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Originally published in the "Crossroads" zine.


Ceiling: Unlimited

by Bone

In the three years since Blair moved in with me, I've had to get used to some pretty
strange things. Earth rhythms. Green tea. Boycotting Entenmann's. Lights on at all hours, the
steady thump of music from his headphones, exotic smells from the kitchen, toxic smells from
the bathroom, books on every available surface, and occasional visitors who look at me like
I've grown another head since I last looked in the mirror.

But the strangest change in my life since he blabbed his way into it has to be the TV,
and what's on it. As opposed to what used to be on it, which was usually CNN or ESPN. News and
sports-what else does a cop need, really? Blair loves sports, too, but he'd just as soon play
them as watch them. He'll come in on a gray Sunday afternoon I think God actually made for
watching the NFL, and he'll say something like, "Hey, couch potato, get off your ass and do
something before all those muscles get sloshy." And next thing I know, we're out in the park,
accosting strangers to join us, playing Shirts and Skins. I'm a Skin. He's a Shirt, of course.

But when we're home, and when we're not doing something else, like cleaning (me), or
studying (him), or screwing around until our teeth rattle, the TV's usually on. Nowadays, it's
on channels I didn't even know my cable provider carried: The Learning Channel. Discovery. The
Sci-Fi Channel. And Blair's personal favorite-the Weather Channel. I've always been a
look-out-the-window kind of weather predictor. Not Blair. He loves the Weather Channel. He
calls the... what are they? ...meteorologists by name. The old guy who does hurricanes is his
hero. I think he looks a little like an anorexic Albert Einstein, but I've still got a bruise
from the time I mentioned that out loud, so now I sneer in silence.

I mention all this because Blair's been watching the Weather Channel the last few days
like it's got stock tips and he just won the lottery. Personally, I don't know how many Local
Forecasts and Weekly Planners a man needs to see to know what he's going to wear the next day,
but Blair's still down there watching, even though it's almost midnight, and we have a packed
day tomorrow, and I'd really like to blow him and then get some shut-eye.

"Sandburg?" I don't have to do more than that. He's learned all the various tones I use
to say his name. This is my 'turn off the goddamn television and get your hairy butt up here'
tone. I save it for special occasions.

"Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know, I'm coming," he says, but he doesn't move and the TV doesn't
go off.

"Sometime tonight, Chief," I growl down at him, but he just snorts at that, which might
be insulting if it wasn't so cute.

"Just five more minutes, Jim. I think maybe tomorrow's the day."

The day. The day for what? "The day for what?" I shout down.

"It's the coolest thing. It hardly ever happens when it's warm enough to actually enjoy
it," he says, then shushes me and turns up the volume.

"...combined with high pressure sweeping down from Alaska will give the Pacific
Northwest a welcome change from all the recent rain, with sunny skies and highs in the 60s for
the next several days."

The rest of the forecast is drowned out by a whoop from Blair that could wake the
neighbors. He pops off the TV and climbs the stairs two at a time, dropping down beside me on
the bed with a satisfied sigh.

"I knew it," he says, burrowing under the blankets and sticking two very cold bare feet
on my thigh. "When I saw that high shifting south, I thought to myself, 'this could be it-,'
and it is."

"Please tell me you're not going to turn into one of those weather geeks who track
hurricanes in the Caribbean and know the snowpack numbers for Idaho," I tell him, picking up
one of his feet and rubbing my palm across the bottom of it. "Because I have a hard enough time
explaining you as it is."

"Ha ha, Jim. Very funny. You know how we always get clear days that are cold and rainy
days that are warm? Well, now we're going to get clear, warm days. Like, three of them in a
row."

"Well, that's great, Chief...." I start, but he cuts me off.

"With an unlimited ceiling!"

I must look mystified, because he tugs his foot out from my hand and stretches out on
his back beside me, pointing to the skylight.

"That means we can see every star in the galaxy," he says. "Well, okay, that's an
exaggeration. But it means we can go star-gazing without freezing our asses off." He leans in
and nuzzles under my ear. "Or we could go submarining."

I let him have his way with my neck and get my fingers good and tangled in his hair so
he won't stop before I'm ready for him to, and then I ask the question.

"Submarining?"

"Oh, Jim, please don't tell me you don't know about submarining. Come on, didn't you
ever get a girl, a blanket, some beer, and head out to the end of the runway? Get a little
drunk, make out a little, and watch planes coming in to land about fifty feet overhead? It's
cosmic."

Not only haven't I ever done it, I didn't know it could be done. Aren't there laws
against being that close to a runway?

I get another snort when I ask him that. "Yeah, like we don't break three state laws
every other night," he says, jabbing me in the side with a knuckle.

I concede the point.

"I don't know, though, submarining might be too much for your ears, even if we dialed
you down," he says, interrupting himself.

And Blair won't have that. Nope. As gung ho as he is, he won't do it if he thinks it'll
hurt my ears, or eyes, or feelings. He calls me his Blessed Protector, but he's the one who's
always watching out. I'm not saying he won't run me through some scientific wringers when it
suits him, even without the excuse of the thesis anymore, but he pretty much knows when I've
had enough. He's a good kid, Sandburg.

"Forget the submarining," he says, and he's got that 'I'm-hatching-a-scheme' tone in
his voice. "Let's go camping."

"It's the middle of the week, Chief." I don't know why I have to be the voice of reason
all the time. And I am; I don't care what he says. He may be the scientist, but I wonder
sometimes how he survived this long on the little bit of common sense God gave him. I think he
got double helpings of charm and lung capacity, but a little short-changed on common sense and
restraint.

"So?"

"So. Police station. Work. Either of those ring a bell?" I ask him.

"Come on, Jim, by the weekend, we'll be back to the same old shit." He's perilously
close to whining, which is pretty unusual for Blair. He bitches with the best of them, but he
hardly ever whines.

"What do you want me to do?" I ask him. "Tell Simon to take over our caseload for a few
days so we can go commune with nature?" I think that's a reasonable approach-make him see we
can't just drop everything because the planets have aligned, or whatever. He's new to all this
cop shit-maybe he just doesn't get how different it is from cutting a class.

"Carpe diem, man," he says.

"Seize the day," I translate.

"Fuck me now," he says dreamily.

"Excuse me?"

"I always thought the practical idiomatic translation of 'carpe diem' was probably more
along the lines of 'fuck me now,'" he says. "Either that or 'another round on me, bartender.'"
 
Why doesn't that surprise me?

"So come on, live a little," he says, popping me on the shoulder with the flat of his
hand.

Wheedling. He's moved from whining to wheedling.

"Live a little? Why didn't I think of that?" I tell him. "Let me write a memo to all
the crooks out there and tell them we're taking a few days off because there's an unlimited
ceiling."

"Works for me," he says. God, he's got a smart mouth on him.

The sad part is that I want to do it. Getting out of Cascade sounds amazingly good.
Getting away from buildings and asphalt and assholes sounds even better. I can see us up in the
woods, on sleeping bags under the stars, stuffed with marshmallows and turkey dogs. I can see
him seizing the day and I can see me fucking him now.

I'm almost forty and I'm giving serious consideration to playing hooky for the first
time.

 Yet one more life mutation to lay at the feet of Blair Sandburg.


Jim needs a vacation. Frankly, we all need a vacation from Jim, but I'll go along for
the ride because that's how we do things.

He's been wrapped up in one case or another for like a year, and then I joined the crew
for real, and that kept him twice as busy, and he's got two weeks' vacation earned that he
hasn't taken a day of. He's starting to get a little frayed around the edges and we're all
starting to look for bite marks when we get through with conversations with him.

Brown took me aside once, a couple of months ago, and asked me how in the hell I took
living with him and working with him. I didn't tell him it was easy when living with him meant
enjoying the most incredibly astonishing, mind-melting, eye-rolling, thought-robbing,
crotch-throbbing orgasms of my life and working with him meant my life was complete. I didn't
spill those beans. No, I just grinned at him, slapped his back and said it was a nasty job but
somebody had to do it.

I don't pretend my little persuasionary speech about unlimited ceilings and day seizing
got him to agree to this little jaunt. No, I had to get dirtier than that. I had to put my
mouth to better use than just jawing at him. So I stripped him down, licked him all over and
then wouldn't do one more thing to him until he agreed to take two days off. Wednesday and
Thursday. Middle-of-the-week days. He tried everything from growling to begging, but I held
firm. Held firm. Yeah, I held very firm, if you know what I mean. It wasn't easy. Imagine him
if you will: Jim. Stripped, licked, dick straight up and shiny. Sweating a little. Muscles all
a-quiver. Holding out was a real exercise in self-restraint, I can tell you that.

I made it worth his while, once he agreed.

As soon as he gasped out, "Yeah, yeah, okay, Thursday, too. Christ, Chief, I'm going to
beat the living shit out of you if you don't do something," I got down to business. I petted
him here, squeezed him there, and then licked him in a few places he'd swear I couldn't even
reach, let alone work my way into. I made him whimper, which I consider a high compliment, even
if it did seem to mortify him later. Much later. At the time, he just panted out some garbled
bits of gratitude, muttered imprecations to the deity of his choice, and made a few
half-unconscious promises to make it up to me later. Then he crashed, sacked right out, still a
little damp in places, still a little dribbly.

I consider that a good night's work.

It got us here, didn't it? Sitting in the truck, windows down, radio up, heading out of
the city on a perfectly perfect day. We've got a cooler full of crap we shouldn't eat, a couple
of six-packs, sleeping bags, the portable telescope, and an economy size box of
Trojans-everything the modern star-gazing, hollow-legged, sexually active camper needs. Hey, we
can't spend all our time gazing at the stars. And the only navel-gazing I intend to do while
we're there requires my face being in extremely close proximity to his belly.

We're not going to talk about work-old, new, pending; none of it. We're not going to
talk politics, or religion, or the war in Kosovo. I didn't bring my laptop, and I made him
leave his cell phone. I brought mine, and told Simon if he called us I'd personally see to it
that his skin lightened up six shades by the time I got done with him. Jim Ellison's going to
relax. At least he is if I have anything to say about it, and really, have we found a topic yet
about which I have nothing to say?

And the single best way I've ever found for Jim to relax involves those springy little
latex disks. So I sprang for a multi-pack. He'll love the ribbed ones. Or I will. One of us
will. Oh, and I brought a new tube o' lube. The last time we tried this al fresco we ended up
using Skin-So-Soft, and while I don't mind my heinie being that squeezably soft, that stuff's
really designed as insect repellant and that took my brain all kinds of places I'd just as soon
not go. So, this time we're going conventional. I'm learning my limits, and administering Avon
products to my nether regions turns out to be one of them.

I'm as prepared as any Eagle Scout, which is pretty funny since I got kicked out of
Weblos for tying the freaking handkerchief thing in my hair instead of around my neck. Not much
for nonconformity, those Weblos. Don't get me started on the Boy Scouts. Between the religion
thing and the gay thing, they give me the creeps. Like there aren't any gay Boy Scout leaders.
Yeah, you just keep believing that. Doesn't the name "We-Blo" make you wonder just a little?

It gets my balls in a knot-a perfectly executed double-hitch-to think about sometimes.
But that's verging on political and has some religious overtones to it, and that's not on the
agenda for this weekend, so back to our regularly scheduled program.

All work and no play's making Jim a dull boy. And crotchety. Besides which, it makes
him too tired to fuck me. And, to paraphrase my hero, Winston Churchill, that's something up
with which I will not put. He needs a little downtime, a chance to refuel the tanks, unclench
that jaw for a minute or two. That's tough to do when trouble's a phone call away and closing
out one case just means opening up two more. I know he looks like Superman sometimes. But he's
really just a guy pushing forty, who works too hard because he can't imagine it any other way.
So we're going to make him the sentinel of a little bitty patch of woods for a couple of days.
He can dial down his senses, and his over-worked sense of responsibility, and just be for a
little while. Be like the trees. Be like the bees.

All he needs is a little fresh air and a little fresh Blair.

I'll have him back singing in the shower in no time.


I have to give the kid credit-he knew what he was talking about. I haven't seen skies
this clear in years. Without some clouds here and there for perspective, you can get dizzy
looking up at a sky that blue. You lie on your back and cup your eyes until you can't see the
trees, or the grass, or anything, and there's nothing to hold you down, nothing to throw your
eyes to. Just blue, blue, blue.

I've had the same experience looking into Sandburg's eyes, but I'm not about to tell
him that. He has enough ammo as it is.

These two days have been perfect. It's been years since I could say that, too. Warm
sunshine, cool breezes. A night sky lighter than I imagined it could be, casting shadows, full
to the brim with stars. We've done some hiking, and some lazing around. We've talked a lot,
been quiet some, played a few hands of gin rummy. We went to bed eerily early last night-it got
dark and we watched the stars for a while, then started to droop, like we'd already adapted to
Nature's clock, just in one day.

Deep in the back of my nose, I can smell wood smoke, melted chocolate, singed hot dogs,
and the ever-present hum of smell that's Blair.

Deep in the back of my mouth, I can still taste him.

We've had two perfect days. We have just one more night, then back to civilization.
Civilization? I think the woods are a lot more civilized than some of the neighborhoods we deal
with back in town. Out here the code's harsh, but it's predictable. Back there, you never know
when someone's going to snap; you never know what's going to push a guy over the edge. Out
here, being alert means being smart. Back there, it's just your best defense.

It's hard for Blair to understand that. He tries, and since he knows me better than
anyone else, if anyone were going to understand, it would be him. Since he tries, but doesn't
really get it, I think I'm probably alone in this. I think I'll probably continue to be alone
in this. Most of the time, it doesn't bother me. I've been alone a lot, and at least this time
I have someone beside me. But sometimes, I get tired.

He tried to get me to dial down when we got here, saying he was on cell phone duty, and
he could hear a bear in the woods, and he didn't plan for me to hunt down dinner, that's what
the turkey dogs were for, so why not just dial it all down? But I couldn't do it. Couldn't let
up. Couldn't dial down. I tried to get into the spirit of the thing: I took my watch off. I
walked barefoot down to the creek. I let him cheat at rummy and didn't call him on it. I made a
big deal about fighting him for the last 'smore. I thought it was a pretty good act, myself.

I'm the sentinel, but Blair doesn't miss a thing. He sees how hard I'm trying. He's not
pushing me, which I appreciate. Maybe he knows I'm doing the best I can.

We're in that quiet twilight time now: not quite day, not quite night. Watching the sun
set down in the notch between two hills made me kind of sad. Blair cajoled me into taking two
days, and now I wish I'd gone ahead and just signed out for the whole week. Then we could have
stayed through the weekend, really hunkered down and let the world go by. As it is, we're
planning on getting up at five, home by seven, at work by half past eight.

Ugh.

But between now and then is one more night. I'll try to stay awake for whatever he has
planned.

        Hell, I can sleep when I'm dead, right?


I'm going to get this right if it kills me. We've got one more night out here; out here
where it's nice and dark, where the owls could give a hoot if some homo sapiens type starts
shouting out in rapturous orgasmic pleasure. You believe we fell asleep last night? Man alive,
get a bag of marshmallows in us and you'd think we'd been eating toasted tranquilizers. We had
a few nice get-the-nerve-endings-revved kisses and then we zonked. Zonked! We only have two
nights out here in the back of beyond and we wasted one of them on sleeping.

I'm not going to make that particular mistake again. I tossed the marshmallow bag in
with the rest of the food, which is hanging about twenty feet off the ground to discourage
bears and late-night snacking.

No more marshmallows for us.

I add a few twigs to the fire, more for the smell than because we need more light. This
is the best time of day. 'Airlight,' they call it down in California. 'Lambent light' is
another phrase I've heard used from time to time. You know what I'm talking about-the air turns
sort of pink, a breeze taps your face, the sky starts to get darker right in the middle. It's a
heart-lightening time of day; a stretch out and count your blessings time of day.

If Jim's ever going to relax, this is it.

So he doesn't get any bright ideas about hitting the hay when the light show's over, I
scoot over a little, crouch down next to him. He's got his windbreaker on, and he's sharpening
a marshmallow stick. I take the stick out of one hand and his knife out of the other.

"Save your strength, Jim, because as soon as it gets dark, I'm going to be all over
you; like strawberry frosting on a PopTart," I tell him, in my most seductive tone.

He laughs. That's a good first step.

"Like what? Whatever happened to 'like white on rice'?" he asks.

"I don't think that's PC anymore," I explain. "I mean, where does that leave the brown
rice?"

He snorts, reaching for a stick, but I toss them all out of reach and close his knife.
Give me a minute or two and I'll reach over and put it in his pocket and we'll see where that
gets me.

"What do you know about strawberry frosted PopTarts?" he asks scornfully.

"Hey, man, I saw a whole row of them once, on a field trip to a non-organic
supermarket." I'm not exactly huffy; I've got a plan and a little fracas wouldn't come amiss.

"You're full of shit, Sandburg."

There we go. That's the Jim I know and love.

"No, really. Feather Godwin's mother bagged groceries at the Safeway and we all trooped
down there one day, twelve little kids in two straight lines," I tell him, warming to the tale.
He's right, I am full of shit, but an anthropologist's bread and butter is the telling of
tales, so I plan to make this one good.

"Was the littlest called Madeline?"

Man, nothing escapes this guy.

"All right, all right, fine. So you've read your niece a book or two. You don't want to
sit around the campfire swapping stories, that's cool; whatever." Huff, huff. I check him out;
see if he's buying it. He's not buying it, but we could light our little patch of woods if we
reflected the flashlight off his teeth-he's got a grin from ear to ear.

"I thought you had something else in mind," he says, and oh my God, he's turning the
seduction on me. Yes.

He's stretched out there, with his legs crossed at the ankles, like he owns the whole
woods and everything in it. I guess once you've lived in the jungle for eighteen months, a
couple of nights in the woods of Washington State aren't going to upset your equilibrium. He
looks so at home it makes me wish he could bag all this cop stuff and, I don't know, take up
forestry or something. Be a park ranger. Climb a tower and eye-spy brush fires forty miles
away. Jim would make a really good park ranger.

Of course, I'm not sure where I'd fit in that little scenario-I'm not too fond of
heights, as you'll recall. I can't see climbing one of those fire tower thingies. Makes me
shudder just to think about it. Maybe he could leave me at the base and I could just shout
stuff up to him on an as-needed basis; send his lunch up in a basket on a rope....

"...the hell's the matter with you?"

Uh-oh.

"Sorry, Jim, what were you saying?" I go straight for conciliatory; no point in
bluffing this one out-I'd left the building for sure.

"Where were you?" he asks, shaking his head. Wouldn't you think a man who zones out on
Frisbees could be a little more understanding about a little daydream?

"Sending your lunch up the fire tower in a basket," I say, in a small voice,
half-hoping he won't pursue it.

He's laughing out loud now, all those teeth shining bright white against the dark. I
guess maybe he's starting to relax after all, because usually he'd sigh heavily, clench his jaw
and mutter under his breath about what the hell he'd been thinking letting me into his life.
I've heard it a thousand times. I could recite it by now.

Hey, at least he's singing a different tune this time. I guess that means our little
foray into the bosom of Mother Nature has been good for something after all.


I can see, if there's any fooling around to be done, I'm going to have to get the kid's
head back on the same planet. It's all well and good to have his body here, but frankly, it's
better when the brain's here, too.

"You ain't right," I tell him, and he pretends to take offense for about a minute and a
half, then just nods.

We share an actual moment of silence, rare and surprising in our world, and then I say,
"You don't have to try so hard, you know."

He looks startled. "What do you mean?" he asks.

"I mean, you need to relax a little, Sandburg. It's not a test."

He's moved from startled to disbelieving. "Let me get this straight," he says, leaning
close enough that I can pick out the difference between his shampoo and the detergent we use.
"You are telling me to relax?"

I scrunch down a little more, uncross my legs and put my head back. "Yup."

That gets a hoot out of him, followed by a series of incredulous half-phrases,
punctuated by a snort at the end that would scare a deer at twenty paces. He looks back at me,
and I don't know what he sees, but he sort of deflates, and his face lightens up, and he's
smiling back at me.

"Yeah, yeah, Jim, I can do that," he says. I love his voice. I love it when he's
blabbing about the ingredients in an Egg McMuffin. I love it when he's describing the fields in
the latest spreadsheet miracle he pulled. But I love it most when he's agreeing with me, with
something I've said. I love hearing him say "yes."
 
"I can totally do that," he's saying now, warming to the task. "I don't know what I was
thinking. It's weird."

Maybe later I'll ask him about that, about where he went, about what the hell he meant
by sending up my lunch in a basket, but right now I'm enjoying watching him decompress.

"C'mere," I say, reaching out for him, pulling him to sit between my knees, pressing
his back against my chest and wrapping my arms around him. "See, relaxing's not really about
letting go, not about not paying attention."

He's wriggling against me, settling back, molding his body to mine. "Oh, no?"

"Nope," I say. I reach down to brush his hair away from my chin-sometimes it's like
having a thousand feathers tickling me. "Relaxing's about taking time to pay attention,
and...."

"And what?" he asks, sliding his hands along my thighs, leaving chills and heat behind.

"And liking what you see when you do," I finish, knowing it's not poetry, but hoping
he'll get it.

"Sort of a variation on the carpe diem theme, right?" he says. "Enjoying the moment
enough to concentrate, and remember."

What do you know; he gets it. "Sort of like that, yeah, Chief."

"So what've we got here," he says, dropping even more of his weight against me. I
spread my thighs wider, bring him in closer. I'm sure he can feel me, hard against his back. I
let one hand slip from his chest to his lap, stroking him through his jeans, and he sighs,
stretches his legs out and arches up into my hand.

"Hang on, hang on," he says, putting his hand over mine and pressing down hard,
stopping the motion, but keeping the pressure. "Hang on, let's pay attention. What do you
hear?"

In the quiet, I can hear things he can't. I can hear the voice of the fire, the
conversation between flame and wood. I can hear the lightest whisper of breeze in the treetops,
so faint it's not even a breath against us down at ground level. I can hear Blair's heartbeat,
solid and strong.

"What do you see?" he whispers, dropping his head back on my shoulder, still holding my
hand firmly against him.

God, what do I see? A whole world in my arms. Everything I need to survive, right here,
trapped between my legs.

"Look up," he says, lifting his chin to the sky. Beyond the circle of just us, beyond
the light of our small fire, what should be dark and fathomless seems bright and beckoning.
Stars upon stars upon stars; a vast landscape of light. A sky big enough to make one man's life
seem small. A sky big enough to humble. A sky big enough to absorb us, and all our worries.

"It's like we're right out there, isn't it?" he asks, and he again manages to get it
right in one try.

I don't answer him; he probably doesn't expect me to. I just shift a little, press my
erection hard against his back, and he groans, moving my hand on his crotch again, a deliberate
motion.

He lifts his hands to my knees, giving me free access to him, and about a second later,
I've got his zipper down, and his dick out in the night air. It's hot in my hand, slick around
the head, thick, and hard. His smell mixes with pine sap and wood smoke and marshmallow, and
I'm going to remember that, too. I turn my face into his neck, licking along the vein there,
and he starts to hum under his breath.

"Let's remember this, okay?" His breath catches when I slide my other hand inside his
jeans, rolling his balls in my palm. "Let's pay attention, here."

"Okay," I mutter into his neck, cataloguing every thrust he makes, every sound.

He's a noisy little bugger when he gets like this. At home, sometimes, I feel an urge
to shush him, an instinct to keep him quiet. But out here, we have no limits. No nosy
neighbors, no curious co-workers. Out here, we have an unlimited ceiling, and I push him, push
him harder than I usually do, force the response I want.

He can't touch me-I've got him caged between my thighs and my hands. He's not paying
attention anymore; at least not to anything outside his body. He's sweating in the cool air,
his hips frantic under my hands, his dick a live wire penetrating the circle of my fist. I feel
shudders racing over him, and his hands clench down hard on my knees. I can feel each
individual fingertip branding itself on my skin. He jerks forward, curling in on himself,
pushing up so hard into my hands that he lifts himself up, and I feel his balls tuck in,
nudging up tight against his body, feel his dick swell and pump in my hand, then hot streaks
splash on my wrist, the smell curling up into my nose, making my mouth water.

I stroke him until it's over, until he's unwound himself and sagged back against me
again. I stroke him until he's soft again, smearing us both. I can feel his heartbeat slow from
stroke-out to steady, feel the muscles in his back liquefy against me.

The boy's relaxed.

It's like we're melting into one person, cradled here under the sky.

"Hey, Jim?" he asks a minute later, drowsy, replete.

"Yeah?"

"Fuck me now."

With pleasure, Blair. With pleasure.
 

The End