Title: A Fair Distance: Ball and Chain. Chapter Eleven
Warnings: none for this chapter.
Word Count: 5,481
Beta’ed by t_verano Thanks once again, babe.
Summary for A Fair Distance: A year after Blair left Jim, and Cascade, they meet again in a small Tennessee town where Blair's been arrested and is being held for questioning at the request of the Cascade PD.
A Fair Distance can be found at my LJ here or at 852 Prospect here, if you prefer one text file(but it only has the first arc A Fair Distance: Running on Empty, and not Ball and Chain or at Artifact Storage Room 3 here, to read chapter by chapter,or in one text file, including other stories in the series.
Ball and Chain is the second arc of A Fair Distance.
A Fair Distance: Ball and Chain. Chapter Eleven
While Jim busied himself with cooking our steaks and checking on the baked potatoes, I sat at the kitchen table and talked to him about my plan to get Nathan Bergman to admit he had bought my car. Jim had a couple of niggling questions, but really, it was a solid plan and he agreed that I could handle it.
He thought Simon would get behind my strategy. A little cynically, he pointed out that if the higher-ups gave Simon any flack for involving me in another police operation, our captain would just pull out the big guns – the ever-tightening budget projections– to justify moving the case along because doing that would save a bundle on the cost of protecting a witness.
Ah, money. The ever-lovin’ bottom line.
We enjoyed our dinner, and I found that my sore throat was definitely getting better. Okay, it still hurt but it didn’t feel like I’d swallowed broken glass anymore when I ate something. Jim shooed me out to the living room while he cleaned up, and I sat on the couch and did my usual staring-out-the-windows routine. Like the answers to all my questions could be found by looking at trees or the sky or the lake.
I felt – lightened. I’d made the decision to be Jim’s partner after meditating and carefully examining my motives and our interactions. We’d been such good friends, and I wanted that back. The sex? That, I kind of, um… oh, hell. That hadn't been as well thought out. But I was feeling greedy now that Jim had made love to me, and I was feeling reckless. In for a penny, in for a pound. I wanted more. I wanted to touch Jim and bring him off. I wanted to watch his eyes and hold tightly to him, to hold tightly to his hands as we gained back what we had lost.
What was it about Jim anyway that inspired me to literally and metaphorically jump off cliffs and out of airplanes?
Hell, the guy’d had me climbing a tree soon after I met him. A tree! Now, I love trees. I’ve protested to protect them, but I don’t like climbing them. After breaking my arm falling out of one when I was a kid, and practically getting nosebleeds from ascending to the Kombai Tree Peoples dwellings while doing research for grad school, I'd learned to be perfectly happy keeping my feet on the ground.
But shortly after we'd met, Jim had told me to fetch him that bird’s nest, and -- damn, I’d gone up a tree.
Shit, for Jim I’d done things I’d never imagined myself attempting. And now, he was asking for the biggest damn jump of all – being his lover again. His committed lover. This decision was scary and exhilarating and worrisome. Could we avoid the problems that had come up before? Right now our intentions were good, but how would they hold up over time? Would we find ourselves repeating the same mistakes that had caused our last crash and burn?
“Jim?” Crap, I sounded scared even to myself.
Jim returned from the kitchen with a cup of tea for me that he placed on the end table, then he sat down next to me on the couch.
“Having second thoughts?” Jim didn’t sound worried. He’d been in a fantastic mood all through dinner. All that anger he’d been seething with for the trick I'd played on him had just gone away.
“No second thoughts, not exactly. But… can we keep from messing up again? We were happy the first time, too. Remember?”
Jim chuckled. “Relationship rules, babe. We’re going to sit down and make some guidelines for ourselves.”
I scowled at him. But I was only pretending to be annoyed. “One of those rules had better be no silly names without express and written permission. Or calling your partner cute.”
Jim just grinned at me. “Sandburg, the world thinks you’re cute. You might as well relax about it. You’ll be cute when you’re ninety years old.”
I made a fake face of annoyance at him, and he reached over and picked up my hand and kissed my palm. Then he put my mug of tea in my hand.
I took a swallow. “Jim, you understand why I got out of the cuffs, right?”
Jim nodded. “If you want to hear me admit that I was being an overprotective ass, well, I admit it. I still don’t like to think of you being in danger, but I’ll have to let you make your own choices. Just, uh... understand that it’s hard on me. If you’d gone through the academy, I probably would have freaked out the first time you had to handle a bad situation without me.”
I shot him a look. He grimaced, having correctly read it. “Yeah, I know. You have handled yourself without me being there. I never liked it much, though, and I guess I lost some perspective after you kept getting hurt doing police work. I know I'll have to work on that.”
I gave him a nod, and sipped my tea, the warmth of the mug soothing my hands.
He leaned back on the couch and put his hands behind his head, relaxing. “ So, partner. My handcuffs. What did you do, anyway, Houdini? I thought maybe you’d dislocated your thumbs, but I saw your hands were okay when I checked you over.”
I finished my tea and put the cup on the floor. “Well, actually, I have you to thank for my escape. Before I left Cascade I’d bought this handy little gizmo from a guy at the bar. I was going to give it to you for a Christmas stocking stuffer.” I reached in my pocket and brought it out. I handed it to Jim. “Merry belated Christmas, man.”
Jim held the two pieces in his hands and fitted them back together. It made a small, gray, plastic circle, which was about the size of a nickel, with a handcuff key silhouetted in the middle, and I waited for him to figure it out.
“I’ll be damned. A plastic universal cuff key. I’ve heard of these, but I’ve never seen one before. Where did you have it hidden?” Jim handed me the pieces back again.
“In plain sight, for the most part. I had it in the car when I left Cascade, and decided my beat-up old backpack would be a good place to keep it – in case I really was the trouble magnet you guys in Major Crimes kept accusing me of being. I kept it on one of the zipper tabs till today, then when I decided I might have to actually prove to you that I could take care of myself, I transferred it to my hair when I got my notebook out of my backpack.”
“Huh. I held your backpack on my lap while you were getting processed out of jail and I even looked through it, but damn – I didn’t notice it. Selling them is supposed to be restricted to law enforcement agencies.”
I shrugged. “I didn’t ask too many questions. It was one of those ‘I know a guy, who knows a guy’ kind of things.” I was amused when Jim shook his head.
“And the ‘Don’t Panic’ sign you left me? It was kind of familiar, like I'd seen it written like that before.”
“Um… Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I know you've read it. 'Don't Panic' is on the cover.”
Jim looked sideways at me and chuckled again. I stood up and faced him, and shifted my vision. His aura still looked good, but I knew that in order for Jim to stay balanced we would have to deal with that negative energy he was carrying.
“Hey, Jim. I talked to your spirit guide earlier when I went to Blue Jungle Land. He helped me do some shaman stuff.”
I then recounted to Jim what had happened, about blending our auras and why I had done it, except not the part about the sentinel spirit telling me I still had some problems from the sexual abuse I’d experienced when I was a kid.
“You saw our auras? Why am I not surprised... my sentinel spirit... threw Holy Wood...”
Jim was talking, but I was fading in and out of listening to him. I was working out a dilemma.
I wanted to make love to Jim tonight, and I thought admitting that two sick fuckers had messed with me would kill any sexual desire on Jim’s part. But I made myself a promise that I would tell him soon. It had worked out okay telling him about Naomi forging my name and I knew I could trust him with one of my oldest secrets. Yeah, I could trust him. I could. Just not tonight. And maybe not tomorrow. But soon. I’d do it really soon. It wasn’t like it was something I was looking forward to revealing. I didn’t want Jim’s pity and I didn’t want him to treat me differently. I had dealt with what had happened to me. Survivor – not victim. I’d have to make sure Jim understood the difference when I did tell him. Just… not yet.
I’d evidently lost track entirely of what Jim was saying to me because he had gotten up from the couch and taken hold of my biceps. He looked concerned.
“You back with me, Ace? You haven’t heard a word I’ve said for the last couple of minutes.”
“Sorry. Daydreaming, I guess.” Jim looked at me, the weight of his careful examination making me feel like I should just go ahead and get telling him about my past over with. But he didn’t press me -- I remembered that he’d said he wouldn’t push me to tell my secrets – and instead I asked him a question.
“Your spirit self said you could help me learn some things. What do you remember about Incacha acting as a shaman?
Jim pulled me into a hug and rested his cheek on top of my head. “Incacha… Not a whole lot.”
He was silent for a while and I relaxed against him. This was going to be okay, our resurrected partnership. Yeah, it would be okay.
“I remember he chanted. And painted symbols on his skin. Sandburg, he took ayahuasca, but I don’t want you taking crap like that, I don’t care if it gets you into the express lane for the spirit world or not.”
“I don’t have any to use.”
“Relax, Jim. I can try drumming. Yeah. For both of us, because we both should try and be in a light trance.”
“Did I miss the boat here? What are you thinking about doing and what’s this ‘we’ business?”
Jim pulled away from our embrace and looked at me. He seemed a little apprehensive so I rushed to reassure him.
“Jim, don’t worry. Trust me. I balanced out your aura when I was in the spirit plane, and that was really cool – the colors were fantastic – but it was just a temporary fix. I could see where you’re still the walking wounded. There’s energy attached to you that doesn’t belong there; energy from some of the shitty things that have happened to you in your life. I want to try and release that energy – it’s not healthy for you, man – so you’ll feel better about yourself. But I need your permission. Your spirit guide said you were divided, that you haven’t accepted your spiritual side and so he couldn’t give me a thumbs up about doing it.”
Jim raised his eyebrow. “You want me to trust you to do some kind of ritual and take out my emotional trash because it’s polluting my spirit side. Is that it, Sandburg?”
“Yeah, essentially that’s what I want to do. But Jim, it isn’t only in the spiritual world that negative energy like yours does harm. It can make you physically sick, too. It’s so interesting the way our emotions and our minds affect our bodies. I want to do more research, of course, when this case is over and I don’t have to be a wanderer anymore.”
I gave Jim my best try-it-you’ll-like-it winning smile, and grinned even wider when I saw him roll his eyes… but also nod his head.
“All right, my little shaman. But not tonight. It’s getting late and we’re both tired. And one of us is recovering from mono and needs extra sleep.”
“Jim, you called me what your spirit guide calls me. Hmm. Um… Okay, we’ll do it in the morning.”
And with that settled I moved close again and put my arms around him.
“A partnership is about both parties being able to take the lead, wouldn’t you say, Jim? It was your turn this afternoon to check me out – and I really liked it when you got all primal on me, except the part where you didn’t notice I was needing some attention to my cock – and I think the guide should have his turn at checking out his sentinel.” Then I reached up and nuzzled his neck. “And Blair, just plain Blair,” I swiped my tongue just under his ear, feeling the edge of his stubble, “wants to have make-up sex.” I dropped the teasing tone from my voice. “I missed you so god-damn much, Jim. Make me forget this miserable year. Please?”
For an answer Jim tilted my head up and kissed me, sweetly at first, and then more insistently. I thought briefly that he’d better be right about my contagious period for strep being over and that he had immunities against getting mono, and then I concentrated on getting to know my lover all over again.
He tasted good – his mouth and the salty taste of his skin – and I fumbled his buttons open, clumsy with haste, and stripped his shirt off, dropping it to the floor.
“It had been an eternity since I had been able – allowed – to touch him like this. I greedily ran my hands over his warm skin and pinched his nipples, then dragged my tongue over the upraised nubs. Jim gave me encouraging groans and slid his hands under my shirts, caressing me, and then he yanked off my over-shirt and pulled my T-shirt over my head.
I spread my hands over his chest and pushed him towards the bedroom door – gently at first and then as he acquiesced, a little harder. He didn’t resist when I transitioned into actual shoving, and that fed something in me. Something that became even hungrier as I manhandled him into the bedroom, my hands sliding from his chest to tightly grasp his upper arms.
I stopped his movement and plastered myself against Jim so I could bury my face against the hollow where his arm met his chest. I don’t have Jim’s sense of smell, but the regular human ability sufficed as I reacquainted myself with Jim’s scent. The sense of smell is totally tied in with memory and I found myself hardening as my brain identified Jim as lover, friend, partner, sentinel – mine. Yeah, we’d slept together the last couple of nights but that had been comfort-orientated – even though we’d been naked and touching each other. And Jim had run his hands all over me earlier this evening – arousing me to a state of whimpering neediness -- but I hadn’t allowed myself to touch Jim in a directly sexual way. I had a whole fucking year’s worth of lost time to make up for, and I softly raked him with my fingernails to show him I owned him. Right now, right here; he was mine!
We didn’t talk to each other, just let our hands do our own version of sign language against each other’s skin, and our mouths communicated our building need without the use of words. And even while I loved the freedom to touch Jim, to pull his clothes away from his body, to rest my hand over his groin and cup the hardness I felt there under his boxers, anger was growing in me, too. Anger at this wasted year of our lives. Anger at Jim for giving me his stupid trust test, and anger at myself for just passively accepting that we were over. I should have marched over to Jim and Melissa at that bar and demanded that Jim tell me what the fuck he -- my lover – was doing hanging onto some floozy-chick.
A tiny rational thought reminded me that at the time I thought Jim was undercover but I tuned the voice of reason out. Instead, I started a litany of disjointed phrases in between my increasingly frantic kisses on Jim’s skin and lips. Words like – mine, nobody touches you, don’t ever, ever screw me over again.
We ended up kneeling on the bed, eventually. Both of us naked and erect, and I gripped his arms, his strong, muscular biceps, as hard as I could and pushed him, his legs splaying out, so that he was lying face up on the bed, I climbed on top of him, sitting on his thighs, pinching and soothing his nipples again and again. Jim groaned and bucked up under me, his penis straining and needy. He started to speak and I used one of my hands to cover his mouth. My face felt tight and hot, and I warned him not to talk. I took both of his hands and clenched them as I extended myself so I was lying on top of Jim, with our groins together and erections touching. I kept my grip on his hands where I’d placed them next to his head.
“Lie still. Don’t move. Don’t you fucking move, Jim.”
I caught his gaze and didn’t look away. Without words, I challenged him to keep looking in my eyes and I willed all the hurt and sorrow I’d felt this past year to show in them. We were so close that I could feel his breath on my face and then I started to move on top of him.
I went slowly at first, warning Jim by squeezing his hands, if he started to counter-move against me, that I was in charge; I was setting the pace. The anger that I was feeling fueled my movements and I fucked him, our cocks sliding together between our hot, slick bellies.
I was whispering to him now. Telling him in probably mostly incoherent language of my lonely nights driving a truck across the country. Of watching couples banter and touch each other and feeling the phantom pain of my own severed relationship. Of imagining how happy he was with Melissa, how if he ever thought of me it was to only shake his head about the poor choice of a lover he'd made before coming to his senses. Of how I couldn’t stop the pain of loving him but had tried to replace the memory of his touches with other men’s hands – and how it'd only served to remind me more poignantly of what I had lost.
I rocked against him faster and faster, trying to erase with my body those unhappy memories. Jim’s breathing deepened and quickened in the way I remembered and, despite my earlier instructions to lie still, he arced up, lifting me like an ocean wave, and with a grunt and clenched jaw, he came.
I watched the pleasure/pain look on his face and felt the anger dissipating from me. I let go of his hands. I was hard, but I felt any interest in completing my own orgasm slipping away. I wanted to slip away. This wasn’t how I had envisioned making love to him when I told him I wanted make-up sex. I guess my repressed feelings had staged a revolt and stormed the Bastille, and I was tired now. And sad. I started to slide off Jim.
Jim took his freed arms and stopped me by wrapping them around me, and one big hand reached up to my head and drew me back to lay my forehead on his shoulder. He started rubbing my back and I felt the tears gathering in my eyes. I tried again to pull away from him – I didn’t want Jim to see me crying, not again, not like when he'd ended up rocking me days ago – but instead he rolled us over so that I was under him, his weight anchoring me. I shut my eyes.
“Forgive me. I promise, I promise I’ll do better this time.” He kissed my eyelids; he kissed where my traitorous tears were slowly leaking down my face.
“I love you; God, don’t be sad anymore. I’m so sorry you had to let other guys stroke you to get rid of my touches. Sh-sh-sh.”
He kept kissing my face but I didn’t want to open my eyes and I felt myself softening. Shit. Way to go to ruin our lovemaking. Jim felt my erection disappearing, too. He rolled off of me and gently ran his hand over my groin.
God, if he said anything about me crying I was going to kill him.
“Let's go get cleaned up. What do you say, hot water sound good to you?”
I mumbled something that sounded affirmative and Jim got up and hauled my ass out of bed. My eyes flew open and I told myself to find some guts; I looked at Jim when he steadied me.
He looked beautiful and strong, and he smiled at me.
“Let me take care of you tonight, Blair. Okay?”
I was feeling tired and listless, but I didn’t want to crawl back into that big bed yet, so what the hell. I nodded, and let him put his arm around my waist and walk with me to the bathroom.
Jim got the shower running and got a bar of soap out of his kit. I was silent. What was there to say, anyway? -- ’Sorry for spoiling the mood?’ Jim stepped into the shower and held out his hand to me. I took it and stepped in front of him, where the water could sluice his come off my skin.
Jim started murmuring in my ear as he soaped up my arms.
“I’m going to wash away those other men’s touches, Blair. You’re not dirty to me… don’t ever think that. But I think you feel dirty to yourself, from what you said in bed. Let me help. I paid more attention to your lectures over the years than you ever realized, you know. Rituals and ceremonies and the human needs they satisfy… I think we need our own ritual tonight.”
I leaned back against him. Jim, devising a ritual for me -- that was sweet—and I felt my melancholy mood lifting into something partly amused and partly grateful.
He carefully washed my hands, my belly, and my groin. He turned me around and washed my neck and my back. He knelt down and washed my legs and my ass. And all the time he was anointing me with soap he was murmuring over and over, ‘I love you.'
He stood back up and angled me so that the soothing water rinsed all the soap off of my skin. Then he gently washed my face. He gave a solemn kiss on each clean part of me, and I felt renewed.
He turned me so I was facing him and fingered my hair, which was wet and streaming. “Did either of those two men touch your hair?”
“Yes,” I softly told him.
One of them had run his hands over and over through my hair and used it to pull my head down to the dick that was hanging out of his jeans while we sat together on a secluded garden bench at a raucous party in Austin. But I told him no blow-jobs; instead, I fucked him with my hand and he made me come, his hand tight against my cock. I think he told me his first name, but ten minutes after we’d straightened our clothes, and I rejoined the friends who'd dragged me along with them, I had forgotten it. He’d been tall and buff, and in the dark, when I closed my eyes, I had tried to pretend he was Jim. It hadn’t worked. Hadn’t worked the second time either, with the other guy...
“Oops. Forgot to grab the shampoo. Can I use this soap on your hair, Sandburg?”
“Just a touch. For ceremonial importance. I like what you’re doing, Jim. It’s… helping.” And it was, feeling Jim massaging my head and his hands playing with my hair. He leaned me back a little so the spray soaked my hair again.
Jim put the soap down and touched my lips. “What about these, Chief? Did you kiss those guys?”
I told him honestly, “No. I didn’t kiss anybody else.”
Jim kissed me then. Several times. Then he changed places with me and quickly washed off his own body. He turned off the shower and declared, “You’re clean, buddy. This part of the ritual is finished but there’s a second part to get ready.” He stepped out of the shower and handed me a couple of towels, then grabbed one himself and briskly dried the water rivulets that were slowly tracking down his body.
He grinned at me and I realized he knew I’d been caught up in watching that mesmerizing dance of water and skin. I blushed a little and started drying my own skin.
Then he looked puzzled, and I raised my eyebrows.
“Chief… If you didn’t kiss anybody, then how did you catch mono?”
“I don’t know for sure, but I have a theory. Quit smirking at me, Jim. I’m a scientist; of course I’ve got a theory. Anyway, I was at a harvest party about six weeks back held by some people Naomi and I had hung out with about twenty years ago -- they’re organic farmers – and I knew I could work for my keep there, so I stayed with them a couple of weeks. So, big party, lots of music, dancing, kids of all ages running around. I was jamming with my harmonica and I’m guessing that I left it out and some kid started playing it and passed me the virus. Or else, maybe drank from my cup and I didn’t realize it. Anyway, that’s my best guess, but I’ll never really know.”
Jim made a 'hmm' noise, then gave me a quick hug and told me to wait in the bathroom because he’d be right back. I fished his toothbrush and toothpaste out of his kit and brushed my teeth while I waited for him to return. Peed, too.
Jim gave me a pained look when he returned and saw I’d used his toothbrush, and it was such a normal look that it made me laugh and then I was feeling totally okay again. I laughed harder at him, till he shut me up by kissing me.
“Someday, Sandburg, I’m going to finally housebreak you.” Jim mock growled at me.
“Yeah, yeah. What’s the second part of our ceremony?”
For an answer, he wrapped a towel firmly around my waist and draped one around my shoulders. He grabbed a couple of dry ones and took my elbow. “Close your eyes and let me guide you.”
“Okay. Trust walk kind of thing?” I shut my eyes.
“Well, I suppose, but mostly I just want to surprise you. C’mon.” Jim took me out of the bathroom and after we'd walked through the cabin, I heard him slide open a door. By the wave of cold air I felt when he tugged me forward, we were out on the patio.
“Open your eyes, Chief.”
“Oh, excellent. I’m going to really enjoy this. Last one in is a rotten egg.”
I stripped off my towels, but Jim beat me getting into the hot tub since he was already naked. He’d dumped the dry towels on a nearby bench and was already submerged when I scrambled into it.
“You give good ritual, man.”
Jim looked smug. “C’mere.” He held out his arms.
I went to him. Kind of symbolic, really, because I think that I will always go to him when he asks.
He held me, my back against his chest, and started playing with my body. He licked around my ear and tweaked my nipples, slowly ran his hands down my chest, then stopped to circle my belly button before cupping my balls. I relaxed against him and felt any tension still remaining in my muscles exit quietly. It was a chilly night, but still well above freezing, and the moisture was steaming up from the hot tub in a fog. I wasn’t cold at all, not even my face, although I sank down a little lower in the water till my chin was practically in it.
My cock filled out again and Jim started moving his hand more purposely and whispered to me to let him know when I was ready for his mouth.
The stars were brilliant above us and I lay back with my head on Jim’s shoulder, watching those faraway, fiery furnaces and letting him bring me to the edge of ecstasy. I stammered his name, and he pushed me away as he stood up, then lifted me up to the seat on the edge of the tub. He stepped between my legs, making them widen out, then knelt down, slipping my cock into his hot mouth.
I felt elemental, sitting there with the mist rising around me, my legs safely in the steaming water, the cold air pebbling my nipples and a light breeze teasing at my hair -- and a god at my feet, such a beautiful man, the muscles shifting on his back, his strong arms holding me steady while his mouth worshiped me.
I stammered his name again, a warning this time, but he didn’t let me go. I came, hard, and maybe I whispered a prayer to the mer-god who had done this for me.
I was pulled carefully back into the water and enjoyed the sensation of my cold skin heating deliciously up again, and every bone in my body softened into submission, as Jim held me and soothed me. He kind of was rocking me and it felt nice.
“You’re pretty sleepy, aren’t you, Chief?”
Jim helped me out and dried me off, wrapping a towel around my body and one around my hair. He ran one over his own body quickly, and put his arm around me as we went back inside. Once in the bedroom, I toweled my hair again to keep the pillow dry, and he pulled back the covers before picking up the wet towels and leaving. Man, fresh sheets. Jim had put on fresh sheets, and I thought this must be what heaven is like as I slid into bed.
I was almost asleep when he came back into the bedroom and for a moment I thought he was going to shackle us together again.
“You need something, babe?”
Babe, again. Well, I’d let it slide this time.
“Y’ didn’t make me promise.”
“Not t’ leave you. To stay in cus’dy.”
“I trust you. Sentinel and guide, remember? Ellison and Sandburg. Jim and Blair. The last of the red hot lovers.”
I breathed out a soft laugh, almost totally out, but I managed to stay awake while Jim slid into bed beside me and wrapped me back in his strong arms.
“Think ‘m developin’ fetish for you’ arms.”
Jim gave a snort, then mock growled at me again.
“Go to sleep, Sandburg. I love you, you dopey little goof-ball.”
“ 'kay. Love you too.”
I closed my eyes and slid into dreams.
Continued in A Fair Distance. Ball and Chain. Chapter Twelve.
Author's Note: How Blair got out of the cuffs