A wind having the same general direction as an object already in motion.
A wind that propels.
"OK, on three. One... two...three!" With explosive grunts, the two men strained to lift the upright piano, making it up half a flight of steps to the landing before letting it drop with a thud and a discordant jangle of notes.
"Remind me... again... why I'm doing this," Blair panted, bracing his hands on his knees in an attempt to catch his breath. His eyes stung with sweat, and his hair had worked loose from its ponytail and was clinging damply to his face and neck. He blotted his face with his grubby shirttail.
"Because Robby and I covered your ass last month while you took an unannounced trip to Peru," came a voice from above them. "Don't be such a baby, Blair, it's only three floors up."
"This thing weighs a ton, Emma," Rob complained. "Couldn't we have gotten a synthesizer or something?"
Emma glared at them from the landing above. "We most certainly could not," she said. "My grandmother gave me that piano. It's a family heirloom."
"Your grandmother never lived in a building without an elevator," Rob muttered. "OK, Blair, you ready to go again?"
"Sure thing, man," Blair replied. They bent to the task again, gaining the third floor landing with a desperate heave. Once on the level floor of the hallway, they were able to roll the piano into the apartment, where Emma had cleared a space for it.
Blair groaned, stretching his sore back. "Why on earth did we leave the heaviest thing for last?" he asked.
"It was the first thing on the truck," replied Emma, practically. "Hey, do you guys want some dinner? I could order a pizza."
"Dinner?" Blair jolted upright from where he had collapsed on the sofa. "What time is it?"
"Five seventeen," Rob said.
"Shit! I'm supposed to meet Jim at six for a stakeout tonight, and the loft is twenty minutes the other way from the station," Blair said. "I could shower there, but I don't have any clothes with me. Damn it! Jim is going to be so pissed."
"Breathe, Blair," said Emma. "It'll be fine. You can use our shower, and I'm sure Robby can dig out some clothes for you to borrow."
Blair was still for a moment, calculating times and distances. He nodded, then started towards the bathroom, peeling off his shirt as he went. "Thanks, Em," he said, over his shoulder. "You're a lifesaver."
"I'll leave the clothes outside the bathroom door," Emma called after him.
reply was drowned out by the sound of running water.
Major Crimes was, as always, full of activity. Jim paid little attention to the noise, focusing instead on the file he was studying in preparation for the night's stakeout. With a corner of his mind, he noted the distinct sound of the Corvair's engine as it pulled into the parking garage. He glanced at his watch; only three minutes late. Sandburg must be having a good day. Returning to the report he had been reading, he absently tracked Blair's heartbeat as it came steadily nearer.
Jim tilted his head, puzzled. There was something odd about the sound today. A little faster than usual, and followed by-- laughter?
Blair entered the bullpen and made his way towards Jim. His hair was wet and pulled back severely from his face. He wore an unfamiliar set of tattered Rainier sweats that had obviously been intended for a much taller man; the sleeves and pant legs had been pushed up, leaving bulky rolls of material at his ankles and elbows. Jim automatically took a deep breath, seeking more sensory input, and nearly choked.
"Sandburg," he said, "you smell like a girl."
Blair flopped down into his chair by Jim's desk, sending a wave of damp, fragrant air towards him. "Don't even start with me, man," he said wearily. "I have had the day from hell, here."
"Are you, the loft, or anything else I would find difficult to replace permanently damaged?"
"Then I really couldn't care less how you came to be wearing clothes from Shaquille O'Neal's yard sale and reeking of," he sniffed again, "what is that, Sandburg? Peaches?"
Blair mumbled something.
"What was that?"
"Some Sentinel you are." Blair glared at him. "I said, 'Sun-Kissed Peach.'"
Jim blinked at Sandburg, who had looked away, and was staring very hard out the window at a passing traffic helicopter. The tips of his ears were pink.
"OK, I really don't want to know," Jim said suddenly, grabbing his file. "Come on, Chief, we can get fast food on the way to the stakeout."
They arrived at the stakeout location with four minutes to spare and settled in for the evening. The rich, sweet scent of peaches hung between them like a mist, and they were both unusually silent, Blair fidgeting in his seat while Jim shot him occasional curious glances from the corners of his eyes.
"It was an accident," blurted Sandburg.
"What, you accidentally fall into some co-ed's bubble bath?"
Blair glared at him. "You know, Jim, I do have a job," he said, suddenly fierce. "They don't pay teaching fellows a whole hell of a lot, but they do expect me to actually, you know, show up when the students are there. Give lectures, grade papers. That sort of thing."
"I know that." Jim was puzzled. "What does that have to do with you smelling all-- fruity?"
"I missed eight classes while we were in Peru," Blair continued, ignoring the question. "Not to mention the office hours. And if two of my friends hadn't covered my ass with the dean, I would be very unemployed right now. So when these friends call up and ask me a favor, I can't very well refuse them, now can I?"
"No," said Jim cautiously.
"Damn right I can't." Blair was getting agitated now, his gestures stirring up the peach-scented air. "They say, 'Blair, come help us move, it'll only take a few hours, we'll be done by three,' and you can't very well say no when you owe them your job, now can you?"
"I wouldn't think so," Jim agreed.
"So I say yeah, sure, I can do that, plenty of time to shower and change and still meet you on time, but no, they forget to mention that they have three trucks full of stuff and the building has no elevator. I mean, yes, ordinarily that's a good thing, Americans' lifestyles in general are much too sedentary, we need to get more exercise, but there are limits, Jim."
He nodded, fascinated by the spectacle of Blair, vehement and peachy, trying to make the sleeves of the overlarge sweatshirt stay up above his elbows.
"So by the time we finish," Blair continued, "it's well after five and I'm covered with dirt and my clothes stink, and I know better than to inflict that on you all night, man, so I have to shower, but I didn't bring a change. So I showered there and Rob lent me some of his clothes."
Jim nodded. "And the peaches?" he said carefully.
Blair tensed, and then sighed, laughing a little. "I didn't realize until I had a head full of lather that I had grabbed Emma's shampoo," he admitted. "It was too late to do anything about it, and I figured at least peaches were better than BO."
Jim considered ragging him some more, but something in the tense set of Sandburg's shoulders decided him against it.
"You were right about that, anyway," he said lightly. "Thanks, Chief."
Things eased, after that, and they made desultory conversation about the Jags' prospects for the season (dismal) and the new bakery opening two doors down from the loft (excellent). Soon Blair had turned his concentration to a thick, musty book, scanning the closely-printed pages in the fading light and scribbling occasionally in a small notebook with the spiral half off. Jim fell easily into the silence, anchoring himself in the rustlings and scratchings as he stretched his senses towards the shabby apartment building where their quarry's girlfriend lived.
She was watching a movie on the Lifetime Channel, something about a woman with anorexia, or maybe an abusive husband, or possibly both; the dialogue was unclear. From the smell of it, she had a bowl of popcorn and a beer- in a bottle, not a can, judging by the sound it made when she set it down. There was only one heartbeat in the apartment; Perry hadn't shown up yet.
He drew back, becoming aware of the truck again, and realized that the sounds had changed.
Blair was dozing, one hand still holding a chewed Bic ballpoint without a cap. There were traces of grease still under his fingernails, no doubt from the moving truck that afternoon. His cheek was pillowed on the shoulder strap of his seat belt.
The smell of Sun-Kissed Peach flooded Jim's nostrils, making his mouth water.
He shook himself and rolled down his window. The sharp smells of exhaust and oil from the street mixed with rotten tomatoes and old grease from the diner on the corner, sweeping him clean of the clinging sweetness. He sat in silence, watching the apartment, his attention forced away from the truck.
It was the slither of falling papers that drew Jim's attention back into the cab. Blair had huddled into the big shirt, dropping the notebook. He was shivering in his sleep.
Jim rolled the window back up with a sigh, telling himself that at least Sandburg didn't smell like bleach or fish or gasoline. There were worse things than peaches.
He liked peaches, always had. His dad's company had an office in Atlanta and he remembered getting shipments of peaches from Georgia sometimes as a kid. Sally had taken most of them, turning them into pies and cobblers that they could only have a piece of at dessert, but sometimes she would give them to him and Stevie as afternoon snacks. They had been large peaches, heavy in his hand, the sunset skin velvet-soft under his lips as he bit down, letting the summersweet juice make his mouth and fingers sticky.
He shifted in his seat, resolutely checking in on the apartment. The girlfriend sniffled a little as the movie's heroine wept in the arms of Robert Urich.
Sandburg moved in his sleep, mumbling something that sounded like "butterscotch." A beam from a streetlight fell across his face, tipping the edges of his beard stubble with gold. One of his sleeves had fallen down over his hand.
Jim had dated an Alpha Gam in college, a girl his father would have approved of wholeheartedly had they ever met. Tall, sleek, lovely and expensive, the kind of girl who never wore ratty old clothes or let herself be seen without makeup. Her name had been Hillary.
She, too, had smelled like peaches. The scent had floated from her pale hair, gathered in the dips behind her ears and at the join of neck and creamy shoulder. Elsewhere on her body it had been deeper, earthier, mixed with the salt sweat beneath her breasts and in the silky hollows of her thighs. He had followed it with nose and tongue as she muffled her cries in a rose-splattered pillow.
A sudden thud beside Jim made him jerk, his heart pounding with adrenaline. Blair had moved, wedging his back into the corner between the door and the seat and stretching his legs towards the driver's side. The heavy volume in his lap had fallen to the floor.
There was a frayed hole in the left leg of Sandburg's borrowed sweatpants, showing a tiny flash of hairy thigh. Jim cleared his throat and swallowed a gulp of cold coffee, grimacing at the bitter tang.
Down the street, a car pulled up outside the apartment building. Perry's car.
Jim grinned, and picked up the radio. "This is Ellison. Suspect is entering the building."
Only half listening to the response as backup units were dispatched, he woke Sandburg, perhaps a little more roughly than was strictly necessary."He's here."
Blair pulled off his glasses and rubbed at his eyes, blinking muzzily. "Sorry, man," he said through a yawn. "I didn't mean to conk out on you."
Jim shrugged. "You've had a busy week. It's OK."
The backup arrived, then, and they went to the front entrance while Jim went quietly around the back, where he caught Perry trying to go down the fire escape while his girlfriend yelled at the uniforms through the door. It didn't take long for arrests to be made and rights to be recited, and the couple shared a patrol car back to the station.
On the way home Jim said, "Did you know I can tell from the sound whether someone is drinking from a bottle or a can?" and Sandburg's face lit with excitement as he sketched out a new series of tests with his eloquent hands. Jim listened without comment, and smiled.
Jim slept in a little the next day, but Blair was already typing furiously on his laptop when he got up, and the coffee had been freshly made. Sandburg had showered with his own Ivory soap and Suave shampoo, and smelled the way he always smelled. It was a relief.
When Jim left for work, the cab of the truck still smelled like peaches. He decided that he didn't really mind.