Chapter Three

The sky was sparkling clear when they left the restaurant. There was a crescent moon way up high and the sky was full of stars.

"Oh, God." Blair's voice was filled with wonder. "I've been here two years. I don't think I've ever seen a sky that beautiful in all that time."

Jim nodded. "I grew up here. My dad still lives's a rare thing."

"You mind if I drive a little way out of town? Just to get out of these lights?" Blair turned to him, the streetlights reflected in his eyes. They danced in the lights. "I guess I could drop you off first, but, prof, with your eyesight..."

Jim glanced at his watch. It was barely ten o'clock. "Sounds cool to me, Chief." Somehow, he wasn't worried about getting lost in the stars, as he so often did back in Virginia. Often enough that he stopped looking at the sky entirely.

The restaurant was on the edges of town as it was. It didn't take long to find someplace out of the city glow - a stretch of unlit highway near some open fields. Blair found a blanket in his trunk and handed it to Jim. When they found a good spot, Jim spread it out and Blair promptly and surprisingly gracefully sat down on it, stretching his prosthesis in front of him as he lay down. His eyes were hidden by the eyeglasses he'd put on as soon as he took the wheel of his car. And he smiled and patted the blanket next to him.

Jim joined him, lying so close he could feel Blair's heartbeat. He took a deep breath and looked up, staring at the stars, but not letting himself really look at them.

"What do you see, prof?"

Jim shrugged awkwardly. "Stars. The moon. Couple of fireflies, I guess."

"Hell, I see that." Jim felt a hand touch his shoulder. "Oh, man, you are *so* tense. Just relax, go with it. Nothing's going to happen here."

He reached up and took that hand. It was the same strong, calloused one he'd held so briefly that evening, the one that fit his like it was made to. For once, Jim didn't suppress those thoughts. 'Maybe soon...'

"Good, Jim. Hold my hand. I'm here, you're safe." Blair's coffee voice took on a rhythm that soothed and stimulated him at the same time. "Reach out with all of your senses. Let your eyes follow the stars; let your ears hear the silence..."

"It's not silent. There are...buzzes and chirps and I can hear some cars and the wind is blowing towards the bay..." Even to his own ears, his voice sounded lazy and relaxed.

"Good, good. What else, Jim? What else do you sense?"

"The stars. What we're here for. They...the longer I look, the more there are, and they're in all colors and they fill the sky. It's...the most glorious thing. They feel so close, as close as you are, I can almost touch them." He picked up his other hand to demonstrate. "If I let myself, I could be there...never have to come back here."

Blair grasped his hand more tightly. "Oh, no, you don't. Stay here, Jim. There's plenty here...what do you feel?"

"You. Your hand in mine - or is my hand in yours? Your heartbeat; your....warmth. Your presence. I don't feel anything else." Jim fell into silence. How could he say so much?

"It's okay. Whatever you feel is cool." Now Blair was stroking his hand with his thumb, making his arm, his body tingle. Jim could not repress a sigh. He should let go. He should stand up and ask, no demand, to be taken home. He should find the highway and hitch a ride back, and then out of Cascade, as far from this man as possible. He should