Of Plastic Sticks, Silky Curls and Lime Green Love

By Zanz

EMAIL: Zanz

Not my characters, no money exchanged hands.

I don't have a clue where this story came from but once it took up residence in my head it refused to leave until I'd gotten it down.
This one was fun.

Two days earlier than planned Detective Jim Ellison trudged up the stairs. The exhaustion that had been clinging to him like a cloak falling away as he topped the first floor stairs, swearing at the again out of order elevator. One more flight. Home.

When the keynote speaker had unexpectedly gone into labor a month early during the third day of a five-day conference, he'd taken the opportunity to bolt. He had fought attending the conference at all but his Captain had won out, bribery having been his weakness and he now had the promise of a future four-day weekend to look forward to, although still unsure it had been worth the price. He hated conferences. Hated the crush of bodies and the uninspired speakers. Hated the noise level with its forced heartiness. Hated the cardboard tasting food and the rounds of parties that he seemed to be expected to attend. Hated the smell of hotels with their lumpy mattresses and starched sheets that irritated his sensitive skin. Okay, he had to admit the mattress hadn't been all that bad but it would take days before he stopped feeling those sheets.

But what he'd hated more than anything was that Blair Sandburg, his roommate, partner, best friend and the object of his most secret fantasies hadn't been with him. All the rest, from the boring speeches to the starched sheets would have been bearable if he had been there. Sandburg would have helped him glean the high points from the talks or if there hadn't been any high points, they would have both enjoyed a laugh at them. And had the young man been there to share the king sized bed, well, it wouldn't have made the sheets any better but he was damn sure his mind wouldn't have been on them either! No, his mind would have been on that strong, young body and what he'd like to be doing to it, and on those soul-wrenching blue eyes that he knew he could lose himself in if he ever allowed himself to look too deeply. And that hair. Those masses of rich brown curls that in the sunlight held highlights of gold and red and seemed almost to be alive in their sinuous movements. More than anything he wanted to turn up his sense of touch and run his hands through those curls, feel the caress of the silk sliding between his fingers. He knew his partner's hair was silky; he always allowed his hand to linger a little longer than necessary whenever he patted his friend's shoulder or squeezed the back of his neck just so he could feel the brush of those curls on the back of his hand. And a couple of times when Sandburg had fallen asleep on the couch, he'd actually wrapped one of those curls around his fingers and rubbed his thumb over it. He'd almost zoned the first time. After that he'd been more careful. All it would take would be for Sandburg to wake up with the Sentinel zoned on one of his soft curls. No way he could talk his way out of that. But what he really wanted to do was thread both hands through his partner's hair, bury his face in it and drink his fill of the scent before moving down to those soft, inviting lips.

He mentally shook himself. It wouldn't help to be thinking along those lines when he walked into the loft. "You've got it bad, Ellison," he muttered, not wanting to define what 'it' was. He reached down and adjusted himself as he rounded the second floor landing and started upward, stretching out his senses.

Good God! What's that odor? His nose wrinkled, his eyes watering as his sinuses prickled and burned. What was that? Something about it was familiar and his mind raced as he tried to pin it down. Ammonia definitely but something else too. It smelled like a cross between something long dead and tear gas. An internal warning signal went off and he took the rest of the steps in a run as he reached with his hearing, trying to find his roommate. There it was, the heartbeat he knew better than he knew his own. Sandburg was humming softly to himself and what? Dancing? He could hear the muted shuffling of his socked feet on the hardwood floor. He slowed down when he realized there was no danger. The odor must be something Sandburg himself was doing then. Maybe some new kind of cleaning fluid or maybe the young anthropologist was trying a new ritual of some kind. He dialed his sense of smell back to a more manageable level with a smile. If this was an unknown candle fragrance for some new meditation technique his partner was trying it was going to have to go.

Fishing in his pocket for his keys, his mind niggled at him with a sense of unease. He knew that scent from old. Something from his childhood, when he was really young. Before his mother left. What was it? A memory. His mother and another woman in the kitchen. He'd been sitting at the table playing with something. What? Tinkertoys? No, but something like that, some kind of little plastic sticks with sharp little bumps on them because he'd liked the feel as he'd squeezed them, leaving little red marks of indentations on his fingers. God, he couldn't have been very old. Had Stephen even been born? He frowned as he reached for the memory. But it wasn't just an old memory; he knew the scent from more recently too. He shook his head and pulled his keys out, fingered the door key free and fitted it into the lock. Sandburg would know what the smell was, could even help him recall the memory if he really wanted to chase it down.

Pushing the door open he dialed his sense of smell even lower as the concentrated odor assaulted the tender membranes of his nose. His eyes swept the room. Everything looked normal, nothing out of place except some papers and a small plastic bottle on the table. Sandburg was no where to be seen but he could hear a faint rustling coming from the bathroom. Setting his small overnight bag on the floor, he dropped his keys in the basket and turned to hang his coat on the hook. And froze. Things clicked into place. His mother. Standing behind her friend who was sitting at the kitchen table. He, as a very small boy, playing with a whole pile of little plastic sticks of different sizes and colors. "No," he breathed in dread. Hearing a noise behind him, he turned reluctantly.

The young man who was his roommate shuffled into the kitchen wearing gray socks, jeans and no shirt, instead he had a towel draped around his shoulders. The motion of Ellison's turning caught his eye. "Jim?" Sandburg's voice was almost a squeak as his hands flew to try to cover his head and he wailed, "You aren't supposed to be back for two more days!"

"Sandburg?" Ellison whispered in horrified disbelief as he stared at the curling rods in his friend's hair. "Your hair! You perm your hair?"

~~<>~~

Jim Ellison sat bolt upright in bed, shoving his sleep mask up with one frantic hand, pain shooting through his head as early morning light pierced his pupils before they could contract to pin points. His chest heaved as he tried to take in deep breaths to clear his lungs of that smell. He rubbed his right hand up over his face, tearing the sleep mask free and throwing it angrily as hard as he could. The near nothing weight of the small scrap of fabric carried it only as unsatisfactorily far as the foot of the bed. How could he do that? How could he do that and not tell me? It was as good as lying. He gave an angry kick at the offending sleep mask and it jumped to the edge of the bed, hanging tenuously on by the elastic band before slithering off the bed to the floor, for all looking not like it had been discarded but had merely decided to leave of its own free will. The soft thump and whispery slide of the thrown pillow hitting the wall and sliding downward was much more satisfying. A good loud crash would be even better. He tossed back the sheet and stood, his anger needing some vent. Casting his sense of smell out, he tried to see if the offending odor and the bad memory it held was still clinging to the loft. Surprisingly, all he could smell was the rich, tantalizing aroma of freshly brewed coffee and recognized it as the expensive stuff from that little shop over near the campus. It was so expensive Sandburg usually only bought it when he was trying to make up for something he'd done or wanted to do. Like some damned senses test.

Holding himself stiffly, he refused to be tantalized and reached further for the smell. There it was. No, he identified the new bathroom cleaner. He remembered that one well because Sandburg had made him stand in the household cleaning aisle of the supermarket one night for half an hour making him sniff every brand until they found one the Sentinel could live with. Their little foray into the world of perfumed cleaning supplies had left him with a blinding headache and a foul mood to match. His roommate had brought him home to a quiet loft and had insisted he lay down for a while with a cool wet wash cloth over his eyes. He'd even stayed and talked quietly using that soothing tone he had until all traces of the headache had disappeared. But that didn't excuse this and he narrowed his eyes as he tried to ferret out the offending odor, but he only found the soft, almost hidden scent of beeswax candles where his roommate had recently meditated.

He paused at the top of the stairs, thinking that maybe he didn't really want to go downstairs where his roommate was when he was only wearing a pair of red silk boxers. He went back to the dresser, jerked a white t-shirt from the drawer and pulled it on. Then he stopped, surprised at himself and more than a little pissed. It was his apartment. He could damn well wear whatever he wanted. Sandburg had seen him in his underwear before. But still he pulled a pair of worn, soft sweatpants from the bottom dresser drawer, propping one silk clad hip against the edge of the dresser as he shoved one foot in. Angrily he fought his way into the sweatpants. His weight shifted slightly as he pushed the second foot through and he slipped, hopping slightly trying to get his balance back. Catching his toe in the hem of the pants leg, he lost his precarious balance and landed solidly against the sharp corner of the dresser with a quick in-drawn hiss of pain. Damn it. This was all Sandburg's fault.

Nursing the bruise he felt forming, he turned and stomped down the stairs. The coffee did smell good. But he would not see it as any kind of peace offering. This went beyond that.

"Morning, Jim," his roommate said, looking up with a brilliant smile from where he sat at the kitchen table with his back to the living room. Blue books were spread all around him. "Looks like we could get snow before the day's over."

Ellison grunted in response barely giving the heavy gray sky outside a glance. Grading papers again. Why was he always grading papers? He was one of those instructors that Ellison hated, the kind who always gave tests. He just knew he was.

"Coffee's ready," Sandburg offered.

"I can smell the friggin' coffee, Sandburg," Ellison growled and was then further pissed when his roommate didn't even take up the challenge but returned to grading his papers with a shrug. He poured himself a cup of coffee and took a sip. And burned his mouth. And swore. He sat his coffee cup down to rub his lip.

"Jim? You okay?" Sandburg looked at his roommate in concern. One glowering look was enough to return him to his blue books. He wasn't stupid. He knew a bad mood when he lived with one.

Ellison stared at him. He looked so innocent. How could he look that unconcerned after what had happened yesterday? He'd been caught, for God's sake. If nothing else he should be ashamed for stinking the loft up. He knew what the Sentinel's senses were like. Ellison sniffed again, trying to find some trace of the smell. And found... nothing. Absolutely nothing out of the ordinary. He looked around confused. There was no way that smell could be so completely cleansed from the loft. It had permeated...

His angry thoughts fizzled to a slow death and his mouth dropped open as he remembered the events of the day before. They'd finished up the Spinks case after a grueling week long investigation. But they'd found the evidence they'd needed, arrested the bastard and had even completed all the paper work before leaving the office, stopping on the way home for Chinese takeout because they'd both been too tired to even contemplate cooking. After dinner they'd vegged on the couch for a couple of hours of mindless TV before calling it an early night and going to bed, Sandburg grumbling about needing to grade seventy-three Anthro 101 tests before Monday as he'd disappeared through the French doors into his bedroom.

His knees giving way suddenly, Ellison somehow had presence of mind enough to catch himself on the edge of the counter before he collapsed onto the kitchen floor. It was a dream, he thought staring blindly at the countertop under his hands. The conference, his exhaustion, coming back into the loft and finding his roommate with a head full of curling rods in his hair. It had all been a stupid dream.

He shook his head numbly. No. It couldn't be a dream. It had been too real. He was still mad for God's sake. You didn't get mad at a dream, did you? A sudden thought sent him diving under the cabinet for the trash can; where he found the discarded egg carton from the morning before and the empty takeout containers from the Chinese dinner they'd shared. The clean takeout containers. Sandburg had even washed the damn things before putting them in the trash so the odor of the old food wouldn't bother the Sentinel's sense of smell. There was no trace of the packaging or the plastic bottle he remembered so vividly sitting on the table. Good God! He felt weak. And slightly light headed. It really had been a dream. But he remembered it all so well; the conference with all the things he hated, bad food, boring speakers, no Sandburg to share the king sized bed. He could even remember some of the stupid speeches. His back stiffened slowly and he felt all the muscles in his body go rigid. No Sandburg to share... Shit! Where the hell had that come from? He took a deep breath and let it out. And took another. It was a dream. It was all just a dream.

He pushed himself to his feet and turned to lean against the counter, conscious of his roommate giving him surreptitious glances of worried curiosity. Another glare sent the anthropology student's head back down to his tests, long curls falling into his face. Ellison absently picked up his coffee cup and took another drink. And burned his mouth. Again. This time he didn't even notice, he was watching the rhythmic movement of those curls and the beautiful features visible behind them. As he watched, Sandburg caught his full lower lip between his teeth, worrying it for several seconds as he concentrated on the test he was grading before letting it slip free, leaving it wet and glistening. The detective relaxed against the counter, a gentle smile softening the hard lines in his face as he watched.

Ellison's eyes widened in abrupt realization as he felt his body responding and he swung around to press his sudden hard-on against the cabinet. God, this is worse than being pissed, he thought in panic. I can't let him see me like this. Then he calmed a bit as he realized Sandburg had seen him with a hard-on before, and he'd seen his roommate too. Early morning erections were normal. But this isn't an early morning erection. The words whispered in his mind. This is an 'I want to nail my roommate, my 'male' roommate, to the mattress' erection. Ellison groaned.

"Jim? Are you okay?"

Ellison panicked as he heard his partner shift as if he was about to stand up. "I'm fine, Sandburg," he said, sounding more harsh than he meant to. "It's this damn hot coffee."

"Sorry, it just finished brewing so I'm sure it's practically boiling." He started gathering his papers. "I'll start breakfast."

"No!" Ellison swung around. Knowing he sounded more than a little frantic, he took a deep breath and tried to speak more calmly. "No, I'll do it. You finish your tests."

Sandburg looked uncertain. "You sure? I mean I could use the extra time to get these done but I really don't mind making breakfast."

"Yeah, I'm sure. I'll make..." Ellison stopped in a strangled voice afraid to say more than that. The five small words sounded odd even to his own ears but there was just way too many emotions warring within him right now to worry about it. Desire. His heart rate increased. Where the hell had that come from? Jerking the drawer beside him open, he had the sudden mad urge to slam his damning hard cock in it. That would take care of the rebellious body part. His features twisted in pain as the very realistic urge to curl up in a fetal position grasping his crotch quailed that thought and he reached blindly into the drawer, pulling out the first thing his long fingers touched; a ladle. The very large, stainless steel ladle they only used for chili on poker nights. It was a good eighteen inches long. "I'll make... I'll make..." His mind didn't seem to be able to process what should come next. It was too busy still trying to analyze the sudden onslaught of emotions swamping him.

"Chili?" Sandburg suggested dryly with a glint of humor and a raised eyebrow aimed at the ladle.

Totally missing the laughter in his roommates bright blue eyes, Ellison stared at him blankly for several seconds then his head moved, bobbing up and down in an affirmative and he jumped on the ridiculous suggestion. "Ahhh, yeah. Chili."

And the young anthropologist watched with wide eyes as his roommate began pulling the ingredients for homemade chili from the cabinets. At 7 o'clock in the morning. On a Saturday morning. On a non-poker day. O-kay. Obviously something was going on in his Sentinel's mind but it didn't look dangerous so he settled back to grade papers and watch.

Ellison jerked the refrigerator door open but it took several minutes of staring blindly at the cold contents for anything to register. Without conscious thought, his hand closed over the package of ground hamburger in the meat tray.

He'd always liked Sandburg. Nice. Cute. In a beautiful sort of bouncy, Energizer Bunny way. But this...this... This lust? Where the hell had that come from?

Absently his fingers tore into the plastic wrap covering the meat and he upended the cold mass into his palm. Jeeze, you didn't lust after your roommate, did you? Not your male roommate. Not after three years of living with that roommate. Why now? He'd never looked at guys before. Well, okay. So that was a lie. But he hadn't looked in years. Well, okay, so that was a lie too. But he hadn't done anything but look. He'd never done anything but look. So why now?

He looked blankly at the meat in his hand then glanced around for the frying pan before realizing he hadn't taken it out yet. He reached to pull the pan from under the cabinet then stopped almost as if he was surprised to discover he had both hands full, the left with clammy hamburger, his right still holding the ladle. Unceremoniously he slapped the lump of cold meat onto the counter top and reached into the lower cabinet for the pan. He sat the pan on the stove, picked the meat up, plopped it into the pan and used the bowl of the ladle to press it flat. Idly his fingers scratched at an itch under the neckline of his tee shirt, then he ran his hand across the side of his face as he waited for the meat to begin cooking.

Sandburg watched in open-mouthed disbelief, wondering when reality was going to kick in. Jim Ellison, Mr. Clean himself, had just thrown raw meat onto his counter top then with the hand he'd used to handle the meat, he'd rubbed his face. Sandburg grimaced and rubbed his mouth to keep from saying something. Surely the smell would kick in soon. Or the feel of the grease? He watched Ellison poke at the meat in the pan then he tilted his head for a better look and almost choked on his stifled laughter. There was no fire under the pan. Where the hell was his roommate's mind this morning? Should he tell him about the lack of heat or keep his mouth shut? Obviously Ellison was pissed about something and Sandburg did a hasty mental run through of their last few days but could come up with nothing to explain this. Ellison had been fine the night before, tired but feeling okay. With a barely hidden smirk, he wondered what his partner was going to blame him for this time. Nothing had gone wrong in their world recently. Everything was going smoothly. He grinned, thinking, That should have been a dead give away right there! Things have been going too well. He shook his head a little. Well, hell, he thought, life with an anal retentive, world class repressing Sentinel cop is anything but boring. He winced as he watched Ellison reach up and run his grease covered hand through his hair then grip the back of his neck. His roommate's hair was a little longer just now and he liked it this way. It looked soft, like a baby's hair. Well, it had before he'd added the hamburger grease. Eeeeew, that has got to be gross. Then he almost choked as he frantically swallowed a little spurt of laughter. Well, at least now his partner didn't have to worry about that dry flyaway look. Of course, he might draw every dog in a two block radius, but there you go! There were tradeoffs in every situation, right? Grinning, he shook his head and went back to grading papers.

Ellison prodded the meat with the ladle again, smoothing it into a flat, even surface. Okay, so thoughts about other guys weren't totally new to him. So why now? Something to do with his Sentinel senses? Well, Sandburg could help him straighten that out. He fixed all the Sentinel's sentinel problems. He frowned. Well, yeah, but how did he tell him what the problem was? Oh, by the way Chief, can you help me out here? I think my senses are acting up a bit. How? Well, seems all I want to do is jump your bones, hump like hell and kiss you into next Tuesday! Yeah, he could see that working. Not! He pushed his hand through his hair again. God, now I sound like him!

What had suddenly brought on this rush of hormones? His eyes narrowed. Sandburg! He had to be emitting pheromones. Nothing else to explain it. That was the only other time he'd had this kind of immediate reaction to someone. Admittedly it had been a woman but men gave off pheromones too, didn't they? Of course they did. Happily he dialed up his sense of smell and sniffed the air, searching for that damnable scent. He'd smelled Sandburg in heat before when he was chasing some new love interest. He knew what he smelled like. He searched the scents of the loft with narrowed eyes. There was that damn cleaning liquid again, God, that stunk. Surely it hadn't smelled this bad that night at the supermarket. He blocked it. Coffee. Raw meat. God that stunk too. It seemed stronger than usual. He rubbed his nose with his free hand and absently blocked the smell of the meat as he searched.

There he was. Unadulterated Sandburg. He hadn't even showered yet today. The Sentinel inhaled, the scent of his Guide wrapping itself around him; the herbal smell of his shampoo, the just sheer maleness of Sandburg's own scent. God, he smelled good. And not a pheromone in smelling distance. Damn. He poked the meat again and frowned. And sniffed again. Well, no. There was something there. What? Shit! His own pheromones! He whirled around to face the sink. He'd never even thought that he might be giving off the damn things. How the hell could he miss that? He reeked! Shit! Could Sandburg smell him? Would he recognize the scent as pheromones even if he did smell it? God, he could practically feel them oozing out of his body! He looked down, almost expecting to see a growing puddle of lime green pheromones pooling at his feet. Lime green? What color were pheromones anyway? Did a person give off one color pheromones if they were attracted to guys and another for women? Say lime green for males and hot pink for females? Or did each individual person have their own color pheromones? Did pheromones even have a color?

Very unwisely, Sandburg chose that moment to speak. "Ahhh, Jim?"

Ellison's head swung around his eyes narrowing with a glare, his hair standing on end where he'd rubbed the hamburger grease through it. Whatever the hell was going on, he was sure Sandburg had some hand in it. He'd been the one to start this whole mess by using a damn permanent to curl his hair, for God's sake. Wait, no. That had been a dream, hadn't it? Shit. He glared more fiercely.

"Jim, you don't have the fire on," Sandburg said hesitantly. "The meat won't cook unless you turn the burner on."

Ellison stared back at the frying pan with the smashed lump of still cold hamburger in it. "Well, that's fine, Sandburg," he said in disgust. He threw the ladle on the counter with a loud clatter. "That's just fine and dandy. If you think you can cook breakfast any better, why don't you give it a try? I'm going to take a shower. I hate lime green anyway." And with that he stalked off toward the stairs, muttering all the way up to the top and back down, clean boxer shorts in his hand.

Sandburg watched his partner the whole way. He couldn't understand fully what he was saying but he caught the words 'lime green' several times and something about little plastic sticks. "Ahhh, Jim?" he said again as Ellison stomped past him. Why didn't he learn to just keep his mouth shut? His partner paused at the bathroom door to stare at him through narrowed eyes. "You might want to use my shampoo. I don't think you need the dry hair formula this morning." The slamming of the bathroom door and the now muted mutterings were the only reply he got.

Sandburg closed his mouth, hearing his mother's voice somewhere in the back of his mind, It's not polite to stare with your mouth open, sweetie. He'd never understood that. Why was it polite to stare but not polite to stare with your mouth open? He'd always meant to ask.

He got up, crossed to the kitchen island and turned the fire on under the frying pan. Then he retrieved bacon and eggs from the refrigerator and pulled another pan from under the counter, set it on a burner and turned the fire on. Maybe his roommate just needed to eat. He'd always found that a Sentinel with a full stomach was easier to live with. Maybe he'd do French toast. It'd been a while since they'd had French toast and it was one of his roommate's favorites. Hell, anything with grease, sugar or salt was a favorite of Ellison's. He laid several rashers of bacon in the heating skillet and pulled a bowl from the cabinet to mix the toast batter. Maybe food was the way to soothe the savage beast. Pausing a moment, he crossed to the stereo and shoved several Santana CD's into the machine, turning the volume on low. Maybe it would take food and music to soothe this savage beast this morning. He'd hedge his bets any way he could. "Lime green," he repeated in a puzzled voice. "Why would he hate lime green? I've always liked lime green myself." He looked over at the brilliant green highlighter lying beside his papers. "Beats the hell out of hot pink."

Jim Ellison cranked the shower knobs up as high as he could get them and started shoving his clothes off. What the hell was going on in his life all of a sudden? The entire world had just shifted ninety degrees and he was left trying to grope his way around to try to find the new direction. And he wasn't even sure if he was supposed to be going to the right or to the left! Shit.

He sat down on the toilet seat and took his head in his hands. What had happened? The week had gone okay. They'd caught the bad guys, hadn't they? The streets were safe again. Well, safer anyway. Why couldn't he just be allowed to relax on his weekend off? He'd enjoyed last night sitting on the couch watching TV with his partner, even though they'd both been exhausted. There were no real plans for the weekend. Sandburg had to grade papers; he needed to do a few repairs on the truck. Change the oil in the Volvo. Where had he lost it?

He looked up. The dream. That goddamned stupid dream. Where on earth had that sucker come from? He could have sworn it was all real. Hell, he could even still feel the burn in his nostrils from the chemicals of the permanent solution. But it hadn't been. It had been a dream. Hadn't it? He stood up and finished undressing. What difference did it matter anyway? What difference did it matter even if his roommate did perm his hair? It was still Sandburg.

Guys don't perm their hair, the niggling little voice in his head said. Sure they do, he thought, why wouldn't they if they wanted to? Although for the life of him he couldn't think of any guy who did.

There was that actor on TV, remember him? You know. The one who had the bunch of boys and married the woman who had the bunch of girls. What was the name? He permed his hair.

He frowned, not recalling the name. He'd hated that stupid show. Maybe repression wasn't such a bad thing after all.

Of course he was gay.

"Yeah, so?" he muttered out loud.

You've been wanting to get in Sandburg's pants.

"Yeah, so?" he said again. It sounded so good the first time, he'd try it again.

Would you ever perm your hair?

He looked up and suddenly in the mirror saw his own straight short brown hair replaced by a thick covering of short kinky curls, the kind that father in the TV show had.

"Shit!" He jumped back, out of the way of the mirror. Cautiously he slid sideways enough to get another look and breathed a sigh of relief. It was only him. Looking just like he always did. Well, except for his hair standing on end. What the hell had he done to his hair? Talk about a bad case of bedhead. He smoothed it back down, pleased when it lay nicely flat. He turned to the shower. And shut it off. Where the hell was this conversation going anyway?

Are you gay?

He sat back down on the toilet seat to take an assessment. No. Not gay. Bi maybe, but not gay. He'd been married. Still found the female form attractive and desirable. Well, he would if he didn't want to spend so much time with his male roommate's form. So he was bisexual. Did it bother him? He frowned and stood up with a shrug. Nope. Not a bit. Not if it meant he could spend the rest of his life loving Blair Sandburg. Call it whatever you want.

He turned the shower back on and stepped into the water, reaching for the shower gel. He lathered up as he thought about it. Yeah, he'd take Sandburg and whatever label you wanted to attach to him but he seriously couldn't see himself going after any other man. That thought just sorta left a bad taste in his mouth. He'd looked but had never once thought to take it beyond that stage. Maybe he wasn't really bisexual. Maybe he was Blairsexual. He grinned, liking the way that sounded. He picked up his shampoo, remembered his partner's words and with a shrug exchanged his shampoo for Sandburg's. Whatever.

Stepping out of the shower, he toweled off and reached for his shorts and was immediately engulfed with the smell of hamburger fat. He tossed the offending underwear into the dirty clothes hamper and wrapped his towel around his waist. How on earth had he gotten the smell of raw hamburger on his underwear? He'd gotten as far as reaching for the doorknob when that damned little voice in his head spoke up again.

What about Sandburg? You want him. Does he want you?

"Shit," he breathed. It seemed to be his word of the day. He'd never smelled another man on his partner. Women yes, but never a guy. He'd never caught him looking at guys, plenty of women but never men. Would he have noticed? Obviously his own attraction went further back than his conscious knowledge. Would he have been aware if his roommate had discretely checked out some guy? They'd certainly never talked about it. Of course it wasn't exactly a topic you'd find in a normal everyday conversation. How did that little detail get brought into a discussion anyway? Wow, look at that blond over there. Yeah and the guy she's with has a cute ass too, don't you think? Yeah, right. He couldn't think of one time when Sandburg had ever given the slightest hint that he might be anything other than a normal everyday heterosexual man.

Now what? Ellison took a deep breath and shrugged. Now you go out and act normal, just like you've been doing all morning. Nothing's changed. Well, not much anyway. Just the fact that you've admitted you're bisexual, Blairsexual, he corrected.

And that you're in love.

The smell of bacon reached through the door and he felt his stomach give a responding rumble. He stepped out and found his partner sitting in the same position he'd been in when he'd entered the bathroom. His head was bent over his papers, his long hair half shadowing his face. The same gentle smile from before lit the Sentinel's features. He was in love. He was in love with Blair Sandburg and it felt... Right. The soft, smooth sounds of Santana drifted through the loft. Ellison heard a question come out of his mouth he hadn't meant to ask. "Chief? Why is your hair curly?"

Sandburg raised up, shaking his head back to toss his hair over one shoulder and stared up at him in surprise, his mouth open. He closed it. Again. "Well, I don't know, Jim."

"Your mother's hair isn't curly."

Sandburg gave it serious consideration, not for a moment giving in to the urge to ask his partner questions like; Do you feel okay? And, Where did you hit your head? "No, Jim. It's not. Naomi's hair is definitely not curly." He stood up and crossed back to the stove to turn the bacon and stir the hamburger that was reaching a lovely brown now that it had fire under it. "I guess maybe my father must have had curly hair but there's no real way to know that for sure since I've never had a clue who he was." He turned to refill his coffee cup.

"Why did you use that coffee this morning?"

Sandburg looked back over his shoulder blankly.

"The good stuff. Why'd you use that today?

The young man grinned as he sat the coffeepot down. He knew the answer to this one. "Because when you stopped by the market the other night you forgot to get coffee. This was all we had in the loft." He picked up the dishcloth lying on the counter and wiped his hands as he turned back to the stovetop.

"Oh." Well, that explained that. Ellison moved around to stand propped against the cabinet beside the refrigerator. "Do you... do things to your hair?

Sandburg lifted his head. And blinked. And his brow wrinkled. Okay. Maybe there was some kind of Sentinel logic going on here but he damn sure couldn't see any Guide logic between switching back and forth between these topics. His hair, then coffee then back to his hair. "Ahhh, what kind of things did you have in mind here, Jim?"

"Have you always had curly hair?"

The bacon in the pan popped sending a splatter of grease upward and Sandburg wiped absently at the burning spot on the back of his hand, his mind still working on the direction of the conversation. He took a sudden breath and winced, the tiny flash of pain finally drawing his attention.

Ellison felt his own heartbeat spike when he heard his partner's jump. Shit. Maybe it hadn't been a dream after all.

Sandburg gave a nervous little laugh. "Well, no. I haven't always had curly hair. Does it matter?" He didn't turn around.

"No, not in the least," Ellison said softly. "Tell me." He moved up to stand behind his roommate and watched him turn the strips of bacon over.

"I had a girlfriend once who wanted to know what I would look like with straight hair. She talked me into letting her put a straighter on it."

Ellison felt a slow burn begin somewhere in the region of his stomach. He moved closer and his hand crept up to barely brush one of his roommate's curls. "You let her straighten it?" God, the woman should drawn and quartered! He took a deep breath, inhaling the fragrance of Blair Sandburg.

The young man shrugged. "Yeah. It was no biggie. I mean, I'd always kind of wondered myself. You always..." He looked back over his shoulder, his eyes widening as he suddenly realized exactly how close his partner was standing. He dropped his head back down and busied himself with cooking, reaching to turn the burner off under the ground meat.

Ellison registered the increased heart rate and the sudden warmth of his partner's flush.

Sandburg's voice was low and a little breathless when he continued. "You always want what you can't have, you know?"

"Yeah," Ellison breathed, "I know." A quiver shook the curls in front of his face and he realized suddenly how stiffly his partner was standing. "How did it look?"

"What?" Sandburg stammered.

"Your hair. How did it look straight?"

The anthropology student laughed and forced his mind back to cooking. He could do this. He was used to dealing with Sentinel strangeness. "Ridiculous. It looked ridiculous. It didn't really straighten it, just sort of dried it out and frizzed it more. I had to use industrial strength conditioner for months and even wound up cutting it pretty short just to get rid of the last of it."

"You had to cut your hair?"

"Yeah, well, like I said, it was no big deal." Sandburg shrugged nervously. He couldn't figure out what was going on. His roommate had been acting weird all morning. And damn, but the man was standing awfully close. He knew if he so much as leaned, his back would be against that chest. It was getting harder and harder to think straight.

"I like your curls," Ellison said softly, his breath brushing them gently. Sandburg's eyes fluttered closed and he wasn't even aware of it as he drew a hesitant breath. "You do?"

"Yeah, I do. They look so soft I've always wanted to touch them. See what they felt like," he admitted.

"You have?"

"Yeah."

"Oh." Sandburg's head tilted slightly backward, his hair engulfing his Sentinel's hand. "You can, you know. Touch my hair, I mean. I don't mind."

Bringing both hands up, Ellison cupped them like that would somehow catch and hold the sensation as he slid his hands downward, ghosting the tips of the soft hair, the feel sending shivers through him. Starting at Sandburg's temples, he threaded his long fingers into the silky mass. A sound so soft it almost didn't register as sound reached his ears; the almost subvocal moan of the younger man and he felt Sandburg shift minutely to lean into his touch. The sound and touch sent a shiver through his body that forced a deep breath into his lungs and he found his whole being caught up in the feel and scent of his partner. He'd never zoned on multiple senses before but he closed his eyes now afraid, with four of his five senses filled with what he'd wanted for so long, that he'd zone. Zones happened when he concentrated too strongly on one sense, but God! it felt like every fiber of his being was concentrating solely on experiencing his Guide. The deep breath had taken the very essence of Sandburg into his body and his head swam with the rush.

And then his heart filled with such overpowering emotion that for several seconds he couldn't get his breath. Because there it was. The one thing he'd wanted to find more than anything. In his mind's eye he could suddenly see waves of lime green shivering around them like heat waves off asphalt in the desert. And the world tilted. And righted itself. He buried his face in his partner's hair. "God, I love lime green," he breathed.

Sandburg leaned, pressing back, trying to find more to touch. "Lime green?" he managed to stammer.

"Pheromones."

"Pheromones are lime green?" he asked breathlessly.

Ellison felt his partner stiffen under his hands, heard the sudden pounding of his heart.

"Jim? You can see pheromones?"

Sensing Sandburg's minute tightening of his muscles in preparation to moving, Ellison freed his fingers from his partner's hair.

The young man whirled around and his eyes widened even further as he found himself eyeball to chest with his roommate. Eyeball to naked chest. He looked around a little wildly. "You can see pheromones?" He checked his arms as if he expected to suddenly see some weird life form swarming over then.

"Relax, Sandburg," Ellison said softly letting his hands come to rest on his friend's shoulders. His eyes closed again and a smile curved his lips. "I can't really see pheromones. I was just thinking about it earlier and wondering what color they'd be if they could actually be seen.

"But... Lime green?" his friend questioned, his panic subsiding a little. Ellison's smile grew. "Don't ask me, Chief. You know what my subconscious is like."

A little snort of laughter met this. "Yeah. Scary." But Sandburg's eyes had fallen shut again as he lost himself in the feel of the strong hands that rested on his shoulders, Ellison's thumbs drawing circles on his neck brought delightful shivers from the area centered around his crotch.

It was all Ellison could do not to moan aloud as Sandburg lowered his head. The young student was unaware of the chain reaction this simple movement ignited. As his head dropped, his hair brushed his partner's nude chest. With the silken tangle caressing his skin, sliding over his hardening nipples, Ellison's head was driven up with a deep, slow intake of air as a soul deep tremor was immediately replaced by a flush of heat that threatened to sear that same soul. Caught up in the sensations sweeping through his body and mind, the Sentinel acknowledged the faint whiff of an unwanted odor and negated it in favor of the compelling scent of his Guide's pheromones. The delicious wave he could feel rising as surely as the tide pulled him further into his partner's space and a low moan rumbled from his throat when he felt the young man in his arms lay his forehead against his chest with a sigh.

Blair Sandburg brought his hands up to brush softly over the warm hard muscles of his Sentinel's back. The firm skin felt like living silk beneath his fingers and he could feel the faint tremors quaking the body beneath his hands. He shivered in response. God, how long he'd wanted to do this! It had gotten so friggin' hard for him to hide his feelings, to keep his heart rate at a normal rhythm when his damn fertile imagination was going off in fifteen different directions of major desire. But he'd never dared hope. This was Jim. This was his Jim. And he was standing here within the circle of his arms and his head rested on the bare chest of the man he loved. His nostrils flared as he lost himself. Please, he prayed silently to every deity listening. If this is a dream, don't let me wake up. His lips moved of their own volition, seeking...seeking... and when they touched the silky skin, caressing, loving, urging, they were met with a low rumbling moan of desire from within the strength of the man before him.

Ellison lowered his head into the dream he'd wanted for so long, opening wide all his senses, bringing as much of his partner into his self, trying to bury all that he was in the younger man. Somewhere in the back of his mind he was aware of words, soft caresses of sound breathing from his mouth, from his soul. "Love you, Blair. Want you so much. Want you forever, Chief. Love you so much."

The shriek ripped through the stillness of the loft driving the Sentinel's head up and back. It was more than sound. With his senses so open it was deafening. Blinding. All encompassing numbness.

~~~<><><>~~~

A shiver shook the Sentinel's body convulsively; one that had nothing to do with desire and everything to do with pain and cold. Cold? He struggled outward, searching for the presence he knew was there. The presence that was always there. And his panic lessened when he heard the voice reaching to him.

"Dial it back, Jim. Pull back. Find those dials and pull them back down. You can do it. Just listen to my voice, feel my hands. Come on, Jim."

Ellison reached for the timbre and cadence of the deep voice that offered healing to his wounded soul. He felt his partner's hands on his arms and chest then up to his neck and face as his Guide tried to make contact through the zone. "I'm here," he muttered thickly and tried to shake his head to clear it. "I'm back." A wave of pain washed over him with another convulsive shudder and he managed to ask, "What happened?"

"Dial the pain down, Jim. Get everything back to manageable levels." Hands squeezed his arms. "Wait right here. Don't move. Hold on to this." And he found his hand pressed against a cold brick wall. "I'll be right back."

Ellison nodded but felt like half his soul was ripped away with his partner's sudden departure. "Blair?" But the whisper was soft and he was glad the younger man hadn't heard. He pressed the heels of his hands against his temples, his strong fingers pushing into the top of his head as if he could tear the pain out. And then it was gone. And all was silent. The piercing, shrieking sound he hadn't even registered until it was shut off, gone. And he could hear his partner's angry monologue in the distance. Another shudder shook his body.

"You would have to mount the damn things at the friggin' top of the loft, wouldn't you? Never occurred to anybody to put them down where normal people could get to them, did it? Well, at least now we know they work, I guess. No doubt about that. I'd like to see somebody try to sleep through that. Now where's that... Ahhh, there it is." This last bit was louder as his partner neared.

"Here you go. Put this around you. That's it. That feel better? A little warmer? You back with me now?" His roommate's voice was anxious, caring.

Ellison snuggled into the fuzzy warmth of the afghan that was wrapped around his shoulders and his hands reached up to grip the edges and pull it closer as he opened his eyes, blinking his vision back into focus. "Sandburg, we're outside on the balcony."

"Yeah, I know, Jim. This was the only place I could get you to," the young man said as if that explained everything.

"It's the middle of winter, Sandburg," Ellison said from between teeth clenched to keep them from chattering.

"Yeah, I know. Cold, isn't it?" Sandburg pulled the afghan higher on the Sentinel's neck as a small breeze moved his hair.

"I'm naked, Chief," Ellison said dryly, his teeth beginning to chatter. "I'm naked. On my balcony. In the middle of winter."

"Yeah, I know, Jim. It shouldn't be much longer." Sandburg crossed his arms tightly across his chest staring into the loft through the open sliding glass doors, doing a little 'I need to get warm' dance in his socked feet.

"Why?"

"Why what, Jim?"

Speaking slowly, "Why am I naked..." Ellison began patiently enough despite his non-stop shivering.

"Your towel fell off, Jim."

"...on my balcony in the middle of winter," the detective finished.

The anthropology student looked up in understanding. "Oh, you don't remember any of it." He looked away, his face flushing and he turned to stare out at the city. "I was cooking bacon."

"That I remember." Ellison turned to join his partner, checking to make sure the afghan was shielding him as much as possible. He crossed his arms across his chest, incredibly glad there was a wall around his balcony rather than just a railing.

"Ahhh, yeah." Sandburg rubbed his arms briskly as he stammered forward. "And there you were. And you were...there... And then I was... And then we were... engaged." The word seemed to startle him and wide eyes shot upward to the Sentinel's face then back down. "I mean we were busy." He amended quickly. "We were busy."

"I remember that part too, Chief."

"Oh, well. Good." Sandburg looked relieved. "I mean...good."

"What happened then?" Ellison prompted, shifting from one foot to the other as he lost all feeling in the soles of his feet.

Sandburg shrugged. "Well, that's about it. The bacon burned. The smoke alarm went off. You zoned."

"Ahhh," Ellison said with a nod of clarity. "The usual stuff."

Sandburg agreed, "Yeah."

Ellison continued to nod. "So how did we end up out here?"

Eyes widening as if it were perfectly obvious, Sandburg said, "Well, Jim. I couldn't exactly take you out into the hall. You are naked."

"Well, yes. I can see how the balcony would have been a much better choice. No neighbors."

"Exactly," Sandburg said, sounding pleased that his roommate had finally caught on.

"Unless you count that building over there. Or that one. Or the one over there." Ellison nodded toward the three closest buildings across the street.

"But those are over there," Sandburg said reasonably.

"Riiight." The Sentinel nodded again. "So why are we still out here?"

"Smoke."

"Smoke?"

"Yeah. It really stinks in there, you know? I didn't want it upsetting your senses. I've got all the doors and stuff open to air it out. It shouldn't take too much longer."

"Chief?"

"Yeah, Jim?"

"I can dial down the smell. I can't dial down frostbite." He looked down. "There are parts here I'd just as soon not get frostbitten, you know? It might be difficult to explain."

Sandburg glanced down when his partner did and his eyes widened. And he blushed. And his heartbeat spiked.

Ellison felt a responding spike of his own heart rate as a lime green cloud wafted toward him. And he grinned. "No," he said calmly.

"No?" Sandburg repeated blankly.

"No."

The young man's blush turned to a confused look. "No, what, Jim?" he asked.

"We're not doing this again," Ellison warned the younger man.

Sandburg's heart rate did shoot up then, beating a pounding staccato inside his chest. An anxious look flooded his face as he stared up at his roommate. "We're not doing what again, Jim?" he asked breathlessly.

Ellison reached for his partner, the afghan falling away from his shoulders leaving him totally nude. A soft wind slid around the side of the building bringing the first flakes of snow with it, great huge fluffy flakes that landed like small butterflies on Sandburg's dark hair.

"I'm not reliving this morning all over again," Ellison said, looking down with humorous blue eyes that held the promise of so much more. "I'm too old to go through all that 'what if' doubt again today.

"I don't care if it was a dream or not. I refuse to go to any more damn conferences without you, I don't care what Simon says, even if it was a dream. And I know you're not the kind of instructor who gives tests all the time. If there were more teachers like you the dropout rate would fall dramatically. And if you want to have expensive coffee and chili for breakfast every morning that's fine with me." His hands moved up to rest on the top of his partner's shoulders, his fingers finding their way into the coolness of the soft curls, his thumbs again making small circles on the soft skin near the hairline causing chill bumps that had nothing to do with the weather. Sandburg responded with a low moan that drove straight to his cock.

"I don't care what you put on your hair. I don't care why it's curly. I like your curls and the woman who straightened it should be taken out and shot."

Ellison took the slightly stunned man in his arms, wrapping his arms around him, reveling in the scent of the one whom he'd just recently discovered was the sole possessor of his heart. "I don't care if I'm gay or bisexual or Blairsexual. I love you, Blair Sandburg, and I want to spend the rest of my life with you," he said, pressing his face into the wind blown curls, loving the cold fresh smell of his partner. "But I will not perm my hair, Chief, so don't even go there. And I absolutely refuse to make love to you in the nude on my balcony in the middle of winter." His head bent slowly, giving the man in his arms time to pull back if he desired, and he kissed his partner's temple feeling the warm rush through the blood veins just beneath the delicate skin.

Instead of pulling back, Sandburg pressed his face against the chilled skin of his Sentinel's chest. "Jim?" he said his warm breath and the movement of his lips sending shock waves deep within the heart he could feel beating so strongly.

"Yes, Blair?"

A small chuckle escaped, "I love you more than life itself you know, but one of these days you're gonna have to explain all of that to me, okay?"

"Okay, Chief. One of these days." Guiding his partner back inside, Ellison paused only long enough to close the doors they'd just entered.

Not waiting for the larger man to take the initiative, Sandburg's hands reached up to pull his partner's head down to his level. Brushing feather soft kisses across the soft lips bending to meet his, he murmured, "Know what?" A low moan was the only response. "I am really beginning to like lime green."

"Oh, yeah," Ellison breathed. "It has definitely become my favorite color."

END

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