Chapter Eleven

"What's that?" The earsplitting racket caused Jim to jerk awake.

"'sthe phone...get it...can't..." Blair's voice was muffled by the pillow.

Right. Phone. He got out of bed. The apartment was flooded with early afternoon light. He had to squint to find the beast.

"Uhhh...Sandburg residence."

"Dr. Ellison? It's Simon Banks."

"After all we've been through together, Simon, you might as well call me 'Jim.'"

Simon chuckled. "Suits me. Just wanted to tell you that Bob copped a plea. He'll be away for a good long time anyway. So...you don't have to come in, and no one has to know you drove that car. Work for you?"

"Yeah. Thanks."

"How's Sandburg?"

Jim looked towards the bed. All he saw was curls on top of a blanket cocoon. "Fast asleep. Which I was."

"Sorry." He didn't sound apologetic. "Look, let me know how he gets on, and if you'll need someone to check up on him."

"I'll be around, but...thanks again."

"Not a problem. He's a tough little guy, but tough doesn't always help. Okay....I'll talk to you again."

"Bye, Simon."

There was no use going back to sleep. He was amazed that he'd slept...he checked the clock over the stove...four hours as it was, and without a bit of weed. Somehow, all the *things* - the feelings, the sounds, the light - hadn't kept him awake while he had Blair in his arms. Maybe it would work again.

Blair had stolen all the blankets, but Jim wasn't cold. He lay down beside him and wrapped himself around him. And found himself looking at a pair of open eyes. "Who was that?"

"Simon. Simon Banks. I thought you were asleep."

"Was. Longest I've slept in...I can't remember." He stretched. Jim could feel the heavy cast next to the nothingness. "Oh, that feels good." He squirmed out of his cocoon and hugged Jim. "Yeah. It's been too long since I've done this."

Jim smiled at him. "It does feel good. *You* feel good." He let his hand drift over Blair's face, touching his lips, stroking the heavy stubble on his chin, tracing the shape of his eyebrows, and following the long curls to his ears. "Why two earrings on one ear?"

Blair chuckled. "It was on leave. It was a few weeks before, well. Bunch of us from my OCS class, those that were still alive. We'd gotten wasted on stuff I'd rather not think about now - I put too much up my nose those days. Henry had these earrings he was going to give his girl back home. But then...someone had the bright idea of piercing my ear. Except, I don't really have earlobes...see? Attached. And they had the needle, which they soaked in whiskey, but they got it too high, so they tried again. And Henry put both earrings in. Said I was prettier than his girl anyway. God. I soaked my ear in alcohol for a week. Tied a scarf over it." Blair grinned, then sobered. "Henry died two weeks later. Damn." He buried his head in Jim's shoulder.

"He was a good friend?" Jim fought hard to control his jealousy.

Blair's voice was muffled. "I hated him. He was a bully and a rotten commander, and he got fragged by his men. But...I wouldn't let them take those earrings off even in the hospital. It's a little mutilation next to my big one..." He clung to Jim, who stroked the ear in question.

"It's okay. It fits you...because you aren't like anyone else." Blair made a sound. "No, I don't mean that. It's...something else about you. Look at me, beautiful."

"I said..." Blair's eyes blazed.

"I don