by Kass


This was written for the TS "Getting a Sense of Cliches" ficathon. Many thanks to Sanj (Justine) for the beta!

My Quechua syntax is almost certainly wrong, since I don't speak the language. My apologies to any Quechua-speakers whose sensibilities are offended! And, of course, kindly remember that while these words are mine, these characters are not, and no infringement is intended.

The boys are theirs, the words are mine. This is news?

Blair Sandburg rolled over and stared at the ceiling. Getting to sleep was apparently not in the cards.

It should have seemed strange that he was still in his room. The plan, such as it was, had called for skipping town after he cleaned out his office at Rainier and paid a final depressing visit to the PD. Of course, that wasn't how things went -- thank God, honestly, because it was a shitty plan--so here he was. Old room. New job. No sleep.

The best solution for insomnia was replaying the day in your mind. One of his first meditation teachers had taught him that, the summer he was eleven, when Naomi took them to that yoga retreat center in New Mexico and they wound up staying until fall. It was an easy technique: watch the day in your mind, like a movie, and then release it so you can start the next day fresh.

Blair doubted he could start the next day fresh no matter what, but he closed his eyes and let the rollercoaster carry him away again.

He hadn't wanted to run into anybody at the PD: leaving was going to be hard enough without dealing with the looks on their faces. Besides, what if somebody asked where he was going? He hadn't exactly figured that out. (Berkeley, probably. Seemed like a decent place for failed academics and ex-hippies.)

And then the world turned upside-down. Simon in the wheelchair. Badge flying through the air. The look on Jim's face.

And then he went out to lunch with all of Major Crimes and his mother, for crying out loud. He wasn't sure what was more embarrassing: the way she flirted with Simon or how she started crying when she stood up to toast Blair's new life.

He was never letting her drink that much rose at lunchtime again.

The euphoria started to wear off after he dropped her at the airport, when he remembered the pile of boxes, detritus of his graduate student career. He hauled them into his bedroom, stacked them precariously against one wall, and spent way too long staring at the contents of the first one he opened.

Moleskin notebooks, their grid paper wobbly from damp, filled with field notes. Mini-cassette cartridges with initials and dates on them...

A better Buddhist would be able to let go of all of this. Blair opened his hands, wanting the physical gesture to carry emotional weight, but it didn't do much.

Jim limped home around seven-thirty. The minute he unlocked the door, Blair smelled Thai food.

"I got you a tofu masaman," Jim called on his way into the kitchen.

Peace offering. "Thanks, man," Blair said, and stood up, wincing when his knees creaked. Physical training was going to be a bitch. How many guys went into the Academy at thirty, anyway?

Jim appeared in his doorway. "I can lend a hand with that stuff, if you want," he said, gesturing lamely towards the wall of boxes.

Blair managed a smile. "Nah, thanks, I'll get there eventually."

"Suit yourself. Offer stands." Jim thudded his way back to the kitchen. "Want a beer?"

They watched a game over dinner, and as the Jags sank basket after basket, Blair catalogued all the ways in which the day could have been worse.

He still had a place to live. He had work to do--work he was pretty sure he could do well, since he'd been basically doing it for three years anyway. And he still had his best friend.

If they weren't the kind of friends Blair wanted them to be, well...that wasn't anything new. Wasn't Jim's fault Blair had developed a crush he couldn't shake. At least he'd never made a pass at Jim; as awkward as this mess was, that would've been a whole lot worse.

All things considered, he was in better shape than he probably had any right to be. But getting to sleep seemed statistically unlikely...

Birdcalls. Damp air. A million shades of green, everywhere. Blair was in the jungle.

"Cool," he said, aloud, and grinned.

He didn't hear the leaves rustle, but suddenly Incacha was standing before him. He looked exactly the same as he had the last time Blair saw him: the same solemn facial expression, the same bizarrely anachronistic Teva sandals.

"Hey," Blair said. "Um, buen dia?"

"Chimpay," Incacha said.

Blair racked his brains for anything he could say in Quechua, anything at all, but fortunately Incacha beckoned when he said it again, then turned and headed into the trees. Right. Guess it meant "follow me." Or something.

Incacha was fast, but Blair kept up. Somewhere along the trail, Blair realized he had to be dreaming. That made it even cooler -- Castaneda said lucid dreams were a hallmark of shamanic capability, and whatever else Castaneda had bullshitted about, it was cool to think he was right about that.

Abruptly Incacha stopped, and turned to face him.

"Ajjlay," he said. "Allinchay. Ayni, inchar?"

Okay, there was something seriously weird about dreaming in a language he couldn't actually speak. What was his brain trying to tell him? Had he somehow internalized more Quechua than he thought he had? "I don't understand," Blair said. "English, okay?"

"Puririy ayni." Incacha's voice was intent.

Blair was getting a little bit annoyed with his subconscious. "C'mon," he said.

"Khuska," Incacha said, and beamed. And then Blair woke up.

"What language do you dream in?"

Jim looked thoughtful as he finished his bite of pancake. "English, I guess." He reached for the maple syrup. "Don't you?"

"Yeah, usually. But last night --" Blair hesitated, briefly, feeling strangely protective of the memory. "I dreamed about Incacha. And he was talking to me in Quechua."

Jim chuckled. "You think it was Quechua; it was probably just nonsense syllables."

Blair closed his eyes, trying hard to remember. "Ayni," he said, finally. "Khuska."

Jim put his coffee cup down a little bit more loudly than usual. His eyes were distant. "Together," he said, quietly. "Helping each other."

"Shit," Blair said. The hair on the backs of his arms prickled.

Guess it wasn't just a dream, after all.

It was weird not having anywhere to go. On the first day, Blair filled out an online application for the Academy, which didn't take much time. He set up a webmail account and asked the sysadmin at Rainier to forward his email.

He unpacked some boxes, and labeled some other ones and taped them shut and shoved them into the closet, and if the implications of putting his old life in the closet were worrisome he opted to ignore that for the time being.

On the second day, feeling oddly housewife-like, he cleaned every surface in the loft. Chemical-free cleaning supplies required more elbow grease, but they worked okay. Plus it gave him something to do.

It was funny when Jim got home, actually. Blair could almost see "you don't have to clean the house" colliding with "maybe it makes him feel better, I shouldn't give him a hard time" behind his eyes. In the end Jim just said "looks good in here" as he hobbled to the fridge, then offered Blair a cold beer.

By midweek he was chafing at the inactivity. Wishing Simon were back on duty so he could come back into the PD again. Even helping with Jim's paperwork would be better than kicking around the house unemployed. By the time he got to start the Academy, he'd be so relieved to have something to do with himself that the nervousness wouldn't even register.

Plus, he was still having the Incacha dreams. Or visions. Whatever. The novelty had worn off, and the fact that he couldn't understand them was starting to drive him nuts. "What's the point of a vision quest if I can't understand the vision?" Blair poured himself another cup of tea and sat back down at the table.

"You're not on a vision quest," Jim objected.

"I'm starting a new chapter of my life and suddenly I'm having dreams where the spirit of the shaman who, I don't know, minted me is trying to tell me something? It's a vision quest."

"Minted you?" Jim's voice was deadpan, but his eyes were amused.

Despite himself, Blair laughed a little. "Okay, it sounds goofy."

"Nah, I know what you mean." There was kindness in Jim's expression, which shouldn't have made Blair feel worse, but it did.

"This is so frustrating." Blair threw his hands up. "I just wish you could..."

Well, there were a lot of things he wished Jim could do. Most of which weren't fit for dinner-table conversation. But at this specific moment he wished Jim could come with him.

Into the dream. Which wasn't actually a dream, it was a vision.

Which meant Jim probably could. "I've got it!"

"I'm not going to like this," Jim said, but Blair could tell the protest was just for form's sake.

He ignored it. "Clear your agenda for the evening. We're gonna talk to Incacha."

It was kind of amazing, when he stopped to think about it. Once upon a time Jim would have been all, "this isn't going to work" and "turn that damn didgeridoo music off" and "Sandburg, are you out of your mind?"

This time Jim just shrugged and said, "okay."

After they washed the dishes, and after both of them had brushed their teeth and changed into sweatpants and T-shirts--loose, nonconstrictive clothing was best for this kind of thing--Jim came and knocked on the frame of his door. "You good to go?"

It usually took about twelve minutes to get Jim into a trance, so Blair set the stereo to play the first five tracks, just to be on the safe side. He sat down next to Jim on the couch.

"So the part I'm not sure about is how to make sure we wind up in the same trance."

Jim shrugged a little. "Maybe we should be touching?"

"That's kind of what I thought, too."

Jim's hand was warm and firm and dry. Not for the first time Blair reminded himself not to think inappropriate thoughts with Jim right next to him. He took a deep breath.

Even the smell of toothpaste was sexy on Jim. That said something seriously sad about the state of Blair's romantic life, didn't it?

"Okay, okay, focus," he said, out loud, willing his mind back to the matter at hand. "We're going to close our eyes. We're going to take long slow breaths, counting backwards from a hundred to one. We're going to listen to our heartbeats, and move inward toward the place where the visions are."

Jim squeezed his hand once, unexpectedly, and then exhaled a long deep breath. Blair synchronized his breathing with Jim's, picturing the place in the jungle where he and Incacha had met the last three nights. One hundred...ninety-nine...ninety-eight...

"Nice work, Chief."

Blair opened his eyes. They were standing in the forest. He laughed out loud. "All right!"

Jim grinned at him and squeezed his hand again, then let it drop. "So...now what?"

"Usually Incacha just appears."

"From where?"

Blair rolled his eyes. "You think I can tell the difference? It all looks the same to me."

Jim cocked his head slightly.

"Can you see anything?"

Jim narrowed his eyes. "Hey," he said, then stared into the distance.

"What is it?"

"Incacha's beckoning," Jim said, and jerked his head towards their left. "This way."

They walked for a long way, Jim stopping to gaze deep into the trees every few minutes and realigning their course. There wasn't much of a path, but the underbrush was light, and it wasn't muddy. Small blessings.

"He doesn't usually make me walk this far," Blair huffed, after a while.

Jim shrugged. "He wanted us to come to him this time."

Eventually they reached a clearing, where sure enough, Incacha sat on a downed tree truck.

"Napaykuy," Jim said, bringing his hands together over his heart.

"Napaykuy, Enquiri."

Neither of them was smiling, but Blair could feel intensity between them. He wondered whether Jim had dreamed of Incacha since the shaman's death. How long had it been for Incacha, anyway? Did he experience time the way they did now that he was on the other side?

Incacha stood, looked from Blair to Jim, and then spoke to Jim. "Atinikuy, ichar?"

"He's telling us to trust each other." Jim's voice was quiet.

"K'askay kusa."

"Ah--he says, sticking together is good."

"Yeah, okay." Blair's heart was racing. He couldn't believe this was working. Holy shit this was cool.

"Sonqoyoj pusay." Incacha gestured at Blair, then looked at Jim expectantly.

"He says you guide well, you guide with heart."

"Tratochay," Incacha said, pointing first at Blair and then at Jim. "Kasarakuy."

Jim inhaled, startled.

Incacha rattled off a burst of Quechua, too fast for Blair to follow this time.

"No way," Jim said, then more forcefully, "Ama."

"Jim. What's going on?"

"Trust me, you don't want to --"

Incacha raised a hand, like a warning.

"He wants us to make a covenant," Jim said. He took a deep breath. "The word he's using usually means marriage."

"Are you serious?" Blair glanced away from Incacha. Jim looked like he wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry.

Part of Blair's mind was wondering about homosocial relationships among the Quechua--did Incacha mean what they were hearing? But mostly Blair was focused on Jim, and his buzzing excitement transmuted into concern. "It's cool," Blair said, softly, placing a hand on Jim's arm.

"Incacha," Jim started, his voice pleading.

"Ch'utilluch'utiy," Incacha said, firmly.

Blair waited.

"He says we should take off our pants." Jim's voice was slightly strangled, his face reddening.

"Atiniqoy muskoy."

"Trust the dream." Jim was repeating almost without affect, now, not looking at Blair at all.

Blair exhaled a long breath. "All right. Look, tell him we really appreciate the visitation, and the --" he bit back something dangerously like a laugh, "the counsel, but--"

"Kacharpari," Incacha said, smiling broadly.

And then Blair woke up. Heart racing. The loft was dark except for the tiny blinking lights of the stereo and the microwave--he should have thought to turn on a lamp somewhere before they went under.

No movement from Jim.

"You --" He had to clear his throat; his first word didn't quite come out. "You okay?"

"Define 'okay.'"

Blair had a moment to feel relieved that at least Jim had woken up from the trance, too, before Jim went on.

"Exactly how 'okay' do you expect me to be, given what Incacha just said?"

Okay. This was not a good time to panic. This was a good time to be cool and collected. To live up to what Incacha obviously thought he was capable of. Whatever that was.

"Close your eyes, I'm going to turn on a light," Blair said. "And then I'm getting us each a drink. We need to talk."

This was some kind of surreal. Jim stared into his highball glass as though it held answers. Blair looked at their reflections in the window, watching Jim steadfastly not-watching him.

"Maybe he meant something else." It sounded lame even to him, but it was a start.

Jim took a swig from his glass. "I doubt it," he said, darkly. "Quechua's not a very metaphorical language."

"So you don't think 'take your pants off' meant, um, 'make yourselves vulnerable emotionally,' or anything."

Jim shook his head. He wasn't laughing. Fuck.

"Okay. We can get past this." Blair wasn't sure which one of them he was trying to reassure.

"Past this?" Jim turned to look at him, this time, and Blair had to school himself not to flinch at the anger in Jim's eyes. "This is a hell of a week for this kind of bullshit, Sandburg."

"You're telling me," Blair muttered.

"I think we've 'gotten past' about everything we can, this week. And it is not fair of him to take advantage of --"

Blair waited, then pushed a little. "Advantage of?"

"Of the place you're in, to suggest this crap."

Despite himself, Blair's heart sank. Jim sounded disgusted. Whatever small hope he'd been nourishing--that Incacha's suggestion was designed to make his life work the way he desperately wanted--guttered and died.

"Look. Jim." Blair took a deep breath. "He was trying to suggest what he thought was best for us. Maybe he thinks we'll work better together if...if that bond is there."

"No fucking way."

"I get it," Blair said, more irritably than he intended. "I get it, okay? It's your idea of hell. Let it go."

Jim drained his glass, then set it down carefully on the coffee table. "That's not the point."

"Isn't it?" Blair was starting to feel angry.

"You've already sacrificed too much."

Right, Blair wanted to yell, which is why I don't want to sacrifice this! But he didn't. He took a long, deep breath.

"You gave up your job," Jim said, barely audibly. "You gave up everything for me. That's what he doesn't get. I couldn't ask you to..."

For a split second Blair's heart seemed to stop. His mind was whirling. "For the record," he said finally, proud that his voice wasn't shaking, "I'd rather have your friendship than some stupid associate professorship."

Jim closed his eyes. "Friendship is one thing. This isn't a line I can ask you to cross."

Holy shit. Holy shit!

"Jim, you idiot," Blair said, the weight of the world removed from his shoulders for the second time this week.

Jim looked at him, confusion written across his face.

"I'd cross that line in a heartbeat, man."

Jim tasted like Oban, sweet and spicy, and like the Oban he made Blair dizzy. Jim was broad and solid against his chest, his hand was large against the small of Blair's back, and Blair wanted to keep kissing him pretty much for ever.

Except for that whole breathing thing.

"I guess I really can keep a secret," Blair managed, giddily, when they broke apart.

"Shut up, Sandburg," Jim said, sounding happier than Blair had ever heard him, and pushed him onto his back on the couch.

"I mean, you really never knew?"

Jim tugged one of the cushions out of the way. "Sandburg."

"Thank God for Incacha," Blair said, bursting with joy.

"Chief. Shut up." And then Jim was lying on top of him, holding him to the couch, and as they kissed he thrust up and felt Jim's answering thrust down. He gasped in Jim's ear. "Make that noise again and I'm going to lose it," Jim warned.

He should have known that horny Jim would sound an awful lot like annoyed Jim.

And then Jim bit at the side of his neck, and Blair couldn't help moaning, and Jim shuddered and choked back something that sounded suspiciously like his first name.

It was about the hottest thing Blair had ever experienced, and he said so.

"Jesus, I can't wait to fuck you," Jim whispered, right into his ear, and Blair surprised himself by coming like a freight train at the thought.

The first thing that was different was waking up in Jim's bed. The light was different up here. The whole room felt different. The mattress was different. Plus there was the whole matter of Jim, naked, right next to him.

And he hadn't had any more dreams. He had to admit he was kind of relieved about that. He appreciated Incacha's help, and everything, but he wasn't sure he felt like thanking the guy in person.

Cautiously, he let himself think about work for a second. He tried the mental image on, gingerly, waiting for it to hurt.

Oddly enough, it didn't feel so bad. Officer Blair Sandburg. Had kind of a nice ring to it. Even if it would probably make his mother cringe for the next five years.

Blair stifled a laugh.

"What's funny," Jim murmured, still half-asleep.

"Nothing," Blair said, turning to look at him. With his eyes closed Jim looked strangely vulnerable. Trusting. Also spectacular.

And apparently Blair was going to get to wake up to this again. More or less from here on out, if Incacha was right.

"Just making sure I'm not dreaming," he said, softly, and watched Jim smile, and burrow into his pillow, and return to sleep again.

The End