Author’s Note: This story is set a couple of days after the flashback in “Rainy Day Remembrance.”
“I’m just taking a break. It wasn’t holding my interest.”
“Ariel, that’s the fourth break you’ve taken in the past hour. You’ve spent more time on break than you have reading!” Blair’s voice was growing gradually more and more exasperated.
“I’m sorry! I just can’t concentrate! I don’t know why I’m having this trouble. I love Shakespeare, and The Tempest is my favorite of his plays. But I can’t…” She spread her hands in helpless confusion. “I can’t focus on it.”
Blair let out a long, low breath, and ran a frustrated hand through his curls. Suddenly, he perked up, an idea poking through the soil of his mind.
“I have an idea. Why don’t I read it with you? I’ll take all the male characters and you can read all the female ones.”
She laughed unexpectedly, the shadow lifting from around her shoulders. “That leaves you with practically the whole play except for Miranda.”
“It does?” Blair snatched her book and flipped to the cast list in the front. “Damn. You’re right. Let me go draft Jim–”
“You think you can talk him into it?” Ariel looked towards the stairs that led to the detective’s bedroom. From their brief acquaintance, he didn’t strike her as the theatrical type.
“It might take a little persuading,” Sandburg admitted. “But, yeah, I think I can talk him into it.”
She nodded. “Ok, but there’s one of the ‘male’ roles that I want.”
“Oh, yeah? Which one?”
Ariel smirked. “Why, Ariel, of course.”
“Of course.” The anthropologist grinned in response.
Jim was already glaring at Blair by the time the younger man reached the top of the stairs. “The answer is no, Sandburg.”
“Oh, come on, Jim,” the younger man coaxed. “It’s Shakespeare.”
“I don’t care if it’s the Bible. I am not taking part in this.”
His partner sighed, running one weary hand over his face. “Please,” he asked more quietly. “I know you don’t know Ariel, but…I can’t stand to see her like this. When I had her in class last semester, she used to turn in these great papers about the theocratic government and social structure of ancient Israel–hell, Jim, she knows more about the history of Judaism than I do, and I’m Jewish! But now…if she doesn’t get her grades up soon, she may end up on academic probation. I…I can’t let that happen.”
The detective knew his resolve was weakening, but made one last effort at resistance. “Blair, it’s not your responsibility to save her grades.”
“Maybe not. But it is my responsibility to be a friend when she needs one,” the anthropologist countered quietly.
Just like you are for me, Jim admitted silently. Well, what of it, Ellison? It wasn’t technically his responsibility to help you with your senses either, until he chose it.
“All right,” the Sentinel finally relented. “But just this once. Next time you need to cast a homework assignment, take her down to the theatre department.”
Blair grinned. “Oh, come on, you’ll do fine. Just think of it as going undercover.”
Jim snorted in mild amusement at Prospero’s next line. “‘Poor worm, thou art infected! This visitation shows it.'”
Blair shot him a dangerous look from his place on Ariel’s other side. The detective pointed innocently at the text. “Hey, it’s in the script.”
The young woman between them laughed, but made no other comment except Miranda’s next line. “‘You look wearily.'”
Slipping back into character as Ferdinand, Blair reached for her hand and clasped it firmly over the book. “‘No, noble mistress, ’tis fresh morning with me when you are by at night. I do beseech you–chiefly that I may set it in my prayers–what is your name?'”
“‘Miranda,'” the redhead “blurted” out, then gasped. “‘Oh my father, I have broke your hest to say so.'”
“‘Admir’d Miranda,'” the anthropologist murmured in a reverent voice. “‘Indeed the top of admiration! Worth what’s dearest to the world! Full many a lady I have ey’d with best regard, and many a time th’ harmony of their tongues hath into bondage brought my too diligent ear. For several virtues have I lik’d several women, never any with so full soul but some defect in her did quarrel with the noblest grace she ow’d, and put it to the foil.
“But you…'” Now getting really caught up in the act, Sandburg lifted one hand to run over Ariel’s dark strawberry curls. He glanced at the line to learn it, but said it with his eyes fixed on her face. “‘Oh you, so perfect and so peerless, are created of every creature’s best!'”
The “Sandburg charm” had been turned on full force, and Jim had to admire his partner’s acting ability. If he hadn’t seen them together out of character, he would have sworn that Blair really had fallen for Ariel, harder than he’d fallen even for Maya.
If the look on the young woman’s face was anything to go by as she recited Miranda’s respondent monologue, either the charm had worked its magic, or she was every bit the actor Sandburg was, maybe better. He ‘tuned back in’ to the actual words of the dialogue midway through Ferdinand’s next speech.
“‘…Hear my soul speak:'” Blair drew his hand back and pressed it earnestly to his heart. “‘The very instant that I saw you, did my heart fly to your service, there resides, to make me slave to it, and for your sake am I this patient log-man.'”
What do you want to bet he’s storing up all these lines in his memory to use on some unprepared beauty in the future, was Jim’s amused thought.
“‘Do you love me?'” “Miranda” asked breathlessly of “Ferdinand.”
“‘O Heaven, O Earth, bear witness to this sound, and crown what I profess with kind event if I speak true! If hollowly–‘” The would-be prince’s eloquent speech was interrupted by a sharp, piercing whistle from the kitchen, which sent all three players into gales of laughter.
“Well, I don’t know about heaven and earth, Chief, but your tea seems to agree with you,” Jim teased.
The lovesick Ferdinand and Miranda vanished, leaving behind only a very relaxed Blair and Ariel, both with sparkling eyes. The anthropologist bounced up from the couch and into the kitchen, exclaiming a little when he forgot to pick up a potholder before grasping the teakettle.
“What kind of tea do you want?” he asked their guest.
“Anything but ginseng,” was her response. “I know it’s got some good properties, but at least for me it has the most horrible aftertaste.”
“No thanks, Chief.”
Mugs clattered for a few minutes and the scent of a tea he didn’t recognize filled the Sentinel’s nose. Smells rather like…nah, he shook his head with a small smile. Even my nose can be wrong sometimes, can’t it?
Blair returned to the sofa with the mugs and handed one to Ariel. She took a cautious sip of the steaming liquid and looked back up at him in surprise. “How did you know?”
“Know what?” Sandburg blinked.
“I *love* corn tea. I have ever since I went to Korea.”
Jim almost snorted. Corn tea? Okay, so my nose wasn’t wrong.
Ariel’s remark caught the anthropologist’s interest. “Korea? Wow, that must have been an interesting trip!”
“You mean to tell me you’ve never been there, Chief?” the detective asked, amused.
“No, actually, I haven’t,” Sandburg admitted, resuming his seat. “So, how’d you end up going, Ariel?”
“It was one of the trips offered over summer session,” Ariel snuggled deeper into the couch. “Which is not the best idea, let me tell you. Southeast Asia in August is like a steam bath.”
“Yeah, tell me about it,” Blair agreed. “I spent some time in Irian Jaya.”
“Irian Jaya? Cool. Dr. Whitaker has been there.”
Blair looked surprised. “Dr. Whitaker, the English prof?”
Ariel nodded. “Yeah, my advisor. He’s used the experience as source material for a lot of his writing–fiction and non.”
Okay, maybe I do need a cup of tea or something, Jim admitted silently after what felt like hours of animated conversation between the two students, about Southeast Asia and Rainier professors. He pushed himself off the sofa, wandered into the kitchen, and began to probe the cupboards.
The Sentinel grimaced. “Hey, Sandburg, don’t suppose you bought any normal tea while you were at the grocery store, did you?” he called to his roommate. So far, his nose was telling him the answer was no.
Blair looked up with a frown, halfway through a question about the legend of the bell at Kyung-ju. “I thought you didn’t want any, Jim.”
“I don’t want any of this stuff,” the detective waved a hand over the assortment of exotic teas set out on the counter. The younger man started to rise, and Jim held up a staying hand. “Never mind. I’ll make myself a cup of coffee.”
A sudden yawn stretched out the anthropologist, and he darted a curious glance at his watch. “Ouch. Jim, isn’t it a little late for coffee?”
The Sentinel grunted. “Not if you two are planning on finishing this little drama tonight.”
A small giggle escaped from Ariel. “Now, I think that’s the first time I’ve ever heard Shakespeare described as a ‘little’ drama.”
“He’s right, though,” Blair admitted. “It is getting pretty late.”
“As if that ever stopped you before, Sandburg,” Jim pointed out.
The anthropologist colored, but rushed to defend himself. “Yeah, but typing is comparatively quiet.” Comparatively being the operative word.
The young woman giggled again, then giggled harder when she realized she was giggling. “Oh, boy, maybe I should go to bed. Er, couch, whatever.” Another giggle, this one bordering on hysterical. “If I’m giggling this much,” she giggled, “you know I’m tired.”
The two men exchanged an amused glance. “It’s the tea,” the detective concluded. “It’s made her corny.”
That set off another fit of giggles from the redhead, and a half-hearted glare from Sandburg. Resisting the urge to laugh himself, Blair clamped a calming hand down on her shoulder. “I think you’re right. Maybe you should go to bed, since you’re not due to have the play finished until Friday.” Ariel nodded.
Jim smiled at them both from the kitchen. “You’re not going to be doing this all night, are you?” he asked the young woman in a pleading tone.
She shook her head, her lips pinched tightly closed in an effort to suppress the uncontrolled laughter without choking on it.
Relieved, Jim abandoned all thoughts of coffee in favor of sleep, and began re-shelving tea boxes. “I hope I can trust the two of you to empty and wash the kettle before you go to bed?” he asked as he closed the cupboard door.
“Uh, yeah, one of us ought to remember,” Sandburg promised hesitantly.
“And be quiet about it,” the older man warned.
Both curly heads nodded in mock solemnity. Jim rolled his eyes and proceeded to his bedroom, pausing only to give Blair a playful cuff on the side of the head.
Ariel’s laughter followed him all the way up the stairs.