In the end, it wasn't the hand on his shoulder, the fingers ruffling his hair. Wasn't even the way Jim had of ushering him out of a room with the palm of his hand snug in the small of Blair's back, fingers spread as if Jim wanted to claim as much territory as possible.
No. It was a single shoulder bump in the middle of the sidewalk, making Blair spill latte down his last clean shirt, that made him crack.
"Jim? Why are you in my personal space all the time?"
"Personal space," Jim repeated flatly. "Spare me the babble, Sandburg."
"No, seriously. It's a wide, empty sidewalk in the middle of the night, and you're close enough that we're brushing arms." Blair studied his depleted coffee, shrugged, and lobbed it into a nearby trashcan after swallowing what was left. "Make that bumping arms." He warmed to his theme as they continued down the street. "I mean, it's not like you need to be close to hear what I'm saying. We could be walking on opposite sides of the street at rush hour and you'd still hear me whisper."
"Yes, I would."
Why was Jim looking at him like that? Bemused, a little impatient. "So why are you crowding me? Why are you --"
"Chief," Jim interrupted. "I want to show you something."
"Show, not tell." Jim moved to the edge of the sidewalk. "You go over there, by the store fronts. Let's put some space between us, okay?"
"Sure," Blair said a little uncertainly as they began to walk, the width of the sidewalk between them. "I can do that."
He watched Jim for a few steps, and noted the way Jim was placing his feet carefully, his left foot always landing about six inches from the edge of the sidewalk. Walking a straight line… he supposed Jim had been trained to do that. Right. And he was over here, with all the store fronts to stare into as he passed. Hey, Looking Bookwards had a sale on non fiction. Cool. He'd come back in the morning and check that out.
Jim had gained ground on him as he'd lingered by the bookstore; Blair hurried to catch up with him, suddenly remembering that he hadn't told Jim about the leaking tap in the bathroom. If anything was designed to play hell with a Sentinel's sleep… Maybe they could put a towel in the sink overnight…or would the muted thud of the drops hitting soaked fabric annoy Jim as much as them striking porcelain?
Hmm. He'd never really investigated what stimuli really grated on Jim. Maybe -- His musings were interrupted by a gentle bump and he blinked and stared up at Jim.
Still six inches from the edge of the sidewalk, his coat sleeve inches away from Blair's.
Bair turned and charted the path his feet had taken. A direct line, right to Jim, who was smiling now, amused but mercifully silent as he watched Blair connect the dots.
Not Jim. Him. Blair crowding close, Blair moth to flaming, Blair invading, pushing in, crowding Jim --
He made a croaked, embarrassed sound that might have been 'oops', his face hot. Before he could back away, well away, Jim frowned, put his arm around Blair's shoulders and guided them both into the middle of the sidewalk.
"I don't mind, you know," Jim said lightly, his hand dropping away.
Blair swallowed. "I never noticed I was doing it. Shit, man, I'm sorry!" All those times, all those sidelong looks they must have gotten, people wondering why Jim let him get so near…
"I did." Jim's expression was hesitant now, all amusement gone. "I don't mind," Jim said again carefully.
To Blair it sounded just like, 'don't stop' and he felt relief wash over him, cool and sweet. He nudged Jim with his elbow as they started off again, deliberate, playful, and got a shoulder shove back that sent him staggering.
And Jim's hand was on his arm a moment later, keeping him from falling, pulling him close.
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