Nature's Fireworks:

A 4th of July Story

by Francesca

Disclaimers: Nothing's mine but the words; everything else belongs to Pet Fly. No infringement is intended, and I'm not makin' a dime. (Who needs money when you've got love?) (Well, okay, but I'm still not making any money!)

Summary: In the Proceedings of Which There Occurs an Entire Game of Softball, with Interludes of Discussion, and then Fireworks, followed by More Discussion, and then More Fireworks ;)

Warnings: None.

Notes: Wherein the Author Ruefully Acknowledges that She has played Far Too Much Whiffleball over the 4th of July holiday, and Re-extends her Previous Offer to Her Gentle Readers wherein she will Continue to Publish such Tales as May Her Brain Conceive and Her Pen Record in Exchange for Such Words of Comfort and Praise as the Gentle Reader May Be So Kind as to Send. For the Gracious Owlet, who Gently Demanded a New Tale by riday, and for Miriam, the Frankenstein to my Monster.

"Come on, Sandburg!" yelled Jim Ellison from the dugout. "Knock it out of the park, kid — come on, you can do it!" He watched as his partner tightened his grip on the bat, waited for the pitch.

"You know, Jim, I've been meaning to — well, to talk to you about Sandburg," said his friend Simon Banks, who was sitting on his left, nursing a beer. Banks cleared his throat softly. "Well, actually about you and Sandburg."

"Ball One!" came the cry, and then Jim was yelling. "Hold tight, kid, don't worry — just wait for one you like!"

"What about us, Simon?" he asked, eyes still locked on the game.

"Well, Jim," began Simon, "we've been friends for a long time now, you and me, and you know I like Sandburg, I really do, it's just that — "

Simon stopped as he watched Jim's lips curve upward into an ironic smile. "What's so funny?"

"Nothing, Simon," said Jim in a low, amused voice. "I was just wondering how you were planning on finishing that sentence. I mean, there are so many options to choose from."

"Strike One!"

"Dammit!" hissed Jim. "It's okay, don't worry about it," he hollered, "just relax, keep focused!" He exhaled sharply, and then shot a quick glance at Simon before turning his eyes back to the game.

"What are you talking about, 'options'?" asked Simon.

"Well, there are just so many ways to finish that sentence," said Jim. "'I like Sandburg, I really do,'" Jim mimicked. "BUT: 'He's too short for you.' 'He's too young for you.' 'He's not really your type, is he?' 'Oh, and by the way, have you noticed that he's a man?'" And then Jim was on his feet as he saw his partner's powerful back muscles suddenly tense and then ripple and then he heard the satisfying crack of the bat and then the ball was flying and he and Simon were screaming and then Sandburg was safe at second. "Yes! Yes! Yes!" yelled Jim, "We are so going to kick the fuckin' fire-department's asses this year!"

"Well, the kid sure can run," Simon teased, and Jim bit his lip and stifled a smile.

"Yeah, well, we've certainly been training him well there," acknowledged Jim, absentmindedly scratching his chest and sitting down. "Where was I?"

"You were making fun of me," said Simon.

"Oh, yeah," said Jim. "Come on, O'Hara," he called, "Hit the damn ball, will you?" Jim grabbed a beer out of the cooler next to him, popped the top off, and turned to look at Simon. "He's also Jewish, you know, but I suppose I'd be willing to convert for the sake of the children," Jim deadpanned.

"All right, all right, stop it," said Simon.

"I mean, just as long as you and Mom accept us."

"Fuck you," said Simon, earnestly.

"Fuck you too, sir," said Jim and then he was up again as the ball sailed into the air and O'Hara ran for first. He was tagged and out, but when the dust cleared Sandburg was getting up, smeared with dirt, at third.

"Good running, there," said Simon and the two cops laughed.

"Yeah, Sandburg doesn't know that we've been risking his life to make him better at softball."

"Here's to the secret plan," murmured Simon, clinking bottles with Jim.

"Lets hope we win," said Jim. "I am not washing fire-trucks this year."

"Amen to that. We'll get Rodriguez to do your truck, instead."

"Yeah, with his tongue," said Jim. "Come on Connor! You can do it!" Jim screamed after the first call of Ball One. "Think cricket, Connor — whoa! attagirl!" and again the ball was flying and Sandburg was safe at home before Megan was tagged between first and second and Major Crimes were on their third out and screaming and the score was now PD 7, FD 6.

Jim whooped and slapped Simon's back hard, then hopped over the dugout railing. "Gonna go cop a feel off Sandburg," Jim said, grinning wickedly, jogging backward. "Man, you gotta love organized sports!"

The police took the field a few minutes later, Jim playing first base, Brown at second, Rafe at third, Simon catching, Sandburg playing shortstop and Megan, after a heated argument with Jim, the team captain, relief pitching. "These are firemen, here," he had argued, "big guys, Connor — " "You're always teasing me about cricket," said Megan, eyes blazing in the hot summer sun. "Here's my chance to shut you up!" And Jim had shut up, as Megan had pitched gentle looking but viciously corkscrewing pitches that had the Cascade Fire Department cursing loudly. A couple of pop flies, a bunt that Sandburg scooped up and thudded straight into Ellison's mitt, and the inning was over, and the firemen had gained no ground.

Ellison came up to bat in the next inning with two players on base; he swung his shoulders and hips gracefully and the ball sailed out of the park. Police 10, Fire 6 read the board as he jogged over home plate and into the frenzied hugs and backslaps of Major Crimes. "I think that's cheating," he heard Sandburg whisper from under his Cascade PD hat, and Jim slapped him hard on the ass. "Gotta love organized sports," Blair said softly, and loped off to grab some bottled water.

Jim found himself sitting back next to Simon in the dugout at the top of the ninth inning. They watched the end of the game peaceably as the sun slowly began to go down, fairly sure now that they were going to win.

"So, is it the Sentinel thing?" asked Simon. Jim glanced at Simon, who nodded his head toward Sandburg, who was crouching, poised to sprint, at first base.

Jim raised his eyebrows. "No, I don't think so, actually." Simon looked blankly at him and Jim laughed. "No, really, Simon, the Sentinel thing is mainly a drag. I mean, you're really glad you can do it when you can help someone or save someone, and..." Jim smiled suddenly, "...well, some other times its sort of cool, but by and large its a lot of waking up having gotten no sleep because you zoned in the middle of the night when a fire-engine went by — which is another reason I'd really like to get these guys, by the way — Good man, O'Hara!!" yelled Jim, clapping as O'Hara sped to first and Sandburg advanced to second. "God, Simon, I've got to remember this line up for next year...we're really creaming them, now!"

"So, uh, if its not the Sentinel thing, Jim," asked Simon, softly, "then...well, what?"

"I don't know, Simon — ask him, he's the analytical one," said Jim, irritably. "I haven't really thought about it. I mean, look, everyone's always telling me to just take it easy, relax, enjoy life — you've said it a hundred times if you've said it once — and so I am, okay? I'm enjoying my life, I'm actually happy — is that a crime? I'm really fucking happy, so can you just drop it?"

"Okay, okay, I'm dropping it," said Simon, raising his hands.

"No, you're not dropping it," said Ellison, wheeling on him, "you've been asking me questions all day, pushing me on it. I thought you were okay with this. Do you have some sort of problem here that you're not saying? Because if you do, Simon, this is the time to say it. I'm listening!"

"All right, calm down, Jim," said Simon firmly. "No, I don't have a problem, I'm just — well, its just that there seems to have been a lot of stuff going on with you two, lately, and — " Simon sighed loudly. "Well, and frankly, Jim, of all the things for you to not question — "

He stopped as Jim raised a hand and stared out into space. Then Jim turned toward second base and gave Sandburg a thumbs-up. Simon saw Sandburg nod once, sharply, and turn his attention back to the game. "Like that," Simon sputtered. "What the hell was that?"

"He, um...he was talking to me," mumbled Jim.

"Jesus, Lord — that mouth that ate Cascade," groaned Simon.

"Look, he could feel I was angry — "

"Feel you were angry? — "

"It's complicated, Simon!" Jim took a deep breath. "Look, I know this must be weird for you, but all I can tell you is that if you'd told me five years ago that things would go this way, with the Sentinel thing, and with Blair...well, I wouldn't have believed you. Though I am rather notoriously grumpy and skeptical," he added, trying to lighten up the conversation.

"Look, Jim, let's call it like it is. First, you develop these powers — which are getting, if anything, weirder — and now you switch sexual orientations overnight. I mean, maybe you expect me not to comment, but I just don't have that strong a character."

Jim took off his cap and rubbed his forehead with his wrist. "Switched? Honestly, Simon, I don't even know anymore. The only thing I was ever really oriented toward was...well, misery. I had a real knack for misery in all forms, and some of them were female." He threw up his hands, frustrated. "The only thing I ever felt before was unhappy. It was like a blanket over everything, blunting everything. Food was bad, sex was bad, people pissed me off: I thought that was just how life was. With Carolyn, it was kind of like, well, why not?" Jim sighed and put his hat on. "I mean, this whole thing with my just have no idea what a cosmic joke it all was. I didn't used to feel anything. And then nature just dumped all this into my lap — almost forty years worth of sensation in like, a minute. It nearly drove me crazy, but I'm much happier now. And with the...fog lifting, I've found out that — well, I can discriminate. Some food is good, some sex is really good, and only some people piss me off. Turns out I like cheese, don't like nuts. Who knew?"

Jim and Simon turned as Megan hurled the bat away and walked to first base. O'Hara moved to second, Sandburg to third. "Bases loaded," said Simon after a moment, just to have something to say.

"Yeah, who's up now?" asked Jim, scanning the players.

"Well you could be," said Simon, wickedly. "Put yourself in, hit a homer, absolutely smash them. Use those senses of yours for something really important."

Jim smiled. "I could, but I won't. Blair would say it was cheating. Plus," he added in a low voice, "we're winning anyway. And Rafe's up — he'll do fine. Come on, buddy!" he yelled. "Bring 'em all home, put these bastards out of their misery!"

"And it matters what Blair says," said Simon gently.

"It absolutely matters what Blair says," agreed Jim quietly.

"And he can say it across a baseball diamond?" teased Simon.

"He can say it across the city," admitted Jim. "Maybe further, we haven't tested it yet."

"Holy shit," said Simon, no longer teasing.

"Yeah, its like he mentally projects his voice to me, wherever I am. The guide voice."

"I don't think I want to hear any more," said Simon.

"Well, you asked."

"Well, I'm sorry I did."

"Well, welcome to my life."

"Well, it sounds like you like it."

"I do like it."

"Good. I mean," said Simon, staring resolutely at the game, arms crossed, "I'm glad for you. I'm really glad, okay?"

"Okay. Thanks." And then both men held their breath as Rafe swung hard and the ball went flying, and then Sandburg was home and O'Hara was home and Megan was out and Rafe was on first base, and the score was PD 14, FD 6.

Sandburg jogged over to the dugout as Brown stepped up to bat. "It's a rout, man!" he yelled at Jim, "A total friggin' rout!"

Jim smiled and slapped Sandburg's upturned hand. "Sheesh," said Sandburg, clambering over the fence into the dugout, "I'm exhausted." He threw himself down on the bench and then turned sideways and lay flat.

"You're also filthy," commented Jim.

"Well, what do you want from my life?" shot back Blair, "It's dirty out there!" He swiped an arm across his face and Jim grabbed it, pulled him up into a sitting position.

"Stop, you're just smearing it," said Jim, straddling the bench and sitting down. He opened a bottle of water, wet the bottom of his t-shirt, and used the fabric to wipe off Blair Sandburg's dirt-streaked face. "Stay still a second, will ya?" Jim said, as Blair squirmed and tried to pull back.

"Okay, okay! Better?" he asked, smiling winningly when Jim had finished.

"Yes, much," Jim replied, pinching Blair's chin and reaching around to give his ponytail an affectionate yank. "What the hell is Brown doing out there?" he said, heaving himself up.

"Not much, it seems," replied Blair, as the umpire yelled "Strike Two!"

"Well, barring acts of God in the bottom of the ninth," said Simon, "I think we've got this pretty well sewn up."

"Well, we'd better, because I am just starving, man!" said Blair.

"Haven't you been eating?" asked Jim. "There's all those hotdogs and hamburgers and stuff — "

"Oh sure," said Blair. "Eat a bunch of hotdogs, run around like a maniac in 90 degree heat, and throw up all over home plate. I do not need to puke in front of Cascade's entire assembled city services, thanks. I'll wait until it's over."

"STRIKE THREE!" called the umpire, and Blair sighed. "All right, I guess they're playing our song. Where's my glove?"

Jim tossed it to him, and the three men jumped the fence and spread out over the diamond. Out on the field, the police got increasingly excited as Megan slowly, carefully, struck out first one, then two firemen. "You suck, Rodriguez!," yelled Ellison, laughing, as the fire chief flung his bat away in disgust, grinned at Jim, flipped him the bird. "Yeah, okay, okay!" called Ellison, with an answering grin, "but I'd like two coats of wax on my truck!"

The third fireman popped the ball high in the air over center field — with a whumph! it landed in Brown's mitt and then the Cascade PD were screaming, convening on Connor, who had flung her fists up in the air in a gesture of triumph. Jim picked Megan up, whirled her around, kissed her cheek and physically handed her over to Brown. Hugs were exchanged, backs were slapped, and, as a mass, the police team headed off the field toward the picnic tables.

Blair Sandburg headed straight for the food.

Jim sat with his teammates as the evening grew darker, drinking beer, replaying the best moments of the game, exchanging increasingly sarcastic taunts with members of the Cascade Fire Department about who was going to do what to whom next year — and then he suddenly heard Sandburg's voice.


Jim scanned the park, looking for Sandburg; he frowned, not seeing him.

<Don't worry, I'm fine, I'm in the parking lot helping Megan load her cooler into the car. I just wanted to tell you that I heard one of the park guys say that the fireworks are going to begin in five minutes. Listen, Jim: dial everything down, you hear me? Everything nice and low, then just sit yourself down somewhere and relax. Did you get that?>

Yes, thought Jim.

<Affirmation received, Jim. Just sit down, stay calm, and I'll find you, okay?>

Okay, thought Jim, and he selected a spot and sat down in the grass.

Even with his senses turned down, the first boom sent his heart pounding and the first flash forced him to close his eyes. Head bent down, jaw clenched, Jim suddenly felt Sandburg drop into the grass beside him and grip his arm. "Jim?" he asked worriedly, and Jim raised his head slightly to show his partner that he hadn't zoned. "Is everything down?" Blair inquired softly, and Jim focused for a moment, double checking his dials. Then he nodded, and Blair changed his hold on Jim's arm and began rubbing it gently but firmly, caressing it with long, subtle, rhythmic strokes. "Okay, then," Blair said, looking up at the sky, "so let's watch fireworks."

Eventually, as his sight and hearing adjusted, Jim too raised his head. Sandburg was still massaging his arm, and Jim suddenly realized that the gesture was not merely affectionate but also practical; the calm and steady stimulation of another sense — touch — was helping him keep his senses balanced. He looked over at Blair, watching the colored lights exploding above play over his lover's upturned face, and mused that Blair's affection was almost always practical — with Blair, everything was whole and united and regenerative and productive, with mutual love and mutual need being but two sides of the same coin.

Feeling Jim's eyes on him, Blair suddenly turned his head to his partner and smiled — and Jim bent his head forward and softly kissed him. Blair pulled back after a moment, eyes wide, and then put his hand on Jim's chest, pushing him away. Blair scanned the neighboring people nervously, checking to see if anyone had noticed. Jim leaned forward against Blair's splayed hand.

"Nobody's looking," he said quietly.

"Jim, for god's sake," Blair whispered heatedly, "everyone who could possibly matter to your professional future is in this park!"

"I don't care," murmured Jim.

"Well I care for you," said Blair angrily, and then his face softened as he heard himself. "I do, Jim, in every way..." He let his hand slide gently down Jim's chest, then scrambled to his feet and fled away across the grass.

Jim sighed and closed his eyes, gently tracing his right hand over his left arm, still feeling the warmth of Sandburg's strong, square, masculine hands against his skin. Eventually he got up, picked up his and Sandburg's gloves, and slowly followed Blair's path across the park, stopping to say goodbye to people as he passed, explaining that the fireworks were giving him a headache, and that Blair was off starting the truck, see you Monday.

He found his partner in the lot, leaning against the side of the truck, arms folded. Jim dug into his pocket, pulled out the keys and tossed them to Blair; both of them knew that Jim shouldn't be driving on the 4th of July, not with fireworks going off all over Cascade.

Blair unlocked the driver's side door, hopped in, and reached over to open the other door for Jim. Tossing the gloves behind the seat, Jim slid in and pulled the door shut. After a moment, he turned and looked over at Blair, who was sitting, hands on the wheel, not moving.

"Chief — " he said, just as Blair said, "Jim — "

And then Blair twisted in his seat and wrapped his arms around Jim's neck, and Jim leaned back against the door and pulled his partner almost into his lap, knocking his cap off. Blair pressed his face into Jim's neck, and Jim hugged him tightly. He felt Blair kiss his throat, just once; but that one kiss burned into him, made his heart pound.

"I'm so sorry," said Blair softly, almost moaning.

"No, don't be," Jim said immediately.

Blair raised his head to look at Jim. "But I am." He sighed. "For both of us really," he said sadly, pulling away and repositioning himself in the driver's seat.

"Well, yeah," replied Jim softly.

Blair reached down to turn the engine on, then stopped and shot Jim a sharp, anguished look. "You know I love you."

"Yes," said Jim.

"You know I don't want it to be this way." His eyes were pleading, and Jim met them, and nodded intently. "Yes. I know."

"You know what my politics are about this," said Blair, fist pounding softly against the steering wheel. "But I don't see any way around it, Jim, I really don't." Suddenly he pulled back and hit the steering wheel so hard that Jim was afraid he had hurt his hand — he grabbed at it, folded it into his own, felt Blair's fingers tighten around his. "I mean, these are our lives, here, Jim," said Blair. "It's not a game. I mean, they could separate us. You could zone out, you could be killed. They could — dammit, we have secrets, Jim — you're not like other people, I'm not — " Blair stopped suddenly, breathing hard, and shook his head, deeply afraid. "I'm not..." he said slowly, and Jim put his arm around him and pulled him against his shoulder.

"No," Jim said softly, holding him close. "You're not."

"This isn't the secret I want to keep, Jim," said Blair after a moment, as they sat there, leaning against one another, staring out the front windshield at the fireworks which lit up the sky.

"No, I know." said Jim.

"But if we're going to keep the other one, keep working together...we can't afford to draw attention to ourselves, to make enemies..."

"No," said Jim, bending to kiss the top of his head.

"I mean, we could just junk it," said Blair, turning his face up to look at him. "Just split, just go somewhere and be normal." He smiled briefly, touched the side of Jim's face, and Jim leaned into the touch. "Well normal for us, anyway. This isn't about — we aren't about — "

"No," said Jim, smiling in the darkened cab.

"It isn't about the Sentinel thing," Blair finally got out.

"No," said Jim. He laughed suddenly.

"What's funny?" said Blair, sitting up straight. "Please tell me something funny."

"It's nothing. Just something I was trying to tell Simon today." He laughed again. "That the Sentinel thing can be a drag."

"Well, yeah," said Blair, and sighed. He reached down, started the truck, and began to back out of the parking space. "What did Simon have to say?"

"He asked," said Jim, and Blair shot him a look. "I told him," said Jim. "He knew anyway. He'll protect us."

Blair blew out a loud breath as he turned the car onto the road. "I know, Jim. I trust Simon. I'm not talking about our friends."

Jim considered his partner as the truck sped toward Prospect. "Would you really just junk it? Go off with me, somewhere?"

Blair glanced over at his partner. "Me? Sure. If we had to." He grinned. "But before you start thinking that's noble, you should remember its the Sandburg rule of thumb. When the going gets tough, run like hell."

"Yeah, you always say that," answered Jim testily, "but you're really just full of shit, aren't you?"

Blair's grin grew wider. "Are you calling me a liar?"

"Yes," said Jim. "A big, fat, hairy liar."

"I would go, though," Blair said. "If you asked."

"No, I know that," replied Jim.

"It's just that...well, we have a responsibility with this thing. To the tribe. It's not just about winning at softball. I mean, look, you'd make a really good jewel assessor. 'Hell of an eye, that Ellison,'" Blair added in a deep voice, "'spotted those flaws right away.'"

"Yeah, or a food critic," added Jim, catching on. "'Mmmm, perhaps just a bit more paprika!'"

"Yeah, yeah," said Blair, laughing. "You could wave planes in — 'I see him, he's over Minneapolis, heading this way!'"

"I don't know about that — you wouldn't want to zone doing that."

"No, I guess not," said Blair. "The thing is that none of it would really matter a damn." He pulled the truck into a spot in front of their building, and turned off the engine. "Look, basically, I'd really like us to avoid any version of our future which involves, say, electrodes."

"Or being caged in an underground bunker in Nevada." Jim grimaced.

"Yeah, or daytime television." They gathered their stuff, got out of the truck, headed inside.

Jim reached out a hand and stopped Blair just outside the loft door. "Take off your sneakers," he ordered. Blair steadied himself against the wall and pulled them off. "Good," said Jim, opening the door. "Leave them out there. Now listen to me, I don't want you to move and I don't want you to touch anything. Just take off your clothes, and get in the shower. Now."

"Ooooh, I love it when you're all dominant," teased Blair.

"Now, Sandburg. Move!"

Blair paused at the door to the bathroom, then turned back. "Will you join me?"

Dear God, thought Jim, leaning back against the door, what an offer, so genuinely made, so forthrightly extended. How had he gotten so lucky? Certainly he hadn't done anything to deserve it — far from it, he had fought happiness, fought Blair, practically every step of the way — he had resisted passively, he had resisted violently, he had blindly, forcefully, denied his own subconscious needs and wants until he had practically ripped his psyche apart.

But some deep primal part of him had rebelled, had let go, had reached out, and suddenly his deeply submerged, barely articulated desires — half- remembered dreams that had left him sweating and aching in the morning — had become realities; they were suddenly manifest, tangible, his for the taking. Incredibly, the shadowy dream-lover had arrived, had taken his rightful place in Jim's home, in his life; and now he beckoned to him from the bathroom door.

Jim's throat was dry; he simply nodded and moved forward toward Blair. Once in the bathroom, he seized Blair's hands, which were poised to pull off his dirty Cascade PD t-shirt, and whirled the smaller man around, pulling him backwards hard against his chest and wrapping his arms around him tightly. Jim kicked the bathroom door shut and leaned back against it, pulling Blair with him, trying to pull his guide off balance, wanting to take — to feel — Blair's weight against him. He slid one long arm around Blair's shoulders, pulling backwards, encouraging Blair to fall back into him, to lean into him, and then Jim's hands began moving, over Blair's chest, down his arms, across his abdomen, over his cock, moving, circulating, stimulating, greedily feeding his sense of touch. Blair gasped and let Jim support him, let Jim hold him up, let his head fall back against Jim as Jim slid one hand up under Blair's t-shirt, and the other down beneath the elastic waistband of Blair's cut-off sweatpants. Blair began to pant raggedly as Jim fondled his torso with one hand, and gently fingered his erection with the other. The sounds of Blair's increasing arousal forced answering groans from Jim's throat; he moved his hand down along Blair's cock, stroking it with his palm, circled the head with the sensitive pads of his fingers, probed the fissure at the tip and felt the heat of Blair's precum leaking — burning — on to his skin.

This, he thought as his hand closed around Blair's cock — god, how he had wanted this — this man, this body. He bent his head and let his lips drift lightly over Blair's face, tasting the texture of masculine skin, tasting grass and dirt and sweat, breathing in the smell of sun and summer. His hands ran over the firm muscles of Blair's torso, over the soft chest hair, the hard body — so much harder than a woman's — and Jim was lost in the sensations, lost in maelstrom of his own spiraling desire. He let his hand slip out from Blair's t-shirt, moved it to Blair's throat, and stroked the long column which Blair extended by throwing back his head. His fingers glided up Blair's neck, stopping to finger the bulge of Blair's adam's apple, and then he let his hand gently wander up to Blair's face. Jim closed his eyes and let his own head fall back against the bathroom door; guided by touch alone, he slid his hand along Blair's slightly roughened cheek, let his palm drift over Blair's lips, up to cover Blair's eyes, brushing over long eyelashes, up to rest on his forehead.

And then Jim tightened his grip on Blair's thick erection, squeezing his cock possessively, clenching his fist almost cruelly, pressing Blair's head back against his own throat with a strong hand, wanting to claim him, mark him, to impress himself on Blair's body, to incorporate Blair's body into his.

Blair trembled violently, involuntarily, weak with lust and overwhelmed by desire — understanding, always, instinctively, Jim's body language, understanding's Jim's need to possess him.

"Take," he breathed softly. "Take," he said, offering himself up, and he didn't finish the sentence, didn't need to, because Jim knew he was offering everything, anything he wanted. Take anything. Take everything. Take me.

"I want," said Jim raggedly, and that sentence didn't require completion either, because he wanted everything that Blair had and everything that Blair was, and because the words were also a simple declaration of his newfound ability to want, of his vast and profound joy in wanting, of the bliss of feeling, finally, real and urgent desire, of having discovered, at long last, love and orientation and preference.

Locking his arm around his partner's shoulders, Jim began stroking Blair's cock, first gently, then harder and faster until he was masturbating Blair furiously. Blair was moaning faster and faster in unison with Jim's strokes, leaning into the wall that was Jim Ellison, falling into the universe that was Jim Ellison, and feeling hopelessly lost in, ripped apart by, the depth and intensity of Jim's lust for him, the depth and intensity of his own lust. He was shaking uncontrollably, babbling incoherently, and Jim felt his partner's body convulsing, felt his blood rushing underneath his skin and his muscles spasming erratically and Jim tightened his grip on his lover, who was so responsive, so erotic, so very present in his own body — so damnably, wonderfully alive — and his mind was screaming <Want him! Want this!>

Jim pressed his own cloth-covered erection against the curved fullness of Blair's ass, felt himself sliding up against the soft indentation between Blair's buttocks and then he was thrusting up against Blair helplessly, his muscular forearms throbbing, tensing as he stroked his partner forcefully, and he could sense the orgasm building in Blair, building incredibly, immeasurably, intensively, magnificently and Jim found himself anticipating it more than his own, and it was Blair's sudden, impossibly quiet gasp of release that finally sent him spiraling over the edge.

Instinctively, protectively, Jim kept himself balanced against the bathroom door, clutching Blair's heaving body, holding his guide steady even as he himself came. As he felt his knees begin to buckle, he slid his hand out from Blair's shorts and flung it out against the wall to support himself, not at the moment concerned about the sticky trails of semen he was leaving on the tile. Slowly, gently, he lowered himself down to the floor, still holding Blair, carrying Blair's dead weight with him, until he was sitting against the door, knees up, with Blair between his legs. His guide was boneless and breathing shallowly, and Jim stared in exhausted astonishment as Blair twisted his ponytailed head, turned his face into Jim's armpit, nuzzled there for a moment, and promptly fell into a deep sleep.

"Chief?" he whispered softly, "Blair?" and then he stopped. He closed his eyes and let his head fall back against the door, listening to the faraway sounds of fireworks in Cascade.

The End