wearing clean jeans, that should do all right. An extra shirt, change of underwear
and socks, then he went downstairs for his toothbrush and deodorant. Blair was
similarly dressed, having changed out of his sweats, and was stuffing notebooks
into his pack.
"Ready to go, Chief?" Jim slung the pack over one
shoulder and walked out to the living room to grab a light jacket for defense
against the fans and air conditioners of a long flight.
followed him out and pulled a coat off the hooks. "Hey Jim, I don't suppose
we get to go first class for once?"
Jim laughed quietly and shook his
head, opening the door. "Not a chance. Would you want your tax dollars spent
that way?" He held the door while Blair walked into the hall.
dunno, Jim. Being with you guys has given me a new sense of how unbalanced some
of that stuff is."
"Nice try, Sandburg. But I don't think the Commissioner
is gonna be impressed." Jim locked the door and secured his backpack to his
right shoulder, since the left one still ached a little. They drove to the airport
and Jim led the way to the ticket counter. Their tickets were waiting for them
in the usual fashion, and after confirming his ID, the attendant gave them the
gate number. Thirty minutes to kill left plenty of time for Jim to get that strong
cup of coffee he still craved. Blair begged off, claiming his limit had been reached
even before his last pot, so Jim left him sitting by the gate with both of their
backpacks while he went to the closest coffee shop. He ordered a cup of black
coffee and a danish, added a liberal amount of milk, then found a stool facing
the boarding gates and sat down.
From there, Jim had a good view of a crowd
of passengers loading for a flight overseas. He watched as loved ones said their
goodbyes, and noticed several servicemen kissing young women prior to boarding.
He laughed a little, watching the young soldiers. They were still at the age where
they worried more about a comfortable flight, and would rather go commercial than
military if given the alternative. One of the men looked a little like Blair when
his hair was pulled back. He was a little taller, and had the regulation hair
cut, exposing largish ears. In fact, from this angle, he looked a lot like...
"Flight 117, now boarding at gate 56."
Jim finished the last of
his coffee, then walked back out to meet Blair. He was standing to one side of
a group of passengers, both packs on the floor in front of him. When Jim approached,
Blair reached down and picked up his pack, handing it over. Jim caught sight of
a quick flinch and a sudden intake of breath.
"You okay, Chief?"
Blair's injuries, while healed now, had been more serious than his own.
I'm fine." He reached down and retrieved his own pack, slinging it over one
shoulder. "Just a little twinge now and again."
Jim nodded, unconsciously
flexing his own recently healed shoulder. They waited with the crowd until their
row was called, then filed onto the plane, finding their seats over the right
wing. Blair took the window without complaint, and Jim shoved both their packs
into the overhead compartment. The flight was completely booked, but luckily the
rows were only two seats wide. He removed his book and Blair's notebooks, then
sat down and buckled up. A quick scan of the passengers showed him no small children
to complain and cry for the 4 hour flight. Small miracle. It was also a relief
to be flying down, and not picking up some informant who hated to fly. Blair flipped
open his notebook and immediately returned to the task he had been at all morning
with the same concentration level as before. Glasses on, head bent over the paper,
pen moving without hesitation as his thoughts flowed. At least this time Blair
knew what they were doing, and wasn't spending half the trip trying to guess the
reason for a secret night rendezvous on a train in the middle of nowhere.
sighed as the plane began to taxi down the runway. This wasn't the weekend he
had planned, but at least he was relaxing, for the most part. And maybe, just
maybe, he'd finally be able to tell Jack with complete honesty, that he liked