Reality Check

by Francesca

Author's disclaimer: Not mine, all theirs. ugh. Oh yeah, and No Actual Damage was done to the San Francisco Hilton in the writing of this story. ;)

Author's notes: Thanks to Miriam for betaing, for being Anne Sullivan to my kicking and screaming Helen Keller in the matter of POV. Thanks to everyone who writes to me — I've been horrible at answering my LoCs lately, but I'm going to try to improve, I promise! So keep writing! This is for everyone who asked me for a sequel to Dream Sequence — I hope you guys like it! Next up: more Nature Series.

"You look like hell, you know. What's up with you — are you sick?" Jim was standing by the coffeepot, checking me out in that cop-critical way. He, of course, looked perfect, bathrobe hanging open, cup of coffee in his hand. He was well-rested.

I wasn't.

Trust Jim to have noticed. There was a real downside to this whole Sentinel thing — the more I helped him with his senses, the more I lived in some weird panopticon. I sighed: there was no point in lying to him. "I haven't been sleeping well lately."

Jim frowned, concern written all across the angular planes of his face. "Oh?"

"Yeah." Jim looked at me encouragingly; I knew he expected elaboration. Normally, that wouldn't have been a problem: elaboration was my business. But this — this shit was tough.

"I'm having some pretty weird dreams," I confessed, pushing my breakfast plate away. I neglected to mention that said dreams were erotic in nature, and starred him looking hot and wild and sweaty. Holy wow.

Jim's frown deepened; he picked up his coffee cup and came over, sliding into the chair opposite mine. "What kind of dreams?"

Suddenly I realized what he was thinking — and I couldn't help but laugh. "No, no, no, no," I assured him, "nothing like that. No panthers or wolves or temples or any of that shit."

Jim's face relaxed immediately, and he grinned back at me in evident relief.

"It's way stupider than that," I said, and laughed again — after all, the joke was on me, wasn't it? Me — Mr. Sensitive, Mr. In-Touch-With-His-Emotions. Who had turned out to be Mr. Repressed, Mr. Doesn't-Know-Shit-About-Who-He-Really-Wants-To-Be-Sleeping-With, Does-He? What a hoot.

I tried to explain it to him so that he would see the funny side. "It seems," I said, rolling my eyes, "that despite years of therapy and countless hours of self-reflection, I am nonetheless in the midst of the most basic sort of identity crisis."

Jim took a sip of his coffee. "Keep talking," he said. "You're bound to start making sense sooner or later."

"I'm nearly thirty," I offered, because this was really the crux of my humiliation. Thirty years old and just figuring this all out. Jesus, I must be stupid.

"I know," he replied, clearly waiting for the rest.

"And I thought I was really in touch with myself — with my feelings and desires — all that shit." I felt a faint undercurrent of anger and embarrassment. Hell, I had lectured Jim about not knowing who he was — talk about the pot calling the kettle black. Where did I get off?

Suddenly I couldn't look at him anymore, and I stared down at the tabletop. "And now you think you're not?" I heard Jim say quietly.

"No. Apparently not." The now-familiar headache was starting; I slid my fingertips under my glasses and rubbed my eyes. "Not according to my subconscious, anyway. My subconscious is clearly working from a separate playbook." I dropped my hands and looked up at him: might as well spit it out. "Jim, I think I'm bisexual."

God bless him, he didn't bat an eyelash. Cop training, I suppose — I mean, he's dealt with serial killers, and armed thugs, and assorted lunatics: what's one sexually confused hippy anthropologist?

"Oh yeah?"

"Yeah," I confirmed. He stared at me blankly and I put on a smile, wanting to let him know that it was all right, that he needn't worry, that I wasn't taking myself — or this — too seriously. "Believe me, I'm as surprised as you are," I added, trying to keep my tone light. "I don't know where the hell it came from, or why it took me so long to figure out."

He nodded carefully, and I could see that he was trying to think of something supportive to say. "Well. I guess...mmm." He fidgeted with his mug, and tried again. "I mean: that's good, isn't it? That you figured it out?"

He is just so fucking nice, once you get past the hard-ass-cop, smash-you-into-the-wall stuff. "I guess. Except it feels like it's just the beginning, you know? I don't know what it means, yet — I don't know what it means to me, or to my life, or to anything."

It was so goddamn depressing — I was at ground zero all over again. Now I had to rethink everything — my whole fucking life. I mean, hell, I used to have some basic facts about myself: I was an anthropologist, and I was straight. Three years of living with Jim, and I find out that maybe I'm not an anthropologist, and maybe I'm not so straight.

I mean, maybe my name isn't even Blair Sandburg — well, I mean it isn't, really, is it? There's some guy out there somewhere, and I'm his too, aren't I? Blair Smith or Blair Jones or something.

Maybe I'm a fucking space alien, too.

God, I was unraveling: I had to get out of here and get my head screwed on properly. I'd been planning a little getaway over spring break; might as well tell Jim about that, while we were talking. "I'm actually thinking I might take a vacation. Go away for a week or so, try to work some of this shit out."

"That's an idea," Jim said slowly. "Where — where were you thinking of going?"

"San Francisco." Close but not too close, far but not too far, big enough to get lost in, small enough to manage.

"You could drive a few more miles south," he suggested. "Get somewhere warmer — maybe hit the beach?"

I appreciated the suggestion, knowing that it was Jim's own idea of the perfect holiday. "Well, thing is, I'm hedging my bets," I explained. "San Fran is a town full of gay guys and hippie chicks — I figure I'm bound get somewhere — whichever way it turns out I'm swinging, you know?"

Jim looked vaguely shocked at that, but he camouflaged it well by getting up and taking the breakfast plates to the sink. "Oh," he said finally. "Well, whatever. Do what you need to do, I guess."

From Jim, that was pretty close to a benediction. It was also a sign that the fatal conversation was over, and that we had both survived it.. "Thanks," I said, and I meant it. "Thanks for the support."

He waved my gratitude away with a dismissive gesture and went upstairs to get dressed for work.

We didn't talk about it after that, and — great guy that he is — Jim treated me pretty much the same. Okay, maybe he gave me a little more space, yelled at me a little less about house rules and using up the hot water and the state of bathroom. And maybe he was just that bit more solicitous — he cooked meals for me, and surprised me with cups of tea I hadn't asked for, and generally kept a quiet watch, making sure I was okay, that I wasn't freaking out.

Which kind of freaked me out, actually.

I mean, this coming-out-at-thirty thing — this bites, you know? It's work, reorganizing your internal self-portrait that radically. And it bites hard to be doing it in close proximity to the man who provoked your coming-out crisis in the first place — and triply hard when that guy is on his best, most princely behavior, killing you with his kindness and strength.

Two weeks to San Francisco, I repeated to myself. Two weeks to spring fucking break.

And then one day I came home, and there was a brown paper bag neatly placed in the center of my bed.


He'd bought me books.

He'd bought me books.

And what books they were.

Your Guide To Coming Out. Straight Answers To Gay Questions. Understanding Your Own Bisexuality. Now That You Know Beyond Gay or Straight: Bisexual Politics, Bisexual Ethics

I didn't know whether to laugh or cry — it was so fucking Jim. And I got the message, loud and clear: it was like I could hear his voice in my head:

"I want to help you, Sandburg, but I don't know how. But there are professionals who deal with this sort of thing, right? So here, Sandburg — read a book. I mean, I want you to know I'm here for you — well, not actually here for you, more like sort of there for you, unless, of course, it's really important, and then — well, I'm around, okay? Just yell if — oh, fuck: just go read the books already. You want some tea?"

I spread the books out on my bed and skimmed the back covers of each of them. Nice choices — some were critical studies, others were self-help texts. Straight Answers To Gay Questions — well, shit, I needed that, all right. I opened it to a random page and began reading.

After a while I heard Jim's key in the lock, and waited for him to come find me, which he did.

"Hey," he said, appearing in the doorway, and then he saw the books on the bed and looked embarrassed.

"Hey," I answered gaily, and then I waved Straight Answers To Gay Questions at him. "Listen, these are great. Thanks a lot."

"You're, uh, welcome," he said, and then he was gone, and I could hear him rattling around in the fridge.

I got up and followed him into the kitchen. "I really mean it, you know. You've been just — amazing — about all this."

He shot me a disgruntled look; he didn't like compliments.

"Whatever," he said, popping a beer open and taking a swig. He leaned back against the counter and looked me up and down. "You seem to be handling things okay."

I shrugged. "So far, so good."

"You sleeping better?" he asked, and I grinned.

Because I was still having erotic dreams about him; I was just enjoying them more as I began to come to terms with things.

"Yeah," I said. "A bit."

"Good," he said, nodding. He watched me intently for a moment or two, looking like he wanted to say something. I waited, but he didn't. Finally he just sighed and pushed himself away from the counter. "I'll make dinner. Is pasta okay?"

"Pasta's great," I replied.

"Okay," he said, pulling the pasta pot out of the drainer. He filled it with water and put it on the stove — and then shot me a nervous look. "You want tea or something?"

While he made dinner I went back into my room and took the books he had given me out to the dining room table. I grabbed some brown paper bags from one of the kitchen drawers and a pair of scissors from another and began to make book covers. I hadn't done that since elementary school, when they used to require that we cover all our textbooks, and I felt faintly nostalgic as I folded the brown paper neatly.

I wanted to read these books, but I didn't want anyone to see what I was reading. And I didn't want to embarrass Jim at the station or anywhere else. But I wanted to carry them with me, because I wanted to read them, and because — well, okay — because Jim had given them to me.

It was stupid — -god, I knew it was stupid — but the man had cared enough to walk his sorry macho ass into a bookstore, and had gone into the gay and lesbian section and browsed (because these were all quite good — no random choices, these) and then he had picked up his selections and taken them to the counter and paid for them.

I mean, I'm sure he did.

I mean, he wouldn't have, like, asked some lesbian to do it, would he?

No, no, I'm a moron.

I'm sure he got them himself. I'm sure it happened just the way I pictured it.

"Chief?" Jim said, and I looked up at him. "Pasta's ready."

The afternoon before my trip, I was at my desk — reading Beyond Gay or Straight: Bisexual Politics, Bisexual Ethics in its brown paper wrapper — when Jim and Henri Brown walked out of Simon's office and came over. I shut the book and looked up at them.

"Okay, Chief," Jim said, "get your jacket; we've got to go make a deal with a convict."

Henri looked at me, and then grinned at Jim. "You're gonna take Hairboy to prison?"

Jim was gathering his papers together on his desk. "Yeah, why?"

Henri chuckled. "Well, look at him — I mean, Hairboy's probably the prettiest thing these guys have seen in ages."

Suddenly Jim was there, really there, huge and hovering behind me protectively.

"Brown, shut up," Jim snarled.

"Hey, I didn't mean — " Brown said apologetically.

"Yeah, well, just leave the kid alone," Jim said angrily. "He doesn't need your bullshit remarks."

"Jim, it's okay," I said quickly.

"Sandburg, I'm sorry," Henri said sincerely.

"It's okay," I said again, but Jim didn't seem to think it was okay; he turned and stormed out of the bullpen. I exchanged apologetic looks with Henri, grabbed my book, backpack and jacket and ran after him.

He was getting into the elevator — I threw my hand out and held the doors open, then jumped in. Jim angrily stabbed the button for the garage level, and the doors closed.

"Jim — " I said, just as Jim said, "Sandburg — "

We both stopped and looked at each other, and then Jim surprised me by taking the initiative. "Sandburg, I'm sorry — Henri's just — well — look, you're just not gonna find a whole lot of sensitivity at a police station."

"It's okay, Jim — really," I insisted.

"It's not," Jim said, and I was taken aback by his vehemence. "It's not," Jim repeated more quietly. "I saw — I saw your face."

He saw my face, he saw my face — well of course he fucking saw my face, I've spent the last three years training him to do that, idiot that I am.

"Okay," I admitted. "I freaked out for a second. It's just that — well, I guess I've sort of been thinking of myself as the lust-er; I hadn't yet really gotten to the place of thinking of myself as the lust-ee, you know?"

Jim looked away. Shit. It was too much information for him — -hell, it was too much information for me.

The elevator doors opened and we walked out in silence to Jim's truck and got in. Jim hesitated before starting the engine. "You don't have to come with me, you know."

"Actually, I have some packing to do," I said, looking out the window. "I'm leaving tomorrow morning."

"Right," I heard him mutter. "I'll drop you by the house."

Packing turned out to be more of a problem than I had anticipated; I mean, what do you wear for an occasion like this? What occasion was it, anyway? I mean, I was going on vacation, I wanted to look good — though after Brown's comment that morning, maybe I didn't want to look too good.

After a while I had practically everything I owned out on my bed, and felt suddenly overwhelmed. I wished that Jim were around to bring me one of those cups of tea he seemed to be constantly pulling out of his ass lately.

Screw it, I thought, just grabbing the stuff that I wore all the time and stuffing it into my dufflebag. If it was good enough for Jim, it was good enough for the gay guys and the hippy chicks.

I put the rest of my clothes away again and started to think about what else I needed. Hairbrush. Shaving kit. Lobotomy.

I didn't hear Jim come home, but suddenly he was there, behind me, still wearing his coat. "How's it going?"

"Good." I replied. "How'd it go at the prison?"

He made a face. "Fine. He agreed to testify, we had to cut him a deal. Pisses me off — but you do what you have to, I guess."

He leaned against the doorframe, apparently in no hurry to go anywhere else. "So, you're going tomorrow?"

"Yeah," I said. "But I'll be back in a week."

"Where are you staying?" he asked.

"The Hilton," I replied.

"The Hilton?" he repeated, and burst out laughing.

"Yeah," I said, wondering what was so damn funny about that.

"It's just that I'd've figured you for like — a commune or something," he said, still laughing, and now I got it, and I laughed too.

"Yeah, well, I figured that there were already enough variables on this trip," I explained. "So I'm springing for the fancy hotel — I definitely want to come home to a place with running water and room service."

"Well, good for you," Jim said approvingly. And then he seemed to remember something, and reached into his jacket pocket for a small, crumpled brown bag. I looked at it pointedly, but he ignored me and simply stepped forward and stuffed it deep into my dufflebag. "When you don't know where you are," he said, "it pays to be safe," and it seemed to me that he was talking on about fifteen levels at once.

Five, four, three, two, one. "Do you want some tea?" he asked, and I said yes, thank you.

He nodded almost gratefully and went off to get it. Hell, it was the very least I could do.

I turned back to my packing. Books. I wanted to take my books, the books that Jim had given me. I was about to stuff them into my bag when it occurred to me that it was stupid to keep the wrappers on them. I mean, I was going to San Francisco — if you couldn't take your brown paper wrappers off there, where could you do it?

I ripped the covers off, wadded them up, and shot them across the room into the trash.

I may be preternaturally confused, but man, I can still shoot hoops.

I was jamming the books into my bag when Jim came back with the tea. "I'm really enjoying this one," I said, flashing Bisexual Politics, Bisexual Ethics at him before packing it away. "The guy's apparently written another one: I might just have to buy it."

"Don't bother," Jim said, handing me my tea. "It's not as good."

"Oh?" I asked, taking a sip.

"Yeah, I've got it, I'll give it to you if you want, but it's, like — slapped together," Jim said, shaking his head in disgust. "He obviously made some money on the first one and decided to capitalize."

Yeah, that was a sad phenomenon — authors often did their best work first, and then spent the rest of their careers churning out bad imitations of — Whoa. Hey.

Whoa, whoa, whoa — hold on a minute.

Jim was frowning at me suddenly, looking utterly thwarted — he couldn't offer me tea, I was still holding the first mug in my hand.

So he had to take the direct route. "Chief, you okay?"

They were his books.

"Yeah, I'm fine."

They were his books.

"You don't look fine," Jim said, putting a hand on my arm.

His books. I'm an idiot. I'm a moron.

"Come with me to San Francisco," I said impulsively.

He took his hand off my arm and stepped backward, staring blankly at me. I held his eyes and held my breath, waiting for his answer, waiting to hear what he would say.

He said, "Okay."

I come home, it's night, it's dark. I drop my backpack, hang up my coat, go up the stairs to Jim's bedroom.

And Jim's there waiting for me.

He's lying on his side, looking at me, touching himself; his hands are sliding across his chest, his nipples are tight and hard.

God, he's beautiful.

He smiles at me and raises his hand, reaches for me —

— and I woke up, sweating, staring up at the ceiling. Jim was coming with me to San Francisco.

What had I done? Was I out of my fricken mind?!?

He was up before I was the next morning; he was in the kitchen, fully dressed and swigging orange juice straight out of the carton. His bag was on the sofa, leather jacket draped over it.

He looked sharp; I, as I knew from scaring myself half to death in the bathroom mirror that morning, looked like shit.

I lugged my bag out of my room and dropped it by the door.

"We good to go?" I asked him. "You clear it with Simon?"

"Yeah, I called him this morning." He extending the orange juice carton to me. I took it from his hand, noting that mine was trembling. "He seemed pretty damn surprised," Jim added, flashing a grin at me.

I bet he was, I thought, drinking the cold juice down. Hell, I was.

Jim sobered suddenly: it was like he had heard what I was thinking. I had a moment of paranoia — Sentinel senses couldn't possibly be that good, right?. "Listen, Chief, it's okay if you've changed your mind. Believe me, I'm happy for the time off either way. Maybe you should go alone."

Well, there it was: my out. He was giving me an out.

I looked at him and decided I didn't want one.

"Nah, come on, man," I said, punching his arm. "Let's hit the road."

And you know, if I hadn't just spent a painful few weeks coming to terms with my new sexual orientation, and if I didn't strongly suspect that Jim had done something similar in the not too too distant past, and if we weren't headed to San Francisco, one of the gayest towns in the universe — well, hey, it would have been just like any other roadtrip.

We drove down in the truck, drinking cokes and bullshitting the whole way. In lieu of giving me tea, Jim gave me a far greater gift: total control of the radio.

Greater love hath no man.

When we got to San Francisco, Jim parked the truck in the Hilton's underground garage. I persuaded him to get lost in the huge, ornate lobby while I checked in, and to only follow me upstairs later — I mean, hey, the joint was plenty expensive as it was, I didn't see why we should have to pay a fee for an extra person after all that.

So Jim vanished while I went up to the ornate reception desk and checked in. They gave me one of those little white key cards and a room number — 1625. The busboy proposterously offered to wheel my little dufflebag upstairs on huge brass trolley; I waved him away, slung my bag over my shoulder, and headed for the elevator.

Jim was a Sentinel; he'd track me up there eventually.

I got off on the sixteenth floor and located my — our — room; I inserted the key card into the lock and got a blinking green light.

Full speed ahead.

I gotta say, it was a nice room — well, almost sort of two rooms, really. The door opened into a sort of ante-chamber with a closet and a bureau and a door leading to what I presumed was a bathroom. Beyond that was the main room, which had a desk on one side and an big comfy looking armchair on the other.

And a single king-sized bed in the middle.

I dropped my bag and started investigating the large cabinet opposite the bed — I had just found the TV and the remote control when there was a knock on the door.

I went over and let him in.

He came in and dropped his bag next to mine — the room seemed a great deal smaller now that he was in it. He looked around, and tossed his keys and wallet onto the bureau before taking off his jacket.

"Snazzy," he commented, hanging his jacket up in the closet.

"Yeah." I was suddenly nervous as all hell, and I tried to fight it down. "It is, isn't it? Dude, I've got one word for you."

He looked back over his shoulder at me. "Oh yeah?"

"Yeah," I said. "Minibar," and he laughed.

"I like the sound of that — crack it open, Sandburg."

I nodded and kneeled in front of the minibar — it took a second to break the seal, but then I got it open and took my first, breathless view of paradise. "Man, they've got everything," I reported. "Beer, juice, chocolate — whaddya want?"

"I'll bet they've got scotch, too," Jim said, and I looked and he was right.

"Yeah," I confirmed, and turned around — only to find an icebucket shoved in my face. "Okay, okay, I'm going," I said, laughing. I grabbed the bucket from him, went down the hallway and found the ice machine. When I got back I found that Jim had opened all four of the small bottles, pouring each of us each a good sized drink. He took the ice from my hands and dropped a few cubes in each glass, then handed me one.

"Cheers," he said.

"Cheers," I repeated. We clinked glasses and drank. Yowza, the stuff was strong. Jim sat down at the foot of the bed and sipped from his glass; I walked around the room, clutching mine.

Things were still something like normal. Jim was just sitting there, drinking scotch: this was totally my call.

I mean, he was my best friend, we were on vacation, we could just totally go out on the town. Out there was sightseeing and shopping and the best Chinese food this side of China.

In here was Jim, on the bed, drinking scotch.

Out there were trolley cars and funky bars and the bay. We could go see some Jefferson Airplane cover bands or something.

And Jim was on the bed, drinking scotch and watching me closely as I paced.

Maybe it wasn't my call after all. I stopped in front of him and casually asked, "So, do you want to go out? or do you want to stay in? or — "

And then his hand was gripping my shirt, and he was tugging, and god, I thought I had been in his personal space before but I was wrong, I was so wrong, because this was personal space, this was stumbling and being practically in his lap, feeling his hands on my sternum, on my sides, sitting down hard on the bed next to him.

Feeling him kiss me.

It was terrifying, and wonderful, and strange — the first kiss from a man, the first kiss from Jim. His lips were softer than I expected, and harder than I was used to — though he was unbelievably gentle with me, kissing me with more affection than passion.

Not that it didn't leave me breathless and trembling, because it did, and when his lips moved off mine I turned my head and hugged him, because I just couldn't look at him. No way, Jose — uh-uh.

He just held me, not pressing, not pushing, just sitting there; I slid my hands across his back — god, he felt good. Solid. Dependable.

No dream, this.

Though it could be.

"So," I whispered nervously, "do you want to be my first?"

He stiffened next to me — and then he pulled my arms from around him and pushed me away.

"No," he said. He looked irritated; the familiar muscle in his jaw was twitching. "Not even a little."

"Oh," I said, and suddenly my chest was unbearably tight.

It hadn't been my call after all.

"And I think it's sort of rude of you to ask me," he added, getting up, crossing his arms, putting distance between us.

"I'm sorry." God, it was suddenly hard to speak, and when did the room get so damn small?

"I mean, goddamn it, Sandburg, I've already housebroken you," Jim said, glowering at me. "I've made you fucking fit to live with. And I've just about had it with taking all the shitty jobs and getting none of the benefits. What am I, an idiot, here?"

"Wh-what?" I stammered.

And suddenly he was in front of me, huge, and here and there and everywhere. Just — lots of him, right there. "I'm not going to be your first," he said quietly. "I want to be it or nothing."

"Oh. Oh. Well," and he was standing there, so close, so far, big enough to get lost in, small enough to manage.

"So," I whispered nervously, "do you want to be it, then?"

He reached out and fingered the beaded necklace at my throat.


So I suppose I should say right up front that we didn't see much of San Francisco.

Well, presumably, Jim saw some of it, because it only took us twenty-four hours or so to use up all the stuff he had considerately shoved into my bag, and so he went out on a run to the pharmacy.

Meanwhile, I got the maid to bring us an entire new minibar and some clean towels.

We were there for six days, all in all.

The first two days we took it slow, and eventually, when we'd worked our way up to it, he took me slow, stopping when I said stop, going when I begged go. He took me slowly and gently and thoroughly — guiding me through everything, introducing me to his body, reintroducing me to my own, breaking me in with care and compassion. I lost every kind of virginity that I had, and I few kinds I didn't even know about.

And then the next two days we did everything all over again, faster and rougher.

And then the next two days we got inventive. I mean, once I get comfortable in a situation, I like to experiment. Improvise. And I figured, it was only fair that Jim got to do some things that he'd never done before too.

He seemed to appreciate the thought.

In between all of that we hung out in bed, and watched movies on Pay Per View, and made out for hours, and ran up a room service tab like you wouldn't BELIEVE, because man, this shit burns calories!

We had to order like, four of everything, each time, and I still think I lost five pounds.

And I ended up laying in his arms one afternoon and telling him the whole story — about how I was having dreams about him and everything. And about how I used to be jealous of the women that he pulls. And he laughed and said, well, if that drove me nuts, I should just see the men that he pulls.

And then he kissed me.

For, like, an hour.

And then he told me that he really didn't normally hang out upstairs in his room rubbing his nipples and waiting for itinerant anthropologists to turn up, but that he would consider making a habit of it if it turned me on.

Which it did, so thus ended that conversation.

Six days — six blissful days in which my universe doubled, and doubled, and doubled again, and became bigger than I'd ever imagined and yet smaller than what I'd thought I'd needed. Just one room, and one man, whose heart was infinite and whose body was — oh, man!

And by the end of the week I was sated, and exhausted, and sore, and happier than I had ever been in my whole entire life.

I didn't want to check out, I didn't want to leave the room — I loved the room, I loved the room with all my heart. I wanted to put up a plaque there or something: Blair Sandburg Was Well And Truly Fucked Here, in Room 1625 of The San Francisco Hilton.

Jim slung an arm around my neck and pulled me out the door. He said we were gonna need a vacation from our vacation, and he was right; I totally conked out in the truck, and spent the whole ride back to Cascade dead asleep.

And strangely enough — I didn't dream at all.

The End