Ch-ch-ch-changes by Silk

Ch-ch-ch-changes - Silk

I don't know if I can still do this. I mean, I used to do it. Pretty well. I even got a degree or two for doing it. But you know what they say, you're only as good as your last, well...that's what they say.

It's not as if I'm not used to looking at him. When...he's not looking, of course. Oh, man, but when is he ever not looking?

He never turns it off. That...thing he does.

Jeez, he can prolly hear me thinking right now. Not that he would say anything. Saying something might change things, and boy, we all know how he feels about change.

Um...what was I sposed to be doing? Oh, yeah, writing. I don't know why I suddenly feel scared. It's just a dissertation. It's just the day I've been freaking working towards all my life. It's just my chance to matter.

Hey, where'd that last one come from?

Anyway, as I was, um, thinking...

"Chief!"

My master calls. Heh. Wish that were true. Er, funny.

*****

"Grocery run," Jim says with an ambiguous grin.

"Again? We just went to the store yesterday."

"I know. Oh, and Chief, don't forget the reusable bags."

"Since when have you ever been concerned about the environment?"

"Hey, I'm all about protecting Mother Earth. I am a Sentinel, you know."

"I know, I know," I mutter. "Just you never seemed to care what kind of bags we used."

"Not true, Sandburg. You need to be more observant."

"I'm a freaking observer, Jim, if I was any more...observant...I'd...explode."

Jim raises an eyebrow as he cocks his head quizzically. "Are you angry about something, Sandburg?"

As much as I expected it, the question takes me by surprise. I don't trust myself to open my mouth, though. So for once, I shut it and keep it shut.

*****

"There she is," Jim sings out, smiling so wide, you'd think his cheeks would crack under the strain.

I look in the direction he's staring, and I get it. I finally get it. Of course. What else could put that gleam in the man's eye?

"She's in charge of recycling," he says to me by way of explanation before we approach the captivating redhead near the checkout. What is it with Jim and redheads? Maybe it's a genetic thing. I should explore that in my next...in my next what? If I publish this thesis, what makes me think I'll get a chance to do another one? In fact, if I do publish this one, my life is over.

Well, the part of my life that never started to begin with.

Recycling, my ass. "Jim, I shoulda known--"

"Known what, Sandburg?"

"That if you didn't have a major case of OCD, you wouldn't care about garbage at all," I snap.

"I do not have OCD," Jim says shakily, trying to hold the redhead's eye.

"Then you sure got one hell of a cleaning fetish."

"Allergies."

The redhead smiles. "You two are so cute together."

The look on Jim's face is priceless. I'd laugh if my heart wasn't this close to breaking. "We're not--I mean, I'm not--"

"It's okay," she whispers. "I can keep a secret."

"It's not a secret," Jim protests. "It's--"

"I'm glad. It can be really hard to come out--"

"I'm not out, I'm in, way in. Way way in--"

"You're so funny. I am glad you got bitten by the recycling bug, though. It's our chance to do something positive, give back to the earth--"

"Screw the earth!" Jim sputters.

"Jim!" I shout.

Even the redhead looks perturbed. This is not the way any of us envisioned this conversation going.

I lean in to the redhead and whisper, "He'll be better once I get him home."

"Chief!" Jim says in a strangled voice that suggests I might be next.

*****

I may be small, but I'm wiry. Plus I know a couple of wrestling holds. Hey, I wasn't completely out of my depth handling Jim. Besides, I know deep down he doesn't really want to hurt me. Well, not that way, anyway.

"You do realize we left the groceries back at the store," Jim says icily. Oh, yeah, the temp in the room just dropped a few hundred degrees.

"I can't believe you, man."

"You can't believe me? What the hell was that back there, Sandburg?"

"A minor misunderstanding--" I shrug helplessly.

"Minor? The future love of my life thinks I'm gay? You think that's minor?"

"The future love of your life? She doesn't even know your name, man."

"Oh, right, this from the poster boy for relationships," Jim snarls.

That gives me a frightening mental picture. Jaguar. Biting. I shudder. "You are so not thinking straight--"

"Nice choice of words, Sandburg."

"It's a gift."

"It's a curse."

"Am I interrupting something?"

"Mom!"

"Naomi!"

My mother has the worst timing in the world. But no matter how many times I try to tell her her little boy is all grown up now, she refuses to get the message. Hey, she's a redhead, too. I think I'm going to be sick.

"How did you get in here?" Jim snaps. None of his usual sparkling hospitality. Oh, no. He's gunning for her, make no mistake. Anyone named Sandburg seems to be fair game at the moment.

"I've got a key," she says, all poised and confident-like. Nothing shakes my mother. Nothing.

"For emergencies, Mom. This is not an emergency--"

Jim's head swivels around like it's on a rotisserie. Ugh, another great mental picture. "Oh, I don't know, Chief, it could become one. Any moment."

Chief. He called me Chief. A few moments ago, it was Sandburg, Sandburg, and Sandburg. He's starting to cool down. Or he's playing with me. Yikes, don't go there.

"Mom, this is not a good time--"

"It really isn't," Jim says with a feral grin that reminds me of another wildlife moment somewhere in South America.

"Well..." Naomi's hesitating. Go, go quick, and maybe he'll let me live.

I nearly slam the door on her, but not before pocketing the spare key I gave her. I promise to tell her what this is all about, but hell, I don't even know what this is all about anymore. I thought I knew. But this...is something else.

"Jim--"

"Sit."

"But Jim--"

"Sit."

I guess I didn't move fast enough because a moment later, my legs are swept out from under me and I sit. Involuntarily.

I start to explain, but Jim cuts me off. "Don't speak."

"But--"

"You'll give me ideas." There is a hint of menace in his tone of voice, but mostly he sounds...intrigued. In a highly erotic, totally sensual, I'm gonna get what's coming to me, kind of way. But I could be reading into it.

Jim is still grinning, but it's a lazy drawl of a smile. "So there is a way to shut you up, after all."

I think about speaking, but I like the look on his face way too much.

"Let's forget about this afternoon."

I nod.

"Let's explore some of those possibilities that you must have cooked up in that little genius head of yours."

I blink. This from a man who does not even change his toothbrush a day late? "I th-thought you didn't like change, man."

"This? This isn't change, Chief. This is progress. There's a difference." And I swear, the man licks his lips as he looks me up and down. I am one massive stroke away from nirvana.

He lowers his head and bends close enough that I can feel the sweep of his eyelashes on my face. There's enough of a pause that I could turn away if I wanted, and I sense somehow Jim would allow it.

But there is no way in hell I could turn away now.

The first touch of his mouth on mine renders me boneless. Absolutely boneless. As hard as it is to think, I can still feel him waiting. For what? Complete capitulation? I can go with that.

I kiss him back, and I smile at the shocked tremor that runs through him. He didn't know we'd be this good together? His hands, those big, warm hands tighten on either side of my face. He's breathing hard. In between kisses.

"Jim?"

"Yeah?" he whispers as if talking loud would somehow mar the moment.

"I love you."

"I know."

"You know?"

"I've worked my way through an awful lot of redheads to get to this point, Chief."

I pout. He laughs. Yeah, yeah, change is inevitable, but resistance is pretty damn futile.

The end

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Acknowledgments: Thanks to Patt for the cover.