Bucket and Spade

by Jane Davitt

"It's so… big." Jim can tell that Blair's trying to understand the fear behind his stammered, sparse words, but empathy can only go so far when a phobia isn't shared.

"Seventy percent of the earth's surface," Blair says helpfully. "You live on a watery planet, Jim."

"I can take it in small doses," he growls. Blair's probably regretting bringing the subject up now. Good. "Rivers. Lakes. Just not when that's all there is. When I can turn around and see nothing but water to the horizon in every direction. When it's under me, going down miles." He shudders. "Guess I'm not as cured as we thought, Chief."

Blair throws a stone into the waves lapping against the shore. It catches the light of the setting sun and glints once before striking the surface with a 'schloop' sound and sinking.

"Did you hear that?" Jim asks. It had been such an oddly satisfying sound that it's restored his good humor; he wants someone to share it with. He gets tired of symphonies played only for his ears.

Blair nods and mimics it, grinning, his face twisted comically as he draws the word out. Jim wants to kiss him, taste the salt on his lips, feel the roughness the ocean winds have scoured into the softness. They don't do that, though. Kiss in public. Not even here, where a passing gull is the only witness. Jim's not sure whose rule it is, but he wants to break it.

"But this is good?" Blair says after a moment, his forehead wrinkled slightly with concern. He gestures to the ocean, with its burnished, sun-bronzed waves rolling in. "This doesn't bother you?"

They've surfed, Blair's compact, agile body learning quickly, but his enthusiasm dimming after swallowing a gallon of brine. There will be bruises on him later from the board and he'll be stiff tomorrow, head to toe. Jim's looking forward to working Blair's body pliant again, his hands oil-slicked, welcome and welcomed on Blair's skin. Surfed, walked, eaten gritty food, drunk warm beer…Jim's skin is tingling with mild sunburn and drying salt and his head aches from squinting against the diamond-dazzle of light on water.

He rolls onto his stomach, his back to the water, and smiles up at Blair, whose hair is stringy, sticky, and dark with water from a final swim. Blair will wash it later and Jim will comb it for him, untangle each strand, draw them through his fingers and watch them cling to his skin.

"This is good," he assures Blair, and pulls Blair's hand, tugging him down until Blair's close enough to kiss, a salt-sweet, sand-dry kiss, no more than a brush of their mouths.

Blair pats Jim's face after the kiss in a silent thank you, then spoils the moment by chirping, "The human body is about two-thirds water; did you know that, Jim?"

Jim sighs. "Remind me never to tell you about my phobias again."

"It's good to face them," Blair says, lecture mode engaged, his expression earnest. "Deal with them. Experience them. Most of fear is based on ignorance."

"Fine," Jim says and flicks a fine, dry scatter of sand at Blair. "I'm terrified of burgers. Let's go and get to know one intimately and I'll try not to freak out in the drive-thru line."


"And sex," Jim continues remorselessly, enjoying himself now. "I'm terrified of blow jobs, too, I just never felt comfortable telling you that before. I think you're going to need to show me just how wrong I am, Chief. Tonight would be good. After the burger."

Blair purses his mouth up, aggravated and amused in equal parts from what Jim can tell. "How about you blow me after the stir fry I plan to cook, and I use chicken not tofu, and don't make you help with the dishes?"

Jim starts to pack up and doesn't bother hiding his grin. "Done."

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