The Towel



You sass that hoopy Jim Ellison? Now there's a frood who know where his towel is.* -- The More Than Complete Hitchhiker’s Guide (uh, paraphrased )



First thing, I should have never told Simon what I was getting Jim for his birthday. There are things Simon understands or at least accepts, such as the existence of Jim’s senses. There are things Simon doesn’t understand – that would be how Jim and I can finish each others’ sentences. And then there are things Simon simply refuses to understand on the general principle that if he refuses to understand it, he doesn’t have find a cubbyhole for it in his worldview.

We are all guilty of this to some extent. Which means I have to give Simon a free pass on understanding why I was consigning myself to Visa hell all for the purchase of two of those humongous bath sheets – 800 grams of pure undyed Turkish cotton in each square meter. Pure, pristine Nazilla 84, straight from the Aegean region where the Meander meanders.

Simon can roll his eyes, but Jim is a practical sensualist. He gets transfixed over flannel. If nothing else, I know my sentinel.

Of course, now, Simon is apparently convinced I know my sentinel a little too intimately for his comfort. Guess somebody forgot to let me in on that knowing where to buy Turkish bath towels was part of the secret gay code. Okay, so I’m not entirely straight. It’s the rare individual that’s 100% one way or the other. Hell, I’d seen Jim look. I’d even seen him flirt with a guy a couple of times. But I know my Jim, too, and with William Ellison’s son it was solely a question of baggage. Kinsey didn’t even enter into it.

And with Jim it’s not just *baggage*. It’s a matching set of angst luggage. Hell, angst steamer trunks.

"You’re serious. You’re giving him towels."

Simon can’t let go of this. It’s like I’ve done something utterly perverse. Like he’s found I’ve been keeping smutty pictures of bossy and the farm hand on the PD computer.

"Well, you know what Douglas Adams said about towels."

Simon frowns. Bet you twenty in a few minutes he’ll be running good old Doug’s name through the Interpol database or something.

"Actually, Simon, I don’t expect you to know what Douglas Adams says about towels. Just forget it. Write it off as another sentinel thing."

An eyebrow cocks. "*You’re* not a sentinel, Sandburg."



It’s not that it *never* crossed my mind what Jim would look like wrapped up in a couple yards of Turkish terry. But I honestly got them solely with the man’s overly sensitive fifty-touch-receptors-per-square-centimeter in mind.

It’s not the package. I mean it is the package. But I’d like to think that I’d love Jim even if he was 5-foot-2 and rotund with Austin Power’s teeth. Luckily the universe didn’t test me that way. No, the universe tested me by giving me a not-quite-at-a-hundred-percent Kinsey score and a roomie with the body of a Greek god. Okay, definitely getting to be a *middle-aged* Greek god, but it’s really not the package.

I do love the guy.

As much as I can figure out above love … Face it, Naomi loves everything. She’s so non-discriminating it took me a while to figure out love was a state most people don’t constantly reside in. Of course, she loves in about fifteen-minute increments, but it’s still love. She just always sees something she loves just a little better, oh, say, about thirty miles up the road.

But, yeah, as best I can figure out -- I love Jim.

I love him so much, that I refuse to let him know. A guide protects his sentinel. Even from his guide …



Towels are a private thing.

One, I’m not having Simon looking down from six-four waiting to pick up the shattered pieces when Jim gets insulted at my perverse idea of a gift. Two, if – as I think – Jim finds Turkish towels as enticing as he found 630-count combed cotton, it’ll take me a while to get him out of the zone.



Jim hefts his package carefully and admires the hand-stamped wrapping paper that I doubt he would have even noticed two years ago. I think somewhere Simon is twitching nervously.

"It’s not going to bite, Jim."

His gaze slides to me suspiciously.

My hands gesture placatingly. "Hey, I learned my lesson last year."

A corner of his mouth quirks up and he starts to slice through the tape. As he gets to the logo’d box Simon’s doubts come back home to roost and my heart rate spirals upward. Blue eyes narrow in concern.

"Completely inanimate," I reassure.

"Your pulse just doubled."

I shrug. "Simon thinks you won’t like it."

"Simon doesn’t know me." He looks at me with that damnable trust that makes me lightheaded. "You know me."

He frowns as my pulse rate moves to triple-time. I punch him lightly on the arm.

"Just *open* it."



I have to gently disentangle one of the bath sheets from Jim who is stroking it appreciatively, the guide in me taking over. "Don’t get carried away."

Jim blushes faintly like he thinks towels from his best friends aren’t inappropriate, but enjoying petting them probably is.

"Why did Simon think I wouldn’t like them?"

I probably shouldn’t have mentioned that. "They were on his beyond-friendship list."

"His what?"

"You know. We all have these lists if what’s appropriate. Towels are on Simon’s for-significant-other-only list. He thought if I’d gotten you towels then that meant we were… intimate."

"Chief, you know practically everything about me. I don’t think you can get more intimate."

"Sexually intimate," I clarify willing my pulse rate to a steady seventy-two.

"Oh." Jim tilts his head and I move to distract him from my sudden tachycardia.

"I told him …" I shake my head, trying to clear it. "I told him the truth."

"Clue me in here." Jim is way too focused on my vitals. "What truth would that be?"

"That we’re friends." I really didn’t mean that to sound like a question. "The best."

He’s got that look. That pleased-with-himself, almost happy look that most people would get over the Officer of the Year award, or something. Oh no, Jim. Don’t touch me. I really, really don’t need you to touch me right now.

A warm, strong hand closes on mine. "So, you ever thought about … anything more?"

"What?" I stammer.

"Brad Young came out last week, did you know that?"

"Brad Young? In K-9 patrol, right?"

Jim settles back and takes another sip of his wine. "Yep. And before he came out, you know what he did?"

I numbly shake my head.

"He came to talk to me, first. Wanted to know if I’d found it difficult."

I’m not following. "Found what difficult?"

"Being an openly gay cop."

"Jim you’re straight."

"That’s what I told Young." Jim never broke from his casual pose but I could see the jaw muscles on isometric overtime. "He laughed and said I must be the most repressed queer bastard on Earth."

"Wait, I saw Brad yesterday. He was taking Keiko out for a hydrant stop." I ponder the incongruity. "So that means you didn’t kill him?"

"I agreed he might be right." Blue eyes study me seriously. "So how come *you* never told me and I have to hear it from Brad Young?"

My mouth gapes open and closed like a pond koi’s.

"You knew, didn’t you, Chief? You know everything."

"I …" Jim Ellison’s having a fucking life-changing-realization about his sexuality and it’s my fault for not telling him sooner? "So, you’re just now figuring out you’re, what, bi? Is that what you’re saying?"

He appears to consider this. "Maybe. What do you think?"

"Me? What do *I* think. What I think is you’ve got baggage. Three bellboys worth of baggage. I’m buried in fucking luggage here and you want to know if I think you could swing both ways? Are you nuts? You think I’ve been looking at that barricade of American Touristers and wanting to go through it?"

"Well I’ve been thinking about that – the baggage stuff. Thinking that maybe it’s time to toss the luggage out." He waves Turkey’s finest terry at me. "Now that my roommate was nice enough to get me a towel."

I’m probably cross-eyed ‘cause Jim is looking a little blurry and awfully close. "Huh?"

A strong grip encourages me to sit on the sofa. A warm body follows my path down to the cushions. One gentle hand wraps my head and leans me into a solid shoulder. The other warms my arm with a repeated caress.

"Well you know what the Hitchhiker’s Guide says about towels, don’t ya, Chief? You really don’t need anything else."

My nearly hysterical giggle brings warm lips and the soft puffs of Jim’s breath to my ear.

"*You* read the Hitchhiker’s Guide?"

Jim manages to look faintly insulted. "I know it’s not the same as the twenty-two years you’ve spent in college, Einstein, but I did manage a few semesters. I had ample opportunity to do all the usual stuff – kill a few kegs, deflower a co-ed or two, read the ‘Guide."

I can’t stop laughing, hiccupping against Jim’s broad chest.

"I didn’t mean it to be like this." Jim leans his forehead against the crown of my head. "I was going for romantic. I really was."

I huff helplessly.

"I can do romantic," protests Jim. "I just got … distracted by the damn towel."

I bend almost double in his arms before some less juvenile part of me recognizes the real seriousness of the conversation.

"Jim, we’ve got to stop laughing about this. You can’t just … just …"

"Jettison the whole load? Why not?"

"We’re talking life-changing stuff here."

"Yeah," he agrees, draping you in terry. "But you know, any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the Galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through and still know where is towel is, is clearly a man to be reckoned with."

I’m grinning and I can’t help myself. I’m on the sofa, in the arms of the man I love. I’m wearing a towel. Okay, well I’m wearing jeans, a tee, a flannel shirt and a towel, but still … there’s me and Jim … and Jim’s got a towel. And a towel has immense psychological value. It friggin’ negates the need for luggage ‘cause for some reason if a strag discovers that a hitchhiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that is also in possession of a toothbrush, washcloth, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, ball of string …

"Hey," I whisper. Jim lifts his face from where he’s nuzzling into my neck. "You sass that hoopy Jim Ellison? There’s a frood who really knows where his towel is."

He bends toward me, his mouth exploring mine. His tongue flickers lightly against my hard palate. His teeth scrape my bottom lip ever so gingerly as I’m sucked and tasted with a headiness that takes both our breath away.


Bet Arthur Dent never got kissed like that.




[From the helpful and friendly Hitchhiker’s Guide Dictionary: Sass: know, be aware of, meet, have sex with; hoopy: really together guy; frood: really amazingly together guy.]