WORRIED ABOUT SANDBURG
Im worried about Sandburg.
I mean I always worry about Sandburg. Hes my guide and my best friend but he was also my savior when my senses threatened to send me to an asylum at worst, a therapist at best. He told me Im his Blessed Protector but right now I feel useless.
It seems like a stupid concern but I know Sandburg. This is the guy I once said would jump a table leg until a couple of months ago. In fact, I cant remember the last time he dated and if you know Sandburg as well as I do, thats a big worry.
Not only that, hes quiet and Ive known for a long time now that a quiet Sandburg is cause for concern. But every time I asked him what was wrong, he said, "Nothing, everythings fine."
Didnt fool me for a minute. I mean Sandburgs the one whos always going on about how we should talk more, how bottling up your feelings and emotions only brings you bad karma further down the track.
Something had to be done. I could live just barely - with a hyperactive almost-child who prattled on for hours at a time about cultural practices and differences, who insisted that my drinking sour milk, though a mistake on his part, was still a valid part of an experiment, who stayed up too late and in the process, kept me awake with the tapping of his computer keys and his almost, but not quite sub-vocal mutterings while he marked blue books.
I could live with his hair in the drain, his algae shakes and his refusal to accept there were times when he had to stay in the truck, and especially that he didnt seem to understand that there was a way to actually keep control of your debts, especially to your landlord, and forego that one book that you just had to have.
But a silent, non-dating Sandburg was going too far. I should have been pleased. Fact is, Ive been feeling something of an attraction to the guy myself for a while now. My macho approach at work has been a benefit in being able to conceal my bisexuality from the force. Simon is probably the only one who suspects and hes too embarrassed to come right out and ask.
We'd finally had a break on the money laundering and drug running case we'd been handling. By the time we took what evidence we had to the DA, she assured us we had an unbreakable case against the Scorsi family. I needed to celebrate and with the mood Blair was in, when Mariah Thomson suggested we go out for a drink after work, I have to admit I was glad to go. I explained the situation to Sandburg and saw a frown deepen on his forehead, his lips pursing in what could only be displeasure. I sighed. I couldn't spend one more night watching television by myself while Sandburg sat next to me, his big blue eyes alternately watching the screen then studying me. "I don't know what time I'll be home," I said finally into the silence. "Don't wait up, okay?"
Sandburg snorted. "As if." He turned and stomped down the corridor toward the elevator then turned back to look at me. "I'm going out too. In fact I don't think I'll be home tonight."
It should have clued me in to how he was feeling but by then I was just fed up with his sorry-assed attitude, and the thought of spending the night with the gorgeous Mariah, alone, in the loft sounded like manna from heaven. "Fine," I said. "I'll see you tomorrow."
He nodded and turned to go. I spun around at the touch of a hand on my arm and saw Mariah standing behind me, asking if I was ready to go; her dark liquid brown eyes full of promise. But as we walked back into her office so she could get her handbag and coat, something made me glance back the way we had come. Sandburg stood where I'd left him, gazing after me, and his face wore an expression of such abject sorrow that I almost canceled my date and hurried back to him, ready to shake the fucking truth out of him if he didn't tell me what the fuck was wrong.
Mariah interceded again, taking my arm and reaching up to whisper in my ear that she didn't have to come in until ten the following day. It was all the invitation I needed. I blinked, effectively shuttering Sandburg from my sight and mind, helped Mariah on with her coat and escorted her down to my truck, looking forward to a night of fun and passion.
It wasn't Mariah's fault. She was a passionate and sensual lover, adventurous and sweet but nothing we did gave me any idea that this could be more than just a one-night stand. To make matters worse, my thoughts kept straying to Sandburg, wondering where he'd gone, if he was okay and more importantly, whether he'd come home in the morning. The lithe body in the bed beside me shifted, drawing my thoughts back to the present.
"Jim?" Mariah's voice was sleepy and sated, infused with a drowsy curiosity. "What's wrong?"
I turned to her, smiling, running my fingers through her dark chocolate locks - and found myself wondering if Blair's curls were as soft. "Nothing," I said, "just wondering where Sandburg's got to. He's got school this morning. If he's late -"
"He's a grown man," Mariah said, sounding more than a little irritated. She stretched languorously then sat up, her hand reaching out to stroke up and down my back, her fingernails scraping gently on the down stroke, designed to arouse, I knew but for some reason, it felt like scratching sandpaper over an open wound. I winced. "His problem if he misses school," she added.
I shifted slightly away from her, then making a decision, swung my legs over the side of the bed. "Sandburg's different," I said, faintly wondering why it sounded like I was defending him, defending our relationship. "His mind's always going a million miles an hour and in fifty directions at once. If I don't keep him on track -"
"Didn't you enjoy last night?" Mariah was on her knees, draping herself over my back, her long hair caressing my bare skin, making me shiver. "It's early. I told you I don't have to go in till ten." She pressed a kiss against my cheek. "Come back to bed," she wheedled and I couldn't help thinking how wrong it sounded to have a self-assured DA suddenly sounding so needy.
I shook my head. "Can't. I have some things I need to do." I stood then and reached for my robe.
Mariah sighed and lay back down, watching me from beneath hooded eyes. "God, it's him, isn't it? Why the hell didn't you tell me? Why the hell did you ask me out?"
I straightened from where I was bent over my dresser drawer searching for clean underwear. Sandburg had done the laundry the day before and I never could find anything after. Usually my boxers and tees would end up entangled with his in the laundry basket in his room. "You asked me out," I reminded her.
"And what was I?" she shot back, sitting up again, her voice suddenly cold and sharp with anger. "Second best?"
I stared at her. "What?"
She reached for her clothes and started pulling them on with choppy movements. "Don't act all innocent with me, Jim. I have to admit one of the reasons I asked you out, was because I wanted to find out if all those rumors were true but I like you, you know? Really like you and I thought that we had a chance of enjoying some special times. I was sure I could -"
"Whoa! Wait a minute!" I cut her off. "What rumors?"
She stood and reached for her shoes, stuffing her stockings into her handbag as though taking the time to put them on was a few seconds too long to stay here. "That you're gay or bi at least. I didn't believe it. There's no way that someone like you; someone who looks like you could bat for the other team. Seems I was wrong."
My face heated even as I shook my head. "You know nothing about me," I retorted, my own anger rising to match hers. "So this was just a little fact-finding mission. So you could go back to your girlfriends and tell them that Jim Ellison swings both ways?"
She stared at me, her eyes glittering, a tiny smile of success on her face. "So you're admitting it." It wasn't a question.
I turned away from her and rummaged through the drawer until I found a pair of socks. "I don't have to explain myself to you." The front door slammed downstairs and I heard Sandburg's keys hit the basket.
"Sounds like your boyfriend made it home on time anyway." Mariah's voice dripped sarcasm.
I rounded on her. "Sandburg is not my boyfriend," I hissed but my thoughts ambushed my words and I found myself wishing I were lying. I took a deep breath and mentally stepped away from the anger. "I'll call you a cab," I said finally.
My attention was on the man downstairs even as I spoke, tracking Blair's progress through the loft. A thump as his backpack hit the floor under the coat hooks, into the kitchen the fridge door squeaked as it was opened, a clinking of bottles, then swallowing followed by a sigh of relief and the rasp of a hand wiping over morning bristles. Sandburg was drinking straight from the juice bottle again. Id left glasses on top of the counter to remind him to use them but he just did his own thing as usual I shook myself as I realized I was about to slip into a zone. By the time I came back, Mariah was nowhere in sight.
Hurrying down the stairs, with thoughts of apology in mind but, I have to admit, no urge to cajole Mariah back to my bed, I found Sandburg staring at the front door as it slammed shut. He turned to me, an expression of bemusement on his face.
"Uh, morning," he said. "Did I " he gestured toward the front door, "did I interrupt something?"
"Small misunderstanding," I said. I headed for the kitchen to make coffee and also to put some space between us. I didnt need an interrogation right now. He followed me anyway.
"So, the date didnt work out?"
"It was fine," I growled as I measured coffee into the jug. "Great." I decided to turn the tables, my curiosity and I have to admit, a small tinge of jealousy getting the better of me. "You?"
"Yeah, you know. Okay." Blair fiddled with the fruit bowl, rearranging the apples.
"You want to get coffee cups?" I asked him.
"Sure." He did as I asked then stood, looking somewhat flat-footed and unsure. "So," he began, "what was that about?"
"Misunderstanding," I said again shortly as I pulled breakfast makings from the fridge. "You hungry?"
"Starved," he replied and his eyes held such a look of honesty and something I couldnt quite read that I doubted his own evening had gone as well as hed said. He gestured toward the bathroom. "I probably should take a shower. I stink."
My olfactory sense automatically dialed up at his words but all I could smell was a faint tinge of beer and tobacco no sex, to my relief. That stopped me in my tracks for a minute. Why should I be relieved that Sandburg hadnt been out having a good time with one of his many ladies? Hadnt I just spent two weeks worrying about why he didnt seem interested in sex? It was a dumb question. I already knew why I was relieved. I pulled a bowl from the cupboard and started cracking eggs. "Go take your shower," I said then picked up the wooden spoon and waved it at him. "Dont be long. Ellison omelets coming up."
He practically salivated at the announcement. "Yeah? Whats the occasion?"
For some reason I felt myself blush at his innocent question. "What?" I groused. "I cant do my special omelets just for the heck of it?"
He backed away, his hands held up in a placatory gesture, still smiling. "No argument here, man."
I pointed toward the bathroom with the spoon. "Go! Shower!" I ordered.
He turned and obeyed and I found myself feeling incredibly glad he was home. I unconsciously followed his progress in the bathroom, feeling a little embarrassed that I was spying on him but I couldnt seem to switch it off. I must have drifted into a minor zone out, though Id still managed to beat the eggs, pour them into the pan and cook the bacon on some kind of automatic pilot.
I thought about Sandburgs place in my life, and mine in his. About how our faith in each other had carried us through some difficult and dangerous times. I allowed myself to feel sorrow that my mistrust of him had meant Id almost lost him in the fountain at Rainier. Finally I let go of the guilt Id harbored for so long in allowing him to believe that he was to blame for the whole mess with Alex, knowing that hed forgiven me long ago, had grieved about that and moved on. And in some kind of weird epiphany, I saw, through the trials wed weathered together, and the good times wed enjoyed, how our relationship had grown from Guide and Sentinel to friends to brothers to I finally realized it wasnt Sandburg I was worried about, it was what hed come to mean to me and how much it scared me not to take it further, but frightened me even more, that if I did, Id lose him forever.
I had the eerie sensation of being watched and when I turned around, Blair stood in the entrance to the kitchen, staring at me. "Sandburg?"
He jumped a little when I said his name and I got the impression that hed been lost in some kind of trance of his own. His hair was still damp from the shower, hanging in loose curls around his face, water oozing down his bare shoulders and catching in the dark hair on his chest. The sunlight from the balcony windows caught all the complex shades of auburn, brown and black in his hair and I felt my heart quicken at the sight of him. He blinked slowly at me, his eyes seeming to be a darker blue than I'd ever seen them before.
"Sorry," he said. "Daydreaming."
I nodded and gestured at the stove. "Breakfast is almost ready."
"Give me five. Ill just get dressed."
I dont know what made me do it, but before I knew it, Id moved. I was standing in front of Blair, gripping his shoulders and staring into that beautiful face, seeing close up the circles under his eyes that spoke of too little sleep, that almost imperceptible sadness that had seemed to surround him in the past few weeks. I gave him a little shake. "Talk to me," I pleaded. "Whats wrong?"
He shook his head, drops of water spattering my face, his expression changing to one of almost desperation. He pulled away from me but I held on. "I cant," he whispered. "Youll hate me."
"I could never hate you," I said. "Youre my best friend." I wanted to say so much more but I knew that this was not the time to air my feelings, my wants and needs. This was about Blair. Then before I knew it, he was leaning into me, his mouth pressing ever so gently against mine and I could taste spearmint toothpaste, juice and Blair. I moaned softly and shifted my hands, cupping his face, clenching my fingers in those soft curls.
His arms wrapped around me, holding me to him, stroking down my back in a soothing, maddening, erotic caress. His mouth opened beneath mine and I allowed my tongue to slip inside the moist heat, stroking against gums and tongue, all of my senses ranging out to map every nuance of my guide, my lover.
He pulled back just when I thought I was going to pass out from lack of air and his face held an expression of joy that seemed incongruous with the sadness still there. "Thats whats wrong with me," he said. He reached up a hand and stroked my cheek and I cupped my own hand around his.
"Nothing wrong with you," I said as I pulled him back into my arms, "that cant be fixed."