Better Than Fine

By Ainm


Rating: conservative R

A/N: This is written in a very odd (and rather unexpected) style. You might be tempted to blame me, but rather you should blame Jim. :-) Neither of us, however, will be traumatized if it doesn't work for you -- it's just the weird place we're in right now... :-)


I was just finishing my argument with the paramedics when Simon stalked over, cell phone in hand.

"That was the mayor. He's pleased to hear that 'the situation resolved itself so quickly,'" he sneered. I thought Sandburg was going to literally explode.

"Excuse me?!" he shouted. "The situation did not 'resolve itself,' it took a lot of hard work by a lot of good cops, and it certainly wasn't quick! Jim was a hostage in that disgusting warehouse for almost a whole day!"

"I know, kid, but the mayor is only concerned about how it looks. Nobody died and the press will be sick of the story in no time."

"But that's bullshit!"

I appreciated their support, but I was dirty and jumpy and all I wanted to do was get home, so I had to intervene. All I had to do was clear my throat and Sandburg directed his vim and vigor my way.

"Jim! Man, I'm sorry, let's get you to the car, OK? Screw the mayor!"

"Aren't you going to the hospital?" Simon didn't seem impressed.

"They really didn't rough me up much, I'm mainly just dehydrated -- if I go to the hospital they're more likely to make me sick than to help me any, and hospitals are just..." I shrugged and grimaced and he knew not to ask. "I'll just chug some Gatorade and get a good night's sleep and I'll be fine."

"Are you sure?"

He looked back and forth between me and Sandburg and I couldn't tell which of us he was asking, so I just said, "Come on, Chief," and that was that.

I thought I would feel better at home, and I did... but not better enough. Something still seemed... off. I'd been trapped in that dingy, smelly, damp warehouse on the waterfront since last night, and I couldn't seem to shake the atmosphere somehow.

I took a shower first, after convincing Sandburg I wasn't ready for a three-course meal. I scrubbed until there couldn't have been a single particle left clinging to me that my sense of smell or my sense of touch could detect, yet I still felt dirty, and I still smelled the dank decay of the abandoned building.

I went out on the balcony to get some air, leaving Sandburg sitting curled up at the end of one sofa, reading an academic journal, but I felt even more antsy than I had inside and came back in almost immediately. I felt more centered, but I still smelled the warehouse.

I grabbed a Gatorade from the back of the fridge and put in another bottle to chill. I sat on the other sofa and watched my partner while I drank. Better, but not there yet.

"You OK?" he asked me suddenly.

"Yeah, I'm just... twitchy. I don't know. It's no big deal. I'm going to watch TV, I think -- will that bother you?"

"Nah, it's fine, go ahead," he told me, and went back to his reading.

I flipped through the channels, but nothing caught my attention. I left it on some program about otters, and watched Sandburg instead. The sun was setting and the light was catching his hair in interesting ways. More interesting than otters, even. I felt a little bit better.

He put his journal on the coffee table and headed into his room. I scooted over to his sofa while he was gone.

He wandered back in with a notebook and a pen, picked up the journal again, and sat down, his mind obviously on whatever he was reading. Suddenly he looked up and stared at me.

"What are you doing?"

"Watching TV."

"You moved."

"I can see better here."

"Right... are you sure you're OK?"

"I'm fine. Don't interrupt the otters."

He went back to his reading. I alternated between watching the otters and watching him. I felt calmer, more relaxed, and my skin wasn't crawling, but there was still a trace of the odor. I downed the rest of the Gatorade.

"You want a drink? Some iced tea?" I asked him. He made vats of the stuff in the summer; I wanted a beer, but I didn't want the argument.

"Um, yeah, thanks," he answered without looking up.

I went to the kitchen and filled two glasses, and grabbed a container of the trail mix that he puts together with all sorts of organic seeds and nuts and a bit of semisweet chocolate. I put it all down on the coffee table, and when I sat down, it was in the middle of the sofa.

He looked up from his note-taking at that.


"Have some trail mix."

"Jim? Are you OK?"

"I'm hungry, need some protein." I grabbed a handful of the mix and popped it in my mouth, rendering further comment impossible. He looked at me strangely, but took a few pieces of trail mix for himself and went back to his reading.

Much better.

After I'd finished my iced tea and taken the edge off my hunger with the trail mix, not wanting to overdo it after my enforced fast, I settled back into the sofa. I wasn't precisely in the center anymore, but Blair didn't seem to notice. Even better.

I could smell his various scents up close and personal from here, from the less pleasant outside smells of where he'd been, who he'd been with, what he'd eaten during the long day, to the better aromas of shampoo and toothpaste and deodorant that still clung to him, to the much more satisfying scents that came directly from his body.

I inhaled deeply, filtering out the externals and concentrating on his personal fragrance. Much better.

"What are you doing?"


"Jim, I'm getting worried here. What is up with you?"

"Nothing, just happy to be home, watching the otters."

He looked at the TV. "Jim, this is a program about the spread of malaria."

"Well, it was otters." I stretched, a robust, whole-body stretch, arms flung wide. My left arm ended up behind him on the sofa. Better yet.

"What are you doing, man?!" He turned sideways on the couch to face me.

"Just relaxing, Chief -- aren't I supposed to be relaxing? It's been kind of a rough day, you know?" Play to his sympathies, yeah.

Suddenly all compassion, he leaned toward me. "Of course you should relax! Are you sore? Can I get you anything? Can I fix you a sandwich?"

I didn't laugh. "I'm good, just want to rest a bit, don't mind me," I told him. "Go ahead and read your thing there." I turned off the TV, settled back down into the sofa, and closed my eyes.

I could feel him watching me for a minute, but he gave up and went back to his reading. I didn't open my eyes, but I didn't need to use my eyes to experience him.

I concentrated on touch first, feeling the warmth of his body alongside mine, near but not touching. He shifted slightly, and I shifted with him so that when we settled, his hair brushed my arm along the back of the sofa. It felt almost alive against my skin. I couldn't feel the cuffs that they'd used on my wrists or the rope that they'd used on my ankles anymore. Good.

I moved back to scent after touch. With my eyes closed against visual distractions, I breathed him in to the extent that it moved beyond scent and I could almost taste him... I was soothed to the point of indiscretion, and when he spoke I was startled.

"You're sniffing me."


"You are sniffing me."


"I don't want your apologies, I want an explanation. Why are you sniffing me? Do I need to take you to the hospital?"

"God, no! I'm finally getting settled back down, I'm not leaving!"

"What are you talking about, Jim?" He spoke slowly, looking at me as if I might start speaking in tongues or seeing polka-dotted elephants.

"I just... I need to feel like I'm home, get rid of the traces of the warehouse."

"Jim, we've been home for two hours."


"So why are you sniffing me?"

I just looked at him, unsure how to explain this much without explaining too much.

He looked back at me, thoughts visibly racing across his face.

"I'm... part of home?" he finally asked, in a terribly unsure voice that just tore me up inside.

If it hadn't been for the vulnerability in his tone, and maybe the fact that I hadn't had more than a few minutes sleep in about 36 hours, I might not have let my instinctive response slip.

"You are home, Chief."

His eyes got very wide, and I couldn't resist moving my hand from the top of the sofa to touch his face. Lack of sleep and all that.

I didn't think his eyes could have gotten wider, but they did, and they began to darken as well, and suddenly the mood shifted as our bodies caught on to what was happening. I would have thought I was too exhausted to get hard, but this was Bair, looking at me like everything was somehow going to be OK...

He caught my hand in his, and nuzzled his cheek into it, and my heart felt like it missed a beat and then sped up to make up for it. This was not how I had imagined this day ending when it began back in the warehouse... not that I was complaining...

"I'm... really happy to have you home, Jim," he told me huskily, and, looking back on it, I'm not sure how much sense we were actually making, but it didn't matter, because we finally understood, understood each other and understood us and understood home and we were kissing, slowly and softly and then not so softly and I felt fine, and he felt better than fine, and everything would be fine.


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