New Arrivals
Author-ElaineH
Titles

Lollipop, Lollipop 2
Part Two
by ElaineH

See notes and disclaimers on part one.

They pulled close to shore, where Simon was still fishing off to the side. Both men got out of the canoe and pulled it up on shore. Jim walked over to Simon.

"What's wrong with Sandburg?" asked Simon staring at Blair who was jumping up and down next to the canoe hitting the side of his head with his hand.

"He fell out of the canoe and got water in his ears. It's affecting his hearing," said Jim. "Sometimes he hears me just fine and others he doesn't."

"How the hell did he fall out of the canoe?"

"Let's just say that I have spent the morning in the Sandburg Zone and it has been... peculiar," said Jim, shaking his head.

Simon laughed. Jim explained what they were going to do and Simon said "Why don't we take a picnic lunch with us. I'm starting to get hungry and it'll be time to eat by the time we get over to where you want to go swimming."

"Sounds good. Let's go get the food."

They collected Blair and hiked up the hill to their campsite. They each gathered what was needed for lunch.

"You know, I am so hungry for some dessert -- other than lollipops. I could go for some Sarah Lee right about now," said Simon.

Blair stopped what he was doing and looked over at Simon. "Well, yeah you are sort of surly when you get hungry Simon, but we're used to it," he said and then turned back to what he was doing, muttering under his breath "Although, I'm a little surprised to hear you admit it."

Simon's jaw dropped. "Now just a damn minute..."

Jim let loose a hoot of laughter and Simon glared at him.

"Oh Jim, don't forget the calamine lotion," said Blair, completely missing the byplay between Simon and Jim. "Remember you said you were itching."

"I'm not itching, Sandburg. I said Simon had enough fishing," replied Jim, trying to stifle his laughter.

"Simon's itching too? Ok. You can borrow ours, Simon. I'll go get it." Blair trotted off to their tent to find the calamine lotion.

Simon looked at Jim.

"I feel like I've entered the Twilight Zone," said Simon in bewilderment.

"Yeah well, just think what it's like to live with this on a daily basis," said Jim somberly, drawing out the word 'daily'.

"I have a whole new respect for you, Ellison," said Simon, looking at Jim in reverence.

Blair came back at that moment waving the bottle of calamine lotion.

"Who wants to be done first?" he asked cheerfully.

Jim rolled his eyes and took it from him, stuffing it into one of the boxes he was packing the picnic items in.

Blair shrugged and went back to filling up his box. Then, all three men hiked back down the hill with their boxes and got in the canoe. They were able to easily find the spot Jim had picked out and it turned out to be perfect. There was even a picnic table under one of the trees that they unloaded their lunch upon. The sandy shore stretched out quite a ways into the water making it a prime swimming spot. By the time they got there it had become quite hot and they all decided to take a quick dip before they ate. Jim strode out into the water first and dived in, luxuriating in the feel of the cool water against his hot, sweaty skin.

Jim came up and looked behind him to see Simon already immersed in the water and floating about evidently enjoying the water, too. He looked over at Blair who had walked out waist deep and was about 10 yards further out in the water than he was. Blair had his arms wrapped around himself as if he was cold.

"Come on Chief, you can't be cold -- the water isn't even that chilly today," he yelled with his hands on his hips.

"Hey man, not everyone has a mental thermostat that they can dial down to control their body temperature," said Blair. "And it is too cold!"

"Well, I know a great way to get used to the temperature in a snap," said Jim with an evil smile on his face. He started to stride through the water toward Sandburg who was now facing him with his back to the lake.

"Oh, no, no, no, no, Jim, I don't need any help, really, look, I'm already getting used to it, see?" Blair put up his hands to ward Jim off and started backing up.

"Ah Chief, I wouldn't go back any further if I were you, there's a..."

Blair, still walking backwards, disappeared under the water quite suddenly with a choked off yell.

"Drop-off," finished Jim. He dived forward and under the water and managed to grab hold of Sandburg by the waistband of his trunks and hauled him back into shallower water.

Jim pounded on Blair's back while he coughed and sputtered.

"Oh man, I think I got even more water in my ears now," he said.

"You'll be all right. Why didn't you listen to me? Didn't you hear what I... oh never mind."

"Jim! What are you doing to Sandburg over there?" Simon was now standing up in the water and looking at them.

"Nothing!" yelled Jim. "Come on, Chief. Let's go eat." He grabbed Sandburg by the elbow and started towards shore.

"Go wait for what?" said Blair, confused. Jim grinned and, wrapping his arm around him, pulled him over under his arm and gave him a friendly noogie as he continued walking towards shore, dragging Sandburg through the water with him.

"Hey, Jim -- cut it out," whined Blair pushing him away. "What was that for?"

"That was for being such a 'wuss' about the water being cold."

"Well, geez man, it IS cold, not that it would bother you, you'd be comfortable living out in the wild in Alaska or Siberia or Antarctica..." Sandburg continued to talk to himself as he followed Jim onto shore to the picnic table.

The rest of the afternoon was spent swimming, hiking and canoeing around the lake; all three men relaxing in each other's presence and taking this opportunity to enjoy the companionship and communing with nature.

After dark they sat around the fire again as Simon pulled out the beer and passed it around.

"Sandburg, maybe you'd better limit yourself to two beers tonight," said Simon looking at Blair.

"Yeah, Sandburg. I don't really want to tuck you in bed again tonight," said Jim with a smirk.

"I'll be fine," said Blair, a little piqued, around the sucker in his mouth as he reached for a beer. Jim noted idly that there weren't too many times during the day when Sandburg didn't have a lollipop in his mouth.

"I can't believe you with those suckers, Chief. It's like you're addicted to them or something."

"I told you before -- Naomi wouldn't let me have them when I was little. That was the one thing I really wanted try. These are sooo good," he said smacking his lips a little as he pulled the sucker from his mouth. "And they can't be too bad for you if Simon got them from that health food store."

Jim and Simon rolled their eyes at each other.

They talked about what they wanted to do the next two days. Blair wanted to go to the Indian burial ground, so they decided to try and do that the next afternoon.

"You know, one day I'd really like to try climbing those bluffs," said Jim.

Blair giggled. Simon and Jim looked at him.

"You said 'butts'," said Blair, snickering.

"No I didn't, Chief," said Jim exchanging a look with Simon. "I said I'd like to climb those 'bluffs'."

Blair threw his head back and laughed again. "Quit that, Jim!" He fell over backwards to lay flat on his back on the ground, giggling.

Simon and Jim looked at each other in amusement.

"He's hammered, Jim," said Simon.

"No he's not. He's just a little giddy. Remember he can't hear very well," said Jim a little uncertainly. Sandburg really was acting a little too drunk for just under two beers.

"Chief, sit up and behave," said Jim pulling him by the arm to a sitting position.

"Ok, ok." Blair sat up.

"Anyway, I saw a waterfall on the map the Ranger gave us and I thought..."

"Yeah, waffles sound good for breakfast," said Blair sucking contentedly on his sucker.

"And I thought we could hike over that way one day..." Jim continued, giving Blair a look.

"Why don't we hike over to the waterfall?" said Blair suddenly.

Simon and Jim just looked at Sandburg.

"Great idea, huh?" Blair said.

Simon snorted. "Yeah, Sandburg. That's a great idea. Glad you thought of it." Jim glared at him.

"Um, Jim," said Sandburg leaning over to Jim.

"What?" said Jim irritably, poking a stick at the fire. Blair leaned over and whispered something in Jim's ear.

"Well, you're a big boy -- you know where the bathroom is," said Jim pointing to the woods.

"Oh yeah," said Blair with a snicker. "I'll be right back." Jim passed him the flashlight and Sandburg got unsteadily to his feet and made his way to the trees.

"Sandburg!" yelled Jim.

Blair turned around. "Yeah?"

"Not too close to the tent, get the picture?" said Jim tapping his nose.

"I am not using the pitcher, Jim! That is like SO unsanitary -- it's the only one we brought. Sheesh," he said looking at Jim like he had just asked him to fly to the moon using a paper plane. Turning around he continued on his way into the woods muttering "Finicky sentinels... next thing he's gonna tell me... draw the line at using Tupperware for bodily functions... getting a little too picayune..."

Jim looked over at Simon who was now whooping with laughter.

"Oh, shut up," he said testily.

"The water should drain out of his ears overnight and he'll be back to normal tomorrow," said Simon trying to placate Jim, while wiping the tears from his eyes.

"Whatever the hell 'normal' is for him," muttered Jim.

Simon laughed and Jim gave in and grinned.

"No doubt about one thing: he's pretty entertaining, even if he is a few fries short of a Happy Meal," said Jim.

"Yeah," said Simon, with a grin. "There are times when he doesn't have all his cornflakes in one box."

"He's a few peas short of a casserole!"

"He's one Fruit Loop shy of a full bowl!"

"His elevator doesn't go all the way to the top floor!"

"The wheel's spinning, but the hamster's dead!"

"Oh man, he does leave himself open for these, doesn't he?" asked Simon, gasping for breath.

By this time they were laughing so hard they were almost crying. It took them a few minutes to calm down and then they realized that Blair should have come back by now.

"He probably got lost," said Simon shaking his head. "I've never seen someone with such an underdeveloped sense of direction."

"I can hear him out there. Hold on a minute," said Jim getting a look of concentration on his face that told Simon he was listening to Sandburg.

He filtered Blair's voice from the other night time sounds and heard: "Oh man, ewww, I can't believe I did that... now which way did I come?... this looks familiar..."

Jim heard him starting off away from the campsite and sighed.

"He's lost. I'll go get him." He got up and started towards the woods.

"You need any help?"

"No. This isn't the first time I've had to go drag him back the right way -- and it probably won't be the last." He tromped off into the woods in search of his wayward partner.

He found him easily. Sandburg was just standing there looking around in confusion when Jim walked up behind him.

"Chief?"

Blair whirled around.

"Oh man, I'm like SO glad you're here," he said closing his eyes in relief.

"You got lost again didn't you?"

"No, no... I was just... just getting a little fresh air," he said taking a deep breath and patting his chest as if taking a stroll in the great outdoors.

Jim snorted. "Right." Then he noticed that Sandburg looked a little odd.

"Chief, what on earth did you do to yourself?" he said, holding Blair still and examining him. His shorts were all wet and muddy in the front.

"Oh that. Well I had a little accident -- see I thought I heard something and... did you know if you get too close to the tree and your trajectory is just right, the backwash..."

"Spare me the details, Sandburg," said Jim holding up his hand. "You're soaking wet and it looks like you fell down in something."

"Yeah, I tripped and fell in a muddy spot over there by a tree. I'm a mess, huh?" he said looking down at himself.

Leave it to Sandburg to find the only muddy spot in the forest to fall down in, thought Jim. "Come on. Let's go down to the water and wash you off." He led Blair back to the tent and ducked in to grab a towel and soap.

"Simon," he yelled. "We're going down to the lake. Sandburg needs to wash off. We'll be right back."

"Ok," came Simon's voice from his tent. Jim turned back to Blair who had taken a seat by the fire again and was drinking another beer.

Jim stalked over and grabbed the can away from him.

"Give me that! Don't you think you've had enough for one night?"

"Hey man, I was thirsty -- and you're not my mother! 'Cause if you were my mother, you'd... you'd... you'd have red hair for one, and you wouldn't be anal, and you would make me tongue all the time, and you wouldn't get mad at me for the time that I used your favorite sweater for a pot holder and burned a hole in it..."

"What!" said Jim, stunned. "You're the one who did that to my sweater? I thought the dry cleaners did it!"

"And Naomi would NEVER get mad about the time I accidentally burned that phone message from Bridget when the toaster caught on fire."

"You burned a message from...?! She was mad at me for two miserable weeks because she thought I stood her up!"

"Well, that wasn't a very nice thing to do, Jim. I'd be mad at you too, if I was her. Shame on you," said Sandburg looking disapprovingly at Jim.

"I didn't stand her up! YOU burned the message and never told me about it!"

"And Naomi would NEVER, EVER blame ME for HER shortcomings, and besides, I forgot," said Blair piously.

Jim's shoulders slumped as he closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose, trying to suppress a frustrated groan. He heard muffled laughter coming from Simon's tent. He straightened up and took a deep breath.

"Ok, ok. That's all water under the bridge -- no point in getting mad about it now," he said, trying to convince himself. He turned to Blair. "Take off those wet clothes now Chief, so we can go get you washed off."

"Oh yeah," Blair said, looking down at himself. He began to strip and then looked up at Jim as he started to pull his shorts off.

"Hey, this isn't a peep show! Turn around!" he said, glaring at Jim.

Jim heard more muffled laughter coming from Simon's tent. He sighed in defeat and turned around.

"Ok. You can turn around."

Jim turned back to Sandburg. He had stripped off all his clothes and was holding the folded towel in front of his groin. He walked past Jim down the hill to the lake, entirely oblivious to the fact that he was completely naked from behind. Jim shook his head, repressing a smile, and then, grabbing the wet, dirty clothes, followed his partner down to the lake.

As they came up to the water, Blair stopped suddenly.

"I'm not going in that water!" said Blair.

"What? Why not? You went swimming all afternoon with no problem."

"There's turtles in there, Jim. I SAW them!"

"Well, of course there are turtles in there -- it's a lake! The turtles didn't bother you earlier... Oooh." Jim slapped his forehead and looked like he had been struck by lightening as one specific late-night, lunatic conversation with his partner came back to him. Oh shit! he thought. Not again! And he had just agreed that there were turtles in there! He led Blair over to a rock by the lake and sat him down. It was time to get to the bottom of this 'turtle' phobia.

"All right, Chief. Tell me what's wrong with turtles."

"You know," said Blair giving him a meaningful look.

"No I don't or I wouldn't be asking," said Jim trying to be patient.

"They eat earthworms!" Blair announced with outrage, as if that solved the mystery.

"Okaaay." Jim looked at him in consternation. Maybe this wasn't the best time to pursue this discussion, after all.

"Listen," he said. "You have to get in that water and wash off..."

"But..." Blair started to protest.

"Just listen! You're muddy, filthy, wet, and starting to smell." Blair opened his mouth to protest again and Jim held up his hand.

"Chief, you are going to be sleeping with me and trust me, you're starting to smell like the men's bathroom at the corner garage."

Blair folded his arms over his chest and said truculently "I'm not going into that water -- it's got turtles in..."

"We've already established that turtles are in this water. But there are none here right now. Remember -- I can see under the water. There are absolutely no turtles here."

"Really? You can see in the dark that well?" Blair immediately lost his interest in turtles. "Look over there," he commanded, pointing to a spot about 10 yards away. "See those branches in the water over there? Are there any fish in the water right there? No wait a minute, how far out can you see... damn, I wish I had my notebook..."

"We are not doing any tests right now!" Jim yelled in frustration. Blair looked wide-eyed at him. Jim tried to assume a calmer demeanor.

"You are going to stop stalling and get into that water and wash off," said Jim with his hands on his hips.

Blair got up and walked hesitantly to the edge of the water.

"Are you SURE there's no turtles in here?" He said looking suspiciously at the water.

"Yes, I'm sure! Just get in."

Blair started to stick a foot in the water tentatively and then backed up a step as he thought of something.

"What if they decide to come out after I get in the water?" he asked.

Jim gritted his teeth.

"That's it! I gave you plenty of chances -- and I am not sleeping with that smell!" He stalked over to Blair, grabbed him around the waist and walked out into the water with him under his arm. At first surprised enough to let him, Blair then started struggling.

"Hey, cut it out man!" he yelled angrily. He started kicking and flailing his arms and Jim let him go, but they were out in waist deep water (at least for Blair) now. They stood looking at each other seethingly, with their hands on their hips. Then Blair started to giggle.

"What?" said Jim.

"You've got all your clothes on and probably your shoes, too!"

"Aw, shit!" said Jim looking down at his feet and lifting his foot, realizing that his shoes and socks were still on.

Blair shrugged. "Might as well be ALL wet," he said and with a mischievous glint in his eyes and with a lunge he tackled Jim who fell over backwards into the water with a loud splash, Blair on top of him.

Jim came up sputtering. He was sitting in the water, leaning back on his hands and Sandburg was standing in front of him now, his hair hanging in wet tendrils, grinning.

All of a sudden, Blair's eyes shifted to behind Jim and they widened in fear.

"TURTLE!!" he screamed, pointing behind Jim and then he turned and scrambled frantically through the water towards the shore.

Jim looked behind him and saw a twig floating in the water. If he squinted his eyes and tried not to focus too hard, it could be mistaken for a turtle. Maybe.

He looked over at Blair who was now on the shore, stark naked, bouncing around on the sand, waving his arms about and yelling at Jim to get out of the water -- and something else incoherent about turtles and being on their "home turf."

Could this night get any stranger? Jim thought to himself. He sighed, got up and made his way to shore and his agitated partner.

"Will you calm down, Sandburg? There was no turtle out there. It was just a stick floating in the water."

"I know a turtle when I see one! They're tricky as hell! You think they're just slow and harmless, but they're... they're depraved... and sneaky too! And when you're in their home territory they have the advantage over you!"

Jim dried himself off quickly and then wrapped the towel around Blair as he insisted that turtles were just waiting for them to turn their back so they could do God knows what to them, and tugged him along back up the hill to their campsite. At least, he's clean, now, thought Jim, listening with only half an ear to Blair's various loony ranting and ravings.

As they came in sight of the tents, Jim saw Simon sitting on one of the logs around the campfire looking at something in his hands.

"Jim! What the hell was all that noise down there? Is Sandburg all right?"

"Well he's a little... I think he's... Oh hell, I don't know what's wrong with him, but he's definitely not himself, tonight," said Jim as he led Blair over to one of the other logs and sat him down on it.

Blair, towel still draped around his shoulders, was still muttering about turtles, but was running out of steam. His eyes were starting to droop and he looked like he could fall asleep at any moment.

"I've been thinking about that. You know, he didn't even have two whole beers tonight. It can't be the alcohol. He has more tolerance than that. It must be something else that's making him act like a character right out of Loonytunes. It reminds me of when Darryl was little and acted out of sorts or had an allergic reaction to something. The first thing we checked out was what he'd been eating. But Sandburg has been eating the same things we have since we started out and none of it has been different than usual. Except for one thing -- these." Simon held up the bag of blueberry lollipops that Blair had brought along.

"Trouble is, I don't know what to look for," said Simon. "I know next to nothing about these so-called 'natural' ingredients."

"Well, Sandburg is a walking dictionary of all things 'natural.' Let's ask him."

They turned to Sandburg who had stretched out on the ground next to the log and was almost asleep.

"Chief! Don't go to sleep on me, here. We have a question for you. Sit up and see if you can help us." Jim pulled him to a sitting position. He looked pretty out of it.

"I'm gonna read these ingredients to you and I want you to tell me about them, ok?"

"'Kay," said Blair nodding groggily. "'Zis a test?"

"A test?"

"Like Simon gave us? When we pointed?"

"Ah -- yeah. It's like the test Simon gave us."

"'Kay."

"Kava-Kava juice," started Jim, reading off the first ingredient.

"No, no, no," said Blair waving his finger at Jim. "N'omi says I can't have that."

Simon and Jim looked at each other.

"Why does Naomi say that, Chief?" asked Jim.

"Gotta sens'tivity to it. 'Xaggerated reaction."

"What happens when you drink Kava-Kava juice, Chief?"

"Causes a eupher... euphoric reaction in some people," he said, stumbling over the word 'euphoric'. "Numbness 'round the mouth," said Blair feeling his mouth. "Like this," he said, patting his lips with his fingers.

Simon looked at Jim. "It causes euphoria which can be mistaken for drunkeness, and he's hypersensitive to it so it makes him act really plastered -- and then he drank alcohol on top of it. No wonder he's been acting so weird!"

"Oh man, I can't believe that I missed that. He's so quiet and passive when he's got one of those suckers in his mouth during the day -- like he's just floating along. That's totally unlike him! I thought he was just relaxing and still coming down from the break-up with Misty."

"Did I pass?" said Blair suddenly in a sleepy voice.

"Did you pass? Oh -- yeah, yeah, you passed the test. Good job, Chief," said Jim patting him on the head absently.

"I win," he said with a goofy sort of lopsided grin and unfocused eyes. "What's the prize?" he asked.

"Prize? Well, uh... I don't think..."

"Can I sit up front on the way home?"

"Uh, yeah -- yeah, you can sit up front. That's the prize."

"Good," said Blair with a little, satisfied sigh. "Gotta sleep now, 'kay?" said Blair and then he tipped over onto his side and closed his eyes.

Simon looked at him. "Well, I think I've done my job for tonight. You can take over from here, Detective," he said giving the bag of lollipops to Jim and heading for his tent.

"Simon! Wait a minute -- aren't you gonna help me take him into the tent and get him in bed?"

"That's why it's good to be the Captain, Jim. I think you can handle this on your own, seeing as I did all the 'detecting' tonight. See you in the morning. Sleep tight. And try not to make too much noise." He strolled over to his tent and climbed in.

A little snore issued from the dead weight on the ground in front of Jim's feet.

"Ooooh, you are going to owe me so big in the morning," said Jim threateningly, looking down at his partner and shaking his head.

He managed to get Sandburg to a sitting position and patted his cheek a couple of times.

"Come on, Chief, wake up just a little so I can get you into the tent." Blair leaned forward and nestled his head on Jim's shoulder, still half-asleep.

"'M tired, Jim," he complained. "Keep gettin' sooo tired."

Jim put his arms around Blair and patted his back.

"Yeah, I know buddy. But we know why now." Blair was as limp as a wet noodle. Jim carefully lifted him into his arms and managed to get him into the tent with a little mindful maneuvering.

He laid Blair out on top of his sleeping bag and then sat back after turning on the flashlight, a little out of breath. His partner no longer smelled like a urinal but he had sand, and leaves, and dirt sticking to him from his little escapade tonight. Jim went back out and got the towel, shaking it out and crawling back into the tent.

He gently wiped as much of the dirt off his partner as he could. As he moved the towel over his ribs, Blair let out a little puff of laughter.

"That tickles, ya know," he said with his eyes still shut and a long sigh.

"Well, you could help a little you know, instead of lying there like a lump. Turn over on your side."

Blair turned slowly over on his side which put his back to Jim. Jim gently wiped his back which was still wet.

"That feels good," he sighed.

"Well, don't get used to it. This is a once-in-a-lifetime event," said Jim with an amused smile.

Jim continued rubbing his back rhythmically with the towel.

"You wanna know why I broke up with Misty?" asked Blair quietly after a couple of minutes.

"Well, I did wonder..." said Jim gently.

"Boy, I really fell hard for her." He paused in reflection. "She asked me out first, you know? I never thought she would have any interest in me. She was so different, so exciting, so much fun to be with. It was a real rush just to be with her. I even stopped dating other women while we went out. That's kind of a new thing for me to do that. And on top of all this, I thought she really liked me -- a lot."

Jim continued rubbing his back with the towel. He didn't say anything, not wanting to risk spoiling the moment.

"And physically... well she knew certain places and things about the male body that..."

"Too much information, Chief," said Jim, interrupting him.

"Oh, right. Well, let's just say that she made me like REALLY happy." Jim smiled in amusement.

"But then, that last night we went out, she told me she didn't like keeping secrets and she thought I was special so she wanted to be really open with me."

Jim frowned. "What did she say, Chief?"

"She told me about her other TWO boyfriends. I was really special, huh? So special she found time for not one, but two other boyfriends."

"You ARE special, Chief," said Jim softly. There was a brief silence while Blair mulled that over and Jim continued to rub Blair's back.

"Anyway," said Blair, clearing his throat a little "I told her that if she really loved me and thought that I was so special that she wouldn't be dating two other guys at the same time. And maybe we just weren't meant to be."

"What happened then?"

"She told me that she didn't understand why I was so upset and that she was open to a three-way (or four in her case) relationship if that's what I wanted. That she'd grown up around relationships like that; her parents had lived a very bohemian life-style with lots of lovers, sometimes more than one at a time, and some even lived with them -- it was no big deal to her."

Jim stopped rubbing Blair's back for a minute. "Really?" he asked. He knew Misty was wild, but that was a little unexpected -- although it did explain a few things.

"Yeah. I told her that just wasn't for me; that I was falling in love with her, that I wasn't into 'sharing', and if she didn't drop the other two, then we had to part ways."

"What did she say then?" asked Jim, resuming rubbing Blair's back. This was getting more fascinating by the minute, but he could see Blair had been really hurt by the whole thing.

"Well, she said she didn't understand why I felt that way and she wasn't going to change what she was doing, but she respected my feelings, so why didn't we just remain friends and go our own ways. Man, I have to tell you that I was REALLY hoping she was going to say she couldn't live without me and that I would be the only man in her life from now on." Blair's voice choked a little on the last two words.

Jim reached out and began stroking Blair's hair. "I'm sorry, Chief."

"It gets worse. Then she wanted to know if I thought that you would be interested in going out with her."

"WHAT?" said Jim, stopping his stroking of Blair's hair for a minute.

"I told her that was just disgusting and that you wouldn't ever go out with her; that you didn't go for that "multiple-partners" kind of thing and besides you were my friend with the right idea about REAL friendship, unlike her. I was pretty mad and kind of hurt at this point, so I probably wasn't as tactful as I should have been. Needless to say, we didn't part friends. We had some more 'words' and then she threw me out." He paused. "So anyway, that's the story. Pretty pathetic, huh?" He reached up and wiped a stray tear off his cheek, yawning.

Recovering a little from his shock, but not really too surprised when he reflected back on things, Jim said "It's not pathetic, Chief. She just wasn't the right woman for you." He resumed stroking Blair's hair softly.

Blair didn't say anything. After a few minutes his breathing started to deepen and Jim realized he was asleep. He reached over and pulled a blanket out of his duffel bag and covered his partner with it. Jim didn't want to analyze it too closely, but sometimes Blair brought out the paternal/brotherly side of him like no one else ever had, not even Steven. He never even tried to fight it, not since the moment he had climbed to his feet and looked at the unconventional grad student in astonishment after almost being run over by a garbage truck. He gently rubbed the back of his hand against Blair's cheek and said in a whisper "That had to be hard on the old self-esteem, Chief. But she wasn't worth your time and energy if she didn't realize just how special you really are. Don't worry -- the right lady will come along someday."

Jim leaned over and placed a kiss on the top of the damp curls. Blair frowned a little in his sleep and raised a hand to his hair as if brushing a fly away. Jim smiled and then undressed and got into his sleeping bag. It had been a long, rather bizarre day, but he couldn't complain about being bored. That never seemed to be a problem with Sandburg around. He fell asleep almost instantly.

Jim woke once in the middle of the night. The night air had turned a little cooler and his partner, not being confined by a sleeping bag this evening, had rolled up against Jim's back, seeking warmth. Jim gingerly tried to roll him back over onto his own sleeping bag, but he kept rolling back up against Jim when he laid down again. Finally Jim just gave up and put his arm around him pulling him close. Blair was shivering underneath the blanket. Jim rubbed up and down his arm with one hand trying to warm him up and tried to pull the sleeping bag over him a little more.

"Thanks, Jim," came a groggy, half-awake voice.

"No problem, Chief" said Jim. He smiled to himself. Sandburg was going to have a seizure when he woke up in the morning and saw where he was. Oh well, thought Jim, he might be able to use this as good blackmail material for some household chores that his roommate tended to avoid his share of. Jim rested his chin on the curly head, still snuggling Blair in his arms, and fell back to sleep with dreams of sparkling toilets and an absence of dust bunnies.

The next morning, Blair woke up feeling warm and cozy; usually a rarity when he was camping. He opened his eyes and suddenly realized where he was. He sat up quite suddenly causing Jim's arm to slide off him and waking him up.

"Oh man! How'd I get over here?!" he groaned putting his face in his hands.

"I put you to bed last night and you must have gotten cold during the night," said Jim, propping his head up on his hand. "I couldn't get you to stay on your side of the tent."

"Well, no wonder I was cold! Where the hell are my clothes?" he grumbled pulling the blanket over his lap with a little embarrassment.

"I think we left them down at the lake last night. Don't worry Sandburg, your honor is still intact," said Jim with an amused grin as he watched his partner scramble around the tent for something to wear while trying to preserve his modesty.

"Geez, Jim, you could at least have put some boxers on me," said Blair grumpily.

"Hey, you're lucky I let you back in here to sleep," said Jim, with a pointed look.

"Oh... yeah. Sorry about that. I don't know why I did that stuff last night -- getting lost in the woods and all. Must have been really tired again."

"Well, actually we figured it out. Don't you remember?"

Blair sat back, looking perplexed. "Bits and pieces are coming back. What do you mean you 'figured it out?' Figured what out?"

Jim explained about the lollipops and the Kava-Kava juice.

"Wow. No wonder I got a little giddy. Naomi said I would really get weird when I had that juice."

"I just gotta ask you one thing, Chief."

"What's that?" asked Blair curiously.

"What's this thing you have about turtles?"

"Turtles? What thing about turtles?" said Blair turning an innocent face back to him.

Jim stared at him with narrowed eyes. For a minute, there was a peculiar look that passed through Blair's eyes, however it was fleeting and the face looking at him was innocent and guileless. He made a mental note to have a particular conversation with Naomi the next time she called.

Just then they heard "Hey -- you guys gonna talk all day? I'm starting breakfast and if you're not here to eat it then I get first dibs on it."

"Whoa, Simon! Don't you dare -- we'll be right out." Sandburg grabbed the nearest sweatshirt and pulled it over his head as he crawled out of the tent.

Jim shook his head and followed soon after, pulling some clean clothes on.

Blair and Simon were arguing over what to make for breakfast.

"I know you guys said we were going to have waffles for breakfast," said Blair with a look of confusion on his face.

"Get real, Sandburg. Do you see a waffle-iron around? You're going to have to settle for pancakes. We can do those over the fire if you get it started."

"All right, all right, but I know someone said waffles last night." Blair went off to find some wood for the fire. Jim took the opportunity to tell Simon that Blair knew about the lollipops now. And that he had opened up about his breakup with Misty.

"Really?" asked Simon. "What did he say?"

"I don't know if he wants me to give out all the details, but he was really head-over-heels with her. He'll probably tell you himself later on. He's young, he'll get over it with time," said Jim solemnly.

Simon just looked at him. "You sound like you're old enough to be his grandfather, instead of his older brother."

"Well, you've seen how naive he can be; sometimes I feel like he's a little kid."

"Tell me about it," muttered Simon as he turned his attention to the pancake batter.

Blair showed up then with an armful of wood and they made breakfast and spent a enjoyable day carrying out their plans to visit the Indian burial ground.

The next two days passed pleasantly, with fine weather, and Jim and Simon kidding Blair about his lollipops, all of which Blair took in good humor. But Jim did take the precaution of stashing the bag of lollipops in his own duffel bag. All too soon it was time to pack up and return to civilization.

They had finally cleaned up the campsite and packed the Explorer and were taking one last look around for any loose trash or odds and ends. Blair, who had finished policing the area assigned to him, headed for the car and started to climb in the front seat.

"Hold on just a minute there, Chief," said Jim. "Who said you could get in the front?"

Blair stopped and looked at Jim with surprise written across his face, his hand on the handle of the door. "You did, Jim! Remember? I passed the test so I won the prize."

"Yeah, but I didn't really mean it..."

"Oh, that is SO typical!" Blair burst out as he turned to face Jim with his hands on his hips. "You sat in the front all the way up. This is so not fair! Why do you always get to..."

"You know I have to sit up front to help Simon navigate."

"Oh, that's just an excuse! I'm not gonna sit in the back this time and you can't make me!" Blair folded his arms across his chest belligerently and turned a defiant look on Jim.

Jim narrowed his eyes. He had noticed Simon coming up on the other side of the car behind Blair.

"If you don't sit in the back, I'll tell Simon what you said to Misty about him."

Simon stopped in his tracks and leaned against the car, listening intently to the argument.

Blair dropped his arms to his sides. "Oh, man," he said in frustration. "I can't believe I told you that last night. I should have just kept my mouth shut!"

"Sort of an insurmountable task for you, don't you think?" asked Jim with a smirk.

Simon, who had had the story of Blair's breakup with Misty poured out to him the day they traveled to the Indian burial grounds, perked up with interest, but still made no move to let Blair know he was there.

"Well, what else was I going to say to her, huh? After I told her you would never go out with her, she wanted to go out with Simon. I was so mad I just said the first thing that popped into my head!"

"Yeah, but telling her he was gay and had been in a relationship for the last 10 years with a really jealous lover, and he liked to cross-dress on the weekends..."

"What?!" Simon bellowed. Blair jumped and turned around, looking in dismay at Simon.

"Simon! I... I didn't know you were there... uh, did you hear..." Blair trailed off, looking in trepidation at him.

"Sandburg, when I get a hold of you..." yelled Simon, starting around the car.

"You know what, guys, I think I'll sit in the back after all, yeah -- I'll be more comfortable, there's more room to stretch out and read..." Blair grabbed the door, flung it open, and leapt into the car pulling the door closed after him. He quickly locked all the doors.

"Sandburg! Unlock this car right now, damnit!" said Simon, pulling on the door handle.

"You just calm down a little, Simon and then I'll let you in. Take as much time as you need; I'm not going anywhere. You know you've really got to learn to control your temper better -- it's got to be bad for your health when you get like this," said Blair through a crack in the window.

Jim was laughing hysterically at this point. Simon stopped pulling on the door handle and looked over at him.

"Laugh it up, Ellison," said Simon with a glare. "I bet he didn't tell you that he told Misty you were gay too, did he?"

"What?!" said Jim, his jaw dropping.

"Aw, Simon, I told you not to tell Jim!"

"Chief! You told Misty I was gay?"

"Well, actually you know that jealous partner that I said Simon had? I told her that was you. Now Jim, calm down. I can see that little vein starting to throb in your temple again and that means really bad news for your blood pressure. Guys, there's really no need to yell; I can hear you both just fine. You two really need to take some anger management classes; it's so unhealthy to have that much anger, especially at your age. When we get back, maybe we should work on some biofeedback techniques... . Well actually Simon, I think that's a physical impossibility... Jim, what are you doing with that key?... Hey, I'll just keep locking the door every time you unlock it 'til you cool down a little... Geez, you're making such a big deal about a little, tiny obfuscation..."

End