The Night Sandburg Graduated From The Academy

by Francesca

Author's disclaimer: Not mine, all theirs, yadda yadda.

Author's notes: Hugs and deepest thanks to Anna and Livia for great beta work, and Sandy Justine for encouragement. This is just a short, little happy story, guys — enjoy.

The night Sandburg graduated from the academy, I took him out, boozed him up, and bedded him. It was, as they say, the right place and the right time. After god knows how many beers (everyone wanted to buy Sandburg a beer that night, and Sandburg just said "thank you," and "thank you!"), my new partner had really loosened up. Sandburg was loose-limbed, loose-tongued, just, well — loose. He'd had to fling an arm round my neck just to limp his way out of Dompsey's, and by the time I'd managed to get him into the truck, out of the truck, and then up the three flights of stairs to our apartment, I'd pretty much had my hands all over him, which was foreplay of a sort.

Sandburg seemed to find his own state of inebriation hilarious; he was both the star and the appreciative audience of this demented clown act. I'd practically hauled him up the stairs by the armpits — though at one point, shifting to get a better grip, I nearly dropped him. I snatched at him, recovering him by grabbing him around the waist. For a moment we staggered there on the landing, almost dancing, my hands tightly gripping the tails of his pale blue uniform shirt. Sandburg laughed hot beer breath into my face, and then he found his balance and I found mine. Grinning, I grabbed him by the ass, heaved him up, and carried him up the final flight of stairs. He howled with laughter and thrust his fists at the ceiling, still celebrating his own private victory party.

Setting him down and propping him carefully against the outside wall, I fumbled for my keys and unlocked the loft door. Sandburg slid a foot or so down the wall, but tried to stay upright, bracing his sweaty palms against the concrete behind him. But then he began to list sideways, his face a complex mixture of amusement and bemusement. I laughed, shoved the door open, and collected him before he fell over. Grinning stupidly at each other, we maneuvered our way into the living room — him constantly stumbling, holding himself up by fisting my uniform jacket; me with my roving hands, trying to steer him in: left, right, there you go! I managed to kick the door shut, but that put me momentarily off balance, and Sandburg fell forward against me, his forehead banging my nose.

"Ow," I yelled — because it stung, because the little bastard had a fucking hard head — but he just stared at me for a few seconds and then burst out laughing again. His mirth was contagious, and even though my nose throbbed I laughed as I tried to throw him onto the sofa. To my surprise, he fought me — I'm still not sure why — but he struggled, laughing, like I was trying to throw him into a swimming pool rather than just trying to get him to crash onto something soft. We grappled furiously for a minute or two, reeling around the living room, careening in and out of control. Not that it was anything near a fair fight — he was smashed and I wasn't — but what he lost in balance and motor coordination he made up for in lack of balance and motor coordination. Sandburg was loose, arms flying at me unpredictably, literally throwing his weight around. He was fighting in a way I was certain he hadn't learned at the Academy, not unless Drunken Macho Tussling 101 had finally, officially, made it into the curriculum.

I don't exactly remember at what point Drunken Macho Tussling became Drunken Macho Fucking; there was no clearly defined moment where things changed. But somewhere in there, roughhousing turned into groping. I remember inhaling deeply and smelling the beer he was sweating, and the next thing I knew we were rolling around on his futon, trying to suck each other's tonsils out.

He wrapped his legs around me, his big, black, clunky cop shoes digging into the small of my back. Not that I cared, mind you — I was trying to lick up any traces of his mouthwash. Eventually I heard the shoes hit the floor. They dropped with two thuds when he kicked them off; his Keds would probably have bounced. Piece by piece, the rest of our dress uniforms followed — two rumpled blue shirts, two pairs of navy blue trousers, two ties. Shoved in some corner of the futon were our two gold-buttoned uniform blazers — mine with more gewgaws and ribbons for the moment, but probably only for the moment.

It went pretty well for a first fuck, all things considered. Like I said, Sandburg didn't have much motor coordination, so it took him a couple of giggling, gliding tries to actually get his cock up my ass. Being more sober, I found that slightly less amusing than he did, but he was having such a good time, it seemed churlish to complain.

It was my ass on offer that night, by my choice, and Sandburg didn't argue the point. Actually, Sandburg didn't say much of anything that night, which was one of the reasons that it was the right night. I didn't want to talk, and he wasn't able to talk. The only substantive conversation we had went something like this:

"W-wait — Jim?"


"I think'm gonna throw up."

"Oh, shit, Sandburg — get off me!"

"I, uh — wait....I think it passed...rollllover..."

Which was about all the conversation I wanted, really, though I could have done without the vomit scare. Then again, it was his bed, and I suppose he had the right to throw up on it if he wanted.

It's amazing how much you learn about someone when you fuck them. Small things in the scheme of things, I suppose, but sex really has a way of fleshing out a person, so to speak. That night, I learned that Sandburg fucked with his eyes closed. I glimpsed him in the shiny glass of the alarm clock — he was kneeling behind me, hips pumping erratically, head a million miles away. I rested my head on my folded arms while he held my hips and fucked me, wondering only briefly what was going on behind that blissed out expression of his. Where was his head? Was he thinking of me? A woman? Brad Pitt? Was he dreaming of a troupe of Polynesian belly-dancers holding his arms and stroking his nipples? Did it matter when he was balls deep in my ass?

Sandburg's technique was somewhat lacking due to the inebriation thing — sometimes he pumped me steadily, sometimes he seemed to be doing some kind of drunken hula. Still, the burn was fantastic — his cock stretched my ass and caused friction in all the right places. One of his faltering hula moves changed his angle of entry so that red-hot pleasure flared up behind my eyes — a couple of strokes like that and I was coming all over myself. My senses went totally haywire: sight and taste dimmed, hearing and smell exploded. I found myself flat on the futon, shaking with aftershocks, lost in the hurricane winds of my own erratic breathing, drowning in the smells of semen, beer, secondhand smoke, and the aftershave, hair gel, and sleep drool on Sandburg's pillow.

A cock in the ass turns out to be as good as a hand on the arm where the Sentinel-Guide thing is concerned, so my sensory spike didn't last long. But the intensity of it left me weak, more loose-limbed than Sandburg had been twenty minutes ago. And still he was on top of me, riding me with his eyes closed.

Finally he gasped, and gasped, and then shuddered so violently that I felt it throughout my body. His fingers dug deep into my flesh and I winced with pain just as I felt the first spurt of his wetness inside me.

Blair's cock jerked, flooding me, sending renewed waves of pleasure up to my sensation-numbed fingertips. I moaned softly, helplessly, as he collapsed on top of me and mouthed a wet, sloppy, beer kiss between my shoulder blades.

I couldn't move. He didn't move. But, at least, there wasn't any talking.

As I say, the right night.

The morning after the night Sandburg graduated from the academy was a weird one, which was only to be expected, all things considered. The whole graduation thing, Sandburg had been saying for the past week, was just an elaborate cultural ritual marking a rite of passage. This, he explained, was the reason for the elaborate outfits and the funny hats and the interminable, boring speeches by hierarchical luminaries. We still lined up at significant and symbolic moments in our lives, sacrificing our individuality and autonomy to the group in order to insist that, yes, something important was happening here, something that had to be publicly witnessed by the community at large.

Something important was happening, had been happening, to my relationship with Sandburg, but it wasn't something that I wanted witnessed per se. No, the rite of passage that I had in mind demanded a little more privacy than what that had gone down at City Hall. And yet, maybe I had wanted it witnessed, in a certain kind of way — why else had I hitched our own personal border-crossing to the tail end of Sandburg's graduation? Despite being white, male, forty, and ex-military, I tended to vote toward the left — though I could never really get my head around some of the left-left stuff like socialized medicine, the abolition of the death penalty, and gay marriage. I couldn't see myself giving up privacy in exchange for a set of matching wine glasses and a toaster; it hadn't been worth it the first time I'd done it, and with the stakes even higher this time around, I was pretty sure it still wasn't worth it. And yet — I had wanted it to be witnessed. Somewhere deep inside, I'd wanted a procession and stupid trumpet music. I'd wanted to say, "Put on a funny hat, Sandburg, and let's do this thing."

I'd said no such thing, of course. Still, he'd worn a funny hat, perched on top of his strangely shorn head, and I'd had trumpet music ringing in my ears hours later as we crashed down onto his futon.

There wasn't any trumpet music the next morning, though — just a dim stillness, and Sandburg sleeping it off beside me. My room got all the light, I realized; morning in Sandburg's room was quite a different sensory experience altogether. His morning was like my late afternoon, I realized; the angle of the window and the tapestry curtains he'd put up let in only a gray, cool light, nothing like the yellow sunlight that streamed through my skylight. I rolled onto my back, and tucked my arms behind my head as I stared up at his ceiling — a low ceiling, strangely low compared to mine. Different light, different dimensions, different bed — I found I liked his bed, though I hadn't thought I would. I'd figured that the wood slats of the futon frame would be annoying to sleep on, that I'd be living some strange Sentinel version of The Princess and the Pea. Instead, though, I found the relative hardness did good things for my back, and his down comforter — bigger and heavier than mine — provided all the warmth and comfort I needed.

That and Sandburg — there was something indescribably nice about lying next to a sweaty, sprawling Sandburg in the dim morning light. Once, when Carolyn and I were still married, we'd been invited to spend a weekend at her brother's beach house. I didn't like her brother much — still less did I like his wife — but the house was in a primo location, actually on the beach. Unfortunately, Doug and Celia had three big dogs who had the run of the place and, it seemed, of them; one look at them jumping and barking and colliding with each other as we arrived was nearly enough to send me scampering back to the SUV with our luggage. But the way it turned out, they were the best part of the weekend. Turned out that our guest room was also "Jasper's" room, and being that the sea-swollen door didn't shut properly and that Jasper was a determined sonofabitch, literally speaking, it was easier to let him sleep with us than to keep throwing him out. It just stretched out between us and went to sleep, 70 pounds of warm, breathing fur coat, and it says something about the state of our marriage at the time that we both enjoyed sleeping with the dog more than we enjoyed sleeping with each other.

It felt a little like that now — Sandburg was zonked out, face down, beside me, the comforter pulled up around his bare neck. I was warm, as always, and had shoved my part of the comforter down around my waist. Part of the post-fucking informational package was that Sandburg snuffled and muttered and rustled in his sleep, much as Doug's dogs had; I wondered dimly if Sandburg, like Jasper, dreamed of running free in a field and digging up ancient, buried bones.

The thought made me smile, and I reached over to touch his short, dark curls before suddenly coming to myself and stopping my hand in midair. Did I want to wake him up? Did I even want to be here when he woke up? Would there have to be talking? Should I get up and make coffee?

Sandburg decided the question by lifting his head up and looking at me blearily. My open palm was now mere inches from the back of his head and I couldn't resist the temptation to sink my fingers into those thick curls and rub his scalp. He sighed contentedly, closed his eyes, and put his head back down on the pillow.

"You want coffee or something?" I asked.

"Yeah. Coffee'd be good." One blue eye opened and he peered at me. "You okay?"

"I'm fine," I replied, drawing my hand back. Uh-oh, I thought nervously. Talking ahoy.

"I mean, you remember what we did?" Sandburg pressed; I wanted to be angry at him, but his short hair was flat with bedhead, and I couldn't sustain anything beyond mild irritation.

"Yeah, Sandburg, I remember. I haven't lost all my faculties yet."

His mouth quirked into a smile, and then he nodded. "Okay," he said with a yawn, the one blue eye closing. "Just checking. Make coffee."

I felt like a lifer who'd been unexpectedly paroled. "What — that's it? No more talking?"

Sandburg was doing that shuffling, snuffling, rustling thing that I now knew meant he was falling back to sleep. "What's to talk about?" he murmured, his eyes still closed.

I could have kissed him. I made coffee instead.

The evening after the morning after the night Sandburg graduated from the academy, we went out to a sports bar to watch the Cascade Jags slaughter the Philadelphia Sixers. The place was jammed, and so we decided to take a booth with an imperfect view of the television for the eating part, figuring we could always move closer to the bar for the game-watching part. Besides, with my senses, no television was ever entirely out of range — over bleu cheese burgers and curly fries I gave Sandburg a running, shot-for-shot commentary of the game, which I could hear clearly even amid the bar's chatter, and which I could see reflected in the various metal and chrome surfaces around the room.

Later in the game, in the third quarter when things got hot, we grabbed our beers and crowded up at the long, wooden bar, craning our necks to look up at the television. The game was amazing — sink and shoot, sink and shoot, with all those fucking fantastic sudden turnarounds: up the court, down the court. But the crowd around the bar was jostling me, and suddenly I felt overwhelmed by the noise and the body heat and the smells.

Out of nowhere, Sandburg's hand was on my arm, and he was guiding me to an empty barstool.

"You take it," I protested, attempting gallantry.

"Oh, shut up."

I nodded, relieved, and parked my ass on the wooden seat. Sandburg claimed the square foot directly behind me, and we turned our faces back up to the game.

Sitting down, with Sandburg's hand on my arm, calmed my overwrought senses, and I began to enjoy myself again. The guys around us had started up a bar-wide chant of "Deeeee-fense! Deeeee-fense!", a low, mooing sound that alternated with loud clapping and the stamping of feet. It was sort of annoying but sort of exhilarating, too. The Jags were beating the crap out of the Sixers and you could practically hear the whoops of Cascadian joy ringing throughout the city. Or I could, anyway.

And then Sandburg slung an arm around my waist and leaned against my back. I suppose he was just taking a load off, shifting his weight — he'd graciously given me dibs on the stool, after all. But the feel of his splayed hand on my stomach, the warmth of his chest against my back — these things thrilled me, made me flushed and twitchy with desire.

I turned around. Sandburg's eyes were fixed on the screen, and so it took him a second to notice that I was looking at him. But then his eyes flicked down and fixed on me and —

Knowledge. It was entirely, utterly new, this knowledge I saw in Sandburg's eyes. I suppose he was seeing similar knowledge in mine — knowledge that we'd finally, actually done it, that the crackling electricity between us had finally produced the long-expected storm. We didn't have to dance around the giant elephant any more — we'd done it, I'd had him balls deep in my ass, it was now a fait accompli. And we didn't have to sit here, staring each other, pretending that it wasn't happening, pretending that our flushed faces were merely on account of the heat of the room, the press of the people around us.

As if he were reading my mind, Sandburg slowly smiled at me. "You know," he said, "we could go home. Listen to the end of the game on the radio." He jammed his hands into the pockets of his pants and leaned back on his heels, looking cocky.

I grinned back at him; he wasn't the only one who could do cocky. "Hey," I said smugly, "who needs a radio?"

The ride back to the loft that night was possibly the most exciting twenty minutes of my entire life. Not that anything sexual went on in the truck — not sexual per se, anyway. No, instead I made good on my boast and narrated the end of the Jags game to Sandburg, repeating the descriptions of the shots broadcast on other car radios or on the blaring TVs in the houses and apartments we passed. Sandburg just sat beside me, listening intently, pounding his denim-clad thigh when the Jags scored, letting his head fall back despondently against the headrest when they fucked up.

No, what was so fucking exciting about that ride was the shared certainty between us — there was sex in them thar hills, and we were speeding toward it at 55 mph. Last night, Friday night, the night of Sandburg's graduation, I'd certainly hoped — and okay, planned — to make sex a reality between us, to strike while the iron was hot, while the pomp and circumstance of trumpet music was still echoing in our ears. But Sandburg's drunken state had been a double-edged sword; after all, he could have fallen asleep, or socked me one, or thrown up, and that would have been the end of that. Now, though, Sandburg was sitting beside me, stone cold sober and intent on the final quarter of the game. His presence in the passenger seat was a sign of consent — he was going to fuck me consciously, willingly, by choice — and the thought drove me wild.

I parked the truck; my hands were twitching nervously as I slammed the door shut. Sandburg now also looked nervous, I noticed, and we nearly tripped over each other at the building's glass door, each of us trying to pull it open for the other, turning a simple task into a farce of elaborate overcourtesy. Finally he grabbed the door's handle and shooed me in; I relented, and let him hold the door for me, knowing I would get to the elevator first and have the dubious honor of pushing the button.

He followed me in and stood next to me by the elevator, fidgeting. The air was thick with sex, now — thick with the foreknowledge of what was going to happen between us.

"What's," Sandburg began, and then he stopped and cleared his throat; his deep voice was thick with sex, too. "What's up with the game?"

I exhaled with relief, grateful that Sandburg had found a way of cutting the tension, and tuned in to a television on the first floor. "96-78," I reported, and the good news made us both brighten. "We're killing them."

"Yeah!" Sandburg agreed. "Let 'em choke on their cheese-steak."

The elevator pinged! and opened, and I quickly reached out to hold the doors open. Not that they were in any danger of closing or anything, but he'd held the front door for me, and now it was my turn. Sandburg stepped into the elevator and immediately pressed the button for the 3rd floor, one-upping me yet again. "Hey, I like cheese-steak," I said as the doors ground shut, apropos of nothing in particular.

Sandburg's eyes narrowed. "You saying you're a closet Sixers fan?"

"I'm saying I like cheese-steak, Sandburg," I growled, happy to enter into a mock-argument. "You don't have to be from Philly to like cheese-steak."

"No," Sandburg said doubtfully, as if this were a questionable assertion, as if he were Senator Joseph McCarthy and I were a New York Jewish Intellectual swearing that I was not, and never had been, a member of the Communist party. "I suppose not. But still, man..." He trailed off, making a see-saw gesture with his hand.

I instantly rose to the bait. "You calling me a traitor?"

Sandburg crossed his arms, trying to look stern, trying to fight off a smile. "I'm saying that the correlation between an allegiance to Philadelphia and a love of cheese-steak has been well established, sociologically speaking."

"Oh, now you're a sociologist?" I jeered. "Is there no end to your amazing talent?"

"No," Sandburg said firmly. "None in sight, I'm afraid. For your information, I happen to have minored in Sociology — "

"You fucking liar!" I said, exultant in my cross-examination. "You did not! You minored in Psychology — "

Sandburg didn't miss a beat. "Double minor," he interjected quickly. "I did a double minor — Sociology and Psychology. Hell," he added with a shrug. "I've done practically all the -ologies at one time or another — Psychology, Sociology, Criminology, Philology, Epistemology — "

The doors opened onto our floor and I followed him out, down the hallway. "You are such a fucking liar," I insisted. "You are the grand-daddy of all fucking liars, Sandburg."

Sandburg turned, wide-eyed, keys dangling from his hand. "Me?" he asked incredulously. "Lie about my academic career? Jim, I'm hurt, I'm so — " and then he couldn't sustain it any more, and burst out laughing.

I smirked in triumph, and snatched the keys out of his hand. While he was laughing, I was gonna pull Date Move Number Sixteen — take the keys, open the door like a gentleman, get back on top.

Date Move Sixteen didn't go over with Sandburg, though. That was probably gonna be a problem in this relationship, I realized; Sandburg was working from the same fucking playbook. He watched me, eyebrow cocked skeptically, as I opened the door and gestured him in, then pushed past me and turned, stopping my entry with a splayed palm on my chest.

"Sorry, Jim," Sandburg said with a perfectly straight face. "Tonight isn't good for me. I have to wash my sweaters."

I laughed explosively, seized his arm, and began to propel him backwards into the room, kicking the door shut behind me. He didn't fight me.

"I have a big test tomorrow. I have a headache. It's my time of the month," he protested, but he was chewing his lower lip to keep from laughing. "I have to brush the cats. My roommate's home. I'm expecting an important phone call. I've got the early shift. I have to wash my hair."

"Not anymore, you don't," I said, quickly swatting the side of his head. "You don't got much hair anymore, copper."

Sandburg considered this. "You're right," he agreed. "Okay, fine — I'll fuck you, then," and the hand pressed against my chest turned and knotted into a fist, grabbing my jacket and yanking me forward. I took a stumbling step toward him, caught surprised and off-balance, and he tilted his head up and pressed his mouth to mine. Heat flared through my body — and suddenly the sexual tension was back, dense and thick. It was wall-to-wall sex in here, like we'd discovered some entirely new atmospheric condition.

The hand clutching my jacket anchored me in place; Sandburg's other hand moved up my side, tugging my shirt from my pants and then sliding underneath it, cool on my skin. Sandburg caressed me, hand moving toward the small of my back as he stepped closer, into the kiss. My hands were free and felt empty, and so I raised them and cupped Sandburg's head, burying my fingers in his short, gel-stiff curls. He'd cut his hair to become my partner, had cut it the day before he'd entered the Academy, breaking his own promise to himself. Breaking it for me.

I sucked on his mouth, tasting him, drenching my senses in him. He tasted different now; there was still the faint undercurrent of beer, as he'd had one at the bar, but this time there were other tastes to him besides alcohol and peanuts. He moaned into my mouth and slung an arm round my neck. Working on mutual, shared instinct, we moved closer together, first brushing and then rhythmically bumping groins as we grew hotter and hotter for each other.

"Fuck," Sandburg said between gasps, when we finally broke for air. "Fuck. Fuck."

"Where?" I asked breathlessly.

"I don't care. Here. Anywhere." Sandburg's hands were already fumbling with the fly of my pants.

"Wait!" I grabbed his hands, tried to still them, wanting to work out the geographical question before I lost what was left of my control. "We oughta — "

Sandburg growled in frustration, then grabbed my arm and dragged me through the French doors into his room. And then it was like a replay of the previous night — we crashed down onto his futon, kissing and groping each other wildly. It should all have been easier, more graceful, what with Sandburg being sober this time around , but oddly enough it was rougher and clumsier than the night Sandburg graduated from the academy. We didn't even manage to get all our clothes off this time; in fact, we only managed to get our shirts unbuttoned and our pants unzipped. And then I found myself shoved flat on my back on the bed, still wearing my leather jacket, and Sandburg was on top of me, still clothed but naked down the center of his torso, bare from his throat to his erect cock. He lay on top of me heavily so that we were skin to skin, and then began to hump me — I groaned, feeling his erection slide against mine, then drag against my abdomen, my hip, through my pubic hair. I thrust up against his cock, against his stomach, feeling the texture of his skin, the hardness of his muscles, against my own erection.

His mouth found my mouth and everything exploded. I remember kissing and biting and rolling around on his bed. I remember rubbing myself frantically against any part of him I could reach. I remember the feel of his erection, banging into me over and over, bruising my skin. I remember that his skin had grown blazingly, amazingly hot to the touch. I remember how he hovered over me, holding me down, working his tongue deep, deep into my mouth. I remember sliding my hands up under his shirt and across his back muscles; I remember sliding my hands down the back of his undone pants and kneading his ass. I remember gently sliding a finger down his crease and rubbing his asshole, and the way he shattered in my arms. He shattered completely, so violently that it made me think, for a single, insane moment, that the gushing wetness between us had to be blood instead of spunk. I remember wrapping my arms tightly around him, having completely forgotten my own orgasm, and whispering into his hair, trying to talk him down.

I haven't the faintest idea what I said. I don't think I want to know, either.

After that, things grow a little clearer in my mind; I distinctly remember how his breathing calmed, how he grew languid against me, how he took my cock into his hand and toyed with me, tugging me, teasing me until I'd given him everything I had.

We dozed, stupidly, where we lay, totally zonked. At some point we woke up into darkness, squirmed out of our come-spattered clothes, and burrowed under the comforter. I remember lying there with my eyes closed, falling into sleep for the second time, smiling to myself as I heard and felt Sandburg doing his snuffling, rustling, going-to-sleep thing beside me.

And then I seem to remember him muttering sleepily, "Hey — did the Jags win?"

I barely had the energy to shrug. "I dunno. Who cares?"

Sunday morning, the second morning after the night Sandburg graduated from the academy, found me once again on the futon, arms tucked behind my head, watching the dust motes spin through the air in the cold, gray light. I was itchy, sticky, come-spattered — contented.

Half an hour later, Sandburg mumbled his way to consciousness, and I said, without looking at him, "Your turn to make coffee."

He groaned, but didn't protest, and a few moments later he shoved the comforter aside and swung his bare feet onto the floor. The flash of skin in my peripheral vision made me turn my head — the gel he'd been wearing yesterday made Sandburg's bedhead worse than usual, and I stifled a laugh as he yawned hugely and rubbed crusty stuff out of his eyes.

"Shiiiiit," Sandburg mumbled, letting his head fall nearly onto his chest. News flash, part of the post-fucking informational package: Blair Sandburg was not a morning person. "Jim," he said, glancing tiredly at me. "Let's talk turkey, okay? What will it take for you to be the one in this relationship who makes coffee?"

I grinned. "What — every morning?"

"Yeah." Sandburg seemed to have gotten as far as the edge of the bed and then lost momentum; he looked utterly miserable. "Every morning. Come on — every man's got his price."

I sat up, stretching hugely — showing off the fact that I, indeed, was a morning person — and he scowled at me. "I don't know," I said. "I'll have to think about it," and then I took pity on him and added, "Tell you what, though — I'll make coffee now, and you can owe me."

His sleep-creased face brightened. "Yeah?"

'Yeah," I said, and slid gracefully out of bed and to my feet.

Sandburg fell sideways onto the bed again, his eyes following me, glinting with envy at my morning vim and vigor. At least I think it was my vim and vigor. "I could, like, take the trash out," he suggested from his horizontal position. "That's a smelly job. You hate that job."

"That might work." I swiped a pair of boxer shorts off the floor and stepped into them, pretty sure they were mine. I headed for the kitchen as Sandburg crawled back under the covers and disappeared.

At the door I turned, regarded the Sandburg-shaped mound in the comforter, and smiled. I had a little jolt of insight then, or maybe it was foresight, because I realized that it was going to be like this — just like this — from now on. I was going to wake up on Sandburg's futon. Sandburg was going to be a bitch before coffee. Tomorrow he'd start work as my official partner, and there'd be cases and violence by day. Sports and fucking at night.

This wasn't a break in the pattern — this was the new pattern. This was the second day of the rest of my life, and I suspected that the 3,650th day would be much the same.

I nearly opened my mouth to tell Sandburg this, but that might have started a conversation. And what was there to talk about anyway?

I went into the kitchen and made coffee, whistling a tune once scored for trumpets.  

The End