Waving or Drowning

Books hitting the floor made him look up. For a moment he simply stared at the two textbooks stacked on the end of his desk, not understanding what he'd heard. He glanced to the floor, and found four more books, lying on the ground. Oh. Maybe he'd stacked all of them on the edge of the desk. Blair considered restacking them, but that would require getting up. This way they couldn't fall again.

He turned back to the screen in front of him. Where was he? He blinked and reread the words. Apparently he'd been about to explain something about Burton's lithographs, if the position of the cursor was anything to go by. But what?

"ARGH!!" He slammed his hands into the side of the desk, shoving himself backwards; the chair rolled back and slammed into the cabinets behind him. The CD player skipped; only then did he realise he was listening to the Eurythmics 'Revenge'. Rubbing his face he considered whether it was time for more coffee.

The coffee pot in his office was still half full, but if he went upstairs to the Anthro office, he could at least stretch his legs. And steal some sugar. Hunching his shoulders to stretch tense muscles, he pushed himself out of his chair.

"Ow." He *really* had been sitting here a long time.

"Hi, Blair. How's the paper going?"

"Hey, Sandra." Blair nodded at one of his fellow - fella? - grad students as he entered the main office. "It's coming ok, I guess. I can't seem to remember what it's about, though."

She grinned. "Tell me about it. I just handed in my paper for Rogers. I proofed it this morning and I could swear I didn't write any of it."

"Did it look good?"

"Oh, it looked great, why do you think I handed it in?"

He nodded, grinning. "It's not due til five, right?" A glance at the clock showed it was only 4.30 P.M.

She nodded. "Are you going to be coming to the Tavern? Mike and Jake are going to be there."

"You're kidding, I thought Jake was still working on his paper for Johnson's class." Blair realised he hadn't brought his coffee mug with him, so he grabbed Maggie's, knowing it would be clean.

She shrugged. "I guess he handed it in already."

"That's insane. Our papers aren't due til tomorrow."

"So that means you won't be joining us?" she asked with a knowing smile.

The coffee was fresh, and the sugar cubes plentiful. Blair grabbed three and looked for something to stir with. "Doesn't look like it. Hey, maybe you could bring me back some food?"

"Sure, it'll be kinda late, though. Can you starve until then?"

"No problem." He picked up a pencil and stuck it in the coffee lead-first. "Just don't bring those things they laughably call nachos, okay? I might have to kill you."

She laughed and headed away, with a final wave to Blair and the secretary who had been trying to get past Blair to use the copier. Blair tossed the pencil down, and got out of Jenifer's way.

"Sorry," he slinked out and headed back downstairs.

Four hours later Blair leaned back, holding his finger. "Owwwww...." Giving it a tenative suck, he looked at the tip where he'd just given himself a papercut. Bleeding. "This is not supposed to happen! Paperless society, you can't get a papercut working on a computer!" He looked around for a bandage. If he got blood on the manuscript he'd checked out from the History department's restricted library, he'd be in trouble. Then again, it had been that book which gave him the cut.

"Owwww." He wished someone were around, to offer sympathy. He was *really* fed up with this paper, and the cold coffee, and the original texts he *hadn't* been able to check out but needed to reference, and the out-of-order class notes, and the illegible outlines he'd written last week, and the food which hadn't arrived yet, and--

"Hey, Chief, what's up?"

Blair looked up and smiled. Suddenly he felt loads better. "Hey, Jim." He tried to remember if he knew what his friend was working on currently. "How's... whatever it is coming along?" He gave up.

Jim laughed, and sat down in a chair Blair could have sworn was piled with papers. Oh yeah, that other crash earlier. "Everything's fine. Although I miss my partner." Jim gave him a quiet smile which was threatening to break into a cheerful grin. It made Blair realise just how tired he was, and how much he wanted to shove everything to the side and go home and curl up in bed and fall asleep with Jim's arms around him.

"Sorry about that. I should be done with all of this tomorrow." He waved at the stuff on his desk.

"Hey, it's no problem. I just wish I could tell Leonelli to take a week off while you write your paper."

"Crime waits for no man, Jim." Gods, he felt so much better. Now if only Sandra would show up with food, he'd be great. He suddenly recollected a detail or two of the case Jim was working on. "You been able to find out who's running the numbers for him?"

"We think it's Jimmy Molletti. But we've been watching him around the clock, and nothing so far." Jim leaned back, settling in. "Marcus thinks we're looking in the wrong place, so we've set up a stake-out on the Denny's on 4th."

"Denny's?" Blair choked on his coffee. Just as well, it was cold. "The *Denny's*?"

Jim gave him one of those 'what can I say?" shrugs. "He may be right. Two of Leonelli's henchmen eat there regularly. They might be meeting someone there." Jim's expression suddenly changed from amused, to concerned. "Do I smell blood?"

"Oh, yeah," Blair looked down at his finger. "Cut myself -- papercut."

Jim stood up and came around the desk. He reached for Blair's hand; Blair showed him the wounded finger. "Doesn't look too bad, but you should put something on it."

"Yeah, I--" Blair stopped as Jim sat on the edge of the desk and began to suck gently on Blair's finger. "I... um...." It was suddenly very difficult to think.

After a moment Jim let go of his finger, and asked -- looking sly but deeply concerned -- "Is that better?"

"Yeah... No!" Jim raised an eyebrow in question. "I think the other one's cut, as well...."

His lover grinned at him, and then closely inspected the hand he still held. "Which one is it? This one?" He gave the finger a long, slow lick. Blair shivered. "No blood on that one. Maybe it's this...." He gave a third finger a gentle suck. Blair realised he was going to have to forget his paper and take Jim home.

"You know," he tried to keep his voice steady. "An injury like this can be pretty serious. I should probably be home... in bed."

Jim looked at him, and Blair could see that look in his eyes -- the one that made him wonder if the lock on his office door worked, and if the top of his desk was really all that hard. "You could be right, Chief. We don't want--" he broke off, and stood up, letting go of Blair's hand. Blair started to protest, when he saw Jim looking at the door, and waiting. A moment later it opened.

Sandra walked in with a bag. "Hi, Jim. Hey, Blair, I brought your food."

"Oh!" He had completely forgotten. "Great, that's... great." He remained where he was, sitting behind his desk.

Sandra walked forward, and a confused look appeared on her face. "Am I interupting something?" She set the bag on Blair's desk.

"Uh, no, no," both men said, trying to look innocent.

She grinned. "Good. Because you know, the walls down here are *awfully* thin, and the hallways echo something incredible." With that, and a wink to Blair, she turned to leave.

"Thanks, Sandra," Blair muttered after her. She gave him a grin as she closed the door. He looked back up at Jim, wondering if he'd continue with his first aid ministrations.

Jim looked much too collected. "Are you going to work on that all night?"

He grinned. "I hope so." At Jim's surprised look he added, "Oh, you mean the paper?" Jim mimed a punch, and Blair started looking for his jacket.

Once home Jim wasted no time. "Where was I?" He picked up Blair's hand again and counted off fingers. "Here?"

Blair tried to nudge him. "Shouldn't we go upstairs? Get un... oh...Jiiiiim," he whined, wishing he could control his responses long enough to inject some practicality into their lovemaking. So far it hadn't ever worked. And much as he'd enjoyed it the first time, the kitchen floor wasn't something he wanted to repeat. The floor of the entry didn't look much softer. He tried again. "Jim, the bedroom...?"

"Mm?" His lover glanced at him, but didn't stop making swirling motions with his tongue on the palm of Blair's hand.

Blair whimpered. "Please, Jim."

Unexpectedly, Jim stopped and smiled at him. Just when Blair thought he'd get led upstairs, though, Jim pulled him close for a kiss. He stopped worrying about floors while he had Jim's tongue carressing the inside of his mouth. He felt weak in the knees -- not an unusual occurance when Jim touched him... or held him, or looked at him, or.... He knew Jim would catch him if he fell.

Suddenly dizzy, Blair pushed at Jim's chest. Jim moved away, still holding him, a questioning look on his face. Blair had never physically tried to stop him, for all his protests when they began making love in unusual places. But Blair felt a little *too* weak at the knees, almost dizzy, and he wanted to sit down. Or lie down, preferably. "I wanna go to bed." He was distracted by trying to figure out why he felt this way; he realised that he hadn't slept for the past two days. He grinned apologetically. "I'm just a bit tired, and I don't think I can stand--"

He proved it by collapsing. Jim caught him, easing him to the floor. Blair blinked in bewilderment. How had *that* happened? He tried to stand back up, but Jim was holding him too close.

"Easy, Blair, take it easy." Jim waited, and Blair regained his bearings. "You all right?"

"I think... no." He suddenly leaned into Jim's shoulder. "I'm gonna throw up." It occured to him, as Jim gently moved him around towards the sink, that he probably wouldn't have anything but coffee to toss -- he hadn't bothered with the bag of food Sandra had brought, as Jim had been a more interesting distraction. Part of his brain was making 'aha' noises, as he identified the beginnings of a bout with the flu. He staggered against the counter, and before he could say anything more, threw up into the sink.

Jim held him, hands on his hips, as the coffee came up. When his stomach was empty and feeling worse than before -- why did the flu have to sneak up unnoticed then hit all at once? -- he leaned back. "I wanna...."

Jim picked him up, and carried him to the stairs. Blair thought about protesting, then realised that even if he could make it on his own, why bother? He smiled faintly to himself, and let himself relax. Jim got him upstairs and onto the bed, then began carefully removing Blair's clothing.

"If I'd known that's what it would take...." Blair gave Jim a small sultry smile.


"To get you to take me to bed, instead of... taking me on the floor."

Jim grinned. "Yeah, well, it didn't get you anything, did it?"

"You mean you're not going to... oh...." He rolled onto his side, clutching his stomach. Jim had a trash can before him in half a second even though it was just dry heaves. "Jim..." He was whining, and he didn't care.

"Yeah?" He felt a hand brush through his hair.

"Shoot me. Please...."

"Not today, Chief. Ask me in a couple days, when I've come down with it, too." Jim pulled the blankets out from under Blair, and then spread them over him. Blair tried to snuggle in, and felt almost better for the warmth, and for lying down. He closed his eyes, and tried to say thanks but fell asleep before he could open his mouth.

He woke up in the same position, but with one addition -- Jim was behind him, one arm draped over his shoulder, cuddled up as close as he could get. Blair wondered if he'd really slept that late, for Jim to have already gone to bed. He moved as little as he could, turning his head to see the clock. 10:35 p.m. "Oh my god." He had a paper due tomorrow. Had he at least brought his laptop home?

He had a vague memory of having it in his hand, setting it down -- must be right inside the door. He pulled himself out from under Jim's arm, and grabbed his robe. He stopped at the top of the stairs, took a deep breath, then went down carefully so as not to jostle his queasy insides. He found his laptop in the living room, where Jim must have moved it after he'd lost consciousness. He weaved his way to the couch, opened it, and found his paper in progress.

Burton's lithographs? What had he been thinking? He focused hard for a moment, then began rewriting a paragraph he'd obviously first written under the influence of the flu. Slowly, and cautiously, he began typing what he'd *meant* to say, working very hard to maintain something like a clear focus through the dizziness in his head.

"Blair? What are you doing?" Jim's astonished voice startled him. Blair looked up and found his lover watching him from the bottom of the stairs.

"Paper's due tomorrow."

"So? You can get an extension. You're sick."

Blair shook his head. "Don't need one. I'll have this finished by tomorrow afternoon, and then... well, if you could drop it off for me?" He looked up, giving Jim his puppy-dog eyes.

"Don't be ridiculous, Blair. You're sick, you can finish it later. Your professor will understand." Jim had walked over, and was reaching out for the laptop.

Blair moved it away. "No, he won't. Look, I'm okay." At Jim's expression of disbelief he amended, "I'm not so sick I can't write. It'll just be one more day, then I can go to bed and stay there all week."

For a moment Jim just looked at him, and Blair figured he was weighing the benefits of arguing, versus simply picking Blair up and taking him back to bed. Instead the other man shrugged. "Fine. It's your life. But don't complain to me when you get a bad grade." He headed back for the stairs.

"Do I ever?" Blair muttered, as he scooted back towards his computer.

"What?" Jim's voice sounded suddenly alert.

"Nothing, Jim." Geez, it was worse than when he and his mom had lived with Blake -- the hard-nosed conservative man-out-to-save-the-world, and the distracted, flightly young boy who saw public school as a bore. Everytime Jim found out about some problem Blair was having, he insisted on helping Blair solve it. Sometimes that meant insisting *Blair* solve it, on his own, but still it got annoying sometimes.

"Have you gotten any bad grades, Chief?"

"You wanna see my report cards, mom?" Blair didn't stop the sarcasm -- hey, he was sick, and he could always blame it on that.

Jim glowered, briefly. "How bad?"

With a shake of the head, Blair figured he'd better get this over with so he could work. "A couple of Cs." He stared at his computer, trying to read.

"Cs?" Jim sounded surprised. "That's not... wait. In grad school, that's like flunking, isn't it?" Blair didn't turn around. "Isn't it?" Jim was apparently right behind him.

"Yeah, sort of."


Blair turned, and cut off the tirade. "Look, it's no big deal! I take the courses over, get decent grades, and that's it. I've got plenty of time, my grants don't run out for another year."

"No big deal? Blair, how did this happen?"

The question he *really* didn't want to answer.


He sighed. "I missed a couple of deadlines. That's why I can't ask for an extension now! So could you please let me work?"

"Why'd you miss the deadlines?"

"It doesn't matter."

"Why, Blair?"

It was the tone of voice that got him. He leaned back, leaving his paper for the moment. "I was busy doing something else, all right? I couldn't get the papers finished on time because I was busy."

"Doing what?" Jim sounded upset, but Blair suspected he hadn't guessed the reason.

But he might as well tell him. "Helping you." His voice was low, and he wished that his friend's hearing *weren't* so sensitive so he could pretend he hadn't said it, hadn't said anything.

"What?" Jim sounded shocked. Blair saw him come around in front of the couch, but didn't look up at him.

"A couple of cases... you needed my help, and... well, stopping people from blowing up buildings and killing people seemed a little more important than a seminar paper, okay?" He looked up now, glaring in defiance.

Jim didn't say anything. He just waited, letting it sink in. Then he asked quietly, "Why didn't you tell me?"

Blair shrugged. "It wouldn't have mattered. You'd just have felt guilty for asking me to help."

"No, I would have *not* asked! Blair, don't you--"

"No, Jim!" Blair shouted back. "You needed my help! Whether you admit it now, you admitted it then and you're a lot more important to me than some stupid class!" He regretted shouting, as his head began to pound furiously. He didn't mention it, as it would only convince Jim he was right about going back to bed.


"No, Jim." He kept his voice down. "I knew what I was doing, and I did the right thing. Helping you with Bracket, going out to the diving rig... you needed me. I can take the classes over, but I can't bring you back if you get killed." His body shook. It was something he didn't often think about, losing Jim. But he'd thought about it long and hard, each time he'd been asked to assist on a case when he'd had deadlines looming. Then, the choice had been easy. It still was. "Jim, I can't lose you. I don't care if I flunk out completely -- and no, I'm not about to do that." He forestalled Jim's suspicious interruption. "From the first day, when you trusted me despite all the reasons not to, I told myself I wasn't going to let you down. I thought at first it was just... practical, you know? Not letting your lab rat die when you can't easily get another one." He returned Jim's grin. "But then we became friends, and you needed me to help you. It wasn't about a thesis anymore, man. It was about you living your life, and needing me to be a part of it.

"I couldn't let you down. And then... then I fell in love with you and now I *can't* lose you."

For a moment Jim didn't move. Blair watched him, looking for some sign of what he was thinking. Then Jim came forward, stopping beside the couch. "That's the first time you've ever said that." His voice was very quiet, totally clear of his earlier anger.

Blair looked away. He so rarely let himself think it, he couldn't believe he'd actually said it aloud. "Yeah... I know."

He felt the couch dip as Jim sat down, then felt the hand on his arm. He looked over. "I love you too, you know." Blair felt himself starting to grin. He knew, Jim said it only somewhat more often than Blair had. Jim kissed him quickly on the cheek, then pointed at the computer. "But *that* can wait until tomorrow. After you've had a night's sleep."


"No. Don't make me carry you back to bed." Now Blair really grinned. Jim laughed, and stood up. He leaned over and picked Blair up.


"What?" Jim stopped, but didn't set Blair down.

"I gotta save the file!"

"If I let you down do you promise not to type anything?"

Blair looked at him, incredulous. "Of course, Jim."

Jim started to set him down, then stopped. "Promise me, Sandburg."

He smiled, knowing he looked a mix of 'give me a break' and 'cute innocence'. "Well I have to type the save command."

With a suspicious frown Jim set him on his feet. Blair reached down and saved his file, closed the program and turned off the computer. Then he turned back to Jim and started to give him just the 'cute innocence'.

"Jim? Can I go to bed now?"